Monday, June 30, 2008

The Interview

We are looking for a few good squints here down at squint central. So there is a lot of interviewing of potentials going on. This is not something new, but in order not to make it too laborious, we change the process from time to time. In the old days we would go in two interviewers per interviewee. This meant that one person could ask a question while the other watched closely to see if any extreme psychopathic tendencies were displayed (we hired all the mild cases). We came to the conclusion that this was a bit of a waste of one person's time and so have reverted back to the traditional one on one interview.

Now it can get a little tedious asking the same questions over and over and seeing as I am alone in the interview there is no one to check my eccentricities. So hot off my soul-reinforcing, mind-uplifting audiobooks, I decided to see if I could find out something more about the potential squint. I started the last few interviews off with a welcome and short repartee about the traffic (always a worthy topic here in the narrow part of Israel), and then leaned back on my chair and fired out "OK so tell me, what do you believe?"

After the few moments (sometimes minutes) of stunned silence, I got some really interesting answers. I am happy to say that a lot of our potential squints can at least think quickly enough on their feet to come up with pretty convincing bullshit. "Truth and Beauty" is popular. A few days back I got a lovely story involving a father and a grass path, with the moral of "No Short Cuts". I'm impressed. Funny thing is, no one here believes in god.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gamers Anonymous

I have already posted today, but I could not pass on this picture. Blacksono has spent the weekend hard at work on "City of Heroes". He actually cleaned out his room yesterday, so this is one night and a day's detritus.Just look at the junk food. There are two big bottles of Sprite, Doritos, Manat Shef (Ramen Noodles, Israeli style), cookies and most importantly, deodorant. Its incredible. Blacksono is a good boy, 100% gamer, and has been working along with the squints four days a week, but has to have Sunday off because Saturday night is the "big match up" on City of Heroes. He has only been out of his room twice today, for food.

Wellcome to the Kingdome

This sign was recently put up over a "newly renovated" nightclub near our work. There is no dome anywhere near, so I presume they meant "Elizabeth Kingdom". Shouldn't there be a "The" before the Elizabeth. Also, why it the sign only in English? You think someone would have proof read the "Wellcome". The 80%ness of it speaks for itself.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Taliban is Here

This really makes me mad. Last Wednesday evening was the opening of the "chords bridge" (gesher hamatarim). The plans were to have the usual opening ceremony with singers and dancers. Of course, this being Jerusalem, it was all rather modest and not much flesh showing.

I have been in Jerusalem quite a few times over the last few months and have watched the bridge growing. I quite like it. It looks so out of place against the ancient buildings and so really catches the eye. What is great is that its the beginning of the light rail line that all Israeli cities need.

During the Monday dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony, the wonderful religious people of Givat Shaul and decided that there were "prostitutes" in the show and that this "terrible harlotry" was threatening the city. The mayor bent to the pressure. So here are some before and after pictures. These twelve year old dancers were forced to wear robes and ski caps in order not to offend the haredim. Its amazing what we let happen in this country. The people of Jerusalem (and Israel) are being held hostage by these religious fanatics. There has been much venom in the press coverage of the ceremony. Calls to stop the "Talibanation" of Israeli have been heard everywhere. But, Jerusalem is a sacred subject and it seems to be run with its own laws.

Ironically on the Thursday afternoon after the opening, the annual Gay Pride march took place in Jerusalem. Getting permission for the march was not easy, and they had to take a "less visible" and non offensive route through the city. But, at least no one was stabbed this year.

The DTs

Some advice peeps. As "House" as it may be, don't get hooked on pain killers, even the over the counter type. I am feeling a bit better, but I'm afraid it may be a temporary reprieve and tomorrow morning I will feel as dog as ever. The neurologist gave me these serious steroids to take for two days. He told me he was writing the prescription for 10 pills, one a day, but he specifically wanted me to take 5 for the two days of the weekend. He claimed the pharmacist would ask a lot of questions if he prescribed it all at once. The pharmacist did indeed ask a lot of questions, she warned me that I needed to be careful with the steroids and decrease the amount slowly (I think she might have had a heart attack if I told her I would take them all at once). Needless to say blackwifeo was not happy about all this. I told her worst comes to worse, the Olympics are around the corner and with all the steroids maybe I can enter the weight lifting.

The neurologist also gave me 10mg of Amiltriptyline to take each evening. I looked this up on the net and indeed, these days its used as a migraine prophylactic. He said it may make me tired. He wasn't kidding, I had to drag myself out of bed this morning. My bones felt like they had melted. In the olden days they used this med (in much higher doses) for depression, anxiety etc. Maybe this is the answer, no migraines and a kinder, gentler blackpetero.

I have spent two days in a darkened room, no reading, no "surfthechannel", no macbook. I am ready to gnaw a hole through my pillow just for grins.

Hopefully this will be over in one more day, and then I can go back to my usual whining and complaining. Hang in there

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh, man, this is hell. I am an addict and I am in trouble. Head is exploding, body aches, can't think straight - this is real withdrawal. All this and "American Idol" has gone kosher. The horror!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Caffeine Free Diet Blackpetero

This may be considered oversharing (the driving need for bloggers to include the internet in the most intimate and mundane parts of their lives, for the best oversharing story read Emily Gould's NY Times magazine cover story). Yesterday I went to the neurologist. I have always suffered from headaches, but since coming to Israel these have turned into at the minimum weekly migraines. I was given serious meds to deal with the migraines and the pills work (after an hour or so). But, in the last few years I find I am swallowing at least 2 to 4 Exedrins (called Acamol Focus here) a day.

The (new) neurologist heard this and promptly decided I was addicted to caffeine and needed to stop the pills cold turkey (interestingly enough is disagreement on the derivation of this term). He decided no more Diet Coke (god's drink), no morning espresso. He decided that I get two types of headaches, migraines (which the Relert works well on) and tension/stress headaches, which are now being accelerated by the addiction to pills/caffeine. An Acamol Focus tab, apparently has as much caffeine as 5 cups of coffee (the internet seems to think there is roughly the same amount in a pill as a cup of coffee, but you cannot believe everything you read).

So what this means for you, is that blackpetero is probably going to be grumpier, more irritable, have less patience, and just generally be more miserable than ever. I wonder if anyone will be able to tell?

This American Life

In my search for the 80% of life, I sometimes stumble over things that blow me away. When we lived in Sunnyvale , CA I loved public radio and spent many happy weekend hours working away in my garage shop while listening to KQED. Each Saturday noon, after "Car Talk" and "Wait, wait, don't tell me" I listened transfixed to "This American Life". Quality radio at its best. We only got TV in Africa, where I grew up, when I was 16 years old. So much of my youth was spent listening to the radio. Radio is probably why I like audio books so much.

When we moved back to Israel in 2000, I tried listening to KQED and all these shows over the net, but in truth, they made me completely homesick. As soon as I would arrive at SFO on my many trips back to the Bay Area, I would tune into 88.5FM and it was as if I never left. Listening to "Morning Edition" in the kitchen on HaNevel Street in the late afternoon just seemed plain wrong. Here in Israel my Hebrew has improved and I find I enjoy Reshet Bet, the political/talk radio station. Theres a lot going on each day, and they ask hard questions. But, Reshet Bet, like Israel is not exactly "produced", its pretty much, news and commentary as it happens (and boy does it just keep happening).

A few days ago, fresh from my joyful experiences listening to audiobooks on the shuffle while walking the Sharon Region, I tentatively tried listening to "This American Life" once again. I started with the first show (from 1995) and over the weekend listened to quite a few more while working on the guitar I am currently building. Wow, these are as good as I remembered. What is most interesting is that I can now listen to these shows with only a little nostalgia. I suppose that means I am home. Scary isn't it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Fertile Will Inherit The Earth

I am now listening to "The Lessons of History", so no worries that I am going to turn all religious (the squints were worried that with all the self-help inspired soul searching I was doing I would "return with the answer"). Will and Ariel Durant won Pulitzer prizes for their huge contribution to history. They claim that birth control has changed the world more than we realize. Birthrate will decide the future they claim. They pose the question: does the fact that more educated people have less children mean that the world is doomed eventually to being run by idiots? They wiggle out of this by claiming that there is no genetic correlation between intellect and education (even the children of Phd's need education and children of large families test as well as the average), but do link the birth rate to the growth of fundamentalist theologies.

So, I agree with blackjocho, we are doomed to a world of ever decreasing intellect. A future with more jingoist, intolerant, bigoted people, convinced theirs is the only true way. I can't hardly wait.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Cheesy Story

Blackmicheleo reminded me of something that really bothers me. Its the cheese wedge issue. Now, here at blackfamilyo central we like the odd cheese wedge (or triangle). They make this "piquant" version that is not bad when spread on hot toast. We have been buying this for a while, but recently they changed the packaging. The new, improved packaging is almost impossible to open. You can bite, stab, twist and do whatever you wish but still the wonderful round package will not give up its lovely cheesy whatsits. If you look carefully at the picture above you will see the little serrated tab you think is there for you to pull off to open the package. Nope, no such luck. Usually you either take a knife to the damn plastic or just give up.

This is a picture of an opened package, just so you can see what a nice cheese-like triangle really looks like. I needed to take this container downstairs and use a vise-grip to open it. And by the way, even though its called "Mon Blanc" and has a nice picture of the Swiss Alps on the outside, its made and packaged in the well known cheese haven of Kiryat Malachi. People have been reduced to tears trying to open these packages.

Last week I was lucky enough to enjoy an evening meeting in Jerusalem. It ended at around 8:45pm and the only place open was the supermarket on the way out (the exit to Jerusalem is my favorite part of the city). Starving, I ran in at 8:55, and scurried around ignoring the shouts that they were closing in five minutes, searching for something to eat. I grabbed a semi-fresh roll and a package of "Piquant Mon Blanc". It was all I could find on that aisle remotely edible. I threw down my cash and raced back to the double parked Prius.

Imagine me flying down the hills of Judea, bread roll in one hand, all the while trying to rip the top off the package with my teeth. Eventually I had to stop, afraid that a cop would see me and pull me over for drunk driving. I managed to get a wedge eventually, but not before I hacked off a piece of thumb nail (maybe you can see in the picture to the left). One has to sacrifice for one's art.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Buffet Table

People are at their most annoying at the buffet table. Yesterday I was punished for my sins and was dragged to a noon wedding. It was hot. It was outside. The family of the bride are good people and I truly wish the bride and groom the best, but this is the 2000s and air conditioning is usually an obtainable goal. Anyway, I need to stop now or else blackwifeo's family will never talk to me again.

Back to the buffet table. What is it with people? They wait in line for the food (more or less, this is Israel after all), then when they finally get to the spread, they stop like all the sheep before them, and ponder. For gods sake, look at the food while you are waiting infinitely in line, decide between the lettuce salad or the spinach salad before you get there - lets face it, you are going to have both anyway. Why do people have to stop and contemplate whether they want the rice stuffed peppers or the marrows and quinoa? You see their brains slowly working: "Hmm, food, now what do I want to eat here? Where's the beef, OK I don't recognize anything, perhaps if I do nothing for a while the good food will show up". These people are not concentrating, don't they know that the only pleasure left in life is food?

At least it was a dairy wedding. There was lots of (not great) vegetarian food. I heard the salmon was either overcooked or raw, and then they ran out of plates.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Its been a while since I reinvented myself. I used to believe that this was very important. Back in the old days, we would not live for very long in any one house. I moved from SA to Israel (Haifa, Jerusalem, Raanana - then got married), we moved to the US (Texas - two kids, California), and we have now been here for 8 years, in the same house, same country, pretty much the same work. I often dream of elsewhere, but in truth (as much as I complain) I am not unhappy here and can wait till the kids finish school and go out on their own. So what reinvention, what shoes.

All the inspiring stuff I have been listening to is forcing me to really start believing than perhaps I am a smidgen too cynical and a touch too judgmental (right!). Maybe pessimism is not the best outlook for a happy and complete life. So the question is, can I reinvent a kinder, gentler blackpetero (starting say with a graypetero before we try any bright colors)? Its a scary thought as I am not sure I could actually like this new person - thats just how broken I am.

Haaretz: Father of abducted soldier irate cease-fire agreement reached

The Gaza cease-fire has been holding for nearly six hours. Its longer than I, in my usual pessimistic way, thought it would. One issue that bothers me is Gilad Shalit's father, Noam (see article on Haaretz's English Website). I know this will not be popular, but honestly, do we need to stop all progress whatsoever until we get Gilad Shalit back. I believe that we need to bargain and negotiate, and do everything in reason to get our POWs back, but there is a limit. Gilad Shalit was a soldier that undertook risks to protect his country. It seems unreasonable that his Father would expect the whole country to put this single soldier above common sense.

One thing that Israel really does well is keep attention on its POWs. Every few hours, before the news, we get a daily update on exactly how many days "our children" have been in captivity. There are bumper stickers, flags, prayer services, all focused on keeping public attention on our three captured soldiers. We know their names, what they look like, we have all met their families on TV and radio. I think this is great, and its very Israeli. But, on some level, these were soldiers, and I feel holding the whole of the country hostage seems unreasonable.

I also know that in a few years blacksono could be in the same dreadful situation, and sincerely I hope that as a father I would be able to see the big picture. Man, I just don't know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So What Do I Believe?

I finished listening to "The Seven Habits" and "The Last Lecture". Both were equally inspiring and terrifying. They constantly reminded me of how far I have to go. Today I started listening to "This I believe". Of course, I got to thinking, what do I believe? It's quite alarming that I could not clearly state this, even to myself. My thoughts frantically darted around trying to latch onto something clever yet insightful, deep and mystical.

I believe in excellence. I believe in the joy of the perfect combination of notes that form the only possible song for a specific moment. The brilliance of the right idea expressed in the least words. I believe that I should take my time and do things as well as I can. I believe I should not eat anything with eyes. That I lucked out with blackwifeo and that she will go to heaven (we are married 21 years today).

I know that anything worthwhile takes work. I pledge to work on this. I will write down what I believe, I will look hard and take my time and do a good job. Its necessary for me.

Monday, June 16, 2008


This morning while on my walk I heard a great piece of advice. I am currently listening to the "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch" (the YouTube lecture here is seriously worth watching). The advice he gives to his young daughter, which I think blackdaughtero should hear and digest is: when dealing with potential partners, "ignore what they say and closely watch what they do".

Blackdaughero already knows I think all young boys are fools. I know as I have personal experience.

The Roll

This is the toilet paper dispenser in the toilets at work. Not a bad piece of technology. They are quite clever. There is space for two very large toilet rolls, so its rare we run out of paper. This is good because as I have stated before, vegetarians (especially gall-bladder free ones) typically have active stomachs. These toilet-paper dispensers have become a symbol of 80% for me. All in all, the design is good. Its the implementation here in Israel that is problematic. Once you buy these fancy dispensers, you need to keep refilling them with the correctly sized toilet rolls. These are delivered to us by the wholesaler. A few years back I noticed that the paper is very often stuck and difficult to pull out. Sometimes, getting more than a single small square is impossible. It took some research but I eventually found the problem. The rolls themselves are not cut straight as you can see in the lower picture. This causes great problems in the close tolerances of this finely engineered bathroom fitting. So, I tried to speak to the guy that brings the toilet rolls. I asked him why the rolls were cut so badly. He looked at me as if I was from some other planet. He slowly shook his head and muttered (I translate) "These high tech guys, always complaining, even when wiping their bums they are spoiled".

All I want is that things work the way they are supposed to. Is that so wrong?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Need a Weekend, Soon.

So I suppose its unreasonable to expect any response to my request for restaurant help. But, Hey! I'm not bitter. I'm exhausted. We had an extremely busy weekend and I need rest. It all started Thursday night, when blackbrianandirito tested my anti-socialness with a spot invitation to BBQ. I took a deep breath and went over, and even enjoyed myself a bit.

Friday we were invited to a neighbor's "passing the bar exam" party, that turned out to be a bar and bat mitzvah as well. It was bloody hot, and was at the Tadmor hotel. It was a little weird, the humus was a bit sticky and I was forced to make conversation with people I don't know. Still thety were all very sweet seemed to appreciate our attendance. Then home for an exhausted drooling-on-pillow nap and off to blackwifeo's family for Friday night dinner. I'll take the fifth, and avoid incriminating myself by a quick "No Comment" on this particular event.

Saturday lunch (after a long walk listening to why I should be happy that I have so much room for personal growth and change by Stephen Covey) was a pool party at the school. Neville, from the school, had invited a whole lot of his South African friends to celebrate something (I never quite understood what, a birthday? anniversary? the arrival of boerewors from SA?) . There was a lot of talk about the "good old days" in Africa. Not that I remember any. Being vegetarian, they almost voted to revoke my ex-SA citizenship. The pool was great and I kind of enjoyed myself. Saturday night we whisked off to Tel Aviv to dinner at new friends blackanatandmikeo, and the best penthouse in the world. I had to work hard to sound intelligent and worthy, but everyone was very nice and both blackwifeo and I had fun. We met some interesting movers and shakers and drank good wine.

I know, I know - it sounds like I had a good time, but its all a facade. I am still as anti-social as ever and all I want to do is just to be left alone. And I'm tired. Luckily I'm back at work and as miserable as ever. Lookout squints, its gonna be a long week!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We Need Help

The Lebanese salad from Tanami is more than 80%. So is the Ortalena Pizza from Joya and the veggie burger at Agadir. The Sushi place blackshirleyo sent us to in near the Dizengoff center was at least an 82%. There are places that make good food here and as we all know at some point in your life, food is the only exciting thing left.

But, for god sake, why can't we find a decent Chinese or Indian restaurant anywhere? Help us please!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Close the Bleedin Door (mufher)

One interesting improvement in Israel over much of the western world are the toilets. Yes, believe it or not, they do a pretty good job here(O.K. I am not sure that Israel would win any "loo of the year awards"). In Israel, most toilet stalls are built as floor to ceiling enclosures with opaque wooden doors. None of that crappy, half hight raised Formica, ill-fitting, sound amplifying excuse for a toilet stall so popular in the U.S. No! in Israel we have closed off stalls usually made from concrete, each individual, each stand alone. So far so good.

But, recently, I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon. My stomach is rather active (perhaps its the vast amounts of vegetable matter I consume), this along with drinking two liters of water daily to replenish my arid body's loss of fluids to the desert we live in means I visit the toilet more than most. Here at work, it seems there is a growing trend to go into a stall, half close the door and then do you business. Guys, I know you are busy, but please, close the bleeding door and lock it. There is nothing worse than walking into the toilets, selecting a stall, pushing on a mostly closed door only to find someone standing over the toilet. This is as bad as barging into the elevator without waiting for the people inside to go out. O Yes, and wash your hands after. Thanks.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sunday's Beach is Full of Hope!!

So I have taken to walking on the beach in the early mornings. I started off listening to music using blackgilado's shuffle, bit soon tired of the constant stress of having to find interesting music to copy to the 512M available on this "ancient" device. So I decided to finally utilize the membership we have been paying for and ignoring (along with the gym memberships, pool memberships, newspapers etc - we are big joiners, but a bit hopeless on the followthrough). I started off listening to Sherlock Holmes (Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson and Orson Welles) it was pretty good, but I know most of these stories so well that they have lost some of their charm. So I moved on. I decided I need some help in getting past my own 80% and dove directly into "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" narrated by Stephen R. Covey (the author) himself. And Wow am I lacking!!

Yesterday (Sunday) I got to the beach pretty early (before 6am). I was amazed and horrified. The amount of shit left by the weekend hordes is staggering. I arrived before the pack of "Foreign Workers" employed by the contractor to the Herzliya municipality (so they can pay well below minimum wage and avoid the city workers union) had started their clean-up. I had forgotten that in the old days I would never run on the beach on Sundays because its just too depressing. As I gingerly picked my way through the broken bottles, leaky diapers, disabled beach chairs and enough plastic to fill the Machtesh HaGadol (looking out from Mitzpeh Rimon), Stephen Covey droned on about how change comes from inside out. At one point he quoted Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is not an event but a habit".

I shouldn't complain, they closed Tel Aviv beaches last weekend because of dangerous levels of sewerage in the water. I suppose one can find excellence anywhere, even in the way your destroy your environment, defile nature, poo on your beaches and pee in the sea. We rule!!!