What the…?

This morning at 0520, the town’s main siren – the same one that they blare every noon to tell you that yes, it is the middle of the day – sounded six klaxons. This was answered, before the din had even died down, by the sound of sirens on the streets: lots of them. (We’re near a fire station, so that may have been the source of that; from the number of sirens I’m guessing that every single vehicle in the station was dispatched at once)

There was neither high wind nor rain. No fire was on the horizon. We smelled no unusual smells, no smoke or bitter almonds, felt no unusual tastes in our mouths, no sudden concussion nor the whine of aircraft overhead.

In short, I have no fscking idea what that was all about, but I’ll note: There is something very creepy about finding yourself in a foreign city when all the alarms go off, and realizing that you have no way whatsoever of finding out what’s going on or what you should be doing in response.

So open questions to all: What would you guess the sirens were for? Natural disaster, accident, invasion from Mordor? And what would you do in a foreign city if sirens were to go off in the middle of the night?

Published in: on December 26, 2002 at 12:11  Comments (6)  

Wisdom in the Streets

Question of the day, as posed by a Sasebo billboard.

From today’s photography expedition

Published in: on December 21, 2002 at 15:27  Comments Off on Wisdom in the Streets  
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Damn, that’s creepy.

For some reason, every weekday at noon in this town they blow a loud alarm that sounds disturbingly like an air raid siren.

Published in: on December 19, 2002 at 12:06  Comments Off on Damn, that’s creepy.  

Notes on a flight…

(This was written while on the plane from Tokyo to Fukuoka)

Some things I’ve discovered today:

Published in: on December 16, 2002 at 12:31  Comments (5)  


Well, I got back the pictures from Israel, and disappointingly few of them turned out well. Time to get a digital camera.

I stuck up some of the best here. Most of these are probably not of general interest, but some of you may like the last two.

The inscription is from the dig site I was visiting. This photo was taken on top of one of the (still-being-excavated) walls of the city from the Jebussite stratum (ca. 2000-1300BC). The inscription is a bit faint in the picture (it’s the scratched lines in the stone) but it reads “Nahum” (a man’s name) in the Hebrew script of that period. From its language one can infer that it was written after the Jewish conquest of the city, so it’s probably ca. 1300.

The other picture was taken from a hillside in Jerusalem. (For purposes of orientation: This is on a hillside adjacent to the Old City. Relative to the center of this picture, the Wall is at 4 o’clock, and the al-Aqsa mosque is at 5 o’clock. The hill itself is part of Jerusalem. The hill on the left of this picture is actually a Palestinian village; the hill on the right is part of Jerusalem; and the valley between the two is Gehennom, the valley of Hinnom, which several thousand years ago was used as the city dump, and was a place to throw the bodies of people you really didn’t like. Thus going to Gehennom when you died was considered a generally bad thing.

For further orientation: The Jebusite wall (v.s.) is at 9 o’clock to me in this picture, and about fifty meters straight down. Did I mention that all archaeology in this city is urban archaeology, and goes right through buildings? Almost all of the city is about as dense as the hill on the left in this picture.

Published in: on November 27, 2002 at 18:25  Comments (1)  


Well, since everyone else is posting week status, I may as well join in. Mine’s been pretty
exciting so far, with the partial down note that my great-uncle passed away last night.
I say partial because it was probably in the best of possible ways; (well, apart from being
shot in bed at 98 by a jealous husband – and knowing him, he would have probably found
that a pretty good way. For those of you who have heard the stories, he’s the one whose
sister gave him a bike helmet for his 80th birthday, and he thought it was so cool that he
immediately put it on and biked 40km through Israeli traffic to show his nephew; he’s
also the one with the huge scrapbook of pictures of girlfriends) he was very healthy until
a few months ago, then suddenly everything happened at once. So his death was both
swift and an end to suffering, and it’s for the best. Funeral tonight.

Apart from that: Trip has been going very well so far. Got to see lots of people that
I’ve been wanting to, got to travel in all sorts of odd parts of the country (random note: There’s
a not-bad coffee house called Coffee Annan – and the pun is even worse in Hebrew, BTW – on
a tall mountain overlooking the Syrian border. It’s kinda weird, especially because the border
is visible – the ground changes from a rich brown (on the Israeli side) to a sort of
gray (on the Syrian side). I have no idea what they’re doing to the ground to make it look that
way, but it doesn’t look particularly arable. The coffee house itself is right next to an old IDF
bunker, which is still open as a sort of museum; kinda in a loose sense of the word, though.
The machine-guns are all still there (but completely rusted; kids play with them) and there are
even sheets still on the beds in the bunker. The border area is actually surprisingly calm;
basically both Israel and Syria are more or less satisfied with the status quo, at least for now,
and so in the far north people are actually much more relaxed than in the center.

I’ll save the detailed stories for when I get back – but there are some good ones, including a
wedding and getting to visit an archaeological site in Jerusalem that isn’t open to the public.

*hug* to everyone!

Published in: on September 30, 2002 at 09:49  Comments (3)  
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Made it…

…and the Mediterranean Sea is, as always, fscking beautiful.

Published in: on September 25, 2002 at 19:33  Comments (8)  


Hi everyone,

In response to the huge number of concerned letters and so on I’ve gotten lately about my trip: First of all, thank you to all of you, it does make me very happy to know that there are people concerned about me. Second, stop worrying! The place I’m going to is really not that dangerous. The total violent death rate in Israel, including ordinary murders and terror, was 2.9 per 100,000; the rate in SF in 2000 was 4.3. So even allowing for both sides skewing their numbers to make things look better, it’s still a lot less dangerous than simply going up to the City for a week.

No, the real threat to life and limb in Israel is the traffic. Israelis drive like Italians who have been fed large quantities of amphetamines.

And yes, I will stay off the buses. Just because the murder rate is low doesn’t make one careless.

Published in: on September 19, 2002 at 10:42  Comments (5)  
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Plans finalized…

Well, looks like my travel plans to Israel are finally set. Leaving the 23rd of September and returning the 5th of October, which means I make it to my cousin Maia’s wedding and miss about the first week of the school year. Ah, it’s expendable. And it’ll be very good to see family again.

*sigh* There’s some very odd things about this trip. First, that I haven’t been back in so many years that I’m a very different person from who I was the last time there; it’s like meeting my family again. And second, that there’s a strong feeling that every encounter there may be the last — either because I may never return, or because several of the people there may no longer be there when I do. So many people from the older generation are beginning to show their years… and the situation there is always unstable. The stress of the past two years’ war has not been good for anyone.

Oh well. I plan to eat some damned good food while I’m there, and maybe spend some time wandering through the marketplace, haggling over rugs or antique copperworks or whatever, and sit on the beach, watching the sun set over the Mediterranean. If you squint hard enough, you can still see Phoenecian ships go by on the horizon.

Published in: on August 21, 2002 at 15:11  Comments (3)  
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