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Month July 2016

What if We’re Wrong

I had to wait for a few weeks for the audiobook of Chuck Klosterman’s new book, What If We’re Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past to come out. I read a little preview and the title grabbed me. I knew I wanted to get into it as soon as possible.


It’s not a predictive book about the future and it’s not scientific, it’s a loose exploration of the theme: think about the present as if it were the past, and it’s fascinating

In some ways I’ve been thinking about his idea since I was a little Kevin. There is a kid’s book written from the perspective of some future archeologist discovering artifacts from today. The archeologist interpreted everything wrong of course, the toilet was a religious alter I think. But that’s not the point. The point is it’s a fun thought experiment.

Attitudes change over time, and eventually the change becomes what’s normal. Once that happens it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have lived any differently. Think about old folks’ attitude toward race. Some happy conversation will all of the sudden turn taboo. And the young ones will blush and think, “how can he say such a thing?”

But the thought experiment is for the young one to figure out what belief HE holds that will make HIS grandkids uncomfortable.

It’s not easy. What do I hold true today that I will look back on knowing it’s wrong? The fun part of the thought experiment is that everything that you think you’ll think is wrong in the future isn’t something you think is true today.

I’m In Love With Your Nightingale

These days I’ve been filling my head with the bad news from Turkey. I shouldn’t do it because the desire to understand never leads to a better picture of what’s going on, it just makes me nervous and gloomy. Plus because I’m not there I can’t feel the normalcy of everyday life in Istanbul which makes it worse. Lucky for me Ilgaz posted this video of people dancing in Kadıköy (my old neighborhood) showing the spirit of the Turks that I knew best. Something open hearted, joyful and goofy.

Facebook translate is bad

The video is great but I had get her to translate her comment on it for me because Facebook translate does a terrible job of Facebook translating. The message she wrote under the video when she posted it translated like this:

Blow Ohal or something, right in the head. Actually you all interim Boyle, right? Come on guys admit it :) Not quite the azcik watch, would you rather:

Thank’s for nothing Facebook translate. Here is a better translation of her comment:

OK, OK there’s a coup, a state of emergency and everything. But admit that this feeling is inside all of your heads.
If do don’t feel it, just take a look and you will find joy again.

Much better. Then I asked her to translate the song which doesn’t quite flow in English the way it does in Turkish. But who cares, let’s dance!

I resent my destiny, it didn’t hurt again
I swore to my destiny, the black night
This strange heart, I’m in love with your nightingale

Mike Collins Behind the Moon

Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin at the Kennedy Space Center in July, 1969. Just a few days before that Saturn V rocket in the background took them to the moon.


Neil on the left was the first on the moon. He was the one who said, “one giant leap for Mankind.” Buzz, on the right was number two stomping around on the moon. Mike Collins, looking so cool and humble in the middle never walked on the moon. Never even landed on it. He was the one who ran the Command Module, the craft that orbited around the so called dark side of the moon as the mission on it’s surface took place. Then he went home, never to return.

I’ve always felt bad for Mike Collins. To get so close and not to walk or land or anything. I felt bad for him until I read this paragraph from his autobiography, which gives a good perspective on how he felt about his unique mission.

“Far from feeling lonely or abandoned, I feel very much a part of what is taking place on the lunar surface. I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have. This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.” – Michael Collins

Unrelated to the mission, the photograph reminds me that I need a haircut. I’ve got another style of 1969 haircut right now, less lunar mission, more Sonny Bono.

Turkey Today

 What is going on in Turkey?

The answer is not entirely clear. But the stakes are high. Watching the attempted coup unfold from my laptop in Ljubljana last Friday was unsettling. I lived in Istanbul for about two years and never felt directly threatened by anybody. But as the frequency of violent news increased I had a harder and harder time being able to call home and honestly say that I felt safe. The time came to leave for a few reasons, one of the main ones was the rising level of background stress just got to be too much.


During my time in Istanbul I never tried to shrug off my yabancı status. I never learned the language, never stopped dressing a little funny, never got asked directions. I always felt like an outsider, protected as a foreigner. Ilgaz warned me about this from time to time, she could see what I couldn’t. She saw that there were good reasons to avoid this or that neighborhood and worried about my walking home alone after midnight.

So reading about this coup attempt gave me some mixed feelings: relief, that I’m not there to feel the rising tension in the air generated by chants of protestors, sirens and a rare whiff of tear gas. But also some kind of masochistic nostalgia, I should be in Istanbul talking with friends about what it feels like to be in the midst of a nation in transition.


So what do I make of what’s going on?

As the days pass, the English language news channels have been covering the changes that have been taking place post coup attempt. I should say that I don’t trust anything being said about the source of the coup. It’s all too speculative, fingers pointing one way and another: it’s the parallel state, it’s the CIA, he did it to himself! Maybe in 10 or 15 years the victors will write the history of the events of the past week. But that’s all too hard to parse out for now so I suspend my desire to know.

Something that is clear is that the response to the coup was swift and powerful, reaching not just into the military but all aspects of civil life in Turkey. As I said there are a lot of English language news sources reporting on this, but the scale of the changes didn’t hit home for me until I saw all those headlines rounded up and organized into the table below. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of the items below, I got it from Reddit after all, but it is a compelling list of “measures taken after the coup: dismissals, suspensions, media closures, travel bans.”

Travel Bans

  • 3,000,000 civil servants banned from exiting the country s
  • All university professors banned from exiting the country s


  • 24 TV and Radio stations close to the Gülen movement had their licenses revoked s
  • Unknown number of newspapers close to the Gülen movement stopped publishing
  • Leman (satyrical, leftist, unrelated to Gülen) magazine’s last issue banneds
Institution Supended, dismissed or arrested
Ministry of the Interior 8777 s 7,899 policemen of them 3,021 high ranking, 30 province governors, 92 vice province-governors, 41 district governors and others
Judges and prosecutors 2745 s
Energy Ministry 300 s
Defence Ministry 262 military judges and prosecutors s
Education Ministry 15200 suspended, 21000 private teacher licenses revoked s, 1577 university deans ordered to resign s
President’s office 257 s
Intelligence Service (MİT) 180 s
Religious affairs directorate 492 s 3 province mufti, 31 district mufti, 1 minister advisor etc
Economy Ministry 1500 s
Family and Social ministry 393 s
Istanbul University 95 professors s
Parliament 5 high ranking administrators arrested s
Universities 4 university rectors dismissed Dicle, Gazi, Yıldız Teknik ve Yalova üniversitesi s
Ministry of Customs and Trade 184 s
Energy Market regulator 25 s
Capital Markets Board 7 s


Just read another article and wanted to add it. The Turkish government has suspended all 3213 national ham radio licenses.

“The HF radio in Turkey is now silent. No transmissions are allowed. … Who’s transmitting outside turkey without licence should be considered a pirate – said Mr Erdogan.” Source

It might not seem too big. But amateur radio is an essential part of disaster recovery especially when other modes of communication are down. To quote W. Graig Fugate, administrator of FEMA and Dept. Homeland Security, “Amateur Radio often times is our last line of defense…When you need amateur radio, you really need them.”

Bride of the Sun

A woman wanted to marry someone perfect
So she married the sun.
But then she broke the rule and looked at him
so she turned into a flower.

There was a king with seven daughters, six of them were married. When the time came for the youngest daughter to be married the king was in a quandary. As princely suitors arrived to the castle gates with horns blaring and banners waving, the princess would turn them away.

The king was beside himself with worry as she rejected one prince after another. Finally he asked her, “Daughter, why do you send away these fine men?” She told her father that she had seen her older sisters married to men who seemed handsome, wealthy or kind only to find out after the marriage that the man was not everything he seemed to be.

Her oldest sister married a handsome prince who was insufferably vain. The next married an honest prince who gave away his land and titles. The next, wealthy prince, cruel to his subjects. The next a kind prince, with an empty head. The next a wise prince who spends no time in the bedroom. The next a sensual prince with countless mistresses. And the next married a devoted prince who made her sister stand up on a column to be admired by him alone. Day in day out.

All had qualities that were charming from a certain distance, but up close their strengths were their weakness. The young princess was determined to learn from her sister’s mistakes and marry her perfect love.

At this her father grew very angry, “perfect love? If you insist on finding perfect love you will be waiting a very long time indeed. You’ll grow old waiting for this perfect man and by then no one will want you. No this will not do. Marry now or get out!”

And so she packed her bag and left home for the last time, determined to prove her father wrong and find perfect love. From kingdom to kingdom she searched, feeling more desperate and alone at every turn. Every road was a dead end, every path led to brambles, she would climb a mountain only to find ten thousand more beyond it.

Her only comfort on the journey was knowing the sun would rise in the morning. Warm her back in the day and at night when it set she would be sure it would return the next day. And so it did, rising every morning warming her back and setting and rising. Day in day out.

In time she realized she was following the path it made and so she followed it right to the edge of the world. There at the edge she saw a castle and watched the sun drop behind the castle wall. She had found the house of the sun. She pounded on the gate and as it opened she imagined she would finally see his perfect face but instead she met with a leather skinned old woman.

“Oh dear look at you dress in rags- so sweaty, what are you doing here? Oh my son told me some one was following him, he said she was beautiful.”

The princess explained that she was on a journey to find her perfect love, that she had followed the sun to the end of the earth and in that time had fallen in love with him. The old woman was excited, she had wanted her son to marry a princess for a long time.

But the old woman had one rule. Whoever married her son could never look at him directly. Strange thought the princess, but she was exhausted and desperate and so close to being with her perfect love that she accepted.

And so they were married and spent many beautiful nights together. The day she spent with the old woman, but it was ok because she was able to rest. And resting she was able to think and thinking she was able to imagine what it would be like to look directly at her perfect love.

So in spite of the rule not to look at him she came up with a plan.

[…See him through the lens of her water glass at the dinner table…]

The old woman saw her fall silent, saw her staring. She had broken the rule, and she was thrown out of the house.

She could not go back to her father’s house, she didn’t wan’t to go back with the old woman so she stood in her spot outside the gate all night with the image of her perfect love burned into her mind. The sun had no choice but to rise the next morning and when he did he was so glad to see her standing there outside the castle he warmed her shoulders in the day and at night he knew she would be there again in the morning. And so she was. Day in day out. In time her feet grew roots down into the ground, he body became a woody trunk her hair petals, and her arms vibrant green leaves.

And so transformed, she watched the sun cross the sky, and he watched her, she had found a way to love perfectly.