Sunday, January 31, 2010

String Karma

So the wife has a new obsession. Knitting, or to be exact crocheting. In the last week she has made a dozen or so twirly scarflike things that only women could love. I suppose crocheting is to knitting as snowboarding is to skiing. It's just a touch more edgy. Bwo being who she is, this mostly means that I need to use my special knot undoing powers quite often.

They're odd these knot undoing powers I have. I can get in a zone and take the biggest mess of a confused pile of hairy wool and mystically and magically undo it. I have no plan or method, I just let my vision glaze over and let the knot talk to me. I learned yesterday, while listening to a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita, that karma refers to our chosen path through this word (Wikipedia says "Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives"). So maybe my life's calling is to be an undoer of knots. I do it with joy and without concern for results - for all I know, I'm quite average at it. Sounds like karma to me. I wonder if the string factory is hiring?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kebara Cave

This weekend is High School "Hockey Marathon" and bso and bdo are playing hockey for some 36 hours or so. This meant the boy would not me able to join me on Saturday morning for our usual outing. So I decided to take blackbrotherinlawo (lets call him Ari for argument sake) along. I have wanted to check out the Kebara Cave ever since I went to the slightly disappointing Carmel Caves a few months back.

The Kebara Cave is rather special. It was occupied in the Middle Paleolithic (60000 - 48000 years ago) and then again in the Natufian period (12500-10200 years back). The cave is particularly famous for an almost complete Neanderthal skeleton found there in 1982. They named him "Moshe". They also found a Natufian burial pit in which 17 adults had been buried. I knew the cave itself was blocked off, but I was interested in looking at the surrounding environment now that I'm studying landscape archaeology (no bwo, it's not the archaeology of gardens!). I wasn't disappointed.

The trail to the cave starts in the Ramat HaNadiv park between Benymina and Zichron Yaakov. It's a very nice place with some good hiking trails. The "green" trail we took to the cave was quite steep in parts and required some climbing.
The Rafafot are out in force. Nature gave us the complete show. It was wonderful. Lots of green and color.
This is the "nose of the Carmel" range. The Kebara stream (dry even now after the heavy rains of late) runs down the valley you see. The cave is low down on the other side of the valley.
The path is excellently well marked (green markers all along) and we only got lost once. There are parts that are quite steep, like the rock face above. But we loved it all.
The rock faces have interesting markings. Not sure what that black stuff is, possibly some sort of moss or mineral or something. Still, it makes nice patterns.
The is bbilo (Ari) surveying one of the smaller caves on the side of the mountain near the Kebara cave itself. There are a few of these.
I had to include this picture of the Kebara cave itself. I know there is not much to see, as it's fenced off with razor wire and gates. We could hear all sorts of birds calling inside. Ari thought they were bats, but I always thought bats were silent (at least during the day), sounded like pigeons to me.
We walked back up the mountain along the river bed. From time to time we came across these pools of standing water. Great for the mosquitoes, who feasted on us.
As we came back to the Ramat HaNadiv park, we passed large cages filled with serious birds-of-prey. These are apparently acclimatization cages for injured birds-of-prey. They have some very big birds. This chap was just sitting at the top of his cage and pining for the fjords. Believe me, these are some serious cages with some serious birds.
Ari really liked this tree.
As we neared the car park, we came upon a typical Israeli scene. This is a school tiyul (field trip). They brought the class to come paint the poppies. That's a pile of easels you see in the middle there. Most interesting are the fathers standing around the edge. They do these tiyulim on Friday so that the fathers (who work Sunday through Thursday) can accompany the kids. They really look like they are having big fun, don't they.

All in all at great time was had by both of us. The banana-chocolate muffin my sister-in-law sent was perfect with the coffee which was made with the now perfectly repaired gaziah.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


So for a while now (nearly 50 years) I have been wondering where those weird, alien like creatures that I sometimes see drifting in front of my eyes, come from. I remember laying on the grass at 35 Mill Park Road looking up in the sky and watching those strange round circles and spirally patterns move across my vision. I always thought I was the only person who could see them. (I suppose I never told anyone about them to protect my questionable sanity). Yesterday, after battling with a particularly persistent "floater" (I always call them floaters when chatting to myself) that seemed stuck in the center of my vision (left eye only) and that seemed to move off to the right when I looked at it, I finally decided to ask the internet.

So I googled "eye floaters". And believe it or not I found this. Seems I'm not alone. There's a rational scientific explanation as to where they come from and why they occur. They're even called "floaters" in the literature. It's slightly comforting to find out I'm not all alone, but I'm a little sad that they aren't aliens or spectral remnants of another dimension after all. Now all I have are the strange voices in my head.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Landscape from Here

My first MA course arrived today. 7KG of Landscape Archaeology books and papers. I am terrified. So I may be a little quieter for the next few months while I get over my panic. As always, I will still have a lot to say, so I am sure it will not be that quiet. Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Osborne Brothers

I have this nephew. He's now a doctor. He has a blog that he writes from time to time. In the past he has often pointed me to music that I would never have found on my own. Like all my nephews, his taste in music is impeccable. In his last post, he pointed out Boingo Boingo's feature, Adventures in Music. These are some amazing old clips found on the YouTube, compiled by guest blogger, Stephen Worth head of the ASIFA Animation Archive. Read it and watch the clips. I think this one's classic. It's the Osborne Brothers, Live at the Bluegrass Country Soul Festival. I just love the audience and banjo. Awesome.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why I Shop With Amazon

I bought a book. I bought it online at Amazon and had it shipped to my brother's. He offered (I asked) to drop it off at the squint's hotel while they are in Houston visiting a customer. All looked rosy. Amazon then opted to use a fly-by-night shipper called "Velocity Express". A bunch of clowns. I watched in online in dismay as they managed to not deliver the book for two days in a row. I tried calling them on the weekend but the clowns were off doing what clowns do on the weekend. My brother called this morning and it seems that in their wisdom they decided to return the package to Amazon "undeliverable". Seems they could not find the house.

Now I was irate. I called Amazon. I expected a long wait with millions of reroutings. Wrong. Ten seconds on hold and boom, I got to talk to Tracy. She took care of everything. They are reshipping my book (a different copy) with either UPS or Fedex overnight. No charge. And they're terribly sorry. Just so you know, Tracy does not choose what shippers are used, so it's not her fault. And Yes "Velocity Express" are a bunch of clowns. Hopefully I will even get my book - it's the bible, so I expect divine service. Although it's a New Testament with Apocrypha (the not-holy bits) , so maybe my god is pissed, and she is sending me a message.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Azziza and the Curry

It's taken since last week for me to calm down enough to write this post. It was last Thursday that it happened. First, some background. As you all know, the wife has been laid up in bed having "put her back out". So last week she was hardly moving. Certainly not cooking. At some point on Wednesday, doped up on enough Optalgin, she ventured down into the kitchen and made us a nice, if a tad mild, curry. This is only because her son asked for it. I would get ice in winter. Anyway we enjoyed the curry on Wednesday night. The boy and I went back for seconds. It was chock full of chickpeas, carrot and onion goodness. Excellent over a little rice.

Thursday was a rough day at the salt mines. All day I barely kept it together. Only the thought of that curry, now juicier and tastier, better blended after a day in the fridge, kept me going. I dragged my weary body into the house after dark and climbed the stairs to visit the bedridden wife. After actively listening to her description of her pain, fluffing her pillows and wiping her brow, I noticed the smell of bean soup drifting up the stairs. Now I'm not a bean soup lover (even if my mother thinks it's my favorite). She told me that through the fog of pain she had made us soup for dinner. "No worries" said I, "I'll just have the leftover curry" my mouth water at the thought of it's delicious spiciness. Then the bomb dropped. "Azziza threw it out" she said calmly.

Now this is not the first time Azziza, the maid from Qalansuwa, has thrown out the curry. "It smelled off", was her excuse. No! It smells just like curry. O.K. so you tell me, how many throwing outs of curry constitutes a firing offense? Even one may be too much, in my opinion!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Khirbet Qeiyafa

This morning the boy and I set out for the Beit Shemesh area. Off we went to vist the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa (or "The Ella Fortress" or perhaps "Sha'arayim"). We had studied this site and the controversy around it in my archaeology class. There is an ongoing dig here run by the Hebrew University (here is it's site). The question about this site is when was it in occupied. According to the C14 dating of four olive pits found near one of the gates, its use was somewhere around 1000 BCE. One of the big controversies in biblical archaeology revolves around the date of the "Kingdom of David". If this site comes from 1000 BCE and it has huge fortifications and big gates, then perhaps there was a centralized kingdom that did extensive public works around that time. But, four olive pits do not a kingdom make. The opposing view states that there was no big kingdom around that time and that population growth only happened later.

On top of all this, an Ostracon (a piece of pottery with writing on it - a sort of Iron Age sticky note) was found at the site that is claimed to have the oldest writing known in Israel (check the ostracon's site here). There has been a lot of media hubbub about this ostracon and the implications of when it was written and what it says.

One of the big issues with this site is that the excavations are sponsored by "Foundation Stone". These guys have a clear nationalistic agenda and are interested in "redrawing the map in education", which seems a little loaded to me. I personally have a lot of issue with organizations like Elad (who control the City of David, although their name appears nowhere on the site) and Foundation Stone. I (naively) believe that archaeology and politics should be separated.

Back to our visit. Our gazia sadly is not working all that well and so we gave up on the coffee. We parked quite a long way off from the site and had to go bush bashing and climb the hill. It was quite cold when we arrived, but we soon warmed up with the walking. The Insight did a decent job of getting over the bumpy road, it's no 4X4 but it certainly gets better mileage.
This is the view of the fortress from where we parked. It looks quite intimidating up there on the hill overlooking the Ella valley.
The rakafot are in season and the hillside was covered with these pink flowers. Most beautiful.
This is the Eastern gate, facing Jerusalem (This is wrong, this gate faces West and what was Philistina). There are unusually for settlements of this period, two gates. Hence the theory that this is biblical Sha'arayim (two gates in Hebrew). The Western gate features later in the pictures.
There are nice and clean walls. They have done a lot of excavation and the Hebrew University team seems to be very professional and neat.
This is a cistern. It goes down quite deep. The boy did not want to climb in, no matter how much I encouraged him.

This is the other gate. Huge stones were cut and moved in order to make the fortifications and the gates. A huge amount of work. The excavators say the site was only populated for about 20 years in the Iron Age IIA. That's a short time for so much work, don't you think.
Here are more of the spectacular walls and gate.

This is the reason for building a fortress in this area. That's the Ella valley that we are looking over. It's extraordinarily green at this time of the year. Khirbet Qeiyafa is only 12KM from the mighty Philistine city of Gath, who was a leading player in those days. So this was a border area and a good place to build a fortress.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


This can only be called chutzpah. It seems thieves broke into an Ashdod museum this week and stole a bunch of valuable artifacts from an exhibit called "Antiquities Thieves in Israel". The exhibit showed loot that had been previously recovered from antiquities thieves. I guess the police will have to recover them again. You can read about it here. Actually the theft and reselling of antiquities is a real danger to the cultural heritage here and elsewhere. Don't buy any dubious antiquities - ever.

On a more positive note, Yuval pointed me this amazing guitar called the Misa Digital. This is what I want to make next, once I actually finish the ones currently in the pipe. Check it out, it's extraordinary.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Smart Strays

There are some decent people around. I noticed when I get to the University early in the morning, some kind soul has always put out food for the cats. There are hundreds of strays that wander around the TA University campus. Sometimes they join the classes, sometimes actually asking better questions than many of the students. These are some of the smartest cats in the world, you know.

I'm always amazed at how many people are actually terrified of cats here. There are so many stray cats wondering around Israel. They mostly keep their fighting to themselves and stay out of the way of the humans. The screeching at night can get old though. I have also noticed that there are much fewer really scrawny and hungry looking strays these days. People all over seem to take care of the strays in their area. I see many people bring cat food onto campus to feed the strays there. I think it's nice.

We do our bit feeding the poor homeless of Rehov HaNevel. Our strays only like the good stuff, 100NIS a bag, nothing but the best for the cats of Raanana.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Asaf Avidan

It's bdo's turn to pick the video of the week (or weak), but she is busy catching up on math homework after an email from her teacher (they don't send notes home anymore). She picked the Asaf Avidan song below. He is a "new" Israel artist, who sings in English. He is allowed to, as his parents met in LA. Actually his lyrics are not too horrible and his unusual voice and good melodies are interesting. Here is the video for Weak. I think it's rather good - apparently done by a friend of his.

Some other good songs are Devil's Dance and The Reckoning Song. I think it all has to do with teenage angst and all that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

TV License

In Israel you are still obliged to pay a TV license. Mine arrived in the post today. 390 NIS for the year. That's all very well and good, but none of us watch TV (except bdo, and I'm ready to chuck her TV as well). Now this is on top of the god knows how much we pay for cable that we don't watch. And there are commercial on basically every station. So what is this license fee for? I have no idea. Probably to pay for Ariel Atias' porno movies (He's the Minister of Telecommunications, from the religious Shas party, who wants to pass an Internet censorship act). The TV here is not even close to 80%.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ladies vs. Grannies

So my wife rocked my world last week. Until then, I was strictly a Granny Smith man. No apple ever came close to that sour crunchy greenness. Then she brought these Pink Ladies into the house. Needless to say, one must ignore the whimpy name and take a bite. Wow. Completely crunchy, and slightly sweet. Just excellent. I'm not quite ready to switch sides, but these ladies are giving my grannies a run for their money.

And they say old dogs and new tricks and all that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Caring for the Weak and Infirm

No archaeology today, yesterday was enough for the week, and although there is somewhere I really want check out next weekend will have to do. Just after lunch I got a call that a friend (Ravid) had bumped his head playing rugby and was at Ichilov hospital. Seeing as I'm proud to say we're the closest thing he has to family in the center of the country, I rushed off to baby sit him.

At the same time my wife is completely incapacitated having "put out her back". This happens way too often, but this time it seems worse than usual. She is completely immobilized and so we are all running up and down the stairs to cater to her every whim (all except bdo who is, of course, out). She is barely moving and takes about 20 minutes to get from the bed to the toilet. There is a lot of grunting in pain. All in all she is really suffering, poor thing. Now back to Ichilov.

It appears the lad bumped his head or got dehydrated or just needed to rest and he had a little pass out after his match (Jizreel, his team, beat Raanana quite handily). When I arrived at the emergency room, he was in good spirits and we had a fine time sitting and chatting while having a jolly good people watch. There is no where better in the world than a hospital emergency room for a good people watch. I swear there are people who come there just to spectate. We had panic attacks, bleeders, chest pains and vomiters, all taking in stride, all in a days work. They are actually quite efficient at Ichilov, and it only took about 6 hours for them to decide that there was nothing wrong with him, except that he plays rugby.

So it's been quite a day of caring for the infirm. Just call me blackpeternightingaleo.

Friday, January 15, 2010

City of David

A lot of interesting archaeological sites can, not surprisingly, be found in Jerusalem. Unfortunately this means they are closed on Saturdays. So I decided to get up early today to go check out "City of David" (Ir David). This is a rather controversial site just to the south of the Old City. It's thought to be the original city of Jerusalem (long before the "Old City"). There is no question there is an old (12 century BCE) wall and city here - the archaeological dispute rages around the scale of the city in and before the time of the "United Monarchy" (King David original conquest of the city is one of the big questions). Was Jerusalem just a small hilltop village run by a petty chief or was it really a huge and powerful state before the late ninth century BCE?

It's a fascinating site. I arrived (alone) at 8am just as they opened. I had to wait around till the workers got their act together. One remarkable thing is the number of guards stationed at all points. There must have been 15 or so spread out along the periphery. I suppose it has something to do with this being opposite Silwan, one of the "disputed" area in East Jerusalem. So while I was the only visitor, I certainly wasn't alone.

This is the view from the top of the lookout area. The graves opposite are the lower tombs on the Mount of Olives. This, I believe is the Kidron Valley. That's Silwan on the right hand side.
This wall is one of the disputed finds. The archaeologist that digs this site, Eilat Mazar, claims it's from the tenth century BCE and proof that Jerusalem was capital of a large kingdom. Others (including, or better yet, led Prof. Israel Finkelstein, whose course I am auditing) argue the structure is from the much later Hashmonean period (around 160 BCE). It's hard to date a wall.
This is a better view of Silwan. It's quite something, is Jerusalem. In Raanana it's easy to forget you're in the middle east. Not so in Jerusalem.
This is Warren's Shaft going down to the Gihon Spring. The spring was one of the main water sources in the ancient city. The spring was outside the city walls so during siege times, the inhabitants used the tunnel.
These are part of the old walls of the city. There is archaeological work going on here and in many other places in the site. This must be where a lot of the Israel Antiquities Authority's budget goes.
This part was cool. This is Hezekiah's Tunnel. Word is that in preparation for Sennacherib the Assyrian's siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE, King Hezekiah built this 533 meter tunnel, chiseling through the rock (his workers, not him). The guard at the source of the spring told me to take off my shoes, roll up my pants, be brave and walk the wet tunnel (there is a dry way out too). It was awesome. He never told me it would be pitch dark, luckily I had my trusty Indiana Jones flashlight. My pants only got a little wet and they dried on the way back. The water was cold though (and 70cm deep, so it's quite a wade).
e tunnel comes out at the Siloam Pool. This pool is apparently just one part of a larger pool that is still being excavated and not open to the public. I seem to remember that there was a problem here a few months back with religious people bathing in the water (and frightening the locals). The pool is full of fungi and moss and I certainly would give swimming there a miss.
I was intrigued by these holes in the stones all around the pool. I wonder what they are. They look like they were made by falling water, but there is nowhere for water to fall from. The guard at the pool (Dawid) had no idea. He was busy arguing with some local taxi drivers anyway.

All in all a nice morning in Jerusalem. I was home by 11am, so I missed the traffic. It was great to be the only one at the whole site (as usual). I think I should do this Friday Jerusalem thing more often.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The pictures coming out of Haiti are horrific. I think we should help. There are many sites to donate. I used Wyclef Jean's organization. These guys need all the help they can get.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have always had a love for stationery. There is nothing I like more than a nice pen, some good paper, good quality wooden #3 pencils and a fine eraser. I think the real reason I went back to study was because I was missing all this. Computer keyboards are just so impersonal. I am a fanatical note taker and have filled quite a few yellow pads with my scratchy almost illegible handwriting since I started studying again. While I like the Israeli yellow legal pads with 5mm blocks, the pens were a problem. I started out with some of the ballpoint pens we use at squint central. They are not bad, but I found writing with them completely unsatisfying. So some months back I broke out my old stationery box and all the fountain pens I had not touched since I left university the first time around (it has been about 20 years). I selected two of the low end, "user" pens, a Parker and a Sheaffer ("user" pens cost less than $10 a piece in the old days). Writing with these feels like playing the guitar I got for my Bar Mitzvah, its completely comfortable. But, soon I ran out of ink cartridges (the pens held up way better than the cartridges, or refills if you are American, which had nearly dried up - where does the ink disappear to in that enclosed and unopened space?)

I thought finding cartridges would be a simple matter of going down to the nearest Office Depot - boy, was I wrong. I hunted all over Israel, until someone suggested I visit Fabian here in Raanana. Well, the pen dude at Fabian looked at the sad and empty samples I brought in, climbed up into the attic, and came down with a dusty box. "Don't get much call for these, these days", he said with a smile. I bought his whole stock of Sheaffer cartridges (he only had black, luckily), unfortunately he had no Parker cartridges. Now I have enough for a few months. Of course, the internetz has plenty of choice, but not here in the Holy Land.

Needless to say, today in class my pen leaked black ink all over my hands. It doesn't wash off easily. I swear, it's just like going home.

Monday, January 11, 2010


It's been a while since we have had a Video Tuesday (or Tuesday Tunez) what with he vacation and all. Keeping in the spirit of Avatar, here is a video I think is technically brilliant. I'm not a completely huge Coldplay fan, and I don't think this is one of their best songs, but the video is excellent. So enjoy. It's the official Coldplay video of Life in Technicolor II off of Viva La Vida.

Back Then

Many people have asked me if I always only wore black. The picture below shows that once upon a time I was caught wearing white pants. Granted I was 5 years old (the year was 1965). That's me third from the left in the spaceman outfit. I loved those boots and that jacket. The headphones were something I "borrowed" from my big brother's cupboard. I hope he never finds out.

On the far left is my cousin Avril. She so ruled. Then DavidJ looking very serious, then me and then AnthonyM. This was Purim at nursery school. Those wooden blocks behind us were my favorite toys in the world. I once gave David Davies stitches, clubbing him on the head with one of those - he had no business messing with the submarine I was building.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


We took the squints and families to see Avatar in 3D this afternoon. The 3D was actually very good and I left the movie headache free, which is a big deal for me. It has awesomely rich effects and a dreamlike feel. It reminded me of the worlds of Myst and Riven, and I was as impressed with Avatar visually as I was with those games when they came out. The story reminded me of a combination the kid's animated movie called Ferngully, my kids used to watch years ago when VHS was still available, Disney's Pocahontas and Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead. Still it was very entertaining and we all had a good time. Blacksono would have really enjoyed the "color correction" if he would been able to come with us.

Go see it. In 3D.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Aqueduct at Caesarea

This jet-lag will kill me. I finally fell asleep around 4am this morning, and woke up at 1pm. I don't remember when I last slept so long or late. Clearly it was too late to go on a serious archaeological adventure, so I managed to convince the wife that she wanted to come with to check out the aqueduct at Caesarea. The park with the ancient city closes early in winter, but I was interested in checking out the aqueduct anyway. It runs along the public beach to the north of the old city.

The original aqueduct was built by Herod (37 BCE - 4 CE) when Caesarea was founded during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (I will visit Caesarea itself one of these days and cover it's history). Originally the aqueduct was built around a single canal and brought water to the city from about 10km to the northeast (A section is visible east of route 2, at Jizer-e-zarka). Around the second century CE, the Legions of the Emperor Hadrian added a second channel to bring water from further (Nahal Tanninim). This section included a 6km tunnel and was added to the original.

During the Byzantine period another, lower aqueduct was built, about 100m to the east, as the older structure fell into disrepair. This aqueduct was lower and brought water to the now smaller city of Caesarea from the springs at Maagan Michael.
This is what the aqueduct looks like from the beach. It's awesome. The sea has washed away the remains as the structure nears the old city, but the section on the beach is clearly visible (sometimes covered with sand) for kilometers.
This is the side of the newer (second) channel that was added by Hardian's people. As you can see the architecture is the same from both sides. Those Roman's sure could build.
This is a plaque that the Roman soldiers who repaired the aqueduct fixed to the walls. The writing on this plaque has been completely eroded, but there are those that mention Hadrian by name.
This is the newer (Byzantine), lower aqueduct. This picture is taken from the top of the older structure. It's not in as good condition as the Roman one.
This is what one of the water channel on top of the aqueduct looks like. At places the Roman's used ceramic piping.

After a long walk along the beach and climb up the aqueduct, the wife and I found some shelter under one of the arches and used the gazia to make some coffee and watch the sun set into the sea. It was all quite lovely. Thanks Romans.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Tip?

So I have a question. Say your hairdresser owns his own salon. Say the haircut costs 50 NIS. Now, no one washes my hair and no one else works in his salon. How much am I supposed to tip the dude? My wife, who "does not believe in tipping, rather believes in overtipping" (to quote Steve Martin), says I need to leave 20NIS. That seems excessive don't you think. I mean, it's his business. He can charge what he wants. The tip, I always thought was to ingratiate you with the various hair washers and sweeper uppers so they did not burn your scalp with boiling water. Do I need to tip him at all?

I had a haircut today. I tipped the dude 20 NIS.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Books and Stuff

It's nearly midnight. I have tried to sleep but besides a few minutes here and there it's not working for me. Today I received the final acceptance to the MA program at the University of Leicester. So now that I have passed all my bridging courses I am officially an MA student in Archaeology and Heritage Management. The "Landscape Archaeology" course starts in a two weeks and goes on for 15 weeks. It looks challenging and it is definitely something about which I have no clue.

I have been reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed". I personally prefer it to his Pulitzer Prize winning "Guns, Germs, and Steel". I find his analysis of failing/failed cultures extremely interesting and I particularly like the way he works hard to dispel the whole "noble savage" myth. I agree that people have always sucked and will always ignore the warning signs of the imminent collapse of their way of life. His writing makes a pleasant change from those heavy, terse archaeology text books I have been reading of late.

I have been very careful to not be seduced by just any interesting looking book. I only went to visit the bookshop near the end of my stay in the US. I bought nothing and stuck to reading the textbooks I found on Amazon marketplace. Makes for a very boring Peter, I'm afraid. Even the audiobooks I have been listening to are history or culture related.

I think I'll go eat one of those delicious oranges waiting in the box by the door. There are some advantages to being home. The fruit and veggies are unbelievable, and delivered to our door. We dined on baked cauliflower, onion, carrots and peppers for supper. Below is the weekend's fruit and veggies, in the boxes on the floor by the front door where they can often be found (it's their natural habitat).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sigh. Another Diet.

I think we are doing quite well. It's now close to 8pm and no one is sleeping. We have each been fighting the jet lag in our own way. I was at work, the boy is involved in a serious online gaming session, the girl is out visiting the posse and the wife is bonding with her family. But, as we all know tomorrow will be the hard day.

The weather here is wonderful. It was bright and sunny, cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon. Looking at the horrid weather in the UK and over the US, this is one advantage we have at the moment. Oh! and the salad. I went to the 24 hour supermarket at 4:30am this morning and bought my veggies for my lunch salad. Cost all of $12 for the weeks produce. And it tasted healthy and fresh. Besides a handful of Jelly Bellys, I have been good on the first day of my diet. Now all I need do is keep it up for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home Jerome.

The intrepid blackfamilyo arrived home safely. As did all 8 checked and 6 carry-on bags. It's always lovely to get home, to rest in your own bed, with your own pillows and sheets, to shower in your own hopeless shower. The cats certainly missed us, and Lola has not stopped crying with joy since we walked in. Gad, the house/cat-sitter, blackmother-in-lawo and Aziza did a masterful job and the house looks better than we left it. Tomorrow bright and early it's off to work and to school - life goes back to normal.

The flights were pretty much OK actually. I had an empty seat next to me from Newark to TA (actually in both directions). I met a lady who owns Indiana's first and foremost bagel shop. She said her bialies are "to die for". I am now completely caught up on B rated airplane movies (I saw G.I. Joe, 500 days of Summer, Bandslam, Fame, Up, Aliens in the Attic, Julia and Julie etc. etc.) and so have no need to travel for a while. The kids slept the whole way thanks to the joys of sleeping pills, they have to go to school tomorrow, or else. I, myself, am tired, tired tired. Carrying those heavy carry-ons has tired me out.

Talking about carry-ons, there is something I just don't understand at all. What is with people that walk onto the plane late, and then expect there to be a place in one of the closed overhead bins for their huge carry on luggage. Clearly it sucks if your plane has been delayed and you arrive just as the doors are closing - that I can understand. But there are countless people that wonder onto the plane and are completely surprised when the overhead bins are full. Come on, it's not the noughties any more.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bye Houston

It's our last few hours in Houston. I miss my family already. They have been more than wonderful to us. Getting to know my great-nieces and nephew was a special treat. We have 7 huge bags all at the 50 pounds limit, and who knows how many carry-ons. We had our last burrito last night (and it was as good as ever), as well as the last minute stop at Walgreens. now all that's left are the final cleanup and our last goodbyes. I will post a picture as soon as I get all the cases in one place. It's quite a sight. We are not exactly what you would call light travelers.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Enough, I say.

While I'm very sad to say goodbye to my family, I think it's time we went home. Any more time here and we will be completely bankrupt and I'll weigh 500 pounds. America is a land of excess, and the shopping and eating here has gone beyond the extreme. The first package (weighing 50 pounds) was mailed today, and there is easily enough to fill all eight allowable cases on the the flight back. I haven't stopped eating since I arrived and will have to go on a serious salad only diet when we get back. Well, it's not long now. But first I need to take my carnivorous wife for Texas BBQ.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I escaped upstairs to lay on my bed and read at about 9pm last night. My nephew's kids (My brother and s-i-l's grandkids) were being kids and and the noise was too much for a gentle soul like me. Next thing I knew it was 4am and I was still in my clothes, unshowered. What a way to see in the new year. Lameness. I will have to make it up to my family, who are all still sleeping away. I wonder what they got up to. Happy 2010 y'all.