Sunday, July 30, 2006

Modern day gladiator

[We have a temporary no-babies / no-cats policy on this blog, but what the hell...]

OK, the picture's pretty bad, but that's our neighbour with his cat, an incredible Sylvester lookalike. A tuxedo cat, as Sissy remarked! I mean, it's totally identical, and really big. I should get some better pics...

Anyway, the thing is they picked him up from the street to save him, but they are in trouble cause they already had another cat (named Taki from Gataki, which is greek for kitten...), and sylvester here (who's actual name is Mika) is really ferocious, and he wants to eat everyone alive, so they keep him in a little cage, which they place in the middle of the garden on the grass.

Which is totally ridiculous of course.

But what can they do, every time he escapes he scratches everyone within inches of their life. And they did rescue him in the first place, after all, so let's give them a break...

So every now and then they open the cage and let him out in the garden, and the owner stands in front of the only exit like a goalkeeper, waiting to catch him if he tries to escape. And a bunch of kids gather and watch from above (the garden is like a half-basement garden), and it's just like roman circuces, with the lions and the gladiators, and all the spectators watching from above hoping to see some blood!

Well, they usually do, and invariably it's the gladiator's!

Thumbs up or down?


[Left: the two dimensional stable manifold of the origin in the Lorenz system; Right: two dimensional unstable of an equilibrium point in a four dimensional dynamical system modeling two pendula that are coupled by a torsional spring; from here, and no idea what it means! :-)]

Anyone involved in algorithm design, or related disciplines, will no doubt appreciate the importance of invariants. An invariant is a condition that does not change, or should not, ever change. For example, i should always be smaller than j. Or the distance between two objects should always remain constant.

If you start out, and then decide to mess with your invariants, question them, try to change them, or just ignore them, then all hell breaks loose.

But sometimes you just have to...

Friday, July 28, 2006

red tape

Image Hosted by
Photo by el7bara, via Adrian

It was a hectic week, but I don’t have much to show for it.

Workers set to work on the new house on Monday. They were called off on Tuesday, when the owner of the house suddenly changed her mind and insisted on a meeting sometime next week with a notary public, to formalize the amicable but thus far strictly verbal agreements already established. The delay was not appreciated, but it is her house. She calls the shots.

Meanwhile, I attended two meetings with the carpenter who, in all likelihood, will be hired to renovate the kitchen. He has a belly just like mine, except I have the decency to keep mine covered. The fingers of his right hand are a deep-dyed black. He wore me out with continuous talking in the heat and dust and noise of his shop.

At some point I was told that because I am not a citizen of the European Union, I have no legal right to buy or own property in Greece. I started thinking of other options: applying for Greek citizenship, buying the house as a business, or buying the house in the buka’s name, also a problem since the buka doesn’t have a name, or even a legitimate existence, yet.

It turns out I can own property, but if said property is on an island, some special procedures are required. I asked the embassy what they are, and was told to find a lawyer who knows what he’s doing. I later determined that it’s the Ministry of Defense to whom I have to apply for the permit, since I, as a prospective foreign national urban apartment half-owner, constitute a clear and present danger to the integrity of Greece's borders. Of course.

The same day, I had asked my boss for help with some other special procedures required to get the insurance coverage I am due for my maternity leave, etc. (I only have two more weeks of work.) He said to ask one of my colleagues who gave birth last year. She said she didn’t remember a thing.

Then there were several snags with the money that was supposed to be transferred ASAP from America. First my broker erroneously ordered a “hold proceeds,” instead of a “mail proceeds.” Oh, sorry, she said. Then my parents, who had been assured that, once deposited, the money would be transferred “instantaneously” from their bank to mine, found out that international transfers are only done at 12 noon, which meant an instantaenous delay of a day. Due to time zone differences and a weekend, that one-day delay has been extended considerably.

So, finally, the situation remains like this: the property owner wants a sizeable downpayment before signing anything binding on the house, while the bank wants a signed contract before handing over any money.


But I'm sure all of this can be resolved. In time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

alternate schoolbag uses

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Sunday, July 23, 2006

(Not so) wildlife

Only about an hour out of Athens, at Sounio, I came across these interesting species today.

- A green lizard! Looks scary, but acts scared. Was really hard to get a picture of it. Very cool, I think!

- A bee, or wasp, that decided to build its nest or whatever that little thing is on one of my arts/crafts masterpieces.

- Arapina, the not-so-golden retriever (Mr. Bensah's favorite, if I recall), rudely awakened by the camera flash from her nap under the kitchen table.

- Aris, shot through my dad's new digital pocket camera's cheesy special effects.

- About a zillion mosquitoes that I didn't bother to take pictures of.

And I think more wildlife is to be expected any moment now on this blog!

Friday, July 21, 2006


Got this in email (grazie Isabella), and I thought it was kinda cute...

As seen by the Germans:

As seen by the French:

As seen by the Italians:

As seen by the Americans:

As seen by the press:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

business, getting down to

Image Hosted by I overheard parts of a motivational speech the other day. It was about the need to sacrifice individual goals to achieve corporate ones, and switch from a results focus to an action focus: the long term matters less than doing what you are doing right now as well as possible.

Sometimes a soundbite is better for business than an elaborate theory. My inner capitalist, however, is still concerned with the bottom line.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Nanni Moretti eating Nutella.

Friday, July 14, 2006

a piece of cake?

1. Somebody gave me some cake. (Here in Crete, we call it cheik.) It was excellent.

Image Hosted by

2. I walked into class, and my students were suddenly interested in the buka (they’ll do anything to postpone the lesson, but I was also wearing an adorably cute maternity blouse that just begged everyone all day long to say “oh how cute” and ask me about the buka). Somebody asked if she has a name. I explained that there is basically a naming war being waged at home, with me insisting on Louloudίa, and the retaliation being Aphroxylanthi. “That’s Greek!” one of the girls exclaimed. And the girl sitting next to her said, “Well, what did you think Louloudίa was?” And some guy in the back says, very politely, “Excuse me, miss. Are you pregnant?!”

(I found a blog called Name That Baby, but it hasn’t helped my case so much.)

3. There’s a verbal agreement on the house, pending the engineers’ surveys and some other matters that are out of my hands. I’ve been on the phone with my mutual fund broker in the states. And suddenly I’m sentimental about the apartment, the one I’ve loved and hated for so many years -- my comms corner where my cell phone gets good reception (and many nice calls), the funny new door, the Russians, Panayiotis, and the three babycats I presume to be his progeny. There are always things you miss. And things you look forward to. As Steph says, it’s time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


[Came up when I googled Koyaanisqatsi...]

I've decided to get (back) in touch with my minimalist self.

What better place to start than the music of Philip Glass. Guided by my long-lasting obsession with David Bowie, I was directed to the symphonies Low and Heroes (which I once owned, then had stolen, and then downloaded from the net).

Apart from the music, I will also try to open my mouth less.

Low (Glass/Bowie/Eno):
1. Subterraneans
2. Some Are
3. Warszawa

Heroes (Glass/Bowie/Eno):
1. Heroes
2. Abdulmajid
3. Sense Of Doubt
4. Sons Of The Silent Age
5. Neukoln
6. V2 Schneider

Monday, July 10, 2006

the necessity of Π

Image Hosted by

The plan was to install a door in the hallway -- a folding door, a simple but efficient way to turn one small space into two. So I go to the door store around the corner, tell them the plan. No way, the woman says. You can’t put a door in a hallway. You have to put a door in a doorway. It can’t be done unless you have a Π.

I say ok, and start to take my disappointment home. But wait, the man says. You can make a Π. You just attach a piece of wood to the walls and you’ve got your Π. We’ll do it ourselves.

So the door is ordered; the wood is cut. And then it turns out that the wall isn’t straight; the measurements are off; the wood needs to be recut. So I take it back to the shop. And the woman says, Oh no, we can’t cut the wood. You can’t change the dimensions of the wood or the door. It’s already been ordered. I take her word for it. I take my wood and go home. I make a few phone calls. I find out that half a centimeter doesn’t make any difference at all -- to the wood, to the door, to the division of one small space into two. I go back with my wood, get it cut, stain it, start calling it a lintel. It’s part of the architecture now.

The moral of the story is that some people -- in business, in life -- are inclined to say no, and really insist. They lose sales and make people feel bad. Others, whether or not it’s the easiest or most obvious answer, make a point of saying yes. They try. It’s so simple. It’s not always about the sale. But they usually get that too.

Meanwhile, although I’m doing what I can to get ready for life with the buka in this house (first major purchase, besides the door: a very small bed -- yay!) I’m still indulging the highly impractical phantasy of moving house before the buka’s arrival. I thought I had seen everything on the market. I thought I had lost my interest in moving altogether when the house with the arch sold. But on Saturday, I found myself with a key, an address, and an enthusiastic referral. An opportunity. The outside gate was locked, but I liked the look of the house so much, I climbed right over it, seven months pregnant, in broad daylight, as fluid and discreet as La Femme Nikita. Or not. But I got in, and once I did, I didn’t want to leave. It’s that kind of house, just the way it is.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Excommunicate this!

[From "Life of Brian"]

I read on the same page, where the acclaimed Nature journal publishes news regarding ground-breaking research, the following two topics:

  • Brain can be made to self-repair: Triggering stem-cell growth could help brain recover after a stroke.


  • Cardinal condemns stem-cell researchers: Excommunication threat may extend to all working with embryonic cells.

Well, I'm sorry to say, but screw them cardinals.

And I'd like to see if they might change their story, should they suffer a stroke themselves...

Saturday, July 01, 2006


[This was exhibited in Hundertwasser's house last year.]

So there goes June... Well...

For a moment this blog almost looked like it had a theme. If it does have a theme, which I doubt, it's definitely not babies. Not that we have anything against babies, of course... :-)

But June brought babies; and bibs; and baby vegetables! It was nice.

I watched lots of football. I watched "Sex, lies, and Videotape" a zillion times. I watched my brother Andreas doing some amazing work, and the world beginning to take notice.

And now, July!

So, "rabbit rabbit" to all, but mostly to Sissy! If this blog has a theme, for me, it's all about her. I'm just enjoying the closeness. What more could one ask of a blog?