Friday, October 11, 2019

Let there be light

It's been an interesting few days. We got power back last night after PG+E shut us down for two days due to the "fire risk caused by high winds". Well, wind-mageddon turned out to be quite underwhelming in our part of the world. The power shutdown not so much. We got to experience life with no lighting or oven for our post-Yom Kippur breaking of the fast meal. The stove top grilled cheese was delicious as was the matzo ball soup. We had gas and hot water, so it was not all that bad. Besides having to throw out a fridge full of food, we did OK.

I have to take credit for ending the power shutdown. I knew that as soon as I bought a generator, all power will return. So I took one for the neighborhood and dropped the cash on Amazon. When that did not work immediately, yesterday morning David and I drove over to his house and dragged his (very heavy) UPS over to attempt to save the fridge contents. The UPS only managed about 30 mins of juice before it gave up. But of course that hassle tipped the scales and power was restored soon after.

It's interesting how the lack of electricity effects life. Bwo and I were asleep by 7:30pm (as soon as it got dark). We actually read books and spoke with one another. I got to go off to work each day while bwo had to stay home with no internet. The horror!
"And there was light .... and the light was good"

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


I saw this on FB and had to smile (Not sure who created it could have been a Mr. Knote)

Monday, October 7, 2019


When we lived in Raanana there was the "raananalist". A mail-list run by English speakers for English speakers. For a while online you could get recommendations and find interesting tidbits (preferred American spelling, the rest of the world uses titbits) of Anglo life in the suburbs North of Tel Aviv. Over time it degenerated into a whole lot of moaning, some political, some religious and I lost interest. For a while though it felt like you did not have to live in Raanana, all you needed to do was read the raananalist and it was as if you were there. The whole 80% of life in the Holy Land in mailing list digest form.

Since we moved to the US, nextdoor is quickly becoming the new raananalist. Same thing but US based and therefore so much more noise. I love it. I enjoy that every day there are a surprising number of people who have lost dogs and cats (usually related to the spotting of coyotes in the area) and pretty much the same number have surprisingly found dogs and cats. But every now and then we get some wonderful posts. You can only guess what "Mouth breathing chicken" covers (he was posting for his wife, their chicken was making a wheezing sound, the post quickly degenerated into a treatise on the quality of locally raised eggs). Then there was the classic "Stolen Tortoise" post. Turns out it had escaped and was later found, but this was only after a long reply on how there is a lucrative trade in Desert Tortoise eggs and one should have 24hr surveillance as it is likely their property was being watched for a convenient tortoise robbery. The post signed by someone with the following qualifications: "Missing Persons & Sensitive Crime Investigations". I love California. There is a staggering number of people that do not stop at stop signs. As opposed to the raananalist, there is no problem with "lashon ha-ra" (the religious moderators frowned upon bad mouthing others), on our Nextdoor there are some very incriminating photos. 

The "For Sale & Free" section is useful and I must admit I have scored some interesting tools: A mini mill and a lovely original US made Porter Cable 690 for a fraction of their value (to me). Happily bwo shows no interest, which is great, because we would end up with another house full if she watched these deals. She posted once, but needless to say no one wanted the couch she got from the neighbors when they moved. No one would take it, not even for free.

She's hard at work crocheting mandalas on the patio.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The End. Lots of Words.

We are still in Houston. We buried my mom yesterday, Sunday, and because she died on Friday night ("only the righteous die on the Sabbath" - we have heard this many times) and last night was first night of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), there is no Shiva. My mom was always considerate and never wanted to make a fuss, right to the end. So bwo and I will head home to EDH tomorrow (Tues).

It has been an intense few days. I am so happy we came when we did. We got to see her in the hospital and got to witness some of the "terminal restlessness" although it was nothing like the horror my brother and sister had to go through over the previous week. After she was moved to the hospice they kept her well drugged and much more peaceful. On Friday late afternoon the Rabbi came by and did this sort of Jewish last rites thing. And Hope from the Jewish chaplaincy service stopped by and left us the makings for shabbat. So we lit the little battery candles, said the shabbat blessing over the wine (grape juice) and challah (some rolls from Beldens) - my mother would have liked that. Then we went home for Friday night supper with all the noisy family (Chinese takeouts - what all good families choose after a day at the hospital). The call from the hospice came after all the kids left and only bwo, my brother, s-i-l, sister and Jay were sitting around talking. So we rushed off the the medical center, by the time we got there she had passed on. The hospice was amazing. Not afraid to answer all our questions, clearly and directly.

The last few days have been a blur, but still, there were many, many unforgettable moments: Hope blowing the Shofar in the "dead" silence of the hospice; my mom laid out so peacefully with her crocheted blanket tucked tightly around her; her hands, first blue and then clear; the strange little lady from the hospice with her hundreds of forms; me struggling to concentrate on a work call while listening to the doctor with one ear; the "death rattle"; Norah from the hospice and her quiet competence; my wonderful brother pacing up and down practicing the eulogy (5mins 17 sec); watching little Noe shovel sand into the grave; Jose and the boys slowly ratcheting the coffin into the hole they dug that morning; the ugly cement "crib" that the simple pine box is entombed in here in often-flooded Houston; but mostly that over arching feeling of security and caring and love that my family generate no matter what the occasion.

We laughed a lot and cried a little. I mostly get faclempt when I see how others are affected by our loss. Her passing was not tragic. After the funeral and bagels, when the family had left the house, we went to Shul for the first night Rosh Hashanah service. The pomp and ceremony at their huge shul here in Houston is not my style at all, but it certainly was interesting and blessedly short. Then off to my sister's crowded apartment for the traditional first night dinner. The food was great, they always look out for the vegetarian. And yes, there was brandy and sponge cake. My dad would have been proud.

This turned out to be much longer than I expected, and still it covers barely a fraction of the events and emotions of the last few days. The number of calls, FB messages, texts etc has been overwhelming. One of my brother's friends wrote something I hope is true. She said after losing her mother with dementia, that as time passed she found she forgot those years lost to the dementia and remembers her as the lively, bright person, full of life she once was. It's a comforting thought.

Lisa made this video, and it seems this blog is one place things don't get lost, so here it is. My mother and her family.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Terminal Restlessness

We are in Houston. My mother, 96, took a fall last week and things turned bad. She had severe dementia for the last few years, but till the fall was walking on her own, no walker or chair. So the hospital did the minimum to keep her comfortable, which included some bolts and pins in her hip and not enough meds. We got the call Tues and flew down yesterday (Wed). It has been quite an experience. Let me say I am so lucky to have the brother and sister I have. They have taken care of my mother for years and just dealt with this situation with their usual efficiency, humor and love.

We Ubered directly to the hospital from the airport and went up to see her. It's hard to describe, I would not have recognized her if I did not know. She was pretty much out of it, but would grab at the air every now and then and let out a sort of moaning wail. Apparently, things were much improved by the time we got to Houston. The previous day and night, after the operation, she had continually pulled out all the infusions and even ripped those unbreakable hospital id bands off her wrists. She also ripped off any clothing, and sheets anything covering her. Not fun. She was always a strong woman and it was a full-time job for a nurse to watch her (Shemarion was yesterday's). They had upped the doses of pain meds and morphine so she was kind of sleeping and only occasionally reacted, but that was bad enough.

And so we learned of "terminal restlessness". It's something that is not spoken of too often, but is common in the dying. Man, was my mother terminally restless. At some point yesterday the hospital decided she needed to leave and fortunately (believe it or not) she was bad enough to be accepted into a inpatient hospice. They don't take just anyone. When we arrived at the hospice this morning, she was once again very restless, wanting to pull herself up and shouting at the world, but not really conscious. She also kept ripping off her clothing and blankets and that is a sight it's hard to unsee. The hospice people knew exactly what to do and upped her meds to where she is resting as peacefully as can be expected. We are sitting around waiting. 

We are lucky to have many people who are concerned about how we are taking all this. I can only talk for myself. The mother I knew and loved, who was the special person in my life left a few years ago. I really was lucky in that I did not have to watch her going week by week. I got to see her every few months and so the decline into dementia was a relatively sudden thing for me. So I have had years to say goodbye. The body lying here just breathing is not I my mind the mother I knew. We will do the right thing for it, of course, whatever means less pain and suffering and hope she goes peacefully. In the meanwhile we wait.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Cokie Roberts died today. She was 75 and was someone I really admired. I loved listening to her on NPR and always found her interesting and intelligent. I recommend her book "We Are Our Mothers' Daughters" (which she reads on Audible) and I liked her "Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families" which she wrote with her husband Steven. She was someone I would have liked to invite for dinner. 

We get a lot of humming birds around the house. Bwo has strung up multiple feeders and usually remembers to fill them. I can sit in my office here at home and look out the window and watch the territorial battles that they wage. This one, he is red breasted (yeah the photo is shite, sorry) is the boss. He chases off visitors to his feeder and pursues them into the trees with great aggression. I have noticed that the rabble has figured it out, they send a decoy and as soon as he chases the decoy, two others will swoop in and feed til he gets back. 

Friday, September 13, 2019


There are days were it is hard to get motivated. Days where the weight of the world presses heavily on my shoulders. On days like these I need some excellence.

The cafe at squint central has a temporary tonic for this malaise. Take a sesame bagel. Slice in two with the bagel slicer thing (no sharp knives, they can lead to litigation). Put it through the industrial type toaster twice (one of those conveyor belt numbers) controlling the speed until the middle is perfectly brown and darkly toasted on the outside. Divide in two (Kacey has the top half). Shmeer thickly with jalapeno cream cheese and top the half with one of those hash browns. The cafe really knows how to fry shit and those flat toaster hash browns are perfectly perfect. It's all in the crunch.

Each bite of this perfection increases my joy. The only sadness is that it is all too soon over. Excellence in any form, that the secret.

The end.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


It was a wonderful three day weekend. I got to spent a lot of time in the shop. Roxy and I spent time at the lake. We now have a routine on the weekends. We pick up David and Eliot at 6am and get to the lake as the gates to Browns Ravine open. The dogs leap out the car and run around peeing and sniffing until we head off on our walk. Those walks help me get through the rest of the week. 

Yesterday at the lake. Ducks in a row.

Friday, August 30, 2019


Bwo bought me an DNA kit for our anniversary in June. I wasn't so sure that I wanted my DNA out there in the world, so I put off sending in my sample for a few months. The kit was sitting under my monitor at home reminding me that I should take care of it all. So a few weeks back I sent off my sample. Ancestry keep sending you text messages to keep you involved. It starts with a "Good news, bpo, we recieved your DNA" through your "sample is in processing" to your "DNA is being extracted in the lab" then your "sample is being analysed". Finally Wednesday night at 10pm I get the message that "Your AncestryDNA results are in". So I logged into the site and guess what!

I am 100% European Jewish. What a waste of $60. Tell me something I don't know. All I wanted was to have a few percent of Inuit blood or maybe some hunter-gatherer blood from Southern Africa, even a drop of Russian Cossack blood would have been welcomed. No, 100% European Jewish. It did not even zero down to Lithuania where both my parents were born. It's so damn boring.

I really dislike the Ancestry site. So busy with so little relevant info. One interesting fact: I gave them no info besides my DNA and they managed to connect me to one of my first cousins in Houston. I did not know he had sent in a sample. So perhaps there is something to this DNA stuff after all.

The sunrises here in Northern California are quite spectacular. When driving into work early this morning the orange light reminded me of the wonderful sunrises over Mount Tabor when digging at Megiddo. I miss that early morning light, the people and the smell of dirt. I miss archaeology.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The YouTube

I spend a huge amount of time on YouTube. Seriously, it's changed my life. A few years back, it was Itai who got me hooked with watching SV Seeker, where Doug in Tulsa builds this huge steel ship in his backyard. That was the start, now I have many, many favorites. Currently I wait patiently for episodes from Leo at Sampson Boat Co - he is restoring Tally Ho a 100 year old wooden boat (unbelievable quality of work). And there is Acorn to Arabella, where these two young blokes started with cutting down trees to build their boat. It's not all boat building, I currently have 62 different channels I monitor. From archaeology (Primitive Technology is incredible. This chap in N Queensland Australia basically builds everything from scratch, stone tools, clay etc) to the dozens of people doing restoration of old tools and equipment (Hand Tool RescueMy Mechanics, LADB Restoration) and of course lutherie (OBrienGuitars, Eric Schaefer Guitars, StewMac) the list is endless.

Anyway, yesterday after picking up bwo from the airport, she was in San Diego visiting a sick aunt. I stumbled on Baumgartner Restoration. I started watching him restore a George Inness painting.Then spent many hours watching video after video (the ones with the narration are best). What precision and dedication. 

That's the thing. On YouTube I get the level of detail that I am always searching for. I find TV documentaries very disappointing these days.  All bells and whistles and flashy noise, with little content and depth. My $10 a month for a YouTube subscription (no ads) is the best money I have spent for ages.

It's been sweltering hot the last few days. I miss England every day. This picture is of the path from our house in Petersham to Richmond along the river. It's winter and not yet dark (probably 3pm). The air is cold and frosty and it feels like it was a million miles and hundreds of years away from where we are now.  Sigh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Whirlwind

My mother-in-law left today. She visited for 10 days from the Holy Land. She is a wonder that woman. Such energy. She did it all. Ms. Lanz's room is cleaned up and tidy, the linen closet is immaculate and most importantly this is the garage (bwo's side). Let's hope it can stay that way for a while.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The swish of a LN62

So every now and then a tool comes along that is a game changer. I have been treating myself to a bit of the quarterly bonus from Squint Central. I have been eyeing Lie Nielsen planes for many years now. Got a nifty skew-angle block plane and a nice smaller scraper plane as a farewell gift when we left the valley in 2000. When I polled my tooling gurus, Dave suggested I try a LN62 and recommended adding the toothed blade. So I splurged, The box with this heirloom quality thing of beauty arrived a few days back. This morning I tried the toothed blade on some squirly, curly maple that needed to be thinned out for the back of one of the two next builds. Wow. The shavings are these hair thin wavy light threads. It's a joy to use.

As much as I complain about work, and complain I do. There are definitely advantages to that twice monthly pay check and the quarterly bonus certainly does not hurt. My shop contents is definitely improving, now if only my skills would.

The LN62 doing its thing. Each pass with the plane makes a perfect swish. The guitar building is a major part of my life, and the shop is my happy place, but I am trying not to flood this blog with shop talk. You can always visit if you want to see more.

Friday, August 16, 2019


It's been one of those tough weeks where the work seemed never ending and the weather outside is blinding hot and I am not sleeping worth a damn. I noticed that when these things start to get me down, like bwo, I like to go shopping. All I want to buy is wood. You see, wood is a dwindling resource, especially beautifully figured guitar wood. All the wood I ever will buy is from renewable resources, but the renewal will take more than 50 years for many of the species. 

There there is this ~20 board foot soft limit that UPS will deliver and many of the good dealers will ship to your house. So I find myself sitting at night with my tablet, when not doing jigsaws, or watching Youtube, scouring the interwebs for good wood deals. To be honest, all I have bought (so far) is some alder that was clearly wrongly priced and some very pretty Morado (Bolivian Rosewood). Still I keep dreaming of some curly maple from Mr. Taran, or some Granadillo from Woodworkers Source or some white ash from Steve Wall. I really don't need any more, but that does not get in the way of dreaming. It's sort of like buying a lottery ticket. You can dream of what could be.

First world problems.

The most determined thing in the universe. She dragged this with us for miles and all protrusions must be eliminated.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tree Sweaters

I mentioned bwo's wool habit. She has been crocheting up a storm. A while back she decided the trees on the court needed some sprucing up, so she made some tree sweaters. This may be the beginning of a movement. Not sure. There is talk of more sweaters once the weather cools down a bit. Right now she is very busy crocheting "dream catchers" to hang alongside the tree sweaters. I will keep you updated.

I missed a week of blogging. It has been busy with a work trip to Oregon and cooler weather which means shop time for me. I must try harder.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Salad Days of Summer

So I went the El Dorado Hills Farmer's Market yesterday for the first time. While the veggies looked nice, I was rather underwhelmed. I am still the salad maker in the family and I take this job very seriously. I spend a some time most weekends cutting veggies into small squares so I can make my beloved "Israeli salad". Personally, I have yet to find any great difference in taste from the expensive farmer's market produce to the stuff we buy (at a lot less) from Costco. None of these come close to the veggies from the Shuk or the supermarket in Raanana. I was blown away this week when I went to Safeway to pick up a few things for my weekend salad - bell peppers were $1.99 each! Even at Waitrose in Richmond three peppers were 99p.

So I will not be buying anything at the farmers market in the near future. While trying to be a thoughtful husband, I bought bwo some chocolate chip cookies, $7.50 for three. She said they were "meh". 

My salad recipe (it's not hard): 3 tomatoes, 1 large cucumber (or 6 or the little "Persian" ones), 2 bell peppers (red, or orange or yellow), some snow peas (or sugar snap peas), half a red onion and if you have some parsley (must be fresh), spring onion or any other kind of veggie (we had some leftover roasted broccoli which was delicious). Cut these up into small squares  (with a sharp knife). Make a lot and keep it in the fridge in a Tupperware, do not add dressing till you are ready to eat. My current favorite dressing is raw tahina (needs to come from the Middle east - we get ours at 99 Ranch or from visitors from Israel) mixed with quite a lot of salsa (I like the pace medium or El Paso hot), no water, just tehina and salsa. Salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, then enjoy the crunch. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Expelled from Bark Avenue

I was sitting in the chair at the hairdresser when my cell rang twice in a row (I would prefer to call them barbers, but it seems that is not PC, or so the purple-haired heavily inked college student indignantly informed me and I was not going to disagree as she was holding the scissors). Bwo called twice in a row, which means mega emergency, and not only that she found her phone after losing it for a few hours. Our Roxy was traumatizing the groomer. Yes, our sweet and kind and loving border collie just hates being groomed so much we have only manage to try three times in her seven years. 

I cut my haircutting short (pun?) and rushed over to the groomers, which is conveniently located near my "barber" (please don't tell her) only to find Rox shaking and shivering and making those anxious sounds that just tears your heart in two. She is usually a very quiet and polite girl. She does not bark at the door. She loves everyone. But not the groomers. Before being expelled from Bark Avenue, they managed to wash her and comb out some of the knots and dreads, but no hair cutting was possible as she apparently was shouting so loud as to disturb the other dogs.

She came home a fluffy, squeaky clean girl with her poofed up hair making her look twice her normal size. She hurrumphed flat down on the floor with a look questioning our total betrayal. A few walks around the block and some tug of war with Mr. Moose and she forgave and forgot. Dogs just rule.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Groucho Marx 
Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” - Groucho Marx

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Panels Are In

The solar panels are up on the roof. I have an app to monitor power consumption as what you cannot measure is not real. I am very glad to finally to stick it to PG&E. Our power bill in the summer is outrageous and so we finally bit the bullet and had solar panels installed. They look pretty good on the roof. So far the installation has gone well, they were even able to schedule us two weeks before the original set date. We decided to buy the solution outright as I never felt comfortable with the various rental and leasing schemes. It will take a while to pay for itself as our annual power consumption was on the edge of being profitable for solar, but it just feels right.

Here is a bad picture of the roof early this morning.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Tuesdays are special. On Tuesday mornings I stop at Peet's on my way into work and treat myself to an Americano. The swill they serve here at Squint Central is undrinkable. The baristas all know me by now, I am usually their first customer at 5:30am when they open. My only complaint is that recently they stopped providing those little black stirrers that blocked the hole and stop spills. It's all part of that no more plastic straws moment sweeping California.

A bit of nostalgia. Sabich Tchernikovski, just off Allenby in Tel Aviv. It takes the dude ages to prepare, but it sure is worth the wait. There are no words.

Monday, July 29, 2019

It's Puzzling

Bdo claims her visit to El Dorado Hills was really a "puzzle bootcamp". Bwo discovered this iPad game called Jigsaw Puzzle Collection HD. It quickly became quite addictive. Unfortunately  Bwo is so much better at this than me and I'm convinced she has hidden mutant pattern matching talents. As soon as bdo was through the door we got her quickly trained and had her competing on the "puzzle of the day".

I am impressed with the game. It is very well put together and just challenging enough that it's not trivial to do even a 240 piece puzzle. It crashes frequently on my iPad, which is old, and I refuse to pay the $15 to get it ad free until they fix the frequent crashes, but it is still fun. Try it.
Rule no. 1 of iPad puzzling, No looking at the picture after you start the puzzle. Rule No. 2, you have to do the daily puzzle, no matter how much you hate the picture. There is no Rule 3.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Power is Key

I was all set for posting yesterday after dropping Bdo off in Oakland where she was visiting friends before heading back to the Holy Land. Well, PG&E our infamous power company had other ideas. At 7:05pm just as Bwo settled down to watch some of the third "Queer Eye" season, the power went out. 

Now let me remind you, yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far (today is going to be hotter apparently). When the house went dark it was a toasty 104°F outside and according to the PG&E website the power would only come on again around 10:15pm. We have been warned that due to the threat of fires (and based on the bad experience of the Paradise fire last year) PG&E may cut off our power whenever they please, but it seems this was some sort of unplanned event. Bwo, Rox and I hid in the relative cool of the bedroom downstairs for a while and eventually fell asleep. The power came back at 11:45pm with all the usual beeping, whirring and bright lights. It had cooled off considerably by then although it never seems to have the time to get really chilly when we have a string of one hundred plus days.

It always strikes me as amazing how close we live to catastrophe. Civilization balances precariously on the edge of societal breakdown and all it would take would be a few days without power. We take so much for granted. I wonder how long it would take without power for us to not get water in our pipes or food in the stores. When the zombie apocalypse comes at least we will have a lot of toothpaste (saving that for another day) and wool to keep us warm.

So it's summer here and my woodshop gets very, very warm and so I have been confined to working a few hours in the early mornings on the weekends. I have been making very slow progress on the current guitar (GS2). I did the owl inlay and progressed some on shaping the neck this weekend, but it's already too hot for me and it's only 9am.

GS2 is California walnut back and sides and a curly maple fretboard with a walnut and maple laminated neck. Spruce top, of course.