Monday, October 31, 2005

Could it happen again?

I was wasting my time perusing the image archives of the Nashville Public Library tonight (thanks to Chez Bez for the links) and came across an image of a Declaration to Become a Naturalized Citizen. This wouldn't be all that unusual, except that it was declaring allegiance to the Confederate States of America and renouncing, forever, all allegiance to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America.

I was a bit taken aback, I'll admit. Not because of what happened in the past, but because of what could happen in the future. Hopefully, things will never come to such a pass again.

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone who celebrates Halloween has a safe and fun holiday!

For those of you in Greece who have never carved a pumpkin, knock yourselves out. The page may be hard to load today, though.

You will be assimilated

What better way for America to win the war against terrorism and Muslim fundamentalists than to export The Simpsons to the Arab world. Meet Omar Shamshoon.

I'm not sure the world is ready for a suicide bomber that says "D'oh!".


That would be me. My husband is working what is proving to be a grueling, non-stop action 24-hour shift at the hospital, while I am sitting in the comforts of our home drooling over Michael Vartan. After two episodes of Alias and most of the movie Never Been Kissed, I have to ask myself: Why weren’t any of MY teachers that good looking?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

(Not) another Nashville ghost story

I had just turned 12 when I spent my first Halloween in Nashville. This would also be, by my own edict, the first year I would decline trick or treating. Despite the excellent neighborhood filled with kids and the promise of lots of treats, I felt that the ripe old age of 12 was too old for such childish nonsense, and so I stayed at home, helping my parents answering the door and imitating all the comments adults had made to me over the years.

Into my teens, Halloween became a time of parties and scary movies, and by the time I was in college, the celebrations had become rather sordid affairs, filled with beer, frivolity, and pranks. My desire for ghostly sightings had increased, and not having had the satisfaction of my encounter with Adelicia Acklen’s ghost as of yet, my friends and I set out one Halloween to test the theory that souls gather at graveyard crossroads at midnight on Halloween.

This myth seemed to hold the same mystique as the suggestion that all animals speak at midnight on Christmas Eve, although try as I might, I have not heretofore been able to get one of my three cats to utter a word at midnight on Christmas Eve, and I am never sure if this is a true sign that the myth is debunked or that my cats are trying to vex me. In my naïve state, however, I felt certain that it was possible for souls to meet at the crossroads, because November 1st was All Soul’s Day. So my friends and I delayed our presence at the designated party and decided to head to the oldest graveyard we knew of in Nashville, which I think was somewhere on 4th Avenue, although I am not certain. Details such as locations seem to leave my mind quicker than other memories, so I am afraid the exact location has been forgotten. At any rate, it was a graveyard fitting for our venture, as it was ancient by American standards, and not in the style of the newfangled McCemeteries that were popping up all over the place.

The night was warm and pleasant, and one of my friends was dressed as a vampire, which caused him some difficulty in climbing over the cemetery fence. Ours was a small party, only five of us, and two of our number decided they would prefer to examine headstones rather than pursue the fatuity of meeting souls at the crossroads. So the three of us ventured forth, and happened upon the perfect, four-way crossroads somewhere in the middle of the graveyard. It was still a few minutes until midnight, so we explored the tombstones and crypts that were in the area. As we walked around, we noticed a slight temperature drop, most certainly owing to the lateness of the hour, and a thick, wispy fog began to appear, surely the effect of the cooler temperatures meeting the warmer ones that had preceded.

As we approached the crossroads at midnight, our fantasy-filled minds began to see shapes in the smoky fog: skeletal fingers, ghostlike faces, headless bodies. The thing about shenanigans such as this is that one never discusses what exactly you plan to do in the event that you do see spirits at the crossroads, which in our case the plan was apparently to get the hell out of there. After about a minute of staring at the foggy shapes around us, the three of us turned simultaneously and ran as if we were being followed by demons. As always, climbing over the fence proved more difficult on the way out than on the way in, but we made our way back to the car panting, out of breath, and laughing our asses off at how ridiculous we were. We surmised that the shapes we saw were akin to seeing figures in the clouds, and laughed off our folly. At the time, I made an observation that apparently didn’t quite sink in to my conscious mind, because we were quickly joined by our other two friends and made our way to the Halloween party.

It wasn’t until later, after I recovered from the bacchanalia of Halloween night, that I recalled what I had observed at the car. The fog we had seen did not seem to venture forth beyond the cemetery gates, as we were not surrounded by it at the car, which was not parked terribly far from the graveyard. Had we actually seen the spirits of the dead gathered at their yearly meeting place or had our eager minds simply created the visions?

Either way, I suppose it does not matter. At the very least, we gave a few sullen souls great amusement, as fear is always more hilarious from the other side.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

They shoot horses, don't they?

Since yesterday was an important national holiday in Greece, that means there was a parade. Not your standard, colorful, float-filled parade, but your standard, monochrome, military parade. We did not go to the parade, but my husband wanted to see the parade on the news last night. Which leads me to my confession: I hate parades. I loathe them. I never liked them. The only thing that could raise a modicum of interest in me about a parade as a child was the prospect of seeing Santa Claus, and even then I always knew I could just see him at the mall.

You may wonder what exactly I find so objectionable about a parade. There are a few things. For one, going to a parade always sucked for me. I’m a short person. I can’t see over 99% of adult heads. And no matter what I do, or how hard I try, I always end up counting the lint on the back of someone’s sweater. That is not exactly a fun filled activity. For another, I don’t care how many pretty floats, beautiful girls and handsome hunks there are, you are basically looking at the same thing repeated over and over. Sure, they all look different, but it is the same old thing. Someone waving at you from an overdressed float, or a high school marching band playing the theme song from Shaft. This just doesn’t cut it for me. (This is the part where I say I am not prejudiced against marching bands. Marching bands are a fine establishment. My brother was in the Virginia Tech Hokies’ Marching Band, and they did a swell job. Still, I don’t want to hear the same crapped up versions of popular tunes at a parade)

In the case of a military parade, it is the same exact thing every time there is a parade. No variation in color. No variation in order. No variation of any kind. All the units dressed in their finest military attire, all the tanks and miscellaneous crap, with a few fighter jets swirling above, a couple of pathetic helicopters and a boat in the harbor. Everyone trying to look important and official and like they really want to be there. But none of them do. They would rather be at home on their day off. I don’t blame them.

Call me a freak (you freak!) but for some reason I have always been bothered by people marching together, doing the same thing. I don’t really know why, but it creeps me out. Now a parade where everyone was walking down the street doing various versions of modern dance or jerky movements of some kind I could get on board with. But the uniformity of dozens of people doing the exact same thing is weird. I think it goes back to my youth, when I was afraid of robots. Or maybe it is the idea of herd mentality. Either way, it freaks me out.

I think the only time I ever took any delight in a parade I was about 5 years old. At that age my father could still support me on his back. There were horses in the parade, and one of them pooped. That was the best damn thing I had ever seen. But then again, I seemed to always have an interest in scatology. If I went to a zoo of any kind I would get thrilled by defecating animals. Feel sorry for me. It’s a sickness.

So when Bing Crosby (or whoever the hell it was) said “everyone loves a parade” he was sadly mistaken. I don’t. I really don’t.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ninja Cat!

I haven't felt particularly literate today, so I present you with...

Ninja Cat!

Οχι Day

Today marks a national holiday of remembrance in Greece: October 28th is known as Οχι Day, the day the Greeks greeted Mussolini with a resounding NO to his demands to occupy Greece. EllasDevil already did a good job of presenting us with some background on the history, so I won't continue with it further.

I do, however, want to express my gratitude to the Greeks that fought so bravely to resist the Italian forces, as well as the men and women of the Greek resistance who kept the German army so busy it no doubt helped lead the Allies to victory.

To those Greeks who fought the brave battles, I thank you, I commend you, and I remember you. May you never be forgotten.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mrs. K

Mrs. K has cancer
betrayed by her own left breast.
She must have wondered, a girl growing up
whom this breast would meet, entice, love
what world of tenderness it would unlock.

Cruel Fate! No tenderness but hard lumps instead
- and question marks and tears and long sleepless nights -
that wretched left breast held in store.

Today it was my turn
In the long litany of priests in white
- solemn worshipers of Science -
today was my day to stop in and face
the - massacred now - unwitting traitor.

I studied well ere that time came
the history and chronicles and methods.
"Dyspnoea" - shortness of breath and pain
and hair loss - vomit

Yet all that greeted me when the door
I cautiously pushed open,
all I saw was Mrs. K's broad smile,
made broader by the roundness of her hairless head
and all that greeted my cautious, nervous
"How are we today Mrs. K?"
was not curses or retching or damnation
of Fate or God or Luck
but a ringing "Fine!", mustered no doubt
with all her might, all the rest of her allotted strength.

Mrs. K won't be a glittering "cancer survivor"
She won't attend teary, uplifting, expensive galas
She won't sport trendy T-shirts and yellow bracelets that smell like gum

Mrs. K has cancer
Betrayed by her own left breast.

Boob alert

A British men's magazine is taking some heat for a contest offering 5,800 euros for breast implants for the winner's girlfriend. The ad for the contest says:

"Make your lady a more rounded individual with our feel-good, selfless, world-first competition."

Men can even choose the size of breast they like best from an A cup to a G cup. The British Advertising Standards Community has come down on the magazine, stating that breast augmentation surgery is potentially harmful and the contest is irresponsible. The public outcry centers on the fact that it encourages women to get plastic surgery.

In their defense, the editors claim it is "just a suggestion" and that winners can do whatever they want with the money.

I've stated my position on plastic surgery before. Even though I don't approve, I'm not going to say that this magazine shouldn't offer such a contest. But I really would have to hope that the winner would not pressure his girlfriend to have the plastic surgery, unless it is something she wanted already. And if she didn't, I would hope she has the nerve to tell her boyfriend off. There are enough things wrong with this world without people worrying about what they look like.

May the day keep getting better

After falling asleep around 7:30 am, and my tired husband coming home after a fatiguing 24 hour shift and falling into bed at 1:30 pm, we slept until 5:30 pm. I actually love getting up late in the day, I don't really know why. Maybe my brain is on backwards. Obviously, this type of schedule does nothing for a normal workday or getting errands done, but there is something kind of magical about getting up as the sun is starting to set.

What do my eyes see as soon as I awaken? Harriet Miers' withdrawal from the judicial nomination. I was actually looking for news about the Plame case indictments, but this will do, for now. You might ask why I am so eager for indictments, well, I just like to see corrupt government getting what it deserves. Obviously, I would prefer that such things never happened at all, that the Bush regime was as pure as the driven snow, but I'm not that stupid.

Between corruption at home and corruption in Greece I'm not sure which end is up.

Those crazy goats

I can't sleep, and everything about the world seems to be depressing me right now. So to lighten myself up, and anyone else who might be feeling blue, check out these "fainting" goats.

It is good for a laugh or two.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

How many Greeks does it take to change a light bulb?

Tonight is my husband's first overnight shift in the hospital here in Thessaloniki. It has been some months since he had a 24 hour shift, the last one in Litochoro was back in April. We had gotten used to this lack of separation for long periods of time, even though his first couple of years seemed to have frequent 24 hour shifts and it will only get worse from here. Still, we enjoy spending time together and hate spending time apart, I suppose this is a feeling leftover from having to part each other's company so many times while I still lived in the U.S. Those were bad times.

I am generally pretty self sufficient, except when it comes to heavy things and high things. And by high things I mean cupboards, closets, things of that nature. I'm short (5 ft. 2, no idea how that translates to centimeters) and unsteady on a stepstool (I have a terrible sense of balance) so pretty much everything I need on a daily basis needs to be within arm's reach.

Today, of course, the light bulb in the bedroom ceiling fixture had to burn out. Not that it is a crucial light, but I can't see to do anything without that overhead light, because our bedside lamps are more like spotlights. Opening the window serves no purpose after noon, because for some reason the back of the building is incredibly dark most of the day. So, here I was, wanting to vacuum, but no way to see what I was doing. I thought about attempting the change myself, but thanks to the fact that Greek apartment buildings always have rather high ceilings, at my height I couldn't even reach the bulb on the stepstool, not to mention I had a vision of one of those horrific accidents you have when you are alone (thank you, Six Feet Under) and the cats feeding on my corpse when my husband arrives home from work tomorrow. So what is a girl to do?

Why, call in reinforcements of course. Reinforcements being my youngest brother-in-law. Apparently, however, it is illegal for people under the age of 25 to change light bulbs in Greece (this is by the code of mom laws), so my nearly 17 year old brother-in-law arrived accompanied by my father-in-law to participate in Mission: Lightbulb Change. It took all of about 30 seconds since I had the stepladder and light bulb all ready.

I felt a bit of a fool to have had a federal case made over a simple light bulb change, but in the end, I am glad to know that I have in-laws who are there for me. I wonder, though, if I can press charges against my parents for letting me change light bulbs at the young age of 13.

If it's feta, it MUST be Greek

The European Court yesterday granted Greece the sole right to the name feta cheese, after a lengthy battle in which countries like Denmark and Germany were battling for the right to call some of their white cheeses feta. The label feta cheese is now considered Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), and can only be used for cheese made from sheep and goat's milk, produced in Greece by special super secret recipes, modes of production, and certain geographic conditions.

A few folks are quite pissed off by this ruling, but still, I have to tend to agree that feta should indeed be Greek in origin. Go to any restaurant in America, and what do you find? The mere addition of feta cheese to any dish instantly makes it a Greek dish! It is amazing how easy it is to cross the cultural divide of food by a simple ingredient. By this measure, it would seem that Americans think all Greek dishes contain feta. Ok, maybe that is only partially true. Actually, some cooks use it more than others, and it is often found on a Greek table much like Americans have butter on their table.

I confess that personally, I am not horribly fond of feta. In small amounts, in certain dishes, it is fine, but too much feta always gives me some sort of horrid gastrointestinal problem. I suppose I haven't yet developed enough of a Greek constitution to be able to handle it.

Anyway, congrats to the Greeks for the sole use of feta. You might wanna step up production, however, because I anticipate there will be lots of demand. At least for those American "Greek" dishes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

For what it's worth

I was sad to hear of Rosa Parks’ death today, although I am sure she is one individual who got the absolute most out of her 92 years. It is a tragedy when these people who forged a path for equal rights in America die, because we lose a living memory of the way things were. Seemingly, Ms. Parks did a simple thing – she refused to move because she felt she had just as much right as any other human being to sit where she wanted. But her “civil disobedience” was a resounding cry heard around America, teaching us, reminding us, that people are people, no matter what race, sexuality, religion, culture, gender – the list can go on and on.

Recently, it seems I have been inundated from all sides with racial hatred. From the ubiquitousness of media and blog stories about the so-called Prussian Blue twins, issues of American immigration, and the concerns of Greek nationalists about the increasing numbers of immigrants and the decline of Greek blood (for examples of ongoing Greek arguments, read the posts and comments found on this link in Seawitch’s blog). It saddens me, this suggestion that some people are in some way better than others. That some bloodlines deserve propagation more than others. That the dying of the white, European race would mark the decline of mankind. That miscegenation is considered “anti-evolutionary”. That immigrants from certain areas of the world don’t deserve a better life, a better chance, in European or American society.

What dictated this white supremacist notion? What made the white man decide that he was better than anyone else? Is it because, seemingly, Europe flourished in civilization before Africa? That Africans and American Indians were trusting enough of the white man they allowed themselves to be enslaved and overtaken by him? That the white man was willing to forsake all semblance of humanity to conquer the world and take it’s resources?

I am willing to concede that immigration has taken its toll on America and European countries. The burden of these refugees should be a world problem, not beset on each individual country by decrees of the so-called “United Nations”. We should do more to advance and make peace in these suffering countries, so fewer people feel the need to flee. We should do more to prosecute the people who exploit the hungry and the desperate, taking all their money for a long journey across seas they may not survive. We should do more to provide countries with resources and funds to help house asylum seekers, instead of asking already cash-poor countries to do it on their own. We should work harder to find the best solutions, instead of publishing reports on what immigrant receiving countries are doing wrong.

In terms of evolution and anti-evolution, how can we be so sure that the blending of all races and peoples isn’t what is intended? Perhaps we need to mix the best and worse of the world all together to make the human race as strong as it can possibly be to face an uncertain future. We know, scientifically, that procreation within a family makes for weaker genes. Look at how weak some breeds of dogs get when constantly bred amongst each other. Perhaps, then, miscegenation makes for stronger genes. At any rate, how can we possibly know for sure? Perhaps the propagation of the white race will lead to our demise, not our strength.

For the white supremacists, who might call me a “Jew lover” or a “nigger lover” or a “chink lover”, why do you say that as if it is an insult? Since when has having love and compassion for another human being been a negative thing? It is love and compassion that will save the world, not hate. Your hate will destroy us all.

May we all remember the words and actions of Rosa Parks, and think, in turn, about how we treat others.

“Speaking in 1992, Mrs Parks said of her famous bus protest: "The real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long."

Don't be too hasty, guys

A 31-year-old Brazilian woman has filed an official complaint against her 38-year-old partner at the police station in Jundiai, stating that he is selfish in bed. Apparently, like many men, he doesn't cater to her needs, only his own.

Normally this is cause to seek counselling or find a new partner, but hey, it is criminal, ask any woman!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Don't get milk

Major League Baseball is not happy with the latest Got Milk? ad campaign, which features players getting nabbed for using a performance enhancing substance which turns out to be milk. It seems that MLB finds this a painful jab at players who have been found using steroids, and thinks it is wrong to parody a serious issue.

"There is nothing humorous about steroid abuse,'' said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president for business for the league. "I would think that the California Milk Processor Board and their advertising agency would know better regarding an issue that threatens America's youth.''

Geez buddy, lighten up! I found the commercials cute and surprisingly appropriate. In fact, I think it encourages America's youth to use milk as a "performance enhancing substance", which isn't a bad thing.

Steve Stone, the president and creative director of San Francisco ad agency Heat, said there actually is something humorous in the steroid scandal -- the slap-on-the wrist suspensions major league officials imposed.

"In a way, the way MLB handled the situation gives permission to make fun of it," he said. "And I think these spots are pretty funny. ... It's a very smart way to evolve the campaign and make it incredibly current and relevant.''

I agree. Good for them. And shame on you, Major League Baseball! Drink more milk. It will make you less bitchy.

Random exclamations

The wind machine is a pretty incredible piece of technology. Where would 80's videos be without it?

Supersex me!

According to an article in today’s Tennessean, the number one reason teachers lose their licenses in Tennessee is due to sexual misconduct. There were 35 sex-related revocations since 2003, which is 35 too many. Educators are now concerned that people who resign due to sex related accusations are falling outside of the radar.

New rules passed by the state board last week would also allow for administrators to lose their licenses if they fail to report teachers who resign after allegations emerge. The idea is to prevent problem teachers from moving from one district or state to another.

"We're concerned there may be underreporting and that there may be more cases out there that we just haven't been notified of," said Rich Haglund, an attorney for the board. "And so we wanted to put a few more teeth into the reporting requirement."

Apparently, Tennessee is not alone. South Carolina and New York both report sexual misconduct as a key reason for license revocation.

Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Hofstra University, recently studied teacher sexual misconduct for the federal government.

Her 2004 analysis found that as much as 10% of students experience some type of sexual misconduct at the hands of an educator, whether verbal, physical or visual. (Visual abuse would include being shown pornography or observing masturbation.) About 7% of kids reported being physically abused, she found, though other studies have placed that number lower.

These are staggering statistics. It seems some small proportion of teachers are only teaching for access to students. In this time of “everything is more”, do they feel they have just cause for treating their students as sexual objects? Is love behind it, or pedophilia?

But is it cause for concern? One parent doesn’t think so:

Steve Glover, president of the parent group at Nashville's McGavock High and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it, said that while the issue is important, problem teachers make up a very small percentage of the profession.

"I don't think it's anything people need to get up in arms about. Certainly, if it happened to your child, you'd be up in arms, but I don't think we have an epidemic on our hands."

He said that the increased scrutiny had a negative effect of placing teachers' actions "under a microscope."

"But the pro side is heightening awareness so that teachers — or any adult — don't try to pull that kind of garbage."

I think these statistics should be great cause for concern. If ONE child in America is sexually or physically abused by a teacher, it is one child too many. This type of treatment of students not only affects their psyche but can affect their desire to learn. Teachers are supposed to be role models, and we should be able to feel safe leaving our children with them on a daily basis.

No, I don’t think this is any reason to get “up in arms”, but I do think this should propel parents to make an effort to get to know their kid’s teachers, to open discussion with their children on a daily basis about their day at school and to look for any signs of abuse or potential abusive behavior on the part of the teacher. Parents need to be involved just as much as administrators in order to make sure these incidents don’t happen.

Our children are our greatest resource. Let us treat them and teach them well.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Forgive and forget?

Last night my husband were watching an episode from the 8th season of the X-Files. Granted, this season is filled with mostly ho-hum episodes, most of which work to establish a relationship between Scully and Doggett. But there is one episode in this season which I think shines for a very simple reason: it deals with an ethical/moral question that most of us don’t even consider.

This episode, entitled Redrum, goes backwards in time and focuses on a prosecutor who is accused of violently murdering his wife. The true murderer, however, is a revenge-seeker – it seems the prosecutor convicted his brother on a “third strike” drug dealing charge by suppressing evidence that would have exonerated him. The prosecutor blithely states “well, he was dealing drugs anyway, right?” and the brother informs him that the boy had cleaned up his act, gotten a good job, and was leading a good life.

Obviously, we can’t ignore the fact that the lawyer has committed an immoral act by suppressing evidence, and to a smaller degree by making the assumption that it would be ok because surely, this two-time convicted drug dealer was still a drug dealer. People who commit crimes can’t change, right?

This is, of course, untrue. People who commit crimes change all the time. Yet there is a propensity amongst law abiding citizens to assume that criminals will forever and always be recidivists. I am guilty of this type of prejudice myself, and I make this mistake without even thinking about it. If I find out someone has committed a criminal act, I will view them differently, judge them. Had I been Athena, Orestes might have been cursed for all time.

All this was prompted by an article I read on yesterday about a newborn baby who was taken from the hospital, and from the parents, because the father had pleaded guilty to rape and sodomy twenty years ago in New York. Children and Youth Services also cited an alleged history of drug abuse by the mother.

I understand the desire and need for the state to protect children. I find it quite necessary, and I am glad to know that in some places the system is keeping track and taking action when they think that a child may be in harm’s way. But this sort of preemptive strike seems a bit unfair. Twenty years is a long time. Not knowing the details of the prior conviction, I can’t be a proper judge of the matter. But it seems like it might have been better for the state to simply monitor the family rather than take the child away from it’s parents.

Realistically, if the state is going to take away a child born to a former sex offender, they should tell that sex offender that should he/she try to have children, the child will be taken away. If they are going to be this firm about it, why doesn’t the state remove the reproductive capabilities of the offender? Of course, the state can’t do either of these things, because it would be unconstitutional. But you would think taking the child away would be just as unconstitutional.

Again, I don't know all the details aside from what was stated in the article. But I hope America starts to be real careful about these types of things, before America stops looking like America.

Men are universal

My husband has a problem with initiation. No, not THAT kind of initiation. He just can't seem to take responsibility for opening a new box, package, or whatever, of some general household product.

I can't tell you how many times I've gone to do something in the kitchen and found he hasn't replaced the paper towel roll. We have a roll of toothpaste that takes the force of God to get any toothpaste out, even though there is a new package sitting in the bathroom. He went a week using his old toothbrush, which needed to be replaced, before I managed to open the new package and throw his old one out.

We keep our baggies, aluminum foil, and saran wrap on top of the fridge. Since I can't see over the fridge, I always bring the box of whatever down to extract whatever item I need. I can't count how many times I have reached up for the baggie box only to pull it down and find it empty. The next time it happens I am going to bludgeon my husband with the empty box. He claims that since he can't see over our fridge either, that he just reaches up to grab a baggie and has no idea that the box is empty. No idea that the box is empty. Uh huh.

He doesn't fill the ice cube trays or put packages of Cokes or waters in the fridge when we run out of cold ones. He used to leave the toilet paper with just a couple of measley squares on it before he got tired of me screaming across the apartment at the top of my lungs that I needed toilet paper. Now he is pretty good about replacing the toilet paper. Not great, but better.

To his credit, however, he does do some things. He fetches my packages from the post office. He gives me back rubs when I need them. He comforts me when I am sad. He works hard every day to keep us fed and clothed. And he loves me. If only I could get him to replace the damn paper towels.

Congrats to ABBA!!!

Abba has won the honor of having the number one song in Eurovision's 50th anniversary song contest, with their hit Waterloo, which won the song contest in 1973.

I am tickled pink that they won, I knew that they would. What Europeans don't like Abba??!?? Still, I am extremely disappointed that they didn't show up for the festivities. I guess Benny and Bjorn are too busy rolling in their royalties off that Madonna single.

Way to disappoint long time fans, guys!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

On public toilets

For those of you traveling in Greece, I have one major caveat for you: for the love of all that is good and holy avoid public restrooms. Those of us familiar with public bathrooms in America know that you can never count on cleanliness in them, but you can usually count on a “traditional” toilet. By traditional I basically mean a standing toilet with a seat. In Greece, not only are you not guaranteed cleanliness (remember, Greeks + public cleanliness do not go together) but you are not guaranteed even a toilet. So if you find yourself in a position where you must use a public bathroom in Greece, here is a brief explanation of what you can expect.

For the most part, there are three possible public bathroom scenarios in Greece, at least, these are the three that I have seen. The first type is the simple spot for your feet and a hole in the ground. The hole isn’t even that big, and I really wonder how many women can manage this with any aplomb. I have never been an expert at guiding my “stream” which has always made giving urine samples a veritable nightmare. This type of public toilet is like giving a urine sample from 3 feet up. For guys I imagine this is a dream scenario: almost like just pissing on the floor but with permission. And something to aim at to boot! Toilet paper hasn’t even come into existence in this alternate reality, so don’t even hope for it. If you are looking for soap at the sink, keep walking. It ain’t gonna happen.

The second type is the standing toilet but without a seat. Much better than the hole in the floor, and considering I never let my ass near a public toilet seat doesn’t really matter in the end. Easier for women to “aim” (if you can call it that). Such places may or may not have toilet paper, you never know. There is a good chance you might find soap at the sink, but don’t count on it.

The third type is the normal, traditional toilet. Be wary of these, because the flusher can be hard to locate. Places that have traditional toilets have toilet paper about 75% of the time, because they don’t want people to be messy. They do have a tendency to forget to restock, however. There is almost always soap by the sinks in the these bathrooms, and generally they are semi-clean. But not always.

The important thing to remember is never count on anything in a Greek public restroom. I make a point of always carrying a pack of tissues and antibacterial wipes in my purse for those rare emergencies. Believe me, you will be happy if you do.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tom, the Token Gay Friend?

I believe that gays should have the right to get married. I believe that gays should have the right to adopt children. I believe that gays should be recognized in the same ways as heterosexuals. Well, actually, I believe that being gay or straight really shouldn't matter in the end, for any reason, but apparently society can't get past that little detail.

Now, I appreciate the work of the Human Rights Campaign. I think it is important to educate people and work towards establishing rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. But I am not sure what I think of their Tom, the Token Gay Friend! public service ad campaign.

The commercials almost seem like an SNL skit. I realize they are trying to make advertisements that jump out at people, but these are almost a farce. I almost don't believe they are real, and I certainly don't know if they will succeed with their attempted message.

With countries like Canada, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands forging the path, hopefully there will be recognition for gay marriage in the U.S. and other European countries in the near future. But I am not sure they can do it with ad campaigns like this one.

Props to Glitterati for turning me on to the ads.

No Shabbat here

Ok, well I'm not Jewish. So technically I don't have a real need for Challah, a delicious Jewish bread that is often made for Shabbat. Nor do I have ancient family recipes that will provide me with instruction for making the best Challah ever.

Instead, I have the internet. There are thousands of Challah recipes out there, half of which are for making Challah in a breadmaker. Alas, this Greek-American household is sans breadmaker. It would make the Challah baking life so much easier, it seems. While in theory the recipes don't seem that difficult, they seem to require a kitchen that has a lot more counter space than mine. Not to mention a cook with a lot more patience than I have. So after a thorough investigation of Challah recipes, which include lots of admonitions to prevent 'dead' yeast (I admit that scares me a little bit) and yelling at my husband repeatedly "we need a breadmaker! we need a breadmaker!" I have decided there will be no Challah-making in this kitchen.

Now, I suppose, you might be wondering why this sudden need for Challah? Well, I would have gone the rest of my life never knowing what Challah was, if it wasn't for the Great Harvest Bakery in Nashville, who made such delicious Challah every Friday I could consume a loaf and nothing else all day. So now I am missing the delicious Challah. And I will have to scour the streets of Thessaloniki looking, perhaps in vain, for a Jewish bakery.

The buck stops here

Try as I may, I cannot stop using the terms dollars and bucks when it comes to talking about prices. I don't know why I have such difficulty saying euros, perhaps because the name of the currency is so damn pretentious. And a bit silly. It could be because the relative nature of both currencies is so similar. I have no issue calling pounds pounds or quid, I don't make the same mistakes with any currencies but the euro. Of course, I don't have occasion to use pounds on a regular basis so who knows, it might different if I actually lived in England.

I am tired of the confused stares that inevitably ensue when I say dollars. Greeks seem to have a problem with understanding meaning if you don't say exactly what you mean. I don't know if the problem is that they are obtuse or they are just trying hard to make you look like an idiot. But they'll give you the same look if you use the wrong article in a sentence or misconjugate a verb. At any rate, the people closest to me understand what the hell I mean. It isn't that hard to figure out.

I'm thinking maybe someone needs to come up with a good slang term for the euro, something akin to bucks or quid. I think I could get on board with something good, something like shiner or bog. "That'll cost ya a shiner!" or "That crap costs 20 bogs?"

In the meantime, I'll work at getting my currencies right. Ten shiners says if I ever go back to America for a visit I'll call dollars euros. Just wait.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's a sad day

Apparently, some Americans actually need a law to help them take responsibility for themselves. The so-called "Cheeseburger Bill", which was passed by the House of Representatives Wednesday, would keep people from filing civil lawsuits against fast food chains for making them get fat.

OK, people. I can see it now: eventually Congress is going to have to pass a bill telling people they have to wipe their ass after they shit. I mean really. There is enough information out there, and even IN the fast food restaurants themselves, letting people know how fattening the food is. You can't blame a fast food restaurant for making you fat. The fast food restaurant didn't force feed you 10 Big Macs and 5 super size fries a day. Are these people hinting that fast food restaurants should shut down so they won't be tempted? What about the people that enjoy fast food responsibly? Maybe fast food places should just ban fat people from entering or eating their food? Oh wait, that would be discrimination. We wouldn't want that.

For the record, I don't agree with the cigarette lawsuits anymore either. Sure, several years ago people weren't as well-informed about the dangers of smoking. But now they are. Hell, it is right there on the damn pack! That is one of the main points of a free America, you are allowed to make your own decisions. If you decide to smoke, that is your business. You know the risks. Sure, perhaps cigarettes should be illegal. Why don't you ask the government why they aren't?

While we are at it, let's just sue television networks for making us stupid, game companies for wasting our time, coffee manufacturers for making us jittery, candy bar companies for rotting our teeth. Why should we bother taking responsibility for ourselves at all?

What you don't know about Harry Potter

With the U.S. release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a month away, VH1 compiled a list of "20 Things You Didn't Know about Harry Potter", even though a couple of the things I most certainly DID know.

Props to Wizard News for the link.

What Greeks do to reality shows

Greece currently has a version of Big Brother going called Big Mother (for some reason when someone says mother like that I can't help but think of a certain, um, "suffix" that might be implied when you call someone a "mother") that puts a bunch of mothers (see?) with their kids in a house and films them 24/7. There is actually a channel on the satellite that has a live feed 23 hours a day, which is a bit of overkill if you ask me but whatever. Obviously they have the channel space (might be a good time to bring in Comedy Central, eh?).

Now, I thought the Big Brother franchise had died in America, but apparently I am wrong. I am still wondering how the world can support so many damn reality shows, but I guess it can. Big Mother is an interesting concept, I suppose, considering how formidable Greek mothers can be. I am sure, though, if I watched it and actually listened to what the people were saying I would be bored out of my mind. But if you watch it with no sound and make up what the people are saying it can be loads of fun. Sort of a postmodern, pre-apocalyptic Mystery Science Theater 3k.

Still, most of the mothers on the show hardly seem like mothers. They all seemed to have given birth at a young age and are trying to appear to be 20-somethings themselves. Most of the time they sit around lounging on the couches, smoking cigarettes and trying to look cool. Mothers and children alike have bad posture, spend all day smoking, and wear sunglasses in the house. The latter seems to be typical of most reality shows, I wonder if it is a subconscious attempt to "avoid" the cameras.

Granted, I am making my observations based on about 30 minutes of observing the show, but I have a gut feeling I could turn it on any time and witness the same behavior. While I can almost understand the reality shows that have people doing things (Survivor, Fame Story) I am not sure I see the value in a show that basically shows people sitting around and talking. I wonder if people actually watch the show on a regular basis, and really get into it. It seems a soap opera would be better entertainment.

Still, you can't help but wonder which mother (plucker?) will be left in the end.

What books have taught me

In honor of Time’s 100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to present (props to the Vol Abroad for first posting this), I’d like to give MY list of the 20 (100 would defeat the purpose, I think) best novels/stories/plays/epic poems to learn about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Some are traditional, some are not. But all of them have taught me something, good or bad. Let me stress: this is not necessarily my list of my 20 all time favorites (as that list is always changing). These are simply some of the books that factored the most in the way I see the world.

The Iliad, Homer
Heroes are not always what they seem

The Oresteia, Aeschylus (it counts as ONE!)
Revenge or justice?

Beowulf, Anonymous
Nordic heroes are always what they seem

Hamlet, Shakespeare
See The Oresteia

The Monk, Matthew Lewis
When good Christians go bad

Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg
A soul is a terrible thing to waste

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
True love is tragic

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
Who knew Austen had a sense of humor?

Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
Life sucks

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
My mother is a fish

Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
One stop moral/ethic shopping

A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Looters and moochers, moochers and looters

The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty
Life happens

The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
It pays to be earnest

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
Drugs are bad, mmmkkk

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
It’s all about the books

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
How to come of age the hard way

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
Life is tragic

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ABBA sells out

This is the day of admissions it seems. I admit I have always been a hard core ABBA fan. I heard them on the radio when I was 6 years old and I suppose they were the first band I ever liked on my own, independently of bands I heard through my older brothers.

In the history of ABBA, I never knew they won the Eurovision song contest for their infamous song "Waterloo" (you can listen to it here, song number 5). I just thought they were cool and I liked their music. When I was 12 I acquired a Swedish pen pal, made all the more interesting because of my love for ABBA. I had ALL of their albums, including one in Spanish. I still have the vinyl in storage in our house on Hortiati.

ABBA won't reunite for cold, hard cash, only for single moment special occasions, like the opening of the music Mamma Mia, and Eurovision finals. Nor do they take a shine to anyone sampling their music, usually. But after a lot of begging and pleading, and an extremely lucrative deal, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus granted Madonna the right to sample the ABBA hit "Gimme Gimme Gimme" on a song on her new album.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate Madonna. Hell, I dressed like her in the 80's. A lot of her music is tolerable (unlike Britney Spears). But I'm tired of her new agey/Kabbalah/holier than thou attitude of late. And I don't shine to the idea of her pissing all over ABBA, especially the idea of B&B selling out.

Grats on the lucrative royalties, Benny & Bjorn. You can use that money to reunite ABBA properly now.

There goes the neighborhood

For the last 30 minutes, some dog, somewhere nearby, has been barking non-stop. I was trying to talk to my parents on the phone, and every other word I couldn't hear. This dog is a consummate barker, he terrorizes the neighborhood daily. I love animals, but this dog really needs to learn to shut up already.

One of the apartments across the street from us has been undergoing an extensive renovation for the last month or so. The apartment has a long balcony with three doors that come out on the balcony, and each door has shutters (not the crappy U.S. shutters that are affixed to the building, but ones that open and close). About a week ago they painted two sets of the shutters a much lighter blue. They have not painted the third set of shutters as of yet, and it is really bothering my obsessive compulsive inner self. I had to point this out to my husband, so it would bother his obsessive compulsive inner self.

On a side note, my mother-in-law got me a really awesome new pair of shoes for my birthday. She knows exactly what I like, in a way my own mother never did. At the end of the month she is going to come twice a week to teach me Greek. The pressure is on!

Ted, just admit it

OK, I'll admit it, since someone already "outed" me in previous comments.

Today is my birthday. I'll even admit that I am now 36 years old. Too bad my mental capacity is still that of a 16 year old. Seriously, I still feel like I am too young to have children, like if I got knocked up it would be akin to some high school kid being pregnant.

Unlike Seawitch, I don't have any wise statements to make. I'm still too bitter about growing up. OK, maybe I'm not really bitter. But where the hell did all the time go? Why isn't my thesis finished? (OK, I actually know the answer to that, but still) Why haven't I done...something?

Unlike other celebrations, I don't really like making too much of my birthday here in Greece. I'm not exactly sure why. I guess part of it is because Greeks don't really do the birthday thing, so it makes me feel uncomfortable. Another part of it is that my birthday was always a time to be my friends. My friends whom I miss desperately. And inevitably, I'll get a birthday card or email from them that makes me cry.

My husband surprised me with a cake for breakfast. My mother-in-law bought a cake "at no obligation for us to stop by". I'm going to have cake coming out of my ears. I keep hoping that my in-laws will forget my birthday, but who am I kidding?

All things considered, I guess I'll quit bitching and just concentrate on all the things I am thankful for: a good life with a wonderful husband, a loving family (including my in-laws), friends that haven't forgotten me. And the tests on the first possible bird flu case in Greece came back negative!

Now if only a picture of Karl Rove in handcuffs appeared on the news, my birthday would be complete!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Homesick, but for what?

In the three years I have lived in Greece we have lived in four different places, thanks to my husband being an Army physician. It has been both good and bad having such varied experiences in such a short time, the best part of it being that I got to experience life in Greece from a view different viewpoints.

We started off in Athens, which was probably the best city to start off in as an American getting used to living overseas. Athens has a little bit of everything, so it was easy to acclimate. Still, after nearly a year there I was quite ready to leave. My thoughts on Athens may be fodder for another post someday, but not this one. Let’s just leave it that I hope I never have to live in Athens again, and move on.

From Athens we moved to the island of Kos, near Rhodes and close to Turkey. It was fortunate that I had a chance to experience island life, even for a short time. Living full-time on an island ain’t easy, I’ll tell you that (again, perhaps fodder for another post). But having spent most of my life landlocked in Nashville, I couldn’t get over driving across the island and seeing sea all around me. It was spectacular. Island life is all about tourism, and not being part of the tourist industry or a tourist, it was a bit strange. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave the island, even though it was inevitable. Now, I’m happy we didn’t spend another year there.

From Kos we went to the wonderful little village of Litochoro, on the side of Mt. Olympus, about 15 minutes from Katerini. Let me tell you, the minute we arrived, it felt like home. I’d always been fond of the mountains and the sea, and this village sported the majestic Mt. Olympus to the West and the beautiful sea to the East. I experienced my first real Greek snow in our year in Litochoro. The village was a bit difficult to navigate (well, it WAS on somewhat of a slant, after all) but it was scenic, the villagers were friendly, and the local cuisine was delicious. We even found a pizza place that made New York style pizza! And it was just a few minutes to Katerini and only an hour to Thessaloniki, so big city life wasn’t too far away when we needed it. Sure, you couldn’t get everything in this little village. But we had a good life there, aside from the demands of my husband’s work.

And so here I am, just a couple of months after moving to Thessaloniki from Litochoro, finding myself homesick for that mountain hamlet I barely lived in long enough to find it’s character. It is a weird feeling, being homesick for a place that was home for just a year, a place I knew was temporary. I find myself in a state of some opprobrium for feeling this way – I should be enjoying life in Thessaloniki, my husband’s hometown, and not missing Litochoro so much.

I do like Thessaloniki. It is not a vile city like Athens, smaller, more manageable for sure. It is scenic, and there are a lot of conveniences, especially being close to my in-laws. But in Litochoro I felt the comfort of the gods, the blessings of the muses. The wind there was magical, as if made up of some angel dust, and the trees spoke to the world in the gentle breezes, as if telling the stories of thousands of years of life, love, and loss on this quiet mountain.

Thankfully, it is close enough to visit now and then, and maybe someday we can live there, at least part-time, again. For now, my life there still returns in dreams, and I think I can hear Zeus calling me…calling me home.

Fun with searches...the ewwwww edition

In the last week crazy searches that lead to my blog included the following:

doctors doing vagina inspection videos (that is SO classy)

men getting toilets clogged (ayup)

greek toilet habits (why do you want to know?)

and my personal favorite:

cockapoo + honking cough (poor doggie)

And the proof that searches are worthless:

litochoro weather actual (well, I guess I could have provided this service when I actually lived in Litochoro, but not much I can do for them now)

Madonna teaches us morality

Madonna has recently launched a war on immorality, telling people they need to change their ways or they will go to hell.

"(People) are going to go to hell if they don't turn from Wicked behavior... The material world... the physical world. The world of illusion, that we think is real. We live for it, we're enslaved by it. It will ultimately be our undoing."

She must be confused with the fact that some Jewish rabbis are warning her that she will go to hell for writing a song about Yitzhak Luria, a 16th century Kabbalah scholar who some say founded the modern inception of the Jewish cult.

Hello kettle? This is the pot...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Greece could use something like this

Anyone who has read DeviousDiva's blog This is not my Country knows that Greece has some problems when it comes to immigration and treating immigrants fairly. Obviously, such issues are not uncommon in America either. In Tennessee not too long ago a Mexican immigrant was ordered by a judge to learn English or face losing custody of her daughter. There are arguments on both sides of the immigration issue, but the reality is that immigrants, especially refugees, will continue to pour into many nations all over the world. The onus is on these receiving countries to find ways to make the immigration process better for all involved.

Nashville Is Talking today pointed out a new act written and sponsored by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and Texas Senator John Cornyn called the Strengthening American Citizenship Act of 2005. This Act would help integrate legal immigrants into American society by assisting them in learning the language, the history, and way of government of the United States. Senator Alexander's article about the Act states:

That is why I recently introduced the Strengthening American Citizenship Act with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The Strengthening American Citizenship Act helps and encourages legal immigrants who are prospective American citizens to learn our common language, history, and way of government by:

Providing $500 grants for English courses;
Allowing prospective citizens who become fluent in English to apply for citizenship one year early;
Providing grants to organizations to offer courses in American history and civics;
Authorizing the creation of a new foundation to assist in these efforts;
Codifying the Oath of Allegiance to which new citizens swear when they are naturalized, and;
Asking the Department of Homeland Security to carry out a strategy to highlight the ceremonies where immigrants become American citizens.

This bill is about fulfilling the promise of our national motto: E Pluribus Unum, from many, one. As a nation of immigrants, that motto is very important to us. For while our unique history makes us a diverse nation, we are still one American nation.

I think it is a step in the right direction. You can't always expect people in a new country to be able to do all things on their own, especially those that are scared and uncertain in their new surroundings. It would be great to see Greece dedicated to immigration reform, but I fear such things are far down the ever growing list of problems the Greek government is facing.

The Lazytons

Yep, that is what you can call us today. My husband has the week off, and what happens? Do we wander the city streets, shopping, having coffee, going to parks, watching movies? Of course not. As usual, he got up moderately early (9am) while I snoozed in. He came in a bit later to wake me, and in the process, fell asleep himself. How late did we sleep? We slept til the mythical 4:20. Even the cats didn't bother us.

And you know what? It felt good.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

What the wind brings

Last night and today marked a significant increase in winds here in Thessaloniki, which I have learned in my three years in Greece means the beginning of colder temperatures. The winds are intense, almost violent at times, and you can frequently hear the sound of things flying off balconies and whooshing onto the streets below. I actually love these intense winds - the air feels crisp, fresh and clean, and the temperature leads to a rise in the snuggle factor, which is always a good thing (except when the cats want to snuggle when we are at the computers, which makes it difficult to do anything).

One of our neighbors has windchimes. Now, I happen to be one of those people who love windchimes, I've always been envious of people who have the array of the very expensive chimes that range in tones and sound absolutely magical when the wind blows. But our neighbors have the cheap 5 euro windchimes they obviously bought at some tourist trap store on an island somewhere. The noise that emanates from this monstrosity sounds painfully like a damaged child's bicycle bell, one that might have been stepped on by a bully in the schoolyard. The sound is actually more pathetic than it is annoying, and thankfully it isn't loud enough to permeate when our doors are closed and the T.V. is on. Even so, I have to wonder if these people are tone deaf, or simply have no idea what real windchimes are supposed to sound like. Do they even enjoy the sound their windchimes produce? Do they think it sounds good? I suppose it could work under the same theory as people who like the music of Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake.

We have a set of nice windchimes, the ones you pay a little too much for that are completely resonant and rich in tonality. Unfortunately, because my husband and I are complete procrastinators, we have not yet gotten around to putting them up yet. But we will, eventually, and then our neighbors can hear what real windchimes sound like, and put theirs away in shame.

It's not just about the shoes

Fatboy Slim and David Byrne are teaming up to write a musical based on the clubbing lifestyle on former Phillippine first lady Imelda Marcos. The musical will be entitled "Here Lies Love" and will concentrate on Marcos' passion for nightlife.

Billed as "a timeless story with more contemporary resonances than are comfortable", it will premiere at Australia's Adelaide Festival.

Mrs Marcos was found guilty of corruption in the mid-1990s, but her conviction was overturned on appeal.

The charges were part of a wider case alleging that Mrs Marcos and her husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos, plundered the nation's economy between 1968 and 1986.

The pair were overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986 and fled to Hawaii, where Ferdinand Marcos died three years later.

I suppose it could be interesting, especially since Fatboy Slim and David Byrne are writing the music. But it is hard to see a musical about Imelda Marcos that wouldn't, well, make fun of her a little bit. All I could ever remember about her was the shoes and the corruption, which undoubtedly makes for an interesting tale.

A Nashville Ghost Story

When an early darkness begins to shorten sunny days and bony fingers of frost spread over the windows at night we are reminded that Halloween will soon be upon us. Unfortunately, Greece does not celebrate Halloween, nor do they have much knowledge of it aside from what they have heard in movies or in the media. This saddens me, as I always had a particular affinity for Halloween – the costumes, the candy, the scary stories, souls meeting at the crossroads – all the elements of a fine Gothic holiday. Greeks do dress in costumes during Carnival, before the Easter fast, but that is more of a get your jollies out holiday, and not one steeped in mystery and the occult.

One of the fun things about October is the prevalence of ghost and horror stories. People like to tell them, people like to listen to them, and they are all around you in the month preceding Halloween. I’ve always had a fondness for a good horror tale, a convincing ghost siting, anything that leaves a chill down my spine. So I shall share with the world my experiences with a single ghost, a ghost who isn’t talked about much, but who lurks in the shadows of a Nashville institution.

I attended Belmont University for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and I worked there, so I spent quite a bit of time on campus. Attached to the campus is the historic Belmont Mansion, home of the infamous Adelicia Acklen, a powerful woman in a time when women were rarely looked upon as more than emotional bags of air, baby creators, or servants. She was a manipulative woman who used her men well, and ended up exceedingly rich as a result of her feminine wiles.

As soon as I set foot on campus I began hearing stories about Adelicia’s ghost. It was said that she wandered the halls of the mansion, keeping guard over her stately home. The silliest suggestion was that her goal was to tempt and seduce the young men of the campus, as if she was some sort of undead siren. It was even hinted that she participated in the occult, as evidenced by the goat heads and chalices that could be found in the gazebos around the grounds, the artwork she had around the mansion and the animal statuary that were all over the estate.

Of course I wanted my chance to see her. By a stroke of good fortune, I had the opportunity to wander the mansion at 2am, accompanied by two friends. We were dubious about the whole ghost story, and more interested in finding more evidence of her occult practices than anything. The mansion was extremely dark, we moved through it only with the assistance of flashlights, which in itself gave the whole experience an ominous, spooky air.

The first floor yielded nothing of interest. Disappointed, we made our way to the second floor. A big portion of the area was either closed off or in use as offices/work areas, so the only rooms to be seen on the second floor were the bedrooms of Adelicia, her husband, and her children, which were all in the same area of the house. When we first entered Adelicia’s bedroom, all three of us noticed a dramatic drop in temperature. Since it was summer, we guessed it might be air conditioning, and looked in vain for a vent that might have been blasting cooler air into that particular room. There wasn’t one. We didn’t see any ghosts, though, and we proceeded into the children’s bedroom. The one thing of note there was a big opening that looked over the stairwell. This was there supposedly so the children, when in their rooms, could peek at the lavish parties Adelicia would throw. All you could really see was the stairs, though, so unless people hung out on the stairs doing something interesting, I am not sure how much fun it was to look out that opening.

Having found absolutely nothing of interest, we made our way back down the stairs. After we passed the opening to the children’s room, I happened to look back at it. To my surprise, I saw a woman standing there! Knowing that there couldn’t have been anyone else in the building, I turned quickly and practically pushed my friends down the stairs in a mad dash to get the hell out of there. I had no intention of chatting up Adelicia’s ghost and I really didn’t want to look back and see her again, if it was indeed her ghost.

A few years later, I was walking through campus at dusk, right beside the mansion. I glanced up at a window upstairs, something had caught my eye. There was a woman staring back at me, standing in the darkened window, no lights in the room behind her. I stopped and looked for a minute, trying to decide if it might be an employee in the mansion, but it couldn’t have been. All the employees except for the curator (who was a man) typically left much earlier, and there wasn’t an event scheduled in the mansion that night. She didn’t move from the window, nor could I see her well enough to see an expression on her face. I smiled at her, and walked away.

Had I seen Adelicia’s ghost? I’ll never know for sure. But it sure does make life more interesting to think that I did.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Making lists

When I was little, I watched my mother make lists. Not only grocery lists, but menu lists, questions for the doctor lists, errand lists, card lists, if a list could be made, she made one. Accompanying her need to make lists was a strict admonition to never move the pen and pad from her list making area, which also happened to be right beside the telephone. Between me, my dad and my two brothers the pen got moved on a few occasions, because that was our last stop if we couldn't find a writing utensil anywhere else. The stealing of the pen was always followed by wrath of God stares and beratement by a woman who in normal company appeared to be the picture of polite and gentle solitude.

Tried though she might, my mother never managed to instill the propensity for making lists into my psyche. I try, now and then, to halfheartedly make a grocery list, but once I put the initial items I think of on it, whenever I think of more I never add to it, I simple decide to myself that I'll remember. Half the time I never even pull the list out of my purse when I am at the store. Of course, I am always sorry by the time I get home, because there is undoubtedly at least one item I've forgotten, usually something important that manages to be forgotten even through the next couple of trips to the store. I've done that with eggs the last three trips. Maybe Monday I'll get lucky.

I'm not sure exactly why I find making lists so odious. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I think my mind is more lucid than it actually is. Perhaps it is the fact that I hate having tiny pieces of paper around me. I know the luxury of having a supermarket across the street makes me feel more confident about forgetting something, knowing I can just run back over whenever the mood strikes me. The checkout lady knows us pretty well by now.

So far the absence of zealous listmaking hasn't really caused any problems in my life aside from a little inconvenience now and then. Someday I may need lists, but not yet. But god forbid you move my phone pen. Some things are innate, I guess.

A bowlful of chili

Today marks the first ceremonial pot of chili of Autumn 2005. When I first moved to Greece I was somewhat worried. Would I be able to get kidney beans? Chili powder? Amazingly enough, the answer was yes. And it seems that Jerry Seinfeld's prop master uses the same kidney beans, because we were watching Seinfeld the other day and lo and behold, he had the same brand of kidney beans (S&W) on his kitchen shelf. How weird.

My husband, of course, had never really had chili until he met me. Now he is an addict, and he bugs me daily for a pot of chili. I had to make a firm rule: only in the fall and winter months. For some reason chili just doesn't taste right when it is warm outside, just like soup. I even cooked chili for the in-laws once, although I wasn't really sure they liked it.

The best thing about this recipe is that it is easy to whip up. I have no idea where the recipe originally came from, all I know is it is the one my mother always used. In the interest of recipe sharing, here goes:

1 tbsp olive oil (or more or less to taste)
chopped fresh garlic to taste (I usually use a couple of cloves)
1 lb (half kilo) ground beef (can also use ground pork or turkey)
one medium green pepper, chopped
one small onion, chopped
1 16 oz can (432 grams) dark red kidney beans
500 grams of tomato sauce (or 2- 8oz cans of tomato use, I used to use Hunt's in the U.S.)
1 tsp chili powder (or more or less to taste, I usually use more)
half tsp pepper
salt to taste

Mix oil, garlic, and meat in large pot, brown meat until done
Lower heat to medium, then add green pepper, onion, and beans with their juice, stir well into meat mixture
Stir in tomato sauce
Stir in spices
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let simmer on a low temperature for 45 to 90 minutes (depending on how thick you like your chili) stirring occasionally. Do not cover.

We usually top with grated cheddar cheese and tabasco sauce, some people top with sour cream as well. Great with fresh bread or cornbread.


Often late at night I stop and listen to the world around me. Despite the constant noise – my husband’s snoring, motorcycles passing on the street below, a lone siren in the distance – there is a sort of postmodern quiet in the unquiet, as if some majestic silence muffles the sounds of night. It is in these moments, when my life is illuminated only by a computer screen, that I forget, momentarily, where I am and how much my life has changed. But has my life changed? The sounds I hear are the same sounds that I could hear from my apartment on a busy corner in Nashville, the same sounds that might be heard from almost anywhere in the world at 1am.

There are so many things about this new life of mine that are no different from the life I left behind. I write, I play, I watch, I laugh, I cry, I shop, I love, I read. I can feel the autumn breeze from a sixth floor apartment in downtown Thessaloniki and be filled with the memory of a crisp fall night in Nashville. I have lost nothing, but I have gained a new perspective. My old world still exists, but instead of being chained and bound, it has become intertwined with my new existence. I no longer have to be afraid of looking back to see Medusa’s stony glare, of being frozen in place. Life is different, but the same, and that is no small comfort when you realize that home is seven thousand miles away from where it used to be.

Friday, October 14, 2005


24-year-old Ahmed Salhi apparently has had enough of his nagging wife. He was sentenced to nine months house arrest after breaching immigration regulations. Not one to be a cuckold, after one week of house arrest he went to the courts and begged to serve the rest of his sentence in jail.

"I need some peace. I can no longer live with her and would rather be behind bars. I can’t stand her nagging," he said.

The court had mercy on the poor man and he is resting comfortably in jail now. No word yet on the status of the marriage.


  • David Duchovny is a damn fine looking man
  • I never thought I'd see the day a chicken would be on the cover of Time magazine
  • My Name is Earl is one of the best new shows I've ever seen
  • I can't get on board with the new James Bond
  • Madonna is really starting to look her age
  • I'm not as young as I think I am
  • There can never be too much cheese

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Move over Jacko, it's Hussein's turn

For those of you missing the thrilling coverage of Michael Jackson's trial on E! Entertainment Television, there's a new trial coming to town. It seems that Saddam Hussein's trial will be televised, so get your popcorn ready, grab the remote, call up the E! experts and start watching on October 19th.

Unfortunately, there won't be a motley cast of actors recreating this trial for us. Nor will they call in Rikki Klieman, Shawn Chapman Holley, or Howard Weitzman for blow by blow commentary. However, Hussein is on trial for his crimes against humanity, so at least there is some similarity between the trials.

If Hussein is lucky, he'll be acquitted on all counts and make an album to recover costs shortly thereafter. If he is unlucky, well, there may just be an electric chair with his name on it.

I am a Coke addict

No, I am not in league with Kate Moss and Boy George. The Coke I am talking about is ostensibly more benign than cocaine. I am talking about good, old fashioned Coca-Cola, the kind that teaches the world to sing and brings us all together. A soft drink known around the world, even by pandas on the north pole.

I don't know what it is exactly about the sugary sweet, bubbly drink that entices me so. Is it the refreshment, the caffeine, the sugar rush? Whatever it is, I drink one 500ml bottle of Coke a day. I used to think I could get away with this, just one a day, not like drinking a six-pack, or anything. Still, I have come to the realization that it is bad, and my habits need to change. Sure, I could go for diet Coke (my husband and his family drink it exclusively) but I think I'd rather chew on an old shoe than drink a diet soft drink. No matter what people say, or what advancements have been made in flavorings, I don't think diet sodas taste good. Not at all. And they leave this nasty cottony aftertaste. Blech. Not to mention that a couple of days of downing diet Cokes leaves me with mondo headaches. Any food or drink that gives you bad headaches is suspect, in my opinion. Perhaps that artificial sweetener is safe, perhaps it is not. I'd rather not take chances.

I figured now was the time to try to curb my habits, since as the weather gets cooler, I tend to crave Coke less. When it is hot out I have a habit of consuming any cool liquid that is in a one mile radius. I'm trying a stealthy every other day plan for now, downing water on the off days. The trick to this is keeping up with our bottled water supply, as the city water here has a frightening amount of salts in it. Hopefully, within a month or so, Coke will be a once in awhile treat and not an everyday habit. It tastes so much better that way.

I think I can do it, as long as they don't introduce Dr. Pepper here in Greece anytime soon. Then I'm a goner.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2005

This year's Nobel Prize in Literature goes to British playright Harold Pinter "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".

Congratulations Harold!

If you'd like to see past winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, click here.