Sunday, November 25, 2012

Your Sunday Squirrel

It's upside-down squirrel!  This guy was investigating a knot in this tree, sticking his head in it and poking around and such.  The funny thing is that even though it was empty, he kept putting his head in it.  My guess is that he forgot that he'd already done it.  Luckily for him, I came along with peanuts and let him have a few.  Otherwise, he would have eventually gotten his head stuck.  Enjoy! 

Oh, and a word about the calendar, it seems that until January, the start month is changeable.  If you're like me, you want your calendars to begin in January.  But Cafe Press gives you the option of beginning it in November, December or January.  This kind of sucks, but you have the power to make things right.  Just make sure to check off the January option and things will be fine.  I plan to order at least half a dozen.  You can too if you want.  

This Sunset... brought to you by the Darth Vader Building.  I'm temping there - it's a three-minute commute - and it has some pretty spectacular views.  In the future, I plan to take a picture of every pretty sunset - providing that I remember my camera.  This one is from Wednesday. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trick or Blow!

I thought stuff this dumb/weird only happened in the US.  Apparently not...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Calendar Is Done!

Have a bonus squirrel!  He's Mr. December.  Well, after the usual trial+error, Your 2013 Sunday Squirrel Calendar is done.  I'm not completely satisfied with the cover, as I had to remove a watermark I got from the captioning site.  Boo!  But the rest of the calendar is great.  I will declare right now that it is the finest squirrel calendar to date.  You can find it over at CafePress for the reasonable price of $16.99.  That's less than a $1.50 per squirrel per month.  Hey, why not go there now?  You'll also find a t-shirt from a few years ago, but you don't have to buy it.  But it would be nice if you would.

Once again, that address is this.  Enjoy!

Your Sunday Squirrel

Serious Squirrel wants a peanut.  Seriously.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Squirrel Stop

This is outside of Belltown (most things, especially good things, are), but I walking to my new gym the other day and I saw this bus stop at 4th & Pike with pigeons and squirrels all over it.  It has signs that it's closed and we all know what's coming next, right?  Yep, they're probably going to tear it down.  All the vignettes have to do with a squirrel and a pigeon (both dressed more or less like rappers) making their way around Seattle and the Northwest in general.  The above picture is at the Market.
Here they are huffing furniture polish in Georgetown.  Not really.  I have no idea where they're huffing furniture polish. 
Space Needle...
...Market again...
...they're at Mt. Rainier here.  Not pictured: Mt. Rainier.
Here's the squirrel listening to his squirrel iPod.  Those ear buds don't look very comfortable, do they?  Anyhow, the rendering of the squirrel isn't bad at all.  I mean, I couldn't do nearly as good - unless you count photography.  I recommend that you go see it before they tear it down.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

After Hours

Besides that confounded "Call Me Maybe" song, this was what you, me and everybody else heard in Turkey.  The tune is "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" by Michel Telo.  Yeah, it's in Portuguese.  It was especially everywhere in Istanbul.  This tune is almost insultingly simple: one verse, one chorus, one instrumental break (all liberally repeated) and a few hundred attractive Brazilian chicks singing along.  I checked up on Telo's older stuff.  He's quite a bit paunchier, his skin is terrible and he has trouble singing in tune.  But not here.  Anyhow, this is very pleasant Brazilian pop music.  And honestly, I think this is the only time a pop tune featuring an accordion has garnered 450+ million views.    

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Your Sunday Squirrel

I met this fellow yesterday under fairly strange circumstances.  I was walking through Denny Park and I saw this squirrel.  He was leaning against the base of a tree with his face buried in its trunk.  He looked like he was playing hide-and-seek and was counting to 20 or 100 or whatnot.  He didn't move.  I actually thought he was dead, but no, I called him over, he came to life and I gave him a peanut.  He was really hungry.  He just stood there near me and devoured the peanut.  I took lots of pictures and then gave him another peanut.  So I guess he was just dozing against the tree.  It's the first time I've seen a squirrel do that.

Anyhow, speaking of squirrels, there has been a delay in the calendar.  I had a temp job this week compounded by a sudden flood of inspiration in the music department, so there wasn't any time to make squirrels into calendars.  I'll have it done by next weekend.  Promise. 

It's Kalled the Viktoria

I don't know whether this is news or not, but you know that place down at 2nd & Stewart?  It's where I used to park my enormous car.  Well, I just noticed that they put up a sign.  Maybe they just did it; maybe it's been up for months.  But they're going to call it the Viktoria.
The "k" is for klass.  Damn straight. 

The Return

Well, it was a hell of a trip, but let me just warn you: the flight from Istanbul to Frankfurt can be rough.  This flight was.  The last one two years ago was much worse.  I thought the plane was going to break apart.  This time wasn't as bad, but it was still majorly unpleasant.  Some woman had a panic attack and babbled nonsense.  I was of course terrified, but compared to her, I was outwardly completely calm.  I was looked after by a Lufthansa flight attendant who apparently recognized the look of somebody who was not "down" with turbulence.  She even asked the captain pre-flight whether it was going to be a smooth trip.  He said it would.  He lied.  That's OK.  She was very nice to me and I got to speak to her in unexpectedly correct German about my groundless fears of crashing.  She had cool glasses.  I didn't catch her name, but if you're reading this, nice Lufthansa flight attendant, thanks again.  Of course, the Canadian next to me was so unconcerned with the situation that at one point he began snoring very loudly.

The flight from Frankfurt Seattle was uneventful and marginally more comfortable than a Turkish bus.  And then I arrived here.   

Igor's Last Cruise

It was my final day and I decided to go out to the Princes Islands.  That's Princes, not Princess.  See, back in the Byzantine days, they always had problems with succession.  Sometimes, younger, more able sons would get the imperial nod, leaving older siblings to stew and plot.  Of course, the easiest thing to do was to kill them or throw them into the empire's deepest dungeons.  The more humane alternative was to exile them to the Princes Islands where they would spend their days praying and not trying to overthrow anyone.  Most of the time, it worked.  They also served the same purpose after the Ottomans took over in 1453.  The sultan had several wives and a small army of concubines that yielded dozens of children.  Many spent their lives on the Princes Islands.  There were far worse ways to live.  

These days, the islands are really in Istanbul.  I mean, for the entire trip (an hour and a quarter), the city was off to the left - highrises, skyscrapers, sundry urban trappings, the works.  It just didn't stop.  It was always there.  It was a very nice way to spend the day.  I caught the boat in the morning from Kabataş.  The fare was a whopping 5 lira - three bucks.  It was full of people with the same idea.  There were lots of Arabs, so there were lots of women in burkas.  You don't see many Turkish women dressed like that.  There were also these weird-looking people who spoke a weird-sounding language.  The mystery wasn't solved until I saw them in front of a defunct church on Büyükada, the main island.  They were Armenian.  Anyhow, this is how it went: 
Hey, it's the Blue Mosque (l) and Ayasofya (r) from the water!  They're just as lovely as on land!
Lots of cruise ships, all of them way bigger than the boat I was on.  Below is the first island on the stop.  There's not much going on there and hardly anybody got off.   
OK, this isn't my photo, but it gives a nice aerial view of Büyükada.  
Here's what it looks like to an American tourist surrounded by women in burkas (whom I didn't photograph, because why?).  Still very picturesque, no?  There's a monastery between the two hills.  I don't think it's still operating, but people hike up to it all the time.  I wasn't one of them. 
Here's the thing about the Princes Islands in general and Büyükada specifically: except for essential services, police, fire and garbage pickup, etc., there is no motorized transportation.  So everybody travels around by horse or bicycle.  OK, maybe a few people have electric golf carts, but it's all mostly by horse.  And of course, the tourists love this.  You can hire one of these feytons for 40 lira (about 25 bucks) and cram as many people in it as it practical.  I saw one with seven passengers.  They take you around the island.  It's strange, but because of all the horses, the central town area of Büyükada smells strongly of horse crap.  But you quickly get used to it.  You also get used to seeing horses everywhere.  I actually didn't hire a feyton because it was just me.  That's more of something you do with somebody you have tender feelings for, as it's pretty romantic, despite the strong smell of horse crap.    
I met a cat along the way.  He had a limp and he was far more difficult to photograph than your average squirrel.  He was not cooperative.  I had nothing to bribe him with, so I was completely powerless.  Still, he was nice enough.  This is the best shot I got of him.  I also had a dog following me for most of my trek, but I have no pictures of her.    
Büyükada also has some really nice Ottoman mansions.  A few look like this.
Many look like this.
And several look like this.  I believe this one can still be fixed. 
For this photo, I was just hanging out at the shore and trying to capture the pleasantness of the afternoon.  This is it.  That hazy stripe through the middle of the photo is suburban Istanbul.  Honestly, it just never stops.  Anyhow, I knew that the next day I'd be heading back to Seattle and that in future days, I would forget what it was like.  This photo brings it all back.  The weather was warm and the sea was calm.  A nice breeze was blowing.  Soon after I took this I was on my way back to Istanbul.  The return trip was also exceedingly pleasant.  

I cannot recommend a visit to the Princes Islands more.  It is a wonderful place.  Just don't go on a weekend because the crowds are cuh-ray-zay.  I went on a Monday and it was fine.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Igor's Last Sunrise

My last day in Istanbul begins as the sun rises from the Asian side. 


This place is so extraordinary that it deserves its own post.  In 532, the infamous Nika Revolt (which was fomented by chariot-racing factions for a variety of very weird reasons) destroyed the old church (known as the "Large Church") and much of the city center.  Dismayed by the populace's attitude, Byzantine Emperor Justinian called the rioters to assemble at the adjacent Hippodrome to plead purportedly for calm.  Once gathered, troops under the command of the great Balisarius sealed the exits and fell upon the crowd with swords drawn.  Between 30-50,000 people were killed.  Nobody really knows how many.  This instantly restored calm.  But Justinian felt pretty guilty about the whole matter in the ensuing days and came to believe that building the world's largest church was a way for him to make right with his Jesus.  It took 10,000 workmen just five years to complete it.  In contrast, both the cathedrals in Rennes and Cologne each took more than 600 years to complete and the cathedral in Strasbourg, which was begun in the 13th century is still not complete. Anyhow, Justinian dedicated it to holy wisdom or Hagia Sophia, which is an abstract idea and not a person.  Not only was it the world's largest church, it remained the world's largest building for centuries.  Mehmet the Conqueror made it into a mosque, like, the day after the Turks took over the city in 1453.  Today, it's a 1,500 year-old museum.  Have a look:

OK, so ending with a shot of the inlaid marble is pretty unspectacular, but just imagine these reaching up 50 feet and wrapping themselves all round this massive building.  That's pretty impressive, no?  I stayed here for two hours.  I could have stayed all day, but the tour groups - Oy! - they eventually filled up the entire place.  As you can see, the church is not in completely pristine condition.  Well, I doubt any of us would look this good as we approached our 1,500th birthday.  From what I've read, its construction wouldn't have been possible without considerable architectural innovation, as well as some pretty intense mathematical calculations.  It may not seem like it today, but domes were really tough to build back in the day.  Thanks to the talents of architects Isidore and Anthemius, the building went up with only a few major crises along the way.  And today, it still stands, ready for mass or Friday prayers or whatever religion you want to throw at it, but functioning best as a museum and a testament to human devotion and achievement.  And guilt.  Don't forget that.               


This was my seventh time in Istanbul, and each time I visit, I am more in awe of the place.  It is a huge, ancient city that would take years to explore.  I have only seen a small part of it, but I've seen enough of it to know that it is one of the world's great cities.  London is still my favorite.  But Istanbul ranks a very close second.  I always stay in the Sultanahmet district which is right next to Ayasofia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.  Strange as it sounds, from Sultanahmet, it's possible to sense the mood of the entire city from the new, ugly suburbs to the most ancient quarters.  I could go on and on about all Istanbul has to offer and only scratch the surface.  But it would be easier to post pictures.  Here goes...
I realize that this is an incomplete account of the city.  Over the years, I've taken hundreds of photos of Istanbul.  But there are sights that captivate me over and over again.  And sure, most of them are from the Archaeological Museum, which, in my experience is one of the best museums in the world, rival to the British Museum in quality, but not in size. 

I returned from Istanbul nearly four weeks ago and I really apologize for taking so long to post my exploits, such as they are.  By now, I'm completed re-acclimated to Seattle and Belltown, so it's like all of these things were experienced by somebody else.  And once again, I've geared myself to contend with bums, crazy people and the little savages who live upstairs and make life loud and difficult.  It's like I never left.  

One of the reasons why people have such a good time when they're on vacation is that they know it won't last.  They savor the freedom, relaxation and the stimulation from being in other climes.  Me, I don't ever want it to end, because I know what awaits back in Seattle.  I'm hoping someday to move to Istanbul (or London or Moscow or anyplace huge that's not Seattle, except New York, which really isn't my speed for some unknown reason), but for the moment, all I can do is look forward to the next trip.  I always thought that a place like Istanbul would be crippled by all that accumulated history like some kind of life-sized museum, but the opposite is true.  It's one of the most vital, alive and bustling places you can visit on earth.  Vital, alive and bustling are my things.  That's why I originally moved to Belltown, because it was the most urbanized part of the city.  Well, that much is correct, but the vitality is definitely lacking so much of the time.  Sometime that's welcome, but much of the time, it bores me to death.  I don't want this to be some complaint about Seattle.  And comparing it to Istanbul isn't fair.  It's just that there's a lot in Istanbul that appeals to me.  Sure, the prospect of living there is entirely a different matter.  Turkish society does have some major flaws and I've seen them in my seven visits.  I won't get into them here, but there are so many good things about Turkey that I generally disregard anything bad that I see.  Plus, my rudimentary Turkish (mostly nouns, as the verb system still confounds me) limits my understanding of the deeper issues.  But my guess is that if I do live there, even though some aspects of society may confuse or appall me, at least I won't be bored.  So there.

Anyhow, I just have a few posts left and then it's back to conventional domestic squalor'n'squirrels that you've come to expect from this crappy blog.  Thanks for reading.