Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jonathan II

I have nothing really new to post about today, so I will dig up one of the defining stories of my life with blackwifeo. We (the four of us in the immediate blackfamilyo) arrived back in the Holy Land in June 2000 (we got bored in Silicon Valley and wanted front row seat in the second Intifada). As we set up home in Raanana, we bought the various appliances we needed. We bought good quality stuff, an Italian dishwasher (junk), a US fridge (too small and not self organizing), a King oven (unable to find any reference to this brand anywhere on the internet) and a Bosch washing machine and dryer (don't mention the war). Its the washer and dryer that are the heroes of this post.

Jonathan (as this conjoined pair were called), was unloved from the start. Blackwifeo really wanted huge 'Merican models that could fit everything washable in the house in a single load. Of course, these beasts cost an arm, a leg and a liver. Now, Jonathan would take about an hour to do a wash, then another hour to dry this (in blackwifeo's view, infinitesimally small) load. The (then) Canadian neighbors had these giant machines and their huge loads took mere seconds, as was patiently explained to me on numerous occasions.

Then one day it happened. Her daily perusal of the trusty raananalist paid off, and blackwifeo found a family fleeing Israel who wanted to get rid of their Whirlpool washer and dryer. She was beside herself. I did what any self-respecting husband would, I declared: "Buy them if you want, but I will have nothing to do with it". So she bought them and waited patiently for their arrival. She claims she got one heck of a deal, but she cannot remember just how much she paid (this memory thing is fuel for many, many blogs). Blackwifeo, generous to a fault, refused to sell our current Jonathan and gave them over to her brother and his family, where he performs beautifully to this day.

The big day arrived and the new Jonathan (all washers and dryers are called Jonathan in our house) was to be delivered. The raananalist provided Gershon, the man with the truck. He dutifully collected Jonathan from his old home and delivered them to HaNevel 3. There the first problem arose. The door to the washing room was not large enough for the new machines to fit through, even after the Gershons dismantled the doors and feet. So off the Gershons went to hire a conveyor (there are varying accounts of how many Gershons were involved, I of course had washed my hands of the whole business). A conveyor is a crane-like device that extends and allows heavy items to be lifted into upper floors using a wide black belt. Of course, conveyors do not come cheaply. After much shouting and pushing and shoving, the new Jonathan finally passed through the washroom window and were arranged in their new home.

They sat unconnected in their new home for a few weeks, acclimatizing. Finally, blackwifeo tired of climbing over the mounds of dirty clothing and called in a plumber to hook Jonathan up. The local dry cleaners were most put out, as we had almost paid for their jacuzzi and were now planning a swimming pool. At this point the second issue arose - washers and dryers in Israel typically connect only to cold water. Hot water heaters are usually pretty small (and solar heated), therefore the washers themselves take care of heating their water if necessary (which is why a load takes so long). The marvelous Whirlpool need a hot water connection and there was no hot water piped into the washing room. "Never fear", said the plumber, "I can easily bring a pipe in". Of course, pipes do not come cheaply. After much shouting and pushing and hammering, half of the new Jonathan was hooked up. We could finally do washing. But, wait.

On further inspection, it became sadly evident that the dryer part of Jonathan was gas operated. This is nearly unheard of locally and, of course, there is no gas connection in the washing room, not even close by. So the gas company was called in. "Never fear", said the gas technician, "I can easily bring a gas pipe in". Sadly, gas pipes do not come cheaply. After much shouting and banging and hammering, the other half of Jonathan was hooked up. We now, about six months later, had a fully functional washer and dryer.

Its true. The new Jonathan does its work quickly and efficiently. But, washing is not something blackfamilyo is particularly good at and the local dry cleaners need not have worried. They still get a few loads a month and are currently pondering what color Hummer to buy. Seeing as we are paying for most of it I think it should be black.


It seems I'm nasty. Today was meeting three of English Speaking Weight Watchers of Raanana (ESWWR - or 'E Swear for short). The blackfamilyo members lost in total 1.7Kg - not bad considering the weekend humus in Jeru and the Monday night trip to Segev (high profile chef's restaurant). This meeting consisted of the usual blah, blah, treat yourself well, blah blah, give yourself treats (but not food), blah, blah, boring, boring. When finally, our "leader" decided we had been punished enough, and she let us out, after all of us mentally swearing that we had better be good so we can look forward to a life without WW.

At this point, one of the lovely ladies (remember its all ladies, but me), asked if anyone was going to "the center", and could she please get a ride. Of course, blackwifeo jumps up and enthusiastically trusts her hand in the air, "aww please can we can take you", "can we". Now as it happens we were not going near the center of town, rather to blackinlawo's, where the Renault Mizbeleh was vacationing, as their car was in the shop for a well deserved rest. I "gently" reminded blackwifeo of these facts. I stood strong in the Medusa Look (turns unsuspecting spouses into stone), and lo and behold some other WWatcher volunteered her services. (This is exactly how it happened, I have the video, no exaggeration).

What is so interesting here is that our intrepid leader had just concluded the meeting on how we need to learn to say NO every now and then. I never realized this meant only saying NO to your husband. So all the way to the car I was shat upon from a dizzy height, finally, she came to a realization - "You're just Nasty!"
I seem to recall that in the old days I was just grumpy, but now I've moved up a rung on the discontentment ladder and I'm nasty. Excellence in any form, that's what I believe in.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Plotting and Scheming

Below are two graphs that currently plot my view of the world. First at home:
Now at work:Plotting can be fun for the whole family. Here are two from graphjam - the current rage in all fashionable blogs.

song chart memes

song chart memes

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Israel is a country of extremes. These two pictures are perhaps 200 meters apart. On the right is the new Mamilla Shopping Mall, just outside Jerusalem's Jaffa gate. On the left is a picture of the old city market, just inside the walls. This past weekend, blackwifeo and I, visited Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and played host to some friends from the US. We left their hotel on the coast early Friday morning (the story of the credit card and the hotel reception will have to wait for another post) and drove up to Jerusalem where we picked up Asaf our young guide. We were efficiently directed to the 3 hours free parking at Mamilla and off we set into the old city armed with our bottles of water.

Once in a previous record store owning life I lived in Jerusalem for a few years. Nowadays, my coastal plain snobbery forces me to spend as little time in the "Holy" city as possible. But, Friday's tour was actually a treat. Asaf is extremely knowledgeable, we visited places I have never seen, and there were no real hordes of people. The humus at Lena (about 8 points), in the Christian Quarter, was very welcome and reasonably priced. The four hour tour took closer to six hours, but we all had fun (and believe it or not, my head did not hurt too much). Leaving the old city, the culture shock of going from a shuk that seems not to have changed for thousands of years, to an ultra modern shopping center (tastefully done mind you) in a few steps, is awesome.

Off we motored to the Dead Sea. Kibbutz Ein Gedi's gueast house was rather overpriced and the 80% of the Israeli tourist industry is rampant. But, even though the room seemed a little like spruced up volunteer's quarters, the Friday night dinner was good. We visited the "spa" before sun down only to be turned back by the revolting rotten egg stench of the sulfur baths. Saturday morning, after marveling at how the local visitors waste huge piles of food at breakfast, we headed back to the spa for a dip in the Dead Sea. The extreme difference between the green coastal area and hills to the stark salty desert is incredible. What is just as awesome is just how far the Dead Sea has receded - it will soon be gone completely. After the big fun floating in the sea, the other three covered themselves in mud and I took some pictures.

So, as you can see, I don't just sit at home each weekend bitching and moaning about the state of things. Sometimes I actually go out.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's a knol anyway?

Google's desire to take over the world continues. Their latest attack is focused on wikipedia, which if used wisely has become, for me anyway, a very useful tool. And its free and completely free of advertising. So google quickly realized this was fertile space, a way to clutter our lives with more inane web ads and visual clutter, so off they went and created google knol. Wikipedia, while in no way perfect, is an interesting experiment and has proved that over time, the web matures and grows in an organic fashion. Gone are the days of random posting of facts and, in my view, today wikipedia has often my first click for information (after a google search). I use it daily, typically as a first step in getting a general technical overview, and a a source of links to more complete information. Google following in microsoft's footsteps (it's worked well for Microsoft, so I'm not surprised) will eventually commercialize this and we will all look back on wikipedia as an curiosity that eventually lost out to "a more profitable better solution".

The worst thing about this is the clearly there are not enough words in the English (or any other) language, so google had to invent the "knol", short for knowledge. I can just imagine those googlers sitting around my old office in bld. 43, "Hmm what should we call this thing", "We need something new and powerful, something that can become a verb, like googling", "If we call it knol, then the verb can be knoling". "Aren't we cool, lets go play Foosball and drink some more Mountain Dew".

O Deralin (Propranolol HCL 40mg)

O Deralin you're the drug for me,
my migraines have but afaded,
I was in such pain, for you see,
my life, my head had raided.

A simple pill, one time a day,
light purple and slightly slotted.
Two week of joy, I can scarce convey,
the luck I've been allotted.

Beta blockers they say, are for the heart,
they've been found to help the head.
Propranolol HCL, 40 milligrams to start
at night before my bed.

Much happiness, I'm well and migraine free
O Deralin. Sweet Deralin, you're the one for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Owlnet Admins

I have always believed in being proactive. So, seeing as I will be out driving the wilds of Israel over the weekend, I figured I would make today a double post day. The picture above, taken somewhere around 1990 at Rice University, still hangs in my office. I look at it every day. There is John (kink) our boss, and Sam (sam) sitting, Mark (mjk) and I (blackpetero) standing. We were the owlnet admins. The Sun 3/50 on the trolley is Spam my old machine. The three others have gone off in the world and made an impact. Mark is a famous writer of graphics software, Sam sold his company to the NYSE for more money than god, and John (who has a real blog) has been a CTO and SVP at various NYC companies. But, what is so cool about this picture is that you can see in those days we were really just having fun, happy to be given access to kick-ass technology. It wasn't about the money or the future or the stock options or the responsibility, we just wanted to learn. I really miss those days, and sometimes forget that they ever happened - this picture reminds me of them daily.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where is the Knesset?

In a country where 80% is the most you can hope for, sometimes our government can't even get close to 20%. Like thieves in the night and using Obama's visit as cover, yesterday our wonderful Knesset passed a bill formalizing the previously illegal act of funding religious high schools that do not follow the state curriculum. These ultra-orthodox schools do not teach core subjects like math, civics and English. Clearly they spend many hours studying the ultra-orthodox essentials like parasitism, money grabbing and the art of sponging off tax paying Israelis. The passing of this bill to legalize something that has been going on illegally for years, is truly annoying, but what bothers me as much is that only 45 of the 120 members of the Knesset showed up to vote. I pay these people to do their jobs, so where are they?

Weight Watchers Part the Second

If its Wednesday it must be Weight Watchers. Both Blackwifeo and I managed to lose a whopping great 1.2 Kilos. I am not sure if that's good or not, but I know I am certainly getting tired of salad. During the meeting every single cell phone of every single women, expect for Blackwifeo and the "leader", rang at least once. I never knew us fat people were so important to the world. We heard "March of the Bumblebee", "Nokia Tune" and twice we were subjected to the theme of "Hawaii Five O". Tell me, why these tacky ringtones and what is so complicated about turning off your phone?

On top of it all, these are all "Anglos", English speakers, who typically never think twice about railing on the locals for their shoddy manners. Luckily for us, the summer camp kids had been bussed off from the adjoining room's "theater camp" to go practice their screaming somewhere else. We learned today about liquids. Each can of beer (330ml) is 2 points so I could have 12 a day, but I was warned, I may just be lacking in protein. In order to drown the mounds of carrots I am to drink two liters of water a day.

Clearly the single biggest weight loss trick is the fanatical writing down of everything you eat. Having my daily list clearly before my eyes certainly shames me into behaving myself. If you are what you eat, I'm currently a cucumber with a spot of Balsamic.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Chair

I realize space is at a premium here at squint central. I am happy for my office to be utilized when I am not around. I really don't mind cleaning up the empty coffee cups and other left over detritus. But, please people, please is it necessary to adjust my chair?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Post-Apocalyptic Job

You have got to be ready for the apocalypse. I am a firm believer that everyone needs to prepare their post-apocalypse job. This is especially relevant for those of us in the computer world. There'll be no Microsoft help line to call - the lack of electricity or phones will make that irrelevant. So, I am a firm believer that each person needs to prepare their role for the post-apocalyptic world.

So years ago I took up woodworking. I was particularly fascinated by hand tools and spent countless dawn hours combing the flea markets of Northern California to bring home good quality hand tools well used by someone's grandfather. I spent many an hour learning to sharpen and use hand planes, spokeshaves and the internet. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of wood here in the Holy Land - lots of camels, sand, rock, stone and gravel, but not a whole lot of hardwood trees. Space is also at a premium, so when we moved here I had to trade in my lovely naturally lighted, double car garage woodshop, for half a basement. So I became a luthier (amazingly enough, the Firefox spell checker has not heard of "luthier" and decided I need to become a "Lutheran" or a "Gautier") and started building guitars. Guitar's take up a lot less room and use a lot less wood than sideboards. I am, of course, assuming that sufficient guitars will be incinerated in the apocalypse to keep blackfamilyo fed.

So there you have it. The answer to the often asked question "Why do you build guitars?"

Alfred The Great

I have finally found a mentor. Unfortunately, he died around 1100 years back. Alfred the Great (849-899) was a visionary, the first king of the "Anglo-Saxons" and the only English king to be rewarded "the Great" epithet. He strongly encouraged education, defended his kingdom against the marauding Danish barbarians and basically brought law and order to his filthy peasants. But his contribution to the English language is what really won me over.

According to the audiobook, "The Adventure of English" by Melvin Bragg, that I am currently enjoying, Alfred the Great herded the regional dialects into his own West Saxon dialect. He brought in scribes to record local tales and formalized the language of government as "Old English". He initiated programs to have religious works translated into English and he himself is said to have translated Pope Gregory the First's work on administration "Pastoral Care" from Latin to Old English. All in all a Renaissance man, long before the
Renaissance. The Normans of course, after Hastings in 1066, messed all this up, and it seems a miracle (or according to Bragg, a testimony to the absorbent nature of the English language) that today we are not all speaking French.

This whole walking and listening to audiobooks is great. I feel I am being Oh so efficient, double using my time. Being kind to the body while expanding the mind. And even though its Sunday and the start of the week here, my fascination with the history of the English language let me mostly ignore the piles of shit left on the beach by the weekend hordes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Case of the Shattered Table

Blackwifeo is a well known salvager. As I have previously explained, she has been known to stop the car, amidst traffic, to load someones discarded furniture into the back of the Renault Mizbeleh. Some time ago she came home with four lawn chairs and an outside table. The table (an early model Ikea design I think) had funky legs and a glass top, blackwifeo and it had bonded. It lived outside through a few (maybe two) summers and winters and a considerable number of Friday night family dinners.

A week or so back, blacknephewo came home, only to find part of the top had shattered. When I got home we dusted for prints. We used ALS (alternate light source) technology fresh from the crime lab and studied trajectories, but for the life of us, we could not find any reason for the break. I was hoping to find a rock thrown in by the neighbours, or perhaps a bleeding paw print at the scene of the crime. Nothing. We archived the mystery in the unsolved file, and went about our business. Well, two days back, blacknephew came home only to find another break (you can see the two sort of half moon breaks in the pictorial evidence above).

And finally it dawned on us. One half of the table gets the morning sun, while the other half is still cool in the shade. Clearly one side is expanding too quickly for the other and therefore the shattering. Grissom would be proud. Now that he is leaving CSI (the only show besides House and Bones worth watching) maybe he can move in, we have a spare room now that blackalexio has gone back to England, and we can team up to solve perplexing domestic issues. I am sure CSI:Raanana would be a global hit.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Weightloss Web

So now I am counting points. I can eat 24 medium plums, 6 tubs of 3% cottage cheese or 16 Tivol fake chicken schnitzels (only if they are 5% fat or less) as long as that was all I eat per day. I now measure all food by how much of it I could eat in a day, if that was all I was eating. The good news is all veggies are free, which is comforting because I can now always eat an infinite amount of salad until I am sick of it, which I am, after only three days.

This watching your weight has all sorts of web sites associated. Blackwifeo pointed me to the Sparkpeople site, who's catch phrase is no less pretentious than "Make Your Life an Adventure". On the sign up page there is a wonderful "How can this be Free?" blurb, that explains "my wife and I were very early eBay employees and are now using our earnings from its success to make the world a healthier place, as our way of giving back to society." Its true, you can go look.

This website and say, for example, the WeightWatcher's Men's site have everything I hate in websites. They are so complicated. They try so hard to blast you with earnest information that its almost impossible to find anything. They are also so full of advertising that is pretending to be healthy and diet conscious that my eye cannot find the real stuff Sparkpeople has "Musical Motivation" sponsored by SkinnyCow, and "Celebrate Your Moment..." sponsored by LeanCuisine. All I want to do is lose seven kilos, I don't need to find god or anything. It seems to me that the weight loss people have decided that all fat people are also stupid.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Its hot and humid. Sometimes its easy to forget that nature rules all. This is worth a watch. I love lighthouses. Sorry about the music though, I think Metallica's "Master of Puppets" would have been more appropriate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weight Watchers

I joined Weight Watchers today. Simon (the growth around my middle) has been swelling a bit and walking the length and breadth of the Holy Land has not caused any shrinkage. So off blackwifeo and I went to Weight Watchers. After some research blackwifeo discovered that there is a weekly English speaking group on Wednesday at 9am (don't fat people work, I ask you?) So off we went to join. After a false start (we first went to "The Center for Music" and not "The Music Center" a nice (rather overweight) lady sent us packing only after she dreadfully regretted the meetings were not held there) we rushed into the meeting at 9:05. Of course, we were the first ones there. People (or should I say ladies) started dribbling in and the real meeting started at 9:45. But, I was too busy looking around and listening, to get upset. There is a process, you see.

First we needed to sign up. Its damned expensive to be overweight. A mere 1200 or so sheks later we were members. Blackwifeo got a discount because she is a member of some sort of Weight Watchers Hall Of Fame or something. Once they had the money, it was off to "weighing in". I always imagined this as a sort of public competition, kind of like how they weigh in boxers or pigs before sale, but alas it was much more subdued. Yehudit, the "leader", quietly takes you over to the scale and whispers your weight in your ear. She then gently encourages you to think of your goal. I came out at a whopping 86.3kg (190lbs), but I was wearing heavy pants (yeah right) and have been bulking up on boreakas and peanut brittle so I can knock them all dead with my exponential weight loss. I decide I want to lose 7kg (about 15lbs) to get back to the svelte version of blackpetero of 10 years back.

So all this time women are arriving. They come with children and strollers. Some are religious, some are not. But I seem to be the only man to ever have come to this group and all of the women avoid me like the plague. Luckily blackwifeo can make friends anywhere, she's a chatting savant and, of course, she already knew some of the others - I am sure we will end up having them all over for dinner (its only 6 points, you know) or maybe they could just move in. All the time the noise level is rising.

I forgot to mention that seeing as its summer, there is a camp for kids going on in the adjacent room, which is separated from weightloss central by a threadbare curtain. I thought they were having screaming practice, but someone pointed out that it was actually an art room. A few of the others came with their various sized offspring all in strollers. These they took out and placed on the floor so we could all watch them while they crawled around looking for bugs and other tasty morsels to eat. With the weighing done the "meeting" started. Our leader spoke about her vacation and how she managed to lose 1/2 a kilo. At least that's what I think she said, it was a little hard to hear. I think the basic premise of her talk was, fill your plate with half veggies, a quarter protein and a quarter carbs, or maybe it was the other way round.

At some point (not too long actually) the talk was done and that was it. Sort of a "low-calorie" meeting I thought. You don't get a whole lot for your money. Yehudit did stay after and gave us our books and papers and charts and meal plans. She explained how the whole thing works. I am allowed 24 points daily, these points are calculated per food item by magicians at Weight Watchers central somewhere in Beverly Hills probably (the internet, bastion of all knowledge, claims the formula is p(c,f,r)=round(c/50+f/12-min{r,4}/5) there is even a patent). We received booklets that explained what foods equal what points. Basically all I care about is that 2 Tivol shnitzels are 3 points, veggies are free. So I have 21 other points to waste each day.

Needless to say we gave one of the ladies a ride home, she is a new arrival in Israel, has a husband and two children - knowing blackwifeo they will probably be moving into our house soon. So that was my first Weight Watchers meeting, I am sure you will hear a lot more about this adventure as it unfolds.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blocked Paths

This really pisses me off. Although its a bit difficult to see in the above picture (taken on the way back from lunch), the delivery truck is backed up over the curb and thereby blocking the sidewalk. This is right outside our offices in front of the Teva Kastel (Israel's wannabe answer to Whole Foods). The delivery guys do this constantly and force everyone to walk around the hot smelly truck into the cars flying down HaMenofim street. There is a loading dock that they could back up to, but its more convenient to just block the sidewalk. Of course, this will continue until someone gets knocked down and killed by an oncoming car, and then all the city officials will walk around tut-tuting like chickens.

So, I complained to the manager of the Teva Kastel a few times. He (then She, then He again) just shrugged and fired back the ubiquitous Israeli answer to moral questions "What do you care?" (Ma hechpat lecha?) Well obviously I care, you ignorant peasant, I do not want to get run over on my way to lunch. And this is supposed to be an environment friendly, green, and socially conscious store. So I approached my neighbor, the interim city-engineer for Herzliya, and asked why these supermarkets (and myriad car rental companies) cannot take deliveries early in the morning so as not to disrupt the foot and car traffic. Why in the middle of the day? Surely you pass a city ordinance and then fine the buggers. Well, he thought I was crazy. He has real issues, like the fact that the main artery into the Herzliya Industrial Area has been moved to a road that floods promptly each winter.

The real solution is that I stop going out for lunch. Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday: Guess what, nothing changes. Blackshirleyo snapped this picture on her way to lunch at Max Brenner. A much better picture as you can well see. At least she did not get run over.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Stew

This is Reuven and Michael. Reuven is the cleaner at squint-central. Michael sits in the booth and works parking lot entrance and is a some times door guard during off hours. They wanted to know why I needed their picture and when I tried to explain, they looked at each other and shrugged and told me they understood, "we're part of the system" Michael nodded.

In order to save on city taxes, the owners of squint-central's building, pretend that our parting lot is public, even though only the building occupants can part in the lot. So Michael sits in the booth and pretends to be a parking lot attendant. This is not a high paying job. Yet interestingly enough he is what you could call a "Russian Optimist" (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Every "Boker Tov" is said like he really means it. He sits in the sweltering morning sun and yet always has a smile. He knows us all. He knows each company car and our spouse's cars. Sometimes, when in a more expansive mood, he wistfully talks of the old country where he used to be someone special. I like him a lot.

Reuven is a different kettle of fish. He cleans and mops the floors and wipes down the surfaces throughout our smallish building. He sweeps the parking lot from time to time. He is part muttering cleaner and part philosopher. I am usually in pretty early and often meet him in the elevator while he is rubbing down the inner panels. Yesterday, after our usual hearty morning greetings he posed this conundrum. "A man goes to see this famous Rabbi!". He asks the Rabbi, "Rabbi why do people live?" The Rabbi looks at him and asks back, "Tell me, why do people live?". The man shrugs and says: "I don't know". "Exactly, that is the correct answer", proclaims the Rabbi. All the time Reuven is rubbing down the elevator walls and shining the buttons. As the elevator doors close behind a most puzzled blackpetero, I could still hear him chuckling to himself and repeating "I don't know, Hah, I simply don't know".

When you put a whole lot of us into this Middle Eastern pressure cooker, turn the heat up to 80%, some of the ingredients are better cooked than others but in all, some days, it's not such a bad stew.
I am having a pretty busy day today, so I thought I would leave you with this picture of the Iranian missile tests.

By popular demand here is another (these are from The Wired Blog Network by the way).

Saturday, July 12, 2008


This is Edison. He waltzed into our lives one day, lay down on one of the couches and has not really moved since. The other inside cats (Sid, Nancy, Mazda and Lola) accept him happily as he is no bother to anyone. He has never bitten anyone, cried aloud, or peed on the counters. The amazing thing about Edison, is that although he is pretty old he's become foster-father to all the kittens that show up in the yard. He nurtured Ziggy till she wandered off to find a new family. Now he is bring up Harri, a cute little thing that showed up a few months back. Harri sleeps in his arms and even though she will let no human near her yet, she rarely lets Edison out of her site. Edison is another who is eventually going to heaven along with blackwifeo. Sid and I will definitely be shoveling coal.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gotta Love It

I was about to post a blog about the problem of eating organic. I just came in from my morning walk and have been listening to "The Omnivore's Dilemma". I am about half way through the 14 hours and so far, both conventional and "industrial organic" foods from the supermarket are bad, bad, bad. I had the post all worked out. I could pose the question "what's a concerned person to do?". Pulling up the lawn to plant organic vegetables wold probably annoy blackwifeo, yet everything you buy in the supermarket is tainted.

But, just as I was tabbing to the blog tab in firefox, my eye caught the following headline in Haaretz, "
Underworld threats drive ex-soccer star Revivo from Israel". This is a must read. Where the hell do we live. Underworld kingpins, mediation between criminals, soccer stars obviously bent. When it comes to corruption and greed we are not 80% at all. The part I like most in the article (besides the everyday tone) is the unique Israeli touch, the kingpin through his lawyers reconsiders and "calls on [Revivo], like every Jew, to stay in his homeland." We want to keep as many criminals in Israel as possible.

The Less the Merrier

We have a mailing list in our town. Its called, inventively enough, the raananalist (you need to sign up). Anyone in Raanana who has something to sell, is lacking something, needs a plumber or a ride posts to the list. Most of the list posters are Anglos (native English speakers from US, UK, CA, SA, AUS or NZ), and because of Raanana's demographics, most of the posters are religious.

Today someone posted to the list expounding the virtues of a "Zahavi" card. This card (at the cost of 60NIS) gives discounts on "chuggim, tutoring services, at stores and more". The catch is you need to have four or more children to be eligible. This is blatantly unfair. What about all of us with less than four children. Not only are we not over-populating the world with our offspring, we can give each of them the attention they deserve. Why are we discriminated against?

The Betuach Leumi (National Insurance) gives a child allowance for each child in your home under the age of 18. For the first and second child you get 152NIS ($46) each a month. Then the per child amount increases as you have more children, so that if you have 12 children you get 3519NIS (293NIS per child) monthly. These child allowances are the source of much coalition strife. The allowances were cut severely by Natanyahu as Finance Minister (one of the few things he did right) and the religious parties are fighting tooth and nail to reinstate the disparity. Why is the twelfth child worth nearly double your first two?

I think the time has come for a discount card for families with three or less children. We can get discounts when buying smaller, less polluting cars and when ordering a single large pizza. We need to band together to fight the fertile taking over our world!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Isra-Pal IT

It's summer and things are heating up. It can get pretty depressing if you look to closely at life in the Holy Land. Our PM is being reinvestigated, there seems to be a new Hezbollah buildup in South Lebanon, the Iranians just tested more long range missiles, there may not be enough water in the country to see us through the summer and there are jelly-fish (medusas locally) on the beach. So I was my usual cynical self yesterday when I set out for the Isra-Pal IT 2008 conference. Believe it or not, I came away rather impressed.

The conference was sponsored by USAID (they give out all US aid: everyone loves them) to get Israeli and Palestinian high tech people together and to let them talk. I was there representing smaller Israeli engineering services companies and was asked to present the "why and how" of outsourcing. I got to meet some of our neighbors from Ramallah, we chatted and brainstormed on ways we could work together and compared notes on hiring squints. Even the lunch was not bad at all. The Israeli VCs (Chemi Peres, Yadin Kaufman and Michael Eisenberg) stole the show. They were optimistic and eloquent. Eisenberg's firm (Benchmark) invested in, the first joint Israel/Palestinian venture. The technical team is in Ramallah with the business guys in Modeiin. is a virtual web OS: your own desktop anywhere. Its pretty cool, I played with it last night. Dave Harden, a USAID Deputy DIrector, fellow school board member, and the force behind the conference, believes stock options lead to a better future than suicide bombing. You can't disagree.

But, of course this is Israel. And 80% rules. My session was cut a little short because of lack of time (I was overjoyed as I hate talking in public). So we each had about five or so minutes to explain what we were about. Just before my turn, some Israeli dude, not even on the program, gets up, plugs in his disk-on-key and starts a 15 minute rant and rave about how he had this idea for a joint Isra/Pal venture before anyone else and how everyone was too chicken to invest ($10million) and no one wanted to partner with him. Oh, and all he needs are customers. Everyone, Palestinians and Israelis sat cringing, trying not to feel too embarrassed for him . So you see we have a lot in common, neither side tolerates idiots well.

The Wall

Well it's boiling here today and I have no energy. So I am posting pictures of blackdaughtero's room walls. There is enough to read on these to keep you busy for a while. Aren't we cool parents to allow such a thing.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I came upon two quotes in the last two days that I think are very interesting. The first, by Henry David Thoreau "Men have become the tools of their tools" is extremely relevant to all us squints working in the computer industry. When I was a kid I was promised that computers would make our lives simple. We would have more free time, more leisure hours to waste away happily in the pursuit of pleasure. Well that didn't quite happen. In the end we have indeed become tools of our tools. Spending hours in front of a boring screen, we interact with our world through a keyboard.

The second quote comes from Will Durant in his book, "The Lessons of History" (highly recommended read, or listen), "The men who can manage men manage men who can manage only things, and the men who can manage money manage all.” Being a manager of people is nothing compared to being a manager of money. So listen all you blackchildreno, become bankers.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm Not There

Last night I dragged my body downstairs and watched (along with some of the others in the house) "I'm Not There". I had been looking forward to seeing this for a while. The title claims the movie is "Inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan." Now I like Dylan a lot, enough that we named our favourite blackdaughtero for him. But, I swear, I understood but a fraction of the movie. The movie felt as if you suddenly happened upon a bunch of people that went to the same school as you, twenty years after you were there. They talk the same language, and some scenes are vaguely familiar, but the slang is completely different and they keep on laughing at inside jokes you know nothing about. The music was great though, with a lot of my favourite songs sung by Dylan and a host of others.

This morning blackwifeo send me a pointer to a New York Times review of the movie. The reviewer loved the movie, as did a whole lot of other people on Amazon. They all saw depth, and Dylan's many faces, and multi-faceted complexity, and unapologetic audacity. It might have been good, I suppose, I just didn't understand it at all. I even found the acting a little stiff - and I got the message quickly that Dylan did not want the world to think he knew the answer for all. I hate it when movies make me feel stupid. It did not help the headache one bit.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Its not been a great day today. I am feeling sorry for myself. It seems either I need to take migraine medicine or else live with a headache. I took a Relert yesterday, so today I am just living with it. I spent most of the day in a darkened room, just laying around. I hate this. Its been a week and a half with no caffeine and no Excederin and I'm still with the head. It's hard to think of anything else.

So lets just get today over with, maybe tomorrow will be better.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Garden Swing

As I have explained previously blackwifeo feels she had an underprivileged youth. Not only did she never have enough bandaids (plasters we called them back in Africa), but she never had a garden swing. Blackwifeo is a great one for other people's discards, we can't pass any crappy broken old chair or desk lying at the side of the road without bringing it home for nursing. It just so happens at the end of each school year lots of diplomats pack up their things and go elsewhere. And there are always "bargains" to be had. This year we never really ended up with too many discards, but finally she found a garden swing. Yep, a family was going back to the US and they did not want to take their (Taiwanese-made) swing with them.

So in the 100 degree heat this morning, off we went in the "mizbalah" (garbage dump in english - its what her car is named) to pick it up. Luckily I took all the wrenches necessary as it needed to be completely dismantled to fit into the back of the car. When we got home I collapsed on the bed, and had a wonderful nap in the darkened, air conditioned room. Later blacknephewo and I erected the swing. Its on the side of patio, situated close to the wind tunnel that blows a refreshing breeze from the sea.

Not much of a story, I know. But, I'm sitting here rocking gently to-and-fro, the sun is going down, the temperature is bearable, and its not too bad. I am missing my Diet Coke, but the icy grapefruit juice is not horrible. So there you go blackwifeo, why did we wait so long?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Life's Hard in High Tech

Thursday, July 3, 13:23 squint central. High Tech companies spend millions brain washing their employees. These poor, under-appreciated, over-worked techies fight a day by day struggle for light, food and shelter. Their unwashed bodies cramped into tiny cubicles, all individuality wiped out, they sweat and toil writing line after line of object oriented code. Their days are long as they burn the candle at both ends late into the night, often going days without sleep or sushi. Its a tough life, but for a dedicated few the payoffs are enormous. For others, the misery never ends. In the above picture the persecuted engineers of one silicon wadi company are forced to play the company anthem, over and over, till they get it right.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


According to the Union of Concerned Scientists an estimated 70% (I had heard 80, which is why I found this exceedingly interesting) of antibiotics and related drugs produced in the US are used for non therapeutic purposes. They are used most appetizingly for treating cattle overcrowding, enhancing animal growth and compensating for the general unsanitary conditions found on factory farms. This amounts annually to almost eight times the amount of drugs used to treat humans. Nice. (I'm sure its much better here in Israel, right).

The result of this are many new drug resistant strains of bacteria. For example, a recent outbreak of Salmonella DT 104 in Denmark (symptoms include "extreme diarrhea", "very high fever" and death) proved resistant to the five most popular antibiotics (including ampicillin and tetracycline). Both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have called for banning the use of antibiotics used on humans, on food. Bacteria have been around for billions of years and it seem they plan to stay.

I am a well-known pill popper. It's most amusing, as I have been vegetarian for nearly twenty years, I have probably consumed less drugs than all you carnivores.


Why didn't anyone tell me that another inhabitable planet has been found. Gliese 581c was discovered on April 24, 2007. It was originally believed to be capable of supporting life as we know it. But, it seems that there is some sort of insulating belt of gas that gives ol' 581c more than five times the greenhouse gases than Earth. So it may be a little hot. Its hot enough for me here in the Middle East, so I don't thing blackfamilyo will be taking the 20.4 light year journey any time soon.

I have been listening to "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. I read the book a while back, but I have spent all my credits on and so was left with the stuff blackwifeo bought a while back. One striking thing he mentions is how perilously close to annihilation we live here on our earth. It seems we are long overdue for a giant meteor collision, or a "supereruption" of a megavolcano or some other cataclysmic event. Not to mention the dangers of our own destruction of the ozone layer the seemingly inevitable global warming that's due. And now even 581c appears to be pretty much uninhabitable. All this makes me wonder, do I really need to come to work tomorrow?