Saturday, October 31


And yes, after a half-hour of nagging, Eitan gets a 'Bart Simpson' costume for this evening.  I think he does a rather good job of 'feeling' Bart in this photograph.  Sonnet, meanwhile, prepares for seven children who arrive inside an hour for the afternoon then 'tricks or treats.' The parents to show up later for a glass of wine or cocktail - probably much needed by all of us.  I shell a few hard-boiled eggs and Sonnet finishes off a poppyseed cake (which she slyly calls "spider egg cake" for the occasion).  Madeleine runs into the kitchen just now dressed in a jolly clown suit wearing a black wool cap with bloody knife protruding each side. She asks: "do you like it, Dad? Do you?" and I must admit - is it a happy thing or a sad thing?  There is some wrangling about rules governing the post-candy-collection with Eitan and Madeleine wanting complete freedom and Sonnet wishing to control their consumption.  I drop in with some order - "two pieces a day. That's it!" Sonnet looks at me angrily - no way are they eating two chocolate bars or whatever every day until the pillow case empty.  So we agree: the kids to turn over their score to mom, who will dole out the treats according to prudence.  This, I agree, takes the wind from the sails but it is sensible, dear reader. Oh so sensible.

Purnima - SouthBank - Monty Escapes (Again)

Last night we and the kids on the Southbank Centre to try something different - Purnima Chaudhuri, a singer of Akashvani and Doordarshan who has appeared in the National Programmes and Akashvani Sangeet Sammelan various times. B.B.C. TV has also telecast her programme.  Chaudhuri is Sangeet Pravin (M.Muse) from Prayag Sangeet Samity, Allahabad. Her wailing, to the traditional hindu drum and strings, beyond me but the audience enraptured, emitting exclamations of enthusiasm at moments which do not seem to correspond to a song's rythme.  Madeleine loves the performance while Eitan reserved - he leans on my shoulder, clearly drowsy and up past his bedtime. The both of us, brother, and I too fall asleep (Sonnet jabs me a few times as my head rolls).  Afterwards we stroll along the river and catch a train from Waterloo.

Before the performance, we have dinner at buzzy new restaurant 'Bangalore Express,' which is the head-chef from Chelsea's 'The Painted Heron.' Of note are the booths, which are stacked on each other so we enjoy the unusual luxory of dinner ten feet above the floor.  I comment to our waiter that hoisting food and drink up a ladder not particularly easy and she shrugs - just like any job, I suppose.  The kids climb around like moneys and Sonnet on edge that one will fall off - presumably into someone's dahl below.  From there we stroll to Queen Elizabeth Hall and pass a late-evening bike ride with spooky-costume theme - pictured.  The nights now early and dark, which is the perfect foil for this pre-Hallowe'en event.  Any kind of communal excercise to ward off the the natural anxiety of an approaching winter welcome, I am sure.  Since I have my trusty camera I take a lot of images but unfortunately without a tri-pod they are mostly bunk.

Monty escapes again and this time smart enough to find a safe=haven behind the children's bathtub. This becoming a lot like work.  The morning spent coaching the rodent free, me using broom stick, which elicits an occasional shrieking sound from the poor thing. Madeleine cries.  We leave Monty for the day, hoping his nocturnal nature will give us the evening advantage -- upon our return, we are unable to find him despite barricading bathroom the door. More Madeleine tears "this is the saddest day of my life" she wails from her bed and "I just want to hold Monty." Eitan saves the day, hearing Monty scratch behind his bedroom drapes, and the chase is on. Sonnet screams a few times as the hamster - a fast little bugger - races around the room with us in hot pursuit. We nab him, finally, and plop! back into the Habitrail.  This, I tell Sonnet, one of those priceless family moments. And it is.


We carve up the pumpkins and crack each other up.  Sonnet misses the fun as she works late, but I rip into a bottle of wine and allow my creativity to flow.  Oh boy.  The best part of the massacre the mess - I pull gooey pulp - brains! Eitan skins off the face on his and we revel in the gore.  Madeleine goes for the standard 'triangle' cuts while mine has 'personality' (ie, ugly). The pumpkins sit in front of the house waiting to get tossed by the local teen-agers, saving me a trip to the dump's compost heap.

I vaguely recall our growing-up Hallowe'ens on San Ramon, where there was a gang of kids who begged for candy.  We did a fairly good job, too, since this part of Berkeley a family community who knew the difference between an apple (bad) and Milky Way (good).  Every block has the spooky house, and ours the dark, pointy brickstone across the street owned (I believe) by the Cliffords, an elderly couple who nobody ever saw.  We sometimes ran through their backyard always looking over our shoulder to ensure nobody watching from the top floor.  On Hallowe'en, their windows dark and we dared not trick-or-treat.  Once we moved to the North Berkeley Hills, Katie and I old enough to go out with our peers .. and eventually, the parties more absorbing.  Alcohol, you see.  Past costumes were ghosts (1970-75); Rocky Balboa ('76); witch ('77, also my 'first kiss' to Sarah where I tripped and fell into her garden); Spider Man ('78) and no more from there on.  Or at least until college when it became fun - and sexy - to dress up and flirt (or more) with the party girls. And why not? At Brown, every other night locked up tight.

Madeleine: "Dad! Tell Natasha you almost squashed Monty." (when trying to corner the thing after her jail-break).

Friday, October 30

Monty Free And More CCTV

It was bound to happen - Madeleine in tears and Monty on the lamb. Somehow the clever rodent dis-connects a Habitrail tube, drops four-feet to the ground and scrambles - all clear! Eitan, Madeleine and I follow her trail - food in the corner, nibbles behind the bed.. we find droppings in Eitan's room and finally indications in ours .. I open the radiator and there she is - shocked by the light and three over-sized faces peering down upon her with the gravest concern. The poor thing freaked and welcomes the comfort of her hamster-ball offered by Madeleine. Mission accomplished.

With barely any notice, government databases - including CCTV - used by local councils to access our information for the most basic observations. This otherwise the preserve of the police who pursue terrorists or abducted children; the police follow strict guidance established British courts. Not surprisingly, they are concerned. This issue to the forefront as a mother accused, using secret video surveillance, of a false cachement to ensure her child's place in the local primary. Ultimately the charges false yet the council's position: "what, me worry?" Cameras now found in the classroom - like Stockwell Park High School, where 68 in place. Or pursuing flytippers and home recycling and other pettinesses. A person's image protected by the Data Protection Act yet local government failing to adhere to the most basic guidelines like notifying neighborhoods of surveillance. No doubt and eventually, policing supplemented, if not completely taken over, by new technology.

"There are jobs Americans aren't doing .... If you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about."
--George Bush, Tipp City, OH, April 19, 2007

Big Brother is watching you.
--George Orwell

Thursday, October 29


Sunday evening from Boston, Marcia meets me at Laquardia and we head strait to the field club and gin and tonics.  Bliss.  Marcia and Larry have lived in Bronxville for, like, ever and it is a good community. Sunday night sees young families, attractive teen-agers and older couples buzzing about drinking adult drinks and discussing .. whatever.  At our table, we parry US health care since Marcia and Larry Republican and Larry conservative and from the South.  I hold back my Berkeley and we have a good conversation - it is easy to respect his view, though different than mine, since he is self made and one shy of being the President and CEO of Bank of New York. And what is going on with Obama anyway? Sigh.  He will need more than a year to make over the world, God bless.  Bronxville has forever been my, and Katie's, safe-haven from New York.  It is the perfect 30 minute commute from Manhattan and .. tranquil.  Katie (and my friends) launched many a night from here when younger .. or recovered from the stressful work week, post college. 

So during my few days in the Big Apple, I see a lot of good people for work and pleasure which usually mean the same thing. For instance, I am with Professor Meyer, the former Dean of the business school who is now a Special Advisor to Morgan Stanley and sitting on six boards including Macy's and USB, where he is Chairman of their asset management business.  NY mayor Mike Bloomberg, a friend of Meyer's, asked Meyer to be the President of NYC Global Partners, which manages the relationships between NYC and other global cities - he had dinner last week, for instance, with Boris. This suits well, as the Professor loves London and travel, though he notes otherwise on the travel. I think he cannot get enough, he being one of those guys without enough time in the day or years in a life.  Speaking of those, I also see my former colleagues from First Boston, who are now buying banks instead of advising them .. I may help them raise some of their next fund. Regardless, the jokes the same only with a few more wrinkles and we pick up the thread as yesteryear.  Am I old, dude?

Middle Age is when your age starts to show around your middle.
--Bob Hope

I don't feel old. I don't feel anything till noon. That's when it's time for my nap. 
--Bob Hope

After the age of 80, everything reminds you of something else. 
--Lowell Thomas

Season's Change

Another shot from Cambridge.  So here is what I learn: three factors influence autumn leaf color-leaf pigments, length of night, and weather, but not quite in the way we think. The timing of color change and leaf fall are mostly regulated by the calendar, that is, the increasing length of night. None of the other environmental influences-temperature, rainfall, food supply, and so on-are as unvarying as the steadily increasing length of night during autumn.  The intensity of colors related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll (which gives leaves their green pigment) in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture being the main influences.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cold - but not freezing - nights bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brillian anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year. Soil moisture also plays a role - a sever summer drought, for instance, may delay autumn by several weeks. 

Every season hath its pleasures;
Spring may boast her flowery prime,
Yet the vineyard's ruby treasures
Brighten Autumn's sob'rer time.
--Thomas Moore

Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.
--David Letterman

Make The Most Of It

So .. where am I? Well, back in London from today and online again.  I have a lot of catching up to do. This photo from Sunday at the autumnal peak, following a rain that cleans the air and leaves the air damp and ground mushy. Ideal for walking, which Eric and I do for four+ hours before ending at a Greek diner somewhere on Mass Ave. I am relieved.  The colors vibrate while our traverse takes us onto the Minuteman Bikeway, which passes through the American Revolution, which began in April 1775. We detour to get fabulous coffee and spike ourselves with caffeine. Ah, sweet caffeine.  Along the way, Eric has a favorite plaque of some old cuss who took a beating by the Red Coats yet managed to kill a bunch of them and live into his 80s.  Spit'n tobacco and skinning beavers, I am sure.. The trail opened in '92  and connects the Alewife "T" station in Cambridge to East Arlington or 11 miles; it located on a discontinued railroad. In 1994, the bikeway honored for Urban Design Excellent by the Boston Society of Architects and recognised as a Millenium Trail by the White House.  No doubt it is well used and passes by some lovely areas - I see locals cutting back weeds and keeping things tidy. It has become a community thing which has been emulated across the country: by 2006, there are 1,350 rail-trails in the US.

Saturday, October 24


Eric buys the hat - pictured - for Hallowe'en. It goes with a red leather jacket and he will be a 'pimp.'  Kinda hard to picture, really, but why not?  This morning he makes breakfast, sets off the fire alarm, placates the neighbor Don, deals with soccer issues, cleans the kitchen, sings "Delta Don What's That Flower You Got On?" plans out the week's logistics, goes to the store ..  all before 12 noon. Ben arrives with iPod buds in and observes it all before joining us at the table.  He's grown since the last time together, and his hair several inches shorter.  He wears the teen-agers suit of jeans and sweat-shirt made cool with a blue pea-coat. He has a look going on and it works - but then, a 14 year old whatever he wears cool and  big companies spend huge to capture it.  I know I try.

"Saying Fox News is America's favorite news source like saying Coke is the most popular juice."
--As read on

Eric And Stats

I am with Eric this week end and visit his new place around the corner from his old place, which is no longer his.  Eric is going through a divorce and this not an easy period.  Like Todd, our together about old times .. in fact, just like old times since we fall into humour and patterns  enjoyed since the summer of '87 when we met in Providence, RI, and painted houses.  He actually painted and I drove around finding the houses to paint.  Depending on one's perspective then, not clear who was the better off.  I owning  responsibility that made me ill - every day my pager brought some new, horrible, calamity.  Then as now, we survived and Eric's moment will pass into a new life.

Arriving in Sommerville, we head for a new Japanese and discuss why, in an increasing random sample size, the mean and median return (IRR) converge. For instance, a portfolio of 100 investments should have a tighter spread.  I note this reduces volatility and hence risk; Eric explains that it is directional - since the  mean captures outliers one should know where such points occur - above or below the mean - since they pull the median up or down (down being bad). For instance, suppose a portfolio of 20 investments has an IRR of 20% but a large spread and the mean below the 20% IRR, one would wish to pull the mean up, closer to the median.  This may be done by increasing the portfolio from 20 to, say, 100.  A manager who enjoys 20% IRRs where the median and mean tighter is better than the manager who enjoys the same IRR with a greater spread, which suggest greater uncertainty in those returns.  In venture capital, the typical fund holds 25 companies regardless of fund size .. so why don't manager own more investments? A reason may be the partnership's ability to find, select and execute deals .. 25 may reflect the best size for post-investment monitoring .. a partner's time valuable and she can only do so much.

Back in London, the kids begin 'half-term' and no school for the next week, lucky devils. Madeleine pre-occupied with her hamster 'Monty' who is a girl. She wanted a male hamster BTW but their balls unseemly.  Eitan gears up for ManU vs. Liverpool Sunday, which he will watch with Joe (he: very excited).  Now this a huge game.  Tomorrow he has a swim gala which I will miss. Bunk.

Friday, October 23


I arrive in Boston Wednesday for a beautiful Indian Summer making me wonder why I packed myself for winter. I am here for meetings and to see friends, like Todd and has family - pictured. Instead, yesterday I spend battling for my name as a reseller captures the 'orenstein' URL and it takes hours to get things right. On the one hand, these online databases efficient and when things work, a God send. On the other, when they ain't, there is sometimes no customer support. This is what I find with domain name hosting. Well, the good news seems to be that, for now, I am back online and blogging away which, I hope, for some of you, a good thing.. on the Internet, nobody can hear you scream ..

So Todd I have known since 1990 from 'the mighty First Boston' when we shared hours of misery and toil in the trenches of Wall Street on the 39th floor of PAZ. Todd notes aptly that it was, indeed, "like war" and we have the hilarity to prove it - our stories from then as raw as yesterday and seem to only get better as our lives more routine. Today, Todd a practioner at a prestigeous investment firm and his office views from the top floor of Boston a testimony - there is the Charles river weaving its way into the brilliant orange/yellow/mauve sunset with the city's back-bay surrounding us. There was never a doubt that Todd would be here - from Wharton Underground (not an Ivy League, really, I tell him) to First Boston then HBS and now. It has always been up, and great for me to enjoy his ride from afar. Todd is one of those thoughtful guys whose success driven by interest - not bank. He loves describing his work and his deals come alive with humour, strategy and positioning - a good case study with equal entertainment combine to make a powerful telling. Last we saw Todd and his wife Marci in London when they celebrated his 4-0 and we had a night on the town. Good times.

One of Todd's companies Dunkin Donuts which I learn the most successful coffee chain on the East Coast. McDonald's, for instance, has one store per 25,000 people in the US which is considered "saturation"; Dunkin Donuts has one per 8,000. While there is no Dunkin Donuts in California, yet, the state the largest buyer of their coffee beans (mostly via online) in the United States - go figure. It is these out-of-store sales that make this, and similar franchises, a good investment. Sonnet and I should know since we ship Peet's from across the globe. Coffee is a drug, after all, and what a great thing to build your business around.

Tuesday, October 20

Hamster And The Return Of Kit Kat Cowboy

Today, we get a hamster. For Madeleine, who is so excited she starts jumping up and down and exults like I have not seen before. The pet in return for yesterday's good marks at the parent-teacher review+hard work+persistence and her love of animals, which wins the day.  A dog is coming.  I pick Madeleine up from school then the High Street where we have a decent selection - she goes for a Syrian, changing her mind a half-dozen times and forcing the shop keeper to dig deep.  He is rewarded by our purchase of a Habitrail city, which I spend the afternoon assembling instead of, like, preparing for my trip to Boston tomorrow.   Still, a Habitrail is pretty cool and this may be the most useful thing I have done all week. It snaps and clicks into place.. sweet. 

This morning I resurrect Kit Kat Cowboy and his trusty side-kick Billings Montana for Madeleine's classroom.  Willie Nelson included in the deal.  I in a red cowboy hat and a long straw to gnaw, haming it up for thirty minutes with my faux Western drawl.  I give the little cow  pokes a taste of Jesse James and a tale of High Noon - just like Gary Cooper, with Kansas City turning up in the end to stand by our hero Kit Kat.  Madeleine beams.  The children ask questions - "is Kit Kat Cowboy older than Elvis?" -  and I leave the message that anybody in trouble need only ask for help.  The lesson is in the ask'n.  

Madeleine: "This is the best day of my life!"
Me: "Better than when you were born?"
Madeleine: "I cannot remember that. But I bet today is."

Monday, October 19


Here is another one of Luke, who I see on the playground during the morning drop. He waves at me sheepishly from behind his mum and I give him a big 'hello' using his first name.  This gets a smile. I find that I know more kids then parents and, as Eitan reminds me, "you did wear a cow suit to school" so I suppose it natural that somehow I am embedded into the play ground psyche.   Tomorrow I will revisit that old favorite Kit-Kat-Cowboy at the invitation of Mrs. A, who otherwise informs me that she is aware of Kit Kat and Mr Electricity and Frank Capatola.  Apparently my story-telling makes the teacher's lounge and for this, I am proud.  When I tell Eitan about Kit Kat he is momentarily stunned until I raise the saving two words: "Madeleine's class."  He breathes a sigh of relief and then a cheshire grin: "Poor Madeleine - she is really going to be embarrassed," much to my consternation.  What could be better than dad wearing a gay cowboy hat and silver badge? Really.

Sonnet and I meet this evening at school for the year's first teacher-parent review - both kids enjoy glowing remarks.  Madeleine is "enthusiastic, determined and brimming with confidence" we learn from Mrs. A, and that she has sung, spontaneously, to her classroom "because she felt like doing so." Her hand-writing and literacy making "excellent progress" and "she is a joy to greet in the morning."  Despite Kumon, Madeleine needs to work on her maths and multiplication tables. She loves creatures, especially bugs and pets. Mrs. A aware of her new microscope, thanks to Gracie.  Eitan, we are told, has somehow raised the standards of his classroom by making it Ok for the kids to try different things .. Eitan reads two hours a night, so the other kids feel better about reading .. Mrs. B informs us of his love for words .. an example:  studying the Tudors, Eitan submits a story of a peasant boy who returns home with a single coin for his mother "whose back stiffens momentarily before she returns to chopping her vegetables."  Mrs. B shows it to the other teacher "simply brilliant" she squawks (how un-British).  Sonnet cries afterwards.  Silver - you get full credit for this one.

On our walk home, we meet neighbor Laura and her son Michael, who attends St Paul's. Laura from Phoenix, AZ, then Wellesley and now London, where she married a banker "who cannot count" and hence they have been here 16 years, instead of the five agreed.  She seems totally cool.  All in all, an excellent afternoon. One of the best, in fact.

Sunday, October 18


Eitan: "I am going to read "Captain Under Pants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets."
Madeleine: "I read another Captain Underpants story - Super Diaper Baby!"

Madeleine befriends a neighborhood cat: "Can we keep him?" 
Later, at the pet store: "Can we get a snake, Dad?"
Madeleine: "I am going to get more fish."
Madeleine: "Can I have that hamster? Please?"
Madeleine: "Can I have a tarantula?"
Me: "You want a tarantula?"
Madeleine, matter of factly: "I have always wanted a tarantula"
Me: "Do you think your mom would want a tarantula in the house?"
Madeleine: "Well, we would keep it in my room and she would never know."

Madeleine learns about my trip (tearfully): "Aw, Dad - you just got back from America and now you are going to Boston."

Eitan: "If I was at that party, and you were not there, I would bust some moves (he then shows us by spinning around on the floor).

Sonnet makes eggplant parmesan. Eitan: "Do you expect me to eat this?"

Saturday, October 17

Huppa And Dan

The Palace of Fine Arts - where Sonnet and I married August 24, 1996 - my adult life begins. Today, as then, it is foggy which adds to the beauty of the place - the weather rolls in from the Pacific through the narrow gateway passing the Golden Gate Bridge not far away. Magic.

So here it is: built in 1915 for the Pan Pacific Exhibition by Bernard Maybeck - there are a number of Maybecks in the North Berkeley hills, including across the street from my parent's house. Maybeck took his inspiration from the Roman and Greeks while the sculptured frieze and allegorical figures found about represent Contemplation, Wonderment and Meditation (the plaque tells me). The lagoon BTW meant to echo classical settings in Europe, where the water provides a mirror surface to reflect the grand buildings. Rome. eucalyptus trees fringe the eastern shores lending their unique perfume. There are lots of swans, ducks and geese, which get in the way of my photo so.. I.. am.. patient.

High school friend Dan and I see each other for lunch before I head to SFO. Dan lives in Bernal Heights with wife Liz and two daughters; he did a total remake of his house .. by himself. I am way impressed by the open design and high quality spec. I wish I could do such things but never gonna happen - even after summers of house painting in college. It is all about confidence, we agree - being comfortable taking a crow bar to wood and causing destruction; having faith you can make it better. I had dinner with Dan several months ago at La Caprice in Mayfair when he was writing about Fergus Henderson, who found our favorite London restaurant St John's.

Sonnet scratches the car; Eitan from the back seat: "Are you going to tell dad?"

Madeleine: "I had a bad dream once. Running up the stairs and finding a tarantula. Like, a giant one."
Madeleine: "You know that kid Alex in my class? He's addicted to video games."

Frank - Rob, Sloan - Bubbles, Flippers and Speedo

Frank, pictured, from Berlin and now lives in Connecticut.  He invests in private equity and we have known each other some years and via the funds we share.  Amongst other things, Frank introduced me and Sonnet to the best wienerschnitzel in Germany.  Today, and following Industry Ventures, we hack around the city and here we are at the northern lookout of the Golden Gate Bridge overlooking the bay and San Francisco.  A fine place on a lovely afternoon.

A beautiful thing about my job is I travel to those places I wish, and California allows me to see family and friends, which I do my utmost to take advantage of.  What, me work? So I am blessed to have an evening with Rob and Sloan where we re-union at a restaurant near the Presidio and catch each other up on each other's lives.  It is all good and both their businesses thriving - Sloan most recently started a consulting business and now has 11 clients; Rob's trade-finance company established and goes from strength to strength.  Both self-made, each kicks ass. This one reason MBA school valuable - having friends like this.

Back home, calamity - two of Madeleine's goldfish suddenly deceased (Eitan: "I wasn't really sad until I saw Bubbles floating in the fish tank").  This Madeleine's first experience with death and she handles herself admirably: "I cried a little bit and then it was Ok."  Sonnet assists her bury Bubbles and Flipper in the backyard including an appropriately serious good-bye ceremony.  Grave.  She then takes our little girl to the pet store for a restock - "my new fish named 'Speedo'" she says enthusiastically.  And yes, the life-death cycle ever and onward.

Nightline And Secondary

Ok, let's see- I catch up on my weblog from London having not written the past several days.  Sorry parents and in-laws.  I see Christian Tuesday for dinner at our favorite Delfina on San Francisco's 18th Street, where we go every time. Christian a regular and friends with .. everybody - he treats our waiters like gold, offering them wine from the two excellent bottles we bring. They chat him up and it is all good. Of course he over-tips generously and I would expect nothing less.  Of special significance this evening is Michelle, his fiancé, so we have extra reason to celebrate which we do by ordering the menu.  All of it.   Christian met Michelle in Washington D.C. and she now moves to San Francisco so they are together.  Wedding plans unclear but I imagine California somwhere and sometime.  After dinner, we view "Mad Men" (I sneak several episodes from Season Three, unfair to Sonnet I know) and watch the replay of England's loss to Ukraine.  Since we have qualified for South Africa next summer, it is a meaningless game - if there were such a thing.  

From Christian's penthouse, I head to the Four Seasons and Industry Ventures' Annual General Meeting, which is well attended with plenty of enthusiasm, as there should be.  The partnership buying venture assets via the "secondary market" and since no liquidity in the system today, founder Hans and his team have plenty of deals to chose from - a pipeline over $2 billion on a fund of $250MM.  The strategy buys older portfolios with assets - venture-backed businesses - well into their J-curve. This compares to younger partnerships where the unfunded element hidden.  There are benefits to both BTW.  I-V's investments concentrate around the known 'winners' and since, as we all know, the venture business driven by a few successful lottery tickets, the more visibility the better.  Hans likes to say he is"the plumber of Silicon Valley": he  knows most of the skuttle which outsiders simply cannot access.  Insider's gossip, after all, influences a decision and the more information the manager owns, the better.  This doubly true in the valley since the industry so inefficient.   

Hans and I have breakfast the next morning at the Mandarin Oriental and he is one of a few guys I admire truly.  Hans a self-made dude and I wish for his prosperity, which will carry me and us along with it. 

Here is another shot of the Bay Bridge at sunrise.  Pound for pound, this the best city in America.

Tuesday, October 13


Doug and I check out the Light House in Santa Cruz and I take a bunch of mostly bad photographs.  Here is one of a dude shredding a small wave while the spectators watch the barneys, which I admit entertaining. They heckle. 

It has been a long time since I've seen the Pacific - last time driving the Great Highway north from Catherine's wedding in Pacific Palisades.  Doug and I talk about the usual stuff - best breaks, sharks .. his brother lives in the Basque region nearby Biarritz which offers him all year, all-the-time surfing, lucky fellow.  His an alternative life and we debate the merits of being off the grid and living .. the good life.  

Everybody does it differently and for the best mostly.  A beauty of California is one can do about anything and be surrounded by wonder - Napa Valley, the Sierras, the ocean and the redwoods.  This is a blessed land and sometimes I think Californians not always appreciative of what they have, lost in a long commute and jammed up at the Bay Bridge or some other crossing.  Since Silicon Valley a geographically spread network public transportation not a option so I feel for these dudes sitting in traffic on the 101 or 80.  No fun.  

London's underground might be old, over-worked and closed from midnight but it does get you around town.  Anyways, the best transportation some heavy swell generated by a cyclone somewhere in the tropic, forming over warms seas and influence by El Nino and La Nina cycles.  While their movements unpredictable, the thrill not - epic.

"What Jefferson was saying was, Hey! You know, we left this England place 'cause it was bogus; so if we don't get some rules ourselves - pronto - we'll just be bogus too! Get it?"
-- Jeff Spicoli


Here is Doug, who I have not seen since 1984 when we swam together with the Walnut Creek Aquabears. Can it really be that long ago? Doug's swimming career took him to Senior Nationals where he was a finalist in the individual medleys and back-stroke events - his strengths. He also swam for Cal and Nort Thorton's squad, which included Matt Biondi and John Mykannan, who won a silver in '84 with the worst stroke I or Doug ever saw. Mykannen twisted his full body sideways while his arm reached practically into the next lane before sweeping under. Plus he had baby-fat and paunch even in college. Yet Mykannen jammed in the distance events and was an incredible age-grouper in SoCal though he never did anything after the Olympics.

Doug also a stand-out cross-country runner and bicyclist, which he did semi-pro before assuming his career in technology. After meeting his 18-month son, who like him, has blonde hair and a winning smile, we head into the Santa Cruz mountains on bikes with the OP always in view for the perfect Norcal day. Why anywhere else? Beats me.

So Doug grew up in Walnut Creek and I recall vividly his house where we went after morning practice and ate doughnuts and watched MTV .. all day .. until afternoon practice. Repeat all summer. Unlike me, he was a natural swimmer and now comments that his skill "in the ankles," which unusual to me since I never considered my lower body other than a prop for my upper body. Doug's ankle flexibility allowed a powerful kick raising his body in the water enabling efficient forward movement. Me, I just churned in the distance lane hour upon hour upon hour. After gossiping about former team-mates and coaches and scandals and so forth we eat a burrito and then shortly I am on the 880 to Berkeley.

Sunday, October 11


Peet's at Vine and Walnut Street in Berkeley.

No doubt the best coffee in the world.  

Moe reminds me that Stanford MBA Jerry Baldwin talked to Alfred Peet about how to make coffee then went on to found Starbucks in '71 (which does not have very good coffee - but I enjoy its everywhere).  

The beauty of the Walnut store is the people - way Berkeley.  There is the old dude with a red bandana and "Peace Out" t-shirt; the middle-aged women with stringy grey hair reading the NYTs and wearing birkenstocks (and socks); a yuppie dad and his two kids .. and everybody taking their time despite .. coffee. Unusually people talk to each other: I overhear bandana ask a younger women about climbing North Face and she if very happy to engage him.  The original Peet's about a ten minute downhill walk from where I grew up and I used to pass it every day on my way to swimming.

So I arrive in the BA yesterday afternoon following a long plane flight which is not getting shorter. My two aunts Marcia and Carla with Grace and Moe, returning from the Sierras. We have dinner together before I peel out to the Shattuck Hotel for the night since 1530 otherwise full quarters. 

The Shattuck Hotel is a couple of blocks from Cal and kinda neat - the original opened in 1907 during the re-build of San Francisco following the great earthquate-fire which leveled the city - some developer thought the East Bay as good, or even a better bet given the peninsula flattened. Before that, there was a Victorian estate dating to the 1860s and owned by Francis Kittredge Shattuck.  

The 'new' Shattuck Hotel opened three months ago folowing a $multi-million restoration and seems pretty buzzy for Berkeley. 

Friday, October 9

So '80s

Here is a picture from 1984 - I am guessing the year since I am not in it - my absence suggests Junior Year of high school when I abroad.  And, boy, was our family in the midst of that decade. Moe starts his successful law practice and his wonderful floor manager dies of AIDS; Grace's determination pursues the non-traditional and nets a PhD and full career.  What else going then? Well, the Love Boat and Fantasy Island, of course.  First drunk with Jana and Kristin at Hillside Park; first-dates and fumbling groping.  Adam's BMW 2002 which I drive sometimes and my history teacher - Mr Scrofani, who writes my college recommendations, and also succumbs to AIDS.  Walnut Creek Acquabears, the Pacific ocean and SATs.  Northcoast swimming and grandma to Sarasota. Meanwhile Katie and I work our asses off in swimming and school to enter decent universities .. in the background money - greed! - which eventually sucks me into Wall Street.  That era also defined by 'recreational' drugs - especially cocaine - which everywhere from in high school forward.  The North Berkeley hills had its plenty.  And certainly Brown with its prep-schooled privileged. 

Speaking of this - privilege, that is -  France's Sarkozy hands his son Jean the powerful post of boss of Europe's biggest business district - La Defense in Paris.  Jean being 23-years old and a third-year student.  This the kind of nonsense that makes The Fonz and his party  look bad.  Of course any dad will do everything in his power to ensure his child succeeds but such blatant nepotism .. stunning.  Bravo! Sarkozy just like everybody - for them and Paris, I hope his son not so stupid.

Sonnet: "What is it when somebody copies writing?"
Eitan: "Poaching?"
Me: "Plagarism" (but excellent choice of words)

Thursday, October 8


Of the many photographs I take at the Wetlands Centre this evening, Eitan picks this one as his favorite.  Why? "Because there is lots of colour in the background and the sun is in there too. And the ducks are going about their business." There you have it.  I pick the kids up early afternoon from Kumon, drop Natasha off and head for Barnes and the largest land reclaim in London.  And it is lovely, too.  Located on 100 acres due south of Hammersmith, the land formerly several small reservoirs from the Victorian era.  Following a 25 year battle with developers and the Council, and thanks to the heroic efforts of Peter Scott, the wetlands the largest inside any major city and the first of its kind in the U.K.  The main driver the birds (this is the animal loving Britain) who migrate to and fro past here and include the gadwall and mighty shoveler duck - pictured.  Also on site: the great bittern, pintail, lapwing, water rail, ring-necked parakeet, sparrowhawk, sand martin, kingfisher (my favorite), little grebe and great crested grebe.

The old age pensioners turn out in their kit and use the various shelters to bird-spot. Amateur and professional photographers here too. Pretty cool.  The place exists thanks to cooperation between the politically powerful environmentalists and rich, eccentric, neighborhood wackos and the craven, profit-driven builders.  Since everybody's real estate better off by such diversification, it is a win-win, dude. We come out on top, too, strolling in the late evening sunset with autumn in the air and chilly. It reminds me of years ago when I came here often enough to entertain the kids and burn time before .. bed.  Now the Shakespears that much older and, yes, I am wistful.

Me: "Do you know how the world was made?"
Madeleine: "There are two reasons."
Madeleine: "First, it was when two planets collided."
Me: "And the second?"
Madeleine: "Well, some people think it was the Jews."

Editors note: Madeleine appreciates the Judaism honors only one God, and I think she means that the alternative to the Big Bang (we discuss this) creationism .. or The Hand Of God.

Wednesday, October 7

San Quintin

A large portion of the BBC news concerned with America and maybe 15% of reporting concentrates on the United States.  Let there be no doubt about the fascination our countries enjoy with each other's business. Today, on Radio 4, a lengthy piece on US prisons, which have swelled four-times between 1975 and 1995 and incarcerate 2.3 million people.  The US has less than 5% of the world's population and over 25% of its jail-mates. Go figure.  What's more, prior to '75 the US presented itself as a progressive country avoiding terms for rehabilitation.  Thanks, in part to the 1960s and Nixon+the rise of the moral majority and conservative right, Uncle Sam got scared and went towards a zero-tolerance policy. It is also Big Business.  The UK and Europe contemplate this as crime rates and drug use mostly on the rise during the same eqoque.  I often note the UK's 'soft' punishments compared to America - a murder might get nine years or a violent rape less than five. Still, Europe's capital cities no more violent then Chicago or New York or Los Angelese and in most instances, much less violent.  

California enacted the Three-Strikes Law in 1994 when I returned home for my extended summer - in a state vote, 72% in favor and 28% against.  Simply, anybody convicted of three crimes went to jail for life, regardless of the crime's severity.  Federal judge Mike Ballachey who married me and Sonnet disgusted by California's inhumanity - he was forced to sentence minor offenders, and often poor and usually black, to their end without opportunity of rebuttal.  The BBC sure picks up on this and a law officer notes how his jail includes a man sent up for stealing a pair of socks.  Does not make America look good, sir.  And the result: in 1993 California had 336,381 incidents of violent crime.  Slightly less than the year before of 346,524. In 2000,  violent crime 210,531, while crime generally down across the nation.  In 2003 the Supremes weighed in, holding 5-4 that such sentences do not violate the 8th Amendment which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." By 2007, California state prisons held 170,000 in a system designed for 83,000.

My photo, uncredited, from the WWW.  I drove by San Quintin about every day on my way to Sonoma and Help The World See.


Well, McDonald's is opening at the last place one might expect - the Louvre, where it will be found at the Carrousel du Louvre or the underground mall adjoining the museum.  The French have finally caved - McD's has been lobbying this location since the late 1970s. And wisely so: the French, despite their public distain of Americana, privately make the Big Mac number one- France the largest market for the Golden Arches outside the US.

When I was in Geneva, McDonald's the hang-out of us teen-agers.  There was no competition either - Burger King, KFC or Wendy's not yet arrived - if they ever have or will as I have never seen them in Switzerland.  McDonald's in center-town, nearby rue d'Italie where College de Candolle located so an easy stroll (during or) after school. Kids filled the restaurant Friday and Saturday evenings sometimes sitting on the floor for space, eating their french fries and smoking cigarettes (1984, after all).  Today, Starbucks across the street and, from my last visit, it barely dents McDonald's traffic. 

Here, in the UK, the first McDonald's opened in 1974 and continues to expand daily: today, there are over 1,200 restaurants in Britain feeding about 2.5 million people a day (source: McDonald's filings).  In short, the burger more British then fish and chips.  And so with some sadness I report that Ronald moving his London European HQ to .. Geneva by year-end to avoid  tax.  Full circle, dude.  British government better wake up to this as McD's joins Kraft, Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Yahoo and Google who also now reside in Suisse.  But this for another blog.  For the ex-pat community, McDonald's a nice warm cozy feeling of home (even if we never actually touch their food).

Tuesday, October 6

The Team And A Cocktail

Here are the lads Sunday, seven months on.  They have developed into a pretty good squad, too - Wils, front row left, a bruising defensive player; goalie Maxime (yellow shirt) has single-handedly saved the team's bacon.  Strikers  Fred (back row, left) and Robert (behind Fred) have racked up hat-tricks.  And Eitan sets everybody up as a competent mid-fielder.  Most importantly, coaches Jon (right) and Dave excellent - they care about the boys and appreciate that the competition secondary to the values and fun of the game. 

Our first dinner-party at 45 includes Nat and Justin, Lars and Puk and Lorena - Sonnet prepares lamb shanks while I serve wine (here is your blog, Justin). We finally have an adequate dining room to entertain our friends and I look forward to the return of the .. pre-dinner cocktail.  I recall my courtship of Sonnet who somehow seemed like an adult in '93 .. this meant her own place with new towels, a brass bed and afternoon sherry and maybe kalamata olives (if I was lucky).  Plus she had a real job at William Sonoma and a view of Alcatraz from the near-top of Russian Hill.  I went all-in.  Sonnet also had the confidence to host dinners at her place including the correct cutlery and clean wine glasses. This all new to me then. Fast-forward to business school where we were one of the few engaged/married couples so most of our entertaining done at home on Riverside Drive.  Sonnet's wonderful cooking skills invaluable and cemented friendships we honour today.  My contribution - a proper martini which, according to my deceased mentor and colleague Dr Wayne Cannon, the only drink worth knowing. Wayne and I downed many while setting up eye-clinics in developing countries and I happily passed along his spirit to our MBA friends and those lost Californians living in the Big City.  Those were good times.  Today I may be a bit older and in another country, but I am happy to say that the recipe stays the same.

Madeleine: "I really don't like it when you come to wake me up."

Sunday, October 4


And let us not forget Madeleine yesterday - so here she is.  I love her orange track outfit BTW - oh boy, she is going to be a great teenager and I cannot wait to know her then.

Sunday Pattern

Here is the English sky Sunday morning.  Eitan has a match, this time vs. Hampton Youth, and the blues win resoundingly 7-1. Eitan gets in a cracker.  There is some discussion amongst us parents about the squad being promoted to the next level, but for now it is all good - let them have their cake and eat it too.

Concluding the No. 9 festivities, Eitan's slumber party a success and the boys up until at least Midnight when Sonnet marches upstairs to tell them to pipe down (I've already done my share of trips).  In the end they crash at 2AM, or so they tell me this morning.  Beforehand, it is non-stop giggling leaving me and Sonnet to wonder - what on earth so funny?  Ok, I ease drop a little bit and it is all football this or school that; some kid did something silly or a girl made a face.  Uproariously entertaining somehow and God bless.  Madeleine, meanwhile, to bed by 10PM and I make sure she is not too glum being today's second fiddle.  She is, and I assure her I have noticed what a terrific sport she has been allowing Eitan his day.

Cal is annihilated by USC 30-3 at Memorial Stadium.  I cannot listen. 

Saturday, October 3

Secret Wish

Here is today's birthday shot.  After the party, Luke and Joseph (left in photo) joins us for a sleep-over watch "Beverly Hill Chiwawa" as I write.  The remarkable thing, really, is that Eitan and Madeleine watched "Chiwawa" last night and at least once again in the last week.  The movie pretty stupid - lip syncing dogs - but they love it.  Madeleine remains mad at me since earlier today during a game I tickled her to sneak the ball and horribly embarrassed her before the boys (she being a Tom Boy).  She sulks and I tell her to take a lick on my shoulder and be done with it. She wacks me hard enough hurt yet remains sullen.  I tell her if she does not shape up, she can take the bus home and fish inside my pocket for some change.  She is sceptical.  Sonnet and I now silently finish the birthday cake and soon to bed. And I better not have to get up later, I might add.

Madeleine, while driving home: "Dad, you would never put me on a bus. He wouldn't even know where to go."
Me: "I would tell him - 'take her to Richmond and drop her off.'"
Madeleine: "You would not do that for a million pounds."
Me: "A million?"
Madeleine: "Not even five million."
Me: "Don't test your luck, kid."
Madeleine: "Mom, tell Dad he would not put me on a bus for five million pounds."

Checking out the college scores on ESPN, I am momentarily stunned and elated to see Cal 24, USC 7 .. but realise this their rankings+game time not for another several hours.  A fine moment spoiled.


Sonnet and I have a break while the kids work themselves out.  To pass the time, we play a game of "stix" using wood coffee mixers.  Sonnet stressed about the responsibility of the party - which is 17 children needing food, transportation and entertainment. Now that they are here and provided for, she relaxes a bit - until Cyrus trips over Harry at full speed and runs head-first into a wall.  I witness the carnage and if not so scary, it would have been funny.  Cyrus momentarily stunned then tears let me know Ok - he will have a large bump on his forehead and the side of his face imprinted wood.  A good thing, too, if it had been inflexible brick his crash would have been serious.  I hold him for a moment as the kids surround us to make sure he is all right -- Harry and I do an instant replay which gets a grin and off Cyrus goes, back into the action.  Brave lad. Sonnet makes sure to telephone his mother and I double-check to ensure he is not concussed somehow. Cyrus' dad BTW from Iran while his mother British, making him a pretty interesting youngster. All good.

The Crew

Another year, another football party. This time at 'Goals' in Tolworth somewhere off the A3. Eitan whoops up his nine with his pals, including three girls - the ratio, I note, in decline. He tells me yesterday in the car, rather dramatically, that "it is war" between the sexes. The girls in Year Four, I observe, advanced - Imogen can barely contain her boredom today - and into dresses and frilly things, including make-up and cell phones. They are 'clicky' and sometimes mean to each other.  The boys, meanwhile, play Legos and Star Wars action figures - they have no idea about the truck soon to hit them.  But all that for the future and today a boys affair.  On the pitch, the captains chosen and teams drawn leaving the weak and the female for last - same as it ever was. Brutal. From then, it is a calorie-burn broken by the intermittent joyful huzzay! when a goal scored (Orlando pulls off his shirt and races around the astro pitch).  Eitan gets to show off his skills but, for once, he is not the best - that honour goes to Jack who is also Sheen Mt year-four but in the parallel class.  Jack plays for Wester Park and scouted by Reading, which is the feeder for Chelsea FC - big time.  Later, I ask Eitan what makes Jack so good, and he shrugs: "He always knows what he wants to do and is able to make it happen."  Eitan will have his chance, I am sure.  And the party? Contentedly he nods: "thumbs up."

Friday, October 2

Some Tittilation And The Economy

Since I seem to be on a roll with racy photographs of fashion models, here is another taken at the Courdault exhibition.

Unlike the US, Britain is trying to bring its deficits to balance and announces government cuts of £175 billion - no small beer this.  Most of the roll backs to come from the military and Super Gee argues down the Trident from four to three submarines saving us £22B right there.  Why we need more than one beyond me but the military knows our protection best.  Some of the savings BTW will be re-channelled to the war in Afghanistan, where it should be,  as the troops suffer from lack of modern equipment and, in some cases, the right clothing and gear for the mountainous terrain. Shameful.  Our new found discipline comes inside striking distance of the next national election which will happen June 2010, unless Labour calls a snap-poll which seems unlikely given their lack, ahem, of popularity.  The Tories regain the plank with their no-nonsense approach to fiscal responsibility.  The problem, as I see it (and in agreement with my hero Paul Krugman), that we are not at the end of the Western World's recession - we may not even be near the middle.  Today, for instance, government announces that US employers fire 263,000 workers in September making unemployement 9.8%. Yet the Dow touches 10,000, Ben Bernanke suggests the recession over, and the economy recedes at a slower rate .. all positive indicators, no doubt, but I do remember the ugly '90-92 which really ended in '96 .. I was working on a number of banking m&a's and, as my old mentor Dick Bott used to say: "A bank like an oyster - as pure as the water around it" (or something like that).  While the official recession may have ended by '92, it took another three or four years for the US to recover. Bank balance sheets told us this beforehand.  And today, our financial institutions remain dire, despite American tax dollars, while no money lent.  Bank analysts not in the business of forecasting yet any schmo can see we have a ways to go before terra firma.

Thursday, October 1

Self Portrait XII

Here I am today, white Michael Jackson glove from Katie.

Walking to school, I ask Eitan how he feels about being nine and he shrugs non-chalantly - same as it ever was.  Madeleine, on the other hand, knows all about it: "I would be bigger. And I would have more money. To buy buddies. And my work would be easier."  I note some melancholy in the boy and so, when nobody around, I ask how he is feeling - it turns out, blue for no particular reason.  I recall feeling the same around his age and especially by seventh-grade when I had days I could not go to school for the tears and only wanted to be with my mother.  I tell Eitan we all feel sad sometimes for no reason and note that I still feel the blues in my stomach.  He absorbs this a bit as we stroll to the playground.  At separation, I look Eitan in the eye and tell him how proud I and Sonnet are of him and, unusually these days, I get a nod and a discrete hug before he bolts for his friends.