Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Summer Rain

Well, I never thought I'd say this, but I HATE summer rain. I always used to love summer rain, the sudden, unexpected storm, and when I first moved to Greece, I was entranced by the might and fury of summer thunderstorms in Athens, as if Zeus himself was responsible.

Then I started doing laundry. Now, laundromats do exist here, but not in every neighborhood, and they aren't really convenient. While most apartments are equipped with washer hook-ups here, very few people have dryers. You can buy them, but there is a very small selection and who knows what the hook-up situation is for them. When we get settled in our house on Hortiati, we will have a dryer, but until then, I have had to get used to putting my clothes outside.

This is where my hatred of summer rain (and rain in general) developed. Sure, for approximately 265 days of the year, you aren't going to get any rain in most of Greece, on the islands, even more rain-free days. In the winter, of course, you have to be very careful about when you put clothes outside, and generally I just end up setting up clothes in the extra room inside. But in the summer, you think, ok, sunny day, all is clear, nothing menacing looming from the mountain or the sea, no problem. So I put out tons of laundry, all "necessity" laundry (ie. underwear, day to day clothes, etc.). And guess what happens...an unexpected TORRENT of rain erupts, out of nowhere, for 5 minutes and nearly destroys my almost-dry laundry. Luckily, the wind was blowing to the east and away from our balcony, but still. I look in amusement and wonder as most Greek women seem to leave their laundry on the line, rain or not, for days in winter even.

Maybe eventually I'll be like that, but hopefully not before I have my very own dryer.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Pardon my French, but to hell with them!

In yesterday's referendum, the French voted "Non" to the European Constitution. Let's find out why...

The Top Ten Reasons the French voted "Non" to the European Constitution:

10. They like the socialist status quo of the French economic system
9. They think a free market for Europe is a Bad Thing(tm)
8. They are afraid that outsourcing and offshore building will add to already growing unemployment problems.
7. They don't like the idea of an EU parliament making laws that would affect them (nevermind the fact that France, along with Germany and the U.K., will have more voting "power" in the parliament under the new Constitution)
6. They don't want Turkey to join the EU
5. They don't want the EU to expand any further
4. They are afraid of losing their identity
3. They are afraid of losing their "power" (see number 7)
2. They think a unified EU is a danger to Europe

And the number 1 reason the French voted "Non" to the European Constitution...

1. Chirac told them to vote "Oui"

For a more serious reaction to the French vote, see my husband's post below.

Slap me, I'm french

Before I write anything, let me say, it could be any country in the title. But it was the french who voted yesterday.. so there it is!

I am annoyed and when I'm annoyed I don't think right. Millions of people in France voted yesterday on an issue that will affect ten times more people all around Europe, probably knowing nothing about the issue in question. Zilch! Nada! Nothing! How do you say "nothing" in french? They voted "no" because Chirac supported the "yes" cause. You see, in retrospect, he should have come out and vehemently said "no" - I wouldn't be writing this right now probably.

Don't get me wrong. I respect the "no" vote, but only if it is informed. Spite is not a valid reason, it's an idiotic one. "But" you will say "the european constitution is 500 pages long!". The response is: "Tough shit!" If you want to claim your position in a democracy, you'd better make damn sure you fulfill your obligations as citizen. We have a lot of rights nowadays, don't we?

Our "free world" makes sure of that and we are so proud! I have the right to self determination, I have the right to pursue happines, I have the freedom of speech, I have the right to vote! We carefully choose to sidestep the obligations, don't we? We are required to know our laws, we are required to know how everything works and why. We are required to be more interested in state affairs than 20 talentless "candidates" singing off-key to acquire "idol" status on TV. "But it's work!". OF COURSE IT IS WORK!

As I said, I am annoyed and when I am annoyed I don't think straight. I even entertain the notion that idiots should be restricted from voting. And no, I don't mean people with a low I.Q. I am talking about social idiots, state idiots. Or merely people who don't care. Who vote to pass the "down with Chirac!" message, or even the "my pork wasn't salty enough today!" message. But that notion, in the end, is the downfall of democracy. When we think we can do better than "the masses".

In the end we will have the world that we deserve. And I don't like that world...

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Beat Goes On

Well, I couldn't confirm this news at any other site, but Euronews (a 24 hour satellite news channel) has reported that BestLife magazine will publish excerpts from a three act play written by Jack Kerouac. The manuscript was allegedly found six months ago in a New Jersey warehouse, and is titled Beat Generation.

Sheesh, who knows what else you can turn up out of a Jersey warehouse.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tom who?

May I have a drumroll please? Mr. Tom Cruise has declared war on Psychiatry! And the world stood still and the mountains listened and the vast sea stopped its ever ebbing and flowing motion! Perhaps even the Sun herself took a moment! He called psychiatry a "pseudo-science". A person whose last contact with Science was probably in 7th grade chemistry (and I'm sorry but Scientology doesn't count), called a 5000 year old testament to human innovation, exploration and self knowledge a fraud. It would probably be a laughable matter (after all the dignity and status of psychiatry - or any science - doesn't, thank god, hinge on Mr. Cruise) except these words were uttered by a "public figure" and reached thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people. The other laughable matter is myself of course, for I will reach - how many? Two? Five people? I should be so lucky.

Yet, the presence - or absence - of an audience is no reason to not say something, or write something as the case may be. Thus, let me say, that psychiatry is not a fraud. Certainly not. What Mr. Cruise - and many others - fails to do is distinguish between the Science and those who serve it. Because, make no mistake, right underneath his discrediting opening Mr. Cruise makes a valid point. One that the... "pseudo science" has debated for a long time and is debating still: Are drugs good or bad?

I will not delve into this question, because it would take volumes, volumes which I am not qualified to write. I will tell you what I think, though, as someone training in psychiatry in the very early stages (yes, if you didn't know I'm on my way to becoming a shrink). Drugs have almost no place in treating children (many psychiatric schools agree with this, or rather I agree with them). It is unfortunate that Mr. Cruise was offered drugs for his dyslexia, it is unfortunate that so many children with ADHD are just given a pill and not given a second thought. But that is not the fault of the science, but of the people serving it.

Now, let me tell you something about psychiatry. It is vast and - perthaps unfortunately, but unavoidably - depends on the person. Sure, there are "minimums" one must fulfill in order to be awarded the degree, but the practice, the help one offers patients in the end, depend upon the doctor's knowledge, intelligence, self cultivation, personal beliefs and much more that cannot be quantified. Thus many kinds of psychiatrists emerge: The great bulk (I'd like to think), who treat the patients to the best of their ability (and yes, drugs are sometimes necessary, get that through your skulls). Then there are other kinds, the downright incompetent ones, but also the ones who have made their practice a little industry: What is easier? Listening to a patient, scheduling many intense sessions and getting to a cure in the end? Or half-listening to the patient's complaints and prescribing "appropriate" medication thus making everyone happy (pharmaceutical companies included)?

Now, again, don't get me wrong: Pharmaceutical companies provide doctors with necessary tools, without which our life expectancy would still be 40. But again, as with any tool, drugs can be used properly, or abused.

I have written too much and am starting to get incoherent, I apologize. Let me finish by saying that I have personally (through association) suffered harm, because medicine wasn't as advanced 20 years ago as it is today. Or perhaps because that certain doctor didn't know enough. Does this mean that medicine is fraud? No, that generalization might be made by a 5 year old, but not by an educated adult. In the same vein, are there bad psychiatrists? Of course there are! Are there still advances to be made in the field? I will not even answer that, it's too obvious. Is there a phenomenon of doctors over prescribing drugs? Yep! Unfortunately there is and we should look for the causes in the scientific community (doctors), in the industrial quadrant (pharmaceutical companies) and - in no small degree - in society (parents, schools, the patients themselves). Does all this mean that psychiatry is a fraud? Well, I'd hope that even Mr. Cruise would agree... no.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Are Americans entitled to healthcare insurance?

Apparently, the State of Tennessee doesn't think so. Some may wonder why I even care about this issue, considering I no longer live in Tennessee and no longer rely on TennCare. I care about it because I know how grateful I was to have TennCare when I needed it. And now 323,000 Tennesseans are about to lose TennCare. They won't have it when they need it.

On the Tennessee Guerrilla Women blog, there are several good posts about TennCare and why Tennessee needs to reconsider what they are doing. One post, displaying the haughty opinion of one of Tennessee's fine politicians, made me think about this question. Are Americans entitled to state or national healthcare insurance?

Well, most European countries seem to think that national healthcare is a necessity for the wellbeing of citizens. In Title IV - Solidarity, Article II 94-95, the European Constitution states:

"Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices. A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities."

While the constitution hasn't yet been adopted in its entirety, the language is based on measures already in place in most EU countries. Obviously, access to appropriate healthcare is a right for EU citizens. The easiest thing for me to obtain when I first moved here was my healthcare insurance. Imagine that.

Ok, so I know America does have a form of national healthcare, but only if you fall under certain criteria. There are still millions of people in America who desperately need state or national healthcare who do not qualify. They don't have the right to it, apparently.

This is why TennCare was such an amazing thing. It provided insurance to hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who couldn't obtain it otherwise, on a sliding scale of payment plans based on income and ability to pay. Where did it go wrong? Well, I don't know the political reasons for it. But I do know there was a lot of abuse, a lot of mismanagement, and other things that really should have been corrected by the people in charge.

The entire healthcare system in America needs a HUGE overhaul. If healthcare costs in America were regulated, it would be much easier to provide state or national healthcare programs. Healthcare charges in America range up to 900-1000% profit. A quick example:
One of the medications I take on a daily basis was not available in a generic brand when it was first prescribed to me. My insurance at the time paid 80% of prescriptions, but I had to pay up front and send in the receipts. This medication (Plaquenil) cost me just over $100 for 60 pills. A few years later a generic form was available, and it cost me around $50 for 60 pills. Here in Greece, generic forms are not available, everything is "name brand" when it comes to medication. Plaquenil here costs me 5 euros for 30 pills, or 10 euros for 60 pills. (And that isn't even counting the break I'd get for insurance). That is NINE TIMES less than the cost for the same medication in the U.S.. Most other medications I've encountered are the same. The irony is all the pharmaceutical company names are exactly the same here as they are in the U.S. Gee, I wonder how that is possible? The answer is simple: Greece regulates the amount of profit pharmaceutical companies can make. Why doesn't the U.S.? While I'm not naive enough to not know the answer to that question, it still pisses me off. American people are essentially getting conned out of money every day for healthcare expenses.

No wonder they don't have the right to insurance. The government doesn't want to get conned either.

If you want to read about the plight of TennCare, this site is very informative. I really, really hope those 323,000 people don't lose their TennCare. They need it too badly.

Signs and Wonders

There seems to be something about Greece that perpetually ensconces me in a state of awe and wonder. I don't think I've ever lived anywhere that had so many sights of natural beauty and historic curiosity. Not that Tennessee didn't have its share of beauty, like Beersheba, but Greece just takes my breath away.

Living in Athens, well, those things are obvious, I guess. We lived there pre-Olympics, so the city itself was in a bit of chaos. While Athens itself didn't have a scenic aesthetic, the historical element was quite overtaking. Of course I could never get over looking up at the Acropolis, walking along, running an errand, and there it is, in all its ancient glory. But there was one site, underneath a bank building on Sophokleas, that actually had uncovered parts of the ancient city wall, the moat, and the road leading from Athens, complete with chariot tracks. That spot never ceased to amaze me, and I could sit there and look at it forever, placing myself on the glass over the road, imagining back 2000 years to the person who had left that track. Its a wonderful feeling, really, to tie yourself to someone from the past in that way.

The island of Kos has its share of all kinds of amazing things. Basically, anywhere you were on the island had an fantastic view of some kind, ranging from the nearby islands, Turkey, and the mountain ridge that ran through the island. If you got really high, from the village of Zia, you could see the whole world around you, or at least it felt that way. In downtown Kos you could find Hippocrates Plane Tree, a tree that has allegedly been around since the time Hippocrates used it as a quiet study area and a place to teach. It is a rather sad example of a tree, completely dead, its insides long since decayed. Yet, the link to history makes it extraordinary. The remains of a Roman market lie through the middle of the town, and a castle stands guard along the sea. And we can't forget the ruins of the Asklepion, the ancient hospital.

Better still is the area where we live now. A tiny village on the side of Mt. Olympus, Litochoro has the most spectacular views of sea and mountain. Living here, it is perfectly understandable while the ancients placed the gods on this mystic mountain, the peak almost always covered in a misty fog. It is easy to think you feel the breath of Zeus when the harsh winds blow across the village. Every day, as I drive down the main road to pick up my husband from work, I am awed by the sight of the sea as I go down, and by the mountain as we go back up. It is a gift to live here, and as if the gods had granted it, I feel truly blessed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


It's amazing how much energy one has when one does not work. For reasons totally unrelated to this post, I have a couple of weeks off. Now, I need to say - I love my work. Even my current spot - low responsibility and kind of tedious - is part of the greater scheme that I enjoy (and it's only going to get better). Still! I woke up at 10 a.m., it's now what? 3am? And I'm full of energy, can't sleep. No coffee needed, no droopy eyes, no 9 p.m. irresistible-urge-to-sleep. Can it be that people who do not work are the truly blessed? I suppose not. I mean, it's fine for a couple of weeks, but what if it were for a year? I'd probably go crazy. Or would I? Anyway, just a quick note, an observation, a late-night question mark.


Ok, I finally figured out how to add links to the sidebar (yea, I'm slow). I've included some blogs I enjoy and read on a regular basis...more to come!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

World Class Assholes

Not that I fully intend to plop myself knee-deep in the middle of Greek/Turkish relations, but occurances like this really make me wonder what in the hell Turks are thinking. Its not like this is a random occurrance, Turkish fighter planes enter Greek airspace ALL the time. Turkish ships enter Greek waters (sometimes with cameramen in tow). The only reason I can think of this aggression is that they are assholes. Pardon my language, but really. Greek military folks stay the hell away from Turkey, they don't even go there on vacation. They don't play chicken in Turkish airspace just to piss them off. They don't badger the Turkish Coast Guard with claims that "these are OUR waters". As a matter of fact, if so much as a Greek mercantile ship crosses into Turkish waters illegally, they get punished by the Greek government.

Now I do not represent an EU citizen in any way, shape, or form, but should Turkey be able to allow the EU? For one thing, excuse me, but pushing Europe across the Aegean is going just a bit too far. Geographically, of course they aren't Europe. Just because they occupied parts of Europe at one time doesn't make them part of Europe. Culturally they don't seem very European, but I guess they are trying to be. I don't have objections to a Muslim nation being part of the EU, but I bet other very Christian countries do. Of course, Turkey has tried very hard to curb their human rights violations to be in line with EU membership. Well, thank god for THAT. We'd hate to ask them to be reasonable, after all, torture has been a Turkish custom for quite some time. I mean, its not like they are trying to join the U.S.

At any rate, it seems that Turkish leaders do want to improve Greek/Turkish relations. Apparently, they just don't have control of their military.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Strawberry Fields Forever

Ahhh, strawberry season is in full swing. It is quite a treat, actually, because while we lived on the island of Kos, we could not find one strawberry. We lived there an entire year, from July to July, so we definitely should have hit the season if they had one. I guess none were grown on the island and they didn't bother to import them at all.

There is nothing that reminds me of the summers of my youth more than strawberries - and strawberry shortcake. Despite the lack of Bisquick, I've been slaving away to make shortcakes every time we acquire fresh strawberries, which has been frequent of late. The most amazing thing about Greek strawberries? They cost 1.78 euros per kilo. That is 2.2 pounds of strawberry goodness for less than 2 euros. I remember the cost of strawberries at the Green Hills Kroger (in Nashville, TN) as being somewhere around $1.99 for one of those little quart tub things, which definitely wasn't 2.2 pounds worth. I think early and late in season they were even $2.99!

The more I think about it, the price I paid for groceries in America justifies 7 euro syrup.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Our Number One

Congratulations to Helena Paparizou and her performance of the song My Number One, which won the Eurovision Song Contest this year. This is the first time that Greece has won the Eurovision Song Contest since they first entered in 1974. Kiev did a wonderful job of hosting the event, and newly elected president Victor Yuschenko appeared to give a special award to Helena.

Since you can't vote for your own country, I voted for Moldova's RHCP-like performance from the band ZDOB [shi] ZDUB. My husband voted for Norway's heavy metal band Wig Wam. There were some bad performances, but I won't go into that here.

At any rate, I am quite happy that Greece won. I have only lived here for three years, but Greece has become my adopted home country. Now, if they'd just quit playing My Number One over and over...

Saturday, May 21, 2005


I woke up this morning feeling 10 again, feeling the urge to sacrifice extra sleep for Saturday morning cartoons. I woke up missing being 10, which - I should tell you - is a first for me. I am not one of those people. I don't reminisce, tilting my head, thinking "awww! I miss being in school" or "ahh to be 16 again". Sure, they were fun times - for the most part - but I'm better off now. You see why this morning urge is noteworthy. I hope it doesn't mean I'm getting old. Nah, I'm not. Everything else aside, it left a pleasant aftertaste, like a pleasant dream once you wake up - you don't remember it exactly, but the warmth stays with you. I suppose in a way I am still 10 somewhere inside, I am still silly (just ask my wife) and unruly and curious and vulnerable. I hope I never denounce my 10 year old self... it's probably the best part of me.

Friday, May 20, 2005


I am a Harry Potter junkie. Perhaps not much needs to be said beyond that, but I am an addict. I go to websites like this one daily, looking for the latest news on all things Harry. If I am feeling particularly down, rereading some Harry Potter will put me in a better mood.

I am not sure exactly what it is, perhaps these books remind me of the escape reading provided me as a child. Supposedly Harry Potter has become one of the largest adult/children's crossover franchises. At least I know I am not alone.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ah well

I never intended to "blog", but then no one is reading this. Thus it makes no difference. Writing is a creative outlet I suppose and unless one sharpens one's wit - such as it may be - now and then, one ends up witless. I suppose, then, it is a good thing. Write down a few thoughts, whether of ordinary life or extraordinary events, life changing or life preserving, important or not. It will soon become aparent who the writer is in the family, it has always been to me. Ah well! You have been subjected to the husband! God help you all.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Deviant Behavior

In the Milestones section of the May 16th issue of Time Magazine, it noted that gay rights activist Jack Nichols had died of leukemia. Prior to reading this tidbit of information, I did not know of Jack Nichols, and I was surprised to learn that apparently, prior to 1973, the American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a mental illness. Mr. Nichols had been integral in the campaign to get the APA to remove homosexuality from the lists of mental illnesses.

I was shocked that as recently as 1973, homosexuality was considered in such a way. Not shocked in the way that "oh my god, I can't believe such a thing ever happened", but simply that homosexuality garnered a classification of any kind. I mean, is heterosexuality on the books as "mental normalcy?" Anyway, I brought this up to my husband, who is specializing in psychiatry. His response was "yes, well, homosexuality isn't considered a mental illness, but it *is* still considered a deviancy".

To me, deviancy is golden showers or autoerotic asphyxiation, not homosexuality. Ok, sure, yes, man+woman = baby. Even so, same-sex partners fall in love just as intensely as their hetero counterparts. Someone might argue that homosexuals tend to have more frequent partners, more one night stands. Somehow I highly doubt that, if you take into account the heterosexual people I've known. I just find it hard to believe that love between consenting adults, regardless of gender, is deviant.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

You've been Pope'd!

Ok, so it has come to my attention that in my little recap of the last 8 months, I didn't mention the Pope (old or new). Not that it was meant to be an all-encompassing recap, but still. How can I forget the Pope?

So John Paul II died, and now we have a Pope that bears a strong resemblence to Darth Sidious. Coincidence? Is the new Pope a marketing ploy by George Lucas? I suppose we'll never know.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fool's Gold

For a long time my husband has been bugging me to make him pancakes. The thing is, you can't get syrup here - it isn't an item found easily, or often. When I first moved here in 2002, we found some Aunt Jemima syrup at a small grocery store in Thessaloniki, but they stopped carrying it.

Every other week or so, we've been going to the HUGE Champion store in Katerini since November. While we manage to get some things of interest (tortillas and taco sauce, Skippy peanut butter), no syrup was to be found...until recently. Suddenly, as we linger down the aisles, what do we spot but Golden Griddle syrup! It hadn't been there before, of that we are certain. But there it was, in all its sticky and promised pancakes glory. I looked at the price - 7 euros! My husband said "screw it, we're getting it" (yes, he has picked up all my American colloquialism bad habits). To our credit, it is a 24 fl. ounce bottle of syrup, so it will last us awhile. But 7 euros! Sheesh.

As if some form of serendipity had befallen us, boxes of Aunt Jemima Complete Original pancake mix were nearby. We hit the mother lode!

So now my husband has his pancakes, and his 7 euro bottle of syrup.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Books read in 2005 (so far). I may comment on some later, but this is just to keep things straight in my head. Books listed with an asterisk (*) are rereads.

The Monk, Matthew Lewis
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen*
A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt*
Harry Potter 1 - 5, J.K. Rowling*
I, Robot & The Rest of the Robots, Isaac Asimov
The Little Friend, Donna Tartt
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
Cruddy, Lynda Barry
My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult
Generation X, Douglas Coupland
Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, Jim Monroe
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes*
One-L, Scott Turow


Ah, go me. 8 months between posts. Not that I anticipate any type of audience, few people know about the blog. But still, I should keep the blog up just as a means of consistency in my life.

So, from the Autumnal Equinox past the Vernal Equinox. It has been an engaging winter. The U.S. re-elected Bush, the Ukraine got a new, forward looking leader, FYROM is still insisting that they are Makedonia, and the Turks still play chicken in the skies over Greek territory. I experienced my first real Greek snow (twice!), had a splendid Christmas at my in-laws, went to two big, fat, Greek weddings (brother-in-law and cousin-in-law), and picked paint colors for the house on Hortiati. I learned that my inner European is Dutch, became an avid Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, and started using Google as a verb (much to my husband's dismay).

I also discovered something quite fascinating about living on the side of a mountain. In the rainy but warming days of approaching spring, the clouds that normally enshroud the highest peaks of Olympus would slowly sneak their way down the mountain, eventually blanketing our whole village. It was quite a strange experience, within minutes, I could walk on the balcony and barely see 5 feet in front of me. Now, whether or not the clouds drifted the remaining 1000 feet down to the sea, I am not sure. No doubt the denizens of the coast found us obscured. The village always got so quiet when this happened, and a strange feeling of peace and security overcame me. It was if the gods themselves actually existed, and instead of cloaking just themselves, Hera threw out her blanket to protect this mountain hamlet as well. I remember being a child, and passing by mountains covered in clouds, and wondering what it was like to be hidden underneath. Now I know.