Eitan asks Sonnet if people eat whales. Sonnet launches into a serious reply about how certain countries consume whale meat as part of their diet and culture. Eitan puts together the Big Joke: "No mom, Wales is a country - and you can't eat that!" Testing his formula, he comes up to me and asks if I drink out of glasses....
Monday, January 29
The UK is gearing up for Super Casinos, including the conversion of disastrous Millennium Dome thanks to our Man In The Know: John Prescott, may he and his kick-backs RIP. There has been little discussion on the street about Vegas style mega complexes soon to 'enrich' London and the UK, while the government salivates over another revenue stream. Today, there are 140 casinos in Britain, up from 117 in 2001. What us Brits gamble on: 65% of Brits play the national lottery 22% play scratch cards 14% play fruit machines 13% gamble on horse racing 9% do the football pools 3% play in casinos Overall, over 60% of adults gamble, and bingo is the only gambling activity in which women out-play men. In 1999, .8% of the population was classified as problem-gamblers. (source: Sunday Times)
This photograph from the World Wide Web.
Saturday, January 27
In a very unusual and honest expression (for the British), Virgin Media's head of internal communications admits in public that his cable company has a history of "crap service" and "very tired people," and has been stuck in "synergy hell." These comments made by James Weekley to fellow internal communications professionals at the Royal Society of Arts this month. Weekley noted further that Virgin's approach to life is typified by Sir Richard's catch-phrase: "Screw it, let's do it!" Mr Weekley was unavailable for comment yesterday, and it is unclear if he still works at Virgin.
Friday, January 26
Eitan reads a short passage in front of his peers and their parents. I join the audience with Aggie and Madeleine, who picks up on the vibe and is excited for her brother. I ask Madeleine if she is nervous, and she replies: "yes daddy, but I am shy." We then have a general discussion about shyness and it turns out that kids are shy but adults not. As for Eitan, he's lined up on stage awaiting his turn for a go - the procession closes in, he flushes, Madeleine rubs her hands - then up he pops and belts out his words in the most perfect British accent. it's over, I'm relieved and Madeleine returns to her main interest: a treat. We mingle a bit with the parents and kids, then walk home together for an early afternoon (for me) and movie for them. Renata baby-sits while Sonnet and I have dinner with Mike and Gretchen Bransford at the Churcill Arms in Notting Hill.
This morning I ask Madeleine how we can make it easier for her to get going in the morning. Without missing a beat: "you can bring me breakfast in bed."
Thursday, January 25
Big Ben is part of the Palace of Westminster, on grounds occupied since the Saxons ruled the area. The oldest buildings date back to 1097. The presence of royal grounds 1050 when Edward the Confessor built a royal palace here. For the next 500 years, Westminster was the residence of the royal monarchs. After a fire prompted Henry VIII to move out of the building to the Palace of Whitehall, the building remained in use as both a palace and the home of the English parliament. It has remained like this since January 20, 1265. A raging fire in 1834 destroyed many of the ancient buildings, but they were replaced in 1870 with a new set of constructed buildings that still stand today. It was during the rebuilding process that Big Ben came into existence in the massive clock tower which we love today.
Furthermore: The bell itself weights 13.8 tonnes, while the striking hammer weights 203.2 kilograms. It is tuned for the E note just above middle C. When operating, the hammer strikes the bell every 5 seconds. Big Ben is not the biggest or heaviest bell in England. That distinction goes to ’Great Paul’ in the nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral. Great Paul is a full 2 tonnes heavier than Big Ben.
A large crack developed in the bell due to a heavier hammer in use in the 1860s. That’s when the controversial move to rotate the bell and replace the hammer with a lighter one was made. While this saved on expensive re-casting costs, it also meant that the bell no longer struck a true E note.
Also housed in the tower are the four quarter bells used to play the Westminster Chimes every 15 minutes. Big Ben is prominently heard on many of BBC’s broadcasts on the hour, a tradition dating back to 1923.
Wednesday, January 24
"Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself." Charles De Gaulle
Snow falls on London last night, and we awake to two inches on the ground and everything white. Sonnet's first thought: miserable commute. She bolts from the house to catch an early bus, leaving me in bed and the kids in the backyard. We organise ourselves around various clothes - boots, shoes, jackets, scarves etc required for pre-school and during school. Arriving at the playground I am struck by the sheer energy of 200 kids going bonkers. It's like pressurised gas - molecules bouncing off each other. Even our normally staid Deputy Head Ian Hutchings is seen throwing snowballs. This photo taken on the school grounds, away from all the action.
Monday, January 22
I return to Paris to work with my friends at Astorg Partners. We plan a trip to the US of A to meet some investor colleagues who have expressed interest in what Astord does: mid-market French LBOs. More to the point, Astorg buys and sells companies and this last year saw seven "exits" returning a median of 3.4 times cost. Not too shabby when compared to the stock market or anything else.
Sunday, January 21
Katie sends me this photo from her mobile of her and Moe at a Cal swimming meet at Spieker Aquatic Complex at UC Berkeley. Katie and I were swimmers of course, and some of our early heros were the Swedes Bangt Baron and Par Arvidsoon and local greats T.A. DeBiase, John Mykanen, and Matt Biondi, all recruited to Cal swimming by coach Nort Thornton during the 1980s when the Bears dominated the NCAAs. Katie is on the West Coast to address Stanford University on issues for her think-tank Woodhull, and spends the weekend at our parents hours in Berkeley.
Madeleine loves to sleep, and this morning is no exception. Week-days are a rush to get out of the house for the 0840 school-run. We make it, of course- but Sonnet or I often feel like a drill Sargent. Madeleine needs her 12 hours or more - and while mornings may be tough, she is wide awake at bed time and usually requires a strong re-minder: "lights out!" Sundays are for pajamas, waffles and cartoons. She asks me on Monday: "Is it Sunday, dad?"
Saturday, January 20
I took this funky photo today at the Acquirium. The sea urchin occupies a special place in biology due to its long-time use as a standard subject for studies in embryology, and is the source of textbook descriptions of "the" egg, "the" embryo, and their early development. Humans consume sea urchin ("roe") either raw or briefly cooked. Sea urchin "roe" isn't actually roe, but rather the organs that produce the roe (the gonads). Five strips of roe reside within the structure of the urchin, a yellowish or orange substance resembling a rather firm custard. Yuck. Sea urchin roe is a popular food in Korean cuisine, and it is called "uni" in Japanese sushi. It is also a traditional food in Chile, where it is known as an "erizo", and highly appreciated in Spain. Apart from domestic consumption, Chile and a number of other countries export the sea urchin to Japan in order to meet its demand throughout the country. Traditionally considered an aphrodisiac, sea urchin "roe" has been found to contain the cannabinoid anandamide which is a mild narcotic.
Eitan, Madeleine and I head to the Aquarium on London's south bank. To get there, we catch a train from Richmond to Waterloo where this photo of Eitan taken. The kids are wired by the Big Trip, and we have fun goofing around. Of annoyance, Madeleine cannot stop asking me for a treat: "Can I have a treat, dad? Can I have a treat dad? Can I have a treat dad?". We play twenty questions: it takes me only five to determine TREAT. I ask her if she lives her life for this - and she looks at me like I am crazy.
On the train, both kids look out the window muttering "teen-ager" over and over. I ask what they are doing. Eitan: "Teen-agers write all that graffiti on the walls."
At the Aquarium, we see the usuals: mullets, puffer, rainbow, sea horses, star-fish, rays (which they touch) and other species. I over-hear a Brit taunting a flat flounder six inches from his nose: "Chips. Chips. Chips." Eitan's favorite is the shark. Madeleine tells me "I like all of the fish except the scary shark." she pulls me to see a piranha "who can eat your hand in one bite."
Madeleine informs me she will be an artist when she grows up.
Madeleine hangs over the top of Eitan's bunk bed, which I now call "Club Med". I used to ask Eitan whether he was sleeping "Uptown" or "Downtown" - on the top or bottom sleeper. The light streams thru his bedroom window falling on Madeleine around 12 noon.
Sonnet attends a "study day" of '60s fashion with speakers including Mary Quant, Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of Biba, and Vanessa Densa who has an OBE and the first buyer of Ossie Clarke.
Two days in Paris finds me with Astorg. We have meetings with CAM, an asset manager from Cologne, and the Feri Trust who's fortune originates from the Quandt family who founded Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). I usually find time for a favorite run: Faubourg hotel to Place de la Concord then thru the Tuileries gardens and past the Louvre, Left Bank on the Seine to La Cite where I salut Notre Dame (pictured) and back. Usually when the sun rises and a great way to start the day. This time, however, no time to spare and my trainers stay in the suitcase. The kids want me to bring them back croissants but no way.
Madeleine has "graduated" to the next level of football, so she and Eitan play (thankfully) at the same time freeing up an hour on Saturday morning. Today, she manages two clean break-aways, tearing across the pitch kicking the ball a step ahead. Her goal-shots straight at the startled keeper - no goal! - but her will is there. Eitan's side wins three to nil, and Eitan and pal Bertie produce two of the outcome. Useful work boys.
After soccer, the kids complain about a bath and are foced to my will. The water turns quite yellow: "See - you really did need a bath!" I say, at the same instant thinking - is that pee in the tub? Eitan denies, but Madeleine refuses to answer the question. I tell her we all enjoy peeing in the tub, but it is better done in the toilet. She informs me matter-of-factly: "everybody pees in the swimming pool dad. Even the adults." How she would know this, I don't know nor care to think about.
Wednesday, January 17
I am back in the office following my week in the USA. Jet lag hasn't been so bad this time - age, perhaps? Eitan and Madeleine are buzzy and into the school routine with the winter holidays long forgotten. Saturday morning soccer, swimming lessons, yoga, and Spanish keep them busy during the afternoons while homework - gasp! - occupies their evenings before bed. Reading is the thing, and both kids are working themselves hard. Eitan can complete books with only the occasional sounding-out of a word; Madeleine recognises letters and word patterns and is rapidly putting them together in full sentences.
Before bedtime, Eitan and I discuss the planets and gravity. "The sun must be much bigger than the earth" he says, "if it takes a whole year to go around it."
I spill a bag of popcorn kernals on the kitchen floor and scream to the kids: "M&M's!" They come rushing downstairs for a treat. Instead, we pretend the seeds are red-hot-kernals that must be picked up before we have burned feet. To finish off the job, we race to see who can find the Last Kernal. Who says chores can't be fun?
Sunday, January 14
Proud mother Susan Schady and her four month old Joey Lawrence Schady at their home in Rye Brook, New York. Susan is my first cousin on my mom's side, and today lives 15 minutes from also-proud parents Marcia and Larry. Joey is a happy personality and I receive plenty of smiles following his mid-day nap. It has been some time since I held a baby and my thoughts return to those thrilling and exhausting first months of parenthood and can now say, along with any grandparent: "better they then us." Susan and her husband Joe are naturals and clearly having a great time together. Susan, my sister and I catch-up on family stories; Susan to start her new job tomorrow at a financial advisory business. Super Moms - unite!
My trip ends with some excitement as I realise that my London return flight originates at Washington Dulles and not JFK airport - oops! Happily all departures delayed due to fog, so my missed connection automatically changed. I offer the United rep $200 for the fortunate weather.
Saturday, January 13
Christian Wright, Sarah Lovitt, Sonnet and I have dinner at Raoul's Christmas Eve - 1995. Sonnet had moved to New York two months before while I attend Columbia Business School. We had been engaged four months. The dinner I recall was filled with good cheer and winter spirits and eventually concludes at the Merc Bar on Mercer Street. The next day we spend in Bronxville with my Aunt Marcia and the Lee family and their friends. This photograph taken by Katie today.
Yesterday Friday I visit Invesco and the Columbia Endowment. My last meeting with Columbia the most intense of the week and a four-on-one with a serious crew. I'm bushed, and about half mast re my presentation and so am happy for dinner with Tim, his girlfriend Kitty and their gay friends in the meat packing district. From there we go to Japonais to meet Paul who is in town from Argentina and on his way to San Francisco before London. Somehow Paul and I end up at a dive bar nursing vodka and sodas and it is 4AM.
Saturday morning arrives too soon and my brain hurts. Katie picks me up a the hotel and we walk to Christopher Street and a Cuban restaurant (coffee!). We discuss life and our station, comparing notes on those things important to us. Katie has created several projects with the her think tank the Woodhall Institute, and is busy putting them into action. Stay tuned. We walk down-town Manhattan and window shop. She tries on some knee-high boots but unfortunately the gold are not in her size.
This photograph taken on 7th Avenue and West Fourth Street.
I arrive in New York Thursday and stay at the chic SOHO Grand Hotel on West Broadway and Canal. I'm greeted by Katie and whisked away to a book launch on Mercer Street. Katie is surrounded by her very cool friends and writers and knows everybody in the crowded gallery. I meet a contemporary who is working on feminism and the modern-day mom. Another who was a junk addict and now writes about it. From there, we head uptown to the Jolly Bar and meet a next group of friends re-uniting one third of my London poker table: Tim Larrison and Jim Ledbetter. Tim is CFO of an airport security company marching towards an IPO. Jim is responsible for Turner's online properties. I manage to go to bed by 1AM in preparation for a busy Friday of meetings.
Wednesday, January 10
Iwao Takamoto, the creator of Scooby Doo which scared the beejeezus out of Madeleine recently, died Monday in Los Angeles from a heart-attack. Takamoto, who learned his trade in a Japanese-American internment camp, was hired by the Walt disney Studios on the basis of two dime-store notebooks full of sketches. He went on to complete animated films like "Lady and the Tramp" and "101 Dalmations." In 1973, he directed "Charlotte's "Web." Monday a sad day for Scooby fans including Madeleine and a sad day for us all.
This photo of the Transamerica Building and Koit Tower taken from the 44th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, where I am staying while in San Francisco. I am visiting Industry Ventures, where I will become the European Partner, and also Walden Ventures. I am able have lunch yesterday at the Tadich Grill with London pal Josh Hannah who is weighing various life options including a partnership at Benchmark Ventures where he is an Executive in Residence (Benchmark invested in Josh's startup Flutter). I also visit my sea lion friends at Pier 39 during a sun-rise run. In 1990 shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake, the boisterous barking pinnipeds started arriving in droves, taking over the docks completely. At first they numbered from 10-50, but due to a plentiful herring supply, available dock space and the marina’s protected environment, the population grew to more than 300 within a few months. Each winter, the population can increase up to 900 sea lions, most of which are male. During the summer months, the sea lions migrate south to the Channel Islands for breeding season, but in recent years a small group stays year-round at PIER 39's K-Dock. Their loud barking can be heard up Telegraph and Russian Hills, and makes me feel right at home - just like the old days when first dating Sonnet.
Monday, January 8
Grace in front of the original Peet's coffee. Alfred Peet set up the shop at Vine and Walnut in 1966. In those early days, Peet went to the far world to select his beans and then ship them directly to his shop. The sacks took up most of the available room. Soon a second store opened near the Claremont Hotel in South Berkeley. As legend has it, the three founders of Starbucks, then at Stanford Business School, new Peet and visited his stores while contemplating a business plan. In fact, when they founded their chain from Seattle, they bought Peet's beans. Peet's has been slower to expand than Starbucks, and has maintained (to some extent) more of its focus as a coffee and tea retailer, rather than a coffee bar, a distinction that has long separated Peet's from Starbucks. Peet's is still primarily a California operation, with a few stores in other metropolitan areas. In total, there are now 118 Peet's. The company went public in January 2001 (symbol PEET).
Grace maintains her active life, and its main focus is her non-profit Organisation TLC, which has received grants from the State of California and others. TLC's mission is to provide the framework for the healthy emotional development of children 0-5 years of age within a culturally relevant context, even in difficult times and under difficult circumstances, by providing early intervention mental health services at child care centers in Alameda County. Grace's work brings together many talented and dedicated people including her former colleague Katrina Ross from her Montessori School in the 1970s. Otherwise, weekends find her working away on grant proposal or going to the movies; talking to her grand kids and enjoying it all generally.
Moe this afternoon on the deck at 1530 Euclid Avenue, Berkeley. To this day, he maintains a rigorous schedule rising at 0515 to read the New York Times, make coffee and check his emails. At 0550 he drives to Harmon Gym at Cal to exercise, joining a crew of peers who work the weights and share jokes and local news. Among the group is Jack Ball, my seventh grade P.E. teacher, who remains as fit as when I first knew him in 1979. From there, Moe spends the day preparing for mediations, working with the Berkeley YMCA where he is a Director, and hob-nobbing with the Rotaries. Weekends are at home watching sports or at the family house in the Sierras. In truth, we wondered how Moe would retire, being a self-proclaimed "workaholic." My visit confirms that he has found a healthy life balance and is content with his station. On a nice California day, what more could one wish?
Friday, January 5
While we are on sports, English cricket is just one of those things American ex-pats will never understand. It is not anything like baseball, tho a round ball, bat and silly outfit is involved. There is also base running and pitching (known as "bowling"). There's even a catcher called a "wicket keeper." Any case, the game really is a means for the former British colonies to trounce England, which is exactly what happened in Australia this week during the coveted Ashes. For the first time since 1920, Australia defeated England 5-0 during the test match - a "whitewash," as it is called here with much despair. To understand what this means, imagine being a Chicago Cubs fan awaiting the World Series. Or Cal going to the Rose Bowl. Last year, England's historic victory at the same tournement at Lord's Cricket Ground in St John's Wood resulted in the players binge-drinking for 48 hours and meeting the queen pasty and hung-over, all of which was gleefully covered by the Fleet Street rags. Highs and lows indeed.
In other news, the 23-year-old man who won £9.7 million on the lottery four years ago has admitted threatening commuters on a train. Michael Carroll, who has a lengthy crimminal record, became abusive after being told to stop playing his music. Magistrates in Cambridge gave him a two-year community order.
I leave for the US tomorrow, where I will visit San Francisco, Boston and New York for work and fun. Viva la vida!
Tuesday, January 2
Dale lives in Austin Texas with his wife and four children. We met in London around the cards table when he was running money for T. Rowe Price. Prior, Dale was at Stanford Business School and UT. Any understanding, or empathy, I have for the conservative right is because of him, a native Texan and True Believer in classic neo-conservative policy, may it R.I.P. My Berkeley roots, of course, type-cast me in the other extreme so we enjoy honest and spirited email exchanges where the occasional "go fuck yourself" is barely contained by the finger-tips. This photograph taken following a bet between us that he loses (below). It warms my heart to see him in a BERKELEY jersey for so many reasons, but especially because Texas kept Cal from playing in the Championship Bowl Series in 2004. Go Bears!
The bet: If the Cal spread against Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl favorable to Texas's spread over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl, Dale to wear the Cal colours (photo'd). If Texas's spread favorable, I to wear Texas gear.
At the beach in Holkam, Norfolk ("Lord Nelson's County"): Eitan builds a "bug trap" where the "bugs go in but they don't come out." Silly me to assume it was a sand castle. The prison includes a "trick mountain" where the critters go to ski, but instead fall into a nearby dungeon. To make sure everything tip-top secure, there is hot lava trench and the "Great Wall of Bug", which can be seen in the photo.
Crossing a stream in Richmond Park, I ask Madeleine if she knows where the water goes. She: "Texas?"