Play that Song, Train

Where have I heard this before? It took me only a short while to identify the familiar tune.

I do not know how to play the piano but this is one song I can somehow bang out after a lot of practice. “Heart And Soul”, written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser – the one every learns when they first learn to use all their fingers to play the piano.

I learnt this song because I wanted to see what playing the piano would be like but the idea proved too ambitious for me because my hand-eye coordination, I realized then, was crummy. Still is.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear it on the radio with lyrics. It seems Train got permission and collaborated with the original composers to do this. Nice!


Sharing: A poem about Technology 

This should be something only those born in the late seventies and earlier can fully appreciate. 

Autographed and in Rare books collection @ Powell Books, Portland

Remember WhenJames Huggins

A computer was something on TV

From a sci fi show of note.

A window was something you hated to clean

And ram was the cousin of goat.
Meg was the name of my girlfriend

And gig was a job for the nights.

Now they all mean different things

And that really mega bytes.
An application was for employment.

A program was a TV show.

A curser used profanity.

A keyboard was a piano.
Memory was something that you lost with age.

A CD was a bank account.

And if you had a 3 1/2″ floppy

You hoped nobody found out.
Compress was something you did to the garbage

Not something you did to a file.

And if you unzipped anything in public

You’d be in jail for a while.
Log on was adding wood to the fire.

Hard drive was a long trip on the road.

A mouse pad was where a mouse lived.

And a backup happened to your commode.
Cut you did with a pocket knife.

Paste you did with glue.

A web was a spider’s home.

And a virus was the flu
I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper

And the memory in my head.

I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,

But when it happens they wish they were dead.

James S. Huggins’ Refrigerator Door

Sharing: My Cup Has Overflowed

Knowing when you are in a good place and that you’ve made choices – easy and difficult ones – to get there is reason enough to give yourself a pat on the back. But we are never really alone on that journey. There’d always be supporters and naysayers- the former you appreciate and the latter you can shut out. We continue to do what makes us happy and do what we can to keep others happy.

Flowers @ Morning Market in Strefi Hill, Athens

I’ve never made a fortune, 

and it’s probably too late now.
But I don’t worry about that much, 

I’m happy anyhow.
And as I go along life’s way,

I’m reaping better than I sowed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed. 
Haven’t got a lot of riches,

and sometimes the going’s tough.

But I’ve got loving ones all around me,

and that makes me rich enough. 
I thank God for his blessings,

and the mercies He’s bestowed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed.
I remember times when things went wrong,

My faith wore somewhat thin.

But all at once the dark clouds broke,

and the sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe,

about the tough rows I have hoed.

I’m drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed.
If God gives me strength and courage,

When the way grows steep and rough.

I’ll not ask for other blessings,

I’m already blessed enough.
And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.

Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,

Cause my cup has overflowed.
By John Paul Moore

Hellenic and Minoan Greece

Who could go to Athens and not see the famed Acropolis and all its installations? Who could go to Crete and not visit the Palace of Knossos? Aye, Aye!

I knew I was going to see ruins and I read up before going so I’d know what I was looking at.  Perhaps I set my expectations a little higher than I should because I secretly (now not a secret) found the experience of Acropolis a little underwhelming. Or maybe I was wrong to be looking forward to being awed by architecture instead of what created it and what it stood for. Minds. Greek minds. Those of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. For the Parthenon, Pericles. He favoured democracy and wanted the Parthenon to represent the triumph of civilisation over forces of barbarism, and wanted to be remembered for it. And he is. Very typical of change leadership, if done correctly.

Of the buildings in the Acropolis, I like the Caryatids in the Erechtheion best – six statues of women that stood in wind and rain over centuries supporting the weight of the roof above them. The Erechtheion was supposedly lavish in design – seen in the Caryatids but not much else now. Which was probably why a Turk governor , when the Turks were in power, used it to house his harem back then. Luxury of the R21 kind.

Before Hellenic Greece were the Minoans. How could anyone not be besotted with the tale of the Minotaur and its Labyrinth? Palace of Knossos was the origin of the tale. Not much of the maze was left considering that it was built around 2000 B.C., but the palace complex was interesting in that it gave visitors a good feel of what it was like to live in a place like that. With a bit of reading up, you can go through the place without a guide, though I had to look up the meaning of the double-axe symbol (aka Labrys) so used in the Palace – its presence on an object would prevent it from getting destroyed/killed. Coincidentally, there is a brand of medicated oil widely used in Asia that has the same symbol – I use it for aches. Kills them! Ha!

I would love to know about the little stories that sometimes accompany a guided visit to the sites – like who lived in the Erechthenion before it was used for purposes not befitting a temple and why double-axes were used in Knossos. But it’s okay, I can guess or come up with theories of my own so I’ll never look at a bottle of medicated oil quite the same way again.

“Mighty indeed are the marks and monuments we have left. Men of the future will wonder at us, as all men do today.” – Pericles, 430 B.C.

Being economical in Mykonos

Value for money. That is what I meant. This is rather difficult to do in the touristy isle of Mykonos where cruise ships dock and people flock to the startling white mass of angular buildings to frolick and be merry. Compared to the similarly touristy parts of Paris and London, prices here are not so bad actually but it is the most expensive one we encountered in Greece.

No matter, it is beautiful. It is so easy to take nice pictures of the place. Here’s one taken at sunset:

And another taken at a restaurant we chanced upon:

Mykonos town reminded me of French Manicure if it were a venue: fresh and neat with a sophistication that hovers between idyllic resort town and an upscale neighbourhood.  It is a maze though – worthy of a Minotaur’s interest. We had fun wandering around and getting lost. But you’d get a good feel of the painted pebbled lanes after getting lost a few times. In the midst of all these, I found a pretty cheap place near Fabrika Square to get takeaway Illy coffee for €1.50. I went there everyday to get my coffee fix.

There is a bus station there from where you can go to the different beaches. We spent a day at Platys Gialos lying prone on the deck chairs staring at nothing more than sun, rocks and the Aegean Sea. They charge for the chairs – €20 for two under an umbrella for as long as you like. It comes with a 1.5l bottle of water too. Clean loos. Good deal.
You can also go to Delos from Mykonos for €50 per person. For history buffs, it is a must-do. Accommodation-wise, it is pretty pricey if you look for rooms with private baths. It’s around €300 per night and up around Mykonos town for basic rooms.

It is an experience to see Mykonos but it is also one that doesn’t quite need a second visit.

Getting around in Santorini 

The Fira-Oia trail in Santorini is a 3-hour long hike that boasts spectacular views. We didn’t do that. Instead, we strolled in Oia and Fira, and then drove around Akrotiri for similar views, food and wine/coffee. Wherever in Santorini you are, the view is awesome. After you get the pictures of the blue domes and white buildings in Oia that is.

There is only one main road in Santorini that is about 16km long in the shape of the letter C, laterally inverted. For this reason, car rental companies don’t rent out GPS units – you find your way with directions given (of the left, right, right, see Mexican restaurant then turn right variety) and a map with a red bold line indicating the main road as well as thinner lines for the side roads. That’s it. Roads are signposted but not very well. Educated guesses and a hang loose attitude will come in handy.

The roads are also rather narrow with big tour buses zipping by too so it would be more restful for your heart if a smaller car was used. For €45 per day, we had a nifty Nissan Micra automatic, a beat-up car that has seen better days and had a bit of trouble going uphill with 5 in it. Heh. The poor thing was suffering. Petrol wasn’t cheap either – €1.87 per litre. But self-drive is highly recommended just so you can experience the island in your own time. It is one of the more efficient and economical methods of moving around Santorini compared to day tours (from €30 onwards per prsn) and public buses (€1.80 per prsn per way). Did I mention that parking is free everywhere?

There are boat trips you can make out to the volcano, a small sulphur pool they call a hot spring, and snorkeling near the white beach where the main attraction is the rocky depths beneath a single fish that ignores the pieces of French baguette floating above it. But the catamaran was splendid, crew was great and vibe was good with inebriated younger adults puking their faces off on the way back after enjoying 5 cups of the free flow white wine.

One thing worth taking the time to see though is the way Santorini grows grapes. The grape bunches rest on the volcanic soil, protected from the wind by the leaves and vines. They do not get pests because of the sulphur in the soil so the grapes are never really harmed. Local varietals are used to make wine and one they are famous for is the Vinsanto, a dessert wine. Santo Winery and Faros Market have that – the former is commercial while the latter makes theirs in the family cellar. There is also pickled caper leaves, much like the capers we know but their leaves are pickled. It seems only Santorini does this given their limited land, limited crop thus limited yield of capers.

The experience of the island is one of pleasant chaos for one so used to order and efficiency. I guess when you are on vacation, you have time for mess. I found the absence of the need to get something done well, quickly and properly absolutely enthralling. I only just have to remember where I stuffed my sunblock and cap.