How to Buy a Turkish Rug

In September 2006, Stephanie and I traveled to Istanbul for the first leg of our honeymoon. We knew in advance that we would buy a Turkish carpet, but had zero experience about how the process works or how much to pay. I’ve written up our experience in hopes that it will help someone else.

Picking the Right Shop

Since you are going to be dropping several hundred to several thousand dollars on a rug, I recommend picking out a nice shop that is 100% dedicated to selling rugs. There are many, many stalls and souvenir shops around the city and in the Grand Bazaar that sell some combination of art, jewelry, rugs, spices, sculptures, and clothing. I am sure there are some fantastic deals in these shops, but I never felt confident that I was getting a high quality rug and the selection was never great. We probably paid more by focusing on the nicer shops, but it was worth it to know that we were going to get a quality product. I recommend Bazaar 55 in Sultanahmet, where we purchased our rug.

The Ritual

For most people, the purchasing process will be uncomfortable, as it will involve a lot of pressure and haggling. If you have committed to buying a rug, though, take a deep breath and try to enjoy it.

Once inside the showroom, you will be offered coffee, tea, water, or something else to drink. If you are going to stick around for more than a couple of minutes, you should accept, even if you don’t really want anything. The beverage ritual is a huge part of the experience; it is the Turkish way of welcoming you to their store and making you feel comfortable. We resisted at first, not wanting to put them out, but we quickly realized that the offer was not really optional and to continue to say no would be considered rude. I ended up drinking several glasses of apple tea and water throughout the experience.

As you are sipping your tea, they will begin unrolling several dozen rugs of all shapes and sizes. Don’t be shy about expressing your preference for size, material, or color; there are hundreds of rugs and it will help them narrow down the selection. And don’t feel bad about how many rugs they unroll, it really is the only way to see them. Let the salesman know which rugs catch your eye and he will clear out the rest and put those side-by-side.

At this point, you are full of tea, surrounded by a hundred unrolled rugs, and faced with 3-5 that you really like. Psychologically, it will be very hard for you to leave the store, and that’s really the whole point of the ritual so far. If you truly do not see anything that you like, don’t feel guilty about politely thanking them for their time and heading for the door. At the end of the day, it is your money and you have to be happy with your selection. Don’t buy anything out of guilt.

If you do see a carpet that you like, it is probably in your best interest to move forward with the negotiation and making the purchase. Your vacation time is valuable and unless you love haggling, you won’t want to go through this process more than a few times during your trip.

The Negotiation

To get the process started, it’s a simple as asking “How much?” The salesman will flip over a corner of the rug, inspect the tag, and give you a price. The price usually isn’t written down; he’s just getting size and material information from the tag and setting the upper price. You could accept this price and be done with it, but you are most likely paying a huge premium just because you are uncomfortable with haggling. You are honoring a centuries-old tradition of haggling by rejecting this price and moving to the next step.

Now that you’ve got the upper bound, you have two options: counter with a much lower price or just act coy and uncertain about the purchase. The first option is more direct and will close the deal faster, but you are guaranteed of never going lower than what you offered. We took the second approach and expressed hesitancy for the next half hour. It went something like this:

This is a beautiful rug and obviously high quality, but…

  • this is the first shop we have visited and would like to see more options
  • this is the first day of our trip and it is too soon to make this purchase
  • we are uncertain about the color / size
  • this is a substantial purchase and we will need time to think it over
  • it is lunchtime and we can’t make this decision on an empty stomach
  • we’d like to take a walk around the block and discuss the purchase privately

Take your time. Enjoy another cup of tea while looking skeptically at the rug. You may want to feign an exit once or twice. As this goes on, the price will continue to drop. Always be polite; as soon as you lose your cool, you lose your bargaining power and will come off as rude and disrespectful.

How Much Should I Pay?

There is no right answer to this question because the price is completely subjective. I guarantee you that the material, labor, and overhead costs for the rug are far lower than your lowest imagined price and you are never going to get close to the actual cost. Ultimately, you should look to the future; think about that rug in your home and the enjoyment that you will get from seeing it there and remembering the trip. What sum of money are you comfortable parting with today for that future happiness?

As you drive down the price by acting skeptical and attempting to exit, you will eventually reach a point where the price stops dropping and it seems like they might actually let you leave the store. This is a sign that you’ve probably hit bottom and won’t get any lower. If the price is equal to or less than the figure you’ve set in your head, then the rug is a good deal for you and you should make the purchase. Sure, you are paying way more than the actual cost, but you have to stay focused on your own concept of value and happiness. Just remember, you would have paid way more for the same rug at Macy’s and the experience is completely different.

Some figures from our purchase that may help you: we settled on a 5’x6′ wool rug for $1,000, which was approximately 40% lower than the initial quote. Maybe we got ripped off, but we love seeing that rug every day and have never regretted the money we spent on it. And that makes it a good deal for us, which is all that matters in the end.

One comment about shipping: if the rug you select is about the same size as ours or smaller, it’s possible to save up to $300 in shipping costs if you’re willing to get it back home as checked or carry-on luggage. That decision depends on how much traveling you have ahead of you and how much extra weight you can tolerate.

Cycling in Nashville

Cycling in Nashville, originally uploaded by jcarter.

On the day after the Country Music Half Marathon, Rob took me on my first cycling adventure. I got to wear the full Gran Fondo getup, all the way down to the socks, so I actually looked like I knew what I was doing.

It was much harder than I expected. The trickiest part is learning how to clip in and out of the pedals. I took a spill at the very beginning but got the hang of it after that.

We went for a 15 mile ride over some small hills that felt like mountains. I have great respect now for the hills cyclists climb during races.

Carlsbad Half Marathon 2007

Carlsbad Half 2007, originally uploaded by jcarter.

I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon on January 21, 2007. It was one of my best running days ever. I finished in 1:42.37, beating my previous best half marathon time by 7:29. My average pace was 7:49 per mile, which blew my mind; I’ve never even had a training mile that fast.

I had a lot of fun on the course, as you’ll see in these pictures.

Mt. San Jacinto Hike

Ryan and I went on a camping trip this weekend and tagged the peak of Mt. San Jacinto.

We decided to go light on this trip, with no tent and minimal clothes. We survived and learned a lot for next time.

Mt. San Jacinto is in Southern California, just south of Palm Springs. We summited from the south via the Deer Springs trail and Wellmans Divide. I used the Tom Harrison San Jacinto Wilderness Trail Map, but it appears to be out of print. You may be able to find it at REI or you could also try the Wilderness Press San Bernardino Mountains Map.

We started our hike at the trailhead just north of Idyllwild on Route 243. Stop at the state park HQ on 243 in Idyllwild for more directions and to get any permits you need. If you start at 4-5pm during daylight savings time, it’s possible to make the first campsite at Strawberry Junction before nightfall. The hike from Strawberry Junction to Wellman Divide has amazing views of Strawberry Valley and Tahquitz Peak across the valley. These views are why I prefer this route to the San Jacinto peak.

It is possible to hike from the Strawberry Junction campground to the top of San Jacinto and back down to the trailhead and your car in one day. This is quite a difficult hike though. If you want to take it easy, summit on day two and spend your second night in Round Valley or Tamarack Valley campgrounds. This also give you the option to hike to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a well-deserved dinner and beer after coming down from the summit.

I’ve done this hike twice, in March and late August, and have found running water both times along the section between Strawberry Junction and Wellman Divide. I recommend bringing a pump / filter, similar to this one from MSR, because your only water may be in standing pools that are quite dirty.

It’s possible to summit in one day by taking the Palm Springs Tram to Long Valley. Ryan and I consider that cheating, though, and we will award you no points.

LaceLid – A Holder for the Nike+ Sensor

I received a Nike+ iPod Sport Kit for Christmas this year. As you might guess from the name, the sensor only fits in a specially designed slot in certain Nike shoes. I am currently training with Asics, so my only option is to wedge the sensor between the laces, which would likely fall out after a couple of miles.

I figured I was out of luck until I spotted an ad in the back of Running magazine for the LaceLid, sold by Waterspeare Industries. They make a rubber holder for the sensor that has two eyelets that you can thread your shoe laces through. It seemed like a bargain for $4.95 plus $1 shipping, so I ordered a white one.

I got a little nervous after a couple of days because I never received an e-mail confirmation, but the package arrived today, only a few days after ordering it.

LaceLid Package
LaceLid Package

The sensor fits into the rubber holder very securely – I feel pretty confident that it won’t fall out during a long run.

Back of the holder
Front side

I retied my shoes, threading the laces through the eyelets. The LaceLid website shows a preferred method of tying your laces, which I didn’t follow. My method has a bit of play to it, so I’ll probably change the lacing to make it more secure.


I went for a quick mile run tonight and the sensor stayed in place. So far, I’m really happy with it, because it’s let me finally make use of my Nike / iPod kit.

Update 2/4/07: The LaceLid has performed well after a half dozen runs or so. And it sits there quietly when the sensor is out and I’m doing something other than running. If you’re looking for any hacks or widgets for the running data, Matt’s getting some good comments in his post about the Nike+ system.

Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience
Jason Carter
English 400–1

In Percy Shelley’s “A Song: ’Men of England,’” one can see Shelly’s call for a revolution to reform the social injustice that is taking place all across England. The ideas expressed in this poem are very similar to those in Shelley’s “England in 1819.” Both poems attempt to convince the readers to rise up from their pitiful condition and overthrow the tyrants who are causing them so much grief.

In “’Men of England,’”, Shelley is addressing the working class of England; those who were farmers and who worked the land for their rich landowners. In the first three stanzas, he asks these men why they bother to work for tyrants and ungrateful lords:

Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?…
Wherefore feed and clothe and save…
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat–nay, drink your blood?

Shelley is asking them why they work so hard all of their lives to please lords who do not care for them; who would not hesitate to drain their sweat or drink their blood. He is asking the “worker bees of England” why they make weapons and chains that the landowners simply use to destroy all they have accomplished. Shelley is presenting an argument in support of a worker revolution, and he is listing all of the reasons for such a revolt in the beginning of this poem. England is in the midst of civil unrest and economic depression after the Napoleonic Wars, and Shelley hopes that this poem will inspire the middle class of England to rise up and change the social conditions of the time.

In the next three stanzas of the poem, Shelley asks the workers what they receive for all of their hard work, and he proposes a solution that might bring them out of their wretched state. He wants to know if these workers have “leisure, comfort, calm, shelter, food, or any love,” from their masters as a reward for all of their hard work. If thy don’t receive any good benefits from the job, then Shelley wants to know what they could possibly buy or receive from all of their pain and suffering.

Shelley then proceeds to show the men of England examples of how they are robbed of everything that they make for their lords:

The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.

Everything that these men make, someone else takes and uses it for their own benefit. In return, the workers get pain and fear, and Shelley is urging them with these examples to rise up and change their condition.

In the next stanza, Shelley begins to offer solutions to the problems of the working class. He tells everyone that whenever they make something or find something profitable, he tells them to keep it away from the tyrant, impostor, and idle lord. He wants everyone to hold on to what they have and not give it to those who are too lazy to work for it themselves. In the last line of the third stanza, Shelley tells the men to “Forge arms–in your defence to bear.” Here, he is calling for some sort of retaliation or attack against those who have made life miserable for others. Shelley is officially calling for a revolt against the aristocracy by the hordes of working english men across the land. The blue–collar crowd is tired of being treated like dirt and this poem is their anthem, their cause, and their motivation to fight the Euro–trash who are driving their lives into the ground. This was Shelley’s purpose from the beginning, to convince the average Joe that there is a perfectly good reason to start a revolution and fight those who treat you poorly.

In “England in 1819,” Shelley calls for another revolt against those who drain the life blood out of every working man and woman in society. He uses the same method as in the first poem to try and convince the working man that this the correct and necessary thing to do. Shelley presents the readers with images of the insane King leading his army against a group of peaceful protesters. He shows the people the image of a country that is dying because of aristocratic leeches who attack their own people and rob them of their freedom. By using powerful and meaningful adjectives, similes, and metaphors, Shelley convinces his people that the only solution is to start a revolution against those blind and insensitive despots who are dragging England through the mud and kicking the pathetic and wretched citizens into the ground:

From which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

Shelley says that their only hope is to revive a “Phantom” that will come from nowhere and overthrow the insolent and life–depriving government. Only after this happens will the true glory of England and its working class shine above all the rest.

This is how Shelley uses his poetry to convince the people of England to rise above its government and to change the conditions that they live in. Through the use of powerful language and meaningful arguments, Shelley convinces them that it is the right thing to do.

Anza Borrego Weekend

The San Diego Crew had a desert weekend a few weeks ago. Highlights included navigating through the Anza Borrego wilderness, exploring mud caves, surviving Diablo Dropoff and the subsequent boulder-strewn canyon, watching a Jeep flip and re-flipping it while gas was pouring out of the tank, and raising hell at the Lazy Lizard and Iron Door. Only a few pictures made it through all the craziness.

Diablo Dropoff

My 30th Birthday

This past weekend I was treated to a fantastic birthday surprise – a four hour trip around Mission Bay in a rented pontoon boat. Here are some pictures from the day.

The Birthday Boy

Deceit and Deception

It’s getting pretty bad when the third word of the essay is misspelled. And it’s the name of the author, no less.

Deceit and Deception
Jason Carter
English 400-1

In William Shakespear’s Measure for Measure and Othello, one can see the effects of deceit and trickery on the characters and on their actions. In each play, people are tested by those who are not what they appear to be. If they can overcome these deceptions, their problems will be solved and there will be a happy ending. If not, then their problems will not be resolved and they will suffer a tragic ending.

In Othello, the reader can see examples of deceit and misconceptions that remain hidden until the very end. In this play, Iago plays with Othello’s emotions and convinces him that Desdemona is not being faithful to him. He tells Othello that Desdemona is secretly having an affair with Cassio and tries to make Othello believe that she is not a true wife. Iago is attempting to seek revenge against Othello because he was not chosen to be his lieutenant. Throughout the entire play, he hints to Othello that she might be seeing Cassio and that Cassio is not a loyal soldier. He tells Othello:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
III:3 191-193

Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio;
Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure.
III:3 224-225

Iago plans to further convince Othello of Desdemona’s disloyalty by planting the handkerchief among Cassio’s belongings:

I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin
and let him find it…
The moor already changes with my poison.
Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons
Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
But with a little act upon the blood
Burn like the mines of sulphur.
III:3 363, 367-371

Iago already sees his lies taking affect on Othello, but he plans to amplify Othello’s jealous feelings by stealing his handkerchief from Desdemona and giving it to Cassio. Othello is so blinded by Iago’s deception that he truly believes Desdemona is unfaithful, and he kills her in her sleep for her treachery. He is not able to see through Iago’s trickery, and, therefore, he really believes that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him. Only when Emilia reveals Iago’s lying and illusions does Othello understand his mistake. The conflict can be resolved only when the masks come off and the truth is finally revealed. If this revelation happens too late, the story will have a tragic ending.

The duke also deceives his people in Measure for Measure. In this play, the duke has gone to Poland and has left Angelo and Escalus in charge of the city. Actually, the duke disguises himself as a friar and walks among the streets listening to his people and their problems. He realizes that there are problems, but he doesn’t know how to solve them, and he is stepping back and trying to find a solution. Claudio has gotten Juliet pregnant and is going to marry her but is thrown in jail by Angelo. Isabella pleads for his release, which Angelo will grant if she will sleep with him. She refuses and goes to the duke in disguise and tells him her predicament.

The Duke doesn’t throw off his mask and pardon Claudio or punish Angelo. Instead, he forms a plan that will solve everyone’s problems and make most of the people happy. He tells Mariana to sleep with Angelo so that they will have to marry by the end of the play. Meanwhile, Lucio is insulting the duke in front of the “friar,” calling him “A very superficial, ignorant, unweighing fellow.” He believes that Angelo makes a much better duke, and he says this, unknowingly, to the duke in disguise. Lucio can’t recognize the duke beneath the friar’s costume, and he will pay for his words in the end.

By the end of the play, the duke returns, and Isabella begs for him to punish Angelo for his wickedness. Then the “friar” is asked to appear before the court to defend himself against Lucio’s claims that he had insulted the duke. At this point, Lucio removes the Duke’s disguise and realizes his mistake. The duke punishes Lucio to death for his words and pardons everyone else. He frees Claudio, makes Angelo and Mariana get married, and asks Isabella to be his wife. By putting on a disguise and separating himself, the duke solves everyone’s problems and gets rid of the bad in society.

This is how Shakespeare uses deception and disguises to develop a story. If the characters can’t see through the illusions to what is real, they will suffer. If the disguises are removed and the truth is exposed before it is too late, the problems will be solved and the characters will be happy.

Hiking Lawson Peak

In October 2005, I hiked to the top of Lawson Peak in San Diego County. Here are a few pictures from that trip.

Atop Lawson Peak