Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Well, I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

...or rather, you can take the girl outta Tennessee but you can't take the Tennessee outta the girl.

Somehow someone ended up here doing a search for "Redneck translator".

Sorry, I may know a lot of redneck, but I sure as hell don't know how to translate it.

Yay for chocolate!

Although seemingly inconclusive, the Dutch did a study of older men in the Netherlands and reported that eating the equivalent of 1/3 of a candy bar a day reduced blood pressure and risk of death.

The researchers say, however, it's too early to conclude it was chocolate that led to better health. The men who ate more cocoa products could have shared other qualities that made them healthier. Experts also point out that eating too much chocolate can make you fat - a risk for both heart disease and high blood pressure.

Well yes, that CAN be a problem. Even so, it seems that this is the largest study to show a possible link to the health benefits of chocolate consumption while also confirming the results of smaller, short term studies. The data was acquired over a decade on Dutch men who were 65 or older in 1985.

Unfortunately for us ladies, the study only included men, so it is uncertain whether or not the same benefits can be found in women. I'll just have to continue doing my own private studies on that one.

To tolerate or not to tolerate, that is the question...

It is so hard to be tolerant in a world that doesn't favor tolerance. I've admitted, in the past, that I have a low tolerance for anything that attempts to incorporate itself onto me - like proselytizing religions, cigarette smoke, noise, the government, etc., etc. I am tolerant, however, of people of different races and religions living around me, as long as they don't butt into my life.

I think the West has done a relatively good job of accepting Muslims into their world. In Nashville, a whole neighborhood was taken over by Kurdish refugees and Belmont University and the surrounding neighbors did all the could to make them feel welcome, including letting the families play and have picnics on the athletic fields and track. How was Belmont repaid for their hospitality? Trash, trash, and more trash. Ah well, they are from a different culture, they have a different way of doing things. So be it. I guess Belmont got them back by buying out their cheap housing and converting it into student housing. But Belmont was growing. So be it. At any rate, Muslims from all over the world have been able to settle without much ado (until after 9/11 of course), in many Western countries all over the world. Sure, things aren't perfect, racism is rampant (even more so because of 9/11) and some Muslims aren't getting treated very well. By and large, though, they have been allowed to immigrate and make their way into new countries to improve their way of life.

There are a few problems. Some Muslims can't accept the fact that in order to live in the West, they need to behave accordingly. They are free to practice their religion, but they aren't free to beat and kill their women. They aren't free to behave exactly like they would behave in their home country. Why? Because they are in a different country, with different laws. If any of us go to a Muslim country we are expected to respect and adapt to their culture, why can't they adapt to ours? Is it really too much to ask?

As the whole Danish cartoon fiasco continues, it seems now that some Islamic groups want to rally their children. So they sent out children, ages 8 - 12, into the streets of Pakistan, burning coffins draped in Danish, Israeli and U.S. flags (wait a minute, when did the U.S. and Israel become involved in this particular debacle??) and demanding death for those who insulted the prophet. Now it is really hard to convince me now that the major concern amongst Muslims was the cartoons, this example specifically tells me that it is about having a rally cry, and the cartoons just gave them a "legitimate" excuse. I just can't accept anyone, anywhere, using their children to rally for a cause, no matter how good or bad, especially children who really can't have much of an understanding of what they are protesting about.

I take issue with parents who teach their children any sort of racism, because these behaviors surely come by example, they aren't innate in us. And these Muslim leaders are, short and to the point, simply teaching their children racism. They aren't teaching them about their religion, they aren't teaching them to respect their prophet, they aren't teaching them anything, really, except hatred. It is really difficult to see Muslims as victims when their battle cry demands victims of the West. It is amazing that a religion that springs from the same roots as Christianity, and even includes Jesus as a prophet, has so much hate at its core. Hate for hate's sake.

I do hope, someday, that those Muslims who are at heart truer to their religion, and not filled with hate, find leaders who can, in the end supercede and decry these fundamentalist leaders of their chosen faith, in the same way most Christians deplore the preachings of Fred Phelps. These demons among us have the ability to destroy us all, but we have the ability not to let them.

Monday, February 27, 2006

This is spinal tap

On the road to becoming a proper psychiatrist, my husband has had to endure some specializing time in Internal Medicine, which seems like the anything goes field of medicine where most patients end up. Just recently he switched to Neurology, where he will learn how to tell the difference between a patient with true neurological problems and one with true psychological problems. I’ve always resented the field of Neurology and their particular tools of torture, including the lumbar puncture (aka spinal tap) and that goddamn reflex hammer.

I quickly learned how best to deal with the reflex hammer as a child. I was constantly annoyed by the doctor’s insistence on using this thing, and while I had some small understanding of the concept of reflexes, I resented the fact that doctors had free reign to just hit people with a hammer. The result was an uncontrollable urge on my part to exaggerate the resulting kick, which usually ended up square in the physician’s abdomen.

One time, however, I ended up kicking him square in the nuts, but being the age I was, I knew not of nuts or the type of pain men experience when hit there with any force. I knew it was perhaps a hard kick because of the short squeak he made, followed by about five minutes of saying nothing at all. But I didn’t realize I had hit the family jewels, so to speak – I had no regrets, and was, perhaps, just a little bit proud of myself for causing him so much pain. You might think, at this point, that perhaps I was the child of Satan, but in all fairness my parents consisted of a drunken fairy and an obsessive compulsive dwarf. All I know is that doctor kept a relatively safe distance from me when using the hammer after that, and he was impossible to kick. Ah well.

Now I have no doubts that the spinal tap is surely a tool of Beelzebub, a means of marking future minions in his fiery domain. When I was around fourteen, I was admitted to the hospital with a relatively high fever (around 104) and a headache to beat the band. I was crying from the pain of the headache, and coupled with the fever but lacking all the normal cold and flu symptoms, I was a bit worried. The doctor on call ordered a spinal tap, but I argued with him, having recently read an article that said if there was any sort of intercranial pressure, a spinal tap could make the brain stem move and result in brain death. I said I thought a CAT scan was perhaps in order to make sure there was no pressure, and he assented, grudgingly. Hey, Mr. Doctor Von PompousAss, I didn’t want to be the one in one thousand that suffers brain death because of a simple mistake.

The CAT scan showing me free of pressure, I had to face my doom. The lumbar puncture. I tried to think positively, I mean, I loved the movie This is Spinal Tap, and now I could say I had a spinal tap. That was kinda cool, right? Uh, not really, but sometimes you have to grasp at straws. Unfortunately for me, I was at Vanderbilt Hospital, which is a teaching hospital, so my spinal tap would be performed by an intern who had never done one before and supervised by a resident. No real doctor would be in the vicinity. It was the wild frontier, I was the kill.

When Intern Numbnuts and Resident McMoron entered the room, they told me that this would be an extra special treat for them because noone ever gets to “practice” on children. Trying to ignore the usage of the word “practice”, I tried hard to mask my lack of enthusiasm. Special treat for doctors usually means special torture for patients, and even at the young age of fourteen I knew that well. McMoron instructed me to lie on my side while the nurse held my hand (my parents had been summarily dismissed from the room). Imagine my dismay when I heard Numbnuts say “Oh my god! Is THIS the needle you use?!?”. The nurse squeezed my hand and gave me an encouraging smile while I rolled my eyes.

Suddenly, McMoron shouted “Wait!!”.

“What?!” Numbnuts sounded shocked.

“You need to apply some anesthesia”.

“Oh, yea, right”.

After applying the numbing solution, I braced for the needle entry. Pain. Horrifying, terrible pain. I screamed holy hell at the top of my lungs.

“Hmmm, maybe we should use more anesthetic?” McMoron wondered.

“Okey dokey”, replied Numbnuts.

More anesthesia was applied, and I prepared myself again. Pain. So much pain. At that moment, the entire lexicon of crude, rude, and offensive words known to me was released, in very loud volume, and probably taught a few of the kids in the children’s hospital a thing or two. I have no doubts that I referred to one or both doctors with the “C” word.

“MORE anesthetic?” queried Numbnuts, uncertainly.

“Sure” answered McMoron.

I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to endure this horrible feeling again, but I waited. And of course, it still hurt to high heaven. I screamed again, bereft of words or any feeling beyond the excruciating pain at the base of my spine.

“Ok, let’s…” McMoron stammered. I saw both of them backing towards the door, stuttering something about finding another doctor. I am quite certain I heard the sound of shoes squeaking on the floor outside my door once they exited, as if they were running for their lives. Yeah, you better run, nancyboys.

My parents burst into the room, fear for my young life reflecting in their eyes. I looked at them, managed a smile, and told them that the young doctors needed some help. Shortly, the door swung open, and in walked The Professional, looking slick and sure in his tightly pressed white coat. Numbnuts and McMoron cowered in behind him. With a snap of his fingers, The Professional had the nurse escort my parents out of the room, then had her get me back into position, with one hand squeezing mine and the other holding me into place. The Professional spoke not a word. McMoron started with “shouldn’t we use more anes…” and suddenly stopped. Silence.

“That does it”. The Professional left the room as quickly as he came, Numbnuts and McMoron were left to clean up, shock and awe in their eyes. I felt nothing. Nothing.

As they left, Numbnuts stammered a thank you. Yea, you’re welcome. Jackass.

A couple of years later I had another spinal tap, this time without incident, although it still hurt. I can’t imagine a spinal tap ever not hurting, unless you’d been anesthetized three times and finally had a doctor do it right. Still, it was with some glee that my husband told me that now he is in Neurology he might get to perform a lumbar puncture.

I stared at him coldly, and told him I am not sure I can stay married to a devil who performs spinal taps. It just might be a dealbreaker.

Lesson learned

Apparently, in Greece, you are not supposed to turn on the oven, the washing machine, and the boiler at the same time. Not that I am ever that efficacious in my household duties, it just so happened that today I had them all on at the same time. The electricity went out, and when I heard the elevator moving I realized it was just us.

Replacing the fuse didn't work, except that we now know there is not just one fuse, there is apparently a fuse downstairs where the meters are, unlike anything I have ever heard of before. Apparently, when the electricity is cut off by the power company the fuse downstairs is simply removed, which means that felons can just replace the fuse to get their electricity back. How cool is that?

In the end, I spent a grueling 3 hours without electricity. I almost drove my husband mad. I do not handle the lack of modern conveniences well. Not well at all.

Still, for now I'll limit my housework to ensure that all three devices are never used at once. Ah, such sacrifices!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Discovery Channel...why do you do me like that??

This weekend ALL weekend has been Aviation weekend on the Discovery Channel. My husband is is in imminent danger of suffering aviation overdose, and I am in imminent danger of suffering aviation boredom.

If he starts running through the house pretending to be an airplane and shouting "too low terrain! too low terrain!" I am outta here.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Red dawn

The weather here has been strange. By strange, I don't mean frogs falling from the heavens or tiny Cupids flying around with their little naked butts blowing wind in everyone's face. It has been moderately warm, but the winds have come. By winds, I mean gale force, ships don't go to sea winds. Having been landlocked for most of my life, I never really experienced winds like this on a very frequent basis - only when a tornado was looming near, and even then, the winds never lasted more than a half hour or so. Yet here in Greece, strong winds like this are quite common, especially from late Autumn to early Spring.

Poor Athena has been covered in a fog of red sand, thanks to the vast desert of Africa. Luckily, Thessaloniki is far enough away that we don't experience these things in such measure. When we lived on Kos it was a reality for us though, and I hated it. That sand was everywhere, coating everything, you could feel it in the air you breathe, in your hair, in your eyes.

The heavy winds began last night, amidst the late night Carnivale revellers, and they haven't ceased all day. Despite the imminent danger of flying debris, I love these strong winds - the city, normally filled with noise, becomes quiet, all but the sombre moaning of the wind. The wind groans, it cries, it roars - a lugubrious song of the denizens of a past time. It is as if all the suffering, all the rage, all the glory of Greece's past can be heard in these gales. What a story there is to tell.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I don't think so!

Rex tagged me for a weird meme, and even though I am an avid fan of Rex, since it involves New Math, ritualistic nude moon dancing, and remembering things I have no memory of, I'm copping out. Not to mention it involves admitting things from my past that are better left unspoken.

Sorry Rex!

Ah, lovely

A group of kids in my neighborhood were apparently given whistles for their Carnivale celebrations this year. I keep forgetting how much noise kids are freely allowed to make this time of year.

The big question is, how much more can I take before I march down to the street and take the whistles and crush them forcibly into a million tiny pieces? Θα δούμε. For now, I am drowning myself in the sounds of Vanderbilt's premiere student radio station, WRVU. God bless the internet.

10 more days to go til the celebrations are over. Tick toc, tick toc...

When Supreme Court judges don't need intelligence

I’ve been mulling over an article I read a few days ago reporting that the Italian Supreme Court has ruled that sex crimes against non-virgins are not as serious. I kept waiting, hoping, I suppose, to see some sort of retraction – an early April Fool’s joke perhaps, and it hasn’t come.

Now I know scores of people have been talking about this, in fact are quite incensed about this, and rightly so. I suppose it is a utopian dream, but I am still waiting for the day when the world acknowledges that any sort of sexual contact with a woman without her permission is never, under any condition, acceptable. I don’t care if a woman is standing before a man naked, asking him to fuck her like an animal – if she says no when he approaches her that should be the end of the story. Yet accused men have had their lawyers, sometimes successfully, argue that “she was asking for it, she was teasing me, it shouldn’t be ok for a woman to do that and not expect me to have sex with her”, and somehow judges and juries in their infinite lack of wisdom seem to respond to such things with a sententious “well then” and suddenly the sex offender is getting off with just a slap on the wrist (no pun intended). While I’ll admit that no, it really isn’t ok for a woman to tease and tease and then say no, that doesn’t serve as justification to have sex with her against her will.

The court ruled in favor of a man in his forties, identified only as Marco T., who forced his 14-year old stepdaughter to have oral sex with him after she refused intercourse.

The man, who has been sentenced to three years and four months in jail, lodged an appeal arguing that the fact that his stepdaughter had had sex with men before should have been taken into consideration during his trial as a mitigating factor.

The supreme court agreed, saying that because of her previous sexual experiences, the victim's "personality, from a sexual point of view, is much more developed than what would be normally expected of a girl of her age".

"It is therefore fair to argue that (the damage for the victim) would be lower" if the abused girl was not a virgin, Italian news agencies quoted the court as saying.

This means the man could now be handed a lighter sentence.

This court’s decision throws Italy back into the Stone Ages as far as women’s rights are concerned. It is hard to believe that a court of law could make a rational decision stating that if a 14-year old girl is more mature sexually than other girls her age, any type of sexual predation is less damaging to her. Excuse me? Being forced to give fellatio (to a stepfather, no less) is less damaging because the girl has had sex before? Is there crack smoking involved in this court’s decision making process? Can they honestly say that a woman who has had a few sexual partners is less damaged by a violent rape than a woman who is a virgin?

I’ll tell you what. I’m assuming that most of these judges have had sex before (although I doubt any woman would have sex with them now). Now, lets say someone (woman or man, doesn’t really make a difference) forcibly shoves something up their asses against their will. Now can they come back to the court and tell us that it isn’t as damaging to them because their wives stick their fingers in their assholes now and then? Think about that for a minute, and tell me it doesn't suck.

Sex is a very personal thing. To think for one minute that “being used to sex” makes a rape less “damaging” takes the thinking ability of someone barely evolved from an ape.

Italy needs to work hard to get some new folks on their court. And god forbid any woman in Italy gets sexually assaulted in the next few years.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Not something you wanna hear when giving birth

Rosario said: "I got scared when the nurses said: 'Oh my God!'.

These nurses were reacting to a 15 lb, 22 inch long baby that was born in Spain recently. For me, had I heard such words I would have immediately assumed some sort of hornage or alien features on my newborn.

I realize I've often said I'd like to give birth to a fully grown child, but I mean it in the manner of Athena springing from Zeus' head, not in the manner of an unusually large watermelon springing forth from a vagina. I'd like to keep it separate from my anus, thankyouverymuch. In my opinion, any woman who has a vaginal birth of an exceptionally large baby deserves sainthood, or at the very least a medal. Yeeshk.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

When the doctor is the patient

For three years of marriage I had wondered when this would happen, and finally, it did.

My husband was stricken.

Sure, he has had a cold or two but he never gets so sick he can't take care of himself. But two and a half weeks ago he started having problems with his back, a condition inherited from his father. For two weeks he continued to go to work every day, saying "oh I'll come home early" (he came home early twice) and "I'll be ok". He worked two 24 hour shifts during that time, and every day at the hospital is busy on his feet. "I'm fine", was the mantra of the day. As if someone half bent over with icicles shooting out of his back is actually fine.

Friday he came home after an especially busy day, a little bit worse for wear. At first I thought he was just attempting the famous Michael Jackson "Moonwalk" manuever, turns out he was simply walking. Saturday morning he woke up and had regressed to a more apelike de-evolution, completely hunched over and barely able to move. By Sunday he lay prostrate on the floor, babbling and drooling as if possessed by the soul of a gomer. Things were not looking good.

To his credit, he isn't a very demanding patient. Sure, he has an electric taser that he shoots at me if I am late bringing him his medicine, and lets not forget the little bell that he just WONT STOP RINGING. Seriously though, get him set up in his computer chair with a hot water bottle, a bottle of water and all his medicine and he is set for a few hours. He is about the only person I know with muscle spasms that laughs when it happens. Since he is a doctor, the sadomasochism makes sense.

As of today, he seems to be markedly better, and plans on making a go of attempting to work tomorrow. It is really too bad, because I will miss the opportunity to point and laugh everytime he takes a dive from a back spasm. At least he'll have his fellow physicians for that.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dubya hasn't made the list...yet

A survey of presidential historians by the University of Louisville has revealed what the historians consider to be the top 10 Presidential blunders of U.S. history. James Buchanan has topped the list, for failing to do more to prevent the Southern states from seceding prior to the Civil War. Obviously, I wasn't around during Buchanan's presidency (perhaps in another life?) but I don't think presidents are magicians. From what I've read of the history of the time period, I seriously doubt any president could have done anything to prevent secession - anything Constitutional, at least. Besides, at this point in time I'm not entirely sure secession would have been a bad thing. I'm just saying.

Clinton's Lewinsky debacle makes number 10 on the list, although I am not sure it deserves a spot at all. It is the kind of thing I consider a personal mistake, not a presidential one. Yea, yea, I've heard it, if he lied about this...he could lie about anything. Hello, kettle?

Andrew Johnson made the number 2 spot for siding with Southern whites after the Civil War and impeding civil rights improvements for Southern blacks. To me, this one should be number 1.

Tricky Dick landed in the number 5 position for his involvement in Watergate. He got off easy on this list.

It is an interesting survey, and comforting to know that presidents of all political persuasions have always been mucking things up.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Forget Freedom Fries, how about Roses of the Prophet Muhammad?

In a scathing political move, bakeries in Iran have changed the name of Danish pastries to "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad" in protest of the cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in September.

It seems that most customers in Iran really couldn't give a damn.

"I just want the sweet pastries. I have nothing to do with the name," shopper Zohreh Masoumi said.

Ah, a voice of reason! Seriously, though, does changing the name really prove anything? The whole "freedom fries" fiasco never really ran its course in the U.S.

Still, I have to say I am a bit annoyed by this. I'll be damned if you can get a danish of any kind here in Greece, yet they seem to be popular in Iran. I think I'll have to protest.

In which I continue to humilate my husband

My husband talks in his sleep. I don’t mean an occasional mmhmm or uhuh, oh no, that would be too simple for our life. Typically, I stay awake reading long after my husband has fallen asleep. Every once in awhile, I am surprised to find him sitting upright, eyes wide open, looking at me, as if he wants to say something.

ME: Are you ok?

HUBBY: Claws too from there

This makes tiny springs erupt from my brain and hit the inside of my skull. I proceed cautiously.

ME: What?!???

HUBBY: It true from now. Ok and then.

He looks at me curiously, desperate to get his message across.

ME: (giggling a bit) Babe, I don’t understand you.

HUBBY: Wiesel fizzle whats

ME: (laughing) OK, I see. Go back to sleep.

At which point he gives me a look of relief, falls again to his pillow and resumes snoring immediately.

Now, while I do indeed find it amusing, I also find it a bit creepy. I have come across these sleep talkers before, and they all act the same, wide awake, as if they have some sort of message to convey. Of course, none of them have any memory of the episode, and nothing they say while sleeptalking makes an iota of sense. I’m certain that even if no one else was around, they would still do the same thing.

Personally, I like to think my dreams make perfect sense, and that if I suddenly awoke in the middle of one and tried to talk about it people would understand me. But perhaps not. What exactly is our brain doing, and why does it make some people wake up, seemingly wide awake, and need to talk? I could get really creative and paranoid and say these people are being mind-controlled by aliens, but since I make sure my husband and our three cats wear their aluminum helmets at all times, I know this isn’t possible. When people sleeptalk, is it actually residue from a dream, or is the dream still going on, and thus the language centers in the brain can’t put coherent sentences together?

All I know is once my husband goes back to sleep, I get a case of the willies. He acts so awake, so sentient, and yet apparently, he was asleep the entire time. I don’t know what it is about the idea of someone being asleep yet interactive in the waking world that creeps me out, but it seems like some sort of line you shouldn’t cross. Like being a zombie, or something. And what happens if you get stuck in the waking world while you are still asleep? Creepy thought, isn’t it?

For now, I’ll have to keep a record of my husband’s nonsensical verbiage, just in case it is a message from beyond. Maybe someday I’ll figure out what exactly wiesel fizzle whats means.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

If I had a brain, I would be dangerous

My brother's birthday is on February 14th, and despite the fact that this is a well-known and well advertised holiday, I always forget. It is also the birthday of another good friend of mine, and as per usual, I forgot his as well (obviously, if I forget one I forget the other).

I was pretty bad about birthdays when I lived in the U.S. and it was easy to send cards out in time, here in Greece it is damn near impossible, in fact, I've pretty much given up. Still, I like to send out the email in time, at least. It just never happens.

Too bad my brother doesn't read the blog, or he'd see how bad I feel. Ah well.

Thursday is full of amusing things

Bruce Willis lambasted Oprah for chewing out James Frey on her show. Don't mess with John McClane, woman!

An Indian director wants Paris Hilton to play Mother Teresa? Apparently there is some slutty Mother Teresa I don't know about.

Madonna had a hernia. She should really stop trying to impress people with how agile she is these days. Between her skinny ol' grandma legs, the skimpy leotards (seriously, quit wearing these, we all know you are fit for your age), and the kicking and stretching, she is really creeping a lot of people out.

Why can't the world just let David Hasselhoff fade away?

Countries need to get more original with their flag colors.

Attack of the killer toad.

Teflon might cause cancer? Bah, I'll take cancer over scrubbing pans anyday!

The Incredible Hulk is now a sheriff's deputy. And all was right with the world.

One fifth of Americans are paranoid. Yea, because bitching at your mom over the phone is what the government wants to listen to. We know they especially love the calls where people talk to grandchildren and nieces and nephews. And don't forget the phone sex. The gummint loves the phone sex.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mama wasn't wrong

South Korea's Consumer Protection Board did a survey to find out which commonly used public item is the biggest source of bacteria. Six items were tested, including shopping cart handles, bus straps, mice at Internet Cafes, doorknobs in public toilets, elevator buttons and straps in the subway.

Not surprisingly, shopping cart handles had the highest amount of bacteria. When I was growing up, my mother was always very strict about our hand washing. Always after going to the bathroom, handling money, and especially after going to the grocery store. I finally came to the conclusion that any time I go out in public I should wash my hands when I get home, because lord knows there will be something I touched that ten bajillion hands have touched. If I actually took the time to think about it, I'd never go out in public.

We are all filthy little creatures, after all. A bacterium's wet dream. I find it rather hard to accept that bacteria and virii are organisms that are just trying to survive in the world, just like you and me. The idea that they mutate and evolve freaks me out a little bit. But I try to be tolerant of these microscopic organisms. You never know if one day they might save us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A tribute to the Winter Olympics

Every time I get into an Olympics discussion with people (it happens a lot more often than you'd think!) I am always lambasted for liking the winter games best. I get various responses, from "ice skating is gay" to "they don't have real sports at the winter Olympics" to "winter games are so boring".

These have to be people who have never truly watched winter Olympic coverage. My typical response to these people is generally "snow + ice + slippery = fun". After the last few days of watching various things off and on, my husband (formerly one of the naysayers) seems to be a bit more interested. Of course, this year's games have really helped to prove my point, what with all the falling and sliding and cross-country ski pileups.

Last night we were watching downhill skiing, and one guy totally wiped out hard core. Once I realized he was ok, I said to my husband:

"See, right there. That is why the winter Olympics are so fun".

He nodded in agreement.

Snow + ice + slippery = fun. Every damn time. As long as no one really gets hurt, of course.

Feline conundrum

It really amazes me how many web searches for "uses for a dead cat" end up here. I have to wonder if all these people actually have dead cats they want to find a use for, or if they are just looking for information on the book 101 Uses for a Dead Cat.

I guess that is better than the person who ended up here with the search phrase "my husband is a pothead". My husband is definitely not a pothead.

Monday, February 13, 2006

If he is like Jesus, I am like the Virgin Mary

I am puzzled. Downright flummoxed. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps certain public figures are getting a strong dose of some hallucinogenic in their drinking water. We have Pat Robertson going nutso, Mr. Iranian President half-cocked, and now Berlusconi, who first decided to give up sex, has now decided he is like Jesus Christ. I imagine he and Kanye West have the same press agent.

The Napoleon comparison was bad enough, but now he is taking on the high holiest of holies.

But then he went on to complain that he feels like what he called "the Jesus Christ of Italian politics".

"I'm a patient victim. I put up with everything. I sacrifice myself for everyone," he said.

Awww, poor wittle witalian politician. Has he sacwificed himself too much?

Yes, I see that common language in Italian allows you to say "poor Christ" about someone without blaspheming, but I really don't think that is the case here, especially after the Napoleon comment and that fact that the world knows that Berlusconi is batshit crazy.

I guess the world will be ok, as long as he doesn't start comparing himself to Hitler or Mussolini.
At least the Italians have the power to get him out of office.


My husband and I just got sucked in, or rather entranced, by the curling match between Sweden and Canada, two countries that are obviously dead serious about their curling.

Neither of us completely understand how the game is played, but according to the commentators there can even be an element of danger in some plays. I suppose if that huge shell of a rock thing is hurling through the air at 100mph it could be dangerous. There is lots of shouting while the thing is shooting down the ice, a lot of "NO!" and "Ahhh!" and what have you. The commentators are making a bit of fun of the Swedish and Canadian girls and their vocabulary.

I'm not sure we can handle all the danger involved in curling, so we'll watch Air Crash Investigation instead.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The snow monster

See, snow panic is universal.

Unless, of course, you life in a place where it snows all the time. (which I realize would make it not universal but, oh well, la di da, blah blah blah)

I'm making up countries now

My husband is working one of the famous doctor 24-hour shifts tonight, and as we were talking on the phone about some random subject matter involving our northern neighbors I meant to say Slovakia and instead repeatedly called that good nation Souvlakia. Now, I know I wouldn't pass up the chance to name any brand new nation but we'll chalk this one up to hunger and ignore the fact that I experienced a brain fart of catastrophic proportions.

This, by the way is what is known as a blogemptive strike (ah, dear Socrates would be so proud). I blogged this before my husband had the chance to embarrass me himself.

Celebrity boxing

Pat Robertson vs. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Wouldn't this be a great match up? They are both the same shades of batshit crazy, with the uncanny ability to talk out of their asses. Ahmadinejad has repeated for the umpteenth million time that the Holocaust is a myth, and that the Jews are the ones perpetrating a holocaust against Palestinians and Iraqis. He probably also thinks tiny purple gnomes steal his underwear while he sleeps and that agents from the planet Mookou will come rescue him in the last days of the apocalypse.

What is it about religion that makes some people so paranoid? I realize the whole Israeli/Palestinian situation is all kinds of out of control, but from where I'm sitting both sides are equally to blame. I still have to wonder, has religion made the world better, or has it made us all haters?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I'd say that was a pretty big problem

As I was flipping channels today, I noticed a big headline splashed across the screen when I passed CNN International:


Ok, you know, I don't like to laugh at such things, but seriously people, the only problem bigger than coma is death. Why is it that so many headlines and media stories are so stupid these days? Do they think their viewers are all completely idiotic? Or are they just hardpressed for enough news to fill 24 hours (for a funny take on this get America(The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction) so we get all the "no duh" stories?

All I know is I am getting damn tired of the media.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Strange themes at the Winter Olympics Opening ceremony

Well, the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics is on right now, and they are currently doing the long parade of countries and their atheletes.

The introduction was a sight to behold, if you fancy postmodern, industrial, neofuturist themes with cows. It wasn't bad, but it seemed a bit sloppy at times. Not as interesting as the Athens Olympics opening ceremony, and I am not saying that with any hint of a bias.

I AM looking forward to the swoosh swoosh of the skiing and the skating. The Greek team is kinda skimpy but hopefully they'll do well.

EDIT: As the torch is being lit, I have to say, it has improved some. It really hasn't been a bad opening ceremony (of course, we were playing World of Warcraft while watching). And it has had lots of really nice things, like the giant human skier and the human bird thing. Besides, who can complain about Peter Gabriel singing John Lennon??? The torch lighting was quite impressive.

And that is the end of live blogging (sort of) the opening ceremonies.

Divorce? Are we talking divorce?

My husband had to go to the post office today to pay a bill and pick up a package. The post office (as well as many other places) uses the old fashioned "take a number" system rather than waiting in line.

Imagine my horror when my husband met up with me at the grocery store, and proudly displayed the number he had gotten at the post office.


Yep, he takes the Microsoft Flight Simulator thing just a bit too far.

Do the funky chicken

The avian flu threat looms ever closer, as swans found dead around the Thessaloniki area appear to be infected with the non-lethal to humans H5 form of the virus. Samples have been sent to the WHO labs in London to see whether or not they had the H5N1 form of the virus or not. On top of that, one of the people who helped clear the dead birds is a new army recruit, who has landed at the army hospital here in Thessaloniki (otherwise known as my husband's hospital) for observation. The hospital will likely be on the news tonight, in a media frenzy of fear and panic.

I know that the recent Siberian temperatures had forced birds to fly further south for habitation, many of these birds settling here in Greece. I wonder if that migration added to the spread of the flu, especially in areas in Africa that are getting reports of the virus.

Well, here's hoping Greece is ready for the outbreak, large or small, whatever the case may be.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Watch it, Grandma!

Seeing a bunch of elderly Finns on swings, seesaws, and climbing on childish contraptions must be a sight to see. The University of Lapland has been researching ways to make activities more fun for the elderly, and figured sending them off with the children to the local playground was one way to go about it.

A team at Rovaniemi Polytechnic studied one group of 40 people, aged between 65 and 81, and found there were significant improvements in balance, speed and co-ordination after just three months of larking about on the climbing frames and play equipment.

Given that more than a third of elderly people say they are nervous moving about because of a fear of falling, these are statistics that interest people working with senior citizens.

Well, I think this is pretty cool. But one has to wonder about the playground brawls that might ensue.

"Get out of the way, Grandma, that's MY swing!"

Finnish playground manufacturer Lappset is already on board, creating "3 generational play" equipment, suitable for kids, their parents, AND their grandparents.

Many fear that corpulent, inactive parents will simply fall off the swings and see-saws and sue the council, or aggressive teens and 20-somethings will drive the toddlers from the park and vandalise the equipment.

Indeed, the Finnish manufacturer has found that it has to make its equipment extra sturdy for the British because of the levels of vandalism.

It seems it simply does not occur to Finnish youth to destroy things that are built for their pleasure.

There are also cultural barriers. In tests on groups from different countries, the Germans were found to be fondest of having the generations play together.

The French seemed to prefer to control children.

I think it all sounds like fun. But getting the world to agree...that might be a different story.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Linguistics or geekiness?

My husband is into the whole Microsoft Flight Simulator world, which is apparently a rather large world with organizations and ranks and events and training and barbecue suppers and satanic rituals and what have you. Now, this obsession (oh, I meant hobby) of his doesn't bother me except for a) the sickening geek factor of the whole thing and b) the fact that when he is talking on his little microphone to his little flying buddies they say "tree" instead of "three". Now, supposedly this is some linguistics issue - it is easier to understand "tree", but I really think it is just to amplify the geek factor.

And the correct answer to the question "will he ever take real flying lessons?" is "over my dead body".

I'm sure that can be arranged.

Culinary meltdown

Everyone in Greece seems to have a certain preference for the north or south of the country – the north being represented by Thessaloniki and the south being represented, of course, by Athens (despite the fact that obviously there are places MUCH farther south than Athens). When I lived in Athens, I did not understand how anyone in their right mind could WANT to live in Athens – aside from people who grew up there and had family there, and I even found those people questionable. Athens is a veritable hell-hole, filled with smog, dirt, trash, pushy street vendors and way too much traffic. There are also alleged cultural and sociological differences between north and south, most notably, that people in the north are friendlier and that the food, even the same dishes, can be very different in Athens and Thessaloniki.

I am not what one might call a culinary cognoscente. I am a very picky eater, which means I am a very childish eater, which means if I don’t like the look, smell, or idea of something I won’t even try it once. My parents learned this the hard way, because they always made me try something once, and inevitably I would hate it – hate it so much, in fact, that I would vomit. I figured it would be best to avoid such embarrassments in my adult life, so when it comes to food, I am not adventurous. I enjoy a variety of ethnic cooking, but nothing too over the edge (ie. simple sweet and sour pork, basic pasta, plain enchiladas, etc.). My single claim to fame in the extravagant foods department is a liking and tolerance for extra hot and spicy things, which most people seem to balk at.

Getting used to the local cuisine was the single most dreaded hurdle of my move to Greece. I hadn’t fancied most Mediterranean dishes I had tried before, and Greeks are not really shy about the kind of thing they will kill and cook (I’ll never forget the day I first saw roosters in the butcher’s case). I wasn’t ever fond of upteen kinds of meat, and I didn’t know if they would have the right things in the grocery store to fix the kinds of food I liked, so I arrived prepared to turn up my nose at anything that was set before me.

Much to my surprise, we had a gyros place close to us in Athens that had delicious gyros (not at all like any I had tried in America) and a new condiment type of thing I had never heard of before called tzatziki, which is a mixture of yoghurt, garlic, dill, cucumbers – it all depends on the recipe. It was delicious, and I was hooked. Much to my dismay, however, tzatziki didn’t always taste the same everywhere you got it – in fact, sometimes it was quite horrid.

When we moved to Kos I lamented. How would I ever find any Greek food I could stand to eat? What about my favorite tzatziki? I was in luck, though, as we had two excellent tavernas right around the corner. Their gyros weren’t the best, but one of the places had really good chicken souvlaki, and the other had the most delicious keftedakia and homemade tzatziki you could die for (I managed to coax the recipe out of them before we moved). Obviously, I didn’t have time to miss our favorite fast food joint in Athens.

But of course, when it was time to move to Litochoro, I was lugubrious again. A little mountain village! And in the north! What could they possibly fix that I would like?! Also, by this time I was really starting to miss good old fashioned American pizza. Greeks tend to use gouda or some other type of cheese on their pizzas instead of mozzarella, and their sauce just doesn’t cut it most of the time. To my amazement, there was a pizzeria in Litochoro that was run by a Greek family who had had a pizza joint in Brooklyn. This was good pizza. We also found another excellent gyros/souvlaki place, and the local supermarket chain just happened to have a brand of tzatziki from their deli that was to my liking, so all was right with the world. Not to mention we were far enough north that we could start getting bougatsa (a sweet breakfasty thing)when we wanted – which is something you can’t usually find in the south. We also found a place that made such good spanikopita that all other spanikopita is ruined for us. Ruined!

When it came time to move to Thessaloniki I didn’t worry. We would have my mother-in-law’s home cooking when we wanted and it was my husband’s hometown. Surely there would be plenty of places to get good gyros, souvlaki, and tzatziki. Alas, I was wrong. Thessaloniki can’t seem to get this stuff right. We’ve shopped around for good gyros and souvlaki, and while it hasn’t been bad, it hasn’t been great, either. But I can’t find a good tzatziki to save my life. Not in any taverna, not in the grocery store, nowhere. I suppose I will have to break out the recipe from Kos and make it myself. But that requires effort! And of course nothing matches the pizza place in Litochoro, not even Pizza Hut. The only thing Thessaloniki does right is bougatsa. I suppose that’s something.

What? No Gary Oldman in the next HP film?

According to Wizard News, via the Gary Oldman fan site, Oldman's manager confirmed that they have not been contacted about his appearance in the next Harry Potter movie, The Order of the Phoenix.

Now, this is dire news for some Harry Potter fans (like me), who picked Oldman from the beginning to play the role of Sirius Black and thought he did a smashing job in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Please, don't let the gods of Harry Potterdom go cheap on us and cast someone else for the part. We want Oldman!

UPDATE: Wizard News is now reporting the confirmation of both Oldman and David Thewlis. Phew!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Rode hard and hung up wet

Well, I'm a bit tired of speaking my mind regarding the Danish Muhammad cartoon imbroglio. Suffice it to say, if it becomes ok for Muslim leaders to order hits (I'm sorry, I mean fatwas) on anyone who does anything in the west that they don't like, well, we all might as well be Muslims (I say this referencing some hard line Muslim leaders who stated that if the fatwa on Rushdie had been carried out, this cartoon thing would have never happened). This article by Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Mark Steyn sums up my feelings quite nicely.

Thanks bunches!

Do you get the sarcasm in that title? It is the sarcasm of the preppy blonde who really hates the person she is talking to. I've spent a nice chunk of my afternoon deleting 105 spam comments from the house cleaning posse, and thus, I have resorted to word verification on comments for now.

While I firmly believe that people who do such a thing - besides the inevitable bad karma they will surely experience - should be thwapped repeatedly with a wet noodle for hours on end, it is impossible to identify such individuals. So, do it again and the cute puppy gets it.

In the meantime, the snow has been lovely, and falling steadily all day. Unfortunately, my husband's underwear that was on the clothesline bought it. Apparently, snow doesn't behave like rain, and even the protection of the awning didn't prevent his tighty whiteys from getting snow soaked. Ah well.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


It was cold today, and while we knew there was a chance of snow, it seemed to be simply rainy all day. Lo and behold, when I just went outside to move some laundry around, I looked at the street and saw everything covered with snow!

Of course, there will be major panic in the city tomorrow. But for now, all is peaceful and white.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Is something rotten in Denmark?

Some people have been looking for a link to the Danish Muhammad cartoons I referenced in this post. Well, here they are. One of them I actually think is quite nice, another one I find pretty funny, in a horrible way. I am also linking to an article that offers an explanation of the context of the cartoons - and why the Danish newspaper commissioned them.

Here's hoping, somehow, some way, we can all find some peace in this storm.

More advice for men

If you make arrangements to eat Sunday dinner with your parents, please inform your wife so as to avoid the look of confusion and horror on her face when her mother-in-law starts a sentence with “When you come for dinner on Sunday...”

Friday, February 03, 2006

The new math

I worked at my university’s Safety and Security office (OSS) for a good portion of my early adult years, starting out as a dispatcher and eventually moving on to the oh-so-glamorous role of office manager. The director at the time I became office manager was quite aware of my writing skills, and since I loved to write - even inane, technical things – I took on the responsibility of handling all the written materials that evolved from our department. These materials included my director’s correspondence, monthly crime reports, the annual security report, and a monthly newsletter distributed campus wide.

Now the key was making some of these things interesting, perhaps even provocative to the dozen or so readers who might actually come across these publications. The annual report I couldn’t do much with, since it had specifics that needed to be adhered to and these specifics, no matter how hard you tried to dress them up, were never fit for the red carpet. The monthly crime reports were just as difficult, but I had fun coming up with various ways to say stolen since the most common crime on campus was theft. Obviously, I couldn’t use the same word five or six times over, so the monthly crime reports were laden with terms like pilfered, purloined, and my favorite – filched – and to a small extent, people started to notice. My director was pleased at this small effort to “smarten up” the department, and of course, it didn’t stop there. The newsletter was all mine, and while safety and security information and tips weren’t the most interesting or erudite of topics, I did my best to find ways to make it readable.

My coworkers, for the most part, were not college educated. Some were in school at the time (like me) but mostly the officers were made up of retired military men. A lot of them were good people, but several of them scoffed at the idea of higher education, whether from jealousy or a genuine disregard for it, I don’t know. They often derided me for my choices of words in the crime reports and the newsletter. I remember one word choice – ameliorate, caused such a stir amongst the officers that it is amazing World War III did not erupt on that small corner of the campus.

(Imagine thick Southern accents here)“Nobody knows what that word means” they told me. “Nobody will read it if they don’t understand it.”

“This is a college campus” was my reply. “If they don’t know the word, then I assume they know how to use a dictionary.”

“Nobody’s gonna open a dictionary” they said. “It’s a stupid word. You can’t write things for the public that are above a 6th grade level.”

And so on, and so forth. This discussion went on for a couple of days. At the same time, I began to question what it means to write for the general public. Was it true that most people couldn’t read above a 6th grade level? Was it true that people wouldn’t open a dictionary? How would people learn new vocabulary? Do adults really just stop learning new words?

A couple of years later, I had an interview at an advertising agency. After going over my work, and the “sample” they had me prepare, the woman told me that I wasn’t writing for a general audience, and that I belonged in a university or scholastic setting. It was brutal, it was honest, and I was crushed. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t reaching the public. What did this mean? Was I a pedantic snob? Was I wrong to tempt my newsletter reading college audience with words like ameliorate?

I’ve since read articles about journalistic writing that actually said to keep your language simple to reach the broadest audience. The lowest common denominator. Is this really how the media should be treating the public? Is this really what the media should expect of the public? Shouldn’t we do more to raise the bar, instead of keeping it low?

Words have become whores to the media and the publishers who just want to make money, sell the story. Slaves to the lowest common denominator. I wish I could find it now, but I read an article a month or so ago that was reporting on people who had Nobel prize winning manuscripts sent to publishing houses as “fresh” works, and they were all discarded, rejected. Would we see Faulkner published new today? Fitzgerald? Welty? O’Connor? Hemingway? Need I list more?

It really makes you wonder what we are missing, doesn’t it?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Introducing Luna Lovegood...

All the parts have been cast for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and shooting is scheduled to start next week. 14-year-old Evanna Lynch has been chosen to play the part of Luna Lovegood, and I think she looks right for the part. We'll see how well she pulls it off.

The official press release can be found here. I can't wait to see it in 2007!

Happy Groundhog Day!

Well, it looks like good ol' Punxsatawney Phil has predicted 6 more weeks of winter. It is a a really remarkable thing, as there just so happens to be 6 more weeks until the first day of spring!

Today is also known as the Celtic holiday of Imbolc, marking the halfway point between winter and spring. Other popular names for today include Candlemas and Brigid's Day. Traditionally Imbolc was celebrated on February 1st, but it seems there has been some mixing of holidays, and so many people now recognize February 2nd as the "official" festival day.

Let us revel in the waxing of the light, as we look forward to the rebirth of the Spring.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Advice to men

When having a discussion with your wife or partner, DO NOT at any point in the conversation tell your beloved that her behavior resembles that of your mother. This does not help the conversation in the least little bit, no matter how much she actually is like your mother or how much she likes your mother.

I hope this helps.