Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It isn't so funny if it is true

Today, someone arrived at my blog after doing a search for "flight simulator divorce". I found this incredibly funny, because while I tease my husband about divorcing him due to a condition I call "flight simulator geekiness", I never actually would divorce him.

Then I thought that perhaps someone did get divorced because of their flight simulator habits, and I felt bad for laughing. I know that some people can get overly obsessed with their gaming, and that it can put a strain on personal relationships. But I also know one of the secrets to a good marriage is tolerating a few whims now and then, as long as no one is going overboard.

To the person who was searching for "living in the same city as mother in law", you have my condolences. I can't give you much advice, though, because I am quite happy to be living in the same city as my mother in law.

To the person who searched for "lesbians scatology image" I say ewwww. Ewwww!

To the person who searched for "are italians loud" I say ask an Italian.

To the person who searched for "the foggy shapes" I say take your medication.

To the person who searched for "feta cheese ethical moral" I say huh?

To the person who searched for "greek mullet hair" I say yep, you find the mullet do in Greece in abundance.

To the person who searched for "what does it mean to give someone enough rope" I say if you can't figure that one out, you don't have enough rope.

And finally,

To the person who searched for "devil+letter+love", I don't think there is an address for hell.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Johnny has gone for a soldier

Today millions of Americans are off work, ostensibly to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of war dead that have died in the name of the good old U.S. of A. Memorial Day should not be confused with Veteran’s Day, which is in November and honors both living and dead military men and women.

Generally speaking I don’t have a problem with honoring both living and dead soldiers, but soldiers aren’t the only casualties of any given war. In the end, however, am I really expected to honor soldiers who are fighting and dying for a cause I don’t agree with? I feel bad that so many have died, and so many more have been injured, but these are deaths and injuries I feel should have been avoided. Should I call these soldiers heroes because they are willing to fight whatever war President Bush wants to wage? Are they heroes, or are they slaves?

Memorial Day was first celebrated as a means of memorializing Civil War dead. The South had the idea first, and the North followed suit. 150 years later, it is hard to blame either side for that war. But it was a war that meant something, a war that was to determine a way of life for the people of America. Should the South have been allowed to secede? Is it a war that should have been avoided? These are answers I do not have. I can say I am glad to have grown up in a single, unified America, but I can’t say how the fates would have played out had the U.S. been divided.

I’m not naïve. I realize that there are wars that must be fought. I’m just not convinced Iraq was one of them. I’ve heard all the justifications, all the pro-war monger statements. I’m still not convinced. Hussein was a bad man, a Hitler, no doubt. But could we have found a better way? In the wake of news of soldiers decimating a group of civilians, of the weird afflictions our soldiers are returning home with, the pain, the nightmares – couldn’t there have been a better way? A better way, instead of having a generation of our best soldiers broken down slowly by the diseases of war. A generation of fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, lost.

On Memorial Day, I shall remember the war dead. The soldiers, the civilians. The families of both who are forever bereaved. The millions dead to genocides worldwide. The millions upon millions of survivors who face a battered land and untold hardships in the fight for reconstruction. I memorialize them all. But most of all, on Memorial Day, I wish for peace.

How a doctor patches a hole

When we got our new air conditioner installed, the brilliant Funai installation guys left a huge gap in the wall, where the hose connects the inside unit to the outside unit. We were left to patch it up ourselves.

My husband purchased the spackle/cement stuff to patch it up, and of course a few days lapsed. Today he decided to patch up the whole, with great difficulty. The spackle wouldn't stick to the cement and the spackle knife thingy wasn't working too well for the small space. First he tries a spoon. It worked a little better, but still left two small holes. So what does my brilliant doctor husband decide to use next?

A syringe. Yes, my talented husband spent the afternoon filling a syringe with spackle and squirting it into the hole. It still didn't work that well, but I spent a good five minutes laughing at him, which was worth it.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Angelina gives birth to a hyphen

And we thought the era of hyphenated last names was over.

According to my favorite celebrity gossip blog, Angelina Jolie gave birth to a baby girl on Saturday, naming her Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt.

My cousin married a girl named Shiloh, although I think she spells it a bit differently. In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, here's a bit of info about the Civil War Battle of Shiloh. Very weird choice for a name. Perhaps this baby announcement is some kind of hoax.

Suffrage in America

Does it bother anyone else that more Americans exercised their right to vote for the final American Idol than have ever exercised their right to vote for President?

Now I realize, of course, that people under the age of 18 can vote for their favorite American Idol contestant, and so can convicted felons, so I suppose generally speaking that throws a few more people into the mix.

There are around 190 million registered voters in America, and only 62 million of those voted in the highly contested 2004 election (which was, I believe, one of the highest voter counts ever), which means that 32% of registered voters actually voted. If 63.4 million people voted for the American Idol final, and out of 292 million Americans subtract a few million for the people under the age to give a damn and a few million more who are of age but still don't give a damn, and you probably end up with a similar percentage. What is even more frightening is this:

Yesterday's result came on the heels of a survey last month that found one in ten Americans had voted on American Idol and 35 per cent of viewers said that they considered the vote as important - if not more important - than if it were for the presidency.

Now, I am not here to put down American Idol or its fans. There are similar Greek shows of which my in-laws are equally enamored. But really? Just as important as the presidency? This is why we are fighting a war with Iraq and might be nuking the living crap out of Iran? Seriously?

Ok, I'm using a bit of poetic license with the hyperbole. But if this is really the attitude of a chunk of Americans then, well, wow. I think we've seriously lost some perspective here. Wake up and smell the soma, people. Take some responsibility for your government first, lest they be telling you exactly who you can vote for in the future.

Friday, May 26, 2006

My husband, the superhero

The other night I walked into the bedroom, and my husband was lying in bed watching T.V. At the very instant I entered the room, he let loose a magnanimous fart that surely erupted from the very depths of Tartarus. Concurrent with this monstrous feat of flatulence, the T.V. turned off, as if on its own. For a moment, logic betrayed me, obviously stunted by the kamikaze attack and olfactory meltdown of the ginormous fart, and I turned to my husband and said, with great surprise,

“Did the force of your fart just turn off the T.V.???”

My husband stared at me as if I had just given birth to a flock of dancing sheep. Annoyed, I asked again,

“Seriously, did you just turn off the T.V. with a fart?”

My husband gave me another look, a look that says surely-you-are-kidding-because-otherwise-you-need-some-serious-psychological-help, also known as the “what kind of crack have you been smoking?” look. He said, calmly,

“You turned off the light switch when you came into the room”.

I looked at him dubiously, because our light switches don’t control power outlets. He repeated,

“When you turned off the light switch it must have caught a circuit or something in the T.V. and made it turn off”.

As the cloud of noxious gas dispersed I began to regain my senses, and I realized I had indeed turned off the light switch right before the T.V. turned off. The fact that the fart occurred at the same time was simply coincidence. Deflated, I looked at my husband and said,

“And here I was hoping we had just discovered your hidden superpower”.

I’m still not sure what bothers me more: that I actually thought a fart could turn off the television or that I’m not actually married to a superhero that uses his flatulence to do good in the world.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

All the info we don't need to know

My husband and I were out and about this evening and he pointed out a t-shirt a young man was wearing. Now, I realize that all sorts of sundry messages are printed on t-shirts, many of them obscene, but this one was a doozy.

The shirt had a "construction sign" design on it, yellow with a black background, and it had the image of a man having sex with a girl in a very uncomfortable place (no, not the back of a Volkswagen). The slogan said "Back door maniac". I really couldn't care less whether someone is a back door maniac or not. I feel that people should be free to explore whatever sexual proclivities they may have, as long as it is consensual and they are adults. But I had to say I felt for this man's girlfriend, sitting across from her man with such a shirt. Not only does the shirt make a statement about the man, it makes a statement about the woman that is with him.

Still, and I think I speak for the world here, that is way more information than I ever want to know about a stranger.

Why Nashville is a weird, weird place

Back in December I posted about the infamous Nun Bun that was stolen from one of my favorite Nashville haunts. It seems the perpetrators of this holy prank have sent the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, a picture of the pious bun, intact and having a jolly old time with other religious relics. The picture is a bit iffy though, and I have my doubts that the bun was actually in that particular place.

Where will the bun end up next? Maybe we’ll see a picture of the pope with the bun. Wouldn’t that be grand? At any rate it is nice to know that the bun is enjoying a carefree lifestyle, instead of being locked up in its sacred prison at Bongo Java. Let’s just hope the kidnapper never harms the poor little bun.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Apparently, freedom of speech doesn't apply to valedictorians

The valedictorian of Gallatin High School in Sumner County, Tennessee, is facing criminal charges because he took the microphone during graduation to give a speech. Not only is the poor boy facing misdemeanor charges for disorderly conduct, the principal is threatening to keep his diploma from him.

In most American high schools, it is traditional that the valedictorian gives the graduation speech. Not at Gallatin High though. The honor instead goes to the class president, a position not always worthy of commencement speechmaking, let along good grades. It has long been my opinion that the whole idea of class president, etc., be abandoned, because I don't see that it ever served any real purpose aside from reunion planning, and some don't even do that very well.

Essentially, this is what happened. The valedictorian, Chris Linzy, wrote a speech for graduation, and took it upon himself to grab the microphone from the teacher when he went up to collect his diploma. He muttered a few words before the microphone was turned off and he went back to his seat. Mr. Linzy's intent was to challenge the idea of the class president giving the speech.

Now I realize the need for administrators to have graduation ceremonies go smoothly. I realize that having some random student grab the microphone and start talking can be disruptive. But we are talking about high school students here, high school students that are elated about graduating. Every once in awhile things get a bit out of hand, a bit too much cheering, some out of order singing - minor things that I think add to the spirit of the graduating class and the ceremony itself. I can understand pressing charges and withholding a diploma if a student gets on stage drunk, grabs a microphone, and starts shouting expletives, but this was a good student with a prepared speech. I guess scholarship isn't the most important thing to the administrators of Gallatin High School.

The principal, Rufus Lassiter, insists that students were repeatedly warned about the consequences of disorderly conduct at the ceremony. Thank god no one accidentally squeezed out a monster fart or there might be more charges be pressed today. Mr. Lassiter continued to whine that Mr. Linzy wanted publicity for himself and that 270 other students got no publicity whatsoever. Huh? What does that even mean?

I hope, for this boy's sake, the charges are dropped and he gets his diploma. This is perhaps one of the most ridiculous cases of power wielding I've ever heard of. OMG, do something! We have a student out of control! He is trying to give a prepared speech! Oh nos!

For more information, along with a copy of Mr. Linzy's speech, check out egalia's post at Tennessee Guerilla Women.

UPDATE: It seems he did get his diploma at the demand of the school superintendent, although nothing indicates whether or not the charges were dropped.

Melodramas are all alike

We inherited our housekeeper from my in-laws. Well, we didn't "inherit" her per se, but she comes to us every couple of weeks on loan from my in-laws. She has been a part of the family for many, many years, and is quite beloved by all of us.

Her propensity for watching "her shows" was well known to me - it is no secret she shares a passion for the afternoon showings of the South American soap operas and an even greater affection for some of the Greek shows. So far, however, I have been impervious to these shows, as she hasn't requested them when she is here. Until today.

Today she tried to educate me to the lifes, loves, and passions of a show called Esmeralda, a South American serial drama badly dubbed in Greek. As we watched the heavily made up actresses and actors highlighted by soft lighting cross the screen, Miss Ellie told me everything I needed to know about each one of them. Who was good, who was bad, who was rich, who was poor, who had a rich family, but was now poor, who was in love with who, who the real father of the baby is, etc., etc. Miss Ellie knows only Greek and my Greek is very poor, but I still understood the basics of what she was trying to tell me - obviously soap opera storylines are simple enough to translate.

Her expectation, I think, was that I would be instantly enthralled by the soap opera. Many females in Greece seem to be fond of such shows, including my mother-in-law and sister-in-law (well, at least I know of some Greek shows they watch assiduously), but I am not one of them. It has been a good twenty years since I regularly watched a soap opera. The storylines seem to be all the same no matter what country the soap opera is from, and they all have the same predictability.

Once Miss Ellie was out of earshot, I changed the channel to much more interesting drama - the unfolding story of the fire at the Constantinople airport on CNN. We all know truth is much stranger than fiction. And much more interesting.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In Greece, even the young must suffer

Today my dear brother-in-law (the baby of my husband's family) began his PanHellenic Exams, a terrifying rite of passage for all Greek high school seniors. These exams are not just stressful for the same reasons most exams are stressful - these exams essentially determine the fate of the rest of each student's life: whether they will go to college, whether they will study the subject they want to study, whether they will be employable a few years down the road. Essentially, each student decides the course of study they would most like to pursue in their university education, and takes a slate of exams related to the field. If you do poorly, or if too many other students outscore you, you won't get the university position you desire. You can try again the next year, but I can't imagine wanting to go through all that stress all over again.

At any rate, the entire family is on pins and needles hoping, praying, and worrying about my dear brother-in-law and how he will do on his exams. Personally, I think he will do fine, after all, he has three siblings who ended up in their desired fields. But I feel for the poor kid too, for the past year he has lessons upon lessons, every night, weekends, all the time studying, learning, preparing for these exams.

I don't know about you, but my senior year was the party year. Sure, I went to the geeky smarty school, but after the first semester of my senior year I was pretty much done with all my credits, my college applications were long mailed, and my second semester courses consisted of something like three study halls, a creative writing class, an English class, and some bullshit social studies/economics type deal. By the end of senior year most of us had gotten into the colleges of our choice, and most of us were exempt from any exams due to good grades. In short, nobody cared, and we were carefree.

To me, this made sense, even though I was one of those kids who loved school. I loved it. But life at Hume-Fogg was pretty challenging at times, and we were all pretty conscientious students. By the second semester of our senior year, we deserved a break. Just deciding on colleges, writing application essays, and taking the SAT and ACT were stressful enough - I can't imagine having to pick, definitively, what I would end up doing for the rest of my life and having to prepare for exams that would determine whether or not I would even attend college. I'm especially glad I didn't have to do that now, since I switched majors in my sophomore year.

Now, I realize that university for Greeks is free. I realize that it is a small country that can't support too many people in any one area of expertise. But I feel like there should be some balance between the "all or nothing" decision at the age of 17 or 18 and having some kind of choice about your future. If kids are spending too much time focusing on their studies for these exams, how are they learning anything else?

This is not to say that I think the American way of higher learning is perfect. There are way too many students who don't care or pursue college life simply as a means of getting away from home and partying. This seems all the more idiotic when you think that these kids (or their parents, actually) are paying for this education that they aren't valuing enough. But I do think that 17-year-olds aren't necessarily ready, or able, to make life-changing decisions about their future. I also don't think it is appropriate for their parents to make the decisions for them.

Do I have a middle ground solution? Not really. But I don't know if the PanHellenic exam system is a sound one. There has been lots of controversy in the past - students who get to go where they want because of connections, students who scored terribly in their field but because they are among too few they get to go to college anyway, and a number of other small dramas. I also am not familiar with the scoring system or the setup of the exams themselves to know if they are able qualifiers to judge students and their knowledge of their chosen subject. Having worked in scoring for national tests in America, I can't help but be a bit curious.

For now, all I can do is hope my dear brother-in-law reaches his heart's desire when it comes to his education. And I'll be happiest for him when all this stress is over.

Monday, May 22, 2006


The humidity bears down on me, but the air it drags is cool. I feel the moisture all around me – between my fingers, on my throat, glistening on my lips. It weighs down my conscience like a wet flag, unkempt and left out in the rain. My eyes stare, unblinking, at every horror, every sadness, every pain. I am only a watcher. The wall between us is high, but transparent. I dare not pass through. My fear leaves me behind.

I walk in the footsteps of a thousand years. I can hear the echoes of all who have walked before me - elation, despair, the never ending cry of millions of voices. I do not know if they will all be heard or their lives remembered. I can only listen. The space between us is filled with concrete, but resonant. I dare not climb. My fear leaves me behind.

My eyes trace the horizon of an empty sea. I can see shadows in the distance - hopeful, frightened, drowning. I do not know if they will make it to shore or find the promise of the land. I can only keep walking. The gate between us is closed, but rusted. I dare not open it. My fear leaves me behind.

I hear the solemn chant of a devout priest. I can feel the silent prayers of all who sit before him - a candle for the blessed, the sick, the dead. I do not know if their faith can sustain them or if their prayers will be answered. I can only keep hoping. There is a forest between us, but it is filled with sunlight. I dare not enter it. My fear leaves me behind.

I feel the weight of an ageless soul. I know it is lost, broken – a sloping mire of love and hate, borne from years of watching, listening, walking, hoping. I can only endure. There is a river between us, but it is filled with rocks. I dare not cross it. My fear has left me behind.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Soundtrack for a lonely day

01 Deep Dish – Say Hello

02 Massive Attack – Special Cases

03 Tracy Chapman – 3000 Miles

04 Coldplay – Fix You

05 Sigur Ros – Glosoli

06 Kate Bush – How to be Invisible

07 Royksopp – What Else Is There

08 Johnny Cash – Hurt

09 Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah

In which the Germans try their hand at country music

The 51st Eurovision Song Contest, hosted delightfully by Athens, has now declared its winner. The show was the typical fare, a mixture of some ethnic, some pop, some folk, and to my delight this year there was a taste of Nashville country. The most horrifying moment, however, was probably when the Dutch presenter came on air to give the Dutch voting results. He compared the two hosts, Maria and Sakis, to Will and Grace, and then proceeded to shamelessly flirt with Sakis. Poor Sakis, he had a bit of a hard time recovering.

I admit, Eurovision is cheesy, but it is good old fashioned fun. It is great to look back at some of the earlier years which had true representations of each country’s culture in music. Here are my thoughts on this year’s show:

Most interesting

Finland’s Lordi. This is what happens when Gwar and KISS have babies. They aren’t bad for metal, but my headbangin’ days are long over. At any rate, they were the winners by a landslide this year, so they must be doing something right.

Germany’s Texas Lightning. Yea, ok, I realize that country music has an appeal worldwide. But the last people I expected to see performing country music are the Germans. Honestly, they didn’t do a bad job, either. They apparently cover all the greats, including Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Bill Monroe. Their tag line is the best: It’s not a joke, it’s country. Are you listening, Nashville? Better watch out for the Germans.

Guilty pleasure

Russia’s Dima Bilan. He came in second, not surprisingly. Ok, maybe the song was a bit cheesy, but I liked it. Plus he is a little cutie, despite the badly drawn mullet hair.

My favorite songs

Norway’s Christine Guldbrandsen with Alvedansen and Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Hari Mata Hari with Lejla.

Most annoying

Lithuania and their non-song rap/trying-to-be-cute-and-funny song We are the Winners. Sure, I appreciate their attempt at humor, but I don’t appreciate it enough.

The UK’s Daz Sampson with Teenage Life. He obviously stole this rap from the soundtrack for AnnieIt’s a Hard Knock Life. Two problems - one, this white boy can’t rap; two, the UK is famous for good music, how come their last four entries to Eurovision were crap?

The Ukraine’s Tina Karol. Two words: Shakira wannabe.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to get a fine German sausage, Greek style

Last night my husband and I wanted to have dinner out, which isn’t too unusual for us lately, but we wanted something different. Well, in all actuality I was craving some American fare because I was plum taverna-d out. We were going to go to Applebee’s, but it was late when my husband got home and I decided I didn’t want to weave my way through the ultra-hip crowds of youngsters down by the sea. My sister-in-law recommended we go to Extrablatt, a restaurant close to home. I was not disappointed. The menu offers recipes of a German/Greek flare, along with other international flavors. And for beer lovers, what a selection!

I highly recommend this restaurant if you want a nice place to eat in Thessaloniki. The cost is a bit high by Greek standards – about twice what you would pay at your average taverna, but well worth it. The food, service, and ambience were all top notch. Too bad I didn’t have a camera phone, or I’d be tempting everyone with pictures of their luscious food and brilliant décor.

Oh, and if you go, be sure to check out the beer poster by the bathroom.

A universal rite of passage

Yesterday my husband bought his first tub of spackle. He is finally a real man.

I couldn't be more proud of him.

Friday, May 19, 2006

First Europe, someday the world

In an ongoing story, EBU, the giant network responsible for the ever popular Eurovision Song Contest, is in talks with people in the U.S. about an American version of the show. I thought this would be a good idea ever since I saw my first Eurovision in 2003, with 50 states and a couple of protectorates to choose from, there would be stiff competition.

I know what you are thinking: America doesn't need another American Idol or Nashville Star type show. But the Eurovision concept is unique, requiring contestants from all countries to compete in a semifinal with public voting for valuable spaces in the final. In the final, people cannot vote for their own country's representative. The winning country has to host the next year's contest, and the top 10 get an automatic spot in the following year's final. I'd imagine they would do it similarly in the U.S., with contestants from each state (and protectorate) competing against one another.

EBU also has their eye on Canada, Australia, the Middle East and Africa for similar song contests, with the possibility of a worldwide contest with the winners of each. Now that would be really cool.

In current Eurovision news, Athens hosted a great semi-final last night, despite the fact that most of the songs were really, really, really bad. The big finale is tomorrow night, and my pick is the Norwegian contestant, Christine Guldbrandsen, who has a really beautiful song with ethnic undertones (you can see a preview of the song here, if you click on Norway under the finalist list). Unfortunately, most countries offer up songs sung in English (sometimes in terrible English) that are trying desperately to imitate the worst of Western music.

For those of you unfamiliar with Eurovision, Abba, Katrina and the Waves, and Celine Dion were all winners of the contest. Earlier this year, Abba won the honor of best Eurovision song at the 50th anniversary celebration of the contest. For more Eurovision fun, visit the official website.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Your lawyer is going to kill you.

This is a post I have been meaning to write for some time now, but did not come around to doing for various reasons. No time, not in the mood, thinking about what to say and how to say it... excuses. In reality it's too depressing; depressing because nothing I - or anyone else for that matter - do will change the fact: Your lawyer is going to kill you.

Before you ask me to lay off the "good stuff", a little bit of background. I come from a family of doctors and have been around Medicine all my life. The feel of it, the idea of it, the practice of it. Hell, my brother and I made up children's songs containing medication brand names when we were 6-7 years old. Now I have myself been practicing for four years - add to that the six, seven years I studied Medicine and you'll see that, while by no means an expert, I have some idea about how the Art is faring in Greece.

More background: Medicine has taken a huge beating in Greece in the last few years. Scandals - true and alleged - of corruption, money changing hands, horrible briberies and other soap opera material appear in the news weekly at least. Doctors, probably because we have multiplied to an oppressively high degree, are taken for granted. No longer standing on a pedestal, we don't even tread the same ground as everyone else. Rather we are parasites, greedy and readily replaceable by other parasites waiting to take our place should we falter or not please our clientelle.

This has been going on for the better part of a decade, slowly and surely. Only recently though, not more than two, three years ago, a new animal made its appearance in the jungle we call home. An animal imported from the far more dangerous and exotic jungles of foreign lands - mainly the U.S.A: The lawyer specializing in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Oh you should see him (or her)! How warmly he speaks of the deceased! How he cradles the horribly wronged patient in his arms! As he would his best friend, nay! His own brother! And how - his countenance radiating with divine wrath - he calls upon Justice and Hygeia to be his witnesses, God to be his helper in this his most uphill climb, this cross he has to bear. And yet, much like St George did, he will slay the dragon. He will make the degenerate, incompetent doctors pay (literally). And if not, oh well, on to the next - true or alleged - victim.

As I said, the "fad" is new and imported, mainly - although not exclusively - from the U.S. Let me quote a few numbers before I go on. One thousand two hundred and sixty-eight (1268) doctors in "high risk" specialties (surgeons mostly, but not exclusively) in Pennsylvania were asked to fill out a questionnaire:

- 824 doctors replied.
- about 50% had been sued for malpractice in the past three years.
- almost all replied that they had held back on treatment (using only conservative, tried and true approaches) at some point or other.
- almost 60% replied, they asked for more tests than really necessary.
- 33% replied they prescribed more medication than really necessary.
- 32% admitted to asking for invasive tests to confirm diagnoses.
- 39% admitted to avoiding high risk patients.

Let me try to read between the lines. Even if we cut these numbers in half, most doctors look upon you as a potential opponent in litigation. Most doctors will hold back and not give you their full expertise. A third of doctors will put you through painful procedures and give you dangerous medication you don't need. Are they insane? Are american physicians just bad doctors? Obviously not, they are among the better trained and respected anywhere in the world. What happened? You happened. Whether lured by an eloquent lawyer or tricked by ignorance, whether venting grief and anger in the wrong direction or scoping for quick cash, you will end up causing harm. Harm for yourself and for others. Because face it: An over-cautious doctor is a bad doctor, just as bad as a reckless one.

For god's sake, doctors are humans. You hire someone to paint your house and through no great fault of theirs, the nice pastel pink you picked on the color sheet turns out to be a horrible greyish-purple. So a mistake was made, you accept it, or repaint your house and that is that. At worst, you ask for a free repaint - and sometimes you get it. What do you think happens when a doctor makes a mistake? And he will, get that through your skull. Your doctor has and will make mistakes. Big ones and small ones and - every now and then, hopefully never, but in truth it does happen - someone will die. That is the price of appointing a human to be a demi-god. To dispel disease, to mend the broken, remove the inflamed, restore the damaged. It - does - not - always - work.

Does this mean that we will just give doctors free reign? Care if they want and not if they don't? Heal or cripple at will? Of course not! There are bad doctors, there are doctors who just don't pay attention, who are sloppy and probably should not practise. The law should - and does more or less - weed those out, but that's a far cry from slapping every doctor who may or may not have made a mistake with a big lawsuit. Did you know that most of the latter are either totally bogus or end up in acquittal? Fine. Who will pay for the nights of lost sleep, the days of lost labor? Who will pay for the descent into cynicism, the loss of faith in humanity, the breaking of the spirit of the doctor?

We all will.

The whole world is against me

Ever since I made this post about my vitriolic hatred of the pea, peas have been following me everywhere. Dishes at restaurants that really shouldn't have peas end up with a small pea on the edge of the plate. All rice dishes seem to have at least one or two peas thrown in for my benefit (and gawd, I hate rice like the dickens too). No matter what taverna I go to or what I order, there is a pea staring up at me on my plate. I am beginning to think it is some sort of global conspiracy.

Now the smokers are chasing me everywhere too. I've written about my distaste for the Greek propensity for smoking several times. I keep thinking it will get better, because most of the world has let up on their cigarette habits (or at least forbid it in public). But not Greece, oh no. Greece is at one with the cigarette. The cigarette is the me and the now in Greece.

According to a recent poll, smoking in Greece has risen - 42% of Greeks over the age of 14 (fourteen!) smoke. 60% of those between ages 35 and 44 smoke. A third of women and half of men smoke and Greeks spend between 500 and 1000 euros a year on their daily cigarette fix. 10% more cigarettes were being smoked in Greece in 2004 than a decade earlier. 15% of children UNDER EIGHTEEN smoke. Yoiks.

Ironically, Greeks spend a bit of time bitching about smog and unclean air around their cities. Sure, industry and transportation will do that, but no doubt when 42% of a nation smokes it has an effect on the atmosphere.

In the end, I am not sure how I can come to terms with all the smoking. The peas I can simply squash, the smokers, not so much. Still, in a nation that constantly worries about the continuation of its people and culture, you'd think they'd get a little more health savvy, especially when it comes to their children.

I guess I'll just sit here and worry about the Greeks all by myself. But you peas, you better watch it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How dangerous the brain can be

Yesterday evening I was rushing around getting ready to go out to dinner with some of my husband's colleagues. I sent my husband on downstairs with a bag of trash while I finished gathering my things. Running around the apartment, I couldn't find my cellphone. Remembering I had brought it into the foyer when I was bringing out the trashbag, I looked for it there, but to no avail.

I proceeded downstairs and sheepishly asked my husband to dial my cellphone. Sure enough, the trash can outside our apartment building began to ring as my husband exploded with laughter, pulled out our bag of trash, and extracted the ringing phone.

I've definitely seen better days.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Denial: tastes great, and less filling!

I realize that the governments of most countries in the world are old hat at the art of denial. I also realize that for some people, denial is the only way you can survive without wanting to plunge your head into a fresh, steaming cow pie. But what kind of jackass do you have to be to put your need for denial above the need of an entire nation to memorialize their dead?

Turkey has their panties in a wad yet again over the memorial to the Pontic Greeks that was recently erected here in Thessaloniki. The Pontic Greeks were from a region in Turkey near the Black Sea, and their people were systematically slaughtered by the Turks during World War I. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in these slaughters, which should rightfully be called a genocide but the Turks don’t seem to have a word for genocide in their lexicon (Armenia, anyone?). I perfectly understand that it is better for the Turkish government to ignore events like this and pretend they never happened. I can think of several moments in my life that I wish had never happened, mostly involving copious amounts of Long Island Iced Tea and projectile vomiting. But denial isn’t really healthy for the psyche, so I’ve learned how to live with my shame and get beyond it.

The response of the Turkish Prime Minister to the memorial was something along the lines of how the issue is a very sensitive one in Turkey. Golly gee whiz! No one would want to do harm to Turkish sensibilities! But did ya ever consider it might be a bit of a sensitive subject in Greece too? The Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul (also known as George Clooney’s brother), went so far as to say that the erection of the monument “cast a shadow over friendly relations between the two countries.” Say what? Again, I have to say what kind of asshole objects to a memorial for hundreds of thousands of dead?

I live here in Thessaloniki, and I can’t say that there was much fanfare surrounding the erection of this monument. In fact, my husband and I were having coffee at a place near it a few days ago and I asked him if he knew what the statue was for. He didn’t. It is a very tasteful statue, full of emotion and feeling – a woman grieving. For all we guessed it was a symbolic representation of the city, the country, who knew? Of course, we could have gone over and looked at what it was for, but it didn’t really matter. At any rate, it isn’t like they have big neon signs and a giant searchlight over this memorial and a big booming voice on a loudspeaker saying “this is a memorial for hundreds of thousands of Greeks who were killed by Turks – yes I said Turks! It was genocide by Turks!”. In fact, most people in Thessaloniki probably wouldn’t have known what the statue was for until the Turkish Prime Minister brought it up. Way to draw attention to something you want to forget about, Mr. Erdogan.

In the end, the issue isn’t really about who killed these people. They could have died to the Turks, an angry flock of zombie bunnies, or Martians, it wouldn’t really matter. The Greeks wanted to memorialize them (and rightly so) and they did. To object to a memorial, on any grounds, might have to be the lowest of the low. After all, the truth hurts all of us, not just the Turks.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Greeks are full of irony

We were at a taverna in the countryside today, and at each table was a cute little sign saying "thank you for not smoking". What was beside each cute little sign?

An ashtray.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A sure sign of the apocalypse

In what can be considered a reasonable response to the outcry over the release of the movie version of The Da Vinci Code, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece has prepared a leaflet for its Sunday worshippers "advising them that the Hollywood film “The Da Vinci Code,” due to hit Greek cinemas next week, is “completely untrue” and “insults” religious sensibilities."

It does not, however, tell people whether or not they should go see the movie, instead focusing on a point-by-point refutation of the work and accusing Dan Brown of insulting the church.

While I think they could have left the Dan Brown bashing off (hey, he's a terrible writer, why blast into him more?) the fact that instead of telling congregates not to see the movie they refute the story is a much healthier response than what I've seen from other churches. Even though the Bishop of Thessaloniki advised Greeks not to see the movie, Archbishop Christodoulous said that bishops and clerics of the church should refrain from making comments about the film because "they did not have the authority to present the Church's official position."

Coming from an Archbishop who has lashed out against gays, immigration, and all kinds of other crap, the fact that I agree with something he's done actually makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. You might want to check the temperature in hell. Still, I guess people can surprise you now and then.

In the meantime, the Christians in India are apparently going overboard in the stand against the movie, as apparently some rioting broke out in Bombay yesterday. People's reactions to this movie release are getting dangerously close to the reactions regarding the Danish Muhammad cartoons, which is pretty ironic, considering Christians all over the world at that time were saying that while the cartoons were offensive, they would never behave in such a way if similarly offended. Way to be hypocrites, people.

Tom Hanks seems to be regarding all this brouhaha with some amusement. He said "If you are going to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this, you'd be making a very big mistake" and said that the film was filled with "hooey" and "nonsense".

It's all a bunch of hooey and nonsense until somebody gets hurt.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Oh, you mean no

I've decided that my first act as leader of the world will be to assign a global standard for the words yes and no, and more importantly, to make the body language representation of these responses clear and used by all people all over the world.

I really couldn't care less what language we take our yes and no from, English, Greek, Chinese, Arabic - whatever, it doesn't matter. I realize that in theory it is easy enough to visit a foreign country and immediately learn yes and no in the native tongue, but figuring out the body language is a whole new ballgame. Half the time people say no with their body language here I think they are saying yes, that is until they wonder why I am looking at them intently despite the fact that they've answered my question in the negatory and they finally decide to speak their answer. I actually would think the total muscle involvement of saying "οχι" is much less than the elaborate head/shoulder maneuvering they do for their physical answer, but apparently there are some Greeks who just can't take it upon themselves to speak. Surprising, really. Yet the body language answer for yes is really not that different, with the shrug and half nod.

Better yet, if you don't want to speak just make up two flash cards with "ναι" and "οχι" on them and hold them up instead of the half assed body language that actually makes some Greeks look more like they are squeezing out a fart than answering a question.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

If you'd just lay down your tracks

This past weekend the folks at VH1 took it upon themselves to show us the Top 100 Greatest Videos Ever (exclamation point). I am spelling out the exclamation point instead of using an exclamation point because I want to make it clear that was VH1’s exclamation point, not my own. I try to refrain from excess usage of exclamation points, especially in conjunction with phrases like “greatest videos ever”.

My husband and I happened to watch, off and on, the top 50, and I guess if I was even more of a freak than I already am I would have listed them all and gone over them one by one for you. Luckily for you, I’m not that crazy yet. I only made a note of the top 5 so I could bitch about them in proper blogger fashion.

  1. Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel.

Now, I don’t know what world these people came from, but in my world Sledgehammer was the reigning champ of videos for a good fifteen years. If you watch it today it still has the appeal of a modern video, none of the artistry seems outdated. I couldn’t imagine how Sledgehammer had slipped to number five until I saw what number four was.

  1. November Rain, Guns N’ Roses

This explains everything. See, this is what happens when people my age (36) get replaced by people my husband’s age (30). Generally speaking there isn’t that much difference between 36 and 30, but when it comes to popular music, there is a world of difference between what I grew up listening to and what he grew up listening to. As far as I know, this video never even cracked the top ten before. Whatevah. Look, I’m not dissin’ GNR, I used to like some of their music. But November Rain, really?

  1. Take on Me, A-Ha

OK. I can accept this video being in the top five. Even my mother liked this video. But it isn’t of a quality that trumps Sledgehammer. Sorry.

  1. Sabotage, Beastie Boys

I have no complaints with this Beastie Boys video being number two. It is quite clever. But I still think Sledgehammer should be number one.

  1. Thriller, Michael Jackon

No doubt this is a groundbreaking video. It had a famous director, a script, Vincent Price, and a budget that makes other videos cream in their pants. I don’t have an issue with it being in the top five, even though I think it is a bit unfair, considering some of the above. But for years it was always number two to Sledgehammer’s number one. What the hell happened?

I know what y’all are thinking. I can’t let go of the past. But I do honestly and truly believe that Sledgehammer still stands the test of time as the best video ever made. Of course, if I was 30 instead of 36 I might not agree. Ah well.

Trying to break the code

The Greek Orthodox bishop of Thessaloniki has jumped on the bandwagon with many other higher ups of various Christian religions in urging Greek Orthodoxites not to go see The Da Vinci Code.

The bishop of Thessaloniki, Anthimos, advised all Greeks yesterday not to watch the “Da Vinci Code,” the film based on a best-selling Dan Brown novel exploring the idea that Jesus Christ has living descendants. Anthimos said the film and book were based on “arbitrary fictional constructions” and bore no relation to scientific and historical information.

Still, I wonder why when it comes to religion, religious leaders can't just let there be fiction (unless, of course, it seems to be in favor of their religious ideals). It is a movie, a work of fiction. If you really think a movie could break someone's faith, then you might need to step up your religion a little bit.

We'll just have to see how many Greeks are at the theater in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

In which I pretend I'm not from Tennessee

I should have known it would happen eventually. Supersexed-for-teenaged boys teacher Pamela Rogers has made the T.V. news here (on the Mega channel) in Greece.

Tennessee? Nope, I've never heard of Tennessee...

Husbands take note

When you are married to a woman who is as fond of gaming as you are, do not hand her a copy of PCGamer and tell her to read a short article on the new Everquest expansion without expecting her to keep reading the magazine. Do not make indignant tsking noises when this happens, just allow her to keep reading.

You have been warned.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Protesting the war by making a war zone

In Athens today there was an anti-war demonstration sponsored by the 4th European Social Forum. Anti-war protests are not uncommon in Greece, there have been tons of them since I moved here, mostly, of course, aiming at Bush's policies in the Middle East.

Now, I hate war in general, and I am opposed to the war in Iraq as well as taking any military action against Iran. If there was one place in the world I would consider supporting military involvement right now, it would be Darfur.

I accept and understand that anti-war rallies are a good way to speak out against things gone wrong in the world. I personally don't think they are that effective, because world leaders work from their own agendas, and probably couldn't care less about the millions of people all over the world who protest their agendas. But for some people the protests are a catharsis, a way to speak out, a way to do something, and I am all for people being able to do that.

What I don't understand, however, is how in every single demonstration I have witnessed here in Greece the rally turns into a mini war zone of its own. Molotov cocktails, destroying places that represent U.S. industry (like that poor McDonald's in Syntagma - it gets busted up so often, but really people, it is a franchise, that means it is probably owned by Greeks), violence and police and tear gas and flames all compound the danger of these protests. What is this about? How are you convincing anyone you are against war when your own actions are war-like? Sure, sure, I know it is usually behavior attributable to leftist, anarchist assholes - but if you are organizing a demonstration of this kind, you should know these nuts are going to emerge from under their rocks and completely undermine any message the peaceful protesters are trying to convey. And if you add the adrenaline of the herd mentality no doubt a few of the "normal" protesters get caught up in the imbroglio. Take all this under consideration and the rallies become pointless demonstrations of how "warlike" the human spirit can be.

I just find it weird how hypocritical human behavior can be. Like the Catholics who protested The Last Temptation of Christ by blowing up movie theaters (will The DaVinci Code bring about the same behavior? I hope not). Like the pro-lifers who protest abortions by bombing clinics and murdering doctors. I can't believe in a person's convictions if their actions are contrary to what they support.

I know, I know. I'm not naive, I know things won't change. It doesn't keep me from wishing they would, though.

Friday, May 05, 2006

When you smile with every new day

Today, in celebration of the fourth anniversary of our American wedding, my husband and I decided to walk down to the sea and eat at Ruby Tuesday. Of all the American restaurants I'd expect to see overseas I sure never expected to see Ruby Tuesday, of course, we had already enjoyed the Applebee's in Athens, so I guess it wasn't that weird.

It was a fitting celebration, though. The decor, the food, everything was just like it might be at a Ruby Tuesday back home. Especially the prices! I have to say, after a few years of being used to Greek prices, it was a bit of a culture shock to see food that expensive. We probably paid almost twice as much as we would have at a taverna. Still, it was nice to have a big sizzling plate of fajitas for a change.

It is comforting to know that I can still get a little taste of home now and then, without having to resort to McDonald's.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I must be defective in some way

At first glance, when I saw the headline "Teachers don't mind pudding on a show to help pay for prom" I read it as "Teachers don't mind pudding on a show to help pay for PORN". That mistake certainly made me look twice at the article.

Seriously, though, with the huge teacher sex scandal in Tennessee, is it really appropriate for teachers to wrestle in chocolate pudding?

Sheesh, maybe I'm getting too prissy in my old age.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Once upon a wedding

Today marks the third anniversary of our big, fat, Greek wedding (sorry, it just begs to be used). Consequently, tomorrow will mark the fourth anniversary of our small, slim, American wedding, which doesn’t really count because my husband and I lived apart for four months afterwards. To all this all I have to say is: it’s only been four years?!? It feels like fifty!

While that may be a joke, to some extent it is true. Even though my husband and I only met a mere six years ago, it seems like I’ve known him a lifetime. It’s amazing how easy it is to grow close to the right person, and despite some major cultural, spiritual and political differences the relationship just keeps getting better. This is a big deal for a girl like me – as I never really wanted to get married or even have a long term relationship. I suppose I was a bit capricious, looking for some unknown, unrealistic intellectual ideal, but I should have known I could find it among the Greeks.

You can imagine that with my general attitude about marriage I was not the kind of girl who dreamed of her perfect wedding all her life. The Nashville wedding was a simple affair thrown together at the last minute to invite a few close friends who would definitely not be able to come to Greece for the wedding. It was very small, very low-key, and very perfect.

I should have known the Greek wedding would be a nightmare as soon as I had to call West End Methodist Church to ask for proof of my baptism. The Greek Orthodox Church apparently has no intention of allowing its parishioners to marry heathens, so it was by the pure grace of God that I had reluctantly agreed to be baptized when I was sixteen. When I called the church secretary to request the document, she said “let me guess, you are marrying a Catholic or Greek Orthodox”. Apparently mine wasn’t the first request they ever received.

My second mistake was trying to work out a date that would correspond with the date of our first wedding, so the anniversaries would be together. We got lucky with May 3rd, but it just so happened that year that our chosen date was a week after Easter. Thus, our wedding was replete with Easter blessings of all kinds. Being as uncomfortable with religion as I am, this was not helpful to my sanity at the time.

Since I had no preferences or opinions about wedding type stuff, I pretty much let my mother-in-law and sister-in-law go nuts on the planning. I had zero desire to plan anything myself, and since it was a Greek wedding I knew little about what was required, so I got off scot-free. Thanos and I would just show up in Thessaloniki every few weeks for fittings, shopping, and fine details. Oh, and let’s not forget the meeting with the priest where I swore, in front of witnesses, that any children we would have would be Greek Orthodox and have my husband’s last name.

There are no rehearsals when it comes to Greek Orthodox weddings. I learned what little I could about the ceremony by watching video of my in-laws’ wedding, and having various people explain things to me. But still, I was not prepared.

I was not prepared for everyone waiting outside the church with Thanos and having to make a grand entrance when I arrived with my father and our koumbaros (best man). I was not prepared for our height differences to cause such a problem in keeping the stefana (crowns) on our heads. I was not prepared to walk around the altar three times without slipping. Most importantly, I was not prepared for my in-laws throwing rice at me at speeds that would put major league pitchers to shame while I was trying to balance my way around the altar. I think my mother-in-law almost got me in the eye, for goodness sakes. I was shaking rice out of my hair and various orifices for weeks after that. But it is ok. There are more weddings to attend, and who knows, some day my hand might slip and accidentally throw a handful of rice at my in-laws.

The reception was fun, but with 200 odd guests to greet and toast we didn’t get much of a chance to sit down and enjoy it. Towards the end I guess we did, but by that time, I was beat. It seems I was too busy being a bride to enjoy being a bride.

Three years later, our life is much calmer. We’ve been there, done that. And now all we have to do is enjoy each other.

Hume-Fogg: Just a bunch of nerds having a good time

That was one of the mantras of the Hume-Fogg Class of '87, and we owned the title of nerd with pride and good humor. We were nerds before being a nerd was cool, after all.

Hume-Fogg has once again left me beaming with pride, as it seems they are still offering Nashville kids a pretty damn good education, ranking 43rd in a Newsweek ranking of the top high schools in the U.S. My education at Hume-Fogg was the best I could have asked for - from Bill Brown teaching us about having "furniture" in our poetry to Alice Sanford having us sing Beatles' songs in Latin. Let me tell you, Yellow Submarine was quite a challenge, especially keeping it in rhythm. Those were years I will never forget.

Congratulations, Hume-Fogg, you've earned it. But we all know you've been giving kids a great education for years. It's just that now you have national recognition for it.

Beggers can't be choosers

First a confession - yes, I've gotten sucked in to Lisa Loeb's reality show on E! I knew I would the first time I saw a commercial for it. She's 37 and desperately single. What's not to like? Besides, I get such low dosages of reality TV here in Greece I need something, at least til Survivor - Greece/Turkey takes off. (Ok, I'm kidding about that last thing, for one thing I can't understand enough Greek to watch, let alone understand enough mumbly lazily spoken Greek to watch, and for another I hate the survivor shows)

So anyway, here she is, really to settle down and have a baby. At 37, the clock is ticking, girlfriend (believe me, I know this all too well). So she goes out on two dates with this really, really kyoot, employed, nice, funny 30-year-old guy. But she decides that the age difference is too weird, that she is really too old for a 30-year-old. What?!? Are you friggin' kidding me here, Lisa Loeb? The difference between 30 and 37, at least as far as these two singles go, is about the same as the difference between Nutella and Merenda. A slight difference in taste and texture, but basically both sweet, creamy hazelnut bliss. This is also a subject I know too well. I'm 36 and my husband is 30. And I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be that different a person when I roll over on 37.

I guess the thing is, had she gone for this guy the show would be over. Still, he was a keeper, in my book. Ms. Loeb ain't going to be hearing any wedding bells or giving birth to any babies if she gets this critical.