Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Meir Ariel

I have been coming into work pretty early for the last few weeks. I enjoy the peace and squint-free quiet. A big advantage is that I can do my work with the music as loud as I like. Yesterday, iTunes chose to play me the collected disks of "Meir Ariel". He was an outstanding poet and his album "Shiri Hag Umoed Venofel" is, in my mind, the best Israeli record of all time. I was studying at the Technion when it came out and I went to see him in a tiny hall in Haifa, with some of the guys from dorms. When we got back they sat with the album and translated it word for word for me. I still get shivers when I hear "Erol". Unfortunately, Meir Ariel died in July 1999 from Mediterranean Spotted Fever transmitted by a flea bite. He was only 57 at the time and is greatly missed.

Now, there are not many videos of Meil Ariel worth watching. Here is "Terminal Lament" played live, to gives you a taste. I quite like the video for "Get In The Car, Already". My current favorite song of his is BeTzaharei HaYom, which contains the classic line which loosely translated goes "Hey Hey, all that really matters, is a cold drink in the heart of the desert" (it loses a lot in the translation). The only half way decent version of the song on YouTube is a live version by David Broza, who while being an accomplished guitarist needs a slap from time to time. Here it is.

The real version, with Meir Ariel and David Broza together, but with no video, can be heard here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's All In The Olive Oil

A few months back bwo bought home this wonderful machine. It changed my life. I have become so good with this griller/toasted sandwich machine that the kids think I need to write a cookbook. I'm ready to throw out the microwave (never did like it, don't trust cookers that don't get hot), the oven (lost its sealing ring and now takes years to heat up) and the gas rings (we always running out of gas anyway). But, I love this guy. I'm great at all sorts of toasted cheese sandwiches, with and without tomato and onion. I make all sorts of fake meat (tivol) sandwiches as well as warming up tortillas. I can whip up a sumptuous supper for the whole family in mere minutes. George Foreman would be proud.

Now I'm going to let you into a secret. Many cooks of my caliber jealously guard their special secrets, but I'm a big enough man that I will share. The secret is the olive oil. See the bottle of olive oil and the brush to the left of the machinka. You paint the top and bottom of your bread with a thin layer of oil. Then close the top and toast away. Heaven. The biggest challenge in our kitchen is finding the brush, but unpacking every drawer and every cupboard, every day, is a small price to pay for perfection.

What you see currently toasting is a whole wheat pita, filled with sweet chili veggie fake chicken and frozen chips, with a generous smear of mustard on one side and BBQ sauce on the other. And don't forget the pinch of salt, paprika and pepper. Pay special attention to the glistening of the extra virgin olive oil showing through the golden brown crenelations of the toasted pita (I love the word crenelation, even though its not exactly used in the correct way in this instance as it refers to "the rampart built around the top of a castle with regular gaps for firing arrows or guns", but you get the picture).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wasting Time

Some days its just difficult to make a blog post. Yesterday was one of those days. So I blew it off rather than posting about the difficulties of posting. Then someone (usually bwo) will say: "But, bpo, you don't need to post every day", as if they had never met me and believed I'm not a completely binary person who could just do things in half measures. So rather than bore you completely I will point you to this huge tetris game to keep you busy. Thanks to kelley at Magneto Bold Too for pointing out this fascinating piece of Soviet era flash programing (the site is called sovietrussia.org for god's sake).

Note: I'm getting very nervous because more than half my guest bloggers for next week are yet to accept and sign up to be part of the mystical experience that is the 80% blog.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Walk On Ahuza

This morning was bwo's birthday. I woke her with a cup of tea and forced her out of bed to join me on today's walk down Ahuza the main street of our "village" of Raanana. All today's pictures are bwo's creations. It's true that not much is happening in Raanana at 8am on a Saturday morning, but its what you make of it. Click each picture to get a full screen version.

We started off on . From our house we can see two water towers. The larger one used to be the symbol of Raanana. The smaller water tower outside our house is decorated , it needs a bit of a touch up.

All the way up and down street, the flowers are starting to bloom . The street was very quiet with little traffic . The only passers by were on their way to synagogue, bwo was concerned about taking their pictures, lest they stone us . We passed Sharona's mom on her morning walk , and a whole slew of dog walkers .

There is signage everywhere. The bill boards are round and reminders that Israel is a dangerous place . Of course, there is artwork statues of people , and statues of animals .

We passed Raanana's best hummus bar and our neighborhood police station

We made our way home, near our house, the flowers are blooming and the grass in the park where I walk the cats is looking very good

That's it for today.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Food Left On Plate

Usual noisy Friday night supper tonight at the brother-in-law's. It's bwo's birthday tomorrow so a cake was brought out and a fuss was made. I noticed something interesting about myself. I have a real problem with people taking too much food and leaving it on their plates. Bdo has always had real case of eye larger than stomach syndrome. It makes me nuts. So I always have to eat her leftovers. I started thinking about this tonight. What's my problem? Where does this obsession about not leaving anything on the plate come from? I wasn't in the holocaust or anything. I have absolutely no problem chucking dead food out of the fridge. In fact I enjoy it - we do often. Its only food left on the plate that irks me. And when I think about it, I have no problem with people leaving leftovers on their plates in a restaurant, its only when someone takes more than they will eat that I get very bothered. Clearly some deep Freudian issue here - I wonder what it is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Call Up

The boy's (bso) army call up papers came. Well, they came and then they came again. He got two. One for 11 August 2010 and another identical one for 5 September 2010. I wonder if he gets to choose. Its nice of them to give you a year and a half to pack. But, they make it clear that you belong to them now. Interestingly enough on the back is a list of what you need to bring with you. Boys need to bring 3 pairs of underwear, 3 T shirts, a lock (very important), reflective tape, pepper spray (women only) and a sewing kit. Well, bso, you have one and a half years to learn to sew.

Bwo was pretty shaken when she opened the envelopes. Now there is no getting out of it. Three years the boy will give to this country. I hope they appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sent From My Macbook Pro

I don't have much time today, so I'll keep this short. There is something that has been pissing me off recently. What is this business of signing emails with "Sent from my iphone"? Why should I care what you used to send your email? Am I supposed to be impressed with the fact that you are mobile and can send emails while on the road? Or is it just another "I've got an iphone and you haven't" ploy?

p.s. How do you tell if someone has an iphone? He's already shown it to you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Eminence Front

The first album I ever bought with my own money was back in 1972. I was from the (only) record shop in PE, who's name is now lost to me. The store was on a little side street going down off Main Street. The 12" vinyl record was the classic "Who's Next" by The Who. Since then The Who have always been a band I can listen to. I mourn Keith Moon and John Entwhistle both who went out in pure rock and roll style. In this song, "Eminence Front", the lyrics are less than remarkable, but the whole package, especially Pete Townsend's vocals and riffs are great. The clip is from a live show in Seattle in 1982, when they (all except Moon) were still younger than I am today. Hearing this takes me straight back to sitting on the uncomfortable stool at the high blue counter of Z Music on HaGidem 1, Jerusalem.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Rule

I came home yesterday and found the above note pinned to the door. I seems one of the feline minions that frequent this house, peed on the kitchen counter one time too many, and without so much as a by-your-leave (I've always wanted to say that), they were all put out - Forever!! So Sid, Nancy, Mazda, Montgomery and Edison were put out. Lola was allowed to stay, as she never comes down the stairs. The cast outs wrote to their congressmen, approached the union, hired a lawyer and picketed with burning tires outside the front door. All to no avail. Bwo, was adamant, "No Cats In The House - EVER!". The covers came off the couches and the food was left out on the kitchen counters.

Now, I thought this unjust. For the record, I objected heartily to every one of these creatures when they showed up on our doorstep. But now, I feel it is unfair, to show a cat the good life, only to put him out in the cold when its not convenient. Of course, I would never say this to her face.

Tonight it's raining. They were lined up on the window sill looking sad. Look at Edison - true, he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that long shaggy coat gets very damp and he's got bronchitis.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

80% Is A Distant Dream On The Horizon

There's an uber-squint who works next door to squint central. He told us all about this wonderful site in China called Deal Extreme. They sell every kind of gadget/widget/cable/plug/converter you could ever want. More importanly their prices include shipping --- to Israel. So orders were sent out into the ether at the speed of light. I ordered a usb, firewire and various data card attachment that could replace the burned out USB connectors on my workstation. It took four weeks to arrive, and when I opened the padded envelope the black plastic box rattled with a suspicious "something's lose inside" rattle. I immediately opened it up. Check out the hot glue used to hold the wires in place. I never expected much for $9.70 (including shipping), but if this thing was made twice as well, it still would not get to 80%.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Love T.A.

It's Saturday afternoon. The kids are sitting at the dining room table and bso is helping bdo with her math. I tried, but I had to stop before I tore out what remaining hair I have. We have just listened to the new rock opera, "The Hazards of Love" by The Decemberists. It's a lot rockier than most of their previous work, but it got two thumbs up from all the family. Now, being a big one for routine, I will follow the last two Saturday's and subject my three readers to a photo essay. You can click on any picture to make it larger.

This morning I went into Tel Aviv with the wife. She headed off to her meeting, I took the camera and went for a long, long walk. She dropped me off of on Alozorov near Dizengoff. The tree lined streets were pretty quiet after a hard night on the town . I made my way to the sea near the Hilton Hotel. It was a perfect spring day. My goal was Jaffa, visible in the distance . A little past the Hilton on Hayarkon Street is one of my favorite TA buildings .

Some 80% for you. When I first moved to Israel, I used to help my uncle out from time to time, sitting in his store in Kikar Atarim. This is what it looks like today . It's a shame as this is prime beachfront property.

I hit the promenade behind the big hotels. I had heard about the "professional" matkot (beach-bat) court, but this was the first time I had ever seen it live. These guys globe the ball at each other at a tremendous pace. Its terrifying to watch. I hate matkot. I think it's time we took back our beaches. Maybe I'll start a movement.

I passed another of my favorite buildings on the tayelet (promenade). The paint work is by Agam. Who in his spare time also put together the fire sprouting fountain in Dizengoff Square.

Onward I walked, towards Jaffa. I passed the Dolphinarium, the site of the horrendous terrorist attack in June 2001. Where 21 teenagers were killed outside a discotheque around midnight on a Saturday night. There is a simple memorial with their names . The pain and blood that this country stands on is never far away.

There are always weird and wonderful people in Tel Aviv. As I approached the footbridge over the sewer drainage ditch between TA and Jaffa. A rather large bride pedaled up on her rather small bicycle. She stopped to rest . Then a little further down the path, I came upon one of the more unusual of the many street musicians. I had never seen anyone busk with a snare drum and mike, but I'm cool. He was crooning "Strgggaaaangers In Zee Night" .

By now I was in Jaffa and the view of the Tel Aviv shoreline to the south were spectacular on this beautiful blue day . The port of Jaffa is home to all sorts of floating detritus (I like that word). The working fishing boats are colorful and I had to beat off a pack of Italian tourists to get close enough to this painter to take this picture. . Ironically enough, the most rusted and beaten up boat of all is called "HaAtid" (The Future). Besides a busy fish restaurant, the port of Jaffa sports a weekend craft market . I heaved a sigh of relief and said a quick "Baruch Hashem" that bwo was at her meeting.

I walked back through the main square in Jaffa. On the way down the hill I stopped at Abulafia for a hot sesame bagele. I would have taken pictures, but I was so in awe of the fresh, slightly sweet, perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy soft on the inside bagele, that I forgot all about it. You understand don't you.

Finally I made my way to the clock square . Then back along HaYarkon to the US Embassy where bwo picked me up. 14000 steps, two hours, 70 pictures. I love T.A.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

There's No Peace For The Wicked

It seems it's not enough to spend the week taking computers apart and putting them together again. I have to do this in my free time as well. Bno arrived back from his visit to the homeland (Texas) and his suitcases, unlike mine, were not filled with potions and lotions (seems they did not arrive in time), rather they were bursting with the various computer components bso spent his summer earnings on. This thing is a monster. Its got the latest Intel processor, a graphics card a professional gamer can be proud of, high speed memory and a SERIOUS fan. Check it out.
The fan has an eerie blue glow and is as big as a breadbox. The boy is so happy, he can now overclock. He would not let me rest until we had the machine up and running. Right now he is sitting in his room putting the machine through its paces. Not bad, it only took about three hours, start to finish. It does not take much to make the boy happy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Archeology Of A Border Community

As you all no doubt know, I am a great fan of Time Team. I have always wanted to be an archeologist when I grow up. At one point in my career, I even went for an interview in the faculty of Archeology at the University of Jerusalem. They told me I had not shown enough reverence to my bible studies in my youth and should try another career. So archeology's loss is computer engineering's gain. A while back I noticed on the Raananalist (home of all necessary information covering Raanana and its environs) a lecture course run by the IWC (no idea what that stands for) covering various topics in archeology. It's in the morning, which can be a problem, but I have been getting up so early recently that 9:00am is already half way through my day.

Yesterday I bunked out of work at 8:30am and drove over to the University of Tel Aviv to attend this semester's first lecture entitled "Tel Beth-Shemesh - Archeology of a Border Community in Judea". What an experience. The lecture itself was very interesting and I took copious notes. I could even fool myself into believing I was back in school. But, that was not the half of it. The people. I'm no spring chicken, but I must have brought the average age down by 10 years minimum. They apparently arrived in buses from the various retirement homes in the area. Everyone was very nice and kind. Many people stopped to chat and wanted to know how I enjoyed the lecture and urged me to return next week. The most entertaining bit was their inability to hear the speaker clearly, even though he had a microphone. The audience never let up about this. He constantly had to change the position of his mike until eventually he broke down and held it through the second half of the talk. The hall was filled with silver haired old ladies from New York going "Darlink, I can't hear Darlink, maybe you can turn up the sound a bissle, Darlink". But, I was most impressed with the silver haired ladies' questions. No lightweights here, they clearly has been attending these lectures for all the 30 years since their inception. Their questions were aimed precisely at the controversy that apparently exists between archeologists of various persuasions and they never let up. Riveting stuff.

What can I say, I cannot wait for next week's lecture: "The Last Days of Masada - Archeology Versus Josephus Flavius". I should add that the young ladies sunning themselves on the grass outside the humanities building didn't harm the atmosphere at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shawn Phillips

This song comes from our distant past. I have always thought of this as one of the best love songs I ever heard. My lady has brown eyes, but still. Second Contribution by Shawn Phillips was one of those albums you grew up with in South Africa, along with Cold Fact by Rodriguez. Both of these guys seemed to have been huge in SA, but just about nowhere else. I remember borrowing this album along with Very 'eavy Very 'umble by Uriah Heep from my cousin Vivianne. I immediately taped them and soon knew every single note and word. I somehow stumbled across Steel Eyes by Shawn Phillips on YouTube. This video, appropriately, comes from a live festival in South Africa in 1994. What is completely remarkable is that the audience, knows the music so well that they don't clap during the long pauses.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Today we suffered. The restaurant under squint central (Giraffe - sort of Asian fusion) has shut down for two weeks and is renovating. All day long we were subjected to the constant Thump, Thump, Thump of demolition hammers, the shriek of masonry drills hitting rebar, the grinding of stone tile and the crunch of debris being dumped into construction dumpsters. The whole building shook and you could feel the vibrations through your teeth. We walked around all day shaking our heads and talked about suing for mental anguish. The least these guys can do is give us a free meal or two. Never happen.

Then to top it all off we had a school board meeting tonight. It did not go on too long, but it was pretty raucous. I got home a few minutes back, tired, having drunk one Diet Coke too many, and the noise in my ears (tinnitus) is unbelievable. It's quiet in the house, bwo is in bed, the kids are in their shut rooms, yet in my head there's a cacophony - I might as well be at work.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Army Shrink

The boy had his interview with the army psychologist today. His appointment was for 11am, but in total he spent 4.5 hours waiting around and a half hour talking to the shrink and the doctor. He told them that he is normal enough and so it looks like he will be serving in the IDF before too long. I don't know how happy I am about all this, but he seems committed. He explained to us a few days back that he "love Israel" and is prepared to do his three years. We were both quite proud. It doesn't seem like the 4.5 hours waiting around today changed his mind any. When I asked him how it all went, he told me the only problem was that he did not want to miss his place in line and so skipped lunch and was famished. Bwo, the dutiful mom, waited patiently from him, worrying all the time that her boy was starving to death. She had chinese take-outs ready in the car for him when he was done. What a mother.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Apollonia in Pictures

Even though it took hours, I quite enjoyed doing the photo essay last weekend. Now, it's Saturday afternoon, the kids and I are sitting at the dining room table, bso is helping bdo with her math. He has such patience. I am jealous. We are eating various Tivol leftovers. Bwo is working a barmitzvah lunch and will be back later.

This morning, after watching a few Time Team shows, I managed to convince bso to come with me to Apollonia. Why watch archeology on TV when you can go find it not far from your front door? Apollonia is a national park about 10 minutes drive from the house overlooking Sidni Ali beach, three minutes from squint central. The area has been settled for 2500 years, but the most interesting remains are those of a crusader castle build around 1200AD. Today the sky was cloudly with the occasional spitting drizzle. The perfect weather for traipsing over ruins.

As soon as we arrived I was spellbound by the birds. The wind was blowing up the cliff side and the kestrels (I think) were slope soaring . We saw it spot something on the cliffs and it dived for its prey.

Apollonia is on the coast in Nof Yam. From it's cliff tops you can see, the cooling tower of Redding Power Station and Tel Aviv's skyline to the south and the cranes of Netanya to the North .

There were plenty of and . It's all rather old. The wind was howling, bso's ears hurt and his hair took on a life of its own . Down below the fishermen were battling the raging seas .

Needless to say the 80% that is Israel is always close by. If you look the past the ruins here is what you see . Still the vistas (No! not the operating system) were beautiful .

While I have been typing and manipulating the html in this post. My two offspring have been slowly working on math. It's been a total pleasure to hear their repartee. I love these two so much I could just explode .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two Stories

I have two stories for you today. Here's the first. One of our machine rooms had to move. This was due to many reasons, not the least of which is that we were not paying rent on it any more. So some of the big noisy and hot machines moved into the small machine room next to my office. Each morning we would come in at the break of dawn to find the heat alarm shreaking and beeping and the ambient temperature around 45 degrees (C). This would just not do, so we brought in the A/C guys and today they installed another unit in the machine room.

They banged and clanked and broke pieces of the ceiling. You know, it's not so hard to make a clean hole in the sheetrock (geves) using a sharp knife. But, no they needed to let their inner A/C artists out. If that was not enough, look at where they
placed the compressor. The smokers outside patio never had a wonderful view, but now all you see is this bloody great compressor. On top of it all they never hung it straight. These guys need to work very hard to even get close to 80%.

The second story goes like this. Now, I'm not usually one to ridicule people's accents and speech idiosyncrasies but this morning was special. Yesterday, you might have read how we somehow ended up with a content filter on our internet connection. The customer service dude removed it last night, but advised me to call the accounting
office in the morning to remove any trace of the filter from our account. This way, he assured me, it would never again rears its ugly head. This I did.

Bright and early I called the accounts people at Bezeqint. I was obviously redirected three times (each time having to tell the whole story before I was informed, you need to speak to X... and then I was transferred and put on hold - all this time I was subjected to the horrendous, "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. To my horror, with each redirect and hold, it picked up exactly where it had left off. I thought this song was reserved solely for slide shows at Bat Mitzvahs). I was finally put in touch with a nice Arab girl called Suaada. I explained my problem. She didn't really get it. I explained how all I wanted was the content filter removed permanently. "But, its free" she told me and asked my username. "It's petero. P-E-T-E-R-O", I spell. "No!" she says "There's no beetero in the system", "That's beetero with a Bee?" she asks. I speak slowly and calmly counting to ten, "Not a Bee a Peee, P-E-T-E-R-O". She repeats "a Beee as in Ben?". "No a PEEEEE, a PEEEEE" I scream. "Oh, a BEEEE as in BEEEEEople". Then I click - "Yes", I say, "a PEEE as in People".

Sigh. I really can't complain, my accent in Hebrew is the stuff
comedy shows here are made of.