Monday, December 29, 2008

I have not disappeared

Into our 2nd week in Oaxaca and all is well.

The first week was spent in spanish classes. I am still a beginner.

The food has been largely great, except for one notable disaster dinner. The sights are fascinating. Highlights include the fiesta of the radishes (look it up) and eating fried grasshoppers (never again).

We did a 2-day trek in the mountains north of Oaxaca and that was amazing. Photos and anecdotes to follow at some point.

This afternoon we hope to visit a neighboring village where the specialty is colorful carved wooden animals. Tomorrow we hope to make it to Monte Alban.

We have encountered an amazing number of folks from the pacific northwest, and Portland in particular.

Will write more at some point (access is difficult and this mexican keyboard not quite as confusing as in Turkey).

Adios for now, everybody.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Our plane to LA leaves at 6:50 Saturday morning. The Portland forecast is for snow hitting in the afternoon, so we should be OK.

We change planes in LA and Mexico City, and should arrive in Oaxaca later in the evening.

I am looking forward to this trip - a chance for a real change of scenery and pace. A chance to reflect. A chance to begin healing.

It's about time to pack and get the house ready to turn over to the house-sitter.

This is a week unlike any other.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

36 hours

Tuesday, Dec 16th 2008

Left the house in Portland at 6:15 am. The flight to Philadelphia was uneventful and I arrived at 3:30 pm, on schedule, fully expecting to rendezvous with the Milwaukee family members around 6:30.

There was a message from them on my phone. I called my brother, to learn that bad weather in Milwaukee had delayed them to the point where it was impossible for them to make the 8:30 to Elmira, the last flight of the day.

Over the next four hours, there were innumerable calls among us and friends and family already in Elmira. Schedules and options changed every half-hour, as more delays were announced, throughout the entire air-control system.

There was a magic hour, around 7:30 pm, when it seemed possible that the delayed arrival from Milwaukee would still be over a half-hour before the delayed departure of the Elmira flight. Feeling happy and assured, I had a very tall beer in the noisy bar, and settled into that comfort zone, where everything appears to be worked out in the best possible way.

Not to be. My phone rang and they were still in Wisconsin, thwarted by bad weather. Finally, I heard that they could make it to Rochester that night, and would drive to Elmira in the morning, the funeral having been pushed back from 10:30 to noon.

At that point, all I could do was wait and watch my departure slip farther and farther away, as the hours passed. I boarded the flight around 10:30 pm (two hours late), and a half-hour later, was descending to my frozen home-town, in which I had not spent any significant time since 1970.

Amazingly, my bag showed up and the complementary cab soon arrived to whisk me to the Holiday Inn. The driver was a young, pierced dude, who was happy to describe in detail the horrendous job situation in Elmira. We drove through the frozen, snowy streets I had not traveled for many decades, my remembering the landmarks along the way, him pointing out where certain places from my memories were either unchanged or obliterated. It was surreal.

He had gone to the same High School I attended. I was Class of ‘69 and he was Class of ‘96.

I knocked on my cousin Steve's door around 12:30 am. He and my cousin Carolyn had arrived together earlier that evening, he from Orlando and she from Phoenix. Steve and I chatted for a while. Allen called from a motel in Rochester around 2 am – they made it!

Steve and I settled into a night of very unsettled sleep. I drifted in and out, but had the sense of spending hour after hour, lying there while Steve snored. Curiously, Steve reported exactly the same sleeplessness the next morning.

Wednesday, Dec 17th 2008

Up at 7 am. Shaved and showered, then headed to the restaurant for some coffee and breakfast. Carolyn joined me (coffee only) as we got caught up on our lives and families. It turned out to be just about the happiest, most relaxed episode of the entire trip.

The three of us checked out and drove in their rental car thru the slushy, familiar streets, past their old house, and then to the synagogue.

This was a building that played a central role in my childhood. I spent many hours each week there, for my first 17 years. It was a true time-warp.

I found my 16 year-old self and my mother in several places in the many collages of historical photos, that my old optometrist had prepared some years ago. Memories and ghosts popped up with every glance.

I asked the office manager if there was a piano in the building and she said it was in one of the classrooms. Not only did it turn out to be the same classroom where I first learned Hebrew as a very young child (an event which, I believe, led directly to my lifelong facility with languages, both computer and human), but, as I expected, it was the very same piano that my parents had donated to the synagogue back in the early 60’s (the plaque was still there), and upon which I had played my first public piano performances, for an endless series of holiday skits and synagogue events over those years.

Soon, guests, friends and the funeral guys arrived, with Dottie’s casket. I was reintroduced to many folks I had not seen in 35 years, many of whom were as shocked to be seeing me again, as I was in seeing them again.

Here's a cell-phone photo of four old jews (Steve, Allen, Billy and me):

One of my old friends from elementary-thru-high school came by (we had been communicating off and on over the past few months, have been reconnected via, and we had a fine, but brief reunion. We had both experienced recent losses. I am so happy to have had those moments.

Mom's casket, simple and tasteful, was wheeled into the sanctuary and covered with a nice blue embroidered cover. I spent several long minutes with my hand on it, in that quiet oh-so-familiar room, again totally surrounded by ghosts.

Finally, it was time for the service. My brother and cousin Steve spoke at length. It was dignified and heartfelt, and the stories told nicely reflected the character of the woman. My little anecdote took two minutes max, as I intended.

We left for the cemetery - a line of ten or so cars. Across the river, slowly, along the white, slushy streets, to the old jewish cemetery, where so many familiar names are resting.

The service there was brief and moving, under gray skies and a hint of drizzle. We said Kaddish and we said goodbye, everyone adding a shovelful of dirt - a wonderful custom. I placed a small stone I had brought from Portland for that purpose on the marker that, for the moment, has only my father's name inscribed.

We lingered, but with an eye on the time. We visited other graves - grandparents and family friends. It was cold and overcast.

Our work there was done, for this visit. What had been a single grave plot for 26 years was now a double.

We got in our cars around 2:15 and headed for the airport and the 3:50 flight to Philadelphia that all six of us were to take. All cell phones went off at once. Flight cancelled.

At the airport, we improvised. Steve, Carolyn and I appeared lucky - there was one other flight to Philadelphia that *might* allow us to make our various connections. Allen, Ellen and Jeff bid us a hasty goodbye and sped off back to Rochester, where, three hours later, another Milwaukee flight was scheduled to depart.

I alerted Karen in Portland that it looked good for my arrival home that night, and got a beer and ate a couple of cookies that Karen had made a couple of days before. It was all going to be OK.

A half hour later - nope, another delay. They told me that, even if I got to Philadelphia that afternoon, there was no way I'd make the 6 pm Portland flight. I might make it home late Thursday. It was a tad depressing.

I lay down on the floor and closed my eyes for a few minutes, imagining spending the night in Philadelphia.

Another half hour later, though, came the surprise boarding announcement. An hour had been shaved off the delay. We would land in Philadelphia around 5:30 and, if I ran at full speed (and caught the shuttle to a different terminal just right), it was 'possible'.

We landed in Philly, I ran to the shuttle and pushed to the front of the crowd. Steve and Carolyn made the same shuttle a minute later – we stood together in the doorway, me poised for a mad dash.

Carolyn had, in the brief interim, heard from Ellen. They did make it to Rochester on time, but a mechanical problem came up and all bets were off. So near yet so far. They had the worst luck of all of us. As of this writing, I still don't know if they made it home yesterday.

When the shuttle stopped, I bade farewell to Steve and Carolyn and ran.

I ran up an escalator, around a corner and ran full-speed, thru concourse C, weaving my way through the crowds like a maniac.

About seven gates away, I heard the 'final boarding call' message and ran faster.

I made it with less than four minutes to spare, my chest heaving and my throat dry.

On Tuesday, I spent seven hours in the Philadelphia airport; on Wednesday, seven minutes.

A long, unreal flight through the dark, bumpy night. Landed in Portland around 9:30 pm, on the same day I had helped bury my mother. How could this be?

Karen was waiting for me at the curb with the dog. My bag is still in Philadelphia, but I don’t care. I went to bed.

Late update - 11:30 am Thursday

Just talked to Allen and Ellen, as they were pulling into their driveway in Milwaukee, almost 24 hours after we watched them drive away from the Elmira airport.

They did make it to Rochester, but were on an overbooked flight, which they missed. They were placed on a United flight, but it had a defective tire and was delayed. They switched to a Delta flight (to Atlanta!) but that had a defective door-latch and was cancelled. All efforts to get out of New York State had been thwarted.

They ended up spending the night in Rochester, getting up at 4 am and finally arriving in Milwaukee a short time ago.

Final update: 6:15 pm

My bag, last seen at the US Air counter in Elmira 18 hours ago, is now with me again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

early morning in elmira, new york

Left the house in Portland at 6:30 am Tuesday, and knocked on my cousin Steve's Holiday Inn room in 'downtown' Elmira around 12:45 am Wednesday.

I spent more time in the Philadelphia airport yesterday (>7 hours) than it took to fly there from Portland. Bad weather across the country prevented my brother and his family from getting out of Milwaukee until late last night, missing the last plane to Elmira (that I was on, and that was delayed almost 3 hours).

They made it as far as Rochester, and are driving down from there this morning, hoping to arrive by 11:30. The funeral was originally scheduled for 10:30, but this has now been pushed back to noon (of course, nobody but the family knows this - not the general public).

All of us are booked on the same flight out of here, at 3:50 pm. A lot has to happen between now and then, but, first, I must have some breakfast and think about the weirdness of being here, after what is essentially a 40 year absence.

Monday, December 15, 2008

best blog comment so far, on the Bush shoe incident

What the guy shouted, was, "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!".

A poster on Commondreams said that he expected the Mainstream media to report the story as

Grateful Iraqi offers Bush shoes and calls him "man's best friend."

I have to laugh.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

something to make you feel good

You may not know this, but, for the past 3-4 years, I head over to the local Jewish-oriented Independent Living facility (Rose Schnitzer Manor) every Monday afternoon, to accompany the chorus there, composed of residents.

We have performed many times, at other Assisted Living places nearby, at the nursing home connected to RSM, and in the annual Portland Jewish Music Festival.

The group likes a variety of tunes, from old Yiddish standards to Broadway tunes - we even did 'With a Little Help From My Friends' a couple of years ago (with the lyric 'I get high with a little help...' replaced by 'Eat some pie with a little help...').

Recently, we've been working on a group of tunes that mention various cities, and we presented that program last Monday, with an audience of other residents and family, plus the residents of a nearby facility.

The performance was taped and has been edited to show highlights, and posted to YouTube. What is there at the moment may not be the final version, but you'll get the idea.

Students of American popular song will no doubt notice that, in 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', we subtly replaced "...than to eat your ham and eggs in Carolina" with "...than to eat your scrambled eggs in Carolina". Dietary laws must be obeyed!

That is me playing the piano - I make a brief appearance around 5:53 (right after 'Little Old Lady from Pasadena' - don't miss it!).

All these years I've been accompanying this group, I have always thought that I was playing piano for them because I couldn't be in Wisconsin every week playing for Mom, and that the forces of karma and Cosmic Balance would insure that someone would also be entertaining the troops there in Milwaukee.

UPDATE: Saturday 9:40 pm

The original link was taken down and replaced with the new one, which should now work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

how i remember her

The webcam photo from yesterday (how is it possible that that was only yesterday?) is not what I want to remember.

THIS is what she loved best - my playing the piano at her assisted living place, surrounded by her friends. Too bad you can't see the smile on her face:

Just before I said goodbye, three weeks ago. It's funny - back in 1953 she seemed so much taller:

She loved to sit in the sun at the front entry at Meadowmere, greeting everybody. This was early October. This is what I want to remember.

The funeral is Wednesday in Elmira, New York. It will probably be a very quick trip.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


8:00 pm Thursday.

Just got the call from my brother. Dottie died a couple of hours ago.

The timing of the funeral is still uncertain, but will probably be Sunday or Monday. I'll be heading to my home-town of Elmira, New York, probably with my son, Dylan (who just arrived in Portland, on Winter Break, from Ashland, two hours ago).

I am so happy that I was there just before Thanksgiving. She was so proud to be sitting there while I played the piano and her buddies were gathered around.

I am numb.

mom - down but not out

Just received from my sister-in-law:

"She had more medication for her pain and agitation, so she's resting comfortably. Ester and an aide helped sponge bathe her, as she's now in diapers.

While they were doing it your mom squeezed her hand and Ester asked if your mom knew who she was and she said 'Ester'.

mom update

She's on morphine now, and unlikely to ever get out of bed again.

I just had a webcam session, where I was viewing her from across the room. It looked like this:

The odd thing was that I had two windows side-by-side: one photo editor window where I had pasted in this static screen-shot, and, right next to it, the window with the live video. The only difference between the two was that the live screen (so to speak) had small movements as she breathed. It was very eerie.

My brother and sister-in-law and Ester, her loyal attendant for the past few months, were there in the room, too, and we chatted while the view was largely unchanging.

We are just waiting now for the inevitable. At some moment, I will get the call, and leap into action making airline and lodging plans, and dealing with the Mexico reservations (now 9 days away).

Also, I'm trying to get some programming work for the Nature Conservancy done before year-end. It's nice to have something that's under my control.

Dylan is expected to drive up from Ashland tonight, and tomorrow is Ben's 22nd birthday - we are taking him out to dinner. I am appreciating these rare occasions where everyone is together.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

antidote to gloom

It ain't much, in the human scheme of things, but Zacky and I walked over to our wonderful neighborhood grocery store, then walked back home thru our wonderful neighborhood 'wilderness' park.

He was happy, and, despite an occasional slip, did fine.

Then, turning into our driveway, I caught a straight-shot to a peaceful, luminous, gleaming Mt. Hood, covered in fresh snow. It was an elevator of spirits, and I needed it.

Time to get some dinner cooking.

more good news

so, not only is my mother apparently dying, but I just got back from the vet, who diagnosed Zacky, our corgi, with degenerative myelopathy, a common neurological flaw in corgis, that will eventually lead to loss of hind-leg function and death.

We had noticed, over the past few months, that he was losing control of his hind-legs, so this was not a surprise.

It's just a little hard to take. Those of you who have met Zacky know him as a gentle, neurotic, loving little guy.

I am not having a good day.


Mom is not doing well in Wisconsin. They had to take her to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night, and she was in a lot of pain. She is back in her room, now on morphine, and they are discontinuing some of her meds. What's the point of giving her vitamins now, when the discomfort of taking them outweighs the benefits?

We assume that this rapid decline can only continue and are trying to mentally prepare for the end. My sister-in-law has notified folks back at our home town in Upstate New York, and funeral decisions are being made.

Just now, I ended a Webcam session, where Ester, her attendant, held up her laptop so that Dottie could see me and I could see her. I did hear her say 'hi', but it was very feeble and she is obviously in some discomfort, and not very alert. It's hard to watch.

I did save a screen-shot of her from the webcam, but I don't think I will post it here.

This is bringing up too many memories of the summer of 1982, when my father died, after a lingering, horrible decline. At least, this time around, things appear to be moving faster.

We will try for another webcam session later today.

We are scheduled to fly to Mexico for 2 weeks on Dec. 20th, but I am having doubts about going on that trip. The next few days may decide that question.

Monday, December 08, 2008

atheists in olympia

Yes, the language on their sign was pretty inflammatory (if you're a Believer), but isn't it amazing to see the rabid hatred and intolerance directed at the goddless?

I guess the Believers will never understand how alternately amusing and galling it is to have God continually invoked by sanctimonious politicians and others, when they assert that the United States of America is the obvious primary beneficiary of His benevolence.

I am reminded about a recent quip from Bill Maher, who, when asked if he thought that Obama sincerely believed all his references to God blessing and protecting America: "I hope not".

I don't recall hearing the Epilogue to the "Emperor's New Clothes" story, but I wouldn't be surprised if the little boy who shouted out the truth about a public delusion was immediately torn to pieces by the angry crowd.

Blessed are the Iconoclasts, but it's a tough way to make a living.

Friday, December 05, 2008

the Chanukah miracle

here is a pretty fascinating article explaining where the amazing 'little vessel of oil that burned for 8 days' story came from. The surprising fact is that it wasn't mentioned in jewish sources until 600 years after the fact. Why?

I've always believed that this was a tale-for-the-kiddies, whose chief purpose was to mask the Winter Solstice origins that, I believe, lay behind all the holidays that tend to cluster around December 21st.

This article, however, presents a different explanation for the '8 days' celebration, that makes perfect sense, historically.

Still, that won't prevent me from thinking, as I do every year, that I am grateful that the Sun is not going to disappear, and that the annual return of Spring will start becoming certain around December 25th.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


So AIG gets 150 billion dollars without any significant hearings, yet there doesn't seem to be enough political will to divert 35 billion to the auto industry.

Why is this?

I think it's largely because the American people, as dense as they often are, do fully understand that the plight of the Big 3 is largely due to their own mismanagement and incompetence, whereas the mismanagement and incompetence of the mortgage industry and big Wall Street investment banks is just too complicated for Joe the American to comprehend.

We know that Detroit dropped the ball on electric cars and hybrids, but we are just paralyzed with incomprehension on how the sub-prime mortgage guys screwed everything up.

Of course, there's the alternate explanation that the Wall Street guys simply made more campaign contributions. Ya think?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

better living thru technology

So, some years ago, on a whim, I bought a QuickCam at a garage sale for about $1.50. Over the years, I pulled it out occasionally, played with it, and put it away in a drawer.

On my last visit to Wisconsin, I noticed that my Mom's attendant, Ester, was communicating with family in the Philippines, using her laptop's built-in webcam and her wireless broadband connection. This gave me an idea.

Yesterday, I dusted off the QuickCam, installed it, pulled in the latest upgrades, and, last night, did a successful test with Joe and Shirley in Florida (hi, guys), where we could each see the other's video. It was pretty cool.

This morning, I contacted Ester via email and asked if she had a Skype account. She said 'no', but she had a Yahoo Messenger account. It took me a minute to properly configure it for my Webcam and add Ester to my Contact list, and, a minute later, Mom was viewing me, as I sit here in my computer dungeon.

Obviously, we had to take it to the next step. I put on my headphone/mike and placed a VOIP call. Ester answered and it worked great. Mom got out of bed and was able to speak a few words that I could hear, confirming that she could see me.

It would have looked something like this:

Then, she had to go back to bed. We will try again in a couple of hours.

Friday, November 28, 2008

we did it

The crowd was fed and happy. Now, Friday morning, the house is getting put back together.

All that remains is the glow from having had a wonderful evening with good friends, and a lot of leftovers in the fridge.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

game over?


what are the odds that the politicians of the world will actually do anything to forestall this scenario? my guess is: pretty darn slim

Goody-bye, Miami, Manhattan, and Tillamook.

Happy Thanksgiving. It's great to be living here in Matrix-land. Don't forget to go shopping tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

no news is good news

All of the food for tomorrow is purchased and slowly being processed into dinner. The table is mostly set for 16 (rented chairs picked up this morning).

Dylan, we think, is currently on a Greyhound bus somewhere between Ashland and Portland, expected to arrive at 9 pm.

My computer work is finished, until Friday.

It's under control, except that the cats are beginning to squawk about their dinner.

Happy holiday, everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

wisconsin obits

For lack of something better to do, I found myself scanning the obits in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this afternoon. After the first few, it was clear that a number of euphemisms for 'died' are commonly used. Among my favorites:

'Joined his loving wife'
'Departed this life'
'Found peace'
'Born into eternal life'
'Entered in to eternal life'
'Passed into eternal life'
'Reunited with her beloved husband'
'Went home to Heaven'

and the #1 favorite euphemism:

'Walked into the Arms of the Lord'

Thursday, November 20, 2008

wintry in wisconsin

Another day spent with Mom at her facility. I showed my Turkey photos to a small group, none of whom fell asleep.

Wind chill expected to get down to about zero tonight. It's definitely a change from a month ago, when we were cruising along the Mediterranean coast.

Just finished reading an absorbing book about a remarkable woman of whom I'd heard various references over the years, but really knew nothing about. The book filled in many gaps in my understanding of how the modern nations of Iraq and Saudi Arabia came about, not to mention correcting a few misconceptions that I had, from my many viewings of 'Lawrence of Arabia' (Gertrude Bell was a colleague of T.E. Lawrence, and his exploits are intimately connected with her work).

In the end, it becomes clear that the American experience in Iraq is eerily similar to the catastrophe of British involvement in the same region, in the 1920's. We never learn.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

in 'airport world' again

Yes, in less than a month, I am back in the world of concourses. Here, in Denver, there is free WiFi, which is always a pleasure to find. I am between planes, headed for Milwaukee, to visit Mom and my brother's family for a few days.

Mom had taken a turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago, with a couple of Emergency Room visits, pneumonia, and continuing heart and kidney issues. My sister-in-law related that she was sleeping a lot and eating very little and losing weight, so I figured I ought to get back there before Thanksgiving.

Since then, she has apparently stabilized, but it's still an opportunity to check in with her, show her my Turkey photos (which I have still not posted here - sorry) and, as always, play piano for her and the crowd at her facility.

Left Portland in the dark at 6 am. The skies brightened soon, and the view flying over southern Idaho's massive lava-fields was pretty cool. Descending into Denver, I was on the Great Plains side of the plane, rather than the Front Range side.

Still I did get a glimpse of the snowy peaks and maybe my next flight will have a scenic start, before heading into the featureless expanse of Middle America, where, I read, "a third of white evangelicals believe the world will end in their lifetimes."


Friday, November 14, 2008

so much for 'United We Stand'

Received another wing-nut mass email from the guy in Southern California who frequently sends out 'be very afraid of Obama' screeds.

This one was the familiar 'Obama is another Castro, but worse' theme. I replied back:

C'mon, Joe.

The guy isn't even taking office for another 2 months and you're already sowing FEAR, FEAR, FEAR.

I believe a clear majority has voted to give him a chance, in the most lopsided Electoral College results in recent history.

How about a little hope and best wishes that his leadership will improve things just a little?

Just received his reply. Ready?

The vote just proves there are more liberal fools with their hands out then real Americans that contribute

You're in denial defending the most vile embarrassing scar this great country has ever taken at least until ISLAM takes over

Yes, it resembles coherent English, and yet...

Any suggestions on how (or if) to respond? Here's his email address. Since he sends out mass emails, I don't feel bad about passing it on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

want some entertaining reading?

check out not only this article about the origins of Mormonism, but DO read the comments.

who ARE these people?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

thoughts on 'Boogie Man'

Watched this Frontline (PBS) program last night, on the life of Lee Atwater.

This is the bastard that, up until last Tuesday, had so poisoned the Media/Politics/Religion complex since the Age of Nixon. Perhaps thanks to his own personal demons, this bald-faced liar and all-around little shit was responsible for the electoral successes of Ronald Reagan and both Bushes, and was the adored role-model of another little shit named Karl.

I have to admit that, by the end of the program, when Lee was horribly wracked by hideous physical changes from his brain tumor, I had the largest burst of schadenfreude in my life. As they carried his casket down the church steps, I shouted 'good riddance'.

With any luck, the Obama victory will help candidates, in the future, to stand up to malicious political chicanery, but, I fear, there will always be smart, twisted little men, full of hate and thirsting for power at any cost, who will look you in the eye and tell you what both you and they know just ain't so.

I will dance on Karl's grave, too, but I hope it is preceded by a long prison sentence.

Normally I am a charitable, forgiving kind of guy, but not this morning.

OK, now that that is out of the way, I can get back to thinking about the proposed bail-out of the US auto industry. Last night, somewhere in the news, there was a story about the growing auto market in India, with Indian leaders telling us that now it's their turn to enjoy the wonders and freedom of personal cars, and we have no right to tell them that it's bad for the Earth, so they should not go that route.

The argument in favor of propping up the US automakers is that 'so many jobs throughout the economy rely on cars, so this industry must be saved'. The absurd extension of this argument was best voiced by Douglas Adams, in one of the Hitchhiker books, where he described a planet that had reached the 'Shoe-Event Horizon', which was that, eventually, the rules of manufacturing efficiency and economics resulted in every shop on the planet being a shoe-shop.

Perhaps it's time to adopt an economic base industry other than cars, one whose success will produce jobs that can't be outsourced and that will have subsidiary benefits (um, like solar units on every building, like we saw in Turkey) rather than cars, whose success leads only to choked roads, gridlock, road-rage, pollution, and the scary proliferation of cup-holders.

'nuff said. Is the coffee ready yet?

Good morning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

thanks, again, Sarah

Yesterday, McClatchy posted this story about Sarah's return to Alaska. In it, she refers to all the media exaggerations about her record. Referring to the famous 'ban the books' incident, she is quoted as:

"...banning books. That was a ridiculous thing also that could have so easily been corrected just by a reporter taking an extra step and not basing a report on gossip or speculation. But just looking into the record. It was reported that I tried to ban Harry Potter when it hadn't even been written when I was the mayor."

True, the incident was in 1996 and the first Harry Potter was published in 1997.

However, let's look at a report from the ORIGINAL reporter (Anchorage Daily News). Hmmm - no mention of Harry Potter, just a clear indication that Palin DID approach the Wasilla librarian and asked about banning 'certain books', the librarian replied in no uncertain terms that this wasn't going to happen, and the librarian was informed, a few months later, by the mayor's office, that she was fired.

Popular local pressure let to the librarian's keeping the job, but I think Sarah's quote from this weekend's story is a little, shall we say, disingenuous.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

here's a thought

Since we have two full months left of the now-irrelevant-but-still-dangerous Bush regime, how about putting Impeachment back on the table, Nancy?

great cartoon

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

obama mia!

That was the lead-off parody in last night's Capitol Steps show at the Schnitz.

When, at the end of the show, they announced from the stage that McCain had conceded, the place went nuts. Everyone poured out onto the street, where drummers were pounding out amazing rhythms and everyone was jumping.

After a while, the drummers moved up Broadway and the crowd followed them to Pioneer Courthouse Square, where the drumming and dancing frenzy continued, while passing drivers honked continuously.

I'd like to officially thank the US voters for this birthday present.

Monday, November 03, 2008

sign of the times

Casper, Wyoming paper endorses......Obama.

get out the vote rally in SE

Karen and I dropped in at the Obama HQ yesterday afternoon, to see and hear Barbara Roberts, Kate Brown, Ben Westlund, David Wu, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkely, and Howard Dean deliver the last minute adrenalin. It was pretty exciting.

It will be a long day tomorrow. We have tickets to see the 'Capitol Steps' with friends tomorrow night. The show starts at 7:30 and, perhaps, by its end, they will be able to announce happy results from the stage.

Wouldn't that be too cool?

However, I still can't shake the disturbing image of a somber President Biden. Here's hoping past ain't prologue.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

it's great to be back among the wingnuts

Somehow, I got on the mailing list of a guy in Southern California, who regularly sends out mass emails of a 'certain' bent. I usually challenge his stuff, and always get back an unintentionally-funny response.

Got this one this morning, with the Subject 'WISDOM':

This election year let's be reminded of these words:

* You cannot help the poor, by destroying the rich.

* You cannot strengthen the weak, by weakening the strong.

* You cannot bring about prosperity, by discouraging thrift.

* You cannot lift the wage earner up, by pulling the wage payer down.

* You cannot further the brotherhood of man, by inciting class hatred.

* You cannot build character and courage, by taking away men's initiative and independence.

* You cannot help 20 men permanently, by doing for them what they could and should, do for themselves.

Do you recognize the author?

It was Abraham Lincoln

Very, very wise words, written years ago and many still don't get it

Naturally, I wrote back with a link to a web site that debunks these quotes, as certainly NOT having come from Lincoln. He wrote back to me:

Don't care who said it I like it makes sense and by the way what makes your
source the authority?

I wrote back 'you are too funny...' followed with six more web pages documenting the erroneous attribution.

Fish in a barrel.


Received an actually reasonable response from the guy:

Okay Barry I think I have good idea since your very good at finding out when something is viable from now on if you don't mind I would like to send you what I receive and then have you look it up prior to my forwarding it to anyone. What do you say?

I will definitely take him up on this offer. Maybe there IS hope after all!

Monday, October 27, 2008

am I back?

My body still isn't sure what time it is, but I did try to do a little work this morning.

Also, I transferred my photos from camera to computer, and deleted the obvious dups and misfires. Unfortunately, many of my interior shots (Aya Sofia, close-ups of tiles in the Rushtem Pasha mosque, the Underground City, etc.) did not come out.

However, I think that there are enough good shots to put together a slide-show that won't be too painful for courteous viewers. For me, they brought back the sense of being there, which was comforting, to know that it wasn't all a dream.

Would it be a mistake to lie down for just a few minutes? I promise to try to stay awake.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a whirl, with and without dervishes

The Whirling Dervish show was puzzling. We drove to an old caravanserai where, along with many other tour groups, we were presented with a brochure and seated on bleachers in the round, surrounding a dim, square area.

It was too dark to read the brochure, so we sat, listened to the breathy flute music, chatted with other folks, enjoyed the mysterious surroundings, and waited.

Eventually the lights dimmed and the music stopped, and, silently, four musicians and a half-dozen other figures, in dark robes with tall hats, processed into the performance space and we were off and running, on an hour-long sequence of music, bowing, whirling, bowing, whirling, chanting and more bowing and whirling, all done without any comment.

And then it was over - they all walked off, the lights came on, the audience filed out into the open space, where everyone received a plastic cup with a warm, sweet unidentifiable beverage, and we were left to discuss what we had just seen. These were actors, since there are no longer any real dervishes, but they certainly took their performance seriously.

Back in the bus, we had a chance to read the brochure, which described in detail the various sections of the ritual. This helped a bit, but suffice it to say that nothing is more incomprehensible than another man's religious practice.

The next morning, we had our last breakfast with the group before they headed off for their final tour day. We finished packing, and I had a quiet hour, sitting on the balcony, overlooking the Uchisar castle, valley, and spires, as patches of sun moved over the rock formations and silent houses. It was good.

The shuttle bus picked us up and shuttled us to the Nevsehir airport, and the expected processes eventually got us on a plane for the short flight to Istanbul. We took a cab to our hotel, in the quiet seaside town of Yesilkoy. We unpacked a few things, then set out.

It's not a tourist place, but a bustling little Turkish town, with a long history. The main streets were filled with the familiar kebab joints, liquor stores, and shoe shops. We walked to the train station and, on Baris's advice, went two stops to Bakırköy, a large suburban town with a crowded, bustling main street, filled with the familiar kebab joints, liquor stores, and shoe shops, but with lots more people.

Baris thought we could find an english movie at the cineplex (with Turkish subtitles) but all the films were 100% Turkish except for 'Disaster Movie', which we declined to see. We walked around, had tea in a peaceful open-air bistro, watched the pigeons playing in the fountain, changed a pile of lira back into dollars, then took the dingy suburban train back to Yesilkoy.

We rested a bit at the hotel, then set out for our final Turkish dinner. We found a charming place run by a German-speaking host, and had a nice meal of two salads and a potato gozelme, surrounding another pile of salad (OK, so communication wasn't perfect). After that, we walked around the quiet neighborhoods, admiring the beautiful Ottoman houses, got lost, backtracked, and ended up, again, at the marina and our hotel. Time to wrap things up.

Got up at 6. Nothing says 'the end of a trip' like having the sound of the distant dawn call-to-prayer disrupted by the sound of a hair-dryer from the bathroom, which made it impossible for me to hear the BBC news on the telly.

We had a final cheese/olive/tomato/coffee/bread-and-jam/tang breakfast at the hotel, and had a few minutes to stand at the door, breathe in the clean, cool air of another morning on the Sea of Marmara before our ride to the airport arrived.

The airport was a beehive, and it took most of two hours before, six passport checks later, we finally boarded the plane for New York.

Eleven hours passed. Three movies, two *great* meals (Turkish Airlines treats you right), little dozing, little reading, a little conversation.

Finally, it was 2 pm at JFK. Customs was a snap and transferring to the waiting area for the flight to Portland was easy. Then the real ordeal began.

We were tired (duh!) and the JFK domestic Delta concourse must have been designed by The Devil. It was loud, crowded, uncomfortable, dismal and did I mention loud? The incessant, repetitive message were inescapable and, what's more, I was feeling a cold coming on.

We were scheduled to depart about 4 hours later, but the first sign of delay appeared shortly - a 15-minute delay that eventually turned into over 2 additional hours. You can imagine.

Finally, around 9:30 pm, we boarded the half-full plane, and the final stage was under way.

Karen found an empty row and I stretched out, and the next thing I knew we were somewhere over Minnesota. I watched bad TV for a while, dozed again, and then we were over Idaho, and then over eastern Oregon, and then descending into Portland.

Touchdown around 2:00 am - over 30 hours since waking up in Yesilkoy. We got our bags and a shuttle van, and drove up to our own house around 3. The dog made little cries of happiness as we walked in, and the cats pretended to be glad to see us.

Woke up, fairly disoriented, at 8:30. It's a beautiful fall morning in Portland.

Lots of laundry to do. Then I must trim my nails, finish unpacking, and resume normal life.

One of these days, I must look at my photos.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Last day in Cappadocia

I was certainty tired when I dashed off that last entry.

I neglected to mention the amazing Roman aqueduct and theater at Aspendos, as well as the homemade guzelmes at a family-run roadside stand.

Also, we visited the revered dervish tombs in Konya, and the beautifully preserved caravanserai in the middle of a perfectly-flat, treeless, dry, and merciless plane, which was the primary Silk Road route between the Mediterranean and China. During that tedious drive, all I could think about was the ancient caravans, trudging along that path, week after week. Tough way to make a living.

Today, however, was devoted to Cappadocia's bizarre rock formations and rock-cut Byzantine churches. One in particular, the 'Dark Church', had some of the most vivid frescos I have ever had the privilege to illegally photograph.

We finished the day by climbing the Uchisar 'castle', the highest point for miles around. It was late afternoon, and the view, coupled with the sense of 'end of the trip' made it a peak experience (and I didn't even mention lunch in the underground restaurant).

In another hour, we get together for a final round of drinks, then dinner (what? We have to eat AGAIN?) and the whirling dervish show (which I was willing to pass on, but gave in to peer-group pressure).

Karen and I leave the group tomorrow to fly to istanbul for one more night, before heading home saturday.

Many thanks go to our superb guide, Baris, without whose humor and flexibility the trip would have been predictable. It definitely was not.

Watch this space for photos, in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Antalya to Cappadocia

Seems like days ago when we left Antalya.

We toured the ancient site of Perge, which was eerie and magnificent. You could envision daily life, as we walked on 2000 year old paving stones and wandered through their baths, meeting places and markets (still occupied by hawkers of jewelry, hats, scarfs and anything else a tourist could want - just not this tourist).

We left the next morning and eventually headed north, away from the Mediterranean and up into craggy, rugged mountains. The highest pass was over 6000 feet and, ıncredibly, a branch of the Silk Road passed this way.

Eventually we came down onto the vast Anatolian plane. At Beysehir we visited the old wooden mosque (you can look it up) and then went to a teeny village for the home stay, which was warm and interesting.

I should write much more, but I have limited time on this hotel computer.

Yesterday was a long day of driving and so was today. We arrived in Cappadocia in the late afternoon, in time to tour the famour underground city of Kaymalki, which I probably spelled incorrectly.

We just checked into our amazing hotel, just in time for sunset. Tomorrow is a full day of Cappadocia touring - then we fly back to Istanbul on Friday morning. The trip has come to its grand finale, but now it is time for dinner and sleep.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Afternoon in Antalya

After breakfast, we drove out to the site of Perge, which has been a busy place for 2500 years. The last few hundred were pretty quiet, but the tourists make it lively again.

The ruins are impressive and you really get a sense of everyday life. To walk down the column-lined main street, on 2000 year old pavement, passing the many souvenir vendors, exactly as the ancients did, was a great sensation.

We also visited the enormous stadium - the best preserved I had ever seen. It's easy to visualize the crowds filing thru the entrances, and cheering on their favorite fighters.

It was a hot day. We drove back to the busy Antalya bustle, then walked a bit by the picturesque harbor. We had quick lamb sandwiches and fresh-squeezed orange juice, then walked back to the hotel.

We had made reservations at the neighborhood hammam, and went there for our turkish bath experience. It was amazing - a multi-step orgy of steam, hot water, and soapy massage, both karen and I together, attended to by a nonchalant but skillful guy, who took our nakedness in stride.

After that, we were wrapped in towels, and left to rest in the foyer. Refreshing apple tea was served, and then it was time for the final step. What can I say about a warm, scented oil massage, by experienced fingers, while, outside, the afternoon call to prayer echoed thru the narrow streets?

Now to go out to dinner. Life is good.

Following alexander to antalya

We docked at Fethiye and drove up into the hills to Kayakoy, a village on a hillside that had been the home of a Greek community for hundreds of years. In the 1920's, the people were given one day to pack their things and leave. The place has been abandoned since that day - it is a village of ghosts.

Back in Fethiye, we had some free time to shop. This is always a dangerous thing.

At the grand bazaar in istanbul, I was captivated by a small shop that sold old ottoman maps and
miniatures. I left and retained twice but, in the end, decided not to buy the amazing world map that caught my eye, which had been gradually reduced to its final price of $325.

Well, in a great little shop in Fethiye, I saw another map, not quite as wonderful as the one in istanbul, but the starting price was $250. My main hesitation was carrying it for the next week. While karen bargained hard on a piece of metalwork, I stared at the map.

The price was down to $160 when we decided to walk away. The shopkeeper was desperate for us to keep bargaining, but we just couldn't commit.

We walked around more - there were many stores selling truly gorgeous things. It was time to rejoin the group. We again found ourselves walking by the earlier place. The proprietor saw us and welcomed us back with a hearty greeting.

Our time was short. We went back and forth. Karen did buy her piece at her asking price and, to my amazement, we bought the map for $135. At the last moment, he begged us to make it $140 but we held firm.

As he carefully wrapped it up in layers of cardboard, bubble-wrap and tape, I fished thru my wallet. I came up with $120 and a 20 lira note. He did some mental math and said '5 lira more'. I handed it to him and he smiled, said '137?', and we shook hands.

Our last night on the gulet was noisy, as we were moored in the marina, on a busy street. Neither of us slept very well. After breakfast, we left the boat and headed off in a van, for a long day of tourism.

We followed Alexander's route thru ancient Lycia. The way was obvious.

We stopped briefly at Xanthos - a haunted place with a remarkable history (look it up). More ghosts, from long, long ago.

More driving - stops at Kekova for a boatride along the shore of a sunken city of 1500 years ago. We docked at Simena, to climb to the top of the castle, for great views of the mountains, bay, islands and huge, stark, mysterious lycian tombs. A great stop, but we were hot, tired and hungry, with MANY kilometers yet to go.

We drove to Demre for lunch and a chance to take photos of the many likenesses of Santa Clause, exactly as he appears in every Christmas ad. St. Nicholas was bishop here. We visited the 3rd century basilica, which was pretty neat, then drove a short distance to the site of Myra, a truly ancient place with multiple layers: 2500 year old lycian rock-cut tombs in the cliffs, the massive Roman theater, with the view from the top taking in the local mosque's minarets, and the view below taking in the modern Turks, trying to sell the German, French, Russian and American tourists effigies of a fat gent with a white beard and a red suit.

It was overwhelming.

Now thoroughly burned out, we returned to the bus for the 2+ hour drive to Antalya, still following alexander's route. I am writing all this on the bumpy ride, on my handheld. With any luck, i'll be able to post this to the blog later.

It's been a long day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

cruising around

Since the last blog entry, many days ago, we visited Ephesus and the modern town of Selcuk, then drove south to the Mediterranean, stopping for a brief visit to Didyma to see the amazing temple there. At Marmaris, we boarded our gulet and the busy pace of tourism changed dramatically.

Today is the last day of the cruise portion of our Turkey trip. For 5 days we have been anchoring in quiet little coves, hiking around to isolated villages and ruins and snorkeling in astonishingly clear water. Also, the food AND the weather, I should mention, have both been pretty darn good.

Tomorrow we cover the road from Fetiyhe (sp?) to Antalya, stopping at several places to see ruins and marvel at the fact that Alexander the Great walked this same road. We are in Antalya for two nights so there should be WiFi at the hotel (I am currently using the group leader's laptop, connected to his cell phone).

The Turkish people are very friendly, as long as you don't bring up the subject of genocide. This makes them defensive.

I'd love to write more, but it's time to go swimming again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

sunset over samos

We flew from Istanbul to Izmir this morning, about 45 minutes, over lands where Alexander the Great marched his army, 2300 years ago.

We toured the spiffy port area, where, in years past, Greeks massacred Turks and vice versa. I passed an old man who was tooting away on a primitive wooden reed instrument and was captivated by the hypnotic, nasal sound. He had a stack of the, of course, and I had to buy one - 4 lira - probably too much. I will need to practice far away from the group!

We drove out of the huge, congested, sprawling city and, after a bit, turned off onto remote secondary roads, up into the forested, dry hills.

We stopped at a teeny village for one of OAT's special 'discoveries' - a visit to a small family-run organic farm, where we met the Turkish family, who served us a very fine lunch on their porch, with sweeping views of the surrounding hills. It really felt like the middle of nowhere.

The family was very welcoming - after lunch, we were invited inside the house, to their living room, where we were served tea and they, with our guide Barish translating, answered our many questions. We had some time before we had to move on, so we walked a short distance from the farmhouse to the little town center.

There, we met some young boys who were kicking a soccer ball around. I asked if any of them had ever heard of Obama, and got blank stares. We walked across the tiny square where the town elders sat under a tree. It was definitely a patriarchal scene - no women in sight. The men asked us some tough questions about US policy regarding Iraq and Turkey. They had heard of Obama, and sniffed in disapproval at the name 'Bush'.

Earlier in the afternoon, I had heard the mid-day call to prayer coming from their little mosque, so I asked if they had their own imam just for their town. They said, 'would you like to meet him?' and we all said 'sure'.

Inside the mosque gate, we found the young imam (white shirt and dark slacks), standing on a bench, trying to puzzle out a connection between a dangling wire and a detached loud-speaker. He seemed happy to take a break and answer our many questions, the first one being 'are you the imam or the electrician?' He laughed.

After a bit of interesting talk about his sermons and government financial support, he asked if we wanted to see the mosque interior. I took a breath, pointed to the minaret and said, "what I'd really love, if it is permitted, is to climb to the top of that." He grinned and another man led me to the locked gate at the base, unlocked it and motioned for me to follow.

The view from the top, of the village and surrounding fields and hills, was grand and the sensation of being up there just great. The man chattered to me in Turkish but all I could say were the words for 'thank you' and 'pretty'.

Before we said our goodbyes and thanks to the townspeople and headed off into the late afternoon sun, one of the guys in the group, a retired electrical engineer, completed the loudspeaker wiring. Everybody felt great about that.

It took an hour to drive to Ephesus, which we glimpsed in the distance. We continued on to the coast at Kusadasi, arriving just as the golden ball of the Sun set behind the craggy line of Samos, offshore in the brilliant haze.

Checked into our surprisingly-deluxe hotel (Charisma) and got cleaned up for dinner. There's wifi here in the room, so I am composing this on my little ipaq, one damn letter at a time.

Tomorrow, we walk in the steps of St. Paul, visiting the theater where he was soundly booed.

One final note. I commented on the wiring done at the mosque. The engineer mentioned that the young imam had purchased the wrong kind of connector and, if he ever messed with the setup and did something wrong, he'd be seeing Allah sooner than expected.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

last day in Istanbul

It was pouring rain this morning and it looked like the skies were going to be cloudy all day. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to head out to the Grand Bazaar anyway.

We took the tram from the train station to the stop near the Bazaar and were soon enveloped in its chaos. color, insane variety and persistently-creative shopkeepers. We had been there about 10 minutes before Karen pointed to a guy near us and said 'I think I know him.' Indeed, it was a Portland attorney and his wife, that she knew from her Workers Comp days. Funny.

We wandered and wandered, taking it all in. The most interesting stall I found was one selling old Ottoman maps and miniature illustrations, clearly from old books. They appeared to be genuine stuff (the owner claimed that his family had been there for over 200 years). I left and returned three times, and were deep in negotiation for an amazing map from about 1860 - he got down to 325 dollars, but we decided that it was too fragile to carry around for two weeks. We promised to come back on our last day before returning home, and had him mark the position of his stall on the map in my guide-book. His response was 'I have heard that before,' and I can't say I blame him.

We got a cheap, yummy lunch there in the market, bought a couple of t-shirts, looked at a few more aisles, and headed out into the bright sunshine - it had turned into a beautiful day.

In the neighborhood is one of the large mosques - the Nuruosmaniye. We sat on the steps to rest and watch the crowds entering and exiting the Grand Bazaar. The mid-day call to prayer sounded and the faithful came. As everyone was leaving we were approached by a crusty old gent, who asked where we were from. Turns out that Mustafa had been in the States a couple of times and his English was pretty good. We chatted about Bush (hated him) and Obama (liked him), the Iraq war, US-Turkey relations, and his sons, who have still not produced grandchildren for him. It was very nice, but, after he left, we decided not to go back into the bazaar to visit his shop, as invited.

We ambled thru the twisty streets and eventually worked our way back to Aya Sophia. We strolled thru the peaceful Gulhane park, then grabbed the tram over the Galata Bridge. We got out and followed our upwards instincts to the Galata Tower. It was a climb and, fortuitously, there was an elevator to the top (10 lira apiece). The view up there was, as you might expect, spectacular. We stayed for a while, drinking in the 360 degree views of this surprisingly-enormous city.

We walked downhill (duh!). crossed the Golden Horn on the Ataturk bridge, and returned to our hotel's neighborhood, stopping in a busy neighborhood to buy pistachios and to find the last destination on my Istanbul check-list - the Rustem Pasha mosque.

It's another of those Sinan-the-architect wonders - a small mosque like the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha we saw on our 2nd day, but with flamboyant Iznik tiles. Took many photos of the exterior and interior. Amazing place.

It is now 6;15 pm and I am too tired to look for a colon. We are back at the hotel and about to head to the sauna again. We leave for the airport at 8 am tomorrow - the adventure continues.

Friday, October 10, 2008

on the Golden Horn

It is now Friday night in Istanbul and I am still unable to find the comma on this keyboard.

The morning after we arrived, (hey hey - just found the comma!!!!) Karen and I visited the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha (sp?) mosque, in a quiet neighborhood near the Hippodrome. It was a small mosque, very unpretentious from the outside, but a gem of classic construction inside (designed by the same renowned architect who built some of the major showcases in town). The caretaker let us in and answered all our questions. No photos were permitted, but he was happy to sell me a set of photos, showing the astonishing tile-work, for 10 lira.

After that, we wandered over to the Mosaic Museum - another must-see. Pictures wıll be posted one of these days, but you can look it up.

We headed back to our wonderful little hotel and relaxed on the terrace we had come to love, until it was time to take a cab over to the hotel where we were to meet up with our group. It took a while for everyone to assemble (different flights) but eventually all introductions were made and we went off for an odd dinner, which was in the former soup-kitchen attached to the Sulemaniye mosque.

Our hotel is the World Park Hotel, which bills itself as a 5-Star Establishment. Our room was very hot and we suspected that the air-conditioning was not right. We called and an engineer came up, fiddled with the unit, and assured us it was fixed. We turned on the TV and it did not work. We called and the same engineer reappeared, fiddled with the cables and then it was OK. Then we discovered that the bathroom ceiling was dripping water from the floor above. Aside from that (and the traffic noise and street lights), the room was perfect.

We complained this morning, packed up our bags, asked for another room, and headed off with the group for a full day of sights.

We went to the Turkish Arts museum, which was pretty good. The cruise ships were in town, so the Hippodrome and Blue Mosque area was swarming, so different from when Karen and I visited two days before. We stayed outside while the group braved the throngs in the mosque.

Then we all walked over to the Topkapi palace, but, there too, the tourist swarms were incredible. We saw what we could, but burn-out was happening. We did see some cool, historic rooms, and some amazing treasures (including a major diamond), but it was not a great experience. Maybe Karen and I will go back tomorrow afternoon.

We had a group lunch in a noisy, less-than-wonderful eatery, right near Aya Sophia. The tour company had obviously made an arrangement with this place, and there was the expected grumbling. However, after that, we went to a tourist stop that was perfectly cool.

The Basilica Cistern was built by those amazing Romans around 500. It collected water from various sources in a vast underground chamber, the roof supported by hundreds of enormous pillars, that had been plundered from various sources. It was largely forgotten for over a thousand years, until rediscovery in the 1700s. It was a haunting place. Look ıt up.

It was getting to be a long day by now, but far from over. We boarded our minibus and drove down to the docks near the Galata Bridge. The 11 of us boarded a mid-sized tour-boat and had our promised cruise on the Bosphorus. The rain we had earlier was long-gone, and our 90 minute trip was sunny and breezy. This was a historic passageway, going back to Jason and the Argonauts. This was a relaxing and scenic break in a busy day.

Coming back into the Golden Horn from the Bosphorus, the late afternoon sun highlighted all the palaces and minarets of the dozens of mosques on the hills overlooking this amazing piece of real-estate.

Back at the bus, most of the group was now prepared to head to the Grand Bazaar for more congestion and aggressive shop-keepers. Karen and I left the bus to wander in the neighborhood near the hotel, especially thru the fragrant and visually stimulating Spice Bazaar. We found the hotel and were astonishingly pleased to find that they WERE able to move us to another room, this time on the 5th floor instead of the 1st, with a spectacular vıew of the Golden Horn, Bosphorus, and Galata Tower neighborhood and, most important, a working air-conditioner!

We changed into our bathing suits, headed to the spa where we journeyed between the little pool and the sauna a couple of times, before going back to the room, then out to a wonderful neighborhood kebab joint (Hamdi Restaurant, recommended by the spa guy), for the best-meal-of-the-trip-so-far (and we had dessert, too).

Now we are back at the hotel, my bladder is full from the two beers I had with dinner, and I think I have written just about enough. don't (HEY - just found the apostrophe!) you?

Tomorrow is an optional (i.e. you pay extra) tour, that Karen and I are going to bail on. We will sleep late and then just see what comes. It's our last day in Istanbul - we fly to Izmer Sunday morning. We like this place.

Good night, all.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

it is not morning in America

It is morning in Istanbul. Thursday morning to be exact.

We left Portland late Monday night and landed here Wednesday morning after a lot of airports and lines. The longest leg was New York to Istanbul. Over 9 hours with two very nice meals, and a personal TV screen with selections ranging from current and old movies to travel pieces and old TV shows.

I watched The Magnificent Seven, among other treats.

Our hotel is amazing - very comfortable and great location, not to mention this amazing terrace where I now sit, using their computer with this confusing keyboard.

Yesterday after getting settled, we spent three hours wandering around Aya Sophia marveling at the mosaics and engineering of 500 AD. We then took a break to drink tea at an outdoor cafe on the Hippodrome before wandering around the Blue Mosque and surrounding neighborhood.

We did manage to stay awake the entire day, thanks to a couple of rest periods. We slept well in our charming little room and are back on the terrace which overlooks the Bosphorus, with Asia in the morning haze.

Greetings to everyone. I did not bring my cable for uploading photos but there should be plenty to choose from, one of these days.

Now for another cup of tea, before we set out for today;s adventures, including the search for the hidden apostrophe on this keyboard.

Monday, October 06, 2008

dow currently down 800

maybe not the best day to be leaving the country for 3 weeks!

oh well, as long as we're mostly packed, I guess we're going.

At least the Turkish lira is plunging more quickly than the dollar.

here's a good idea

can't hurt

can't leave town on that note

Excuse the pessimistic post, below. Better make some coffee.

There is some good news, too.

Here's another illuminating item of hope.


We leave for the airport in about 12 hours.

This morning, listening to the financial experts pontificating on the radio, one guy said that, if you are a worker in your 20s or 30s, you have many decades of productive work ahead of you, and will go thru many booms and busts until your retirement.

Yes, it's great to look forward to endless decades of 'normal' (i.e. 20th Century) human life on this abundant, fertile planet, where trucks will always deliver fresh food to your local Safeway, you can take family car trips to see the USA, and the TV will supply endless frivolity.

On the other hand, maybe the past will not be the prologue, and the future will be a different world. What will we think, in 30 years, about Obama's pastor?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

last-minute techie fun

I am planning on taking my old (non-telephone) iPaq to Turkey (instead of my precious 8100, which I'd hate to lose, break, or have stolen). It does WiFi and actually has a larger more-readable screen than the SmartPhone.

I loaded a gig of music and my entire address book on it. Then, I read on my favorite Turkey Travel site about using Skype, rather than buying a phone card, to talk to folks back home.

I loaded it up on my iPaq (free download), bought $10 worth of credits (so that I can call any phone) and tried it out. It did work (calling my home phone and talking to Karen, sitting right next to me), but there was a noticeable delay.

For grins, I contacted Joe in Florida and we did a computer-to-computer call, using my home WiFi, and the sound quality and response time was superb. It was uncanny, turning my I-thought-it-was-totally-obsolete iPaq into a phone. I better rewrite that craigslist ad, where I was hoping to dump that device for whatever I could get for it.

If anyone out there has a Skype account, send me your ID, at

Karen is at work, trying to finish that last couple of briefs before we leave Monday night. I am playing with my toys, and putting off packing for another few hours.


Friday, October 03, 2008

another possible explanation

...of why Palin avoided answering the question about naming your own personal Achilles heel.

Some pundits aver that she was just following the pattern already developed: no matter what the question is, quickly move into your prepared Talking Points.

I am wondering if she heard the question perfectly, but came up with a blank when trying to remember exactly who Mr. Achilles is, and what's wrong with his foot?

You'd think it would have been something she would have come across, having read *all* the magazines and newspapers.

let's say 'palindrome' with a long A, from now on, OK?

palindrome: word or sentence that reads the same forward as it does backward.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

vp debate reviews

Watched with a group of friends. There was a fair amount of yelling at the TV (guess when).

I won the award for best prediction when, seconds before Palin said the word 'Maverick', I said, "she's going to say 'Maverick'".

The consensus in the group was that Palin may, with some voters, have gotten away with substituting self-assurance for competence (but not with us). All the women agreed that winking at the camera was contemptible.

Best catch on post-debate fact-checking so far:

Palin's final quote was from Ronald Reagan, warning that without vigilance, "you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free." In fact, Reagan was not warning about a general lack of vigilance about freedom, he was warning what would happen if Medicare was enacted.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

from Jesus' General blog today

Here, if you don't read it regularly.

let's assume the McCain campaign knows what it is doing

OK, it's a stretch, but here's a thought.

They picked Palin knowing for sure that it would energize the religious know-nothings and this appears to have been quite successful. They knew her youthful energy and good looks might be sufficient to bring in other groups, who were not ready to accept a black man.

However, they had to have scoped out the Troopergate case, and recognized that this was something that had to be stonewalled and squelched until Election Day. How else to explain the ignoring of subpoenas and other hardball stuff going on up there, by McCain campaign operatives?

Then, after the election and McCain wins, who cares if, she is forced to resign due to embarrassing and/or criminal events in Alaska? Actually, they'd probably be relieved to have her gone, having served The Purpose. They can pick someone not prone (or, best case, less prone) to verbal gaffes.

After all, before Election Day, the only purpose of a Vice President is to influence voters. After Election Day, there is the troubling statistic that, historically, VPs have at least a 20% chance of becoming President, irrespective of the current nominee's age and medical history. Even Republicans can't possible be this reckless.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


could there possibly be anyone more irrelevant to America these days?

I just watched his clip from this morning - totally pathetic.

Monday, September 29, 2008

more funny stuff

McCain's Voicemail to Palin Leaked to Press

episode IV - A New Hope

The Stockton Record endorses a Democrat for the first time since 1936.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

how is this possible?

On the plane to Wisconsin last week (?), I pulled out my Smartphone, on which I had loaded hundreds of megabytes of MP3 tunes. I thought I'd pass the time listening to something soothing.

Imagine my shock to discover that the output jack on my phone (which I had never used) was too small for the jack on my headphones, which I had successfully used on my iPaq (still for sale if you are interested).

In Wisconsin, I searched around on the internet and found various places selling a stereo 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm adapter for between $6 and $12. Then I stumbled on a site that only wanted $1.41 for the adapter, with no charge for shipping. Too good to pass up - I said to bill it to my PayPal account and forgot about it.

Today, in my mailbox, the adapter arrived and it worked perfectly. Now, here's the amazement factor - the package was mailed from:

Room 225-226, Block B
Focal Industrial Center
21 Man Lok Street
Kow Loon, Hong Kong

Yes, for the measly price of $1.41, someone in Hong Kong put exactly what I need into an envelope, posted it to my very own mailbox, and, somehow, made a profit.

What a world!

photos: Dylan goes to Ashland

Loading up my car, with his buddies.

Stopped by Karen's office, to say 'bye-bye'.

Just before I left, to drive back to Portland. We were standing on a slope, and all I could think about was the day my parents dropped me off in Baltimore before driving away.
Good luck, Bill.


this and spread it around.

Friday, September 26, 2008

debate 1

McCain was soft-spoken and his lies and distortions were delivered effectively. Too soon to tell if his condescending attitude will hurt him or endear him to a gullible public.

Obama was, as expected, eloquent and detailed, but I cringed every time he said "John is right" or "I agree with Senator McCain on that" - I'm sure the new McCain ads with those snippets are already nearing release.

Who won? It depends who you wanted to win. The big event is actually next week's VP 'joint appearance' (not to be confused with the notion of 'debate', according to the limitations which the Republicans, apparently, are insisting upon). Wonder who the GOP nominee for VP will be, by next week? Sarah, we hardly knew ye.

I think I will go upstairs and continue reading 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. The bodies are beginning to pile up.

nice video


Thursday, September 25, 2008

pretty darn empty nest

Tuesday afternoon, Dylan loaded his stuff into the car and the two of us drove to Ashland. It was a lovely drive (once you get past Cottage Grove) and we pulled in around 7. We checked into our B&B (where Karen and I stayed last year), then strolled into town (1 block) to have dinner at a pretty good Italian restaurant.

I had a pretty good martini (gin, straight up, with two olives) and Dylan, thanks to his beard, calmly had two Heinekens.

We got up early Wednesday morning and headed over to the SOU campus, for many hours of orientation (parents and students were split up after the first hour). It was totally reassuring, with the staff continually demonstrating their professionalism, good sense, and genuine desire to help students succeed.

It was a warm day. After lunch, I ran around town doing chores and getting various questions answered. Dylan was done around 2:30, and he was clearly getting burned out. Still, he was already making new friends (and even ran into a kid from his middle school), but we had lots to do.

We got him checked in and moved in to his prison-like dorm room. He requested a double (with roommate) and was assigned a double-room, but he has it to himself (until they need to stick someone else into that room). It took multiple trips to the car to unload everything, and we were getting tired. Did I mention it was pretty darn warm?

After that, we still had to visit the local Wells Fargo, to get my name on his ATM account (so we can make deposits and monitor statements up here), and then visit the Bookstore, where he bought his first pile of books (not an enormously large pile either, for over $200). That was the last chore.

We drove back to the dorm, got out, gave him a hug and told him I loved him and that he was going to be great. We asked an innocent bystander to take a photo of us, and I drove away, looking at him in my rear-view mirror, and thinking about my parents driving away, leaving me standing by my freshman dorm in Baltimore, in September 1969.

It was not a total good-bye, though. We spoke on the phone three times while I was driving north, as I tried to diagnose a networking problem on his computer (they have Ethernet to every room, but he couldn't connect - I think it's a firewall issue).

I was on I-5 at 4:30 and walked into our house in Portland around 9, pretty darn burned out. I drove 70-75 most of the way, except for the rain between Eugene and Albany.

The animals were happy to see me. Karen had left the house around 6 pm, to go to the airport. She is in Pasadena thru next Monday afternoon, so I have over 4 days completely by myself. There is plenty to do around the house.

It's all very mysterious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Is it Game Over for humanity? If so, then it makes perfect sense that the Wall Street crowd's philosophy is to grab everything they can, in the hope that they can buy safety and security in their compounds as long as possible. Meanwhile, the rest of the world (i.e. the other 99%) should shut up and fork over everything.

In the words of Craig Carothers ("More for Me") :

The world is shrinking and I've been thinking
how ominous the future seems to be
everybody needs to make the sacrifice to simplify their lives
and that would guarantee

more for me; more for me
you think it's not fair? tell someone who cares, but who would that be?

more for me; more for me
give up what you've got, and there'll be a lot more for me

it'll be an adjustment but I've always believed
that everyone should give and I should receive
'cause there's so many people and it's plain to see
it would be best if you would take less and leave more for me

more for me; more for me
'cause there's never enough so fork over your stuff immediately

more for me; more for me
just give up what you've got and there'll be a lot more for me

you can have squat I'll have a lot more for me

the world is shrinking.

Isn't it ironic that the Bush crowd, instead of being remembered as War Criminals, torturers, and shredders of the Constitution, will be remembered as the Most Brazen Socialists in human history?

Monday, September 22, 2008

having a glass of wine

Life is full of surprises.

So, as you know, I got back from Wisconsin Saturday night. Yesterday, we did yard-work and laundry, and went to a weird play last night.

This morning, around 9:30, Dylan heard from Southern Oregon University, and he is accepted.

That means that he is packing today. Tonight is his last night in his childhood bedroom, before launching into a whole new life-phase. Ben is coming over for dinner (salmon, salad, veggies, bread, etc) so this will be the last family dinner until, at least, Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, I drive him and his stuff to Ashland. On Wednesday, we register and move him into his dorm room (which was just guaranteed around 3:30 pm this afternoon - the final step to make this happen).

After I get him moved in, I will drive away, thinking about my parents driving away, leaving me standing by myself in Baltimore, in September, 1969. On that day, I felt, my real life was finally beginning.

I should be back in Portland by early evening, in time to drive Karen to the airport. She will be in LA for a few days, visiting Sylvia. For about 5 days, it will be just me and the animals in the house.

Pretty amazing, eh?

Oh yes, we leave for 3 weeks in Turkey, two weeks from today. Dylan will really be on his own. Ben will be on his own. The house-sitter will be on her own.

That's the news, except for a final comment about the Government's plan to save the failing investment banks. As heard on Randy Rhodes show: "this is not a bail-out; it's a stick-up". It's the Bush people making their final, total withdrawal from the public Treasury, before waltzing out of office, congratulating themselves with a hearty "Mission Accomplished".

It's all over for the United States of America. It was nice while it lasted. For some, it was incredible.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

more converstations from Assisted-Living land

Arrived back in Portland late last night. O'Hare was sure busy!

Conversation with Augie (95 years old - former pro bowler)

Augie: Time for me to go for a walk.
Me: Do you go walking every day?
Augie: Some days 2 or 3 times.
(more light chatter about this and that)
Augie: (pause) Well, I'm not getting any younger! (heads off with walker)

Another conversation with Mom:

Me: Do you remember So-and-So?
Mom: Yes - is she still alive?
Me: No, she died years ago.
Mom: (pause) I've outlived them all.
Me: How did you do that?
Mom: (pause) shredded wheat.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the sounds of worms turning

The media is turning on McCain/Palin. I just watched the opening segment of 'Hardball', where Chris Matthews was brutal in his put-downs of McCain's positions and the statements coming out of his campaign.

And then there's this. Even the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives are realizing that the pickle we are in demands more than McCain/Palin/Rove can deliver.

All the poll-people say that, once mid-September passes, the majority of voters have pretty much made up their minds. Could this week be the turning point, that will carry us thru to November?

Of course, you can't discount an inevitable October Surprise. If I were a gambler, I'd sure place my bet on a White House announcement that Iran is about to do something very bad to us. This sort of thing has always worked for them.

But, this time, maybe the Media will take a moment to say "is that so?"


Maybe not.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

my 94 year-old mother, the comedian

Conversation overheard this morning, between my Mom and another resident at her facility:

Resident: Is that your grandson?
Mom: My son.
Resident: He looks like you.
Mom: That bad?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

an encouraging development

At my brother's house in Wisconsin, after a fun day of travel: one bus, two trains, and three planes.

Here's the surprise: the TV was tuned to MSNBC all night, not Fox, and the sweet sounds of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow filled the air.

There is hope, after all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

great Tom Toles cartoon


I leave at the crack of dawn (i.e. 6:30 am bus to the airport) to fly to Wisconsin, to see Mom and family. Back on Saturday.

Within the next couple of days, we should be hearing if Dylan got accepted to transfer to Southern Oregon University in Ashland. If he does, that means that I must move him down there next week, while Karen is in LA.

Stay tuned...

suggestion for democratic party leaders

In the spirit of "kick 'em when they're down", isn't this a great opportunity to put the "let's privatize Social Security" to death, by simply asking "aren't you glad your Social Security account isn't managed by Lehman Brothers or Merrill Lynch"?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

sunday morning

Up at 7 am, to sit on my back porch, watch the early morning sun on the tree tops, slurp my cereal, listen to NPR, and think how lucky I am to be here, not moving.

Starting in a couple of days is an extended month of continual movement, before I have another chance to sit on this porch and contemplate my back-yard. By then it will be almost November, and not nearly as green and mild as today.

Lots to do today - all fun.

Friday, September 12, 2008


check out this page of Obama-related t-shirts. It took me a second to realize that you have your choice of pro- or anti-Obama designs.

Capitalism: it's All about the Money!


Now that Sarah ("Don't Know Much about History") Palin has made it cool once again to look forward to the Final Days before Armageddon, I am reminded of something I witnessed driving around town yesterday.

It was a van for a local Heating-and-Air-Conditioning company, whose license plate was encircled by one of those metal holders that said "This vehicle will be unmanned in case of The Rapture".

Seems to me that they'd realize that some folks might be disinclined to depend on them for service, knowing that, in case the Fires of Hell really did arrive, reliable air-conditioning would be essential for those of us who were Left Behind.

We heard Susan Werner sing a great song last weekend, which lampooned sanctimonious Religious folks who criticize non-believers. I can't remember the entire refrain, but the final line was "Why is your Heaven so small?"

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Palin family values

Just when I was thinking that the pregnant daughter was the one blot on a spotless, upstanding family's record, now there are multiple reports that the Noble Son, about to head off to Iraq (Country First!!!!) was given the choice of the Army or Jail, due to multiple vandalism arrests.

Looks like, just as with Bush, John McCain is also developing a track-record as The (New) Decider.

Sisters Folk Festival wrap-up

What a fun weekend. We pulled into Sisters around 4 pm Friday and checked into our reserved condo at Black Butte (which we were darn lucky to find, after hearing all the motel owners laugh when I called them).

Karen's cousin Steven owned a vacation house at Black Butte MANY years ago, which we stayed in a few times - they sold it long ago and we had not been back since. After settling in, and realizing how tiny the room was (about motel-room size, with a teeny fridge and no microwave: $180/night), we got on our bikes and leisurely tootled around the lovely bike paths.

We biked by Steven's former house, and, seeing the front deck, I instantly remember sitting on that desk in the sun, with two toddlers, toddling around. 20 years ago!

We headed into town, picked up our Festival buttons and some dinner, and found seats in the Big Tent. We heard most of the Wailin' Jennys set (good stuff), then headed for one of the other stages, to catch two acts we were very much looking forward to.

We got to the mostly-empty tent, found seats right up front, and prepared to wait for the guitar-player to finish his set, to see the person we had come for, Susan Werner.

Turned out that Richard Julian was one of our biggest pleasures of the entire weekend. A fabulous guitar-player, with quirky songs that alternated between touching and hilarious. We were spellbound at his cleverness, stage presence, and musicianship. More later.

We were sorry when he had to leave the stage, but Susan Werner, who we had heard playing solo piano some years ago in Portland, brought out two lady friends and the three of them set the place on fire. She was magnificent, and her harmonica player astounding. The third woman, who had a lap steel guitar, was poorly miked as to be inaudible - she was clearly unhappy with the sound guy. More later.

Then, after Susan's amazing set, 3-Leg Torso came up. We had seen them before and I had just played a gig with Courtney, the accordion player, a few weeks ago. They were electrifying and the crowd clearly blown away by the musical brilliance and entertaining stage presence.

By then, it was after 11 pm and we were exhausted. Back to Black Butte.

Saturday morning, we drove over to the Swim Center for an hour of yoga, then to the Lodge for breakfast-with-mountain-and-meadow-view, then back into Sisters.

We found great seats in the Big Tent, and the 2nd act that morning was, again, Richard Julian. He did many of the same tunes as the night before, and they were still as enjoyable as before. The crowd was surprised and pleased. After he finished, I went out to the CD table and bought both of his CDs, and even chatted with him briefly.

We stayed in the Big Tent for the next 3 or 4 hours, listening to one musician after another. Our main interest was Rosalie Sorrels, who delivered a quiet, thoughtful set of songs by her old friend, the remarkable Utah Phillips (who died a few months ago).

We left the Big Tent and headed over to another stage, to see the woman who had had the bad sound, playing with Susan Werner. This time, the sound was perfect and Natalia Zukerman was joined by Susan and the amazing harmonica player (Trina? Tina?), and they were incredible. Natalia mentioned that her grandfather was a klezmer musician and her parents were 'classical musicians'. Indeed - her father is violinist Pinchas Zukerman! Karen bought her CD.

Long day by now, but the music and the scene was wonderful. A warm, clear day in Sisters, with well-behaved, enthusiastic crowds.

We discussed heading back to the condo (and perhaps a soak in the outdoor hot-tubs?), but inertia won out, and we headed back to the Big Tent area, where we grabbed some food and stood in line to get back into the Big Tent, for the evening show.

We got great seats again, and Susan Werner and Friends (yes, the same trio we had already seen twice!) played an incredible set, before the cheering throng. She was brilliant.

The headliner that night was Jesse Winchester, who I had vaguely remembered from the 60's. Now, he's the reincarnation of the archetypal laid-back southerner, and played solo guitar. I remembered two of his songs from long ago, and the rest were pleasant, touching/humorous little dittys. The crowd loved him, and, I admit, I was won over, too. He was simply charming.

Now, very tired, we headed back to condo-land.

Sunday morning, we packed up, checked out, drove into Sisters for breakfast, and decided that duty was calling back in Portland, and headed home. It was a long drive (got behind a couple of very slow RVs twisting thru the mountains), and, before we reached home, we had stopped at Lowe's (to look at sinks), George Morlan plumbing (to look at sinks), and two or three other chores.

It was great to be home. Nice weekend. Less than a month to Turkey now!