Friday, November 30, 2012

Saying Thank You Works Powerful Magic

Whenever I'm talking to anyone, I always make a point of saying, "ευχαριστώ," (thank you) when they've helped me in some way.  It's quite a lovely thing to see the smile that sometimes comes as they appreciate the respect, as anyone would.

Americans aren't at all good at saying thank you and you can write your own editorial on that but one thing I know for sure is that the perception of Americans around the world likely improve substantially if that changed.  Americans many times don't even say thank you to each other that much and people start to think it's not necessary but manners are quite a good thing.

I'm thinking of the Melrose Rock Bar the other night as do you seriously believe you would see anything like that in an American bar.  I talked to Mary about this today as, eat yer hearts out on this one, after going to see Georgia, she took me to meet some of her friends and I spent about an hour with half a dozen ladies.  They were the Shining Stars, in fact (more on that another time).  Oh Lord, feel my pain!

So we talked about violence and the pervasiveness of it in America but Mary said you would see similar things in Athens.  However, I have trouble believing that Greece sees anything on the order of Chicago where it wasn't uncommon to hear of a dozen people being shot dead in a single night.  Nevertheless, ugly stuff happens in Athens and even, albeit infrequently, in Pyrgos.  I asked her about shootings and she said never.  She said that there would be a rare incident of a beating or a stabbing over a bad drug deal so apparently there isn't anywhere exempt from that but there is no gunplay, ever.

You may wonder why I'm writing at six in the morning and that would be my teeth.  There is a little, erm, sensitivity from this morning's experience but I'm deeply-appreciative as Georgia did more in an hour than any other dentist would do in the last four years.  I have one simple word to say to her:  ευχαριστώ (efharisto).

US Dollar Exchange Rate for the Euro and the Pound

How the financial exchange rate relates to "A Clockwork Orange" and the Rosetta Stone.  Perhaps that sounds lunatic to you but read on:

Tonight I was going to get some books from Amazon UK until I discovered the dollar exchange rate for the pound.  It's even worse than for the euro!  From this I conclude that the dollar isn't worth much of anything.

The euro trades for about $1.30 US.  The pound trades for about $1.60 US.  That means a $10 US book will cost $16 US at Amazon UK.

This couldn't have anything to do with the US being more deeply in debt than all the rest of the Cannibal Isles.  Nah, no way.

This is pretty disappointing as I love to read but the cost is prohibitive.  Shipping from Amazon UK is five pounds for the base shipping fee, regardless of whether it's one book or twenty, plus one pound per book.  For example, if you get two £10 books, that will cost £20 plus £5 for base shipping fee plus £2 for the individual fee per book for a total of £27.  Multiply that by the $1.60 US exchange rate and you have a grand total of $43.20 to get those books from Britain to my hands in Greece.  This has nothing to do with Greece as the same would be true if I were in Germany, ostensibly one of the richest countries in Europe.

The solution may well be a clockwork orange.

(Ed:  Um, what?)

Many people only saw "A Clockwork Orange" as a movie but there was much the movie couldn't show as a large part of the genius of Anthony Burgess' work was the language of idiom he invented for it.  'Horrorshow' is a word that was used frequently in the movie but the actual range of the lexicon was so comprehensive that one had to learn it to make any sense at all of the book.  It was, in my view, literary genius but there was no chance of making any translation of that for cinema.

(Ed:  So what?)

The solution of a clockwork orange may be to buy science-fiction books that have been re-printed in Greek.  It should certainly be possible to locate classic science-fiction as much of that was translated around the world.  Science-fiction could, in effect, work as a Rosetta Stone in assisting me or at least providing an incentive in learning Greek.

(Ed:  You're insane.)

Yah, I've heard that before!

The Mad Professor's Wild Ride to the Supermarket

Sing this one to the tune of "Mr Toad's Wild Ride" from "Wind in the Willows" and if you didn't read that when you were a kid then ain't that a hell of a shame!  I won't write an editorial on "Wind in the Willows" as those who know will smile and those who don't will spend the rest of their lives searching aimlessly and hopelessly for something they will never find!

So a big part of the day was rolling the scooter to Pyrgos.  The insurance is good.  The helmet is good.  Move out!

I hadn't even gone a kilometer before the front wheel took a little slide going around a corner.  That gave quite a good little tingle!

The speed limit on the road to Pyrgos is 60 kph but no-one seems to care about that and the scoot does quite nicely at 90 kph.  If you're raising your eyebrows, convert that to mph and you'll find it's not that breathtaking.  What it showed me is that it can hold a decent cruising speed and taking it out, say, a hundred kilometers would take about two hours ... or just about an hour if I hold it at 90 kph.  If you like burning rubber then you'll sniff and walk away but if your interest is in soaking up the coolness of it all then it works just fine.

What made it a wild ride is that there was a fairly hefty cross-wind and that made for some dancing.  This wasn't riding for thrills but rather to get a good handle on how the scoot behaves and really it's not too bad.  So long as you don't expect it to run like a cafe racer and you stay cool with what it can do then it will get it done.

So that was a little bit wild but the really wild part is in the supermarket.  Imagine the next time you go shopping for food that someone has changed all the labels on the products and you can't read them anymore.  If you think you could figure it all out just from the pictures, guess again.  It's not that easy!  Don't read this as any kind of a complaint as I knew the supermarket would be the first hardest part and it gives one peach of a reason to learn Greek!

I'll have another article for exploring Pyrgos as that won't do without pictures.  I'd love to show it to you rather than just writing it so that'll come next time.  If it doesn't rain tomorrow, maybe then.  I know there's the next re-match of the To the Death Chess Match tomorrow and that will be excellent as the current standing is 3:2 and I'm down one.  It's a fist fight for sure!  Hopefully I'll get to hang with Mary for a few hours but then she will bounce for the rest of her day and so will I.  So long as it's not raining, I'll go exploring and the objective will to get back to Pyrgos and get you some pictures plus get me some knowledge of just how the hell to get around there.  I'm not complaining as I love it but it's not an easy trick figuring it out.  Oh, you want names on the streets?  In yer dreams!  (laughs)

Time for Some Mad Professor Cooking with Curry (Updated w/Verdict)

When the Mad Professor cooks, recipes are irrelevant.  I haven't done it in a while but now it's time.

I haven't found much in the way of spices so far but I've got some curry powder, some ground red chilies and some oregano.  That's kind of sparse but my theory is that I'll start with a tomato paste as a base and zing that up with the curry powder and the chili powder plus might as well throw in some oregano as that's always good on practically anything.

Once the curry cooking sauce is ready, I'll get things started with olive oil, onions and garlic.  There's no point in starting anything without those.  First thing is to stir fry that until the onions are nicely softened.  I'm sure there's a perfect cooking term for that but the Mad Professor doesn't care about cooking terms.  It just has to taste good.

Once the stir fry base is ready, the curry sauce gets stirred into it, that will be followed by the vegetables as the chicken, which was browned ahead of this, is stirred in last because it needs the least cook time.

The reason for writing this down is that I've got three chicken breasts and the question I pose to the Mad Professor is whether to do all three of them.  Saving two means they may go to pot in the fridge but using all three means a possible loss of all three if this really sucks.  Mad Professor cooking is serious business.

The tactical considerations are weighty and far-ranging as there's no wok and there's only one frying pan, a seriously small one.  There's no way all this stuff will fit into it.  Therefore, perhaps the answer, heretical as it may be, is to switch from stir-frying to slow-cooking this stuff, take a bit longer but give that chicken more time to absorb that curry goodness.

Yep, slow cooking is going to be the winner.  If you don't see another blog article from me, you will know that something went horribly wrong.

If it does work, you'll hear about the Mad Professor's Wild Ride to the Supermarket earlier today.  It was hilarious ... in a twisted kind of way.


Verdict is a single word:  Pitiful.  To shed that much blood for this boring result is most unfortunate.  I use a quite sharp knife for cutting the chicken and it just managed a little nick on my thumb but it was ridiculous how much blood flowed and it wouldn't stop.  This isn't an Emergency Room story, it really is ridiculous how it kept flowing and I couldn't just abandon the project so I wrapped it up as best I could but even that leaked and there was blood all over every damn thing.

So, after that damn nuisance, I figured I had seriously paid my dues for the meal but it turned out boring.  All the ingredients turned out well, the rice was right, the chicken was nicely tender, the vegetables weren't squishy, etc.  But!  None of them picked up too much of what I had hoped would be a fairly wicked base!

This isn't a whine.  I'm really surprised!  I thought I had quite a good jolt in the curry powder and the same for the chilies but neither came through very well at all.  I'll review my mix for next time as I'll definitely take another shot at this.  However, there's one basic rule to Mad Professor cooking:  if you cook it, you eat it.  So I'm doing that now and I saved the rest.  Hardly anything gets thrown out of this kitchen except wrappers and shells!

Certain in Life are Death, Taxes ... and Dentists - Updated

After a quite long period of dental travesty in America, yesterday was the moment when I could finally see a dentist who is willing to take on my case.  I won't delay the punchline so I'll tell you immediately that it will cost about €3000 of which I have about €1400 and that will deplete the nest egg.  The one thing that prevents this from being an immediate blazing crisis is that there is so much damage that it will take roughly two years to repair it all.

Likely only long-time regulars will want to continue through the rest of this one.

I have very high confidence in the professional skills of the dentist and I'll just call her Georgia for now.  It makes sense to call her that as Georgia really is her name.  That may lead you to expect her to speak with an American southern drawl but she speaks very little English.  Mary again volunteered to help as she not only took me to the appointment for the consultation but she translated between us as the consultation proceeded.

Georgia is a professional which means many things, most important to the immediate topic is that she doesn't expect me to come up with the entire sum before she starts and it will be paid during the course of the treatment.  Therefore, I will go in for my first appointment with her for performing the actual repair in about an hour.

Perhaps you'll think it was extravagant to get the Hooter Scooter but it's required to eat and if I don't eat then having teeth is largely irrelevant.  It's no exaggeration on the requirement as the supermarket is ten or fifteen kilometers from here and Mary is my good and dear friend but expecting her to run a commute to keep me supplied with foodstuffs is not at all an act of my friendship on my part.

The most obvious solution is to sell the Galaxy Guitar and the audio equipment as it doesn't make any money and it's not likely that it will due to my quite determined effort not to hype anything musical that I do.

There isn't a good answer but I do know that coming back to the U.S. isn't on the list of possibilities.  I'll never forget your generosity in putting me up in Fort Worth and Nashville but I couldn't stay as it just wasn't possible after a lifetime of independence.  Here in Greece I'm broke but I'm free.  There's no possible way I could rent in America anyplace that didn't come with a fairly large population of crawling insects and malevolent rodents along with what would be a likely population of two-legged rodentia with guns on the streets outside.  I know how it is in the ghetto, I've lived there.

Any thoughts on the matter are of high interest and you can comment here or reach me by email.  One thing I won't do is post a 'donate' badge here on the blog as it's tasteless and it's offensive to the theme of the story.


I saw Georgia this morning and Mary's recommendation was excellent.  I was very confident after meeting Georgia last evening and that confidence is definitely warranted.  She did a great deal of work in a relatively short time, relieving some substantial problems right from the start.  I will see her again on Monday and the biggest problem is finding her office, plus it could get a little soggy on the scooter if it rains.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greece Rocks Hard at the Melrose Rock Bar in Pyrgos

Both bands were young but they did tight, professional sets and the Melrose Rock Bar in Pyrgos was packed for the whole night.  The bar is fifty square meters but there were one hundred and twenty people in it.  That's a lot of people but it was cool and everyone was extremely well-mannered.  Harry has been running the Melrose Rock Bar for quite a few years and he knows how to keep things together.  People don't get drunk and hit each other over the head with bottles, etc.  The police know he stays on top of it so the whole vibe is very, very cool ... and it rocks hard.  This is NOT traditional Greek music.

Here's a shot from outside so you will know when you've found it.  Maybe you ask why travel five thousand miles to hear kids playing rock but there's a perfectly good reason:  it's good rock!

Here are some shots from inside the bar:

No drugs, drunks, nor bad attitudes, just a whole lot of kids having a good time and doing it quite loud! The sound reinforcement was excellent as the sound was punched up great but you could still talk ... a little bit.  It wouldn't do to be hanging there in long chats about philosophy while the band plays, right.

Harry is a big-hearted man and he encourages kids to bring their bands to play there on Tuesdays to Thursdays to get them started in a live venue and give them a taste of playing in front of a real crowd.  He's known for it and many in the crowd are musicians and I met Yanis there tonight.  He wasn't playing but he rehearses at Harry's studio and he invited me over to listen to his experimental bass playing.  It sounds like what he's doing is very cool as he's using an excellent looper that not only loops but provides audio effects to the loops as Yanis doesn't just want to get away from playing the same old songs, he wants to get away from the same old sounds as well.  There might be an opportunity to go over there on Saturday and hear him play and that would be a great pleasure.

Yes, Harry is a very big-hearted man and to tell you the full of it would probably embarrass him as people like that hardly ever want publicity for it.  What I can tell you is that Harry is also a businessman and he can probably find whatever you need from a vacation rental to a car to a great place to stage your band.  He is living proof that you don't have to throw your heart away to be good and successful in business.

Oh yes, this was a very good time tonight!

Yes, Virginia, There is a Helmet

Yes, there is a helmet and, yes, I will wear it.  You know I'll wear it as it's a €250 fine if I don't.

The scooter is owned by the landlord and I'm covered until the purchase happens under his insurance.  He gave me the papers today.  He's also got me on the registration to cover me with cops.

This one will be short as I'm headed out to a rock bar in a few minutes.  Harry owns it and he's said I ought to play there sometime.  There's a live act tonight so that'll give me some idea whether taking the Galaxy Guitar out in public is cool or what.

News at eleven ... or one in the morning ... or so!

Whoops ... left out one little detail.  I'm not going out to the bar on the scoot.  Harry's going to give me a ride.

Going Riding Down to Katakolo

The first thing I saw was a flock of sheep in the road and they looked so cool.  I'm sorry I didn't get a picture but I had only been on the scooter for a few minutes and wasn't at all stable on it.  After finding my way around the sheep without me running into one of them or the other way around, I drove on down to Katakolo which is a couple of kilometers from here.

The ride was quite insane and I knew it would be as there is one ferocious wind blowing out there and bikes work like vans when there's a high wind:  they become sails.  Because of the small wheels, the scooter is kind of unstable anyway but the wind really made it delicious.  A sensible person would have turned around and waited for the winds to die down but you know me better than that.  Besides, you didn't tune in here for a weather report.

There was no particular reason for going to Katakolo so I took the camera to get some pictures.  It will look quite a bit different when the weather is better and there are cruise ships in port.  Vendors will set up all along the streets and there will be people all over the place.  When the port is empty, it's very quiet and everyone takes it easy.

This is a long-shot of Katakolo and it's misty because of the spray blown up by the wind.  There's no exaggeration on the wind as it really is blowing hard.

These appear to be fishing boats as you can see what looks like a net rolled up on the side.

Here are some more boats at Katakolo and you can see a marina in the background.  The cruise ships dock on the other side of the port but there were none here this morning.

It was quite an amusing ride as the scooter is the bar-none most unstable two-wheeler I ever rode but it's still a giggle to ride it.  You just need to follow the same rules as any other scoot:  don't do anything stupid and you probably won't get killed.

The things that make it unusual go like this:
  • You put your feet 'inside' rather than straddling the bike and that feels quite peculiar at first.  Well, it feels kind of girly is how it feels but, what the hell, that's how you ride it.
  • The automatic transmission makes take-offs very different from popping a clutch.  It kind of eases into motion rather than getting right down to it.
  • The tiny wheels (i.e. twelve-inches) don't give much stability and even Evel Knievel wouldn't think of leaning this one in a corner.  This aspect is a bit dodgy but see below.

Despite those liabilities, it's fun to ride and it's like I said up front:  stay cool and you probably won't get killed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marlboro Cigarettes in Greece

Marlboro cigarettes are here in Greece and I really should make some effort to quit but I'd be lying if I said I care very much.  One good thing about the scooter is that you can't smoke while you're riding ... but it has a windshield so it might be possible!  I don't think it's all that Marlon Brando to be smoking while you ride a Vespa, tho.  Maybe I'll see if I can get a pic with me sitting on the Vespa while I'm wearing a t-shirt with a pack of Marlboros rolled up in the sleeve.  That'd be pretty hot, right?

Daisy wants to come out so she asked if they sell Winstons over here because ... de dum de dum ... everybody must get stoned!

Well, maybe Bob Dylan is getting stoned but I haven't seen it here.  I'd smoke it if it were in front of me but I gather they thump you hard for possession and discovering the wonders of a Greek jail isn't high on my list of priorities.

So, sure, you can get Marlboro cigarettes here and they're cheaper than in the U.S.  Petrol is more expensive but cigarettes are cheaper.

Just as in the U.S., the packages have warning labels that everyone ignores:

Το Καπνισμα μπορει να σκοτωσει

Ο καπνος περιεχει βενζολιο νιτροζαμινες φορμαλδευομ και υδροκυανιο

See, you want to quit already, right? 

The Scooter Comes Home w/Pics! Updated

Now ain't this a sexy li'l number, huh!  She's a Vespa and she differs from my Harley in many ways, one of which is that it has a little hook that pulls out so you can hang your shopping bag in the front between your legs.  I don't think the Harley design team spent a lot of time worrying about where to put your shopping.  For my purposes, these days, there's not much else that matters to me.  The seat also lifts up to reveal a quite large storage area underneath so this move is quite a bit more practical than it may seem.  (There's one little detail that I can't find a Vespa model anywhere that looks like this but I'll get the details tomorrow in the light.)

Update:  There's a reason I can't find a Vespa model that looks like this.  It's not a Vespa.  It's a SYM  VS 150 made by San Yang Motors in Taiwan.  I have never heard of the outfit before and here are some reviews, most are quite good.

Actually, I think she looks pretty cool!

For security, the forks lock plus you can use the key to close the ignition to prevent anyone from poking anything into it.

For mechanical details, the motor is a 150-cc four-stroke.  It should run up to about 60 mph / 90 kph and get about 70-75 mpg.

So there was one kind of stylin' on the Harley but that came as close to killing me as anything ever did and that was damn close.  This is a whole different kind of stylin' and I like that fine.  If I get an urge to impress someone, I'll let you know but I don't predict that happening any time soon.  This is a scoot for riding to the supermarket rather than the race track!

Updated House Photo - Clean is Sexy

Yesterday I was advised, regarding my home here, that clean is sexy.  If that's the case then call me Johnny Depp as this place is immaculate.

The dining table is no longer a data processing center as Harry brought down a computer desk and that tidies things quite nicely.  You can't see the Galaxy Guitar very well but it's behind the chair where it's at little risk of being knocked over.  Yes, that's Coke on the desk and that may seem like heresy but good luck finding Pepsi here.  So far I've only seen it in one market as everywhere else stocks Coke exclusively.

In other news, Harry may bring the Vespa back here today, depending on whether it rains.  It will take some days to formalize the deal as the papers I gave him need to be translated to Greek.  He and Mary are long-time friends so it didn't surprise me much when he said he would ask her to do it.  The translated papers will then need to be reviewed by his lawyer and then they can be taken to the police.  He's ok with me riding in the interim so that's pretty cool but I won't have insurance until the deal is completed so that's a bit awkward so likely I'll keep riding to a minimum.

Once I'm covered by insurance, you'll start seeing pictures from farther afield as I'll definitely go exploring.  Petrol is about €1.80 per liter so that's close to $8.00 per US gallon (if you factor in exchange rates, it's about $9.20 US per gallon).  The Vespa is only 150-cc so that should keep fuel use pretty low and economical.  One of the first intended destinations is Olympia but it might be cooler to take the train there from Katakolo as it's only a few euros.  We'll see how that goes but there will be pictures in any case.

Security is Not a Concern

About a week ago I had a run-in with the police.  I had only been here a week at the time and thought that was a bit early to start a police record.  I was standing outside in the early darkness and their car appeared, just like the state trooper who pops you for speeding, from out of nowhere.  After asking me a few questions, they identified themselves as security police and I was a bit unnerved as their car was unmarked and they weren't wearing uniforms.

The reason for their interest is that I was standing outside during the hours favored by some burglars who had been working the area.  Just in case I was one of them, they wanted to be very clear of my identity.  The update on that story is that the burglars have been caught which is which is quite a good job as burglars are usually quite difficult to catch and they did it in a week.  There was a group of four of them in their mid-twenties, only one of them Greek, and they were doing it to feed a need for drugs.  No-one does second-floor jobs to get money for marijuana or the like so they were almost certainly addicted to narcotics.

The speed at which the bad guys were apprehended is good news but there's additional security news as the fellow next door works for port security in Katakolo, just down the road from here.  A cruise ship stops here most days and during the high season there can be as many as six or seven in port at the same time.  There has been at least one problem with terrorism on cruise ships in the past so port security is present here to deal with that possibility or anything else unusual that might arise when a thousand or so tourists spill into town at once.

All of the above is good for the security of Katakolo but how it applies to me is that when my neighbor goes to work he's dressed in fatigues and packing heat!  He's one of a team of about ten, I believe, so any terrorist who wants to pull anything down there would definitely be facing some serious firepower. What that also means is that any burglar who tries anything here where I live will be making one very serious mistake.  Due to the number of cars going in and out of here, it's not likely that a burglar would try anything anyway but this is an additional guarantee.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You Meet the Nicest People on a Vespa (updated)

The idea of the 50-cc scooter was thrown out quickly as the speed limit on the road to Pyrgos is 60 kph (haha, believe 80-90 and you better get out of the way).  Now consider that the top speed on the 50-cc scooter is, at best, 60 kph.  Taking that scooter out there isn't just asking for death, it's begging for it.

There are two primary reasons for getting the scoot.  The first is to hop back and forth to Pyrgos to get to the supermarket.  There is a market marginally within walking distance (i.e. about a kilometer or so from here) but it's also marginally supplied.  If you're going to get the stuff you really need to put some meals together, you've got to go to Pyrgos.  The second reason for scooting is that Olympia is not far away and there's so much coolness in it that cruise ships stop in here most days and this is the low season.  In high season, six or seven may be docked here at one time.

The Vespa is an additional €500 and that hurts but that's a whole lot less pain than getting scraped off the highway again.  (I did check out cars but even a beat-down Fiat would have been €2000.  No way.)

(Ed:  Scraped off again?)

Don't get me started on my motorcycle crash stories.  It's worse than hearing an old woman talking about her operations.  (Actually I'm thinking of a relatively-young woman back on Hosea Avenue in Cincinnati and she was notorious for regaling everyone she met about her latest surgery.  All the kids in the neighborhood wondered how they could possibly find more places on her to cut and yet she was still spry enough to get around the neighborhood talking endlessly of her surgical horrors.)

So the Vespa looks like the move once I get past one large boatload of bureaucracy to buy it.  For one, you must have an identifiable source of income and be able to prove it or, well, don't come.  The unemployment rate here is well over 25% so coming into the country with your hand out is a very bad idea.

The bike is clean and runs well and the comedy part is that it has a windshield.  Man, I've never had a bike with a windshield in my life!  But, what the hell, it's a Vespa and it's even got those panels on each side so your footsies don't get too cold.

There's an even better comedy part, tho:  it has an automatic transmission.  Whoa!  I really did laugh out loud when Harry told me about that.  I had asked him where they hid the shifter and that's when he said it didn't need one.  So it's got a windshield and an automatic transmission.  Tell me this isn't a speedball!  And I thought riding a Harley was stylin'!

Here's a brief history that will show quite well why I should not get this scooter.  This one is a Kawasaki on Daytona Beach and it's one of the few I did not crash.

This one is a Honda 350 Street Scrambler and it was one pretty bike.  I rode it quite a bit and, amazingly enough, didn't crack it up too much.  (I skipped over a Kawasaki 90 and a Yamaha 250 dirt bike in-between this and the beach bike)

Here's a Honda 500 and Lotho was riding by this time so he liked running around on it too.  This is the only bike that neither of us ever piled into anything.  It was pretty much of a warthog but it was funny leaning it down for corners as leaning far enough would result in clipping the foot peg on the road.  This would cause the rear wheel to raise up, pick up some RPMs, and give you a little goose when it came back down again.

The bandages are from crashing a different Honda but I still had this one and, damaged or not, I was determined to ride.  As you may have guessed, common sense was not a high priority with me.

This is the 750 Honda that went into a speed wobble on I-71 and resulted in the most spectacular of my many crashes.  It stopped traffic in both directions on a six-lane highway!

This is a Harley Sportster, my all-time favorite, and this is the last picture before a car ate it.  The problem with a car eating it is that I was on it at the time.

The reason this picture is so grainy is that the crash made it to the newspaper and this is a copy of the page.  You can see that beautiful Harley all bent-up and smashed on one side of the car and me all bent-up and smashed on the other.  It was the other guy's fault but that's irrelevant to the First Biker Law:  don't let the bastards hit you.

And here's the glorious result of that crash.  The only part of me that still worked was my right arm and the smile is because they've got me so hammered on drugs that I would have been amused by elephant jokes.  But, what the hell, I had a pretty good suntan so I looked pretty in surgery!

So there you have multiple reasons why I should never think of a two-wheeled vehicle ever again.  Oh sure, I'm going to listen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Not Just a Travelogue

While it's a pleasure to bring you stories and pictorials of various things I encounter here, that's not all that's happening.  Harry is one swell fellow and he brought down a computer desk so I could get the computer off the dining table and now it's set up in a much more civilized way.

It's been taking some time to get the sound of the Boss GT-100 (the black box on the floor) dialed into what I want as you can't just plug into the thing and sound like Van Halen, assuming, of course, that you have any interest in sounding like that.  First you verify what it sounds like by plugging headphones into the GT-100.  Next you plug the headphones into the audio interface (the white box under the computer) and then finally you plug them into the output speakers to verify the sound coming out of the computer is what it was going into it.  This involves a gigantic amount of knob-twiddling which excites me as much as cleaning grout in the bathroom.

However, the knob-twiddling is working and last night I got the best sound out of the guitar so far and this resulted in the best playing I've done since I got here.

There are still other problems as the power supply for the vocal effects (the purple box on the floor) will fry on Euro power.  It would cost twenty+ euros for a transformer but it would cost less to replace the power supply with one that will not need a transformer and can plug directly into the wall here.  The same is true for the Boss RC-50 looper.  Hopefully both of these problems will be solved in the next few days after I get mobile.

There's news on the vehicular front as Harry said he could get me a scooter, a 50-cc fireball of a motorcycle.  I'm not convinced that it would be sufficient as Greeks are pretty godawful drivers and there's not much evasive potential in a 50-cc scoot.  Going up to 125-cc or 250-cc would be safer but would also be more expensive.  There's no question of a car due to the much higher cost of the vehicle and also the cost of insurance.  Whatever happens will be in the next few days as Harry and I will go into town today to clear the purchase with the police and this is required because I'm not Greek.  It's not a big deal, just a necessary formality.

The motorcycle situation should be kind of funny as I haven't ridden anything with a displacement smaller than 750-cc for twenty years but it'll be fun and it'll definitely get it done.  Getting a bicycle had been suggested but it's too far into town and riding on the same road with drivers who can't even dream of staying in a lane would be tantamount to suicide.  Besides, yer frozen food would be thoroughly defrosted by the time I got it back here.

Tour of a Plant Producing Olive Oil

It was just a side-thought as Mary and I were driving back from the To the Death Chess Tournament when she decided to show me an olive-processing plant.  The place was surprisingly-small and yet was producing an enormous quantity of olive oil.  Note in this sequence that nothing artificial is added to the mix anywhere during the process and all of the work is accomplished by about a dozen men.

Note: The current standing in the Tournament is 3 to 2 so there was some vindication for the home team (i.e. me) tonight!

Let's make some olive oil, shall we.

First you pour bushel after bushel of the raw olives into the machine that strips off twigs and everything else leaving nothing but the the olive:

Then you collect the stripped olives to feed them into the next stage of processing:

This machine chops the olives into little bits:

Here the chopped up bits of olive are refined closer toward the final stage of oil:

Here's the last stage of processing in producing pure olive oil:

A massive volume of olive oil is produced and stored in these huge vats on the wall of the plant opposite the machines that refine it.  The process is remarkably efficient and all of it is immaculately clean:

The long-shot shows you the small size of the plant and yet it's producing an enormous volume of a product that hasn't been duplicated very well anywhere else in the world.  There's a substantial resentment in Greece that the pure olive oil produced here only fetches about two euros on the world market and is bottled in other countries (e.g. Italy) where it is re-marketed for about fifteen euros.  This is apparently due to political corruption in Greece which prevents it from being bottled here.  This seems like particularly suicidal corruption but political corruption is suicidal anywhere.

I'm Not Dreaming of a White Christmas

The picture was taken a few minutes ago outside my front door but maybe I'm being pessimistic about a White Christmas.

Here's a picture from from far away and long ago:

There's a Porsche underneath that.  You can tell by the signature rear-view mirror (laughs).  You can also tell it's still snowing by the misty look of the houses in the background.

Oh Lord, take me home!  (laughs)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Prepare an Octopus for a Meal

The title might have you thinking you will discover here the cooking instructions for an octopus but this is how to prepare the octopus before you cook it.  The octopus has just been pulled from the sea and this is what happens next.

The pictures come from a return trip to the Kastro Bar for third installment of the To the Death Chess Tournament but, alas, I must report that I lost again so the score is now two to one and not in my favor.


Throw him into the rocks:

Pick him up to do it again:

This is done quite a few times as the octopus will otherwise be too tough to eat.  Mary told me that commercial fishermen use some type of 'octopus washing machine' to tumble them to do many at once.

Now isn't your life richer with this knowledge.  You might have been thinking that you just catch 'im and fry 'im but nooooo.  If you want to eat an octopus, you have to put some work into it.

Robinson Crusoe in Greece

The is one of the smaller islands across the bay from the Kastro Bar and I had previously been surprised to find Robinson Crusoe living on it.  While his house doesn't look too impressive, do you have a beach like that in front of yours?

Today I was determined to go over there to meet him.  I knew from seeing him across the water before that he lives by fishing and he also catches an octopus sometimes.  The water isn't very deep and octopi aren't hard to find here.

I half-waded and half-swam across the water between the beach where I was standing and the island where Robinson Crusoe was as I was very interested to know how he got away with it with living there in plain sight of just about anyone who came by.

As I walked up to the beach to his house, I called out, "Καλημέρα!"  (Good morning)

He came out of his house a moment later, an older man with long, unkempt hair and a beard that had grown too long, and he was obviously not at all pleased to see me.  He said, "Spare me your foreigner Greek, it doesn't impress me."

I told him, "I apologize.  I meant no offense.  May we talk?"

Still quite grumpy, he said to me, "We're obviously already talking.  Aren't you asking if we may continue to talk."

This wasn't going at all well but I had waded all the way across to his island and was interested to at least try to engage him in some conversation.  "I do apologize for my uninvited intrusion but I would like to talk with you if I may."

"Well, you're here."

I started with, "The most intriguing thing to me is how you came to be living here."

"That's all you've got, son?"  He scowled and turned back to sorting out his fishing lines.

"OK, why are you here?"

"What other reason, son.  A woman."  He gave me a look as if I should be a in a lower form in an elementary school and then turned back to his fishing lines.

It wasn't much of an answer and, at that point, there wasn't much else to say except to ask, "Do you have a spare fishing line, bro?"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Finding Ithaka Isn't Hard

The biggest highlight of the Kastro Bar was hanging out with Harry as he's not only the landlord but it's fascinating talking with him.  I didn't bring up the subject of Ithaka but rather he was telling about the islands we could see from the bar.  Zakinthos is in plain sight and he said you can easily sail there in about an hour.  From there you can sail on to Kefalonia which appears also to be about an hour and from there he said you could take a small motorboat over to Ithaki.

There are many other islands nearby, Harry was only talking about the bigger ones.  One of the small, closer islands is where Robinson Crusoe is living but that's a story for another time.

Harry didn't say why one would use a motorboat from the last part of the trip as he was most interested in talking about the wild beaches, they're wild and natural because no-one else is on them.  He marveled at the white beaches as he said the sand is created by the water's action on marble and this makes it pure white.  There is also very little industry in this entire area so the water is very clean and this is the basis for the incredible photographs of Greek beaches.  It's something quite rare in many other parts of the world:  they're sparkling clean.

The bottom right is the actual location of the Kastro Bar and that's where I'm living now.  There are two little details on sailing to Zakinthos, tho:
  • I don't know where and for how much one would rent a sail boat.
  • I can't sail to save my life.  This isn't stuff one learns in the city.
Apart from those items, it would be pretty easy!

The map is © Google Maps

ΦΑΡΜΑΚΕΙΟ (Pharmacy) in Pyrgos

A little pharmacy in town is not by itself all that noteworthy except for a few key things.  The most obvious is that it hasn't been consumed by some kind of gigantic super-store.  Even better, there's no evidence that anything in Pyrgos has been consumed by a gigantic super-store.

This isn't exactly a tourist destination but the owner was very helpful and had quite a nice manner.  The reason for going was Mary's insistence that I get a blood pressure cuff.  I was somewhat resistant as I was concerned at what it would reveal.  I haven't told any of you how high it had been running, even on a day-to-day basis.  However, what was very cool was that the pharmacist insisted on showing me how the cuff worked and the test revealed 112/72 so the medication is definitely working.

That would only be partially cool as the prescription will run out in a couple of weeks but he said he can help with that too.  If I bring in the prescription, he can figure out the Greek equivalent and set me up with the right stuff.  Everyone, even a visitor to the store, wanted to make sure I would also see a doctor to get some long-term support and that was quite charming, not just the recommendation alone but that that there was the interest to make it.

Sunset from the Kastro Bar

In the summer time there would probably be a billion people on the beach below and I would most likely I would be somewhere else.  Now, in 'winter,' it's a great place to hang-out and I met Μακισ (Makis), the owner, and Αλεχισ (Alexis), the guy who actually does the work (laughs).  Both were very cool and, alas, I don't have any idiosyncratic tales to tell but I do have one from earlier in the day.  That one involved Robinson Crusoe on a small island nearby.  That story would be better with a picture so it will wait until tomorrow.  Something charming to me is that both places are in walking distance of where I live.

What this picture doesn't show you is that the water is about 21C / 70F and there were some fellows swimming in it a little later in the evening.  It's also a little hazy so you can't see some islands in the distance.  I'm told they're within easy sailing distance and so is Ithaka, although a little bit longer.

The biggest marvel about this view is another thing you can't see because it's underwater.  The area was leveled by a volcanic explosion / eruption a few thousand years ago and there are ruins all over the place under the water.  You can't even have to know how to scuba dive to see it as the water is fairly shallow.  There is quite strict regulation on bringing stuff up but it is permitted, even to place the piece in your house, so long as it's approved by the local police.  I have no interest in collecting anything but it would be astounding to see it.

(Ed:  Just where exactly is this volcano?)

Oh, yah, well, it's just down the road from here too (laughs)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nothing is Real

I was standing there quietly watching the sunset and a fellow walked up to me.  He didn't say anything for a little while but then announced, "None of this is real."

Not quite clear what he meant, I asked him, "Nothing is real?  We aren't real?  What do you mean?"

He became a little indignant as he seemed to think his meaning was readily apparent:  "Nothing is real.  It's all a virtual creation.  Can't you see that?"

This amused me somewhat so I questioned back at him, "If it's not real then how could I possibly see what you're seeing?"

He became furious and insisted, "None of this is real, damn it.  None of it!"

At this point I was starting to enjoy it and asked him, "Can I assume that what you're saying is real?  If so then it seems clear that at least that much is real but perhaps nothing else is."

Quite angry at my density, he started shouting, "Yes, exactly.  What I'm telling you is real but nothing else is!"

Really amused at his indignation, I asked again, "If nothing else is real then presumably that includes me so there's really not much point in telling me anything.  Am I following you so far?"

"I'm telling you so you will understand, damn you!"  He was really furious now but he seemed to enjoy that.

I replied, "Perhaps I'm not being clear.  If I'm not real then what difference does it make if I understand?"

He said, "I'm trying to make a point and you're deliberately making it seem like you don't understand."

Starting to tire of his discussion, I asked him, "Could you be a little more clear on what point you're trying to make?"

Really angry now, he shouted further, "My point is that nothing is real and it's a mistake to take anything too seriously."

Anger was rising in me at that point as this was turning into a relentless and pointless assault.  I said simply, "If that's true then there's no reason to take your point seriously."

And that was the point that he waved his fist at me and strode away down the beach, muttering to himself, "Μαλάκας."  (You'll have to look that one up yourself)

I went back to watching the setting sun as it wouldn't be long before it was completely dark and I would have to turn around to go home.

"Finding My Way" - Alan Fraser (audio)

"Finding My Way" is something I recorded eight or nine years ago and, now that I'm in Greece, I feel like I've finally found my way to where I needed to be.  The song is an instrumental, jazzy kind of thing, and was released on a CD that is no longer available.  Maybe I'll go back to polish the songs on it to re-release it but the regulars know my thoughts already on going back in time.  Likely this one exists as it will and that's how it was meant to be.

The song is the first I've released to SoundCloud and I've not used it before so we'll have to see how things work out there.  One thing I know for sure is that it's free and it permits upload of two hours of music.  I've almost certainly got quite a bit more than that but the trick will be finding two hours of my stuff that doesn't suck (laughs).

Yes, this is way-back machine stuff but it may be something you have never heard from me before.  Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Verifying Twitterfeed is Working Correctly - Updated

There was an issue with Twitterfeed in which updates were not getting posted to Twitter and consequently nowhere beyond Twitter.  This article is only a test to verify updates are flowing and it may well result in the last three going out at the same time.

This is only a test.  In the event of an actual emergency, you would have been advised to crouch under your school desk which would have afforded no more protection than wearing an aluminum foil hat.  (That's not an exaggeration.  The official government recommendation for school children was to get under the school desk for protection against a nuclear attack.  Whether governments have become any more intelligent in the intervening years is left for the interested student to explore.)


New articles are going through correctly but the bug prevented the last ones from being posted.  I'll do that manually.

Chordslinger and Lola Live at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village

The phone rang and I heard the plaintive voice of my friend advising me that he was stuck in a telephone booth and could I come to help.  Ordinarily one might think this was unusual but these were the sixties and sometimes (every time!) LSD had unusual effects.  I never really discovered just what was outside the telephone booth and confining him within it as the only important thing was to determine which one so I could come to rescue him.

I can cheerfully report that the rescue was successful and I can now I say 'I knew him when he was getting trapped in telephone booths.'  It is now quite a few years later and I can cheerfully report something altogether different:

November 23:  Chordslinger and Lola will appear live at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village.  When you get The Bitter End's site, click the Schedule tab and then look up November 23 for the evening's line-up.  Hopefully you'll do it quickly as that date is this Friday!

Chordslinger is not his real name and I imagine it would have been a formidable prospect to get through school with a name like that.  Perhaps not as formidable as being 'A Boy Named Sue' but a challenge nevertheless.  If he wanted you to know his real name, I imagine he would tell you himself so I'll leave that to him.

My friend has been playing keyboards ever since the days of getting stuck in telephone booths but now he's doing it in New York City.  Ain't that grand!

Break a leg and I hope it's one hell of a good time for both of you.

Preventing Redirection to Country-Specific Domains

While it's pretty cool to see the .gr suffix on the blog, redirection from to will make some things stop working.  For example, the Twitter widget in the sidebar to list recent tweets disappears altogether.  When redirection is prevented, the widget magically comes to life.

The Twitter widget permits me to write short messages without writing an entire blog article and it consequently makes the blog more dynamic.  Some call that microblogging and they can call it whatever they like, I just find it helpful and convenient.

To find the details on overcoming the redirection problem, see Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on Prevent your Blogger Blog from Redirecting to Country-Specific URLs.  His solution is fairly easy to implement so long as you're comfortable with editing HTML.  The steps Mr Agarwal has provided are specific and will work if followed correctly but the process does require editing the HTML of the template for your blog.  Be careful as you can break your blog beyond all imagination otherwise.  Note:  there is a Backup/Restore process in the HTML Edit function.  Use it!

Mr Agarwal also has a clever way to ensure your blog is indexed by search engines and he does it through the use of robots.txt.  You can review that one at How to Add a Google Sitemap to your Blogger Blog.

Sorry about what you may see as techno-babble but it solved a problem I've been having and I'm most appreciative of that.

Roland GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer - Going to the Shelf

After trying again last night to get reliable behavior out of the Roland guitar synth, I'm abandoning the chase.  If I continue, the outcome seems inevitable in that I'll throw it out a window and there are two very good reasons for not doing that:

  • The Roland GR-20 was an expensive unit and does magical things when the right cable is used to connect the guitar
  • It's not my window!

The problem remains the pseudo-MIDI cable used to connect the guitar.  Because it's not a standard MIDI cable (i.e. it has more pin-outs), it's a difficult cable to find and, unfortunately, it's singularly unreliable.  I've had the problem I'm having now multiple times before in which various of the strings won't sound through the synthesizer.  Each time the problem was solved by replacing the cable.

The Roland GR-20 won't be thrown away but rather it will be shelved until whatever mysterious provenance brings another cable across my path.  The cables were extremely difficult to find even in America so it probably won't be soon but that's alright.  The unit isn't required for what I play, it's just an interesting extension of the sound of a guitar.

If you haven't heard a guitar synth, it sounds like the synthesizer capability is just trickery:  well, you can play drums on the guitar, huh?  I bet that just blows Al DiMeola right away!

Yes, the guitar synth does permit playing drums on the guitar but that's not my purpose unless I'm seeking only to amuse.  In general, one balances the synth tones against the native sound of the guitar and the result is a very rich melding of sound that can't be achieved any other way.  This was the specific reason I got the Godin xtSA guitar as it does MIDI translation better and faster than any other guitar I've ever played.  However, I've fallen in love with this guitar for multiple other reasons and the MIDI capability can wait.  If you've ever played an instrument with an ebony fingerboard, you'll know what I mean.

Now I am become Death, Destroyer of Flies

Those words were first uttered by J. Robert Oppenheimer, in somewhat different form, after he set off the first nuclear explosion and he considered the worlds that would be destroyed by it.  You can read further on J. Robert Oppenheimer in the Wiki.  Note that he didn't say the words, 'Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds,' at the time of the first atomic explosion and I'm glad of it as that would imply he had prepared them for the moment.  When he actually said them was some time later after some consideration of what the explosion had meant and the source was the Bhagavad Gita.  He spent a good deal of his life thereafter campaigning against nuclear proliferation and was stripped of his security clearances, etc as a result of it.

My goals are not quite so historic as my purpose is just to kill flies.  At first I had thought there were so many of them because it's the season for the harvest of olives and there are many, many un-harvested olives on the ground.  However, that doesn't appear to have anything to do with it.  Seemingly flies appear in masses in Greece in late-Autumn in much the same way as college students go to Fort Lauderdale in Spring ... and likely for the same purpose.

My purpose is to kill them!  I am not quite the theoretical physicist that J. Robert Oppenheimer became so I have not yet devised a death ray to vaporize them but I would certainly do it if my skills permitted it.

I had talked to Mary yesterday and practically begged her, please, please bring over some fly spray.  She's very conscious of health matters and doesn't at all like the use of the stuff but she did it so long as I would use it in a safe manner (i.e. spray and then get outdoors until the stuff had done its work).

When she arrived, she saw the reason for the desperation in my request!  There were at least two dozen fly carcasses outside the back door where I had swept my victories and there were still yet more flies alive and well inside!  I had spent much of the previous day not accomplishing anything except stalking the miserable creatures as the small game hunter.

But now, thanks to Mary, I am equipped with fly spray and a swatter.  Now I am become Death, destroyer of flies!

We talked some of how to reduce the dependence on her for picking up supplies as it's, obviously, not at all fair to her to ask her to go to the supermarket every few days.  The most economical solution appears to be to get a motor scooter but don't immediately translate that to hammering about the place on a big bike.  Thus far, I've not even seen any big bikes but there are many scooters, small-bore motorcycles that are driven, gasp, for the purpose of transportation rather than thrill-seeking.  Conspicuous consumption doesn't appear to be of much interest to Greeks so it goes on that it seems to me there's a great deal the rest of the world could learn from them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apple OS X Mountain Lion - Review

The Mountain Lion update to OS X is rather more potent than some have described.  The Reminders function is a quite nice improvement but the stand-out feature, in my view, is the implementation of multi-touch gestures, much like the way an iPad and other devices are controlled.  This feature permits me to chuck the trackball (or mouse) that I've used for, gee, decades!  The quick summary is that others have dismissed this upgrade as trivial but I disagree with that altogether and give it five stars.  Read on for details.

Under Mountain Lion, instead of a trackball or other pointing device, I now use Apple's Magic Trackpad which is a battery-powered device, just as is Apple's Wireless Keyboard, and the Trackpad can perform any function that would previously have been done with an alternative pointing device.  The gain is that this change frees two USB ports (or one if you're using an external USB hub).

Related considerations: The Magic Trackpad and the Wireless Keyboard use rechargeable batteries so you will also want to get Apple's Battery Charger and six batteries.  You will need two batteries each for the Trackpad and the Keyboard and you will want two charged batteries on reserve so you can immediately switch out to fresh spares when any run down.  Note:  always switch out both batteries at once.  Note also that everything described here has intelligent voltage switching so any of it will work on voltage from 100 volts to 240 volts (i.e. no problem using them in the U.S. or Europe).

There are multiple advantages in usability as the Magic Trackpad and the Wireless Keyboard connect to the computer via Bluetooth.  That means two USB ports which would have been required by traditional input devices are now free and this, for me, is a tremendous benefit.  For example, a laptop typically has two USB ports and an iMac has four so these are premium resources as any external USB device with any intelligence at all cannot be used on an external USB hub but rather must be connected directly to a dedicated port.  While a keyboard and a mouse can be connected to an external USB hub, that still only leaves one free USB port on a laptop and that can be a tremendous restriction.

The advantage to multi-touch gestures is not so obvious and using them can be a bit unusual if you have only used Apple desktop systems but they will come quite naturally to you if you're already familiar with an iPhone or an iPad.  It goes beyond the scope of my intentions in this review to describe the multi-touch gestures but help on their use is very easily obtained through System Preferences / Trackpad.

One quite excellent thing about Mountain Lion for anyone as financially-challenged as myself is that you can buy it from Apple's App Store for about $25 US.  That's quite a nice price for an operating system but what makes it even better is that it's perfectly legal to download Mountain Lion on any other Apple system you own.  Apple provides the iCloud service for your data protection, accessibility, etc and Apple also regards your home network, in effect, as a cloud of its own.  Buy once and download anywhere and this applies to anything you purchase at the App Store.

Yes, of course I sound like a fanboy and I don't care.  I have thirty years experience in big systems on IBM mainframes and it was one flaming pain in the ass.  Therefore I want in any home system something that is not a flaming pain in the ass and almost everything Apple does qualifies perfectly in that regard.  Mountain Lion continues that drive toward flexibility and ease of use and I'm very much appreciative of it.  Five stars!

Side-note:  This article was recovered from content that was previously destroyed as I believe the article is worthwhile plus I wanted to know how difficult it would be to do it.  As it turns out, it's quite difficult.  One possibility is to write code to extract the content but that's taking time to go backward in time and I'm sure you can imagine what Cavafy's opinion might be of that strategy.  Therefore, I will keep moving forward and the blog will evolve as it will.

Geminids Meteor Shower - December 13, 2012

The Geminids meteor shower is the last of 2012 and it comes on the night of December 13.  The Moon will be New (i.e. at or near black / invisible) so viewing should be good if the weather cooperates.

You can get more information from Stardate from McDonald Observatory.

Meteor showers can range from interesting to spectacular and even a single falling star may be a sign from the Empire in the Stars.  It's all in what you make of it.  Maybe it's just a reason to get stoned or maybe it's a reason to make a wish.  Or maybe, as the ancients thought, it's a sign of things to come.

Good luck and I hope the weather is good for viewing where you are.

Καλή τύχη  (Good luck in Greek)

Note:  If you would like to know what the Greek language sounds like, you can use Google's Translate function.  It's quite flexible and gives the options to see and hear the translated words.  In the above example, you'll never get it without knowing the Greek alphabet but Google's Translate can do that for you.

"Empire in the Stars"

Whether there really is an empire in the stars is for you to determine for yourself.  The song is an instrumental so it's not going to tell you.  While I strongly believe it's there and any look into the night sky gives pretty clear evidence of it but that's still not something for me to say.

This will be one to record but I don't have a solid lead on where to put it so you can hear it.  Blogs aren't intelligent enough to support the kind of code I write to deliver that type of material so I don't have a good answer just now.

One way to present the song is with video but I'm not too excited about the idea.  People thought Clapton was a god ... until they saw what he looked like.  I don't mean to take anything away from his genius but rather I'm saying that giving away the mythos shouldn't be done too lightly.

Playing this afternoon went well as I'm pulling more power out of the guitar (i.e. it's pulling more power out of me) and the sound is starting to come to something that's got some stones to it.  The time is now almost 2:00 p.m. when everything goes quiet and I like that tradition plus it tells people if they don't like what I'm playing that it will stop soon.

The Old Man

The street outside is very little-used but I go out there sometimes to take my rubbish down to the corner to some large trash bins.  It's some distance down to the corner but it's pleasant to get out for the walk.  The temperature can be brisk this late in November but it's often far from cold, particularly when the sun is shining.

As I was walking back to where I live, I came upon an old man walking, almost shuffling, slowly toward me.  When he got closer, I said, "καλημέρα!"  (good morning)

He said something indistinct and I couldn't quite tell what it was.  I said, 'συγνώμη," (sorry or excuse me).

The old man said again, "τσιγάρο."  (cigarette)

That's when I realized he was asking me for a cigarette.  I offered him one and he took two.  Then he shuffled on down the path without another word.

One of us is a 'ένας ηλίθιος γέρος' (a stupid old man) but I leave it to you to decide which one.  The old man I met wasn't standing at the water's edge yesterday looking into the distance.

And so went my first conversation conducted entirely in Greek.

Roland GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer Status

The Roland GR-20 is the older model of Roland's guitar synthesizer and I might have some enthusiasm for getting a newer one if I were not bumming rides from Mary to get to the supermarket to get tomatoes.  The device is working but erratically so there's no clear answer on whether it will serve any useful purpose.  Some of the regulars may remember the sounds it can add to the basic guitar sound and they can be quite awe-inspiring.

It was worth all the hassle it took to bring it over here but the GR-20 will go over the side if it doesn't start behaving better.  It's still got some time yet to prove itself as it may be that settings got confused in the long time since I last used it.  The unit is not mandatory, it's just that it gives a quite interesting expansion to the sound of an electric guitar.  The Godin xtSA was made to exploit synthesizer capabilities so it's definitely coolest when it's doing it but we'll have to see if that's possible.

It's also conceivable that the erratic behavior is because of the 13-pin cable from the guitar to the GR-20 as I've found these cables to be highly-prone to failure, typically with one or more strings failing to sound after using the cable for a time.  Replace the cable and, presto, the strings start sounding again.  Unfortunately, the cables are expensive and quite difficult to find as they are NOT standard MIDI cables, presumably because one of the pins carries power and consequently another one for ground.

More to come on this as I evaluate it.

"Ithaca" by Constantine P. Cavafy

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don't in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy

Read the Wiki on Cavafy's life or "Ithaca" in the original Greek.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Searching for Ithaka - Introduction

I swam out into the warm waters of the Ionian Sea, intending to swim so far that I would be too tired to swim back to the rocks along the beach, and then drink deep the pure water before sliding below to disappear.  But then I heard the voice of my father calling to me to drink the potion he had given me so long ago.  Of course I heeded him as his voice was like no other.

After drinking it, I found strength returning to my arms and I stroked strongly through the water.  Soon my arms became as wings and lifted me right above the waves, flying high above the sea with the Island of Ithaka coming into view in front of me.

The sun broke through the clouds and warmed my wings as I flew closer to the island.  I slowly approached and descended until softly landing on the warm sand of the beach.  Tired from the flying, I lay down to rest in a grove of olive trees nearby and quickly fell asleep.

When I awoke I was standing on the rocks, looking out over the sea at the island, right where I began.