Tuesday, February 27

Super Return

Here I am taking a welcome break from the Super Return conference in Germany. I feel in camouflage as the audience is 98% white male wearing same dark suit and hermes tie... 50% with spectacles. A female speaker referencing fund-raising quips: "in this audience, size really does matter." Ar ar. We hear about why mega-funds are better than regional funds, the amount of private equity raised for buyouts, how the industry is transforming Europe for the better and the negative press surrounding above average rates of return - in short, just what one would expect from a mature, wealthy industry. I spend most of my time out of the conference hall catching up with friends and discussing various opportunities.

Sunday, February 25


I spend my Sunday afternoon at Heathrow - picture from Terminal 4, Gate 15. I learn from my driver that T4 opened in 1984 and the airport paid for the installation of sound-proofing for the houses that seem to end at the run-way. Heathrow 5 and the third runway will open in '08 while the airport remains the busiest in the world. Lucky us. To make up for the latter half of my day, I bike Richmond Park in the morning then take Eitan to the common to play football. Sonnet makes Sunday waffles and bacon - the English kind that is thick and salty (not those skimpy strips in the USA). Now I eat French fries at The Westin and watch a French program on killer whales.


I am off to Rotterdam today then Germany for the Super Return Conference. Most of us ex-pats, even after ten years, don't know where Holland is or the difference between Holland and The Netherlands. So here it is:

olland occupies an area of 41,160 square kilometres and is home to 16 million people. Partly reclaimed from the waters of the North Sea, it is Europe’s most densely populated country. The Netherlands enjoyed a golden age from around 1580 to 1740 when the Dutch East India Company sent ships to the Far East in search of spices and other exotic goods, while colonising the Cape of Good Hope, Indonesia, Surinam, the Antilles, and New Amsterdam (now New York). Today, only the Antilles remain a Dutch colony and are really self ruling. Disaster hit the country in 1953 when a high spring tide accompanied by a severe storm broke the dykes in Zeeland. 1,835 people drowned. To make sure such a tragedy would never occur again, the Delta Project blocked the southwest river deltas using a network of dams, dykes and 3.2km storm surge barrier.

Eitan and Madeleine watch the movie Babe about a pig on a farm. Madeleine asks: "where do sausages come from, mum?" and the film takes on new meaning.

Madeleine excitedly asks: "Eitan after you have had a bath and changed your clothes do you want to play tea parties with me?"

I look under Eitan's bed to find British and American money (coins and bills); a "stash" of Halloween candy and various treasures including music CDs, polished rocks, toys and toy bits, a shield, a compass and some marbles.

Wednesday, February 21


According to the World Health Organization, China has one of the highest rates of smokers among its male population - more than two thirds of the adult males are smokers. Only Russia and some eastern European countries come close to this high prevalence of smoking in China. In India, by comparison, the percentage of smokers among adult males, is less than half of China. Only some 30 percent of the adult males are smoking in India.

In the European nations of Germany, France, and Spain around 40% of the males are smoking - some 15% more than in the United States of America. Only the United Kingdom and Finland have rates of male smokers that are comparable with the USA. In Sweden, on the other hand, less than 20% of the males are smoking.

The situation among females is completely different: In the WHO selection of countries, China and India have the lowest rates of female smokers - only 3 to 5 percent. Female smokers are also rare in Russian . Very high rates of female smokers, however, can be found in Norway, Germany, and France - where roughly 30 percent of all adult females are smoking. In the US the proportion of female smokers is around 22 percent.

In any case, I am in Paris tonight for meetings, returning tomorrow. This airborn shot of Eitan taken in '04 on holiday in the Sierras.


Two models, photographed by Sonnet last year, wearing designs to be featured in Sonnet's upcoming book on New York fashion.

Tuesday, February 20


How did this late-summer photo get by me I wonder? Taken in Richmond nearby the High Street and our house, Eitan, Madeleine and I burn off some Sunday afternoon energy during the fading sunshine. While winter arrived disturbingly late in '06 the farmer's day-light savings nets dark mornings and early sunsets. We take what we can get outdoors. I note that Madeleine wears her All-England gear, excluding the sandals of course.

Katie leaves for Miami today to cover the trial of Carl Dorelian who was a wealthy member of the Haitian military regime’s high command, promoted for his role in staging a violent coup d'etat. Not only was he granted amnesty in the United States, he won $3.2MM in the state lottery.

I ask Eitan and Madeleine how we can reduce garbage and help the planet. Madeleine suggests: "if you love a rabbit, keep it."

Maida Vale

This photo taken May 24, 2002, at Lauderdale Mansions. Eitan about 18 months and seems to be happily adjusting to his sister, who would have arrived three months prior.

Hard to believe but the UK is third for global venture capital. Last year's 515 vc deals, worth €1.8BN, was comfortably the largest market in Europe (source: Library House). California topped the list with 1,367 deals valued at €9.1BN followed by Massachusetts with 338 worth €2.1BN.

Monday, February 19


Here is Sonnet one year before leaving Anchorage, Alaska, to attend Smith College. 1985 was spent at the Lycee Francais in San Francisco with her mother, who was teaching a literature course.


Yesterday we check out the Aldershot Military Museum, located on one of the two surviving barrack bungalows built in North Camp in the 1890s. We learn that before 1854 and the arrival of the army, Aldershot was a town of 17,000 with 130 pubs. Lawlessness and buggery was the rule but the area offered a nice, bog-free local close to London and suitable for a tent and GI Joe. During WWI and II, the complex became the British training grounds for troops on their way to Europe. Madeleine in front of the Marching Regiment otherwise known as The Old-Age Pensioners that Time Forgot.

Saturday, February 17


The kids and I are in the forgettable town of Farnborough, Surrey this weekend while Sonnet visits Paris. We stay family-style at the Holiday Inn which has a swimming pool and spa open from 0700 to 2200 (rest assured we are arrive at 0701). The kids are thrilled by in-room movies and room-service. Farnborough otherwise hosts a military base, museum and sports grounds so after the morning dip we take our football kit to a professional pitch and kick the ball around. Eitan is dog-eared by the end but holds it together to earn a number of goals from me (Madeleine, wary of the fierce father-son competition, finds a sand trap to make castles). We return to the hotel for another hour in the pool - Eitan and I discuss the chemical compound H2-O which floats us.

"It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what is required." Churchill

The Rabbi

You must have heard of the nice Jewish boy who meets the girl he would like to marry. He realises she has to run the gauntlet of his mother. He decides he will take two other girls home as well, to see if his mother will be able to choose the one he wants to marry.

He gets home. the three girls sit down on the sofa opposite his mother. After two minutes, she says to her son, 'It's the one on the left.'
He says, 'Mother, that's amazing. It's incredible. How could you guess? How could you work out she is the one I want to marry?'

His mother shrugs and says, 'Already I don't like her.'

Friday, February 16


Mrs Sedden, Madeleine's reception teacher, and I sit down for our parent-teacher review of Madeleine's progress. "Madeleine" she says "is enthusiastic, enjoyable to be with, and making excellent progress. She takes her work seriously in the class-room and pays good attention to her work. She is a pleasure." Mrs Sedden also comments:

"Madeleine is working hard on her reading and writing. She recognises the beginning of words which she can write. She can spell her full name, and can trace and copy new words. When she started in September 2006, she could recognise 9 letters. At Christmas 14 and now 21 - this is 'excellent progress.' The next stage for her is to assemble the letter-sounds of a word into a full word."

On numeracy, Madeleine is "just where she should be." She recognises numbers 1 to 5 and is working on 5 to 10. She can add 1's (ie, 1+1, 5+1 9+1 etc) and understands the 10 series (10, 20, 30, 40....). She is comfortable and enjoys math.

"Madeleine's drawing is becoming more focused and less abstract." Mrs Sedden shows me an early drawing of a person and now - the difference is striking. "She is very creative and loves to work with the various art tools."

I thank Mrs Sedden, who says "well thank you for letting us have Madeleine." Bravo.

Parent teacher

Well, who would have thunk that I would find myself waiting outside Eitan's classroom on a chilly Thursday evening for a parent-teacher conference? Madeleine's review follows shortly. Mrs Reynolds, Head Teacher of the Hedge Hogs (Eitan's Year 1 class), notes that Eitan is "positive about learning. He takes everything in stride and knows how to focus. Eitan enjoys school and appreciates that it is about a bit of fun." Other comments from her: "He absorbs learning, works hard, and sets a high standard for himself." Mrs Reynolds concludes that Eitan "is a star" which of course comes as no surprise to me. Further comments:

"Eitan's reading is coming along nicely and he is able to spell "high frequency" words correctly (the, they, must, etc). His progress is excellent."

On numeracy: his numbers work is "good" and he can count forwards and backwards in tens. His calculation is strong to 20 and he is "comfortable" in this medium.
Eitan loves music, is active and coordinated in playground PE (the kids play "hockey stick"); he recognises coins, appreciates the concept of "heavier and lighter", can name 3-D objects and is learning how to use a computer key-board. In class the kids are studying China and science: healthy foods and the body. Eitan knows the difference between healthy food and sweets.

On Eitan's inter-personal skills: "he shows good empathy, communicates easily and is well liked by the other children and his teachers. " All children are asked to set a goal for themselves; Eitan's will be to "eat my lunch more quickly". When asked to think about an accomplishment, he says "I no longer rush when leaving for Football Saturday morning."

I ask Mrs Reynolds if Eitan is sufficiently challenged, and she says she keeps a "special eye on this." Bravo.

Thursday, February 15


I meet my tax consultants on Bedford Square in Bloomsbury next to the British Museum. A luxury of London is the content - and today I explore Europe from the Romans to the Rococo. In the East Wing I learn that Constantinople I changed the Mediterranean by moving his seat of power from Rome to Constantinople (Istanbul) with easy access to the Danube. He also sponsored the Christian church, allowing it to thrive during his reign. I also pay my respects to the Rosetta Stone (postcard pictured) which was discovered in Rosetta, Egypt in 1799 by the French during Napoleon then stripped by the British military and transferred to the British Museum in 1801. The stone is inscribed with the same passage of writing in two Egyptian language scripts (hieroglyphic and domitic) and in classical Greek, which allowed Frenchman Jean-Francois Champollion to translate the thing by 1822. Hieroglyphics fell from use in the 4th century after 3,500 years so the translation returned to us a forgotten culture. Famously upon arriving in the UK I did not know the significance of the rock and made the mistake of telling Silver so.

After telling Madeleine the bedtime story "Ali Baba and the Forty Theives" she asks me if I can tell her "Ali Baba and the Forty Dwarves."

Sonnet is in Paris this weekend with Halley.

Tuesday, February 13


Sonnet meets Dana and Rana for girls night out at the Dorchester Bar. The crowd is giggly as Kate Moss and Pete Doherty arrive and Sonnet bumps into Pete thinking "this guy is trying a bit too hard to look like Pete Doherty." For those not in the know, Moss and Doherty have been an item for some time despite his repeated drugs offenses. When not baked he performs for Brit band Babby Shambles and is generally maligned by Fleet Street for corrupting Croydon's beauty child Kate.

This photo from Google Images.

Monday, February 12

Sunday, February 11


Eitan salutes the old British de Havilland Comet, whose engine is seen behind the boy. The Comet achieved fame as the world's first commercial jet airliner, flying in 1949. Two crashes at Rome's Ciampino Airport resulted in an investigation and redesign, stopping manufacturing until 1954. By then the Americans had caught up and surpassed British technology with the DC-10. England suffered a loss of confidence in this epoque in part because the island ceded its world leadership in aviation and other hi-tech manufacturing.

L'il Caesar

The kids at the V&A museum next to Caesar (I think) today. Last week Madeleine spends an afternoon with Sonnet at work - and is thrilled to be so close to all the adult things: books, computers, closed offices, art and of course - adults! Aggie drops Madeleine off at lunchtime then Madeleine and Sonnet drive home together after exploring the museum's archival treasures including fancy dress, ball-room gowns and glass slippers. Sonnet's colleagues make Madeleine feel special and we agree that it is a good idea for her to value work.

Madeleine to Eitan watching a documentary on birds: "Do you like bats more?"

Madeleine tells me "I love mum so much" then breaks into tears.

Eitan on the underground: "This is one long tunnel."

I'm Flying This Jumbo

Sonnet works today, so I have free reign with the kids. We start by going to the common to practice football and work ourselves out. Afterwards, I tell the kids: "bad news - no food in the house... so we will have to go to McDonald's." Now that I am Mr Popular, we head out for a greasy fry then to the V&A to visit mum in her habitat. Eitan admires the sculptures. This photo of Madeleine taken across the street at the Sciences Museum where the top floor is dedicated to airplanes.

Madeleine on the underground chats up the lady sitting next to her: "My name is Madeleine, I go to the Big School and my dad is 39 years old!"

Eitan explains to me how the wings of a plane work: "The air goes underneath the wing making pressure. This can happen when the plane moves forward. "

Madeleine at a cafe trying to read the kid's menu: "Does that spell treat?"

Battersea Bridge

The bridge, in south-west London, links Battersea south of the river with Chelsea to the north. Its 40 foot width makes it London's narrowest road vehicle bridge. 

Until the late 18th century, a ferry service had operated across the river at this location, but an Act of Parliament in 1776 authorised construction of a toll bridge. A group of fifteen investors financed this first bridge, at a cost of £15,000. Designed by a Henry Holland, the bridge was composed of 19 narrow wooden spans, making it difficult for river traffic to pass through. The ceremonial opening was in November 1771, but regular traffic first moved across the bridge in 1772. 

In 1795, some of the wooden spans were replaced by iron girder sections, creating spans almost double the size of the wooden ones. Like other London toll bridges, Battersea Bridge was eventually bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works, closed in 1883 and subsequently demolished in 1885, to be replaced by the current bridge. 

This was designed by MBW chief engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette , constructed from 1886 and opened by on 1890. It is composed of five wrought iron and steel cantilever spans supported on granite piers. On September 20, 2005, the bridge was struck by a gravel-carrying barge, which became stuck underneath one of the arches. The collision caused significant damage, requiring the bridge to be closed for a period predicted to be weeks if not months while repairs could be carried out.

My photo faces north towards Chelsea.

Saturday, February 10

Your Tongue

Sometimes you just become aware of it, as in this photo from last year. Today we are bogged down in typical London weather: grey and wet. This does not stop football, and so we troop over to the the common to brave the elements with the other soccer loving kids on the block. Eitan's side wins 4-1, but the final goal against us is a laser-strike that has all the dads humming. Bertie scores an "own-goal" and is berated by his team. The afternoon takes Madeleine to Daniel's party on Plum Road while Eitan and I pick up school pal Harry to go to Hugo's - inside being the key element. Unfortunately it is closed so we walk the Thames path to burn off some energy then reward ourselves with an ice-cream. Post party, Eitan and Madeleine compare notes on who scored more sugar. Sonnet at work today preparing for NY Fashion plus seeing her hair stylist in Barnes.

This evening a "nasty old wasp" is discovered in Madeleine's bedroom. Madeleine is buzzy with fear: "Is the wasp angry with me mum? Are you going to suck the wasp down the hoover mum? Does this make the wasp mad mum?"

Friday, February 9

Sonnet Goes Live

17 April - 2 September 2007
"For over a century, New York has reigned as America's fashion capital. Today, its creative legacy, successful fashion empires, and important press and retail sectors ensure that the city's influence has become global.
'New York Fashion Now' will showcase clothes and accessories from a range of New York's emerging fashion talent. The display will feature twenty dynamic young design labels (most of them launched within the past three to seven years) such as Zac Posen, Maggie Norris, Thom Brown, Mary Ping and Derek Lam. It will chart the contributions each has made to the changing face of the fashion industry in one of the world's most powerful fashion capitals. Outfits will include elegant sportswear, new menswear, expressions of craft, avant-garde design and examples of the synergy between celebrity and fashion.

Though embracing different philosophies and methods, this group of designers is unified by the idea that New York City itself is central to their creative identity. Specially commissioned photographs of New York neighbourhoods will place the clothes within the context of the city's vibrant street-life.

'New York Fashion Now' captures a period of extraordinary outpouring of creative talent within New York's fashion culture, revealing how each designer has responded to the challenges and opportunities the city offers the aspiring designer."

Photo from V&A website: Crimson jersey evening dress, Mary Ping, Autumn/ Winter 2005-6, photographed in Lincoln Center, New York. Photographed by Isabel Asha Penlizien

Wednesday, February 7


Sonnet, surrounded by her family (photo taken at cousin Maire's wedding in La Veta, Colorado). From left to right: Brook (glam cousin, lives in Pacific Palisades), Marcus (loving bro), Missy (Aunt #1, famous for La Popeta and the oosik - don't ask); Bru (off-beat, lives in Rome), Robin (Aunt #2, artist extraordinaire who revels in the jewellery and textile art), Ray (uncle-in-law, married to Robin), Silver and Stan. Missing is Martine, Aunt #3 whose horse ranch enraptured Eitan and Madeleine last summer.

Monday, February 5


Russ Ellis is the father of longtime friend David, who I grew up with in Berkeley; David and I
met at King Jr. High School when he belted out Stevie Wonder
's "Happy Birthday" to an auditorium of jubulient seventh graders - genius shows its early face. Russ is Vice Chancellor Emeritus, UC Berkeley which comes in handy when David and I need tickets to the football games. Today, he is a sculpture and painter and his work may be seen at the International Sculpture Center in Hamilton, New Jersey. I also love this photograph of him.

Photograph by Judy Dater

Sunday, February 4


The kids yesterday before Madeleine's party. Madeleine receives 28 presents and Eitan does his best not to gripe about the unfairness of it all. He tells Gracie "I am a bit jealous" - but this can only be expected.

Sonnet tells Madeleine: "My favorite book as a child was "Bread and Jam for Francis."
Madeleine: Does she eat pizza?

Eitan learns about palindromes: Wow, dad, sis, Madam I am Adam...

... and symmetry, which he faithfully explains to his sister: "It is when everything is the same on the other half."

Saturday, February 3

Cake & Candles

Madeleine celebrates her FIFTH at the sports grounds with 28 screaming savages. "Uncle" Anthony bikes from Islington to join the fun (brave soul he) and receives a loving hug from the Birthday Girl. Sonnet's planning is rewarded by smiling parents who pick up their giddy, sugar soaked children who do not want to leave. A sure sign the thing a success. FYI the cake picked out by Madeleine from Waitross, and the jelly beans placed by Eitan and Madeleine.

West Side

Another week, another skyline. This a photo from the 35th floor of the hotel room on Central Park South facing west. The past two days have been spent with my French friends Astorg Partners, who raise a €800 million fund to invest in French leveraged buy-outs in the so-called "middle market" - enterprise values of €50 to €300 million. Astorg sold seven companies in 2006 returning a median 3.8X cash - above average. Along with the hotel, we enjoy restaurants including my favorite the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar, which is tres old school (the French do not appreciate the New England clam chowder). From New York, we head for Boston then home this morning in time for Madeleine's fifth birthday party. Our meetings go well.