Monday, July 31
Madeleine shows off her bravery and pool-diving skills. Before we allowed her into the Deep End, I made sure she could swim a full lenght of the 25 meter pool doing the crawl. Her dog-style persists, but we are reasonably happy with her progress, and the many swim lessons in London pay back in droves.
Sonnet and I leave the kids with their grandparents and drive to the trailhead, departing the cabin at 6:00AM. We have done this route before, pre-kids, which concludes at an alpine lake at about 8,000 feet. The weather is fine and summer-like, and the path winds through alpine terrain, forrests and open meadows. We are treated with wildflowers, which open their blume on our return once the sun has warmed the ground.
Madeleine (and Eitan) discover a pine cone. London does not offer many opportunities to explore nature unless you consider Hyde or Richmond Parks. Both quickly adapt to the setting, however, even if they seem a bit cautious by many of their new experiences. My dream is to walk the John Muir trail with them one day.
Moe remains an aqua enthusiast, dating to at least my grade school when he supported my, and Katie's athletic agenda by swimming laps during our 6:30AM morning workout. This was extended at some point to double work-outs and even the odd triple when he would sneak a swim at the Bay Club in San Francico during lunch. Today, Moe has bonded poolside with Eitan and Madeleine, and remains an enthusiast for their development in this family discipline. This photo taken at the Shashone rec center, 29/7/06.
This photograph taken at my parent's cabin near Dorrington (pop. 9) and Bear Valley (pop. 150) (29/7/06). The property was purchased in 1984 with the Farnsworth and Saperstein families, who designed the place to spec. Our road is off route 4, a two lane black-top that is closed for four months of the year due to snow at Ebbett's Pass (elev. 8,500 feet). This presents a 60 mile dead-end, which has slowed the pace of development and traffic, and so the area retains its peace and scenic beauty. While we have enjoyed it here since highschool, it is equally suited for Eitan and Madeleine who revel in the general freedom to explore the outdoors (at least within a 100 yard radius).
Friday, July 28
Madeleine practices her back-start in Los Angeles (21/7/06). The kids can spend hours in the pool, entertaining themselves in various ways. A favorite is the 'time trial' where I simulate the '08 Olympics: "Swimmers prepare yourselves for the 50 meters freestyle. Take your marks - beep!" The kids belly-flop into the pool and flail about until they reach the other side. It is surprisingly competitive even for them, and usually ends in shouts of protest from the loser even though a silver guaranteed.
Tuesday, July 25
From Catherine's wedding in LA, we drive north on the Pacific Coast Highway (route 1) passing Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Montery and Point Lobos state park, where I take this image on a foggy coastal morning. The point is home to sea lions, otters, pelicans and many other critters as well as wild flowers and grasses and craigy vistas; the air smells of salt. We spend an hour or so watching the kids make a fort of washed up branches then hit the road for a sandy beach and Berkeley.
Sonnet and I celebrate Catherine and Peter's union on July 22, 2006. The wonderful wedding took place at the Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, on a boiling hot Southern California day quite appropriate for the spiritual setting of the service. Sonnet and Catherine have known each other since freshmen year at Smith (er, 1986) and remain steadfast friends (Sonnet was the Maid of Honour this weekend; Catherine was at ours in 1997). Peter is Chinese, and the reception a mix of Asian toasts (Peter's younger, unmarried brother took the burden of his father's 'roast') and food (10 courses) combined with good old rock-and-roll. Other Smithies include Halley, Nita and Jenn. The newlyweds now in Hawaii.
I arrived in California Sunday, July 16 to do a few days work for the Walden fund, then welcomed the kids at SFO on the 19th. After a night in Berkeley, we headed south to L.A. for Catherine Majkit's wedding to Peter Ciao (more on this later). Here, I photograph the Disney Opera House in dowtown Los Angeles. We are connected to the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County via Sonnet's uncle Shelton Stanfill who was President and Chief Executive until 2001 when he left to run the Woodruff Center in Atlanta. Among other things, Shelton was responsible for funding the development of the music hall, famously designed by Frank Gehryand today home of the Philharmonic Opera. Our visit was yesterday, Sunday, so we had downtown to ourselves and could fully appreciate the beauty, and wackiness, of Gehry's design.
Saturday, July 22
Eitan in costume. As at this writing, our web slinging hero has declined in popularity, replaced by the Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and (at my suggestion) Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Frank Lampard (says he: "Dad! He's not a super hero!" Nb after this World Cup and 0 for 21 on goal shots I have to agree). For a while though every night was capped with a bedtime story about Peter Parker, Aunte May, Mary Jane Watson, a host of villians including Green Goblin, Vulture, Kingpin and others and of course our dear Spider Man.
Thursday, July 20
St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren, is on Ludgate Hill, in the City of London and the seat of the Bishop of London (nb to be a city in England, there must be a Bishop). The present building dates from the 17th century, and is generally reckoned to be London's fourth St Paul's Cathedral, although the number is higher if every major medieval reconstruction is counted as a new cathedral. This photograph taken from the Bankside Power Station; the Millenium Bridge crosses the Thames.
Thursday, July 13
With long-time London friend Arthur Garrison, I bike to Oxford or about 100 kilometres. The trip begins from my house where we meet for a coffee, and passes through Richmond, skirts around Heathrow, crosses the Thames three times while traversing the countryside via Marlow, Fierth, Fingerest, Pishill and other charming and small villages then brings us to our destination via a dual carriageway and rather hard ride in. An occassional random red phone booth is spotted. Seven hours later we are at Oxford Startion and the train ride back to London. Arthur, fyi, is a satellite engineer at TRW and thanks to his mapping, compass reading and odometer, we are not lost even once.
Sunday, July 9
This photograph of Ynon taken today on the Chiswick High Road, London, following a late Sunday lunch at "the Giraffe" (yes, child friendly). Yuval sometimes belongs to Shai and Ada otherwise he is running around like crazy. Afterwards and with Mary and fiance Philippe we visit nearby Turnham Green to spend our Sunday afternoon. The green is wedged between a gothic church, the town center and the busy high street and brings back memories of lazy afternoons spent in Central Park, NYC.
My favorite plant, the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is annual and in the Family Asteraceae, with a large flower head (infloescence). The stem of the flower can grow up to 3 metres tall with the flower head reaching 30cm in diameter. Sunflowers are native to the Americas, and were domesticated around 1000 B.C. Francisco Pizarro found the Inca subjects venerating the sunflower as an image of their sun god, Gold images of the flower, as well as seeds, were taken back to Europe early in the 16th century. Helianthus is the Greek word for "sunflower" (9/7/06; definition from Wickipedia).
Friday, July 7
Our Agnieszka, or "Aggie," is from a small town in Poland and has lived in England for five years. She is well known in the community and still baby-sits for several nearby families. Aggie has a University degree in education, speaks three languages and is a delight with Eitan and Madeleine. While different from Letty's disciplined and direct approach, Aggie fills our house with her own warm vibe and keeps the kids on top of their game. This photo during books (NB Eitan saw the camera and bolted).
Madeleine wraps up her last day of school (7/7/06). While not an especially well framed image, the photo gives a broad range of action, which I like. The kids have fun, in the spotlight of their parents, who sit excitedly in the make-shift auditorium. Two years have gone by quickly, and now Madeleine is ready for reception (kindergarten).
On today, the last day of Montessori, the school celebrates with physical education, known throughout the Western World simply as "PE." Races include the potato carry, hat-pick-up-and-cone-dash and relay. Some of the younger kids are scared out of their wits by the audience of enthusiastic parents clapping and encouraging onward their future Olympians. Madeleine was quite calm, winning her "competitions" handily and anchoring the final leg of the relay. It is hard to believe that following three years Montessori will no longer be with us. Both kids will attend "Big Boy School" come September. Happily many of Madeleine's friends will join her and of course Eitan will be able to help smooth the way (Eitan: "I won't!").
Wednesday, July 5
Eitan at our local wine restaurant. Now that the sun sets at 2100 and the tempature warm-like, I take the kids for a lemonade and run-around while I answer emails. From this photo, Eitan's baby teeth are not falling out while his permenant teeth come in. This will require the old hook and tongs at the dentist (local anethestic to be applied). The Boy, well aware of his plight as he has been forced to wiggle the fixed whitecaps for some months now, is quite eager for the Tooth Fairy regardless.
Sunday, July 2
Sonnet models her bride's maid dress and slippers for dear friend Catherine, who will be married this month in Los Angeles. Sonnet and Catherine are friends from freshman year at Smith, and the Stanfill-Orenstein London family are way excited for Catherine, the wedding and the beach. All equally good things.
Madeleine proves herself to be a venerable traveler on her way to Denver, CO (19/6/06). Sonnet and her together for the week of Maire's wedding while I am Mano-a-mano with the Boy (me to him: "men together drink beer, look for foxy babes and stay up late watching TV." Eitan: "No way dad! but can we stay up late and watch TV?"). On the long-haul, Madeleine makes friends with two same-age girls and much of the trip is spent crayoning and watching in-flight entertainment. This photograph taken at the Marriot.
England's World Cup dreams end at the quarter-finals in the cruellest way - a penalty shoot out following extra time (2/7/06; photo from The Sun). The team played heroically weathering Wayne Rooney's ejection for stomping on the balls of Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho (red card; 10 on 11) and without captain Beckham due to injury. Despite the player disadvantage England kept the score nil-nil through regular time and two overages. Owen Hargraves, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville played decently and goal-keeper Paul Robinson above his average. Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon came off the bench and nearly pulled an historic victory but, alas - the penalty kicks decided the game and we missed three of four attempts from 10 yards out. Sadly this was the same outcome in the '04 game vs Portugal (the most exciting I have ever watched) and before that Argentina (World Cup '98), Germany ('96), and West Germany ('90). Thus ends the run of perhaps England's best assembled team ever... at least on paper.