Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Turn's out She's right

It's a say day for blackpetero. It seems that all along bwo was right - it's not what you say it's how you say it. Squint Central UK hosted a "MicroInequities" course today. It all boils down to the small messages you send when you communicate. These, usually unconscious, subtle messages can impact interaction with others in the workplace and in life. You know what they mean, the raised eyebrow, the look away, the sigh and the insincere affirmative. Saying "that was brilliant" when you mean just the opposite. This is all part of the push for a more diverse and inclusive workplace that has gripped our industry.

So in the end it seems that bwo is right as usual. She has been telling me for years that what I say is meaningless, it's how I say it and obviously I usually say it badly. The goal of this program is to make you more aware of the effects of body and spoken language in your interactions with others. I obviously suck at this. The good news I can practice at home with a world's expert on how not to say stuff.

Hopefully this blog is not dripping with MicroMessages.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Full House

The daughter, bdo (blackdaughtero), arrived in London yesterday. She and her travel partner are stopping off on their way to South America for their multi month backpacking trek. I am more worried about this than I was during all her years in the army. I suppose it's a father's lot to worry while the offspring gallivant around the world. All they have as far as an itinerary is concerned is a flight to Buenos Aires and one back from São Paulo. It's good to be young.

In other news BFE (the boyf) arrived today. I reserve judgement as anything I say can and will be used in evidence against me. Roxy seems to like him.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Picture

I stopped blogging regularly a few months before Avril left us. And once she was gone I really didn't feel like writing much. I know she used to read all my posts and in some way she was one of the people I was writing to. I miss her and til now I have not been able to write about Avril much as it was too raw. I started this blog up again because it feels like life is changing again and this is a good way for me to record the passing of days.

While I was in Houston last weekend, we went to one of the (many) storage units we, as a family, rent. While I was looking for some documents of my parent's, I came across the "big box of photos", which is not so big any more. We took it home to look through and while pouring through faded old black and white pictures of my parent's youth, we came across this picture of Avril, and I have to say it brought on misty eyes and a lump in throat. This is exactly how I will always remember her, in that silly, frilly coat and that smile. I am so glad I found it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Long Haul

Dave retired today. Thinking back, in the thirty or so years I have been working this is the first retirement of someone I have worked closely with. The thing is that our industry was young when we started work and we have matured along with it. I am now a sort of elder statesman and the people my age and older are on the retirement track. I used to think, once upon a time, that I would have a hard time with retirement. I believed I need the work to keep me feeling meaningful in this world. Funny how that has changed over the years. I am jealous of Dave and would like nothing more to be able to give up work knowing I could take care of the wife and kids, do archaeology, build guitars, go study something, travel.

I never thought my dad would be able to retire. He was certainly a workaholic. When he time came, he left his job, packed up 35 Mill Park Road and moved to Raanana and then to Houston. He was always busy and happy. He did his stamps, made sandwiches and collected money for the trampiyada and generally took time to read and drive miles to buy Diet Coke at a discount. I don't think he missed the "salt mines" for a minute.

Sadly this is a long way off for me, both financially and age wise. Today, it was sad to say goodbye to Dave, he was one of the first that welcomed me to squint central UK. He was a giant in history of 3D graphics. We had a nice dinner last night, pizza at lunch, and a nice toast this afternoon. An MacBook rather than a gold watch. I wish him much luck on this new journey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Can't make this shit up!

At some point this morning bwo texted me "I swear, you can't make this shit up." and I swear you can't. Here's the story. Near the corner of Sandy Lane and Petersham Road a few houses down from us live a nice gay couple S and R. Nice guys. S looks after the Rox from time to time and they have two little dogs Lily and Poppy. Next to them live two other gay guys. For the sake of the story let's call them Guy1 and Guy2. Now not all has been well in the lives of Guy1 and Guy2. S and R have had all sorts of trouble with them. Particularly Guy1. He apparently has been abusive and threatening. S and R complain of shouting matches that continue to the early hours of the morning. I stumbled upon Guy1 sitting outside on the ground in the lane while walking Roxy one morning at 5am. He invited me in for coffee. I did not accept. Rumor has it that Guy1 and 2 are selling their house and planning a move to Houston. This could not happen soon enough for S and R.

I awake at 5am this morning after a troubled night's sleep fighting jet lag to a bothersome flashing light coming through the blinds. I think this is probably some medical emergency as we have some elderly neighbours. I looked out the window to see a number of police vehicles on Petersham road and no passing traffic at all. Hmmm, interesting. I dress quickly and take Roxy out the front door to see what's going on. To the right (see picture below) the road is cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape. To the left a solitary bus is standing all alone except for the driver who is looking up at one of the houses (X marks the spot). I walk over to him and ask what's up. He says there is a jumper on one of the roofs of the houses and seeing as he cannot make a U turn, he is stuck there. Sure enough I can hear Guy1 shouting and ranting at the top of his voice. Repeating the same chants over and over. The police are stationed below looking up and pleading for him to come down.
The bus driver tells me that they have closed off Petersham Road from The Dysart to The New Inn (all directions given based on local Pubs). This means no one can get from Kingston to Richmond or vice versa. Luckily it's still around 6am, so traffic is light. After a few minutes a policeman comes over and asks us to go further away as "things are coming to a head". I walk Roxy round the block and back down the back lane to get back home. Bwo and I go out the front door to see what's up and a nice policewoman asks us to stay inside because Guy1 on the roof decided I was Guy2 when he saw me outside and this has made him more agitated.

The prospects of getting to work any time soon did not look good so we offered the police outside tea. This was a good move as this elevated our status from nosy neighbours to useful citizens in the eyes of the UK constabulary. So much so that they offered to let me back my car out, move the five vehicles blocking the road and take down the crime scene tape temporarily so I could get out and go off to work. Amazing what a good cuppa can do. So I made it out, stopping on the way to give a ride to a stranded commuter waiting for a never appearing bus.

It seems the "incident" went on till around 10am causing all sorts of havoc in Richmond. A "van without windows" took Guy1 away eventually, according to bwo's report. She also spent time on the phone with S  (of S and R) getting the scoop from up close. Seems Guy1 started throwing roofing tiles and parts of the chimney pipe down on the masses of police below. He possibly also assaulted Guy2. Looks like he has been arrested, which worries S and R as this means he probably will not be emigrating to the US any time soon. And people dare say the UK is boring!

And if you don't believe me you can read the story in The Richmond and Twickenham Times.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Our Siddy

Sad news for us this afternoon. Seems the kids needed to put Sid down. He has been getting more and more frail as he gets older. Sad indeed.
Sid and his sister Nancy, knocked on the door of HaNevel street in our first winter in Israel (Dec/Jan 2000/2001). They were tiny, wet homeless kittens and after a close examination of all houses in the 2005 subdivision, they decided we should look after them. A nice South African/American family that would make sure they always had a warm house and good food. Sid was the serious one. While is sister Nancy was a Ninja and lived for the attack, Sid was always very regal and stately. He was not big on chasing things and mostly loved to lie on the bed with his mom, purring. He grew into a big handsome chap, the patriarch of the cats of HaNevel 3. He was not a big fighter, but would arch and hiss and spit at any young whippersnapper that dared intrude into his space.

According to the latest WhatsApp message bso now at the vet and they have decided his time is up. We had 15 great years with Sid and he will be dearly missed. No one purrs better.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Yet Another Flight Story

True story! Waiting at gate A17 for my flight to Houston there were 15 wheelchairs and one gate attendant. Only three of the wheelchairs seemed to be part of a group so that meant 12 others needed to be boarded separately. The early flight to Denver was delayed till 9am, so my 6:14am flight to Houston was packed to the gills. I boarded early (what's new) and sat in my aisle seat 3 rows from the back. A nice lady sat herself in the window seat and we chatted about how there is no way we will get off on time seeing as the wheelchairs had used up most of our boarding window. Just before the doors closed a largish, not too young man showed up and sat in the middle seat. I thought it strange that he had no book, or phone, tablet or paper. He sat down, mumbled something affirmative when the pilot announced that we would get in on time due to favorable tail winds. He sat there staring into space as we took off.

I worked on putting together the perfect flight play list on my ipod (yes I still have an iPod). I was zoning on Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert Part 1 and dozing when the drinks cart came around. I felt something strange against my leg and my arm was pushed off the arm rest.The guy in the middle had started to seriously encroach on my space. I looked over at him and it was clear he was having a seizure of some kind. The window woman leaned over and tried to speak with him, but he just stared blankly ahead mumbling. We flagged a flight attendant who was nearby serving drinks, he took one look at the guy muttered "he's having a stroke" under his breath and rushed off to the back where he called for a doctor over the PA. Within 30 seconds there was two doctors in the dude's face.I moved out of my seat to let the senior doctor sit down. He examine the guy who seemed to have stopped convulsing but was still pretty much out of it. I stood in the toilet area and watched while the flight attendants brought oxygen, a blood pressure monitor and various other devices to help the doc. I have to say they were extremely efficient and on the ball.

Eventually, after about a half hour, the dude seemed to have stabilized somewhat and I overheard the conversation with the captain in the cockpit where it was decided that we would not have to reroute for an medical emergency landing. The doctor needed to stay in my seat and at some point we hit some turbulence and the seat belt sign came on. Now the plane was completely full, and the doctor's seat, while now empty was a window seat in a row where one of the wheelchair people mentioned above was placed. Business class was completely full, but they found me a "premium" middle seat in one of the exit rows. There was tons of leg room. Sitting on the aisle was a United pilot on his way to Houston for a four day hop flying one of the commuter jets around the Southern US. On the window was a woman on her way to San Antonio to meet her future in-laws. She was quite the talker and after an hour or so I got to know her whole family history including the children's divorce issues and first husband's workaholic nature. She was annoyed that her original flight to Denver was delayed and she needed to reroute through Houston. She did show some concern for the poor guy in the back, but mostly was annoyed at United. The pilot was cool. Seems he flew the squint corporate jet for a while. The same one I took on Tuesday from San Jose to Sacramento. He lives in Sacramento and commutes to Houston for his flights each week. I learned all about the life of a commercial pilot. 

On landing, the Houston Medical Emergency Team rushed onto the plane and took the sick dude off in a hurry. We all waited patiently and exited calmly. My case was first off the baggage carousel. All in all an eventful flight.

I'm here in Houston with my lovely family.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Bwo says that the blog is boring without pictures. It's a sad commentary on the state of my writing. So above you have a picture of the sun rising over McClellan, CA, home of many pawn shops and payday loan offices. Now after two packed days at a Squinter's conference in McClellan, a converted Air Force Base, I'm back in Folsom. We stayed in a hotel that was a once some sort of barracks. There was much complaining from the squints, but I had a huge room which was once probably some General's quarters. I think all the plumbing in the whole thousand person edifice went through my room, so I spent much of my jet lagged nights listening to the wooshing and gurgling of remote toilet flushes. I found this interesting titbit on Wikipedia:

McClellan has been designated as a Superfund site, because the Environmental Protection Agency has identified 326 waste areas on the base. Water wells closest to the base in the Rio Linda-Elverta district, have had the highest levels of hexavalent chromium, which is a known carcinogen. Water from six of 11 wells tested above the state’s maximum contaminant levels for chromium-6, which is 10 parts per billion.

I did drink quite a lot of tap water, so I hope I don't grow an extra eye. Mind you, super powers (like the ability to understand how to talk to my wife so she doesn't get upset) would be nice.

Last night I got to sleep at my regular home in Folsom, the Residence Inn at Ironpoint and East Bidwell. Keeping with tradition I walked over to Chipotle for my favorite, a veggie burrito. Bwo alerted me to the troubles they have been having with Salmonella and E-Coli. I had no idea that Chipotle had numerous contamination issues, seeing as I only listen to the BBC and hear no internal US news. But, once again I took my chances after having braved the toxins of McCellan and enjoyed my dinner. After eating I took a stroll along the shops and wandered into a PetsMart. I was thinking how pathetic it is that once upon a time I would have to go shopping at places like Toys R Us for gifts for the kids, now it's stuff for the dog. Needless to say I was completely intimidated by the trillions of toys and chews and brushes, so I quickly ducked out of there and hurried back to the hotel where I was asleep by 8pm. Only one more day here in Northern California before the 6 am flight to Houston and the warmth of the family.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Jet

One of the nice things about working for Squint incorporated is that they have a few company jets.I got to fly on one from San Jose to Folsom this morning. It is very nice. You wait in a nice building near San Jose airport, show your badge and hop on the jet and twenty two minutes later you hop off in Folsom. There was even a Hertz car waiting for me at the other end. The jet flies at around 10000 feet (this according to Chris who was flying with me, he is an expert glider pilot) which means you can see the ground quite clearly. You get a wonderful view of the rolling hills as you come in to land at Mather Field in Folsom.The second picture is just after take off and that's Mountain View and its surroundings, you can clearly see the Moffett Field runways between the clouds. California seems to have had a bit of rain and the fields on the way to Folsom are quite green, and not the brown I am used to seeing when visiting over the last few years. A nice experience.

The flight attendant even gave us cookies.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

BA 285

Seat 29A. Not a bad seat at all. It's an exit row and there is only a single seat in front of me. I'm by the window with a seat to my left and a very quiet girl who has not uttered a word so far and we are eight hours into this ten and a half hour flight. There is a open space in front of my seat so I can get out without bothering the nice Russian man in the singleton in row 28. I've watched three movies. Two were less than memorable but I liked The Martian with Brad Pitt. Now I'm listening to my iPod. Yes I still have an iPod and it contains some good music. The 10.5 hours to San Fransisco seem to take forever but it's so much better than flying from Tel Aviv like in the old days. At least no change of planes.

I expect this will be a difficult week. Jet lagged with lots of sitting around in meetings. It really gets no easier as the years wear on. I am looking forward to smelling the air in the Bay Area. It's been a while. One positive is that now that my manager moved to Santa Clara I will get to visit the Bay Area and not have to head straight off to Folsom. I do get to take a ride on the corporate jet on Tuesday morning and that is usually fun. Give me a break, I'm trying to find positives here. No question that at this time I would much rather be out walking Roxy by the river rather than cooped up in this metal sardine can with wings. 

Friday, January 22, 2016


This is definitely worth a watch. Definitely a fitting tribute to a great man. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

From the Shtetl to The Cape

Today would have been my dad's 92'nd birthday. I still think of him a lot. I most certainly never appreciated him nearly enough while he was alive. By now I have forgotten the bad temper and stubbornness. I hardly remember how he used to shout at my mom and at the maids and that we never spoke one word during my 12 grade year. I remember him as a sweet old man who was generous and kind. Someone who loved his grandchildren and would drive miles for a bargain, especially on Diet Coke. I have this picture of him in his bar holding a drink and smiling. It's up on the wall next to me here in my home office. He looks like such a fun guy.

The thing that struck me the other day is that the world my kids are growing up in is as different from the world I knew as my world was to my parents. I have been doing some research into the family archives as I am perhaps looking to refresh our Lithuanian roots. Some of the Lithuanian archives are available online (Jewishgen.org has some of the Lithuanian archives transposed into online databases) and I found a record of Vulf and Yudel's passport application in Feb 1929. These are my paternal grandparents I believe. I also found a record of their marriage in 1923 in Butrimonys in Lithuania. We were Ostrinski in those days. We have a copy of the ship's manifest from London to Cape Town when my mother's family came over, and it looks like my father's father was on the same ship. He probably sent for his family once he got established. We never really pushed my parents to record their history and now it's too late. I enjoy doing the research, it's the archaeologist in me and I hope to find more info in the US next week.

I looked into what happened in the town of Butrimonys during the war and found a web page that gave the story of "The Destruction of the Shtetl Butrimantz". It seems the Jews of Lithuania did not fair well in the Holocaust. There were 235000 Jews when Germany invaded the country and 18000 left at the end of the war. Of the 2000 Jews living in the Shtetl of Butrimantz only 10 survived. The Sirota family,my paternal grandmother's family, came from Butrimantz. There are Sirotas named among the victims of the massacre, I don't know at this point whether we were related.

So my dad was born into a world of chaos. His family fled their homeland when he was very young. They settled in South Africa. I'd imagine nothing could have been further from the Shtetl in Lithuania than Cape Town, South Africa. He worked hard all his life to open a world of possibilities and what he hoped would be financial stability for his children and grandchildren. Looking from where he came, I think I understand this more than ever.   

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I am sad today. Harold, my sister's (bso) best friend is not doing well. He has been sick and it seems he is now very sick. Harold is part of our Houston family and it's hard to imagine him not being around. I am heartbroken for my wonderful sister, her friendship with Harold is a big part of her life. She says he is not in pain and that is very good. It's just a plain sad, shitty world. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Groomer

Roxy's coat has been getting more and more matted. Her tail had more dreadlocks than Bob Marley's head and all in all she was in need of a good grooming. Trish, mother of Annie and Lily, suggested we try a groomer that comes to the house. The Rox does not like anyone touching her tail and is not in love with brushing particularly so we decided it would make sense to have a professional do it.

The groomer arrived as planned today, but bwo promptly forgot she was coming and buggered off to a meeting. So it was lucky that I was on my back to work from home early as I am still not feeling great and need to be near a friendly toilet. So I met her, a big sporty woman with her grooming van parked outside in the drive. She introduced herself to Roxy and they got on fine. She took Roxy into her truck, her mobile salon, and started brushing and combing. After a few minutes she called me away from my work to help hold the girl as she was clearly not enjoying the brushing and clipping.

I have never seen Roxy so spooked, not even at the vet. She was shaking and shivering. I held her tight and the woman completed her first round of removing the matted hair and half her wonderfully bushy tail with a clippers. There was enough hair on the clipping table to build at least one more border collie. The plan was to then bath and dry Rox before doing a "final shaping". I left her to the bathing. One end of her van held a huge bath that she fills with water in which she places the subject. After a few minutes I could hear Roxy screaming like a banshee. She was not at all happy. She whined, then screamed, even heard a few barks (Roxy never barks, except at foxes and squirrels taunting her from the trees). After a heart wrenching quarter hour it quietened down and I thought it must all be over, when the groomer (big strong woman) appeared with Roxy. She was in tears (the woman not the dog). This was just not a success. The groomer admitted defeat and had given up as Roxy would not stay in the bath or let her dry her. So no shaping or final clipping, nothing. The groomer could not take her mobile salon and zoom away fast enough. Obviously I'm a sucker for tears as I paid her the full amount.

We won't do this again. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunset Today

Sunset today on the copse with Roxy chasing her ball. A short break from peeing sulfuric acid.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Living in South Africa, California, Texas and Israel, I have never stayed anywhere where it snowed regularly. Not that it snows that often in Richmond Upon Thames. So, I get very excited when it does snow. Both Roxy and I loved going out into the light snow fall this morning. I am still not feeling so great so I did not go out for too long but we got to walk out on the copse through the snow (I did take some pictures out on the copse, but it was too dark).

I love the sound of the snow. You hear nothing as it drifts to the ground. Light as air. And all around everything looks and sounds different. There is a sort of stillness all around, even the morning calls of the birds sound different. Muted. Unfortunately the snow did not hang around for long, but it's still quite cold out. This is supposed to be a cold winter, so perhaps by the end I will have had my fill. Not yet though. Bring on more snow.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Red Pee

I am back from the hospital and its all over except for the bleeding. It went as well as could be expected. New Victoria is a very nice place and my room was more like a hotel than a hospital. Complete with little soaps and designer shampoo. The food was good too. I am still in some pain but I think that is to be expected

The Landers looked after Roxy and bwo looked after me. She was awesome as usual. Of course, the whole thing was updated on Whatsup. I don't know what we did before we had Whatsup, people just found things out when told. I'm feeling quite tired and finding it difficult to concentrate. I think I'll go nap again. Hopefully I will be able to get back to blogging tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ureteroscopic Stone Removal and Cystoscopy and Stent Procedure

I had a CT scan last week. It's all these pains that I have been having, see. I was sure they were kidney stones, but the doctors here wanted me to have diverticulitis. Well they never found and diverticulitis but they did find quite a large kidney stone stuck somewhere in between my kidney and bladder. I went back to the urologist tonight for him to go over the tests (a Mr. S - specialists in this country are misters not doctors). Anyway seems I'm to have the stone removed on Friday (day after tomorrow). "No problem" he said. "It should not hurt too much" he said. With the way they understate everything here I'm sure it will hurt like the bejesus.

It's all at the nice New Victoria Hospital. A good place. They gave me a nice sandwich after (cheese and tomato on white bread, my brother would have appreciated it) and excellent coffee. Hopefully this "procedure" does not take to long. They bust up the stone using what the consultant (specialist) claims is a very small pneumatic drill, a miniature version of what they use on the road, and then put in a long plastic stent for a few weeks. Sounds marvelous. Getting old is overrated.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Scarf

A scarf is very important.

It turned cold this week. It's one degree outside. I never much appreciated scarves, I do now.

Interesting word scarf, nearly as nice as shrub.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie

David Bowie died yesterday. I heard this morning as it was announced on the BBC on my way into work around 6:30am. I have to admit that while I have become quite an emotional being over the years, I rarely feel anything when so called "stars" pass on. This one was different. I was immediately transported to Gerald Strimling's apartment on Park Drive. Avril and I were in Standard 9 so it was 1976. Gerald lived then with Stuart and they were much older and therefore much cooler (Avril was the real reason for the invitation to their apartment). I liked Bowie before and the song Sorrow from Pinups was a favorite. But Gerald played us Hunky Dory. It changed my life. I have to say that it ranks in my top three albums and has at every stage of my life. I remember the first year at the Technion in Haifa in 1978 being terribly lonely, homesick, lovesick and lost, I turned to Hunky Dory - the recording I had on cassette eventually wore out.

Of all the amazing songs on that record, it's The Bewlay Brothers that still blows me away every time I hear it. From the creaking at the beginning to the chorus at the end it is in my opinion a masterpiece.

The incredible outpouring of emotion over Bowie's death has flooded my Facebook feed. For me and my hevreh he was the man. Listen to Hunky Dory now. You will not be sorry.