Friday, June 29, 2007

You, Firestarter

There are fires burning all over Greece today. These fires threaten homes and businesses and the habitats of the wildlife in these areas, and destroy the natural beauty of the forested areas of Greece. In addition, they add to the country’s carbon footprint and bring us one step closer to destruction by global warming.

So to the arsonists that start these fires, bravo. You are really doing your part in this world. I hope you enjoy your deforested property when parts of Greece have become desertified and the rest of Greece has been buried underneath the sea. You may not be alive to see that happen (and mayhaps you’ll be dancing in the flames of Hades), but I’m sure your descendants will be happy to know of your contribution to the world when their inheritance properties have lost all value.

Oh, and guess what, as of today you are murderers as well, since two men died when their vehicle was surrounded by the flames of the fires you started.

Today, I mourn for all the victims of these fires that plague Greece every year – the people, the wildlife, the beautiful forests. Thankfully, these fires cannot permanently damage the natural beauty of Greece’s vast blue shorelines and formidable mountain ranges, but unfortunately, they do damage the hearts and souls of the Greek people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Aesop's foibles

The heat is a bit more manageable today, ironically, we've lost power three times. Since we didn't crash and burn during the heavy usage days I figure it is a direct result of a substation fire on another grid.

The good thing about the power outage is I actually took some time to translate more of Aesop's fables (from Greek to English - yes, I do realize the book is for ages 8 and up, but hey, I fall in the "up" range!). The bad thing is I got more and more hot and cranky as time progressed, and it got harder to concentrate, so hard that I just starting making up words and meanings for words.

Unfortunately, I didn't have nearly enough time to cater to my new online addiction - this game. It is like playing pool only it's not.

Also, this site is fun. Don't readjust your browser window - it changes it for a reason!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Online Dating

Rated G? Me? The Queen of Crude? I must be acting extra polite on my blog these days. I'll have to do a post on Fucking like Flubberwinkle to get my rating to a more acceptable level.

The importance of being Greek

When someone emigrates to the U.S., they seemingly have a whole world of opportunities available to them. They can start a business, raise a family, and even become American. By “becoming American” I don’t simply mean they can gain U.S. citizenship. Since the U.S. isn’t based on any one culture or genetic ancestry, it is easy to just “be” American, if you want to be.

It certainly isn’t the same as moving to a country like Greece. I’m sure there is a bit of variety in the gene pool here, but for the most part, a Greek is a Greek. A Turk is a Turk, an Albanian an Albanian, a Brit a Brit, and so on. You don’t see hyphenated heritages here, no Chinese-Greeks, no Italian-Greeks, etc. For the most part, that does seem like a ridiculous prospect in a country like Greece (or really most European countries). These countries were not traditionally made up of “your tired, poor, huddled masses” – there was a specific ancestry that took on some immigration/invasion over the past few thousand years but for the most part, Greece did not absorb a large variety of immigrants from all over the world like the U.S. has. Greece has recently become a country that has taken in a large number of immigrants, especially from African and Middle Eastern countries, but the cultural identity hasn’t changed. You are what you are in Greece, and even second and third generation children of immigrants don’t seem to be able to call themselves Greek in the same way they’d be able to be American.

I’ve had numerous people ask me “what do you do to become more Greek?” The answer is nothing. I have no intention of becoming Greek, which is not to say I won’t learn the language or participate in the culture or immerse myself in the Greek way of life. But I know I cannot ever really be Greek, and even if I did have a swab of Greek blood in my ancestry, I think I would immediately be disqualified because of my intense hatred for all things seafood and my inability to enjoy the sun (or the heat). Yet I love Greece, I feel very protective of the country and its people, and I’d even cheer for the Greek national sporting teams over the U.S. ones if they came face to face. My favorite place in the world, which used to be Chestertown, Maryland, has been replaced by the beautiful Greek village of Litochoro. Greece is my home. The love of my life is Greek. I may never be Greek, but Greece is in my heart to stay.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How hot is it?

It is hot in Greece today. And to answer the question "how hot is it?" - it is so hot I sat in my air-conditioned apartment and read SCOTUS judgments all day.

Now that is pretty damn hot.

Judges rule: No bong hits 4 Jesus

The U.S. Supreme Court finally administered their opinion on the so-called “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”(legally known as Morse vs. Frederick) case yesterday, ruling in favor of the principal who suspended a student for refusing to put away a banner that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”.

The student, Joseph Frederick, along with some friends, had unfurled the banner across the street from his high school in Juneau, Alaska as the Olympic Torch Relay passed by in January, 2002. Principal Morse, assuming that the message on the banner was pro-drug (which is forbidden by Juneau school board policy), crossed the street and asked the students to take down the banner. All but Frederick complied, at which time Morse confiscated the banner and requested Frederick accompany her to her office, where she suspended him for ten days. Even though Frederick was officially off-campus at the time of the unfurling of the banner, witnessing the torch relay was an approved school activity, which binds him to the school board policy even if he is not on school grounds.

Frederick appealed the decision to the school superintendent, which stood by Principal Morse’s decision because of the assumption that the phrase “bong hits” meant marijuana and Frederick “was unwilling or unable” to express any other credible meaning to the phrase. Since, in their opinion, the banner only advocated the use of illegal drugs, and was not politically motivated (as to promote simply the legalization of marijuana), it was considered disruptive to the event.

Frederick then filed suit, alleging that the school had infringed upon his First Amendment rights. The District court ruled with the principal, stating that it was reasonable for her to believe that the banner promoted drug use and that “Morse had the authority to stop such messages at a school-sanctioned activity.”

However, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed the District decision, claiming that the “school punished Frederick without demonstrating that his speech gave rise to a risk of substantial disruption.” The court concluded that “Frederick’s right to display the banner was so clearly established that a reasonable principal in Morse’s position would have understood that her actions were unconstitutional, and that Morse was therefore not entitled to qualified immunity”.

So the Supreme Court was held to two questions: whether or not Frederick had a First Amendment right to display the banner, and if so, whether that right was “so clearly established that the principal may be held liable for damages”.

The Court admits that the message on the banner was cryptic. Frederick claimed that the banner was just nonsense, meant to attract television cameras. But Morse “thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use”. The ruling opinion of the Court agreed with Morse. Since Frederick cannot come up with any better explanation than the banner is “meaningless and funny”, the Court feels that the pro-drug interpretation gains more plausibility, since there seems to be no other interpretation aside from “nonsense”. Ultimately, the Court considered that the question “becomes whether a principal may, consistent with the First Amendment, restrict student speech at a school event, when that speech is reasonably viewed as promoting illegal drug use. We hold that she may.”

Justice Breyer, who concurred in part and dissented in part, concluded that “This Court need not and should not decide this difficult First Amendment issue on the merits. Rather, I believe that it should simply hold that qualified immunity bars the student’s claim for monetary damages and say no more.” He sees some concern in the ability of a school to restrict certain speech, including pro-drug speech, and when. He brings up the question of a student telling another student at lunch that a glaucoma patient should smoke marijuana, about deprecating commentary of an anti-drug film shown at school, and what if the banner had read “legalize bong hits” instead? All of this is to say that, regardless of the outcome of the constitutional determination, a decision on the underlying First Amendment issue is both difficult and unusually portentous. And that is a reason for us not to decide the issue unless we must.”

The dissenting opinions, shared by Stevens, Souter, and Ginsberg, speak to the motives of the student and principal. While the dissent agrees that the principal should not be held liable for pulling down the banner, the question is “may the school suppress student speech that was never intended to convince anyone to do anything?

The dissent holds that the “nonsense banner” neither violates a permissible rule nor expressly advocates conduct that is illegal and harmful to students. By upholding the school’s decision to punish Frederickfor expressing a view with which it disagreed” the Court “does serious violence to the First Amendment”. There is a fine line when it comes to content and interpretation of a speaker’s point of view – and this is one issue that concerns the dissenting opinion. Also, punishing someone for advocating an illegal activity is only constitutional when the advocacy threatens the kind of harm the government seeks to avoid by banning such activity. When it comes to speech in school, the punishment is allowed if the advocacy works towards disruption of the school’s work. Ultimately, the dissent believes that there is no indication that Frederick’s banner willfully infringed upon anyone’s rights or disrupted the educational work of the school.

I think, however, that perhaps Breyer hit the nail on the head. Delving into the First Amendment aspect of the case seems to open a huge can of worms. Both the ruling opinion and the dissent refer to the same case when making their arguments (along with several other cases) and still come out on different sides of this case. I do agree with the dissent that the banner’s message is ambiguous enough, designed by Frederick to get the attention of television cameras and not to promote a drug message at his school. And if the principal’s intent was more to prevent embarrassment than stifle what she thought was a harmful drug message, then there seems to be a constitutional issue at stake here. What if the sign had read something else?

I realize that we cannot grant students in school the same protections as adults when it comes to speech issues, although I do not necessarily agree. But it is a very precarious line between what they are allowed to say and what is forbidden, and I think schools should be very careful with the speech they punish.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Weird, fun fact about Greece

Every "fast food" restaurant (ie. gyros/souvlaki places) that has chicken Cordon Bleu on their menu spells it "Gordon Blue". I guess they think the dish was created because a guy named Gordon was so sad he had to have ham and cheese in his chicken.(Actually, it is probably because they use gamma and kappa - which would translate in latin letters to a G - to make the same sound as the c in cordon, but it is funnier this way)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One way to keep cool

It did reach 100 degrees today, with a heat index of 105. As Paris Hilton would say, "that's hot!"

Obviously, cats understand that they need to take precautions on hot days. You just let it all lay out...


Prayer for a hot Sunday

Friday, June 22, 2007

The long, hot weekend

This weekend is supposed to be hot. Steaming vortex in the sun’s core hot. Do not cross the streams hot. They are predicting temperatures upwards of ONE HUNDRED degrees Fahrenheit (that is 38 degrees Celsius, for you metric fans) for the next few days, with Tuesday maybe maxing out at 108 degrees. Now, I’m not going to go around flailing my arms around and screaming global warming, because it apparently has been this hot in June before. But lordy, that’s hot.

Our plan is to hunker down over the weekend. My husband rented some movies (and a video game) and we are hoping that the increased demand for power doesn’t exceed the PPC’s limitations. We’ve got plenty of water, just in case, and we are pretty good at thumb wrestling so at least we’ll have something to do. But we will be keeping our A/C on a higher temperature so it will be bearable, but not on all the time.

For everyone in Greece (and anywhere else in the world experiencing a heat wave), stay cool. Drink water (but not too much too fast), stay in the shade, and go to designated A/C areas (some municipalities will keep buildings open for this reason). Check on your loved ones, especially elderly folks, who may not have A/C (or recognize that it is hot enough to need it). Enjoy the beaches but use sunscreen and immerse yourself in the water if you get too hot. I realize some people actually like it this hot, but these people are obviously insane and should be punished by being forced to have ice cubes in their drinks.

But most of all, we can pretend what life will be like when it is this hot every day in the summer, because that is what Greek scientists are predicting by the end of the century here in Greece. That is, if most of Greece hasn’t been swallowed up the sea by then. Hey, at least our house on the mountain will be prime beachfront property. I can see the bright side of things.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Herd mentality

You have to really begin to wonder what is wrong with the world today when an angry mob beats a man to death because he was a passenger in a car that accidentally hit a two-year-old boy. The mob pounced on the driver when he got out of the car to check on the boy, then turned on the passenger who got out of the car to defend him. Apparently, no weapons of any kind were used – just the hands of four or five men, used to pummel the life out of someone. That is about as vicious as it gets. I really have to hope that there is some other story here - that the guys that beat the men knew them, and there was some other motive - because to think that strangers can be this violent towards people they don't even know when moved by a crowd, well, that scares me.

Luckily, the child did not have any life-threatening injuries, but even if he was instantaneously killed, I don’t see the moral or ethical impetus that moves people to beat someone to death. Honestly, if this is what the world has come to these days, what it will it be like for our children? Are we going to end up with a violent, post-apocalyptic world without an apocalypse? Because that sure seems to be where we are heading.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nick Cage, he isn't

Someone tried to break into our car. But they did it in such an idiotic way they obviously do not have the mad skillz that Nick Cage and his gang had in Gone in 60 Seconds. No, instead they used some sort of tool that simply had the effect of pushing the lock further into the door, thus, locking it more, so we can’t even get in with a key. Lovely. If someone had wanted to take something they would have just broken a window, but this had to be the act of a vicious, nosy Greek neighbor. To what purpose I have no idea, but who knows how much we are going to have to spend to fix the damn thing.

I was enjoying city life, but I am getting to the point that I can’t wait until we move to the country. If only there was some sort of bug zapper we could put up to keep nosy neighbors away. I suppose a locked, electric gate will do.

Venus and the waxing moon


Monday, June 18, 2007

Killer standees, locked bathrooms, and assigned seating

My husband and I went to see Ocean’s Thirteen last night. We went to a multiplex in a mall here in the city centre, and I think it has been almost five years since we saw a movie at this particular venue (the last one was the second Lord of the Rings, if that tells you anything). It has been a long time since we have been to a movie that wasn’t part of a film festival of some kind, in fact, the last movie we went to see, if I remember right, was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Yea, we really get around. At any rate, it seems that it now costs eight euros to go see a movie here (fifty cents less if you are willing to sit in the back row). So if a high school or college kid wants to take his girl to a movie he will fork out a minimum of fifteen euros for the date, probably closer to thirty if you include refreshments other than bottled water. I don’t know how much it now costs to see a non-matinee movie in America, but I’m pretty sure it should be cheaper in Greece since the average wage here is no where near what it is in the U.S. Eight euros borders on making it completely unaffordable for the average person.

To add insult to injury, there is now apparently assigned seating in this particular multiplex, which my husband finds dignified and civilized, but I just find it annoying. There is nothing like paying for a seat which forces you to climb over twenty people already sitting down instead of being able to sit in another row. I’d like a side order of fascism with my overpriced Pepsi, please. Yea, yea, I’m overreacting. But it hardly seems necessary. I’ve been finding my own seat in movie theaters since I was a wee one. It isn’t that difficult, and I’ve never once borne witness to a scuffle.

Before we could even get into the theater we had to swim our way through a maze of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix standees. Yes, I realize it is a big movie, and I am really looking forward to it, but people are going to go see it whether or not there is a ten-foot wide standee blocking the way to the bathrooms, which were closed, by the way, because some idiot working on the Metro hit a water main with a drill. Yea, I should have discovered that before I drank a bottle of water and an eight ounce slushy. One wonders why my husband and I don’t go to movies that often.

The movie itself was thoroughly enjoyable, perhaps a bit better than the last one, although I’ve enjoyed all of the Ocean’s franchise, even the original one with good ol’ Frank as Danny Ocean. I regret that I never got to shake his hand. By the way, when did Brad Pitt start to look old? It terrifies me. It means I’m getting old, too. Anyway, if you’ve liked the other Ocean’s movies, especially the first one, I think you’ll like this one too. If you didn’t, well, I can’t help ya.

Will this be our last movie outing for awhile? Who knows. We’d like to see Zodiac, Sicko, and of course Harry Potter. But I don’t know if the first two will find their way to Thessaloniki cinemas, and we won’t get Order of the Phoenix until a month and a half after it has hit theaters in America. That is the lot of the movie-going public in Greece.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

His super sweet 16, at age 31

My husband has finally gotten his license to drive. That seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? A 31-year-old man getting a driver’s license? Well, getting a license in Greece isn’t as easy as it is in America. You can’t just get your dad to teach you how to drive in your grandmother’s old Buick in the parking lot of the junior high school on weekends. You can’t terrorize your high school history teacher cum driver’s ed instructor by spending your lesson time chatting with your girlfriends about boys and not paying attention to where you are going. You can’t get a learner’s permit at 15 and beg your parents ceaselessly to let you drive whenever you go on a family outing (I think “over my dead body” was a familiar refrain from my mother to such requests). You can’t arrive at the DMV with a proud smile very early in the morning of your 16th birthday ready to take the driving tests.

No, getting a driver’s license isn’t a cultural rite of passage in Greece like it is in America. For one thing, you have to be 18 instead of 16 (which honestly, might be a good thing, considering how irresponsible teenage drivers can be). For another, you are required to take classes, first in preparation for the written exam and then in preparation for the practical exam, so the whole process can cost around five or six hundred euros. So many Greeks don’t automatically get their license at 18, and many of them – especially those who live in big cities or end up with spouses who drive – never get their driver’s license. Having a car when you live in the center of Athens is pretty unnecessary and generally a headache, and although Thessaloniki doesn’t yet have the fabulous Metro system Athens does, having a car and trying to park it in the city is more trouble than it is worth. Even people who have cars who live outside the center and come into the city usually take the bus instead of driving their vehicles.

Since we live in the center of Thessaloniki and can pretty much walk to wherever we want to go, and take the bus anywhere else, our car has sat idle for two years (and with a dead battery), even though I have a valid driver’s license. But with our imminent move to the boondocks, and my husband’s future hospital off the ring road instead of in the city center, it was crucial that he finally get his driver’s license, unless he wanted to spend hours upon hours of his life in city buses (with me having to get up early to drive him down to the closest bus stop, which is so far from our house it conjures up the old tales of “when I was your age, I had to walk twenty miles in a blizzard to get to school”). Besides, I hate driving, or rather, I hate driving in places I am not used to driving, which is basically anywhere I haven’t been before. I got to be a bit of a pro driving around Kos and Litochoro, and the route from Litochoro to Thessaloniki, but I haven’t had the desire to learn the nuances of Thessaloniki streets and the ring road and there is so much traffic I feel a bit intimidated. Thankfully, the onus will now be on my husband to navigate Thessaloniki’s labyrinthine streets, and I will only have to drive whenever I want, or on an as needed basis.

My husband still has a two-month reprieve before all the responsibility falls on his shoulders, as that is how long it takes for them to actually process and send you your license here. But at least he now has the satisfaction of an American teenager, ready to taste freedom behind the wheel of his very own car.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Adventures in mattress shopping

Over the weekend my husband and I went mattress shopping for our bed in the new house. Finally I get to go back to king-sized comfort, when I will be able to ask my husband to scootch over a couple of inches without feeling guilty. I had a couple of requirements for the new mattress – one, I wanted a king-size, preferably the good ol’ American king-size but I could accept the European king-size which is 17 cm smaller. Secondly, I really wanted to see if we could find the old standard in mattresses – with a box spring or something similar as support – instead of buying a mattress that goes on top of a flat board, like most mattresses around here seem to do. Now, it isn’t that our IKEA mattress has been uncomfortable, and I like our bed here because it has storage underneath, but I was brought up in a world that insisted that mattresses needed box springs to hold up. I guess I’m old fashioned that way.

Our plan was to go to a couple of places I had researched – one that had a brand of bed I had never heard of (Dux) but sounded promising, and another place that advertised Sealy and Serta mattresses. I knew that the Dux beds would be expensive, but very well made and supposedly unbelievably comfortable. We tried out three different beds in the store, and they all felt too soft to me, although I could also tell that the mattress was conforming to my body. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the bed that was supposed to be the softest (and cheapest), and the hardest (and most expensive). The harder bed had this crank system in the “box spring” part (I use quotes because it wasn’t a box spring in the usual sense of the word) that you could adjust for more or less firmness. Impressive, but the damn thing still felt too soft for me. Not to mention the bed moved in a similar fashion to that of a water bed. Honestly, if I want to feel like I’m drifting at sea when I’m sleeping I’ll go buy a water bed.

Needless to say, that although the presentation was good and the quality of the beds seemed high, I was not sold on the Dux bed. It was at that point that the salesman told us the price of the firmer bed – 8000 euros. Sheeeeeeeeeet. Was it hand stitched by angels with golden thread? Because at that price, it better damn sure have been. Now, my in-laws have a good deal of aplomb when faced with such ridiculous prices, they are high class people who are used to expensive things, and didn’t bat an eye. But not little ol’ low class me. I expect the damn thing to sprout wheels and drive me around town for that price.

In the end, I have to consider my standard for judging items that are well out of my price range. If it is something that I would buy if money was not an issue, then it is worth the extravagant price. If I wouldn’t buy it even if I had the money, then it isn’t worth the price. I don’t think I would buy a Dux bed even if I had oodles of money, but maybe I should go to one of those hotels that uses Dux beds and see for myself if it is really worth the price.

In the end, we bought a Serta, recommended by my parents, and nice and firm like I like it. And with that purchase, we are one step closer to moving into our new home.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The light that guides us

I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs. I am one of those people who feels more comfortable being a watcher, along the fringes of the world, rather than being knee-deep in the fray. I don’t do well with pictures of people for some reason, I just can’t ever capture them well enough like other photographers can. My eye tends to prefer doors, windows and facades – and especially churches of all types (the older, the better).

Luckily, in Thessaloniki, I have a lion’s share of Byzantine churches all around me. Despite the fact that I am not a religious person, I feel at one with churches when I am looking at them through the camera. There are so many details, and so much hidden beauty everywhere on the exteriors and interiors of these buildings. So when I went to a wedding at Agios Demetrios this weekend, I totally ignored the bride and groom and reveled in the details of this magnificent church. When I got back home to examine my photographic booty, I discovered one of the best pictures I had ever taken – one of my favorites, at least – that came out so well thanks to the extra lighting in the church for the wedding video. I hope you like it too. (click on the picture to see larger versions)


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Just another Greek wedding


Yesterday I was forced to attend another Greek wedding. This makes five weddings I’ve been to here, including my own, which is more than I attended in 30 years in the U.S. (yea, ok, so I skipped a couple of weddings I should have gone to). While Greek weddings aren’t bad, the thing about Orthodox weddings is that once you’ve seen one, you basically seen them all. The program is always the same, the main differences are the names of the betrothed involved (and even there you can surprisingly run into a lot of the same pair ups name wise) and the quality of the chanters. With Greek Orthodox weddings you don’t get any poorly sung love songs or maudlin, badly written poems. For that, I am grateful.

Last night’s wedding was at Agios Demetrios, another classic Byzantine church in Thessaloniki. Very similar in design to the Church of the Acheiropoietos (which happens to be my favorite church here), Agios Demetrios was nearly destroyed by the huge Thessaloniki fire of 1917. The interiors are gorgeous - the marble columns, murals and podiums – and some original mosaics have been preserved.

The wedding had a nice atmosphere in that church, and the chanters were very sonorous and pleasant to listen to. The bride and groom looked gorgeous. Like any summer wedding, the guests were a mishmash of well dressed ladies, men in light colored linen suits (for a minute I thought I was on the set of Miami Vice – the TV show, not the movie), youngsters in jeans and casual shirts, and women in the sluttiest, shortest outfits they could muster. Hey, you do what you gotta in this world. Honestly, I’m not judging. In my skinny, beautiful youth I dressed slutty now and then too.

Unfortunately, receptions here always seem to be the same as well. Usually in a general party hall (or outdoors), with a long table for the wedding party, round guest tables all along, and a huge space in the middle for dancing. The food is always the same - salad, some sort of filled pita, and meat and potatoes. The bride and groom make their entrance with pomp and circumstance, to a song they hand picked, right after their entrance they cut the cake, to another song they hand picked, and then they have their first dance (yep, another song hand picked). After about 30 minutes of general food consumption and random music, the band starts to play traditional Greek music and people get up and dance. But not in pairs. Greece must be one of the world leaders in circular group dancing. And once they get enough people it evolves into some kind of spiral thing I still can’t figure out. It is certainly entertaining to watch for a few minutes, and fun to participate in briefly, but two+ hours of blaringly loud Greek music is a little too much. For me, at least. But then again, I hadn’t consumed nearly enough alcohol.

There are two weddings in August I am supposed to attend, so we’ll see what happens. If I had any idea how much torture people actually go through as wedding guests I would never have invited anyone. Of course, I’m sure that all those sociable people out there enjoy themselves. Good for them. Maybe next time I’ll get drunk enough to find the total entertainment value of six hours’ worth of wedding/reception fun. Despite my misery, I still wish the happy couple the best of married life, because weddings are a cause for celebration. Just keep me out of it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Too good to be true


Recently, while we were cleaning our new house in the mountains outside Thessaloniki, an overwhelming aroma of dog poo permeated the balcony. I just knew one of us had stepped in something, what with the number of dogs roaming the area, and I was certain it was being dragged through our house that very moment.

My husband came out to the balcony and asked me what was wrong. I told him I smelled dog poo. He took a big whiff, wrinkled his nose, and informed me that it wasn't dog poo. Oh no. It was country smell. It was the unmistakable olfactory blend of animals, dirt, vegetation, and whatever else can be conjured up in a small mountain village. My city nose definitely didn't like the sound smell of that.

After a couple of minutes, it passed. I suppose it depends on which way the wind blows. Well, when we move up there the wind is going to blowing a huge increase in incense sales on our part. I should have known our perfect country home would start showing some ugly imperfections. I wonder what will be in store for us next.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hate the 2012 London Olympics logo?

Then sign the petition. 29220 have signed it so far.

This logo is such a disaster an animated video featuring the logo had to be removed because it was causing epileptic seizures. I saw the video prior to its removal - it basically looked like the logo was chasing after people and breaking into houses, destroying their television sets. But maybe I'm overreacting.

Not another meme

I am notoriously bad at the follow up on memes I'm tagged for. I admit this openly, freely, and shamelessly. After all, I'm an old woman who tends to forget things. Now EllasDevil has plagued me with another 5 things meme (he is completely without ruth when it comes to such things), so I suppose I should give the devil his due and complete the meme.

Five things in my fridge:
Five things in my closet:
  • ten million pairs of slip on house slippers, in black (I go through these suckers fast)
  • 1 million mismatched socks
  • a billion items of black clothing
  • myriad cloth bags of various sizes, from places around the world
  • t-shirts I never wear
Five things in my purse:

Well, my purse is really, really small (about the size of a CD case, in fact, a CD case won't even fit in it) but I have managed to find really, really small items to pack it with.
  • Two teeny tiny flashlights
  • my cell phone
  • my keys
  • my identification
  • a pen
Five things in my car:

Well, since it has been almost two years since we've used our car, I hardly remember what it is still in it. What I know is still in it:
  • My raincoat (yea, real helpful in there)
  • some old CDs (yea, not a good idea)
  • a map
  • a big huge brush to brush crap off the car
  • ??????
Five things in the world I want to see before I die:
I ain't taggin' nobody, because ED already tagged everyone I know!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Someone get a graphic designer, stat!

The title of this post was my first reaction to the logo for the 2012 London Olympics. I'm so glad it comes in different colors, as if that will make it any better. Yea, yea, I realize it is some sort of neo-futuristic font that says "2012", but if this is a vision of the future, I think a postmodern breakdown in communication is going to be inevitable.

I'm quite fond of the British, but what the hell are the people in charge thinking (especially considering they paid 400,000 pounds for the crappy thing)???

EDIT: BBC News website readers have sent in some alternatives to the new logo, some are not bad.
5/6: And even more BBC reader submissions

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Not the garden of Eden

I love cats, but I have no delusions about their usefulness or their ability to love human beings. I understand that those of us who have cats are simply tolerated by our feline companions, and that cats are really aliens plotting the demise of humankind. I’m cool with that, as long as I get a purry snuggle now and then. I’m easy that way.

However, cats are efficacious in one way – hunting. Even the seemingly laziest, most feckless of all felines can come through where there is something flying around, or otherwise moving in their field of vision.

We have three cats, and since they all stay indoors, only one is generally the designated huntress. She plays a wicked game with all manner of bugs, sort of similar to a child picking wings off a fly. She damages the creature enough so it can no longer move easily, and then bats it around, taking care to make sure it stays alive. Usually, once she is done playing one of the other cats comes along and eats the prey, effectively putting it out of its drawn out misery. Of course, this all comes in handy when we end up with the odd roach, mosquito or fly that makes its way into the apartment (although the streak of blood across the wall where Phoebe smacked a mosquito is not so pretty).

I never appreciated cat skills more than when we lived on Kos. And this is where the story begins.

When my husband first got word that he would be stationed at a small camp on the island of Kos in 2003, I was a bit peeved. I mean, of ALL the islands it is one of the farthest from the Greek mainland (except for Rodos, I guess) and it seemed sort of like we were being shipped off to Tartarus, out of sight and out of mind. After the initial irritation wore off, I decided to think on it more positively. We’d be living on a Greek island, right? How more romantic and glamorous can you get? Well, apparently, I wasn’t anywhere near prepared for what life on a Greek island might entail.

The island setting was nice enough. Crystalline blue waters wherever your eye could see. There were fantastic views of other islands - even the coast of Turkey. Our village, Pyli, was a small community, filled with friendly and somewhat eccentric people. It was a lazy place that brimmed over with tourists half the year. Our apartment was nice, spacious, and comfortable, aside from the ditzy landlady, who was, I suppose, friendly enough. The house it was in was a bit ragtag – redone construction, a single story house that had a second story attachment built on top recently. It had the air of misshapen plans, blueprints made in the dark, 50 cent workers doing a 50 cent job. Not that the place wasn’t structurally sound, but if I had redone it to add a second story, I’m pretty sure I would have gone about it a hell of a lot differently. This lady just wanted a rental – she had some grand plans for making money out of the place, for what it was worth, I think she had too much debt already to get rich off of it.

The house had a nice, large patio area, and sort of sat on the edge of the mountain, surrounded by nature. Now, there were several houses around us, and we were walking distance to the town square, but in a village like Pyli, that still means you are in the sticks. I’ve lived in the sticks before, but American sticks – ie. suburbs, and suburbs that were well built up by the time I left (not to mention we lived in a condominium complex there, so it might as well have been the city). So I never really lived in any true country-like settings, no farm life in my background. Aside from the normal amount of bugs, spiders, and maybe a mouse once or twice, I never had much of an issue with unwanted creatures in my house. On a few forays out into nature (ie. summer camp, going to someone’s cabin in the woods), I heard tell of snakes in the bathroom or shower area, but never came across one myself, thank god. Until, of course (you know where this is going), I moved to Kos.

I always slept in after my husband left for work (typical lazy housewife). But this particular morning, my cats were determined not to let me sleep, and one of my cats kept insisting on lying beside me on the bed – not the open part of the bed, but she’d push on the edge until I moved over enough so she was lying between me and the edge of the bed. She’d do that, then get down after a few minutes and try to get me up with her wailing, then come back and assume the position. Finally I decided I’d had enough of weird cat behavior for the morning and got up and made my way to the bathroom. On the way, however, I spotted something dark out of the corner of my eye. I turned and looked down, and be damned if there wasn’t a small black snake on the floor.

In real danger of hyperventilating, I decided to go on to the bathroom and figure out what to do with the snake after splashing my face with LOTS of cold water. After taking a deep breath, I felt I was ready to deal with the evil serpent. Yet, when I went back out, the snake was NO LONGER THERE. Panic. Then - how in the hell am I going to stay here knowing there is a snake loose in the house?

At that point I noticed that our three cats were gathered by the couch, obviously enthralled by something. Please let it be the snake. Of course it was the snake! The cats had that summabitch surrounded, and each one was pawing at it in turn. The snake, stricken, was playing dead. That was the only thing it could do. The only thing I wanted to do was get that damn snake out of my house. And so I did the only thing I could do in order to get it out – I opened the front door (thankfully very close to the couch) and kicked the snake towards it. I kept kicking that snake until I had kicked it out the door and across the patio.

I went back in the house, slammed the door shut, and collapsed against the door. The cats kept looking at me as if I had taken away their most prized possession. Then I started to feel a bit guilty, and a bit stupid. Kicking a snake – what might have been a young viper, in fact – is not the smartest thing a person can do. Not to mention the snake was obviously already a bit overwhelmed by the cats, I could have probably gotten it out of the house easily with a broom handle or something without kicking it.

I looked outside to see if it had moved from the spot where I left it, and it was gone. It probably got the hell out of dodge as soon as I left its field of vision. This incident occurred relatively early in our year on Kos, yet we never had another snake invasion after that. I’m certain he told his snake friends “Don’t go in that house. A crazy woman and her three cats live there.”

Friday, June 01, 2007

Για την Αμαλία

A young woman died last Friday. She was young – only 30 – she was a philosophy student, and she had cancer. Amalia Kalyvinou was well known as a Greek blogger. Her blog, Malpractice, chronicled the trials and tribulations of her experiences with the Greek health care system. I did not know her personally, nor could I read much of her blog due to my rudimentary Greek, and as all things on the internet go, I cannot say for certain whether her character is real or fiction. But I do know that her blog appears to be a genuine account of human suffering, and some of the problems she has encountered in the Greek health care system are very, very real. (Go here for Amalia's story in English)

Today the Greek blogosphere has chosen to honor her memory, to mourn her death and hope for the future of chronically ill patients in Greece. It seems that in light of the massive popularity of the blog, the head of the Athens Medical Association is actually intending to investigate some of Amalia’s claims. Whether or not this will lead to any real change in the system is uncertain. All I know is that her voice has been heard by thousands around Greece, and that is something.

To her family and friends, λυπάμαι πολύ. I grieve with you today the loss of a woman whose voice cried out to a whole country, and was heard.