Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hagia Sophia - a church, a mosque, a museum, and now reverting back to a mosque?

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, is an impressive old building and still in use. It was built in 537 CE as a Greek Orthodox basilica. In 1451 it was converted to a mosque and the mosaics of people were plastered over.

In 1922 the Ottoman Empire broke up and a year later Turkey was created with Ataturk the first president.  He was a radical reformer, ruthless, and still revered today. He made sweeping reforms to the country, he abolished Sharia courts, gave women full political rights to vote and hold office, and changed the alphabet.

And made Hagia Sophia a museum.

Today things are swinging back the other way, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister since 2003, other Greek churches have been converted to mosques. There is a battle to make Hagia Sophia a mosque and plaster over the original artwork, again. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Two different worlds

I was in the alley, the disused grassy area between the houses. When the town was designed and platted by the railroad company in 1890, they set 25 foot alleys between the properties for access. Today few of these are used and the county, for a short time, allow adjacent homeowners to take in their side of the alley and incorporate it into their property. Many alleys have returned to nature, with trees and wild plants. The county clears them once a year.

The part of the alley between us and our neighbor is mowed, by both of us, and grassy, on our side is a 40 m flower bed extending the width of the property.

I was digging a trench, 2.5 m out from the fence, to install irrigation line for the flower bed.  I heard a voice behind me. It is my neighbor, a person with whom I have had minimal conversions in seven years.

"You know, that is county property," he said.
"I know, " said I, "I am installing an irrigation line to water the plants, it will be filled in when I am done."
"I have been mowing the grass for 35 years," he continued.

So here was I, an outsider, messing up my neighbor's grass, which he knows he does not own, but has mowed once a week during the growing season for 35 years. He feels ownership. The outsiders are the ones from the big cities, with ideas, making changes, making improvements, planting flowers.

Rocking the boat.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Five 20-something males and a forklift - what could go wrong?

We needed 24 concrete tiles that weighed about 10 kg each. Lowes offers help loading anything heavy, so we paid for the tiles and asked for them to be loaded into the truck.

This normally works.

We waited, and nothing happened, so I walked to the back of the store where the tiles were stored. Nearby, a few aisles away, was a forklift and five guys, trying to get the forklift to the tiles. There were newly delivered racks of flowers in the way, so it was a challenge for the group entity.

Finally they got there, and rotated the forklift across the aisle, and after a time, managed to extract a palette of tiles out of the rack. The tiles arrived at the truck parked outside the store.  They counted them off as they were loaded and there were only 18 and pieces.

So they went to look for more, as the database said there were more, somewhere in the store.  But the tiles were not to be found. I had to go find them to know that, and took one of them to the return desk to get my refund of 6 tiles, about $6.

The total bill was about $18, and used 5 manhours.  Minimum wage in Texas is $7.25/hour.  You do the math.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Security in Jordan

The vehicle approached the upscale Amman Marriott hotel in Jordan, late at night.  It pulled up at the perimeter gate, and the guard met us.  He had security inspection mirror to look under the vehicle for bombs.  He waved us in.

The hotel staff greeted us at the entrance where we put our luggage on the x-ray conveyor, and walk through the body scanner, to enter the hotel.

Welcome to Jordan.

And on the tour bus the state of Jordan supplied an armed tourist policeman to travel with us for the week. They take it in turns.

Jordan is in a precarious position.  A small country of 6 million people, it borders Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.  Half their population are recent immigrants; Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians.

But we felt safe, and more to the point, nothing untoward happened.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Intouchables 2011

A wonderful French movie, about unlikely pair, Driss a Senegalese immigrant working the system, to get unemployment, not wanting a job, and Philippe, a wealthy quadriplegic who needs an able bodied assistant.

Philippe challenges Driss to try the job for a month.  The position pays well, but it is 24/7.  And of course Driss takes it, and it works, for a while.  Driss brings life back into Philippe's life, and the whole household.

This is a rare French movie, one that has a funny, happy ending.

Go see it!