Friday, September 30, 2011

Moan, moan, moan

The New Year is over. The big meal with the usual suspects has happened and all that is left are a lot of plates and pots to put back in the cupboard.  I must admit that I enjoy these big festive meals less and less as the years go on.  I miss my family, who are mostly all together in Houston.  I am tired of these huge meat based meals, with enough food to feed an army and the family friends who "only drink single-malt". I don't know what the solution is and I would probably miss the whole spiel if we were to cancel in future. But I find it tiring. This long weekend has put me in a bad mood, because no one seems to care when the kitchen is a mess and the dishwasher full and the fridge empty. Oh and we have all or friends coming over tomorrow, but its a pot luck and hopefully they will bring food (I am sure it will be meat). They are usually great about helping to clean up after, though.

Just ignore me.  I am miserable because I had a migraine today and it won't go away. It's my blog and I will be a misery if I want!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Solid Air

Yesterday was Tuesday and I forgot about the music.  So here you go.  "Solid Air" by John Martyn is one of those albums from my youth that never gets old.  It was released in 1973 when I was 13 and I still listen to it with great joy. I saddened by John Martyn's death in 2009, his excellent guitar work was one of the main reasons I spent much of my youth playing till my fingers bled. Selwyn posted a pointer to this clip on YouTube. Filmed in 1978 this excellent live version of Solid Air has 3 minutes of an unscheduled guitar string replacement at the beginning. What a power!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm on my third temporary car, since I handed in my squintified Honda Insight (black), and while waiting for my squintelified Toyota Prius (black).  The first temporary car was a stinky (cigarettes) Hyundai i30 that had no working aux input and was loose (like a sad overused prostitute), then came the dreadful Chevy Cruze that smelled like a brothel, moaned when stationary, and had a wind-up rubber band instead of an engine. Now I get to drive a Volkswagen Jetta (Don't mention the war!!!) that has no Aux input or bluetooth (pronounced "bluetooosss" locally). Those Germans make nice cars.  It is tight. It feels like every nut and bolt has been tightened to perfection.  Only things that are supposed to move do.  It marches instead of drives and has no sense of humor. It's a understated serious white color.

It wants to listen to the BBC, no music or even lighthearted podcasts for Dieter the Jetta.

We flew to (and from) Poland on Lufthansa and their safety video had a picture of the consummate German woman in a flight attendants uniform with shiney white teeth and very Aryan features.  I looked for a picture of her on YouTube, but all I could find was the video below, which is entertaining in its own right.  This is what should play when one is seated in Dieter the Jetta.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I am happily back home.  The trip to Gdansk was actually very good. Nice people, good (and inexpensive) food, excellent shower and a bit of rain.  I got back home at 5am this morning. The best thing about traveling is two flights in a row with empty seats next to one.  It even makes flying bearable. I am still a little woozy from lack of sleep.  I think I will go lay down.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Noticeable things about Poland

Some things that are noticeable about Poland:

  • The shower in the hotel is a 10.
  • They really do sit in the dark.
  • You have to bring your own coffee cup to work (there are no paper cups).
  • In meetings they talk softly and slowly.
  • The are no women on our floor or in our meetings (except Shirley).
  • We have seen no police or soldiers (uniforms) anywhere on the streets.
  • Stuff is quite inexpensive (compared to Israel).
  • They don't serve tap water in restaurants.
  • Wifi costs money, but internet with a cable is free in the hotel.
  • The trees look sad.
  • Polish sounds a lot like Russian (maybe it is).
  • If the airline loses your luggage you must ask for an overnight bag of goodies (if you don't ask you won't get one).
  • There is construction everywhere (especially on the roads).
  • Poles are polite.
  • There are lots and lots of churches.
  • There is always (in Europe) an Ikea on the way from the airport.
  • There is a deep love for multiple exclamation marks !!!!!!
  • Did I mention, the shower in the hotel is a 10?
More to follow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Saga (in Polish)

And who said that the Germans were more than 80%? Our plane into Munich arrived exactly on time, which required a stressed and very hurried rush through immigration and then through security in order not to miss our connection to Gdansk. After storming the whole length of the Munich terminal we arrived at our gate (G02), only to find our flight had been delayed 20 mins.

We boarded the buses for the drive out to the small commuter plane for the hop to Gdansk (1hr15m), only to be kept waiting for a further 20mins in the sweaty bus (it was raining outside) while they fueled the plane.  We boarded the plane and waited.  The flight crew looked quite harassed and once we were all strapped in the captain gave a very long explanation in German and a much shorter one in English.  Seems there was one passenger too much on the flight. Big problem.  No one volunteered to leave the flight. So they checked boarding passes (20 mins). Everyone's boarding pass was good (10 minute explanation in German, 3 minutes in English).  They now needed to check each person's name against the passenger manifest. They started got half way and then for some reason started again (45 minutes). The captain (very tall chap for such a small plane) handed out glasses of water to calm frayed nerves. Lucky there were only about 100 passengers or else we would still be counting and recounting. They eventually found the problem - two people with the exact same name (there were many Asians on the flight). After another long explanation in German, and an apology for Lufthansa's ineptitude in this day and age of computers, we were finally off. What? No flight can have two people with the same name?

We arrive in Gdansk (Lech Walensa Airport). A airport that looks like it has not changed much since the days of communism. It is now quite late (11pm) and the place is asleep.  We wait for all the luggage to come out (20mins) when lo and behold, my case arrives but Shirley's and Jacky's are no where to be seen.  Off to the lost and found we go.  Another 30mins and out comes rather miffed Jacky and Shirley with forms and little overnight courtesy bags (toothpaste etc). They promise to deliver the bags to the hotel by noon the next day. Lovely!

We get to our hotel after driving through much road work.  Spend a further 30mins checking in with the rather slow night watchman. My room does have the very best shower though.  I think I'll go have another. I'm too old for all of this.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Off to Poland

Like many in the country I have been following the story of the hit-and-run killing of Lee Zeitouni in Tel Aviv on Friday morning. I followed the news the whole weekend - from the search for the black BMW X6, to finding it in a building's parking lot in TA. Then the realization that the owner/driver had skipped the country on Friday afternoon, taking his whole family back to Paris where he came from. This does not do much for the disastrous image of the French in Tel Aviv. I hope they find a way to bring the rubbish back to trial here in Israel.  The owner of the vehicle "promised to return to Israel".  Right!

I am off to Poland for the week.  I am not sure if I will be able to blog. I'll let you know.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Moan

Took me one hour 27 minutes to get to work this morning.  Walking takes one and a quarter hours.  I had to first go to the post office to pick up my new passport (the old one had expired and I am off to Poland for work on Sunday) so I could only leave Raanana around 8:05am. My five minutes in the Post Office was an experience in its own right, but I will save the whole post office numbering issue before the doors open for another time. Needless to say I have further proof my fellow Raananians are not the sharpest when it comes to paper numbers.

It appears there was a "suspicious object" at Glilot Junction and this cause a monster back up. This sort of thing brings out the worst in my brother and sister citizens.  There was not an intersection that was not jammed full of cars causing deadlock.  Every single street between Raanana and Herzliya was packed full of cars in every direction and no one was moving. I had to spend the time listening to the depressing talk radio news shows as my mp3 ran out of batteries (and the rubbish Chevy Cruise's cigarette lighter socket does charge - horrible car). The worst thing is that this (champagne colored) car is possessed. It moans when you stop and start. It's as if there is a sad spirit (perhaps of a decent car) trapped in the boot crying to get out.  I am not sure where the sound comes from, but every time you start moving forward or brake to a stop, the car moans.  It is all most distressing. Especially for an hour and a half in non-moving traffic.

Now you know why I get up at 5am normally and drive to work in peace and quiet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mr. Blue Sky

I can't help it this song just makes me smile. What can I do, I know it's not cool but I like ELO. It is so bloody eighties. So you'll have to have Music Tuesday two days in a row.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rodrigo y Gabriella

Someone posted a FB link to these guys a while back (I can't remember who) but this is guitar virtuosity at its finest.  I like the thrashing she gives her guitar. Rodrigo y Gabriella.

Check out their other videos on YouTube. I particularly like this Metallica cover.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I have to say I'm impressed with my family.  We work well together. We went (all of us) to the shrink yesterday and I think we did nicely. We are not as messed up as one would think - at least she seems to think so. I love my kids (and wife). I'm a lucky chap.

To show how well adjusted we are, we are actually having supper together (at the same time) tonight as a sort of celebration.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tickets Please

I was invited for a blood test yesterday by our Kupat Holim (Medical Coverage Provider). A nice lady called me during the week and told me that it was time for me to have my cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI checked as part of their regular maintenance program.  I was told to come to the lab (on the second floor) on Friday any time between 9 and 10:30am. Oh, and I needed to fast for 10-12 hours before the test.

I arrived at the lab at exactly 8:58am only to find 5 or 6 people already sitting and waiting.  I went over to the number giving machine and swiped my card to be told that I could only get a number for an ultrasound.  So I went back to the lab waiting area and noticed a roll of paper numbers on a chair near the entrance.  So I took a number and sat down on the chair next to the roll.  Soon more people showed up.  Each person came into the lab waiting area, looked around, saw the growing crowd, walked out and tried to get a number from the usual automatic number giving machine. They would then come back in, look confused, and stand by the door. Clearly dazed after the 12 hour fast and lack of coffee. So I took the initiative and started handing out numbers.  Out of the blue Kate showed up, she had come to get a new card, but sadly the offices are closed on a Friday, so she sat down next to me and we started to take the whole issue of handing out numbers seriously.

People did not trust us. They would go back and forth between the automatic number giving machine in the lobby and the lab waiting room and ask again "are you sure these are the numbers for the lab?".  It was almost as if they thought I was giving out fake numbers, all the while selling the real numbers on the black market.  A lively conversation started up about the whole number issue and my unappreciated good Samaritan role and the general lack opf trust in today's society. Then my number came up and into the lab I went.

I dutifully informed the nice lady taking blood that the fact that there is no explanation associated with the roll of numbers laying on the chair by the door makes the natives very nervous.  She explained that on Fridays the central number assigning computer is not operational (obviously preparing for the Shabbat meal) and therefore there are no computerized numbers allocated.  She was quite proud of her ad-hoc solution of the paper number roll.  I suggested the addition of a simple sign explaining the situation would go far to improving moral and general dis-ease with the situation.

This story illustrates how far we in Israel have come.  Just a few years back there would be general mayhem, pushing and jostling for the place at the front of the queue which would be wedged shaped like rock music fans squeezing through tiny exits after a crowded show. Today we expect technology to provide answers.  We want automated numbers, unencumbered by preference or protectckia.  The people are not even happy with paper numbers - at least in Raanana they aren't.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Russians Are Coming

Yesterday squint central was rewired.  Our old network was ripped from the walls and roofs and replaced with brand spanking new high performance wiring. The work started at 3pm with the arrival of the "wiring team". 15 Russians.  Nikita Khrushchev would have been proud.  They marched in and started working.  Climbing ladders, swinging cables, all the time talking loudly in Russian.  There were big ones, small ones, but not one word of any language except Russian was spoken between the crew.  The crew boss, a fast walking, Russian-Israeli packing the obligatory cell phone, on which he constantly shouted in Russian, and carrying a nice brown man-bag, controlled the crew like the conductor of the Moscow Symphony.  Just watching them work was entertaining.

No question, the best Aliya this country has ever seen.  I could not help posting this most Russian of clips.  I just love the waving girls. I swear the guy singing was the one sticking labels on the cat5 cables yesterday. Makes me want to go out and eat herring washed down with vodka.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You Can Call Me Steve

It happened again yesterday.  I was introduced to someone - he was clearly told my name. In the next sentence he called me "Steve". If this was an isolated incident I would understand, but it happens all the time here in Israel. Someone is told my name and they immediately turn around and call me "Steve". For a while I thought this was just something that happened to all Anglos. Perhaps they call all of us Steve, sort of a collective name. But on further research it has been established that I alone suffer from the occasional "Steveing". Perhaps I look like a Steve and it is never any other name, always Steve. Then I realized, my last name, it is similar to "Austin". So perhaps they make the connection with Steve Austin - that's it, I'm actually the Six Million Dollar Man (or in Hebrew - "Steve Austin, The Man Who Was Worth Millions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Casimir Pulaski Day

A most excellent song, sad and beautiful.  I like this live version.  Sufjan Stevens, Casimir Pulashi Day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Couldn't resist posting this

Perfectly normal day with nothing to post, so check out these signs, you won't be sorry.

Also go to today (Monday) and press play (or go to this in the Washington Post). Freddie Rules.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


While cleaning up the down-down stairs yesterday I came upon this photo of Stephanie, my first car (named after my big brother's first car). She was a 1978 Ford Escort 1100cc. That car went forever. She did over 200,000 hard kilometers.  Went down to Sharm three times, Nuweba and Dahab at least half a dozen times. She was the sole transportation of the record store and did the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem run at least once a week.  You really needed to know how to drive to get up those hills - If you were really skilled you could do it all without going below 3rd, but it was tough.  Her engine was rebuilt twice, the steering wheel once came off in my hands as I was motoring down Herzog in Jerusalem.  She had three different stereo systems stolen out of her in her lifetime, and shlepped a mobile disco sound system around Jerusalem for at least 3 years. There were countless nights where we sat in her, listening to music and speaking till morning. No a/c (unheard of in those days) and no power steering, she had a heart of gold.

That's Rehov Shwartz she's parked on in the picture.  Just outside the Fed flats.  Check out how there are no buildings on that side of the road except for the nursery school.  That was 30 years ago - unbelievable.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I was right

I was right 13 times yesterday.  This is unheard of. And from my many years of Blackwifeo  experience, it will never happen again.  More incredibly, these "rights" had to do with her family, a subject I have never ever been close to right in the past. So even while basking in the glow,  I was a little worried, so I checked to make sure she had not been replaced by aliens. The test was simple, I boxed up some books from the hundreds of thousands we have down-down stairs and put them outside to be donated to Ezra.  My fears of spousal alien replacement were quickly alleviated as she quickly set aside a pile of books to keep. No alien technology could replicate that finely honed "put aside for a rainy day, just in case" gene.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Dentist Chair

I was sitting in my dentist's chair today and thinking.  We have come a long way.  I remember the absolute terror, fear that could turn my blood to icy water, when as a youngster I would have to go to the dentist for my half year check up.  He always hurt me. There was always "work" that needed to be done. The shooting pain of the drill hitting a nerve (injections of dental anesthetics were unheard of, at least by our dentist back in Africa), the smell of his Dentyne chewing gum, the waiting room at his offices on that steep road going down to town are all etched in my memory. I get shivers just thinking of them.  What is amazing is that I'm not scarred for life with debilitating dentophobia (it's real just look on Wikipedia).

My dentist today is wonderful.  He is sort of a family member (my sister-in-law's brother), a mench and a really good dentist.  No pain.  He is gentle and kind.  Patient and skilled.  I sat back while waiting for the numbing injection to take hold, amazed that the stuff he rubbed on my gums meant I could feel not a pin prick, and thought of that chair I so hated all those years ago.  The office today was quite busy and he kept up a conversation with a number of people, including the nurse, his daughter the receptionist, two patients in the waiting room and me (although I could just umm and arrrh with his fingers in my mouth).  The whole office had the relaxed efficiency that seems a hallmark of Israel when it works. This was all so different from the formal, starched and stiff dentist of my youth wearing his light blue safari suit.

So I ended up with one more filling. He says I have only a single untouched tooth left. After he was done we chatted about growing up in PE while he waited for his next patient, and soon I was on my way. I had spent a few hours in the early morning covering some online course requirements for my new job.  At one point I was instructed to spend a few minutes and come up with my own set of core values.  I have thought about these a lot over the last few years so the task was not a burden. Excellence has always been on the list. I try appreciate it in any form. My dentist is excellent.  What more can you ask?