Monday, June 12, 2017

Acropolis Views

I wrote this while I was in Greece, but for some reason, never published it. That was in November 2015.

And then I saw it.

I saw it from the top of the Acropolis, the blue honey, my old friend the Mediterranean. I forgot for a second that my back was to the Parthenon. That sea keeps calling me. It calls me now as I write this, a siren, filling me with such longing to be there that tears well up in my eyes. November, my friend. See you soon.

I knew I would be visiting the sea in a few days, so my attention turned back to the Acropolis. (Some photos and a write up are here.)

There was so much to see. I thought I was going to do the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum in one day, but I spent four hours at the Acropolis and did a two hour lunch, not leaving enough time for the museum.

The place was full of broken rocks. Loved it. The history of the place is too long for here, but it includes earthquakes and plenty of wars. The Ottomans used the Parthenon to store weapons and it blew up in some accident. There are been many restoration projects but everything keeps on crumbling. Air pollution doesn't help, either.

The trick to getting the most out of these sites is to imagine what it was like in its prime. I was standing on top of 5,000 years of history. Look at the theater above. Imagine people sitting in the seats - the plebes in the grass while the rich get the seats up front (some things never change) and actors putting on the plays of Euripides.

In our age of cameras everywhere, we're recording every moment of our lives, leaving nothing to the imagination. I love the mystery of ruins. We've lost that. We've lost mystery and imagination, to our own detriment. Even Legos, toys of creativity, are now mostly branding of movies or television shows, filling children's heads with pre-conceived notions. Too many people would see these rocks as rocks, but they weren't rocks. They were buildings. They were part of people's lives. They were where people worshiped and laughed and talked about things that shaped our world today.

The contrast between modern Athens and the ancient state is severe. Greeks once ruled the world and now they are barely keeping together as a country. They've been battered and bruised and beaten time and time again in those 5,000 years, overrun by empires and dictators and all manners of war. But these ruins still stand, reminders of how we all got our start. This is why I love to visit these sites, to think about these things, to reflect, to wonder what it all means and to find answers to today's problems in history. They are there, lessons of the past, but you have to be willing to look for them.

Anyway, here are some more pics of rocks and temples and theaters and remnants of life.


giant aloe. it was taller than me.

Clearly reserved for a VIP

This guy was just crawling around the ruins.

I ended the experience with a Greek beer or two and several plates of Greek food, including a bowl full of olives that were heaven. I had a Greek salad. Any salad I would have ordered would have been a Greek salad. I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and watching the people go by and reflecting upon all the things I saw that day.

I was so happy.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


I wrote this in December 2014 but for some reason never published it. Yes, I'm still angry, angrier now more than ever.

Yes, I'm angry.

Greed is a cause for anger. Selfishness. Narcissism of the non-clinical variety. A willful choice. The idea that the Earth's axis is located in your living room.

Apathy, too. Apathy may be worse. At least greed has a goal, as nasty as it may be. Willful ignorance is the greatest behavioral crime of all. You just don't care until you are personally affected. But that brings us back to selfishness.

A Congresswoman today used her husband's death as a political prop. She blamed "Obamacare" on his death, because, because...well, I can't figure out what exactly she is blaming it on. First she said a test that could have saved her husband's life wasn't covered. Then she said that she thought they had signed up for Obamacare and it turned out they weren't. Those are two vastly different things. Now, I don't know what test it was that he didn't get, or if it would have saved him from having a massive heart attack that night. What I do know is that the woman is worth $15 million. Are you telling me that you couldn't pay for the test yourself, Rep. Lummis?

I know that you're not going to be denied life-saving care if you don't have insurance, which is one of the things you said, Rep. Lummis. I know because Chris was recently admitted to the ICU and had all the tests he needed. What kind of heart test isn't covered by Obamacare, which is the other thing you said? Chris didn't even HAVE health insurance and signed up for it while in the hospital, because the ACA allows you to do that now.

But this post isn't about ACA or politics. It's about greed and selfishness. It's about thinking that some people's lives are more valuable than others, that YOUR life is more valuable than another's. Rep. Lummis's husband had been a state politician, but I can't find any reason that his life was more valuable than Chris's life. Chris is an opera singer. He gives the world beauty. In my opinion, politicians mostly just make the world uglier.

Rep. Lummis's husband may have been a little more important than average Joe, but that just makes the average Joe's support for him over Chris all the more perplexing. Average Joe knows neither of them, so why would any average Joe pick the rich politician over the singer?

Here's what life was like before the ACA: if you were healthy, you paid artificially low premiums because insurance companies kept the sick people out, so they got to keep all the profits and were able to keep your premiums down a bit. Insurance companies denied coverage for many tests and procedures for many people on a regular basis. Some Americans were forced to stay in jobs they hated because they had pre-existing conditions and wouldn't be able to get insurance if they lost their employer-sponsored insurance. Thousands of people DIED because they didn't get the tests and care they needed.

Where was Rep. Lummis when they were denied their procedures?

Now, it is illegal to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Premiums have gone up for some people and down for others. Premiums will continue to go down as more healthy people - especially young people, either sign up for coverage or remain on their parents' plans, which they are allowed to do until age 26, thanks to the ACA. Having more healthy people in the pool allows insurance companies to have money to cover costs for the sick and the elderly.

Now here's one other thing - in some states, Republican politicians are responsible for increased premiums because they refused to raise Medicaid spending. They WANT your premiums to go up so you blame the ACA.

But back to greed and selfishness. Your life isn't more valuable than another.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

What city is this?

A couple of years ago, I went to Greece.

One day after I had visited the Acropolis and had a wonderful, leisurely lunch, I decided to wander.

And then I walked through some warp zone and found myself in Beirut.


I am not kidding. I got confused. This part of Athens looks exactly like neighborhoods in Beirut. I lost any sense of direction and just turned corner after corner, marveling at the striking similarities and wondering if I had somehow fallen asleep and was dreaming or maybe I had died and been sent to Beirut.

Take a look at one of the buildings I lived next to in Beirut:

Here are a few more from Beirut from an old camera:

You can find other Beirut photos here. More from Athens:

only the Greek flags distinguish the two cities