Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Harry Potter in da house!

Ok, so I can't pull that phrase off very well, but my husband picked up our Harry Potter 6 at the post office today. We also got Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and some psychiatry crap he wanted.

I'm still suffering through the Da Vinci Code but I expect my husband to start reading me Harry Potter tonight. He just doesn't know it yet.

Internet woes

Yay for ADSL! We can't connect anywhere outside Forthnet (our ISP). Well, we can, intermittently, which means between trying to catch up on my favorite blogs I can't take time for witty posts myself. Internet was supposed to get better with ADSL. Sheesh!

Oh, wait, I forgot. I'm in Greece. They can't do anything right here, except for food and scenery and ancient ruins!

So wisdom doesn't come with age

Poor Art Garfunkel. Busted for marijuana possession, again. You'd think, at the ripe age of 63, he would know better than to run a stop sign when smoking pot in the car. But I guess the high overwhelmed him and he lost all common sense. Or maybe he is plagued with oncoming senility.

I guess I could say he should know better than to smoke weed in the car. Or he should know better to smoke weed at all. But then, you can't begrudge a 60's icon his due.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

News - Greek style

I have to wonder, whenever my husband watches the 8pm news on Alpha every night, whether or not Journalism degrees are possible at Greek universities. I suppose Alpha is the lesser of the 5 evils - the networks here that have news on at 8pm. News here is never truly local. Most of the stories concern Athens, a few concern Thessaloniki, and there are trickles from various bucolic locales all over Greece. Stories from the U.S. or elsewhere in the world make the news if they are dramatic enough, or freaky enough, and of course you get regular accountings of E.U. activities, especially those that involve Greece in some way.

Every story - whether it is about the Cypriot plane crash, Katrina's devastation, or rising produce prices, has the same dramatic music. And I mean dramatic. If you aren't paying attention to the news at all, you might think something tragic happened, and you turn and look, and it is some old woman complaining about some inane thing in her neighborhood. For example, right now, I heard some tragic music, and they are doing a story about "toilet candy", candy that comes in a small plastic toilet. "Oh, it isn't suitable for children! It is horrifying! How can they allow such a thing!" Yea, ok. Not only that, but they have a panel of journalists, politicians, whoever the hell they are, TALKING about this toilet candy. Yes, it definitely needs to take up 10 minutes of the news.

Which leads me to another fun and exciting part of Greek news - the talking heads. Yes, for any subject, no matter how insipid, they may or may not have a panel of speakers arguing heatedly over the topic at hand. Sure, I've enjoyed panel shows on American news networks, but not about ridiculous subjects (like toilet candy).

And the absolute best part of Greek news? The pictures they show in the background of some unrelated incident while they talk about something new. Yes, they could be showing an automobile accident from 3 years ago while talking about an accident that happened today. What an incredibly professional thing to do! They don't even always label it "archived footage" either.

I also have to say that I am not certain there is a lot of fact checking in Greek journalism. Not that I fact-checked this fact. But they did a story once, claiming there was something posted on a website, and I didn't believe it, and went to that website right as the news story was going on, and didn't find it. I combed the website looking for it to no avail. Sometimes I think they take whatever they first hear from whatever news agency they hear it from and report it as news (live and exclusive news, at that!). They'll steal a video feed from CNN or SkyNews and even though it still clearly says CNN or SkyNews on it, the Greek channel will superimpose their station name over the video.

And the absolute worst thing about Greek news - weather is an afterthought. It is no secret that I am a weather junkie. It has become even more important to stay abreast of the weather since I have to hang clothes outside to dry. But I just have to have my weather. Not only do I have to have my weather, I need to have nice radar and satellite images. I don't get that anymore. I have to go the local Nashville news channel sites to live vicariously through their radar images.

At least the Greek Public stations have some semi-decent news. I catch the news on NET every night before Andromeda comes on. It comes across as more professional and not very dramatic.
Still, it wouldn't hurt them to get us some local radar. I just need a nightly fix!

A dirge for the South

Yesterday and today were spent watching the horrible images from New Orleans and Mississippi, and hearing the terrible accounts of the locals there. Lately I saw some shots of Memphis that looked pretty water-soaked. I hope my fellow Tennesseans are staying safe and (relatively) dry today.

Sometimes I am amazed at the destruction nature can cause. Overnight, one of the grandest cities of the South has been immersed in water. Only time will tell the true cost of the damages. Only time will tell how many people are lost. I hope the numbers stay low, although the 68 deaths they have already reported is 68 too many.

My thoughts are with the victims and those who are in Katrina's path. Another hurricane name retired.

To balkoni

One thing I love about Greece is the fact that just about every home and apartment building built has at least one balcony. Last I remember, balconies were a luxury in apartments in Nashville, and you could expect to pay just a little more if the apartment had a balcony. Here, it's a given. And even in most houses, you aren't just going to get a little porch on the first floor, no, every floor will have at least one balcony.

Most apartments, if you aren't lucky enough to have a "wrap around" balcony (we had one in Athens and again in Litochoro), usually have one longer balcony in the front of the apartment and one small one in the back, usually off the kitchen. Greeks generally use the back balcony as a utility deck - this is where you will find various and sundry ladders, cleaning supplies, laundry lines, often even a waterproof cabinet for storage. For some, though, the back balcony isn't large enough for too much, even standing on. The back of our building is a small area that overlooks the backs of the buildings around us. There is a small area between the buildings, but an agile cat could easily jump from one balcony to another. This space, back here, fascinates me, I don't know why. I often wonder if the ground below can be accessed at all. Is it storage for the people on the bottom floors? But the best thing about these back balconies, and the fact that they almost always are off the kitchen, are the myriad smells that emanate from the multiple kitchens. Day to day, at around 1pm, you can smell the most pleasing smells of someone's midday meal. Greek women here cook, and they cook alot. I am glad my husband usually doesn't arrive home from work until 2:30, so he doesn't smell these smells and wish he had married a proper Greek wife, who would fill his belly with fresh made mousaka, pastitchio, keftides and a variety of Greek staples.

The front balconies often seem to become a competition over who can make the most of their balcony. Granted, the majority of even front balconies are not wide, but they are usually long. Many people make elaborate jungles out of their balconies, with all manner of plants hanging all over. Some get crafty with furniture, awnings, and plants together, some balconies looking quite snug. A lot of people hang their laundry on the front balconies, because the back balconies are usually too small except to hang a few small things.

The best thing about balconies is that for most of the year (whenever the temperatures aren't cold) they are usually rife with all kinds of activity, especially around 5 or 6pm, after siesta. Neighborhoods come alive with chatter, music, children playing, all in the secret life of balconies. It is fun to watch, and to feel part of a city that is alive and breathing, not just with work, but with play.

For now, our front balcony is merely a place for hanging laundry and for me to people watch. I can only watch my fellow "balconeers" (yes, I made that word up) for now, because I get a little sick trying to look 7 floors down to the street below, not to mention the fact that trees obscure a great deal of the sidewalk on our side of the street. But the balconies hold plenty of interest, at least for now. If only I didn't always happen to be outside when an old man emerges to his balcony in his underwear, scratching his balls and watching the world go by. I can certainly live without that.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ode to a drain pipe

There is a small war waging in the streets of downtown Thessaloniki. This war, no doubt, has been waged for countless years, with numbers of defeated walking the streets like the ghostly undead. It is doubtful this battle will ever end, the battle-worn still shake their fists proudly, defiantly, against the evil minions.

This is the war of the draining balcony water. Yep. Countless of older apartment buildings in Thessaloniki were apparently made without adequate drainage systems in the balconies. The drainage system basically consists of a hole or two, with a big long pipe jutting out so your water doesn't drip on someone else's balcony below. The water does, however, drip on passersby walking along the sidewalk.

Obviously, this is not so much a problem when it rains, because you don't have people walking around all day long when it rains, and if they are, then they obviously are already wet, so getting an extra drip or two won't matter. It is a problem on the effulgence of sunny days here in Thessaloniki, of which there are quite a few in the summertime. Air conditioners, watered plants, spraying down balconies, all of these work into the battle. There is a neighborhood watch of sorts, that goes around ringing doorbells of apartments in buildings that might have an air conditioning dripping problem. We have a nice bucket under ours, which we deign to empty once a day, but other folks don't seem to be as respectful. I did have an unfortunate incident the other night, where the bucket was too full and thus too heavy for me to pick up, and I tried to pick it up, and ended up sending forth a deluge of water through our small hole. As I heard it splash on the sidewalk below, I winced a little, hoping that it had managed to dodge anyone who happened to be outside. My husband came home a few moments later, apparently I had almost gotten him with the water. Ooops!

Today I was almost washed with a shower of water from someone watering his plants. As I stepped into the street I glanced back, and saw the perpetrator with my own two eyes. I gave as an evil a stare as I could, but he had a sheepish look that seemed to say "well, I must water my plants!"

Yes, the battle goes on. But the water will always win.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Forever Amerikanida

I am not the kind of person who craves attention. No, I always prefer to blend in with the crowd as a watcher, an observer, never seen who sees everything. Blending in, I was afraid, was going to be a bit of a task in moving to another country. At first I figured, how hard would it be to just look Greek? Sure, in one-on-one conversation I would be immediately outed as a damn American, but could I manage to blend in with a crowd, unnoticed?

My first realization that I could not help but be different in a Greek world was my first time on the Metro in Athens. When I looked at the people around me, I noticed basic similar features: brown eyes, prominent (but attractive) noses, dark hair (except for those that dyed their hair blonde, with obvious roots), stated eyebrows. I knew immediately that my light blue eyes might be an instant giveaway, my tiny nose, my light eyebrows - why, I didn't fit in here at all! At least it was Athens, a city with 4 million people, and several of those immigrants. Even if I was noticed, no one would care, or pay any attention to it. I could survive in relative obscurity. Phew!

That all changed when we moved to the island of Kos. Of course, all the Greek islands are tourist traps, and Kos was supposedly quite popular with Brits. I figured, if anyone noticed me, they would peg me for a tourist, be glad I was supporting their small island, and move along. But that was not to be. My husband's camp was not in the main town on the island, where I could have blended in easily, but in a tiny village along the southern mountain range. A tiny village where everyone knows everyone else, and tourists only come to frequent the tavernas and gift shops. I was grateful when I learned of the Dutch jewellers who had their shop in the village, at least there were other xenos there. But my husband's rank, and his position as a doctor, automatically drew attention to us, and the fact his wife was an Amerikanida (American woman) spread through that tiny village like wildfire. Everyone knew who I was, and I have no doubts that everyone gossiped about us, perpetuated no doubt by our landlady, who could hear our every move. It was at this point that I realized that no matter what I did, how hard I tried to fit in, how well I learned the language, how well I could cook mousaka, I would forever and always be Amerikanida to Greeks.

Being Amerikanida isn't so bad, I suppose, aside from taking the blame for Dubya now and then. I had to hide in virtual obscurity after the last election, when a Greek friend visited from Athens and inquired "what happened?" after Dubya won again. Hey, I cast my absentee ballot, although a part of me wonders whether or not they even count them.

Most people here don't automatically recognize Tennessee, although several seem to know Nashville, and quite a few only recognize Tennessee because of Jack. In the end it doesn't matter I guess. My Greek husband loves me, my Greek in-laws love me, and I love them. I couldn't ask for anything more, even if I am forever Amerikanida.


Greeks have a tendency to be overly paranoid and perhaps a bit irrational about some things, mainly seemingly unimportant things, while the major issues (economy, crime, education) slip through their thought processes. For the most part, I dismiss the paranoia, especially in cases like the F.Y.R.O.M./Makedonia situation, because I see no real justification for it.

But when it comes to relations with Turkey, I don't really blame them. For one thing, obviously Greeks are still a little gun shy when it comes to their past with the Turks, after so many years of oppression and mistreatment, not to mention occupation. The Turkish air force is constantly flying into Greek airspace, waiting for Greek fighters to run them off. There isn't much point to such behavior, aside from proving you are an asshole. And as far as the Turkish government, well, I don't know exactly what they are smoking, but it must be some really amazing stuff, because half the things they do don't seem to make any sense.

Case in point: Their whole refusal to acknowledge Cyprus thing. Ok, fine, you don't want to recognize Cyprus, but why, then, sign a Customs Union Protocol, which was also signed by Cyprus (and all the newest 10 member states of the E.U.), and then turn around and say "well, our signing of the protocol in no way means we acknowledge Cyprus". The first time I heard that, I wondered how they could say that, because signing the document, in fact, recognizes Cyprus, because they signed an agreement that INCLUDED Cyprus. Of course, now the Cypriot government is pointing this out as well. It is common sense, it doesn't really take "four professors of foreign universities" to figure it out. Now I've heard education in Turkey isn't up to snuff, but seriously, how stupid are they? Do they need to go to the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I'm too good to serve you coffee

Tonight we went out with my siblings-in-law for coffee. Going out for coffee is a big thing here, as it is in most European countries, and there are coffee shops (not to be confused with the Dutch coffee shops, at least, for now) on almost every street corner here in Thessaloniki. We went to a place fairly close to us, well, close to all of us, as our apartment, my brother-in-law and his wife's apartment, and my in-law's apartment make kind of a triangle in a 3 block radius.

Firstly, the average age of the clientele was around 15, it seems, a very happening place for the younger set. This is good, it makes me feel young in return, but then, of course, I find myself judging the young 'uns, which makes me feel old again. Between the refrain of "Billie Jean" blasting from the stereo and the mode of fashion of the teenagers there, I actually felt like it was once again 1982.

Our server, however, seemed to have a real attitude. It was as if serving coffee was above her, yet, that was her chosen profession! I'm sure there are plenty of other opportunities out there if she chose to apply herself. Then again, if she does anything else like she serves coffee, then she won't be doing anything else for long. This woman could not be bothered to write down the order, which is fine, if you can manage to not screw up the order. She was unfamiliar with the menu and she didn't bother to walk around the table to serve us our drinks, instead doing the "pass it along" method commonly used in a dive bar.

At least it was a great spot for people watching. I don't know if we shall go back, as there are plenty other places to choose from, and well, they seem to have their hands full with their teenage clientele.

One thing I am learning about Thessaloniki though - you can go out, before sundown, and it feels moderately pleasant out, but as the sun starts to set, you start to feel sticky - humidity rises. Ugh. I hate night humidity.

I couldn't resist

Cats in sinks!!!

What is it about sinks? What is it about drinking water out of the faucet?

Now I've done it

I started reading The Da Vinci Code last night. I didn't want to do it, just the hype was too overwhelming.

Only about 50 pages in. Sure, I'm compelled to keep reading, but I'm not convinced it is a modern day classic, not any more than a Stephen King or Tom Clancy. It is certainly no Borges or Calvino. Then again, very few writers can be a Borges or Calvino.

We still haven't gotten our copy of the new Harry Potter yet. Well, a slip for the package arrived in the mail, but my husband has to go get it at the post office, since it is in his name and they make you show ID and stuff here. And since the post office closes at 2, we've been s.o.l. for picking it up while he is working. It sucks. He is off this week, so we should be able to get Harry Potter goodness on Monday!

Friday, August 26, 2005

In honor of the anniversary of women's suffrage in America

I am linking to A World Chronology of the Recognition of the Women's Rights to Vote and Stand for Election. I am also linking to a PBS site that has some interesting facts about International Women's Suffrage.

It was not until near the end of the nineteenth century, in 1893, that the first country, New Zealand, granted women the right to participate in national elections on the same basis as men.

Women did not have the right to vote in my adopted country of Greece until 1952.

Here is a link to the DailyKos record of events in the final days to ratification of the 19th amendment in the United States. It's all because boys love their mommas!

A Dictator is born

Glad I don't live in Turkmenistan.

I think calling him "eccentric" is a nice word for what the Turkmenistan president is. Apparently he has banned all recorded music from public events, television, and weddings. He thinks that by doing this he can protect the country's culture.

Niyazov is known as "Father of the Turkmen People", while his acquaintances say that he believes he was sent by God to lead his people to an era he himself calls "Golden Era".

This "Father of the Turkmen People" has also banned opera and ballet, long hair and beards, car radios, and months have been named after him and his mother. Not to mention that his book is required reading for all Turkmenistan people.

Ok, so things in America aren't THAT bad. At least not let. I just really hope we don't end up with a month called "Barbara".

Things I miss about Nashville

In no particular order, except for the first one.

Ok, I am sure I could come up with more things, but these stand out, when I think of my old home.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

New banner

Thanks to my husband and his graphic abilities, and thanks to Nicole for linking to the "how-to" post at Eyes Wide Apart, I now have a nifty banner graphic! Woot!

Victory for Hong Kong homosexuals

A judge has struck down Hong Kong's sodomy laws, siding with a 20-year-old homosexual man who challenged the measures -- including one that demanded a life sentence for gay sex when one or both men are younger than 21.

A life sentence? Why was this law allowed when heterosexual and lesbian couples could do whatever they wanted after age 16? I guess the politicians like their hetero and lesbian porn, huh?

The judge ruled the anti-gay laws "discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation" and "are demeaning of gay men who are, through the legislation, stereotyped as deviant."

In the ruling, High Court Judge Michael Hartmann also said that the laws are a "grave and arbitrary interference with the right of gay men to self-autonomy in the most intimate aspects of their private lives."

Apparently, the decision can still be appealed by Hong Kong's government, but it seems the government has already been debating on a law that would prohibit discrimination against homosexuals, and this ruling could help push things forward.

Another positive step in the world. Maybe someday people will not even care if someone is homosexual or not.

Something is horribly wrong

I swear I saw an aura around one of our cats earlier.

Now I think I've gone completely nutters. Must be all the damn remodelling they are doing next door.

Wicked witch

For some reason, all my life I have wanted to grow up to be one of those women who live in the scary house at the end of the street. A woman who is the catalyst for a host of neighborhood kids' myths and legends. A woman who, legend has it, eats children, has straw for hair, and may or may not be missing an eye. Kids would triple dog dare each other to come up and knock on my door. After which I would pull the child inside, feed him or her sweets and let him or her play video games all day, with the solemn promise that once they leave my abode, they keep the myth of my evil alive.

Of course, being able to be such a woman is a bit harder when you get married, and especially so when you have an amiable husband and not some old crank. Of course, he could get cranky as we get older, so there is hope yet.

Original sin

We now live in a city that not only has a sweet shop that is open til 1am, but it also delivers. How horrible is that?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What women want

I thought I would take it upon myself to link to two excellent posts regarding Reuel Marc Gerecht's remarks on Meet the Press on Sunday.

Egalia at TGW posts the news and Aunt B. of Tiny Cat Pants does her usual eloquent job of making the point for all of us women.

Even though, of course, whatever they have to say, or I have to say, or that woman over there has to say really doesn't matter, since women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy.

If I didn't know better, I'd be thinking that America was moving backwards socially. But how can that be true? America is the rock for which all human rights are based, right?

Ravers beaten by military type police in Utah
Blacks can't get a fair trial in Alabama
A good Christian condones assassination (oh, wait, "take him out" doesn't mean assassination, it can mean all sorts of things)
Army generals get fired for no good reason
Putting the fear of liberals into children
Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse

Sperm in the spotlight

I was scanning CNN today and saw that one of the producers of Big Brother is creating a new reality show. A show in which a 30-year-old woman goes in search of a sperm donor. Kinda takes the anonymous aspect out of it, doesn't it? Kinda makes things more complicated, even if they say it won't, it will have to, since the mother will actually meet the sperm donor.

The show is a one-off competing with four other reality TV programs, one of which follows five former prostitutes starting a cafe. The program receiving most votes from viewers on Saturday, after all the shows have aired, will be turned into a series.

What, but what, will kill the reality show star? Please, tell me there is something.

Who needs sleep

It is no secret that after my husband leaves for work at 7am, I go back to sleep. Or rather, I continue my sleep, because some mornings I barely open my eyes enough to say goodbye. Lately I haven't been doing too bad, getting up around 11am or so, I used to sleep in until 2pm or later. I'm sure those days will come in time, once we get a comfortable mattress.

Well, yesterday I was rudely awakened about 9am by a sound that, had I not had all my wits about me, would have sounded like I lived in a dentist's office. Some workmen, in some apartment nearby, were using some type of saw/drill thing that was incredibly loud. And they used it for three hours straight.

Surely, I thought to myself, whatever they were drilling/sawing would have been done by this morning. Around 9am, I was rudely awakened by a sound not unlike what you might hear if the entire building around you was being demolished. Hammering, smashing, tearing down. After a couple of hours of that, thus proceeded the drilling/sawing. Obviously, they are building an amusement park in one of these apartments.

Now, I know remodeling apartments is a major part of Greek life. I just wish people would do it quietly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The scary elevator

When I was about 13 years old, I went to a doctor who had his offices in an older building on West End Avenue in Nashville. The building is long gone, and wasn't a big building (maybe 3 or 4 stories) and in my memory it resembled more of an antebellum mansion than a building to house doctor's offices. But that could have been my teenage brain making things more interesting. At any rate, this building had an elevator, and it was a creepy elevator. First it was small, and it was old, and I don't think it was automatic. I suppose this ancient elevator added to the gothic quality of this building, but at any rate, I was glad when my doctor relocated to a more reasonable office space.

Here in Greece, most apartment buildings of any size seem to have elevators. The majority of buildings here in Thessaloniki seem to be around 7 or 8 stories at most, so an elevator is a must if you live on a higher floor. Floors are numbered a bit differently here, even in smaller buildings, the floor with the outside door is not called the first floor, it is called "isogeio", and the first floor starts the next floor up. I guess this is similar to a high rise hotel with a lobby and then the first floor. At any rate, elevators are a godsend.

The elevator in our apartment building in Athens was pretty up to date. It wasn't automatic, of course, it was small (two people) and you could keep the elevator from moving by holding the door open, which people do with annoying regularity, although I am beginning to understand why. The elevator in my in-law's apartment building is downright swanky, fairly new, still small though, and still not automatic. The elevator in this building, however, I think was put in sometime before elevators were actually invented. It is very old, very beat up looking, and from time to time has a peculiar smell. I guess this elevator is even more daunting because it has an open space above where you can see all the belts and pulleys, and every day I look and think "now is that cable fraying a bit?" It, of course, reminds me of the scary elevator in my doctor's office, so I think about that now every time I use the elevator.

The elevator I suppose is actually safe. Every apartment has to pay a monthly charge for "building" expenses, part of which includes elevator maintenance, and the higher your floor, the more you pay for elevator maintenance. I'm guessing since we are on the 6th floor of a 7 story building we'll pay a nice chunk. I don't mind, as long as they keep the elevator up to date. I don't really fancy the idea of plunging to my death in a bad elevator incident. I can hear the cheesy Greek news music they would play already, if such a death occurred.

Still, I will do my duty by the elevator, and pay it proper respects every time I get on it. We are going to have to live together for awhile now, and I hope we'll get along. At least until the apartment owners decide to put in a new elevator.

Guilty pleasure

Lately, I have found myself semi-addicted to the sci-fi drama Andromeda, which is being shown on one of the Greek public television stations. Sure, I'm about 5 years late on this one, but when it was actually on the Sci-Fi channel (and I actually had access to the Sci-Fi channel) I was not a fan of such shows. I hadn't even broken my Star Trek: The Next Generation cherry until a couple of years ago, after tireless begging from my husband to get the first season on DVD and check it out. I finally gave in, and despite the sometimes cheesy dialogue and acting, I became addicted quickly. We eventually acquired all seven seasons and we've watched them all twice.

Watching sci-fi shows and movies (and reading sci-fi books) on a regular basis is a pretty big deal for me. Even though I had always had some sympathy for the fantasy genre (mostly because of my predilection for medieval literature) I was a sci-fi snob. I thought sci-fi was lower class writing, meant for common folk who didn't appreciate literature the same way I appreciated literature. Oops. Big mistake. But then again, I am really good at judging things before I give them a chance.

I watched a trickle of sci-fi movies here and there - Demolition Man (which I liked because it reminded me of a Nietzschean premise), The Fifth Element, Judge Dredd, Virtuosity, etc., etc.(ie. the average crop of sci-fi releases in the mid to late 90's). I even watched some of the first Star Trek movies and the Star Trek:TNG movies when they came out. None of them really stood out to me, although I enjoyed them and was properly entertained for the most part. I resisted like wildfire watching sci-fi shows, though, because I really didn't see myself wanting to participate in such a ruse on a weekly basis. I had friends who loved Star Trek:TNG, who tried to talk me into it, but no avail. Attempts to get me to read a sci-fi novel of any kind were met with condescending scoffs. I had no intention of delving deeper into the world of sci-fi.

And then came Star Trek: TNG. The first couple of episodes were awkwardly acted, but held my interest. The more I watched the more I started to see that these shows weren't fluff, they dealt constantly with philosophical, ethical and moral issues. Wow, who would have thought? Then we rented I, Robot, which I know was a critical failure, but it opened up new avenues of thought. So I just had to read all the Asimov short stories. How complex and interesting the stories were! What a fascinating world to have kept at arm's length all this time!

So here I am, a fan of a show that apparently is based on an idea Gene Roddenberry had once. A show that even my husband, a huge Star Trek: TNG fan, makes fun of. Sure, it has its cheesiness. There is no Patrick Stewart, just a Kevin Sorbo (and I really hated his Hercules show). But I've been jonesing for a new sci-fi drama ever since we finished watching the entire ST:TNG over again. But Andromeda posits some interesting philosophical and ethical questions now and then. It has some interesting characters, including a race of Nietzscheans, genetically created "perfect" beings. It can be stupid, sure, but I'm left with nothing else for now, and a huge sci-fi appetite that must be fed. Not to mention Kevin Sorbo and Keith Hamilton Cobb are nice to look at.

It is, after all, all my husband's fault. He created this sci-fi monster.

Whorehouse for pets

Every time I think I've seen it all - someone comes up with something else.

Explaining the reasons for which the owners of the hotel decided to proceed with its establishment, a Pet Love spokesperson said, "Pets have needs and they also want some excitement."

Yea, ok. I love my pets, but this is just a bit too much. I really don't think animals need satin sheets and mirrored ceilings. When they are in heat, they are in heat, don't need to set the mood for them. Can you imagine the debauchery in a place like this? Cats and dogs sleeping together, gerbils mating with bunnies. Sheesh!

Monday, August 22, 2005

From the "Are You Kidding Me" Department

I don't know where Egalia of Tennessee Guerilla Women finds this stuff, but this is too funny. Yet I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Yes, this is what America needs, more prejudice focused at more different groups of people. Soon they'll be after southpaws and people who drink milk.

"Waaah! Mommie!!! That liberal made me read the Constitution!!"

Pussy from hell

Lately, my in-laws have been coming over every weekend to clean out more of yiayia's belongings from our apartment. My father-in-law adores animals, and always takes it upon himself to pet our three cats, if he can coax them all into being petted. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, seems to think all animals are devil's spawn ready to bring her down in one foul swoop, so she treads carefully in the cat zone of our apartment. She is one of the reasons we are separating the apartment into cat zone and no cat zone, so she can actually come visit us without being afraid the whole time. Of course, one might think this is the perfect solution to keep a mother-in-law away, but I adore my mother-in-law, and don't mind her coming over.

So, yesterday they came over, and because they brought over the newly washed curtains that belong in the apartment, my mother-in-law had to come into the cat zone. She did so carefully, with a great deal of trepidation, while my father-in-law was calling the cats to him and bestowing more attention on them than they actually deserve.

Usually, the cats tend to hide when people come over, because lately it has usually been a slew of strangers - electricians, glass fitters, movers - and Phoebe and Nala did keep their distance, but Princeton remembered my father-in-law, and more importantly, he remembered that my mother-in-law doesn't like cats and how it is his responsibility, in the name of all catkind, to change her opinion. What Princeton doesn't realize is following her around the apartment absolutely does not help change her opinion, but instead convinces her more that cats are evil creatures intent on stalking and killing her.

The whole time my mother-in-law is asking us to keep him away, and then finally, she tells me "Princeton isn't as big as I remembered". No, no, Princeton is not a giant, man eating cat, although his girth has been called into question a few times, and surely Britney Spears' chihuahua would hardly be a snack for him. Even so, I wasn't sure if this was an admission, on my mother-in-law's part, that maybe he isn't so bad.

Still, she was grateful to leave the cat zone and start work in the no cat zone. She avoided coming back into the cat zone like the plague, and I am sure she will in the future. Poor, poor Princeton, in the end, he just wants to be loved.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Quite a sendoff for quite an individual!

May you rest in peace, Hunter S. Thompson. We shall miss your salacious wit, your poignant commentary, and your amazing spirit. Thankfully, you have left it all for us in recorded history.
When you see H.L. Mencken, say hello for me.

Four more years

As if four more years of Bush wasn't already bad enough, it looks like the U.S. Army is preparing for the possibility of four more years of occupation in Iraq.

Am I the only one who thinks that there is a greater possiblity of achieving peace in the region if the U.S. backs out, or leaves only peacekeeping/humanitarian support in the area?

Sure, plenty of people will say I'm wrong, but I doubt there would have been such a high rate of insurgency if the U.S. troops hadn't been there.

I feel sorry for the troops that will have to continue to deploy to this battle-worn region. I can't help but wonder what the future will hold for all these men and women, 30 years down the road. I hope they get lots of psychiatric help.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Seriously, what the hell are plastic surgeons thinking?

Well, obviously they are thinking all the way to the bank (to the tune of $250k for this guy). But that is beside the point. These surgeons are members of the medical community. I assume they all take the Hippocratic Oath at some point. Yet somehow, they don't know where to draw the line between the sublime and the ridiculous with their surgeries.

This dude looks like a complete freak. And he isn't the only "victim" of plastic surgery. I've mouthed off about this before, so I won't go into it all again. But good lord. This guy actually made me shudder when I saw his picture.

Props to Pink Kitty's Scratching Post for linking to the article.

Cops with nothing better to do

It is nice to know that the Columbians have such a carefree crime rate that their police can spend time putting a cow in jail. Apparently, a cow was on the loose when a woman motorcyclist hit it, causing an accident.

Even if the incident is unbelievable, the Colombian Authorities do not seem to be joking as a Police spokesperson stated "if it was a person who caused the accident, he or she would be behind bars, so why not a cow?

Yea, ok. I guess all is well in Columbia tonight, now that the dangerous cow is behind bars.

Thanks, but no thanks

Ok, a virtual reality T.V. idea is nice, I like the 3D imaging, maybe even the idea of touch, but really, do we need the smell? I have spent the vast majority of my life trying to avoid smells in the general public, I sure as hell don't need it in my television.

Shattered glass

We had to replace the glass in the hall door today, because my father-in-law inadvertently busted one of the panes when he was refitting the door to fit over the new tile.* Now, I wasn't entirely sure what would be entailed in replacing panes of glass, and we decided to have all three panes replaced with a different, less transparant type of glass instead of just replacing the one pane that was broken.

So, apparently, the only way of extracting the glass is to break it out. And they fit the new panes in with some kind of silly putty type stuff. In the end, it only cost 45 euros (which seems cheap to me, but I guess it is expensive by Greek standards), but egads, what a mess! Of course, I was worried about our slippered feet and three sets of kitty paws picking up glass remains, but a sweeping and vacuuming I think (I hope) got it all.

Still, I really hope we never have to do that again. I hate, hate, HATE broken glass.

*This is in no way a reflection on the ability of my father-in-law to do things around the house, he is actually quite a good handy man, which is unexpected considering he is a cardiologist.

Friday, August 19, 2005

It's only electricity

My husband has the amazing ability to leave lights on in every room in the house. While it is nice to have a lighted pathway through the apartment, it is unnecessary. Lately though, I have become convinced that due to the length of our apartment, he is making a feeble attempt at recreating an airstrip, completely lit and ready for takeoff and landing.

Yes, my husband loves all things plane related. No, he is not allowed to have his own plane, ever, or to get a pilot's license, ever (ok, after I'm dead, maybe). Maybe someday I will allow him more contraptions for his computer to make more realistic flight simulations.

We'll see.


Why do I always jinx myself? Yesterday, one of our cats threw up, and I just had to say that they hadn't really thrown up much in the new apartment. For three cats, we do pretty well. What happens today? Throw up, twice!


Sugar walls

What the hell ever happened to Sheena Easton? Not that I was a fan, or anything, but she went from music to her big acting stint on Miami Vice, then she disappeared. According to IMDB, it seems she has done mostly voiceover work.

I just had to wonder, cuz "So 80's" on VH1 just played one of her crappy videos.

Fine yourself a cow

The BBC News website has an interesting story on the ending of the Swaziland sex ban for teenage girls that began in 2001, supposedly to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.

To show your chastity, you had to wear these long woolen tassels, which is all well and good, but does that really prove you haven't had sex? According to the article, it doesn't seem that many of the girls wore the tassels anyway, except in the villages where chiefs upheld the ban.

Yet, the king broke his own ban when he married a teenage girl shortly after imposing the sex-ban, and to make up for it, he fined himself a cow. I'm sure one cow really hurt his estate. This king has 11 wives and two fiancees, and he thinks banning sex amongst teenage girls is going to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS?

The ban is ending one year early, I guess too many people were put out by not being able to have sex (and/or apparently marry) these girls, including the girls themselves, who have not been happy with the ban. They are having a ceremonial burning of the tassels on Tuesday.

Now, I realize this culture is different. I realize a teenage girl in this country is prime marriage material. But really, does a ban like this really help what seems to be a serious problem for this nation? According to the article, 40% of the population of Swaziland is infected with HIV/AIDS, among the highest in the world. Why not educate the population? Why not teach safe sex practices? Why not take greater steps to decrease the threat of HIV/AIDS in the country, rather than just a ban that most people didn't seem to honor?

It is almost as if by banning sex, the king thought he could just brush the matter aside, and it would fix everything. His thought process must have gone something like "well, if having sex with these girls is the problem, why don't we just ban sex with them?". Nevermind the freedoms and desires of these women. I'm surprised he didn't send them all to a prison colony.

I really hope that nations like Swaziland are able to take the right steps to combat their HIV/AIDS problems. Thanks to the U.N. and other organizations, the problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa is getting lots of attention. Let's just hope it helps.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Someone is sleeping on the couch tonight

Yes, I should definitely consider myself lucky after reading this story of a F.Y.R.O.M. -ian (I live in Greece, it wouldn't be prudent for me to call him a Macedonian, even though it is simpler) who went on vacation and left his wife at the gas station. A police officer had to call him on his cell phone to tell him his wife was waiting at the gas station.

"I filled it up, paid, got on my car and left. She usually sits at the back and I did not realize she was missing until I got the call," Mr Ivanov explained.

Ah, ok, that explains it then. You make your wife sit in the back, so you don't even notice if she isn't there.


Weird observation

For some reason, whenever I look at The Tennessean website, I always have to look at the restaurant scores. It is probably a good thing that I never looked at these scores when I actually ate out in Nashville.

Why is that almost every week at least one Chinese restaurant is in the low scores column? Is it some cultural thing about how they keep their kitchens that doesn't coincide with code?

Of course, I'd hate to think what scores most Greek tavernas would get. Not that I think any of them are unclean or that the food isn't good, I am just pretty sure they aren't up to U.S. restaurant code.


This week in the American/Greek household:

What we are watching (DVD):

Curb Your Enthusiasm 3rd season
X-Files 2nd season

What we are listening to:

Jamiroquai - Dynamite
I Heart Huckabees Soundtrack

What we are reading:

Thanos - The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Mel - The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Waiting patiently for Harry Potter 6 to arrive from so we can read it together

What we are playing:

World of Warcraft
Microsoft Flight Simulator (Thanos)

Productive things we get done daily:

Work (Thanos)
Zilch (Mel)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Our cat the big, fat faker

Yesterday I was on a cleaning whirlwind. Rarely do I get such energy, so when it comes, I have to take advantage. I even cleaned around my sleeping husband, and scrubbed the nasty front balcony which will never be really clean.

Naturally, our three cats do not enjoy the cleaning process. They are scared to death of the vacuum cleaner, they hate the wet floors left behind by the mop, and they generally prefer a sedate mommy whose lap they can crawl into. So after the cleaning whirlwind, when all seemed to have settled down, our tubby, handsome alpha male cat Princeton jumped down from the bed and came limping and crying into the sitting room. He was limping good too, but had no visible damage to his paw or leg. He curled up on the sofa (in his normal spot) and then a couple of hours later he jumped down again. Miraculously, the limp was gone!

Maybe his foot had been asleep earlier. Does that happen to animals? I would prefer to think he wasn't faking just to get a bunch of attention from both my husband and me. But I know better than to be too naive about the manipulation of cats.

The imperfect Greek wife

It's no secret that I am not the perfect housewife. I hate cleaning, I hate doing dishes, I don't iron, I rarely cook, and I don't even make my husband coffee when he begs. The only thing I can tolerate without complaining is laundry, and that is only because it basically does itself. When it comes time to hang it outside I'm all bitching and moaning again. I'm a pretty miserable excuse for a housewife by American standards, but by Greek standards, I am really horrible. I am actually surprised my husband tolerates me.

All this hasn't been brought to such a glaring light before we moved to Thessaloniki, the home of my mother-in-law, also known as Wonder Woman. She is a pediatrician, has office hours in the morning and the evening, manages to make a tasty home cooked meal every lunchtime, not to mention do the ironing, wash clothes, and ten million other tasks a busy woman with two kids (ok, the kids are 17 and 24, but so?) still living at home has to do.

When we lived elsewhere, the major embarrassment, to me, was the frequency of having food delivered to the house. Still, it was only some strangers in a village we were soon to leave that knew I didn't cook for my husband every night.

Our first night here in Thessaloniki, my husband sends some shirts to his mother to be ironed. There has been a steady stream of outgoing shirts since then (cordially delivered by the youngest brother-in-law). To add fuel to the fire, my mother-in-law has been sending us home-cooked lunches every day. In my defense, the electrician hasn't come to hook up our oven yet, but even so, the ironing, the lunches, make me feel a little less adequate as a wife.

To make up for it I've been on a cleaning frenzy every day, and I voluntarily make my husband's coffee in the afternoons. We'll see how long it lasts. There is something, after all, to being the worst.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Shower bathroom

Our new apartment here in Thessaloniki is nice. It is spacious, probably around 1,000 sq. ft. or so, maybe a bit more. My in-laws spent a lot of money sprucing it up for us a bit, as it had been inhabited by my husband's grandparents for some 40 odd years. They retiled the hallway, retiled the kitchen and put in a new sink and counter, painted the main rooms, and totally redid the bathroom, with new tiles and new fixtures.

The thing is, the bathroom is so small, that the whole bathroom is basically the shower. It takes some getting used to, this shower bathroom idea. We've managed to make some good of it with a long shower curtain that wraps around the shower fixtures, so we can keep water off the toilet and the sink and the scary plug in the mirror over the sink, but of course, the floor ends up totally soaked. Mopping after every shower ended up being worthless, because the mop stayed so wet it didn't help much. Then my husband had the brilliant idea of getting one of those squigy rubber wipe-water-off-of-cars-when-washing-them things (I believe that is the technical term) so that works pretty well. Still, we have about an hour or two after every shower that the floor is still somewhat wet so we don't wear shoes or slippers in the bathroom and are very careful not to slip to our deaths on a leftover water/soap combo on the floor.

The irony here is this is the best damn shower I've had since I moved to Greece. The water pressure is good, the shower head rocks, and we have a new water heater which makes a ton of hot water that lasts forever. I guess we'll get used to it eventually, but it will be interesting when folks come to visit and we have to have 4 or 5 showers going on a day.

Won't you be my neighbor?

One of the nice things about city life, and living on the 6th floor, is the veritable slew of neighbors to spy on all around you. I happen to be a very nosey bugger, and ever since I was a child, I always had to pick out certain houses and invent stories about the people that lived there, even if I never saw the people that lived there. So having so many neighbors in such quantity around me is like a goldmine. There seems to be lots of balcony activity in the summertime, so there are lots of things to observe.

I was beginning to regret my voyeuristic tendencies today when I saw the old man who lives on the roof apartment across the street. He was wearing only his old man pencil thin boxer shorts and cutting his fingernails OVER the balcony railing. Lovely. It is one thing to watch some woman's laundry routine on the balcony (there is one woman I hate, she hangs and folds her laundry sooo perfectly), and entirely another to watch an old man hanging out on the balcony wearing almost nothing and letting his nasty old fingernails fall to the street. Imagine if you were walking along beneath him with a coffee or something and BAM! a big fingernail falls in your drink.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Ode to my sister-in-law

My sister-in-law has the disadvantage of being the only girl amongst 3 male siblings. This can also have its advantages, but for the most part, it has meant a life of perpetual teasing, although good-natured teasing. On some level I can relate, as I had two brothers, so adding a third only compounds the teasing a little bit.

I love my sister-in-law. She is young, pretty, intelligent, kind and full of life. It is always fun spending time with her. But she often makes mistakes in her usage of English or her understanding of the words we have said (despite that, her knowledge of English is pretty damn good).

Today, my husband was talking about MS Flight Simulator with his family. His sister pipes in, and says "what is this flight stimulator?" to which we all burst out laughing. An interesting concept, no doubt.

Of course, I told her I wouldn't blog about it. But this is what blogs are for, right?


Today is a religious holiday in Greece, which means (of course) that everything is closed. Add that to the fact that August is peak vacation month for Greeks, and the city is dead. There are parking places everywhere in downtown Thessaloniki, and all is nice and quiet.

I'll enjoy the peace for now, before this hamlet again turns to bedlam.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tragic plane crash

We've been glued to news all day regarding the tragic crash of a Cypriot Boeing 737 that was headed for Athens (and eventually, Prague) from Lanarka, Cyprus. All 121 passengers and crew are dead. The cause of the crash is still mysterious, and the events and news reports make the whole thing seem rather weird. Apparently, something on board(a problem with cabin pressure they are saying now) caused the oxygen masks to deploy. Some are saying the pilot and co-pilot died before the passengers lost consciousness (there was an alleged text message from a passenger to a relative on the ground that said the pilots were dead and they were freezing). The plane did not respond to Athens Control, and thus F-16s were deployed. The plane did not respond to the F-16s, and the pilots of the F-16's reported that they saw one pilot slumped over. The timeline of events is scant and leaves a lot of information to be desired.

It almost seems like an X-file, although I am sure it will all make sense (if such things can ever make sense) as more information comes to light.

My thoughts go out to the families of the people on board this tragic flight.

EDIT: Here is the list with the names of the dead. It is so distressing to see the names and ages, so many so young, and so many families.

Well, I'll be damned

Christopher Walken is running for President in 2008?

I still think it HAS to be a joke, although he certainly can look presidential. He can look psychotic too though. I'll wait to see what his official platform is before I make any real comments.

Props to Tennessee Guerilla Women for the 411.

EDIT: From IMDB Movie and TV News for August 17, 2005:

Actor Christopher Walken is caught in the midst of reports he plans to vie for the role of US president. While the eccentric screen star plays a member of the White House in the hit comedy Wedding Crashers, rumors have been circulating that he is aiming to take over George W. Bush's job in 2008. A website for Walken's "campaign" has even been set up at, but a representative for the actor insists the story is false, stating, "It's one-hundred per cent not true. (It) sounds like someone got a little too excited over his role as Secretary Of The Treasury in Wedding Crashers and now they want to make him president."


When I moved to Greece from the U.S., I only chose to bring a few pieces of furniture. Included were my mattress and boxspring, a nice big coffee table, and a small black cabinet. This small black cabinet was a "put together yourself" thing I bought at Target some 12 years ago. It was perhaps a frivolous thing to bring, but it was small, relatively light, and had numerous potential storage uses. This small black cabinet has come in handy in every apartment we've lived in here (usually as extra storage for towels and sheets), and I definitely don't regret bringing it along.

The moving company in America actually made me sign a waiver for the small black cabinet, because it was one of those "put together yourself" things made out of plasterboard (or whatever the hell it is). They told me such things don't survive the shipping process very well, and did not want to be responsible for damages.

Now the small black cabinet still stands proudly and completely intact, after 4 moves. We have furniture that we purchased here in Greece that hasn't withstood the moving process as well (we actually had to throw out a bookcase the last move).

Good thing they made me sign a waiver. Sure as shootin' that damn thing would have fallen apart if I hadn't.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ah yes, let's celebrate the huge money sink

It is the year anniversary of the 2004 Olympic Games. Sure, Athens went all out and produced a great show, great venues, and a safe and secure Olympics.

Let's forget that Olympic spending went billions of dollars overbudget in a country that is already suffering from huge budget deficits (ok, so what country isn't, but still). Let's forget that the expensive, state-of-the-art Olympic venues have gone to waste, destruction and disrepair. Let's forget all the negatives and have a great big party to celebrate the one year birthday of the 2004 Olympic Games!

Forgive me for not being more excited, but what the fuck? Sure, the safe and secure Olympics showed the world that Greece was a nice place to visit, so tourism is on the rise this year. Sure, Greece proved to the world that they could offer a fine show, despite world pessimism they wouldn't pull it off. But - 13 billion euros spent to date? Venues that are standing empty, full of trash, yielding nothing? Excuse me, but any good American would have made a fekton off these venues over the last year. What options are there? Well, for one, one of these places could have been made a sporting center. Of course maybe Greeks aren't the same, but when Nashville came up with the Centennial Sportsplex tons of people came out. Why not exploit some of these places for tourism? Keep the places up to date, charge a couple of euros and tourists will pay to see the Olympic venues they couldn't visit during the actual games. Art exhibits, car shows, bazaars, oh hell, I am sure there are many, many good uses for these places. Sure, it might take some money, but it takes money to make money (or so I've heard, too bad I never had any money to try it).

Sure, I want to be supportive of my adopted country. I was proud when the Olympics came off without a hitch, with beautiful opening and closing ceremonies. But birthday parties every year? Showing the opening ceremonies a year later (hell, they might be planning to rebroadcast the whole damn thing)? If I want to see it, I'll buy the DVD. And I can guarantee you, that DVD isn't going to pay back 13 billion euros. Not by a long shot.

Greeks have an amazing ability to gloss over the bad stuff and just celebrate the good. Sure, sometimes you gotta do that to keep from blowing your brains out, but sometimes, you gotta stop and face the music.

Greeks, they'd rather dance to it.

All thing about my vagena

So, someone happened upon my blog yesterday because they did a Google search for "all thing about my vagena". This person is apparently from Syria, or somewhere nearby, as their IP is a Syrian telecommunications company.

At first, I had an annoyed attitude. Is this really what the world needs? A whole slew of Middle Easterners thrown into cyberspace, producing yet more porn prowlers out there?

Then I realized something. What if this person was a girl who was curious and wanted information about the vagina? I am assuming that sex ed isn't taught in Syria. I doubt mothers buy their daughters copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves. So where else is a girl to learn about these things, but the internet?

Woe be the girl who has to learn about her body on the internet. One can imagine what kind of results her search would turn up. How she got to this blog, I'll never know. I don't recall talking about vaginas, and I certainly didn't misspell vagina anywhere. Sure, I have a vagina, but so do all the women who blog out there. And I certainly can't claim to know "all thing about my vagena".

Of course, I could be way off here. Vagena might be some kind of food product. Or a city somewhere. It could be a disease, or a car. Maybe it is a type of animal. Who knows.

If it was a poor girl looking for information about her body, well, I hope she finds it, and I hope she finds the right information.

Sporting life

I am not really a sports fan. I've gone through stages where I was nuts about college basketball (and correctly picked 3 of the final 4 at the beginning of the season) and for most of my life I was an avid baseball fan, specifically, an Orioles fan. I knew the lineups, I had crushes on the players (I would have married Brady Anderson), I cried when Cal Ripken broke the consecutive game record, and when he retired. I saw some games in Memorial Stadium, and a few in Camden Yards. I loved the O's.

I almost lost my interest in baseball entirely after the big strike and the league changes. I stopped keeping up with the O's and stopped watching baseball altogether. I suppose I took for granted that, should I ever want to watch the O's again, I would be able to find a game on ESPN.

The thing is, there is no baseball in Greece. I don't think there is any baseball in Europe really. And of 5 or 6 sports channels we get, not one shows any baseball ever. You can watch myriad other sports, from curling to bowling to pool, but no baseball. And after 3 years without baseball, I'm starting to miss it. I miss the sound of the convergence between bat and ball. I miss the edge of your seat moments when bases are loaded and a good hitter is up at bat. I even miss the long, boring games where you think noone is ever going to score and it will go on forever.

I've had to rely on soccer (ie. football here in Europe) to titillate my sporting senses. Last year was a good one, an exciting few games where Greece won the European Cup. But this year, Greece is quickly blowing its chances to even qualify for the World Cup, which is highly disappointing. Still, soccer has its exciting moments, and is perhaps more fast paced than baseball, but in the end, it ain't no baseball.

Maybe someday I can find a satellite service here that has a channel or two that shows American baseball. I'm sure a visit to the U.S. will end up in a trip to Camden Yards. But for now all I can do is savor the memories of baseball in my head, where every hit is a grand slam.

Friday, August 12, 2005

No more dialup!

Finally, after three long years of constant suffering due to this backwards country not having high speed internet (it was still in the testing phase in Athens when I first moved here), we have ADSL!!

After having been one of the first people in Nashville to get a cable modem, I was so damn spoiled. Dialup was a complete shock. Not only that, my husband and I had to SHARE a dialup connection when we lived on Kos, because they didn't even have ISDN there.

Now I'm not sure I can handle the speed...

Another shining example of Greek incompetence

My husband and I moved into his grandparents' apartment. His grandfather died a year ago and his grandmother has been living with his family. We wanted to get the phone transferred into my husband's name (well, of course he has the same name as his grandfather, but that is neither here nor there) so it would be official and we could handle all the phone business ourselves instead of having get something signed by yiayia every time we wanted to do something.

So to save some legwork, my husband calls OTE (the phone company) before going there to find out what paperwork he would need to bring with him. They told him he would need a death certificate for his grandfather and that is it, and he even repeated to them that this would be all he needed and they said yes.

Well, what were we thinking, to believe that whoever he spoke to at OTE actually knew what the hell they were talking about, because he arrived there only to find that he needed a notarized paper from his grandmother as well.

He got the paper, and the phone has been transferred, but this is just a shining example of how things in Greece work. When we registered our U.S. wedding in Athens, we went back and forth to the damn place so many times, because each time we went back thinking we had what we needed, and someone new would tell us we needed something else. It is really ridiculous. And in the end, what do they do with all this paperwork? Probably toss it, or lose it.

There is not much I hate more than someone who can't do their job. Whether it is ignorance or laziness doesn't matter. I really hope the Greek government continues with work reforms and that these reforms actually produce results in the end.

Kill me now

Hmm, have I already used that post title before? Probably, and I'll probably use it again and again.

At any rate, the reason why I should die now is because I actually like a Backstreet Boys song. And I hate, hate, HATE the friggin' Backstreet Boys.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Judge rules: no violation!

In a decision that surprised me, a civil court judge in New York ruled that legendary club CBGB's cannot be evicted for not realizing it owed its landlord money.

Apparently the club is in for $100k in back rent, saying it never got a notice when the rent was raised some four years ago. Seems unlikely, but I guess anything is possible.

Still, the good thing is the judge recognized CBGB's for what it is - a historical landmark in music.

"CBGB has proven itself worthy of being recognized as a landmark -- a rare achievement for any commercial tenant in the ever diverse and competitive real estate market of New York City," she wrote in the ruling, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press by the Save CBGB's Coalition.

Sure, I don't think just because a place is historic, or famous or whatever it should be excused when breaking the law, but at the same time, some amends must be made for such places so that they can survive.

Unfortunately, the future of CBGB's is still uncertain, as the lease expires at the end of August and has yet to be renewed. Here's hoping New York doesn't lose another legend.


Something that really annoys me in the Greek language (yes, even though I hardly know any Greek) is the overuse of the word lipon. It is the Greek equivalent of the English so, well then, etc. - and some people really, really use it a lot when they speak here. I may not understand a single damn word someone says, but if they say lipon twenty times they annoy me. I guess the way it sounds reminds me too much of our English ummm, and people who say that with any frequency annoy me too.

With Greeks I imagine it is a way of saying "Hey, I really don't have anything more to say but I am going to hold on to your attention and this is my way of figuring out what other bs I want to talk about".


Now that we are moved and settled I was able to order our copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I can't wait til it arrives!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Well, the electrician came today, installed two new plugs in the living room and fixed the thermostat on our water heater all for a measley 40 euros. Wow. Find a price like THAT in America!

The really great news is that our plugs are only 40% grounded, if we want it fully grounded it means a couple hundred euros and tearing through the walls all through the apartment from the breaker box. Not only that, it seems I've been living in false security in my apartments all over Greece, apparently it is highly unlikely that ANY plugs we've used have ever been grounded. I preferred living in ignorance. What is going to happen is I am going to sit here and worry about until we finally decide it is worth the trouble to tear shit up. We'll see. Right now I am just happy to have no more boxes in our small living room I might live dangerously for awhile.

A couple more boxes of crap and the oven delivery and installation on Friday should finish up our informal living space here. Then we'll start to work on the NCA (No Cats Allowed) area, which is basically a nice large living/dining area in the front of the apartment. This will be where we receive any and all guests over the age of 50 (unless said guests want to see the cats) and will be our formal, dignified area (otherwise known as the boring part of the apartment).

It will be so nice to get completely settled. Then we won't be moving for a couple of years!

I know why the caged bird shrieks

As I mentioned before, we are living in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Not much through traffic, not a lot of noise, just some daily activity. Today, however, I couldn't go back to sleep thanks to a caged bird going nutters nearby.

It is fairly common to see caged birds on balconies here, especially in the cities. Until today, I found it a rather nice practice. Most of them send forth their singsong tones pleasantly, making an otherwise drab city neighborhood sound full of life. But this morning, someone's bird decided to scream bloody murder. Now, if it so happens that this bird was watching its owner get bludgeoned to death, I apologize, but somehow I doubt someone was getting bludgeoned to death for two hours. I would have sent the cats on an assassination mission if I had been able to pinpoint exactly where the bird was, but no, it is lost on a balcony on one of the neighboring buildings, its shrieks bursting forth like a death call to the world below.

If only I could get back to sleep...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Odd behavior

OK, this is something I really don't get about Greeks. Whenever a group of growers from the agrarian industry goes on "strike" or wants better prices, they proceed to dump and destroy their produce. How exactly does that help them? Is this the "oh, well if they won't pay more for my produce noone can have it then" attitude? Don't they lose money by destroying the produce? It makes zero sense to me.

Greek growers don't make the best peaches anyway. I miss Georgia peaches. Ohhh, and vidalia onions. Damn.

The 'hood

Obviously, Greek city life is much different from Greek village life. Greek village life is quieter, simpler, and you don't have as many conveniences at hand. Greek city life is noisy, busy, and full of conveniences (ie. shopping and food). People are considerably crankier in the city than in the village, and I can understand why. Traffic, parking, noise, stress - ugh.

Our neighborhood is a semi-decent one. It rests on a quiet back street parallel to a major road, which means we have the quiet of a residential area but are in close proximity to shops, restaurants, bus lines, etc.

The people in our neighborhood seem to be a mixture of everyone - lots of students, elderly, immigrants, and a handful of families. I haven't met many people yet, aside from an African immigrant who introduced himself when we were first arriving. I'm afraid I was a bit snarky with him, simply because I was in full crankypants mode, we had just driven an hour with three screaming cats and I was annoyed with my husband for some insignificant reason. Unfortunately I haven't seen him again to make amends, but it would be nice to have someone new to speak English with.

Other notables in the neighborhood are a child who can have no other nickname but Squeaky and a guy who all afternoon shouts the same thing every two minutes. I heard him at first when I was putting the laundry out, then I kept hearing him with the doors closed and the air conditioner on. In America, the latter would certainly mean one of two things: either the guy was drunk (or on some other substance), or he was crazy. Here, it can be those things or it can mean he is Greek. I couldn't make out any of the words well, it was blurred and hard to understand, I thought the last word was "I'm coming", and was wondering if perhaps he was trying to woo a young woman who was not reciprocating his affections. Alas, today my husband was able to listen to what he was saying, and it turns out the guy is just selling watermelons. Does he really have to shout it every two minutes? Well, yea, we are in Greece after all. Still, having my husband bring such things to light sort of ruins the whole storyline I invent around it.

Surely something can be said regarding shouting about your melons all day.

Monday, August 08, 2005


I really hate it when I go to the store and buy something thinking it is the thing I think I'm buying but in the end when I pull the groceries out when I get home it isn't what I thought it was.

Yay for run-on sentences!

To dub or not to dub

In America, you could see two kinds of foreign films: ones that were dubbed in English or ones that were subtitled in English. I actually had some friends that wouldn't see a foreign film if it was subtitled (ie. friends who were too lazy to read, or friends who were trying to make excuses not to see a foreign film). In my opinion, dubbing is for the lazy people who might not be smart enough to follow text on a screen. Who knows where the practice of dubbing foreign films comes from, but it is stupid. You completely lose the feel of the acting when a movie is dubbed, which, like a bad translation, changes the whole movie experience.

Greece, for the most part, does not participate in the practice of dubbing foreign films. Sure, they dub children's movies, which is understandable, but they usually also release a version that is subtitled as well. The really fun shows to watch are the ones that are dubbed in one language and subtitled in Greek. They showed a Matlock like that once, I think the dubbing was French. It was terrible.

We get a variety of channels from a variety of countries here, and the biggest dubbers of Europe (at least of the channels we get) seem to be Germany and the former Russian states, like Bulgaria and the Ukraine. The latter have a way of dubbing that is so bad, you hear the original language for a few seconds before the dubbing comes in. The Germans, however, have made an artform of their dubbing. It is apparently a huge industry, full of professional actors and such, all ready to perform your favorite U.S. TV shows and movies in fully dubbed German. While in general I find it terrible, I do get some amusement from watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air dubbed in German. Somehow the Germans just can't do Will Smith justice, and the result is funnier than the show ever was in the first place. Imagine Will getting "jiggy with it" in that high pitched German accent. Still, you have to wonder sometimes why the Germans can't just use subtitles. It is offensive to them to hear the English? To appreciate the original actors? Why even bother with U.S. films and shows then?

Still, I guess I should be grateful Greece doesn't dub, because I would be screwed when it comes to watching new movies. Thank god for DVDs.

Weird searches

Today I got a referral from someone who put in the search term "loudness of atomic weapon decibel".

Is there some (double super) secret coding here that gives such information that I am not aware of?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Just a week until...Justice Sunday II!!!

Ok, well this is really old news, but Justice Sunday II will be airing from Nashville's Two Rivers Baptist Church next Sunday.

While it would be easier not to have an opinion about this, I spend so much time bitching about how there is no separation between church and state in Greece, I just have to call myself out on this one.

The princess and the pea

One of the sacrifices we made for this move was getting rid of our old bed. Now, this old bed was a king-sized Beautyrest mattress that had made its way from America on the boat with the rest of my stuff. When I lived in America, I swore by Beautyrest, and wouldn't buy any other type of mattress. They were all too hard, too soft, too lumpy, you name it.

When I moved from the States the mattress itself was in good condition, but the box springs had already taken a bit of a beating to the claws of three cats. Still, the bed was comfortable, it wasn't too old, and we decided we should move it.

It survived the overseas trip fairly well. When we moved from Athens to Kos, it was starting to look a bit run down. When we moved from Kos to Litochoro, we cringed when we saw the movers BEND THE MATTRESS IN HALF to fit it on the truck. I think at that point we knew it would be the end of that bed. We just hoped it would last us another year. A couple of the side wires had poked out, but it was still very comfortable.

I've had my trepidations about buying a mattress here in Greece. For one thing, if Beautyrest mattresses exist here, I don't know where you'd get one. For another, the beds in my in-laws house were so hard and uncomfortable I couldn't sleep there without having major back problems. This was worrisome to me. What if these were the only type of mattresses available in Greece? Whatever would I do? I couldn't be forced to spend the rest of my life sleeping on a hard, uncomfortable mattress.

When it was decided we would move into yiayia's apartment, my mother-in-law suggested we keep the bed. It is a queen-sized bed, made up of two of the thinner twin mattresses. Well, this was going to be the first hurdle. My husband and I were used to our king-sized bed. Our cats were used to the king-sized bed. I like plenty of room when I sleep. How would we deal with a smaller mattress? We didn't really have a choice, keep the bed or not, as the room is definitely too small for a king-sized bed.

The second issue, of course, was the hardness of the mattress. It isn't soft and pliable like our old mattress. It doesn't meld with our bodies.

The first night in the new bed wasn't a great one. We had to get used to the lack of space, the lack of springability, not to mention the reality of living in a new apartment. I suppose the mattress isn't hard enough to ruin my back, but I'm thinking we may still buy a new mattress, softer and more like we are used to.

Then again, I don't sleep in as late in this bed. Maybe that's a good thing.

Can you believe it?

My husband is so bored without HIS computer and his flight simulator that he broke out the Playstation. No, not the Playstation 2, the Playstation. Now I get to listen to annoying Tekken noises all day!

On the upside, we did get about 15 of our 40-some odd boxes unpacked today, and managed to sort of find places to put everything. The family is still cleaning some stuff out of the apartment so we don't have room to unpack everything yet. Of course, top priority items included CDs, DVDs, and videotapes (and Playstation stuff). And we hooked up our washing machine so it was crazy laundry day. It is amazing how much laundry needs to be done after a big move. If only we had a dryer!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Parallel universe

Well, the contrast from village life to big city life is already overwhelming to me. On Wednesday I had to learn how to parallel park ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!! Yes, yes, let's not forget that I can't really parallel park on the right side of the road unless I have three carlengths of room and can just pull into the space. Even so, if we don't want to pay 200 euros a month for a permanent parking place in some bumfuck location 5 blocks from our apartment, I have to learn how to parallel park. And Americans like me, who had been living in suburbia for so long, really never had to learn how to parallel park. It isn't even a requirement for a driver's license in Tennessee.

So here I am, struggling after a long, tiring day, trying to parallel park in a teeeiny space on the left side of the road. Luckily, I had my sister-in-law, a woman of infinite patience, directing me. After about 6 hours of trying, I finally got into the spot (ok, maybe it was more like 10 minutes, but still!). It wasn't a perfect parking job (I was jutting out just a little wittle bit) but I was pretty damn proud of myself.

Flash forward to today, returning home from a long day cleaning up and closing up our apartment in Litochoro. (By the way, soooo glad that is done) We didn't think we'd get a parking spot close enough, since it was Friday evening. But we had a fekton of crap to bring up (thankfully with the help of aforementioned sister-in-law and youngest brother-in-law), so it was either block the road entirely or find a decent place to park. And lo and behold, what appeared before thine eyes? The perfect spot - but again, requiring parallel parking on the left side of the road. And even more pressure, there was an SUV behind me (beware of Greeks driving SUVs). So I turn on my blinkers, move into position a car length ahead, turn my wheel all the way and manage to parallel park perfectly on the first try! Fucking amazing.

I must be blessed.

We made it!

Well, after 3 grueling days, a computer meltdown, three cranky cats, and all kinds of crap, we are semi-set up in our new apartment. By semi-set up I mean we have use of a laptop and our TV and DVD player. Thanks to the building being built in the dark ages, there are not enough plugs in our living room for our computer network/multimedia setup, so it will still be awhile before all is back to normal. Don't even get me started on the phone connections...

For now my husband and I will be sharing (fighting over) use of one laptop while we wait to get an electrician here to get new plugs. It is such a sacrifice!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Up early to start my day (early for me is basically anything before noon, I woke up at 9am today!), I could have had more time to sleep but obviously there are too many things swirling in my head to get any real sleep. I'll be ridiculously tired before this day is over, but at least I'll probably sleep well tonight.

Went to bed to the terrible news of the Air France crash, really happy to wake up to see that everyone survived the crash.

Damn, I need coffee. It is hard to be witty at 10am.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Even Uncle Sam ain't THAT cheap

The Greek Parliament has been hunkering over a new labor bill over the last couple of months. The main things I know about it are:

1) Workers are pissed and have been striking a shitstorm lately

2) They want to reduce overtime pay to 1.25 from 1.5 (so to time and a quarter from time and a half, which is what it was in the U.S.)

Now, I thought a decisive vote had been made on the bill last week, but I am not entirely sure. Even so, that overtime pay reduction is bullshit.

For once I agree with lazy Greek workers.


Well, the movers aren't coming until 4pm tomorrow so that means we don't have to pack computers or TVs, etc, until tomorrow. Yay! It is nice to have a bit of a breather, knowing that everything is packed and we can just relax...

...until 4pm tomorrow, when we have to round up three cats, throw them in their cages, listen to them howl for an hour, put them in the car, listen to them howl for another hour in the car, take them up to the new apartment, listen to them howl in the bathroom while the movers move all our crap up 6 flights of stairs (2-3 hours?) then collapse at 9 or 10pm whenever they get done, and hope to god the cats are all howled out by then.

The next time my husband gets an assignment away from Thessaloniki, he is going by himself. =p


I hope beyond hope that all goes well with the repairs on the space shuttle Discovery, and that all the astronauts come home safe and sound.

One weird thing, we just watched the X-Files episode entitled Space, from the first season. It deals with an astronaut who was seemingly "possessed" by the soul of an alien that looks like that Mars face. The thing that happens with the shuttle in that episode seems similar to what happened to Columbia, and what is happening with Discovery. Yet that aired 10 years before the Columbia accident.


In case you were wondering

A few people have happened on this blog doing a search for "Mel's Diner T.V. show".

Well, the show Mel's Diner is from is called Alice, a cute little sitcom from the 70's and 80's, based on the movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which was directed by Martin Scorcese and stars Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson. I highly recommend the movie if you haven't seen it.

So there ya go.


Well, we are pretty much done packing, aside from computers, VCR's, DVD players and other "big" stuff. 40 some odd boxes of crap, its really hard to believe we have that much stuff. It didn't seem we had near as many boxes last time, but we are using smaller boxes this time and we've had to pack ALL our clothes and things away, as these movers are moving us to the 6th floor and all the furniture needs to be as light as possible, with drawers removed from dressers and such.

God, what a pain in the ass. I still think it is punishment for staying in the same place for so long in Nashville. I just HAD to marry a man destined to move ten bajillion times in three years.

The worst part of it is our air conditioner wasn't working right all day yesterday and last night, and it has been hot as hell here, so that has made things pretty miserable. We think we have the a/c problem figured out, at least hopefully til tomorrow.

Blogging, of course will be intermittent over the next couple of days, as we get crap sorted. We'll be following the movers tomorrow and move all our crap into the new apartment, then come back here Thursday for clean up and disconnecting services like phone, electricity and stuff. Ugh. The nice thing is we're paid up through August so anything we don't get done we can come back for throughout the month.

If you get bored (not that I have oh so many regular readers) I strongly recommend any and all the blogs I have posted to the right - I only add a blog if I enjoy the content, so there ya go.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Tower of Babel

It is a strange thing, going from a unilingual environment to a multilingual household. Sure, my friends and I have had our years of Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, etc., but you never heard anything but English around us.

The great thing about my husband's family is that they speak a variety of languages. My husband and both his parents speak fluent German, because they lived in Germany for many years. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and youngest brother-in-law know French, and all three siblings and my mother-in-law(and of course, my husband) speak English. I am sure if I delve deeper I will find more language proficiencies among them.

Me, I am still fighting my way through Greek. I finally stopped confusing papou (grandfather) and pipa (pipe, also slang for blowjob) and learned that you don't want to shorten the name Tassoula by calling someone tsoula (slut). You can imagine the surprise on the movers' faces when I was trying to tell them to put something eho (I have) instead of saying etho (here). Someday I'll get the hang of it.

The most fun, however, is when I visit my in-laws, and my mother-in-law is trying to sort through Greek, German, French and English. Besides Greek, German is her strongest language, so oftentimes her English blends with German. Our favorite Anglo-German mixture is when she suggested we "go for a fart". This made the whole English speaking family burst out laughing, to her dismay. Apparently fahrt is the German word for drive. She has also suggested that we go out "while it is still hell out", the German word for sunny coinciding ironically with our word for the netherworld.

I anticipate more fun with the multilingual household as time goes on, and finding more humorous wordplay as my Greek vocabulary broadens. To my Southern girl dismay, there doesn't seem to be a Greek equivalent for y'all. I'll just have to find cute ways to incorporate the Southern dialect into Greek. I'll have the whole country talking with a drawl in no time.