Monday, May 31, 2004

Oh, Look, It's Jerry Springer

No, actually it's just the Greek news. While it's not unusual to turn on the news in any country and find that journalism has become sensationalistic, Greece news really tops anything I've ever seen. I'm sure that there must be actual news happening somewhere in this country, but the television news is not the place to find out about it. The television news is the place to turn if you've been missing out on your Jerry Springer. The other day, these were three of the leading stories. And by leading story, I mean a story that they spend at least 5-1o minutes on.

1. The husband of a young Greek woman who is pregnant left her for her best friend. The woman doesn't know what to do and doesn't have any idea how she is going to raise the child.
(Now maybe Greece is more of a perfect country than I thought, but is this really the only woman in the country that this has happened to? I think not. And the big question is...where do they find stories like this? I don't think it's out there on the AP Wire. Do people write in with their sob stories or do they advertise like Jerry Springer...Did your husband leave you for your best friend. If so, drop us a line and maybe you'll appear on our next newscast, I mean.)

2. A woman had a really expensive electric bill and doesn't know how she can afford to pay it. (Well, honey, that sucks, but maybe you shouldn't use so much electricity. It wasn't that the electric company had overcharged her...she just couldn't pay her bill because it was so high. Maybe they ought to run a news special on how to budget your money.)

3. And my personal favorite. The newscast spent about 10 minutes showing a Greek Orthodox Priest performing an exorcism on a woman who was said to practice black magic. He was shoving a cross into her chest, yelling prayers out of a book and stomping his foot on her while she laid on the ground screaming and writhing around. A whole crowd was gathered around holding her down. I'm not sure if she was screaming because she was possessed by some devil or because the priest was abusing her. They didn't say if the exorcism was successful, but it sure was interesting to watch.

Ah, Greece. The country never fails to entertain.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

An American Abroad...But Not an Ex-Pat

Last Wednesday I went to a poetry reading at an American university here in Athens. The reading was to debut a book that is an anthology of poems by American poets living in Greece. I enjoyed the poems, especially because they were narrative and not just mumbly-jumbly words that someone thought sounded nice together. Yes, I admit, I'm not much of a poetry connoisseur. The part of the evening I didn't like, however, was the roundtable discussion at the end. Mainly, I didn't like it, because while the presenters were fine poets, this alone does not qualify them to sound off on any topic they wish. One guy in particular irked me as he consistently made political comments and referred to America as an empire. It wasn't so much that he said those things...hell, you're thinking, I say similar things on a regular was the position he was speaking from. Sure, he was an American, but he hasn't lived in America in ages. What right does he have to criticize, I couldn't help wondering. Why does he concern himself so much with it, having chosen to live somewhere else? I don't fault him the choice to live in Greece. I don't fault anyone the choice to live wherever they are most happy, as long as they are living there because that is what makes them truly happy and not just because they are running away from things that make them unhappy. We only get one life after all, so why not spend it being happy. However, I hate it when anyone from "the outside" critizes America. Actually that's not true, I hate when people mouth off about America. I can take thoughtful criticism. But I can't take off the cuff ranting that results in no positive action.

And that is why I will never be an ex-pat. I may travel abroad and even live abroad, but I will always be an American who returns home to America. I love my birth country and I think it is a wonderful place, but I believe it has the potential to be an even better place. And that's why I think it's important to stay in America. Seeing the problems and running away accomplishes nothing. Seeing the problems and working to change them has the potential to accomplish everything. The best citizens are the ones who do take a critical look at their country and its policies and actions...and then take action to make their country a better place, a country they can truly be proud of. The solution is not to shout loudly from a distance and then hole yourself up in your own private world. The solution is to act.

Monday, May 24, 2004

A Tribute to Liberators

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is hosting a tribute to the forces who liberated concentration camps during the Second World War on Thursday, May 27. My grandpa's infantry division, the 8th, is one of thirty-five divisions being honored. For more information, you can check out the museum's website. There's a lot of interesting World War II events going on in DC right now. If you're in the area, you really should check some of them out. With thousands of WWII veterans dying every day, it might be your last chance to express your gratitude to them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Why You Gotta Hate?

When Kentuckians went to the polls yesterday, their votes were nothing more than formalities. The Presidential primaries have already been long over. In November, when we return to the polls, however, votes will be of utmost important. The fate of our country for the next four years is up in the air. But that’s not all. Kentuckians will also vote on whether or not there should be a constitutional ban on gay marriage. This is an issue that also deserves attention. For many people, it’s about a future that is more than four years long.

The debate over gay marriage is being fought coast to coast. San Francisco was host to thousands of gay couples saying their vows. Massachusetts just approved gay marriage. Bush is pushing for a US Constitutional ban on it. A Courier-Journal poll shows that 70% of Kentuckians support a statewide constitutional ban. I’m hoping that by the time the issue comes up for a vote, those numbers will be reversed and at least 70% of Kentuckians will oppose such a ban. It’s a matter of equal rights, folks. You might as well ban the right of blacks or disabled people to get married.

Gay marriage is such an issue because, although we live in a country where Church and State are separate, we are in fact a highly religious country. “Marriage” for many people has sacred connotations denoting it as a union between a man and a woman that is blessed by God. This is not truly the case, as it is already possible to have marriages at the court house or any number of other places where religion or God is not once invoked. Also, anyone who can look at divorce and domestic abuse rates and tell me that marriage is sacred is crazy. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be, but when over 50% of marriages end in divorce and when people get married one, two, three, four times, I must argue that a lot of people don’t take it as a serious sacred commitment.

Our fear of allowing gay marriages also stems from the homophobia, both latent and forthright, that is prevalent in our society. Many people still see homosexuality as sinful, as an unnatural choice that people make. Spend some time thinking about it and tell me why you think anyone would choose to be homosexual. People don’t set themselves up to be discriminated against and hated. Why would anyone choose such a difficult life? They wouldn’t. Gay people don’t choose to love people of the same sex anymore than I choose to love people of the opposite sex. Being gay is not a new fad. It’s not a rebellion against society. Since the beginning of time, there have been gay people…it was actually much more accepted then than it is now. Reference Roman baths as a very simple example. And yes, the joining of a man and a woman is necessary for the continuation of the species, but I don’t think homosexuality is going to cause the extinction of the human race. Nuclear weapons, war, and terrorism maybe, but not homosexuality. As for it being “unnatural,” there are thousands of examples of homosexual behavior among animals with no capacity for rational thought. They obviously didn’t “choose” to be gay, they just acted. And for all people who like to spout their Christian theology as a reason for opposing homosexuality and gay marriage, remember “Judge not lest ye be judged.” The next homosexual person you meet could be your daughter, son, sister, or brother.

So tell me now why you oppose gay marriages. Why are you unwilling to extend the same rights you enjoy to all American citizens? Gay marriages won’t devalue your marriage. Gays are not going to convert people to “their way”. Your lifestyle is not at all threatened. In fact, if you believe in commitment, monogamy, and all those other values that go along with your marriage, you should be all for gay marriage. How can you find anything wrong with someone willing to say that they will do their very best to spend their life loving, cherishing, and caring for another human being? If the term “marriage” still bothers you, change it. I don’t think that’s the main issue at hand. Call it civil unions. Gays and lesbians aren’t demanding that the state intervene and force religious institutions to allow them to have church weddings. They simply want the kind of civil service that grants them recognition as committed partners. They want to have the right to make decisions for their significant other should that person be in a life or death situation. They want to be able to go back into the hospital room of their significant other when the situation is “family only.” They want to receive insurance benefits from their partner’s insurance. They want to function as a married couple when it’s time to do things like sign a loan, open a bank account, buy a house, use a credit card, plan for retirement, etc. All they want are the same rights that those of us who happen to be heterosexual take for granted every day. What harm is going to befall you if homosexuals are granted these rights? If your son, daughter, brother, or sister were gay wouldn’t you want them to have these rights?

Before the time to vote rolls around again, please consider your stance on this position. We each only get one life with a certain amount of days to seek that which makes life worth living – love, joy, peace. Who are we to stand in the way of someone else’s chance at happiness? Vote in opposition to a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Accessing Iraq

In a little over a month, the United States is supposed to hand over control of Iraq to the Iraqi people. Bush stubbornly keeps repeating that he has no intentions of changing these plans, but looking at the situation, I wonder just how he or anyone else expects this to happen. No, I don’t think we should keep ruling Iraq like imperialist conquerors, but after the mess we’ve created I don’t think we can just bow out either. Just yesterday the leader of the Iraqi governing council was killed by a car bomb. Who exactly do we plan to give power to, and do we really think they can lead a deeply divided and destroyed country?

This war was a huge mistake. I said that to begin with, and I stand by that now. In my opinion, it has done more damage to America than it has healed. Our reasons for going to Iraq were sketchy at best. The rest of the world saw that. They asked for convincing proof that Iraq was doing the things we accused it of – creating WMDs and training terrorists – and when we failed to provide it, they asked us to wait and consider other options. The world wasn’t disagreeing that Saddam was a horrible tyrant who everyone would be better without. The world was asking us to consider if uncompromising military action was the best way to create world peace. Of course, it wasn’t, but being blinded by hatred and revenge we failed to see that. Now, not only have we alienated those who were once our allies, we have bred extreme hatred for us among a huge percentage of the world’s population. We weren’t just fighting Saddam. We weren’t just fighting Iraq. We are fighting the world’s largest religion. In many ways, it is our crusade against their jihad. We went to Iraq naively believing that once we got rid of Saddam, the people would see us as liberators and rush to fall down at our feet. That hasn’t happened. Not because all Iraqis, Middle Easterners, or Muslims loved Saddam, but because they are afraid that we are trying to take away their way of life. Many of us hate certain things about our country. Many of us hate George Bush. But if someone attacked our country, we would fight tooth and nail to defend it. We would be fighting for ourselves, our families, our beliefs, and our way of life. This is what these people are doing. To have American soldiers, mainly Christians, telling them what to do and how to live, is a huge affront to these people.

But that’s not it. Us leaving wouldn’t solve the problem either. We’ve created a huge power vacuum in a deeply divided country. We’ve tried to solve this by establishing a constitution and a democratic governing body. The problem, again, is that we, and not they, established it. We cannot enforce democracy. Reference Vietnam and Korea. We can’t really enforce any form of government unless we remain as occupying powers. Reference East Germany and the former Russian bloc countries. What we’ve created is a country that is on the brink of a civil war. We’ve dramatically decreased the living standards of the people. While Sadam may have terrorized the people, he did also provide them with electricity, clean water, health care, and oil. We’ve yet to do any of that. At this point, the people are looking for anyone who can improve their lives at all, and they are dividing into camps of people supporting various people, very few of whom have any real interests beyond their own acquisition of power. While Bush may have declared last May while parading around in a flight suit on board a US destroyer that the fighting in Iraq was over, the truth is that it will last for years and years. No, Iraq is not the new Vietnam. Iraq is the new Afghanistan. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up some information on the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Thanks to September 11, we all know what a great country Afghanistan turned out to be. Scarily enough, Iraq is heading down the same path. Ironically, our war on terrorism has done nothing but breed more. Is the world a safer place now than it was before we invaded Iraq? I say no. Not only have we fueled the passions of thousands if not millions of enemies, we have also alienated our allies. In today’s fragile world, standing alone is not safe.

Do I know what we should do? No, I don’t. I hope someone does though, because we can’t continue down this path. I dread to see where it leads. Iraq is a terrible mess that we got ourselves into. Now we must find a way to get ourselves out of it without messing up the state of the world anymore. Going to Iraq was a mistake. But not our biggest mistake. Our biggest mistake was our failure to establish a plan for what we would do once we overthrew Saddam. Again, our failure was that we were unable to look beyond our own interests to see the rest of the world.

Monday, May 17, 2004

New...Not Sure About Improved

As you will notice, my blog has been changed. This was not intentional. I was contemplating it and playing around with it, but I decided not to change the template. So I just quit without saving any changes. Yet, the program must have saved it because I went to my blog and saw that it was different. Miraculously, I managed to save my comments. I also added in links, but as you can see, they are right next to each other instead of under each other. If you know how to fix it, please let me know. But let me know how you like it. I was going to change it back, but that would have been more work than just fixing it.

Public Service Announcement

I interrupt my regularly scheduled programming to bring you this very special bit of news (which shouldn't really be news if you have half a brain). Today is Matthew's 22nd Birthday! If you see him, talk to him, or know how to use the phone or email, send him some birthday greetings. Twenty-two years ago he entered the world - a bit messed up as we may all remember. Fortunately, most of the problems were correctable, and those that weren't...well we've learned to love the fact that he's a freak. Just kidding, Matthew. Happy Birthday! I hope you have a fabulous day.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Run Run As Fast As You Can...

In Greece, women don't really exercise. Sure, there are a fair amount of women who belong to the gym here at Athens College, but they don't belong for health reasons. They belong for social reasons. It's expensive to join the gym, so it's a status symbol to belong (as it is at some of the more exclusive clubs in the US). To really get the status, the women do have to come to the gym, but that doesn't mean they have any real thoughts of exercise. They come to some of the classes offered, march around in place a bit and lift a few weights, but all the while they're really just checking themselves and their fellow socialites out in the mirrors. They wouldn't dare think of wearing a t-shirt and shorts to work out in; instead, they wear matching designer outfits and snazzy shoes (often not actually athletic shoes). They have their hair fixed and their faces are painted with make-up. If their cellphone rings during class (which it definitely will), they think nothing of spending half the class chatting away to whoever is on the other end. After their workout, they head to the gym canteen for a coffee or piece of cake and hang around chatting with friends. If you're a woman and you leave the gym a bit sweaty, they look at you as if you have some kind of disorder.

The best, though, is running. Hardly anyone, male or female, runs in Athens. Kate, Despina, and I, however, go for a run four or five times each week. Any time we pass anyone, they slow down and look at us and then look down the road behind us, expecting to see someone chasing us. Why, after all, would you run if it wasn't an emergency of sorts? There are also people who seem to think that we must be in a race, because their reaction is to cheer us on. Bravo koritsia (girls)! we hear as we run down the sidewalk. On Wednesday, as Kate and I ran up the hill leading to the mountain (yes the one with the ants,)a woman in a car slowed down, rolled down her window, made eye contact with us, and gave us the "Bravo Koritsia!" yell. We're running for maybe thirty minutes, but these people act like we're in the last leg of a marathon. It's quite amusing. Without all the fan fare, I don't know if I'll be able to exercise once I return home. Afterall, I'm only in it for the glory.

Friday, May 14, 2004

fANTastic fun

With our last classes taught (although I still have fun Fridays at the elementary school), Kate and I have taken up a new and exciting hobby. We watch ants. That's right, ants: Phylum, Arthropoda; Class, Insecta; Order, Hymenoptera. It started innocently enough. We were lying outside on the sidewalk leading up to our front door enjoying the sunshine, when we noticed that we were right next to an anthill. Coming from this hill were thousands of ants, parading in an organized line across our front yard. The line actually branched off into two lines about a meter from the nest, and the ants seemed to instinctively know which line they were to merge into. There was no hesitation at the crossroads. They each knew their job and did it as best as they could. The ants would set off with nothing and return with bits of plant that they took down into their nest. Being the clumsy giants that we are, we accidentally killed an ant or two in our clamboring around. These ants weren't abandoned though; another ant would come and take the injured or dead ant back to the nest. That set Kate and I to pondering whether any animals besides humans could comprehend death. It's amazing the deep thoughts that ants can inspire.

This ant-watching started up a while ago, and we have yet to become bored with it. As a matter of fact, yesterday Kate and I went for a run and as we were going up a mountain by our house, we came to a dead stop. Crossing the path (about the size of a narrow two-lane road) was a huge line of ants. A colony was situated on the side of the road, and it had at least five or six different openings into it. Millions of ants must have lived there. It was a true metropolis. Anyhow, the ants were crossing the road and picking up bits of grain that they were dragging back to the nest. Each piece of grain was at least twice the size of the individual ant and some were much much bigger. Each ant grasped the grain in its mouth and trotted it back. One or two ants, with gigantic pieces of grain, were actually walking backwards, dragging the grain. To see how dedicated they were to their grain, I picked up one piece and found that the ant hung on for dear life. No saving itself. As a reward, I let the ant down close to the nest, and although it seemed a bit dazed for a while, it got itself together and got back to the business at hand. While the majority of the ants were carrying grain to the nest, some were just marching back and forth along the line. Kate and I decided these were the motivator and traffic-directing ants. They were doing quite a good job because hardly any ants got off task, and the ones who did end up a ways from the line (mainly thanks to a gusty wind) always made their way back. We did, however, witness a bit on ant hanky-panky, as two ants snuck out of line and proceeded to get it on (or at least that's our best guess for what happened). Another ant must have caught wind of the activities, because it headed out for a look, but the ants had separated by then and gone opposite directions, acting as in nothing at all had happened. Anyhow, we eventually left the ants to their work and made it back home, a number of times having to do some tricky footwork to avoid stepping on any of our new friends. You see, Kate and I have become so attached to these six-legged creatures that we hate to kill any of them, even the ones that are invading our kitchen. Walking itself has become a moral dilemma.

Anyhow, if you'd like to know more about ants I suggest you go to this website. There are lots of links to ant information, and you can join Kate and me in our fascination with this marvelous insect. Here are some nifty facts to get you started.
*Worker ants can live up to seven years, and queen ants can live up to twenty-five years.
*All worker ants are female. Yeah, that's right, the tough guys doing all the work are actually tough girls.
*Male ants have wings. They mate with the queen and then die. They really aren't good for much.
*Some ant colonies can have a million residents.
*Ants are some of the most successful insects in the world.

Fascinating, isn't it. Really, you should give them a chance. Watching them work is motivational. If they can do what they do, think about what we can accomplish. No, really, think about it. As a final note, if you need to buy either Kate or I a present anytime soon, think ant farm.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Reviewing Rice Athletics

The Rice University Athletics Department is currently under review by the Board of Trustees. Apparently such reviews occur every ten years and are not limited to Athletics but to all aspects of the University. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that this review is getting a lot of attention, not just at Rice, but also in the media. McKinsley Co. was commissioned to review both the state of Rice Athletics and the state of the NCAA, and this review is being used to determine the future of Rice Athletics. The options being considered are A) Keep Rice at Division I-A. B) Drop Football and move down to Division I-AAA. C) Drop down to Division III D) Completely get rid of intercollegiate athletics. If you are at all interested in Rice Athletics or the state of the NCAA, I encourage you to check out the report at Rice Owls. After reading the report (or parts of it, since it is quite long), it would be great if you’d fill out the survey form to send your comments to the Rice Board. I honestly don’t believe that Rice Athletics are in serious danger, but it can’t hurt to let the Board know that Rice Athletics are important to you. You don’t have to be a Rice student, alumni or parent; you can simply designate yourself as a “friend of Rice.” Here’s my opinion on why I believe it is important that Rice retain membership in Division I-A.

The combination of athletics and academics is uniquely American. If you travel or study abroad, you will see that universities elsewhere are strictly limited to academic pursuits. There is no foreign equivalent to Homecoming Tailgates, March Madness, the Bowl Series, or the College World Series. As such, there are no real traces of school spirit. You don’t see students wearing sweatshirts with their university’s name blazoned across the front. You don’t find alumni getting together years after they graduate to celebrate their common allegiance to their school. Students go to school for their classes and then return home. There is no reason to be at the university in the evenings or on the weekends. Students in these countries don’t miss it, because they’ve never had it, but I couldn’t imagine going to a school that was without athletics or competed at such a low level that it made little difference if there was competition or not. Athletics encourages school spirit. It unites people who may not have many other common interests. For those alumni of a university who may not live near the school after graduation, athletics is a way of keeping in touch with your alma mater. It’s unlikely that you’ll make an effort to return to the campus for concerts at the music school, lectures, or other such academic events, but there is a good chance you might return for Homecoming Weekend. And even if you don’t return, it’s highly likely that you’ll gather with fellow alumni whenever your team is playing on TV. Athletics unites. Take last year’s College World Series for example. Rice may be an “academic school”, but the largest ever gathering of Rice alumni occurred at a sporting event in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s obvious where our interests and allegiances lie. I can’t tell you who spoke on Rice’s campus this year, what professors won prizes, or what issues student government addressed, but I can tell you how the Rice athletic teams did or are doing. Athletics keeps me connected, even eight time zones away.

Athletes bring diversity to universities. At some big schools with athletic programs that churn out pro athletes at ridiculous rates, athletes may live in a separate universe from the rest of the students. At a small school like Rice, however, athletes are, for the most part, integrated into regular university life. There are some athletes who choose to exclude themselves from campus life, but there are also some music majors, some drama kids, some science geeks, and some “regular” students who choose to do the same. You can’t regulate a student’s involvement in the school once they are admitted. Those who say that Rice athletes were impossible to get to know or had no interest in regular Rice life, obviously had no interest in meeting or being friends with Rice athletes. I wasn’t an athlete, but I knew many – basketball players, football players, tennis players, baseball players, track and field athletes, soccer players, etc, and I often ran into them at parties or Rice events. Most classes I took at Rice had an athlete in them; it just wasn’t always obvious that they were. That to me is a good sign that the athletes are pretty well integrated into regular university life. At a school like Rice, athletes brought much needed diversity. Rice has students of varying races, religions, cultures, and backgrounds, but as far as interests and abilities go Rice is pretty homogenous. It’s a “smart” school. As it is, too many students are already way too steeped in books and academic pursuits. But athletes have to divide their time between demanding classes and demanding sports schedules, and thus already have a broader perspective than the average student. And success in the “real world” really has very little to do with what your GPA was or what honor societies you belonged to. Success hinges on your ability to interact with and relate to people of wildly diverse backgrounds. Success depends on being able to look at issues from a multitude of perspectives. Success requires that you be open-minded and both interested and interesting. I am certainly not arguing that Rice relax its standards for admission or performance. Like all other students, Rice athletes need to be able to meet the challenges presented to them in the classroom. I feel, however, that athletes are often judged in ways that the regular student isn’t. While we all know that SAT scores are just one indicator of a student’s ability to perform college level work, they are often the sole criteria flung around when discussing athletes. Admission to a school like Rice is based on the sum of a person’s talents, abilities, and characteristics. Outstanding talent in one area can often compensate for lesser ability in another area. When someone with lower SAT scores is admitted into the Shepherd School of Music because they have an amazing ability to sing, compose, or play an instrument, no one blinks twice. It would be completely un-PC to even mention such a thing. That same standard does not apply to athletes. Yes, it is a disservice to both the university and the student to admit someone who can’t perform at the level demanded by the school. It is important, however, to remember that all students, student-athletes included, should be judged not by a single number or characteristic (either in a good or bad way), but instead should be judged on what he or she as a complete person can offer to the university.

Finally, what kind of statement would Rice be making by throwing in the towel now? Rice Athletics is on the rise. Last year, the baseball team brought home Rice’s first ever National Championship, and is again this year one of the top programs in the country. Men’s tennis is highly ranked and has the best men’s doubles’ players in the country. The women and men’s basketball teams both had good seasons with invitations to the NIT. They’re recruiting better players every year, and I don’t think it will be long until the invitation is to the NCAA tournament. (The women already made it two years ago.) Our three-year-old soccer program is doing well, and our swimmers are highly competitive. Athletes on the track and field teams are setting world records. And at the same time, Rice had the highest graduation rate for Division I-A athletes in the country. In fact, Rice athletes graduate at a higher rate than the average Rice student. I do believe that the NCAA, in general, is in a sad state. At many universities, athletics can hardly be considered amateur. Athletes are treated to special privileges, excused from regular requirements, and given superstar status. For many athletes, universities are simply holding grounds until they are eligible to go pro. This isn’t true at Rice. Sure some baseball players will leave after their junior year, but the majority of them still end up earning their degrees as witnessed by the high graduation rate. While some athletes are allowed by their universities to go ungrounded in their beliefs that they will make millions in the pros, Rice athletes are realistic in knowing that very few people ever make it as pro athletes. If Rice throws in the towel now, they will be admitting that NCAA athletics are a hopeless joke. That doesn’t have to be. What Rice needs to do is not only stay in the game, but take their game to the next level. Rice needs to make sure its athletes have the best facilities, best coaches, and best opportunities available. At the same time, Rice needs to continue to accept only the best student-athletes and demand excellence from them in the classroom. With the move to Conference USA, a better and more visible conference, Rice has the opportunity to be an example to other universities and to the NCAA in general. By improving on what we’ve been doing for years, Rice can prove to the rest of the country that academics and athletics can go hand in hand, without one having to be compromised. Rice can be the catalyst for reform.

If you feel at all similarly to how I feel, please fill out the survey that goes with the McKinley report. You can access it through Rice Owls.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Happy Birthday Mom!

My mom is celebrating the big 5-0 today. That's right, she has now officially lived for five decades. She's half a centenarian. I know you'd never know it by looking at her, but it's true. With hardly a grey hair or wrinkle, she's reached the landmark 50. I think she's had a pretty good time the past fifty years, and I'm certain she'll make the most of the next fifty. Soon enough all of us kids will be out of her hair, and she's going to let her true self shine through and spend every night partying like a rock star. Haha. You better not Mom! I like you just the way you rock star mom for me. Anyhow, Happy Birthday to the best mom in the world!

Yeah, shut up, my mom is better than your mom and you know it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Bombs and Such

You may or may not have seen the news, but three bombs exploded here in Athens early this morning. I didn't know until I read, so I'm not any better informed than any of you all. The bombs exploded in front of a bank in the Kallithea area of Athens. The bombs were timed to go off over a period of thirty minutes. A newspaper was alerted ten minutes before the first went off, and fortunately there was enough time to evacuate the area and no one was hurt although the bank was extensively damaged. Experts feel that injuries were intended because of the relatively short notice. No one has taken responsibility, although some suspicion has been cast at the Greek November 17 terrorist group. Others say this group is dead, so who really knows. In case you were wondering, it takes me about half an hour to get to Kallithea, so it's not particularly close to me. I've been there twice, both times for the big flea market held there on Sunday mornings. While the 3 euro shirts are quite a bargain, the best thing you can get there are gyro sandwiches.

Interestingly, the bombings coincide with there being 100 days left until the Olympics begin. You can't help but think that there must be some relation. I am not sure exactly what the intent was, but the most obvious thing to me is that whoever did this simply wanted to display their power and remind us that there is no such thing as perfect security. No matter how much money is spent or technology is used, we can't guarantee safety and security. Life is inherently risky, and certain things come with more risk. Unfortunately it seems that these days the Olympics, which are supposed to be representative of international unity and peace, come with a warning of increased risk. Hopefully all the speculation comes to nothing, and the Olympics go off without a hitch, but regardless, I'm glad that I'm not going to be here for them.

As a side note, I must say that hearing about the bombs didn't affect me much. I hope that doesn't mean that I'm in any way accepting that bombings are simply a condition of modern life or life in a city like this, but I didn't feel threatened or anything like that. I was glad no one was hurt, and I thought it was unfortunate that someone would resort to such an action, but I didn't think about any risk to myself or contemplate changing my lifestyle in any way. It was news. That was all.

On a separate but related note, Despina, Kate and I ran over to the Olympic Stadium this weekend to check it out. We can see it from our house (it's only a few blocks away), but we've never gotten up close and personal with it. Turns out we weren't missing much. It's really quite a mess. The basic structure is there, but it's not at all attractive. Plus the area around it is absolutely filthy. I don't know what the plans are for spiffing it up, but there must be some. I'm quite interested in watching the Olympics on TV to see if they can manage to make Athens look nice and if so, how in the hell they do it.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A Bit of Pomp and Circumstance

Congratulations Matthew! Today is it. You've reached the end of the journey called college and are about to enter into the oft talked about but seldom journeyed to "real world". Don't worry. There are still plenty of ways to avoid fully entering this "real world," and I'm sure you are smart enough to figure them out.

In all seriousness, I hope the past four years have been full of challenges, excitement, laughter, discoveries, long conversations, lasting friendships, and instant memories. You'll take more from college than you can realize right now, and you'll be amazed by the things you'll remember and miss the most. I hope you've had a great four years at Dayton, but I also hope that you haven't had the time of your life. At 21 years old, the time of your life still awaits. And I know it will be an amazing time. You've got what it takes to change our world and make it into a far superior world than we have now. I expect nothing less from you. So take a well-deserved break and then get out there and start kicking some butt.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Springtime Magic

Flowers are the theme of the day, and not just in Kentucky where the blanket of roses is awaiting the 130th winner of the Kentucky Derby. Today is May Day. This day means little in the United States, but around Europe it is celebrated in grand style. To the people here it means that nice weather is officially here or at least on its way. Summer is not far off. Here in Athens the day calls for picnics, singing, dancing, and the creation of wreaths made of flowers. This isn't hard because I've never seen a country more covered in wildflowers than Greece. While the entire country is dusted in dead brown dirt for most of the year, a carpet of flowers appears in the spring and makes everything appear lush and dazzlingly alive. I've been told that Greece has more species of wildflower than anywhere in the world, and I think they may be right. There are poppies, daisies, lavender, and violets, but there are also a million other types of flowers I've never seen before. They even have the strangest dandelions. I swear Konstantinos and I picked and blew apart a dandelion that was two feet tall and whose poofy head was the size of a tennis ball. It was big enough to make lots of wishes on.

I know the flowers won't last that long, but I wish they would. I love walking through the vines of roses twisting all along the front gate, and I love the smell that floats in the air as you pass flowering bushes, trees, and plants. The other night Despina, Kate and I went on a walk as the night started to grow dark. We walked to a circle where a creek runs through. In the evening lights, the water twinkled. Overhead trees loaded with flowers released the sweetest fragrance, and a few loose petals drifted down around you like snow. It was like being in a fairy tale. Pure magic.

Call To The Post

A.B. "Happy" Chandler, former governor of Kentucky, once said, "I have never met a Kentuckian who wasn't coming home." On days like today, those of us who are transplanted Kentuckians feel that overpowering pull of home more than usual. Today is the 130th running of the Kentucky Derby, the biggest day of the year in the Kentucky calendar. Unfortunately this is now the fifth year in a row that I haven't been home for it. I hope to make it back soon, because Kentucky Derby time is the best time to be in Louisville. For two weeks, the entire city sports its finest attire. Louisville is a perfect southern lady, attractive, well-kept, gentle, smart, fiery, and full of surprises. Around 6 o'clock tonight it will all culminate in the Run for the Roses, a two minute dash into history or obscurity. Two minutes of yelling, screaming, jumping up and down, hat waving, neighbor hugging excitement. It's not a phenomenon that can be understood if you have not seen it. It's a horse race, you think. But it's not just a horse race. It is the horse race. And it's a horse race surrounded by fan fare that has nothing to do with whether you like horses. It's about whether you know how to have a good time. It's about vice and virtue. It's about victory and defeat. It's about about culture, heritage, history, and pride. It's an event that brings the common man and Hollywood's biggest stars together for a few days of celebration. On the first Saturday in May, Louisville is the place to be. How it got to be this way is unknown to me, but it is that way and that doesn't seem to be changing. Steinbeck in writing about his first experience at the Derby made it clear that you haven't lived unti you've been. If you haven't made it to the Derby yet, you obviously haven't made it yet. So start planning for next year. You'll be sure to have a good time. Louisville will see to it.

And just to put it in writing, I'm pulling for Smarty Jones this year.