Tuesday, July 31, 2007


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

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A good start

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

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

1) Petrograd smelt of carbolic acid.

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

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

4) Hide the Christmas tree properly, Helena.

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 27, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

111° F - feels like 115°F

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

Athenians - don't breathe today!

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

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

Ouch. My Athenian friends, take care.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Because shopping is the best way to beat the heat

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fantasy coffins?

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thank you so much for the not so subtle reminder

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

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

Friday, July 13, 2007

Raping the English language

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

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

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

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

learn – lern

slow – slo

beautiful – butiful

anyone – ennywun

most – moast

simple – simpl

very – verry

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why my husband is a dork

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


Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm no Sal Paradise

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

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

Friday, July 06, 2007

Because we like to look stupid

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

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The rocket's red glare

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

Monday, July 02, 2007

Barbie and her fabulous pooper scooper

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

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

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