The Veteran Neophyte

Settle down, now

Posted in Turkey by Dave on December 4, 2014

We’re moved into an apartment now, about a 15 minute drive from work, but an easy walk to groceries, restaurants, etc. The apartment is over-decorated and under-functional: frilly curtains, dangling baubles, too many mirrors, 2 (count ’em, TWO) vases full of peacock feathers. All the furniture is plasticky laminated particle board or something, not a piece of solid wood in sight, And at least 2 of the doors can’t open all the way because some piece of not-very-useful furniture is crammed just behind it.


And here are some of the decorative accents in my room:


This spray might help me out:IMG_1199

That said, we have a decent kitchen and a fridge full of groceries, a washing machine, a spacious living room, fast-enough internet, and enough rooms that we don’t have to be on top of each other constantly. Livable. And bonus: there are 2 dogs that hang around the place, George and Jarvis. George is very friendly. Jarvis is shy, but I’ll win her over eventually. Here they are:


This is George:


There are lots of street dogs around, here’s one that loiters near the museum often:


The Turks love their sweets, and being a guy with a lifelong sweet tooth, I’m not arguing. Check out the selection of creme-filled cookies at a local grocery, and this is just the creamy ones, this aisle goes on and on.


Aside from the baclava that we all know and love, there is a bewildering variety of syrup-soaked, nut-filled delights, both hot and cold, and of course Turkish Delight (Lokum), there are whole stores that sell nothing but. And I’m just barely starting to scratch the surface. Pişmaniye (a sort of stranded, cotton-candyish thing made from sugar and wheat) is a local specialty I have yet to try. It’s made like this.

In other food news…it’s great! At the risk of being one of those guys that posts photos of food all the time, here’s part of lunch the other day:


These are little anchovy or sardine-like fish from the Black Sea nearby, fried in cornmeal, and absolutely delicious. And here’s a magazine we found that obviously reflects the Turkish desire for excellent, fresh fish and meat:


Last weekend we took a drive up to the nearby mountains, just to get out and about and take a hike. We parked in a tiny town next to the mosque, and walked around for an hour or two, getting out in it a little.

IMG_3171 IMG_3176


Patience, as always, is a virtue:IMG_3182

At work, we’re chipping along rapidly on refurbishing the exhibits, converting them all to 220V operation, refinishing a lot of the wood, and etc.


The machine shop is coming together: There are lights now, and power, and the mill and lathe are in position and getting hooked up.


Here’s the future tea garden out back, all we need is a little table and some chairs. Or not.


And no Turkish machine shop would be complete without chickens.


More as it happens! (Or perhaps shortly thereafter).


Istanbul, step 1

Posted in Turkey by Dave on November 23, 2014

We made our way to Istanbul this weekend for the first (but certainly not last) time. This trip was all about some serious touristing, and getting the lay of the land. Here’s the group, fueling up. That’s Alihan in the green shirt, one of the people who works at the Bilim Merkezi, who came along to guide us. Thank you Alihan! Note also the friendly cat occupying Billy, who wandered in out of the cold for some warm lap time.Coffeetopia

This underground cistern was our first major tourist stop. Note that the columns come in a few styles: they were re-purposed to build this cistern.IMG_3133

A couple of the columns have medusa heads for footings…for some reason this one is sideways.


A nice mosque at night:IMG_3138

A roasted chestnut cart, steaming:IMG_1168

Along the way we stopped for çay and baklava, because, you know, we’re in Turkey.


Here’s a decent shot of the Blue Mosque (to be toured in the future):IMG_3149

Kua and Alihan headed home later that night, but Billy, Schuyler and I stayed over. The younguns grabbed a hostel, I stayed in this little hotel, a converted Ottoman house located just behind the Blue Mosque (thanks, Rick Steves!). I had a view of the minarets from my window, which also meant that the morning call to prayer was, um, let’s say crystal clear.


In the morning I wandered the back streets before breakfast, getting lost in the twisty tiny streets of old Istanbul. Here’s one inexplicable scene I ran across:


As far as I could tell, this was just someone’s hobby project…there was no cafe attached.

I met up with the others a little later, and we toured the Hagia Sophia. From one of my books: “For a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world.” I won’t even try to describe it.

To get to the upper galleries, you take a series of ramps. Why ramps instead of stairs? Because people of noble birth were either carried by their servants, or rode horses.


Note the stone worn smooth by the years of trodding. Here’s an even more extreme example: marble that looks more like taffy, walked on for a thousand years.IMG_1174

Lastly: while crouching down to take that last picture, another cat trying to find someplace warm decided my thigh was good. He was right.



Posted in Turkey by Dave on November 21, 2014

Since I really have nothing particularly coherent to say, here are some random updates:

Work-wise, things are starting to move: Our spanking new milling machine and lathe arrived day before yesterday. The unloading was, um, exciting. Note the guy in the blue shirt: as everyone knows, having a cigarette dangling from your lips while manhandling a ton or so of precision machinery really helps.

2014-11-19 00.56.05

And yesterday all the exhibits showed up. Although we had to wait several hours after the trucks arrived for the rented forklift to arrive, eventually we got all 49 of them unloaded and stashed safely inside, wrapped in their clean blue moving blankets.


Today at the Bilim Merkezi (Science Center) there was a delicious fish fry for lunch.



Simple and fantastically delicious: ultra-fresh fish, tomatoes, onions, turnips, tea, bread, halvah. Eaten with fingers and happy smacking sounds.

I’ve grown fond of a turnip juice drink they have here, salty and spicy. Here are the ingredients:



As you would imagine, it’s the boiled and pounded wheat that really makes it.

The building that houses the Bilim Merkezi is a converted historical paper mill, and they re-used some of the original bricks from the 1930s, stamped with a lion, in the construction:


Here you can see the new Bilim Merkezi on the right, and other buildings, yet to be rebuilt, on the left. Quite the contrast.


Some cats dozing on a nice warm red car in the sun



And a lovely bundle of cinnamon sticks I ran across during a ramble through town:

2014-11-16 04.51.57

Lastly, let me leave you with this thought:


In the beginning…

Posted in Turkey by Dave on November 15, 2014

At the end of my fourth full day in Turkey, I’m sitting here on my bed in this tiny, kinda funky hotel room trying to think what to say about it. I can tell you this: my belly is full, my head is full, and my heart is full. Many adventures have been had in just a few days, and many, many more are coming.

I’m here in Izmit (which is decidedly NOT a tourist destination, at least among English speakers) with three other Americans: Schuyler Robertson, Billy Collister, and Kua Patten, working on a new science museum. Here we are lunching on the nearby shore:
The Team

So far we have:
–Visited the Turkish Home Depot
–Eaten a lot of fabulous food
–Drunk at least a thousand glasses of the ubiquitous black tea (çay)
–Met a few street dogs (Billy nicknamed this one “Parvo”)
–Chatted up some fisherfolk on the Black Sea (where “chatting” consists of saying, basically, hello, then smiling a lot and accepting an offer of çay)

Oh yeah, and we’ve also worked, of course, as much as we can before the exhibits arrive. But you don’t want to hear about that. Suffice it to say that we’re itching to get down to business, and as soon as the containers arrive we are ready to pounce, with gusto.

Writings from another life

Posted in Uncategorized by Dave on October 28, 2014

These are links to the columns I wrote in the 1990s, while working as the technical editor for develop magazine at Apple Computer. develop was a code-level technical journal for Macintosh programmers, and I wrote a regular column that was intended to lighten up the otherwise fairly dry technical content of the magazine. Sort of “bathroom reading” for computer programmers.

  • Lisp, Color Icons, and Layers in develop 5. Learning Lisp, Dave learns some other stuff as well.
  • A Familiar (Inter)Face in develop 6. Chernoff faces, n-dimensional points, and simulation in the human (and canine) interface.
  • If I Had a Hammer… in develop 7. Kids, MS-DOS, wireless modems, collaboration, and computer binges. Disparate topics? Perhaps.
  • Don’t Fence Me In in develop 8. An experiment in wireless communication involving schoolkids and technogunk.
  • Silicon Surprise in develop 9. Computers are great for studying complex systems, but they also ARE complex systems. Self-referential fun and games.
  • Yeah, but is it art? in develop 10. Musings on what makes art art, and a program to make scanned photos into “paintings.”
  • Quantum Lunch in develop 11. Lunch with a brain researcher. Can thought and matter be separated? Do you care?
  • Digital Zoology in develop 12. Artificial Life. Too cool.
  • Tower of Babble in develop 13. Comparing programming languages to natural languages yields some surprises. One of my favorites.
  • Tiny Futures in develop 14. A report on a slightly scary conference on nanotechnology.
  • Through the Looking Glass in develop 15. A dip of the toe into the mathematics of symmetry, and a QuickDraw GX program to draw tesselations of the plane.
  • Abracadabra in develop 16. Searching for the source of that old elusive magic, Dave stubs his toes on some obvious truths.
  • Why We Do It in develop 17. Why programming is cool. Great for getting your significant other to understand why you spend all night in front of a computer.
  • Rubber Meets Road in develop 19. Edges make the world go ’round.
  • Nothing Comes from Nothing in develop 20. Creation-shneation, nothing’s really new. Then again, maybe not.
  • The Downside in develop 21. Sometimes programming really sucks. But I keep doing it anyway.
  • Paper Juggling in develop 22. You can invent new multi-person juggling patterns on paper, even if you’re not a juggler. Really!
  • A Feel for the Thing in develop 23. Is there still room for magic in computing? I hope so.
  • The Right Tool for the Job in develop 24. Are dynamic programming languages the Next Big Thing? Should they be?
  • Your Friend the Drill Sergeant in develop 27. Drill is a great way to learn some things, but it’s a lousy way to learn other things. Which things are which?