Saturday, April 29, 2006 

Happy 40th Anniversary Mom & Dad!

The beginning of 40 years together.

40 years ago today, a man whose lifelong dream was to either sail around the world or live in the Canadian arctic and win the Iditarod married a woman whose lifelong dream was to have a luau in Hawaii. Despite their obvious difference in travel plans, they managed to make their marriage work over the next four decades. The one thing they did have in common was their devotion to each other and to their four daughters.

I was lucky enough to be one of those daughters and even though I can’t be with them to celebrate such this momentous occasion with them, I want to let them know a few things of what their marriage has taught me:

That marriage is about love, respect, commitment and compromise. You set such a good example for me that for the first time in my life, I actually see the importance of the last point…compromise. I’m not good at it yet but because of you, at least I’m trying now.

That when you have kids, sacrifices need to be made to ensure that we were all well-fed, clothed and educated. Now that I have a child of my own, I really do understand just how much you did sacrifice for us to pay for the music lessons, the yearly vacations, and so much more for not one, but FOUR children. You both gave so much of your free time (not to mention the financial sacrifices) to watch us perform in concerts, on baseball teams and never missing one parent-teacher meeting.

That being a wife doesn’t have to mean I have to lose my independence. It means by choosing the right husband, I have a partner in life, not a master.

That my own marriage doesn’t have to be one that ends up in divorce just because the statistics are stacked against me. Because of you, I have proof that marriages can stand the test of time if we make the right choice of spouse and we want it to work.

Just two more things...
Dad, if you’re reading this, I want to let you know that I forgive you for punishing me when your eldest daughter broke the maracas over my head when I was 3. And yes, I can remember that far back. You don't forget traumas like that easily.

Mom, I forgive you for ratting me out to Dad when I broke the glass in the dining room door with a baseball when I was 6.

So, with that out of the way, I want to wish you both a VERY HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY!! As parents, I couldn’t have picked a better pair if I had been given the opportunity to do so!

Friday, April 28, 2006 

Easter in Keratea

A view from the top veranda of my friend's beautiful home in Keratea. The mountain on the other side of the bay is where they imprisoned the communists after the war. A prominent Greek businessman who was imprisoned there bought a villa further down the road in the pic. I've been told that he bought it because he could always be reminded of the time he spent there.
The view from the front terrace of my friend's house. I was sitting in the left chair till I decided it would make a better picture than a comfortable seat.

I just love these windows with the wrought iron grilles. The cats still get through this one though.

The front courtyard of my friend's house. The little octagon building next to the car was built by her father as a games room. We've played ping pong, billiards, and one of my favourite card games...Biriba. It's a bit like Gin Rummy but better.

This picture was taken at the foot of Agios Giorgios church on Anastasi night...the night before Christ rose from the dead. All those little lights you see are the candles (lambadas) lit from the Holy Flame and are held by the people as they walk back down the hill. It really is so beautiful to see it. So many candles from the plain white ones to ones festively decorated in everything from Spongebob to Cinderella for the kids and artistically decorated ones for the adults. My son's had a sort of tie-dyed look to his green candle. I have to hand it to him...he actually managed to keep it lit during the long walk back to the car. As soon as midnight came, celebratory fireworks went off everywhere...much to the annoyance of the dogs...and one actually caught on fire at the top of the hill next to the Church. Thankfully, they managed to put it out because I don't see how the fire department could have ever got to it on time with the crowds choking the only road up there.

This is a view of the back courtyard of the house. THIS is the Greece I love. The beautiful whitewashed houses decorated in the traditional Greek style. The small villages put eyesores like Athens to shame.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

A Woman's World

For centuries, women lived in a world where men make the laws. A world where women were (and in some places, are) treated like chattel. Owned and subjugated by men as slaves, we had no voice, no rights, no freedoms until the last century. In children's literature we've been portrayed as the wicked witches or evil stepmothers. In mythology we've been blamed for men's weaknesses and bad fate. (look no further than the Greeks whose sailors were led to their death by the Sirens or Odysseus who "succumbed" to the enchantress, Circe) Even the decline of society has been attributed to us when we started to trade in our aprons for office jobs.

It’s now 2006, and even though we’ve won some major victories during the last century…the right to vote, to work and on paper, we’re equal in the eyes of the law, we are still reading stories of women being beaten, burned, raped, and traded as slaves by men.

In China and India, female fetuses are being aborted because a male child is still perceived as more valuable. In Western societies, working mothers are often castigated for not forsaking an education and career to stay at home to become domestic servants for their families.

But all is not doom and gloom for the modern woman. A recent study in the Economist magazine has discovered that women are the most underused asset in society. The report in the April 15 issue made some very interesting observations and conclusions:

Females consistently outperform boys in school.

Half of all university degrees in most developed countries are being awarded to women.

Financial investments made by women consistently earn higher returns than their male counterparts.

Countries with high female labour participation rates, such as Sweden, tend to have higher fertility rates than Germany, Italy and Japan where fewer women work.

Not only are educated women more productive, they raise healthier and better educated children.

Women make perhaps 80% of consumers buying decisions.*

Considering these positive trends, hopefully, the corporate and political landscape, presently underrepresented by women, will reflect these statistics. With more women in positions of power, then, we could be seeing increased wages and better working conditions for working women. Women’s issues could receive more attention resulting in better enforcement of laws protecting the rights of women around the globe and stricter penalties for those who break them.

Can we do a better job at running this planet? Or will we also succumb to the same vices of greed, corruption and self-interest of our male predecessors? Only time will tell but we won’t know until we try and a lot more of us need to try. For the sake of our children and their future.

*Excerpts from The Economist, April 15-21, 2006 pp. 73-74

Saturday, April 22, 2006 

Καλό Πάσχα!

Happy Easter!

I'll be leaving for the weekend like a million other Athenians for the Easter weekend. I wish you all a Happy Easter and Καλή Ανάσταση!

If you want to find out about the story behind the red easter eggs in Greece, click here.

If you want to read more about Greek easter festivities, click here. (Scroll down to the section on Easter.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006 

Finding, Working & Keeping a Job(Part III)

Tips for Employers

Hire the best people for the job
Don’t succumb to the evils of nepotism and patronage to run your business. Just because your nephew has been jobless for the past 10 years is not sufficient enough reason for you to hire him. No matter how much you love your children or spouse doesn’t mean they are necessarily capable of working for you. And even if they are, tread lightly in this area because family businesses are often a hellish experience for the rest of your employees. Families bring their fights to work and usually have no problem questioning your judgement and decisions in front of other staff. Your other employees will feel they have too many bosses and can’t figure out who they’re really working for.

If you hire employees based on appearance alone, don’t expect them to be hard workers when you both know they were hired as eye candy. When you consistently hire employees for reasons other than experience, education and work ethic, you can kiss any expectations ofa healthy profit goodbye.

Treat your employees with respect
Employees aren’t inanimate objects and you don’t own them. For the most part, they’re thinking, feeling humans with lives outside of work. Just because you have chosen to forsake your family, personal life, hobbies to devote yourself 24-7 to your job doesn’t mean your employees have chosen the same path for themselves…especially when they’re often working for a paycheque not worthy of the time, stress, and effort they put into their jobs. So stop screaming at the receptionist if you can’t find your golf clubs. Don’t resort to name-calling and insults if you have a problem with the work they’re doing. And most of all, don’t treat them as your personal harem when you need a date for the weekend.

If you’ve got problems with all your employees, then the real problem is you and your hiring methods. Treat them with some respect and you might just be surprised with the results you get.

Train your employees well
When you hire someone, make sure they know exactly what their job description is and what kind of performance you expect. If you don’t spend some time training them properly, then you will only have yourself to blame when things get screwed up. If you tell them you hired them as salespeople and didn’t tell them that from time to time, they’ll be expected to cover the phones when the receptionist is at lunch or if they must type their own quotations then you can't really blame them if phones go unanswered and handwritten quotations are sitting in their out boxes.

Establish a clear chain of command
In all workplaces, there will be problems from time to time. To prevent your phone from ringing off the wall every time the coffee pot is empty or there’s a paper jam in the photocopier, let your employees know who their direct supervisors are. You have a company to run, don’t waste your time on a dying ficus plant or every irate customer who believes he’s your best customer deserving your personal attention. Let your employees do their jobs and handle the day-to-day routine work of your business. Don't take the “my door is always open” policy too seriously or there will be a steady stream of employees, customers and supplies bothering you with inanities at best. At worst, middle managers will find their positions obsolete with every employee questioning their authority and going over their heads to you.

Don’t micromanage
If you feel you have to hover over your employees shoulders to make sure a fax gets sent, a garbage can gets emptied or a salesperson emails a quote, then you’ve either hired the wrong people or you are a dreaded control freak. Only become involved in your employees’ jobs if you notice a pattern of sloppy work and missed deadlines. Otherwise, leave them alone so they won’t come to resent your presence and go off in search of greener pastures.

Show some leadership
Inspire your employees. Lead by example. Deal with problems as they arise. An army is as good as its leadership.

Reward them on a job well done
When employees have gone above and beyond the call of duty to get a job completed, make sure you recognize their efforts. Let them know when you’re pleased with them. An employee who only hears from you when they’ve made mistakes will start to think that’s all that gets noticed and will soon lose their desire and initiative to give a little bit extra effort in their jobs. If an employee is constantly exceeding your expectations, give him/her a raise, bonus or time off in lieu of pay without them having to ask for it. The majority of employees will appreciate it and reward you with loyalty and continued hard work.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 

Finding, Working & Keeping a Job (Part II)


Be punctual
Just because you’re hired doesn’t mean you can be lax about being at work on time. Employers have a business to run and customers rely on us to be open for business on time. That means employees have to show up on time. Even in Greece, where being late seems to be a constitutionally guaranteed right, employers will appreciate any employee who thinks enough of their job to show up on time. Maybe you’re getting away with being consistently late but if you haven’t had a raise or promotion since you started working 10 years ago, you might want to try showing up on time. If you are going to be late, phone your boss and apprise her of your situation. Some things are beyond your control and most employers understand that. The only time we have a problem with it is when your ‘emergencies’ become routine.

And it’s not just punctuality with regards to your starting time but to all aspects of your job. If you’re constantly late performing your regular duties then don’t complain when your boss is always frustrated with you.

Promotions and raises are earned.
Employers shouldn’t have to pat your back every time you finish the job you were hired to do. It’s expected from you. The only time I will go out of my way to commend an employee is when they’ve done something extra. If you want a pat on the back every time you show up for work then give me something to praise. Be better at your job than other employees and work harder so when you ask for that raise, your chances of getting one will be that much higher. If you want a promotion then do extra work, show some iniative, come up with some innovative ideas to make the business more profitable. Get rid of your sense of entitlement. Your mother thinks you were born special—you have to prove it to me.

Don’t argue with your boss.
If your boss tells you that he wants the photocopier stocked with lemon yellow paper, do it. If you have a problem with it, state your reason and don’t resort to whining. If you really do have a point and he’s got half a brain in his head, he’ll listen. If not, just let him have his lemon yellow paper. The only time you should be ready to argue with your boss is if he’s asking you to do something illegal, morally reprehensible or dangerous. Other than that, it’s his money, if he wants to waste it on frivolous things, bad decisions, or crazy schemes, that’s his problem, not yours. If you don’t like it, then you owe it to yourself to find a new job if it’s that bad. If he can’t be reasoned with, no amount of fighting will make him a better person.

Know your place.
If you were hired in a position other than VP or President, don’t presume to think you can treat the petty cash box as your personal piggy bank. Don’t think you can take two hour lunch breaks because the CEO does or that you can talk on the phone all day and neglect customers just because the boss’s wife can get away with it. Just do the job you were hired to do and don’t obsess about your co-workers unless it seriously affects your own job. If you have to complain about the laziness or incompetence of your boss’s spouse, chances are your boss knows about it already and he or she is more apt to fire you than divorce the spouse. If you don’t like the CEOs extended lunch breaks just remember that the CEO has to answer for his/her own performance. Most incompetence is rewarded with a place in the unemployment lineup. (Unless of course you work in the Greek civil service where it's considered to be a prerequisite for working there.) Even if you’re on friendly terms with your boss doesn’t mean you have the right to constantly tell him how to do his job. If you can’t respect your boss, at least respect his/her position.

Don’t make a nuisance of yourself
Just because you may have finished all your work for the day doesn’t mean everyone else has too so don’t engage your co-workers, least of all your boss, in conversation just to kill your time. That means no pointless phone calls to ask your boss if he thinks you can have Aug. 21, 2012 off work or whether she prefers Bic blue pens or Uni-ball black pens. She won’t care and will resent you wasting her time no matter how good an employee you are.

Extra Note
If your job requires you to handle cash, do not ever presume to think you can take any of it without permission. Ever. Not even 1€. Not even if your car is going to be repossessed or if you have no food to eat for the day. Not even if your boss is your friend, your relative or on vacation in Tahiti for the next 2 months. You never take anything…especially cash…without permission from the employer and even then you should think twice about it. Would you allow your best friend to take money from your wallet and leave you an I.O.U. note without asking first? Too many employees make the mistake of thinking that just because there’s cash in the till that it’s pure profit and as long as they let their boss know they took money, it’s not theft. If you haven’t asked permission, it most definitely IS theft.

If you can't be bothered reading all this...just rent the first season of the BBC sitcom The Office and learn how NOT to behave at work.


Finding, Working & Keeping a Job (Part I)

Yesterday, I came home from work in the blackest of moods. The events which occurred yesterday at work angered me as both an employee and as an employer. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will have understood by now, that I am a small business owner in partnership with my husband. We own two home entertainment stores and since we both believe that you can’t run a business only by looking at balance sheets, we also work in both stores.

I spent 14 years of my working life as an employee. I’ve spent the last 5 years as both an employer and employee. Therefore, I now consider myself qualified enough to objectively give some advice to both people looking for work and those presently employed and employers who want to get the most of the employees they hire. Because I don't want any other employer and employee to go through a Monday like I just did...having employee-induced nervous breakdowns. I'm going to share my thoughts with you in the hope that you may avoid similar situations.

I’ll start with some Dos and Don’ts tips for potential employees. Tomorrow, I’ll post the tips for employees and on Thursday it’ll be the employers’ turn.

Don’t apply for a job without a resume/curriculum vitae.
As obvious as this sounds, you’d be surprised how many people just show up on our doorstep asking to get hired without one. Just because you can remember your name and phone number does not mean that a potential employer will. Not only that, you must remember that you’re not the first person to walk into any place of business looking for work. You have to make the best effort you can to ensure YOU get the job and not the next person who comes in after you does. Let us know why you think we should hire you and not anyone else and keep it as succinct as possible. We really don’t need to know that you were the first in your daycare class to build a 96 piece Lego helipad at the age of 2 but we would like to know what your education, work experience and special skills you’ve acquired as it pertains to the job.

It wouldn’t hurt to include a cover letter to personalize your application either. That just lets me know that you’re not on a generic job hunting mission and any job will do. Make us think we’re special too.

Image is almost everything. If you’re telling us that you are meticulous, accurate and hard-working, don’t give us a resume saturated with spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and outdated contact information. Make sure it’s typed and if you’re going to photocopy it, keep the black splotches from a dirty photocopier to a minimum. You wouldn't want a prospective employer to have problems reading your phone number because one of those splotches appeared over it.

Dress decently when submitting your job application
Many people think they only have to dress up for a job interview but feel just fine showing up in flip flops and sweatpants to drop off their resumes. Just because the employer might not be present when you show up doesn’t mean that other employees and secretaries don’t notice your appearance. And you’re making an even bigger mistake if you assume they won’t talk behind your back when it comes time to give the application to their boss. Even in other jobs I’ve had, receptionists and secretaries would bring job applications to my office with their two cents worth about the demeanour and appearance of the applicant or I’d hear them laughing about it with other employees around the reception desk.

I don’t expect you to wear a tuxedo or a prom gown but wearing sweatpants to any job other than a gym will cut your job prospects in half before you even make it to the interview stage. If you’re female and the job you’re applying for is not as a waitress for Hooters or for a strip club, then don’t show up in a mini skirt, stilettos and tank top. Remember that not all employers are male—don’t bank on seduction as a surefire way to land a job.

Be Punctual
If you’re lucky enough to get called back for an interview, make sure you’re there on time. If you can’t be bothered to show up on time for an interview, why should an employer believe you’ll be bothered to show up on time for work. Emergencies are the only acceptable excuses for being late to an interview. Traffic, having no babysitter, a fight with a family member and being lost are not emergencies. They’re just excuses.

Be confident, calm, pleasant and smile.
If you plunk yourself down in a chair with a scowl on your face then don’t be surprised if your interviewer soon has one on his/her face too. I don’t really want to hear why you’re in a bad mood, I’m looking to hire someone for a job, not become a psychologist. If you constantly fidget in your seat, punctuate your sentences with word whiskers and turn red with embarrassment if I ask you about your last job, then I really can’t see how you’ll be able to answer a phone call or serve an irate customer without a self-induced heart attack. The fate of the world doesn’t rest on your performance in an interview. Just think of it as a fact-finding mission by a prospective employer. We’re not out to get you, just to get a better idea of who you are.

Monday, April 17, 2006 

Friend and Foe

It's no secret that Greece is up to its neck in debt and Finance Minister, Giorgos Alogoskoufis has been trying for the past two years to scrape enough money together from tax revenues, privatization of public companies, slashing (or so I thought) public expenditures and attempting some creative accounting to get the debt under control and under the EUs 3% Growth & Stability Pact limit.

So why then, is Greece planning to spend 22 billion€ on new weapons? Are we planning a war and no one told me? How can this kind of expenditure be justified considering Greece's dire fiscal straits?
Elefterotipia daily in Greece wrote that the Greek government plans to purchase a new weapons system worth €22 billion as part of its 10 year armament program.

According to the Greek daily, Greece will purchase 40 warplanes, 45 training planes, six frigates, four submarines and 35 helicopters of various types, 291 TOMA type chained vehicles, 26 fighting vehicles and satellite communications systems.

Are the new planes needed to replace the ones that have crashed in recent months? Are we expecting civil insurrection? Is the government planning to use the 35 helicopters to ensure the recent spate of bank robberies are kept in check? What on earth is a TOMA type chained vehicle anyway?

As mentioned on the Phylax blog, if there is such a real threat from Turkey, why is Greece climbing into bed with them by investing 2.3 billion€ of Greek depositors' money in acquiring a 46% stake of Turkey's Finansbank?

No doubt Greece's military weapons are outdated and in need of modernization but surely not enough to justify spending 22 billion€ especially at a time when every penny counts in the effort to keep this country from falling into an economic sinkhole.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 

The Road to Blogging is Paved With Good Intentions

I intended to update my blog yesterday but it was Friday and as usual, I'm in a rush on Fridays to prepare dinner before my son goes to his computer classes, feed him and then drop him off to be picked up a hour later. When I got home sheer laziness overwhelmed me and I did absolutely nothing worthwhile with my time.

Today, I had a full schedule. First my son had to go to his basketball practice and then we were off to the plateia (square) to shop for the birthday party he will go to tomorrow, buy a few groceries for the weekend and then come home and do laundry and make supper. As I sit here now, I am pleased to inform you that I have done all of these things. I guess miracles really do happen.

The only thing I didn't manage to do is write the blog I intended concerning the 100 million€ passport fiasco reported on the news last night. I can't really write it until I have some supporting news links to back up the story. And so far, neither Kathimerini or ERT news has mentioned anything about it. From what I know, MP Christos Markogiannakis is being blamed by his former boss, Georgios Voulgarakis, for a microship machine used in the making of passports which no longer works. This means that all passports issued this year will be rendered invalid by September and they will have to reapply for new ones once the machine gets fixed/replaced. My husband just received his passport last week and paid 60€ for it. He will now have to pay another 60€ plus the 12€ cost for affixing the microchip on it. The rest of the taxpayers will have to absorbe the 100 million€ cost for the faulty machine. Of course, no one is 'officially' to blame. Former Minister of Public Order blamed his deputy, Markogiannakis. And as is routine now with New Democracy politicians who find themselves being held accountable for mistakes, bad judgements and/or scandals, he blamed PASOK. And as always, the Greek citizens are the ones paying for their mistakes.

As soon as I find out more information about this latest act of incompetence I will blog it. Besides, why do today what you can put off for tomorrow?

But for now, I have to get ready to meet some friends for a coffee and maybe some board games later on.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 

What 8 Days of Garbage Looks Like

The woman in the busboard behind the bins expresses a look
most Athenians have right now about the 8-day garbage strike.
The smell is unbelievable.
I don't know how the residents near the trash bins can handle it.
By tomorrow, I expect the car parked behind the bin will be buried in trash
if the owner doesn't park it elsewhere.

This is one of the 'tidier' piles of trash in my neighbourhood.
I've paid my municipal taxes, I shouldn't have to put up with this public hygiene nightmare.
I'm just waiting for the rats to show up like they did a few garbage strikes ago.

UPDATE: The strike has ended and as I type, the garbage men are collecting garbage off my street. The strikers' demands weren't met so I guess we'll be having another strike in a couple of months. But for now, the garbage men will be collecting overtime pay to clear the streets of garbage in the next three days in time for Easter.


Customer Appreciation

For the most part, working in a video club is quite boring. I’ve noticed that most people are creatures of habit. You can set your clock by them. You know what days they’ll rent, what movies they’ll rent and not much out of the ordinary happens. But every now and again, you meet people who are distinctive when you take the time to get to know them. People who make a lasting impression on you.

Several years ago, one such customer became a member at our stores. At first glance, I thought he was someone to watch but not in a good way. His appearance was unkempt, he never spoke much, never even smiled for the first couple of months. But he was a regular client and rented a lot of movies. But that’s not what made me rethink my initial opinion about him. It was his choice of movies. He wouldn’t just rent the most popular titles and predictable movies. He’d watch classic movies and Cannes/Sundance/Venice Film Festival award winners which is almost a rarity for most customers. Especially for someone who was only 19 years old and an immigrant from Kazakhstan whose grasp of the Greek language was on par with mine at the time. I figured I had to know more about him so every time he came in, I’d try to draw him into a conversation, asking him what he thought of the movie he just returned. I tried to suggest more movies which I assumed he’d like based on his previous rental history and siga, siga (slowly, slowly) he became more socially interactive.

After a few months of movie talk, I told him I was curious as to why he would rent the same movies 5 and 6 times each. I was humbled by his answer.

Rouslan, an ethnic Greek, emigrated from a small town in Kazakhstan where there wasn’t much to do. So he’d go to the cinema. The ‘cinema’ in his very small town was an old hall with a big screen but because the owner’s projector was a relic of the Stalin era, it didn’t work so he would buy video cassettes from the closest city…about 200km away…and the customers would watch a movie on a 21” TV he bought which was powered by a small generator. He wouldn’t change the movie until he had made a small profit from the current video cassette. Since it was a small town and quite poor, this meant that it often took more than a month for him to recoup the cost of the gas to travel the distance to buy another one plus the cost of the video cassette. As a result, the movie goers would end up watching the same movie at least 15 times and Rouslan became accustomed to not just watching a particular movie, but memorizing all the lines in it and every single person who worked on the movie by reading the credits at the end…from the gaffer to the director. Rouslan’s mind became a database of movie trivia.

So now he’s become addicted to movies because he has such a variety of them here and rents quite a few to make up for lost time. When he likes a movie, he can’t help himself and therefore, he must rent the movie at least a half dozen times. He said that the movies allow him to travel the world and introduced him to many concepts previously unknown to him like apartheid and the women’s suffrage movement. He considers movies to be his sole educator on popular culture and credits them for becoming literate in Greek since he was lost in the cracks of the education system when he first came to Greece at the age of 12.

He’s 23 now and I consider him to be our best customer and my most favourite. I’ve learned so much about his world through the things he experienced growing up in a remote part of the planet and he’s made me appreciate my own upbringing in Canada and all the opportunities that I had taken for granted but were denied to him.

Because of all the obstacles he had to overcome just to be able to live, work and buy a home in Greece, I have such an incredible amount of respect for him and find myself wondering just what kind of life he would have had if, by chance, like me, he had been born in a country full of possibilities and opportunities.

Monday, April 10, 2006 

The Pot Sues the Kettle

Convicted of bribery, former judge, Evangelos Kalousis is suing the Greek state for 3 million euros.

Already convicted for demanding a 50 million drachma (146,735€) to return a favourable decision in the case of a man on trial for narcotics charges, he claims that his own trial was fixed and based on lies and libel. I guess he would know. The 3 million euro lawsuit is to compensate him for loss of salary and pension because his life now is totally destroyed.

The sheer audacity of this man amazes me. Talk about your frivolous lawsuits. This morally bankrupt bottom feeder puts a price tag on justice and then cries 'foul' when he's been held accountable for his actions. The People of Greece should be filing a class action lawsuit against him for his personal involvement in sabotaging the Greek justice system.

Some people's children.

Sunday, April 09, 2006 

Les (Grecques) Miserables

Ti kaneis, Cosette?

Ti kaneis?/How are you?

I remember the time I could ask that question and hear a simple "kala/fine" response or 'mia hara/great". Lately, I noticed it's been quite awhile since I heard anyone tell me they're doing great. So much so that I've become wary of even asking the question in case I don't have enough time to hear the litany of complaints from people.

Parents bemoan the fact that their sons and daughters can't find jobs. It's the rare person who tells me that their kids are doing just fine in the job market.

Business people tell me that they're thinking of closing their businesses unless they've closed them already which, in that case, means I will hear how much money they lost last year and the effect it had on their families.

University graduates tell me that they're going to Chicago/London/Toronto to go live with a relative there in the hopes of getting a job.

Relatives have told me that after 5 years of studying abroad, their kids won't be coming back to Greece since they've found better jobs in other countries.

Greeks from abroad can't remember why they moved here in the first place.

For every immigrant that has just arrived, it seems I know two more who left.

I hear these complaints at my stores, at parties, in the lineups at the tax or health fund offices, and from our friends.

The most common question I'm asked when people hear my accent is "Where are you from?" followed immediately by "Why would you leave Canada for Greece?"

There was a time when my stories of romance, great weather, beautiful scenery and love of Greek history would meet with approval. Now, if I mention those things in response to their question they will tell me that I can't live off scenery and history and it's time I start thinking about my son's future if I don't care about my own.

Is it just a case of the winter blues or are people really that miserable? Or maybe I hear more from disillusioned Greeks than the average person by virtue of my foreigner status or because I ask this question a hundred times a week, it stands to reason that the percentage of negative responses are that much higher than if I was working in an office cubicle?

Maybe I just need to change my greeting to a simple "yeia sas/hi" so I can take a break from the doom and gloom conversations that emanate from "ti kanete". If I don't, then I might just be inspired enought to write the Greek version of Les Miserables.

Friday, April 07, 2006 

Movie Time

It’s Friday. And as always, on Fridays I am inundated with friends, customers and readers asking me what movies are worth the rental fee for the weekend. So, for all of you who have 2€ in your pocket and a couple of hours of free time this weekend, here is a list of movies that will keep you from threatening to sue directors for reckless endangerment of your sanity and fraudulent waste of your time.

Banlieue 13/Ghetto 13
Don’t hate it because it’s French. If you’ve run out of Jackie Chan movies to watch and are looking for some great acrobatic stunts, rent this one. It’s non-stop action from start to finish with not one, but two French actors from the Jackie Chan School of Stunts.

King Kong
Great visual effects and Jurassic Park bugs and dinosaurs to keep you and your (older) kids frozen in their seats. I don’t know why King Kong himself didn’t get a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Too much gorilla for Hollywood to handle I guess or they were too afraid of what might happen if he didn’t win.

Lord of War
Inside the world of your friendly neighbourhood arms dealer as he travels the globe procuring weapons for anyone with cash. From tin pot dictators to drug lords, Nicolas Cage racks up the cash while Interpol is always one step behind.

Paradise Now
Filmed in Palestine, director Hany Abu Assad, relates the story of two suicide bombers. He lets their lives tell the story leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions . You’ll have to turn on the subtitles though as it’s filmed in Arabic.

Many people debated whether or not it was worth the Best Picture Oscar but it’s definitely worth a rental. It’s not as hard-hitting as American History X (an excellent movie on the subject of racism) but it shows how racism infects every single group of people … even those who have been subject to racism themselves.

Hotel Rwanda
A powerful, disturbing and moving film based on the experiences of a Rwandan hotel manager during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Don Cheadle is at his finest here. An average man transformed by the horror around him and is credited with saving the lives of hundreds of Tutsis.

Looking for a lost Civil War battleship takes Matthew McConnaughey to West Africa where he meets UN doctor, Penelope Cruz.

Will Smith gives dating tips for men in desperate need of them.

National Treasure
A treasure hunt taking you from the White House to the Liberty Bell to Antarctica. Just imagine if Greece made a film like this...what a treasure hunt that would be!

You’re on your own here. I watched The Grudge with both hands over my eyes and people laugh at me so what can I possibly tell you about what constitutes a good thriller?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 

Who Owns Who?

Dubai is very busy. Over the past few months, I keep reading about a string of acquisitions and major investments in Western businesses and real estate. One of its companies, Dubai World Ports*, bought management control 6 US ports through the purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (They have since put those ports up for sale due to a backlash of American public opinion.)

Americans don't want their ports to be operated by the tiny Emirate but it seems they don't seem to have a problem renting their homes from them. 21,000 apartments in the southern states are owned by Dubai Investments.

This same company is also investing heavily into Greece's banking and health sector.

Dubai Investments has bought 31.5% stake in the Marfin Financial Group which is also the largest shareholder in Cyprus Popular Bank and owns 14% of the shares Greece's Egnatia Bank.

Yesterday, the Greek Ygeia Hospital announced that it would buy 25.83% of Mitera Maternity Hospital. 49% of Ygeia is owned by Marfin which now has Dubai Investments as one of its major shareholders.

And we thought the Arab world only had oil.

*Both DP World's official website and a Reuters DP World fact sheet are empty pages. Too many prying eyes perhaps?