This Time We Know, Again...


Over the holidays I have been watching the news quite carefully as well as making my plans for studying in Sarajevo this summer to learn about Genocide, War Crime, and Transitional Justice. Once I return from my family vacation in Canada, I will be posting the rest of my final papers from this semester. I have taken quite an interest in Foreign Policy as it relates to Humanitarian Military Interventions. As I study and plan to travel to study such Humanitarian Crises, I see the Syrian City of Homs transforming into the very subject matter I am researching. 

So Instead of just being passive and studying past events, I am trying to pro-actively prevent 'the Siege of Sarajevo'-like conditions from permanently scarring the Syrian people and the denizens of Homs. I sent this following letter to my Congressional Representative Tom Cole (R):

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Rep. Cole,

I am a student at the University of Oklahoma double majoring in Religious Studies and Political Science with a minor International Area Studies (IAS). My focus with the Poli-Sci and IAS are the areas of American Foreign Policy, International Relations, and Humanitarian/Military Foreign Interventions. I am also going to the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina [in Sarajevo] to do an intensive study program regarding the subject matter of Genocide, War Crime, and Transitional Justice.

A Friday Protest in the Syrian City of Homs
[photo courtesy of CNN]
My inquiry is about the Conflict in the Syrian City of Homs and how the situation on the ground is now closely resembling the early 90's Siege of Sarajevo. I would like to know what is being done to monitor the situation on the ground, what is being done by the US to ensure that Mass Atrocity crimes are either not happening or will be prevented from happening [a la the Responsibility to Protect - ICRtoP].

As a citizen of the greatest nation in the world, I believe we have a duty to make sure the basic human rights are not systematically transgressed upon the citizens of other less fortunate nations, especially at the hands of their own government. This time we know, again. If we remain comatose and act complacent whilst doing so, we will become morally culpable and morally defeated. So instead of just standing by and watching, Please let me be able to tell my [future] children we actually did something this time; free of False claims of WMD's or in search of Oil, but rather for freedom and liberty, in defense of the defenseless, for we should help those who cannot help themselves.

-Nolan Kraszkiewicz

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The U.N. Estimated Death Toll is Currently at 5,000+
Do Something!

To read up on the situation in Homs, Syria here are some resources I would suggest:

The CNN coverage of the Crisis in Homs
Turkey's Hurriyet coverage of the Crisis in Homs

To contact your representative too: CLICK HERE


The Death of My Inspiration; The Birth of My Ascendancy



It is with a sad and heavy heart that I am discussing the departure of Christopher Hitchens from this plane of existence. Short of a death in my Family, or that of a friend - and just behind my cat - the death of the incomparable Mr. Hitchens is the saddest and hardest thing I could have experienced at this stage in my life. This man gave a voice to that which was without audible volume dwelling inside me, he made me fully feel that it was ok to not believe, and even propelled me to take the daunting and advantageous positions I now take.

During the past few years I had been imbibing every inscription made by this intelligent man. I was drawn to him because of his beautiful grasp of polemics and I fawned over his numerous criticisms of religion. While the latter is certainly what he is known for currently, Thursday night after I learned about his passing, I was watching hours of 30 year-old C-Span interviews featuring a younger Christopher Hitchens. He was analyzing the situation in Grenada and providing commentary and comparison regarding the freedom of the press in the United State and the United Kingdom as well as the current state of journalistic affairs in the world. Most notable about the interview - save his usual charisma with the host and camera - was his chain smoking that easily rivaled any industrial revolution smoke stack. Sadly while this was the signature Hitch, this would ultimately contribute to his fatal development of esophageal cancer.

His most recent book titled 'Arguably' is an 800 page compilation of essays and reports he wrote during his 40+ year long career as an essayist. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. He may be gone and the fresh stories may have ceased, but his writings will live on forever. The wit, clarity, and relevance of his writings are immortal even though the mortality of the author has been revoked.

I never got to meet him, but I was able to leave a message on his answering machine in Washington D.C. and occasionally flood his inbox with my emails. Now I can only review, reexamine, and continue to study his epic writings. At Oxford he earned their PPE degree which incorporated Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. I am majoring in the first, but am swapping in Religion and International Area Studies for the latter two. I hope one day to meet the height of his level of influence. My goal is not to be the next Christopher Hitchens, but to be the best Nolan Kraszkiewicz I can be, and use the great works of the incomparable Hitch to continue to spark my engine of ingenuity, interest, and scholarship. I will miss this man I never met, to an extent which few will ever know. This may be the death of my inspiration in the physical sense, but thanks to Christopher this is just the beginning of my ascendancy to a level I can see - currently positioned on this side of my furthest horizon.

Christopher Eric Hitchens, 13 April 1949 - 15 December 2011 
I would have liked it to perhaps end on a slightly more upbeat note, but the tone of this writing somehow adequately mimics the sentiment I feel in regards to a retrospective of 2011. Happy Winter season and I look forward to writing again in 2012 - I can only hope y'all share this same sentiment of enthusiasm.

[Now I'm off to CANADA!!!]


The Abrahamic Pyramid



I uncovered an interesting paper of mine from this time last year. The specific outline of the assignment that yielded this masterpiece eludes me at the moment, but the context was 'The Islamic Religious Tradition' course taught by Dr. Charles Kimball during the Fall 2010 semester. This was my first examination of the Islamic faith and this is what spurred my interest in studying at Bogazici University in Turkey for the 2011 Summer. Enjoy this fledgling work of mine.

Examining the Overlaps and Interactions 
of the Three Great Abrahamic Monotheisms

With religion being the number one identifying attribute of a person in the world today, and half of that religious population stemming from the Abrahamic faiths of devout monotheism, one needs to examine what makes them different from a Muslim, Jew, or Christian, and to realize that maybe they just are not that different. My personal outside view in regards to this Abraham dilemma can be explained by the idea of an “Abrahamic Mountain.” This is a theological pyramid of sorts with each of the three sides representing either Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. The fact that the same God is worshipped by all three religious communities alike allows me to make the likening to a pyramid, being that the conclusion or zenith of all three sides winds up being one singular and total point, accurately representing this shared idea of monotheism. But it is the ways of worship and daily life that creates the three distinct sides, where as the edges can sometimes become blurred.

So with the most familiar religion, in regards to the American mind, being Christianity, I will start with Islam. The central idea of Islam as it relates to the person is that humans are not evil by nature; it’s just that we are forgetful. It is through a strict regimen of prayer and daily ways to remember God and the Koran that helps to combat this issue of forgetfulness. The Major theological idea throughout mainstream Islam is that Allah is the single God and Muhammad is his FINAL messenger. Islam took rise in the early seventh century in what is now Saudi Arabia. It is believed by Muslims that the word of God was revealed to the prophet Muhammad and was written into what we now know as the Koran. During the rise of Islam, Muhammad and his few followers were heavily persecuted by the ruling class at the time, who where idolaters and did not hold to a conventional religion. So Muhammad and his followers set out to the different kingdoms of Arabia and the Middle East to find sanctuary. He found this in the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia. Part of the motivating factors for the allowance of Muhammad and his followers to stay there was that the king recognized the names of Abraham and Jesus and recognized this singular God as being the Christian God too. What most people do not know or realize today is that Jesus is not only mentioned in the Koran but viewed and glorified as a prophet. While not as devout on the God-incarnate implications that most Christians hold to, Muslims are still respectful of him, because he, like Muhammad and Moses, is just another prophet bringing forth God’s message. So even there one can see how the two religions of Christianity and Islam are linked in ideology. The main geographical place in regards to Islam is the ka’aba in the city of Mecca; believed to have been built by Abraham himself, it is the center for the hajj and became the focal point of prayer for Muslims after being liberated by Muhammad and his followers.

So far, not counting the crusades due to the fact that they were human creations and motivated by greed and personal gain of people and not the true religion, we can see a strong bond between Christianity and Islam. Next, I want to hit on the points of Judaism. The oldest and smallest of the three major Abrahamic faiths, Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity. For the purposes of this essay I will be addressing the religious implications on Judaism. Judaism gets its start from the Old Testament and plays heavily upon the origins of Christianity, being that Jesus, the central figure of Christianity, was himself a Jew. Plus two other major players of the Jewish faith are also major players within Christianity; Abraham and Moses. Whereas the Christian Bible is based off of the Old Testament and New Testament, the Jewish Tanakh is based largely off of the Old Testament or Torah and its supplemental elements. The Torah itself is known as the five books of Moses. Once these major elements of Judaism are examined it leads into the third piece of the Abrahamic trio, Christianity.

Christianity is the largest and furthest reaching religion not only in the three Abrahamic faiths but in the whole world of spirituality. Based heavily upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the encompassing teachings and lessons, as written down in the Bible by numerous authors, Christianity has had the furthest reach out of the world's religions; holding to the idea of original sin and that we are sinful by nature, much like the Judaic interpretation. Comprising of the four main gospels and other letters and texts, the New Testament is only half of the Christian Bible. The other half is the Torah, the five books of Moses, or the Old Testament.

Due to the close intertwining of all three religions, we have major figures that lead into the next form of Abrahamic religion. Judaism gave rise to Christianity; Christianity led and aided Islam into its formidable years. All three religions having different bases from which they grew and how they were influenced lead up to a singular God, as originally taught by Abraham. While although they do have major differences in regards to topics such as prayer, diet, law, and the legitimacy of the other’s prophets or messiah’s, they are united in the fact that it is the message given to them by God which holds the highest importance, not necessarily in which means that it was delivered to them.

The biggest difference from the American’s “Christio-centric” point of view would be the interpretation of Jesus from the Jewish and Muslim standpoint. Being that in Christianity Jesus is viewed as God incarnated as man, born of a virgin, and righteous and god-like in nature, able to heal, bring back the dead, perform miracles, and overcome death (the physical death, not to say that he was ever actually spiritually dead). In Judaism the view is that although Jesus was actually Jewish and was a nice guy, he was not a messiah, had no association with the divine, and therefore they purveyed his execution. The Islamic perspective is that Jesus did in fact come from a virgin birth and spread the word of god as one of his prophets, but was not in fact god himself. So it seems to be a situation of all or nothing or in-between. This is an example of a common element throughout all three branches but their interpretations of Jesus are what determine the individual and separate view.

So the point is basically this, Abraham is the common base for this pyramid/mountain hybrid. But it is the conditions, elements, and aspects of life and how they reacted and adapted that form these similar but elegantly unique religions. These three defined faces regardless of their differences provide a way to reach the top, which is commonly viewed as the ultimate relationship between oneself and God. So from the perspective of a person who has no claim to or affiliation to any of the religions involved in the Abrahamic faiths it seems to me as if as long as you are a participant on the hike towards the top of the same mountain there should be nothing to quarrel about. Just because views may not line up, does not mean one should berate or tear-down the other, because even though the methodology differs the goals still do not.

I find it extremely ironic that religions claiming peace choose to find small and petty differences to alienate themselves from each other rather than identifying with each other on the major underlying commonalities that essentially defines each religion. Because if there was no Abraham, there would be no Judaism, no Judaism leads to Jesus not being a Jew and therefore adversely affecting the unfolding of Christianity, and if Christianity turned out different, there may have not been anybody to aide Muhammad during the infant years of Islam. While admittedly other factors come into play, this seems to be the yoda-esque factor that strongly unites and bonds all three religions together. It seems as if this could be realized by the participants of the respective faiths, together they would be able to make the journey to the top of the Abrahamic Mountain better and much easier for all travelers involved.




I'm Officially Enrolled for the Spring!



I finally was able to get advised for the Spring 2012 semester. My adviser confirmed that I would be able to graduate in 4 years, culminating in the Spring of 2013! So my plan of a Double Major with a Minor is going directly on schedule. However I did decide to take a different route concerning the direction of my Minor is Philosophy... I changed that to a Minor in International Area Studies; My 15 hours needed for that Minor will be 3 hours from my Intermediate French [FR 2113 which is already completed], Islamic Law [RELS 3543], Understanding the Global Community [IAS 2003], Culture and Society in the Middle East [Hist 3893], and The Modern Middle East [HIST 3953].

My lineup for next semester as far as my schedule goes is this: IAS 2003-001] Understanding the Global Community, [IAS 2603-001] Governments Around the World, [IAS 3003-006] Nationalism/Modern Middle East, [P SC 3550-900] Intelligence Challenges, [RELS 3013-001] Bible in the 21st Century, and [RELS 3543-001] Islamic Law. I am enrolled for 18 hours and for the 4th semester in a row I have Fridays OFF!!!

For the winter intersession I am planning to take Native American Philosophy, which should be very interesting. This will help me with my plans to graduate in 4 with ease. I am only 12hrs away from completing my RELS Major, 33hrs away from finishing my Poli-Sci Major, and 12 for my Minor... I am excited for the future but sad my experience here at the University of Oklahoma is drawing to a conclusion...

Until the Next Post My Friends...

-N.K.



Wrapping Up the Academic Season...



Well folks, we are coming upon the beginning of the end. The end of the semester that is. I have major final papers, research projects, and group presentation projects that are requiring my attention and will be my main focus into early December. This is my first semester of having all upper-division courses related to my major, so these assignments will be undertaken with gusto and motivation making full use of my academic skills.

Here is an overview for my courses and the endeavors I will be launching into:

Religion & The U.S. Constitution
: A legal review type research paper of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. This is the furthest an Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Creationism legal case has proceeded up the chain of judicial authority. It should come as no surprise my main focus will be to eviscerate the deception, deceit, and ultimately destroy the the fundamentalist opposition. If you would like to get a glimpse of my previous work and opinion regarding ID-Creationism you can find that here.

American Foreign Policy WW2-Present: I still have to seek and gain approval from my instructor in this, but I want to either focus on A) The short-sided realism of American Foreign Policy has come back to bite us time and time again and we really need to move to broader and more considerate long term approaches to foreign policy and B) The Religious Christians Right's Bearing on Foreign Policy with Focus on U.S.-Israeli/Palestinian Relations. Also I have a group project debate position that will focus on the U.S.'s role concerning humanitarian interventions around the world - Military, Economic, and Social Justice.

Islamic Theology: I am expanding upon my midterm essay and including the theologians Sayyid Qutb and al-Ghazali. I will be doubling the length of this paper and will be incorporating about 80% of my original material in this final version.

World Religions in America: My research paper for this course will focus on how the Christian Right and the remnants of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and numerous other Evangelical Nut-Jobs have desecrated the domestic policies of the United States. I know this will be a heated topic so I may have to redirect my research, which I will then examine the post 9/11 wave of Islamaphobia that has swept the United States.

The project I am most eager at embarking on is the Group Interview Project for my World Religions in America Presidential Dream Course. Me an my group will be visiting Dr. Imam Imad Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City at the OKC Mosque and spending an hour having a candid and insightful conversation with him. The focus of our project is looking at Islam in America especially with a focus on post-9/11 relations and we are excited to have the personal experiences of Imam Imad Enchassi playing an integral part to this presentation.

Here is a video he was a part of for a CAIR [Council of American Islamic Relations] PSA competition for combating Islamophobia. It gave me chills, have a look for yourself...








Blind Misinterpretation of Liberalism Leads to Blatant Misunderstanding



I was deeply disturbed by a misinformed opinion column in Tuesday's OU Daily student newspaper. I have quite frequently and publicly expressed my disdain for the low level of writing and unvaried point of views as well as the lacking of the editing department at the newspaper to allow these shoddy practices to continue. The column in which I was responding to can be found here. It was the classic 'holier than thou' not only is your view wrong but how you apply it is fundamentally wrong, false critique of Liberalism Ideology that ends up complimenting it more than it criticizes it.

Not only is this what I took issue with, but the fact that the newspaper allowed this blindly and incredibly evangelical fundamentalist writer to publish his personal and extremely limited worldview as some sort of authority in any of the matters he fallaciously addressed irks me to the Nth degree. If you know anything about writing, this overplayed line of incoherent argument, or how ideas are supposed to be logically developed so their conclusions follow with fluidity, it should also baffle you [as much as it did for me] how this entirely inept writer has made it this far in higher education and is supposedly a 'Professional Writing Senior' here at the University of Oklahoma - and also claims to share my major of Religious Studies, Yet I have never heard of him in the latter context, heard anyone talk about him in this respect, or have shared a class with him or even met him at a Religious Studies event. Which I must say helps to illustrate his dimness when claiming to participate in such an illuminating area of study.
 
I'm tired of him and that whole deluge of decrepit reasoning that the Christian Right - or as I more prefer to address them as 'The Christian Rite' - first starting spewing in the public square of politics in the early 1980's. Not only do they not adhere to the Liberalism ideology, but they blindly misinterpret it which indubitably leads to a blatant misunderstanding which this writer has touted as a truth. He does however qualify his limited and lacking knowledge of this subject matter and frankly that is where his column SHOULD have stopped. But unfortunately for the readers of the OU Daily and the unlucky trees whose existence was wasted, he goes on in a self-evidently incoherent, fallacious, and non-sequiturial rant blinded by his own misapprehensions. I could continue into the realm of 'ad hominem-icide' but I feel my disappointment has been accurately demonstrated in regards to the declining editorial standard and constitution of the student newspaper and their staffed writers whose credentials are begging to be called into question.

I was able to [I feel] eloquently channel my passion and counter argument in the form of my latest Op-Ed submission to the OU Daily [which can be found here]. Hopefully by publishing my response in the coming days the Student Newspaper can redeem some of the integrity it has been conceding to increasingly shoddy standards.




Top 10 Signs You're a
Fundamentalist Christian



I got this from an informative and insightful website called 'www.EvilBible.com.' They have varied topics of interest concerning the negative and unbecoming aspects of the beloved Bible. They offer a realist and contrarion stance to the doe-eyed superficiality afforded to the glass half full embracing of the Bible. Now I do not necessarily support or endorse EVERYTHING on their site, but I do encourage exploration of it as it may and most likely will serve as a means for generating questions in yourself, from your own perspective.

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many Atheists, Skeptics, and Agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and Church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

Also, as sort of a fun extension of my site, a broadening of my Blog's breadth, and a celebration of passing the ***!!! 2,000 !!!*** [unique and individual] website views, I would love a couple of topics in my upcoming posts to be user-generated questions, theories, or ideas they would like me to address, explain, research, or give my opinion on. They can be original or quoted works, but nothing is off limits. When I receive the suggestions I will setup a poll/vote function and the 6 ideas I like can be voted on by the masses. I look forward to hearing from my faithful lions and would even like to hear from my divergent lambs. You can send all of the submissions to Nolan.Kraszkiewicz@ou.edu.

-NK




World Opiates in America



I received my graded Midterm Take-Home essay last week. I made minor corrections and edits and I have posted it HERE. The title of my paper was 'Plurality? Prove It...' The prompt was to talk about the course, materials, and experiences in so far as we have progressed in the class. The format was that of talking to friends, family, or a person interested in my class. My grade for this paper, much like most of my papers, was an 'A' with candid commentary from my Professor expressing his usual favor for my unique point of view and contrarion stance. Enjoy the paper!

Checkout My C.O.R.P. Page!

This is not an entirely original work, but a basic outline from notes from my Philosophy of Religions course I took in Istanbul this summer, examples from that class as provided by the Professor [Dr. James Kraft of Huston-Tillotson University], edits by yours truly, and the addition of my commentary and material I have learned from my Academic pursuits at OU; with a current focus on my Modern Philosophy of Religion class I'm currently taking.

Click Here to go to my New 'Criticism of Religion Page' [C.O.R.P]



    For RELS?



         These last two weeks have by far been the busiest of the semester. My busy-ness seemed to have a correlation with this time of the semester being the Mid-Term week. This overwhelming pressure has yielded two diamonds. The first is a more in-depth and technical approach to Islamic Theology with a touch of Islamic Philosophy. The second, which I only finished about 15 minutes before it was due, is about the Presidential Dream course I am taking called 'World Religions in America' and the assignment was actually labeled as a 'Take-Home Midterm Essay Exam.' This served as a more general application of my semester experience so far and is an easier read for a general audience.

         I have received my graded Islamic Theology paper and have posted it on my Religious Studies Page [Here]. The Paper is titled 'How the Islamic Mind Comes to Know what it Knows.' The paper examines and analyzes Epistemology in the Islamic faith based on the writings of ‘Abd al-Jabbar [No, not Kareem], who is a Mu`tazilite theologian that pioneered Islamic Speculative Theology and advocated God's oneness and his justice. This is the Mid-Term version of what my Final paper will be about. While this isn't necessarily a  rough draft, it will be expanded upon, edited, and revised for a final submission at the end of the semester. This is the more technical of my two papers I will be posting, but my general audience paper is not that far away.

         I am a member of the OU Religious Studies Club and this year I was able to help design the club t-shirt and this picture below is the final product [pending]. I came up with the main catchphrase 'For RELS?' out of jest during a club meeting. My background in graphic design immediately came through and I started to visualize the shirt. Thanks to the website CustomInk.com the other club members were able to help influence the design, helping us to arrive at the masterpiece you now see. The price of the shirt currently stands at $15 and the material is 100% cotton. Feel free to Send Me an E-mail if you are interested in purchasing a t-shirt. The current projected date that we will have them available for sale is mid to late November.


    OU Religious Studies Club 2011/12 Shirt Design
         


         As soon as I get my other paper and after I make the necessary and appropriate corrections, I will post it for reading and reviewing as well. Also I received information through the OU study abroad program about a photograph contest with the photos we OU students took during their stays in the host country for Fall '10, Spring '11, and Summer '11. I can submit 2 original photos in the competition, the only rule is that the photos have to be taken by me and there can be no editing, but minor retouching and corrections are allowed. I have posted the entirety of my Istanbul photos on Facebook. What I found to be really cool is that Facebook has a setup for the general public to openly view the galleries regardless if the viewer has a Facebook profile or account. In no apparent order and with minimal duplicates, here are my Istanbul Picture Galleries:   


         The submission deadline for the project isn't until February 2012. The categories for the general competition are landscapes, people, culture, or architecture. I hope to have a sort of comments section for my posts setup before then, but in the meantime if you find an image that you like that was taken by me, E-mail Me with a description of the photo so I can add it to my possible submissions.

         Keep checking back for more updates. I know it has been nearly 3 weeks since my last major posting, but my next few posts will be rapid fire and include the projects I have been working on during that time.  I'm almost at 2,000 website views. And as always, Thanks for Visiting and Viewing!




    The Certainty of Religious truth*



    [And the Fallibility of Faith]

         One of the major concepts that tend to be an underlying theme or thread of my works in both the academic and extracurricular realm is a pursuit of and a struggle for the truth. Just because a person is offended does not mean that they are in the right, especially when they are insulted by the truth; for they only have themselves to be angry with in that instance. This is partly why I never feel insulted by lies or misinformation for they are simply not true. Likewise one cannot and should not take issue with the truth. If an idea, concept, or theory turns out to be true there is no arguing with it. To waste energy in that manner is easily akin to banging one's head against the wall or repeating the same processes in an expectation of yielding a different result - which incidentally is the definition of insanity. These detachments from reality leads to a rabbit trail of epistemological disconnect.

         So embracing the truth now becomes a necessity and consequentially the only viable channel in which one should embrace reality. I often find people who make the claim that "Christianity is the foundation for their epistemic justification and knowledge." While this may [in their eyes] be a noble act of faith, I find that it is in principle inherently flawed. For the purposes of this line of thinking I will only be dealing with a posteriori knowledge. Also to be taken into consideration for the context of this is that this is just an 'out-loud' thought of sorts.

          If your world view is necessarily predicated upon and connected to your religious belief in such a manner that you 'see through a glass dimly' as a result of using that lens as your overall frame of reference, an interesting quandary seems to arise. Your knowledge of why Christianity seems to be right and just in your mind is mainly a product of what you have gleaned only after accepting Jesus Christ as your lord & savior. This is, as previously mentioned, what is referred to as a posteriori knowledge meaning that what you now know is based from experience. It is only your experience of Christianity from the lens of Christianity that now supports the main pillars of your faith. My two metaphors for this concept are 1) Like trying to pull or lift yourself up by your own hair and/or 2) Supporting a boulder with toothpicks. The proper philosophical term for this thought process is called the 'Cartesian Circle.' Its basic reasoning is that you know God exists with a certainty therefore you are capable of certainty because God exists. This pattern of reasoning functions as a retroactive reassurance mechanism.

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

    The Overall Claim Effectively Being Made is This:

    1) How do I know what I know and How can I be certain of what I know?
    2) I know God exists with a certainty; ergo I am capable of certainty;
    3) Therefore because I am capable of certainty, my epistemic justifications are certain;
    ----[**Here Appears to Be the Jump**]----
    4) and Since certainty is a finite property in my nature and reasoning abilities regarding the formation of justifications, I have been certain of my knowledge the whole time;
    5) I have all along been certain so everything I know is epistemically justified; therefore certainty can be applied retroactively to what I already know, regardless of how I came to it at the time;
    6) Therefore I have been right all along!

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

         This works for the religious believer; as this process is the cornerstone of the faith claim. However, for Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics this process of thought cannot be conveyed. Even looking at it from a broader perspective, in regards to anybody who has not accepted Christianity or is themselves not a Christian, the logic of the believer cannot be transferred to the other. It's akin to attempting to use something that is Windows PC formatted on an Apple Mac computer; it just simply isn't compatible. But the way the typical Evangelical Christian approaches their form of Apologetic-Proselytization doesn't consider this in their approach, for whatever reason. So when you confront the believer about this, [which I have done numerous times and is itself unavoidable in the buckle of the Bible belt known as Oklahoma], they repeatedly reference the content of the Bible in the justification in regards to the validity of the Bible. It goes without saying that the contents of the Bible can be used to critique, explain, or justify what is in Bible. Here is the fatal flaw, the believer will equate what I just mentioned in the last sentence as reason to empirically justify the Bible itself; further relying on a form of The Cartesian Circle or essentially saying "It's turtles all of the way down." Again, while this may work for the believer's mind for epistemological requirements, it will not and indeed cannot suffice as justification for the Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics. Because according to them, which I also deem to be a correct and logical assertion, the Bible has to be justified, demonstrated, and proven externally from outside of anything that is espoused in the Bible.

         This shows just how futile the believers attempt to debate with the Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics is. I say this because no person, no believer can assert with 100% confidence that the requirements of this process can be sufficiently filled without invoking the phrase "you have to have faith" or something akin to that affect. The believer is attempting to establish their belief structure on an incompatible foundation. So while knowledge and understanding of one's own religious beliefs in terms of the rhetoric, dogma, and historicity therein is a noble trait, just because the believer knows about their own religious theology does not mean they are informed or knowledgeable in the realms of religions and/or philosophy. That is why in this discussion, [between the believers and  Atheists, Empiricists, and/or Skeptics], the believers revert and default back to their knowledge, dogmas, and rhetoric of their own religious tradition and think they are adequately passing it off as philosophy and knowledge of other religions. This is a false attribution of what is entailed by their understanding of their own religious knowledge caused by their strict adherence of using Christianity as their foundation for all of their epistemic knowledge. Remove the Christianity and it follows that the knowledge based upon that is also removed; and since that has to be done to externally justify the Bible without invoking its contents as proof or evidence, they are repeating the same process over and over expecting there to be a different end result from each attempt. Thus by definition they are demonstrating a key component of what we know to be 'insanity' and when summed up this attests partially to the nature of religion and demonstrates that religious belief predicated and contingent upon faith is not rational or logically justifiable. Once this is acknowledged, the conclusion indeed has to be that 'truth' can never take the place of 'Truth' and to attempt to do so verifies and further illustrates the fallibility of faith.   


    [* truth is intentionally spelled with a lowercase 'T' because it is a subjective truth and not an objective truth claim. I.E. an Objective Truth is like saying the sky is blue or that matter cannot be created nor destroyed (the first law of thermodynamics); whereas a Subjective truth relates to the claims of Jesus being a savior and an incarnation of God or that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the Best hockey team of all time. ]





    I Smoked the Competition

    Location: Waterloo, ON Norman, OK, USA
    Quit Now or Miss My Future Posts...

    First I examined Oklahoma's Sharia Law Ban [SQ. 755]. I followed that up by examining the accountability of politicians when dealing with the federal budget. My third piece examined the minefield of morality associated with the execution of Osama bin Laden. Now finally, my fourth and newest topic examines the role of secondhand smoke when considering public health and welfare on the University of Oklahoma's Norman campus. I took a look at the prevailing arguments currently being used by the opposition [those taking exception to the proposed campus wide smoking ban set to start at the beginning of the spring 2012 semester] and eviscerated the top 3 points they had attempted to make. While some could say that an Op-Ed is just a platform to spread heresy, conjecture, and logical fallacies, I [like ALWAYS] avoided this potential problem by directly quoting from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's [The CDC] data sources they have available for public viewing and consumption. You probably already knew that secondhand smoke was dangerous, but if you read my article you will find that it eventually leads to a guaranteed fatal encounter.

    If you would like to read the Op-Ed in its original form on the OUDaily website CLICK HERE or simply click the title to this posting and you will be redirected to my Op-Eds page.

    On a separate note, the honeymoon phase associated with the beginning of each semester has now officially ended for the Fall 2011 academic session. While this signals and symbolizes the end of the beginning for my Junior year here at The University of Oklahoma, this prime intellectual setting and scenario which is now being ushered in upon this transition from the dog days of summer into the awesomeness of academia...

    I'm Ready... Are You?

    [UN]- "Intelligent" Design

    Location: Waterloo, ON Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman, OK 73019, USA

         I attended the premier of the Metamorphosis movie Monday night on behalf of the Atheists & Skeptics Association for Progress [A.S.A.P.] to represent the voice of opposition. I went to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and watched the entire film, stayed for and participated in the questioning of the presenters, and stuck around after to follow up on my questions and join a more candid discussion. Here is my letter to the editor concerning this film and the issue of Intelligent Design-Creationism:

         The way the film 'Metamorphosis' tries to make its case for Intelligent Design-Creationism is horrible, fraudulent, and overall deceptive in nature. What the participants in the movie do try and quote, from other scientists not in the film, are both taken out of context and misrepresented. Furthermore these pseudo-Scientists then try to over explain and complicate the fairly simple processes portrayed, as they insist that these are the best minds in regards to the subject and even they cannot explain the overstated and artificially complicated intricacies of metamorphosis; effectively establishing the fallacious principle of irreducible complexity. Once they perform this sensory and comprehension overload they offer you the safety rope of the Intelligent Design-Creationism conclusion to make you feel like you can then understand the life of butterflies.

         This film’s method of presenting evidence, production and editing, and arguments from ignorance make the tone and theme of the film one of deception and misrepresentation. Production value does not by any means aid in how the film represents the truth; just because it looks shiny and well put together does not mean there is a grain of truth behind their outlandish and unfounded claims in regards to the connections of Intelligent Design-Creationism. Also, if intelligent design was such a valid answer, why did they have to go to a subject that is so minuscule, abstract, and unknown in terms of what is understood about it to establish what they assert to be the foundation for all existence? Whereas say in evolution we can find examples well over 70% of the known biological world. So why do they have to resort to isolating their entire focus on such an obscure concept in such an unknown field? 

         It's quite simple. There is no consistent evidence in support for Intelligent Design-Creationism. This fact represents the deceptive nature of the film. Even though the Biological Institute is well staffed with qualified scientists and well funded by the conservative and religious right, they have yet to publish a credible, accepted, and peer-reviewed journal, paper, and/or thesis. Even within the model they are operating under, it is in their best interest to suppress and hide any data or research that would oppose the idea of intelligent design, because the Biological Institute's only purpose is to support Intelligent Design-Creationism. This debauches the entire basis of what science is; it should be the examination and exploration of the unknown leading to a destination. The position they take is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument anyway you try to frame it. This opinion and position was first legally expressed by the majority opinion in Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District on the topic of teaching creationism in the public school classroom. The judge in that case ruled that there is no way Intelligent Design-Creationism can be or even should be considered science because of the requirement of a presupposition that a 'God' exists. Furthermore, once a scientific concept has been determined to be a result of 'Intelligent Design-Creationism' it effectively eliminates the need to delve further into inquisition and exploration of that natural event and scientific concept.

         Their assertion is that there are alternatives to evolution and that the controversy should be taught. The only motivation behind this is an attempt to coerce theologically conservative principles into an academic environment. While that last statement may be loaded with heavy and sticky implications, it is undeniably true. There is not a single group or movement wanting to teach the opposition to any other theories that are on the same level as Darwinian Evolution & Natural Selection. How come there are not opposition groups wanting to teach alternatives to the germ theory, gravitational theory, or Plate Tectonic theory? It would be absolutely absurd if there was a mandate or movement calling for the teaching of astrology vs. astronomy, alchemy vs. chemistry, geocentricity vs. heliocentricity, or flat-earth vs. spherical earth concepts. It is because of an ignorant and irrational understanding of the natural world that leads to these absurd ideas. But thankfully the gaps for which the delusional pseudo-Scientists & Creationists are placing their 'God' on are shrinking more and more every day; this point is also evident in this latest last-ditch effort in the form of the creationist documentary 'Metamorphosis’ and their misguided efforts to attempt to prescribe legitimacy to their dying cause. Their deception was further solidified as they were trying to have their documentary ‘Metamorphosis’ be passed off as legitimate scientific subject matter by leeching off of the esteemed credibility of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History as a venue for the film’s premier. I myself cannot wait for the day that this Intelligent Design-Creationist pseudo-Science is finally eliminated when all of the gaps become closed and the true light of scientific exploration and explanation can shine even more brightly on the inquisitive mind of free thinkers.

    Stupid Design:

         While this 'Metamorphosis' movie was a colossal waste of my time, and probably also served as a detriment to those who attended as well. Fear Not! For I have a means to which you can recover your lost time... Here is an enthralling perspective from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on the topic of what he calls 'Stupid Design' you can watch the video here:


         This short 6 minute clip of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is part of a larger 30 minute lecture he gave at the 'Beyond Belief' conference back in 2006. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most likable and relatable in the New Atheist Movement. His work often involves humor, but keep in mind he is a highly accomplished PhD in astrophysics and is close friends with the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. The full lecture given by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was a larger topic focusing on the 'God of the Gaps' fallacy that occurs when a confidence of an explanation of a scientific process is placed in a position to where it relies on what we don't know rather than on reproducible evidence we are currently in possession of. Here is the video to watch the full 30 minute lecture of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at his best:


    Why So Serious?


    Currently I do not have any papers in the works, but I do have a polished opinion on how religion works with the brain in purely psychological terms. I submitted this as an Op-Ed for the OU Daily, but due to the proximity to 9/11 the editor decided to focus on more periodically relevant subject matter. I hope you enjoy!

         There are quite a bit of 'grey matters' about the brain's relation to cognitive dissonance, rationality in religious belief, truth & epistemology, and how the brain reconciles justification. It's uber-interesting stuff; why do people take offense when there religion is criticized to the point of seemingly physical discomfort and mental conflict? Why is it such a touchy subject, when I can insult your car or job, or physical feature of a person, and not get much of a rise; but then attack their beliefs and people go berserk.

         As of now, Personally, I compare Stockholm Syndrome to religious belief. In both you have a single powerful aggressor [the Captor or the God] that has significant power over the victim [the Prisoner or the Believer], There has been a direct, implied, or interpreted threat conveyed from the aggressor to the victim. This constant state of vigilance and awareness changes how a healthy and normal brain were to function. The changes, as a result of a built-in coping mechanism in the victim, very much alter how certain aspects of the victims brain operate; heavily distorting reality, perception, and cognitive functions of the victim. The end result is something where the victim sees or feels like the absence of a detectable implied, direct, or interpreted feeling of receiving aggression, is in itself an act of kindness and compassion. The longer this continues, the longer the victim's cognitive abilities are messed with, and the delusional coping mechanism of the victim just further deepens and spreads to the brain.

         This applies to religion amazingly because people see an absence of evil occurring, even when nothing directly positive is happening, they attribute that experience to the 'will' or 'grace' of god. It becomes even more intense in nature when it is an increasingly positive event that occupies the space between negative experiences. The way the world works, unfortunately, is that we are constantly bombarded by negative experiences and situations. So any break from this triggers our brain's self-defense / coping mechanisms and gives attributes to the highest power they can think of, usually God, Karma, the Dao. While this would be mildly acceptable in small doses, due to the human condition it is a constant and increasing process. The constant onslaught of negative stimuli in combination with the breaks between the actions of the aggressor and the associated stressors, gives this process a terminal velocity quite quickly as this whole function is self-perpetuating as long as the victim is unaware of the change, not actively counter-acting against, and merely passively resistant. This process repeats and builds upon itself becoming more and more galvanized in a person as time and events take place.

         I believe it is this case-hardening effect on mental processes that creates the mental blocks in people, which inturn makes them so actively and readily defend radically irrational beliefs. They draw confidence from this storage of coping rationality... But over a long period of time, from a weak-minded person, they are oblivious about this, and when this is mentioned they will try to write it off, discredit it, or just flat out deny it. Thus perpetuating the delusion of a loving form of a higher power, thrusting forward the passively masochistic mindset that has quietly crept into the rationalization faculties a person has, rendering the processes of rationality ineffectual in order to dampen the experience of the true cosmic world.

    Finally an Update on Potential & Upcoming Updates!

         As many have noted to me, this blog had last left off at the beginning of my third week in Turkey over the summer. Due to circumstances outside of my control I was not able to log into Google Blogger from Bogazici University's internet connection on the campus or in the dorms. This was a truly unfortunate development for those who were eagerly following my adventures. Although I do not have any current papers or essays to add to this site, this semester is starting to ramp up so new content will be added in the coming days and weeks. As far as the missed posting from when I was in Turkey, I have a total of ~4.8 Gb of pictures and a few videos that I need to organize and arrange, and then I will provide links and instructions on how to access and view my spectacular imagery. I look forward to directly contributing material over my first all Upper-Division semester and am eager for feedback, discussion, and criticisms. Stay Tuned!...

    The Start of Week #3...

    The Hagia Sophia's Mithrab
    This will be my 15th day in Turkey and the start of the second week of classes. Now that a sort of rhythm has been established, I fear as if my time in Istanbul will fly past my eyes. Last week was interrupted with the Class of 2011's graduation ceremony, and resulted in the canceling of my Thursday PM class Intro to Philosophy.This week is set to be more formidable; I have my first exam on the 6th. It is for my comparative sociology of religions class and will be over the material regarding Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. I have zero clue as to what the test will be like in terms of content and structure. As usual the first exam of any class is extremely nerve racking.

    My Roommate Kyle in the Aya Sofia
    Even with the graduation disruption I was able to go back to Sultanahmet [The Old City] on Friday with three of my friends. We toured around the millenia-old structure and simply marveled at the art work and architecture of this magnificent structure. If I don't say so myself, my funniest quip was made after we looked at the frescoes and mosaics; upon observing the numerous Christian-themed depictions of Jesus, I said aloud "So,do they have ones of Santa Claus too?" This was mainly ignored to due the lack of tourists who could understand English, but earned a couple of sniggers from an elderly British couple and a couple of small guffaws from my fellow SuperDorm-ers.

    This visit was more exciting than the last because I actually went inside the Hagia Sophia and was able to bask in its awesomeness. But there was a hitch, in order to get the discounted $10 museum pass you had to either be a Turkish citizen or a Student in Turkey. Luckily I was the latter, but unfortunately I had not yet gotten my Bogazici student ID card. I had to pay the full single use fee of $20, which served as a reminder/catalyst for me to get my student ID card this week during classes. The pass will allow me to get into over 417+ Turkish national museums for free once I get the card. 

    Me and fellow OU Student, Laura Anderson, throwing up the 'OU' in the Aya Sofia on Canada day 2011

    Also during my next voyage to Sultanahmet, I will remember to wear pants so I can actually go inside of the Blue Mosque. That may sound funny, but if you are not a Muslim you have to go through the visitor's entrance and follow the guidelines set forth as entry requirements, the main one for men being a mandatory wearing of pants. Due in part to my repeated trips to Sultanahmet and Taksim Square, I am now quite familiarized with the lay of the land. I've established the lay of the land and have set-up a weekly routine for buying groceries at the Migros-Turk a couple of kilometers away from campus. I am ready to knock this week out of the park and I am excited to think of what adventures this weekend will bring!



    Extra Pictures:


     
    My Roommate Kyle's Birthday 6.30
    Another Efes Beer Tower...
    Inside the Hagia Sophia






    The First Stanley Cup

    External Shot of the Hagia Sophia
    Me on the Second Balcony

    Blue Mosque from the Hagia Sophia
    Stoplight Party 7.2

    Marx My Words...

    View of the Bosphorus from BU South Campus
         The view from my school can totally beat up the view from your school! I am loving my classes here at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi! The walk to class can be great, and how not with campus views like these? The downfall of this daily trek is realized though when it is time to return from my classes and head back to the SuperDorms. The hike is brutal and uphill the whole way; and while there isn't any driving snow, its still exhausting. This extensive cardio routine is necessary though for me to attend my wonderful classes. I am fascinated with the subjects and am extremely content with the courses I selected. There is no doubt that I will be taking full advantage of Intro to World Philosophy [PHIL 101] & The Comparative Sociology of Religions[SOC 377].  
       
         So far I have learned about Karl Marx in my sociology class and am fascinated with the ideas and rationales he used to create his belief structure. The philosophy class is fun as well, but the Christian/Texan bias of the instructor is clearly evident throughout his class lectures. It is hilarious as well as liberating when the instructor or I will make references to Christianity or southern U.S. religious culture in general and the Turkish Muslim students just look on in a state of confusion that was reminiscent of the faces of my fellow OU students when they themselves were first hearing about alternative religions. I have also had a similar experience in my sociology class when the teacher referenced the to the bible, but prefaced it with "I'm not sure where in the bible it says this but it says, the meek will inherit the earth." without hesitation I said, "The book of Psalms." It was an almost instantaneous reaction that I didn't even fully process, it was just a simple and quick response. He then thanked me and in the comment alluded to me being a Christian. I responded by saying, "I'm not a Christian, I was just raised in Oklahoma." This earned a laugh from the teacher who then explained to the class that Oklahoma was known for being very conservative and Christian. I felt really smart, I had named the correct book without hesitation and seemed to appear as some sort of 'Biblical genius' to the class. But then I thought, Wow they have zero concept of the book, and probably don't know that much more about the contents of the Bible. I knew people like this existed in the world, but I had never had such an immersive experience into that mindset as I did in those few minutes after. So all of the painful years growing up around Christian-indoctrination-central, Oklahoma seemed to have paid off with this basic knowledge that I had just used in class. But then I reflected on it. Wow, something that is extremely central to every facet of life in Oklahoma was barely recognized by the students here in Istanbul. It is amazing that the mindset I am so used to dealing with doesn't even partially exist here. It is refreshing and reassuring to be able to experience normal daily life in terms of the country I was visiting. That's when it truly sunk in, I am experiencing another culture, another mindset, another worldview...
      
         As you may have noticed there was a bit of a delay between my last post and this one you are reading now. Now that classes have started for the summer I will be switching from tourist mode to student mode. The posts will now be more academia oriented, but will still feature tales from the day and pictures from my adventures.

    The Asian Sun's Final Moments

    a Nightscape of Downtown Istanbul
         Living in Europe is one of the most relaxing experiences to try in one's life. The beautiful majesty of Istanbul hits a high note in the days' final moments. Istanbul is where the sun has chosen to last appear on the Asian continent on its journey in to a half-day slumber that we call night. Granted a good sunset is a visual pleasure no matter where one witnesses it. In the case of an Istanbulite sunset, it is the culture of Turkey that complements the stunning visual show with the lyrical poetry that is the Islamic call to prayer. So it becomes not only a beautiful sight, but an auditory experience as well. The goosebumps that I felt only further reiterated and confirmed the epicness that my visual and audio senses were interpreting. 
       
         Thanks to the awesome features of Skype, I was able to have a video chat with my parents and my Granny from Canada. I told them about what I did last night, as well as told them about the big news of the PKK march/demonstration that happened in Taksim square today. Although I personally was not there a few of my new friends had been in the area and were witness to different aspects of the escalating tensions. Luckily no one I knew was injured, but the riot police did use full riot gear and tear gas to prevent the activists from actually reaching Taksim square and creating more of a widespread disturbance. After telling them about the excitement for the day, I took my laptop, and as much as the land cord would allow for, pulled it towards my window so I could show my family the sights I get to see from my dorm room on a daily basis. Immediately they recognized the the beauty of the sight they were observing instantly on Skype, but were geographically half of a world away [nearly 8,500km or 5,300miles]. Overall I chatted with them for about 30 minutes before venturing out to get groceries in the local villa.
    the View on the way to the Grocery Store
       
         I officially went grocery shopping today for the first time of my visit. I walked the 2km from the SuperDorms up to the small little village by the south Bogazici campus. I stocked up on food for breakfast as well as getting more of my new favorite drink, Schweppes brand mandarin soda. I also got some of the classic European croissants and some Kiri cream cheese, but the biggest score was the discovery that my all-time favorite brand of margarine, Becel, was also available for purchase. I bought some milk and cereal also for my pre-first day of school breakfast. I paid for my groceries and then loaded up my backpack and headed back to my dorm. After I finish with this update I will be setting up my necessary supplies I need for tomorrows first day of classes. I have my 'Comparative Sociology of Religions' class from 9am to 11am and my 'Intro to Philosophy' class from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. It will definitely be an interesting and exciting summer school session, because after all, I am in freaking Istanbul!

    Late Night Hookah Bars and Taksi Cars

    Location: Waterloo, ON Taksim Cd, 61030 Trabzon/Trabzon Province, Turkey
         Today we decided to go visit the famed 'Taksim Square.' Our plans were to eat a traditional Turkish dinner, pre-game at a bar, and then head to the popular club 11-11 followed by wandering the city for a hookah bar afterwards. This would be my first trip to Taksim Square but other students had been there previously and had met up with a with a local half-German half-Turkish girl named Yasemin. She had offered to show us around Taksim Square; and followed through by taking us to the restaurant, the bar, and Club 11-11. Eventually it was by our own perseverance and exploration that we would find the only hookah bar open at 2:30am...
    Stuffed Bell Peppers
    Turkish Tea
         
         The restaurant we chose was a tiny three story Turkish cuisine restaurant that was very moderately priced. The quality of the food was the best I have yet to have had while in Istanbul and the portions were very generous as well. Being tired of a chicken overload, I decided tonight to go with the Lamb Shish Kabab meal with a cold meat & rice stuffed bell pepper that had been dusted in cinnamon. I had the classic choice of an Efes Pilsen with the meal and had the traditional Turkish tea to go with the appetizer. The meal was spectacular and the conversation with friends was just as fulfilling. 
    Lamb Shish Kabob
    Waiting for our Meals to Arrive
         
         The dinner went off without a hitch, except for the low-tech bathrooms and the confusion of paying the bill. As I remember from traveling western Europe last summer, the quality of the bathrooms in small restaurant are the only ones that are seemingly more hazardous and decrepit than the ones I had experienced in San Fransisco's China Town nearly a decade ago. The low-techness of their facilities would rival an Amish out house; they were a ceramic hole in the ground, with a pitcher of water in the corner to rinse one's deposit down the drain. As aberrant as this was it would not be the most annoying part of our dining experience. The most aggravating part would come when we asked for our bill; it took nearly an hour for them to get their ducks in a row, and when it did come time to pay the employees informed us that they did not provide change. We were in complete dismay for this lack of common sense that the establishment was displaying. How exactly would 11 people, ordering different menu items, be able to come up with exact change? This would lead to another kerfuffle. After another half hour of wasting time, but successfully calculating and paying our bill, we were off to pre-game at a 'secret' bar that Yasmine knew of that would be able to seat our entire group and not be overly crowded.
    Finishing 2.5L of Efes Pilsen

          The next place we went into was a great selection from our de facto tour guide. We got a nice little private enclave to ourselves still in range of the musician playing live Turkish bar music. We started off our night of intentional intoxication with a round of tequila and then proceeded to order our drinks. Myself and another guy from the group ordered a 2.5L beer tower of Efes Pilsen. He and I were able to finish it in the hour and a half we had before we were to depart for the 11-11 dance club. But yet again our experience at the bar would again, for the second time that night, end on a sour note. Everybody had accounted for the money we spent, but yet we were 20TL short of the bill's total. After my quick recalculation of our individual purchases, it became apparent that we were erroneously charged the extra amount. We called over the bartender, explained our case, and as a result had our bill corrected. After that stressful buzz kill we proceeded to our final destination for the night, Club 11-11.
    at Club 11-11 with Friends
         
         After walking through the rare occurrence of Istanbulite rain, we arrived at Club 11-11. Apparently due to the volume of our group, we were not charged the usual 10-20TL cover charge. We proceeded to dance and drink the night away. Well, by dancing I mean fist pumping, and by drinking the night away I mean 2-3 drinks as they were about 15-25TL each. The prices may have been steep, but the experiences were priceless. We listened to the cliche Euro-trash music and popped our collars. We stayed for quite a few good club tracks, but as a result of the poor weather, the club wasn't as lively as we had hoped, so we proceeded to find a taksi back to the SuperDorms. Between the time of trying to find a taksi and finding a place for late night food, we reached a consensus that we were down for a 3:00am hookah session. The only problem was that nearly everything was closed and our search would prove to be difficult, but ultimately rewarding. With a stroke of pure luck, the last place we went to was just closing as we walked up. But the owner let us in and escorted us down the the private basement, were it was furnished by tables and comfy pillows. Our group ordered two hookahs, apple and mint, and we talked about our collective experiences in Istanbul so far, as well as got to know each other better. we stayed at the hookah bar for another hour before we grabbed food and took a taksi back to the dorms. The takeaway from the night was: even though we had a few unpleasant moments in our pursuit of dinner and drinks, the amazing luck of catching the hookah bar at the precise moment made this night easily one of the best yet!
    3am Hookah Session after the Club

    'Evim Şirin Evim' for the Next Two Months...

    Location: Waterloo, ON Bü Superdorm, Etiler Mh., 34337 Istanbul, Turkey
    My 7'x 10' Dorm Room
         I am finally moved into my SuperDorms apartment! My friend Ozgur picked me up from my hotel yesterday and again escorted me to my destination via Istanbul public transport. I turned out to be a smart choice; because with the money I saved not having to get a 'Taksi' I was able to go on a walk with some fellow classmates into town to purchase bedding [sheets & pillows]. I knew prior to arriving that we would have to have something for the beds, so I had swiped the blanket and the small pillow from my Turkish Airlines flight a few days prior. This would have been a great plan, had I not forgotten the pillow in the hotel.

    Arkema Shopping Mall
         So far my experience with the new district of 'Etiler' has been great. We have scouted the nearby village for nutritional sustenance and groceries as well as scoured the Besiktas district for Migros-Turk. During this period of first reconnaissance we discovered a 'Western-World' gem amongst the treasure trove Eurasian culture. This was our initial stop for bedding, but you had to drop about 100TL for decent bed linens and although they would be comfy, they were only needed for 2 months. So our next destination was Migros-Turk. The group I was with asked me what Migros was. I replied by saying 'Migros is the closest thing to a Walmart you are going to see while in Europe.' It translated between cultures beautifully and much to my relief they had well priced bed linens, allowing me to keep my mantra of 'The World Traveler.' I did however make a mistake by wearing my slip-on non tied Vans into town, so now my feet are sore and blistered.

    The Mixed-Grill Dinner
         Once the journey to bed-linen land was complete, our initial group met up with some more 'SuperDormer-ers' and we departed for dinner. We walked back into town where we had previously been earlier in the day and scoured the restaurants for a favourable combination of price and cuisine, and a place that could sit all 16 of us together. We found a great Turkish restaurant that met all of our demands. After sitting down, we played the 'name game' and everyone proceeded to say their name, major, what school they hailed from, and interesting facts of their choice. The dinner soon arrived annd we all began to marvel at the cuisine that was now being front of our starving eyes. While nothing quite beats the 3TL street wraps of chicken and beef, this has been the BEST Turkish meal yet. Once we all began to devour our delicacies, we continued on with our conversations. The biggest plurality of students are from California, with pepperings of different nationalities: Turkish, American, Palestinian, Indian, and Lebanese. The majority of students are like me, pursuing an Arts & Sciences degree with focus on politics, religion, and/or history. This is definitely a great group of kids to be stuck with halfway across the world...    

    The Futbol Stadium Next to the SuperDorms
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