Saturday, April 30, 2005

Passover Diet

The Friday before Passover, I was sitting in the Sports Club's cafeteria, eating lunch and listening in to the conversation of the two black guys at the table next to me.

One of them, slightly overweight, was telling the other about his new girlfriend. She's Jewish, and the Jews celebrate this holiday called Passover where they don't eat any bread. He was thinking of celebrating it with her. He figures that white bread is the real reason he's gaining weight. If he can do without white bread for seven days, and then maybe just eat it in moderation, he's sure he can lose weight...

Passover hasn't had that effect on me. Maybe it's because I'm suffering from the effects of a double whammy - eating both Matzo and bread...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Second Generation Orthodox

I always love going to Parnaz's parties. First of all the food is wonderful. Persian food at its best. But then there's also the immersion in a world that is so different from the one I live in every day. The new modern orthodox world. A world in which girls get married by age 19 (or 20 at the latest), where women my age, like my friend , already have grandkids but still look like teenagers, where 30 person dinner parties are the norm, where no one thinks I'm too young to have a 19 year old daughter...

But this evening's discussion was about that underlying threat - Uber-orthodoxy. Somewhat like the nouveau riche, the nouveau orthodox tend to go to extremes. To fall off the precipice linking them to the normal world. It's a second generation phenomena. The parents, raised in a secular or traditional household, go orthodox. Send their kids to Hillel and Shalhevet and YULA. Their kids then go ultra. And why is this a problem? Well, suddenly the exigencies of earning a living are too mundane for them. Suddenly nothing less than the Gaza strip will do as home for them. Suddenly their mother's home cooking is no longer kosher enough for them...

My parent's generation was the generation that broke with orthodoxy. They left the old country, and with it, they left the strictures and the bad memories they associated with religion. Some of my generation, unfamiliar with it, has gone back. But it's a slippery slope...

The only consolation I can offer is that, like most natural phenomena, this one, I believe, is a self-limiting one. You can only go so far into orthodoxy before your kids, or your grandkids, or your great grandkids rebel. Hopefully you can wait that long.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


So here's my broad generalization. Men that are single (have never been married) at age 40 are economic underachievers. Women that are single at 40 are economic overachievers. A generalization, and I can point to a few exceptions, but, would you really say this isn't generally true?...

If we assume I'm right on this one, then the question is why it's so. Well, I can speculate... For the men - a) they never had the pressure of providing for families, and hence had less motivation to earn more money, or b) they were never interested in making money and hence avoided getting married, or c) their lower economic motivation and achievement made them less attractive to women... For the women - d) their self sufficiency made them less interested in a mate and less willing to compromise in their choice of mates, or e) their economic achievements made them less attractive to potential mates, or f) women who do get married have less motivation to make money than their single counterparts...

But first let's answer an easier question. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Passover Hazelnut Cake

Here's my favorite Passover cake recipe - a Swedish recipe that I learned from a Korean friend and is my calling card even on the other 49 weeks of the Jewish year...

8 eggs
16 ounces of hazelnuts (or filberts as Trader Joe's calls them...)
1.5 cups of sugar

Grind the hazelnuts. I do this in my coffee grinder a bit at a time. Try to avoid over-grinding. The cake comes out better if the hazelnuts are only roughly ground.

Whip the eggs (whites and yolks together) with the sugar until stiff and frothy. This takes about 10 minutes, and in and of itself is the reason I'm thinking of getting one of those ridiculously large and expensive freestanding Kenmore mixers...

Fold in the ground hazelnuts,

Pour into a greased, round 9 inch diameter springform cake tin.

Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes, or until quite brown.

Warning - this cake always falls a bit, a bit like a souffle, but the flavor is wonderful. You can add whipped cream if you're going diary, or fruit salad for parve...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Do Shiksas Have More Fun?

My friend Peter has been asking me for my thoughts on the Sunday Brunch conversation. So many things to write about, so little time… But here’s the low hanging fruit:

Statement: Jewish guys are irresistibly attracted to shiksas (non-Jewish, gentile-looking, i.e., blond, blue eyed, women). Is that true? Do they prefer shiksas?

Well, Marilyn Monroe, the classic shiksa, claimed that men preferred blonds. I can’t argue with her success – with men in general and with Jewish men in particular… Yet as a Jewish brunette, I maintain that all other things being equal, Jewish men are attracted to me at least as much as they are attracted to shiksas, maybe even more. On the other hand gentile men are attracted to me a little less. Why? Because for most of them, I’m an odd bird…

Harper’s Bazaar April issue has an article from a brunette who dyed her hair blond as a fashion experiment. Her conclusion? Men don’t necessarily prefer blondes. But there’s something in blondes that brings out the jerk in some men… Hmmm, there’s probably something in the shiksa that brings out the jerk in some Jewish men – famously, in Philip Roth’s Portnoy, who ends up trying to marry… a Jewish girl.

Which reminds me of what a Jewish lawyer friend of mine once told me, while commenting on the fancy Boston law firm where she worked. She claimed that gentile male lawyers were a lot more comfortable with Jewish female lawyers than with gentile female lawyers. And why? Because, she said, they weren’t comfortable around female lawyers. Period. But to them, Jewish women weren’t really women…

And all this brings me to my favorite dumb blond joke:

What do brunettes do on a Saturday evening?

They sit around telling dumb blond jokes…

Human Breast Milk – Yum!

Getting into deeper and more rarefied questions – Peter asked something I had never thought of. Why is there no tradition that involves consumption of human breast milk? Particularly since, as those of us who have tried know, human breast milk is soooo much better than cow’s milk. Kind of like comparing unsweetened oatmeal with chocolate soufflé. Yet human breast milk is reserved exclusively for babies.

Peter’s theory is that we perceive it as somehow akin to cannibalism… a taboo. Sounds right. My thought – it’s a human bodily excretion, ugggh – and we have a very strong natural taboo against eating human excretions... And why do we have such a strong natural taboo? To protect us from passing on disease… That’s my Talmudic response. As I write I find I’m actually disgusted by this whole subject…

Moore's Law

EETimes has an article this week commemorating the invention of Moore’s Law. In 1971 Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, predicted that the density of transistors on a computer chip would be doubled every 18 months. Astoundingly, he was precisely right, and speculation about the time that Moore’s Law would break down – that we would hit a wall and be unable to make computers even smaller and more powerful – has become one of the mainstays of technology pundits. That means that since Moore made his prediction, the density of transistors on a chip has increased by more than 2 to the power of 22, or by more than fifteen million (!).

But what I found most interesting is the EETimes interpretation. The reason Moore’s Law has held, they say, is that it is so catchy, so exciting, and so compelling, that generations of engineers have set it as their goal. When they plan their new chip, due out in 18 months, they plan it to be twice as dense as the current one. Moore’s Law has held because technologists have taken it as a given that they must achieve it, because if they won’t, their competitors, following the same roadmap, will.

Big ideas and big goals lead to big achievements

Monday, April 18, 2005

Potting soil

The two Geranium pots by my front door have caused me (I hate to admit it…) years of low grade frustration. My concept is to have two spots of red framing the door. I’m striving for a pure red, not the pinkish/purplish red that’s more common. The only practical flower that can answer this requirement is your basic, run-of-the-mill, non genetically-altered, non-hybrid geranium. Which of course is the most difficult to find. But I found it. That’s not my problem. The problem is this – that my geraniums have been over-run by pests that specifically eat the flower buds before they open. It’s an ongoing cycle. I spray my geraniums with insecticide (I’ve gotten progressively more vicious over time)… when I think they’re pest free, I give them generous amounts of plant food. Within a couple of weeks a multitude of flower buds appear. I spray some more. They start flowering. They’re beautiful. Then I let down my guard – i.e., stop spraying – and within a few weeks my geraniums are a mess of unfulfilled flowering potential. It’s bad Feng Shui, I believe, to have pest-ridden flowers by your front door…

A few weeks ago I decided that a fresh start was needed. Maybe an expert could have salvaged my flowers, but I was certainly not up to the task. I emptied my pots completely – no flowers, no soil - and went to the nursery to get new Geraniums.

Of course, they had every shade of pink. But no red. Red will come next week, they promise me. To avoid feeling like I’d totally wasted my time, I decided to buy the potting soil – the first step in the re-invention of my front-door flower pots.

A heavy-set young man came around to help me. Which potting soil do I want? They have two types. The cheap type, and the more expensive type. But the more expensive type is just $2 more per bag, he explains. How much is the cheap bag? He doesn’t know. What’s the difference? Well, the expensive one is all organic, no artificial ingredients, all natural. Hmmm. Do I really care if my geraniums eat organic? All I really want is for them to be pest free. Would I be contaminating my environment with non-organic potting soil? I don’t think so. It’ll all be contained in my pot…

I opted for the cheap type. Mr. Heavy-set came over to load the bags into my car. I was wearing my new skirt – one of my latest acquisitions from Israel – pre-crinkled fabric, seems like the latest fashion…

“Can I ask you where you got your skirt?”, he says. “I want to get my mother one of those”

Should I be offended? I’m not sure. “In Israel” I say.

“Oh”, he says, “do you think I could get it in London or in Paris?”

I can’t figure out where he’s going with this.

“I don’t know” I say, “I got it in Israel.”

“Do you think I could get it on Melrose or on Rodeo Drive?”

“I’m sure you could get something like it on Melrose, I don’t know about Rodeo Drive.” I smile, shut my trunk, and leave.

What was that conversation all about? Could someone please explain?

iPod –

My back had been bothering me all week, and when I finally got to the airport for my flight back to L.A. I felt that sitting in the waiting area was no longer an option. I found myself a nice spot of carpet next to the window, somewhat hidden from view and warmed by the sun, laid down with my head against my backpack, and went on reading my book.

As you probably know, Southwest airlines groups their passengers into the A, the B and the C groups, according to check-in time (check in early, you’re an A, late, you’re a C). The A group boards first, then B, then C. There’s no assigned seating.

For reasons that are entirely unclear to me, Southwest passengers tend to line up long in advance, no matter which group they belong to. My own philosophy is that the only group worth queuing up for is the C group. With the first two you’re virtually guaranteed a window or an aisle seat. Why stand in line?

With my B boarding card, I was free to read to my heart’s content. When the B group was finally called, I dawdled over to the back of the line. I suddenly realized that I was standing right next to a friend of mine. One of those once-a-year friends. That’s about how often we meet. In some ways we have a lot in common – two women in high tech, two female electrical engineers – it would have been nice to have a get to know her better, but that’s about the extent of our acquaintance.

On the positive side, when you meet once a year, there’s plenty of useful information to convey. She’s been commuting quite a bit, and her epiphany of the year is the iPod. She’s been listening to books on her iPod. She offers transfer a few of her favorites to my iPod, but I don’t have one… I’ve never considered listening to an audio book, but suddenly, thinking of my new weekly commute to Santa Rosa, the idea doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe the ideal traveling companion…

Immediate gratification, she tells me. You just go online, download the book you want, she’s amazed at how much money she’s spent on the pleasure… check out

Well, I get home, and I check it out. No kidding. About $25 per book (!). I’ve been feeling very loose with my money lately, but not that loose. So here’s the thought: How about a lending library of audio books? How about a Netflix for audio books? You can have only two out at a time. Return one, you get another one. Of course the logistics of the return are unclear, since it’s already copied onto your iPod, but I’m sure there’s a solution here. $29.99 a month. I think I’d spring for that…

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Effortless Anxiety

I’ve been reading my favorite Philip Roth book – The Counterlife. It’s full of gems, but the one that stuck in my mind is Nathan’s Zuckerman’s Jewish friend admiring a picture of Nathan’s new wife. “Effortless tranquility” he says. “Not a trait that we’re known for. Our great contribution is effortless anxiety”…

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Beginner Wines

A solution to my red wine aversion may have been found. The Beginner Wine – Zinfandel… I’m told it’s the ideal wine to break in a wine virgin like myself. Perhaps the California equivalent of Chianti. Light, sweetish, non-demanding… If only they would serve it in small portions (maybe thimble size), I would consider it perfection.

Wine Lover Country

I’m camping out in Santa Rosa these days, doing my technology thing in the heart of wine country. I feel like a stick in the mud. My “Inn”’s parking lot is jammed with the right kind of cars – a BMW 745 with a WINEMAG license plate, a red Porsche Carrera with an INTO WNE plate. The restaurant sports a 30 page wine list with California wines ONLY – no Chianti… And here I am, I don’t even like wines… Grappa, Vodka, even Whiskey would be fine… But red wine?..

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The new New Deal

Who decides on airport security measures? Who pays for them? Is this the new New Deal? Workfare? Has the government now decided that instead of building new roads, the environmentally correct thing is to hire people to watch X-ray screens and feel out attractive passengers?

We all know that the Cosmpolitan Life took a turn for the worse after 9/11. For the first few months after the attack, two hour waits in X-ray lines culminated with confiscation of our nail clippers – or, for those of us alert enough to protest, an option to break the nail file off the nail clipper and thus make it kosher for carry-on luggage…

Gradually, the improvement in metal detector sensitivity started making almost every object of clothing subject to alarm. X-ray lines started resembling pajama parties. Remove any sweaters, scarves, shoes, belts…

One day, going through the metal detector and looking ahead at a slight, red-haired man putting his belt back on I said; “You look familiar.”

“My name is Alan Dershowitz” he said.

“Oh”, I said…

This Sunday, however, brought post 9/11 extremism to a new level. Or maybe I just then became aware of it. I had decided to check my luggage. This is the cardinal no-no for an experienced traveler, and I never do it, but weekend lethargy had dulled my wits.

The sidewalk by the airport terminal was jammed with people. The new TSA (Transport Security Authority?) directive is to X-ray all luggage in the presence of its owner… Large crews were at work, slowly and diligently opening each piece of luggage, feeling around, taking out and examining each of underwear. They wore rubber gloves - condom equivalents – designed to protect the luggage from ATD’s (Airport Transmitted Diseases) (????).

As we stood line, I felt my skin tingling. We were all sitting ducks. What would it take for someone to drive up, park his car, walk quickly away, and bam!!!, 30 seconds later, blow a hundred people to smithereens?….

I’d like to meet the person who designs these airport security measures. I imagine a mad bureaucrat slaving away in a tiny office, typing out memos that get approved by his superiors without even a glance, slowly but surely ballooning our budget deficit with “unavoidable” expenses…

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Apropo my Recent Jury Summons

The defendant says:

“Any group of 12 people that couldn’t get themselves out of jury duty are not a jury of my peers”

Friday, April 08, 2005

More on Cellphones and the Pope

Apparently, despite the No Photography allowed edict issued by the church, mourners have been using their cellphones to snap pictures of the dead pope – a souvenir after their extended wait in line to see the body.

The New York Times says:
Mr. Parente and seven friends had waited for 12 hours outside for their 30-second photo opportunity with the pope's body, and he wanted to make the most of it. "You had to shoot very quickly," he said, zooming in on the image on his tiny screen, two red shoes preceding a body robed in red. "He's such a big part of history, and no one can take his place."
It is not clear what most of the pilgrims plan to do with the millions of images of the pope's body that are now stored within thousands of cellphones.
Luca Sabeta, 34, a policeman from Bolzano, Italy, who had driven 322 miles, said he would save the dozens of pictures for his two teenage children. "But never for a screensaver, or something like that - it's more of a spiritual memento," he said.

“The ubiquitous "cellulare" has had a more practical role this week, too. In the past 24 hours, the Italian Civil Protection Agency sent out a series of text messages, telling cellphone users when the line to see the pope would be shut.”

Getting Your Prius Gas Mileage

I hate to admit this, but yesterday was the first time I ever rode in a Prius. Please don’t misunderstand, I do have a few (distant) friends that have Priuses. I’m not that socially isolated from the cool set. But I hadn’t ridden in one myself until finally, yesterday, my friend Susan gave me a ride in her new Prius. My son and I, sitting in the back seat, were hypnotized by the large glowing screen, showing our location on a map at an accuracy of two meters, moving slowly up the street.

But Susan quickly flipped the screen to her standard mode. A bar chart showing gas mileage. And showed us her new driving mode. Instead of trying to make it to the next light before it turns green, she concentrates on getting the instantaneous gas mileage as low as possible. It’s like a computer game. How far do you let go of the gas (low, but not too low…) to get the best gas mileage. She even has conversations with her friends about it.

Sample car phone conversation:

Susan: “What’s your gas mileage now?”
Laurie: “49 mpg”
Susan: “Mine is 52”… feeling very proud of herself…

This all does wonders for her gas mileage. But imagine what it does for the number of cars on the road, and for the blood pressure of those driving behind her. Instead of taking 15 minutes to drive from my house to hers, it takes her 30 minutes. That means she’s on the road for double the time, doubling the amount of traffic congestion she produces. Add to that the aggravation of those drivers driving behind her who were sure they were going to get through that red light, before they realized that the little larvae in front of them was slowing down to a crawl…

I’m all for the Prius, but maybe that on-screen mpg display should be abolished…

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Trader Joe’s Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup – Superb!

Trader Joe’s has several soups-in-a-box. I’ve bought three different ones, and thrown them all out. The butternut squash soup, the chicken broth, and the beef broth. Very disappointing. Especially since I use chicken broth for a lot of different soups that I make, and a good off-the-shelf variety would help me a lot. But a couple of weeks ago my son insisted on buying their Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup, and I was hooked. It’s great. I’ve been having it for breakfast lunch and dinner. I highly recommend it, and while you’re there, I also recommend their Thai Tuna in Red Panang Curry Sauce… Wonderful. And only $1.29 for a meal size portion (just add rice). Try it, you’ll like it, or I promise you your money back.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Death Penalty and the Pope

The importance many people place on having a death penalty in the U.S. has always been lost on me. If someone had murdered my children, would I want them to face the quick relief of death, or the depressing agony of life in prison. To me the answer is clear.

Conversely, it's been pretty well established that the death penalty is applied pretty arbitrarily - not necessarily to the worst offenders, and sometimes to innocent people. To cap it all off, it costs the state a lot more to execute someone that it does to imprison them for life.

Last but not least - do we really want to give the state the power to kill people?

As you've surmised, I'm against the death penalty. But I didn't realize till today that the Catholic church's opposition to the death penalty was put in place only in 1999 by Pope John Paul II. In starting to like him more and more. Posthumously of course.

War Trash - by Ha Jin

I loved Ha Jin's book Waiting, and War Trash seemed like it would be even better. I eagerly bought the hardback version, and eagerly settled into reading it on my plane ride back to the U.S.

What a disappointment. Stilted prose, poor character development, lousy plot. BORING. Spare yourself this one.

Sabena, SAS…

Frequent flyer joke:

“What does Sabena stand for?”

Such A Bad Experience, Never Again”

“… and SAS?”

“Same As Sabena”

Text Message Alerts Media of Pope's Death

As a techie, I loved this notice from Reuters and CBS News:

It took only minutes for the Vatican to spread the word of Pope John Paul II's death using text messages and emails. Fifteen minutes after the Pope was pronounced dead, the Vatican sent journalists an SMS message alerting them, "The Holy Father died this evening at 21:37 in his private apartment." TV viewers learned of the Pope's death before many of the faithful gathered below the Pope's window in St. Peter's Square.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Orthodox Islamic Women Behave Differently

Istanbul is full of women wearing full headcover, long coats, no makeup, dull colors. They’re indistinguishable from each other, completely anonymous. Usually they’re walking alone or with a group of women, but sometimes they’re walking with a man – I assume their husband or their son. And when they do, they hang on to his arm. It’s an odd sight. The man is usually clean-shaven, in regular street clothes – nothing unusual or religious-looking about him. The anonymous woman seems from a different world, and clings to his arm. They’re often chatting among themselves like a normal couple…

They’re very different from Orthodox Jews. When Orthodox Jewish couples walk together, they almost never touch. They seem like two independent entities. But they both look equally Orthodox. The man wears a Kipa, often side curls and black attire. With the Islamic couples it’s tough to believe that they’re related, but they must be. Surely a religious Islamic woman wouldn’t cling to the arm of a strange man…

Is There Nothing Else to Talk About?

CNN’s on a roll. 24/7 coverage of the Pope’s death. They promise to deliver all breaking news about his death. To update us on all developments. What could possibly develop in the pope’s death? The decomposition of the body??? Could we please get some real news?

Oriental Carpets

I was married for a long time – 16 years, from age 21 to 37 – to a guy from a good Berlin family that appreciated oriental art. And that’s how I got interested in oriental carpets. The problem with that kind of interest is that it spoils you for cheap rugs. You see a few nice, new, inexpensive ones, and then you see an old tribal rug, costing ten or one hundred times as much, and that’s the one you want… You suddenly feel as though you wouldn’t be able to face looking at the cheap one day in and day out. So you skip it all.

In Istanbul I got an overdose of oriental carpets. Not the boring standard Turkoman rugs you see in the U.S., but truly gorgeous Caucasian rugs, Shirvan, Kirman, tribal Turkoman…

Walking around the Blue Mosque, my mother and I were accosted by a really cute young Turkish guy (Istanbul is full of them…), good English, History student, studying to be a guide… He told us it was prayer time at the mosque so we couldn’t enter, in any case, as non-muslims we had to enter by the side door, but in the meantime, he’d really like to show us the store where he works… After a couple of days in Istanbul I had let down my guard. The first few times something like this had happened, a little voice in my head kept telling me to be careful, and as soon as I could, without being totally obnoxious, I’d clarify to the guy that he wasn’t welcome. But this one wouldn’t let go, we were in a crowded public place, so it didn’t seem dangerous, my bag was zipped shut – no way to get in there without a struggle - and besides, what else did we have to do for the next hour?

So we went with him, through the bazaar and to a high-end carpet store. It was heaven.

Prices – well, a lovely new, Heriz style carpet, with a free floating airy design - $1,500. A Shirvan, 80 years old, amazing colors, great design, maybe 4’X7’, $3,500. An antique Shirvan – 150 years old, 3’X4’, bluish colors, a classic - $65,000. And a silk prayer rug, made for one of the wealthiest families in Istanbul, also 150 years old, worn down in many places (they must have had it on the floor!), something like $150,000… That’s the one I want. But the $3,500 one, I do like that one too. Next time I’m in Istanbul, it will be on a carpet buying expedition.

“Who buys these carpets?” my mother asks me, enraged.

“Well, they’re art.” I say. “What do you mean, who buys them? Wealthy people furnishing their pads. Wouldn’t you buy them if you could?”

During my married carpet-buying period, I was told that these Caucasian carpets were particularly favored by Europeans. Germans, Belgians, Swiss, they bought them, and they had bid up their prices in the early 80’s to exorbitant levels. “So who buys these carpets?” I asked the owner.

He claimed it wasn’t the Europeans. The Europeans don’t have money. The Europeans are too stressed about their economies. They’re worried about unemployment. Even those that do have money don’t want to spend it. He sells almost all his carpets to NYC dealers. Some to L.A. dealers. There’s a lot of money in NYC. The dollar may be down, but those that have money have even more money… Even the wealthy Germans don’t buy their carpets in Germany, they buy them in NYC…

Then he started on the subject of the Jews. He’s not Jewish, but his mother died when he was 6 years old, and their Jewish neighbours took it on themselves to care for him. They would give him gifts to make him happy, they would give him good food… It was a sweet story. Next he started on The Jewish Influence:

The reason Americans spend money? Because the Jews taught them how to do it. The Americans are basically Puritans, they believe in saving. The Jews don’t believe in saving. They live in the present. That’s why they don’t make steel. Do you know of any Jew that has a steel factory? No, they make clothes, they make products for immediate consumption…

I’d never heard this argument. And this kind of stuff makes me squirm. I couldn’t figure out if it was negative or positive. Should we stay? Should we bolt for the door? I asked for his card, thanked him, and we left.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

No Bad Hair Days

Istanbul is crawling with Orthodox Muslims. At least with Orthodox Muslim women. What a setup. They go around with their full head scarf (not one wisp of hair showing), and floor-length coats. No makeup. They truly do look ugly. And all alike. And you can’t even tell if they have a nice body. In fact, they could gain 30 pounds each without any discernible change in looks.

My first thought was – how easy, you don’t have to worry about your looks. But the truth? I love looking good. Imagine going through life with no opportunity to dress up and flaunt your looks. How very depressing.

Ripped Off

It happened to us twice. A taxi driver tried to rip us off. The first time, he succeeded. I haven’t had something like this happen to me in such a long time, that I was completely flumoxed when it happened. He overcharged (wanted 10YTL), then when my mother gave him a 20, he switched it in his hand to a 1, and claimed that she had only given him 1. We could have gotten out then and there, but I was so confused (thinking my mother had it wrong, which at this point I’m pretty sure she didn’t), that I gave him another 11… I’m embarassed. Luckily it’s not such a great loss. Second time it happened, we just told the taxi driver to go take a hike.

Aya Sophia

Yesterday we went to see the Aya Sophia – built by emperor Justinian in the 5th century, and considered for over 1,000 years the greatest church in Christiandom.

I love eastern art and buildings – India was my introduction to them, and I find nothing comparable in the West. I was in Ravenna, Italy, a year ago, and saw the 5th century mosaics of Ravenna – the westernmost part of Justinian’s empire. A truly emotional experience.

My mother is great for this kind of touring. She has a wonderful aesthetic sense, and she points things out to me that I would never see. In this case, she was blown away by the size of the Aya Sophia, and by its free floating dome (no supports or butresses). The mosaics were incredible too. Unfortunately the whole place is truly run down – very different from Ravenna in that sense. Turkey apparently isn’t affluent enough to renovate it (?), although I’d think the $15 admission that they charge would go a long way…