Monday, May 31, 2010

Michelle Shocked

Back in the late 80s, the wife and I were newly married and living in Houston. Life was all about Rice University and the Art Institute and good food and friends. We went to many concerts in those days and it was at a Billy Bragg concert (I think) in that place that used to be bank, that we first saw Michelle Shocked. We had never heard of her before she opened in that show and she was remarkable. We rushed over to the Soundwaves near Shepherd and the 59 and bought the CD (which I still have). This song takes me straight back to those days.

The Water Tower

Well it's Monday. Raanana weekly picture day (good, at least I don't have to talk about the Gaza Ship mess). This is a picture of the water tower near our house on Hanevel Street. I am not sure what the deeper meaning of the water tower art is - it's been here at least 10 years (since we arrived).

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I think this is quite cool. Tel Aviv municipality decided that cigarette butts are littering the beaches and so started handing out these personal ashtrays to beachgoers. The thing is, you are supposed to return them when you leave the beach. I wonder how many they got back. You can read more about it here. Nice idea.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tel Hamid (a bust)

I set out this morning (alone this time) for Tel Hamid, but I could not find it. According to the map the tel, which was occupied from the ninth century BCE to sixth century CE, is supposed to be hard to find. I came to the general area - near the Nesher cement factory off Highway 44 and Highway 6 and climbed up to the high point, but the bush was exceptionally thick and hard to traverse. I saw a lot of sherds and bits of flint all over, but none of the walls that were uncovered during the salvage excavations that took place in 96, 98 and 02. It looks like it was a substantial site, and according to my encyclopedia may be the biblical site Gibbethon (mentioned in Joshua and 1 Kings).

It's only the second time we have set out and not found the site we are looking for, so not a bad average in all. I'll try for something better known next week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Brother

I am fortunate enough to have a big brother. I really recommend this, you should get one if you don't have one, but you can't have mine - I'm not sharing. My big brother, blackbrothero, has been suffering of late. He's not been well. He went into hospital in Houston for a scheduled operation on Tuesday and he has been on my mind continually. He's had a rough few days, but he called today and sounded like the big brother we all rely on. He is a very special person and one of the main reasons we, in this family, are blessed. I hope that you come out of this, much better than you went in, blackbrothero. We look forward to many more trips together to far away places. Heal quickly, we need you back at the rudder.

I would have posted a picture, but he would hate that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Flash Mobs

AloninLA, guardian of all that is cool and relevant, posted a facebook pointer to the whole flash mob phenomena. Basically where people just do strange things, typically as a group, in public. My favorite (I'll post some links to others) is this video.

Here are some others:
- anything the ImprovEverywhere has done.
- The happy birthday busdriver.
- Opera in the Market.
- Laughing people on the train. (Although this one really just makes me feel uncomfortable).

It sort of reminds me of when the Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'uman come to town.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


A few months back blackwifeo called and told me that the Kirby vacuum cleaner dude had called and wanted to do a demonstration for her. My heart sank. I hoped she'd forget and purposely never mentioned it again, believing it gone and forgotten. For those of you who don't know about Kirby vacuum cleaners, well lets just say they are the Rolls-Royce of "cleaning systems" (notice it's not a vacuum anymore) and cost an arm, leg and liver. They use Kirbys in hotels and other places where a vacuum cleaner works hard a few hours a day. If they needed vacuum cleaners on the space shuttle, they would take a Kirby. The Queen herself uses her Kirby in Buckingham Palace to suck up the hair of those pesky Corgis. These machines are so expensive that they send salesmen into your house and give you a two hour one-on-one demo before starting the sales pitch. Bwo (bless her) is a sucker for a good sales pitch. So I was very worried when she called me at work on Monday and mentioned in passing the Kirby dude was coming. "You will not buy one!" I stated emphatically. "No, of course not" she replied sweetly.

Needless to say. I got home on Monday only to be greeted by Kevin our brand new Kirby Home Maintenance System (pictured above). I breathed deep. I counted to 573. I remembered the shrink's words "think before you speak, she's sensitive". "Just tell me how we are going to pay for this?" I asked politely. "We'll get Aziza the maid one week less a month and then in three years (yes THREE years) we will have paid for this beautiful machine".

Now I see one major problem with all this (beside the fact we cannot afford it) - Kirby Home Maintenance Systems do not push themselves around the house. Unfortunately, the salesman who does the demo, showing you how it can suck dust mites from 10cm down in the mattress thereby alleviating all children's allergies, does not come with the machine. So it means that this more than $1K device will have to be handled by Aziza the Destroyer (and thrower-out of curries). Sigh. Blackwifeo's answered this rant with her lovely smile and the comforting words that the Kirby people are sending out someone to give Aziza training. My god but they are brilliant.

As Larry pointed out when I called him to complain, "be careful, because next thing you know, she'll buy a hotel to go with the vacuum cleaner".

Monday, May 24, 2010

White Stripes

The White Stripes have been featured before on Music Tuesday. Blackdaughtero wrote an excellent post with one of their videos a while back. This video was pointed out by the squint Yuval, and the Lego work is excellent. Not one of their best songs in my opinion, but the worth the watch. So here you have the White Stripes with "Fell In Love With A Girl".

p.s. Good luck blackbrothero, may you be pain free forever.
p.p.s. I am so saving up a post about bwo and Kevin the "new addition".

Kehilat Raanan

This is the shul we don't go to. The kids had their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs here. Rabbi Tami looked after them (When I asked her what you call the husband of a female rabbi, she told me "Lou"). It's a very welcoming community. But, today's Raanana weekly picture has a message. See those two broken windows on the corner of the building. Well "vandals" broke these along with some windows in the Conservative Synagogue a few blocks away (on Borohov street). The police say it's "a difficult case" and no one wants to admit that there is "religious intolerance" in OUR town. I doubt that they will ever catch the imbeciles who did this, but I hope their god was watching.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Shuttle

Believe it or not I completely forgot to post yesterday. Probably something to do with those fifty long years. Well here's a very cool time lapse video of a space shuttle launch - six weeks from start to finish. It was shot with a bunch of Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs. Sorry about the lame Arkansas commercial intro, nothing is really free anymore.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hurvat Hani

This morning we visited Hurvat Hani and got to uncover the awesome mosaic you see above. Some kind visitor in the past left a broom to sweep off the sand covering (which we dutifully returned before we left). All I can say is Wow!

In a 2002 salvage excavation the site was identified as a monastery for women (isn't that called a convent?) that was build during the fifth century CE. The mosaic above was part of the floor in the church hall. There were five stages associated with the main (church) building. First the church was built over a crypt (where they found the bones of several women). Later a monastery was established at the site (stage 2). In the sixth century (stage 3) the monastery grew and the mosaic was installed. During the period of iconoclasm in the eighth century (stage 4) the mosaic's human and animal images were obliterated. During this period religious icons were seen as idol worship and were destroyed. A blessing for the mother superior was incorporated into the mosaic - more evidence that this was a nunnery. The place was abandoned at the end of the ninth century (stage 5) and its stonework reused as a cemetery for girls. All this points to the site's continued sacred tie to to the female side of the species.

We followed the dirt road to the site and were sure that we had missed it when we spotted the remains of this wall on the side of the road. We climbed the steep bank and saw this:
I would not have guessed that the mosaic was beneath this cover of dirt had I not seen the broom nearby. We did at least as good a job of covering it up when we left.
These are the remains of the main building (A). The boy is making coffee up there. Luckily, it was overcast and not too hot yet (although it has turned into a real scorcher).
These are some of the remaining walls of the building. It really has a churchlike feel, even though there are not high walls or anything much standing. It is a special place. And not just for females :-)
In case we missed the mosaic, someone left some some graffiti. At least spell correctly, you fool. It's sad, but at least they did not mess with the mosaic. Most of which is still completely covered with quite a deep layer of sand. I hope it stays that way. For a picture of the complete mosaic look here.

Nice place.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A New Black Hat

I woke up early (as usual) this morning and decided I needed an adventure. So I set off to the one of the few places awake at 5:30am on a Friday morning - The Jaffa Flea Market. Here I'm not talking about the sticky annoying tourist trap of a Jaffa Flea Market. No, this is the real deal. It is here that Israel sells its crap. And it starts early on a Friday. The picture above is before 6am and already the "collectors" are out and about. Now in the past I was known to frequent certain Northern California Flea Markets looking for old tools, but this is a long long way from North California. There is no describing the kind of junk they sell here. No tools worth mentioning. I swear I walked around for two hours and all I could find was a hat. Not bad actually considering it cost 10 NIS and now I have a (black) hat for the Megiddo dig.

When I first spotted the hat guy he was busy dovening (you know the swaying and shaking that Jews do when they are talking to their god) complete with tallis and tefillin. I waited around for him to finish but it was a long service this morning and so I wandered around the "stalls" (actually just people with their junk laid out on the ground). After about a half hour he seemed to be done so I went up and asked how much the hats were. He looked up, smiled, and motioned for me to bend my head. Taken off guard, I did as he bid (thinking this was some sort of hat buying ritual), and he laid his hands on my head and mumbled a few words. I looked up in surprise, he winked and told me the hats are 10 Sheks and the blessing is free. What a deal!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Lot.

I have been lusting after a new camera for a while. I wanted one of those spiffy Nikon SLRs that do HD as well as stills, but they are well out of my price range. I have noticed that carrying a big camera around is really a pain, and I often prefer to walk around with the little Fuji J10 in my pocket rather than the bulky Canon SX10 (is that a Fuji in your pocket or are you just...) I have been less than satisfied with the pictures from the SX10, it is probably me and not the camera, but none the less I want something better.

Then tonight I read about these tiny SLRs that are hitting the market. Just check out this Sony NEX-5 Alpha featured in this New York Times article. I think this may be the camera for me. Small and nimble but great in low light. Just the thing for a budding archaeologist. Now all I need is the cash.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Number One

The army is central to life in Israel. It's not really surprising considering that males spend three years of their lives on active duty while females spend two. Then there is the endless cycle of reserve duty that keeps the chaps tuned up. So, of course, the military is often a central topic of conversation. Many of Blacksono's friends are in the army and when they get together the talk invariably moves onto army matters.

At squint central the conversations during lunch have become quite repetitive. It has got so bad that we have decide to number the various threads. The army is of course number one. So someone will just say "number one" and all the squints will nod sagely and munch on in silence. I need to teach this to bso and his friends. Just think of the number of words they can save.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Winner Day

You know it's going to be a winner day when you come to your uncle's house and get told that you have to do the music blog. (In this family, the music blog is the hardest blog of them all.)

This video was passed around work a couple of weeks ago. I like it... I like the song, I like that the video takes place in my stomping grounds, I like that the thinga-ma-gig looks like something we could piece together with the flotsam and jetsam in the basement:

Then I saw this one by the same guy:

So after, I decided to use these videos, I went downstairs to work on my 2 guitars. There's the one that I'm ever so slowly building, and then there's the one that I play everyday. Well, everyday-player had an unfortunate run-in with the floor and, this being an unforgiving country, it got beat-up pretty badly. Blackpetero helped me with the repair and then helped me with the other guitar. I took another leap forward on that one today.

Building always makes me think of my guitar heroes and fast-ass bluegrass music:

Yee-haw people. Yee-haw.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Little Boxes

I like the painted utilities boxes all over raanana. These are near the city hall.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We are the Minority

According to the new Central Bureau of Statistics annual social survey only 42% of Israelis over the age of 20 describe themselves as being secular. 25% claim to be "not very religious traditionalists" - whatever that means. I find this very disturbing indeed. I was always under the impression that us secularists were at least a slight majority. I am starting to feel lonely in this country of madmen. I have spent the last three months listening to lectures on the Old and the New Testament, and now more than ever cannot understand how anyone can take these books as being more than (often confused) myths of morality. The more I learn about the basis of the Judea-Christian religions the less sense it makes. So as this country (and world) become more religious, I move in the complete other direction.

The article goes on to say that over 90% of non-haredi Jewish men work as do over 80% of non-haredi women (this is versus 52% of haredi men and 61% of their women). The best news is that 88% of Jews are satisfied with their lives as are 82% of Arabs (satisfaction is highest amongst haredi men). On the other hand with those sort of satisfaction figures one has to wonder about the validity of this survey - they probably only surveyed people in mental institutions.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tel Yavne

Years ago when I was at school we were taught about a vineyard in Yavne where the Sahedrin sat and judged Israel. So I have been wanting to check out Tel Yavne for a while. I set out on my own this morning and went to have a look.

This tower can be seen clearly from route 42 as you drive past Yavne itself. I am not really sure what it is and I will have to spend more time looking it up. Google maps seems to think it's a part of a Crusader castle, but my encyclopedia points to its being part of a mosque that was built over a church. I could find no map of the site so I'm really not sure. There is restoration work being done on it and it sticks out like a sore thumb on the skyline as you drive past.
Yavne was quite the town in antiquity. According to legend, Rab Yohanan Ben Zakkai persuaded Vespasian to leave Yanve and its sages alone, after the destruction of the second temple. So it became the seat of the Sanhedrin and the origin of rabbinic Judaism (and the birthplace of the Mishnah). After the second Jewish revolt (130-135 CE) the Sanhedrin moved to the Galilee and that was the end of Yavne's claim to fame.
Apparently, Yavne has not been seriously excavated, which is strange considering its prominence in Jewish history. I see that "Foundation Stone" started a dig in 2008 and there is word on the web that Tel Yavne is going to be turned into a "Jewish theme park" in the future - heaven forbid! There are numerous walls and many, many sherds of pottery all over the place, but it seems much is still hidden in the tell.
I am not sure what this is. Is it the remains of a dome from an old house or part of a Roman building. I have no clue. When I come to sites like this, it becomes so clear to me how much I have still to learn.
This looks like a cistern. The hole is quite deep and filled with assorted junk as is much of the rest of the site.
I spotted this nice wall on one side of the tell. The stones are very nicely cut and everything is nice and square. I have no idea when its from.

So I'm sorry I could not be more help, but this site is a bit of a mystery. There have been a few salvage digs and some test pits, but I can't seem to find a single map of the site so I have no idea what I'm looking at. Still I had a great time bashing through the bush and climbing over the tell. It started to get hot and I made my way down and drove on home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Vision of Students Today

I spent the last two days in strategic planning for the school's technology department. I just don't get enough strategic planning at work, so I do it in my spare time as well (not). Thinking about where computing will be in 3 years (let alone 10 years) is a scary exercise and I am tired and shagged out. One of the teachers showed us this YouTube video which is certainly food for thought. What a world.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aziza III

So the other day bwo came home only to find Aziza, the cleaner, wearing something "personal" of hers that she stretched beyond recognition. She was nearly fired. The Facebook discussion along with the 22 comments is pasted below. I know it's almost impossible to read, but if you're interested (and you should be) go look on bwo's wall to read it in its original form. I could find no way to post a link to a FB discussion so you will have to do the legwork yourself (or strain to read it below).

I called for her firing - and it's not the first time I have requested this. Bwo is a kind soul and really the only way we will be able to get rid of Aziza is by leaving the country. But, I came home today to find what is pictured below roasting in the oven. Aziza's rice stuffed red peppers in a slightly peppery sauce with zatar pitot on the side. It seems that while Azizia is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she knows one thing. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. They are delicious.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Space Toilet

I have always been fascinated with how people use the toilet in space. My brother-in-law Yann sent me some YouTube pointers. This is very interesting stuff. It seems so complicated I've decided I'm not going to be an astronaut after all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Edward Sharpe and The Magenetic Zeros

I am a dedicated follower of NRP's Tiny Desk Concerts. It's the interweb at its best. You get to see all sorts of musicians (I have never heard of previously) in a semi-relaxed atmosphere, but with good recording quality. My current favorite is Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeroes, sort of a cross between Kesey's Merry Pranksters and the Manson Family band (to quote one of the YouTube comments). I bought their album and it's currently on the top of my playlist alongside Die Antwoord (which is the complete opposite). Anyway here is their Tiny Desk set. I like it.

A Cat

A like cats. This is not one of ours, it's just one of the random cats in the neighborhood. So perfectly regal and catlike. We have lots of cats in Raanana. They fill our spring nights with song.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

War is Hell!

They say wars are usually fought in summer. Well we have an ongoing war that has been fought all year round. We have a cruel and capable opponent on our northern border and they take no prisoners. I'm talking about the hummus war with Lebanon. In January, 50 hummus chefs in Abu Gosh used a satellite dish to contain what was then the world's largest plate of hummus (according to the Guinness world records people) beating out a record set a few months earlier in Lebanon.

This weekend 300 Lebanese chefs make 10,452 KG of hummus pummeling the Israeli record of a mere 4 tons. This is real war. Lebanon is upset that Israel has "stolen" their national dish. Today they are trying to set the falafel record. These are the kind of wars I can live with. Read more about it here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Khirbet Qarta (Dustrey)

I dragged myself out of bed this morning. My 50 year old body was still recovering from partying hard. I took off for Atlit as my brand spanking new "Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land", bought for me by the squints, said there is some interesting stones in the area. True, these are mostly Crusader ruins which I don't find quite as interesting as Pre-history but it's quite close and an easy drive. I had a fine time clambering over the rocks and shrubs and communing with cows.

This is the view from the observation tower near Khirbet Qarta. This Crusader castle was built after the smaller one at Qarta, but unfortunately it's slap bang in the middle of the most secret army base and so there is no access. It looks quite composing from a distance.
This is Khirbet Qarta (or Dustrey) it's on a hill about one KM from the sea in a nice little park (if you ignore the trash and drug paraphernalia). It's build on a sandstone hill and is quite small. It was built in 1118 CE before the big castle pictured above (which was built around 1220 CE) and was a sort of police station used to deter robbers and pirates that preyed on the local traders. In fact it was built after the Crusader King Baldwin I was nearly killed here by bandits in 1102.
These are the stables which are impressively cut into the sandstone cliffs. They housed the fort's horses and you can still see the troughs they would eat out of.
I believe those holes in the side of the cliffs near the stables are for wooden ceiling beams. Although they do seem a little close together to be multiple story so I'm not sure.
This is the cistern at the top of the hill which is where the small courtyard of the fort is situated. There are quite steep walls surrounding the top on all sides.
This is the fort from one corner.
This is another corner. Quite an imposing structure and built to last.
The whole family was sleeping so I was all alone except for my friends the cows. They certainly checked me out. There is a really nice nature trail around the fort and when I came back home I found this pdf file of the free info booklet (in Hebrew) they promised to have in the little box near the beginning of the trail. Except that all there was in box was a frightened lizard, some empty cigarette boxes and a crushed maccabi beer can.

1 Foot in the Grave

If you judge a party on how long it takes to recover, this one was a killer. I am finally getting back on my feet. Yesterday I was a total wreck and could hardly move. Things I remember from the party.

  • Lots of people actually brought chips. Thanks, I now have enough chips to last me a good few months.
  • Most people wore black and those that did not felt bad. It made it hard to point people out though ("see that guy over there, the one in black!").
  • Rami does a mean speech as does cousin Avril.
  • It's matzeget not mishkefet, fool!
  • There were enough french fries.
  • Shirley can dance.
  • The squints can party.
  • The Hevreh are special and I'm very lucky to have them.
  • Bwo spent 3 hours (seriously) trapped in the nail place and thus could only go shower as the party started.
  • Two huge kegs of beer, but only one working tap. So much to blacknephewo's surprise and shock we ended the party with one full keg.
  • Just because I'm 50 does not mean I like music from the 50s. Luckily this was quickly fixed.
  • As with all good parties, someone had be carried out. This time it was on Ravid's shoulders.
  • Wisely, no one was thrown in the pool. Dana swam willingly.
  • Martin's onion soup was better.
  • For the first time in probably 30 years the four class of '77 in Israel, were together.
  • Jo's father probably drank more than anyone else.
  • Barry's house rules for parties.
  • I got really good presents. Especially the walking stick.
  • The gravestone cake with 50 candles was 100%. And Alona's chocolate and Viv's cheese cakes were consumed in seconds.
  • 200 chickens gave their right arms to party with us.
  • Thanks all of you. I'm a lucky, lucky bastard.

Brian and Irit's pictures can be seen here.
The "blackpetero hevreh video" Is now available on YouTube. Thanks again Brian and Irit and the hevreh (I like it with an H at the end).

Feel free to leave your one line comments.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Faster Than The Speed of Chrome

Now that I'm fast approaching my half century I've been giving serious thought to what I want to be when I grow up. I love these Rube Goldberg machines they seem to be building for commercials lately. If this computer thing doesn't work out maybe I can get a job making these cool setups. Check out this video Yuval pointed me to.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Die Antwoord

I follow my South-African friends in LA through facebook. They are way more in touch with what is happening out there than I am. It sometimes feels like I'm stuck somewhere between the mesolithic and neolithic. Anyway I have been hearing more and more about "Die Antwoord" ("The Answer" in Afrikaans) and so I spent some time last week listening and reading. A strange bunch I must say, but very cool. Check out their website. It's quite something. This is the "official" video for "Enter The Ninja". There is some good stuff coming out of Africa (and not just the World Cup).

The Numbers

Raanana is very proud of it's numbered traffic lights. Ahuza is a long street with many side streets and traffic lights. A few years back someone had the good idea of numbering these, so if you are coming to visit, just turn at traffic light number 13 or 14 and you're sure to find us. Overall a good idea considering that the streets have different names each side of Ahuza.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lag BaOmer

Lag BaOmer is my least favorite holiday around here. It just encourages wanton destruction of property and the environment. For weeks all the kids in the neighborhood sneak around stealing and hoarding wood, all of which is imported into this country. The bonfires were a little smaller this year and the pall of smoke seemed a little less horrendous. Maybe the little rain we had during the night cleared the air (see even god does not like Lag BaOmer), or maybe the locals are becoming more aware of the environment - Nahhh never.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nahal Hadera V

I have only three photos this week, as the site, while interesting, was hard to photograph. I read about Nahal Hadera V in a book that I will talk more about next week. It's a small but (I found it) interesting site near Hefsiba and Hadera. The site was excavated seriously by TA university in the late 90s and is attributed to the Kebaran culture from something like 22500-17000 (yes thousand) years ago. This was around the end of the last ice age. I found an approximate pointer to the site and set out on my own this morning. I wandered around in the bush and found nothing. As I was about to leave disappointed, I saw the corrugated iron covering so popular around here for protecting sites. Score.

This is the view from the site. The Hadera power station looks like a Pink Floyd album cover, all it needs is the flying pig.

There was one side of a pit exposed. You can see the enormous amount of flint sticking out of the section (all those white stone like things). That's completely cool. Of course, I never touched the section, you have to leave it for some future archaeologist to work on. There was plenty of flint laying on the path that led to where I parked my car. Funny I never noticed any on the way in looking for the site, once I found the site I saw flint everywhere.

This is what the pit looks like. Quite sad actually. I am sure people come in all the time and look for nice lithic artefacts. It's amazing that the site is so old. They also did a archaeozoological study on the faunal remains at the site and found that the two most popular species were mountain gazelles and fallow deer. The book says it was quite a big site by paleolithic standards (at least 500 sq. M).

I spent a while looking at the lithics in the sections and just enjoyed having found the site. I suppose the sea must have been a way off in those days, just as the ice age was ending. I wonder where they got the raw flint to make their tools from. I did not see much in the way of rocks around. Hmmm, I suppose I should do more reading.

Very cool indeed.