Saturday, January 4, 2020

Tel Aviv is wet

It's raining, actually flooding, in Tel Aviv today. This is from the kids patio. With commentary by bdo:

Thursday, January 2, 2020


I noticed something some time back and I have been thinking about it quite a lot lately. You know how the first time you go somewhere when the path is new to you, you set a time and distance measure in your mind. Then over time, as you travel that path more frequently, the distance seems to compress. It feels like it takes less time to travel the same path that once seemed so much longer.

I remember clearly the first time bwo and I drove out to look at the area where we ended up living in EDH. We were staying in the Residence Inn in Folsom. We dutifully drove east on 50 to the EDH turnoff and then up El Dorado Boulevard till Salmon Falls then onto Lakehills. We were going to see some apartments that we thought could be interesting for the short term till we bought a house. It seems so far away from everything familiar. After seeing the house twice, we decided it worked for us, but I was still a little worried about the distance to squint central.

It's been three years and in my mind the house moved closer to work. Each morning I rise in the dark, walk then feed the dog before setting off. It seems to take an instant. Even less when I have some wonderful book to listen to. In the evening home seems to have moved a little further away. Not as far as it was when we first moved, but further than in the morning. I do like the fact that I leave work, head to 50 which can be busy (nothing compared to Israel or London) but is usually flowing, then exit and travel north through EDH towards home with an ever decreasing number of fellow commuters. When I hit Salmon Falls typically there are only a few cars accompanying me, and by the time I get to Bonita I am alone. I park and step out into the quiet. It's lovely. It is interesting how the distance seems to have shrunk as I grew familiar with the road.

As for Sac airport, that path has not gotten any shorter. It still feels like it's hugely far away.  

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


I was admonished by several people over the fact that I started blogging and then stopped again. No real excuses, but the end of the year was a bit crazy here at squint central but we did get to go on vacation to Israel. It was wonderful. There were so many memorable moments. The first falafel in a lafa from the 24hr falafel place on Allenby around midnight after we arrived in TA. The Hotel Ness and Zack. The kid's apartment, Kashka and Kitten. The shuk. The food (a falafel as day). The traffic. Mario and Yana. The reunion with SGI/Graphtech/Intel folks at Jems. The family. My wonderful children. The lumpy bed. A good shower. The horrible drive in the rain to SFO that took 4 hours. The constant noise of Israel. Kenny's shiva at the Greenblos. The two weeks of perfect weather.

It was wonderful. Israel will always have a special place in my heart. The people and the food, the smells and the stark light are all part of me. It was the first time in forever that I was in Israel on vacation. No houses to move, or stuff to pack up to send. No archaeology, no work. Only waking up late and spending long days with no real goal or pressure. A real holiday.
 First falafel from Bon Taam. Not at all bad for a 24/7falafel place.

Friday humus from Shlomo and Doron. What can I say.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


The very expensive drill press arrived Wednesday this week. I tried to move the boxes from the driveway into the garage, but man, the thing is heavy. So I covered it with a giant tarp till the weekend. On Friday I decided to unbox it in place and shelp the pieces in one at a time to save my back. I built up the base and got Reid, one of the strapping young neighbors, to help lift the 150 pound head onto the stand. I some point it dawned on me that there were in fact two huge boxes and my whole drill press fit in one. On further inspection it appears I  was shipped two. I checked my account and indeed I was only charged for one. Hmmm. I checked the manifest and shipping docs and they seem to feel that I was only shipped one. I have to admit that the thought of doing nothing and waiting to see what would happen did pass my mind for an instant, but my dad, sitting on my shoulder whispered in my ear that that simply would not do. So I called the company.

They had no clue. The young lady I spoke with wanted to send me a return sticker and to drop it off at UPS. I politely informed her that it weighed 300 pounds. She then said OK, I'll get FedEx to pick it up. I politely reminded her that FedEx will not pick up anything more than 70 pounds. It needs to be freighted, that's how it came. Of course, her supervisor had left for the day and would get hold on me on Monday to arrange pick up. So I have a huge boxed drill press sitting in my driveway awaiting pickup.

I used the monster this weekend. It is a sweet tool. A gentle whir is all the sound it makes. It does beep a bit too often for my liking, but at least it only flashes safety messages on the screen and there is no voice over reminding one to wear safety goggles at all times.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Theo and Audrey

It was Saturday a week ago exactly. I dropped bwo at the airport on her way to San Diego. After puttering around the shop for a while I took the girly out for a walk. I met Steve, one of the neighbors, on the road leading two strange dogs. Seems these two came along and stopped over at his patio, driving his three dogs nuts. We kind of know all the dogs in the hood, but these two were strangers. So Steve took them round the area looking to see if anyone knew of them. I went home and posted on the local FB lost pets board and Steve posted on Nextdoor. We got some comments but no bites.

Around 6pm Steve's partner Christy called and asked if I could help them out as no one had claimed the two and Steve's dogs were freaking out. Roxy gets on with nearly everyone (except annoying pushy puppies) so I agreed to take them on, hoping someone would claim them soon. The two, black and tan doodles, were well groomed and had shock collars but no other details at all. So I took the two in. Roxy was a little suspicious, but they were really chill besides being starving. After gobbling down their dinner, they just lay around watching my every move.

Eventually it was clear no one was coming for them that night so I settled down to go to sleep. The tan girl tried to climb on the bed with me, but I ordered her off immediately. They bedded down on the floor beside the bed, while Roxy took her usual spot under the window. At some point I woke up in the dead of night with two very warm lumps lying close on bwo's side of the bed. I just sighed and let it be.

Early Sunday morning I had arrangements to go to a "antique fair" in downtown Sac leaving at 6. So a sleepy Christy came to pick up the two after I had walked and fed all three. I got back around 9 only to find two cars stopped between our houses. The lady had recently moved into the area and was not yet on Nextdoor so a neighbor of hers had heard from one of our neighbors that her dogs were with us. The two were of course overjoyed to see their mom.

So Theo and Audrey went home happy. I too was happy to not have to worry any more. Sweet dogs.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday Morning Musings

This last week it became much clearer just how much of a boring life I live. It's one of the main reasons I don't blog as much any more. I simply have nothing much to say. I avoid network news at all times and only read some very selective feeds. I listen to audiobooks to and from work, and while these take me to the far corners of the world, it's their words not mine. I come home from work tired and often quite stressed, and spend much of the workday evenings watching Youtube or reading. The weekends start with early morning walks with Roxy, David and Eliot at the lake followed by as many hours as I can physically stand in the shop in what seems like a constant battle to improve my woodworking/lutherie skills. Don't get me wrong I am quite happy in my lot. I have a little disposable income to waste on tools that I will probably never gain the skills to use perfectly. Talking about tools, I recently really overdid it.

I have been eyeing the Nova 58000 drill press for more than a year now. It's got all sorts of bells and whistles, including a LCD display and a direct drive motor (no belts to change for differing speeds). But it's not cheap. I finally concluded that I needed some joy and ordered one this week. It will take a week or two to be shipped, and of course now I have a touch of buyers remorse. It's not normal for me, as I don't usually second guess my decisions and just deal. Still this thing is way, way more than I could possibly need. Hopefully it will bring me as much joy as I get each time I use the way overkill Laguna bandsaw, which was the last extravagant tool purchase.

So here we are. We should be in Israel enjoying a daily falafel from Gabai. One of the reasons I was OK to drop all that cash on a drill press is that the amount of money it's costing to keep rebooking these tickets ($300 a time) is coming close to the tool cost and worse there is nothing to show for it.

If anyone is in need of an nice old Grizzly G1200 floor standing drill press in reasonable condition (I recently changed out the bearings), I have one  looking for a good home. The time changed last night and it's nearly 7am and quite light out. Roxy is getting restless, it's time to go to the lake.

Roxy giving me the eye cause she knows it's time for the Lake

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Once again we smell the fires

It's been an interesting few weeks. Living in interesting times and all that. We lost our friend Barry. That sucked. He fought the cancer like the true competitor he always was, but eventually it won. We cancelled our upcoming trip back to Israel cause bwo's aunt in San Diego is not doing all that well. Life at squint central has been quite stressful. Bso is visiting and that has been nice. Now once again there are fires in N California. Our generator arrived and while many other communities around us have been without power for a day or two, so far we have been spared. May it continue so. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Denatured Alcohol and Mini Veggies

This is now ridiculous. I popped over to the local Lowes on the weekend to buy some denatured alcohol. I like the "green" kind because it was 95% ethyl alcohol. It works well for diluting shellac which I use for French polishing guitars. At Lowes the usual shelves were empty, so I drove over to Home Depot, there too, I was out of luck. So I asked at the paint counter. "Sorry, denatured alcohol is now banned in California. You can thank your governor". I was floored. Why denatured alcohol, it is pretty innocuous? I used to use Everclear (grain alcohol) when we lived in Israel, but that too is banned here in California. 

So what am I to do? I immediately went home and ordered a gallon off Amazon. It has not arrived yet, hopefully it's not stopped at the border and send back home. Which seems to be the fashion these days
The lovely people at Squint Central wanted to send "flowers of condolences" after the mother passed on. While we were in Houston I explained that Jewish people usually do not send flowers, but rather food for the Shiva. Well, we had no Shiva cause of the Jewish New Year, so I expected nothing. Last week a wooden box (from Harry and David) arrived filled with perfect mini vegetables. Perfect except for the artichokes. Did you know that even the deer will not eat artichokes. Evil things.
Bwo grilled them up with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Served with some brown rice and a balsamic mustard reduction (I think that's what she said). It was perfectly delicious. And the wooden box will find a new life in my shop. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Let there be light

It's been an interesting few days. We got power back last night after PG+E shut us down for two days due to the "fire risk caused by high winds". Well, wind-mageddon turned out to be quite underwhelming in our part of the world. The power shutdown not so much. We got to experience life with no lighting or oven for our post-Yom Kippur breaking of the fast meal. The stove top grilled cheese was delicious as was the matzo ball soup. We had gas and hot water, so it was not all that bad. Besides having to throw out a fridge full of food, we did OK.

I have to take credit for ending the power shutdown. I knew that as soon as I bought a generator, all power will return. So I took one for the neighborhood and dropped the cash on Amazon. When that did not work immediately, yesterday morning David and I drove over to his house and dragged his (very heavy) UPS over to attempt to save the fridge contents. The UPS only managed about 30 mins of juice before it gave up. But of course that hassle tipped the scales and power was restored soon after.

It's interesting how the lack of electricity effects life. Bwo and I were asleep by 7:30pm (as soon as it got dark). We actually read books and spoke with one another. I got to go off to work each day while bwo had to stay home with no internet. The horror!
"And there was light .... and the light was good"

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


I saw this on FB and had to smile (Not sure who created it could have been a Mr. Knote)

Monday, October 7, 2019


When we lived in Raanana there was the "raananalist". A mail-list run by English speakers for English speakers. For a while online you could get recommendations and find interesting tidbits (preferred American spelling, the rest of the world uses titbits) of Anglo life in the suburbs North of Tel Aviv. Over time it degenerated into a whole lot of moaning, some political, some religious and I lost interest. For a while though it felt like you did not have to live in Raanana, all you needed to do was read the raananalist and it was as if you were there. The whole 80% of life in the Holy Land in mailing list digest form.

Since we moved to the US, nextdoor is quickly becoming the new raananalist. Same thing but US based and therefore so much more noise. I love it. I enjoy that every day there are a surprising number of people who have lost dogs and cats (usually related to the spotting of coyotes in the area) and pretty much the same number have surprisingly found dogs and cats. But every now and then we get some wonderful posts. You can only guess what "Mouth breathing chicken" covers (he was posting for his wife, their chicken was making a wheezing sound, the post quickly degenerated into a treatise on the quality of locally raised eggs). Then there was the classic "Stolen Tortoise" post. Turns out it had escaped and was later found, but this was only after a long reply on how there is a lucrative trade in Desert Tortoise eggs and one should have 24hr surveillance as it is likely their property was being watched for a convenient tortoise robbery. The post signed by someone with the following qualifications: "Missing Persons & Sensitive Crime Investigations". I love California. There is a staggering number of people that do not stop at stop signs. As opposed to the raananalist, there is no problem with "lashon ha-ra" (the religious moderators frowned upon bad mouthing others), on our Nextdoor there are some very incriminating photos. 

The "For Sale & Free" section is useful and I must admit I have scored some interesting tools: A mini mill and a lovely original US made Porter Cable 690 for a fraction of their value (to me). Happily bwo shows no interest, which is great, because we would end up with another house full if she watched these deals. She posted once, but needless to say no one wanted the couch she got from the neighbors when they moved. No one would take it, not even for free.

She's hard at work crocheting mandalas on the patio.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The End. Lots of Words.

We are still in Houston. We buried my mom yesterday, Sunday, and because she died on Friday night ("only the righteous die on the Sabbath" - we have heard this many times) and last night was first night of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), there is no Shiva. My mom was always considerate and never wanted to make a fuss, right to the end. So bwo and I will head home to EDH tomorrow (Tues).

It has been an intense few days. I am so happy we came when we did. We got to see her in the hospital and got to witness some of the "terminal restlessness" although it was nothing like the horror my brother and sister had to go through over the previous week. After she was moved to the hospice they kept her well drugged and much more peaceful. On Friday late afternoon the Rabbi came by and did this sort of Jewish last rites thing. And Hope from the Jewish chaplaincy service stopped by and left us the makings for shabbat. So we lit the little battery candles, said the shabbat blessing over the wine (grape juice) and challah (some rolls from Beldens) - my mother would have liked that. Then we went home for Friday night supper with all the noisy family (Chinese takeouts - what all good families choose after a day at the hospital). The call from the hospice came after all the kids left and only bwo, my brother, s-i-l, sister and Jay were sitting around talking. So we rushed off the the medical center, by the time we got there she had passed on. The hospice was amazing. Not afraid to answer all our questions, clearly and directly.

The last few days have been a blur, but still, there were many, many unforgettable moments: Hope blowing the Shofar in the "dead" silence of the hospice; my mom laid out so peacefully with her crocheted blanket tucked tightly around her; her hands, first blue and then clear; the strange little lady from the hospice with her hundreds of forms; me struggling to concentrate on a work call while listening to the doctor with one ear; the "death rattle"; Norah from the hospice and her quiet competence; my wonderful brother pacing up and down practicing the eulogy (5mins 17 sec); watching little Noe shovel sand into the grave; Jose and the boys slowly ratcheting the coffin into the hole they dug that morning; the ugly cement "crib" that the simple pine box is entombed in here in often-flooded Houston; but mostly that over arching feeling of security and caring and love that my family generate no matter what the occasion.

We laughed a lot and cried a little. I mostly get faclempt when I see how others are affected by our loss. Her passing was not tragic. After the funeral and bagels, when the family had left the house, we went to Shul for the first night Rosh Hashanah service. The pomp and ceremony at their huge shul here in Houston is not my style at all, but it certainly was interesting and blessedly short. Then off to my sister's crowded apartment for the traditional first night dinner. The food was great, they always look out for the vegetarian. And yes, there was brandy and sponge cake. My dad would have been proud.

This turned out to be much longer than I expected, and still it covers barely a fraction of the events and emotions of the last few days. The number of calls, FB messages, texts etc has been overwhelming. One of my brother's friends wrote something I hope is true. She said after losing her mother with dementia, that as time passed she found she forgot those years lost to the dementia and remembers her as the lively, bright person, full of life she once was. It's a comforting thought.

Lisa made this video, and it seems this blog is one place things don't get lost, so here it is. My mother and her family.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Terminal Restlessness

We are in Houston. My mother, 96, took a fall last week and things turned bad. She had severe dementia for the last few years, but till the fall was walking on her own, no walker or chair. So the hospital did the minimum to keep her comfortable, which included some bolts and pins in her hip and not enough meds. We got the call Tues and flew down yesterday (Wed). It has been quite an experience. Let me say I am so lucky to have the brother and sister I have. They have taken care of my mother for years and just dealt with this situation with their usual efficiency, humor and love.

We Ubered directly to the hospital from the airport and went up to see her. It's hard to describe, I would not have recognized her if I did not know. She was pretty much out of it, but would grab at the air every now and then and let out a sort of moaning wail. Apparently, things were much improved by the time we got to Houston. The previous day and night, after the operation, she had continually pulled out all the infusions and even ripped those unbreakable hospital id bands off her wrists. She also ripped off any clothing, and sheets anything covering her. Not fun. She was always a strong woman and it was a full-time job for a nurse to watch her (Shemarion was yesterday's). They had upped the doses of pain meds and morphine so she was kind of sleeping and only occasionally reacted, but that was bad enough.

And so we learned of "terminal restlessness". It's something that is not spoken of too often, but is common in the dying. Man, was my mother terminally restless. At some point yesterday the hospital decided she needed to leave and fortunately (believe it or not) she was bad enough to be accepted into a inpatient hospice. They don't take just anyone. When we arrived at the hospice this morning, she was once again very restless, wanting to pull herself up and shouting at the world, but not really conscious. She also kept ripping off her clothing and blankets and that is a sight it's hard to unsee. The hospice people knew exactly what to do and upped her meds to where she is resting as peacefully as can be expected. We are sitting around waiting. 

We are lucky to have many people who are concerned about how we are taking all this. I can only talk for myself. The mother I knew and loved, who was the special person in my life left a few years ago. I really was lucky in that I did not have to watch her going week by week. I got to see her every few months and so the decline into dementia was a relatively sudden thing for me. So I have had years to say goodbye. The body lying here just breathing is not I my mind the mother I knew. We will do the right thing for it, of course, whatever means less pain and suffering and hope she goes peacefully. In the meanwhile we wait.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Cokie Roberts died today. She was 75 and was someone I really admired. I loved listening to her on NPR and always found her interesting and intelligent. I recommend her book "We Are Our Mothers' Daughters" (which she reads on Audible) and I liked her "Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families" which she wrote with her husband Steven. She was someone I would have liked to invite for dinner. 

We get a lot of humming birds around the house. Bwo has strung up multiple feeders and usually remembers to fill them. I can sit in my office here at home and look out the window and watch the territorial battles that they wage. This one, he is red breasted (yeah the photo is shite, sorry) is the boss. He chases off visitors to his feeder and pursues them into the trees with great aggression. I have noticed that the rabble has figured it out, they send a decoy and as soon as he chases the decoy, two others will swoop in and feed til he gets back. 

Friday, September 13, 2019


There are days were it is hard to get motivated. Days where the weight of the world presses heavily on my shoulders. On days like these I need some excellence.

The cafe at squint central has a temporary tonic for this malaise. Take a sesame bagel. Slice in two with the bagel slicer thing (no sharp knives, they can lead to litigation). Put it through the industrial type toaster twice (one of those conveyor belt numbers) controlling the speed until the middle is perfectly brown and darkly toasted on the outside. Divide in two (Kacey has the top half). Shmeer thickly with jalapeno cream cheese and top the half with one of those hash browns. The cafe really knows how to fry shit and those flat toaster hash browns are perfectly perfect. It's all in the crunch.

Each bite of this perfection increases my joy. The only sadness is that it is all too soon over. Excellence in any form, that the secret.

The end.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


It was a wonderful three day weekend. I got to spent a lot of time in the shop. Roxy and I spent time at the lake. We now have a routine on the weekends. We pick up David and Eliot at 6am and get to the lake as the gates to Browns Ravine open. The dogs leap out the car and run around peeing and sniffing until we head off on our walk. Those walks help me get through the rest of the week. 

Yesterday at the lake. Ducks in a row.

Friday, August 30, 2019


Bwo bought me an DNA kit for our anniversary in June. I wasn't so sure that I wanted my DNA out there in the world, so I put off sending in my sample for a few months. The kit was sitting under my monitor at home reminding me that I should take care of it all. So a few weeks back I sent off my sample. Ancestry keep sending you text messages to keep you involved. It starts with a "Good news, bpo, we recieved your DNA" through your "sample is in processing" to your "DNA is being extracted in the lab" then your "sample is being analysed". Finally Wednesday night at 10pm I get the message that "Your AncestryDNA results are in". So I logged into the site and guess what!

I am 100% European Jewish. What a waste of $60. Tell me something I don't know. All I wanted was to have a few percent of Inuit blood or maybe some hunter-gatherer blood from Southern Africa, even a drop of Russian Cossack blood would have been welcomed. No, 100% European Jewish. It did not even zero down to Lithuania where both my parents were born. It's so damn boring.

I really dislike the Ancestry site. So busy with so little relevant info. One interesting fact: I gave them no info besides my DNA and they managed to connect me to one of my first cousins in Houston. I did not know he had sent in a sample. So perhaps there is something to this DNA stuff after all.

The sunrises here in Northern California are quite spectacular. When driving into work early this morning the orange light reminded me of the wonderful sunrises over Mount Tabor when digging at Megiddo. I miss that early morning light, the people and the smell of dirt. I miss archaeology.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The YouTube

I spend a huge amount of time on YouTube. Seriously, it's changed my life. A few years back, it was Itai who got me hooked with watching SV Seeker, where Doug in Tulsa builds this huge steel ship in his backyard. That was the start, now I have many, many favorites. Currently I wait patiently for episodes from Leo at Sampson Boat Co - he is restoring Tally Ho a 100 year old wooden boat (unbelievable quality of work). And there is Acorn to Arabella, where these two young blokes started with cutting down trees to build their boat. It's not all boat building, I currently have 62 different channels I monitor. From archaeology (Primitive Technology is incredible. This chap in N Queensland Australia basically builds everything from scratch, stone tools, clay etc) to the dozens of people doing restoration of old tools and equipment (Hand Tool RescueMy Mechanics, LADB Restoration) and of course lutherie (OBrienGuitars, Eric Schaefer Guitars, StewMac) the list is endless.

Anyway, yesterday after picking up bwo from the airport, she was in San Diego visiting a sick aunt. I stumbled on Baumgartner Restoration. I started watching him restore a George Inness painting.Then spent many hours watching video after video (the ones with the narration are best). What precision and dedication. 

That's the thing. On YouTube I get the level of detail that I am always searching for. I find TV documentaries very disappointing these days.  All bells and whistles and flashy noise, with little content and depth. My $10 a month for a YouTube subscription (no ads) is the best money I have spent for ages.

It's been sweltering hot the last few days. I miss England every day. This picture is of the path from our house in Petersham to Richmond along the river. It's winter and not yet dark (probably 3pm). The air is cold and frosty and it feels like it was a million miles and hundreds of years away from where we are now.  Sigh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Whirlwind

My mother-in-law left today. She visited for 10 days from the Holy Land. She is a wonder that woman. Such energy. She did it all. Ms. Lanz's room is cleaned up and tidy, the linen closet is immaculate and most importantly this is the garage (bwo's side). Let's hope it can stay that way for a while.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The swish of a LN62

So every now and then a tool comes along that is a game changer. I have been treating myself to a bit of the quarterly bonus from Squint Central. I have been eyeing Lie Nielsen planes for many years now. Got a nifty skew-angle block plane and a nice smaller scraper plane as a farewell gift when we left the valley in 2000. When I polled my tooling gurus, Dave suggested I try a LN62 and recommended adding the toothed blade. So I splurged, The box with this heirloom quality thing of beauty arrived a few days back. This morning I tried the toothed blade on some squirly, curly maple that needed to be thinned out for the back of one of the two next builds. Wow. The shavings are these hair thin wavy light threads. It's a joy to use.

As much as I complain about work, and complain I do. There are definitely advantages to that twice monthly pay check and the quarterly bonus certainly does not hurt. My shop contents is definitely improving, now if only my skills would.

The LN62 doing its thing. Each pass with the plane makes a perfect swish. The guitar building is a major part of my life, and the shop is my happy place, but I am trying not to flood this blog with shop talk. You can always visit if you want to see more.