Monday, April 30, 2007

The Wrong Man

Generally speaking, I suppose I’m what is normally called a liberal. I agree with the left on many things, including abortion rights, gun control (although unlike some liberals, I do feel the second amendment right to bear arms should be protected, I just think people should have a license to buy a gun, and by license I mean participate and pass specializing training and safety courses), stem cell research, universal health care – you get the picture. Yet there is one issue where I am constantly in imminent danger of losing my liberal card, and that is the death penalty.

I admit it, I am not directly opposed to capital punishment – although personally, I don’t feel that most cases should warrant a sentence of death. I do, however, feel that the most extreme cases – serial killers, for example – should lead to a death sentence, because I daresay it is the most humane option for what these people are. Serial killers have a problem - a deep rooted, psychological need to kill – and this is something that can’t be cured by a few prison psychiatric visits. While it is possible that rehabilitation might work in a case or two – and I always have hope for the future of psychiatry – the threat of recidivism is extremely high. The longer a serial killer stays in prison, the more agonized they become because they cannot fulfill that psychotic need. If we are worried about what is humane for these prisoners, and that is one objection to capital punishment – then it seems that putting them to death is in fact more humane than leaving them alive, unable to kill, unable to reach that release. But that is just my opinion.

The problem, of course, with capital punishment in the U.S. is the fact that trials seem to be a hodgepodge of misinformation, perjuries, bad defense lawyers, overzealous prosecutors, and ignorant juries. Not every trial, of course, but enough for me to realize that allowing the death penalty in a country where people don’t necessarily get a fair trial is serial killing of a different nature.

The case that is most pressing on my mind is that of Philip Workman, who is scheduled to die on May 9th for robbery and murder of a police officer. The very informative Sharon Cobb recently posted a short documentary with some information about the Workman case, and this led me to explore a little further. Watching the documentary (I’m posting it here, as well) and reading a little more about the case, it is clear to me that at the very least there is reasonable doubt as to whether Workman actually shot the police officer. In fact, I have to wonder if he wasn’t actually shot by another cop, simply because of all the coercion of witnesses and facts that seems to surround this case, but I suppose that point is moot now. The main goal is to keep an innocent man from dying for a crime he didn’t commit. At the end of the documentary there is information about how to contact the governor of Tennessee about this case.

Another man possibly wrongfully accused and facing a death sentence in Ohio is Joe D’Ambrosio. Luckily, last year a judge ordered that D’Ambrosio be retried or released within 180 days. I cannot find any details (it has been over 180 days since the order) on the outcome of his case. I hope he finally got a fair trial. This site recounts many people’s stories of false accusation and imprisonment, and I am sure there are others.

I have to wonder what we do when the America that judges the world can’t even judge itself. I expect more of my country than this.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A short word of advice

When you attend a lecture of an erudite nature, it does not behoove you to use movies such as Groundhog Day* as an example to prove a point. Sure, the movie might raise some philosophical/moral/ethical questions, but unless you can make your point eloquently without going on and on and on about how brilliant the movie is, most people will look at you as if you’ve gone round the bend.

*not that I am in any way, shape or form criticizing this movie, because we all know that Bill Murray is a genius.

Cellphones v2.0 (the serious side)

You know, I think back sometimes (not too far back, 6-7 years perhaps) when we (most of us) didn't have cellphones.

What were we missing? I see people cling to their phones, jump at the slightest vibration, take it out and look at it every 5 minutes, making sure they didn't somehow miss the ring. Very amusing when a common ringtone sounds and 5-6 people check their cells, or even just answer. Fast. Time's a-wastin'

Why? What is so god damn important now that wasn't before? What is it that we were lacking 10 years ago, that fills our void now?

I hate cellphones. Hate them. I routinely leave mine at home when I go out. "But we won't be able to reach you".


When I am out, I would like to not hear from my buddies, my work, my patients, the telemarketers. I do not care if I won two new ringtones (download now!!!), I do not care how the DOW did, I do not care if two bombs exploded in my neighborhood. I really don't. There will be time to find out all that when I come back. When I reach my landline, when I turn on my TV. When I'm out, I'm OUT.

I hope this doesn't sound too angry or callous - it is not my intent. But, did I mention? I hate cellphones. They destroy the environment (in more ways than one, do a google search and see), they destroy private time and they damage interpersonal relations.

The only reason I don't toss mine away? They are handy to have in the car in case you break down - and yes. In case some family tragedy befalls one.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Why won't the ringing stop?

For the love of all that is good and holy, and the sanity of the rest of us, when you go to a movie, especially a movie presentation with an introduction by an invited speaker, turn your fraking cell phone off. And I mean off, completely off, as in NO VIBRATING, because when someone is talking and five vibrating cell phones go off in my general vicinity I can't tell whether I am in imminent danger of being electrocuted or if a phalanx of bees is about to sting me to death.

Honestly, if you can't turn your flipping phone off for two hours then there is no saving you you don't need to be attending such events. I don't care if you are expecting a call from God, Zeus, or a gold-shitting leprechaun, turn the damn thing off or DON'T COME.

There. I feel much better now.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The near death of an iPodestrian

Whenever my husband and I walk around the city, we bear witness to any number of “close calls” – cars almost hitting other cars or pedestrians, pedestrians balancing so close to the edge of the sidewalk they almost get hit by passing buses, motorcycles risking dangerous maneuvers, etc.. It seems that even if a pedestrian has the right of way here, all bets are off, especially when it comes to taxis. Cross the street at your own peril – and many pedestrians often do. It is the only way to get anywhere in the city. Walking in the city wasn’t totally virgin territory to me, I did go to high school in the middle of downtown Nashville. But if I thought traffic was bad there, boy is it bad here. And Thessaloniki is nowhere near as bad as Athens.

So even though I was used to walking in city traffic, I was definitely not prepared for walking in Greek cities. At first I was a timid mouse, never wanting to cross the street unless I was absolutely sure nothing would hit me. But as I’ve gotten used to our Thessaloniki neighborhood I’ve picked up on some of the aggression of the locals. I know the traffic light patterns, I know when I can cross, and I know what to watch out for. I’m almost at the point of showing my aggression with a big smack on the back of the car when some asshat decides to turn onto Agia Sophia even though there is a throng of pedestrians crossing with the right of way, but so far, I’ve refrained.

Pedestrians here seem to be unusually skilled in walking while talking on cellphones. I can’t walk and talk at the same time. Well, that makes me sound like an idiot. I can walk and talk, but I can’t walk and make nice on a cellphone. Something about talking on a phone requires my complete attention, and since I never mastered the whole patting my head while rubbing my tummy thing (hey, at least I can tell time!), walking and using a cellphone is downright impossible. But most people in Greece seem to be able to make the most adept maneuvers while walking and talking, especially if they have one of those earplug attachments that makes me think we are living in a nation of absolute nutters until I see the wire hanging out of their ear.

Yet, others don’t quite seem to have the hang of walking and iPodestriating. While my husband and I were out the other night, we watched a young woman, totally absorbed in her iPod, step right out into the road in front of a vehicle. Luckily this particular vehicle wasn’t moving as quickly as vehicles usually do, and it waited while Miss iPod stood in the middle of the street, apparently distracted by the voices in her head, and decided, at the last minute, to turn back around and disappear back into the portal she stepped out of. She did finally notice the car as she turned around, but she was saved by the red light. Still, she remained completely unfazed, as if her alien commanders had forgotten to explain to her about cars and their function in this brave new world.

This young woman illustrated one of the reasons I hate distracting devices such as iPods. You just don’t pay attention well enough when you have shit in your ears. I have to have total awareness of my environment to feel comfortable – I don’t even like wearing headphones at home. But I am sure, after some time, Greeks will adapt themselves well to commuting with an iPod. Survival demands it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A telltale sign

We know that spring has arrived here on our little bay in Greece because the swallows have arrived in force, and full of life. I love watching them, they move so fast and fly so high, and every once in awhile one will dive bomb me repeatedly when I hang the laundry, to my great delight. Sometimes I wonder what stories they have to tell of their winter travels - did they dance around the pyramids, fly up and down the Nile? Did they perch on the face of the sphinx? Did they bathe on the shores of Africa? They'll never tell, but it is fun to imagine. All I know is that their return in the spring is as predictable as the blooming flowers, and each year I look forward to seeing our happy little swallows again.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The wonderful world of animation

I thought I would share with the world a sampling of the work of a good friend of mine. I must warn you, however - I am proud to say it is highly offensive, somewhat immoral, and some of the best X-rated humor for twisted minds. It is most definitely not work safe, depending on where you work, of course. For those of you who still want to watch it, enjoy.

Poodle Tails: Strange Tales From The Pink Poodle

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Only a mother's love can sprout flowers from stone


Demeter shed giant tears of anger and sadness the day Hades stole her beloved daughter away from her fertile mountain home. The nymphs found their punishment as sirens, and the earth became barren while mother and daughter were apart. But the salty, wet grief of the earthen goddess planted magic seeds all over the world that would sprout flowers whether on soil, brick, or mortar as soon as Demeter and her chthonic daughter were again reunited. Dear Persephone, welcome back to the world of the living, where the land blooms again.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Death in America, an ode to siblings

It was a crisp, clear, bright autumn day, the kind of day you drink in with every essence of your being. I was sleepy, woken early by my parents for the drive from Nashville to Blacksburg. But I was excited. Not only were we attending a Virginia Tech football game, I was going to see my brother, a student at VT and horn player in the marching band. The campus was quiet, beautiful, almost idyllic, and I was overwhelmed by my first views of college life.

My brother attended Virginia Tech in the mid-80’s and graduated with a degree in nuclear engineering. His devotion to his alma mater has continued, as an alumnus and frequently attending football games. It isn’t surprising, the mood of the campus that day was intoxicating, and had I showed any inclination towards engineering, science or mathematics, I might have returned there for my own college education. Blacksburg itself was a village filled with charm and friendly people, hip hangouts and the best record store I had ever been in.

I am grieving the shootings at Virginia Tech, the shots that rang out across the peaceful campus, killing many, wounding others, and deafening the ears of college students that today learned one of the hardest lessons life can teach. I mourn the deaths with the families, friends, and teachers, and wish them all peace in the days and months ahead. But mostly I mourn for the siblings who, unlike me, will never again have the joy of seeing their brother or sister on campus after a sleepy drive through the fog laden mountains to that small college town that has lost so much today.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Irony is as irony does

Peaceful demonstrators in Moscow, out to protest what they claim to be Putin's trampling of democratic freedoms, were rounded up by Russian police and arrested to quash hopes of demonstrations against the Russian president.

And yet Mr. Putin denies trampling on democracy, and accuses the protesters of destabilizing Russia. Yes, demanding free elections does cause chaos in a country. You wouldn't want that.

I know Russia is supposed to be new and improved, but I'm having my doubts, between mysterious journalist deaths, radiation poisoning and let's not forget the Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko's bout with poison.

I still think it isn't the Middle East we have to worry about. My greatest fear is Russia and China forming a strong alliance, and Russia kicking off all the oil supplies to Europe towards China instead. With their growing amiability, I wouldn't be surprised.

He must have been worshipped by Pharaohs


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Because we don't want those old crappy 7 wonders anymore

I don't know who had the grand idea to do this, and I think I've blogged about it before, but time is quickly passing to vote for the NEW! 7 Wonders of the World, which will be announced on July 7th.
Everything up for voting has been built or discovered before the year 2000. The Greek government is really pushing a vote for the Acropolis, but I don't know if that is fair, since the Acropolis was on the Ancient Wonders list.

Check out all the merchandising too. They are really going whole hog on this one. If this banner doesn't convince you to vote, nothing will.

Vote for the new 7 world wonders

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Seattle of the Balkans, a hexagon on Saturn, and Jesus is Lord Kirk

It hasn’t been a very good week. I’m always in a bit of funk around Easter, and to add insult to injury, my parents had to euthanize one of their cats who incidentally was my first cat. Yes, I abandoned her, because I moved to an apartment that didn’t allow cats at the time, and my parents took her in. But it doesn’t mean I’m not sad to see her go. She had kidney failure – not because of the pet food scandal, but because of old age (she was nearly 18). Meow, dear Isadora. You were a fine feline.

I’ve had headaches almost every night, probably because of the sudden return of meat and cheese to my diet. No, actually, I’m almost sure it is an allergy thing, what with the nice weather and having windows and doors open all the time.

At any rate, since I’m not in any shape to entertain, here are a few tidbits from around the web to titillate.

Firstly, there is this fabulous article about Thessaloniki in the New York Times by a fabulous journalist I had the pleasure of meeting a month or so ago. A slice:

Although Salonika, called Thessaloniki in Greece, often loses tourist-brochure headlines to Athens, its growing appeal as a youthful city with an intriguing multiethnic history and an arty counterculture is turning it into something of a Seattle of the Balkans.

Secondly, what the HELL is going on with the hexagon over the North Pole of Saturn? Sure, there are lots of geometric shapes occurring naturally in the universe, but a hexagon? What makes those angles???

And thirdly, the biggest showdown in the Nashville blogosphere since the gas guy was actually a girl, blogger Kat Coble has been threatened with a lawsuit by a business she reviewed honestly on her site. Here is her post detailing the initial response by JL Kirk and Associates, and her posts regarding the lawsuit. The blogsophere is exploding with posts about this, including this really funny one. Does freedom of speech include the right for a business to sue over a bad review? In this case, I don’t think so, because Ms. Coble’s post was opinion and commentary of her own experience, not libelous. Should she be forced to remove the posts? I don’t think so. Did the company in question shoot their own foot with this whole imbroglio? I’m thinking yes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The "relatives" strike back!

Remember this post?

They have struck again! I brought the envelope up with me on my way home and then went into the kitchen or something. When I came back, Mel had the card displayed on my desk, an evil grin on her face.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

24 hours and counting

Well, my husband made his weird, very Christian Good Friday post. I'm not nearly as excited about the prospects of the resurrection, which is obviously difficult when I'm in doubt of the man's existence in the first place. Even so, the Greek Orthodoxites know how to celebrate this week, I'll give them that much. Beautiful services, melodious chants - the whole kit and caboodle. This piece (the 15th Antiphon) is my favorite of the holy week, although the version I linked to is in English (hubby came through with a nice Greek version that can be found here). My husband attended tonight's marathon 3 hour Epitaph ceremony, but I stayed home so I could watch the processionals from the comfort of our balcony, as you can see here:

More importantly, we have just under 24 hours to go in our fasting period. It has been a long 47 days, filled with some good and some bad vegan experiments. Still, I learned a lot, and it will be nice having all these recipes for Wednesdays, Fridays, the two-week fast in August and again at Christmas. I think we've learned how to cut back on our meat consumption, especially red meat, and will hopefully eat more responsibly from now on.

To the Orthodox, kali anastasi; to all other Christians, Happy Easter; to the Jews, Happy Passover and to everyone else, I'm sorry I don't know which holidays you might be celebrating right now so I'll just say be well.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Μεγάλη Παρασκευή

Well, we've done it. We have silenced that annoying jew. The Praetor is safe in his mansion and the Tetrarch can continue lulling our ears with comfortable lies. He's dead. Whipping, stinging, nails-to-the-wood, lance-to-the-side dead. Whew! For a minute there we thought we might have had to face some hard questions, but no. We can keep walking with our eyes closed, that annoying voice silenced forever.

Or is it.

Inventing vegan stromboli


Even though I’m not much of a cook, one thing I am known for is my stromboli. Stromboli is a mainstay of our diet here in the Greek-American household. Normally, however, I load it up with a gut busting amount of mozzarella, veggies, and meats, but that doesn’t exactly work when you are fasting. Earlier in the fasting period I tried making it with shredded soy cheese and veggies, but because soy cheese is so salty and seems to be in the same family as candle wax, I couldn’t use enough of it to really fill the stromboli.

After I made the lasagna last week I had an epiphany. I could use a similar filling, with a few minor changes, add the veggies and voilá! Nice, fat vegan stromboli.

Vegan Stromboli

Crust (this is actually the “New” Betty Crocker Pizza Crust recipe I think – it has been in my head so long I can’t be certain):

1 package yeast
1 C. warm water
2 ½ C. flour
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
3 T. olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add flour, sugar, salt, olive oil, and mix well. I usually knead it for a bit, but it isn’t required. Let rise for an hour or until double in size.


6 oz frozen spinach, thawed and ground in food processor
350 grams silken tofu
¼ pound grated soy cheese
1 t. oregano
½ t. basil
pinch of salt

Mash the tofu, then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Chop vegetables as desired. I usually use green pepper, onion, and copious amounts of garlic, but mushrooms, olives, zucchini, and other veggies are good too. If you like your veggies pre-cooked, you might want to sauté them a bit, but I like them crunch so I don’t.

Heat oven to 400 (200 Celsius). Punch dough, separate into to four to six balls (depending on how big your want your stromboli – you can also make it into one or two large strombolis if you like, to be cut up and served). Flatten each ball against your palm and then spread out on greased pizza or cookie sheet. Spread filling on one side, add veggies, then roll the other side over the filling (in a half moon shape) and press the dough together to close. Cook for about 15 minutes or until browned. Serve with warmed pasta sauce, top with grated soy cheese if desired.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What the frak

You wouldn't know it from this picture, but Nala is actually a Cylon.


Actually, she's a NYLON!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Beer, bratwurst, and boot-scootin'

The lovely Dixie Peach enlightened us about a country music establishment in Magdeburg, Germany, called Nashville Saloon. I have to say I find the whole German fascination with all things country quite amusing. I’m not sure why, but of all the countries in Europe to have country music fans, Germany seems the least likely. But, if I think about it, the German predisposition for drinking copious amounts of real beer and drunken revelry kinda goes along with the whole country music scene (admittedly, this view of Germans comes solely from reports on Oktoberfest and from drunken German tourists we often ran into on Kos). But, since Magdeburg is an official sister city of Nashville, perhaps it all makes even more sense.

It seems the owners of the Nashville Saloon visited Nashville, and of course, the Wildhorse Saloon, to get ideas and inspiration (and probably kitsch) for their establishment. At the end of this page, they call Nashville “an elegant southern state metropolis where the future lives in the present”. Indeed. Maybe I should consider opening something similar here in Thessaloniki, thus contributing to the domination of the world by all things Nashville. Hey, if I can’t live in Nashville, I might as well bring Nashville to me!

Monday, April 02, 2007

There's no crying in baseball

Here we are again. Opening Day of the baseball season is upon us, and as I look through our satellite listings I see not one mention of baseball for the next month. I highly doubt I'll see any mention of baseball for the entire season, but a little hope goes a long way. Sure, I can pay $40 or whatever it is to watch games live over the internet, but since these games take place in the wee hours of the morning my time it doesn't really make much sense. Besides, baseball not watched in person or on a proper television is not baseball at all.

Instead of continuing to bitch and complain, I'll link to the Salem's Lots Opening Day post.

Batter up!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The way life should be

If only we would all grow old, be happy, and behave like the old people in my favorite video. I had to share this today, the song is beautiful, and the video always brings a smile to my face.