Thursday, July 31, 2008

I’ve never done this before

The directions are simple, according to may_b: Go to this site and pick 5 cards which describe you in highly unflattering ways.
Limiting oneself to five is difficult. It would also be more enlightening if people did it for you.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Magnetic Attraction

Perhaps Tanya's steely resolve and iron will account for the attraction that she has for fridge magnets. We collect them from places we have visited as souvenirs we can afford. We added two new ones this last trip from Myra and St Nicholas Church.

I bought three others for her in Ankara. One says "Young at heart, other parts slightly older". She says she is putting that one in the bedroom. . . Another says "A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever". She quite liked it and hung it by the front door. The last one says "I've shopped all my life and still have nothing to wear". That one cracked her up but she said there were no pictures of shoes on it. Mel would understand.

Good Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas was born in Asia Minor sometime after 250 AD. He eventually became Bishop of Myra, the capital of Lycia under the Byzantine Empire. He is greatly revered by the Orthodox Church and is Patron Saint of both Russia and Greece. How he morphed into Santa Claus is a long story.

After his death in 343 AD, a number of churches were built in his honour in Myra. The last church was built about the 8th century and was renovated some 300 years later after it was destroyed by war or earthquakes. The structure is undergoing extensive reconstruction though it is used for church services every Dec 6th on St Nicholas’ Day. The base of the church is about 7 meters below today’s ground level.

Baby Swallows

While I was away, we had two new doors installed in the passage way, lights and plug-ins installed and the walls finished in preparation for painting. Everyone was aware of the swallows and their nest and worked with them in mind. The eggs hatched sometime before July 20th. The electricians had to run the wiring just above the nest after the babies had hatched so they were especially careful.

There are four babies and four adult birds are looking after them. I have no idea about the family life of swallows, so why the extra couple are involved, I don't know. They are all quite used to humans around so this morning when I took their pictures they sat more or less calmly thorugh the whole episode. The four babies fill the nest to over flowing but would not cooperate well enough to get a good shot of all four at once.

Home Sweet Home

Tanya and I arrived home yesterday afternoon. Home never looked so good. And the garden never looked so bad. There had been good rains the first two weeks I had been gone but the week Tanya and I were on holiday, temperatures were in the mid-30's all week. Our house and dog sitter , Katya, had watered most of the house plants and some of the outdoor flower pots but there were casualties. The flower beds were a mess and the kitchen garden a desert. Tanya took the garden hose to the flowers but left the kitchen garden till today.

We had corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes for supper last night from our own garden and today picked a pail of tomatoes and peppers. Cucs are about finished but we have about 15 liters of dill pickles in our root cellar which should do us. Our apricots are done and the apples are growing fast. The ground is littered with little green apples and pits from apricots.

The sunflowers have heads the size of dinner plates but no seeds. The birds cleaned off each and every one. We were glad for them, rotten little birds!!

Volk and Bobik were glad to see me and enjoyed their walk along the river/marsh area. The trail was heavily over grown. Tomorrow I will buy a machete and pretend I am Alan Quartermain. The dogs did not want to go back into the yard last evening so they got an extra half hour of freedom.

We slept like the dead for 15 hours in the coolness of the night breeze through our windows. Holidays are OK but there is no place like home.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Presa di Finica

OK, so I was confused. We are staying at the Presa di Finica Resort at Finike which is SW of Antalya about the same distance as Alanya is to the SE of Antalya. We are semi-enjoying our holiday. The resort is lovely, beach wonderful, water wonderful, food good, rip-off artists everywhere as always over charging tourists but the excursion we took to Myra on Saturday was good value for the money. Everything is perfect except...

Big problem is Air Conditioning works only periodically and does not work properly when it is on. Ventilation fan runs when patio doors are closed but AC hours are from 6:30 am to 9:00 am; 3:30 pm to 7:00 pm and 10:30 pm to 2:00 am. Even when it is on, it is hard to tell the difference in air temp. We slept on the balcony every night just to survive the heat in the room.

Tanya is MAD! That is something you never want aimed at you, and you can be sure I will tread carefully all my days that it is never aimed at me. She bitched at everyone she could find all week so today they put us in a suite for our last two days. We are not sure the AC works any better but it is certainly a nicer room. When we get home we are both writing letters to the Presidents of the hotel and the tour company to ask why they spoil a wonderful place with cheap AC.

The front desk was not helpful about internet either. Tried to sell us 15 Euro cards for one hour wifi. So this morning the girl at the Customer Relations desk says that there is wifi here that doesn’t need a card from the desk. Sure enough. 10 Euro for 300 minutes on credit card. But even better, I found a high speed cable just asking to plug into my laptop, so it is free.

We will be home Tuesday and I am looking forward to it, though once we learned to ignore the AC and simply pretended it didn’t exist it was easier as all else is perfect in my books.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shopping in the Saman Pazar

Saturday I went with friends to the Saman Pazar (Straw Bazaar) in old Ankara. There is a mosque there that is centuries old, the oldest in Ankara and the fortress on the hill was so old that all the groups I knew (Byzantines, Crusaders, Seljuks, Ottomans), had simply added to it. Many of the buildings have been or are being renovated, though there are still some that look very old.
We went though a museum founded and funded by the Koç (Koch) family in memory of their patriarch who began the family fortune working in his father’s hardware store and expanded it in the 50’s and 60’s with a combination of business acumen and good connections. Koç senior brought General Electric, Ford and Fiat to Turkey in the 50’s. Koç Group accounted for some 9% (I was told) of the Turkish GDP a couple of decades ago though economic expansion has since reduced the percentage.
The shops sell mainly antiques. Beautiful old furniture likely from the houses of the rich during Ottoman times caught my eye along with metal work, carpets and ceramics. The skill of the craftsmen was so evident in every piece. I could only buy what I could carry home to Marianivka so settled for an old print. Tanya will tell me if it is Russian or not but I could not resist the step-dancing grandfather and child.

Books I am reading

At home in Marianivka, I have two books on the go which I am half finished:
Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret McMillan. One of the kids (sign it next time so I remember who gave me which books) gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago and I am just now getting around to reading.
The First World War by Sir Martin John Gilbert, which I have had for ages but never read. Now there is a new version in print. An excellent book from the British point of view but I am still looking for one from the French perspective. Are there any in the English language?

The following are books I brought to or bought in Turkey. I have read the first three and am almost finished the fourth.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley
Imperial Ambitions: Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post 9/11 World. Interviews with David Barsamian
What We Say Goes: Conversations with Noam Chomsky on US Power in a Changing World. Interviews with David Barsamian.

Today I was sitting in the park reading “What We Say Goes” and a pigeon pooped on the open book. Talk about political commentary! I’m sure it was a Republican pigeon as it consisted of only a right wing and an anus.

I’m saving The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beever for the week in Alanya. I read his history of the battle of Stalingrad and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Democracy in Turkey

I used to think that democracy in Turkey was a bit like democracy in Latin America where people were allowed to vote as they pleased so long as it was in line with American policy. Here in Turkey they could vote as they please so long as the Military approved. The rest of the world seems to find this strange so this time I asked a few questions from my friends here.

When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created Turkey from both the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and the carving up of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, he was determined to make it into a modern secular liberal "European" state. Consequently the Constitution firmly separated religion from government, much to the disgruntlement of conservative Islam. Elected governments which have "stepped over the line" (as drawn by the Military) have found themselves deposed in a coup until such time as power could be "safely" returned to an elected government that was not "Islamist".

The current governing party is the AKP which is considered mildly Islamist (by some and fanatically Islamist by others). One of Kemal Ataturk's laws forbade the wearing of the headscarf in government buildings, which included government funded universities. Last fall the AKP passed a law allowing women to wear the headscarf in Universities. The feces hit the fan.

The law was subsequently over turned by the courts as unconstitutional and the courts will decide this August whether the AKP party should be disbanded and some 70 of its members including the Prime Minister and the President banned from politics. To a Canadian this is the dumbest thing one ever heard of, but it is very real to the Turkish people.

The AKP party won 47% of the popular vote and 51% of the seats in Parliament so they certainly have a claim that they legitimately represent the will of the people. Part of the problem may be loss of power by the "secular, traditional ruling and business class" and the rise of people from the "rural villages and lower working class" who are pulling themselves up the economic ladder. "Women in head scarves used to clean our houses, now they are our neighbours".

But there is fear too. Especially on the part of women. Islam is a religion and culture which at its extremes "puts floor length black bags over the heads of 50% of the population and treats them worse than 5 year olds". The women I spoke with are terrified that Turkey could incrementally become another Iran, where the population vote for freedom but the 5% who hold the levers of power (army, police, courts) keep a strangle hold on them in the name of Allah. They are glad the Military is there to protect them. Paranoia fed by the secularists or not, it could happen, though I personally doubt that it will in Turkey.

On the other hand, the people from the rural villages and lower working class may be tired of being second class citizens. They see AKP as their party. Poverty, discontent and a feeling of powerlessness can drive them to the Mullahs who see the opportunity to increase their own power by pushing conservative Islam.

I do not understand it and I do not envy the Turkish people who will have to work it out for themselves to preserve their great nation.

Constantinople - Istanbul

Two weeks since my last blog. I have been busy, working on a project in Western Anatolia, which will give me lots to blog about in the weeks ahead. It will not be a travelogue per se. There is so much to write about Turkey; so many beautiful places and so much history that it is impossible to do justice to the country on an amateur site like this. Come and see it.

A small piece of trivia for those interested in place names: When was Constantinople last the official name of Istanbul? Answer: While the western world still referred to it as Constantinople until the early 20th century, it became Istanbul on May 29, 1453 when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II. Anyone wishing to pursue the subject further should read Roger Crowley's excellent book "1453". According to Wikipedia, the city was originally named Byzantium by the Doric founders in 667 BC and became Constantinople when Constantine made it the new Eastern Capital of the Roman Empire.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Our Swallows

Having blogged about storks, it is only fair to blog about swallows. Tanya says the swallows have been nesting in the passage way between the house and outbuilding for 20 years. Their nest was constructed around the electric wire from the ceiling to the dangling lightbulb. Safe enough from cats but when we were putting in new windows this summer, the nest got knocked down. So they rebuilt it on the wall. Today we are putting ceramic tile on the floor and Mama Swallow is sitting on her nest totally oblivious to the activity and noise below her. When we paint, we will paint around the nest and leave the window open until the little ones are hatched and gone.

When my father was a young man doing spring ploughing, he would always plough around a duck's nest much to the dismay of my grandfather who believed in straight furrows. By seeding time the ducks would be hatched and gone. I guess we can do the same for swallows.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Horse Meat and Horse Manure

Thank you, Vicki and John Holland for your replies to Dr Williams’ editorial on the increasing dangers of Animal Rights Activism to the Canadian Livestock Industry. You helped prove his point. Allow me my comments and we’ll close the subject on the blog site.

First let me say, I like cattle and steak but am not at all fond of the process that turns one into the other. However killing animals for food is one of the necessary evils which humankind must deal with until such time as the “lion lies down with the lamb”. I also believe that humankind has been given dominion over all the earth, which gives us substantial responsibility towards all creatures. If we are all equally animals then we have no more care about the well being of our “prey” than a wolf for the deer population.

Vegetarianism is not the answer as it does not take into account what to do with the millions and millions of agricultural animals already here. If we part company with them, so to speak, what then do we owe them? Do we just let them starve? Engage in mass slaughter until they are extinct so they no longer "suffer" at our hands?

Agricultural animals make the supreme sacrifice for humankind and should be treated with dignity and respect, and protected from unnecessary pain and fear, in other words, humanely, from birth through to slaughter. Dr Temple Grandin, the world’s leading designer of livestock handling facilities, has devoted her professional life to improving the welfare of animals. The following are quotes from her website:
· I feel very strongly that we owe agricultural animals a decent life and I will be the first to admit that some agricultural practices need to be changed.
The single most important factor which affects animal welfare is the attitude of management. Places that have good animal welfare have a manager who cares about welfare. Places where animal welfare is poor often have a manager who does not care.
To maintain a high standard of welfare during handling and slaughter management, personnel in the abattoir must be attentive to details of the procedure and supervise and train employees. For good animal welfare, a plant must be equipped with well designed stunning and handling equipment which is kept well maintained by trained, conscientious employees.

This brings us to the slaughter of horses for food. There is a great deal of emotional baggage attached to horses since they are viewed as pets by people who “learned about animals from Walt Disney”. No, we don’t need to slaughter horses for food. When they reach the end of their useful life they can be euthanized as we do for dogs and cats and buried deep. Either way they are still dead.

Vicki, you say you are an equine welfare advocate. If that were the case you would have been working to improve the handling of horses at the plants, not campaigning to ban the slaughter of horses for food. Sorry, no, both you and John Holland are into animal rights not animal welfare. You complain the plant at DeKalb fought the law to the Supreme Court, (which is its right and duty to fight stupid laws) and cost you “hard earned tax dollars”. Obviously you don’t mind other people’s hard earned tax dollars going to feed some 20,000 wild horses that are surplus to available BLM grazing land and which cannot be sold for slaughter, or which will be needed to look after horses that used to be slaughtered every year but now have nowhere to go.

John Holland, you claim you work for nothing and feed yourself. Noble of you. I assume Americans Against Horse Slaughter don’t pay you to be their senior analyst? You would have us believe the entire movement was spontaneous and voluntary? And lobbying Congress is free? How gullible do you think we are? All the arguments you and Vicki raise in your comments to Dr Williams have nothing to do with horse slaughter. Tax evasion and pollution are mentioned, improper animal handling is implied. If those are your true concerns, are you suggesting if the horse slaughter plants cleaned up their acts, you would then lobby to repeal the ban? Right.

Dr. Williams can have the last word: The issue John Holland describes is a problem with enforcing the rules on humane handling and tax evasion, which I fully support. What is of concern to me is that horse slaughter is eliminated in the US and possibly in Canada as well, which was/is wrong headed. I doubt the plea of no money involved because one doesn't have a Congressional lobby carried out for peanuts.