Sunday, July 31, 2005


Well, I suppose it is no surprise to the world that Greeks are loud. Thanks to My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding everyone knows what Greeks are like (and I thought I knew what to expect when meeting my in-laws). When I first moved here, I was constantly taken aback by the number of people who were seemingly arguing on the streets, on the news, all around me. The the decibel levels of these palavers were damaging to my sensitive American ears, and I just couldn't figure out how people got so worked up over inane subjects.

After some time, however, I realized that these people are not arguing, they are simply talking to one another at a "normal" level and tone (a normal level for a ringmaster in a circus, perhaps). Being the picky American that I am, one who hates the sound of slamming doors, of loud vehicles, and loud voices, I really didn't know if I could ever get used to the volume of speech here. I suppose to an extent, I haven't. I can't stand listening to news that has a panel of people discussing an issue. I can't stand listening to neighbors talking in the hall. And sometimes I can't stand hearing my husband on the phone.

Is there a strain of minor deafness in the Greek ancestry that causes this need for loudness? Is it a Darwinian defense, of trying to make oneself heard over the din of a thousand voices? Or do they just like hearing themselves talk?

To their credit, my in-laws are not that bad. One on one they are positively quiet, comparatively. When you get several family members together, however, the noise level rises a bit more than average. They have learned well how to get one another's attention across a 2000 square foot apartment, though. My pitiable calls for my husband fall on deaf ears, as I can't seem to make myself yell loud enough. Luckily, there is usually someone to run interference for me, who hears my call and vocalizes loud enough for him to hear.

I am the crazy American, who can only speak loudly when I am angry, or in a state of extreme anxiety. We don't want the neighbors to hear us, after all. Yet I forget that here the neighbors are probably speaking so loudly themselves, they could never hear us.

I'll find my voice eventually, I hope. It is the survival of the loudest here, after all.

Oops! I did it again

Sarcastro over at Watching the Defectives has come up with a funny caption for this photo of Britney Spears.

Now, let me say seeing the photo at first was a bit of a shock, on many counts. I am not a fan of Ms. Spears, but her icon has infiltrated popular culture, so I am familiar enough with her appearance and music. I realize that being pregnant in the summer isn't fun, and women need to wear clothes that are comfortable to them. So I can't really say my issue with the photo is her choice of clothing, although it does give credence to the white trash moniker. My issue with the photo is the cigarette she is smoking - well, the cigarette she is lighting, presumably to smoke.

Now, I try not to be one of those sententious types that goes around telling people what they should do. But Mrs. Federline has agreed, if only by virtue of her fame, to be a role model for hundreds of thousands of teenage and pre-teen girls. Not that I would ever let my child (if I had one) purchase a Britney Spears album in the first place, but with images like this out there, I think I would be less inclined to let a young daughter be dazzled with her music or her fame. Not that Britney has a career to speak of anymore, unless you count all her corporate holdings, which I am sure counts for a lot of money in her pocketbook.

High price of fame, indeed.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sign o' the Times

Ahhh, it has come to my attention that the London Times Online has mentioned my humble blog. It was referring to a humorous post I had made regarding an ancient artefact that was uncovered in a German cave last week.

They linked to the blog, but not the post. Those of you who came here only to see the post (and not my diatribes on motley other subjects), can click here.

Mushroom cloud

This week's Time magazine has a story on Hiroshima and nuclear weapons proliferation across the world. There are a lot of things I didn't know about what happened on August 6, 1945, and perhaps a few things I'd prefer not to know. One thing I know for sure, I really shouldn't read such things right before falling asleep, as I had a horrible dream about the threat of a nuclear bomb.

What strikes me about this article, and what I was still thinking about when I woke up today, is how blithely the U.S. government made the decision to drop a nuclear weapon on Japan. In fact, it seems, had the weapon been ready earlier, that bomb might have been dropped on Nazi Germany. When the U.S. became aware that the Nazis were working on an atomic weapon, American scientists scrambled to come up with one of our own. There was apparently no question that once it was ready, it would be used. So when it was ready, the mission was to unleash this weapon of great evil on the city of Hiroshima.

Now, the crew of the Enola Gay seemed to only recognize that what they set out to accomplish that day was a feat that would surely end the war. Most of them had no idea of the scope or potential destruction of their mission. Apparently, after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese figured there was no way the U.S. could have come up with enough materials for more than one weapon like this. They were wrong, and a second one was dropped on Nagasaki a couple of days later, which did, in fact, have the effect of ending the war.

What goes through my head, now, is that surely, SURELY, the leaders who approved such a mission had no idea of the potential destruction of an atomic weapon. The radiation, the mass destruction, the aftereffects that would last years - certainly they couldn't have known what evil they were about to inflict on the Japanese people. One article presents the opinions of Allied leaders:

The discomforting truth is that Allied leaders strode unhesitantly into the atomic age. "I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used", Truman later wrote. "[N]or did I ever hear the slightest suggestion that we should do otherwise," Winston Churchill added. Nothing in the record contradicts them. Dropping the Bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, was among history's most notorious foregone conclusions.

The sad thing is that history teaches us that the Allies did the right thing. The war had to be stopped or millions more lives would have been lost. Is this really true? Can we ever really know? I don't know enough about war, or the politics of war, to have a truly educated opinion. But if there was some foreknowledge of the horrid destruction of such a weapon, then certainly, it wasn't the moral thing to do. But we have learned already that what is moral and what is right don't always correspond.

Still, some lessons were learned, I suppose. We learned without a doubt what such a bomb would do to human lives for generations to come. We learned that we could establish power with the threat of nuclear destruction, without intending to drop another bomb. I just hope a harder lesson doesn't come from this - the potential destruction a nuclear weapon can cause in the hands of a terrorist who has the moral turpitude to cause a massive loss of life.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Too much stuff

17 medium small to medium sized boxes so far. All of them filled with DVD's, CDs, videotapes, and books. At least 3 to 4 more boxes of books to go, too. It never seems like it would be that much. I guess I delude myself.

Still, if you count all our clothing/bedding/towels, kitchen stuff, and misc. bricabrac (how the hell do you spell that?) the majority of boxes in the end will be entertainment stuff. I guess we know what the priorities are in our lives. And in the end, I am just itching to get this move over so I can order more books. It really is a sickness.

Buried treasure

Does anyone out there who has cats pretend they are digging for buried treasure when they scoop out the litter box day after day?

Didn't think so.

Made of money

Well, apparently we are made of money, since my husband crumpled up and threw away a five Euro bill.

I guess I should go shopping more.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another SOTA

The Greek Interior Ministry has established guidelines for civil servants in Greece. Civil servants, otherwise known as those ignorant bitches in the government offices, are notoriously terrible here in Greece. I have had to deal with them on many issues, including my visa, which I won't go into here. Let's just say just about everyone I dealt with was rude, condescending, and had a remarkable ability to not know how to do their jobs, or tell you who could perform the tasks needed. When handed a task, many run around the office like a chicken with their head cut off, acting uncertain about where to go or what to do. Many spent time on personal calls, turning a bored and annoyed look my way from time to time.

Still, props go out to the two or three who did help along the road. Now if they could just figure out what happened to my visa papers...

Sign of the apocalypse

A new SOTA has recently emerged - the conversion of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales into rap songs.

He said: "I tried to keep the rap versions as close as possible to the original, so I went through the tales line-by-line.

"It was a painstaking process to convert Chaucer into a rhyme scheme that young people would like."

The tales have been condensed for performance, but with the aim of maintaining their original sense.

For instance, the phrase "goone towards that village" translates to "hit the streets".

I mean, I am all for helping kids get turned on to classics. I even liked the Baz Luhrman version of Romeo & Juliet. But there is a line, and I think this is where I would draw it. Part of the point of studying the Canterbury Tales is to give the student an understanding not only of the work itself, but how this work helps show the evolution of the English language. You can't teach that if you change "goone towards that village" to "hit the streets".

Sure, perhaps at some point in my life I'll have to stop being old-fashioned. I accept the fact that such works are hard for kids to get through. But there are ways of teaching it that can invoke the interest and curiousity of the students without having to resort to rap music. I really think that at some point we have to start expecting more from students and stop trying to "dumb down" things so much.

The Big Score

Well, we did it. We hit the motherlode of the box jackpot. Despite the heat, despite the smell, we braved the area behind the the Champion supermarket in Katerini and got us some nice boxes.

My husband, usually not the defeatist between the two of us, remarked gloomily as we pulled up "there's nothing there". Oh, but the vision before your eyes is merely an illusion, my boy! He is just not skilled in the art of picking fine boxes out of crates of crap. He quickly got the hang of it, though, and we were thrilled and delighted with each new find of a solid, usable box. Not too big, not too small. Now we are ready for a weekend full of packing fun, until we discover that we still didn't get enough boxes and have to go back on Monday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

T minus 1 week

Movers come next Wednesday. We are so not packed it isn't funny. This weekend is going to be so much fun.

But it will all be worth it to live in a city where we can go shopping at Ikea every weekend. I can live without Target if there is an Ikea. I've been suffering so hard these 3 years. Why hasn't Target gone international yet, anyway?

Losing my religion

I happen to be a person without any particular religious beliefs. Imagine the culture shock when I arrived smack dab in the middle of a country full of very religious people (I think I read somewhere that something like 97% of all Greeks are Greek Orthodox). People actually go to church here on a regular basis, and when they go to church they don't just make automaton professions of faith, you can tell that these people mean it.

Now I've tried to believe before, on many occasions. But there is one thing I won't do, and that is profess to believe in something I really don't believe in. I don't intend to be hypocritical in my faith, and so I have remained faithless. Some might blame my upbringing, which started in the Unitarian church when I was born. I was "dedicated", not baptised (Unitarians don't believe in original sin), and I have vague memories of frequenting the church when I was very little. When we moved to North Carolina, I guess the community did not have an established Unitarian church at the time, so we started going to a Methodist church. I was still a child, and so church meant little more to me than being bored on Sunday morning and singing in the choir and being in pageants. Before we left North Carolina I have a recollection of attending a Unitarian church there, but I don't remember much about it.

Let me say this before I continue. My parents were quite keen on all three of their children having some knowledge of varied religions, in the hope that when we got older we would find our faith and choose a path. They never pressured us, they never told us what we had to believe. They wanted us to figure it out for ourselves.

When we moved to Tennessee I don't remember going to church at all at first. However, for various reasons I won't go into here, I attended a private Catholic school in 9th grade. Now, imagine my shock, coming from a very open household to an extremely religious school. I think I should have been better prepared for the spiritual bombardment my soul was about to receive.

We had mass every Wednesday morning at school. At the first mass I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised, then, when I found the singsong Latin pleasing to my ears. The service had kind of a dark quality about it, reminiscent of ancient rituals. I found it quite interesting, but not in a religious sort of way. Anyway, at one point during the mass I noticed that rows of girls were proceeding to either side of the auditorium. I panicked and asked the girl next to me what was going on. She told me that it was communion. I asked her whether I should get up too, and she said I should. So off I went, standing in line in front of the priest, waiting for my turn at communion.

I should say here that I knew what communion was. I know it was the symbolic taking in of the body and blood of Christ. In other churches we got a thimbleful of grape juice and a small, pillow-shaped bread thing.

Finally I was standing face to face with the priest. The first sign of warning should have been the fact that I didn't have my mouth open like a baby bird waiting for its mother to feed it. The priest did his thing and then told me to open my mouth. Imagine my shock when I realized he had put a poker chip sized piece of plastic in my mouth. The conversation that followed took place with my mouth still open, the poker chip laying on my tongue.

Me: What ith thith?
Priest: The body of Christ
Me: What am I thuppothed tho do with ith?
Priest: Swallow it
Me: I canth
Priest: Suck on it then
Me: I canth

To which the priest, obviously a bit annoyed, stuck out his palm, in which I proceeded to spit the poker chip. I walked away happily, feeling like I had thwarted a grand Catholic plan to choke the non-Catholic girl to death. As I got older, I started to realize the symbolism of my faux pas. I had spit the "body of Christ" from my mouth, in non-acceptance. Sure, it wasn't intended that way, but perhaps that was the reason for my lack of faith, my inability to believe in the things that shape and define religion.

My husband no longer goes to church on a regular basis. He wants to, and I blame myself for his lack of attendance. Sure, there is no reason for me to set foot in a church. I feel nothing, I am not swept away by any deep spiritual feelings. But as my husband, I should support him in his spirituality.

Every once in awhile, if I walk out on the balcony on a Sunday morning, the wind carries the sound of a priest singing the Byzantine hymns, and I find myself frozen, listening to the chants, mesmerized by the lullaby of faith. Perhaps there is hope for me yet.

Two Million for Roe

Planned Parenthood has a new campaign called Two Million for Roe:

Do you want John Roberts to reveal his views about a woman's right to choose abortion before the Senate votes on whether to elevate him to the U.S. Supreme Court? If you're like more than half of Americans, your answer is a resounding yes. Join us in demanding that Roberts let us know if he will uphold the protections for women's health guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, or if he believes this decision should be overturned.

100,000 signatures are needed before September 1st. Sign up now if you support Roe!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We all scream for ice cream

In Greece, especially in the smaller villages, you won't find ice cream readily available in the late fall/winter months (chocolate and other candies usually take over then). So, when you see the first packages of ice cream fill the stores in late March, you are ready for it. There are tons of ice cream brands here in Greece, some better than others. But you won't find Ben & Jerry's here. Another thing you won't find is mint chocolate chip ice cream. It was one of my favorite flavors, and boy do I miss it. In fact, Greeks don't seem to be ultra-fond of mint consumption, because you can't buy any chocolate mint candies either.

My favorite flavor for the moment is Delta Nirvana brand's Cookies and Cream. The last time I bought some, however, I opted for the convenient single serving packages. Unfortunately, you lose out on the big chunks of cookie in the single serving packages. I'll have to remember that next time.

One thing for sure, not much beats ice cream when it is so hot outside.

Things I should remember

1) Boxes never hold as much crap as you think they will

2) We have twice as many books as I thought we had. Whenever I assess our library, I should automatically double that figure to be safe.

3) Cats will go to great lengths to sabotage a packing operation

4) Never underestimate the little stuff you have to pack

5) Moving sucks


I inadvertently saw a spoiler for the new Harry Potter book. So of course I had to go tell my husband. Now it's ruined for both of us! I guess we'll have to go ahead and buy the hardback volume now. We were trying to hold out for the paperback. Everyone knew that wouldn't last, anyway.

Ah, well.

Smooth Liftoff

I just had the pleasure of watching the space shuttle Discovery liftoff in the first manned mission in 2 and a half years. The NASA Return to Flight site should have video feed to download at some point, if you missed it.

What was really special about this liftoff is we had video footage live throughout the ascent, between the shuttle and the main fuel tank, and we also got to watch the shuttle separate from the fuel tank and fly off, above the earth. It is always great seeing the perspective of the earth from above, and even better when you can pretend, for a moment, to be on that shuttle flying away from the earth, as you see what they can see while they ascend to space.


This is Nashville

There are quite a few of you who read this blog who aren't from Nashville, and for those of you who are curious about the place I talk about from time to time, there is a really good photo set on Flickr of a trip to Nashville. It includes pictures of the infamous "bat" building (otherwise known as the Bellsouth building), the Nashville Parthenon, as well as the gold-leafed statue of Athena. I think the statue is pretty good overall, but the face disturbs me.

Props to Brittney at Nashville Is Talking for the links.

Monday, July 25, 2005

At least we know what these judges think

In this article from Kathimerini, we find that judges and policemen in Greece blame immigrants for the rise in crime in Greece over the last few years.

More than 88 percent of judges and over 93 percent of police officers believe that migrants are either totally or partially to blame for an increase in the crime rate over the last decade, according to a survey conducted by Evangelia Vagena-Paleologou, a doctor of criminology and a judicial official.

I have to say these figures aren't surprising. This sort of prejudice is readily apparent in America as well. Immigrants are also blamed for unemployment in Greece (again, you can hear the same things in America).

Are they right? Perhaps to an extent. The rising crime rate could be relative to increasing immigration and increasing Greek violence towards immigration. The unemployment rate could rise because with immigrants added to the rolls perhaps the percentages are higher.

Of the 250 judges who took part in the survey, three-quarters felt that the public has a negative view of migrants. Half of the 412 policemen questioned said they believe that Greeks are racist and almost 14 percent said they thought immigrants should be treated more strictly than Greeks.

Wow, at least they are being honest. American policemen would never cite people as racist, especially themselves.

Good luck getting John Roberts' opinion on similar matters in America. He is only going to be a Supreme Court justice. We don't really need to know what they think, do we?

Behold the ancient dildo!

WARNING: Don't click on the links in the second and third paragraphs unless you want to peruse a site that sells adult toys.

I admit I am all for uncovering ancient artifacts as the next guy. It is good to know that the ancients were fond of their sexuality. But this recent discovery of a phallus that might have been used as a "sex aid" makes me stop and think for a minute.

Ok, sure, they say it was also used as a tool (ahem) to split flints (whatever the hell that means) but the thought that it might have been used as a dildo some 28,000 years ago makes me wonder what archaeologists are going to unearth 28,000 years from now. Surely, plastic dildos will last that long (although their batteries will surely be dead) and some are really amazingly lifelike. Will they think they were also used for some sort of hardware purposes? Will they think that dildos like the Mini Wabbit are some kind of child's toy? What about those sex dolls? Will one of those be uncovered? Will they be considered to be some statue relic of our age? What will fleece lined handcuffs tell them about the state of law enforcement during our time?

See, we always assume that all the materials, newspapers, writings, and information from our time will outlast us, so that any relics uncovered will be instantly recognized at face value. But this didn't work for the people of 28,000 years ago. We are left to guess about the uses of the things we find. Makes you wonder what they might think of this 28,000 years from now. Ear plugs for giants, maybe?

You've got to LISTEN

Ah yes, to live in a country where you can be mistakenly be married to your brother-in-law instead of your betrothed by the priest saying the wrong name. It is very easy to say the vows without listening to what the priest says, but maybe this is a warning to all future brides. Pay attention to the priest next time!

Discovery to launch Tuesday

The space shuttle Discovery is now scheduled to launch Tuesday, at 10:39 am EDT. I really hope the launch takes place this time, and that the mission is successful. Hopefully we'll get to watch it take off.

Taking Democracy for granted

I find this story rather compelling, in this day and age when Americans are talking so much about the lack of freedom and true democracy in the U.S. Sure, I am one of those Americans who talk about it, I'm not a fan of the Patriot Act, I think individual freedoms are being sacrificed to the will of terrorism, and I'm not entirely sure Dubya earned his first term in office, and no doubt wouldn't have earned his second term had the Democrats had a stronger candidate.

But let's just think about this for a minute. 31 years ago democracy was restored in Greece. Greece, the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of democracy, of justice, you name it, in 1974 had to win back its freedom for democracy. Now I am the first to say that the Greek government has problems (don't they all), but 31 years is not so long ago. In 1974 I was a little girl enjoying all the freedom democracy had to offer in the U.S. It is almost hard for me to fathom that the country I am living in now, part of the E.U., a country where everyone always wants to visit, a country whose ancient history we studied in school had to fight for democracy a mere 31 years ago.

It certainly puts things in perspective, and makes the fight to preserve freedoms in America a little more crucial. After all, Americans never want to have to celebrate the day that democracy was restored.

For the record

Our neighbors across the hall open and shut their apartment door approximately 586 times over the weekend. Of course, the constant slamming of the door did not bother my husband. Nothing bothers my husband. I guess it is very American to have so many pet peeves.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Trigger happy

We all know how it goes. You are walking around, minding your own business, when suddenly you are shot in the head. All life stops for you at that moment. You never saw it coming. The rest of the world knows that it was the police that shot you, and they did it because they thought you were a terrorist suspect. They thought you were a terrorist suspect because you were carrying a knapsack and you aren't a WASP. The police then discover you weren't a terrorist suspect and apologize to your family. Oops.

OK, so maybe I am simplifying the story a bit. As someone who worked in the safety & security field for 9 years, I can see where the police are coming from. You have a volatile situation already in London. You want to preserve human life and potential distruction. Everyone is a bit skittish, from police to civilians to dogs and cats. For whatever reason, you target an individual as a potential suspect. That person runs from police, carrying a backpack, and police have to act decisively. Shoot to kill is the only option to avoid a possible detonation.

Ok, so the only mistake Jean Charles de Menezes made was running from police. Certainly, I would advise innocent people not to run from police in incendiary situations. According to the police chief, this situation could happen again.

He acknowledged "somebody else could be shot" as the hunt continued, but added "everything is done to make it right".

But he said the "shoot to kill" policy for dealing with suspected suicide bombers would remain in force.

"There is no point in shooting at someone's chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be," he said.

"There is no point in shooting anywhere else if they fall down and detonate it."

My main question is, what criteria are they using to judge suspects and suspect activity? Teenagers milling around with their backpacks are naturally suspicious looking. Someone in a rush could be running to catch a train and not realize police are trying to stop them. There are thousands of suspicious looking people skulking about on a daily basis, but I would venture to say most of them are not terrorists.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "It is obviously deeply regrettable but what we have to appreciate is the very intense pressure under which the police officers have to work".

He told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "These very brave officers, on behalf of the citizens of London, were pursuing somebody they had good reason to believe was involved in this terrorist outrage."

He said they had to ensure clear rules were operated but police had to "effective discretion to deal with what could be terrorist suicide outrages about to take place".

Ok, so he is saying the police are jittery and they have guns and orders to shoot to kill. Great!

I hate to say it, but in this situation it seems like the terrorists are doing a very good job of winning.

Keep cool, Nashville

Ah yes, Nashville. The flowering metropolis of my youth. The clubbing metropolis of my 20's. The city I desperately wanted to leave for years, and missed so badly when I left. The city in which I still vote, and will remain to vote, as long as I live overseas (note to self: the no box is the best choice for anyone named "Frist").

Well, here on Mt. Olympus (and in the rest of Greece), it has been hot. And humid. I'm not sure exactly what the temperatures were up to, but they got pretty damn high. Certainly upper 90's. No, they don't do "feels like" temperatures here. And now I see poor Nashville is about to suffer the "feels like" temperatures of 108° during the day, and 80° at night (seriously, that is way too warm for nighttime). I remember it well, dear Nashville. And I too, suffer with you. I remember using kitchen utensils to swim through the air when I took my evening walks. I remember the gallons of water I consumed after a short stroll through Percy Warner Park. I remember the thirsty dogs, the sweaty boys, and the heavy air.

At least the nights are pleasant here. Still, it is nice being reminded of something I don't miss about Nashville.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dissing Janis

How can it be that Janis Joplin isn't in the top 10 of VH1's 100 Greatest Women (she was number 29)? How can it be that J.Lo (#28) and Christina Aguilera (#23) are higher in the chart than Janis? Even Joni Mitchell didn't crack the top 20.

Wish I could find a link with the list. All they have on the VH1e site about it is this.

Of course we all know the European VH1 is the crappy VH1. We don't even get The Surreal Life!

Terror in Egypt

Last night, 83 people were killed in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh due to car bomb blasts. An Al-Qaeda linked group has claimed responsibility. Most of the dead are Egyptian, although there are some tourists who perished as well.

My thoughts go out to those who are suffering from this tragedy. I really wish it would stop.

Synchronized smiling

For the last week or so, one of the public television channels in Greece has been showing synchronized swimming every night. Now, I am assuming there is some kind of championship or something going on somewhere, but a week of synchronized swimming is a bit too much. Not to mention, I have come to the conclusion that it is both enthralling and disturbing. The smiles they have on their faces are like masks of the cheerful undead, as they prance their pointy toes around and dip, dive, and flutter like birds in the water.

Where do we come up with these things?

Ways to reach the Great Beyond

Well, we all know that Johnny Depp has been tasked with shooting Hunter S. Thompson's ashes from a custom made cannon. Now, it seems recently deceased actor James Doohan, of "Beam me up, Scotty" fame, has requested that his ashes be sent into space. Apparently, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had done the same thing, and Mr. Doohan felt that would be a good way to go out.

Houston-based Space Services Inc., which specializes in space memorials, plans to send a few grams of Doohan's ashes aboard a rocket later this year. The remains, which will be sealed in an aluminum capsule, will eventually burn up when they re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

Now, I am not sure I really have a valid comment for any of this. I mean, I love Hunter S. Thompson's work and I have to agree that being shot out of a cannon is a fitting memorial for him. But paying to have a teaspoon of ashes sent into space? I'm sure it works out nicely for Space Services, Inc., but I'm not sure the legacy we want to leave the generations to come is a sky full of dead people. Yea, I see that they will burn up when they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, but really, is this the kind of thing we need? Are people going to start having to outdo one another's funerals? It makes you wonder what someone like Tom Cruise will come up with - but hopefully the people from the planet he came from will come get him in the end.

When I die, I want my body used for scientific purposes, then they can cremate me, then they can put the ashes in the trash. I mean really, what does it matter?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Maintain reproductive rights in America

Just a gentle reminder, now that we have a Supreme Court nominee who may be viciously anti-abortion, to sign up with Planned Parenthood's Save Roe campaign. Our voices matter, and even though some people think abortion will never be illegal in the U.S. (see the thoughtful comments following Aunt B.'s post here), I think it is becoming more and more possible. It has become more and more important that women speak up for their reproductive rights. (Could I say more and more any more?)

Also, see the Planned Parenthood article Who is John G. Roberts? for some titillating facts about Dubya's Supreme Court nominee.

Random thoughts

-How does someone end up with the last name Christmas? Is it an old family name? Are they related to Santa Claus in some way? Or did they just not like their old name and thought that Christmas was cheerful sounding?

-Why was the movie Brady Bunch in the White House ever made? Did anyone who watched the show actually think Mr. Brady was presidential material? Of course, we all know I could go through a whole list of movies that never needed to be made, but when you are in America, somehow they manage to slip the radar. In Greece, we get all the crappy movies that were ever made in America.

-The song Walking In Memphis always makes me homesick (even when Cher sings it), even though it is Nashville I miss, not Memphis. I actually don't think I ever made it to Memphis, embarrassingly enough. Of course I would remember it if I had gone to Memphis, but there are a couple of years of my life that are "iffy" in the memory department. I know I thought of going to Memphis a million times when I was headed to Bellevue on Interstate 40. I mean the sign was right there - Memphis, 193 miles or whatever it was. I should have gone.

-It is really hard to believe that somewhere in the world (ie. the southern hemisphere) it is the middle of winter. It's so hot and humid here right now, I think I'm in Maryland! And we all know Maryland even beats Tennessee for hot and humid summers. Even the cats are preferring the air-conditioned room.

Phew. I'm glad I got all that off my chest.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

RIP South Knox Bubba

Well, Tennessee's own favorite blogger and organizer/founder of the Rocky Top Brigade, South Knox Bubba, has decided to quit blogging. It seems it became too much work and not enough fun for him. Tennessee Guerilla Women has the info and posts about the blogsophere void he will leave in the world of Tennessee bloggers. I, too, will miss his witty posts and brilliant insight.

Luckily, Bob Stepno has taken it upon himself to archive the Rocky Top Brigade list, so we can keep enjoying Tennessee bloggers in days to come.

UPDATE: The Rocky Top Brigade has found a new home! Thanks to SayUncle, the RTB list and info can be found here.

Real women

During another night of insomnia, I happened to catch CNN's Newsnight with Aaron Brown, a relatively inocuous, low-key news magazine show that tackles some of the top stories of the day. It happens to be on at the same time it is shown in America, so that means 5am for Eastern European time zone folks.

One of the stories was about the latest Dove commercial, which maintains that "real women have real curves" and features models who are not supermodels, but everyday women. Women who have a little bit of extra weight, who have scars, who are really pale, who have kinky hair, in other words, a better cross-section of reality than any supermodel could ever be. The intent of the advertising was to show healthier images of the female body - images that more American women could relate to. Of course, the advertising mavens of the world presented the contrasting view - that women don't want to see reality in their advertising, they want to see a perfection of the female form, something they could "aspire" to be. Excuse me? Not all of us are built with tiny hips, perfect breasts, and flawless skin. Very few of us "normal" women can aspire to look like a supermodel. Honestly, not all of us want to.

What really got me about the story was that in the end, it showed some graffiti on a print poster of the commercial in a subway station (or similar area). Some young slubberdegullion used a marker to place all the standard plastic surgeon's marks on one of the "chubbier" models, and wrote beside it "One day outpatient visit". While I can appreciate the humor here, ultimately it ended up pissing me off. If you look at that ad, and all those women, they are all beautiful, their bodies are all perfectly acceptable, there is nothing that really needs to be changed about any of them.

Enter the plastic surgeon. I have mixed feelings about plastic surgeons. I am glad that the practice exists for people who were otherwise injured, maimed, or destroyed by accident or illness. But any other practice of plastic surgery is pure vanity for the patient, and pure money for the surgeon. In the end, sure, I could argue all sorts of ethical points against plastic surgeons, but the reality is that people are entitled, if they want to pay the money, to have the procedure(s).

I'll admit a certain fascination with plastic surgery shows, especially E!'s Dr. 90210. My husband likes it because he's a doctor and all doctors like to watch surgery. I like it because it is drama and I can count all the women that come through that, in my opinion, really don't need plastic surgery. But I have noticed something really disturbing as well. Each plastic surgeon has a style of doing the surgery. In the end, all of the breasts done by Dr. Robert Rey look exactly the same. All the facelifts done by Dr. Diamond make the faces look remarkable similar to one another. The body shapes attempted via liposuction and other body sculpting surgeries done by Dr. Li are all alike. The rise of plastic surgery in society is slowly making everyone look the same, like some frightening Looker type world.

Personally, I'd prefer that people didn't look the same. I find the variety in people attractive and appealing. I'd also prefer that people stop trying to judge themselves against some fake perception of reality. Most people in the world are beautiful in their own way. We need to try to stop convincing them they are not.

Kudos to Dove for reminding us what real women look like. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Leave London alone

I can't believe London is going through all this again. Thank god they weren't large bombs, thank god noone was killed, but I think it is time to give London a rest. There is a lot of speculation still at this point - even one reporter mentioned a hoax - whatever it was, whoever it was, it sends no real message, except that the perpetrator is a jackass who has no moral values whatsoever.

Yes, I suppose I'm a bit too mad to write eloquently on this subject right now. Again, my thoughts are with Londoners as they continue to deal with the fear and consequences of the attacks that are plaguing them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My kingdom for good Mexican...

Mexican food, that is. Now, I know I didn't patronize the plethora of delicious Mexican restaurants Nashville had to offer that often, but still, when you go three years without so much as a Mexican restaurant sighting, you realize you miss it. Sure, on Kos, the tourist trap hellzone, there were those weird combo Mexican/burger/pizza places, but that, of course, is not what I'm talking about. I am talking about Las Palmas, hell, even SATCO. There was a new place that had opened in East Nashville that I went to once but forgot the name of that was really good (of course, that might be closed by now).

Here, I have to settle for the McCormick taco seasoning mix my parents send us, and while the tacos we make taste good, it is obviously not the same. Today I am reminded of it more, because we decided to make tacos. Well, lo and behold, we can't even find Doritos salsa in the grocery store, so today we are making tacos sans salsa.

O, the humanity!

Remember the Cypriots

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Some people think that is a long time, but to me, that something like this happened only 31 years ago is really remarkable. Today I feel bad for the Cypriots on both sides of the fence, there is no easy solution, but hopefully with a growing friendship between Greece and Turkey, there will be a resolution.

More on John Roberts, Jr.

For those of you who want to know. I'm not sure I want to know anymore. Courtesy dKosopedia.

Surprise, surprise

Ok, so maybe I'm not totally surprised that Dubya didn't pick a female for the Supreme Court seat. He seems to always go against expectations when making weighty decisions. John Roberts, Jr. appears to be a staunch conservative (again, no surprise there). In the end, it doesn't look good for liberal issues in America, but we'll see what he has to say as the confirmation process goes on.

Unfortunately, I can see the possibility of a rather horrible future - the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, among other things, and a general decline in the rights and freedoms that make America what it is. Please see the posts on Balkinization about Roberts for more information.

But then, like most liberals, I'm probably overreacting, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

All the news that's fit to 4am

Ah well. Of course Dubya is going to announce his Supreme Court candidate this evening at 9pm eastern time, which will be 4am my time. I guess I'll try to stay up for it, because I hate sleeping through important news. We'll see...

For more info about the speculated choice he is making, see this post at Balkinization.

It's all about the boxes

You have to realize that I was someone who found my cozy little apartment at the corner of Belmont and Blair in Nashville and decided to live there permanently. Rent was reasonable, the size was good for me, the location kicked ass, and all was right with the world. I lived in that apartment for almost 10 years before I moved to Greece. Prior to that the biggest moves I had for 20 years were to a dorm room and a couple of apartments in Nashville. Moving was something I was not a pro at doing, nor was it something I aspired to do.

As I've said before, I knew when I married my husband that I would have to move to 3 different locations within the first 3 years. I moved from Nashville to Athens, from Athens to Kos, and from Kos to here. Due to the time my husband graduated from med school, our moves would always take place in July/August. So each year, as May rolled around, we knew we would be getting the new assignment and be moving in a couple of months. It was dreaded, but expected.
When my avalanche of stuff arrived on the boat to Athens, we decided to pack up some things we knew we wouldn't need over the next few years and send them to store permanently at our house in the outskirts of Thessaloniki. In all this time, I regret that we didn't send more stuff there. How many books did we *really* need to keep moving with us each year? Sure, I've reread some of them, but not all two huge bookcases full of them. Did we really need to keep moving the piles (and by piles, I mean 3 boxes full worth) of videocassettes we never watch anymore because we have a DVD player. Seems to me I could have picked out a modest selection of books and videotapes, my favorite things and things I would want to watch or read frequently. But nooooo. And we all know that in the course of time we have acquired more of these things, more books, more DVDs, more CDs, because my husband and I are good little consumers who have no kids to support.

Now we go back to the move from Nashville to Athens, which was done by a professional moving company, which meant lots of really nice boxes. Did we foresee the future of our boxing needs and keep these boxes? Not exactly. We decided to keep the 3 wardrobe boxes and one book box and one larger dish pack box and no more. I am still trying to figure out why we felt the need to get rid of these boxes. I blame it on our lack of moving skills. When it came time for us to move in July, we had a full blown box panic on our hands. My husband scoured the local grocery stores for boxes that were still in semi-decent condition. We managed to pull through in the end, but barely.

Of course, when we moved to Kos, most of these boxes were already in such bad shape that we had to throw them out. Still saddled with our Atlas moving company boxes, we stored the few good ones and forgot about boxes until moving day loomed again. So we did the responsible thing, and looked in the phone pages for a moving supply company on Kos to buy our boxes from. We discovered new boxes could be expensive, and in the end were really too big. Some of the boxes we bought were too big and flimsy to be good for much more than pillows. The other boxes which were stronger were saddled down with books and were so heavy I heard the moving guys on both ends of the move grumbling.

And here we are again, ready to move. We saved a few of the stronger, bigger boxes to hold clothes and bedding and pillows, stuff that would be semi-reasonable in a bigger box. Yes, we still have our Atlas boxes, but this just might be the last move they can endure. But we knew all along we were going to need smaller boxes for books, DVDs, CDs, and videotapes because these things are heavy and we are moving to the 6th floor this time. I mean, we aren't totally cruel people, although we do expect our moving men to earn their money. So we bought a couple of stronger, smaller boxes, but we have been counting on the grocer across the street to supply us with what we need. Tonight, I scored 4 more decent boxes for us, which brings our count of boxes for the heavier stuff up to 14. I fear that still won't be enough, so we'll keep plugging away, hoping we don't have to resort to the really small boxes I kept just in case.

I'll never take another box for granted again. I promise.

Greeks dissatisfied with EU

According to an article in Kathimerini, Greeks are not impressed with whatever benefits EU membership has offered. There seems to be an ongoing trend of dissatisfaction amongst the starting member states, as evidenced by the overwhelming no votes to the Euroconstitution in France and the Netherlands.

Some 70 percent of Greeks say they are against Turkey joining the EU - well above the 52 percent average for the 25 member states, according to a Eurobarometer poll conducted for the European Commission. However, the overall picture of Greek views on the EU appears to be much less clear-cut. Some three-quarters of Greeks say they favor a common foreign and defense policy but 49 percent say they are opposed to the idea of a single currency - the highest in the eurozone - and just under half feel that EU membership has not given the country any added economic stability.

Personally, I think the EU is a good idea, but I don't know if in the end it only has value in theory, but not in practice. I still think it needs time, with each addition of member states it grows and changes, and it is difficult to balance the impact and benefits while the EU is still expanding.

I am a bit on the fence when it comes to Turkish membership in the EU. From some things I have read, it seems the Turks resent the changes required of them and their country to be a viable EU state. In that case, why join? I think in the end it could be a positive change to have Turkey in the EU, but it could also be a disaster. Of course, who knows if the EU will still be together by the time Turkey can get invited in. I hope it survives though, people just need to give it a chance.

Baited Breath

Well, according to the news sites, Dubya may name his Supreme Court nominee today. Most people seem to think his choice will be a female, and of course there is lots of speculation about who it could be, most names unfamiliar with those of us who don't travel in the Circuit Court crowd.

While I can't say I would mind if his choice is female, my hope is that whomever he nominates be a suitable replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor, and those are no easy shoes to fill. In the end, all the speculation will get us nowhere, we just have to wait it out, and hope for the best. I suppose that is how it is with all things in life.

Where is my mind

I am having one of those days where I just can't get it together. Laundry needs to be done, groceries need to be bought, but for some reason I can't get it into my head what laundry or what groceries. I hate days like this - they validate my mother's constant refrain that I should make lists - but I have always prided myself on being extremely organized without the aid of lists.

Ah well, blame it on the heatwave, blame it on the stress of the upcoming move, hopefully its not one of those "you are just getting old" things. I hate that. It is always the old and wise who make such comments, as if they are glad to be bringing another poor sap into their club. Well, I *am* getting old, I don't need anyone reminding me, and it annoys me when people state the obvious.

Hopefully I can get my mind together before it gets critical. I don't have time to be vapid these days.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Free Porn

One thing that took some time to get used when I moved to Greece was the laxity in television programming. On normal Greek networks you can see boobs, hear curse words, and various and sundry things that are NEVER allowed on U.S. network television. And believe it or not, in the wee hours of the morning, some of the Greek networks actually show soft core porn. There is nothing more interesting than checking the upcoming television schedule and seeing 4 hours of porn followed by cartoons at 6am.

The first time I watched an American movie on a Greek network, I remember turning to my husband and saying "they said shit! they said shit and didn't beep it out or voice over it!" Of course he looked at me like I was crazy and said "of course they didn't beep it out or voice over it, THIS is a civilized country!" Eventually I got used to the fact that I could actually hear cursing and see breasts in all the glory on regular TV, and you know, I kinda like it. I didn't realize how annoying all the bleeping of curse words in movies was, how silly it was to cover breasts, in general, how limiting American censorship is.

The Greeks do have a ratings system for shows on television, and it goes like this:

  • A green diamond is for shows suitable for any age
  • A blue circle is for shows suitable for most with parental supervision (most American network television shows fall in this category, like CSI, Friends, Alias)
  • A yellow triangle for shows suitable for older children with parental supervision (kinda like PG-13), which includes shows like Sex and the City and Nip/Tuck
  • A purple square is kinda like an R rating, and usually includes shows and movies with lots of violence or sex (basically anything that isn't porn)
  • A red x is for porn and really excessive violence/drug use, that sort of thing
Of course, my husband maintains that these are all white with a colored background, but it sounds stupid to say "a white diamond with a green background" so this is what I call them.

You may wonder if there is any kind of judge or control over what is broadcast, and there is an FCC-like entity in Greece, that does impose very stiff fines for mislabeling programs (ie. saying something is a blue circle if it is a yellow diamond), showing programs at unsuitable times (ie. having a yellow triangle+ show on too early), etc.

In the end, I don't think the youth of Greece are any worse for the wear for having T&A and cursing and violence on television. It seems that for the most part they ignore it, or see it as being a movie or T.V. show and don't give much credence to it. Amazing, isn't it - that youth can be exposed to all these things and not be violent or sex crazed (these kids are the opposite of sex crazed, a lot of Greeks wait til marriage to have sex, can you believe it?)? In the end, it seems it is up to the parents to control what children watch and educate them on what they see. And for the most part, it seems that Greek parents are doing a pretty good job in that regard.

Still, it IS a bit disconcerting to be flipping channels at 3am and come across someone slapping a girl's ass with his penis. But in the end, all I have to do is keep flipping.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Faking Reality

Firstly, I'd like to admit that I am, to some extent, a fan of Ayn Rand's literature. While most of her books can get overly melodramatic, there are some glints of reason within the texts here and there. And although I don't agree with everything in the Objectivist philosophy, one of the most sound premises I do agree with is the immorality of faking reality. It is a particularly dire kind of immorality because it hurts the self the most, along with everyone and everything you love.

At one point I consider myself guilty of faking reality, and while I am not proud of it, I own it and accept it and have moved on. I won't go into the details, but suffice to say that I spent many years pretending my life was ok when it definitely wasn't.

Of course, my experience in faking reality is not the subject of this post. For the last month or so there has been a plethora of posts, news stories, and information released about the trials of a 16-year-old boy from Memphis named Zach. After confessing to his parents that he was gay, they promptly sent him to a camp that is known for its attempts at "correcting" homosexuality.
This camp is quite strict, designer clothes and tshirts with designer names are forbidden, along with television, computers, and any type of secular music (including classical music apparently). Clients are denied contact with anyone the camp deems to be unfit.

There is a rather comprehensive story about Zach and the Love in Action Refuge camp in the New York Times, and although it requires registration to read the story, I think it is worth it. Props to Tennessee Guerilla Women for posting the link to the NY Times article.

Obviously, there are some really troubling things in the article. First, the executive director of Love In Action, John Smid, claims that he has been "out of homosexuality" for more than 20 years.

"I may see a man and say, he's handsome, he's attractive, and it might touch a part of me that is different from someone else," he said. "But it's really not an issue. Gosh, I've been married for 16 years and faithful in my marriage in every respect. I mean I don't think I could white-knuckle this ride for that long."

You have to wonder what his wife thinks, how their marriage is. This situation is a fine example of faking reality. And in the end, it seems that despite what he says, he HAS been "white knuckling the ride".

For Mr. Smid and his supporters, offering Love in Action to teenagers is vital to combat what they see as a growing tolerance of homosexuality among young people. "We just really believe that the resounding message for teenagers in our culture is, practice whatever you want, have sex however, whenever and with whoever you want," he said. "I very deeply believe that is harmful. I think exploring sexuality can lay a teenager up for numerous lifelong issues."

A growing tolerance of homosexuality is a bad thing? Why is that? We are taught we should tolerate everything in life, from different religions, different cultures, different races - why shouldn't we tolerate different sexuality? And if the resounding message for teenagers is to "have sex however, whenever, and with whoever you want" why aren't you simply trying to teach teenagers sexual responsibility, instead of trying to convince them that any type of sexuality outside of normal, procreating, missionary position is bad?

Critics of programs that seek to change sexual orientation say the programs themselves can open a person to lifelong problems, including guilt, shame and even suicidal impulses. The stakes are higher for adolescents, who are already wrestling with deep questions of identity and sexuality, mental-health experts say.

"Their identities are still in flux," said Dr. Jack Drescher, the chairman of the committee on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues of the American Psychiatric Association, which in 2000 formally rejected regimens like reparative or conversion therapy as scientifically unproven. "One serious risk for the parent to consider is that most of the people who undergo these treatments don't change. That means that most people who go through these experiences often come out feeling worse than when they went in."

I think what gets me most about programs like this is they really don't address the real problem, which is irresponsible sexuality amongst teenagers. The point is to teach them about love, about sex, and how to have sex responsibly - the issues of same sex or opposite sex intercourse shouldn't matter in the end, as long as teenagers learn the truth about sex and sexual practices.
This is a camp that basically teaches already confused, frightened, teenagers how to fake their reality for the rest of their life. So what happens then, when, after 20 years, a wife and kids, one of the "successful" campers comes to their senses and realizes they can't live the lie anymore? How many lives will be destroyed then?

In the end, I am still trying to figure out how one's sexual preference became fodder for the prejudice mill. I mean, you don't go around pointing fingers at people who like to be peed on, or spanked, or men who like to wear women's underwear. If we are going to separate the homosexuals out, then it is only fair to find out everyone's sexual nuances and have it all out in the open. In the end, really, who fucking cares? What someone does in the bedroom generally has no bearing on their work or their relationships in the world outside of their bedroom. The world is fragmented enough without persecuting people for their sexual practices.

In the end, such behavior seems completely antipodal to what Jesus' teachings were. He told us to love one another, no matter what, be they prostitutes, tax collectors, whatever.

For more information about Zach, check out the Queer Action Coalition, The Republic of T, and Tennessee Guerilla Women.

Ban them all and be afraid!

Read these first (blog and article).

First, let me say it's not only "Left wing groups and Jewish communities in Greece" that are "opposed to this Hatewave festival". It's everyone, except the far right extremists themselves. Gasp! Surprise! Yep! Us center-right people (I consider myself of that position) and right-proper people and even some far-right-leaning people are opposed to that and every such expression of hatred and racial... well, stupidity.

That having been said, let me add this: God am I glad and happy and relieved that these people, these haters (actually depressed people, with many problems with their own self image, unemployed, uneducated for the most part) can come to Greece and do their little stupid festival.

Quoting from the Guardian article:

"We want the government to ban the gathering," said Moses Constantinides, president of the community. "We believe its reaction should be strong. The neo-Nazi meeting should not be allowed to take place."

Why should the government ban the festival, ill conceived as it is? What basis do we have to deny these people their little march of hatred? A moral basis? Doubtful. Are we more moral than them? Are we somehow saints and they are demons? What are the lines and where can they be drawn? A legal basis? Let's not even go there. The Constitution protects every opinion, every religion, every gathering, as long as they remain inside the confines of the very law that protects them. An ideological basis? Are we going to turn into fascists ourselves, denying "bad people" their rights and only awarding said rights to "good people"? Far be it from us.

I am glad Greece is a free country - still and in part. In America (for example) I am told one needs a special permission in order to organize a march or festival. Why? Parks, lawns, mountains and dells belong to everyone, one should not need permission to gather and celebrate.

Let me quote from the blog (fonts unchanged, whether bold or title):

"I am terrified."


Why? Why be afraid? No! Do NOT be afraid. Fear, while normal, is the reaction of the misinformed. The reaction of the people who indiscriminately eat the garbage the media feed us with a big spoon. I say be informed. Not afraid. I say be active, not passive. I say give them next to no publicity, do not give them a venue, a ready-made-riverbed for them to spill forth their venomous hatred.

The local authorities want to "stop" the "Hatewave" festival (what a stupid title anyway)? Organize a HUGE concert at the same location, on the same dates. Have music, happenings, informative material, openness and love. Make THEM come to OUR festival. Break away their more sane members, the ones that are on the fence. Make the festival so big and good, that their hateful shrieks get drowned in the sound of merriment. And yes, in case some of them decide to get violent, carry a big stick (the police).

That's the price of freedom: Vigilance. It is easy to ban something, it is not easy to counter it. To expose it for the fraud it is, to soften and incorporate it. It is easy to be afraid, to shut yourself inside. It is not easy to overcome fear, overcome suspicion, overcome inertia and entropy. To make a bold counter-statement and stand by it. No one said freedom is cheap...

That's SO 80s!

Ah yes, cocaine in the EU Parliament.

The Sat-1 channel sent reporters to take 46 swabs from toilets and other public areas of the Brussels buildings. Nearly all tested positive for cocaine.

A professor who analysed the samples said the amounts found were too great to have been carried in on clothing.

"It simply reflects the fact that cocaine was brought in there," Professor Fritz Sorgel of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg (IBMP) told the BBC News website.

"The amount was too high and found in too many spots. It shows it was brought in deliberately."

What could fit the persona of the struggling EU more than the coked out diplomat? I mean come on people, get with the times! This is the decade of E and methamphetamines! Hell, it would be more respectable to smoke pot in the bathroom!

Of course, the EU Parliament spokesperson says

"It seems the findings are in line with findings in other public buildings."

Oh, really? So if everyone else is doing it, it's ok? And the moral of the story?

The producer of the AKTE 05 TV show, Ulrich Meyer, said consumption of cocaine was a problem which pervaded all of society - "bigger than many politicians are willing to believe".

Seriously, is it 1987?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Tragedy in Turkey

It seems Brits have suffered more casualities due to a suicide bomb on a minibus in the Aegean resort town of Kusadasi, in Turkey. 5 people have died from the incident, one of those fatalities was a British tourist, and 4 other Brits are in serious condition due to the blast. The Turkish PM is calling it a terrorist attack, but apparently no group has claimed it yet.

Big attacks, small attacks, they've all got to stop. It is just heartbreaking reading these stories every day, and it really seems like this suicide-bombing crap has gotten out of control.

Moving sucks.

I think we officially need that bumper sticker. I knew I would be moving this much when I "signed on" to marry a doctor in the Greek army, but it seemed like a better deal when we were still in the newbie stages of long term love. It could be worse, at least there are no boats involved with this move.

Of course, in the end, once we're moved, and it is all over, it is a great relief for me. But my poor husband always has to face the first day at a new camp, with new responsbilities, all up to this point usually having nothing to do with being a doctor. This time, however, we are moving for him to start his specialization in Psychiatry, and while he is still a little uncertain, at least he will be doing what his education has taught him to do, and learning more in the process. Sure, he'll have 8 ER shifts a month, but we'll deal with it.

But a couple of bonuses (I think it would be better if the plural was bonii) - life again in the big city - and being close to his family, whom I love spending time with. But the buildup and the packing and the arrangements and the money...blech. At least I have my blog to bitch about it!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

And we're off...

Ah yes, it is already afternoon and we still haven't left for Thessaloniki. To our credit, it has been storming, ugly weather, and we felt like being lazy, amidst the phone calls from family members asking if we were on our way yet. We will be, soon.

It is a bit embarrassing, being too lazy to drive an hour away. Some people actually commute from Thessaloniki to Litochoro every day. Yuck.

Hopefully by the time we return some move stresses will be solved. We'll see.

Lazy days and Wednesdays always get me down

Yes, I've been lazy today. My husband is off work because we are going to Thessaloniki tomorrow to do some pre-move shopping and apartment finalizing. Basically when he is off work it means we watch DVDs and play World of Warcraft all day, since it is too hot to go outside, and we are running out of "leisure" time thanks to the move.

I wanted to avoid the news today, but I saw enough. I am bummed that Discovery didn't launch, but I'd rather they were safe, of course. Add to that Rehnquist's health and I just want to bury my head in the sand like a flamingo. Or is that an ostrich. But I prefer flamingoes. In fact, I have a small story about flamingoes.

At one point, oh, about 3 years ago, I think it was summer 2002, Billy Ray Cyrus had a new album out. To promote it, the dumbasses at his record company decided to put bandana bedecked plastic pink flamingoes all over Nashville (or at least the area around Music Row/Belmont/Vandy). Well, of course they were gone by morning, and yes, I took one as a souvenir, I couldn't help it. Well, our flamingo (which we aptly named Billy Ray) made it all the way to Greece with us, and has been a proud member of our household ever since.

Yes, it is a stupid story, but oh well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

That damn foreigner

When watching a movie/T.V. show that has someone in America who doesn't speak English except to say "yes" and "thank you", it seems they always nod or say "yes" even if it isn't a yes or no question. And I always wondered well, why the hell would they do that? You don't want to agree to everything, especially if you don't know what you are agreeing to.

I realized today that I do that too, when faced with words I don't understand in a simple setting. For example, I was at the grocery store today sans husband, and I wanted to order a half kilo of ground beef. I have the order down pat in Greek in my head, and I can pronounce it semi-correctly, and even know the answer to one standard question they might ask in return. But if they say anything else, I'm screwed. So today, I order the meat, say yes to the standard reply question, and then she said something else and I just nodded and smiled. Ok, so the woman knows I don't know Greek very well (just about everyone in this village does), and in the end I got my order with no problems, but I still have to wonder just what the hell she said. Maybe she took the opportunity to insult me with a smile, and I just smiled back and nodded like some kind of jerk.

I really need to get a bigger vocabulary...


Ok, I feel really bad now for bitching about our 34° heat (I think somewhere around 95°F) after reading this medic's blog. He's been in Iraq in temperatures well, well above what I've been bitching about.

Would you PLEASE shut up!

Apparently, the European Commission has warned Greece and 10 other member states to "STFU" (to use modern gamer lingo). Of course, there isn't a problem with excess noise here in Litochoro, nor was there on Kos, but Athens was a loud damn city, morning to night and back again.

The noise we experience in the neighborhood where my in-laws live (soon to be our neighborhood) in Thessaloniki doesn't qualify, I'm afraid. The noise is all people and animal related, and it can go on til late in the morning, inciting the ire of little old ladies who are trying to sleep. It doesn't help that open area behind the buildings on this block creates an echo, and any person sitting outside on their balcony talking, listening to music or TV with doors open, is compounded to a stentorian degree.

Still, I'll have to get used to city noise again soon, I'm afraid. Ah well. It was good while it lasted.

Something to talk about

Every time I sit down to make a post here, I realize there are ten billion things I could talk about, just in news stories alone. Add the personal experiences of life in Greece to that, and there are almost too many things with which I could bore the world of the web.

I'm not primarily a political blogger by any stretch of the word. I do have political opinions (duh) and will occasionally posit them here. I prefer to tell stories that are mirthful, that some people might find humorous. But most of all I blog for myself, to give myself a forum to blast off about things, to chronicle my life, and to empty my mind of all the things I think about on a daily basis.

When I woke up today and turned on CNN, I felt overwhelmed. Not that it hasn't happened before, but today I was in an ill mood and felt barraged by a phalanx of horrible stories, bombs in Spain, villagers burned to death in the Congo, irresponsbility in the White House, explosions in Beirut, agony over those still missing in London. Among all these stories, a few small glimmers of hope: The upcoming launch of Discovery, a newborn panda surviving its first 24 hours, the first marriage of a gay couple in Spain. Yet these days the hopeful stories seem to be fewer, perhaps not as important to the media.

In the end, I still try to be an optimist, even though it seems I cross into the oxymoronic territory of the pessimistic optimist. I don't have the solutions to all these problems, and I know there is no easy answer for any of them. But if there is one thing we can all have, it is hope. And if Londoners can be defiant and strong in the wake of such tragedy, then so can I. It just seems hard sometimes.


Ah yes, nearly 4am here and I am not asleep. One might think that somehow, for some reason, I am still living on Nashville time. Then again, it has been nearly 3 years since I was on Nashville time, and when I was actually on Nashville time, I stayed up past 4am. My internal clock has a weird schedule.

At least here in Greece I have Matlock to keep me company til 4am. I never watched the show when it was on in the U.S., so it is chock full of brand new whodunits for me. The simple dialogue makes it easy to learn Greek via subtitles. And I always magically fall asleep before the end. Better than a warm glass of milk!

You know its *really hot when...

...the little old lady next door turns on her air conditioner.

I don't know if it is humidity or what (we don't get "local" weather here in Greece, unless you live in a major city) but it has been impossibly hot the last few days. And we get to move in this heat. Ughhhhhhh...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rain...or Not

Well, I thought all afternoon we were going to get some sympathy rain to share with my Nashville brethren, but alas, Zeus can't seem to get off the proverbial pot.

It was much easier to plan on the never rained in the summer. At least in Nashville you can pretty much count on a summer storm every other night. Of course, I didn't have to try my laundry outside in Nashville, either...

Rushmore's New Face

It seems a German restoration company has been called in to clean up and help preserve the presidential faces on Mt. Rushmore. Here's hoping they don't somehow sneak a carving of Dubya on the mountain while they work.

The Harry Countdown

We are closing in on the release date of the 6th book in the Harry Potter series, mysteriously titled Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Of course there has been speculation about who the title is referring to, which character will die, and numerous other details, and in 5 days most of us will know the answers. I prefer not to speculate, I get a childish enjoyment out of the Harry Potter books - they remind me of the books I read as a youth, how I could get so completely caught up in the story, it was like a drug. Ok, so I can still do that, but my adult mind makes it easier to transition from storyland to the real world, no matter how much I don't want to.

We still haven't decided if we are going to get the hardcover version, or wait a year for the paperback. It is a hard choice - the first four books had already been published when my husband and I started reading them, so we didn't have to wait. We waited for the paperback for book 5 and it seemed like forever. So we'll see. Our tradition is for us to read it together the first time, my husband reads aloud extremely well, and it is an enjoyable experience. These books seem particularly good for oral storytelling.

Courtesy of the Wizard News, there is an interesting article by a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Delaware extolling the virtues of the Harry Potter tales in a religious and moral context. I must warn you, however, that if you haven't read the first 5 books, there are some minor spoilers in the article.

I am always astonished when religious leaders criticize these books. I find them chock-full of things for a minister to love. Consider, a small troupe of young people discover their gifts in life, and learn that you may use your gifts to either bless or curse the world. (It's a basic religious choice.) Without moralizing, the characters make ethical decisions that are excellent examples for readers of any age.

I am not overly astonished by religious criticism of the books, as they are also chock-full of things for religious zealots to criticize, the main thing being wizardry and witchcraft. I don't know, I spent a lifetime reading all sorts of children's books that dealt with the supernatural in one way or another, that is the very essence of a children's book. That is the only age when human beings can accept and embrace the supernatural for what it is, a wondrous and magical thing. And in the end, of course, there is always a sound moral lesson to be learned. I suppose it tickles me that people can feel threatened by a work of fiction, but I guess it isn't funny when you see the havoc that other works of fiction have unleashed on the world (yes, I am referring to the Bible, the Koran, and any general religious text, and yes, I do consider them to be fiction).

At any rate, I (along with millions of other people) am looking forward to a new Harry Potter chronicle, although I will be sad when the last one is published.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Olfactory Meltdown

You know something is wrong with your sense of smell when you turn to your husband, sniff a couple of times and ask "is that food or is that shit?"

In the end its all the same thing, I suppose.


When I was a little girl, growing up in the 70's and 80's, I wanted to be like Carl Sagan, and I wanted to be an astronaut. At the time, I wanted to be the first female astronaut, because we still hadn't had one yet. One of the biggest thrills of my young life was watching the space shuttle lift off, and every time it happened, whether in school or at home, all eyes were on the T.V. set, watching these historic flights take off. It was a magical thing to me, all the smoke and fire, the explosion, not to destroy, but to propel into space. I always was in awe of how lucky - and brave - the astronauts were, to take these small steps into the universe, to see things in a different perspective, to learn more about what was out there.

I read alot as child (and I still do as an adult), but I never read science fiction. So any thoughts I had of the universe, of what could be, of what might be, were developed in my own mind, based on things I learned from science and watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos series on television. The possibilities were endless, and to this day I still hold out hope of finding other civilizations. Now with my love of Star Trek: The Next Generation and an admiration of science fiction I long for our space program to expand - for us to someday reach new worlds, and make first contact with a new species (and have it be a positive thing).

When the Challenger accident occurred in 1986, I was devastated. Not only for the loss of the lives of these brave souls, but for the effect it would have on our exploration of space. The space program recovered, and Columbia took to the skies. Unfortunately, we lost Columbia in 2003, and the space program was again halted in the wake of a horrible tragedy.

Now the Discovery stands ready, a 7-member crew stands prepared and waiting for launch on Wednesday, July 13th. I hope beyond hope that all goes well, and that the space program will continue into the future, in safety, and lead us...elsewhere.

Greeks speak out about London bombings

According to this article, 84.6% of Greeks consider the London bombings to be a criminal act, but a surprising (to me, at least) 8% approve the incident "as an act of resistance against big powers". I'm not sure exactly why this surprises me, of course we should expect sympathizers, but in the end, did this terrorist bombing (or any) actually support a "cause"? Sure, they want the military forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but I am not naive enough to think that will end such bombings, especially when I hear the terrorists make statements like "Allah wants us to kill Americans" and "we are fighting those who are opposed to Islam". Excuse me? Does anyone really think the war in Iraq is about opposition to Islam?

It seems to me that the leaders of these terrorist organizations, at least the Al-Qaeda related ones, are really just working from a power hungry agenda. They can brainwash young Muslims into fighting for their cause, they can send them to die, and in the end it just seems like glorified serial killing. They don't separate between killing their own and westerners, they kill whomever, whenever, and with whatever means are possible. This is not an organization working for the will of Allah, it is an organization working for the destruction of all mankind. And I can't see being sympathetic to a cause that ruins as many of its own people as it does the "opposition".

Not surprisingly, the Greeks overwhelmingly want to stay neutral. For one thing, the Greeks don't really have the armed forces to send for this cause, for another, Greeks have always had semi-decent relations with the middle eastern countries (sans Turkey, and that is improving day by day).

Even so, with all the voiced "morality" of the terrorists, I really don't see how they are any better than the invasion forces of Iraq and Afghanistan - they are doing the same thing, just in a different (if more cowardly) way.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Slam it harder if you love me

What is it with people in Greece and slamming doors? Ok, so maybe this problem isn't indigenous to people in Greece, but my U.S. experiences were usually related to doors that were difficult to shut, or slammed naturally if the person didn't pull the door gently shut behind them. Well, plus teenaged angst, the necessary exclamation point to an enraged teenager who wants to make a point (of course that was NEVER me).

But here in Greece, no matter where I've lived, people have slammed doors that didn't need to be slammed to close properly. I suppose I am particularly sensitive to it in our apartment here, because our apartment is right next to the outside entrance door, and the hallway it opens to is a veritable vortex of ringing, cacophonous acoustics. You can speak in a whisper in this hallway and the words travel loudly to every apartment in the building. Thus, if you let the entrance door slam shut, or your apartment door slam shut, everyone hears it, in screaming, ringing vibrations. The entrance door will slam naturally on its own, but the force of the slam depends on the force of the person opening the door, and how they open the door. Some people let it close almost quietly, while others let it slam with the power of Zeus' thunder. Now the apartment doors in this building are so positioned that they cannot slam, they swing open, not shut. So you really have to put some effort into it in order to SLAM your door shut. Either folks in this building have some excess aggression they need to release or they were never taught any manners. Perhaps it is a combination of both.

All this is worse for me because I am one of those people (well, perhaps all of humanity?) who cannot stand the sound of a door slamming. It is one of my greatest pet peeves. Every time I hear a door slam shut, it distracts me from whatever I am doing, and if I am reading or trying to write, that is particularly annoying.

One other tidbit of annoyance - the person who buzzes the top apartment on the buzzer list, regardless of whether or not that is the apartment of the person they are coming to visit. It just so happens that our apartment is at the top of the list, and so it happens now and then. And the buzzer isn't just any old buzzer, it is quite loud and always scares the bejesus out of me, even if I am expecting it. My husband is more tolerant of this, he will let the people in the building. But I am more inclined to ignore it, and if I knew they would understand my English (even though I have learned to swear in Greek), to pick up the speakerphone and tell them to screw off and buzz the right apartment. This would be particularly effective if it was raining.

Ah, the joys of life in Greece. Ain't it grand?

Save Roe

Sign up with Planned Parenthood's Save Roe campaign - voices joined together to make sure no extremist justices are appointed to the Supreme Court.

Friday, July 08, 2005

To sleep, perchance to dream...

This is what cats and husbands do all afternoon.

If the other sheep jumped off a cliff, would you follow?

Apparently the answer is yes. According to an AP story in the Tennessean, 1,500 sheep jumped off a cliff in eastern Turkey, killing 450, and ruining the livelihood of about 26 families in the village of Gevas.

Were their little sheep lives so horrible that they had to jump? Or do sheep just naturally follow one another, off a cliff or not?

Animals do the weirdest things sometimes.

And Off We Go

It's official - we'll be moving in mid-August. While I knew it was coming, I guess I kinda hoped something would keep us in our Olympian village for a little bit longer. I love Litochoro - it is a wondrous mix of mountains and sea, friendly people, and quite a comfortable place to live. I look forward to the busy city life of Thessaloniki, but I'll miss quiet village living. It is with a heavy heart that I'll leave the protection of the Olympians. I'll miss the mists over Mt. Olympus, the mountain snow, the lush valley.

Ah well, it will only be an hour away, so plenty of opportunities to steal a weekend here now and then, and perhaps someday a summer home. And it will be good to live in the city again, and be near the in-laws and friends.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Please Don't Go

A message board I frequent posted a link to this funny cartoon regarding Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement.


Terror Unbound

Everyone knows the top story of today by now - the London transit bombings. There is still lots of speculation at this point - hours of coverage on CNN International, BBC World and Euronews and no "real" information is known. Of course that is par for the course, it is hard to know much at first, in the wake of a tragedy, all must be done to treat victims and restore order.

They have determined it to be a terrorist attack, yes, that is pretty well understood. Blair seems to think it has something to do with the G8 summit, others are postulating that it is in the wake of the 2012 Olympics announcement, who knows. It could just be because there are a bunch of assholes who just like blowing things up for no real reason, except they say they do it, ostensibly, in the name of Allah. An Al-Qaeda group has claimed responsibility, but the claims have not been verified as of yet.

You know, sure, I don't agree with the presence of military forces in Iraq. I am not entirely sure that whatever we are doing in Afghanistan at this time is necessary (admittedly I haven't been paying much attention to the goings-on there). Does this justify the way the extremists carry out their "messages"?

On one level, I can actually understand the insurgency in Iraq. This is their home soil, right or wrong, they are, or they think they are, defending their rights at home. You can't tell me that if some country just decided that the U.S. had a tyrant leader that needed to be overthrown, brought a huge force over, took down our leader, and stayed around, that Americans (civilian Americans as well) wouldn't be defending themselves and their country. Our opinion is that it is a matter of right and wrong. Our side is right, their side is wrong. But their opinion is that their side is right, and our side is wrong.

So off they go, planting bombs, destroying lives, sending their so-called message. I don't want this to disintegrate into a post about Islam, because I don't really know enough about it. But I find it really hard to believe that any religion, at least a religion that grew out of biblical mythos, advocates killing on this level. You want to fight back, ok sure - get an army together, list your reasons, and invade. Random bullshit doesn't achieve much but confusion - and that means confusion about the terrorist message as well. How does that solve anything? How does that even convey a message?

In the meantime, numerous lives have been catastrophically changed by today's incident. I share in the grief over the dead and the injured, and hope that Londoners can remain strong in the face of this tragedy.