Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wikus and Charlize

You may need to be South African to appreciate this. Charlize Theron is to South Africa what Bar Rafaeli is to Israel, except Ms. Theron has won an Oscar. Still Wikus is a funny chap.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I remember back many years ago, my youngest Houston nephew was getting in big trouble with his parents for repeatedly not doing his homework. Being the wonderful uncle I was, I took him aside and tried to understand. "Listen", I said, "surely you realize that it will eventually catch up with you. I mean, your teachers are sure to let your parents know you are not doing any work, and they will come down heavily on you and you'll have to do it. So why not just do it now". "Blackuncleo", he said, "you never know what may happen tonight. Maybe there will be a tornado that wipes out the whole school. Maybe the world will end, or the school could burn down. You never know?". My nephew Paul may not remember this conversation, but it could have been yesterday it's so real to me.

What is interesting is this same philosophy now runs rampant in our house. Maybe it's genetic. Nephew Paul grew into a big, strong, reliable adult. We are all most proud of him. So maybe there's hope for the procrastinators of Rehov HaNevel. I dearly hope so.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Your Eyes

I still think Peter Gabriel's "Secret World" concert video is the best live concert video I have ever seen. We like it so much we have two copies. This video is near the end of the concert along with the wonderful Papa Wemba. It just makes me smile - Bob Alfieri's favorite song. This is close to 100% in my opinion.

Monday, April 26, 2010

8:30 at the Bank

Today's Raanana Weekly Picture is outside the bank. What is it with people waiting outside the bank at 8:30am for the doors to open. I swear this is a purely Israeli phenomenon, no one loves their banks like the people here. In all my life in the US I went into the bank twice. Once to open my account and once to replace a lost credit card. Over here the bank wants you to come visit. They want to know you, not just your money.

The important thing to notice about this picture is the line. Or lack thereof. People just stand around the door and wait for the guard to unlock and then push in. Everyone is quite nice about it, they will chat to you while waiting for the doors to open, but as soon as the lock is turned, it's a free for all. On the first of the month you can get trampled. These people must know some secret I do not. I hate going to the bank and certainly have no intention of waiting outside. There's the internet guys - it's this new thing where you use your computer at home for things like banking.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Two bits of media for you today. The first is a commercial for Shell oil. I want to work at Asylum Models and Effects. That's real engineering. The car is cool.

The next thing to see are these unbelievable pictures of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano. The first two and last three pictures are spectacular, I urge you to click over. I love that volcano. Thanks blackshirleyo for the pointer. I think I'm going to use one for my workstation's background.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hecht Museum

I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking and last night I had a little too much wine. I awoke this morning with a killer migraine, took some pills and waited. By the time I was ready to roll it was already 9am. So I decided that instead of hitting one of the sites I would go instead to look at the Hecht Museum.

The Hecht Museum is on the campus of the University of Haifa - the world's thinnest university. You can see the building from almost anywhere in the north. It sticks up like a sore thumb from the top of the Carmel. I took a nice drive out there on my own, driving through Beit Oren, a road I used to love when I studied up in Haifa, millions of years ago.
Like I said, the thinnest university in the world.
Their prize exhibit is the "Maagan Mikhael Boat". They found this 2400 year old ship off Kibbutz Maagan Mikhael in 1985. They rescued it, treated it with lots of PEG and built the museum pretty much around it. It is a wonderful thing.
Another view of the boat. It's 12.5M long and 4M wide and carried about 15 tons of cargo. Very cool.
This is a model of the famous "4 room" house type that was typical of this area. I have seen lots of stone remains of these houses and it was nice to see a model of what they looked like when built.
This is a little model of a Phoenician ship. It was found on one of the shipwrecks that line the coast.
A nice display of woodworking tools. I have a passion for these.
I thought this little carved statue of a cosmetic spoon in the shape of a swimming girl holding a duck was very nice indeed. It comes from the 18-19th Egyptian Dynasty (14-12 centuries BCE).
This latrine (or toilet) comes from the City of David and is dated to the late 7th Century BCE. When they analyzed the poop around it, two types of parasitic eggs (tapeworms and whipworms) were identified. So the toilet users clearly has some stomach issues.
This is a panoramic view of Haifa from the Museum's windows. Quite nice I think.

I liked the museum very much. It's not too big so you don't get exhausted and there is no sensory overload that is typical of huge museums. The problem with a lot of the collection is that it was built around Mr. Hecht's donated artifacts and they do not seem to have a lot of provenance (where they came from). So while there are nice pieces, I would like to have an idea where they were found (or looted).

Anyway, it is well work a visit and it's free.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dear Blog

Dear Blog

I'm sorry. This sexy new iPhone swept me off my feet and I lost sight of what was important. It's just that its so perfectly shiny and heavy and black. I swear I'll be faithful from now on. No more looking for irrelevant 0.99c apps from the Apps store. No more trying out every free Sudoku to find the perfect game. I'm hanging up Waze and the fantastic Google Maps app and returning to my desktop, where I belong. I hope you can forgive me and take me back. Anyway that iPhone can't keep battery charge for shit.

Yours faithfully


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I am struggling with tiredness today. I don't do well on days after these holidays. There is just not enough time to recover and it sucks. A normal weekend is two full days off whereas Yom Haatzmaut (Independance Day) is really only one and a half days off. So fatigue sets in. Thank goodness it's Thursday tomorrow.

(written on my iPhone - tee hee. It's quite a challenge)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Violent Femmes

It was 20 years ago (today?). I was driving my little red Hyundai Excel down Greenbriar, outside Rice stadium between University and Rice Blvds listening to KTRU (Rice Radio) when this song came on. I remember it clearly. It was early afternoon, I was on my way to digital logic class. The DJs at KTRU only came on about once an hour and then rattled off a list of songs in rapid fire monotones. So I never found out who sang the song. But, it stuck. Funny how that works.

This weekend I was watching an uncomfortable movie about a kid with a stutter who joins the debate team. In a fit of frustration he lobs a cello through a window, with this song in the background. Well a bit of internetting and it was mine. The song is "Kiss Off" by the Violent Femmes and it still rules. I could really only find this half decent live version on the YouTubes. The studio version is great, but the video unfortunately is not. Listen through, the count off is classic.


Of all the crazy, whacked out people that live in this pressure cooker of a country these Neturei Karta imbeciles must be the worst. I see that they decided it would be a good idea to protest during the siren for the fallen soldiers last night and today. No matter what you think of this country and its politics, surely you could have the decency to shut up today, memorial day?

I just don't get it. If they are so opposed to the state and everything to do with it, why do they live here? Surely it would make more sense to go live somewhere else, like Iran or Gaza. If these guys were Arabs, I doubt the police would just look on, shake their heads and go "tut, tut". I hope (naively) that these leeches see none of my hard earned taxes. Makes me sick.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I didn't post yesterday but I had good reason. I finally got an iPhone and had to spend the evening playing and configuring. I know I'm very late to the party on this but I am quite impressed. I was happy with my Nokia E71. It did email and was almost usable as far as its awful browser would allow one. It worked well with the bluetooth (bluetoof) hands free in the car and as a tethered modem for my macbook. The iPhone is just in a different class. I think it's all about how clear the fonts are (maybe that because my screen is not scratched yet). Actually all the setup was easy and the mail reader is quite usable (once you get rid of the "sent from my iPhone" signature). Setting up the bluetoof tethering was a hassle as it does not work quite like the other phones I have had, but it seems to be OK now. And, man, Oh man does it have a kick-ass Sudoku game. I like it a lot (not as much as I like bwo, but I'm still getting used it it).

The 80% part of it is to do with Orange, our carrier. I have no Hebrew support, or apps or anything to say the phone is from Orange Israel. Bwo's iPhone came with a bunch of Orange junk, mine is virgin. I'm not complaining at all, just I don't have a GPS app as yet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Izbet Sartah

We got up this morning with the sun and the wife, the boy and I visited Izbet Sartah.
Izbeth Sartah is on the outskirts of Rosh Ha'ayin and so only about a 15 minute drive from home. The site is interesting because it was occupied for a short period only between 1200-1000 BCE. It was excavated by Israel Finkelstein who's course on the beginnings of settlement in this area, I am attending at TAU. The village is about 3 kilometers from the Philistine city of Aphef and was possibly where the Israelite armies mustered thir armies at the beginning of the Philistine wars (Eben Ezer, see 1 Sa. 4).
Finding the site was non-trivial and we stumbled around in the bush behind the houses until we literally fell into the site. We then found the easy access path and the archaeological signposts. There is a find example of a typical "four-roomed house", which was used during this period. There are also numerous stone lined silos.
You can see the industrial area of Rosh Ha'ayin in the background, there are the remains of a small settlement at the site.
Here is a close up of one of the stone lined silos that must have been used for storing grain.
The boy protecting the coffee from the wind. He really takes his job seriously.
These are the outskirts of the village. There are quite a few walls and stones.
Thats rosh Ha'ayin in the background.
The flowers were still in bloom although it soon will be to hot from any living thing. The weather this morning was perfect.

The single biggest find, or the one with the most written about it, was two fragments of a large jar that had an alphabet and some text that seemed to be a copying exercise for a scribe in training. There is a lot written about this on the net (it was written in perhaps Proto-Canaanite) as any writing from Bronze/Iron age Israel is very politically/biblically charged. (to read more about this ostracon look here and here).

We were home by 8am, ready for the family brunch.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The cloud

I always get this ridiculous thrill of pleasure when Mother Nature strikes back. The picture above is of the volcanic cloud sweeping down on the UK from Iceland. I am sure it sucks to be one of the many people stranded at UK airports due to the grounded flights, but don't you just love it when the world shows us that we are absolutely not in charge. We are simply renting space here and sometimes our typically benevolent landlord gets pissed off and she starts banging on floor.

It's unclear if these are clips of the exact volcano that is erupting, but they are pretty cool non the less.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's so meaty there's no room for the bun

I don't think this is available in Israel (yet, or ever). It's the new KFC Double Down sandwich. To quote their website: "two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce. This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!"

Oh yeah, so you can get it "grilled" and it's a mere 460 calories instead of the 540 for Original Recipe® (32g of fat and 1380 mg of Sodium - healthy stuff).

So it's basically an Israeli Schnitzel sandwich with cheese and bacon in the middle. Sounds like something the squints would love.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch

I was looking for something interesting to post on music Tuesday when I stumbled on this unbelievable piece of history. The sound is really bad and I had to crank up my speakers to 11 to hear anything, but its a classic of Israeli music in my mind. Arik Einstein and Shalom Hanoch with "Why do I care?". I think it is great.

The Man and the Color Bars

In our city of Raanana we have art. Along Ahuza street there are various statues and other works. This guy on the right is something I have never really understood. It looks like he is holding a color bar, one of those things they give you in paint shops, while looking towards the traffic lights at HaNesi'im street. This picture was taken at 4:45am and I like the slightly out of focus look to it all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Army

Bright and early this morning I set off with the boy to visit the Lishkat HaGiyus (the main army center for soldiers entering the army) at Tel HaShomer. We had no real idea why he had been called back again, but this time he was to be accompanied by a parent. This is the third or forth time he has been summonsed. His shrinks think he should not enlist and should volunteer instead, but we were waiting to hear what the army thought. We rocked up a half an hour early and I was allowed into the sacred courtyard after having to go back to the car with my Swiss Army knife. The army does not like Swiss Army Knives on the base. We waited outside with the parents who's kids were enlisting today, it was strange to watch the mix of pride and sadness that everyone seemed to feel as the waved goodbye to their kids. Anyway we were finally let into the building and pointed to room 111.

They have these fancy screens outside each room that are supposed to tell when it's your turn, but they are not working, so they resorted to the age old trick of sticking a sheet on the door for you to write your name. All the while there are 18 year old kids walking up and down, taking charge and making decisions. I couldn't help getting the feeling that it's like those days at school when the pupils are allowed to run the show. We waited and not much later, we were called into room 111. We were first - Oh the joy that our last name begins with an aleph in Hebrew.

Dr. Shai, is an adult. He was sitting in a room with 4 young girls, all taking notes. He gestured us to sit down without looking up from the boy's file. When I told him the boy only spoke English, he re-asked his question in a soft barely audible voice. The boy answered. He asked me a question in Hebrew. I answered. He took out a pad, circled something, stamped and signed, asked the boy to sign and bam! that's it. The boy is out the army. "He wants to volunteer", we both said at the same time. Dr. Shai pointed us to Room 7. There we waited while the young lady goomied (mopped) the floor and complained that she could not work because the AC was broken. A young lad came by, flipped the main switch and saved the day. We got the volunteering info, and an explaination while standing in the hall because the rooms was still too hot, and then we left. All this took about 40 minutes. Not your father's IDF, I say. This changes things a bit, I say.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tel Dan

Blackwifeo and I set out from Raanana on Thursday morning on our weekend away up north. It's now later on Saturday and we are back home. We had a wonderful time filled with lazing around an excellent B+B and meeting friends, eating way too much and just taking in the view.

On Thursday we went about as far north as one can go (the Hermon is further) and visited the site of Tel Dan. Now Tel Dan is a site that has been occupied from Neolithic times (around 4500 BCE). It is identified with the biblical city of Dan which the book of Judges states was known as Laish before it was conquered by the tribe of Dan. The coolest find there was a basalt stele (engraved piece of stone) which is believed to be from Hazael (around 840BCE) King of Aram-Damascus who boasts defeating the "house of David" and is the first time David is mentioned outside the Bible. I saw this in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and have included a picture below.

Tel Dan is located in the Tel Dan Nature Reserve which follows the Dan river and its springs. It was particularly beautiful at this time of the year and the river is flowing very strongly. It's all in all a very nice place.
This is the Tel Dan Stele. The part in white is the first mention of the "House of David" outside the bible (around 840BCE).
O.K. This is starting to annoy me. Everywhere you go there are verses from the bible. But there are very few explanations of what you are looking at. Instead of these worthless verses how about giving us more explanations - the pamphlet they give you at the entrance is all well and good, but it is not clear, so how about giving each person a pamphlet with verses from the bible they can ignore if they want, and change those expensive metal signs into archaeological explanations. I think I will write my congressman.
This is my lovely wife. She was most kind and did not complain about having to trek over ruins during her birthday weekend. I mostly behaved and this was the only site we visited although there are dozens I would like to see in the North.
Some of the impressive walls of the City. There was in Neolithic times apparently a huge embankment around the city.
This is some sort of altar. It has clearly been rebuilt.
There are some nice excavations going on. This is a big site and I doubt they will ever be done with the digging.
This is the "cultic" area. Dan was part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. These guys are not popular in the bible and it was in this area that King Jeroboam was supposed to have placed his golden calf.
The views from the lookout that was in use around the six day war time. You can see what was once Syria and the Hermon range (I think that's the Hermon, but I am probably wrong - there are no signs, only bible verses).
The Dan was flowing strongly. Nice to see a real river in Israel.
This is one of the pools in the park. It is a very nice place and the best thing of all was that there were very few people around even though this was the middle of the day. All in all a worthy trip and a fine place to visit.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Today we visited Safed (Zefat or one of the million other ways to spell it). Bwo was blown away by the artists and their wares. I was shocked by the few people around. Every time I have visited Zefat in the past there have been hundreds of people and it has been a stressful ordeal trying not to be touched by others. Today it was empty. We managed to get away without spending the 5000 Shekels on the painting she liked, and we even managed to avoid buying the 1200 Shekel collection of originals. So I guess we saved 6200 Sheks, I wonder where bwo will spend it. We had a good time - these weekends help us remember why we are together in the first place.

These are some of bwo's pictures. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The View

This is the view from our Tzimmer (B+B) in the north. That's the Kinneret in the distance. We are up here celebrating bwo's birthday. It's a good life. More later (or tomorrow). It's time for a jacuzzi.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


There is nothing, nothing I tell you, quite as delicious as a fresh pita. It's one thing they rock at in this country. Tonight's was especially good seeing as it's the first real bread I have eaten since before Pesach started last week. I was too busy to go out to the super the last two days at work and finally when I got home tonight, bwo had stocked up on pitot. Yumm. So soft and fluffy, sort of like a doughy marshmallow. I could live on fresh pitot if only they didn't rock my triglycerides. Even toasted they are so much better than any I have ever eaten oversea. So there you go, something's more than 80%.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The "Friends" Park

I missed posting yesterday and it was Raanana Weekly Picture day at that. So on the way back from work today I stopped at the park to take a picture of the Park Havarim (Friends Park) which I think is special. It's a part of the big Raanana park with special equipment for handicapped kids. Today also happens to be the Mimouna today. It's a Moroccan festival where basically you eat a whole lot after eating a whole lot for Pesach.

At our park today I did not see any Moroccans, and no mufleta. But there were hundreds upon thousands of religious people, and as far as I could tell most of them able bodied. Many of their kids were playing in the "friends" park. It's a free world, I guess. Except for parking, you have to pay for parking.

Steeleye Span

I spent the last few days worrying about Neolithic flint tool scatters in North East England. I played a lot of English folk music to get myself into the mood. At some point "Steeleye Span" was picked by iTunes and the song "All Around My Hat" got stuck in my head for a few days. When we were kids in the old country this song was quite popular. In my opinion it's not one of their best, but the video is priceless early 70s stuff. You can sing along if you will.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Going to the Movies

Blackwifeo has filled at least 1 terabyte of disc with movies. Mostly second rate B type mindless drivel - just what I love. Yesterday, I had one of those wonderful "bridge" days (a "gesher" in Hebrew) which turned this into a four day weekend. I spent much of the morning and afternoon studying and began writing my final paper for my Landscape Archaeology course - I have been struggling to make progress on this, but I finally got an outline done. Now there is just a whole lot of writing to do. I then decided to catch up on some bad-bad movie watching. And I did.

I watch (in this order) "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past", "Year One", "The Proposal", "Fired Up" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno". I pretended I was on a long flight to the US, and sat in my seat, had food delivered on little trays and waited my turn by the bathroom door. None of the movies were at all memorable except perhaps Zack and Miri as it is a Kevin Smith film. Still it was a nice way to spend an afternoon/evening. In the old days when I was wiped out from studying or working I would spend time flipping channels on the TV - now I have 1TB of movies to watch on my computer screen. It's all about progress.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ashdod-Yam and Tel Ashdod

This morning we visited Ashdod. You know, I don't think I have ever actually been to Ashdod in the past. We took b-i-l-ari (brother-in-law) with us and his savantlike knowledge of all roads in Israel proved indispensable. Ashdod is an interesting place. It is well known as being one of the cities of the Philistine pentapolis, but it seems it is in fact two sites. There is Tel Ashdod which is about 5Ks from the sea and Ashdod-Yam which was on the sea coast.

We first visited Ashdod Yam. Even though the site is mentioned in writings from the time of Sargon II of Assyria when he had to put down a usurper in 713BCE, we only found the remains of the "Kal'at Al Mina" an Arab period citadel (640-1099CE) built to protect the coast from the Byzantine navy. It is a very cool structure and we had much fun climbing around.

Tel Ashdod is a little inland. There were excavations here 30 or so years back and the site is now completely overgrown. It's actually a cow patch complete with cows. Ashdod was settled back in Paleolithic times. By the 12th century BCE it was one of the key Philistine cities. In 950 BCE it was destroyed by Pharaoh Siamun when he came a'conquering. Then it was conquered again by Sargon II in the early 8th century BCE when put down the above mentioned usurper. Then in 605 BCE Nebuchadnezzer conquered it, the Persians rebuilt it in 539 but Alexander the Great reconquered it. And so on through the Hashmonean Revolt and Roman rule. Pretty typical for a sea side city in this area.

We were up with the sun. Here is the sun rising over the buildings of Ashdod. The sky is that strange color as we are suffering through a hamsin (sharav) today.
How cool are these walls at the Ashdod Yam citadel. It's a cool place if you ignore the broken bottles, bongs and drug paraphernalia common at many urban archaeological sites.
Nice architecture with lots of arches.
Some covered by sea sand.
This is a better view of the whole citadel. It is quite big and still has a lot of standing walls.
This is a drain pipe taking roof water into a cistern which you can just see to the left. As always conservation of water must have been as important then as it is now.

After our coffee and exploration of the citadel we took off for Tel Ashdod. It is marked on google maps, but there is not really anything there except a lot of thorns and bushes and cows. It was really very cool, because you can see there was once a city here based on the tons of pottery sherds on the ground. It's my kind of site.
This is what it looks like. Not much I know, but there are signs of a big ancient city. There were excavations 30 years back but they are all overgrown by now.
These are all we could see of the old excavations. There are some signs of walls that have been uncovered.
See, there are bunches of pottery sherds strewn all over the ground.
This is b-i-l-ari negotiating the very sandy sides of the Tel. We had to pay particular mind to the large amounts of bullshit all over.

Nice place old Ashdod. I don't know that I would love to live in new Ashdod, although there does seem to be some nice houses around and the sea was very blue with a lot of campers and fishermen all doing their thing on the holiday weekend.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Got a light?

Blackwifeo is a non-vegetarian smoker. We still love her very much, though. She does have a few strange habits. She is a smoker that never has a light. There are dozens of lighters around the house but she never has one when she needs one. So a few days she bought a pack of 10 match boxes. This morning when I opened the patio door, I was greeted by the sight above - six of the boxes lying there sadly. Now, bwo is one of those people who when she buys a dozen pens, opens the box and spreads them around the house. I claim they are therefore lost immediately. I on the other hand am the type of person that will take out ONE pen, use it till it is finished (or bwo borrows it and immediately loses it), and only then take out a second.

Needless to say, the six boxes of matches on the patio were soaked by the sprinklers early this morning and are thus useless.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I've seen the future and it's now.

The picture above is for real (it's not an April's Fool). This is what scientists back in 1954 thought home computers would look like in the year 2004 (50 years in the future). I particularly love the steering wheel. The blurb claims the machine will require "not yet invented technology to actually work". I think it's beautiful, all those dials and switches. I wonder if the spiffy suit comes with the machine.