Thursday, May 31, 2007

The April 16th Archive

Sponsored by the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and in partnership with the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, the April 16th archive is a collection of news stories, blog posts, and other online resources about the Virginia Tech tragedy on April 16th, 2007. The archive is a joint effort between Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff, and is a nice memorial for the media age.

They are still looking for contributions, so if you wrote about the events at Virginia Tech and would like to submit your post to the archive, go here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Time is running out

A 90-something retired British teacher hired a cab to bring her 3000 kilometers to the Northern Greek city of Naoussa in order to see the site where Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle.
Accompanied by a nurse, she toured the site for 30 minutes before getting back into the cab and returning home to the U.K. One has to wonder how much round trip cab fare from the U.K. to Greece costs.

She said that it had always been her dream to see the place where the famous philosopher tutored the heir to the Macedonian throne and other nobles in 342 BC.

I gotta hand it to her, she knew time was running out and she still had this on her "must do before I die" list. Like her, I'm keeping parts of my list until I'm well into my 90's, because I don't want to get done with my list and thus be free to shuffle off this mortal coil. No need to tempt fate by doing it all too soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I can't even imagine a plotline

In the category of "who could conceive of such a thing?" it seems that a movie - a comedy, of course - is in the works about the Eurovision Song Contest. The screenwriter for Borat is involved with the project, so I suppose it could be funny, but honestly, I think the show speaks for itself. It doesn't really require a movie to tell its story. American audiences can't even begin to imagine what Eurovision is like until they see it for themselves, which is another reason a movie just can't do it justice.

Of course, despite all this, I will go see it. I am, after all, a victim of popular culture. And if it is half as funny as Borat I'll be laughing my head off, which is always a pleasant experience.

Friday, May 25, 2007

On to the Senate, please support H.R. 1192/S. 1359

I wrote earlier this month asking my fellow Americans to write to their representatives to support H.R. 1192, also known as the Lupus R.E.A.C.H. Amendments. We are up to 51 co-sponsors in the House which is excellent, but we still need more. And now we need you to write to your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor S. 1359. Follow this link, enter your zip code, and use the simple form letter (or write your own) asking your Senator to co-sponsor the Lupus R.E.A.C.H. Amendments. If you still haven't contacted your Representative and would like to, you can enter your zip code and proceed to the form letter from this page.

For a list of Senators already co-sponsoring S. 1359, go here.

For a list of Representatives already co-sponsoring H.R. 1192, go here.

Many, many thanks to the people who have already written their Representatives in support of the Lupus R.E.A.C.H. Amendments. I appreciate your time immensely.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Since Saturday Thessaloniki has been awash with torrents and torrents of rain. Not all day, every day, but over the course of each day we've had some powerful storms, providing us with much needed rain. It is a blessing, as the winter was so dry, farmers and wildlife were beginning to suffer, and honestly, Greece doesn't need to be any drier in the summer than it normally is. It would be nice if we could avoid some of those devastating fires that happen every year, although I'm sure that is wishful thinking.

At any rate, I'm enjoying the cool, rainy weather while it lasts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I was wondering how long it would take bees to come to a realization exactly why their colonies were diminishing, and pay us back for it.

Our mobile phone waves might be interfering with their navigation systems, but it seems as if they still know how to track humans and give us a good ol' fashioned swarm scare:

Authorities evacuated the area Saturday after the swarm of about 3,000 bees emerged from the woods around the West Noble High School football field, where 700 people were participating in a fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society.

My momma always told me not to mess with bees. I'm thinking maybe she was right.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A taste one never forgets


My parents would come wake me just after dawn on those blurry summer mornings. The air was still crisp and cool, with a heavy dew weighing down the grass under my feet. As the sun rose, a shadowy light encompassed the pristine green fields – rows and rows of fresh, ripe strawberries just waiting to be picked. I never particularly liked the picking part – my hands would get scratched and sore and I was still drowsy from the stolen hours of sleep. But I did like the results of the picking – the most flavorful, colorful, juicy strawberries you could ever eat, perfect for pies, shortcakes, on cereal, or even just on their own.

My parents stopped going to the “pick them yourself” strawberry fields eventually, mainly because supermarket strawberries became more and more affordable, and somehow it just wasn’t worth the price of gas (or the sound of whining children) to drive an hour or two out of town to get fresh strawberries. Supermarket berries just never tasted the same. Sure they were good, they were strawberries after all, but they didn’t have that rich, juicy – almost electric – flavor of a fresh picked berry.

It has been years - twenty? twenty-five? – since I’ve tasted such a strawberry, but the memory of it has remained in my taste buds. At the beginning of May, a new produce shop opened up right across the street from us, and when we bought our first strawberries there, I thought they looked extremely fresh. When I took my first bite I knew – these weren’t any ordinary supermarket strawberries, these babies were fresh picked, probably the same day! What paradise had I stumbled upon?

My husband and I can’t get enough of these berries. They are so delicious, so juicy, so fabulous. And just for a second they take me back to sleepy summer mornings in Tennessee, when I would steal a fresh picked strawberry from the bag in the back seat of the car and pop it into my mouth, before curling up and falling asleep for the long drive back home.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I've definitely learned to be more careful...

When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of building my own home. Well, not doing the actual physical work of building it myself, because I hardly think any seven year old girl ever dreams of being a contractor. Tool belts and butt crack pants just never appealed to me. But the whole idea of designing my own home from scratch, from the floor plans to the tiles to the kitchen to the closets was something I always wanted (despite the fact that I never ever had any aspirations to actually become an architect). Now, however, I’m learning the truth to the phrase “be careful what you wish for” – because now that I have a house to design (well, all the innards, the architecture was done by someone who actually knows what they are doing), I’m realizing what a huge job it is.

“The devil is in the details” is another cliché I am quickly beginning to understand. There are so many things to making a newly built house move-in ready, if it wasn’t for the fact that my in-laws already had everything in mind I think my husband and I would screw up royally. From bars on the basement windows to fireproof doors on the boiler room to closets, bathroom accessories, and all the other bits and pieces that magically appear in finished houses, we gotta come up with everything. And after the initial picking out of flooring, paint, tiles, and whatnot - which was relatively exciting - the rest of it is just getting a bit tiresome, especially when you don’t have any clear idea of how exactly you want things to be. The kitchen was relatively easy – I knew what I wanted there, and aside from picking out which of the various kitchens different places had designed for us, there wasn’t much to that. But all the measuring, speculating, and trying to decide what goes where in bathrooms and bedrooms and living rooms is getting to be a bit too much.

The kitchen is finished, for the most part, aside from some finishing touches by the kitchen place, the electrician and plumber hooking things up, and buying chairs for the table. That is one giant necessary hurdle crossed. On Thursday we outfitted our upstairs bathroom, but not entirely. We decided to go with a family acquaintance carpenter for our bedroom furniture and cupboards, since what we have here is designated for the guest room (because by god, with a huge bedroom I’m going back to a king sized bed). But the carpenter can’t make plans until we find our mattress, since we can get two sizes in king sized mattresses here, and we will pick from whichever one is most comfortable for us. We aren’t even going to worry about the living room and dining room until after we get moved in, because those aren’t absolutely necessary. And I suppose small things that don’t matter too much can come along in the future because we don’t need the perfect towel holder before we move in. But this is our house, and we want things to be the way we want them. We screw up on a major purchase and that is that, we are stuck, for a few years anyway.

I’m sure this whole business is stressing me way more than it should, because I am some kind of freak of nature who gets uber stressed by things, from the tiniest, most insignificant things to the biggest, most important things. Despite all this I am super psyched to finally move into our own house, with all the innards designed exactly to our specifications. I can only blame myself, or my husband, for what I don’t like. Our view is spectacular (see below), the breezes are pleasant, the birds are always singing and the traffic is non-existent. It will be a little piece of heaven compared to city life. But for now, I just gotta get through the hard part.
olympus view

Friday, May 18, 2007

The storm


His thunderous voice cracked with anger, splashing across the sea from his mountain throne. Zeus’ ire had awakened again, doubtless caused by Hera’s tricky ways. As his voice rumbled, the skies bled into darkness, and rain poured forth with furious strength. It wasn’t the first time – nor would it be the last – that the mortals paid a price for his rage. As ships faltered in the tempestuous sea, people on land rushed for shelter. Only the Titans had faced harsher punishment in the face of Zeus’ wrath. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before a word or deed pleased the mighty Olympion, and Helios was granted favor to drive his chariot across the sky, bringing light and warmth to the Hellenes once again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beware of this debit/credit card scam

I’ve fallen victim to a run-of-the-mill credit card scam, and I thought I’d post about it so others out there are aware of it. When I was looking over my banking statement this month, I noticed a charge of $9.95 to a company called KCSoft LLC. Well, not having done any business with such a company (in fact, not having used my debit card in a couple of months) I did some research, and found plenty of information about this scam. Apparently the “company” somehow generates random credit card numbers, and charges them $9.95, ostensibly for blank web site templates. This fraudulent behavior has been going on since 2004, apparently, and since each charge is so small, most banks won’t investigate further. It seems many people don’t even notice the charge, as they don’t check their credit card statements thoroughly – a charge so small doesn’t stand out.

At any rate, look out for this one. Maybe if enough banks are dealing with this on a regular enough basis, they will do something about it. I have to admit, these blackguards have a pretty sweet deal going on, a charge so small nobody notices. But how they get lucky with the credit card numbers is beyond me. I haven’t used my debit card online in quite some time, and the last time I did use it I took cash out of a machine, so I don’t think they got it that way. Not to mention I am super duper careful about such things, I’m usually the one who schools others about being scammed.

Now, I don’t know if this scam applies to credit cards outside the U.S. (my debit card is still on a U.S. bank account), but it can’t hurt to keep an eye out anyway.

Monday, May 14, 2007


When we lived in Athens, we had upstairs neighbors who were constantly moving their furniture – what sounded like heavy pieces of furniture. It happened around the same time every evening, and it eventually became a joke in our household. We would speculate on the need for daily movement, and decided, ultimately, that they were hiding bodies in the wall behind a huge wardrobe. One kill a day would be pretty prolific even for a Ted Bundy. Sometimes we would be watching television and the sounds would get so loud and so ridiculous (often with massive amounts of squeaking) we couldn’t help but burst into laughter. If only our cats knew there was a gigantic mouse living above us. I can’t help but imagine what the sound of those kitties mad dashing over the floors sounds like to neighbors below. Maybe stories have been invented about us.

Since then we have had pretty quiet neighbors in our various residences, with seemingly light footed people. When we first moved in here we had a rather tumultuous couple living upstairs, but they have since moved out, and the apartment was sold a few months ago. Of course, I expected that when the apartment was bought a certain amount of work would be done. That seems to be the status quo on new apartment purchases in Greece: buy an apartment, tear all the walls down, and redo it your own way. This process of course involves lots of unpleasant noise, however, it is usually only during certain hours. Our new neighbors did not seem to care to uphold by the siesta rule, or the working late at night rule, and the work went on whenever they damn well pleased. Good for them.

When they were finally finished, we heard the typical moving in noises – lots of furniture and heavy things being moved around, hammers, etc. Since then, they seem to have a need to move one giant piece of furniture throughout the day, back and forth, scratching and screeching and shaking the whole building. These people put new meaning into the whole idea of moving shit around. And they just don’t ever seem to stop.

I’m sure we’ll get used to it eventually, and find the humor in it just as we did in Athens. But I still want to know what exactly is going on up there, lest someday it is my body they are trying to stow away.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Euro-bleh-vision 2007

This year’s Eurovision was a complete bust. While overall I think the songs and presentations were more creative and entertaining, the winning song performed by Serbian artist Marija Šerifovic was just, well, blah, in my opinion, quite an ordinary ballad (you can listen for yourself if you want). I miss the excitement of last year’s Lordi win. I guess they all can’t be so crazy.

My favorite song was the Irish entry performed by the band Dervish, who were at the bottom of the barrel in the betting pools. It was a traditional Irish song, which, as far as I’m concerned, you just can’t go wrong with in any situation. I also enjoyed the Georgian entry entitled Visionary Dream, performed by Sopho. It was unique and had a bit of a Garbage-like air about it. Also of note, for the sheer absurdity of it all, was the Ukranian entry. It was pure entertainment. Hubby liked the Romanian (multi-language), Hungarian (blues), and German (Sinatraesque) songs.

At least Greece qualified for next year. They don’t need to host another one for awhile, anyway, after last year's extravaganza.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Some days there isn't anything better than having a coffee by the sea and watching the sun slowly drop into the horizon.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

An eye for an eye

Philip Workman was executed by the state of Tennessee this morning for a crime he swears he did not commit, a crime of which the evidence certainly leaves reasonable doubt of his guilt. I know a lot of folks are saying "he committed the robbery, which led to the police presence, which led to the officer getting shot, and in the state of Tennessee that is a crime punishable by death". Well, apparently at the time he committed the robbery that wasn't on the lawbooks in TN. But to me, that doesn't matter. I am not against the death penalty, but such use of capital punishment goes too far in my mind. I can understand it for the straight up killing of a cop, but for the death of a cop just because he responded to a robbery call and got shot by some other cop not paying attention (honestly, they were shooting at one guy, weren't they? kinda hard to miss your target and shoot another cop, isn't it?).

I've known a lot of cops in my lifetime, some of them were real good people, others were the devil inside. But they all knew what the job was about and that any rinky ass call could lead to their death. What kind of bulls**t crap can a law like that bring out? So a cop responds to a domestic violence call in the projects, arrives on the scene, the wife-beating husband pulls out a rifle and shoots the cop, and so the wife gets the death penalty too? I bet the law can be construed that way, when it is convenient. What about if a cop pulls me over for speeding and gets swiped and killed by another car while standing there writing me a ticket? Am I responsible then? Where do you draw the line?

It took 17 minutes for Philip Workman to die by lethal injection. One of the drugs used has been listed as unsafe for animal euthanasia.

I'm for capital punishment, but not under these conditions. I expect all convicts to get due process and I expect the execution to be humane. Yet we give human beings something a vet wouldn't even give a dog. Classy. You aren't going to win over the right to capital punishment by bungling s**t up this way.

Monday, May 07, 2007

You are where you eat

The lovely Yianna has tagged me for a tasty restaurant meme, which entails the following rules:

  1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the state and country you're in:
    Nicole Tan (Sydney, Australia)
    velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
    LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
    Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
    Olivia (London, England)
    ML (Utah, USA)
    Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
    Yianna (Athens, Greece)
    Melusina (Thessaloniki, Greece)
2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

3. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Ok, let’s keep it interesting. I tag:

Sandra, Here in Korea

Kim, Stepping Stones (Tirana, Albania)

Cynthia Rae, Re-Boot, A New Life in Italy

Vol Abroad, The Vol Abroad (London)

Michael, Chez Bez (Nashville, TN, USA)

Now, none of y’all have to feel obliged here (especially Vol, what with the impending Cletus arrival), but it would be interesting to read about where y’all eat.

I’m perhaps not the best person for a restaurant meme, because I am one of those adults with the culinary tastes of a seven-year-old (yes, I could eat pizza every day). I don’t even like the traditional Greek fare of moussaka and pastitsio, because I need to keep my food simple. But we have made our way to a few restaurants here in Thessaloniki, and while most of them I have listed before, I’ll list them again (and yes, we have been to different places, but I like what I like, dammit).

1) Οπτά Πυρί (Opta Pyri), Athonos Square. This place is the traditional Greek taverna, with all kinds of meats and side dishes, but I especially like the κολοκυθοκεφτέδες (mashed fried zucchini in a patty). They have live music at night in the summertime, and are quite reasonably priced.

2) Ούζου Μέλαθρον (Ouzoo Melathron), right off of Venizelou near Tsimiski. This place has a kitcshy, fun feel to it, although the menu might be a bit daunting for folks unfamiliar with Greek fare. Also, the names of some of the dishes might be considered offensive by some prudish types (one dish is called “Maria’s Boobs” and it actually resembles boobs). Also reasonably priced, maybe a bit more expensive than your average taverna.

3) Extrablatt, Alex. Svolou 46. All types of sausages and meat dishes. A plethora of beer choices. Interesting artwork, nice atmosphere. A little pricier than most, expect to spend some money on your meal here, but it is well worth it.

4) Κουρδιστό Γουρούνι (Kourdisto Gourouni), 31, Agias Sofias. Another beer laden restaurant, with good sausages and roast meats, and the best fried potatoes in all of Greece. Again, a little more expensive than the average taverna, but oh so worth it.

5) Pizza Preludio, Justinianus 24, tel. 2310.252046. Yep, I had to do it. I had to include my favorite pizza place. How could I not? I actually don’t know if they have a place to eat in the restaurant, but hey, if you are in the Thessaloniki city centre just call ‘em up and have them deliver. The pizza is fabulous (the crust, divine), and their pasta is pretty damn tasty too.

Extra, extra! Read all about it...

I guess it is time for me to catch up with some memes, which I am notoriously bad at. I’ll start with this magazine meme, since it is the easiest. I was tagged by CaliforniaKat, who was tagged by DeviousDiva.

What magazines do you read?

  1. Time
  2. U.S. Cosmo, when I decide I want it badly enough to spend 10 euros on it (hey, I know, I know, but it is like junk food for your brain, full of mocktacular content)

Yep, that is it. Since I don’t read Greek very fluently, and U.S. magazines cost an arm and a leg here (see above), I don’t splurge on magazines very often. I’d rather save my cash for books. Even if I were in America these days (unless in a doctor’s office) I don’t think I would read many, because magazines got dull to me before I moved here. The good ones I really liked (Utne Reader, Spy, George) either changed too much or went defunct. I was more likely to pick up a random litjournal00 than a magazine.

Magazines I wouldn’t touch?

  1. Juggs (not work or children safe) – or really any of their publishing empire
  2. Playboy (sorry Hef, not even for the articles)

(but I would still buy Hustler if I was interested, because Larry Flynt is a personal hero of mine)

Well, not very interesting, of me, I know. And I’m breaking the chain by not tagging people, but hey, knock yourself out if you wanna do it.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

No female Prez for France

Sarkozy has won the French election, at the expense of a female holding the office. Not that I am a supporter of Royal, I think she has said some really irresponsible things, and her plans for her presidency, while nice in an ideal world, just didn't seem to make any practical sense (well, or at least, they would have cost more money than I think could have been covered, but she is a pure socialist, so there you go). Sarkozy is kinda dry, though, I really kinda liked Bayrou, but center liners never make the cut. Still, it ain't my country. Let the French do what they will. I really hope Sarkozy is good for them, funny face and all.

Now, if only the U.S. would hold elections the same way - on a Sunday, with a strict no campaigning day the day before. I mean really, people need to chill for at least 24 hours on that crap. It is nice that European countries allow for that.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Help enact the Lupus REACH Amendments, H.R. 1192

I've shared with the world the story of my life with lupus, and now I'm asking any Americans who read this blog to help. It will just take a few minutes to email your U.S. Representative asking him or her to cosponsor the Lupus REACH Amendments of 2997, H.R. 1192, which will significantly enhance efforts to understand and treat lupus. The Amendments will increase lupus research, support vital lupus epidemiology studies and data collection, and authorize programs to heighten public and professional awareness of lupus.

There are currently 40 cosponsors, but we need 395 more. So if your representative isn't on the following list, please write by using this simple form, and ask your representative to get on board with H.R. 1192. If you feel so inclined, I'd appreciate if you'd pass this information along to family and friends, but don't spam them!

Thank you for your support.

Current Cosponsors of the Lupus REACH Amendments of 2007 (H.R. 1192)

Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] - 3/7/2007
Rep Berry, Marion [AR-1] - 4/18/2007
Rep Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [GA-2] - 4/18/2007
Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3] - 4/25/2007
Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] - 2/27/2007
Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23] - 3/1/2007
Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] - 4/24/2007
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] - 3/27/2007
Rep Diaz-Balart, Lincoln [FL-21] - 3/12/2007
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] - 4/16/2007
Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] - 3/27/2007
Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] - 4/17/2007
Rep Gerlach, Jim [PA-6] - 3/6/2007
Rep Goode, Virgil H., Jr. [VA-5] - 4/16/2007
Rep Gordon, Bart [TN-6] - 4/16/2007
Rep Green, Al [TX-9] - 3/27/2007
Rep Green, Gene [TX-29] - 4/17/2007
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 3/5/2007
Rep Hare, Phil [IL-17] - 4/16/2007
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] - 5/1/2007
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] - 3/5/2007
Rep Hooley, Darlene [OR-5] - 5/1/2007
Rep Jackson-Lee, Sheila [TX-18] - 2/27/2007
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] - 3/23/2007

Rep Lewis, John [GA-5] - 2/27/2007
Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] - 5/1/2007
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 4/16/2007
Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5] - 4/18/2007
Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7] - 4/24/2007
Rep McHugh, John M. [NY-23] - 3/7/2007
Rep Ortiz, Solomon P. [TX-27] - 2/27/2007
Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4] - 3/22/2007
Rep Platts, Todd Russell [PA-19] - 4/16/2007
Rep Price, David E. [NC-4] - 4/16/2007
Rep Reyes, Silvestre [TX-16] - 3/1/2007

Rep Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana [FL-18] -2/27/2007

Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-1] - 3/5/2007
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 4/16/2007
Rep Sessions, Pete [TX-32] - 4/18/2007
Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] - 4/16/2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A dude and his car

To the person who has been trying to start their car non-stop for the past two hours:

Hey, I appreciate just as much as anyone the need to be mobile, and the need to not have ten billion things wrong with your car that will cost ten times more than the damn thing is worth to fix. But honestly, do you really think starting it over and over and over for two hours, pressing the gas constantly, doing god-knows-what to it in the process is going to make it start?

Normally, I wouldn’t be annoyed, but we are in that bittersweet period of weather that means we have all the doors and windows open which means that, even on the 6th floor, we hear every sound, smell every smell, and experience all the sweet, sweet life of the people that live around us. The malodorous whiff of cooking fish I can handle, even the screeching yells across balconies, but loud mechanical sounds I can’t. Especially loud mechanical sounds accompanied by pervasive gasoline odors. Hell, even the boys in the boondocks in America don’t keep trying for this long, and those f***ers know how to fix cars.

For the sake of my sanity, give it up, or pray harder. Hell, I’ll pray with you, if it will help make the noises stop.

EDIT, 5 minutes later: I'll be damned if the summabitch didn't just get the damn thing started! That is the power of blogging, my friends.