Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Streetlight Manifesto

Blacksono has been on my case for weeks to listen to "The Streetlight Manifesto" which is now his favourite group. I finally gave it a whirl last weekend and have been listening since then. It's perfect cooking music - as the boy says, "it's the happiest music about death you will ever hear". We have listened to "Somewhere In The Between" and "Everything Goes Numb" while making chrain, cooking matzo ball soup, making potato kugel, arranging tables, cleaning a million dishes and a billion knives and forks, and finally goomiying the floor (Jo not I). Anyway I found this video on YouTube and it seems to show their craziness and energy. I am not sure this is the best video out there but there are too many to go through and this one is cool non the less.

p.s. I know it is not Tuesday but yesterday was an archaeology day so you will have to just deal with it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tell es-Safi or Tel Zafit or Gath

I had been putting off going to visit Tell es-Safi or Tel Zafit or "Gath of the Philistines" (Arabic, Hebrew and biblical names of the place) for a while. For some reason I was under the impression it was hard to get to and that I needed a 4x4 - maybe this had something to do with Google maps missing the paved road that goes right up to the site. The entrance to the site is off the 383 near the Sorek Interchange, it is well labeled (in the Haruvit Forest) and the roads are excellent. So this morning, post seder, the nephew and I took off to give it a visit. The rest of the family was recovering from a difficult night, post seder.

It is an excellent place and very much worth a visit. There is a spectacular (and well marked) 3Km path around the tel and there is tons to see. Of course, we were the only people awake at this time, except for a lone biker - with whom we exchanged Boker Tovs.

Gath was one of the five Philistine city states (along with Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza). The tel has a wonderful view and its strategic placement means it has been settled from the Chalcolithic (around the 5th millennium BCE) until the modern Palestinian village of Tell es-Safi was abandoned in 1948. It is best known as the reputed home town of Goliath of biblical David and Goliath fame.

In the strata dating to the 9-10th century BCE a lot of Philistine material culture was uncovered that helped research into the Philistine way of life. There is a clear destruction layer dating to the late 9th Century BCE. This could be related to King Hazael's (king of Aram Damascus) siege of Gath as mentioned in II Kings 12. There will be another season of digs this summer - you can read much more here.
This the view of the tel from the parking lot. So you can drive right up to the base of the tel and the well marked path takes you around the whole site. It is well worth going to see. Trust me. We made our coffee and ate left over Seder potato kugel for breakfast.
The limestone (I think it's limestone) cliffs surrounding the tell are spectacular and there are many caves and fissures into the rocks.
This is one of the more interesting caves. I wonder what those indents near the roof are for?
A nice view of the tel with some of the informative signposts. More on signposts later.
These are some of the impressive walls that been uncovered in excavation.
The views from the top of the tel are breathtaking, you can see all the way to the coast.
Really spectacular.
So what is that in the middle of the dig? I am so clueless.
More excavations. This is a large site with a lot of excavations and a lot to see. I wish I had someone who know more about it to show me around.
Add ImageThe trail around the tel is dotted with signposts that include choice verses from the bible. There are dozens. While it's nice that someone would take so much trouble as to make nice metal signposts with quotes, wouldn't it have been a lot more informative to use these signposts to tell us more about the site, its surroundings and history? While there are a few strategically placed explanatory signs, there are many more of these signposts with a few lines of biblical text. I just hope they were a donation and not our tax shekels at work.

A nice way to start the Chag.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Erev Pesach

It's Monday and therefor time for the Raanana Weekly Photo. It is also Erev Pesach and we have been up cooking since early this morning. I just had my lunch of bwo's perfect vegetarian chicken soup and matzo balls (with a surprise inside, we call them meatza balls) - yummm.

Over the main street (Ahuza), our mayor and council put up a festive banner to wish us all a "Kosher and Happy Passover".

Back in the old days, they used to burn the Hometz (leaven stuff - bread etc.) right outside our house. But in the 10 years we have been here our area has become most built up and now takes itself seriously so there are no fires on our street.
The city set up some serious bins to burn the left over Hometz in the center of town. This is in the corner of the Hamashbir parking lot (not that there has been a Hamashbir there for years). You can see the burnt bread rolls and pitot on the ground.

Hag Sameach everyone. Pesach is about freedom.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


This advertisement has been on the main page of for a while. At first I thought it was some sort of hack job, but this is a real company. What an unfortunate name for your property management firm here in Israel. What is interesting is that they seem to be doing rather well regardless of the name.

On a different note, it is blackwifeo's birthday today. No one has ever received more birthday wishes on facebook - ever. She is the queen. It's because she is the nicest person in the world. As I always say, she is going to be lonely in heaven on her own. Happy Birthday sweetness, you are everything.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No Archaeology Today

I know you are all devastated, but we gave it a miss today. It was pouring at 6am and so I got stuck into my homework and next thing I knew it was 1pm. So we did the rounds and delivered some of the chrain. We did not get far and only managed two of the ten stops on our list. So if you want horseradish, you better come get it. We will go out on Tuesday morning, by then it should stop raining.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chrained Out

The 2010 Ostrin Chrain is done. 60 Smaller jars, 4 tupperwares and 2 mustard jars is what 10 killos of horseradish produced. Many, many tears. It tastes good - especially on humus in a pita. Here is the process, minus the fumes.
First we grate the roots in the magimix, it's a two step process as the chopper on its own is not fine enough. We had two huge bowls of grated horseradish.
This is Jo's protective gear. I just go for it and cry a whole lot.
A particularly noxious wave just hit. At time the I could not see through the tears. My eyes are still burning three hours later.
This is the production line. The second processing is going on, the grated root is in the blue green bowl and the chopped product, mixed with vinegar and salt (and a touch of sugar, but that's a secret) is in the other two bowls waiting to be bottled.
Jo decided to use some of the dregs to experiment. This is her beetroot surprise. She also made a creamy mustard horseradish sauce - it tastes excellent.
The bottling is done as is the labeling. Now all that is left is the delivery. Come and get it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chrain, Chrain go away

I know to you guys this does not look like a lot of work. Peeling 10K of horseradish took more than two hours of solid work. My eyes are burning, my back is breaking, it's time for bed. I will continue tomorrow. I just hope this is enough, I'm peeled out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Never Chrains It Pours

This is what 10 kilos of horseradish look like. That's right folks, its that time of year. Time for the annual Ostrin chrain making bash. I just hope we have enough. I will document the whole process as we are making it tomorrow. We will cry, we will remember when we were slaves in Egypt (well someone slaved in Egypt, even if there is no proof they were Israelites).

Monday, March 22, 2010


I needed to download my monthly tracks from yesterday and I was out of ideas. Their autorecommender is usually very hit and miss for me (mostly miss and miss), but I gave it a shot and out popped Shearwater's album Rook. I must have got to it from my love for Okkervil River. Anyway I listened to the album twice yesterday. I find Jonathan Meiburg's voice haunting and disconcerting, sort of a cross between Anthony (from A and the Johnsons) and Thom York of Radiohead. I was looking for a decent video of theirs to put up today, when I stumbled upon this "NPR Tiny Desk Concert", which appears to be a sort of unplugged gig at NPR studios. Ignore the grating sound from that horrid instrument at the beginning, the first song, Rook is excellent. The other three are not bad if you have the 18 minutes to burn. I like what the YouTube blurb says: "a ... set that's at once pristine and ramshackle - equal parts clarity and clatter".

And what is with the guy with the 3D glasses?


I have been enjoying the Port Elizabeth Daily Photo blog more than ever. I suppose it's because we had to cancel our long planned trip to SA (we were supposed to leave this week). Anyway I decided to do a "Raanana Weekly Photo" and see how that turns out. I'm just not a good photographer, but I will have to do. This first photo is of flowers in the median on Ahuza Street. Spring is here, it is nearly Pesach. This is just below traffic light 13 very close to our house.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Our Town

My girl, blackdaughtero, appeared in the school play last night. They put on a production of "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder. I had never heard of the play before, it's a simple story about life in a small New Hampshire town. The simple scenery and relatively few characters made it a perfect school production. The kids did an awesome job. Most of the school productions are what I call "events only a parent could like", but this was different. The play itself is thought provoking. With a "stop and smell the roses and appreciate the simple things in life" message. The production was spot on, quite emotional and moving. I thought the two mothers in the play were acted as well as I have seen amateurs perform, and the guy who played George did an excellent job of being a simple small town boy. Balent, despite a rather thick Hungarian accent, managed the huge task of being stage director with a relaxed and comfortable manner. Of course, bdo was excellent, even though she had a few minor parts. Well done, guys, be proud of your work.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tel Hadid and Tel Bareket

Tel Hadid is on top of the tunnel on highway six just before you get to the junction with the Jerusalem road (near the ben shemen interchange). Yochai told me about it a while back when he went orienteering in the area. We set out this morning not knowing that this is probably the most probably the most popular biking spot in the country. While we drank our coffee and ate our Pillsbury chocolate muffins, we got to enjoy the company of a least a hundred potential Israeli Lance Armstrongs. Tel Hadid was not really much to look at, so we took off to another Tel, Tel Bareket, more on that later. Yeah, I broke my own rule and we took in two sites in a single day. It's been that kind of week.

Tel Hadid (there is an easy access path off the 444), seems to have been a typical Iron Age (9th-8th Centuries BCE) settlement. Two Assyrian legal documents were found nearby. Both were clay tablets written in Cuniform, the earlier noted the sale of land (from 698 BCE) the second is a promissory note (from 664 BCE). It appears that these documents record the purchase of land in the area by exiles (possibly Akkadian or Arameans) in the wake of Sargon's war with Babylon. By the time of the end of the Judean Kingdom, Hadid was once again Israelite and its citizens were banished to Babylon and later returned. During the time of the Hasmoneans, Hadid was an important fortified city (see this site for more info).
Here you can see Highway Six and what I think is Modi'in in the distance.
Some of the very overgrown archaeology in the area. There are not many standing walls and things, but it is a very nice place with a lot of picnic tables and an awesome view.
The only interesting artefact we saw was this 21 century head covering. I think it has something to do with cultic activity.

Once we were done walking around Tel Hadid, we drove a few kilometers up highway 444. Every time I pass the huge Nestle factory I always look at Tel Bareket which is right next to it. We decided to go check it out finally.

I heard a lecture by Sarit Paz once where she told about the dig at the lower city. It was a salvage dig and they found a lot of interesting stuff before it was all covered over and converted into factory space. There is a nice write up here. I think that what we wondered around was the upper Tel. It was very cool and there are tons of excavations. I was not able to find a write up anywhere (there is probably one somewhere in Hebrew), but there is a lot of work going on there.
Of course, we ignored the signs. This is Israel after all.
This is the view of the ever encroaching industrial area. It sucks that they are slowly eating up this pretty and unspoiled area.
Looks like they uncovered a mosaic floor. Very nice indeed.
Higher up the hills we found this. I have no idea what these cuts in the rock are for. They are incredibly interesting. I will look around on the web and see if I can find out.
The best thing of all was this sort of temple (I think). The standing stones are huge and must have taken some effort to get raised up.
This is a more or less front on view of the same structure. Note the standing stones on the left and another arch like thing in front. There are steps leading up to the structure. It is completely excellent.

All in all we had a wonderful time (bso, bno and myself), clambering over rocks and prickly shrubs. I just wish I knew more about the site. It is worth visiting, just drive past the Nestle factory and go as far north as the access road allows then park and climb the hills. A good morning. We were home by 9am.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Molly the Owl

I like owls. They're my animal familiar, you know. Blacknephewo came to town and told me about "The Owl Box" in San Marcos, California. Molly the owl laid some eggs in the box with the webcam. There are now 9423 people watching her live waiting for the eggs to hatch. What a world!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm a lucky man

My wife called and told me she loves me only a little less than her new iPhone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Return Reciept

I have an irrational hatred for "return receipts" on email. You know those "special" people who send you email that forces a pop-up that says the sender wants to be notified when I read the message. I think it's just plain rude. I will read the message when I feel like it and I will definitely not let you know when that is. I have never once, in my life, clicked OK. I suggest you don't either.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prince- Who Knew

Jo here:

A couple of days ago, I happened to be watching Ice Mummies,  a Nova - 3 part documentary. It's a truly bizarre look at the Incas on Mount Sara Sara in Peru, the Siberian Ice Maiden in the Andes and The Ice Man who was found buried in the Alps. tres, I recommend. Anyway, I took a short breather from all that human child sacrifice to watch George Harrison's 1984 posthumous induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The special was hosted by absolutely irritating Paul Shaffer, who was/is the conductor of David Letterman's studio orchestra. Where the hell did they find that guy, and why do we see so much of him?

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was played in tribute by Prince (who was also inducted that night), along with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Steve Ferrone and Dhani Harrison (who by the way, looks EXACTLY like his dad).  But what blew me away was Prince. Sorry- The Artist- formerly known as Prince.  That guys solo is just crazy. I would have also posted When Doves Cry cause I love that song, but apparently, TAFKAP does not allow any videos of him on YouTube.
Luckily this one slipped through. Check it out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More of the same.

We had a school board meeting tonight. It went on till 10:30 (started at 6). I am full of Diet Coke, cashews, and potato chips. I am seeing double and my jaws ache from clenching too much. The temperature must have dropped at least 13 degrees C over the last few hours and now it's cold out. Our dood (hot water heater) packed in again, so the dood dude needs to come over and fix/replace it. Seems like it was just yesterday since he was last here. I'm tired - goodnight.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reaction Ti me

I haven't complained about one of my favorite subject for quite a while. Why is it that cars can't be automated. It's an awesome responsibility to allow people to share the roads. And I'm afraid that many people are just not taking this seriously enough. I can't understand why this whole driving thing has not been taken out of our hands. According to the font of all knowledge, wikipedia, the mean response for a college student to respond to visual stimulus is 190 milliseconds (160 milliseconds for auditory stimulus). College age is when our responses are supposed to be at their height (I assume this must be before all the beer and drugs). To be generous this equates to around 7 reactions a second. A slow microprocessor today is say around 1 GHZ. Lets be conservative and assume it takes 100,000 clock cycles (one hundred thousand cycles) for a system to react to stimulus. It could still react one thousand five hundred times faster than a human. (1GHZ/1E5 = 10,000/7 = 1428).

The time has come - so what's the holdup? O.K. and if you don't like the computer controlled car idea, why are cars not on rails? There is just too much free choice.

Oh, and happy PI day. Here is Pi to the 10,000th digit.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tel Halif

Tel Halif is outside Kibbutz Lahav, near Beer Sheva. We left early and the mist on the way out was very thick. There were parts of Route 6 that looked spooky indeed. By the time we arrived at Lahav, much of the fog had cleared and the sun was out.

Tel Halif "may" be the biblical city of Rimon (mentioned five times in the bible). The site has been occupied from the Chalcolithic (3500BCE) through to modern times. There have been a number of digs over the years, and there looks like there will be another this summer. A number of Bronze age remains have been uncovered, as well as a Late Bronze Egyptian residence. The Iron Age town was probably destroyed by Sennacherib, the Assyrian King, during his 701 BCE campaign.

Before it's destruction by the Assyrians, it appears the city was a typical Judean town. In one of the more recent digs a "shrine room" was uncovered. The room was part of an ordinary house, and it contained some cultic artefacts, amongst them the head of a goddess - probably "Asherah". There is a ongoing debate over whether the Judahites of this time were practicing both a form of Judaism that included the worship of idols (or perhaps this was syncretism - melding of both Judaic and Canaanite cultic practices). There is a nice paper, along with links to pictures of the finds here.

To be honest, I am not sure we actually found the site of the Tel Halif. We climbed the Tel and did find some excavations (see the pictures below), but there are no signs or very specific directions anywhere - and there are a lot of ruins in the area.
That's the tel. We made our coffee on one of the picnic tables below and then struggled up. It was quite a climb. The recent rains have covered the area in bush and wild flowers. This I think is very different from how this near desert area looks in mid summer. Sorry about the sun in your eyes, but it would have been hard to move the tel to a more convenient angle.
We got quite a surprise when we arrived at the top of the tel only to find a bunch of camels. Well, we have seen all sorts of wildlife on our Saturday morning excursions, but this is our first close up camel. This was as close as the camel would come to the boy. At this point it stretched its neck and let out a huge raspberry "ththththththththth". We let it be.

There were quite a lot of these corrugated iron reinforced ditches all over the top of the tel. I thought at first that they were old excavations, but now I think they look more like army bunkers. I have no idea.
These are the recent excavations. They are already pretty well overgrown because of all the winter rains. I am sure they will be bare by the summer.
Another look at the excavations. The tel is really quite large and we only found a smallish area that had been dug. I am not sure if there are more. It was tough going on the top of the tell as the bush had grown quite high and we really had to fight our way through. The inconsiderate camels had not made a lot of tracks for us to follow.
Spring is still here and the wildflowers are in full bloom. One more week like this last one and I am sure they will be done. By the time we left it was already quite hot. There are a lot of sites in the area and we will be back.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Dark

It's early Friday morning. The house, including six seven cats (Sid, Nancy, Lola, Mazda, Edison and Montgomery, and Marmalade) is dreaming peacefully. Now I want you to know, it's not just the blog I have been neglecting of late. No, I'm an equal opportunity ignorer. More than half the lights on the kitchen level are dead and have not been replaced - bso, the replacement of bulbs is his job, claims there are no replacements down-down stairs. You can't even walk into to down-down stair. Bwo started "organizing" a few weeks back, and now has a job, so it looks like I will have to get stuck in. I have not even touched a guitar, in raw or finished, form for months - this is not good.

I wonder if I have taken on too much here. On the one hand I love my studies. I love the feeling of clearing the fog in my mind about the way things worked in the past. I love the challenge of looking at some barely incomprehensible project or paper outline and working slowly over weeks until it becomes clear and I make it mine. Still, the guilty feeling of "wasting" time, when I'm not working or studying, is something I was happy to leave behind at college graduation. It has returned with a vengeance. I really can't complain. My days are full, and the weeks are flying by. Flying by way too quickly in fact.

Another thing I have given up is the radio. I used to be a fanatical news hound. I listened to "news radio" on the way into work in the morning and back at night. I was plugged into exactly what was happening and what it sounded like. Now, I am listening to the complex reasons behind the fall of the Hittite Empire and why ancient Greek art was unique. I can look at the embarrassing antics of our Foreign Minister and just shrug. I can watch this ridiculous government pretend they want peace while strengthening the West Bank and smile. It is so much easier to remain somewhat in the dark - maybe that's why I'm in no rush to change the living room light bulbs.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Job

Blackwifeo has a job. Yes, it's true. She needs to be at the kitchens at 5am in the morning and cook till 2pm (she got home after 5pm on her first day). She is making food for film crews. She cooks breakfast, then they drive the hot food over to the set, feed the staving crew, drive back to the kitchen (Hod HaSharon), make lunch, drive over to the set, feed the once again starving crew, drive back to the kitchen, clean up and come home. Sounds exhausting to me. Well, I wish her good luck and many happy meals. And after all that she still cooked us dinner tonight. We are blessed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


These guys dominate the world of viral video. It started with their treadmill video, which I assume everyone and their brother saw (I must have received dozens of pointers to this, over time). Blacknephewo pointed me to their new video "This too shall pass" and when I first saw it, last week, a mere tens of thousands had viewed it on YouTube. Now its well passed the six million hits. It is well worth it. I am a sucker for Rube Goldberg machines, and this one is a wonder. The only problem is the video is so good that I've seen it a few times now, but I can't for the life of me remember the song. You can even read about it on how they made the video on CNN. Enjoy it full screen.

This is not the official version of the song. You can see it here. It's very nice, but it features the Notre Dame Marching Band, who think they are just the best. But, I am a Rice Owl and nothing, nothing beats the MOB.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ho Humm

I am sorry to report that my life is very uneventful at the moment. Besides getting up very early, spending the day at work and the nights in front of the books, not much is happening. The most exciting thing that happened to me today was I woke the guard at the office this morning from what must have been a very deep sleep. He nearly jumped out of his skin.

I have not been listening to the radio on the way to and from work lately. Instead I have been listening to some interesting lectures (well for me anyway). I finished a series on the Ancient Cultures of Mesopotamia and now am listening to the History of the Hittites. It is much better than having to be frustrated each day by what goes on in politics or worse still on the roads (another family was wiped out this weekend).

That's it from me. Boring I know. I will try find some excitement tomorrow.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tel Azekah

Today is the boy's birthday. Needless to say we still arose before 6am and hit the road. The only difference this morning was that bwo was up and busy catering (in a total panic). Blackdaughtero who did not go out last night and fell asleep at 9pm (first Friday night in history), still could not stomach seeing the morning sun. Blacknephewo was in from Tel Aviv - and the three of us men set out for Tel Azekah.

Now Azekah was mentioned a number of times in the bible. It's is on a high tel overlooking the Ella valley outside Beit Shemesh. It is said to be the place where the Amorites were defeated by Joshua (Joshua 15:20,35) and it is also reputedly where in the time of King Saul the Philistines massed their forces, and presented the world with Goliath (1 Samuel ch.17). Azekah was one of the last sites to fall before the overthrow of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 34:6-7). There have been some excavations at the site, but I struggled to find real archaeological info and most of the sites that mention Azekah have a definite biblical leaning. I know there is a cave and a water system, but we found neither. Still it was good fun. I definitely need to get an encyclopedia of archaeological sites in Israel, so I can look into what has been uncovered scientifically (this is what I have in mind - a mere $200) .
This is what the tel looks like from Azekah Junction on route 38 (Beit Shemesh road). It is quite imposing, but you can drive right up to near the top through the British Park entrance on route 383.
So they say this weekend will be the peak of the wild flower bloom. They certainly are putting on a good show.
I think this is the view over the edge of the Ella Valley (I need to take better notes of what I'm photographing). The mist made everything look very cool.
The site has been completely taken over by dozens of biblical quotes on pedestals. All the verses that mention Azekah in the bible are engraved onto stone stands. There was also a little model, long ago vandalized that explained the geology of the region. It seems to me that some people objected to the "millions" of years of tectonic movement as it does not jell with their 6 days of creation - so they scratched it out. We live in a tolerant world - Not!
I just liked this picture of the coffee making with the view of the hills of Judea in the background.
Proof that we were there just after 7am. Blacknephewo wanted to know how the sun dial corrects itself for summer time.
This is the upper tel looking up from the lower tel. I don't see that a lot of archaeology has taken place, but there are a many signs of a city, like stone walls and much ceramic sherds and tile.
It is a stunning view. That's route 38 in the valley.
There is tons of pottery sherds laying all over. It seems that there must have been quite a large settlement here in antiquity.
I had to take a picture of these two on the bike. We stopped to buy bagele and falafel balls (very dry) at one of the junctions along route 38. We then waited for a while at a traffic light behind these two. Words cannot describe the music blaring from their bike. Some sort of Israeli folk song, "Yerushalayim Oh Yerushalayim" as loud as can be. Completely bizarre. I wish I had a video camera.

Happy birthday boy. We have been blessed for 19 years. I wish you a future full of love, joy and wisdom.