Wednesday, February 28, 2007

R.I.P. Ronald

I’m really glad that Prince Charles has enlightened nutritionists by telling them that banning McDonald’s is the “key” to controlling the problem of obesity in children in the U.K. Because McDonald’s is the only food that will make you fat and obviously all fat people eat at McDonald’s. All this from a man who watched his young, beautiful wife destroy herself with bulimia.

I know McDonald’s isn’t the healthiest choice on the block, but I think telling people they can’t have something is the absolute worst way to go about fighting obesity or teaching people in general how to eat healthier. Since I have problems with my kidneys thanks to SLE, I have had professional advice in the past on how to cut back on saltier foods. At the time, Taco Bell was my favorite food (yes, I was a teenager then), which seems like it wouldn’t be a good place to eat if you were trying to avoid salty food. Yet the nutritionist, armed with the nutrition information on Taco Bell foods, went over the list with me and told me how I could eat a reasonable meal there, by doing things like not eating the shell of the taco salad, not adding the taco sauce, etc. She didn’t say “don’t ever eat there”, but of course she told me I shouldn’t eat there often. Still, she took a lot of time and energy teaching me how to make smart choices even while eating out, and that kind of advice actually sunk in.

“Big” government these days seems to be awfully keen on simply banning things that might hurt us (except for cigarettes of course) instead of spending money on helping to teach people to be responsible. Sure, it won’t work with everyone (I’m not doing so well watching my salt these days, unfortunately), but a little bit of nutritional knowledge can go a long way to helping people make better choices in their diets, instead of prohibiting certain things and doing what seems to boil down to a criminalization of obesity. In the end, it is better to have a nation of overweight people who are making healthier choices most of the time, and getting exercise on a regular basis, than have a bunch of unhappy, lethargic obese citizens. Simply telling people “you’re too fat, you can’t eat at McDonald’s” isn’t going to change one damn thing, unless you strap them to a treadmill and force feed them tiny bits of salad and fruit three times a day. But I wouldn’t want to give anyone any ideas.

We give alcoholics, drug addicts, cigarette smokers and sex addicts the tools they need to improve themselves in a world filled with temptations, you’d think the world could give the same consideration to anyone with a weight problem, no matter how much of a problem it is.

You can't miss the bear

Last night was another fun night with my husband's colleagues - and they brought their wives/girlfriends this time. Generally speaking I wouldn't dare fraternize with doctors, but I think the psychiatric specialists are more entertaining than their colleagues who choose "hands on" specialties, probably because psychiatry lies close to the fields of study of the humanities. Yes, I'm a snob like that. It isn't that I have anything against doctors, they have saved my life on a couple of occasions. But I've been poked and prodded enough by them to not really take a shine to fraternizing with them, if you know what I mean.

The taverna chosen for our gathering just so happened to be in the village where we are finishing our new house, a small mountain hamlet with some dramatic history and all the character you can possibly imagine for such a tiny place. The restaurant had a typical mountain hunter theme, and of course featured a wide variety of fowl and beast on the menu (perfect for fasting!) - including kangaroo, ostrich, wild boar, and woodcock (is that really a creature? I've heard of woodchuck, but not woodcock). Adorning the walls and ceiling were stuffed animals of all sorts, including an owl swooping overhead. There was even an arrow shot into the ceiling. Those mountain types take their hunting themes seriously. (Yes, I really wish we had taken the camera with us, although no doubt we'll be going back there)

Still, the environment held a certain charm, and in an odd way added to the festive atmosphere of the evening. We were chatting away, enjoying our food, and suddenly, behind us appeared a giant, lop eared bunny. Ok, not GIANT giant, but giant compared to most bunnies I've seen. It hopped around, enjoying itself, oblivious of the fact that the remains of his family and friends were lying on our table. Putting aside the obvious health code violations of having a rabbit hopping around a restaurant, it certainly added to the entertainment of the evening, although honestly, I can't say I ever expected to see such a thing.

Just when I think I've seen it all something else always comes hopping along to surprise me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

We don't speak English here

I went to the U.S. Consulate today to pay them money for a service that would be free if I was a Greek citizen (because believe it or not, the Greek government hasn't yet discovered that they can squeeze every blood sucking penny out of their citizens for mundane tasks). I spoke in English, and ironically, they kept responding to me in Greek. Even the Consul apparently had some problem replying to me in English, because she kept speaking Greek.

I appreciate that they need to know and speak Greek fluently to work at a consulate here in Greece, but it is the one place I expect to be answered, and spoken to, in English. They knew I was American, they could tell I was speaking in English. I'd hate to think what would happen to an American who didn't know much Greek should they need consular support in Thessaloniki.

I'll chalk it up to the fact that they probably deal with more Greeks than Americans, and hope the next time I have to pay them money for nothing, they'll do me the courtesy of speaking in English.

Monday, February 26, 2007

If I had live blogged the Oscars

3am - Oh, crap. The ceremony starts at 3:30, not 3. I'll never be able to make it through the whole thing

3:05 - My husband is snoring really loud, I can't hear the T.V. Hopefully he'll quiet down before the show

3:25 - I love, love, LOVE Reese Witherspoon's dress, of course, I'm a sucker for purple. My second favorite was Cate Blanchett, who always looks divine.

3:35 - Bored already

3:43 - Ellen is rockin' on the jokes

3:50 - Hubby still snoring too loud. Will poke him.

3:51 - Hubby ignoring the poke.

4:13 - Sound effects choir pretty cool

4:15 - Hubby stopped snoring, yay! I hope he is still breathing. Maybe I should poke him.

4:16 - Hubby still breathing.

4:20 - I'd like to thank people for putting me to sleep by thanking people. I think your thanks and gratitude is understood, besides, you can do it better in person. I know it makes people moist to be thanked on international T.V. but honestly, none of us give a frak.

4:25 - Yay for Alan Arkin! But seriously starting to drift off...

4:30 - If I have to see the robot Johnnie Walker commercial one more time I'm going to fall aslee...zzzzz

5:00 - Zzzzzz

5:30 - Stupid T.V. woke me up. Click. Zzzzz.

6:00 - Zzzzzz

And no, I have no idea who the big winners are. I'm going to try to prevent myself from finding out until I watch the rerun tonight. I better quit browsing the web, then.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar night blues

Tonight marks the famous Academy Awards ceremony, and I'm not sure if it is worth staying up til 6am to see the same people win the same awards they have won at the last three major awards ceremonies (Golden Globes, Actor's Guild, BAFTA). I don't know if there was always this much consistency amongst award ceremonies, and I just never never noticed, but it seems to me the Oscars, at least when I was little, used to have an air of uncertainty about it. Now it appears to be entirely predictable, with the exception of Best Picture, which seems to pick its winner depending on the country and style of the award ceremony.

Of course, I could be wrong, and tonight's show could totally blow my mind. But I doubt it. The only thing that makes it remotely interesting is the host, since Ellen Degeneres has been known to be funny in the past. Then again, I can watch the rerun here tomorrow at a reasonable hour if all I care about are the jokes.

At least I know my habitual insomnia will have some television company should I find myself awake and alert still at 3am.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The true meaning of multimedia

I was never a fan of the T.V. show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, partially due to the fact that I never took the time to watch it. I did see the movie and enjoyed it for what it was worth, but I can't say it is one of my favorites or that if it came on late-night Greek T.V. I would watch it.

Still, I find it fascinating that Season 8 of the series is being released in comic book form. This will no doubt thrill die hard Buffistas, but it is also a gleaming tribute to the multimedia world we now live in. We have a chance to pull out all the stops as far as creativity goes, in any format, anywhere. Sure, we'll no doubt be exposed to a lot of sheer crap because of it, but that is part of life.

Beware, vampires. She that owns the multimedia market wins.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?

Today, as we ventured forth to Kosmas Delicatessen (the place in Thessaloniki for a wide variety of Asian, Mexican, British and American foods) to search for tofu, we found a pleasant surprise.

Most of my friends back home know of my insane love affair with Mr. Pibb (which apparently has been whored down to a brand new flavor as Pibb Xtra, I'm sad to say). But, it was unavailable in Nashville for most of the time I was living there, except towards the last few years when it started showing up in restaurants. There was a brief time that I had worked out a "deal" with the Coke bottling plant to send a couple of dozen Mr. Pibbs to Compton's on 21st (when Compton's was Compton's and not Harris-Teeter) for me now and then, and every once in awhile a friend who frequently went home to Virginia would come back and leave a couple of cases on my porch unexpectedly - so I had a supply. But it didn't last forever. So, grudgingly, I had to make do with Dr. Pepper. I can't really explain exactly what made Mr. Pibb taste better than Dr. Pepper, because they were quite similar, but I liked it better.

Of course, there is no Dr. Pepper in Greece. There are hardly any soft drink choices at all, compared to the U.S., which is probably a good thing. But at this point I've been so long without my dark, sugary master I'd settle for diet Dr. Pepper. Since I think diet soft drinks come directly from Satan's saliva, that is saying something.

Kosmas Delicatessan is pretty much a crap shoot each time we visit. Some things are standard, it seems (condiments, teas, Asian and Mexican goods), but some things aren't. Sometimes they have graham crackers, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they have Pop Tarts, sometimes they don't. You just never know what you might find there, so we try to go once a month, just in case.

Today as we were walking through I asked my husband to go back and check their mottled drink selections. They've had root beer and ginger ale before, and I kept hoping that some day they would get Dr. Pepper. I was actually approaching the point where I might have asked for it, but to my delight, today they had four cans of it! FOUR WHOLE CANS OF DR. PEPPER. My life is now complete. And they had a couple of cases of Dr. Pepper Zero for when I need to switch to the dark side.

Now, if only they would get some Cap'n Crunch, I would be a happy, happy woman.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How to be a vegan in 47 days

Yesterday began another season of fasting for Greek Orthodoxites, which means forty-seven days of trying to figure out what the hell to eat in our little Greek American household. I have written before about my attempts to support my Greek Orthodox husband in his quest for faith by fasting on Fridays. Since then, we have managed to sometimes fast on Wednesdays as well, and we managed two weeks of fasting during the forty day period before Christmas. The priest was not surprised that my husband had succumbed to the temptation of “the meat”, but the reality is that he succumbed more to the temptation of cheese and chocolate.

For these longer fasting periods I’ve had to get creative, since there are maybe five vegetables in the known universe that my husband and I will both eat. Greece, ironically, does not have a plethora of vegan products available readily like they do in America. We have to hunt for whatever we can find, which has so far boiled down to soy milk and soy meat product. If we can find soy cheese, it will be a windfall. I’m lukewarm to soy milk, but it can be used as a milk substitute in some recipes so that works. The soy meat product is by far one of the weirdest edible substances I have ever met. In the bag it looks like cereal, once cooked it resembles something a dog would throw up and then eat again. Still, we managed to make vegan chili with it relatively successfully, so it’ll do. It certainly expands our eating choices, as we can make soy burgers and tacos and such with it. I tell you, you really gotta love your husband to agree to eat dog vomit for seven weeks, but I don’t really have a good reason not to, so there you go.

Will we make it until April 8th? God only knows. We are certainly going to try. Since I’m almost assuredly going to hell anyway, it doesn’t matter if I break the fast. But I know it is important to my husband, so I’ll do my best to help him stick with it, cheese and chocolate be damned.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ode to a Grecian Strawberry

Thou still unravish’d berry of Spring,
Thou fruit of farmers and slow labor,
Sylvan consumer, who canst thus bring
A sugary odor as sweet as its flavor:
What succulent recipes emerge from thy flesh
Of shortcakes or cobblers, or of both.
In kitchens across the expanse of Hellas?
What cakes or pies are these? What sweets?
What mad temptation? What struggle to resist?
What sighs and moans? What taste of heaven?

- Taken with inspiration from John Keats’ famous ode

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I hate to say it, but...

I was never a fan, but I'm starting to feel really bad for Britney Spears. She has emerged from a bad relationship broken, obviously, and everything about her life is public. I can't imagine going through such a thing in the public eye.

I really hope she gets the help she needs. Hell, I hope she understands she needs help, and more than just a rehab type situation.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dorian Gray has nothing on me

Signs I am getting old:

On TV someone was playing with one of those hand-held gaming devices. I pointed to it and asked my husband if it was one of those new PCPs.

I can't eat anything the least bit spicy or acidic without taking a generous dose of antacid, lest I choke to death on mini-vomit. But I'm not so old to refuse eating spicy or acidic foods. Yet.

Sometimes when I stand up, I groan. Even worse, it happens sometimes upon sitting down.

I can't listen to The Cure (pre-Disintegration era) without falling into intense feelings of nostalgia.

I don't get young people. Of course, I didn't get young people when I was one, so maybe that doesn't count.

Sometimes, when listening to music, I find it to be too loud. Good thing the volume doesn't go to 11, I can't even make it to 6 anymore.

I threw away a fork while I was looking right at it.

Every youngish actor and actress on TV or in the movies is younger than I am. Even the ones that look older than I do.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I'm all kinds of crazy, but I try not to show it

So we have doo-ra Tennessee representative Stacy Campfield pushing a bill that would grant death certificates to aborted fetuses, despite the fact that they were never legally alive. Yes, I realize that some states give them for miscarried babies, but that seems more ceremonial than legal, honestly. I also realize that every right winger who is against abortion thinks life starts at conception. If life started at conception the little parasites would be able to survive outside their human host, wouldn't they? Regardless, the notion of such a bill is ridiculous, and can only lead to an extreme lack of privacy on the part of all women who have abortions.

There is also an initiative some nutjob organization (oops. see my note below) is trying to get on the ballot in Washington state that would require heterosexual couples to have children within three years of marriage or have their marriage annulled. So basically, only people willing or able to have children would be allowed to be married, and thus reap all the benefits marriage have to offer (because, you know, there are so many). Obviously, such an initiative, even if by some freak force of backwards nature it was passed, would eventually be struck down as unconstitutional (as any law disallowing homosexual marriage should be struck down, but that is beside the point here), but what are these people thinking? Fine, if you want to start a church that will only marry people under such conditions, fine, but excuse the hell out of me if I can't or won't have children.

Now I realize sentiments such as the two cases I presented here are rampant among some people. I know they have such discussions amongst their own kind and speak of many things that would limit the rights and freedoms of people they don't agree with, but that doesn't mean you should speak these things aloud. I mean sure, I talk with my liberal friends all the time about laws that would require that every anti-abortion activist in America has to adopt a child that they prevented from being aborted, but I wouldn't put such initiatives out there in public or anything. People, you've got to keep your crazy to yourselves. Otherwise everything you do and say just sounds like a big joke. And if people are laughing at you chances are they won't vote for you or your insane initiatives. If Hitler had kept his nutter opinions to himself he might still be alive today, along with several million Jews and thousands of soldiers. There is a fine line between crazy and fascism, as soon as y'all learn that, we'll be ok.

NOTE: I stand corrected on one point, it seems. The Washington organization started their initiative to help prove how nutty some of these laws are, their intent seems to be similar to the point I am making. Good thing they are in a state like Washington, though, because an initiative like that might actually pass in the bible belt. But, you gotta wonder what kind of con law the judges of the Washington Supreme Court studied:

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance seeks to defend equal marriage in this state by challenging the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling on Andersen v. King County. This decision, given in July 2006, declared that a “legitimate state interest” allows the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together. Because of this “legitimate state interest,” it is permissible to bar same-sex couples from legal marriage.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Kitty for sale

For sale, one cat. Very handsome, low maintenance, requires minimal food. Always obedient, will never stand on your nightstand and watch you sleep, slowly sucking away at your soul. Does not have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Forever a perfect angel, he never turns into...


15 cents, firm offer. Schedule II drugs not included.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Life imitates art, or rather, imitates video games

So my husband got a bug up his butt to play The Sims 2, a game he bought me a couple of Christmases ago, long since deleted to make room for bigger and better games. Awhile after he started playing his newly created character, I asked him if his sim had found gainful employment yet.

What career track had he chosen for his sim?

The medical profession.

Honestly, who chooses the same career for their sim as their real life?

Friday, February 09, 2007

The day the language died

Recently I’ve seen a spate of articles about kids using netspeak/IMspeak in their school papers, including this recent one on On top of that, a text message only novel has been published in Finland. I’ve often been a proponent of netspeak, and did a paper for my college History of the English Language class about the phenomenon. I find it fascinating that this pidgin and abbreviated English has been created, understood by people of different languages all over the world, allowing us to communicate with one another, albeit a very basic form of communication.

However, there is a great difference between chatting online or in text messages and writing a paper for a class or an entire novel. I’ve written before about my dismay at the idea of condensing classic works of fiction into textspeak, despite my interest in the new “language” our world of communication devices has developed. There is no substitute for our real languages, whether they be English or Finnish or German or French or Chinese. Yet advocates of the new “tech language” insist our children should be heralded for inventing this new language, not punished for it. Many educators say the propensity for students to accidentally use the abbreviated language fades by the time they get to college, and studies in the UK claim there is no link between constant texting and poor use of the English language, although there is some doubt as whether cell phone shorthand impairs learning for students who are already having trouble with the language. The writer of the Finnish texting novel notes he has just written a book in a vernacular, like Mark Twain used in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I see his point, and perhaps his book has a sort of curious appeal for our culture, but I don’t really see it as comparative to the works of Mark Twain. We are talking an abbreviated language here, not a full language. As fascinating as it is, I’d really prefer such forms of communication limited themselves to computers and cell phones instead of creeping their way into everyday language.

I know the world is moving faster. I know you have to be quick to stay on top of things. But we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our real language to keep up with the herd. If we do, then I’ll be happy to stay behind, reading my classics from beginning to end and writing real letters, using real words.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sign of the apocalypse

Astronauts used to be our heroes. Maybe they weren't above reproach, but they had a veneer of gold - all the hopes and dreams of the future and what might be. Now, an astronaut has been charged with attempted murder, all in the name of ill forsaken love.

Our world is fading, little by little.

Monday, February 05, 2007

February sky, Thessaloniki

Hephaestos, rendered lame by an accident of childhood (poor mother, he was yours alone, wretched Zeus is to blame for your weakened state), passed the time on his lonely island as a master craftsman. He took for his wife the lovely Aphrodite, and for their wedding he created a majestic bed, and for her pillows he took the clouds. She would soon betray him for the strong-armed god of war, yet the clouds remain, a subtle reminder of what love won, and lost.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl Monday Morning

So the Super Bowl happens today, with the Colts and the Bears going head to head. Since it will be aired here live at 1:25 am, I won't be watching. Now, if the Titans had made it I might have made the effort to watch, but since the Colts have long since deserted my beloved Baltimore I can't say I give a damn.

It is nice that they show the Super Bowl here, at least. We get most of the basketball championships too, including college hoops. But baseball is still a whisper in the wind here - an unknown entity only a few of us seem to appreciate. With something like nine sports channels showing every possible sport known to man I keep hoping that someday, from some far corner of the world, they will show a baseball game. I'd be happy to watch the bad news Bears at this point in my baseball jones.

As for the Super Bowl, may the best team win, although I hear the odds are on the Colts.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

All the king's men

There is a bit of an upset in Greek politics right now. It seems the opposition doesn’t think the ruling government is doing a good job. Now, they aren’t accusing anyone of any criminal wrongdoing, but in general they don’t think the government is serving in Greece’s best interests. So the leader of the main opposition party has called for a vote of confidence in Parliament and for early elections.*

I’m not sure whether I should be disgusted or surprised by such a blatant show of democracy in the modern world. I mean really, how can one be expected to govern if your opposition peers can call you out on all your bullshit and ::gasp:: call for early elections?

Can you imagine if such a thing happened in America? If instead of pissing around and hedging on backing more troops in Iraq, Congress would just censure Bush and his Cabinet for all the crap they’ve done wrong and call for new elections right now? But no, in America, to get Congress on your back you have to do something really wrong, like have sex with an intern and lie about it. Not something like spending billions of dollars on an ambiguous, never ending war. That isn’t wrong, it is American.

Still, I can’t help but watch what is going on in the Greek Parliament and dream of the same thing happening in Congress. Not that an early election would solve many problems, but it would sure get that monkey Dubya off our backs.

*I’m not taking sides here. Of course there are multiple sides to be taken when it comes to Greek government, since there are multiple parties in Parliament. But to me, both of the main parties in Greece are just different shades of socialism, and they both generally seem to be idiots disguised as politicians, just like in America. That is what politics is, after all, isn’t it?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Occam's razor

In college, I worked as a dispatcher in our campus security department. Most of the guys there made fun of my intellect and propensity for reading and studying, but we got along amiably – usually. One day, a friend of mine had passed along a funny poster that started along the lines of “In the women’s bathroom of the Music building, a man armed with Occam’s razor approached a woman…” I can’t remember the whole thing or the exact wording, but it was like a security report, only obviously fake. I thought it was amusing, and thought the staff at the security department would appreciate the humor, so I posted it on the bulletin board. Big mistake.

The next day when I arrived to work the office was bustling and everyone was in a panic. One of the officers asked if I posted the report on the board, and why I hadn’t contacted an officer to talk to the victim and file a real report. I’m sure the silence that proceeded this question lasted a long time, because I honestly thought he was kidding. So I laughed and walked away. He followed and asked again, and then the director of security and a couple of other officers approached me and I was surrounded by people who apparently did not understand the meaning of Occam’s razor. I explained what it meant and how it was a joke, and was promptly reprimanded for posting it. Funny thing, being reprimanded for someone else’s ignorance – not to mention they all knew I would have called an officer if something had actually happened anyway.

The incident in Boston over the Cartoon Network signs reminded me of that experience, since the circumstances are similar, although the scale of the situation is much, much larger. Instead of the city government apologizing for the uproar and admitting they made a mistake, they have arrested two people (for what? Advertising? Because I don’t see how the charges of “placing a hoax device” and “disorderly conduct” are going to stick) and are pursing action against one of the largest media corporations in America.

OK, let’s look at the situation for a minute. So these signs are electronic and a bit distracting. Do they really look like bombs? And seriously, who places bombs in plain sight for everyone to see? The signs have been in nine other major media markets across the U.S. for weeks without any problems, so what, are Bostonians overly sensitive or something?

I realize in this post-9/11 world you can’t be too careful. But common sense goes a long way here. Maybe this will teach us that we are getting a bit too out of control with our fear, which, unfortunately, pretty much means the terrorists have won. They can sit back and laugh at the Americans blowing up devices advertising cartoons, and be satisfied with the fact that they don’t have to do the work anymore. Americans are terrorizing themselves with their own fear.