Friday, 30 July 2004

Some local news

Apparently there was a bomb blast in the centre of Mersin near the vicinity of the following building:





No casualties were reported and I've only heard of the blast from two web reports: 'Explosion shakes Turkey, no casualties' and 'Bomb Explodes In Southern Turkey, No Casualties'. I don't know how the first article gets the idea that the explosion shook Turkey.

When I go home I will have a look at the local TV channels and see what actually happened.

Thursday, 29 July 2004

No Lotto Luck Last Night

Huseyin abi and I entered the 5/1 midweek lotto yesterday. Unfortunately, no digital camera or travel money this time.

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

Okay, I have been busy and haven’t written much for a while, so here goes…


Mach3

After my disposable razors had finished (1½ months per razor I guess – thanks Bill) I finally lashed out and bought a Mach3.

Olivia and Brad visit
After Cappadocia, Brad and Olivia came to Mersin on the 16th to see me (what other reasons are there for visiting Mersin? ;-)

They were wonderful guests.

Food
We sampled as much food as we could in 4 days:

Tantuni; Kunefe; Adana kebab; cezerye; Turkish delight; a lamb, chicken and capsicum shish kebab bbq, Turkish style, with Hanifi amca blowing the coals with a hairdryer; grilled chicken; lahmacun; chicken sote (sauté); icli kofte; kizarmis (roast) chicken, salad and hot pide bread; Mado ice cream; and various pistachio sweets.

Wedding
Saturday night (17th) was work mate Iklim’s brother, Oral’s, wedding in Tarsus. I drove the work car, picking up Serkan, Sebiha and Buket on the way. By the time we arrived at the venue there were 6 of us in the car. The music, dancing, 7-tiered cake and fine company ensured a fun evening. I am completely sure Olivia, Brad and my Antipodean dancing styles really stood out :-) By the end of the evening I was very tired. For most of Saturday I was completely worn out. Luckily, the tiredness only lasted this day.

Historical Mersin
Sunday afternoon we cruised around the town, visiting the Roman road at Soli and the artificial hill called Yumuktepe. Yumuktepe was built up by almost continuous civilizations stretching back 9000 years. The only previous time I visited in June 2003, 2 lowlifes attempted to rob me. The hill itself is not that exciting and the Mersin Museum paints a better picture of the hill’s history

Okey
Hanifi amca entertained Brad and Olivia (and myself) 3 or 4 times with the tile game ‘okey’. Brad and Olivia rapidly increased their knowledge of the game. If they stayed in Mersin any longer they would have become experts, beating the locals (a capital offence to say the least).

Shorts
Olivia visited many shops in Mersin searching for proper fitting bathers. At Carrefour she eventually found a set. Next to the bather display was a box of cargo shorts. I bought myself a pair of half-decent shorts. I was going to do it last summer. Clothes buying is not my expertise or passion!

Baby
Olivia was anxiously waiting news from her sister, Katrina, who was 9 months pregnant with her and Darren’s first child and Dig’s first grandchild. Today (the 27th), Caitlin Lilly arrived. Congratulations Katrina and Darren!

After Mersin, Olivia and Brad caught a bus to Side before visiting southwest Turkey and the Greek Islands.

A Healthy Medine teyze

Around the time Brad and Olivia left, my neighbours Medine teyze and Handan abli returned from Ankara. They were there for a month or so as Medine underwent a leg operation (a hip replacement I believe). In Turkish public hospitals the patient requires a family member or friend to support them and provide certain services (supply of linen, clothes washing, etc.) taken for granted in Australia.

Previously, Medine used crutches and experienced great pain. Now she can walk around independently and freely. Mashallah!

Last weekend was fantastic

LOTTO



Huseyin abi and I shared in proceeds of a second division lotto win!

As seen on the ticket, the final 5 numbers matched those selected by the machine Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, 735,000,000 TL, half of the 5/49 prize, landed in my pocket. It was the first time for several months I had participated in any such gambling. Needless to say, Huseyin and I are having a further small dabble in the upcoming draws.


Digital Camera

With the money I plan to buy a digital camera. A digital camera will facilitate a more interesting blog by allowing me to photo daily occurrences in Mersin and post the pictures straight away on this page.

All day Saturday the Atas fire was visible from Mersin. The smoke covered drifted across the sky to the north of the city. In the evening the fire glow was still viewable from the apartment rooftop. A digital camera could have transferred the scene from Mersin to your computers almost immediately. The strong favourite in the digital camera race is the Olympus Camedia C-310 Zoom. The camera will also be brilliant for the upcoming August/September Iran trip.

To celebrate our lotto win, this Sunday Huseyin and I will have a fish and raki meal on one of yacht restaurants in the harbour.


Stuck in the block lift

On Sunday the apartment block lift stopped mid-level and wouldn’t restart. I was stuck there with another prisoner. Luckily, Hanifi amca came to the rescue and opened the door.

Other news


Live at Benaroya

Today I received the new Pearl Jam CD “Benaroya Hall October 22nd 2003”. This was an acoustic performance raising money and awareness for the charity Youth Care.


Train Accidents

Oh, there were also a series of recent train accidents in Turkey. Traffic accidents in general are a far greater danger than terrorism. I’m sure this vehicular danger is not deliberate, but have a look at the acronym in the second paragraph of the article ‘More Than 77 Thousand Motor Vehicles Registered In May Of 2004’.


Friday, 23 July 2004

Have lots of things to write about...

...but will have to write about them later.

In the meantime, here are two very interesting essays on Turkey, particularly the second one:
The transformation of Turkey
Will Turkey Make It?

Friday, 16 July 2004

Istanbul/Izmit

Yes, finally, another blog posting!

I very much enjoyed my trip to Izmit and Istanbul last weekend.

After arriving in Istanbul on Friday I met cousin Olivia and her other half, Brad, near the underground cistern, Sultanahmet. That afternoon we didn’t do much – ate a fish sandwich in Eminonu and drank a beer on the lower level of the New Galata Bridge. This bridge crosses the Golden Horn between Eminonu and Karakoy.

Olivia (an Aussie) and Brad (a Kiwi) are on their round the world trip. Previously they had visited Thailand, India, UK and Germany amongst other places. The weather in Istanbul was the best they experienced in a long time, sunnier and warmer than northern Europe, milder than India and Asia.

After picking up bags from the Mavi Guesthouse, we made our way across the Bosphorous on the ferry to Harem, Asian Istanbul, for the Efe Tur bus to Degirmendere, around the corner from Izmit.

After departure but prior to leaving Istanbul there were some dramas on the bus. A woman had a ticket for the later service but had boarded this bus. Her seat, #35, was one of ours and I sat in #43 instead. The woman refused to leave and another woman, who had #43, was forced to wait for the later service.

Betul met us in Degirmendere, a ‘village’ around the bay from Izmit.

Across the bay from Degirmendere the Izmit oil refinery displays its splendour.

Degirmendere was very close to the epicentre in the 1999 earthquake and much of the village was destroyed. Many people moved away after the earthquake and the character of the village changed.

That evening it was dinner at a seaside restaurant. The best tomato soup (with cheese and crouton additions) I have consumed in Turkey was followed by okra in a tomato and minced meat sauce.

The fresh hazelnut season has begun and Brad and Olivia sampled their first ever ‘soft’ hazelnuts.

Saturday morning was a scramble to catch the Efe Tur bus back to Harem followed by the ferry to Eminonu to make the 1.35 pm final public “Bosphorous Tour” ferry of the day. We did have time for another fish sandwich in Emimonu, though.

For 3.5 million TL one-way or 7 million TL return, the Bosphorous Tour is a great value ferry ride from Eminonu north under the bridges to the Black Sea entrance at the start of the Bosphorous Strait.

The ride was very pleasant, zigzagging from European to Asian terminals. One of the ports on the Asian side, Kanlica, is famous for its yoghurt. A crate of small pots of yoghurt came on board at this stop to be sold for the princely sum of 3 million TL, or almost the cost of 1-way on the ferry! The yoghurt was very good but hardly worth the loot.

At the ferry’s final destination, Anadolu Kavagi, there were castle ruins on a hill overlooking the expensive fish restaurants and other tourist traps. The hour in between boats was just enough time to get to the castle and return again on this hot, tiring day. From the top the Black Sea was visible through the points of the strait. I observed two tugboats guiding a large ship through the narrowest/most dangerous stretch. I guess, by law, ships above a certain size must require guidance through the Bosphorous.

The ferry passengers consisted of Turks and foreigners from all parts of the world. The most memorable passengers spoke very loud. I won’t say which country they came from… In Istanbul I saw more foreigners than I have seen for a long time, both on the ferry and around the city.

One of the lasting impressions of the tour is the number of wealthy Istanbulites. Bosphorous-view houses and apartments are highly sort-after and often sell for millions ($ not lira!). On this trip we passed thousands of luxury houses. Some of the buildings were very thin and long, literally only one room wide. This feature maximised the number of places with a view.

The 4 of us disembarked at Besiktas, on the European side. There we walked inland a few streets to a 3rd storey pub for a beer and stale fried chips.

A taxi ride later we were in Sultanahmet. For dinner (‘tea’) it was Iskender kebab at an excellent restaurant on an Istiklal Caddesi side street. Sweets (called ‘pudding’, according to Brad) consisted of 4 different Turkish deserts at another restaurant, this time on the main drag.

Afterwards we walked through “Cicek Pasaji” (Flower Passage) and onto an extremely crowded restaurant alley. Via a stairway I would never have found, we climbed 5 or 6 levels to a rooftop pub. This small ‘alternative’ pub is a favourite of Betul’s, and it seemed, many other people. We had to wait for a vacant table before entering. The stairs are very steep and I don’t understand how any drunken person could make it back down safely.

A 700 ml beer later we did safely make it to the ground level. The next destination was Eminonu for the -> Eminonu -> Harem -> Degirmendere sequence. On the walk back to Eminonu the local in our group was very jealous that I knew more about the area we were walking in than she did :-)

The 10 pm (final) ferry to Eminonu had left so we caught the 10.30 pm ferry to Uskudar and then a taxi to Harem.

Sunday was a lazy day. After a great Turkish breakfast, we eventually made it outside for a walk along the coastline. For a while we viewed a beach soccer tournament 2 streets inland from the coast. There is no beach in Degirmendere. The 3 players + goalkeeper on each side looked serious but I doubt they were ‘playing for sheep stations’.

After a quick pack up and a rushed meal of lahmacun we left Betul’s for the final time to catch a dolmus (minibus) and then taxi to the Izmit otogar (bus station). There, the handle for walking my small suitcase mysteriously broke and the mechanic, Brad, did not know how to fix it. There were no spaces left for buses to Goreme/Nevsehir so Brad and Olivia spent an extra day at Betul’s.

Izmit is famous for its pismaniye and I bought a packet of this for work. As Betul and I were the only prospective shoppers in the vicinity, the salesmen (didn't see any women) begged us for our business. Ipek Pismaniye ended up winning.

My bus to Mersin was delayed, and when it arrived, the air conditioning did not work. Luckily they fixed it before leaving. A final goodbye and I was off just after 9 pm. Amazingly, the ‘Mersin Seyahat’ bus attendant recognised me from a previous trip. I guess I have spent too long living here ;-)

On the freeway before Ankara the traffic slowed and then stopped for a short time. The only previous time I was in a bus stopped on the freeway was in 2002 when snow marooned us for 4 hours. There surely was not any snow this time in the peak of summer.

A vehicle behind us sounded its siren and flashed its lights – a seemingly ancient fire truck. The bus passed a truck on the roadside with its cabin completely in flames. I swear I could feel the heat of the fire from inside the bus two lanes away. The front of the trailer was also on fire and there was a spot fire on the verge. I hope the driver and any passengers escaped safely before the flames took hold.

After 8 am I arrived back in Mersin, took the free Mersin Seyahat service dolmus home, showered and chatted with Umut and Beysun before going to work.

2 or 3 times over the weekend we indulged in blended drinks at Betul’s place. The Averna, Kahlua Especial, chocolate ice cream, milk and ice smoothy was particularly delicious and indulgent. When I receive my next pay rise I will invest in a blender – they are awesome machines!

Friday, 9 July 2004

Janet, Brittany and Justin in a World-First ‘Live’ Concert Recording Experience

A story exclusive to the taheny.com newswires

Janet Jackson, Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake have jointly announced the start of world-first ‘live’ concert CD releases.

Real concert artists like Pearl Jam and Phish have released concert CD’s previously, but they were brought out well after the final song of finished. For each of Janet’s, Brittany’s and Justin’s forthcoming fall 2004 concerts fans can buy a mastered concert CD - 3 HOURS BEFORE THE ACTUAL EVENT STARTS!

Every pre-concert release contains a special CD cover. The CD cover will identify which pre-concert the CD is from. The different covers will also minimise piracy concerns.

The actual CD, however, remains exactly the same for every gig. After all, each concert’s pre-recorded songs do not vary from gig to gig. Even the canned audience applause will stay authentically identical. The world-first ‘live’ CD’s will only be available inside the venues to those fans with concert tickets.

A DVD was slated for joint release, but the producers discovered artists’ dance steps do vary slightly for each concert and the hardcore fans will recognise the DVD was not from their city’s show.

Brittany is delighted with the new concept, stating:
“For only $49.95 a fan can have a truly unique gift to keep forever. A combined ticket-CD package is less than $200, unbelievable value for a megastar product!”

Justin adds:
“I will buy a CD for all my concerts myself. I love hearing my own voice again and again.”

For Janet concertgoers there is a special bonus as explained by the superstar herself:
“I love all my fans and I understand what they really want from me. For the wonderful men, each CD has a limited edition close-up photo of my [CENSORED]. My female devotees receive 10% off all [CENSORED] Rejuvenation Ltd products and services including the “Janet Jackson Signature [CENSORED] Nipple Accessory, as seen at Superbowl XXXVIII.”

Brittany’s svengali states:
“Brittany, Justin and Janet understand these releases will place their names up there with history’s innovators like Betty Boo and Milli Vanilli. Brittany, Justin and Janet's 15 minutes of fame will last at least 25."

This concept will transform the ‘live’ concert industry as we know it.

Pre-Istanbul Update

Tonight I’m off to Istanbul and Izmit for 3 days. This is my first time in Istanbul, the amazing city, since I started this blog!

Tomorrow I will meet Olivia and Brad!


Today I met Ali (Alejandro) at the train station. We ate tantuni and then kunefe before I dropped him off at the bus station to catch a bus westwards to Antalya, Bodrum, Kizkalesi or wherever else a convenient bus went.

He is legendary enough to give me a bottle of Kahlua Especial as a farewell gift!
My last bottle (from Duty Free, Sydney Airport) finished a month or so ago. I’m certain the new bottle won’t last a year like the first one did.

Ali was a trainee in Adana and is now making his way back to Mexico.


Whilst mentioning people going away, last Sunday I said goodbye to Marino, Jeanette and their children. We swam and had a game of basketball with the manager of the Hilton and some ring-ins. After 4 or so years in Mersin they will now go to live in the Dominican Republic, the country bordering Haiti in the Caribbean. Moving a family of 5 (3 children) across the world is not easy. Luckily, they have moved across the world several times before!

Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Here a Boxing Association, there a Boxing Association, Everywhere a Boxing Association

Intro: I have little to absolutely no interest in boxing. It is a corrupt 'sport' with the prime aim of hurting someone else. Hey, I have no problem with physicality in sport and I love the clashes in Aussie Rules, for example. However, I don't believe the prime objective of any sport should be to hurt the opposition.

Recently one of the "stock recommendation" email scams going around has recommended something related to the "World Boxing League".

Out of curiosity, I searched for this league. The search lead me to this great article. Amongst before some very funny boxing association ancedotes, the author lists the different boxing associations he found from the Internet:
World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Organisation (WBO), World Boxing Union(WBU), International Boxing Association (IBA), International Boxing Council (IBC) World Boxing Federation (WBF), International Boxing Organisation (IBO), World Boxing Board (WBB), National Boxing Association (NBA), Universal Boxing Federation (UBF), World Athletic Association (WAA), International Boxing Union (IBU), People's Boxing Association (PBO), World Boxing Empire (WBE), World Boxing Network (WBN), Universal Boxing Council (UBC), World Cup of Boxing (WCOB), Global Boxing Federation (GBF), Universal Boxing Federation (UBF), World Boxing League (WBL).

This website lists even more associations!

Can professional boxing have any credibility at all as a 'sport'?

Sunday, 4 July 2004

An Outdated Greek Soccer Joke

In Australia this joke went around during the time of the 1998 World Cup in the USA when Greece didn't score a goal:

Q: Why didn't Greece score any goals?

A: Because every time they got a corner they set up a fish and chips shop!


In Australia Greeks run many 'fish and chips' shops.

With the Euro2004 results, the joke is certainly redundant. The following joke is much more relevant:

Saddam's Trial
The good news is Saddam Hussein is facing the death penalty ......

The bad news is David Beckham is taking it !!

Busy, busy, Fireworks and Euro2004

The past week was very busy at work. Many students, including the summer school group to Britain, are leaving for their education and the office is chaotic. From Monday onwards things should calm down and I will finally send the emails I’ve been meaning to send.


Fireworks

Most nights, it seems, I can hear and see short bursts of fireworks from my apartment balcony. The fireworks blast away from the coast in different places – the Hilton, the Tennis Club, the Sporting Club, the military base or others. They are formal fireworks displays, not private, random fireworks. Sometimes the noise produced is enough to set off car alarms.

On both Thursday and Friday nights the fireworks reared their beautiful heads again. Thursday’s display was the best I recall seeing in Mersin and one of my best ever witnessed, both in amount and variety. Not quite up with Tunarama, Port Lincoln, 1994(?) or Prague, New Year’s Eve 2001-2, but still very good. I do not know for whom the fireworks display was for but they came from the vicinity of the military base.

A few of the fireworks exploded as particular shapes, something I had not witnessed previously in Mersin. Some were flowers whilst others looked like miss-shaped hearts. The combined sky-lighting and noise-creation entertainment eventually stopped and I walked back downstairs from the roof to watch the remainder of the Greece-Netherlands Euro2004 semi-final.


Update [2004/07/06]: On Sunday I spoke with the Australian manager of the Mersin Hilton. She told me the firework displays are largely for weddings and graduations and Thursday's display was for the Economics Department at Mersin University.

Addendum [2004/08/22]: I can now confirm that the firework's display mentioned above was in fact for the Mersin Chamber of Shipping (Mersin Deniz Ticareti) and not the Mersin University Economics Department. The July Chamber magazine attests to this.


Euro2004

Some weeks ago Matthias suggested I write a post on the reaction to Euro2004 soccer championships in Turkey, particularly since Turkey did not qualify. Since then I’ve been planning to write about it, but haven’t managed to do so as other, timelier, events have occurred.

As almost all people in Europe and many people in the rest of the world know, Greece will play Portugal on Sunday for the right to be called European champions. A lesser-known fact is that the Olympic diving championships were moved forward from Athens and will now also take place at the same venue and time. Yes, I don’t like how almost all teams bordering the Mediterranean (including Turkey) dive whenever they think it will give them an advantage.

All the Euro2004 games are shown live on the government television channel TRT1 (and TRT2, when 2 games were played at one time). There is a high level of interest in the tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised if the games win the TV ratings. Of course the level of interest would be far higher if Turkey was playing. The World Cup in 2002 was just unreal.

From my observations, there were not any particular teams Turkish people favoured or disliked. Perhaps Latvia was the team least favoured because they knocked Turkey out of the qualifying. In contrast to what foreigners may think, almost all Turkish people do not hate Greeks or Greece and I’m sure many will be supporting Greece (as neighbours) against Portugal. Personally, I also favour the Greeks, as I believe the Portuguese have had 12 men playing for them so far in the tournament (if you know what I mean). (((Shhh! Don’t tell Maria C I’m not supporting Portugal!)))


Update [2004/07/06]: I'm sure all who have a vague interest know Greece won Euro2004 1-0. As I was very tired I only watched the first half and I missed out on the pitch invader and Ronaldo crying.

Saturday, 3 July 2004

A new form of spam: the joke version

Recently I have received a few spams with a new trick to get passed the spam detectors: including jokes after the selling point.

Some of the jokes are quite funny, too!


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Yit Now Open.....
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2004 16:49:10 +0300
From: waldo krumbholz
To: luther caballero <>


collonium comphi corewidth


0n|ine Pharm

You can now order V.i`c`odin, V_a|ium, X.a.nax securely and discreetly.

We make it easier and faster than ever to get the prescriptions you need
.. (Pls go we^bsite to qu-it if you don't want this)

L U http://ugnf.info.splashboy.com/abc/big/




One day little Johnny went to his father, and asked him if he could buy him
a $200 bicycle for his birthday.Johnny's father said, "Johnny, we have a
$80,000 mortgage on the house, and you want me to buy you a bicycle? Wait
until Christmas."Christmas came around, and Johnny asked again. The father
said, "Well, the mortgage is still extremely high, sorry about that. Ask me
again some other time."Well, about two days later, the boy was seen walking
out of the house with all his belongings in a suitcase. The father felt
sorry for him, and asked him why he was leaving.The boy said, "Yesterday I
was walking past your room, and I heard you say that you were pulling out,
and mommy said that you should wait because she was coming too."And I'll be
DAMNED if I get stuck with an $80,000 mortgage!"
A guy walks into a post office one day to see a very well-dressed,
middle-aged, balding man standing at the counter methodically placing "Love"
stamps on a huge stack of bright pink envelopes. Each envelope has hearts
all over it. The man then takes out a perfume bottle and starts spraying
scent all over them. His curiosity getting the better of him, he goes up to
the balding man and asks him what he is doing. The man says "I'm sending out
1,000 Valentines cards signed, 'Guess who?'" "But why?" asks the man. "I'm a
divorce lawyer," the man replies.
uchuurek2sinrifu08pop,bunsanga boryu-mu.



---------------------------------------------------

Related post: here

Friday, 2 July 2004

Yesterday in Court

Yesterday my 'tercuman' (translator, also my boss) and I visited the Mersin courthouse 3 times for 'electricity' issue.

We were told to arrive at 8:30 in the morning. After waiting around for a while we were told to come back at 11 am. At 11 it was the same story and we were told to return after 1 pm.

Finally, we entered the courtroom. The court was probably a small administrative claims type court, if such a thing exists.

The courtroom was cluttered with many stacks of files in various, seemingly random, locations.

Besides my translator and I there were up to 5 other people in the room. The judge sat elevated behind a table at the front of the room. To his right ('stage left') was an assistant. In front of the judge was a typist recording the spoken case details onto a computer.

To the left ('stage right') of the judge was a lawyer (I guess) who did not seem to have an active role and rocked up halfway through. I ('the accused') stood in the middle of a 3-sided 'fence' rising about 130 cm from the ground. Only the back was open.


My translator stood to my left, slightly towards the rear and a lawyer sat to his left. I believe this last lawyer was there in case each case's defence wanted a lawyer but did not have one. We declined to request a lawyer. Both of the lawyers and the judge were wearing a gown of some sort.

Things dragged on for a while. This court sitting seemed to only be a preliminary hearing. The TEDAS expert was not there so the case was adjourned to October and we were free to leave the courthouse complex for the 3rd and final time that day.

In summary, from what I understand, the electricity meter for my apartment was allegedly tampered to reduce the recorded electricity use. I knew nothing about this and was shocked when this was discovered. My electricity bills were already high when compared to other apartments and their number of occupants. The supplier turned off the electricity supply to my apartment until the estimated amount owed was paid.

Since the court case is in progress, I don't want to go into much further detail. However, I am very confident that no further action will be taken against me.

Electricity theft is a huge racket in Turkey and the current government has rightfully cracked down on this.

Some basic information about Turkey's electricity industry.

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