Monday, December 17, 2007

First snow


Friday night we had our first snowfall at the new house. We hunkered down for a Lord of the Rings DVD marathon. It snowed again last night (apparently, this second snowfall was confined to the mountain), but most of it melted during the day.

I suffered with dialup* to upload these pictures of the snow to my Flickr account, so you better enjoy them!

*ADSL update: Our ISP requested the ADSL line from OTE on November 12th. As we figured, OTE is going to take their sweet time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Only in baseball

An auctioneer of sporting memorabilia turned up this document from 1898* listing some general rules of conduct for baseball players, especially regarding use of bad words. It had come to the attention of the powers that be that the players had been using some quite unsavory language on the field, and they felt they should put a stop to it.

What is remarkable about this is not so much the document itself, but the examples that are put forth – language that I thought had been refined by late 20th century man. Who knew that George Carlin’s seven dirty words had been in use for over a century?

It is nice to know that some things never change, especially when it comes to baseball.

*WARNING: the language might be considered extreme to some people, so if you elect to view the documents provided at the link, be prepared

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Turkey, goats, and Christmas cheer

Nope, still no ADSL. We had a rare occasion when we were downtown last week so we stopped into OTE to request a phone bill, but they wanted us to fill out of a form and come back a couple days later. Well, that didn’t work for us, because we couldn’t go back a couple days later. Why the hell they can’t just print out a bill and give it to us is beyond me. I’m not sure I even care anymore. There is so much to do around the house these days having ADSL would just give me too many reasons to procrastinate. Besides, when it does come, it will be all the better because we have been so long without it. I’m two months behind on reading most of my favorite blogs and that is the only thing I really miss.

We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We actually found frozen turkeys with pop-up timers at our grocery store, so we were able to go all out with turkey, stuffing, mashed taters and gravy, homemade rolls and pumpkin pie (and yes, we did have some salad too, it wasn’t ALL carbohydrates). I’m no expert at cooking turkeys and while I thought it was terrible and too dry, my husband, my brother-in-law and his wife all seemed to really like it. But then again, I don’t really like turkey that much anyway – it is the results of the turkey (stuffing, gravy) that I like.

We are now preparing for our first Christmas in the new house, and it is nice to finally be able to go through the boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations we’ve had stored up here for five years. We still won’t have a big tree since we aren’t downstairs except for the kitchen, but we’ll put a little one in our computer/T.V. room upstairs and hope it doesn’t get knocked down by mischievous cats this time.

Speaking of mischief, the Gavle Goat cam is up and running for 2007. Here’s hoping the citizens of Gavle get another fire free year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has arrived with no turkeys in sight. At least not in Greece. It seems you can't usually get turkeys until closer to Christmas here. Ah well. When we go grocery shopping tomorrow I'll get us as fat a chicken as I can so we can break the pre-Christmas Greek Orthdox fast with a good simulacrum of a Thanksgiving dinner.

There are a lot of things I am grateful for this year, including our lovely new home. But the list includes a fabulous husband and two loving families (although both are far away from us today, with my in-laws on a Caribbean cruise).

I sure do miss my mom's Thanksgiving dinner though - no matter how hard I try, I don't think I'll ever do it as well as she does. I'm hoping I can convince them to come to Greece next Thanksgiving so she can do all the work and my in-laws can taste what a real Thanksgiving dinner tastes like.

I wish everyone feasts of plenty, including food, love, health and happiness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As the mountains feel the wind

The wind here on the mountain lives and breathes. Some days it wisps carefully through the trees, gentle kisses on the upturned palms, harboring its secret strength. Then there are days when it roars down the mountain, spitting hisses among the flora, throwing diaphanous arms around everything in its reach. It moans through the eaves and whistles through narrow cracks, calling to me in my dreams as a loud, monstrous bellow – a mythical creature never seen but harshly felt, with the strength of a thousand Herakles.

There is a dark and terrible history to this mountain village, and every time the wind blows with such might I hear the cries and prayers of the 149 villagers who were burned alive by Nazis in 1944. It is a haunting feeling, one of sorrow and regret, not only for my own mistakes but those of giants. There is so much grief hidden in this mountain, and even though the wind tries time and again to carry it out to sea, the memories of this place cannot be forgotten.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Woe is ADSL

We still don’t have ADSL, but for once, we can’t blame OTE. It seems our ISP (not OTE) hadn’t even processed our paperwork to request that our line be switched to ADSL because they wanted a phone bill first. Well, we haven’t even had our phone for a month yet, who knows when we will get a frakkin’ bill. When we called them on Monday they indicated they would go ahead and process our request but to please send them a copy of our phone bill as soon as we get it. I’m not holding my breath, because lord knows even after we send them the phone bill, we’ll have to do something else, like sacrifice twelve virgins while chanting the lyrics to Abbey Road backwards and hopping on one leg. Obviously, one of the requirements of getting ADSL in Greece is participation in the Eleusinian Mysteries, but since it was a mystery no one knows what to do. Actually, I’ll bet that was the secret of the Eleusinian ritual – it was actually a mass of people trying to accomplish something relatively simple but they all got stuck to a massive roll of red tape and were sworn to secrecy by the powers that be.

I guess the phrase of the day is wait and see. I seem to recall that patience is a virtue.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The monster without a name

We’ve been here about six weeks now and I’m just now finishing up the process of unpacking all of our 46 boxes of crap. Of course, some crap is getting repackaged, because we don’t yet have places to put everything. But we have plenty of room to store boxes, so I guess it all works out.

The last things I’ve been unpacking have been books, mainly because it seems that half of our boxes were filled with books (to the grumblings of our movers, who just couldn’t fathom that anyone would have so many books), and partially because we haven’t had enough bookshelf space. My husband finished building the last bookshelf over the weekend and while there still isn’t enough space, it is doable (we’ll add lots more bookshelves downstairs once we plan our living/dining area). I can’t stand not to unpack all the books so I am double shelving them, which I hate to do, but what can you do? I can’t not unpack them all.

The good thing about unpacking books is you finally find those books you could never find while they were all mashed together on the shelves. I realize it would probably behoove us to alphabetize by author someday, but I’m a bit too lazy for that. Plus we add too many books to the collection on a regular basis not to make it annoying.

The bad thing about unpacking books is that you create a ginormous pile of books that you want to reread. Now, rereading books in itself isn’t a bad thing, I do it quite often, and there are some books I have read multiple times. But finding a good balance between reading books you’ve already read and reading new books is difficult, mainly because there are a seemingly limitless number of books I want to read and a limit to how much life I have left. And then what if I go blind for some reason? All this makes reading quite a stressful pastime. Sometimes I think I’d be better off without a brain.

While I can celebrate the end of our boxes, there is a monster I dare not think of lurking in the downstairs closet. This monster is composed entirely of boxes, mostly from when I first moved to Greece, that have been sitting up here getting dusty for five years. It is all crap we didn’t want to keep moving around with us, and some additional crap we dumped up here over the years. I don’t know if I have the strength to tackle this beast, but alas, it must be done, because I want our downstairs closet back. Plus I will have the joy of discovering how much of my grandmother’s china has been broken in transit. Again, it is all stuff that will have to remain stored for now, but I’ll rebox it and some things will go in permanent storage while other things will wait until we have more places to put stuff. We’re taking bets on how long it will take me to do all this, since I have a habit of working very slowly. I’m hoping for the end of the year. We’ll see.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


We’ve been in our new house a little over a month now, so I’ve had some time to assess the things I like about living here and the things I miss about living in the city.

What I love:

The view. I’ve never lived in a place with such a spectacular view. I’ve visited plenty of places with nice views, but have never been lucky enough to live in such a place until now. I can’t decide which I love more – the day view with the sea glistening and the mountains in the background or the nighttime view with the lights of Thessaloniki glittering around the bay.

The quiet. You really cannot appreciate peace and quiet until you get out of the city. I can actually think up here.

The isolation. Yep, I like being semi-isolated up here, with a couple of exceptions (as in when I get into my whole “hero in the wilderness facing himself” mode and get depressed about the fact that not only am I not a hero but I don’t like what I’m facing). I really don’t mind not seeing people very often. I’ve never denied being a bit of a misanthropist.

The space. It is really nice having enough space for all our crap and having even more space for all the additional crap we will acquire over the years.

The kitchen. Finally – my dream kitchen. I love cooking in my dream kitchen. My husband is once again enjoying home cooked meals.

Not having the litterbox in the bedroom. I think that one is self-explanatory.

What I miss:

Being able to walk everywhere. We can’t really walk anywhere here. I mean, I guess we could, but with my hip it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. It is maybe a kilometer into the village proper and the trip home is very, very uphill. Not to mention it is a two-way road that barely accommodates one-way and for the pedestrian the choices for getting out of the way would be smacked up against a rock wall or leaping to your death into a vast precipice. No thanks.

Takeout. Ok, so we have a gyros/souvlaki place that is pretty good and a couple of pizza places (tried one – no good), but we had variety in the city. I could be lazy in the city. At least I have my good kitchen!

Neighbors to spy on. Yea, I like being alone, but I love spying on people and making little stories up about their lives.

ADSL. Someday we’ll have it again, if our ISP will quit requesting different documents proving what our phone number is. Like anyone would sign up someone else’s number for ADSL and pay for it.

Flushing toilet paper. I really hope there are plans in the future to get this part of the mountain hooked up to city sewage.

So far, so good. I am enjoying life up here, and it is nice having a home of our own. The things I miss will drift away eventually, kinda like the things I miss about living in the U.S. The great thing about being human is that we can adapt. Usually.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Never take anything for granted. Especially net access.

The internet situation here at the new house is dire. We’ve discovered that it may be a very long time before we get ADSL because while the technology is available in our area (whatever in the hell that means) they don’t have gates for it (so much for the OTE campaign “ADSL for everyone!”). I could live with dialup (we couldn’t even get ISDN on Kos when we lived there for a year) if we could get connection speeds over 24kbps. Well, sometimes we can get up to 48kbps if we are lucky and have the patience to redial ten million times. Now, generally speaking I can live without the internet, except it is my primary source of communication with friends and family back home and in various places around the world, and it is my main resource for news. Not to mention I can’t really catch up on my favorite blogs because my patience wears out after just a few minutes online.

To make things even worse we paid for six months of ADSL we aren’t even getting when we renewed our account. So basically, OTE better install the damn gates and anything else they need to do to get me ADSL as soon as possible before I go completely insane. This isn’t the frakkin’ third world here people. And last I heard, some third world countries are getting ADSL, so this is simply pathetic.

Yes, this seems like a silly thing to bitch about in a world filled with real problems, but I just had to get it off my chest. I do feel a little better now. Now get me my ADSL!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mountain living 101

Living in the country high up on a mountain is a whole new educational experience for me. Sure, we lived in a village on Mt. Olympus for a year, but we didn’t live in the boondocks high above the village like we do here. Things are definitely different here, and it is amazing how different the weather is here as compared to the center of Thessaloniki, which is maybe 10 miles away. Sure, maybe it is just a few degrees, but the air feels different. It is definitely cleaner, aside from the poo molecules floating in the air.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t ever have a good appreciation for dense fog until you have lived in the thick of it for days on end. Sure, I’ve been in situations where the fog was so heavy you could barely see in front of your car, and on Olympus we had moments when we were totally ensconced in fog, but never for more than a few hours. When you can’t really see past your balcony you start to feel a little uncomfortable, especially when it lasts for two days. But after awhile it seems kinda cool, like you are the only people floating on a cloud way up in the sky. The creepiest thing is when a dog or cow walks out from the fog, like a ghost from the ether. I compare it to the corn field in Field of Dreams.

Also, it seems I never really knew wind before. At first we had your typical mountain wind, resounding with a low whistle through the trees high on the mountain as it blew towards us, which is, of course, one of the best natural sounds ever. But a week or so ago we experienced our first storm winds, which were insanely powerful. Anything not tied down was subject to being blown around, and that includes people and animals. While our doors and windows are well insulated and cause no draughts, apparently the fittings around the rolla are not. That high pitched screeching really got on my nerves after awhile, and it bothered the cats immensely. I won’t even mention the mess created by the gaping hole for the stove hood pipe in the kitchen. Needless to say, my husband patched it up that day.

Obviously, I’m going to have to get used to all these weather aberrations, but so far, so good. We’ll see how well I do with the first big snowstorm of the season, which I am not looking forward to, unless we don’t have to drive anywhere. Then we can be snowed in.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How to simulate airport life in your very own home

One thing I have found completely overwhelming about setting up a new house is keeping track of all the little necessities that you would never have to think about when you buy a house that is already finished. For example, we were on top of all our indoor lighting needs but hadn’t really thought about outside lighting, which is quite important when you are trying to put the key in the lock after dark. Luckily my brother-in-law, who moved into his house next door about a month before we did, has been on top of all of these things and has been making arrangements for us as well, including outdoor lights, heating petrol, and the doorbell.

What I didn’t know was that my Microsoft Flight Simulator playing husband had given his brother specific instructions for the type of doorbell we wanted (and by we I mean my husband, because I hadn’t even given it a thought). So now every time someone rings the doorbell, it sounds like we are in the airport listening to the chimes preceding a flight departure announcement. At some point maybe I should put a stop to the real-life consequences of his geeky behavior, but it is hard to when it is so damn amusing. I tell you one thing, if he ever asks me to wear a flight attendant’s uniform I’m drawing the line right then and there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Out of touch

Yes, we survived the move. There was a moment there when I really thought I wouldn’t, because moving day was made all the more hectic by the movers calling the day before and saying they had to change our move time from noon to 7:30am. This was a problem because my husband was on shift and wouldn’t be home until 10am, and the TV, DVD player and computers all had to be wrapped up, which was a job I couldn’t do. So my poor father-in-law had to get up way earlier than he ever wants to on a Saturday to help me out.

General chaos ensued, mostly caused by the cats realizing “oh crap, not this again”. Two of them scurried under the bed and I had to flush them out with the vacuum cleaner, which my father-in-law found greatly amusing. Then we had the harrowing trip to the house with the kitty chorus chiming up in the back seat. Thankfully, my FIL found it charming and not irritating.

We all got settled in pretty quickly. Princeton still hides under the couch when he hears unknown footsteps coming up the stairs (how he can tell is beyond me) but I think the cats are enjoying their views of birds, cows, goats, pigs, and bugs. We are enjoying our wonderful view of the Thermaikos Gulf and the night lights of the city around the gulf. Having so much space is a bit overwhelming – we pretty much live in the upstairs except when fixing food.

Since this is Greece, we didn’t have a phone until late last week. The phone company actually came out to hook up our phone three times in the last few weeks but came up with various bullshit reasons why it couldn’t be done yet and the hoops we had to jump through to make it happen. We thought we would have ADSL within a few days of the phone being hooked up because we had taken steps early on to make it happen, but of course that fell through too, so we finally bit the bullet and decided to use dial up, which was no small feat. The laptop is the only computer with a modem, so we have to share it two ways on an ad hoc wireless network (because for whatever reason, you can’t share dial up on a normal wireless network) and it is really, really slow and really, really irritating. I don’t imagine we’ll be logging in often until we can get a real internet connection. I mean, I survived almost a month without the internet, I can probably go longer. Maybe.

I appreciate all the well wishes of those who stopped by during my absence. I can spend some time writing offline so I’ll be able to share some of our mountain village experiences since moving into our new home.

To the folks in California – I hope the fires die down soon and those of you who have lost so much can start rebuilding your lives. My thoughts are with you all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mad cow walking

Yesterday as we were on the way back from dropping off more crap at our new house, an errant cow found its way onto the road. Up near our house, where there are lots of open fields, that wouldn’t be such a weird thing, but this actually happened in the village proper, where there are rows upon rows of buildings. Sure, just beyond the shops of the busy village center there are fields and farms, but this heifer had to stray pretty damn far on its own to get where it was.

We were patient as the errant cow made its way across our lane, but as it crossed to the oncoming lane, a guy in a sporty car decided it would make sense to blink his headlights at it. I am not in any way fluent in cow communications, but somehow I think the best cow whisperer would tell you this is probably not a good idea. Who knows what the cow actually sees, and what it thinks about what it sees? At any rate, this cow seemed to interpret the blinking headlights as a “come hither” thing and so it slowly made its way towards the sports car, at which point the guy proceeded to honk at it endlessly. I don’t know about you, but if I have a moon-eyed cow coming my way seductively I don’t think I would honk at it, because who knows, to a cow this honking could sound exactly like another cow wanting to mate. All I know is that when we decided we had seen enough of the spectacle the cow was still meandering towards its bleating lover.

A bit further down the road we were stopped again by a herd of goats crossing the road. At least now we know – we have to be aware of animals not just up around our house, but all the way down the mountain road. And whatever you do, never honk at a cow.

Monday, September 24, 2007


EllasDevil tagged me for his monthly meme, and I think I've done this one before, but oh well. It beats the hell out of packing.

Four Things:


1. P.R. for a relatively famous Nashville music venue
2. Dispatcher and then office manager for campus security
3. Scoring standardized tests
4. Assistant to violin maker


1. Annie Hall
2. All That Jazz
3. Hair
4. Just about any disaster movie, and I’m not sure why


1. The West Wing
2. X-Files
3. Twin Peaks
4. Anything cop or crime related


1. Los Angeles, CA
2. Amsterdam and Utrecht, the Netherlands
3. Camucia-Cortona, Italy
4. Beersheba, TN


1. Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini patties)
2. Pizza (yea, yea, I know)
3. My barbecued chicken
4. Crisp, cool salad with plump tomatoes


1. ERT
2. BBC
3. The Tennessean
4. Music City Bloggers


1. Anywhere that doesn’t involve boxes, packing, or moving
2. Anywhere politics aren’t news of the day
3. Anywhere that has all my family (including my in-laws, of course) and friends in one place
4. On a spaceship at warp speed

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stating the obvious

We have too much stuff. You'd think since we moved three times in the last five years we wouldn't have managed to accumulate too much, but laws yes we did.

Of course, having too much stuff isn't a problem unless you are moving.

In less than a week it will all be over. I can't wait.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Even city girls get the blues

Well, the race towards moving day has officially begun. We’ve nailed down a mover and are ready to really start packing. Of course, the same old questions keep popping up as in every move. We bought some boxes, but will that be enough? Can we really get packed in time for the movers to arrive? Will the cats totally freak out? Will I ever be settled somewhere for more than two years? Will possessed wild bunnies with vampire teeth and a fifteen foot wingspan attack us on moving day? Who knows. I’ve never lived in the country before, so I am trying to be prepared for anything.

At least the house is basically ready. The kitchen never quite got all the way finished (ok, it is just a matter of hooking up the pipe to the stove hood and covering the horrible hole in the wall created for its insertion, but why couldn’t the kitchen place have finished that? oh, yeah, I forgot, it’s rocket science) and that is a major annoyance. We have some basics the electrician and plumber will take care of on moving day. Unfortunately, there will be no pictures, because our camera grew legs and disappeared mysteriously while my husband was in Wales. I think Voldemort got hold of it and put an Imperius curse on it or something. Who can ever tell about these things? The Muggle life is hard. Magic would definitely improve the moving process, that is for sure.

And for the cherry on top of this delicious treat we call Moving Into a New Home, it looks like there might be some underground digging in order for us to get a phone line, even though all the basic wirings so we could be connected right away were supposed to have been completed when they were building the house. I’m sure we’ll be in for a year of fun Alexander Graham Bell never considered when he invented the blasted thing. A phone I can live without, but I’m sure I will die of internet starvation. There are worse things I could die from, I suppose.

All I can say is: I frakkin’ hate moving. Gods help me.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

And the cow says moo

As I sit here listening to crowds chanting, horns honking, and various noisemakers making their various sounds, I can't help but notice the similarities between elections and sporting events.

The Strawberry Statement

Today is election day in Greece, and by far the most impressive thing about it is the fact that in the short span of a month, early elections were called, Parliament was dissolved, campaigning took place, and at 7pm today it will be all over. Meanwhile, Americans are having to deal with the Longest Presidential Election Campaign Ever, and I have to say I am a little bit jealous that the Greeks can get things done so lickety split.

Greek elections are still a bit of a novelty to me. It is amazing to see SIX parties all vying for parliamentary seats (of course, there are still two main parties that seem to get most of the votes, and there are several more smaller parties in play all over the country). It would be nice to have a real choice of who to vote for in America, instead of choosing between two parties who oftentimes straddle the middle line. Sure, I don’t know that of the six parties here in Greece there is one I’d really want to vote for, but at least there are options. Talking with my mother-in-law about it today, I learned that she feels satisfied that she can vote for someone who actually speaks for her, and I don’t think I ever felt that in a U.S. election.

The other novelty about Greek politics is the presence of the Communist party. See, I grew up in Cold War America, and it was ingrained into my head at an early age that Communism is evil and all Communists are Very Bad People. I don’t really know how or when I was brainwashed to such an extent, because my parents are the least judgmental people I know, but I’m guessing somehow between my education and the media I learned to regard Communists the same way Buffy regards vampires, only without the slaying.

Once the Cold War was over, I didn’t give much thought to Communism. As I got older and learned more about it, I knew it wasn’t a belief system I could support, but there are a lot of political beliefs I disapprove of, so that doesn’t mean much. Sure, I suppose I regard Communism with much more distaste than say, Republicanism, but I certainly didn’t think my Cold War-era brainwashing was still an issue, that is, until I moved to Greece, and started meeting bona fide Communists that looked just like normal people. Even so, I lacked enthusiasm when shaking their hands, and spent my time in their company eyeing them quizzically.

It just so happens that one of the Communist headquarters in Thessaloniki is in our neighborhood, and I regard it with open-mouthed incredulity. A red curtain always shields the inside from the peering eyes of onlookers, which I find suspicious and tempting at the same time. It is as if the possibility existed that the grand figure of Oz might lurk behind that curtain, or perhaps the dark image of Beelzebub. It wasn’t until early elections were called and activity mounted there that the full extent of my anti-Communist brainwashing sunk in.

I was coming up the street the Communist headquarters was on with my shopping. A flock of people, presumably Communists, were out on the sidewalk in front of the office, spilling out of the door. As I walked up the street my instinct told me to cross to the other side of the street to avoid the throng of Communists, at which point reason kicked in, and I realized it was ridiculous not to proceed on course. I even managed a faltering smile at the people as I passed, which was returned amiably. My initial instinct surprised me though, because I have never, in my entire life, thought to cross the street to avoid people because of who or what they were. My parents raised me to be without prejudice and here I was, subconsciously, regarding a group of Communists with extreme prejudice. It seems the American “machine” had done a fine job with their brainwashing, and I was horrified with myself. It is one thing to not agree with Communism and not subscribe to it, but it is another thing altogether to purposefully avoid Communists on the street because you don’t want close contact with them.

At least now I am aware of my problem, and instead of being derisive towards my Communist friends and relatives here in Greece, I can simply argue politics with them. I don’t know if I will ever get over the novelty factor of having Communists all around me, but at least I can learn to tolerate them.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

TV for the homesick

A new reality show set in Nashville started Friday night, and although it looks insanely stupid, I wish I could watch it just to get glimpses of home. It’ll remind me of all my experiences on the fringes of the music biz (although I did enjoy working at the Bluebird Café for the short time I was there) and my college days at Belmont before I came to my senses and switched my major from Music Business to English (I’m just not willing to kiss enough ass to be in the music industry). Maybe I’ll get lucky and some day STAR channel (the Greek station most likely to pick up newer cheesy T.V. shows) will get hold of it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nervous nelly

My husband left today to accompany his youngest brother to university in Wales, and I think if I reload the British Airways arrival/departure page one more time they might ban me from the website. The plane just took off, I know it took off, the website gives me the actual time of take off, yet somehow my subconscious seems to think if I keep checking I'll get a personal message from the pilot or something, because I CAN'T STOP CLICKING.

It is a good thing my husband is a psychiatrist, although I don't know if it is good for a shrink to have a crazy wife.

I must be the stupidest person alive

Ok, so I've heard all these things about how Facebook is so wonderful, so I thought I would check it out.

I don't get it. I mean, I get it, but I don't get it. What do you do with it? What makes it different from MySpace or any other virtual community? What makes it so awesome? I feel like the kid in the group who doesn't get the joke, because I really don't get it.

Maybe I'm too old to get it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Today is H.L. Mencken's birthday - a day I honor every year in the memory of a man whose wit and wisdom surpassed many. I suppose there are some things some people might not have liked about him, but his words have accompanied me well through the years, and so I leave you with this quote, in honor of the upcoming Greek (and next year's U.S.) elections:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My continuing education in bucolic living

My metamorphosis into a country girl is continuing slowly. Yesterday, we went to the house to build yet more IKEA furniture (this is what you can afford when you spend way too much on your dream kitchen). In my continuing battle with all things scatological, it seems that it isn’t only goats who parade their way past our front gate littering our lawn with their devil turds, but also cows and at least one lone horse (that we’ve seen). The road (and it is a paved road, not that you would believe it based on how I’ve described the place) has become a mine field of various types of animal crap, and since rain doesn’t come along too often in the summer I’m guessing it doesn’t get washed away very often. Honestly, I think it would be easier to avoid getting blown to bits in a real mine field than to actually dodge the massive piles of poo on our road. Being acquainted with the eating habits and irritable bowels of our cloven hoofed friends isn’t something I take a shine to, and I like smelling it from my front porch even less. It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to get out of the car to open the gate, although doing the little hoppy dance trying to avoid stepping in it might prove to be good exercise.

Looking out the window and seeing a cow in front of our place is definitely going to take some getting used to. I think the poor thing was a bit confused, though, because we were blasting The Cure from the stereo. No doubt the animals around us will get a bit of an education too, or at least an appreciation of 80’s goth bands.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Damn, that is an abnormally large cat

You know you are a little too freaked out about the possibility of an earthquake when you get absolutely terrified that you are feeling tremors only to find out it is your 20+ pound cat scratching himself and moving the couch.


EDIT: Added picture of ginormous, earthquake-inducing cat

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My my, how can I resist you?

I grew up in a house that was almost always filled with music, from my parents’ love for soulful singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and jazz greats like Thelonious Monk and George Shearing to my brothers’ love for modern rock. Then there was the constant practicing of some instrument or another – from one brother’s love for horn instruments to the other’s love for all instruments, but most especially the saxophone. My parents had to eventually soundproof the den from the nonstop notes of my musically inclined brothers, which made it very difficult for my academically inclined head to study.

Not that I didn’t have my own musical strengths. I was a whiz at the piano from my early years, although at a difficult age I feigned indifference and eventually hatred for the ivory-keyed behemoth in our living room. My Achilles heel was that I never wanted to practice – for all the time I was willing to spend on homework and reading books, I just never could give the same commitment to my music. By the time I took my first theory class I knew I didn’t have the patience to be a real musician. And so that was that. Aside from some lessons for enjoyment in college, some meetings with a local a cappella group (singing was rather fun) and a brief stint in the medieval collegium musicum (recorders, harpsichord and guitar, it was a blast), I never performed music again.

But when it came to listening to music, I was sold from the minute I heard my first song. Music was constantly the background to my life, I could never leave home without a way to hear music. I started out heavily influenced by my brothers, who were much older than me, with favorites including Jethro Tull, The Who, Elton John, and David Bowie (who was, incidentally, one of my first crushes). By the time I was eight years old I was determined to find my own musical style, and while listening to the radio one night I found it in Abba’s Take a Chance on Me. I quickly became an Abba fanatic, and even though I didn’t give up listening to my brothers’ fare, I steeled myself against their teasing over my own musical choice and kept buying Abba albums. My best friend also loved Abba, and so we spent hours upon hours listening to them, talking about them, debating our favorite songs, and making their music the soundtrack to our lives.

A couple of years after my purchase of my last Abba album (The Visitors, which had sort of dark undertones) I moved on to a different genre of music, falling in love with the sounds of Bauhaus and the Cure. Even though my musical tastes turned to goth, I never got over my love for Abba.

So it is with great excitement that I discovered that the filming for outdoor scenes of the movie version of the musical Mamma Mia is taking place here in Greece, on the islands of Skiathos and Skopelos. I have been wanting to see the musical ever since it started, but never had an opportunity, and I am looking forward to the movie. Not to mention it is a boon for Greece, movie productions are always nice for boosting local economy. No doubt all of this is thanks to the fact that the movie is being produced by Rita Wilson’s (who is half-Greek) production company. My husband’s cousin had actually been chosen to be an extra in the movie, but alas, she couldn’t get the day off work. If you want to hear the latest news about the filming, this blog by some Skopelos locals is keeping us all up to date.

Monday, September 03, 2007

More on donations for Greek fires

A site, I Help Greece, has been set up to handle international donations via credit card directly into the fund to aid fire-stricken areas set up by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. This account is intended to assist fire victims and restore materials damaged.

From the site, on the magnitude of the disaster:

73 human lives and 2,5 million square meters of land turned to ashes are the casualties of this summer’s 6.000 fires. The fires in Peloponnesus and Evia have caused the death of 63 and injuries in tens of others, while the number of missing people still remains unknown. 1,5 million square meters of land have been burnt in Peloponnesus according to conservative estimations, while hundreds of houses have been burnt to the ground and local economy has collapsed. Previous fires in Ahaia, Rethymnon, Larisa and Evia resulted to the death of 10 people. Massive fires in Parnitha, Grammos, and Egialia have burnt hundred thousand square meters of agricultural and forest land. Pilio, Crete, Skiathos, Kefallonia, Korinthia, Pieria, Kozani, Fthiotida and Kilkis have also suffered severely by fires.

Hat tip to EllasDevil for the info.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Things I might not have known had I not moved to Greece

  • Being able to walk almost everywhere you need to go is an awesome thing. Of course, that awesomeness is reduced a bit each time you need to schlep something heavy around, but that is what beasts of burden husbands are for
  • I'd rather give a constipated pig an enema than have to park in the city without a dedicated parking spot. I have a whole new appreciation for folks that live and drive and have to park in big cities. I've heard stories about how parking places are like real estate in Manhattan, with some people paying thousands of dollars a month for a space. I don't blame them. I think I would sell my soul to the devil for a dedicated parking spot in the city. Except I don't believe in the devil and in less than a month we'll have our very own parking place.
  • Not having a choice to use self service in gas stations is both annoying and pleasing. Of course, there is something to be said for pulling up to the pump, sliding your credit card through, pumping your own gas and never having to deal with another human being.
  • Turning right on red is not a universal practice. Oops.
  • I love French thriller/horror movies
  • I love Italian pop music, it may be cheesy but it is in Italian so it doesn't matter
  • Rap music in languages other than English sounds really weird and kinda funny. Now I'm not saying that rapping should only be in English, it is just that German/Greek/Polish rap sounds a bit undignified.
  • Dubbing movies and television shows, unless for children, is really awful and embarrassing for everyone involved, especially the viewer
  • The names and faces of a number of world leaders and their cabinet members
  • Longer commercial breaks less often are much better than short commercial breaks. You can actually get random tasks done during longer commercials. Of course, in this world of TiVo no one watches commercials anymore, but we do not yet have the Greek equivalent of TiVo in our household (hopefully soon).
  • What goat poo looks like
  • That living near the sea actually has disadvantages, like high humidity at night
  • Bad drivers are a universal reality
  • You can't flush toilet paper down the toilet if you have a septic tank
  • politicians suck no matter where you go

Saturday, September 01, 2007

International donations for Greek fires

Several folks have been wondering about how to donate from abroad to help provide relief assistance for the Greek fires. The following U.S.-based organizations have programs directly benefiting fire victims and reforestation efforts in Greece:

International Orthodox Christian Charities – a Baltimore, MD based organization that is providing emergency relief supplies and technical assistance to the fire victims.

The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (a Washington, D.C. based organization) has set up the AHEPA emergency Greek fire relief fund to channel donations directly to the local relief efforts in Greece.

The World Council of Hellenes Abroad (a Chicago, IL based organization) has set up a fund to provide for reforestation of burnt regions in Greece.

Many thanks to the people and countries all over the world who have expressed their concern, condolences, and who have provided assistance in fighting the fires and sending aid to the victims.

EDIT: I Help Greece has been set up to handle international donations via credit card directly into the fund to aid fire-stricken areas set up by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. This account is intended to assist fire victims and restore materials damaged.

From within Greece you can make donations at any bank into account number 2341103053.

If only I knew it all

I wish I had the ability to help internet searchers looking for answers for the following things:

  • what brand of pasta does the Pope eat (I bet he has his pasta hand made, actually, but I could be wrong)
  • which vegetables come from a pod (the bane of my existence - peas, for sure, but as to the rest, I couldn't care less. Green beans, are they pod vegetables? How can I not know this?)
  • puns about goats (nope, I don't know any, but if anyone has any to share...)
  • don't flush it down the toilet septic tank poem (boy, I'd really like to hear this one)
Another person thought he (or she) could find in me an accomplice for "let's decapitate Barbie", but that just isn't my thing. I'll be happy to bury alive a few Cabbage Patch dolls though (I mean, they are from the cabbage patch, right? They probably prefer being underground).

And today marks the first day for the "Halloween porn" searches. Two months ahead, somebody is really on the ball for their holiday porn needs.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I saw a headline on the news yesterday, in quotes, “Worst Disaster Since World War II”. I don’t know if this was the talking point of a politician or a journalist, but I’m not sure I agree, generally speaking, that the fires have been a worse disaster than the junta of the 60's. Even so, Greece has had its share of disasters ever since Byzantine times, and certainly the fires of the last few days are disastrous not only on a personal or environmental level but also on a political level. Fires in Greece are a major disaster for a variety of reasons, including lack of infrastructure for dealing with mass fires like this one, and lack of education among the populace in fire safety and prevention. I certainly hope that whatever party gains power in the upcoming election not only sets out to change these things but actually does something about it, because a number of factors seem to indicate that fire season in Greece may only keep getting worse (especially if we continue with drier winters).

On that note, please read Kat’s post about fires and fire safety (if you haven’t already), and her wonderful article in the Guardian U.K.

We all love Greece. Here’s hoping we can make things right for the future.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lamentation of the Twelve

Sing Muses, Olympus-born, of the tragic burning of Hellas:
Of the gathering anew of your father and the Twelve
veiled in mist on the ancient mountain, your home of old
where the ambrosia has lain untouched and the nectar is undrinkable.
Of the tainting of the god-touched springs where your blessed bodies bathed.
Of the reaping of lush forest long home to your nymphean games.
How your father has called forth once again the Twelve
long abandoned by the mortals whose love they once commanded.

Sing, divine daughters of Aegis-bearing Zeus, your noble father:
Of his anger when the strong-willed Titan dared to steal Fire
to give to man what was meant for gods to wield.
Of Zeus’ anger, forever cleaving the bond with man asunder,
no longer welcome at the magnificent tables of the gods
Of the punishment of mortals for this gift -
Pandora, artfully molded by lame-born Hephaestus,
a woman for Prometheus’ manly folly.

Sing, fair-breasted Muses, from your mountain vale:
How the divine cast off their eyes from the misty peaks
to survey the burning of Hellas.
From Evia, Taygetos, the destruction of Ilieas
to Artimeta and the ancient ruins of Olympia
to the once bountiful forests of Parnitha, and the hills of Imittos
to the tree-guilded fingers of Halkidiki.
Of how the searing flames of the Achaian lands
reflect in the iris of each Olympian.
Even the immortals shed tears this day.

Sing, god-touched Muses, with your golden voices:
As your father Zeus, who once cursed mankind,
demands of the twelve to account for how the fool-Titan’s gift
was squandered, consuming the mortals in its fiery blaze.
To Athene, with her love for the Hellenes - where is the wisdom?
To Artemis, who mourns the forests - why does your bow not sing?
To Apollo, who gave man healing power – why do the wounds lie open?
To Hermes, who travels far and wide - what trickery was wrought?
To Hera, who reigns as Queen - where are the blessings of the marriage bed?
To Ares, armored god of war - why was Hellas left unarmed?
To Demeter, whose will the fields made fertile - why are they now barren?
To Poseidon, who rules the sea - why did the waters not rise in wrath?
To Aphrodite, for whom love is all - why was love betrayed?
To Hephaestus, who shapes the world with fire - why can the flame not be contained?
To Hestia, the immortal virgin - why was the hearth unguarded?

Sing, rosy-lipped Muses, while Greece the flames consume:
Of the Divine in agony, holding council to save their ancient home.
Of the Twelve who once used their immortal powers on the minds of ancient men
to twist and shape them to their folly
Of Titan-born Zeus, who but one response to his supplicants with regal nod can give:
“Whatever in my power lie I will perform.
Fate’s great weave Man must now perfect.”

-inspired by Hesiod

Monday, August 27, 2007


It is hard to be witty and sarcastic when your country is burning. It is impossible to think about anything else these days, as the death toll continues to rise and fires continue to burn. The loss of life, the loss of wildlife, the loss of forests that our planet desperately needs to keep breathing - it is unimaginable that anyone hates the world so much as to bring this kind of destruction on their own country to such a catastrophic level. A lifetime in prison would be far too kind for these monsters. Hate is the only thing I can feel for the arsonists - the ones who set these fires deliberately.

Now all I can do is pray that the fires will abate, that the survivors may endure, and that the criminals will pay.

To the countries that are helping Greeks fight the fires, we thank you.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A summer of tragedy

This has been the summer of fire in Greece, and even Hephaestos couldn’t contain the recent outbreak – 124 fires in 24 hours, mostly burning in the Peloponnese. There are more than 50 dead, and I can’t shake the hellish scenes of scores of burned out cars, filled with the remains of people trying to flee, and of bodies being carried carefully down hills. The horror of these dead is unimaginable, and the anguish is made real by the report of the burned bodies of a mother embracing her four children, her last maternal act before being consumed by fire.

It is hard to doubt that these fires weren’t deliberate – so many started in such a short time - and in my anger I won’t even dare mention what I really think should happen to the arsonists that started these fires. They’ll get theirs, eventually, even though a lifetime in prison is far too kind.

For now, I grieve with my adopted country. Tragedies like this belong in myth, not reality.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

For once, I'm glad I don't have access to baseball games

Ouch. Honestly, this doesn't make me love the Orioles any less, but I'm really glad I wasn't watching on T.V. and I am really, really glad I wasn't at Camden Yards to watch the O's take the dive of the century. I'm just going to blame this staggering wipeout on global warming and leave it at that, because I don't want to think about the real reasons this might have happened.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To the Britney Spears spammer

I know that being a spammer is a hard knock life. You can hardly get anyone to fall for your crap these days no matter how tantalizing the subject line is. But honestly, if you think anyone is going to be tempted by a subject line reading "Britney Spears goes bra-less" you are obviously stuck back in the year 2000. Because everywhere we look these days, even without trying, we see pictures of Ms. Spears bra-less, panty-less, wit-less, and more.

So seriously, quit spamming me a dozen times a day with this overused banality. No one is interested, least of all, me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

British invasion

How hot is new British Foreign Secretary David Miliband?* Even my husband was impressed with his youthful handsomeness. He is supposedly the second youngest ever to hold this position at age 42, and he looks even younger. He keeps a blog (well, it seems to be in suspended animation since his new appointment) and a website. Generation X is plowing their way into big-time politics, and it is nice to have politicians that are seriously droolworthy like Mr. Miliband. But is he smart? Presumably so, he did get his Masters at MIT.

Smarts, good looks, he is on his way to being a rock star. The Beatles better scootch over. I think David Miliband is the new British Invasion.

*I mean no offense to his lovely wife, who is free to drool over my husband whenever she wants

EDIT: Ok, my husband said the above wasn't the best picture. It isn't the same picture that was in the TIME article I read (in print). This one is better.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

You gotta fight for your rights

Happy Women's Suffrage in the U.S. Day! Ironically, women had the right to stand for election in the U.S. long before they had the right to vote, but we still haven't managed to have a female president.*

*not that this statement means that I, as a feminist, would support ANY female candidate that ran for office just because she was a female. I believe that no matter your gender or race or religion or whatever, you should be qualified for the job you want. I don't believe in giving anyone an edge if they don't deserve it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The land without the summer blockbuster

Summer is over in Greece. This seems to be the general opinion after the August 15th holiday, which signals back to work, no more playing around, and by god, have a good freakin’ winter because summer is long gone.

During the long, dreary Greek summer, some movie theaters close down and the ones that remain open show whatever crap they can stir up, which probably includes videos of cousin Nikos shooting at goats with a paint gun (I was going to say tipping cows, but do they even do that here?). Nope, the summer blockbuster does not exist here, because Greeks are normal people who spend the warm weather months on the beach, on boats, on the mountains, wherever the hell they can be outside and enjoy life, because people that sit in movie theaters in the summer time are oddities who must live underground, eat insects, and combust at the first glimmer of sunlight. The very idea of someone sitting inside in the summertime is the greatest blasphemy here. Greeks seem to be paranoid about all kinds of mythic ills that can occur from all kinds of things, yet they completely ignore the unmitigated, scientific fact that unlimited exposure to the sun is dangerous for some people, especially light-skinned tourists who walk around the city looking like radiation victims.

At any rate, now that summer is over and citizens are returning to the cities, hopefully we will see an influx of the blockbuster movies that never arrived, namely Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (opening next week). Of course, some movies never make it here, no matter how popular or how highly anticipated (we were waiting forever for Zodiac to make it here, and it hasn’t as of yet – of course, maybe it tanked, but that doesn’t seem to stop half the movies that end up in our theaters). At least now I can look forward to a wide variety of movie choices that I don’t want to see, instead of just a couple.

Καλό χειμώνα (kalo heimona) everyone.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My kingdom for mint chocolate candy

My sister-in-law is visiting from Sweden for a couple of weeks, which is really great because I've missed her a lot. She has been a real friend to me ever since I've moved here, and she has that kind of shining, happy personality that makes you feel good. To prove how awesome a sister-in-law she really is, she brought me a collection of chocolate mint candy - After Eight mints and Lindt Intense Mint, along with some weird Swedish brand. She knows I love chocolate mints, and since Greeks - despite their intense, undying love for chocolate - seem to have an aversion for mint chocolate, I can't get it here (and believe me, I've looked). So it is nice that I have a sister-in-law who can supply these goodies for my sweet tooth every time she comes to visit.

I have hope, however, that some day Greeks will catch on to the wonder that is chocolate mint, so I don't have to beg outsiders to bring some every time they visit, and that some day I will once again taste the refreshing flavor of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another reason I can't wait to leave the city

Our car was broken into again, only this time they did it properly, with the little back window and the front driver’s side window smashed in (I suppose our friendly neighborhood thief didn’t have long enough arms to reach the back door lock from the little window). I hope the effort was worth what they got from the car – our radio, which never really worked properly and is basically useless without the CD changer. Ironically, he (or she, I’m equal opportunity) did not get the nine euros’ worth of change my husband kept in the car, although how they missed that must be chalked up to the fact that they were really jonesing for some dope. They rooted through the glove compartment, no doubt because they think all people are as stupid as drug addicts, and surely the average human being puts their extra money in the glove compartment instead of the bank.

So here we go again, another three hundred euros (or more) to repair the damn car. I still have to wonder how our car went for almost two years in the same damn spot without being touched, only to be broken into once we actually started using it again. Hey, it is all worth it if Mr. or Mrs. Crackhead got their fix. I wouldn’t want them to detox on my watch.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Animal farm

Well, I wondered why the hell there was hardly any fresh corn to be had around here, but I guess this story explains it.

Farmers in Serres, northern Greece, are seeking damages from the government after a pack of wild pigs from Bulgaria entered the country and completely destroyed their crops, Athens News Agency (ANA) reported yesterday.

I suggest the schoolchildren of Serres take this a bit further with the excuse "the wild pigs ate my homework!"

It is kinda fun living in a country that can be invaded by very hungry wild pigs. Who knows, we may be reaching the time when all the animals of the world charge against us for the ruination of their habitats.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's just like living in an episode of Green Acres

Yesterday my husband and I went up to the new house to inspect the work that had been done last week. Because we are lazy, we opted to park in front of the gate instead of driving up to our house (of course, it just means we have to walk further, so whether or not it is laziness or stupidity I just can’t say), and when we got out of the car, we came across a field of goat poop lining the area in front of the gate. I actually wouldn’t have known it was feces of any kind, because it rather looked like dog food to me (except there would be no reason for dog food to be strewn over our front yard), but my husband informed me quite succinctly that it was goat shit.

Yes, it seems Mr. Shepherd-Man has been herding his flock right by our gate so the goats can litter our drive with their little kibble turds. Lovely. And to think, I could have gone my entire life without ever being able to identify goat poo.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer stock

July 1st seems to mark the “official” start of the summer season in Greece. From that point on, the number of city dwellers appears to rapidly diminish each weekend, to the point of making a person wonder if maybe they should get the hell out of the city too, just in case it is ground zero for some kind of alien attack or something. People here don’t take paltry week-long vacations – they go away (usually to the islands, Halkidiki, or other beach-type destinations in Greece) for two weeks to two months at a time, with the general average hovering around a month of non-city-living, beachcombing fun. Usually, by the time August comes around, the city is completely dead, at least until the Assumption holiday on August 15th. I love being in Thessaloniki during these ghost town summer days – it seems so vast, so quiet, so peaceful, and I always look forward to the stark desolation of August.

Yet, this year, people did not leave. All last week the city was a virtual swarm of normal, everyday life. We had to push our way through the crowds who were shopping and running around as if it was a week before Christmas. What the hell, people? I count on these few weeks of blessed silence in the city to preserve my sanity. And we all know what happens to sanity if it is not preserved. So for the love of all that is good and holy, please, please, go to your summer homes. Enjoy the bright sun and the beaches. I’ll keep Thessaloniki safe and nice until you get back, I promise. Just go! We only get one summer a year, and we each only get an average of 75 summers in our lives. Don’t waste this one in the city!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Goddess, moon

It was a harsh fate, our fair moon goddess, Selene, born to Titans soon expelled to the thrice darkened depths of Tartarus. Once her brother crossed the sky to light our days, she rose triumphantly to regale our nights with her otherworldly glow, a shining beacon in the licorice black darkness. She would love a mortal to the ends of eternal slumber, lest his youth and beauty vanish to Time’s vagaries. Their fifty daughters would bring the phases, and tonight she rises waning after July’s Blessing Moon, her beauty unmatched, her light sharp and fierce as she slowly fades towards the crescent.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It doesn't take much

Every time I walk into the room, my husband is playing this video. Ok, so it is pretty funny the first few times, but after one thousand nine hundred and twenty nine times it is just another nail in the dork coffin. And it isn't just the plain ol' dramatic chipmunk/prairie dog, it is all the spoofs with the godforsaken creature. Stupid viral videos. The internet is a blessing and a curse. Especially when it is used for evil.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Bye bye meat. But I won’t really miss you that much. Sure, you are full-flavored and succulent at times, but you aren’t my true love. Cheese, honey, you are the one I am going to miss. What with your melting all over and your rich, creamy taste. At least our parting will only be for two weeks this time, and not 40+ days. But when Mary assumes body and soul together into heaven, we will again be reunited. Until then, dear cheese, stay stinky.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A good start

These are the opening lines of the books/plays I’ve read in the past couple of months. I’ll update with the titles and authors in a couple of days if anyone wants to venture a guess. I’m obsessed with opening lines, I suppose they don’t necessarily make or break a good story, but the really famous ones are always remembered. This quick quiz at the BBC site is kinda fun, I was surprised I got 8 right, since it has been so long since I've read most of them, and I thought my memory was very bad.

(HINTS: 3, 4, and 5 are plays by the same author, not all of these works were written in English)

1) Petrograd smelt of carbolic acid.

2) In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

3) – and so, fellow parishioners, here’s to our freedom!

4) Hide the Christmas tree properly, Helena.

5) Well, Ballested, have you got it to work?

6) I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well.

7) That’s good thinking there, Cool Breeze.

8) I first met Dean not longer after my wife and I split up.

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's cute. Really. But also kinda sad and kinda creepy.

So there is a cat in a nursing home in the U.S. that predicts patient deaths and curls up with them for the final couple of hours before they die. Everyone thinks it is so cute and remarkable, and aren't cats the most amazing, thoughtful creatures?

I love my cats. I adore my cats. I would save my cats before I saved myself, probably, although that is kinda stupid. But I also know cats. I know they are selfish, and driven towards certain things - food, warmth, and a clean litter box (or a means of getting outside to do their bidness). Cats don't really love their owners, as much as I'd like to think they do. Sure, they purr and cuddle and act all nice, but deep down inside they are actually space aliens sent to Earth to collect data on humans and, whenever possible, work toward the eventual elimination of all human and dog life. Has your cat ever cut in front of you on the stairs or walking down the hall? Do they bite and scratch even when they seem to want to be petted? Do they sleep on your chest, facing your face, staring at you so deeply you wake up with a start and feel slightly weak, as if part of your soul had been taken away? Do they ever stand on your nightstand or above your headboard, dropping things on you, ostensibly to wake you up so you will give them food? To male owners, has your cat ever stepped on your balls? I rest my case.

So when these people think it is all nice and pleasant and sweet that little Oscar is curling up to "comfort" dying patients, they are terribly, horribly wrong. What they don't realize is that the little rascal is just waiting, ready, to suck the soul out of the dying corpse before it can make its way to heaven (or hell, or wherever souls go when we die, hey, I'm open to suggestions).

I know this. I'm not fooled by their purring and cuddling and head butting and drooling. Nope.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

111° F - feels like 115°F

Or to use the unit of choice here, 43°C, feels like 46°C. Now, I know people that live in Arizona and other desert like places are used to such temperatures, but when the A/C can't cool the house cooler than 31°C (88°F), it is too damn hot.

Athenians - don't breathe today!

No reports on the pollution levels here in Thessaloniki, but apparently the intense heat wave is causing pollution levels in Athens to soar above safe levels. According to this article from Kathimerini:

The level of large pollution particles in the air or PM10 emissions in Nea Smyrni, southern Athens, reached 320 mg/m3, surpassing the 240 mg/m3 safety level. High levels of particle emissions, blamed for cancer and respiratory problems, were also recorded in central and western Athens.

Ouch. My Athenian friends, take care.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Because shopping is the best way to beat the heat

We are in the throes of another diabolic heat-wave here, which means that, as a former Southern girl, I’ve basically been lying prostrate on the couch, one arm akimbo, one hand clasping my forehead, crying for a mint julep. Greeks don’t really seem to have much patience for Southern belle sensibilities, so my cries have been ignored.

I risked the odds today and went with my husband and mother-in-law to IKEA for some much needed house shopping. After four hours we came out with two rooms’ and a bathroom’s worth of furniture, which should suit us nicely – for now. We also learned that it is much better to go to IKEA during the weekday – because on Saturdays it gets all the Balkan traffic and you walk around the store playing “which language am I hearing now?” to little success. It makes life interesting, but you’d think IKEA would get smart and open another store closer to these people who have to spend their entire Saturday driving all the way to Thessaloniki and back to get their yellow and blue Swedish fix.

We still have a lot of practical things that need to be purchased before we can move in properly, which means it is a real damn shame our local Praktiker burned to the ground recently. It is going to make finding these things a royal pain in the arse. Some day it will open again, I’m sure, but fortune was not smiling on us (and I suspect quite a few others) the day it burned down.

By the way, it isn’t a good idea to put your IKEA shopping bag on the floor next to a bedroom display and look at something across the aisle from it. One woman thought the items in the bag were part of the display and profuse apologies and embarrassed laughter ensued.

One more day of unbearable heat and then I can stop being an anguished Southern belle. It would be nice if this was the last horrific heat wave of the summer, but summer ain’t close to being over yet, and I ain’t no fool.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fantasy coffins?

When I saw this pictorial on the BBC News website I imagined fancy satin coffins all pretty and nice that you can, you know, sleep in or something. I did not at all expect what the photo essay contained, especially not the above uterine coffin requested by a gynecologist (honestly, Freud would go crazy with this one, gynecologist or not). Still, I have to wonder now - has anyone requested a penis coffin? Or hell, why not a vagina? Might as well rest in peace someplace that made you feel good in life, eh?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Well, I'm definitely not used to earthquakes yet. We had a 4.7 one 15 km south of here about a half hour ago and I'm still freaking out. I almost fainted. Which might make for fun headlines: "Stupid American earthquake n00b freaks out and dies over minor earthquake".

The hell with Potter, I'm waiting for the X-Files

Such happy news: a new X-Files movie is in the works. As long as it isn't as bad as the crappy 9th season it should be ok.

Still, for me, any old excuse to see Duchovny on screen is good enough for me.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thank you so much for the not so subtle reminder

I think nothing in the media so far has made me realize just how old I am getting until ABC published this pictorial of all the actors from The Princess Bride after 20 years. When the movie came out I had just started college and was in the blossoming throes of my youth. Now, not so much.

Even so, happy birthday The Princess Bride. You have provided me with hours upon hours of entertainment value over the years. Not to mention, I am really close to getting my husband to say "as you wish" to every request I make. Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have said that out loud.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Raping the English language

The Simplified Spelling Society has been advocating for a century to make the spelling of English words easier for children and adults alike. They recently picketed a spelling bee in the US to help make their point, driven by the response of the winner that “spelling is just a bunch of memorization”.

Actually, it isn’t. Sure, we memorize how to spell some words. But the brilliant thing about language is that there are reasons for why things are spelled certain ways, and once you start to understand certain concepts in spelling, spelling unknown words isn’t that hard. With Greek, there are a ton of words I am not familiar with, yet I am able to spell words I’ve never encountered because I’ve picked up on how the Greek alphabet is used. That is a wonderfully deductive part of spelling that many people overlook – and I think it is a part of learning that is crucial to young minds, because it teaches them more than just how to spell, but how to think about how to spell.

The simplifiers want us to spell English words phonetically, because it is just so gosh darn hard to learn how to spell otherwise. Our poor, overworked children have to struggle to learn how to spell, and it is just too difficult. We can’t possibly expect our children to have to work at school, can we? If we spell all words phonetically more children (children who aren’t capable of memorization, apparently) will be able to read. Yet this drive for phonetic spelling irritates the crap out of me, because it suggests that it is only oral language that matters and it devalues the history of our written language. Honestly, if a gun was held to my head and the choice was I could either speak or write the rest of my life but not both, I would much prefer to keep writing. Speaking only works if there is someone to hear us, but we can write alone, for ourselves, or for someone to read later.

Some of the brilliant examples of suggested spelling changes are (for more, click here):

learn – lern

slow – slo

beautiful – butiful

anyone – ennywun

most – moast

simple – simpl

very – verry

Yes, because adding an r where one isn’t needed and spelling moast with an a isn’t more difficult? Not to mention how it looks – as if a half blind troll had wandered in and marked all over your favorite books. Either that or the rejects from the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too got hold of some paper.

I realize that languages evolve. I tolerate with interest net speak and SMS speak because it has become a sort of pidgin English that people all over the world can understand and use to communicate with one another. However, it isn’t a permanent substitution for our English language, and hopefully it will never be. I am a great fan of dialectical differences in languages as well, but the core language always remains the same. Words may change here and there – verbs may become adverbs, grammatical functions may change, and American English did simplify its spellings from British English. But the overhaul in spelling these people want to do it is a de-evolution, not an evolution. It would completely eradicate the history of our written language, and I’m afraid I just can’t let that happen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why my husband is a dork

When my husband was tasked with putting away groceries this is what I found when I entered the kitchen a couple of hours later:


Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm no Sal Paradise

What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

These words that Jack Kerouac used to define his adventures in On the Road epitomize the expat experience. We are forever watching the people and places we love disappear behind us like a tidal wave receding the shoreline, only to wash us further away when the swell looms up and devours us. We come to the realization, often too late, that our goodbyes are mostly permanent – that we will never live our lives the same way again, the comfortableness of one home is exchanged for another, and life goes on. As expats we too lean forward and embrace, perhaps reluctantly, the next crazy venture that awaits us in our new country. Yet we never get over that goodbye – the one we speak a thousand times in a thousand ways – that takes us away from the familiar into the unknown.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Because we like to look stupid

I realize that the entertainment industry thinks it is cute to use the letter sigma (Σ) as an E for its Greek themed movies and shows (we all remember the poster for My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Now ABC Family has a new show about fraternities and sororities called "Greek", and they've done it again.

Honestly, to people that know Greek, it just looks ignorant and stupid. And it is perhaps a bit insulting. Greek does have its own E, it is called epsilon (Ε). Sure, it doesn't look very notably Greek, but it is better than having the word "Grssk" in your title.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The rocket's red glare

Happy Birthday America! You’ve changed so much since I left I hardly recognize you anymore. Still, I know your heart is in the same place, so hold your head high America, and celebrate your independence. There is always hope for the future.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Barbie and her fabulous pooper scooper

When I was 9 years old, I took part in a dog shit fight. That’s right, I’m confessing to having once been an active participant in a fierce battle in which stale dog turds were the weapon of choice. Now, it is something I certainly never would have considered doing, except my best friend’s evil older sister, who emanated so much hate towards us because we went to the smart kids’ school and she didn’t get in, decided in her vicious way that throwing dog poo at us was a fitting punishment. And honestly, when you are 9 years old and you have dog shit flung at you, the only reasonable response – smart kids or not – is to fling it right back. Now why my friend’s basement was a veritable gold mine of dog feces is a question I’d still prefer not to answer. I mean, they did have two dogs, and I suppose those two dogs spent some time in the basement. Beyond that, who am I to judge, when I actually used the defecation as a deadly missile.

Honestly though, before that moment of intense anger when the only possible revenge was for me to handle poop, I never once considered touching, holding, or picking up any turds of any kind, which brings me to the point of my post. This toy – Barbie and Tanner Dog – comes complete with fake dog poo, along with a pooper scooper and a bucket to put it in. I don’t know how long this product has been on the market, but I only recently saw a commercial for it here. I do know one thing – while it is completely viable to think that a little girl (or boy) might want a pretend cooking set or even a pretend cleaning set, because emulating adults is what makes kids feel grown up – I never once in my life, when lock step with an adult cleaning up after their dog, had any desire whatsoever to mimic the act of picking up the poo and putting it away. Not to be out done, there is also Barbie Theresa Doll and Mika, which allows you to scoop the litter box after cat Mika has done her business. Honestly, cleaning the litter box was an adult’s job and I never wanted any part of it (I still don’t, which is hard with three cats).

I realize the point of these toys is to teach children good pet care habits (because lord knows adults almost never pick up after their pets these days), but I really don’t see some kid begging for a Barbie pooper scooper (although I do see those tiny plastic turds ending up in some kid’s mouth). I’d be curious how much play time these toys get when actually purchased. I could be wrong, kids today might like to pretend to be handling shit, but I still get the heebie jeebies when I think of that dog poop.