Monthly Archives: December 2015

20 years a friend 

  
San was one of the  first friends I made in Silicon Valley. We were both new engineers starting our careers at SGI.

Last night he swung by and brought a bottle of wine. The bottle was from my family winery. A bottle he bought maybe 15 years ago.

The wine was good – semi-sweet Santorinian wine never goes bad …

Like our friendship this wine stood the test of time!

Twice must you see Star Wars Episode 7

Yesterday I went to see Star Wars.

And the first time was awesome because my son was there. And at the same time, the experience was horrible because I kept worrying that it would suck. Another Jar Jar Binks would appear on screen, or we would learn of mitichlorines or ….

That somehow, JJ Abrahms would destroy the franchise for the last time.

And through the entire film, I was stressed.

And at the end, there was a relief. The film was fun.

So of course, I went to see it a second time. And the second time was a pleasure. Because of the stress of it sucking had gone.

See this movie.

The first time was at 3:30, the second at 11 in IMAX 3D. The 3D effects were lame, the audio was awesome. Recommend the IMAX version of the film.

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Melomakarona!

When I was a child, the pre-Christmas fast defined the season. My mom, who was the most devout, believed we could choose to eat anything we wanted, and she could choose to judge silently.

When my mom started to bake Christmas cookies we knew the season of judging was over. The fact that she was making treats was a big deal growing up. My mom is diabetic, and my dad is obsessed with his weight, and so we never had any sweets in the house. Except Christmas when my mom would go crazy and cook enough treats to feed three armies.

There two treats, Kourabiedes, and Melomakarona. I never liked Kourabiedes. But I adored Melomakarona.

I now have my family, and I never found fasting to be my thing, and yet the memory of those mountains of Greek Christmas treats remains.

The problem with Greek treats is that the recipes are written as if you already knew how to cook them. Key details are left out.

And for many years, our Melomakarona didn’t quite work out as amazingly as we would like.

Until we found this video of Martha and Arianna Huffington cooking Melomakarona together.

http://www.marthastewart.com/952030/arianna-huffington-demonstrates-childhood-recipe-melomakarona-cookies

And like last year, this year we made the best Melomakarona.

And like list year, we made too many.

Here’s what the size of half the dough looked like

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And here’s Natasha’s reaction to the size of the dough.20151220_234127944_iOS

And here is the finished product.

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And because this is America and not Greece we had to make a small accommodation. In Greece, your neighbors and friends would come over on Christmas day and expect to be fed. We don’t do this in America. Instead, you are expected to feed people.

And here is Nicholas and me heading out into the cold with our basket of goods and lights to feed our friends.

 

 

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Santa!

A long standing tradition in my Neighborhood organized by the Ray-Nor Park Neighborhood Association. Been doing this for a decade 🙂 

   
Santa, Mrs Claus and Nicholas!

 
Me and Santa (neighborhood friend!)

  
Warren and me!

  
 
Santa!

   
Santa and Nicholas!

 
Mrs Claus and Mr Claus

  
The Musicians!

At the Symphony Hall

 Nicholas’ first classical performance…

 

Mom and Nicholas outside Davies.

 Nicholas and Koukla Polly are very excited!

 
 Are we ever going to hear something?  

  

Our seats! Mom spared no expense.

  
And Nicholas approves.  

But demanded we go check out the instruments up close. I think he is trying to pick an instrument … 

Okay…

Now sit back and enjoy the San Francisco Youth Orchestra play some music.

   

Aegean Dream: Too much of the why not and too little of the why yes…

I recently finished a book titled Aegean Dream. The book chronicled the year-long attempt of Dario and his wife to become Greeks. The attempt was a failure. The book describing the events chronicled their time in Greece.

The book begins with a Greek official telling Dario that Skopelos is a jewel of Greece. And in my mind’s eye, I could see him turning to a co-worker and saying – There is this insane American, who wants to go live in Skopelos.

Their explanation for their failure is that the Greek state got in their way. They had all the right intentions, and yet the state didn’t give them what they needed to legally reside and run a business in Greece.

The real explanation instead of the superficial explanation that the author clings to for their failure is more complex. The reality is that to immigrate to another country,  to abandon your previous identity and embrace your new identity, there has to be nothing to go back to. If going back is an option, then you will never make it across.

Without knowing the author in detail, the best explanation I can give is that to be white in the USA is to have the power of the state be your ally. The government exists to serve. The cops to protect. To be non-white, the power of the state is more ambiguous. For some, it’s threatening.

To be Greek in Greece is to be like an illegal immigrant where the state tries and exploits you without ever mercifully kicking you out. The best explanation is in the book: When you start a business, the state will not come after you. As your business grows, the state will  come after you. First it will be the local official, then an official further out, and then an official from Athens. And every time you will have to pay.

To be Greek is to understand this reality.

Throughout the book, the author is caught up in the silly games of the state. The last and most endearing occurs at their departure.  His wife did not get a permanent visa to stay in Greece.  There were lawyers and government officials who got in her way. When they leave the law requires them to pay a substantial fine. To avoid the fine, they write a letter explaining all of the details of their misadventures.  The soldier at the border looks at the paperwork, realizes that this would take a lot of time and effort and waves her on.  The essence of being Greek is to understand that the laws are absurd and so good judgement is required.

And the book is at times funny. Funny because as a Greek, I see the absurdities of the state. Watching Dario navigate the Greek state is like watching a rich man sit in a poor man’s house and wonder where the butler is.

Unfortunately, the book is also very, very, mean. The author spends too much time explaining the “why not” of being Greek, and too little of the “why yes”. In many ways, I think the author arrived in Greece with an image of what it is to be Greek with no understanding of what it meant to be Greek. Like so many philhellenes of the past, he didn’t understand the hard, brutal reality of living in a poor country with a rapacious state. Like many philhellenes, he imagines a Greece that doesn’t exist. And when reality finally shatters his dream, his false dream, all that remains is his bitterness.

And so the book, ultimately is a mean book that chronicles all the ills of Greece without emphasis on what is good.