Reforms in U.S. Education

Today, I’m just reposting this: http://mindsafire.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/bill-gates-on-student-curiosity/. I’d really like the link to work here, but my computer and webpage skills are still lacking. On Facebook, someone posted a quote by Diane Ravitch basically suggesting that Bill Gates should be quiet about educational reform. I wish he had never gotten into the conversation in the first place, as his input strikes me as coming from the mere arrogance that his billions give him expertise. I’ve already ranted on Facebook too much today and have other activities to pursue, but since I feel like I’ve neglected my own website, I’m posting today. If you’re interested and want to read my comments on Facebook, be sure to send me a private message when you try to friend me. If I don’t know you or understand why you want to friend me, I’m most likely to delete the request. If you send a message, I’ll understand and consider it.

If anyone reads this, I hope you have a lovely day. I’m lucky to be back in Turkey after some interesting exploration of Barcelona, Córdoba, and Granada, and a couple visits to London. I had the marvelous opportunity to attend a lecture at Warwick U given by Samir Amin, and I learned much from his talk and the discussion afterwards. The trip also involved a stop at Stonehenge, which was truly enjoyable.

Best wishes!

Welcome to BCN

My first impression after I figured out how to get from the airport to the hotel (my Spanish is not as good as I thought it was, and Turkish words have been slipping into my thinking and sometimes my speaking): lots of PDA, public displays of affection. I’ve seen at least four or five couples kissing, hugging, caressing each other, etc. outside and inside public transportation. Coming from Turkey via London, this behavior took me by surprise. It’s by no means unpleasant and speaks to interesting cultural differences.

Second impression: my goddess, the food is good!

Time to get out and explore.

Göbekli Tepe: Magnificent

Visiting Göbekli Tepe last Saturday (30 March 2013), I learned a tremendous amount. This (photo in gallery) is the largest (of what I’ve taken to calling) T-Squares uncovered so far. The museum director we were fortunate to have as our guide happily engaged in “more than tourist” conversation while my friend did all the Turkish/English simultaneous translation. The amazing site promises eighty years (estimated) work. Thus, if you’re undecided about what you want to major in during college, you might consider archeology. Certainly, if you find as much passion in learning about Turkey as I have, you’ll be sure to find a job.

After reading all the essays linked to on my website, I had many, many questions. First, how and or why does this site seem like a religious site to Klaus Schmidt, despite Banning’s sophisticated and thorough suggestion that it’s not? Our gracious guide made an obvious observation. He claims that Banning hasn’t actually visited the site, developing his argument from a purely abstract and academic perspective. I have not verified this, but because I visited and have seen both the scale of the structures as well as the “scale” of the site’s magnificence and the magnificence of its surroundings, I’m inclined to lean in the direction of Schmidt’s assertion that the site had sacred significance.

While my argument, admittedly weak(ish), amounts to an intuitive sense of the energies located at Göbekli Tepe, I do not think that intuition should be banished from even the hard sciences. Sometimes, some people (actually, most of us) just happen to “know” things. Coupled with the as yet very limited evidence for residency buildings, the study I’ve done about religion and community and the influences of nature on the human psyche all contribute to my leaning in favor of Schmidt’s arguments. Now, indeed, if the “steps” more recently uncovered and if Schmidt himself acknowledges that perhaps ruins representing residential areas have been found: great. That wouldn’t preclude this site from being the site of a sacred-type of gathering from prehistorical people around the area. Basically, time will tell. Truth will out. But the fact that the surrounding landscape so vastly spreads in all directions with little interruption (i.e., no mountains, no seas, no towns, no high rises, etc.) and the particular type of silence that fell on the place when the one busload of tourists left and the sacred (Islamic) “wishing tree” that the Muslims may have inherited from people before them all lend to the notion that this spot on the planet carries a spiritual-type of influence for many. This is not to say that the possibilities for residential housing in the area don’t exist.

People said man couldn’t visit the moon: that was an accepted scientific belief. Then, it happened. Thus, I’d be willing to grant Schmidt’s thesis priority status, even though I found Banning’s arguments rather convincing. If Banning has not visited the site, he really should.

Disgust with Steubenville

The Steubenville [Ohio] rape case has been on my mind and though two of the football players were convicted, it seems that societies need to consider various angles to address why such things happen and aim to prevent such happenings. Right now, I’m too disgusted and angry to write coherently or productively, so I’ll just post a few links that have contributed to my recently “resurrected” understanding (resurrected because I have not focused on “rape” as an academic since my graduate school days). The first link deals with pornography: http://gaildines.com/2009/09/so-you-think-you-know-what-porn-is/.

The second provides some information about Steubenville: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/15524-character-and-rape-in-ohio.

And the third brings up issues about one prevalent construct of masculinity: https://prospect.org/article/toxic-masculinity. Of course, there are many, many more angles from which this case can be viewed. You’ll have to cut and paste these links, as I don’t know how to make them “hot links” here. Perhaps, I’ll figure that out within the next day or two.

OMG OMG OMG

The website is available on my computer right now, and I’m at “home” !!! Glory be to God. Seriously, thank you http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/ !! I learned something about DNS what-have-yous, and now I can access my website. From Kaya Village. This is a first. And it must be celebrated. I will celebrate now by going to sleep, as it’s getting close to 3 a.m. But I have just experienced a wonderful surge of gratitude. Perhaps tomorrow I will write about exploring the porn industry’s “evolution” via a discussion with a friend on Fb. (Could it really have become worse than a meat grinder? Apparently, the answer is yes.*) It was enlightening and rather intense. I’ll just say that apparently porn has become much worse than when I read MacKinnon and Dworkin in grad school.

*Look up Larry Flint and the cover of Hustler.

Time’s a-flyin’

I spent the last two or so hours trying to get the photo gallery to work in a better way. I have partially succeeded. This makes me a bit proud. However, I had no idea I’d begin to sound like a luddite in my own head with my complaints about managing my webpage. Never fear, however, beer is here.

Of course, I’m at Pizza Pepino again. I met with a woman who will give me some Turkish lessons, as I think some guidance and accountability may just help. On the other hand, I will be traveling again at the end of March, for about a month. While I’m not sure of all the places I will visit, I am very, very much looking forward to Göbekli Tepe. And I now have a collection of about twenty or some such articles discussing this most very important archeological find.

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Weather Report:

Mostly because I tend towards being a climate change activist, I notice the weather. Perhaps, I’m just a weather geek. Several years ago, my sister told me her favorite cable TV channel was The Weather Channel. We laughed about that. I follow the temperatures in London, Chicago, Istanbul, Trabzon, Barcelona, Cordoba, and Fethiye on my iPhone. Last night, it grew warmer and warmer in Kayaköy. For the first time, I opened the doors and windows after I had closed them. It also grew windier and windier, spilling my çay bardak vase of laleler ( :o( ) onto my homemade Turkish/English flashcards. The flashcards were salvageable (read: ink didn’t run), so that was cool. And the flowers survived (I still think they are really poppies rather than tulips, but the Turks insist on tulips.) So … no harm done. I finally closed the windows after chasing down all my other loose papers. The friend who had given me the editing assignment (can you proofread my English? Of course), emailed me to let me know the storm was coming from the south. I guess that means the Arabian Peninsula. That explains the layer of dust. Very interesting.

When I was outside about 10 p.m. while the electricity was off, I noticed a young lady walking up the road. A pick-up truck was following her. At first I thought it was very strange. Then I had a moment of panic for her. Then I realized that whoever was driving the truck was helping her out. If they had meant any harm at all, they wouldn’t be going so slowly. So I just watched. They turned up onto another street about 100 yards from my balcony. This road leads toward some other KAYA ruins, not a part of Karmylassos. It leads toward the windmill that I once romanticized was part of a castle. I watched until I couldn’t see anyone any longer. Facebook and my lefty news connections had contributed to my fears for this youngster. Also, though at this point I rather hate to admit it, cultural prejudices are a challenge to overcome. They hit you when you are vulnerable–late at night, PMSing, unsure about your language skills, etc. They could hit you all the time, even if you have made the conscientious attempt over and over again to rid yourself of them.

One of the conclusions I drew a few years ago is this: it’s nearly impossible to think yourself out of the imprint your culture cultivated within you. And I recently read an very interesting article addressing this phenomenon: http://www.psmag.com/magazines/pacific-standard-cover-story/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135/

Have a look. It’s a fascinating piece.

Dear John…

When I first read John Steinbeck after undergrad, I started writing a series of “Dear John” letters. These have long been lost, except for the ones that I printed, which might still be in the file cabinet or basement storage room back in Chicago. The old computer disks saving the others have been trashed. No one uses floppies anymore!

Several of these Dear John letters were directed to the art director colleague whose name was John. Perhaps I had a crush on him. Perhaps I just appreciated his work and his sense of humor. He had some wind up sushi toys that we would roll around his art table; this was actually back in the day when paste-up was used. We did argue, though, when I first predicted the U.S. would go to war in Iraq (Gulf War I); I was proved correct a couple years later, but by then I no longer worked at that small business-to-business advertising agency. At any rate, I digress. I meant to focus on Steinbeck.

I do, however, clearly remember the gist of the first “Dear John” letter, if not the actual words. I addressed John Steinbeck: “Dear John, You have just saved my life.”

At the time I had been depressed about something or other, probably the man I had most recently been living with. I don’t recall if I had already moved out (but not moved on) or if I was still living with him when I started writing this series. Likely, I was also frustrated with my job’s lack of creativity, even though I was eking out any and all opportunities I could find there for such challenges. Many creativity challenges at that agency involved primarily creative organization and getting things done in a way that didn’t bore me (but that’s a different story). I worked on the “account side” rather than the “creative side.” The powers that were prevented my moving into copywriting for whatever reasons. Steinbeck’s East of Eden and his Journal of a Novel (that goes with it) inspired, calmed, and basically provided an understanding of the human condition that kept me alive. That’s not an exaggeration. The depression had been intense, as it had been before and has been since, at least on one occasion. I’m both pleased and grateful that I’ve been free from such strong bouts of depression since the beginning of March, 2007.

A week ago, Steinbeck would have celebrated his 111th birthday, so his web presence brought him to mind. But I began thinking about him when a grad-school colleague, Mary Biddinger, posted (on Fb) writing tips for a class she’s teaching. I followed one or two of the links to get to this: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/01/12/john-steinbeck-on-love-1958/ (link available to the right: “Steinbeck on Love.”) Truly this letter responding to his son reveals wisdom and compassion, two of Steinbeck’s essential traits prevalent in East of Eden. The novel impressed me for several reasons, least being Steinbeck’s willingness to address what many would consider unseemly. This provides a sense of realism and a sense of place that make remarkable fiction. It surprises me at times that few English (or literature) departments in U.S. universities have courses featuring Steinbeck. Of course, I’ve read other commentary that suggests his work just doesn’t work, but his masterpieces, including East of Eden and Of Mice and Men should be read by any and all.

Sampling Beta Band?

The music an American hears in Turkey can often surprise. For example, some group/artist (hip-hop/rappish) I don’t recognize has sampled or is actually covering a Beta Band song. And now, it’s Lily Allen. “Alfie” has several words tooted out by a jazzy horn chord. That strikes me as funny but not unexpected.

I hesitate to write about what I really want to write about, which is iPage. I purchased a two-year subscription to the domain name pardocprof.com because I had some longer term ideas about diversifying my professional activities. Moreover, I figured if such diversification were tabled or delayed, I could at least learn to blog and gather items of interest here. I didn’t realize the learning curve would be so steep for me, nor did I realize I wouldn’t have access from the place(s) I have been (and am) staying in Turkey. That’s been a huge annoyance. What’s more troubling, however, is that iPage lists my account (thus, my domain name) as expiring in May, 2013. I paid for two years and have the receipt to prove such, but I have not been able to reach anyone in customer service at iPage. I have also recently read several criticizing remarks on various blogs. I spent a good two months researching which web host I would go with. Unfortunately, none of the criticism came up when I was exploring.

Or did it? Did I really manage to overlook criticism of iPage in my research? I suppose that’s possible, though it’s unlikely.

That said, I best copy and paste the posts here that I would like to keep! 🙂

Everyone should know–on a different topic–that it’s very hard to say “no” to the Turks when it comes to food and drink, especially food. I just tried to order a green salad and was persuaded to accept the chicken salad instead, even though I’m not very hungry. A Turkish friend of mine on Saturday did say “no” to the Ayran, but she was given one anyway. I found this rather humorous and asked, “Didn’t you say ‘hayir’?” Her reply was something like, Yes. I did, but it’s okay. I guess I will drink it. Ayran, an acquired taste of somewhat salty and watered down yogurt, has served me well during my stay here. I’m disappointed to learn over and over (because I don’t want to accept it) that I can no longer enjoy sauces with cooked tomatoes. They seem to be the common denominator in the heartburn I’ve experienced. Ugh.

I hope that’s not TMI. I’ve tested the cayenne in some other ways to rule it out as the culprit.

Let me just end by saying this: first, the food in Turkiye is absolutely wonderful. Monsanto has not yet monopolized agriculture here. I enjoyed the salad with pan broiled chicken. Second, the weather in Kayaköy has been absolutely marvelous. Who doesn’t enjoy 60+ degrees (sometimes close to 70) fahrenheit (15-21 C)? The week I spent in Istanbul educated me about some early Byzantine art and Ottoman printing of the Qur’an. It also blessed me with wonderful photo opportunities and tremendously fulfilling meetings with new friends. Finally, the delightful trip to Izmir to visit my U.S. friends’ parents, her brother, sister-in-law, and their baby provided wonderful camaraderie and, of course, more good food and more photography practice. I have been completely blessed with this wonderful opportunity of living abroad for a year!

Sabiha Gökçen

Apparently Sabiha Gökçen, whom Ataturk had adopted as a child, was the first Turkish woman to become a fighter/combat pilot at the ripe old age of 23. I’m sitting at the airport named after her where the Besiktas fütbol team just sauntered by. Where do you think they are heading? I wish I knew more about soccer, but I don’t, not really. I took an interest during my first and second visits when Turkey finished second in the World Cup. Galatasaray has been doing very well, being involved in (I believe) the EUFA tournament. My friends informed me that they watched the game two nights ago. The two of them and I had a lovely evening in Ortaköy yesterday. We ate dinner at Beltas and had a glass of wine at Binyan in their terrace bar. Of course, three sides were covered with plastic for the weather and space heaters kept us warm, but the view was lovely. We had a terrific perspective on the Bosphorus Bridge.

Well, I best go catch the plane to Izmir.

Between Taksim and Sisli

Sitting at a Starbucks between Taksim and Sisli, I’ve added a few photos to the gallery and a bit of information about them. Unfortunately, I do not yet know how to make the gallery a separate page, but I will learn soon (as soon as I have regular access to my page). I love Istanbul, but every time I come here, I end up either in pain or sick, sometimes both. This time it’s the traveler stomach that has been bothering me. Always my knees are sore after one day of walking around. No surprise there, as it’s a city of many hills. But I forget this fact until I’ve been here for a day.

“What did you do today?”

“I walked up a hill, down a hill, up a staircase, up another hill, up yet another staircase, only to find myself lost in a crowd. Then later, after I became ‘unlost,’ I walked down some stairs, up another hill, and down a hill. Then I got on a bus to go back to where I’m staying.”

I’m trying not to complain too much, but knee pain sucks. Surely, a little Iranian caviar and vodka would help! That, of course, means I have to make my way to the Spice Bazaar before going home to my hotel. Guess I’ll wait until the next visit. Getting home is going to take some maneuvering. My nicknames for Istanbul include “City of Complex Patterns.”