Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I have a bit of a problem. For a long while, I had an old Linux machine that ran ostrin.org, our local web site. On it lived all sorts of things including powguitars.com which was where I kept my pictures of the guitars I built. The machine (called ocd) was never all that stable. Since we relocated to the UK, and bso has been in charge of the computers on HaNevel street, things have not improved. In fact the ip address has changed (along with changing of our ISP) and ocd ate it's disk. I managed to salvage the pictures off a backup I have, but I am not sure what to do about them. What seems to be the most difficult info to reproduce is the captions to these pictures. They are all in some sort of crazy database somewhere.

I looked into re-homing the pictures somewhere on the net. I am going to try Flicker to begin with. So if you feel like looking at some of the old PowGuitar stuff go here

Monday, May 11, 2015

Walking Around

Each weekend, while in the UK, I try go on at least one walk somewhere I have never been before. I found this marvelous app called ifootpath which details walks based on your postcode. You can also download the app to your cellphone and follow the excellent instructions as you walk. Some of the walks, especially those in the "Explore Surrey" series have details on the flora and fauna as well as the history of the sites.

This weekend bwo, the Rox and I walked in Banstead Woods. The bluebells were out in force and I just had to take a picture or two. I tried out the panorama feature on my spiffy new phone. 
You can see Roxy, happy as anything, on the left

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pretty England

While bwo is in Israel packing up the house, I have been walking. Twice a day, morning and evening, with the Roxster. It's still chilly in the morning, and crisp. But, the sound of the dawn chorus of the local birds is the only sound until Heathrow wakes up around 5:30am. On the weekend we took off to Weybridge, and the two bottom pics are of the Wey Navigation which apparently runs from the Thames to Guildford. It is a pretty country.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spectacular South Africa

Wow. All I can say is Wow. We spent the last week travelling around the Northern parts of South Africa. This is not a part of the country that I ever really visited while growing up. It was spectacular. Jonty and Simone were the perfect hosts. They drove us about 2200 kilometers in our "taxi". From Mapugubwe to Commatiesport and Ngwenya. All four of us had a week to remember. So many different experiences, from walking out of the airport in Johannesburg, to arriving at Selina's house in Parkview it was one great adventure. Here are some pictures to remind myself of this part of the trip.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


I stopped at one of the many traffic lights on Bowers Ave driving towards 101 on my way to the San Francisco Airport. I looked to my left and was greeted by a strange sight. Not only was the dog wearing dark goggles, but the propeller on his cap was spinning with alacrity in the gentle breeze. Only in California! And why do the traffic lights take so long to change, I even had time to take these pics?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Goodbye Gold Lounge

This is the last time I will be visiting the "Gold Lounge" in Heathrow Terminal 5. My BA gold status expires on the 28th of Feb even though I traveled more last year than ever before. BA are the stingiest when it comes to giving "tier points" towards frequent flier status. The squint corporate only buys the cheapest tickets, and so I earn very few points each flight. After a busy year with at least one return trip to the UK each month, I only managed 900 or so points, and I need 1500 for gold. So Silver it will have to be for me. The only real perk gold status on BA provides is the access to the "first class" lounge. It has decent food and comfy chairs. The Silver lounge is not bad, just much busier. It could be worse I suppose, but sitting here, the second time in a week, I'm just miserable with travel. All I really want is a few months at home, no flying, no airports, no cramped seats and plastic food. No more forced conversations with complete strangers (or recent divorcees crying on my shoulder), no more second rate movies on tiny screens. No more wondering what side of the rental car the fuel tank is.This weekend it's Houston then Sacramento (through LAX) and then back to London for three days and off to SA. At least that will be a holiday (I hope).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The High Commission

We visited the South African High Commission near Trafalgar Square yesterday. The consular section is actually on Whitehall Road  and not in South Africa House as is erroneously stated on the web page, but this was the least of the issues. Bwo and I took the #65 and the tube into the city in order to sort out our status before the planned visit to the old country mid March.

My situation is quite complicated as I have a "new" expired SA passport, but it seems my SA citizenship has been "revoked" because I became a naturalized American in 2000. Bwo's situation is even more confusing as she never had a SA passport of her own, emigrating to Israel on her mother's passport.

After some lengthy discussion it was decided that I need to get a "letter" revoking my SA citizenship thereby allowing me entry into SA on my USA passport. This only took about 4 hours. The major holdup, as eventually became clear, is that the single "letter writer" is also the only cashier. So she had to split her time between the two jobs. The nice lady who interviewed us managed to work out my issues rather quickly - revoke my SA citizenship, provide a temporary letter for travel purposes, wait at least three months for official notification (a new ID number apparently). I then get permanent residence in SA and can reclaim my citizenship if I ever live there for more than a year.

Bwo on the other hand has a much more complex issue. She would have to apply for SA citizenship, this is possible because she became Israeli before she was aged 18. This would assign her a "new" ID number. She would then have to revoke her citizenship because she became a naturalized American. She cannot revoke her citizenship without an ID number. So she would have to apply for citizenship in order to have it revoked. Needless to say we took the dozens of application forms they presented to us and left.

All in all we had a pleasant trip to the city. We wandered around Whitehall and the various ministries and strolled along the Thames up to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It's a spectacular city and we do not visit enough. I am interested to see what South Africa scores on my global percentage scale - based on the High Commission (when I finally got the letter it was incorrect, claiming I need to show my British passport on entry) I think SA will struggle to reach the 80% level.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Coffee Excellence

At squint central UK we run on coffee (and of course tea with milk). When I arrived the only coffee available was the "flavia" stuff many here thought was "quite good" (they are rather new to coffee in this tea drinking nation). I found this stuff (I hesitate to call it coffee, more like brown water) undrinkable. So we, the admin staff, bought an "espresso" machine. It was red and had no name. Its coffee pods were generic and the "Italian Espresso" was OK. The machine broke down a number of times, but they are a handy lot here, and it was resuscitated time and again. Finally before Christmas this year it finally passed on, it shuffled off this mortal coil and is making OK coffee for the choir invisible.

After much debate and numerous phone calls Nespresso honored us by delivering a "corporate" machine. It is beautiful. It works flawlessly and its design exudes excellence. I am most impressed. The water tank is larger than the one we have at home, more importantly it fits perfectly beneath the spigot of the water filter machine that it stands next to (see lower picture). The crank handle closes on the coffee capsule with a satisfying crunch and ejects the spent capsule when lifted. The espresso cups (acquired from Nespresso) are perfectly sized for the three (short, med and long) measures of elixir provided by the machine.

The coffee capsules differ from the home version (apparently to prevent theft) and are tightly compressed, flying saucer shaped, foil enclosed delicacies that fit into the slot on top perfectly.

And then there's the coffee itself. Hot, rich, dark with just the perfect amount of foam. Excellence in any form is what I value. 

The machine and it's capsules

Side view, it stands to the right of the water machine.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Thankfully my time in Folsom CA is nearing its end. I'm off to Houston for a few days and then back home to the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It has been a long trip. One thing I have noticed and commented upon in the UK is how much the British love signs. There are signs everywhere politely explaining what to do, what not to do, where to go and where not to go. These may even explain why. I have been ranting about how these signs are just another example of the "nanny state" taking over. But, hey, nothing beats California for sign pollution. Everywhere you go there are signs telling you just how dangerous life is. Many of these seem to be based on something ominously called "Proposition 65". Every store you go into has the following signs posted everywhere.

Outside the elevators in our hotel was this sign:

But my overall favorite sign is the one pasted all over the roof of our hotel room. Wherever there is a fire hose sprinkler there's a sign telling you that hanging your clothes on these sprinklers is not a good idea. Damn, I'm just going to have to use the cupboard.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Dog House

You may well ask where's the beloved Roxy while bwo and I jet around the world. Roxy, the wonder dog, is vacationing with "her boys". On arriving in the UK we lucked out totally in being adopted by Jenny and her family. Jenny, who works with me (actually mostly I work for her), introduced us to her dad (the dog whisperer), the family, and their two Great Danes, Talon and Merlin. They are Roxy's boys. She loves them and all of the family as absolutely as only a dog can. So whenever we go away for any extended period, Roxy goes on holiday. She has a great time, with walks to the river, quality time with her friends and endless stick carrying.

Of course we have a WhatsApp group that keeps us updated on our girl's stay. We get wonderful in depth updates, pictures and videos. We cannot thank them enough. I know that Roxy is having the time of her life and is cared for as one of the family. From the first time she stayed with the boys, she decided she is also a Great Dane and now prefers huge Great Dane dog food, which she crunches up with serious attitude. Then there is the whole dragging huge logs around.

We usually send her bed with so she has something familiar to sleep on. It seems it has become quite popular with all the animal members of the household. Check out these pics from the "Roxy News" WhatsApp stream.

Roxy is comfortable being watched over by her boys
Her bed is very comfy

I love this picture of her most comfortable sleeping position

Notice how all the dogs like her bed. Even if it's a little small.

Monday, January 12, 2015

There and Back Again

Some of the Houston family with Mom

Once again I'm on the road (in the air actually). Thankfully Bwo travels the long flights with me this time. We stopped off in Houston to visit with the family for a few days. My mom's light shines less bright. She is very confused and can't remember much. She is currently convinced that she was moved onto this place from the "other" place. "They" even set her furniture up in the same way and put her name on the door. She was amazed. Her body is healthy but her mind is steadily slipping away. It's sad. She was always so on top of her game, but now just looks on with a confused, questioning look. Looking as if someone just spoke to her in Basque. We are moving her to an assisted living home from her independent care place she has been in for the last seven years as they don't seem to be able to give her the care she needs. That is definitely going to confuse her even more. My sister and brother are wonderful. They patiently help her detangle the web of confusion she lives with. As sisteraria said "we are not a family of patient people" so this is surely a test. They pass with flying colors.

I'm now on the flight heading to Sacramento for two solid weeks of work. On the way to the airport we drove through rain as is only seen in Houston. But, as always, it passed quickly. Bwo will join me later this week, so I have that going for me, which is good. I'm tired of this travel. The guy in the row in front of me is picking his nose digging for diamonds and the guy in the window seat is sniffing and snorking constantly, I just hope he does not have Ebola (should I offer him a tissue? He is like 6ft 10 and may not take kindly to meddling). I feel sort of two dimensional and a glassy, like I'm fading away. I miss my kids, my wife, my dog, my home, my family and my mom. Jesus, stop feeling so sorry for yourself!