5 Mar 2017 18:35
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Just home from seeing "Kedi", a film we've been waiting to see for over a year, a time usually reserved for the next Star Wars or Marvel movie. But this was special. We discovered the existence of the movie while researching our trip to Istanbul in late 2015. That was when we discovered the unique cat culture of the city.

Istanbul, you see, is overrun with cats. Not feral, not house cats, but owned by no one and loved by almost all. The cats come and go as they please, and locals chip in to feed and care for them. The film examines the lives of several cats and the people whose lives have been changed by their interactions with the cats. Kedi is Turkish for cat.

But seeing the film made Kirsten and I only more determined to return to the ancient city we fell in love with about a year ago. We spent a week in the Queen of Cities last April, and were just getting good at it when it was time to leave. We had figured out the food, the taksis (taxis), the local public transit, and of course, the cats. We needed a few more days! Mainly because we discovered that it was insane to think you can do Topkapi Palace and the Archaeological Museum complex in one day. You need three. It's that big.

It's not that we missed a lot, it's that we never got into anything in great depth. We skimmed our way through places that deserved loving attention. Our mistake. But we did see a lot, and more importantly, we experienced the city. It's more than seeing the sites and listening to guides explain which Sultan built which mosque, it's more.

Istanbul, which was Constantinople up until the turn of the 20th century and Byzantium during the early Roman Empire, is an ancient place. The Old City, still mostly protected by the wall of Theodosius and the sea walls built by Constantine has been a city since the 7th century BCE. It was captured by Alexander the Great, absorbed by the Roman Empire and became its capital in 330 CE, before becoming the seat of the newly-forged Ottoman Empire in 1453. Our hotel stood on the street that had been the Silver Road, a Roman road that lead out of the city and headed north into Dalmatia.

Just walking down the street you were immersed in just how immortal this place is. It's a feeling. Almost as if the restless spirits of the city want to share their stories, and show you that the currency exchange with the flashing signs and digital display of exchange rates was doing the exact same job when it was sailors off the galleys and dhows that needed good Roman coin to spend at the wine shops and baths (both of which also still exist.)

The one place that really cemented the feeling of age for me was the Kariye Müzesi, also known as the Chora Church. This is a hilltop church built in the 4th century CE, filled with some spectacular frescoes and mosaics dating from 10th-11th centuries. It's spectacular. Now, when you think of hot tourist spots, you probably think of car parks, and spaces for the buses to offload hordes of camera-packing tourists. Not here! To get to the Chora your taksi driver takes you up a series of increasingly narrow roads, paced in cobblestones, finally stopping at the junction of four alleyways. He them points down one say "Kariye" before driving off. Because this isn't some thing that was built with greatness and access in mind. It's a local church that served the nearby residents . . . 1,700 years ago. Let that sink in.

One funny thing about that place. "Chora" means "in the fields", which made sense because when it was built it was outside the walls erected by Constantine. Barely a century after the church opened, the great walls built under Theodosius II were built, and the church was no firmly inside the walls. But everyone still called it the Chora. People never change, do they?

Yeah, we need to win the lottery and go back. We still have things to see in the Imperial City, and, if money allows, in Cappadocia and the Mediterranean shore as well. We might even learn a little more Turkish for the trip, although my mastery of "thank you" got me many smiles.

So go see Kedi. Marvel at the Queen of Cities, and the cats who rule it.
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Folks, this is it. The last time I'm going to bug y'all about our trip to Istanbul. We've decided to make December 31st the day we stop pimping the trip, and focus on going.

Thanks to your amazing generosity, and with the boost from EarthBaby, we've raised a stunning $11,640. We're just $860 from reaching a goal that frankly scared the hell out of us when we started this thing. Because of you, we have already purchased:

- Round-trip airfare in Business Class on Turkish Air
- Accommodations at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Istanbul - Old Town
- Travel insurance through AAA
- Plus some clothes and travel necessities for the trip.

In the coming weeks, we'll be booking tours and dinner cruise reservations, getting our visas, and doing the eight million last second things that this trip requires. I'm actually upset that 2016 is a leap year, because it means waiting one more day.

But I want to end this year's fund raider with a bang. If everyone reading this gives just a little; ten bucks, a five, even a dollar, we can meet the goal and be secure in the knowledge that we are paid for.

So ring that bell a few more times before we ring in the new year.

Thanks again to all of you for making this happen. I'm getting to see a place I've dreamed of since childhood, Kirsten and I are getting an amazing 25th anniversary trip, and y'all will get a ton of photos.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Carpe)
The Hagia Sophia (from the Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, "Holy Wisdom"; Latin: Sancta Sophia or Sancta Sapientia; Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former Christian patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as a Greek Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

That's what Wikipedia has to say. That, and more; it's a pretty complete article. But simple facts and dates can't express how much I need to see and touch this building. The first church of the Holy Wisdom was built on the site by Constantine the Great. It burned down. The second was ordered by Theodosius II, also known for the mighty city walls. That church was largely destroyed during the Nika riots of 532. Emperor Justinian I then declared that a mighty basilica would be built on the site. He imported materials from across the known world, consulted the greatest minds of the age, and built a church that, when it opened it's doors on December 27th, 537, was a wonder of the world.

It still is. It is nearly 1,500 years old. The amazing thing is that through all these centuries and changes of possession no one eliminated the older aspects of the building. 7th century mosaics co-exist with 17th century Islamic tapestries. It really is one of the few places on earth where you experience the entire history of a place without needing reconstructions or simulations. There have been some changes, for example many of the tombs were moved after the Ottoman conquest in 1453, and of course their added electricity and plumbing. But you walk into building and you have entered a time machine.

I first read about the Hagia Sophia when I was 13 or so. It immediately caught my imagination. The more I studied the Byzantine Empire (and now the Ottoman Empire) the more I came to see how this one building seemed to be at the center of so many pivotal events. It has been witness to coronations grand and pathetic, murders and heroic stands, clerics both noble and scheming. My favorite tale of the building is the legend that when Mehet's troops broke through the doors, the priests who had been saying prayers for the city's salvation around the clock picked up the holy relics on the altar and walked into the walls. They'll stay there until a Christian Emperor takes back the city.

When we get there, we'll see if we can't convince them to come out.

We are so close to making our goal. Just 18 people making a $100 donation gets us there. Please, if you haven't donated yet, consider doing so now. If you can't help financially, please spread the word. Remember; we are offering a PDF collection of my better journal posts collected by Hugo Award winner Chris Garcia for any donation of $50 or more, and I am still offering places in my NaNoWriMo project.

Hagia Sohpia interior
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
I bring you the finest nuts to be found on the interwebs.

Behold the Netscape Navigator-optimized wonder that is Barry S. Roffman's Ark Code and Mars Research Home Page.

My new best friend Barry is a dedicated nut. Along with believing that the Bible (in Hebrew, natch) is a coded treasure map (does Nicholas Cage know about this?) he is also convinced that Mars has an atmosphere as thick as Earth's because dust devils form there.

In other news, the Türkçe word for cake is pasta. I forsee a few confusing yet delicious and sweet dinners for on the trip.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Carpe)
Let us all pause a moment and think kind thoughts for Sultan Ahmet I, the George W. Bush of the Ottoman Empire.

A poet, scholar, and unwavering religious fanatic, Ahmet (or Ahmed in many Western sources) had one or two minor failings. He was politically incompetent and an utter disaster as a military strategist. Which wouldn't have mattered if his father had been a fisherman, but no poor Ahmet was the son of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliph of the Faith, and he inherited the family business.

He was a disaster. Under his rule, the Empire lost huge areas on both the eastern and western frontiers. At home, his attempts to enforce rigid religious orthodoxy infuriated the bulk of Constantinople's population, who disliked being told how to conduct their faith, and caused near riots among the large non-Muslim population out of fear that forced conversions were coming. When he died of typhus in 1617, his brother took the throne as Mustafa I. This was odd, as Ottoman tradition was that on ascension to the throne the new sultan would have his brothers killed. But not Ahmet! No, he let his mentally disturbed and possibly developmentally disabled brother live. Which led to several years of ineffective government as palace factions fought to control the puppet on the throne.

So, with this track record, why is there an entire district of Istanbul's Old City called Sultanahmet? Because the one thing Ahmet did right was order the destruction of the old Byzantine palaces ruins and the construction of a mosque in its place. He spared no expense creating a building which is breathtaking. Two tiny problems, though. Remember those wars Ahmet lost? It was expected that the sultan would fund his victory mosques by having, you know, victories. Plunder paid the bills! Since Ahment had managed to lose close to a third of the empire, he emptied the treasury to build his mosque. Which got the religious courts furious with him. Then he decided that his mosque had to be far more impressive than the Ayasafya (the Hagia Sophia, which will be the next entry), which is literally just down the street. So Ahmet somehow came to the conclusion that putting up six minarets would be just the thing, since the Ayasafya only had four. This set the traditionalists off, as the Masjid al-Ḥarām, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, was the only mosque in the world with six minarets. To make up for this gaffe, Ahmet funded a seventh minaret for Mecca. 

Now the part where I nudge people. Thanks to your incredible generosity and support, with the match from EarthBaby, we are just $1,895 from reaching our goal. That this has happened in a little under two months is staggering and humbling. We are in the homestretch, and if just 40 people can find $50 we can close the books. Please help out of you can, and if you can't, please boost the signal.

As a reminder, any gift of $50 or more gets the sure to be Hugo-nominated, and equally sure to lose, Penguins of the Bosphorus, a collection of my "best" journal entries created using only the finest electrons, dew-picked and flown from the Large Hadron Collider, cleansed in the finest quality cheap beer, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, ghost pepper infused, four-alarm, treble-burrito envelope, and lovingly frosted with sarcasm. This was compiled by Chris Garcia, who know a thing or nine about losing Hugos. I'm still giving out places in my NaNoWriMo project for donations as well.

Inside Blue Mosque 3.jpg
"Inside Blue Mosque 3" by Christian Perez - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.


19 Oct 2015 14:43
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
We are just $400 dollars away from hitting the ceiling on the dollar-for-dollar donation match offer from Kirsten's wonderful bosses at EarthBaby. With those matching funds, we go over ten grand. That means this becomes real. Because then we can start blocking out dates, make flight and hotel reservations, starting the visa process.

We're still working to hit our total goal, but this hurdle is the big one. Let's knock it out of the park!

Remember, any donation of $50 or more gets the collection of some of my best posts compiled by two-time Hugo Award winner Christopher J Garcia.

Also, I'm giving you the chance to become a character in my #NaNoWriMo project in exchange for a donation. An excellent holiday gift and far more legit than those star registry scams! Details here:

Thanks to everyone for your generosity and kindness. Y'all are amazing.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
Yes, another fundraising post.

I'm working on a novel for NaNoWriMo. Working title is The Prophet Principle and it's a SF thriller/caper novel. I will finish this and publish it through Createspace. But here's the thing. . .

I suck at names. I tend to use name generators, which are fine, but I would prefer to both do something fun and raise some money for the trip. So I'm selling naming rights. I have about ten characters who will be in most of the book. About half will die along the way. Here's the deal.

For $250 donation to the fund, I'll name my protagonist after you, or whoever you want. I'll take your description or photo, any mannerisms or quirks, and write them in. Note the character is a confidence artist and thief.

For a $100 donation to the fund, You get to name one of the supporting characters. Same as above. Some of these characters have roles established, so we might have to find a good fit.

For $50, your name gets mentioned. Somewhere. Random bartender, Krazy [name]'s Used Starships, mook who gets killed and his mate goes nuts screaming "They killed [name]!" As above, but details will be limited.

When you make your kind donation, comment with "character." Kirsten will send you my email so we can have some fun. When the book is published, I'll autograph a copy and mail to all the people who became part of it.

I'll be honest; this book is unlikely to win a Hugo, or sell more than a few dozen copies. But I think it will be fun and I am determined to be published.

So please consider making a donation! We are still a few hundred dollars way from maxing out the donation match challenge from Earth Baby, so your donation will count double!

We just found out there is a book and map marketplace next to the Grand Bazaar. We need the money.
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II (soon to earn the label "the Conqueror") found the old Byzantine palace wholly inadequate. It was crumbling, dirty, and falling down in places. He ordered a new palace built to the northeast. The Saray-i Cedid-i Amire (Imperial New Palace) was the primary residence of the Sultans and their huge, dare I say Byzantine, bureaucracies for 400 years. During the reign of Mahud I, the palace was renamed Topkapusu Sâhil Sarâyı (Cannon Gate Palace by the Sea) after another palace that had been destroyed by fire. The current name simply means Cannon Gate.

The Topkapi was the home to Ottoman rulers until 1856 when the Sultan moved to the more modern (and European) Dolmabahçe Palace. The bulk of the Imperial beaurcracy remained in the Topkapi until 1924, when the new Republic of Turkey made the complex a museum.

And it remains a museum to this day.

The Topkapi will be a most of the day affair. Luckily, it is surrounded by parks and restaurants. So after soaking in the magnificent history of the Ottoman Empire, we can rest and enjoy the peace of gardens once reserved for Sultans!

Everyone has been so great in this. We are just $1,200 from reaching the cap of EarthBaby's donation match. Please, consider giving a little if you haven't already. Remember, the amazing Chris Garcia (who has two Hugo Awards and twin sons - coincidence? I think not!) has put together a collection of some of my better blatherings for anyone who contributes $50 or more.

Just 24 people giving $50 maxes out the donation match cap. That's when we can start making reservations! 100 people giving at that level pushes us over our total goal with room to spare. So please, spread the word. Somebody out there has to have a rich uncle!

Imperial Gate
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
The more I look into places to see and things to do on the Istanbul trip, the more I find that gets added to the list. Just doing the research is exciting me beyond any reasonable level.

For example, one of the things I really want to see is the Theodosian Walls. The 5th-century city walls built by Emperor Theodosius II stretch for 6.5 km (4 miles) from Istanbul's Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara. These walls were legendary in their time, and only breached twice in the city's long history. So few city walls remain, seeing them with restored gates and guard towers was obviously high on my list.

But then I learned that one of the best places to view the walls was very close to the Kariye Museum, originally built in the 4th century as the 'Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls' or 'in the Country' (chora), it was indeed outside the walls built by Constantine the Great. However, less than a century later, the new city walls placed the church solidly inside the city. Of course, nobody bothered calling it anything different. The current building and mosaics date from the 11-12th centuries.

Best part? There's an established tour that hits these two sites as well as other great stops.

But we can't do any of it without help. We are still fundraising, and as a reminder, [personal profile] kshandra's employers at EarthBaby are matching each donation dollar for dollar up to $4,000 through Thanksgiving.

Please think about a donation to our dream trip. And please, please boost the signal. If we can get 200 people to give just $40 each we hit our goal with room to spare! 80 people donating $100 breaks the ceiling. Of course, if somebody just wants to toss five grand at us, we would not complain.

Thank you for any support you can give.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Wobble)
(crossposted from, and by, [personal profile] kshandra)

I'll start with today's news: [personal profile] gridlore is due to be released around 3pm today. (Which is probably 6pm in hospitalese, but we're used to it by now.) Nothing official yet as to what might be wrong, but he saw a specialist yesterday who had some theories, and we'll say more about that when we get confirmation.

Yesterday, however, was fucking difficult for both of us.

I arrived at lunchtime to discover that Doug was on isolation protocol - mask, gloves, and gown - while they checked him for C. diff. Adding insult to injury, the isolation gowns didn't fit me; the nurse cleared me to go in without one, but it was just one more dig I didn't need.

I got back to the office after a couple of hours with Doug and was immediately greeted with two phonecalls one of my co-irkers had mishandled, a round of Geek Answer Syndrome as both of my co-irkers tried to brainstorm what had happened to Doug that I finally had to shut down before I ran out of the building screaming, and a call to a prospective customer (attempting to do damage control on one of the earlier fuckups) who promptly began trying to railroad me into doing things that weren't physically possible. I wound up staying two hours late just so I had time to myself in the building and could actually get some work done. (I'm still under 40hrs for the week, thanks to Thursday's ER trip, so I didn't mind much.)

I was already burnt out when I got back to the hospital in the evening, and Doug wasn't much better, so I didn't stay long. I knew I wasn't going to sleep when I got home, though, so I found a How It's Made marathon on TV (I was hoping for Bourdain, but it was still nicely soothing) and did a little work on the crowdfunding campaign. (We broke 20% last night/this morning!) Finally crawled into bed around 11:30, but didn't fall asleep right away, which was just as well, because it meant I was awake when my phone pinged:

cut for emetophobes )

Before I left last night, I let Doug know that I was planning to spend the morning at home; the Rock & Roll Marathon has half the streets between home and the hospital closed until 1pm, and I had errands that needed doing. And truth be told, I needed a break - I'm pretty sure I've been in Crisis Mode since his last hospital stay last month, and neither of us can afford for me to crash in the middle of all of this. So I've got more How It's Made on the TV (this time courtesy of YouTube and the Roku player I got for my birthday) and laundry in the dryer (which appears to have actually stayed fixed this time, thank g_d, because I'd be in jail for killing our landlord if it hadn't worked today), and I'll head over once I have a clean change of clothes for him.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
[personal profile] kshandra here again. Doug would have posted this himself yesterday if he'd been home long enough between the lab and the ER, and he asked me to post it tonight when I came home. So, cribbing from my own post on the subject...

Yesterday, we got an amazing offer from my employer.

Between now and Thanksgiving, EarthBaby has committed to matching, dollar-for-dollar, every contribution we receive, up to a total of $4,000.00. This gets us to the $10K mark, at which point we can seriously begin booking flights and making reservations.

In addition, some time in the next week or two, we will be able to offer a great perk to everyone who contributes $50 or more. Details to follow.

You can see the wide range of contributions we've gotten so far in the sidebar on the campaign page - everything from $1 to $500. Every one of these contributions gets us closer to our goal, and for the next two months, every one of these contributions gets us twice as far.

Teşekkür ederiz, once again, to everyone who has contributed so far; if you haven't yet, and have been thinking about doing so, please consider doing it during this matching period. And whether you can contribute or not, please, PLEASE boost the signal. It's every bit as important that we get our campaign in front of as many fresh eyeballs as possible.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Carpe)
Actually, what I need is money. [personal profile] kshandra and I have started fund raising for the Istanbul trip. We figure $12,500 will get us there and back alive, we've picked a good hotel at a good rate, and have figured daily expenses.

Now we need your help. This is seriously the one trip in the world I want to take. The one city I want to see and experience. Byzantium/Nova Roma/Constantinople/Istanbul... whatever you call it, it is the Queen of Cities and I have dreamed of those streets for so long now.

So, please follow this link and help out if you can. If you can't, please boost the signal. If you're Elon Musk, dude, I made two runs a day to to the Tesla plant in Fremont when it was being converted from the Nummi plant. How about some gratitude?

If one of you actual knows Elon Musk, that would help as well.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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