mattbell: (Default)
I went down to Abu Simbel yesterday.

p1050731 by you.

Abu Simbel was officially a temple to Isis, but it's real purpose was twofold:
- Stroke the pharaoh's ego
- Scare neighboring civilizations into providing tribute.

The temple is filled with scenes of the Egyptian army slaughtering and enslaving other civilizations.  They made  sure to be racially inclusive.. they had a Nubian, a Hittite, a Greek of some sort, an Assyrian etc. 

Anyway, Abu Simbel was very impressive, and well worth the 3-hour drive each way through the Sahara.

-------------

So I have this thing about blogging at various ancient monuments and other nice places.  For example:

 
p1030752  p1030753
Ephesus, Turkey

p1010742  p1010744
Ankgor Wat, Cambodia

p1050208
Taba, Egypt

setting-sun
Akko, Israel

P1000347
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Having a laptop has been seriously wonderful.  I chose one (EEE PC 901) that has around six hours of battery life, weighs around two pounds, and costs only $350.  It's good enough to handle email, browsing the web, writing documents, and other basics.  The version of Linux that comes with it is kind of wonky though... any attempt to do something out of the ordinary (eg use an ipod as an external hard drive) has been a pain in th ass.    The computer also crashes half the time when coming out of standby.  Even so, it's wonderful, and it beats lugging around a full size laptop.  It's also a great conversation starter... apparently people haven't seen subnotebooks before.

mattbell: (Default)
[travel] THE ROD OF MOSES The Grand Palace in Istanbul has an artifact called the “Rod of Moses”. It's very well protected and has a dedicated security guard. There's no blurb next to it – it just says “13th century BC.” Really? Did they take it out to the Red Sea and try it out, checking that it did in fact part it? Is there a “Serpent” button on the back? Seriously? This, from an otherwise credible museum. A bit further down, they had a bunch of objects that they claimed were Mohammed's personal effects. They had various ornate boxes and other such things. These were also very well protected and, unlike the Rod of Moses, actually plausible. While most major world religions were oppressed for hundreds of years before becoming dominant, Islam had to endure just a few years. The powers-that-be kicked Mohammed out of Mecca when he was becoming a bit too much trouble to the order of things, and he came back 12 years later with an army of 10,000 soldiers. Within 100 years, Islam had spread over most of the middle east. So it's entirely reasonable to assume that some very important people looked after his belongings after his death.
mattbell: (Default)
Turkey time

I haven't written about my week in Turkey. Turkey for me was defined very strongly by the people I traveled there with – a couple of friends from the US plus a friend-of-a-friend. They brought with them an intense intellectualism that I've really missed on the trip. We talked about all kinds of things – economics, psychology, religion (easy solutions to the Middle East crisis), and history. These discussions were usually intermixed with beautiful Roman ruins, Turkish baths, beautiful old neighborhoods, or other cultural treasures.

Things only went downhill when one of the friends left for the US (she had to get back earlier) and the other friend and the friend-of-a-friend started dating each other. I found myself in the odd situation of sometimes feeling like a third wheel on my own trip despite expressing this concern to them multiple times.

We spent a few days wandering Istanbul. However, despite the incredible beauty of Istanbul, the real highlight of Turkey was our car trip around the west coast. We started in Izmir and concentrated on various ruin sites. Ironically, the most well known ruin (Ephesus) was the least impressive. The real highlights were Pamukkale, an ancient Roman bath and city built on top of bizarre Yellowstone-like terraces of calcium carbonate from a nearby hot springs, Aphrodisius, a former Greek city spread out across a broad meadow, Miletus, a Roman ruin that is half-sunk, Atlantis-style, into a lake, and Pirene, a former Roman town perched on the side of a mountain. The locals we met out in the country were also a lot friendlier than they were in Istanbul. The tourist hustle was much weaker, and people started conversations with us out of genuine interest instead of as a play for our cash.
mattbell: (Default)
Turkey's illustrious government always has my best interests at heart. They even keep up to date with the latest technologies, ensuring I'm always getting an optimal experience on the internet. For example, some awful, awful people posted a video critical of Turkey's government to YouTube a couple of years back. (You may or may not know that criticism of Turkey or its government is illegal in Turkey... a clearly enlightened law that helps its citizens maintain a positive attitude.) Instead of pleading with Google to take down that one video, the government responded with swift efficiency by blocking all YouTube videos in case anyone else puts up other offending videos. They have kept it this way for the last two years, helping us maintain a positive attitude that surely enhances our happiness and productivity. Plus, it ensures that I don't waste time showing people videos of kittens climbing my body, people talking in a giant helium-filled bag, fractals generated using only a camera and projectors, or infrared footage of people showering. What a great place to live!

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February 2011

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