Thursday, August 31, 2006

Οι Άνεμοι

The hot, thick, stagnant air hung all around us. Even for summer, a heat too intense, too intrusive – warm, sticky fingers in your hair, down your shirt, under your dress. Oh Zeus, if ever in word or deed I did please you, let us breathe again, cooler air, more temperate, pleasant – warm, but not oppressive.

As night fell, the winds came. Aeolos bent his head along the shore and blew fiercely, the frothy white tufts in the sea began to surge, slowly at first, then with great force, tumbling over into the city. As the wind grew stronger, it began to meander through the city streets, turning corners, climbing buildings, until the city was filled with the new, bless-ed air. It became as though a tempest without the rain, a gale as strong as Herakles, and with each gust came a blanket of soothing, crisp air – a promise of the Autumn to come. But not yet. Not yet. Only brief respite from the heat. A prayer heard, and answered.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Where to eat in the Thessaloniki City Center

I've been in Thessaloniki just over a year now, so we've pretty much found our favorite places to eat here in the center where we live. I figured I'd be kind enough to share it with the world, so if someone googles "where to eat in Thessaloniki" they might get lucky.

Favorite tavernas:
Πυρί (Opta Pyri), beside the fountain in the square behind the OTE building. This place has great food of all kinds, but I especially like the κολοκυθοκεφτέδες (mashed fried zucchini in a patty). Reasonably priced.
Ούζου Μέλαθρον (Ouzoo Melathron), right off of Venizelou near Tsimiski. This place has a kitcshy, fun feel to it, although the menu might be a bit daunting for folks unfamiliar with Greek fare. Also, the names of some of the dishes might be considered offensive by some prudish, George Bush type people. Also reasonably priced, maybe a bit more expensive than your average taverna.

Favorite upscale non-traditional, German-Greek food:
Extrablatt, on Alex. Svolou. All types of sausages and meat dishes. A plethora of beer choices. Interesting artwork, nice atmosphere. A little pricier than most, expect to spend some money on your meal here, but it is well worth it.

Favorite gyros/souvlaki/"fast food":
The Best, Ag. Dimitriou 146, tel. 2310.200198 Their tzatziki is quite literally, the best.
15 Grill, tel. 2310.870093
Luigi, Strat. Kallari 1 & L. Nikis, tel. 2310.240096 This place has the best burgers in town, and an Arabic pita sandwich that is quite delicious.

Favorite "home" cooking:
ΜΕ ΝΟΥ, Egnatia 95, tel. 2310.287848 Moussaka, keftedes, pastitsio - all the good homemade foods.

Favorite pizza and pasta:
Preludio, Justinianus 24, tel. 2310.252046 Oh my god, their pizza is SO GOOD. Their crust, the sauce, everything. They must be a little bit Italian - or from New York. And at 5 to 7 euros a pizza (depending on size and toppings), you just can't beat the price.

Since we live in the center, we haven't had occasion to venture forth more in the city, but if new delicious places tempt our palates, I'll post more.

Καλή Όρεξη!

Bring it on!

Greece and the USA have moved on to the FIBA World Basketball Championship semi-finals, and they'll be playing each other at 10:30 Greek time on Friday. Should be a great game, after what I've seen of the Greek team (we all know the US team rocks). The winner of the Greece/USA match will face either Spain or Argentina in the finals on Sunday.

The US team dominates basketball, they can let someone else win for once.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Spit or swallow?

My husband cannot swallow pills. And by cannot, I mean I have to force open his mouth with those duck bill looking gynecological tools and shove the pills down his throat. Most of the time it doesn’t matter – any pill he takes either has a dissolvable form or is small enough that he can pretend he isn’t taking a pill at all. But we’ve started taking vitamins of late, and we all know they can’t seem to find a way to make vitamins human sized. I’m sure it is a big joke to the vitamin conglomerate to feed the public pills large enough for a horse – the gagged up pills alone are worth a fortune in replacements.

For weeks my husband had been struggling with taking the vitamins. It required complete silence – no one could move, breathe, or speak when he tried to swallow the vitamin, and even then, it was a crap shoot on whether or not he could get it down. One time I swear I saw our three cats huddled together in the next room taking bets on whether or not he would swallow the damn thing. Hell, I would have gotten in on that action.

After all this time, my frustration level finally peaked. I have better ways to spend a half hour than watching my husband gag and spit out a giant pill twenty times. So I shouted at him: “You’re a doctor, for christ’s sake! Just swallow the damn thing already!”

Needless to say (oh hell, I'm saying it anyway) he no longer has a problem taking the vitamins.

Probable cause

The neighbors above us seem to have problems deciding exactly where they want their furniture. Ever since the weekend, they've been moving what sounds like giant, colicky dragons with their nails scraping the floor and constant bursts of gas emitting from either end. This sound is particularly startling at 2am, when you awaken suddenly in your sleep and wonder why the circus is storing its animals above your head. While I understand proper furniture placement is crucial to good karma, it doesn't help much if it causes the people below you to have minor neurological damage that mimics Tourette's syndrome every time you see said neighbors in the hall.

Of course, I have to wonder what the neighbors below us think every time the cats run like recently emancipated banshees through the apartment. When I saw them downstairs yesterday, I'm pretty sure that word she said to me wasn't hello.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Greeks play good basketball

Who woulda thunk it? The Greek basketball team has made it to the FIBA World Championship Quarterfinals, after a smashing game against China today, with a final score of 95-64. Greece is among four teams that are undefeated in the championship, and they will face off with France on Wednesday. Providing that Greece wins against France and the U.S. win against Germany (well duh, like they won't), Greece will stand up to the Americans on Thursday.

If you want to know who I will root for in that event, my answer is when in Rome...


Can we even the scales?

A new law punishing sexual harassment has entered the Greek penal code, apparently a first for Greece, so it seems this law was a long time coming. The penalties for a guilty verdict include prison time, fines, and suspension of business, and the burden of proof falls upon the accused.

My husband and mother-in-law were a bit shocked at that last fact. Certainly, it might be hard for someone to prove their innocence, although I’d think it is just as hard to prove you were harassed. I can see both sides of the argument for burden of proof – on one hand, with the reluctance of most women to come forward on sexual harassment charges, this certainly makes it easier on them. But on the other hand, it could lead to the conviction of innocent people.

In America, it seems that sexual harassment cases have more and more leaned in favor of plaintiffs over the past several years. An article by Wendy McElroy at sums up the evolution of sexual harassment in America, and she suggests that “the issue has evolved dramatically in the last three decades and now seems to blatantly favor and perhaps encourage accusations.” In 1986, a precedent was set for “hostile environment” and, according McElroy’s article “increased an employer's liability and diminished a complainant's burden of proof.”

In 1998, two Supreme Court rulings made the resolution of sexual harassment cases even more difficult for employers. According to an article by Jim Collison, “any behavior of even a remotely sexual nature, which an employee finds threatening or offensive, or such behavior which is unwanted by the employee...can trigger a sexual harassment charge” and “under the court's new rulings, an employer can be liable even when the harassed employee fails to inform the employer of the objectionable behavior.”

It seems that Greece’s new law has adopted some of the extremist positions of American sexual harassment law, which, according to McElroy “offers lopsided power to those who even hint at an accusation.” While I am a staunch supporter of punishment for sexual harassment, I do fear that some women may either have axes to grind or even be a bit too naïve about things that might be sexual harassment. If something makes a woman uncomfortable, the perpetrator should be punished, right? I don’t really think so. When it comes down to women complaining because a man curses, talks about his “conquests” with other men at the office, has a sexually provocative picture in his locker – I don’t think these cases should qualify for sexual harassment. There is a difference between being victimized and adjusting to a work environment that has men in it. To me, the whole feminist ideology goes out the window when a woman can’t handle such things in the work environment.

There is a line that can be crossed, and has been crossed, and these people should be punished for it. But we have to develop a fairness when it comes to sexual harassment laws as well. While I want women who have been genuinely harassed to feel free to come forward, I don’t want innocent men (or women!) prosecuted. And I strongly feel that anyone who makes false claims for their own reasons (revenge, benefit, what have you) should face punitive charges as well, because their prevarication hurts real victims.

I suppose the real question is how can the law deal with this issue with proper sensitivity and fairness? I don’t know if I have the answer to that. I just hope Greek judges can adjudicate the proper line between fairness and ridiculousness.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Confirmation of my own idiocy

In the time that I have been struggling to learn Greek, my sister-in-law's English has greatly improved, she has learned German damn near fluently, and she is starting on learning Swedish with some fluency.

I must have been dropped on my head as a child.

Arrrrrrrrrrr, matey!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is playing on 26 screens in and around Thessaloniki, 4 in the cinemaplex nearest us alone.

Now, I'm not knocking the movie, I haven't seen the first one yet, so I won't be seeing the second one. But seriously, y'all, there ARE other movies out right now, and I highly doubt the number of Thessalonians going to see the movie requires 26 theatres.

I'm still waiting for Clerks 2, although I have a sinking feeling it may get lost in the Greek market. It just seems that every movie I really want to see comes and goes within a couple of weeks. The last movie I saw in the theatre? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Everything else I've wanted to see has been gone by the time I get off my ass to go see it. I guess I gotta get out the first week if I really want to see a movie.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The fading of the light

As summertime oh so slowly ebbs away (the heat will not I fear, as always) our days of light grow ever shorter. It is almost dark by 20:30 now, and while I am a creature of the night who shuns the sun, I find these shortening days a bit sad, as if the early darkness steals our summer dreams.
Yet I too love the darkening days, the early twilight, the promise of a winter chill, of Christmas near, a midwinter's tale, the blessing of Hestia, the hearth of warmth and happiness. A chthonic goddess is still a goddess, after all.

I shall not rage against the dying of the light. I shall celebrate, instead, and look forward to another cycle of life.

Et tu, Pluto?

I'm really glad that leading astronomers sit around spending time debating things like whether or not Pluto gets to be a planet. I'm especially glad they have finally, by god, come up with a definition for what makes a planet because really, the world was at a loss without a definition.

Now that they have determined, officially, that Pluto is not a planet but a dwarf planet, I think we can all rest easier. I worry about little Pluto though. What if the other, real planets make fun of him now? What if Pluto plunges into such a deep depression that he leaps, unceremoniously, into a black hole? I suppose it could be worse. We might have lost Uranus.

Now can the leading astronomers now get down to important things like inhabiting the moon and warp drive capabilities? I mean sheesh, it is 2006 people! The best we can come up with is demoting Pluto?

Thank you for not snooping

Yesterday when I went down to the mailbox (we have mailboxes for each apartment, they are small and unlocked inside the front hall of our building) I saw a package jutting out of our box. It looked seriously maimed, as if a vicious attack dog had gotten hold of it and ripped it apart with the force of fangs and saliva. I knew my parents were sending me a couple of books, and I knew this had to be the package, and my first thought was "did Customs do this?"

I knew the answer was no, because usually Customs at least makes an attempt to reaffix the package in some manner. When I got to the package, only one book was inside (there should have been two). I panicked a bit, because the book I was missing was the one I really needed. I looked on the floor, no book. Finally, I found it on top of the mailboxes. Phew.

I figure one of two things happened - either a nosey neighbor (and boy, do we have a few of those!) decided to forsake all pretense of common human decency in the ongoing investigation of the business of their neighbors OR the postman, in great frustration at delivering us packages all the livelong day, ripped it in two so the damn thing would fit in our small box. I'm going with the latter, because surely if it had been an irresponsible neighbor, the second book, or rather the whole package, would have ended up on the floor, like scores of other mail they sort through and have no use for. Either way, it disturbs me a bit, because if there had been a letter or some other paper in the package it would have gotten ripped, not to mention, it was open for all the world to see.

Not that I have anything to hide, mind you, and if it pleases someone to find out that my parents sent me Shakespeare then by god, enjoy your jollies. But from here on out, leave my shit alone, unless you want me to stand in the downstairs hallway in front of the elevator shaft and listen to me recite from Henry V all day. Because I will do it, and the whole building will hear it, and by god, they will like it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Appropriate Dinner Conversation

My favorite touristy taverna in Thessaloniki is Οπτά Πυρί near Aristotelous Square. Their food is good, they have nice live music, and the location is prime – surrounding a fountain square. Their only downside is once they’ve brought your food, you lose service forever unless you clap your hands together maniacally, quack like a duck, and do the chicken dance. It is painfully obvious that waitpersons in Greece don’t rely on tips for pay like their American counterparts, although we still tip them damn near the same. Hey, it is hard not to tip once you get used to it.

At dinner tonight I thought my husband and I were at a loss for words, until we started talking about a friend of ours who is taking Anatomy classes. Despite being a doctor, my husband would rather die than have any dealings with Anatomy classes, and I made the point that I couldn’t see myself working on a corpse – that all the various crap we dissected in high school was bad enough.

ME: Yea, I could barely stand dissecting frogs, and starfish, among other things.


ME: Yea, you know, starfish are really friggin’ weird inside.

HUBBY: They are?

ME: Yea, it looks like peanut butter and shit.

HUBBY: Please! Not while we are having dinner!

ME: But you’re a doctor!

HUBBY: I’m not a starfish doctor!

Nope, my husband is definitely NOT a proctologist.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Requiem for a paradise

A fire began raging on the Halkidiki "finger" of Kassandra yesterday, burning out of control, destroying homes and wrecking vacation dreams for thousands of holidaymakers who find the tranquil, turquoise beaches a top holiday spot. A German tourist has died, apparently he drowned while trying to get away from the blaze on a boat. Sadly, he leaves a wife and child behind.

Today it is reported that the fire is under control, although one area has rekindled. The images of the fire have been a bit shocking, like the one above from ERT. Live pictures of the burning at night shocked me - it almost looked like lava burning all over the ground.

These aren't the only fires in Greece at the moment, unfortunately the Greek countryside seems to be rife with fire in the summertime, and sometimes the flames are sparked maliciously. Right now, I don't think there are any reports of what started the blaze on Halkidiki, I just hope it wasn't intentional.

My thoughts are with all those displaced by fire this summer, and those firefighters who are still working diligently to put out the flames. May Hephaistos guide them, and help them tame the blazes burning all around them.

A quote for all seasons

"For many among men are they who set high
the show of honor, yet break justice."

-Aeschylus, Oresteia - Agamemnon

Greek tragedy

The last couple of days have been a punishment borne down from Helios - the temperatures in some parts of Greece peaked at 45°C (113°F) degrees yesterday, and the day earned the honor of the hottest day of the year. Athens and other prefectures aided citizens by opening air conditioned centers for those that aren't so lucky to have artificial cool air pumping into their homes.

Unfortunately, an elderly couple faced the heat head on. The husband died, most likely due to heat stroke, and the wife is hospitalized. Ironically, the couple has air conditioning, and when asked why they weren't using it, the woman said they never turned it on for fear of freezing. I suppose overheating never occurred to them. Keeping it on a high temperature of around 30° could have been enough to save them without being too cold. Poor woman.

Luckily, the temperatures have taken a slight turn for the better (well, after the past couple of days 90° looks pretty damn good) and hopefully we are done with heat waves for the summer. As long as I didn't just jinx it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wherefore art thou Autumn?

I know it is August. I know it is still summer. But it is 100° (feels like 104°!) outside (that's 38°C feels like 40° to the European set). Even in Nashville - the heart of the deep, hot South - after mid-August you can expect some relief.

Edgar Cayce predicted the climate of Europe would change in the blink of an eye. I hope this ain't it.

Remind me of this when I am bitching about how cold it is in January.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

To peacekeep, or not to peacekeep

Greece is now in the throes of contemplating the delicate task of sending peacekeeping forces into Lebanon to uphold what seems to be a rather weak ceasefire. Many E.U. countries have faltered in their offers to send troops right away, with Germany and the Netherlands choosing to stay out of Lebanon. France will only send 200 troops, asking for a clearer mandate. In light of the recent special ops mission by Israel against Hezbollah, I can't say I blame France for their hesitation. Sure, you need the peacekeeping forces in play to keep the peace, but can the peace be kept in such a volatile situation?

Greece has played a part in several peacekeeping missions in the past, and their contribution to aid in Lebanon over the past month has been laudable. However, I question the viability of sending Greek troops - or any peacekeepers - into the "peaceful" fray, as it almost seems the situation could be further compounded by the U.N. troops. Too many cooks can spoil the broth, and the broth is already a bit rancid. Can the ceasefire hold? Can the peacekeeping forces make it hold? Or will it erupt into further bloodshed?

Obviously, I have a bit more at stake when it comes to the Greeks. I have become rather protective of my new country and would prefer that its brave men and women not be sent into unresolvable and violent situations. But perhaps that is the true nature of the peacekeeper - to step in where there is no hope for resolution, and somehow make it right again.

Whatever could he be dreaming about?

Tonight I was in bed watching TV when a drop of water hit my arm. I shook my sleeping husband and asked if he was sweating profusely. He said, sleepily, "it wasn't me!", turned over, and then raised his head and said "unless the Germans did it", and went back to sleep again.

I suppose if I were travelling back to 1942 in my sleep I'd blame the Germans for everything too.

Friday, August 18, 2006

August 18th, 1920

Hail to the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which was ratified on this day in 1920, giving women the right to vote. Ironically, Tennessee was the last state needed to ratify - and for once, Tennessee did right.

86 years ago, women fought and won the right to vote. But this war had been an arduous one for women. I am grateful for their hard work, and thankful to the men who found it in their hearts and minds to vote to ratify.

Women in Greece did not earn the right to vote until 1952.

If you want to watch an inspiring movie about the Women's Suffrage Movement in America try Iron Jawed Angels.

Rain of stones

Egalia at Tennessee Guerilla Women has posted that “Dr.” James Dobson will be coming to Nashville in October to work towards passing the anti-same sex marriage amendment that will stain Tennessee ballots in November. It could be worse, I suppose, it could be Fred Phelps coming, although I have a feeling he might make an appearance.

I know it is a long shot to think that such an amendment won’t pass in the tightly pulled Bible Belt state of Tennessee, but I admit I have some hope. Certainly, I don’t deny Dobson (or Phelps for that matter) the right to campaign for something they believe in, but I have to say I am pretty fed up with the anti-gay vitriol that seems to have overtaken America of late.

There is all manner of propaganda about homosexuality among the God-fearing folks, most of it completely unscientific, unjustified, and ignorant. The passages in the New Testament that state the “sin” of homosexuality are mostly laundry lists of “sins”, of which the Bible names many, from big to small, all kinds. Honestly, if you look at the Bible now, in reflection on modern times, I hardly think anyone who has grown beyond the age of puberty isn’t a sinner by these standards. You can certainly guarantee that most government officials, businessmen, and anyone who has any sort of wealth won’t make it to heaven. In the end, though, I think this journey – from sin to salvation – must be an individual one, between man and God. We can’t throw stones, or we might get pummeled ourselves.

There are a lot of things about Christianity (and religion in general) that bother me. I always had a choice in what my beliefs would be, and I suppose to a large extent, I haven’t yet come to that decision. I don’t know if I ever will. But it bothers me that a religion that extols, to such great regard, the virtue of loving your fellow man as you love yourself, could condemn as a sin a bond of love between two people, whether they be man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman. Our love is all the same, and for every person that says “homosexuals are promiscuous”, I can point to a hundred heterosexuals who are as well. Does that make heterosexual love any less meaningful? Of course not.

So I am here to say, again, that I urge Tennesseans to think about voting no on Amendment 1 in November. Meditate on the ideas of faith, hope, and charity, and what that really means. Think about your own love, and think what it would mean if it was denied. More importantly, look inside yourself for a decision, instead of listening to rhetoric and propaganda from people like Dobson. I want same sex couples to have equal rights in Tennessee – and the world. We all should have the right to love. Make it happen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shakespeare's sister

My husband is back from his travels to the beach, and my sister-in-law stopped by tonight to bring us coffee (wait, no, she stopped by to bring us other things, actually, but the coffee was the most important).

She asked how my work was going and I told her I had done a lot of reading. Looking around the room, she said "yes, there are books everywhere. Shakespeare is everywhere." I hadn't thought about it, but it does appear that a Shakespeare cyclone has settled on our front room - from his works, to critical works, it could be a veritable Shakespeare festival. Underneath it all, though, is hidden a fortune in Greek epics and talk of heroes.

This will be my life for the next few months. Heroes all around me. I feel quite overwhelmed.

Tonight, though, I'll leave my heroes on their battlefields and read, sans highlighter and post-its and notes in the margins, The Grapes of Wrath. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when your comfort literature is about a family escaping the Depression by finding more depression. Although I do think I see some heroic qualities in them. Just not tonight.

Working hard for the Mac attack

An article I read in Kathimerini today has the tagline "Survey shows average Athenian must work 26 minutes to buy a Big Mac". Now, of course the survey is meant to show the imbalance between the cost of things in Greece and the average salary, but using the Big Mac as a means of measuring the imbalance is a bit off the mark. I'd say the average Greek doesn't even go to McDonald's if they have one relatively close buy, and most of the franchise operations seems to exist only around major metropolitan areas here, and an island or two. Still, a Dubliner only has to work 15 minutes for his Big Mac, so maybe there is something to this.

One major difference between Greece in America is the way people spend money. Sure, there are consumers here, but the average Greek, especially the average Greek with a family on a budget, will never buy fast food. Never. Nor would they eat out. Sure, there aren't as many options for quick food on the go here like there are in America (the drivethru is not a common thing here), but there are options for eating out, especially delivery places. But the Greek family is thrifty and the Greek mother cooks. Things like McDonald's (or the Greek counterpart, Goody's) are a luxury to the average Greek market. So the price of the Big Mac is moot, although the fact that an Athenian must work more to make the same amount of money, is a very valid point.

The other day I read somewhere that the average income for a Greek is something like 780 euros a month, give or take a hundred euros (I can't remember the exact figure, but it was below 1000). I've been here for 4 years, and I have noticed a sharp increase in prices. When I first moved here, it was within the first year of the great euro conversion, and most people were still counting their money in drachmas. People weren't used to the euro, and prices seemed pretty good to me - coming from America. Once retailers got used to the euro, though, prices started going up, and they haven't really stopped. When I arrived in Greece a loaf of fresh bread was 50 cents, now it is between 99 cents and 2 euros. This type of price increase has been pretty standard across the board for most food products - from doubling to quadrupling prices. Yet the Greek income has hardly budged at all. This story cites that inflation in Greece is among the highest in the E.U., and that isn't surprising.

In the meantime, the government has spiked electricity prices to an all-time high, and despite taking great pains to ensure that tainted goods are no longer entering the marketplace, they don't seem to be that concerned about rising prices. They will be concerned, however, when Greeks have maxed out their debt and are unable to continue being good little consumers. The Greek economy is fragile enough already, it really can't take another hit. Bankruptcy and low retail revenues could push it on even more of a downward spiral. Things are not looking good.

I realize that the Greek government is still relatively "young", when you take into consideration that everything changed only a mere 32 years ago. But the lawmakers need to wake up, and start seeing the problems that are here, instead of shielding their eyes and seeing only what they want to see. Greece is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people, and they deserve to get their money's worth.

This just in

The Greek soccer team still sucks. They lost 4-0 against England in tonight's friendly match.

Come on, Otto! Give us what we pay for! You can make them stronger, faster...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Like Hamlet, I must contemplate

This is a fun way to relieve stress and ponder the myriad thoughts on Shakespeare and Greek tragedy that are running through my head.

I'm no Pollock, though, that's for sure.

Protection or control?

A domestic violence bill was submitted to the Greek Parliament last week, promising tough punishments on all forms of abuse, making spousal abuse grounds for divorce (what, it wasn't already?), and outlawing any type of corporal punishment against a child. The law will apply equally to married and unmarried couples that live together.

I certainly can't argue with the main focus of the bill - targeting forms of abuse which may have been treated lightly in Greece in the past. There is no excuse for mistreatment of any kind - against children, spouses, the disabled or the elderly - and the Greek legal system should have just punishments in place for these crimes. But telling parents they aren't allowed to punish their children physically, in any way, for any reason, might be crossing the line a little bit.

Let me make myself clear: I don't think spanking or repeatedly hitting a child is an effective or responsible punishment technique. I can't stand parents who smack their kids over the littlest bit of whining or misbehavior. And lets not even go into hard core abusive situations - I'd prefer to not even say what I think should happen to such parents, whether it be physical or mental abuse.

But I do think sometimes children might need to be punished in a more direct and firm manner than just a time out, or grounding them, or whatever other nonphysical techniques may be used. My parents rarely used physical punishments with me. And by rarely, I mean once, that I can remember. As far as I can recall, looking back on that incident now, my mother was well within her rights to punish me that way - any other type of punishment may not have driven in the seriousness of my transgression.

I was about five or six years old, and playing alone in our yard. A friend in an adjoining yard called me over, and convinced me to go off with him and a couple of other children to a construction site in the neighborhood. I went, of course, and had a grand old time, playing on all the equipment, and finally decided to go home. My parents, who were actually expecting company that night, were beside themselves with worry, fear - all the things that go through a parent's mind when their child is missing. I meandered my way back into the yard completely happy, completely dirty, and having no conception that anything I had done was wrong in any way, shape or form. My mother was furious, and I was sentenced to my first corporal punishment - a few smacks from the fly swatter. Sure, a fly swatter seems harmless enough, but not when yielded by an angry mother's powerful arm. She made it quite clear that going off without telling her or getting her permission was NEVER an option. Never. Because my parents rarely used such punishments I knew how serious the matter was, and how I had done wrong. I knew I should always tell my mother where I was going and what my plans were. More importantly, I never did anything that would require such a punishment again.

Under the new bill proposed to the Greek government, my mother could have served a year in prison for those hits with the fly swatter. The thought of that is absolutely ridiculous. I certainly do understand the need to protect children (and others) in Greece - there have been way too many deaths due to abuse lately. But there is a fine line between protection and absolute control.

Monday, August 14, 2006

T minus 4 hours

...until the ceasefire begins. They sure do seem to be going on until the last possible moment, though.

In light of this, I hope it holds, and I hope that somehow, someway, Israel/Palestine/Lebanon can work out their issues. I'm not naive though, it may be a feckless hope, but it is hope nonetheless.

Ultimately, the problems between the East and West (or perhaps more specifically, the Muslim world and the western world) need to be fine tuned and hashed out for the better of both sides. We can't let the hatred continue. I've read in a couple of places that some people are saying Islam should be banned in America. Well, it is pretty hard to address a suggestion that is so unbelieveably ridiculous I can't believe it was ever uttered. Sure, lets have a country that was created by people escaping religious persecution ban a religion. That doesn't compromise any ideals.

The biggest problems are a lack of understanding and religious fundamentalism. That last one will get you every time. Personally, I think the world should go back to polytheistic religions. It is hard to be a fundamentalist with so many gods competing for your attention. Not to mention I think people would be better off with a pantheon of gods interfering with every move they make. We haven't done very well with free will, it seems.

While I sit and ponder the heroism of the Achaian men

I hope my husband is having a good time on Halkidiki. Bah, who needs the beach, anyway. I prefer Olympus.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


It has been a year since the mysterious crash of the Helios flight in Grammatiko. Memorial services were held all over Greece and Cyprus today, in remembrance of the 121 dead.

Many questions about the crash still remain unanswered, and many bones, hopefully belonging to three missing people from the crash, have been found lately on the site of the accident. An official report on the incident is due early in September, but it is said to lay blame on the pilots and engineer for failing to turn the air conditioning switch from manual to auto when testing the system. It is scary how most plane crashes come down to one seemingly tiny mistake.

My thoughts are with the countless family and friends today as they remember their lost loved ones.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Calling Mr. Darrow

81 years ago, lawyers, reporters, and a veritable circus of onlookers descended upon a small town in rural Tennessee for a trial that put to the test a Bible Belt ban on the teaching of evolution, or anything that refuted the biblical idea of divine creation, in Tennessee schools. "The infidel" John T. Scopes had been caught teaching evolution, and thus a trial was born.

Darwin's theory of evolution continues to be a hot topic today, with some people going so far as to suggest teaching in addition something called "intelligent design", which maintains that the universe and all living things are the result of an intelligent cause, such as God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

While the biggest battles have been fought on American soil, Greeks are now getting their round in the evolution debate. 250 university academics have appealed to the Greek government to improve the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in Greek schools, which is apparently disorganized and in some schools sorely lacking. While it is legal to teach evolution in Greek schools, it is apparently missing from senior high textbooks, and may or may not be included in materials taught in junior high.

“Whether students learn about Darwin or not is up to the goodwill of some teachers,” said the head of the Greek Union of Bioscientists, Manos Papadakis.

Now, I could go out on a limb here and suggest that one reason for this is the strong Orthodox culture of Greece, but that would perhaps be unfair. Still, many scientists of the faith here believe that creationism and evolution can go hand in hand, and would never suggest devaluing Darwin's theory as a viable scientific concept.

“We can criticize the USA for the fact that 150 years later the evolution of the species is still a divisive issue but in reality we are further behind,” said Papadakis. “The meaning of evolution has diffused into all areas of life but is systematically being excluded from education.”

Survival of the fittest also applies to scientific theories, it seems.

The city of the dead

August is the traditional month when Greeks go on holiday. Some folks choose to get away just on the weekends, others take a couple of weeks, and some take a month - or more. Many businesses close down, including movie theaters and restaurants. The normally busy, bustling city becomes a ghost town.

My husband has gone off with his family to the beach, and I am left behind to do some work, because apparently my master's thesis ain't gonna write itself. Normally on a Friday night at midnight or 1am, I'd still hear the sounds of people on the street and see people on balconies, lights and candles blazing. Tonight, everything is stark and quiet, the balconies are shrouded in darkness and calm, no lights behind closed shutters. The stillness travels through me like a sudden chill, it seems as if I have the city to myself - the last woman on earth - until the silence is shattered by the roar of a single motorcycle, shaking the calm like a death rattle. One last breath before the city dies, only to awaken again, a bright phoenix in the ashes of the deserted streets, after a long summer's slumber.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terror plot? Yea, whatever

I'm really glad they thwarted the big terrorist plot in the U.K. After all, it only took them three days to let us know what might have happened after turning around a London-NY flight on Monday. OK, sure, I know it takes a few days to investigate this kinda crap. But are you telling me they weren't on high terrorist alert immediately after the incident?

I've been waiting for a couple of days to find out why that plane was turned around. We saw a brief news story on it Monday, but nothing could be found on the BBC website. I had actually forgotten all about it, until the news exploded today.

I understand the whole idea of not panicking people. I also understand the idea of not shutting down a major international airport and keeping flights coming and going. Still, if they had to turn a plane around, especially an international flight, chances were that something serious had gone down, or was planned. Should more information had been released then? Perhaps. But I still have to wonder if these terror alerts are just molded to fit the needs of the governments involved.

The end of an era indeed

Watch out girlfriends and wives, Microsoft Flight Simulator X is looming on the horizon (holiday 2006, if the boys* are lucky). My husband is, of course, quite excited, and waiting for the demo with baited breath.

Today he showed me a "memorial" video for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (apparently known as Flight Sim 9 in super secret Microsoft Flight Sim language), and I swear there was a tiny tear flowing down his cheek at the end.

Let's just hope the new version is a hit with all these hard core fans.

*yes, I do realize there are women who enjoy flight simulation, but I don't find them to be objects of ridicule, I find them to be objects of grrl power

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More notes to self

Refrain from telling loved ones that they remind you of your favorite television characters. Despite the fact that my dad was a fan of the show, he did not appreciate me telling him that Andy Sipowitz reminded me of him.

Ah well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The mark of the beast

The evil of all corporate evils has descended upon our neighborhood - a Starbucks has opened nearby. But that isn't the scary part. The scary part is that their prices are actually comparable to the local cafes. Now I don't know when it happened that Starbucks stopped being the most expensive coffee in the neighborhood, but the fact that it isn't must be a sure sign of the apocalypse. I'm sure this guy might agree with me.

An even bigger irony - I never set foot in a Starbucks until I moved to Greece. I should be ashamed of myself.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What a difference a few degrees makes

Hard to believe it was only a couple of days ago that we were lugging our way too sweaty asses to the sea to sit beside it and enjoy whatever bits of breeze would come ablowin'.

Today was hot, sure, but by the time evening hit things started to cool off nicely. My husband and I, out to rent more NYPD Blue from our local video store, decided to go have a nice dinner outside somewhere, because the weather was just oh so pleasant.

Aside from a phalanx of sidewalk roamers trying to sell various and sundry crap, we enjoyed a nice evening, and fed ourselves and the mosquitoes to satiation.

I really hope it stays like this, but it is August yet. Still time for another heatwave or, god forbid, two. Luckily though, we still have a good three months of pleasant outdoor cafe/taverna weather coming to us.


Sure, Greece has its problems. Corruption. A lack of foresight when it comes to what to do with those durned Olympic venues (two years later, and the new buildings are in shambles). Issues with immigration (and how to deal with illegal immigrants). Poor economy. Indignities when dealing with the large Roma community (DeviousDiva has a beautifully written series on her visits to a Roma community in Athens, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it). The list waxes and wanes over time, as things improve and get worse again.

Yet, I've never seen a country more willing, or eager, to lend a hand to the international community when there is need. The 2004 tsunami. Hurricane Katrina. Pakistani earthquake. And now, Greece is lending its heart and its politics to helping war-torn Lebanon. One of the first countries to send transport for its citizens in Lebanon, they have helped with numerous evacuations for citizens of the international community. They have sent many shipments of humanitarian aid and supplies, and keep on sending them. They've sent doctors. They've offered to transport humanitarian aid for Lebanon from other countries. And, upon condition of ceasefire, Greece may be sending troops to assist in the peacekeeping mission.

Yea, it would be nice if there could be some focus on the problems at home. But Greece should have some pride in its willingness to help. From the government who is first to send support, to the people who donate whatever little they can to help. It may not be a lot in the whole grand scheme of things, as Greece is a poor country. But they do what they can. And that is more than enough.

It would be funny if it weren't true

Via Kathimerini

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Observations while sitting by the sea

  • Young men in Greece (well, Thessaloniki at least) do the stupidest things with hair gel. Seriously boys, you'd be better off with a mullet. Not that Greece is lacking in mullet dos.
  • As for the young women, well, lets just say that big hair is trying desperately to make a comeback. I hope it doesn't.
  • There must be something in the water here, because in the span of two hours I saw at least a dozen visibly pregnant women. If you add that to those that might not be showing yet and those that might not know, that is a lot of pregnant women. I better be careful what I drink.
  • A parking space by the sea has a life span of less than three seconds.
  • Greek love songs don't sound particularly good when blasted at full volume from crappy car sound systems.
  • Nobody cares that your car or motorcycle can make really loud engine noises, except 16-year-old boys. If that is the demographic you are trying to impress, go for it.
  • Cafés by the sea are prime people watching places. Unfortunately, you have to deal with lots of noise from passing traffic on Nikis Ave., a main thoroughfare that runs along the bay.
  • Sitting beside the sea is the best place to be on these sweltering days of summer, where you can actually enjoy the breezes that drift off of the waves.

Friday, August 04, 2006

At play in the fields of Hades

I step carefully out of the building, waiting for the slow, suffocating heat to wrap its heavy arms around my body. Sweating already, I take the few steps across the street and make my way into the air-conditioned grocery store. Πολλή ζέστη, the only remark on everyone’s lips. Yes, it is very hot, too hot for steaming city cement, too hot for the sea breeze to make its way through the maze of buildings, so hot the humidity reaches down into your lungs and threatens to choke you, bringing up each breath as if it were your last.

The city becomes a shallow grave, the people walk slowly, carefully, wondering when –or if - they will be rescued. Do we have enough air to last another week? Or maybe just a couple more days. We’ll all survive just the same, like we always do, trudging our way through the heat of a city summer.

The heat is always the same, it doesn’t matter much what city you are in. Thessaloniki or Nashville, Athens or Baltimore. The same lugubrious, still air. The same bedraggled faces. The same hopeful look at a wispy, promising breeze that dies as quickly as it came, leaving you with nothing, an ice cream cone upturned on the boiling pavement.

Leaving the grocery store, my husband heavy laden with bags, I reach the outside air and find a smile instead of a groan. This could be Nashville, I realize, and my mind floods with memories of the deck at Bongo Java, the trails at Radnor Lake, Summer Lights Festival, Shakespeare in the Park – happy memories of hot days, long summer days, days just like today. As I stumble out of the heat dampened hallway into my apartment, I drink in one last memory, and close the door.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Filed under "what were they thinking?"

Seriously, who uses a DOG to guard hundreds of valuable teddy bears? Have these people not seen what a dog can do to a stuffed animal? Sure, maybe he behaved himself for six years, but that was pure luck. They should have known his natural instinct to destroy all that fluffy goodness would kick in eventually. It is the same idea as having a bunch of cats guard an aquarium full of expensive fish. Silly humans!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I guess they've run out of good fragrance names

Sean Combs (aka P.Diddy, Puff Daddy, etc., etc) has a new fragrance for men, and it is called "Unforgivable". I'm trying to think of what an unforgivable smell might do my olfactory senses, and I don't like the idea of it. I wonder if it is like the Unforgivable Curses in Harry Potter.

Maybe next, he'll come up with a car model called "the Insipid". One can only hope.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I used to want my MTV

Yea, so MTV wants to kowtow to its main demographic and avoid celebrating its 25th anniversary. There are a lot of us old farts who still scroll past MTV now and then, hoping for a mere glimpse of the past, and you'd think they could acknowledge that with an anniversary weekend filled with VJs and videos from the early days, when MTV wasn't a corporate sponsorship.

Ah well. Happy Birthday anyway, MTV. You shouldn't be so ashamed of your past. It was a shining, golden version of what you are now.

Israel Inc?

Let me be clear about something before I even start this post: Terrorism is a calamity, an unspeakable evil and there is no excuse for it. None. "They took our country, killed our children, raped our daughters, torched our homes". Fine, still not an excuse for terrorism.

That having been said, I need to utter out loud a question I've been asking myself, an alarming one. What is Israel doing exactly? Lebanon was a ravaged country, ravaged by its own inhabitants and their stubbornness (christians vs muslims), ravaged by its neighbors (both "helpful" like Syria and "evil" like Israel), ravaged by outside "allies" (the U.S. and others). Note I say was.

Lebanon made a remarkable recovery. Outside forces were kicked out (yes, the "friendly" ones too), money was spent to repair cities, Beirut blossomed like the desert flower it once was. Tourism came back. High class tourism, lots of money. Private and corporate investors started taking an interest in the most stable, most democratic country in the middle east. Property was bought and sold, the stock market soared, growth rates of 4-5% annualy were predicted. Pictures and holiday videos show happy people, beaches, clubs, youngsters indistinguishable from american teenagers - boys and girls.

And then three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah. Not an official lebanese organization, but yes, apparently one taking refuge in Lebanon. The response? Israel bombs Beirut. The infrastructure. Airport? Gone. Port? Gone. Utilities? Gone. Why I wonder? Do Hezbollah have a navy? An airforce? Do they take refuge in the expensive hotels? In the vibrant marketplace? I am not asking if the response was appropriate. I am asking if the response was not a mere corporate "hostile takeover". A neighboring "corporation"/country takes a big slice of growth, tourism, money, glamor, so we bomb it to bits. Bomb the infrastructure, kill the people, terrorize foreigners, make damned sure that no one returns for the next 10-20 years...

I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not. And of course now things have gone to hell. Hezbollah - far from being innocent - took the bait and launched a counter offensive. Now guns will do the talking and innocent civilians will die en masse. God help us all...

I don't think I've seen a sadder cartoon...

From Kathimerini