Saturday, December 31, 2005

Have a fun and safe NYE

The hubby and I are going to set off for our New Year's celebration shortly. I hope everyone has a fun and safe (hmm, is it possible to be safe AND have fun??) evening, and I'll see y'all in 2006 (seriously, we are living in the FUTURE for god's sake, and I lived in a time when the future was 1984, but 2006? that is just CRAZY).

Oh, and everyone enjoy that extra second of 2005. Because it was such a fun year world 'round, we all just have to endure an extra second of it.

Propaganda regression

The biggest news story in Greece this weekend is the escape of two convicts who managed to break free from their transport vehicle yesterday, killing two policemen in the process. The saddest part of the story is the death of the two policemen - one who had two children and the other the father of one child. Christmas and New Year's will never be the same for these three children again thanks to a murderous Russian who felt he shouldn't be held responsible for his crimes. This, my friends, is one of the reasons I am in support of capital punishment (I know, I know, but that is a discussion for another time).

There were three prisoners being transported - two Albanians and the Russian. The Russian confessed to killing and robbing a woman in Corfu in October. The Russian is responsible for killing the policemen, and while one of the Albanians chose to escape, the other one decided he didn't want any part of the whole business. It was probably the smart decision, because at least he has a chance of living life as a free man again, while the other two, if caught, won't stand much of a chance.

Upon hearing the story I realized I regressed to my childhood fear of "the Russians". When I was growing up, the Soviet Union was still America's great enemy. The government, the media, even my teachers pounded into our heads that Russians were bad, were evil. They didn't think like us, they did bad things - and should we ever come across a Russian, the idea was to get the hell away (ok, so that was how I perceived it as a child, but still). Of course, now Russia is our "friend", with its sexy leader (there was a song about him, I don't think he is sexy), and its wonderful pipelines. Still, I can't help but continue to picture the Russia of my youth, the mean looking leaders, the repressive KGB, the bread lines. I have a hard time remembering that Kiev and Minsk are no longer Russian cities. Hell, I still refer to places that no longer exist, like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Obviously, my brain is frozen in time in a geography class from 1979.

So here were are, with a delusional, psychopathic Russian on the loose in Greece. Now, I figure if he had any brains at all he would be trying to cross the border and not staying in Greece, but he could still be wandering around here somewhere. If I should come across him, I am likely to start jumping up and down, shrieking "its a communist!! its a communist!" followed by a frothy spitting and shouting "die, commie, die!" Hey, I'm not proud of it, but the hatred of the USSR was so ingrained in my psyche as a child, I can't help it. Show me a smiling, friendly Russian and I'm ok, but face to face with a demonic Russian all that childhood propaganda comes screaming back.

At any rate, I hope they do catch both prisoners, and I hope no other lives are lost in the process. My thoughts go out to the families of the officers who were slain, and I hope they find the strength to live on and find some happiness in their lives in the future.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Is it Spring already?

Or should we be running from global warming? It has been decidedly spring-like here the past few days, with temperatures in the mid 50's. Yet the rest of Europe has been suffering bitter cold temperatures and snow.

While I enjoy the pleasant temperatures (and the money saving that comes from not using heat), it always makes me worry that the worst is yet to come, especially with the rest of Europe so damn cold. Overall it has been quite mild here for December, we haven't even broken out our feather comforter!

Selective hearing

My husband went to a satellite store to get all the cables need for his latest project. I asked him to get a 10 metre antenna cable (or whatever the hell you call it) so we can connect the satellite box to the TV in the bedroom.

He came back from the store and tested the cable.

HUBBY: It isn't long enough.

ME: Is it ten metres?

HUBBY: It is eight, or something.

ME: I told you we needed ten metres.

HUBBY: I don't think ten would be long enough.

ME: Well that is beside the point isn't it, you didn't get ten. But ten would be long enough. Why didn't you have the guy make you a ten metre cable?

HUBBY: Uh, he already had this one cut. It was only a couple of euros, it doesn't matter.

ME: Yea, but now we still don't have a long enough cable.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The dog whisperers

Apparently, the old stereotype of the dog attacking the mailman is quite common in Germany. It seems that postal workerss there have been getting trained on dog psychology and how to handle dogs.

Among other things, the seminars include theoretical and practical advice on how to psychoanalyse the four-legged creatures, as well as ways to collaborate with and handle dogs. At the same time, they explain why it is not possible to cycle faster than a dog and they also demonstrate how to hand the mail to a person who is walking their dog without being bitten.

I wonder how many postmen try to cycle away from angry dogs? Do people really have to learn you can't do that? At any rate, I suppose my question is, why can't people learn how to control their own damn dogs? Don't get me wrong, I love dogs, but vicious behavior against the postman or any other person walking down the street is really not acceptable. It seems the Germans should make laws about controlling their dogs, instead of forcing their postmen to learn how to understand dogs better.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005: the year in music

Well, there were a lot of good releases in 2005. I won't spend a lot of time going over them, as there are probably a lot of good albums I was not aware of, so no doubt I have missed some that might have been of great interest to me.

Chances are, if we were listening to music this year, it was one of the following:

Coldplay - X&Y
They keep knockin' 'em outta the ballpark. Another great album, beautiful melodies, sonorous harmonies. I don't like their egos, but I sure dig the music.

Tracy Chapman - Where You Live
This one was highly anticipated. Honestly, on the first listen we didn't take much of a shine to it. But it sure did grow on us. She continues to be a wonderful lyricist.

Chemical Brothers - Push the Button
Well, I've never been what you might call a Chemical Brothers fan, although it seems I've always taken a shine to a song or two. This album, though, is a real keeper. From the Middle Eastern twang of Galvanize to the techno Believe, this album emits a variety of sounds and feelings.

Kate Bush - Aerial
What a surprise! I had no idea she had a new album coming out, until it was out. And what classic Kate it is. She is channelling spirits from the Hounds of Love days.

Moby - Hotel
I'm not proud of my enjoyment of Moby's music, but I can't help it. Although with this album, it is the first CD that is the good one, the second CD I can live without. It has the right amount of pep to make it good driving music, and the right amount of soothing rhythms to keep you calm while driving. You can't beat that.

Jamiroquoi - Dynamite
Well, I used to hate (and regularly make fun of my husband for liking it) Jamiroquoi, but this album got to me. It keeps ya movin'.

The Prodigy - Their Law: Singles 1990 - 2005
All I can say is it was about damn time.

Enya - Amarantine
Another surprise release. While the album is pretty much the same old Enya, it is still beautiful. And the new language she invented with her lyricist is pretty cool, if a bit geeky.

Sigur Ros - Takk
This one almost came in outside of my radar. I've enjoyed their music, but never thought about getting an album before. I caught the first single off this album and had to have it. It is a really wonderful album, very ambient, a little sad, but not overly melancholy. AND they are going to be playing at the Ryman in Nashville on February 14th. Now how come bands like this didn't come to Nashvegas when I was living there?!?

Heaven help me

My husband has decided to start the whole hooking up the surround sound system project. I predict that we won't have video or audio working on any of our devices by the time he is finished.

Christmas holidays in Greece (to be repeated every year)

Christmas Eve party at Aunt Tassoula's. Drink the weird blue alcoholic beverage that magically turns your poop green. Pretend to ignore the sauna that is a well heated apartment filled to the gills with twenty bodies. (ah, but hubby and I were sick this year, couldn't make it)

Christmas Day dinner at the in-laws. Try to be sure to not eat some weird, unknown meat type (goat, rooster) that parades in the form of a well known meat form (chicken, pork). Enjoy my MIL's cooking, but miss my mother's succulent ham and homemade rolls. Listen to my father-in-law tell all manner of jokes (in Greek) to exploding laughter. Listen to my husband translate the jokes, which turn out to be not that funny.

Boxing Day dinner at the in-laws, with a different set of family. Repeat of the day before. Sit around with the "children" of the family (now almost all adults) and try to blow out a candle from a great distance. "Ooh" and "aah" when someone succeeds. Rent a movie so everyone can fall asleep watching it.

Talk to my parents who are enjoying Christmas with both of my brothers, their wives, and my niece. Listen while they all try to talk at once on the speakerphone. Feel a bit sad that after all of these years, with all of us being apart, they are finally at a point where they can all be together for the holidays and I am thousands of miles away.

Be thankful that my new family is as wonderful as my real family, and enjoy the holidays anyway.

Kyoto no go?

We all know that the U.S. did not elect to sign the Kyoto Protocol, a UN agreement to decrease the emissions of six greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, though, of the EU countries that are participating in the protocol, only the UK and Sweden are on target to meet the required decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Out of 15 European countries that signed the protocol, 10 will fall short of their agreement unless they take immediate action. France, Germany and Greece (but of course) are among the countries in the latter category.

Which brings me to the question: why sign the protocol if you don't take the appropriate measures to follow through? The world has berated the U.S. for not participating (and rightly so), but what good does signing do if you fail to meet the requirements in the end?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas porn?

My husband and I are not opposed to porn, but when it comes to a movie entitled Santa's Sluts and features girls going down on Santa Claus, we have to draw the line.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Holy sacrilege Batman!

I am not a religious person, but the theft of the Nun Bun from my old Nashville haunt Bongo Java is beyond blasphemous.

Metro’s police report on the theft estimated the bun’s value at $25. It said the “Mother Theresa Cinnamon Bun” was the only item taken. As stolen goods, the bun was classified in property category No. 77, for “other.”

Sure, the tangible value might be only $25 (really? that much?) but its spiritual value is off the charts.

Not to mention the fact that it made the front page of The Tennessean. I suppose that is a good thing, though. At least no one was maimed or otherwise injured, no tsunami stories, no war stories, nothing that involves people. But the Nun Bun, stolen!

What is the world coming to, people?!?

EDIT: And it is slowly making international headlines.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Καλά Χριστούγεννα!

Χρόνια Πολλά!

We had a beautiful Christmas with my husband's family, as usual my mother-in-law fixed a fantastic meal. Not having turkey and stuffing or ham for Christmas dinner still takes some getting used to, but I'm getting there.

Round two tomorrow, with more family and more of my MIL's terrific cooking.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Reason #2,567 why my husband and I shouldn't have kids (or be around any for long periods of time)

ME: Honey, looks like they got some great shots of the rings around Uranus. *snicker*

HUBBY: Hmmm. Mmmm? (still absorbed in his own web surfing)

ME: See, look. And it seems they found two new moons, bringing the total number of satellites in orbit around Uranus to 27. *snort* *giggle*

HUBBY: Oh, uh-huh. (still somewhat absorbed)

ME: Did you know that many moons of Uranus are named after Shakespearean characters. *laugh* *laugh*

HUBBY: *chuckle* *laugh* Really? You know you are being really mature.

ME: *giggle* Shut up. *laugh* Oh, oh, wait til *laugh* you *laugh* hear this one! *'* No one thought this region of Uranus was very interesting. *uncontrollable laughter* *cough* *choke* *laugh*

HUBBY: *uncontrollable laughter* Are you ok?

Ok, for those of you who have a maturity level above the age of 5, or aren't familiar with the English spelling/sometimes pronunciation of the planet: growing up, I always heard the planet pronounced something that sounds like "your anus". This was a source of great enjoyment to kids and some adults. In the last several years, however, I have heard it pronounced more like "your an us". I am sure there are other prononciations out there.

As an additional proof of my total insipidness, I keep a straight face when someone talks about "duty" or "duties", yet I can remain perfectly calm if someone is talking about actual doody. Oh, who am I kidding. It's all a hoot.

This is in no way insinuating that I am not a major proponent of astronomy, or that I find that particular field of science amusing. I am actually quite fond of it, after all, I used to want to be Carl Sagan.


I just spent the last five minutes trying to put the water bottle cap on the juice bottle, thinking to myself the whole time "now why won't this damn thing go on???"

I'm starting to understand why my husband calls me a scatterbrain.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ah, Christmas

One of the best things about Christmas in the city is I can put laundry on the line at night and gaze happily at all the balconies decked with lights and decorations. I still wonder, though, how they plug stuff in outside. I have never seen an outside outlet here (I hardly see inside outlets, for that matter). Do they run a hole in the wall to the inside or something? Under the door? Crazy, but I'm jealous.

One of the worst things about Christmas is when all the decorations go away.

Ode to a Grecian Doc

For the last week and a half I have been suffering from some sort of illness. It is a physical ailment (not mental, although I suppose that is questionable) that consists solely of an obscenely violent cough. No runny nose, no fever, no aches and pains (well, aside from the ones that have occurred from coughing non stop for a week and a half) - nothing that would signal a cold or some other type of sickness. I have been known to have an asthmatic cough now and then, but this seemed to be more than that, especially considering I'm using inhalers. I have deemed the illness the cough from hell, and while I can enjoy some sort of relief during the day, medical reality has proven that sleeping with the cough from is damn near impossible (something about lying down, or something). So every night for the past week and a half I have spent six or seven hours coughing for ten minutes straight every few minutes, only to finally fall asleep from sheer exhaustion at 6am.

Remarkably, this constant cough has only had the power to wake my husband twice. No, my husband can sleep soundly next to me while I cough violently practically in his ear, all the while flailing about like a shark attack victim. His only response is usually to snore louder, and how he can manage a snore to override my high decibel cough is beyond me. I suppose my constant suffering bores him, or he just doesn't appreciate not being the loudest person in the apartment.
It is comforting to know that I could be thrashing about, only to fall dead, and have him realize it by finding my already decaying corpse when he wakes up. Still, for all the lack of control I've had over the cough, I am quite glad it hasn't disturbed him, since he like, works for a living and all.

But last night was the worst. My husband decided to prescribe an antibiotic for me since the cough wasn't really improving and it seemed it might be an infection. Now, I have been known to be allergic to every antibiotic given to man. In my childhood, my doctors would just keep giving me antibiotics and I would just end up deathly allergic to every single one (thanks to those that lengthened an already too long hospital stay). We had finally discovered one that I seemed to tolerate, and that is the one my husband gave me. I did not have a lot of coughing overnight, but around 4am I noticed that I was having some difficulty breathing. Everytime I fell asleep, I would awaken abruptly after a few minutes in some sort of weird respiratory distress. I had experienced similar things due to the asthma, so I figured that was it. When my husband woke up he checked me for other signs of an allergy and found none, so I took my 7am antibiotic and tried to go back to sleep.

No deal, in fact, the breathing difficulties got much worse around 9am, I fell asleep and awoke abruptly, coughing and choking and really hoping this was not the way I was going to die. I called my husband a bit panicked, and since he couldn't get away from the hospital, he sent his mom over to me. She gave me a shot of cortisone, represcribed ALL my medications (after a bit of an argument with my husband over his choices), sat with me for a bit to make sure I was ok, instructed me to sit up for a bit while my breathing was still in distress and said she'd call to check up on me in an hour. Luckily, my husband was able to come home by then, so she didn't have to feel burdened to come back over (although I know she wouldn't consider it a burden).

I'm still a little shaky over the whole incident, but this afternoon I had a couple of hours of breathe-free, cough-free sleep (well, breathe problem free, that is, I did not suddenly become a zombie). But sometimes I am so grateful to have doctors in the family. Although, come to think of it, if my husband, the doctor, hadn't given me the antibiotic in the first place maybe this wouldn't have happened. Hmm, maybe there is some sort of global doctor conspiracy at play here...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Winter Solstice

Today marks the longest night of the year. Enjoy the extra darkness, cuddle with a loved one, and get ready for winter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How about irony?

The Merriam-Webster #1 word of 2005:


About the only place you'll find that word in the annals of 2005 is in the dictionary.

For the rest of the top 10, click here.

Meme about me, from hobbes

It's an about me meme, which I don't normally do, because I feel like if you read my blog on a regular basis, you kinda have an idea about me already. If you want to do it yourself, do it, I've noticed a few people have done it already, anyway.

What time did you get up this morning?
Morning? Are you kidding me?

Diamonds or pearls?
Neither. Ok if I had to choose, diamonds I guess, as long as they were understated.

What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

What is your favourite TV show?
Current shows would be House and My Name is Earl. Favorite shows of all time? Hmm. It is so hard to pick. From the first season of Twin Peaks to X-Files to Friends to Seinfeld. Impossible to choose.

What do you usually have for breakfast?
Coffee or nothing.

Favourite cuisine?

What food do you dislike?
Brussel sprouts and liver. Also anything with cooked carrots in it.

What is your favourite CD at the moment?
Hmm, either Kate Bush’s Aerial or Coldplay’s X&Y

Morning or night person?
Night, all the way.

Favourite sandwich?
Cheese and tomato with mustard and mayo, toasted.

What characteristic do you despise?

Favourite item of clothing?
Meh, not real big on clothes. I guess my big black sweater.

If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be?
Back to Italy I think, or maybe Germany. Or Cornwall.

What colour is your bathroom?
Uh, hmm, some kind of light tan tile, or something like that.

Favourite brand of clothing?

Where would you retire to?

What was your most memorable birthday?
When I was three, I was all dressed up and sitting at the table, ready for my party. My dad was repairing something on the roof, or something, and fell off. I wouldn’t have my party until my dad was with me.

Favourite sport to watch?
Baseball, although I’m starting to like soccer.

What is your shoe size?
8, I have HUGE feet

3 cats, Princeton, Phoebe, and Nala

Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us?
Not really…

What did you want to be when you were little?
I wanted Carl Sagan’s job

What is your favorite flower?
Cannabis sativa. No, seriously, I don't know flower names. I love them all, except for yellow ones.

What date on the calendar are you looking forward to?
December 24th, because my husband will be off for a week.

One word to describe the person who you snaffled this from?

Bye bye Barbie

It seems the world has an increasing number of torture proponents these days, as a British study has discovered that most 7-11 year olds prefer to maim, decapitate, and destroy their Barbie dolls rather than play with them.

“When we asked the groups of junior school children about Barbie, the doll provoked rejection, hatred and violence,” said Dr Agnes Nairn from the University of Bath’s School of Management.

You know, this attitude seems a little extreme, doesn't it? I mean it is just a toy. Sure, it is a toy that has totally corrupted generations of little girls into skewed perceptions of physical perfection, but so what? I admit to doing strange things with my Barbie, Skipper, and Ken dolls, but never out of hatred, only out of fun and curiosity. I freqently let them fall down the elevator shaft of their Barbie townhouse and pretended a time or two that one of them got stuck in the escalator of the fashion plaza, but I also let them have orgies and put them in very strange sexual positions that would be deemed impossible by any human save for a contortionist.

“Of all of the products we asked the children to describe as ‘cool’ or ‘not cool’, Barbie aroused the most complex and violent emotions,” said Dr Nairn.

“The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity, and see the torture as a ‘cool’ activity in contrast to other forms of play with the doll.

“The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving.”

Of course, I can't say whether or not I would have tried the microwave thing, because such contraptions did not exist when I was a child. But I pretty much steered clear of any activity that would have destroyed the dolls, because, well, I'm not stupid.

Exploring the reasons behind the hatred and violence, the researchers teased out a variety of explanations rooted in the rich symbolism of Barbie. Analysis of the children’s comments indicate that Barbie is hated because she is ‘babyish’, ‘unfashionable’, ‘plastic’, has multiple selves and because she is a feminine icon.

“The most readily expressed reason for rejecting Barbie was that she was babyish, and girls saw her as representing their younger childhood out of which they felt they had now grown,” said Dr Nairn.

“It’s as though disavowing Barbie is a rite of passage and a rejection of their past.”

Similar attitudes were expressed to Action Man, but at the same time boys expressed feelings of affection and nostalgia to the toy which were totally absent from discussions of Barbie.

Seriously, isn't this a little much? Since when do 7-11 year olds psychoanalyze their attachment to a toy and what it means? If I was tired of a toy, or grew out of it, it simply went into a box in the attic or in the trash. I never found a need to actually belittle the toy, for god's sake. Even the boys in this scenario are less scary, which leads me to wonder, what happened to the sugar and spice and everything nice that made up the composition of little girls?

One interpretation of this finding may be that whilst Barbie masquerades as a person – she actually exists in multiple ‘selves’ with different dolls and guises.

“The children never talked of one single, special Barbie. She was always referred to in the plural,” said Dr Nairn.

“The girls almost always talked about having a box full of Barbies. So, to them, Barbie has come to symbolise excess. Barbies are not special, they are disposable, and are thrown away and rejected.

“On a deeper level, Barbie has become inanimate. She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person, becoming an ‘it’ rather than a ‘she’.

“This may go someway towards explaining the violence and torture.

“Whilst for an adult the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing, from the child’s point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling.”

Whoa there, doggy. Now I really think they are giving these kids too much credit. However, it might be more difficult for me to judge this particular phenomenon, because in my time we had one Barbie, one Ken, one Skipper. You could turn Barbie into different things with clothing, but you didn't have multiple Barbies.

“The children were quite happy to admit that they routinely bought products simply because they were advertised on TV or marketed through their own TV show, but they also had a negative reaction to advertising and marketing targeted directly at them,” said Dr Nairn.

Disillusionment with the product quality was often expressed in terms of value for money - children were angry about being ripped off.

“They understand that children’s products go in and out of fashion quickly and they think marketers exploit this by not only over-marketing but also by over-charging,” said Dr Nairn.

“Children reacted very negatively to companies which they felt ‘tried too hard’; to market a product to them. They felt marketing was a cover-up for a poor product.”

Geez. You know, I never gave that much thought to commercials, so maybe I was an idiot child. If the product looked cool or interesting, I wanted it. If it didn't, I didn't try to analyze the intent of the marketing.

Which leads me to something I've constantly wondered over the past few years - are kids growing up too fast, learning too much about the ins and outs of life at too young an age? Are kids going to grow up to be more cynical and distant because of these things? Yea, ok, I was a "normal" kid who was allowed to be a kid and I grew up cynical and distant, but that is different. But really, why do kids need to think about advertising? What has changed in the last 30 years, going from kids who make their dolls have orgies to kids who mutilate their dolls? Are kids perhaps paying too much attention to societal concerns?

All I know is good, harmless fun meant you had dolls to play with another day. But I guess if you have 12 different Barbies, that doesn't matter. Perhaps the parents should be limiting their kids to just one, and then let's see how the kids react in a similar study. In the end I guess they are right, in a way. If you have too much, what you have doesn't mean anything.

Does anyone remember..., when you were a kid, eating a candy or gum that colored your tongue was a really big deal? And you spent ages finding the right combinations to make different colors. It was so magical, so cool, and so fun - being able to change the color of a body part without making your parents mad (well, unless you ate too much, and right before dinner).

Or am I the only freak who felt like that?

Monday, December 19, 2005

We'd miss the mistletoe

According to British environmentalists, mistletoe is headed quickly towards extinction. It seems that the popularity of the Christmas foliage has led to overharvesting, and because the plant won't grow back after it is removed from its host tree, we are in danger of losing the best excuse for copious amounts of Christmas kisses.

We always had mistletoe growing up, but it was always fake. It still counts, though.

A household of geeks

My husband and I have been all over Asmiov's robot stories of late. We were watching the movie I, Robot last night, and musing as to why noone has made adaptations of the Caves of Steel series, which we thought would adapt well to the big screen.

Somehow, the discussion morphed into positronic brains, and I said something about my positronic brain. My husband replied by saying "you have a negatronic brain". I looked at him in dismay, wondering what in the hell he meant by that. He explained that because I always had such a negative attitude about things, there is no way I could have a positronic brain.

I'm not sure which is worse, the insult itself, or the geeky context of the insult.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Stephen King's 10 Favorite Books of 2005

From Entertainment Weekly. It seems Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince made King's list. Now, while I am a Harry Potter fan, I didn't like this novel as much as some of the others. In fact, I think if it had been the first book I read of the series, I wouldn't have been inclined to read the others. Then again, perhaps I'll have to give it another read-through and see.

I haven't heard of most of the other books, although I am familiar with a couple of the authors. Some of them sound intriguing, others not so much.

Of the books I've read in 2005 (none of which were published this year, except for the HP), I do have to say that King's The Stand is in the top 10. I'd have to give it more thought, but I'd also include Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex and Douglas Coupland's Microserfs. See, I told you I was behind on my "modern" reading.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Anyone else see the irony here?

It seems that gay couples don't have a chance of getting recognized in Greece any time in the near future, according to this article in Ekathimerini. Of course, a big part of this is likely pressure by the ever illustrious head of the Greek Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, who, apparently after jumping aboard the Way Back machine, called homosexuality an "illness".

Responding to a question from Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos, Papaligouras told Parliament that Greek society was not ready to accept a change in the law giving rights to homosexual couples who live together.

“Any legislative initiative cannot exceed the tolerance and the sentiment of what is generally acceptable in any society,” Papaligouras said. “Every change has to mature in society before it can be decreed as law.”

I haven't really noticed much in the way of anti-gay sentiment here, but then again, ideas of homosexuality aren't prevalent here either, unless you want to read ancient Greek texts. You would really think that of all the EU countries, Greece should have been one of the first to recognize homosexual couples, Church or not. Hey, if the Catholics in Spain can do it, the Greek Orthodox should see fit to open their hearts and minds a bit too.

Alavanos said it was a sign of progress that the issue is now being discussed openly by politicians and the media. He asked Papaligouras to form a law-drafting committee to examine the possibility of giving greater recognition to same-sex couples.

The minister said that a committee was examining possible changes to the law in the case of heterosexual people who live together but there were no plans to extend that to homosexual couples.

Well, I'm glad he sees it as a sign of progress, but I really don't want to see Greece falling behind when it comes to the recognition of human rights in the EU.

Is the Lit major in?

Yesterday when my husband and I went to the supermarket, our usual checkout lady, who knows a few things about us, had some medical questions for my husband. This, I have discovered, is not uncommon, once people find out my husband is a doctor these things usually follow. It has happened repeatedly in the last few years, and my husband handles it very well, but always with the same stern finality: "you really need to talk to your doctor about this".

I used to think this sort of thing was a joke, but seemingly, if you have any relation to medicine at all, people seem fit to ask you for medical advice. Yet I don't hear about such things happening for other professions. I mean, you might know someone who is an accountant, and ask them to do your taxes for you, but you usually end up paying them, not just asking advice on the fly. But really, there doesn't seem to be much call for frequent advice from English majors...or is there?

Thinking back to my college years, I remember all the papers I had to read and edit, with advice that would help them write a good paper but removed me from the responsibility of writing the paper for them. I was very strict about that - I would always help someone with their paper, but would never agree to write it for them. I simply helped them forge the way to a better paper, and made them think about the things they were trying to say and how they could say them better. This carried through my adult life, as it seems I always had friends in college or high school, and I like to think I helped some people learn how to write well. It seems, that like doctors, I was asked for advice all the time! Hell, even my first year in Greece, my doctor (of all people) kept bugging me to help him write some medical paper in English. I didn't.

Now I have to wonder how many other professions are used and abused in this manner. The car mechanic who always has to check out his friends' cars. The electrician who hooks up his neighbor's home entertainment system. The cook who is constantly plagued with requests for advice on spices and recipes. How much "free" knowledge is passed around on a daily basis?

In a way, it reminds me a bit of The Stand. The Free Zone people were constantly in wait for a doctor to arrive. People who had certain skills gave of their knowledge to help build their new society. But where do you draw the line? At what point does it become not a point of society building but self sustainment? When would people start charging for their services? Could you build a world where monetary exchange was not necessary, ever? This is something that always seems to be taken for granted in the world of science fiction - but could it ever really happen?

In the end, I guess I realized I actually miss helping people with their papers. And perhaps my husband would feel a bit forlorn if people stopped asking him for medical advice.

Nah, probably not.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Childhood trauma

Last night my parents called me. But it wasn't one of their usual phone calls, oh no. They were babysitting my 8 year old niece because it was a snow day in Virginia, and so they put the poor girl through the torture of calling me. And for a very special treat, they dialled the number and handed the phone to her so she could say hello when I picked up. Well, of course I didn't pick up, my husband did, and so my darling niece had all the awkwardness of an unexpected conversation with someone she barely knows.

My niece hardly enjoys talking to me on the phone, and it isn't because she doesn't like me. It is because in her eight short years we have only had the privilege of a few brief visits together, and all these visits occuring before the age of six, so I hardly made much of an impression. Sure, I have the allure of being her aunt who lives in Greece, and she doesn't mind hearing stories about me or looking at pictures. But when it comes to talking on the phone, well, that is where all the pleasantries end.

I've told my parents and my brother time and time again to please not force her to talk to me if she doesn't want to. Sure, sometimes she gets a wild hair up her butt and will talk to basically anyone who crosses her telephone path, but most of the time she just has nothing to say. But the reason I don't want her to be forced to talk to me stems from my own childhood memories - all the aunts and uncles and friends of the family that I hardly knew from Adam who just had to talk to me. I brewed quiet resentment against these people, and plotted my revenge for whatever future visit might come my way. Not only that, but these people had to talk to me like I was some kind of an idiot. I suppose it is what adults do when they talk to children, but geez, I was one of those "magnet" children for god's sake. My IQ was higher than the lot of these people combined (ok, so maybe it wasn't, but really). Knowing this, I vowed to just talk straight to any children who had the misfortune of making conversation with me.

So, what did I do last night? I proceeded to talk to my niece like an idiot, asking her what she wanted for Christmas and if she is ready for Santa, and that she better hurry or Santa and the elves won't have time to make it before Christmas. Do you know what her reply was? "Well, if Santa is as smart as he is supposed to be, he'll already know what I want. I've just been too busy to write a letter".


Yes, I realized quickly what I had done, and hated myself for it. I made up for it a bit later in the conversation when I heard my dad prompting her to tell me something, and I asked her if Pop pop was busy trying to tell her what to say. She found this funny, so I suppose I gained some faction back. But then I realized I had no idea what to talk to her about, and prodded her to get my mother on the phone.

Maybe I am as uncomfortable with the whole thing as she is. I'm not sure if that makes me feel better, or worse. I am supposed to be the adult here. By the time she reaches her teens, I figure I'll have something to talk to her about, since I still feel like a teenager myself. I just hope it gets easier. I don't want to be a stranger to my niece forever.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mona Lisa is happy?

Oh, what a wondrous modern age are we living in! The things that technology can teach us! Researchers at the University of Amsterdam, who had to work on this in collaboration with the University of Illinois, came up with an algorithim to analyze Mona Lisa's smile.

It seems she is "83% happy, 9% arrogant, 6% scared and 2% furious".

Isn't that just great. We can all sleep better knowing that Mona Lisa was indeed happy.

Boys to Men

I don't know about you, but growing up I was a little prince. I suppose I was assigned a few menial tasks here and there (take out the trash, go to the store), but the arrival of younger siblings solved all that. I was never required (nor did I show much inclination to learn how) to change lightbulbs, screw things together (although I could screw them up very well), put up pictures or lights, check the car, use power tools.

Dad was there for all that. The Dad. This omnipotent, towering figure of our childhood; close to us, loving, cheerful, tangible and yet also a demi-god, residing in the heavens whence also came all answers to our problems. Dish washer out of whack? Dad knew how to fix it. Stereo wouldn't start up? At least he'd tinker with it before calling it quits and buying a new one. Plugs, lights, fixtures, bicycles (oh! how he could fix those flat tyres, as if magically) Dad was there. And keep in mind my dad is a cardiologist, not a handyman, farmer or mechanic.

Imagine my astonishment (and secret pride) when I found out that I, the prince, was slowly turning into Dad. I found out that for all my clumsiness, I could after all change a lightbulb. Put up a picture. I discovered aghast, that I could use basic power tools without losing a toe. I could repair some defunct appliances, put furniture together and take it apart - and fix broken things.

Most of all, imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that my dad and probably The Dad everywhere, probably did not know how work all these miracles at birth. He probably learnt by trial and error, the hard way, just like I am now.

Appreciate your fathers and love them, for behind their countenance, whether it be stern or cheerful, serious or goofy, perfect or flawed, hides a giant. A giant that conquers all adversity - or at least attempts to - just for you.

New additions

I updated my links, added a few new expats and some other folks with interesting blogs. I don't play favorites here - I enjoy all the blogs I list equally, so check 'em out if you are looking for something new.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's coming right for us

In an "oops" worthy of Joey Tribbiani, a military shooting exercise in Litochoro went terribly wrong on Monday when a missile landed dangerously close to the door of the Aghios Dionysios monastery, which lies along the side of Mt. Olympus.

Archimandrite (isn't that a great word?! sounds like some kind of sandwich spread) Maximos, the head of the monastery, sent yet another letter protesting the nearby firing range and the danger it poses to the health and happiness of his monks.

After having lived in Litochoro, I can say that that firing range was pretty damn annoying, and if I thought we were ever in any danger of a missile launching in the wrong direction, I would have been quite displeased. You know how often they practiced firing when our three cats were actually used to the noise after a few months. But geez, you know, I was still sleeping at 9am! They need to learn how to fire their tanks quietly, and in the right direction, apparently.

Christmas at the Parthenon

The ancient Parthenon that is. Photo courtesy Ekathimerini.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Megalo oopsies

Props to KnoxNews No Silence Here for pointing out this list of the best media errors and corrections for 2005.

My favorite?

From the Dallas Morning News:

Norma Adams-Wade's June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.

You don't wanna be crossing the streams between socialists and socialites. That might breed some ugliness.

Tuesday the 13th?

Well, apparently for Greeks, their Friday the 13th is Tuesday the 13th. I don't really get it, I mean, what is so ominous about a Tuesday, for crying out loud?

Anyway, some electronics store is having some giveaway today that if you bring in a black cat, they'll give you a home entertainment system. My brother-in-law has called twice trying to whore out our tiny cat Nala, who is mostly black but has white paws and a white underside..

I thought perhaps we should let him take her, for one because they will just tell him she isn't a black cat, and also so he can enjoy the merriment that is taking any one of our cats anywhere against their will. I daresay he'd never ask again, after doing it once.

Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

The ever eloquent and charming and not at all offputting head of the Church of Greece Archbishop Christodoulos made yet another politically correct statement in regards to Israel. Christodoulos, who has in the past stated that Americans deserved what happened to them in 9/11 and lambasted homosexuals, said that

“We are headed for Israel, or hell, in other words,” said Christodoulos, speaking at the Aghios Spyridon Church in Athens. “We see that the forces of darkness are undermining this country and are trying to remove Christianity from Greece and create a new order in our society so that in a few years nobody remembers God or the Church.”

The Israeli Embassy called the choice of words "unfortunate" and felt assured that the Archbishop wasn't intentionally dissing Israel.

The Church of Greece has been whining a lot of late about reforms that would mark the true separation of church and state in Greece. God forbid that the country that founded democracy manages to separate its government from the church. For now the ties seem tightly bound, however, as a controversial cremation amendment (cremation is a great big dilly no no in the Greek Orthodox Church) found itself rather quickly buried for the time being.

Gimme one of those damn hats and maybe I'll give the Church better press.


Don't you love it when you are watching T.V., then get up to browse the internet for awhile, leaving the T.V. on a_random_channel00 with the sound down, and a couple hours later you turn to the television and realize you have been unwittingly "watching" porn?

Well, ok, so you can't really do that in America, because if you turn it to porn it is all porn all the time. But here in Greece we have some channels that have normal things on them and then porn late at night. I don't really have a problem with porn, but it is a bit disconcerting when you aren't expecting it and you look over at the T.V. and see Ms. Vagina and Mr. Penis going at it up close and personal.

Of course, you are thinking "well, why didn't she turn the T.V. off when she went to the computer?"

I don't really have an answer for that, my friend.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Well, it seems I started something with my elevator etiquette post. I am getting tons of hits from people searching for "elevator etiquette". Perhaps it is a worldwide problem. Maybe I should have also dealt with the no farting in elevators issue, but that's understood, right? And I am still trying to figure out why someone did a search for "Keith Hamilton Cobb + elevator etiquette". Perhaps he it was a bad celebrity encounter.

I've also gotten a few hits along the lines of "annoying windchimes illegal noise" so I feel a bit vindicated, knowing that I am not alone.

I'm getting alot of "women pissing on a toilet" searches, and I am not sure if they mean on or in.

I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but someone landed here after searching for "do prostitutes ever quit and stop using drugs". I feel a bit guilty about that one, like maybe I should do some research and help them out.

Apparently there is a joke about how many Greeks it takes to change a lightbulb, because someone searched for it. I was being funny, I swear it wasn't a real lightbulb joke.

"Harry Potter said god is a wimp" He did? When? And where did I say it?

And I apologize, but I do not have the listing for "katerini call girls", "thessaloniki call girls", "big boob diner" and I definitely can't show you porn instantly. OK, well, I probably could, but I won't.

Finally, to the person who was searching for "men who wear women's underwear website fetish" I promise you we stick to our own underwear in this household, but I cannot vouch for what my husband does at the hospital.

Beyond good and evil

I finished The Stand last night. Those 1400 pages went by a lot faster than I expected them to. Let me first say that I enjoyed the book immensely and found it very difficult to put it down (I read before bed, so lets just say a lot of mornings I didn’t go to sleep until 5am). The one thing I will say I did not like was the ending – the last dozen pages or so felt superfluous and unnecessary, and I think tended to weaken the overall impact of the story. I am not sure if these pages were cut in the earlier edition or not, although I have to say I am certainly curious as to what was cut when the book was first released.

Honestly, I had my doubts about the book before I started. Yes, I have admitted a certain bias against mainstream, popular writers like King, although I never said that these writers can’t write an entertaining story. It just seems that a lot of bestsellers lack substance beyond the words – a philosophical or moral premise that goes deeper than just “these guys are bad, these guys are good, the good will (usually) prevail”. Obviously, that is not the case with The Stand, and it reads like Atlas Shrugged – full of characters of differing moral/social ideals who are constantly faced with decisions that test their beliefs. Also, despite the fact that many fans of the book have said, repeatedly, that the movie was far removed from the book and quite shallow comparatively, the reality was I had seen the movie, so I had certain prejudices based on it. I enjoyed the movie overall, enough that it made me want to read the book, but I found when watching the movie, when it came to the stuff about the dark man I got horribly bored. So when you are faced with a 1400 page novel, knowing that parts of a movie about said novel bored you to tears, you gotta wonder if you will make it through the book. Happily, I was not bored at all while reading the book. I suppose a certain substance is added to the words you read that cannot be conveyed in a movie, because there was a lot more depth to the “evil” people in the book.

The book was really topical for me right now because I have spent a lot of time lately pondering the ideas of good and evil and how it works in society. I get all worked up about the issue, how it seemed to be always so clear cut in America – Americans and their allies are the good guys, the other guys are the bad guys. Communism is evil. The Soviet Union is evil. But is it really true? Sure, it seems obvious when it comes to something like World War II, but didn’t America become the bad guys when they dropped the bomb? And you can’t tell me Hitler was walking around calling himself evil, surely he thought what he was doing was for the good of Germany, as did the people that supported him. What about today? Are the Iraqis really the bad guys? Or was it just Saddam Hussein? Doesn’t good and evil end up boiling down to which side you are on? Or is there a real morality that goes with it that goes beyond religion, a morality that encompasses simple humanity, irregardless of the indoctrination of any religion? I like to think that there is, but how do you define it? Where does it come from?

In The Stand, it is constantly being said that the people on the dark man’s side seem just like the Free Zone people. In the book it seems that it boils down to the choices people make – and not necessarily the quality of their character – that determines the side they end up on. In the end, it is easy to develop sympathy for the characters on the “evil” side, even the questionable ones.

I’ll not go further, I am trying to avoid spoilers because my husband has not yet read it, and I find I cannot discuss it anymore without giving away too much. But I have to say that The Stand is a classic for the modern age, and it will perhaps warrant a second reading, somewhere along the way.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's all Sanskrit to me

I am sure just about everyone in the world is familiar with the phrase "it's all Greek to me" (which my father embarrasingly and predictably used the first time he met my husband). But did ya ever wonder what the Greek's say?

At my last Greek lesson, my mother-in-law said "it's all Chinese to me".

So there you go.

What the hell has happened to me?

I am not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point in my life I went from a woman who makes 10 different kinds of cookies at Christmas and bakes all kinds of things year round to a woman who is mortally afraid of her oven. Most people would say there must have been some horrible burning incident to cause this fear, but there wasn't, unless it was an incident so horrible I have blocked it out, in which case I am certain there would be scars.

I feel sorriest for my husband, who spent our courtship coming to visit me in Nashville eating the fruits of my cooking labors, thinking erroneously he was getting a wife who is a veritable alchemist in the kitchen. I guess the ladies do what they can to catch their man. To my credit, I warned him several times that I was majorly screwed up and I could not take responsibility for any of my future behaviors. Since he didn't run screaming like a half crazed banshee to the four winds I figured he was in this for keeps. Thank god, because he isn't getting out of it now.

For the first 3 years of our life in Greece we had a half assed oven. It was literally half assed, one of those ovens that can't make up its mind between being a toaster oven and a real oven. It was large enough for a small turkey (a VERY small turkey) but not large enough for the majority of the cookware I brought with me from America. Not to mention it did not stand on it's own, but needed a shelf of some kind, and had three crappy burners, the big one which could not be used at the same time as the oven. It was a real piece of work. I bitched and bitched about that oven, knowing that it made the most sense while we were moving around so much. So when we moved here to Thessaloniki, we left the sad remains of our half assed oven in Litochoro and my in-laws bought us a proper oven.

My oven in Nashville had two basic settings: broil and bake. The bake setting consisted of top and bottom coils heating up. That was it. That was what I knew of oven life. I was not prepared for the fancy schmancy ovens you buy in Europe that have ten million different ways to bake things, including top and bottom coils, just the top coil, just the bottom coil, air convection, and lets not forget the broil setting (although I'm trying to, because something tells me it does not work the same way as my Nashville oven). None of the settings seem to cook things right. It gets too far done on the top and not enough on the bottom. It takes 10 to 15 minutes longer to cook things. It has ONE rack, for god's sakes! I suppose all that is beside the point. I fear putting things in the oven, and taking them out. My husband has to do it for me, and then I have to worry about his dropping problem (one time he pulled a pumpkin pie out of the oven - his first ever pumpkin pie, and he dropped it upside down on the floor). Still, I used to pull things in and out of the oven like a pro. Now I act like some kind of chicken. What happened?

I suppose the only thing I can do is do more baking when my husband isn't home, then I'll be forced to use the oven myself. But that perhaps sounds a little dangerous, given my condition, doesn't it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's like being rushed through the Louvre

My husband and I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tonight. The great thing about Greece is they don't dub foreign movies, so I don't have to test my language skills if I want to enjoy a movie. As an added bonus I can pick up new words here and there from the subtitles, so it is really a win-win situation.

The third and fourth Harry Potter books are probably my favorite. I realize that a lot of tough choices have to be made when you adapt a book for a film, and I don't dispute the screenwriter's choices, at least in this one. The big problem I had watching this film was the feeling of someone's hand on my back ushering me through the movie so quickly I barely had time to enjoy anything. (Here is where I say that Harry Potter and the Louvre can't really be compared, but it was the first example I thought of) Aside from a slight feeling of whiplash, I guess I survived. Unfortunately, though, this feeling of "rushing through" seems to make the movie feel a bit shallow, when the book is anything but.

As others have stated, this Dumbledore really sucks. I didn't like him in the third movie and I liked him even less in this one. This actor is not committed to the part, half the time he read his lines monotonously as if he was just doing a run-through, and he just doesn't have the composure and grace Dumbledore has in the books. In fact, I think you could safely say that this actor is Dumbledore on crack.

Other than that, I have no real complaints. The "head in the fire" wasn't how I pictured it, but I guess it worked. The dragon looked great, realistic even, the Durmstrang ship and Beauxbaton carriage were well done, and the atmosphere of the movie was set up well. There was even a great deal of good humor in some of the scenes (with Snape when the kids were discussing going to the ball) and the Yule Ball set was beautiful. The graveyard scene was nice and spooky and you can't beat Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. Not to mention the Ku Klux Klan looking Deatheaters.

Still, I think we are getting to the point where there is just too much story to tell it in a movie. I honestly don't know how I could have made it better, keeping it within a two and a half hour time frame.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Snogging angels

What, you mean you don't like tittie grabbing angels on your children's Christmas wrap?

Apparently, Virgin Mobile made a major oops when they passed out promotional wrapping paper to children exiting movie theatres in Canada. The wrapping paper, intended to express the spirit of the Christmas season, depicts angels kissing one another while the male angel cops a feel. The female angel could be construed as grabbing for the male angel's nether regions, but it is hard to tell. At any rate, parents were definitely not pleased.

Virgin's excuse? It was meant to be handed out to 18-24 year olds. Oh, ok. I get it now. You thought you might get a wee bit o' publicity out of handing it out to children, then claiming oopsey!

Of course, if I was a parent who had a kid who had received the wrapping paper, I would have probably just laughed. I guess that's why I'm not a parent.

Slash Dot Com...nope! Slash Dot EU for teh win!

The new ".eu" domain names were opened up to registered trademark owners and government agencies/companies on Wednesday, to great success. 100,000 applications came in on the first day, with 40,000 of those occurring in the first 15 minutes.

Of course, "" was the most requested domain, requested by 213 applicants. I'm sure none of those applicants were government agencies.

The field will expand to allow all businesses on February 2nd, and after April 7th any EU citizen can apply for a fancy new .eu domain name.

The waiting periods were instituted to ensure that people wouldn't buy up popular brand names and try to sell the domains for beaucoup cash.

Athens is cheerful?

Well, it is no secret to anyone who has read this blog that of all the places I have lived in Greece, I hated Athens the most, and would rather get sucked through the eye of a sewing needle, then chewed up by an alligator and spit out on an elephant's turd than live there again. So I was quite surprised to see that the average tourist finds Athens to be a joyful burg, full of friendliness and good cheer.

Normal day to day people in Athens are not really friendly. I sort of compare their attitudes to the lackluster spirit of daywalkers in the American North, all too busy going about their lives to give a smile to a stranger. On Kos, in Litochoro, and here in Thessaloniki people are much friendlier overall. In Athens people are rude, crude, and dangerous to know. They will push you out of their way on the sidewalk. They will cut in front of you in line (or rather, the semi, half-assed lines Greeks make). It is a city that is literally bursting at the seams, and it shows in the attitude of their citizens.

Now I am sure the tourist, however, meets the friendly people they are paying money to at the hotel, and then the friendly people they are paying money to at the taverna, and then the friendly people they are paying money to at the tourist crap shops. And don't forget the friendly people at the Acropolis and museums. But try living in Athens for a couple of months and then tell me how friendly you think the city is.

At least they noticed how dirty it is. Noone can ignore that. They used to say that the stone at Delphi was the belly button of the world, well, Athens has all the belly button lint. Thank god my husband is from Thessaloniki, or I'd be moving back to America lock, stock and barrel.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Books and nightmares

I am halfway through The Stand. If I have nightmares about the dark man one more time, I'm not going to keep reading. It is freaking me out - the book I can handle, the nightmares make it all just a bit too weird for me.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Greeks don't like books

Ok, perhaps the title of my post is a bit extreme, as it doesn't apply to ALL Greeks. Many seem to not have a personal problem with books, but just don't get around to reading any.

According to a recent poll conducted on behalf of the state-run National Book Centre of Greece, 2 in 3 Greeks admit to not reading a single book in a year. Apparently (for 40% of respondants, at least) this is because they don't have time for reading, but I've found it is always easy, no matter how busy you are, to squeeze in an hour or so before bed, especially if you don't spend too much time watching T.V. 18% said they DO NOT LIKE BOOKS!!! What...the...hell?!? 25% read between 1 and 9 books a year, which I suppose is better than nothing.

22% claim to read a newspaper on a daily basis, while 39% don't read newspapers at all. 62% of Greeks did not attend any movies, and 83% did not attend the theatre (ok, that last one is understandable, theatre prices are way too high for average salaries here in Greece).

Wow. Just wow. For some reason I always thought (assumed, apparently) that Greeks liked to read. Ah, well.

Do we really need another Rocky?

Sylvester Stallone is making another Rocky sequel, 15 years after the last one! Now I realize the first one is an American classic, but I'll leave it at that. Rocky is going to go down in the annals with Friday the 13th if they aren't careful.

And for even more Stallone sequel fun, we are finding out that there is another Rambo sequel in the works (love how IMDB messed up the cast listing). Seriously, can't this guy just run for governor, or something?

Holiday cheer

I spent all day bleeding my fingers to the bone writing out Christmas cards. I remember there used to be a day when I could sit and write longhand all day without it bothering me. Now after the fourth card I felt like my fingers were turning to craggly, broken stumps that had been picked clean by my cats.

The sad thing is I actually can't send all these people emails. My great aunts don't use computers. And I figure every once in awhile I should send a real piece of mail to my friends and family. At a staggering cost, apparently.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It's always about the goats

Now, I don't know exactly what my problem is, but it seems I can't avoid a story about goats, even constructed Christmas goats, like the one the city of Gavle, Sweden has every year.

Apparently it is a tradition of this burg to construct a 43-foot high straw billy goat, for reasons unknown (a Trojan Christmas goat? the merry goats of Christmas? who knows?), every Christmas, since 1966. 22 times the goat has been burned to the ground, which makes the burning of the goat almost as much of a tradition as the goat itself. Police reported that one of the men running from the burning goat was Father Christmas himself, who apparently spends the days leading up to his Christmas flight in goat burning activities and other Christmas mayhem.

The frustrated citizens have done everything to prevent the burning of the goat, including fire proofing, security cameras, and guards, to no avail. How about just don't build the goat? Or build one out of steel, and make it a permanent fixture in the town?

I don't know, but someone sure got this town's goat.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yea, so?

The grocery store is right across the street from our apartment building, and because it is so close, when I am in a hurry to just get a couple of things, I typically throw on my sandals instead of proper footwear because, well, it's easier.

Our normal checkout lady looked at my feet, and with a scolding tone said "in this weather?"

Yea, well, "this weather" is nothing like some of the winter weather I've experienced in Nashville - weather where I wore sandals and often did not wear a jacket, but just a sweater. Still, people here act like I am committing a capital crime if I leave the house on a 60° wearing sandals.


International Day of Disabled People

Well, it seems like every day belongs to someone or something, and December 3rd is no different.
The U.N. declared in 1992 that December 3rd would forever be the International Day of Disabled People, and so it is.

The theme of this year's EU Day of Disabled People was "Living Together in Society" - finding ways to make employment easier and more accessible for disabled people. Greece is making its own proposals for aiding disabled people, including reducing municipal taxes for them, opening avenues of employment for them and making public buildings easier to access.

All these things are great, really, but from what I've seen in Italy, Holland and Greece, the EU still has a LONG way to go before it is disabled friendly. Parking in cities and around major public buildings is nonexistent, including to little to no handicapped parking. In the places where handicapped parking exists, there is no enforcement of the rules. Sidewalks in Athens are virtually unusable by disabled people, especially those in wheelchairs, but also those who have difficulty walking. The majority of buildings have elevators but they are not large enough for wheelchairs and there is no ramp access from the sidewalk - and there are often several stairs to climb to get in most buildings. Some sidewalks have ramp access but many don't. Since parking issues are not enforced in the cities, sidewalks are often blocked by illegally parked vehicles, including motorcycles.

Shopping for disabled people is almost impossible. The majority of smaller stores don't have room for customers who might be in wheelchairs, and again, access from the sidewalk often involves stairs. In Thessaloniki, there are several shops that have descending stairs, some of the stairs unusually tall - which makes it impossible not only for wheelchair users but those who have difficulty walking. Very few movie theatres have wheelchair access or space for wheelchairs.

So while I think it is great that they want to make it easier for disabled people to work in Greece (and the EU), they need to make everyday life easier as well. After all, having a job doesn't do much good if you can't get to it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Maybe it's the elves

How is it that Christmas lights that were perfectly untangled when you put them away end up tangled when you bring them out again?

I should just go back to bed

I'm not having a good day.

For one thing, my husband is off on another shift tonight, and I miss him because I had terrible dreams all night thanks to reading The Stand before bed. And then I had to wake up to a dream of finding a store that had giant buckets of ice cream - all the well known American brands and flavors. How pathetic.

For another, I was all ready to make Mausi's Luscious Lemon Bars recipe when I discovered we have no baking powder. I've been to the damn store every day this week and I am too embarrassed to go yet again, lest the cashier, who knows us by now, thinks that Americans are very forgetful people. I suppose that is one of the problems of having a grocery store right across the street - you get careless about grocery lists and end up forgetting things you would remember if you had to schlep halfway across town to get to the store. So the lemon bars will have to wait until tomorrow.

AND, I was going to update with a few more blog links and for some reason when I add new ones it totally messes up the whole template. Is this the universe's way of saying I read too many blogs?

I swear...

...if I hear the term "wardrobe malfunction" ONE MORE TIME I am going to go batshit crazy.

It is as bad as hearing people say "synergy" in the 80's.

Why, oh why?

I suppose I hadn't run into this situation much because I lived landlocked for so long.

Yesterday was a warm enough day to crack the doors and windows for a bit. It just so happened that the time I had the doors and windows open, one of my neighbors cooked fish. Stinking, smelly, permeating fish smells are STILL in my apartment today.

I happen to not like fish. I don't like the taste and I really don't like the smell. I enjoy shrimp and scallops, but the fish cognoscenti out there tell me that shrimp and scallops are NOT fish. Whatever. There happens to be a fresh fish market next door to our apartment building, and so the families around us have fish on a regular basis. Yes, I understand a lot of people out there like fish. I know that fish is a heart smart food. I could probably tolerate it a lot better if it wasn't for the smell, which makes me nauseous.

These days it seems I can't open the windows and doors without either smelling fish or cigarettes. There are some days that someone is cooking something that smells wonderful, which is pleasant but I end up drooling into my lap. It is especially fun when the smell of marijuana wafts in from somewhere. Dude, you know, light an incense or something! The whole neighborhood can smell it!

I don't know what it was about where I lived in Nashville, but I never had an olfactory overload there like I have here. Greece is definitely a scratch n' sniff country. Sometimes that is good, and sometimes it is very, very bad.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS Day

Today also happens to be World AIDS Day. I was happy to see that the majority of Greek networks had the red ribbon displayed on their call signs. Unfortunately, in Greece, the number of AIDS cases has been steadily rising, and a particularly aggressive strain of the disease has been discovered here. The number of overall AIDS cases in Greece has risen by 10% in the past year, with women making up 18% of AIDS patients. Over 1400 Greeks have died of the disease since 1981.

Meanwhile, a survey of 350 AIDS sufferers in Greece found that almost a fifth of them were deserted by friends and relatives when they fell ill. Almost nine in 10 said they wanted to work but a third of respondents said they could not find any jobs.

A sad reality. World knowledge has to change for the better.

Blog Against Racism Day

In honor of Blog Against Racism Day, sponsored by Creek Running North, I offer you these words.

When I was a child, my family watched the movie Jesus of Nazareth when it came on television every Easter. Inevitably, when the movie came to the scene where Jesus was presented before the crowd, and they were asked if he should die, and the crowd shouted “crucify him!” over and over, I would start crying. Not because I was moved by the religious intonations of what was happening, no, I was too young to really understand that. I cried because I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be so hated, to have a crowd of people standing before you wanting you to die. I cried for the loneliness Jesus must have felt at that moment. In fact, it eventually got to the point where it traumatized me so much my parents wouldn’t let me watch the movie.

At that young age I had not yet learned the concept of racism. The idea of being hated, for any reason, was something I simply could not wrap my mind around. My parents had raised me and my brothers to accept all people with no prejudices, so it never occurred to me that because someone had a different color of skin, or had a different religion or culture that they were “less” in any way. I was taught to embrace these differences and encouraged to get to know people who came from a different background than I did. These differences, I was told, made the world a more interesting place. So in my early life I never thought of any group of people as “them”. We were all the same species. We were all human beings.

Imagine my surprise, then, the first time my grandmother balked at the idea of me having a black friend. I didn’t understand her concern, and she couldn’t explain to me the reasons. I dismissed her attitude as a result of her being old, and didn’t give it much thought.

I had the good fortune of attending schools for the gifted, first in grade school and then again in high school. Aside from the standard teasing of students outside the program towards our geekiness at being the smart kids, I did not witness any racism or hatred during my school years. I had, however, been introduced to the concept of racism, and knowing the respect, love, and admiration I had for several of my black schoolmates I couldn’t imagine someone hating them, especially someone hating them for the simple fact of the color of their skin. This made no sense to me, I found it to be ignorant and stupid, but I was starting to realize that the world was not entirely made up of the smart people I went to school with, that there were lots of people who couldn’t see past the color line and the differences between people. I understood that these differences, in fact, scared some people, and often scared them into hatred. I started to see the same scene I saw in Jesus of Nazareth playing out in reality – towards black people, Jewish people. I was devastated. The world I had assumed existed was falling apart.

Yet I, in my innocent naïveté, could not understand the way it felt. I was a white, middle class protestant teenager. How could I even pretend to know what racism was like? I could sympathize, based on how I thought it would feel to be hated, or be judged, for what I was, but I didn’t know. And then I went to college.

In my sophomore year of college I started working as a dispatcher for my college security department. The department was crawling with current and ex-military men, most of them misogynistic, several of them racist, and only a couple of them well educated. The director of security at the time (he is no longer the director and is now in fact, deceased) was himself ex-military and ignorant of mind. One of his favorite “jokes” was to laugh and say “a woman can become a patrol officer when she can piss in a cup from 6 feet away”. Now, how he actually thought a man could piss in a cup from 6 feet away is beyond me, because most of the patrol officers couldn’t even seem to aim for the toilet in the single department bathroom. This was not the only “limitation” he saw in a woman’s abilities. This man was misogynistic to the core, and felt that a woman could either be a housewife, a secretary (his assistant director was female, but she did all his dirty work, and ended up essentially a well paid secretary), a teacher or a nurse. He’d occasionally joke that women could be prostitutes and strippers as well but only if they were “stacked” and had nice bodies. He’d scoff at women students, saying he didn’t know why they bothered going to school. He was a real piece of work.

At first his statements bothered me, even hurt me. But after awhile he sounded so absurd and ignorant, and considering I knew full well my abilities, it stopped bothering me. I realized, however, that I had a small taste of what it was like to be judged based on what you were on the outside. It definitely was not a good feeling. While I will contend that the prejudice shown towards a woman is minor compared to the prejudice faced by a black person, or anyone else who is considered different in the world of the white man, I felt I could sympathize with racism a little better for my experience.

There are people who assert that racism is not only a white man vs. the rest of the world issue. Today, they are correct. There are scores of blacks, Jews, and Muslims who disapprove and hate the world of the white man. While I wish it were not so, I hardly blame them. The reality is, racism started as an issue of white against black. Within fifty years of the Emancipation Proclamation, black people in America were still subjugated to second class citizenship. A hundred years later, they couldn’t take it anymore. How can we blame them? I honestly feel that had we given black people full citizenship, full rights, a good education, and equal opportunities right after the Civil War, the racial hatred wouldn’t exist in America today.

There are also people who claim that all blacks are African and Africans are tribal, therefore it is a genetic reality that they will be violent. I find this theory particularly amusing, because I have yet to have ever known a black person who had a temper that was worse than any white person I have known. If you watch the show Boiling Points on MTV (a show that attempts to enrage people in everyday situations, to see how long they can keep their cool) you will find that for the most part, the black contestants keep their cool – much more than whites or Hispanics (seriously, white women are bitches, it’s scary). If you want to use riots, looting, whatever, as proof of this tribal mentality, I don’t think the argument holds. Most of these situations occur under extreme duress and white men are just as susceptible to bad behavior under similar circumstances. Besides, to say that only Africans have a tribal mentality is pretty dense. Human beings have a tribal mentality. Just because the conflict plays out on a different scale in Africa than in the rest of the world doesn’t make Africans any more tribal than white men. White men are pretty damn tribal when it comes to colonizing and starting wars and killing people. One of the worst villains in history was a white man. Is he excused because he is white? Other white men kicked his ass, so I guess not. I suppose my point is that no race, religion, or culture is without blame. We are all responsible, at least, we all should be responsible.

It would be interesting if we could live in a world, just for a short time, where all outlying characteristics of our race, religion, culture, gender, and sexuality were obscured from view. If there was a time when we all just looked like blobs, with similar sounding voices – no way to establish our identities on sight or sound. No names, no accents, nothing to give us away. Because really, that is what we are. A bunch of living, breathing blobs just trying to make our way in this world. So why should any of us waste time with racism?

Perhaps we should all take time to get to know the “others” in our midst. Talk to the black man we see every day, hurrying to work in the same direction. Talk to the Muslim we see frequently in the supermarket. Talk to the Chinese woman who lives two doors down. I bet we could all find similarities in our lives and our experiences, not to mention hear an interesting story about someone who lives a different life. They could even become your best friend. But with racism in your heart, you’ll never know.