Thursday, December 30, 2010


I had a productive day today. Most probably because it started at 2:30 am when I bolted out of bed after 2 hours sleep. Sometime jetlag has its uses. I finished sketching the contours in GIS for my stress provoking school project. I also managed to plan out what the next stage needs to be - I wrote an outline and listed the plans I still need to draw up. I then went to work while it was still rather dark outside and built up and installed a new Linux machine as well as started building the Android tree. Had quite a few meetings and discussions - mostly marveling at fact that our ex-president was convicted of sexual harassment and rape, no less. I then came home, unpacked the shed and the camping gear, found the groundsheets. Built the old sun shade, put up the covering for the party (a huge job, thanks to Steve and Gilli for the help) and riveted the legs of the BBQ back in place. I then cut a huge amount of veggie and started putting together the giant pot of minestrone soup for the party. I finally managed to read (and absorb) the Nadav Na'aman paper for class next week. All this while constantly threatening the kids with disownment if they didn't help - of course, they didn't. Now it's only 8:30pm and I'm bone tired. I need a good night's sleep, and hope the jetlag will cower in defeat at my content packed day.

p.s. I just remembered, I also fixed the downstairs cordless phone which had ceased to work while we were away (how surprising). Thanks to google, I found the trick. It needed a complete reboot, which required removing the battery and resetting the handset.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I've been very "sort of" since we came home. Sort of sleeping, sort of not. Sort of ready to have a huge New Year's Party, sort of not. Sort of happy to be home, sort of not. Maybe it's the sort of weather here in Israel - sort of hot, sort of not. I'm sort of out of sorts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home Jerome.

This is the sight we arrived home to at the crack of dawn this morning. Very sweet indeed. It is great to be back, although I have yet to see the kids - it's now nearly 11am and they are still asleep. I have to say I've missed them like an amputated limb. We arrived home, I unpacked and then collapsed on my bed for a few hours sleep.

Not all is 100% (come on this is Israel and our house after all). The house looks like a barrel of monkeys jury rigged a computer network while blindfolded. The Lavazza espresso machine is not working at all. The Bodum coffee filter (the espresso alternative) was not cleaned after its last use and contained the dried, congealed remains of what looks like the makings of bush tea. And I haven't dared to even approach the down-down stairs. All in all, It's good to be home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


She cheated. She slipped things into my case behind my back. One would think that 3 cases at 50 pounds and a large carry on packed to exploding would be enough. But no, she snuck the slippers she bought for the boy into one of my poor bag's side pockets. Unbelievable, and people want to know why I'm stressed.

It's off to the Houston Intergalactic Airport in a few minutes, then a stop over for 10 hours in Frankfurt (assuming everything goes as planned) and off home arriving around 3am Tues. It's a long way home.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vietnamese Sandwiches

Why didn't anyone tell me about Vietnamese sandwiches before? What kind of friends are you? Talk about delicious. And only $2.50. This has made this trip to the US worthwhile.

p.s. I was going to take a picture but I couldn't wait and just inhaled two of them. Yum.

p.p.s. In an unrelated note, go look at the New York GIS project (Mannahatta Project), the TED talk is especially interesting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

De Family

Houston is all about family. I am very lucky. Last night was blacknephewo's birthday celebration. He was actually born on Christmas Day, but he is leaving Houston tomorrow for Dallas, so we celebrated last night. My sister put on an excellent feast as usual and once again I ate too much. Almost all the family is in town. E+L and kids from Albany, CA, bno newly situated in Cleveland, OH there is us from Raanana, and all the rest from Houston, TX (we are missing G+S and kids from Dallas). There are lots of kids and happy grandparents, and the houses are filled with laughter and noise.
My mother with little Zach, currently the youngest of the brood. There are more on the way though.
The birthday boy and Ben playing with Lego. Stevie was always the Lego king and the new generation definitely has the the building gene.
Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, Mothers and some of the kids. Very cool indeed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Special Hell

Israel's special version of hell is the waterpark at Shvayim in the middle of summer holidays. America's version is the 99 cent store on the corner of Voss and Westheimer the week before Christmas. I needed to drop bwo off to do some shopping while I went to a lunch meeting today. After my lunch I called and found out she was at the 99 cent store and would I please come pick her up (and I should take my time as she was mid shop). I thought I had it covered as the traffic was heavy and I struggled to find parking in the vicinity, which was the first sign of trouble. There is always parking in Houston. This place has space. This is the only time I have ever had to walk any distance. Well the store is large, much bigger on the inside than it looks from the street. And it's packed. People (women) everywhere. People marveling over the Colt 45 malt liqueur (pronounced 'likker') for 99c, the 99c Christmas tree ornaments. the 99c expired sour patch candies, the 99c kitchen utensils and the 99c candles. Everything is slightly not-new looking. It is also true that everything is 99c cents as opposed to Israeli bargain stores e.g. the 10 shekel store on Ahuza street that has one thing that is 10 shekels and everything else costs more. Still it was horrid. People everywhere bumping you with their carts, pushing you out the way, touching you. It's hell I tell you, pure hell.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bing Crosby and David Bowie (Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly)

It's Sunday today and most of my family is in town. E+L came on from Oakland with their kids and nephew Stevie is due in from NY any moment. I know it's not Tuesday, but nephew Eddie pointed this out to me and I feel I must share. In 1977 during Bing Crosby's tour of the UK he was scheduled to sing a Christmas duet with David Bowie. The full story of this meeting (odd to say the least) can be read here (Ziggy Stardust meets Twilight Time). The resulting Christmas song (Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth) can be heard in many of the stores bwo shleps me to. Check out the original:

There is an excellent spoof with Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly. Check this out (watch to the end):

Merry Christmas all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Taste of Travel.

We've been on the road and therefore there have been no blog updates for a few days. We left the hospitality of Jonathan and Dewi in Los Altos Hills and drove to Albany on Thursday morning. We dropped our luggage off at Eddie and Lisa and then made our way to Folsom, for a meeting. We had a nice drive through California, Luckily there was a large outlet mall close by, so blackwifeo had somewhere to shop while I met. We drove back to Albany (2 hours) after the meeting and had an excellent evening with E+L and the kids. Lovely kids.

Our rental car, a Hyundai Genesis performed spectacularly. What a nice vehicle. It has every bell and whistle you could hope for and has a smooth ride. It's a bit of a gas guzzler, but hey, you can't have everything.

Friday morning bright (well not so bright) and early we drove over the Bay Bridge to San Fransisco airport. The weather was not good and there was already a large backup over the bridge but we got to the airport with plenty of time. This is not a good time to be traveling anywhere. The Christmas rush is on and the airport and planes were packed to capacity. Everything was running late (they have the weather to blame). We were fortunate to get to Houston with only a half hour delay. Brother Arnie was waiting for us at the airport, we dropped off our luggage and went straight to Friday night dinner with the family at Barry and Laura. After a good meal and birthday cake (Sydney turned three) we arrive back at Arnie and Olive were we both collapsed from exhaustion. It is strange - I am not fully over my jetlag yet. It has been more than a week, but I have not been stressing, just not sleeping well. This morning I'm up before the sun and hoping to do some school work.

I hope you enjoyed the little taste of what it's like to travel with the blacko family.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Dessert Game

We went out for dinner with myoung last night. He demonstrated a Dessert picking game that seems quite successful. You each quietly pick two desserts without telling each other. Once you have decided, you point out your choices (to an unbiased observer - that would typically be the dessert avoiding me). If you have two overlaps, you have to order both, if you have one then that's the choice. If there are no overlaps, I'm afraid there's no dessert for you. I'm not completely clear how you would scale the game fairly for parties of more than two or three, but it seems like a good way to decide how to end one's meal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crisis, What Crisis

It's amazing, whenever we go away there is drama back at home. We have had break-ins and floodings, computer crashes and cat emergencies. Now it seems that the person who was kindly looking after the house, cats and kids has chicken pox. Oh, and the storm took out the computer network in the house. All this and more. We spend hours on the phone, luckily international calls have never been cheaper. I suppose we should never go away again.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I got to visit the google campus today. It is interesting to wander around the buildings that I spent so much time in when I worked for SGI. They have changed completely. Google must have four times as many people on the campus than there were in the heyday of SGI, still the buildings look the same. There are free Odwalla fridges filled with fresh juice everywhere. The building that I met my contact in, bld. 44, has a host of pinball and videogame machines in a nice common area. There are people everywhere and yet, the Silicon Valley rumor mill says Google is losing people to Facebook etc at a rapid pace. There are even those that claim they are yesterday's news. Certainly walking around the campus I didn't get that feeling, and I had plenty time to experience what a company going down feels like. It was even in the same buildings.

We're now in Cali, but looking back on Bucks County

I missed out blogging for a few days mainly because we were having such a good time, that I was loath to even open my computer. We are now in California after a long, delayed flight from Newark. We got in late last night and Jonathan and Dewi have been as welcoming as ever.

We had an awesome time in Bucks County with Suzanne and Todd. There are some people in this world who it is very easy to feel at home with. They spoiled us rotten. We spent time eating, walking, talking and netfliking. Lots of talking. As much as I may claim to be anti-social, there are some people in this world who are a pleasure to be around. I have been blessed with close friends throughout my life, and it is especially sweet when you find the kind of friends that you are completely comfortable with no matter how often you see them. All I can say is we had a special time.

That's the stream we walked along, and yes that's ice on the water. It was cold. But their house was warm and light and friendly.
No this is not where they live, it's a picture bwo took with her iphone of one of an old mill in the area.
Our walk in the cold. Gomez seemed to have no problem with the weather. He enjoyed being outside and chasing sticks. Dogs are much friendlier than cats.

We were sad to leave our friends, but the trip continues. It feels like we are going from dream house to dream house. J+D's house in California is really nice. Work starts for me today. I am still missing having a camera. I will have to wait till I get to Houston for that to be remedied.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bucks County, PA

Our flight from Tel Aviv to Newark was uneventful. Bwo slept and I watched movies. About 5 or so, along with some napping in between. Todd was waiting at Newark to meet us, very nice considering the plane came in at 4:50am meaning he had to get up around 3am. We drove off to their house in Bucks County, PA about an hour from Newark.

What a place. No words can describe this. Its a beautiful house, excellently laid out with lots of wood and an unbelievably high ceiling. The house is near the Delaware River near a quaint little town (more on this tomorrow). We have the bottom floor to ourselves. The upper floor has the kitchen and their bedroom suite and there is a sort of open attic TV room way at the top. Everything is perfect (the bed is very comfortable, indeed bwo is fast asleep). We went into the little town for breakfast and then Suzanne and I took Gomez for a walk along the mule path on the bank of the canal next to their house. We then sat around the fire in the living room and spoke amongst ourselves.

I am loving this place. It is quiet, with perfect comfort. Couldn't hope for a better and more relaxing start to the trip. Thanks T+S.

The pictures will do it no justice as I only have my iPhone camera. My new camera will be waiting for me in Houston (hopefully).

This is the sun rise in the distance. The view is out of the kitchen window.
This is their side porch and deck. You can't really see the slope of the mountain to the right, but it is quite steep.

I didn't mention that it's cold. Yep that's the canal frozen over. How nice is that floating piece of ice, it is actually standing a meter or so in the air although it's hard to tell from the picture. This was take while on our walk before I froze solid.
Gomez laying by the fire. Both Suzanne and Todd claim to want to come back as him in a future life. Gomez has it made.
This is the view from near the fireplace. Check out the high ceiling and the upper TV room. It's a lovely place and the people who live here aren't bad at all. I told Todd and Suzanne I'm moving in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time To Go

The taxi will arrive in 10 minutes to take us to the airport. We are off to the US for a while. I'll miss the kids, but not the cats. Why is it that blackwifeo has stilled not closed her cases. This is a most dangerous time, where she starts stuffing last minute things into her bags. She seems to feel that once the case is closed there is no going back. The kids and the house should be fine, there is a list of instructions and telephone numbers a mile long. The money has been given out, hopefully blackdaughtero does not spend it all tomorrow. We only have three cases with us, a forth will be acquired while in the US. They say it's cold there, we'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some Dude

Some dude hit upon my wife today. The story as she tells it is that she was driving along in her car (the mizbeleh) when some dude on a motorcycle pulled up beside her and gave her the beady eyeball. He followed her onto Itzhak Sadeh Street (the road our HaNevel leads into) and flagged her down. "He asked for a cigarette" she claims. "What you flagged me down just to ask for a smoke?", she asked some dude. He then told her, no he just wanted to talk to her. "Leave me alone, I'm married" she quipped in response.

She then rushed home to proudly tell me this story. Look, I know she is a beauty. I'm surprised that more dudes don't hit on her. Funny thing is she's been walking on cloud nine ever since. I never knew that being hit upon was so very good for one's self esteem.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John Lee Hooker

No words are necessary for this. How about some blues. John Lee Hooker "Boom Boom". Isn't the internets fantastic.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Believe it or not. It's raining.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Fifth Candle

What you see above is called "The Hupper" in my family. It's an Americanized version of the word 'chupper (pronounced with a 'ch as in חבר, I know of no English equivalent. The word is derived from the Afrikaans word "gap" which means to grab). My dad found one of these many years ago, no one seems to remember where, it always seemed to be around. It enchanted him. The hand (the original hand was green) would come out slowly and reach for the coil placed in the slot, and then snap back with a pop. No matter how many times he showed off "The Hupper", his unmitigated joy never lessened. I remember (I must have been less than 10 years old) on Jewish Holidays when the house on Mill Park Road was crawling with people, Dad proudly bringing out "The Hupper" to collect coins from the red-faced men crowded around the bar.

Once the grandchildren came along, "The Hupper" was brought out of retirement. I think there was a new version (Hupper 2.0) by now, I seem to think the hand had changed color from the original green to a pale yellow as seen above. I have this image of my Dad beaming with glee as my kids had their pennies grabbed while sitting on their knees around the dining room table in the apartment on North Braeswood. He really loved the snap of the coin being snatched and got as much joy from the millionth coin as from the first.

Today is the fifth candle of Hanukah, and its my dad's Yartzite (memorial day). While his huge influence on who we are is felt daily, it's the little things that make us smile.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Firery Rant

In a normal country, after a huge fiasco that this massive fire in the Carmel appears to be, heads would roll. One would expect that the person who was in control of the horribly understaffed, under equipped and underpaid fire department would be axed. That would be the minister of the interior here. What are the chances that anything will happen to Eli Yishai. In a country where they have billions of dollars worth of the most advanced fighter jets in the world, it's a disgrace that we don't have nearly enough fire fighting planes. So far 41 people dead and millions of dollars of damage, not to mention the cost to the environment. We have had to beg for assistance from the rest of the world. This fire could quite easily have been caused by a Hisbollah missile? Surely the safely of one's citizens is of prime importance. As long as Shas has schools and synagogues and that conversions are controlled by the ultra orthodox, why worry about something as trivial as fire equipment.

In true Israeli form our government is only capable of being reactive. I suppose once this fire is out, it's still burning and destroying homes and forests, there will be commissions and committees, and so much talk. Action. Let's see some action. I hate to think what would happen if there was an earthquake.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

David and Solomon.

Do me a favor and read this National Geographic article on the archaeological background to David and Solomon. It has all the players. I sit in Israel Finkelstein's graduate seminar class twice a week. It is a marvelous experience because twice a week I am brought face to face with my own inadequacies and lack of knowledge. My problem is I have no opinion, and in a class full of very opinionated and knowledgeable students, I must just sit back and watch and listen. It is a privilege and I value the experience deeply.

The article above covers a lot of the in class discussion, all about "Text and Archaeology" where "text" really means the bible. We have spoken about the copper mining and smelting site at Hirbet El-Hahas. Finkelstein likes Tom Levy. We have covered Hazor, Tel el-Ful just outside Jerusalem and Kadesh Barnea in the Sinai. Each lesson is filled with vigorous argument, disagreement and lively discussion and helps me accept just how much there is to learn. Computers are so much simpler.

There is another article in the news section of the journal Nature, about science and archaeology at Megiddo. I spent a day digging with the scientists. It was big fun.

Two Women

I met with two interesting women today. Separately, of course and with ages on different ends of the scale.

I had breakfast with "the beautiful Tal" at some hip place in Tel Aviv (some place called Zorik). She seems to still be glowing from her recent wedding, so much so that strangers butted into our conversation just to be acknowledged by her. We spoke about married life, university and how one should not eat "A" vegetables. She had an avocado sandwich none the less.

Later I met with Noami who grew up in the house I am researching for my Standing Buildings project. She is in her late eighties, but is totally together. She lives in a airy, light penthouse next to the Beit Rishonim (in Herzliya, the house I'm investigating). She told me stories of growing up in Herzliya in the 1920s while they were building the house. She pointed out the rooms and who stayed where (I got some of the old plans from the city archives). She's a wealth of knowledge and stories. I am now trying to make sense of all the changes and additions to the house over the years. She's an artist who amongst her other creations are some amazing needlework pieces. Her father, who built the house, was an agronome (not sure what that is in English, possibly a botanist) - one of the leading figures in the fledgling country. He compiled a book of fables around plants (called Tzimchiel) and she put together a needlework version of every colorful page. An amazing women. Her parting words were something to the effect of "if you aren't creating you may as well be dead".