Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dock of the Bay

I woke up this morning with this song in my head. I have no idea why, but I do like it very much. Its one of the greats. Otis Redding, was killed in a plane crash in 1967. "[Sittin' On] The Dock of the Bay" was released posthumously and became his only number one hit. He was 26 when he died. He wrote the song while living on a houseboat in Sausalito on the San Fransisco Bay. When we lived in the valley we would often take the kids to Sausalito and enjoy the view of San Fran over the water.

Monday, December 29, 2008

On The Bus

There are some strange people on the bus. The more I travel using the local bus service the more I'm beginning to notice the various quirks and learn the etiquette. First you spot the "seat hoppers", these people, usually young, often soldiers, are never happy with the seat they are in. As soon as someone gets off, up they pop and move into the empty seat. There seems to be no order to this constant improving of seat position, sometimes they move forward, sometimes back, often both in the same ride. Then there's the "nodders", also usually soldiers, always tired. The monotonous whine of the bus soon has them nodding off to sleep. Often as their heads droop they suddenly jerk awake, but slowly the weight of their head takes its toll and the nodding begins anew. Its like those nodding birds with the glass of water that were all the rage when I was young.

This morning I noticed the "place holders". These are usually middle aged men who sit in an empty row and strategically place their bags on the seat next to them. They scowl at anyone who dares to think they would move their goods. Usually the only people brave enough to request a move are other grumpy m
iddle aged men who themselves are probably "place holders" when there are empty rows. Of course, there is always at least one "talker". He, usually young, is happy to talk on his cell phone on the top of his voice, making out that his life is way fun and that even though he is on a bus at 6am he parties all night and is really cool. There always are numerous old ladies, some tight lipped, serious and sour, some smiling, fresh smelling and neatly dressed. My favorites are the old men who seem to have all the time in the world and are interested in everyone and everything. This morning the old guy sitting next to me wanted to know what I was listening to, where I worked, and who we going to give Gaza to when the bombing is done? Luckily there is little traffic at that time of the day and we arrived at my stop before we got to the hard questions.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Honest Tooth

I should probably post about the goings on in Gaza. We sure spoke enough about it at work, happily none of the squints have been called up (yet). Hope it stays that way. But, lets rather talk about my teeth. I'm not prone to toothaches but for the last few weeks I have been getting a pain somewhere in the bottom back left of my jaw. It's particularly noticeable when eating cubed carrots that I liberally chop for my daily salad. It seemed much worse when they are cold and so I started to favor eating on the right side.

I got a bit worried that I may end up with a hugely overdeveloped right jaw muscle and decided it was time to call Cecil (the best dentist this side of the Mason-Dixon line). This was last week some time. The closest convenient appointment was tomorrow. Needless to say, no sooner had I put the phone down than the pain disappeared. Gone, without a trace. I've crunched on ice, eaten five bushels of carrots, bitten into flaming hot potatoes and nothing. So now I have to go to see him tomorrow, and doubtless he will find a gaping hole that needs a truckload of cement to fill. I will not be able to eat on the left for a week. Oh and it will cost a arm leg and liver. The whole tooth thing is overrated.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Question

Israel began its Gaza offensive today. Since I heard about the waves of planes that fired on the 45 plus prime targets, a question has been nagging at my brain. What if you are a religious helicopter pilot? Do you fly on the Sabbath to bomb Gaza or are you give the day off? I know about Pikuach Nefesh (allowing the breaking of the Sabbath to save a life), but what about a preemptive strike? Is all the religious military given the day off to pray and then expected to do double duty on Sunday?

Friday, December 26, 2008

T Shirts

Gilad Shalit has been in Hamas captivity for two and a half years. During this time there have been no Red Cross visits and no letters home. The only reason we are reasonably sure he is still alive is because he is an important pawn in the prisoner exchange and negotiation game that is played out between Israel and Gaze daily. No one here can forget he is in captivity. There is a daily count that is announced before the news each hour. There are bumper stickers, yellow ribbons and posters.

This morning I took a walk through downtown Raanana. In the Yad LeBanim (fallen soldiers memorial) courtyard, the city had strung up hundreds of T shirts. Each painted by (I assume) a Raanana school kid, each with a message for Gilad. It is quite awesome. I hope he gets to wear them soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Fifth Candle

Tonight we lit the fifth candle of Hannukah. It has special significance in our family, as its my dad's yotsite (remembrance day). He died four years ago. I have been thinking about him a lot recently. There is so much I could say, but my clumsy words could never do justice to all I feel. I never appreciated how special he was, and I certainly never let him know how much he meant. It was his basic values, his honesty, integrity and that unquenchable thirst for knowledge that I realize now are so uncommon. We were so lucky. I miss him very much.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Tale

It's wet and miserable today. Can't complain, we need the rain desperately. I decided I need to use my car less so I took the bus into work this morning, intending to walk home. As I left work the heavens opened and the rain poured down. After a soaking twenty minutes I was at the train station when I decided, enough! I stopped at a 029 bus stop and waited. It was wet and dreary, the wind was howling and the rain pelting down. I was hunched up in under my umbrella thinking wet and wild thoughts when the bus finally pulled up.

I've watched the buses pass this stop during my morning and evening walks. It's usually completely empty as this is near the beginning of the line. Tonight as the bus pulled up, it looked full, and many huddled bodies were silhouetted against the steamed up windows. I was happy to escape the weather, so I jumped on, paid my 4.90NIS and pushed into the bus. What a sight. I had stepped into another world. Every seat was filled with beautifully dressed women, decked out in what must be traditional Filipino holiday wear. The aisles were packed with men. All squeaky clean, dressed in their Sunday finest. They were chattering excitedly, some with small children on their laps. As I made my way through the bus everyone smiled at my drowned rat look and shifted up to allow me a place to stand.

The bus crawled through the jam-packed rain drenched traffic. The rain always brings out the worst in the never pleasant Israeli traffic and we hardly moved. I had plenty of time to get used to my spot. Once I had settled in, the guy standing next to me, dressed in a dark suit, pink shirt and white tie, shyly told me they were all off to church. He pointed out his wife, a beautiful woman, dressed in a bright purple sari-like wrap holding his young son, who looked like a tiny waiter in a high class restaurant. They had all boarded the bus in Nof Yam where they live. I assume they work for the rich of Herzliya Pituach. They left the bus en masse in downtown Herzliya, their church is in one of the buildings near the old mall. The few remaining passengers and I continues our journey in muted silence, the color and joy was gone.

I miss Christmas. There is no hint of it here. Nothing. I miss watching the rush and panic to buy presents. I miss the cold weather and how everything slows down on Christmas eve. I love that its not my holiday. There is so much to look at. I could watch from a distance how people struggle to deal with the oddities of their visiting families and sympathize with their having to travel during the worst of the weather and prices. But here, there is no Christmas. Hanukkah, has candle lighting and latkes (our's rocked last night) but that's it. So no presents, no Christmas cookies, no annoying music in every store, no poinsettias, no outrageous light-decorated houses, no funny red hats and green and red sweaters. But we do have Filipinos dressed to the nines on the 29 bus. Merry Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frightened Rabbit

The good thing about membership in emusic is that it forces you to download music each month or you lose your 50 downloads. Yesterday was the last day for my December downloads and I had run out of ideas. So I tried some of the "Best Artists of 2008". Sad to say I had heard of very few of them, so I just picked randomly. Well most were pretty mediocre but I really like Frightened Rabbit. They hail from Glasgow, Scotland. Check out Heads Roll off.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life Is Too Short To Listen To Boring Audiobooks

It's true. I walked to work this morning at the crack of dawn. It was a rainy day, the first we have seen in ages (we are desperate for rain here). I have been listening to The History of The World, Updated by J. M. Roberts off and on for about six months. Its 54 hours long, and very, very, very detailed. I have had enough. I am tired of the Babylonians and the Phoenicians, The Roman and Greeks. I have listened to 20 hours and we are just about done with the Byzantium Empire. So I gave up today.

I started listening to The Professor and the Madman. It's the story of Professor James Murray, the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and Dr. William Chester Minor, one of its most prolific contributors. Turns out that after many years of Murry's repeated attempts to meet Minor, he finally discovered that Minor was a convicted murderer, locked up in Broadmoor, England's premier asylum for the criminally insane. It's an excellent tale and very well told by Simon Winchester, who is also the narrator.

This morning's fine mist and dark, overcast skies set the perfect scene for this wonderful story and my hour and twenty walk slipped by in pleasure.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Candle

Its first night Hanukkah tonight. I vow that the horrible doughnut I ate today at work, will be the only doughnut I will eat this year. The whole fried thing is a little off-putting, but I am partial to the odd latke. Bwo was feeling miserable this evening, so we got none. Maybe we'll get lucky tomorrow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I want to be an archeologist when I'm big

When I was young I wanted to be was an archeologist. I loved nothing more than digging up the back garden in Mill Park Road, dreaming of finding all sorts of ancient artifacts. I once, even applied for archeology school when I first tried university in Israel. I clearly remember going to the Hebrew University School of Antiquities and speaking to someone. They took one look at me and totally discouraged me by claiming I had not studied enough of the Bible and was wasting my time. This was just after I dropped out of engineering at the Technion. I went on to learn electronics and then computers before completing my degrees at Rice.

It's a pity I was put off so easily. I think I would have made a great archeologist. I have patience, enjoy research and I'm pretty good with a shovel. Maybe that's why I love Time Team so much. I must have watched at least 5 hours today. Luckily there's 15 years of Time Team shows to catch up on. All I want to do is go digging for Roman ruins in the UK mud. It may be a lot more fun on TV than in real life, but I'd like to try.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reality II

Yuval recommended the Up series. I had heard about it before, so we started watching last night and today. Bwo and I watched 14 Up, half of the original 7 Up and tonight we watched 21 Up. The premise is simple. Fourteen British kids were chosen and filmed at age 7 and then every seven years thereafter. 49 Up was the latest installment and was filmed in 2005. Its well worth watching. This really is the original reality TV. The class structure in Britain is clearly visible as is the geographical differences between North and South. I am looking forward to learning more about the participants and how their lives turned out.

All through the show, I kept thinking I was watching "Creature Comforts" (Do yourself a favor and watch the clip, Nick Park is a genius). The rhythm and cadence of the dialog in the Up series is exactly the same as in "Creature Comforts" (watch this one as well).

All in all time well spent.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reality TV

You would think that in Israel, where reality is often stark, people would want to escape and drown themselves in fantasy. No! Not at all. The biggest thing here since milk in boxes is reality TV. This week the talk on the street has been all over "Big Brother". To be honest, I have no idea what the premise of the show is, let alone care an iota who won. I am proud to say that we watch little, to no TV in blackhouseo (except bno, who is learning Hebrew). But recently I've been feeling I need a bit of a change from paper and audio books. So I figured I would find some of the documentary series I enjoyed while growing up.

I started with James Burke's excellent Connections I (I'm saving II and III for a rainy day). Then I uncovered Kenneth Clark's Civilization: A Personal View. Its wonderful, although his voice absolutely annoys bwo (no culture). I have started rewatching Cosmos, which although dated is a masterpiece. Carl Sagan is incredibly earnest and passionate and clear. This weekend I am going to start watching the The World At War. Its 26 one hour episodes, and I have memories of watching it as a teenager back in the old country. All of these were made at least fifteen years back, but they are still relevant. To counter this, we have also been watching Planet Earth which was made in 2006. The photography is astounding.

In my mind these documentaries are the real reality TV. Are there others I should look for?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Evolution really does make some mistakes. Take the Campbells for instance. Their son, Adolf Hitler Campbell turned 3 today. They're pissed off because the local ShopRite in New Jersey refused to decorate a birthday cake with the child's full name. What is more incredible is that their other two are called, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell. Wow! That's some name baggage to carry through life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I like Pinback. There is not really a whole lot written about them. They appear to be a rotating group of musicians with Armistead Burwell Smith IV (great name) and Rob Crow at their core. Their music is relaxing and tight. This video's quality is not great. The song Fortress is off the excellent and much recommended Summer in Abaddon album.

Monday, December 15, 2008


OK. I'm feeling better. Man, I was feeling dog for the last few days. It's all over now. I have not walked for a week and spent my weekend in bed. I digested a pharmacy worth of pills, but its all over.

Bso and bdo have finals this week. But, City of Heroes is having their "winter event" and this year I've been informed it's "particularly fine". So bso is gaming away (skiing down the slopes looks like a lot of fun actually), we will see how his grades react. He assures me he nailed implicit differentiation earlier today.

Bdo on the other hand bounced in to tell me she has been studying hard. Oh and by the way she and her posse are performing a song at "open mike" night at the Galeria. Oh yeah, its on Thursday night and she has a science final on Friday morning. Oh, she has no idea when they're due to perform and they have to practice before the show. Not to worry, she will study really hard on Wednesday.

What's a Jew to do?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

ons vra verskooning vir die kort onderbreking

Sorry folks. I have been feeling quite ill for the last few days. The doctor says he has no earthly idea it's a virus, but I do have some spots on throat. I just have no energy for blogging. I'll get back to you all as soon as I am able.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's election time here in the Holy Land. What a total waste of money. The campaigns have started rolling out, and we are swamped in advertisements and noise. Shas, the religious, right-wing, followers of the decrepit, but racist rabbi Ovadia Yosef, came up with the very original, "Yes We Can" slogan. It worked for Obama, why not steal it, its a core competency after all.

The Labor party, brilliantly decided that playing on Ehud Barak's weaknesses is the best way to be elected. Their billboards feature a picture of Barak, looking serious (he has never smiled), with such endearing captions as "Not A Buddy, A Leader" and "Not At All Nice, A Leader". Check out this video if you don't believe me (its been removed, sorry). They should add a few slogans like, "Not Very Smart, A Leader" and "Very Ugly, A Leader".

The front runners, of course, are the dreaded Likud. Currently they are fighting amongst themselves trying to prove they are not fanatical fascist right wing extremists. Incredibly, they are way ahead in the poles. I think their slogan should be, "Vote Likud, We Deserve Nothing Better".

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thee More Shallows

The bbrothero is correct. In my hectic mess of a life I forgot that yesterday was Tuesday and so rushed off a lame post about toast. Today I will make a mends. Below is one of my favorite songs by a relatively little known indie band Thee More Shallows from San Fransisco. Their More Deep Cuts album is a masterpiece. They have no "real" videos (or at least I could find none). But the video below uses some of Ivan's Childhood (La infancia de Iván), a 1962 movie by Andrei Tarkovsky, based on a short story by Vladimir Bogomolov. This stark film tells of an orphan boy's childhood on the Eastern Front during WWII. Being a Russian story it all ends rather sadly. The images and the music blend very well. Enjoy.

Hello Toast

Dinner tonight. Four pieces of hot, toasted whole wheat bread. With a generous shmeer of fresh cottage cheese and a thick juicy piece of tomato placed on each. Then sprinkled liberally with course salt and ground black pepper. Eaten while standing over the sink and gazing out onto HaNevel Street. Yum.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Ringing In My Ears

My tinnitus has been bad today. Usually I go through life with it not bothering me too much. Listen at 1:16 minutes into this link and you will hear exactly what I listen to every minute of every day. I have no idea why its worse some days, but lately it has been very bad. It's like I'm listening to the high pitched whine of a busted TV all day long. When I was younger I would get this same ringing after loud concerts, now I have the pleasure of having it all day long. It's little wonder I'm so grumpy.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who's Behind The Mask

I managed to find this incredibly rare picture of Olmert, at the instant he is about to remove his mask. Who do you think is behind his face? I thought for the first while that it was Ariel Sharon, but I think he'd be rolling in this coma at Olmert's indecisiveness. I then thought that it was perhaps Tzipi Livini, but she is way too masculine. He doesn't have Netanyahu's fangs nor Barak's jowls. So sadly, it seems to me, that behind Olmert's mask, is just Olmert.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I met Esther today. I got a ride into TA and walked around the Carmel Market, browsed the electronic stores in South TA and then walked to the "new" Central Bus Station. That is an experience. The place is a maze and could easily have been a bus station in Bangkok or Amman. It was packed with "Foreign Workers" and soldiers going home for the weekend. I could not for the life of me find where to board the 502 to Raanana (Aisle 609 if you need this in future) nor could I find an information booth. I actually forsook my maledom and asked four people before the ludicrously irate information booth beaut directed me to the 11:24 502 on the sixth floor.

When I finally found the correct aisle, I sat down next to the nicely dressed lady who was the only other occupant of the benches on aisle 609. I settled back for the twenty minute wait and began a people watch. Almost immediately I felt a jab in my side and my neighbor offered me half her clementina (I think it's a clementine in English, derived from the hebrew). I tried refusing, but she would not hear of it and shoved it at me till I accepted. We started talking and I found out that she had spent an hour and a half already on buses from Ashkelon as she was off to spend Shabbat with her daughters in Raanana. I learned about many pieces of her life. She has four kids, three daughters and a son. The eldest daughter is married with three. The other two girls are not married (why, she wanted to know, does no one want to get married these days). The son had a wonderful girlfriend who was a lawyer, who worshiped him and would make toastim (grilled cheese) for all the family and yet, her son, the fool, dumped her. She was sure I should know this lawyer as she also lives in Raanana. Wonderful girl. He has now married some Ashkenaziyah, who has no education and who's parents won't give them a cent (I assured her that not all Ashkenazim are misers). She made good toast, that lawyer. She grew a little sad when she told me her husband had died, many years back, aged 40, and so she was a widow at 36. She worked looking after kids every day and managed to give her four kids a decent life. She was happy to go without so they could get what they needed. With her permission, I snapped a quick picture. I wish I were a better photographer. The picture is sadly not at all good, but you get the idea.

At 11:24 the 502 bus pulled into its slot and we let the growing crowd push on before us ("Why is everyone always in such a hurry these days?" she asked). I carried her suitcase up the stairs paid my 12.50NIS, declined the seat next to her in the first row, on grounds I would have to give it up to an elder as soon as the bus filled up.

I thought long about our conversation during the hour long ride home. She is the kind of person that really build this country. She worked hard, always putting her children first. One of her kids moved to D.C. and lived there for a while. She went to visit and they begged her to stay, but living in the US was inconceivable. Nice lady. I realized I never even asked her name.

That would normally be the end of the story. This evening, I walked around the park on the way to Shabbat dinner at Ari and Denise's (Fran was cooking a belated Thanksgiving dinner). Lost in my audiobook (a bunch of short stories about food), I was not paying much attention to the numerous approaching walkers, when suddenly I recognized my friend from the central bus station, just as she recognized me. She told me she liked to go for a stroll before dinner, and here in Raanana she walks from her daughter's house lower Ahuza to the park and back. She wished me a blessed shabbat and lots of health for my family. Her name it seems, is Esther.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Steve and Humus

Steve is in Israel. Steve is an old friend who now lives in Pittsburgh and is visiting for a week or two. So Larry and I drove up to Jerusalem to meet him. The traffic was horrible, the stupid settlers were demonstrating and blocking part of the highway (way to go finally booting the fools out of their "house of contention" in Hebron). I was sure it was going to take us hours to get to his hotel.

Just as the traffic was becoming truly unbearable, Steve called to tell us his brother and sister (Martin and Jenny) and Ariel his daughter would meet us in Abu Gosh for a humus. Incredibly enough we were exactly at the Abu Gosh exit, so we made our way to the restaurant and met them there in minutes.

The food was great, lots of salads and humus and laughter. Steve is Steve. He hasn't changed a bit and it was wonderful to see him. Martin and Jenny gave Steve and Ariel a ride back into the city and Larry and I made our way back to Raanana before 10pm. A much earlier night than I expected. We had a great time. We rarely get to spend time away from our daily lives and seeing Steve was icing on the cake. I miss him.

Its been a long week, lots of early morning walks and bus rides to and from work, a newly rearranged bedroom, a completed operator sample (way to go squints), bso in Paris, bdo cleaned her room, and it all started with a trip to Tel Aviv and ended with a trip to Jerusalem (Abu Gosh to be exact). I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


A few months back we traveled to the US of A. We brought back two large packets of Jelly Belly candies. One packet was gobbled up by the squints in short order. The other we kept at home for a rainy day.

Its well known that bdo has a sweet tooth and an obsessive nature. The unopened Jelly Belly packet gnawed at her senses. It nudged and tugged at her sweet tooth and day by day her craving for the 48 delicious flavors grew until it knew no bounds (she does not really like spicy cinnamon). Not being one to be easily put off by a simple "NO!!", bdo plotted and planned. In the dead of night she crept into the heavily protected vault, neutralizing the ultra-sonic alarms she tiptoed gingerly through the protective laser maze. With mouse-like nimbleness she liberated the priceless collection from its secure drawer, and replaced it with her ransom note.

Little did she know that the authorities are not to be trifled with. We swooped in with our swat teams and while bdo was out having a smoke threatening the cat, in a lightning raid reminiscent of the glory days of Entebbe, we rescued our stolen Jelly Belly hoard.

Days later, torn by the ever visible anguish of the luckless kidnapper, we relented and in a magnanimous gesture, we shared our sweet jewels with the rest of the inhabitants of our lawless land.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Decemberists

From the first time I heard The Decemberists (recommended to me by blackedwino) I loved the combination of lyrical ballads with simple but instrument rich melody. The whole family got into them almost at once. The songs are relatively easy to play on the guitar and we have often heard bdo's beautiful voice singing one of their tunes behind her closed door. Sixteen Military Wives, has a great video, it's particularly relevant because bso is off to France tomorrow to represent Cuba at an MUN meet (Model United Nations).

My favorite Decemberists song has to be The Mariner's Revenge. Its a wonderful tale of woe and revenge on the high seas. This video is great. It's the Lego version of the song. Unfortunately "embedding has been disabled by request" so you will have to click over to YouTube to watch.

Also check out The Decemberists' web page, its pretty cool.

Herbal Infusion

When bwo visited me at squint central over the weekend (yeah, I know) she bought some fancy tea from the health store next door. Yesterday morning I was feeling a tad under the weather, so I tried a cup of raspberry and echinacea. This morning, I particularly needed a blackcurrant, ginseng and vanilla infusion. While sipping my tea, I got to thinking. Look at this box of teas (or herbal infusions to be precise).

Have you ever seen more packaging? Between you and your tea leaves (I use the words tea leaves here in a representational sense only), there is the lining of the tea bag itself, the paper outer wrapping of the tea bag, the plastic wrapping around the group of five tea bags of each flavor, then the brightly colored box they all come in and finally the plastic wrap around the box (Miriam must have thrown this away yesterday when she cleaned my office. She has no interest in the finer points of blogging). That makes five layers to protect you (or your herbal infusion) from the harsh elements.

It's little wonder that landfills are overflowing. Not to mention that opening those little, five bag plastic packages requires a Swiss Army knife. Its just not all that relaxing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

One never has enough bags (and shoes)

Jo here (bwo). BPO is forcing me to post this as therapy.

I sorted out my handbags today. There are approximately 27 of them. (not counting the travel bags)

My new Bobby Brown makeup compact had gone missing a while back and I refuse to declare it LOST. So I poured out the contents of a few of the bags onto the bed and if it were not so funny, it would be bloody sad. This is what I found besides a quarter full wastebasket of slips of paper, receipts, candy wrappers and other assorted trash (now on the floor next to petero's side of the bed), Money in assorted currency: Canadian dollars (when did I go to Canada?)
euros, pounds, shekels, dollars
12 pens/ pencils/markers highliters.
3 note pads,
1 dozen new envelopes

Enough candy and gum to last a while
1 missing necklace
2 lighters and matches, nicorette patches (unopened)
2 hand mirrors
batteries (not even sure what kind, small little round thingies), toothpaste, a fan, a hair roller (why? i don’t use them) an eye mask (must be from a trip or something), 5 books (only photographed one, cause the actual bag I am currently using I have not emptied yet), my missing Splenda (two of them- who knew, thought there was only one) tissues and a hanky???? hair clips, a bunch of makeup (clearly emergency stash) Vaseline and one black slipper!!!!

Oh, and I finally found the Bobby Brown.

Now what to do with all of it. I fear, that this will now sit and look at me all day long. Ughhhhh I need hellllllp.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Not even India is safe anymore. I don't pretend to know much about Orthodox Judaism, and what I do know usually just seems to reinforce my prejudices, but really, why pick on the Habads. These guys are harmless and all they seem to ever care about is making sure Jewish travelers (and university students) have a place they can get a hot sabbath meal (and Pesach Seder). To single them out and to make a political statement with their murder, just seems out of touch. Its not going to make any difference to anyone. The Habads themselves will not let 8 deaths change their mission and Israeli backpackers will continue to visit India in droves.

Tzipi Livni, our foreign minister, stated today that Jews and Israeli's were specifically targeted in the Mumbai attacks. Well Duh, woman. You think they just stumbled on the Habad house on the way to blowing up a hotel and thought they would stop in for a quick meal. Of course, here in Israel there is a lot of commenting on how had "we" carried out the rescue, there would have been less fatalities. The glory of Entebbe is relived here every time there is an incident overseas.

These guys seemed well trained and focused. They knew what they were doing, and went about their business with efficiency. Gone are the days of old where a terrorist was someone who was refused a place in a regular army. These guys are trained killers. It just makes me feel ill.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Dream Team

Blackfamilyo hit Tel Aviv today. The kids had Thanksgiving off (one of the advantages of being at an American school) so we decided on the spur of the moment to go into the "city". We dragged bdo out of bed, bso was also rudely awakened and forced to come with (he got in at 3am, 3 hours later than bdo, remarkable that). Blacknephewo joined at the last moment and bwo drove us off to the big city.

We parked close to the Carmel market and walked its narrow, packed streets. As is rather well known I do not particularly like being touched by strangers - today was good therapy. The market was absolutely crowded. It was complete sensory overload. The smells (rotten fish, and spices), the noise (10 sheks a kilo, 9 sheks a kilo, Allo, Allo) and the colors were overpowering. The produce is amazing. Check out these herbs.

As usual when the black familyo hits the road, everyone is always hungry. We needed a fallafel, and we got what we needed. Bwo caught us all mid eat. Bso had to wait for his as his special order has no salad.

All in all a fun but exhausting day. We three men took a long fruitless walk up Allenby to find an electronics store that stocks some components I need for work. On the way we spotted this sign, captured on bso's cell phone. Do you think he only stocks shoes for non-jews or did he really mean "gentle" shoes?

While we walked, we left bwo and bdo at the crafts fair on Nahlat Benyamin, and the most incredible thing of all, they spent no money at all. Who says we never do anything as a family anymore?

Your comments dearest family?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Unfortunately we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here in the third world. I always liked Thanksgiving. The slightly chilly weather outside, the big meal, football, two days off. What's not to like. I have a whole lot to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family. The squints aren't too horrible. Work has been interesting. We are currently not at war. And I'm not holidaying in Mumbai.

We had some excitement here today. Around noon the sound of police bullhorns could be heard outside on the streets below. It appears they found a rental car with some explosives at the car wash next to our building. The paper reported this as "terrorist" activity, but it's not clear who and what planted the device. So there was a lot of activity and peering out of windows, until, after a few hours, we all got bored and went back to work. I managed to capture the cute "Wall-E" type robot the sappers use at times like these. I'm thankful that this did not explode.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Excuse #03: The Computer Ate My Post

So I wrote this wonderfully long post about how I'm tired because I'm not sleeping since I found out the beta blockers, not only cure migraines but have been known to cause some people insomnia. I wrote a perfect post. It was poignant yet witty, full of deep insights into my psyche. I had a little rant about the perfect Lavazza double espresso I made to perk myself up. I finished off with a wonderful quote. "God is in the foam", I philosophized. But, I hit back and somehow my post was eaten by the firefox monster in the ether. All that's left is this picture.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Seu Jorge

I loved "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou", and was probably one of the few who did. Besides being weird and whacky, it introduced me to Seu Jorge. He can be seen throughout the film singing David Bowie songs in Portugese. This video is his version of one of my favorite songs of all time, Bowie's "Life on Mars" off of "Hunky Dory", one of the best albums ever. Enjoy. I am sure there are many more great Seu Jorge clips, but I like this one. I made a Spanish Guitar that I think Mr. Jorge might like, I am waiting for him to come pick it up. If you see him, tell him he can have it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Bus Ride

Last night I walked home and left my car at work. I was planning to walk back to work this morning, but my walk last night (and the falafel) tired me out and when I woke up this morning I decided I would take the bus.

Now taking the bus is something I talk about a lot more than I do. I often plan to catch a bus somewhere on a journey, but end up walking the whole way instead. This morning I purposely did not even start walking in the direction of work, rather I walked down the hill to the bus stop on Ahuza. A few minutes later the 502 arrived, I paid my 7.90NIS and found a seat on the nearly empty bus. It was 5:55am after all. The next bus stop is at Tiv Taam on the corner. We stop and someone chats to the bus driver from the road. This seems to take a long time. Why soon becomes apparent. A huge dark man climbs up carrying a huge duffel bag. He plonks it on the first seat next to the driver, meanders down the stairs and drags a second massive bag onto the bus. He throws this one on top of its brother and sits down in the seat behind his bags. Its clear from his dazed smile and jerky movements that he is not playing with a completely full deck (probably around 37 cents short of a dollar).

Off we lurch to the next stop. Three people get on. The first, an old lady of clearly Eastern European decent has a look on her face that could curdle milk. She looks down her nose at the bags on the first seat and shouts "Move these bags immediately, I want to sit here!" Now remember, there are maybe eight people on the bus. The bag dude stiffens immediately and becomes completely irate. He starts a muffled yelling. The old fish wife is shouting how she want to sit in that seat and that it's her right. Then, she reaches over and grabs the top bag. With this, the bag man thrusts his huge body into the aisle and clumsily raises an arm in what could possibly be a threatening gesture. Now the shrew really lets go and starts screaming on the top of her voice ("come see the violence inherent in the system, help, help, I'm being oppressed"). The bus driver then stops the bus in the middle of the street, gets up and takes control. He calmly makes it clear that if they do not stop shouting he will throw both off the bus. He helps the bag dude move his bags to the second seat. An uneasy calm returns to the 502. The old lady is muttering, the bag dude is muttering, the driver is muttering.

I have to take the bus more often.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Falafel

Today I walked home from work via a different route. I'm having a touch of walkanitis, its the intense displeasure that comes of walking a route too often. So today I walked though the center of Herzliya. Its probably about 20 minutes longer, but it made for a pleasant change.

As I was walking down the newly renovated main drag in Herzliya, my backpack (with my 17" macbook pro) started to weigh heavily on my shoulders. My back began to ache, and I started to think about hopping on a bus. I was walking along, hands crossed behind my back lifting my backpack slightly to give my poor neck and shoulders a break, when an oldish man walked up beside me and started chatting. He wanted to know where I was going to and where I came from and why I was walking and why an obvious high tech fellow like me, was without a car. We chatted for a block or so, when he told me what I needed to lift my spirits on a day like today was a falafel. And, not just any falafel, but one of Haim's falafels. And lucky me, Haim's falafel store was just coming up on our right.

The old chap was obviously a regular at Haim's. The two falafelers greeted him like a one of the family (maybe he was) and because I was with him, I got to cut the line. I ordered my "manah" (a pita with the works, cabbage salad, regular salad, turkish salad, and a smear of humus). The balls were just out the oil, piping hot and soft. The salads were crispy fresh, the tehina not too runny and the pita was fluffy and just melted in your mouth. I went easy on the harif (hot sauce) as I still had quite a way to go to get home. From the first bite it was heaven. I swear. It was just the thing to pick me up and get me home.

I ate it on foot. Every bite pure perfection. The best 12 shekels I have spent in ages. I'm not sure if it was the unexpected pleasure of the perfect timing, or the cute old man and his obvious experience in falafel therapy, but after devouring that pita packed full of goodness, I don't think my feet touched the ground all the way home.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Turkey Slaughter

Its been way too busy for a Saturday. All the running around included a trip to Jerusalem, a walk to work, a pot luck for the school and a wait in the rain. So once again I do not have enough time to do the 80% blog justice. I will leave you with this impressive Sarah Plain video. Check out the turkey being massacred in the background. (Thanks to bwo for sending me the link). What can I say, only in America.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Go Settle Somewhere Else

The settlers are getting out of hand. Its ridiculous. They have once again gone overboard, occupied a house in Hebron (they claim they bought it, the courts say they forged the papers). All week long the rhetoric has been escalating. I heard one of their Rabbis on the radio basically threatening the army that they will regret the day they come to force eviction. It seems that the whole country is afraid of these fanatics. They were given till noon Wednesday to vacate the house, but as of today (Friday) the army has done nothing. Basically it seems that there is now a separate settler state in Israel. Good. Let them have the west bank. Let all the soldiers leave, let them pay for their roads (250 Million Sheks on roads to nowhere), their electricity and phone lines. They can live of the olives they steal from the Pals.

According to today's newspaper, 20000 more settlers are planning to "descend" on Hebron to oppose the army's planned evacuation of the "house of contention". I would point you to the video of these settlers harassing the soldiers protecting them and defacing Muslim graves but Haaretz's website is nearly as annoying as the settlers themselves. Every time you try read one of these Haaretz articles it forces you to watch a video that only plays on Windows, and screws with my Macbook's mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I am one proud father. Yesterday evening, the blacksono, bso, showed me the game he has been working on for the greenfoot contest. It looks rather spiffy and I was filled with a whole lot of nachas (the unique feeling you get when your offspring do something to make you proud). Lets begin at the beginning. A week or so back we had parent-teacher conferences at school. Usually the school is moderately happy with bso (we will not talk about any other children we may or may not happen to have enrolled at the same school). He is attentive in class, kind, does not bite, but also does not do a huge amount of homework, and could always try harder. He is a minimalist. I was surprised when his computer science teacher called me aside and told me he wanted a chat.

Usually computers are bso's strongest class. He tends be get a little bored and so I was expecting to hear the usual story that he does no more than he ever needs. But, I was surprised to learn that not only had bso signed up for this greenfoot programming contest but he had actually organized a team. There's an artist, a UI (user interface) chap, someone working on code, while he is working on the "physics" of the game algorithm. His teacher is actually worried that this may eat into his other work because he seems so motivated. What can I say. I have not been so proud of him since he learned to recite the whole of the Spanish Inquisition sketch at age 5.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

/mumps/music is gone

We lost our music server here at home today. ~100G of all the music I had collected over eons. I have a backup. I will have to go scrounging around for some of the latest stuff, but its all legit and so can be traced and reloaded. Still its a major pain. I noticed it was going bad a while back, but I have had no time for anything. This happened while important stuff was going off at squint central, a download I had been waiting for all day just about completed. bdo was having her weekly meltdown on why she cannot go out on Wed, even though we have a foolproof system in place where if she get all "OK"s from her teachers, she gets to go out. Well she wrote me a long sob story letter covering all sorts of issues that could arise from her not going out. How its a reward and not a punishment, blah, blah blah... Well written though. I think all this panic about going out is because there's a boyf somewhere. Its gotta be. Well bdo, what's the truth.

So now I have to figure out what to do about the music server. Its an essential part of living here in casa del blackfamilyo. All the peeps in the house need it. I figure I will just go out and buy a 500G drive and that will be big enough, the only problem is that mumps (our home music server) is so old it only accepts IDE drives. Oh the Joy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I made it easy on myself today and decided that it was time Radiohead made an appearance on MVT (Music Video Tuesday - I'm all into acronyms and initialisms currently). The thing about Radiohead is that they have a whole lot of excellent videos. There's the wonderful video for Paranoid Android off of OK Computer - the very best album of the 90s (in my MHO). Of course, Hail to the Thief is also a memorable effort, with excellent videos. The video for 2+2=5 is good (but watch the video below first).

But, the very best Radiohead video is, no doubt, the wonderful Wolf at The Door. Which is sort of how I am feeling today. Lots of things to do, lots of pressure. Enjoy the video. Its a great song.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crime Does Not Pay

Raanana, our sleepy town, has its share of celebrities. Today, we have one less. Yakov Alperon, notorious crime boss, head of the deadly Alperon Family, was blown up while driving his car in Tel Aviv this afternoon. He lived down the road from us on HaShahar Street. I particularly love this quote from the Haaretz website.

Alperon had many enemies, including convicted drug lord
Zeev Rosenstein - who himself has survived at least seven
assassination attempts - and the rival Abutbul and Abergil
families, with whom the Alperons battled over a lucrative
bottle-recycling racket.

Even the criminals in Israel are green. Who would have thought that turf wars would be fought over bottle-recycling. So while here in Israel, 80% is the order of the day for many things, crime is certainly not one of them. Bwo (get used to this abbreviation for blackwifeo) happen to be driving in TA just about when it happened and was lucky to miss the incident by a few minutes. Here is a nice picture of the aftermath:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Can Do It

You know what! I'm just gonna leave my backpack and my laptop at work and walk home. I can do it. I can spend a full evening without a machine on my legs. I will not read email. I will not surf the web. I will write my blog, now, while I'm at work and then as soon as I leave I will not look at a screen again until tomorrow. I can do it. I am strong.

It helps that the book that was making me so miserable last night, turns out, is actually awesome. I am reading a real book made out of paper and ink. Its Gene Wolfe's First Half of "The Book Of The New Sun" and it is excellent. Its been years since I read any worthy Science Fiction. But this book is good. Hard to follow, and he does not treat you like an idiot, but its very well written.

So I'm going to leave all my accoutrements at work. Take a nice walk home, engrossed in the founding of the science of geology, listening to Simon Winchester read me "The Map That Changed The World". Then, I'll relax in my comfy chair and wonder off into the world of Urth and disgraced torturer Severian. Books rule.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I'm Miserable.

I'm miserable.

I'm tired of curry. I have a slight headache (for two days now). The black cat is making me crazy, she keeps on jumping on me. I have so many things to do. My book is too difficult to read. Gilad's urine sample is still sitting b y the front door. Our room is a mess. All I have done today is walked to work, worked, walked home. The microwave is pathetic. Dylan is not home, hasn't been home, and won't be home for a while. Her room is a war zone. There may be cat poo in the kid's bathroom after Lola and Sid had a huge fight there in the night. But, it could just be leftover stench from Aviv's diarrhea. Saturday is nearly over, and so is my weekend. My head is sore, first time in ages, maybe I'm getting sick. There is no bread in the house. The /music disk on mumps is full.

Like I said, I'm miserable.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday night dinner

What can I say. Tonight, Friday night, was our turn for Shabat dinner. A screaming hoard of Goldsmiths descended on our house. Blackwifeo made curry. She makes fine curries. There was spinach curry (hot), chickpea curry (mild) and a veggie meat vindaloo (medium). She also made chapatis and a cauliflower cheese casserole for the curry impaired. Everything was great. The noise level was unbelievable. Blackfatherinlawo cornered me and tried once again to convince me that my left leaning views are just plain wrong. The littlest nephew, had a burst of diarrhea that smelled so bad the paint nearly pealed off the walls, he had to be hosed down in one of the upstairs bathrooms. The other nephews brought over two tents to practice pitching in the yard. Baby Aure has learned to screech. Blackdaughtero, came in a half hour before dinner and left to her "birthday" party before dessert. Every plate, knife, fork and spoon was used. It was so noisy that I was happy to escape to the kitchen to wash all the dishes.

Just another Friday night dinner in the blackfamily household.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time Team

When we were in Northumberland (near Newcastle) on holiday a few months back, as is known to happen in the UK, it rained. On Saturday we were stuck inside all day and while Blackwifeo slept, I surfed the channels and came upon a Time Team marathon on channel 4. I loved the show. Basically a team of archeologists are given access to a historical site for three days. It appears that as the show grew in popularity, the quality of sites they were allowed to dig at gained in stature. So during these three days, this oddball team uncovers as much as it can about the history at the site. A few days back I remembered how much I enjoyed the shows and started looking around the web to see what I could find.

Tonight I spent a wonderful hour and a half watching two shows. They are just a good as I remembered. You can find some on guba (here is another). I downloaded the 2007 season, and they are just great. I could not ever imagine an American version. Maybe it would have to be a reality show here you vote off the person who finds the least number of bones or shards of pottery. If it were in Israel there would be religious people protesting at every potential grave site. Love those British, they are just oh so quirky.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Army

So tonight, blacksono's pre-army saga continued. Like the dutiful parents we are, blackwifeo and I attended a "talk" arranged by nefesh b' nefesh (people who bring American immigrants to Israel), covering "what to expected when you're enlisting". The presenter was some army chap who arrived 20 mins late. I had to clench my teeth to stop myself biting clean through my tongue in frustration. The army chap was fine, it was the other parents that were intolerable. A room full of cluelessly lost Anglo Saxons asking ridiculous questions was more than I can stomach. I'm ready to give up on this army thing. I'm starting to think its a horrible idea in general.

So blackwifeo, what were your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Pouges and Waterboys

Today, the 11th day of the 11th month, is Armistice Day. This day marks the end of the First World War, the "War To End All Wars", 90 years ago. Its also music video Tuesday. I spent some time over the last few days looking for good anti-war videos on YouTube. While I assume there are some memorable videos out there, I could not find any. But, I did find this song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda originally written by Eric Bogle. Of course, the definitive version is by The Pogues. There is no official video, but someone put together this photo montage (if that's what its called). What a song, Shane MacGowan spits out each word with such venom.

Another really powerful anti-war song is Red Army Blues by The Waterboys. Once again there is no official video, but this montage is pretty good. The screaming sax is incredible.

All this is weighing heavily on my mind what with blacksono's army papers arriving and all. Israel's Memorial Day is held the day before Independence Day. The terrible cost of this desert land is made all the more real as we transition from pain to joy. So I asked the squints while at lunch for the best example of an Israeli anti-war song. There was much discussion. Finally I was pointed to this: The Winter Of 73 (Horef 73). Ironically its sung by the IDF's "Education Corps Ensemble". Basically, its the children conceived just after the 73 (Yom Kippur) war asking where is the promised peace.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Here We Go

A few days back Blacksono got his first call up to the Israel Defense Forces. He got one last year but he was still too young to go to the initial interview so we sent in the papers for a postponement. Of course, they lost these and four faxes later his status is now where it should be, awaiting his preliminary induction. But, like death and taxes, there is no avoiding the army here in Israel. His initial interview is at 7:30am Dec 10th. This is just to set his "profile". He would only enlist at the end of 12th grade (more than a year and a half away), but once the machine starts rolling, there's no stopping it.

All this is rather terrifying for us, his parents. As is well known, blackwifeo did the army. She learned to cook for a platoon. She can strip an M16 and sleeps well in a tent. But, luckily for her the closest her outpost came to bloodshed was the night the animals in their petting zoo were slaughtered (but that's her story to tell). I don't understand the Israeli army. I don't want to. From the stories of the squints, its not all that logical. No, not even a bit. I worry deeply about Blacksono with his thin legs, gentle spirit and kind heart.

This week we have been collecting papers together to send in for his "file". You need to get all the medical info into them three weeks before his interview. Its all rather nerve-wracking and leaves me ill-at-ease. On one hand I think that three years in the army, well spent, could be a benefit to him. On the other, what will we do if he ends up in some dead end job (or worse still, manning some checkpoint).

Living in Israel has its ups and downs. This army thing is not something I ever really wanted to worry about. But, I suppose, you live in a country, you play by its rules. You are sure to hear a whole lot more about this in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

House MD, Molecular Gastronomy and the Man in Black

Jozie here (blackwifeeeo in case you don’t know by now).
I have been considering for a while now whether to write my own blog cause most of the time, I end up just commenting on blackpetero’s blog. I tend to find having to defend myself against his incessant ravings about 80% this and 20% that. I never quite know where I fall on his scale, probably somewhere in the high seventy’s I think, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to complain about me. But that’s ok, I figured it was time to make fun of him for a change and boy do I have a story for ya’ll.

Today I was sitting in Dr. B’s office waiting for blacksono to get his pre army checkup- ugh, don’t say anything, we are not thinking about that now, and there was a really interesting article in Newsweek about Heston Blumenthal, 3 star Michelin chef and culinary alchemist. The man is brilliant, and both blacksono and I agree that we want to be him when we grow up. His restaurant The Fat Duck has garnered more awards than anything and his incredibly weird Tasting Menu features items such as Snail Pudding and Egg and Bacon Ice Cream. Here is a short video of how he makes the ice-cream.

His new cookbook, the Fat Duck Cookbook, comes out in a few days and sells for a mere 100 Pounds Sterling ($147).
While discussing Heston’s show and the fact that one cannot enjoy food if ones sense of smell is impaired, I was reminded of the time blackpetero had his Nasal Polyps Removed. (This runs in his family, he could not smell anything before the op. I have the actual video of the surgery, but will not gross you out).

So there he was first night post op, with a couple of tampax stuck up his nose. He had downed a couple of
Vicodin to help with the horrendous pain. I am told it’s one of the more painful surgeries. I too was not sleeping well, and for some reason I awoke in the middle of the night and realized that I had just PUNCHED Blackpetero on the nose. (This was not on purpose, just in case you wondered). He screamed. I started to uncontrollably giggle from the shock, and then silence. Total silence as he got out of bed and popped a few more Vicodin and went downstairs. Eventually, I fell asleep, feeling absolutely horrible and racked with guilt.

The following morning, a bleary-eyed BPO mentions to me that he just “might have bought something off the shopping channel”! huh? naaah!
Now this was such a ridiculous notion. Anyone who knows him knows that that would NEVER happen. For god sake, he doesn’t let me even watch that channel, being the compulsive shopper that I am. So I forgot about it and life in sunny California went on. For a couple of weeks.

A knock on the door and the local UPS dude delivers a huge goddam box from, you guessed it, The Shopping Channel. Totally fascinated, I opened the box and found it contained The Megaknife Set - 256 assorted knives ordered right off the Knife Show (now called Cutlery Corner) from your favorite red necks- Tom O’Dell and Todd Boone.
This incredible set included 46 Jack Knives (surgical steel with rubberized handles), 4 sets of TacOps tactical folding knives (the EXACT knife that SWAT uses), 9 navy seals aqua ops folding knives (the exact ones used in Iraq) a variety of Bowie knives, Apache knives, slip-not skinners, and there may have been a katana or two. $9000 worth of knives apparently.
I searched online for an actual clip of the knife show and even on their new website Cutlery Corner, I could only find this live blooper clip which is funny as hell and a clip called Redneck Confederate Knife Show, in which Boone and O’Dell argue about the type of wood on the knives and threaten to kill the employee who misnamed the knives.

I did luckily find the following actual transcript of one of their programs off Front Page News that I wanted to copy and paste in its entirety cause its so freaking hilarious, but instead will give you the link to check out yourself. http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/knife-show-on.php
You have to read it, you won't be sorry!!!

I never get tired of teasing blackpetero about this cause I am the one who usually fucks up. I don’t know if there is a moral to this story ( maybe don’t take narcotics and then watch infomercials at 3am) but after reading the above transcripts, I just wanna go out and buy bowie knives

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oh. My. God.

I found this on another Israeli blogger's site. Its hard to believe it's for real, all you can say is "Oh. My. God!"

Blackdaughtero get back from Zurich at 3:30am tomorrow morning. I missed my girl. The weekend has been so quiet with her. Seems they came sixth in their competition. Nice work.

Check out this scene from our lives. The actors are a bit stiff and the colors a bit drab, but Xtranormal is cool.

The funniest thing of all was that Blackwifeo did not like the look of her original character and made me change it. Now she's way happier.

Friday, November 7, 2008


As you no doubt all know, I am now listening to "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. He covers the fascinating concept of Dunbar's Number. Which is 150. Dunbar claims that 150 is the upper limit of people you can maintain social relationships with. Its the number of people you know well enough to feel comfortable sitting next to should you bump into them in a pub, say. Dunbar proposed this number is a direct function of neocortex size. The size of the neocortex in primates was once thought to be related to the complexities of their daily life (like the foods they ate, complexities of grooming etc). Primatologists then noted a direct correlation between the volume of the neocortex region of the brain of types of primates and the size of their social groups. When Dunbar did the math and related the size of primate neocortex with their social group size and projected this for human neocortex volume, he came up with 148 - usually rounded to 150.

The number 150 as a social group size seems to have had special historic significance. Various cultures through antiquity have maintained this size (neolithic farming villages, Hutterite settlements, army units in Roman and modern times). Christopher Allen has written a number of blog entries about Dunbar's number and how it relates to online communities (MMORPGs and Social Networking Sites). It's all rather cool.

So I sat down and tried to think of 150 people I could sit next to while enjoying a beer. Sadly I could only think of 7, but you are definitely one of them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Big One Five.

Yesterday was not only Guy Fawkes Day, but the 5th of November is Blackdaughtero's birthday. Fifteen years ago, we rushed to Methodist Hospital in Houston and out she popped before the Doula could even arrive (but that's a whole 'nother story). She has been pushing the envelope ever since. She left early yesterday morning to play volleyball (she's in "varsity", whatever that means) at an inter-school tournament in Zurich. I was going to wait till she got back before this post but I changed my mind last night.

Its been a difficult few weeks in the blackhomeo. I have been working too much and am not all that good at leaving work at work. I feel that Blackdaughtero's priorities are is not always ordered correctly. But last night Blackwifeo gave me a project Blackdaughtero had written for health and said "read this!". It's twenty or so pages and a sort of self study. I was blown away. Not only can she write well (we knew this), but she was so insightful that the twenty pages made absolutely riveting reading. Fascinating and revealing stuff. She wrote about her past, things that shaped her life, earliest memories, her favorite music and the people she admires most. One of the things that shocked me was her outpouring of admiration and affection for her bother. When she was just a little thing, her life revolved around him. But now that they are older, I had no idea she could really see who he is. I am beyond proud.

Some children tread gently through life with very light footsteps. My girl, is more like a bulldozer. Nothing (least of all her parents) can stand in her way. Its a good thing girl, take it from one bulldozer to another.

Happy fifteenth Dyl, I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as you're living my baby you'll be. (A favorite book we read repeatedly, when you were little, by Robert Munsch).

It Keeps Getting Better

I don't usually like to complain, but something has been bothering me. The cost of phone calls overseas has dropped dramatically. Everyone in almost every part of the world can now call other countries for very little. We are one big interconnected family. But, I have noticed that along with the reduction in the price of calls, call quality has just gone out the window. Its ridiculous. Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to have to join in on a conference call with some people in the US. I got maybe two words of each sentence. I had to sit there and try channel the people on the other side. At some point you stop asking people to repeat themselves because you begin to sound like a half-wit. More and more calls seem like vague outlines of a conversation and if there is not a horrid echo, then you get that terrible word clipping that leaves you with one word out of ten. I have an idea for a startup. Seeing as we are used to the idea that while calling is cheap, you can't really communicate, lets take it a step further. You pay very little and we'll not connect you at all (sounds a bit like Skype actually).

This concept of making things cheaper and then getting the world used to shoddy service is a growing trend. I got a shiny new cellphone a few weeks back. It has every bell and whistle you could imagine. The only problem is the battery does not last longer than one day and you need to recharge every night. A few years back my cell phone could go a whole week without recharging. That's progress I suppose.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


This song, Hurt, was written by Trent Reznor and first released on Nine Inch Nails' album, The Downward Spiral. Last night, while chatting with the family, blackdaughtero suggested this Johnny Cash version of Hurt. The video is heavy. Its one of the last things he did before he died in September 2003, less than four months after his wife June Carter Cash. This video apparently fit Cash's view of his past and feelings of regret.

Blackdaughtero told us she found this one day by googling the "most depressing song ever". Hmmm, makes you wonder about the music she listens to, doesn't it.

I have always liked Johnny Cash, and not only because of this song. Although if you cut out the religious part, it could be my theme song. Enjoy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Communication in 2008

Do you know that when you need to call a child in this house you have to SMS them. They never hear you call. It's a bit obscene. Blacksono hides in his room with the door closed playing COH listening to Dream Theater. The girl child is rarely home - even when she is here she is usually sitting outside on a park bench. So we have to use technology to contact them. Talking just does not work anymore.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Come Home Cordless Phone

I have been holding off posting this for a few weeks. As I have said before, like all husbands occasionally I need to run my tin mug back and forth along the bars of my cell. I know I'm just sounding off, and no matter how much noise I make, I'm still in jail. Here goes then. Can someone please tell me WHERE'S THE DAMN BEDROOM PHONE?

A month or so back, in my wisdom, I decided to bring one of the cordless phones from downstairs into our bedroom. Our bedroom phone had finally given up the ghost after being dropped on the tiled floor one too many times (blackwifeo has a habit of answering the phone, thinking that the untwisting cord faeries have come along in the night and straightened out the horrible knot in the phone cord). That phone finally decided that crashing to the floor every time it was answered was just not in its job description. So we lived without a phone in the bedroom for a while. It's hard enough to find blackwifeo when I need her, she's one of those, loosely attached to her cellphone, people. Her cell is always at home when she's out, or downstairs when she's resting, or in the car, or at her mother's, or off. So I though I had reached the perfect solution. I took one of the cordless phones, the one from blacknewphewo's room, and moved it and its base into our bedroom.

All was wonderful for two or three days. Then the cordless started visiting its old friends in other parts of the house. Often it was found chatting with the bread machine in the kitchen. It went on a field trip in the car one day. It was particularly fond of laying out on the porch swing warming itself in the noonday sun. Still, from time to time it could be found laying quietly on its base recharging its tired battery, waiting for a chance to be of service.

Then one day a few weeks back our bedroom was "rearranged". This happens pretty often. Its god's (and my wife's) way of keeping me flexible and practiced in having cheese moved. I came back from work to find the normally stacked surfaces of our bedroom starkly naked. No books. No papers. No potions and lotions. And no cordless phone. Its vanished. Maybe it could not bare the order. But, never fear, its not lost yet, we haven't yet started looking.

So cordless phone, if you are reading this, please come home. I miss you. We promise to keep you whole and not subject you to the duct taped back your twin downstairs has had to suffer (his battery cover mysteriously vanished). We will answer your calls promptly and recharge you on time. We need you. Come home.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Some Books

After a few days of marathon listens (including the five hour ride to and from Amman) I finally managed to finish listening to the 43 hours and 3 minutes of Shantaram. Its a good listen. A well read and engrossing story. Towards the end I started disliking the main guy. His constant soul searching drove me nuts. Still the reader does an amazing job with all the voices and accents. I am very happy to be done. Its the same sort of feeling I get when I get to the end of a guitar. After so much work, I cannot stand to see the damn thing any more.

Now I am listening to The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I read his book Blink a few years back (in paper form) and found it fascinating. A tipping point is the level at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable. He claims that ideas, products and messages behave like viruses. There is a point where critical mass is reached and as in any epidemic, there is no going back. Its great to be listening to some non fiction again. And Gladwell's three rules of epidemics, The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context, is plenty food for thought. Read the book if you want more.

I think I will avoid fiction for a while, Shantaram was absolutely exhausting. I had to fight a Cholera outbreak in a slum. Spend four months in an Indian jail with the dude. Then nearly freeze to death fighting in Afghanistan. I think I am just way too impressionable for fiction. Give me facts, just the facts.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Three Videos

I was in Amman at the NESA (near east and southern asia council of overseas schools) conference last weekend. I saw a lot and spoke to many people. Three videos that were shown on the big screen during the talks stuck with me. People always complain that the young do not care. They don't care about politics. They don't care about the environment or global issues. Apparently 75% of Americans aged 18-24 are registered to vote in the election on Tuesday. Young people have become a force to recon with. I'm really happy. To quote George Burns. "Young. Old. Just Words." These first two videos are political ads. One for McCain and one for Obama. They are both targeted at young people and both worth watching.

Let's face it, Obama rocks. During one of the sessions on boards of trustees (boring, boring) one of the lecturers showed this video of Father Guido Sarducci (of Saturday Night Live) 5 Minute University. Check it out.

So you see, conferences are not all talking. I can't get the Obama, Obama chant out of my head. Do the right thing America.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Poor Me

Its 11:50pm and I just got home. I left the house at 5:45am this morning. Yesterday was much the same. In fact its been like this since I came home from Amman on Sunday. The school is looking for a new Superintendent and we have three candidates in this week from all over the world. We have a huge deadline at work and I have been doing some technical work to help out where I can. Oh, and I have my conference trip report to write. So life is busy. So busy in fact that I cannot remember the last time I went walking. Maybe tomorrow. On top of it all, all these interviews take place at fancy restaurants and my carefully monitored weight is not where it should be.

So this will have to be the posting for today. I will do better tomorrow. I will be working this weekend. There is no peace for the wicked.