Monday, November 21, 2011


I arrived on time in Barcelona having for some reason having to stop in Zurich to change planes. I took a taxi to the hotel (Miramar). Wow.  What a nice place.  It is in the middle of a set of botanical gardens, up the side of a mountain overlooking the city.  Prime position.  I checked in and went to my room.  They told me that even though I have a view of the city, I do not have a balcony, but I do have a skylight.  It's raining anyway so I was not too upset.

The room is great. Here are some pictures.  I figured since I can't seem to find my team, it seems most of them are only getting in tonight and tomorrow morning, I would take the time to post some pictures to share.
Check out the bath in the middle of the room.  Behind the bath are frosted glass doors housing the toilet and shower.  The basins are on the left.

This is the view from the bath side.  A nice desk and a little window, there is a bigger window on the left. The skylight is above the sofa.
This is the view from one window.
This is the view from the other.  Not bad hey.
Seeing as I had a few hours, I decided to take a walk down into the city.  This is the view just outside the hotel looking at downtown.

This is what the hotel looks like from below.  It is one hell of a climb back up I can tell you.  Took me a half hour to catch my breath when I got back up.

The statue of Christopher Columbus at the beginning of the downtown main drag.
I was fascinated  by this tower standing in the middle of the harbor and could not understand what it was for.  Then I saw that right next to our hotel is the cable car station. 
The view from my room this evening.

All in all not a terrible place.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Once Again, this time with feeling.

It's a little after 5am and I am sitting in the Dan lounge at Ben Gurion Airport.  Sadly, it has become a sort of second home. I'm not alone. There are a quite a number of zombified fellow travelers enjoying the stale rolls and running white cheese. I'm off to Barcelona to learn to be a leader (obviously we are slow learners as this will take more than a week) and then I'm to visit Gdansk, Poland for a few days. The Poland trip is to help me appreciate the weather here in Israel.

It is a sad place this lounge.  The lighting is dim so as not to stress one's tired eyes, there is mindless commercial TV babbling in the background and, of course, the glutteral  staccato rhythm of Hebrew. It is a language for giving orders. It is great for yelling at kids. Which is what the tired mother is is now doing to her bored two year old.  As a language it is also wonderful for shouting into cellphones and calling the hevreh (band of friends) over. There always seem to be bands of hevreh traveling together. I wonder where they are going. I don't think I have ever traveled with a hevreh.  Perhaps it is time to give it a try.  At least there would be someone to watch my bag and keep my seat when I go to the restroom. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tobbaco Road

I'm a lucky man. Not only is it perfect weather outside, dark and stormy with rain, but my nephew blackedwino sent me a pointer to this wonderful video of Eric Burdon and War doing the long version of Tobacco Road. This version comes from German TV in 1970. I love this song, it is a true classic. There are so many memories associated with this I can't even begin, most of them are not for you pure young people anyway. I know I have not been keeping Music Tuesday these days, I really have not been keeping much of anything actually, except for work and study. So sorry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Doc

When you change jobs one of the most joyful experiences (not) is dealing with the various insurances and benefits. It appears that that our new (improved) disability insurance requires that I undergo a physical, and be checked by a "registered" doctor.  Some time last week I got a call from the completely unintelligible Russian admin of our insurance agent who I originally thought was trying to sell me a goat, but turns out, was telling me that a doctor would call and set up an appointment.

So I was not too surprised when the doctor called me on Sunday and asked me if he could come check me out as early as possible on Wednesday.  I asked if 5:30am was too early, he said yes, so we settled on 6:30. Dr. R. arrived promptly at 6:30 yesterday. He is an aging hipster wearing a ponytail and some workout clothes. He was quick to tell me does not usually do this but is helping out a friend. He unpacked his bag of tricks on the dining room table and produced the blood letting needle with which he was to take a sample of my precious life force. I explained to him that I have small veins and that usually the experienced nurse at the Kupah is the only one I let near my inner arm. He assured me he was experienced and has done this at least once before. Yulya, the nurse at the Kupah, who is the only one I trust to come near me with a needle once told me that doctors are by far the worst at taking blood.  They have no idea or finesse when it comes to finding the perfect vein. She is excellence. Dr. R. was not. He first grabbed my right arm, poked around with the needle for abut three minutes while I had to hold myself back from slapping him while clenching the edge of the table so tightly I left imprints of my fingers in the wood.  He could not find the vein.  "Strange", he muttered to himself, "I can see it, but I can't get any blood". I insisted that he change arms, and things went much smoother.  I still can't bend my right arm easily and have a huge purple bruise where he went exploring.

I started to really lose confidence when he took out the EKG machine and sat down to read the instructions. "It's a new kind of machine, and I have never used one before. You take the readings and then call the company and transmit the readings over the the phone. I think......" Hmmm. So he sticks the tape for the probes on me, presses the machine in the three relevant orientations, all the while checking the instructions and counting the beeps. This truly taxed his limited multitasking ability and the muttering increased. Finally this task was over and he called the control center to send my results. Not good enough they said.  So we did this again.  And again.

Now I am usually an extremely patient person (right!), but I had not eaten since noon the day before since I had to fast for 12 hours for the blood tests, and had got caught in a very serious techoarchaeological argument at the university the night before and so missed dinner. So I was a tad snappy. I did not bite his head off, but clenched my jaw so tightly that I nearly bit through all my fillings. Luckily all that was left were some forms, which did not take too long.

Of course, I was caught in traffic for 45mins on my way into work, as his promised 20mins took more than an hour, but that is a different complaint.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Reality

This new bill, limiting foreign funding of Israeli non-profits, passed by the Knesset's Committee on Legislation has got me worried. I wonder at what stage you have really stop calling yourself a democracy and face the fact that a certain portion (the majority) of this country is certain of what is right and what is more has god on its side, and really the rest of us are just here to pay taxes. The ever dwindling "left" will continue to protest the price of cottage cheese, the price of democracy is something none of us are prepared to pay.  We will watch as first the NGOs are eradicated and then the Supreme Court will be handcuffed, next settlers will take over the army, and Rabbis will decided how we spend our weekends, and housing will favor the religious, there will be segregation on buses and there will be no B'Tselem to interfere when Palestinians are "justifiably" beaten at roadblocks and we will be able to paint "Tag Mechir" graffiti where ever we want, especially on Peace Now activists.

And then Iran won't have to bomb us, as we will be them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Icelandic language

On my walk down to the center today I was listening to a mediocre audiobook about the Geography of Happiness where the author visits Iceland, which apparently rates high on the happiness scale. He proposed a connection between Icelanders love for their language and their unusual level of contentedness in a cold, quite dark land. It seems Icelandic is the true language of the Vikings.

To make his point the author quoted this excellent poem below.  I thought you might enjoy it. I did.

The Icelandic Language

 In this language, no industrial revolution;
 no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
 only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
 The middle class can hardly speak it.

 In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
 through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
 The door groans; the old smell comes
 up from under the earth to meet you.

 But this language believes in ghosts;
 chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
 neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
 at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.

 The woman with marble hands whispers
 this language to you in your sleep; faces
 come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
 wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.

 In this language, you can't chit-chat
 holding a highball in your hand, can't
 even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
 all your grief and failure come clear at last.

 Old inflections move from case to case,
 gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
 vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
 icebergs back and forth in its mouth.

-- Bill Holm

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Future

I met a futurist today. His job is finding systems and trends that have a predictable (in percentage) chance of happening. He claims the driving force behind technological development is our constant battle against the laws of nature that limit our "freedom". We strive to leave (or extend) our puny bodies and their baggage; this is why we invent internets, ipods and jumbo jets.

Funny, it made perfect sense when he said it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Story of a Shower Head

Let's talk shower heads, shall we.  The reason I left home last Saturday and braved the crowds at ACE in Shvayim was because we needed a new shower head. (It seems ACE in Shvayim is the place to bring your snotty, spotted, sticky children to climb on the merchandise, now that IKEA at Poleg burned down). Our old shower head was rubbish. The water here is so hard and the avnit (limescale) so virulent that no shower head lasts more than six months in this house. Bwo bought the last one and it was way to fancy, with three settings. I don't think it lasted three months. The wife and I pondered the various shower heads on display, they ranged from 29NIS (on sale) to over 200. I was all for getting the cheapest and simplest with no fancy features like Bahaman Massage or Thai Needles. No, I wanted a simple single function shower head. One that simply sprays water on the person below.

I was shocked awed when bwo agreed (after she had spent ten times longer than I could bear looking over and handling every single one of the shower heads). I was expecting a real battle to fight off the sixty-three function head that does everything and even makes pizza. But as I told you, we were getting on at the moment and she agreed that less is more. So we ended up with two of the very cheapest shower heads (29NIS on sale). 

As soon as we got home I installed one on the shower in our on-suite bathroom. Hmmmm, I thought, looks rather small and the beam of water coming out seems quite focused.  It turns out that this particular shower head (and the other we bought) was specifically made for a hand shower. You know the kind, they are attached to the taps in that thing called a bath that I have not used for 38 years.  So I was worried that in my frugality, I had shown a serious lack of judgement. There was no chance in hell that I was ever going back to ACE.  Not in this lifetime. So I decided to give it a try. Wowza!

The water fires out at a tremendous clip. The beam is so focused that it feels like it will penetrate right through your skin. It is more like shock treatment than showering. I love it. The head is similar to the picture above, except for the LED illuminated ring (I had to include this picture, how can one live without a green LED illuminated shower head? - it also comes in red). One interesting observation is the fact that the stream of water from our shower head does not increase in diameter once it has left the head. No, it barrels straight down and fires off your body, ricocheting with a very satisfying sound against the glass shower doors.
It is the little things in life that make it worth living.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I have been pretty lax with the blog of late.  I know I should have told you about the new fridge and the fact that the old one still has pole position in the lounge. Or the girl leaving all her money in London and having to live on 50 Euros for four days in Amsterdam.  I should have told you about the new Prius and how shiny and black it is along with its plastic new car smell.  I could have told you about the upcoming trip to Barcelona for 10 days for "strategic planning and leadership training", followed by a few days in Poland, or about the (lack of) progress towards getting my MA thesis done.  I should have let you all know how much I love my new Kindle and my young wife.  Or why there are so many mosquitoes around or how Azziza has broken every single whiskey glass in the house (including the really nice crystal ones). Perhaps you would have been interested in the nightmarish trip, along with the rest of Israel, to ACE at Shevayim on Saturday, or how much I look forward to Tuesdays when I go to class at the university. I know know I should have explained all about how saying "banana" has saved our marriage and how good it is the the boy is actually doing his homework for college.  Maybe it would have been a good idea to tell you all about the 15 or so new cats we have hanging around and how Jeffery (she could be a girl) is the cutest of the lot. I should have subjected you to my views on the crisis with Iran or how the ridiculous it appears to me that the Histadrut is striking to raise the lot of the "temporary" work, a role they themselves created. Or the rain, the juicy oranges, the rice I had for dinner, or the Snickers the wife bought me and then ate herself, or the roads and sanitation, evolution, stress, driving into the same parking lot morning after morning after morning.

But you know what.  I won't.  So there.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Girl is Setting Off

Tomorrow our baby girls turns 18.  Today she flies out on her own to London, then Amsterdam, then back to London and off to Houston, then Toronto and then back to Houston and back home.  All this in a month.  I hope she has a great time.  Both bwo and I are very nervous, which is to be expected as the girl (bdo) is not really internationally renowned for her foresight and planning.  So off she goes with our blessing, credit card and Tylenol.  At some point you have to say bye to your kids and let them out. The hole they leave behind is enormous and dark.

Be safe. little girl, we will leave the lights on for you.