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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Its Otentic

Its almost not necessary to say another word. The sign in the supermarket above these baguettes explained in Hebrew, that these were "Otentic French Whole Wheat Baguettes", seriously. I checked online just in case "otentic" really means something. All I could find was Othentic Guitars in the Netherlands. At least their work looks pretty cool. The main thing is, the baguette was crap, all doughy and tasteless, not at all like the "authentic" whole wheat baguettes from the BBB in the 17th arrondissement.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nick Cave

There is no one cooler than Nick Cave. This is an excellent clip. When I am big I would like to play bass for the Bad Seeds. 15 feet of Pure White Snow is off the brilliant No More Shall We part album. Its an excellent song.

There is in fact a lot of good Nick Cave videos on YouTube. The Weeping Song is worth a watch. Blixa Bargeld, is not only a strange looking chap, but his guitar work is so sparse and lean that its recognizable anywhere. The clip for Red Right Hand is another classic. I think I have every Nick Cave album and the, recommended God Is In The House DVD, and it's still not enough.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Bus To The Restaurant

Its late and I'm tired. My blogs have been somewhat weak lately, and I would like to think its because I don't have enough time to do a really good job (and not just lack of talent). The trip to Jordan provided a host of great blogging opportunities. How's this story. On the first evening the 380 or so conference goers were due to have dinner at the "famous" Kan Zaman restaurant (I'd never heard of it). We were all to meet at the side door at 6:30pm. I met Emily, a curriculum learning coordinator from Chennai (India) in the elevator going down to the buses, we became fast friends and sat together on the bus. Engrossed in one of those deep conversations you usually only have on planes, I only kept a half an eye on the dusty construction site that is Jordan as it whipped by. On we drove, into the dark night. The first sign that all was not well was when our bus stopped suddenly on the side of the highway and then made a daring U-turn across three lanes of traffic (actually more like five lanes in Jordan). The atmosphere on the bus slowly tensed. You could feel the unrest, or maybe it was just hunger. It was clear there was a problem. A high school principle sitting in front of me muttered between clenched teeth, "its been an full hour, and they said it would take a half." We stopped again. This time in the middle of what I'm sure was probably a humus field. There were no lights, no people and no signs. The driver started screaming into his cellphone in Arabic. Clearly he had no idea where we were. After a bit of reversing and another terrifying highway U-turn, we once again stopped. Someone from the back of the bus who spoke Arabic confirmed that he indeed had no idea where we were going. He was also getting conflicting directions from the other side of the cell phone (and hence the screaming).

All this while, Emily and I discussed curriculum, learning, technology in schools, the smells of Chennai and other most interesting topics. It was big fun. The passengers were getting increasingly disgruntled as we drove in ever increasing concentric circles trying to find the restaurant. To everyone's surprise we suddenly rounded a corner, drove up a hill and there were the other six buses parked haphazardly outside a large stone building. Our restaurant at last. We headed straight to the bar and cashed in our drinks coupons. And you know what, the food was not even that great.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Border

Is the above not a cool picture. King Hussein and Yitzhak Rabin, but it's the cigarettes that catch your eye. Its like a Marlboro ad. This picture hangs in the Israeli side of the Beit Shean border crossing. It took more than two hours to cross the border from Jordan today. Besides that though, I had a great time at the conference and met some great people, more on that over then next few days.

We left Amman at around 10am. The V.I.P. taxi service picked us up in their spiffy little bus and we zoomed off to the border. Gazing out the window at Jordan flashing by is a little less heartwarming than say driving through the highlands of Scotland. The view from the window is at best, something like this:

We got to the border around 11:30am and after paying the 5 Dinar we waited for the bus to take us the 200M to the Israeli side. You cannot walk. You have to wait for the bus or be shot. "Ten Minutes" said the ticket dude. After half an hour, it became "Five Minutes". Finally the bus arrived and the six of us plus multiple Jordanians of all shapes and sizes elbowed our way on board (lots of oldish women with lots of colored bags). The 200M ride took another half an hour. I am still not sure why. I think the little Israeli soldier girl who looks under the bus with a mirror on a stick, was having her army sandals polished, and that cannot be rushed. We struggled off the bus, collected our bags and waited in line. And waited, And waited. One person (a particularly miserable border guard, must have Russian blood) looked at each passport and questioned each person in English. Not very effective as the only English any Jordanian knows is a sincere and smiling "Welcome! Welcome!". Once past this linguistic Spanish Inquisition, your luggage needs to be run through an X-Ray machine that was likely made in Kazakhstan to specs that could only have been dreamed up by an Iranian torturer. The ramp leading up to the machine was so steep that any piece of luggage with wheels, came rolling straight down. Adding to the confusion, each time anything untoward passed into the machine, it spat the offending item out the front causing all the cases on the ramp to roll down. Excellent system.

A bus of Italian tourists with pictures badges of what I think was Jesus but could have been Jerry Garcia, arrived. The rent-a-cop guards decided that in order to get these poor fools into the terminal, instead of actually making a zig-zag maze out of the barriers already in place, they would just move the Jordanians behind us in the line, ahead towards the scowling border guard. This was just the opportunity the masses needed. Smiling, shrugging while all the time repeating "Welcome, Welcome" the hoard moved in front of us. My Israeliness finally burst out after three days being camouflaged in Americanism, and I let rip into the rent-a-cop and border guard and everyone else who would listen. I stared so malevolently at the Jordanians who had pushed in, reminding them who won the six-day war, that they backed off timidly and we were finally through.

Next you then need your passport stamped. Big fun this. A bored young girl took as long as was humanly possible to enter your passport number and make sure you were actually you. I went off to pick up my 3 bottles of duty-free single malt from the James Richardson window which was very closed and shuttered. A sign above a gray intercom claimed that if I push the button someone will take care of me. On pushing I heard what could only have been something in Uzbekistani. Another 10 minutes and the duty-free person appeared and once she had established that I was indeed me, I was given my three bottles, each packed into its own huge duty free box that ensured carrying would be a uncomfortable. On the way out I asked one of the border guards milling around why it was all so horribly inefficient. She looked at me, shrugged, and deciding that I was obviously an idiot, reminded me that this is a "sensitive" border. After a final customs (and passport) check we were out. Free at last, Free at last. We set off homeward in the school van. On my way out, I snapped the above picture of the smokers, assuring yet another security guard that I would not dare compromise Israeli security by photographing anything "sensitive" in the terminal. I can understand why they would want no one to know what goes on here.

Epilogue: We got to the school about an hour and a half later. And Neville in his haste to unpack the van dropped one of my duty free boxes. A few seconds later the delightful smell of Glenlivet wafted up from the liquid seeping sadly out the bottom of the box. Sigh.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Obsessive Dictator Disorder

Hello, Jo here. What to write about now that blackpetero is in Amman having a brilliant time. Make no mistake; if he bitches about anything, I would not believe him.
I don’t know, you may have picked this up before from his previous posts, but I suspect strongly BPO has O.D.D (obsessive dictator disorder) and I will share with you today my reasoning.

It all started with Remote Control Airplanes. The garage was turned into a workshop and bpo spent a couple of years building and flying RC planes. He did a beautiful job and was really good at it. Then he moved on to making furniture and buyin
g old tools. Must have spent the next 10 years going to flea markets all over Texas and California buying ancient planers and other tools of the trade. He did a wonderful job and built up quite a collection. I got some awesome wooden boxes, a couple of tables and a set of Adirondack outside furniture. Beautiful. The single malt scotch collections, music, books and audio books are still ongoing and of course guitar making. I am really proud of him. Please see for a step-by-step guide on how to make classical, Spanish and Les Paul electric guitars. Above is a photo of his wonderful workshop, Blacksono is making a sword or something like that (not going to go there right now).
There is a particular place for ever
y single screwdriver, nail, dibble & jig. And he knows exactly where everything is. Of course when blackfamilyo need something, (cause the rest of the house is insanely untidy) we go down to the workroom (bomb shelter) and oi va voi if it is not put back in exactly the same place as before. He will know. It’s uncanny. ugh.

So where is the problem you say, what’s your issue? Wellll the guy is obsessive. The real problem is that I share a closet with him. Here is a photo of bpo’s side of the cupboard.

Please note the color of every single item in there. Please also note the black sock back hanging up. He ties his socks together and they get washed in the bag, like on a kibbutz, cause he doesn’t trust me with the laundry. (He is totally right, I suck at laundry, but still…) I was considering putting in a photo of his undies and sock drawer, also all black, but thought that was going a bit too far.
(bpo does own one white running shirt for night time plus white running shoes, cause he cannot find good ones in black but that's as far as his tolerance for non black items go.)

Last week we had a major calamity in the house o'black-o. The black Nike running shorts were nowhere to be found!!!! The moaning and wailing was not believable. Of course it was “my fault”, cause I suck at laundry but I contend that how can you possibly find anything in a closet like that? It’s all fucking black. It all looks the same. It is all the same. It’s insane. No worries dear reader, the shorts showed up (of course- I think he is just going blind or something) somewhere on the shelf and all is calm again in the blackhousehold-o. I miss you. come homeeeeeeeeeee.

A Catchy Title

Hi, this is blacknephewo (aka stevadore bernicus - answerer of doors, feeder of cats, and mover of all things large, cumbersome and heavy). Warning, I'm a bona fide complainer. If you're not ready to read complaints, then you may want to wait til tomorrow, when there is sure to be a sunshine and rainbows blog published.

I've been debating this whole week whether to write about the 80% that I see on a daily basis in this house, or whether I should stay silent, not look a gift horse in the mouth, and, literally, not bite the hands that feed me. I mean, who am I to complain that every grocery item that comes sealed in any sort of packaging (be it anything from potato chips to flour to cheese) gets opened, but never, ever closed? Who am I to blab to the blog reading world that all bread in this house must be toasted before eaten, so as to prevent the eater from noticing that the bread is stale.

So, should I complain about the 80% that I see during the 9 to 12 hours I spend at work? Nah, I tend to prefer the Blackpetero blogs about Israeli society, far more than work related blogs. Therefore, I've decided that I'll do some blogging about Israeli society.

Now, I'm a oleh hadash (which is a new immgrant to Israel), not quite fresh of the boat, but still pretty fresh (more fresh than the opened, but not closed, pitot in the kitchen.) This week was my 9th month in Israel. I have noticed a lot of things in this country that leave me... well, I'll say, irked, but that may change as the blog rolls on. I've served my time in Hebrew school and logged countless miles walking the mean streets of Ra'anana. He's what I've noticed:

1) Proportions:
My office building is about 600 meters from the bus stop. Apparently, 600 meters is a distance of extraordinary magnitude. All afternoon, people post email messages, to all the employees in our company, looking for rides to the bus stop. What I can't believe is that people actually get rides to the bus stop. If I had a car, I'd tell you to get off your duff and walk, fatty. (Yeah, I called you fat... look at me, I'm skinny.)

The size of a person indicates where they stand on the sidewalk when waiting at a bus stop. Smaller, skinnier Israelis will wait, either, inside the canopy-covered portion of the bus stop or next to it, in line, allowing plenty of room for passers-by. Sometimes they gather behind the bus-stop, when the sun hits the canopy and casts a shadow back there. Large, fat Israelis will stand in between the bus stop and the curb. Those of us walking past will either have to step into the street or balance on the curb (which is difficult, because in this country, they like to paint the curbs).

(while on the subject)
2) Bottlenecks:
There is a strip of sidewalk, in our fair town, where the pharmacy is, that is incredibly narrow. It's quite difficult to pass thru this bottleneck on a normal day. Now is election season, and you guessed it, the pollsters/campaigners have decided that they'll set up kiosks and stand in the sidewalk handing out brochures, right here, on this, the most narrow strip of sidewalk. Mark my words, I will not vote for anyone who has their cronies blocking this narrow stretch of sidewalk.

3) Brake-lights
Israelis should be issued brake-lights with their identity cards. Not brake-lights for their cars, but brake-lights for when they're walking. You have never seen a race of people more prone to walking and then just stopping, for no apparent reason. They are particularly good at doing this when walking thru the most congested section of sidewalk, like the aforementioned area.

4)Hebrew Teachers
So far I got 'lucky' I had the benefit of attending not 1 but 2 Hebrew schools. The first was the obligatory, new immigrant, learn the language of your new country, Hebrew school. The second was a Hebrew school to help you find a job. In both cases, I started off with a really good teacher, enjoyed class for 2 weeks, and then arrived, one Sunday morning, to find a new teacher who had taken over the class!!! Of course, the new teacher was useless. In my first Hebrew school, the teacher got Tuesdays off, too. You know how difficult it is, when one day a week, you stop what you're learning, switch gears, and learn something else??? How is anyone supposed to learn anything when you spend your time adjusting to a different teacher??

5) No list is complete without 5 points. After 5, I'm going to shut up and hit post.

5) Where's the English?
When you finally work up the courage to call Orange (the cellphone company) looking for customer support, the automated system says, "Press 4 for English." So you press 4, and hear some wonderfully horrible music, followed by some announcement in Hebrew. I've been on hold hundreds of thousands of times, so can only assume that this message means, "please hold and you call will be answered in the order in which it was received." Eventually, someone answers and without fail it's a Hebrew speaker with no knowledge of English. If no one there speaks English, then don't have it as option 4!! Learn from your own website and don't have English as an option!

Well, that's it. I've had enough. You probably have too. Damn, now I have to think of a catchy title.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Service please.

I am sorry to tell you that today master black will not be able to make it BPO is busy exploring the deep mystical parts of the world , and since he already used all the talented Bloggers he knew , in last desperate move he wandered into the squints room and said
"ok guys its either 10 hours mining in the coal mines or writing my Blog." i was too slow at running to the mines.

The good news I think i had figured out why things in the holy land will never be more then 80% , its the human factor! (hey hold off with the tomatoes and let me explain)

If you ever flied in El Al you probably know this feeling , Its been 8 hours you are squeezed between a lady who entered the plane through the cargo bay , and a little kid (monster) who like to sing and hit stuff. your lips are cracked and you will sell your soul for a glass of water. pushing that the little button with the lady drawing for three hours resulted with nothing, so in a desperate final struggle you get up and squeeze yourself to the ayle (the lady insist there is no reason for her to get up) and crawl to the stawertest post , there you are greeted with ice cold look and an explanation that you should return to your sit and they will address you immediately (its not safe to stand in the plane unless you passed the harsh stawertest training) and while you try to explain that according to Geneva you are entitled to one glass of water , you understand there is no hope and you will have to grab the glass of water when no one is looking.

Okey , planes are harsh environment , lets try restaurants . All Israeli waitress come with an amazing ability to ignore you . you can stand on one foot juggle and put your hair on fire , if they don't want they will not notice. in addition always the longest part of the meal will be waiting for balance and paying. and even if you come noon in workday paying with Cibus (special card that company's supply their workers to feed them when they wish - that little experience with trough proved to be too messy) they will insist about inquiring everyone about that special deserts , and look at you disapproving when you decline polity. in addition they will never accept tip in credit , which will force you to acquire and carry a lot of small coins every day (can be heavy you know!) oh and tip is required , because most of the poor bastereds don't even get payed (but thats for another post). last but not least , unlike the real world waitressing is not a real job , its something that people have to do for a short period of time to finance something , and yes it shows.

Next shopping , you are (dragged screaming and twisting) into another cloth shop talking with the friend/sibling/spouse with you , and while you on the verge of curing cancer an inhuman high pitched voice interrupt and say "can i help you ?" you polity nod for no since you know that the only opinion that count is that of the said friend/sibling/spouse and she already complained about the seller horrible test in something , you move away to another shelve , then a familiar head pop between the racks and ask , "are you sure you don't require any help?" after signing on three copy's that indeed you are certain , you move along . Alas mysteriously about three steps to the back the said cleric is busy soothing some sort of overpriced cloth , you can run jump dodge nothing will change , she is there with annoyed look on her face. the only proven way to shake this stalker is to turn around and say "hey can you help me with a question".

and don't get me started on costumer service people ...
you will run through the same script each time you call .

CSdude: "please reboot your modem , and turn off your pc",
Me: "Mate are you sure its gonna help , i see smoke fire and little devils running around" CSdude: "now click on start , command , and type ..." ,
Me: "the room is spinning "

Companys insist they will know absolutely nothing about their job, i offered to teach my friend who had the doubtful pleasure of working in Costumer service some basics , he looked at me horrified and told me that he almost got fired for reading a technical book on his job while having a quiet hour. his manager told him : "What the hell are you doing ?next time you are fired ! play solliter."

and will never admit defeat .

CSdude: " of course i understand gyroprofiamstupid mechanic. what do you think me for?
anyhow i am too old for your stupid tests just do as i say. please reboot your
modem, and turn off your pc"

and will have zero grasp on reality,

CSdude: "ok log into our site click on the left "
Me: " but sir.."
CSdude: "please let me finish , ok on our site there is this little bar"
Me: "i think that you forgetting"
CSdude: "*ahm* on that menu click on the third button and it will solve everything"
Me: "I have no Internet."
CSdude: "ok i will send it to your mail"

oh sorry my point , if there is one thing an Israeli hate the most is feeling they getting less then they payed for . they prefer dying . so if you payed to do a service why do more then the minimum ? you will be fraier (sucker)

so serving for the porpouse of making another happy is against the nature for us , all said personal above have the simple of having zero pride in their job , misplaced loyality to the place they serve, and its just not in our nature to do something for a stranger without a reason ... "fraier" .
and when you keep getting 80% why would you put 100% ... vicious circle.

thanks for listening to my rambling , you really deserve a medal if you read that far
Haflo out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We're Not In Kansas Anymore.

The interesting thing about Jordan (the country not the basketball player) is that its struggling to achieve a good 60%. I have not been here long, just a few hours but there are things that jump out at you in a five star hotel. The drawers were not cleaned out completely and there was some leftover junk that was overlooked (possibly for years). The matchboxes in the room are all empty, the elevators are tiny, there are armed police at the entrance, you need to have your luggage scanned and walk through a metal detector to get into the lobby. There are about twenty taxi drivers outside that accost you each time you step out. Oh, and the internet took ten minutes to wake up (but now its working quite well).

The drive to Amman from the border was enlightening. We arrived at the crossing at around 5pm and went through passport control. I stopped in at the James Richardson duty free store (yes there is one) and bought some single malt to pick up on the way back. You then take a seedy bus to the Jordanian side where some chap escorted us through the passport control and visa section (we got V.I.P. treatment). There was one guy working and our V.I.P. courier shamelessly pushed in and jumped the line with our documents. Every male here has a mustache. I have not seen any Jordanian women, but I heard there are some. After customs (they had a brand spanking new LCD TV blaring load with the worst quality signal I have seen since we used to watch Jordanian TV in the early 80s) we boarded our waiting taxi (V.I.P. taxis) and sped off into the night, off to Amman. You go through miles and miles of sad, small whitish houses and stores that border the road. It all looks very different to anything I have ever seen before. A lot like an Arab movie. Lots of young men sitting on chairs looking at the passing cars, some watching communal televisions (looked like there was a big soccer game on). Small stores with a few items sparsely shelved. We climbed and climbed, Amman is at 5000 feet, I was told. Eventually we got into the city. It looks like I imagined with a lot of Arabic signs and closely packed stores. There's McDonalds and KFC and even a Starbucks in the hotel. All of this was made weirder by the fact that I was traveling with two school headmasters, a business manager and Margret another board member. I never spent so much time with teachers in all the time I was at school.

We had a good supper. The Humus was excellent, as was the Halumi cheese and labaneh. Its now time for bed. I'm sharing a room. I have not shared a room with anyone but my wife for 20 or so years. I hope Neville does not snore. He seems tidy, though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Levi Stubbs' Tears

blackwifeo here sneaking a quick post.
Soooooo I was listening to this song last week. And as I was remembering how bloody good the song was and how I hadn't listened to Billy Bragg in ages, I randomly clicked onto a news site an saw this headline that Levi Stubbs had JUST passed away. Cosmic significance for sure. So while petero is packing for his trip to Jordan (At least he is not flying this time, so the misery level is lower than normal). I am going to post Tuesday's Video of the Week.

Blackpetero and I saw Billy Bragg in Houston, TX around 1988 (Freshly married, no kids and he wore actual colors then). The "gig" was at Fitzgeralds, an old converted bank in the Heights and we sat at a table RIGHT in front on him. We were just amazed at how close we were. Here was the English protest singing god and we could actually touch him. Not only that, but the opening act was Michelle Shocked who we had never heard of, but she blew us away as well.
I will ignore rumors that Bragg wrote this song about a Starsky and Hutch episode as that is just ridiculous, and will instead give you this quote from the man:

"...It may be that someone here's building a nuclear power station at the end of your road or it may be that when you get up in the morning and go for a piss it hurts. Whatever your problem is, this is the answer to it. All you have to do, all you have to do boys and girls is go home, put a kettle on, make yourself a nice cup of tea, sit down, put on a record by The Four Tops - everything is going to be alright".
Malmo, Sweden
10th October 1986.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Not Fair

In 1977 I was in 12th grade. My life was poisoned by Disco. That was the year of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees. I hate that song (and the most you will get here is a link to it). It's well known (to me at least) that the Bee Gees (and the Beach Boys) are the cause of all that's wrong in the world.

I was horrified this week when all over the BBC the annoying beat and high pitched whine of the Bee Gees contaminated my serious news. It appears that Staying Alive has the perfectly annoying beat for performing CPR. 103 beats a minute. So there is no peace for the wicked, disco is here to stay. Here watch this CPR video if you can stomach it (or have the heart).

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I'm not usually easily afraid, and I don't usually lose too much sleep worrying about the blackkidos. But Friday night's hit and run accident in Tel Aviv really bothered me and I'm scared. Late Friday night (more like Saturday morning), 27 year old Meital Aharonson was killed by a hit and run driver while crossing Eben Gvirol street. Her friend was critically injured and is in intensive care. Its seems a group of friends (from Ramat Gan) went out drinking and then driving, at 3am the cops stopped them at the TA Port and arrested the driver when he refused a breathalyzer (he is 22 years old). His two friends sped off in his Toyota Land Cruiser (SUV death machine) and 20 minutes later Meital and her friend were thrown 20 meters by the force of the impact. The asswipes then abandoned the SUV and hid. The police have since arrested who they believe to be the driver, the passenger is still at large.

Soon Blacksonanddaughtero will be out driving. Perhaps not always by themselves, but with friends. Obviously, being in the car with a drunken driver is not the only danger. Crossing a road in the middle of the night with all the imbeciles out there, is no less of a risk. Please children, think. Repercussions of stupidity can be life changing, and not just for you. These kids will get the book thrown at them, and rightly so. But none of this will ever help Meital, her friend or their families.

Friday, October 17, 2008

SWAT fear

Each time I'm the first into the office and have to unlock the door and turn off the alarm, a wave of terror engulfs me. I have an irrational fear of SWAT teams. If for some reason you forget the alarm's code (or it was changed hypothetically and "they" omitted to inform you), after a few helpless seconds, punching in the code and wishing the "Armed" red light would go off, the alarm bells will start ringing somewhere in the building. To further complicate things if you arrive at work after hours (before 6:30am or on weekends), you need to inform the monitoring service, or else all sorts of warning lights go on at Moked Central. I imagine poor old little me, trying frantically to punch in an erroneous code, all the while SWAT teams are hut-hutting their way down ropes, rappelling down the sides of our building (a scene from the end of The Blues Brothers). And as I turn around, I'd face a sea of guns pointing at me. Of course, explaining that I have a legitimate reason to be at work is useless as they lead me away, hands cuffed with those wire ties they use on Palestinians, for a bit of "interrogation".

This morning (Saturday) I came here early to catch up on a few things. I have a busy week coming up. At the entrance to the building I noticed a still warm Vespa pulled up haphazardly to the door. Inside, a scrawny little guy, his huge scooter helmet still on his head, was shouting at the guard over the noise of his ridiculously loud two way radio. He explained in a high pitched shout, that an alarm had sounded in one of the lawyers offices upstairs and the monitoring service had sent him to investigate. I looked carefully at this tiny man, his "weapons belt" armed with two cell phones and a walkie-talkie, face pinched by his too-big helmet and dirty pants tucked into his socks. Not exactly the most intimidating presence. SWAT teams, rappelling down the sides of buildings, M16s at the ready. Reality is 80% at best, I tell you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shutup Beavis!

I feel pretty sure that if finally, I talk about them at this time, I won't put the evil eye on my headaches. They're all but gone. Its a miracle I tell you. My new neurologist prescribed 40mg of Deralin, an old timey beta blocker that's known to be a migraine prophylactic, about three months back and since then, its a whole new me. We are talking quality of life here folks. I could not go two days without a migraine at the beginning of summer. Now I don't remember the last time I took a migraine pill. I've had headaches, like a normal person I get them occasionally, but they go away on their own. Sometimes I take two Tylenol. Before Deralin, the last time Tylenol worked for my head was probably thirty years back, in high school.

I had to give up caffeine as part of the cure. It was hard for a few days, but I got over it fast. Now, when I occasionally feel weary of an afternoon, I can take a shot of espresso and I'm zooming for hours. Today, I was feeling really bushed, I've actually had to work this week. So around 3pm I had a double shot of Lavazza. The single looked so small and miserable in the cup, so I added another capsule. I'm still buzzing and its 7 hours later. Like the Great Cornholio, I've been walking around with my shirt over my head, arms bent skywards, looking for TP.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Life has become busy. Work is filling my brain. I tried to work on my guitar yesterday only to run into a engineering problem I am not able to solve yet. It rained on my walk today, actually it poured down on me. But, you know what, I'm not miserable. I am doing some technical work that brings joy to my life. I am listening to an excellent book, Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. Humphrey Bower who reads the book is brilliant. He does every accent perfectly (except the love interest, her voice is a bit lame). Thank you dear blacksisterinlawo for the recommendation. I am shamed that it took me so long to get to it, there I was stuck in the boring, boring History of the World, Revised. Do yourselves a favor and give this a listen. Its worth the 18 hours.

So life is not too bad. I can still remember the vacation in the UK and the smell of the Northern California air. I am at my goal weight, even though I have not been going to WeightWatchers. I have been walking to work so I've been reducing my carbon footprint. Now all I need do is start meditating, stop threatening the kids and ignore the world's financial collapse and maybe I will actually become happy. Fat chance.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Portishead, Glory Box

When Portishead released their debut album, Dummy, in 1994 I immediately loved it. I was into Massive Attack and Tricky at the time and Portishead were a natural fit. Their followup selfnamed album was also excellent and I was very happy when they released Third, this year, after a mere ten years hiatus. I found the clip below on YouTube, its a live performance of Glory Box from 1997. Apparently from the Roseland Ballroom in NYC. Beth Gibbons has a bewitching voice and the whole cigarette in hand is perfect.
The music video for Glory Box is also very cool. When reading about Portishead for the blog, I discovered this short movie by them called To Kill A Dead Man. Apparently, the 9 minute short earned the attention of Go! Records, who subsequently signed them and released Dummy. This Sour Times live performance is also worth watching. I looks to be from the same concert as the Glory Box clip.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who's Crisis Is Bigger

The current world financial crisis is a worry. I was relieved when I heard European leaders were meeting in France to figure out how to deal. Over the last few days I have become increasingly alarmed at their reaction. In all the press coverage of the meeting, all I see is Sarkozy boasting about the size of his manhood. "Iz zis beeeg, Carla looves zit". First, see his outrageous claim (check out how overcome Merkel is, Gordon Brown on the top right is outraged: "These Frenchmen, always exaggerating").Now here you see Merkel explaining to Sarkozy that even though his is "that" big, her husband Ulrich, is huge in the German sense of the word.Later, after the rest of Europe threatened France with having to pay Iceland's tab, Sarkozy was forced to admitted the truth:


Its late and I'm tired. I have to do "real" work for a bit, and my boss is as cruel as my mother (sounds much better in Hebrew). I came home without a clue what to write about, but luckily blacknephewo saved the day.

He observed that this Israel is completely opposite. In a normal civilized place, say Texas, you buy your tree, drag it home tied to the roof-rack , then the main dude (in red) makes a list and checks it twice, finally you celebrate New Year. Here in the Holy Land, first you celebrate New Year, then comes the list and your final signing (after a day's fasting), finally you shlep your tree branches home on the roof of your car (for the succah, its like a Jewish outhouse, except you eat in it). Whats next turkey day?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Baguette

I went into Tel Aviv this morning with blackwifeo. She had a meeting and I decided it was time to get some culture and go to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It was fascinating and thought provoking. I found I like the work of Yves Tanguy and his wife Kay Sage. But the real work of art was the sandwich that was made to order for my breakfast on Eben Gvirol Street.

Walking from blackwifeo's meeting to the museum, I eyed the Saturday morning Tel Aviv yuppies eating and drinking at the roadside cafes along Eben Gvirol. At some point my hunger overtook me and I stopped in at a sandwich bar that seemed busy, but not too swamped. I patiently waited my turn. After the old guy in front of me shuffled off to a table, after he painstakingly mulling over whether he should have tuna or potato salad with his omelet, the server turned to me with an exasperated look. "Its not like he doesn't have breakfast here every morning", he muttered, "and every morning he has the same conflict, and he always chooses tuna". "And that woman of there", and he nodded in the direction of what blackwifeo would call a beaut-in-training (subject for another blog), "she always brings her coffee back after 15 mins claiming its too cold."

I smiled and asked for the perfect breakfast sandwich, no meat, no fish, no pesto and no olives. "Trust me", he said and proceeded to build me a 3 cheese (feta, some kind of cream cheese and labeneh, I think), pickled pepper, roasted eggplant, lettuce, fresh and sun dried tomato on a freshly baked whole wheat baguette, creation of wonder. It was a masterpiece, wrapped in grease proof paper to go, cut in halves, just bursting out of the roll. It was so good I saved half for blackwifeo. She gobbled it up while driving us home. Perfection (100%).

As I walked out the sandwich store, I spied the beaut, straining to get out of her corner seat in her tight white jeans, cup of coffee in hand she waved to get the server's attention. I looked over at him and he just smiled and shrugged.

Friday, October 10, 2008

We Are In Cahoots.

This evening blackwifeo and I went to a school related meeting. This was really a blackwifeo meeting where she was representing parents, being a big shot in the PTA and all. I went with just to watch. As the meeting got underway it became crystal clear that I would have to shut up and stay out of the discussion. This was very very difficult for me. There were a number of times I wanted to jump up and shout, No! not that way, this way. So I used my psychokinetic powers and transmitted my thoughts over to her. She got them, I swear. Every time I would have said anything, she, in her infinitely sweet way made the exact point I would have (but much nicer). It was amazing.

So it looks like we have lived together for long enough that we now react as one in similar situations. It was the total opposite of feeling lonely. I guess that's feeling completely connected (or in cahoots). It was amazing, I will say it again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bloggers and blogging

Its amazing how much time you have when you fast. Not having to think about food. No deciding, preparing, or eating, not having to wash up, saves so much time. Last night, still battling the tail end of jet-lag, I was up till late. I finished my book, and then spent hours catching up on all the blogs I had earmarked in the past. I started blogging after we brought in this fool to talk to the squints about the importance of an internet presence. I never understood all the fuss, so he told me to try it. I did, and here I am.

I enjoy having to put down a single thought a day. Some days are easier than others, and I understand why, for quality reasons, most bloggers don't write every day. But, I like it.

Over time, I have come to appreciate that there are some unbelievably talented bloggers out there. As I have said in the past, Kelley, in Australia with her Israeli Frenchman son with an American accent, dominates all aspects of the game. Deb on the Rocks is another who's writing often leaves me glad to be alive. Some Black Hockey Jesus' posts have actually made me tear up. Then there's the bloggers who have real jobs and write about them so well. Reynolds drives an ambulance for the London Ambulance Service, Kal is an "Ambulance Technician in Edinburgh" - they both put you right there in the passenger seat. There is something incredibly visceral about following someone's writing day by day. You get to spectate. You get to know a small part of them. I like it.

So thanks to the above. I have learned a lot from them. There are other blogs that take my breath away. Some I have found, most, I am sure, are still hiding out there in the ether. I promise to point them out as I uncover them. So who do you read, that I should?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Beg Forgiveness

Tonight is Yom Kippur and the yearly fast. Its time to ask for forgiveness. Its one of the coolest things about being Jewish. You get to press reset on your sins once a year. So to all of you I have offended, insulted, wanted to see get leprosy for cutting me off at the intersection of Weitzman and Menachm Begin street, gossiped about behind your back, maligned and cheated, I'm sorry. I'll try to be good next year, but no promises. I'm sorry, sorry, sorry.

Blackwifeo, I beg forgiveness for every raised voice, cutting response and cynical question I forced on you and your family over the last year. And blacksono and blackdaughtero, please forgive me, I'm only human, and being a hardass dad is my job.

Hey, and if anyone wants my forgiveness for anything (except for making Sarah Palin your VP pick, that's unforgivable), you got it. We reset the counters, but they start counting again tomorrow.

In the paper this morning they said anywhere between 63-70% of Jewish Israelis fast on Yom Kippur (two papers, two numbers). A much higher percentage than I ever thought.

Gmar Hatimah Tovah (Have a good signing in god's mySQL database of fate - its a known fact he uses open source software).

The Mars Volta

Blacksono is not feeling good. He is in fact feeling so bad that last night I found him sitting sadly in front of the TV watching the Discovery Channel. He said he had was having trouble concentrating and had to stop gaming. Sick indeed.

To cheer him up, today's Tuesday Music Video is one of his favorites. One of the most wonderful thing about children is when you discover their music tastes are just as complex as your own. I have to say blackchildreno listen to some good shit.

The Mars Volta are (I think) originally from El Paso, Texas. But this is not no country music. The Widow is off the Frances the Mute album. The album version has a long spasmodic finale of electronic noise that can get old after a few listens. This video is the shorter "chartable" version. Apparently this song is dedicated to band member Jeremy Michael Ward who died of an overdose in 2003.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Way To Go, Blackbrothero

I had it all planned. I've been busy today so I set aside some time once I got home to write my blog. I had planned it all. I was going to go off once again about how Blackwifeo is going to one day be playing a harp in heaven, while I most certainly would be shoveling coal and sweating in the heat down below. I was going to tell how from 6pm - 9pm tonight, she went to pick up her mom, take her to the doctor in Herzliya, waited to give me a ride home, sat in traffic, took her mother home, went to pick up two self-helpless dudes, took them to their self-help meeting, ran an errand for her sister, brought the self-helpless home before getting home herself, and all this with her beautiful, angel-like smile never once fading.

I was then going to go off about how I, blackpetero, came home, irritable after a hard day in the salt mines. Only to find the following on the kitchen table:
I was going to rant and rave, in my usual cynical way about how, surely after I shlepped 51 pounds of potion and lotions all the way across the oceans, she surely had no need for Dr. Fisher Genesis Ultra Care Tri-Moist Moisturizing Cream. I was going to slyly mention that I can see by the receipt that instead of 150NIS it was on sale for the unbeatable price of 90NIS, and wisely point out how blackwifeo can never resist a bargain. I was all into the whole juxtaposing (I have been waiting weeks to use that), of her being sooooo good and big and kind, while I am sooooo bad and mean and picky. When I looked at my phone and noticed blackbrothero has sent me an SMS from Houston.

He texted and I quote "So I got a prius, bright red". My crappy replacement phone had no way of telling me that this SMS was actually sent on Saturday. I immediately called him back. The story so far. Blackbrothero's car, a newish, luxurious and stylish Acura MDX SUV was written off by hurricane Ike while waiting at the airport for his return from narrowboating in the UK. Something about a window open, water inside the car and a ravaged electrical system. So we went car shopping while I was in Houston, something I would only ever do with my favorite brother. We looked at Acuras and Toyotas. He wanted something smaller, but seemed set on a fancy Acura (not an SUV, thank the lord). It seems that over this last weekend he had a change of heart and bought a Prius, even after the sales guy tried so hard to sell us on the fact that a hybrid does not get much better mileage than a Camry. Its true he will not be the first hybrid driver in the blackostrino family. He will be the first to drive a
Barcelona Red Metallic one.Most of you probably think, well, whats the big deal here. Obviously you don't know blackbrothero. He is a pillar of the community. Until Sarah Palin he voted Republican. He drove a Ford Explorer way before they were cool (and then uncool). He wore a tie to work until recently when his company plunged forward into the 19th century. He is the solid, proactive, thinking, rational, balanced, and calm one in the family. So, If big blackbrothero can drive a red Prius, this world is really changing.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Jelly Bellys

Lets talk Jelly Belly. As far as I am concerned Jelly Belly's are the epitome of food engineering. How do they get all that flavor into a small bean. Its surely one of the wonders of modern science. The squints love 'em. Its the best present to bring back to squint central from the US. You can't get them here, they have pretty colors and there are a lot of them in a package.

The packages usually don't last more than a day or two here. I leave them in the "engineering lounge" and over the course of a few days, the level in the jar decreases at a steady pace. What is interesting is what flavors are left at the end. Usually cinnamon and licorice
. Two flavors I like, but locally people think are weird. I particularly don't like the root beer or Dr. Pepper flavors, two tastes I think you need to have grown up in the US to appreciate.

There is a lot of interesting facts around Jelly Bellys. They were Ronald Regan's candy of choice. He even had some sent into space for the astronauts to enjoy, on a Challenger mission (not the one that blew up). They are built with real fruit juices and natural flavors (where possible) and are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU Kosher). They now even make "Extreme Sports Beans", that contain electrolytes, vitamins and 50mg of caffeine for when you need that quick boost.

If they were made in Israel we would probably have Bisli and humus flavors. I'm personally waiting for the Marmite flavor. A Marmite bean along with two buttered toasts (a flavor that appears to unfortunately have been discontinued) would make the perfect breakfast.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Daylight Savings Time Ends

Lets talk Daylight Savings Time. According to the Israel Government Portal the reasons for enforcing Daylight Savings are: savings in energy, maximum use of the workday and accident prevention. All these make sense. Starting the day earlier means less dark hours and therefore less electricity, rising closer to sunrise means a longer naturally lighted workday (I have heard some people care about this), and less use of headlights means less accidents (believe it or not, this is proven). Israel is close to the end of its time zone and it gets light very early here. Even now that we are going into fall it gets light around 5.45am. So why the hell are we leaving Daylight Saving Time tonight, Oct 4th, when the US it ends on Nov 2nd.

As usual its the religious who have their way. According to the very informative Israel Government Portal, there has been a long and often acrimonious debate around Daylight Savings. So even though we can save billions and live a greener life, we leave Daylight Savings Time before everyone else so the religious population will not be "inconvenienced". It seems moving the clock forward to Daylight Savings, moves sunrise one hour later and so makes it more difficult to get to work after morning prayers. It apparently also makes fasting on Yom Kippur (which is next week, hence the timing) and the Ninth of Av easier. You see, it easier to fast before bedtime. The fast ends at sunset, which is later during Daylight Savings, meaning more fasting during the day. And so we need to end that wicked Daylight Savings Time now, so all those who fast will have it easier.

Here in Israel we are concerned that the religious have no problem getting to work on time and have a easy fast. 19% of Israelis consider themselves religious or ultra-Orthodox, we sure look after our minorities.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Herding Cats

Today I sat through a lecture on ADHD. Dr. Stuart Chesner visited from his school for religious ADHD kids in Jerusalem to give a talk at our school. What was particularly interesting is that he claims, with statistical proof, that most kids overcome their ADHD after they finish school. Once they reach the age of 18-20 they have learned coping strategies that enable them to lead pretty close to normal lives.

So why do I have a company of squints, most with the concentration span of a fruit fly? Is it that people that can "hyper focus", as all good programmers must, are usually a little ADD? Certainly the H (hyperactive) part seems to have been forgotten by the time adhders teach college. In my field, squints hardly move. But, man, try holding an extended conversation or worse yet a meeting and their thoughts dart around from idea to idea like bees on pollinating flowers. Dr. Chesner said that creating a warm nurturing environment is key to helping one deal with ADHD. Criticism, insults, ridicule and impatience do not work. O Well, this blackpetero, is clearly not cut out for the job. If ever there was a commercial that would be perfect for squint central (and for life here on HaNevel Street) this one by EDS, says it all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Na-Nach-Nachma-Nachman Meuman

I'm finaly back home and sitting in my comfy chair with my laptop on my lap. There is one thing better than flying business class and that is flying any class on an empty plane. Both my flight from Houston to Heathrow and Heathrow to Tel Aviv were probably one third full. First time ever. Once we touched down in Tel Aviv, I was thrust into the wild mess of four charter planes full of Na-Na-Nachmans (an Orthodox sect) returning from a New Years jaunt in Kiev. These guys (all males) go on pilgrimage (called the Rosh Hashana Kibbutz) to Uman in the Ukraine to go pray over Rebbe Nachman's grave. Along with these lunatics, a plane from New York packed with the regular black coat variety of serious orthodox and a plane of backpackers from Bangkok all arrived at once. It was sheer mayhem in the terminal with the Nachmans blowing their shofars, singing and dancing and the rest of us normal people just wanting to get out as quickly as possible and go home. Couldn't ask for a more perfect welcome.

Blackwifeo was there to pick me up. She's looking very sexy in her low cut top and tight white jeans. Its amazing how two weeks away from home can strengthen one's marriage. She even drove me home, and is making us dinner. I have a whole weekend to kick back and relax before work on Sunday. Its time to get back to some serious blogging.

Postscript:Seeing as I missed Music Video Tuesday this week (completely forgot), here is a Na Nach Nachman video. Don't watch this while eating:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The 80% woman

Eek!! I am terrified, so I had better write this before I go completely serious and not spontaneous. I am oliviao, sister-in-law of blackpetero, who has just left for the airport after spending the best 3 days with us in Houston. His departing words were - "which of you is going to write my blog today?" Obviously, husbando did not even volunteer. He only has a very limited quota of words a day, so cannot use them up on something as trivial as writing a blog. So, here goes...

Today is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and being less than an 80% Jew, I took off work, but did not go to shul. I really wanted to go. I really enjoy going. I like the rabbi, I like the service, the music and the time for quiet contemplation. But I opted to commune with Nature instead. I actually am a very serious believer in G-d, but I'm not at all sure that I have to speak to Him/Her in shul. Maybe I can afford to be lazy and an 80% Jew, because I have a brother who is a 150% Jew, and he is very connected. So, my 80% and his 150% balance out very nicely. Only problem is that he also has to take care of my other brother who is also lapsed - hard work!

All of a sudden, I started thinking about all the other areas of my life that are 80% and not the desired 100%. My wonderful blackfather-in-law, who is definitely in Heaven, used to do the books for my business. Now, although I think I am at least an 80% therapist, I am only a 20% accountant, and a 10% file clerk. Ben was always caught up with his filing and his books balanced to the penny! I channel him all the time, but he does not want to deal with the mess on my desk - not that I blame him!

I try very hard to be an 80% mother and wife - I think that is more than sufficient as I have very forgiving sons, daughters-in-law and husband. But, I don't even need to try to be a 100% grandmother. That is because of my 4, 150% grandchildren. The person who said that the only reason you have children is that you can have grandchildren, was right!

So, is it OK to be an 80% woman?? Maybe its just a rationalization, but 80% is spectacular. It means that you are only off the mark 20% of the time! It also means that you are giving yourself a break - perfection is an impossible goal.

By the way, here are some areas of life that ARE 100% - English sweets, especially humbugs, crunchies and Maynards winegums, audiobooks, Jo's cooking, Spring and Fall days in Houston - 2 of each a year, my family, going on vacation - almost anywhere. And I am sure that after I post this I will say - oh, and I forgot...