The last time Mike and Andrea and our families together was in Provence. Only that was before we had a family - Eitan and Madeleine yet a blink in the mind's eye. Their oldest, Oscar, was two and I still recall what a cute kid he was - fascinated by a toy red double-decker bus which I brought him as a gift: it is forevermore is "the crazy bus." Now Oscar is 12 and would probably die to see his name in my blog. Mike and I went to Berkeley High together then college on the East Coast, where he met, and courted, Andrea - Sonnet and I at their wedding in '94, for sure dude. Today Mike practices law with Tyler. Despite our history, we got to know each other as adults on the Norcal trails - Mike completed the '93 San Francisco marathon with Adam, Christian and Chip, who is no longer with us. The race notable for many reasons but especially Bill Vaughan, the co-creator of PowerBar - Bill was founding his next product, the sports gel GU, in the basement of his house where it was mixed in the sink by the washing machine. Probably not approved by the FDA then. The day before the marathon Bill loaded up the guinea pigs with GU and sent them on their merry way or, in this case, to the Golden Gate Bridge for the start (GU is now a multi-million dollar operation and beloved by endurance athletes around the world). Of course nobody can out-clever 26-miles and our lads may have been a tad thrown off by a new supplement the day of the race. I recall Mike and Adam struggling on the back-half while Adam's berry flavor looked surprisingly like blood when splattered down his shirt and leg. As for the rest: results mixed though everybody finished one way or the other. The race's conclusion, a lap around the old Kaiser Stadium track, a nice touch.
Wednesday, June 30
Tuesday, June 29
Here's a quick shot from Center Court featuring Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, who wins in straight sets; I also watch Roger Federer and Andy Murray take out Jurger Melzer and Sam Querrey, respectively, in straight sets. Federer does not break a sweat. In short, this a great day with lovely breezes keeping us cool despite the cloudless sky and summer temperatures. I am the guest of Barry, who I have invested with in several funds.
Arthur and I, on a long London walk, once discussed whether a wireless charge would one day be possible. He noted this impossible since a charge must be transferred via a conducting path of some sort. Here is what he says about PowerKiss:
What they're doing here is putting you and your electronics inside a big electric field. Maybe a little bit analogous with those wires they bury in the asphalt at intersections to detect when cars are stopped at the lights, or your electric toothbrush which charges when you put it in the stand. I'm surprised they can get enough energy into the little receiver to charge a phone. Maybe over a long period of time you can charge it.
We're not talking about a lot of energy to run a phone (as evidenced by the tiny battery).
Monday, June 28
Sunday, June 27
England crashes out 4-1 against Germany, breaking the country's heart. The team never comes together despite its talent scoring three goals in six hours on the pitch. We debate why the national team is so disappointing given the quality of the Premier League, which is the most funded in the world. Players earn £90,000 a week so one argument is that they don't give a hoot beyond their club teams. Or perhaps the best players like Beckham and Rooney and Gerard and Lampard are stars on their team but do not know how to play together- there can be only one prima donna per squad. Me, I think it runs more deeply: England's expectations are so high that they can only disappoint. The players and all involved know this and deliver.
Christian has been with us this past week, which has been a joy. Yesterday we are joined by Mike and Andrea and their three kids including Oscar, who I first met in Provence when he was two years old. That was nearly ten years ago. Now he is almost a teen-ager and a baker with a specialty, he tells me, of chocolate muffins. Here we prepare for the USA vs. Ghana match, which the Americans end up losing in extra-time 2-1. Meanwhile is anybody aware that David Cameron announced his first budget? He calls for an increase in taxes and slashing of public services in an attempt to reduce the national deficit by £128 billion. Yep, an age of austerity. Britain's approach the opposite of the US, which spends into Already the unions are lining up for battle - we anticipate strikes at best, civil unrest at worst. Look at Greece.
Friday, June 25
I ask Eitan to step outside for a moment to take a photo for this blog while Spain plays Chile. He notes seriously "I will kill you if there is a goal" and, sure enough, as soon as he is outside the view of the television - gooooaaalll to Spain ! The hand of God, dude. We re-create the moment, pictured.
Thursday, June 24
We have Louise and her boyfriend Izzy over to dinner with Christian and Sonnet's friend and work colleague Oriel. I met Louise, via Duane, in February at her fashion show in Covent Garden and we have talked a few times about ways to commercialise her runway success beyond Top Shop. In short, fashion design is a tough business. She tells me when 16 and considering university, it was going into knits or physics. Izzy, meanwhile, is a big-bearded dude from Croatia who splits his time between New York and London managing a handful of up-and-coming or established 'head-banger' bands; he does this in partnership with Sony and knows his way around the music business. We have a few references in common from the summer I spent at EMI Music while at Columbia Business. In 1996 nobody talking about the Internet. Life was good. Life was great! Back then it was a good business to be in since the record labels vertically integrated. By the late 1980s there were tens of hundreds of platinum records (500,000 sold per year). Say good-bye to all that, boy. In 2009, there were nine platinum albums. When Napster and free-downloading arrived, music fans could give a rat's ass about the legality of piracy. Most young people have never paid for a record. There's the future of the industry, dude. The model remains muddled while live performance ever more important - which is Izzy's business.
Wednesday, June 23
Tuesday, June 22
Isabella has 15 known varieties of deciduous azalea and houses the national collection of 50 Kurume Azaelas, introduced to the west around 1920s. There are also 50 different species of rhododendron and 120 hybrids. In spring, we see camellias, magnolias, as well as daffodils and bluebells. From late April, the azaleas and rhododendrons are in flower. In summer, there are displays of Japanese irises and day lilies. By autumn, guelder rose, rowan and spindle trees are loaded with berries and leaves on the acer trees are turning red. Even in winter, the gardens have scent and colour. There are early camellias and rhododendron, as well as mahonia, winter-flowering heathers and stinking hellebore. Madeleine heads straight for a well-know spot.
Monday, June 21
Madeleine wears a dress for the first time in a year. There are plenty of tears but finally she succumbs. I promise her that if she gets the dress dirty with a good rip or two, she won't have to wear it again. This psyches her up.
Saturday, June 19
Another Friday evening, another England draw - this time against Algeria, nil-nil. Our squad ineffective against a team that, man-for-man, does not stack up. Slovenia next week in a must-win or England's world cup hopes come to a crashing end. Happily (?), I have been rooting for the Bears my entire life so I am well versed in high-expectations that wilt to bitter herbs. Are there some lessons here somehow? No wonder Eitan roots for Manchester United. You might as well pick the winners whenever and wherever you can. Come on, England!
Marcus makes a memorial for Ray, as he would have wanted it. Ray was married to Robin and 82 when he passed. He was involved in the La Veta community where, amongst other things, he helped restore the local library which is a gem on the main street. I take the kids there during our summer visits. Ray was a skilled builder and completed Robin's jewellery studio next to their house, which he also turned into something special - my favorite feature the front porch where one could rest in a hammock and watch the local high school football team practice in a nearby field or take a nap on a lazy week end. Before retiring to La Veta, Ray and Robin lived in Virginia with their horses and border collies - we spent Thanksgiving with them my second year of graduate school (I watched a lot of college football) and their home filled with Robin's art, views of fields and woods and of course interesting stories from Ray and a lot of love at the kitchen table. I remember that well. Ray worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, rooting out moonshine makers in the Virginia hills. He was also a dowser and village story teller. He will be missed by us all.
Sonnet was in Colorado last week with her family to celebrate Ray's life. Here, she and Marcus are on a hike from Telluride or nearby her parents home outside Montrose. She tells me they reached a 'spectacular waterfall' and had a picnic lunch. Marcus is finishing a screen play for a television series which he hopes to sell. It is about NGO workers in world hot-spots like Afghanistan - recall, dear reader, that Marcus has helped to set up girl schools in this part of the world. He also contemplates a move to Portland, Oregon, which we both agree is a great city and well suited for his temperament. Otherwise, Marcus has been in Seattle for the last five years.
Friday, June 18
I have said it before and I will say it again: this country takes its football seriously. And tonight, the stakes could not be higher as England plays Algeria which kicks off at 7:30PM. Recall, of course, that the three lions tied the Americans in last week's action. Eitan has his over-sized St George's flag+other ornamentations around the house and on our car. He will miss swim-practice. Madeleine is not quite so do-or-die about the whole thing though she, too, enjoys the spectacle. Me, I am just happy it is Friday following a long week.
Wednesday, June 16
Tyler bikes The Pacific Coast Highway also known as The Great Highway or HW1 for charity. Yes, the OP behind him. Tyler and his fellow peddlers net over $10 million to fight HIV and AIDS. He notes that on the 560 mile journey he had little difficulty nor a single flat with perfect weather and, of course, beautiful scenery. His favorite stretches "the quiet valleys north and wet of Paso Robles" and the coast north of Pismo Beach, pictured. I grew up with Tyler and have known him since at least the seventh-grade. He is a Lawyer in the East Bay with his own practice - the road less travelled. Bravo!
Sunday, June 13
It is hard to keep up with Katie these days. Here she is in Lansing, Michigan, where she gives a keynote to 700 people at the ProgressMichigan Summit. Her photo with the Exec Director David Holtz. ProgressMichigan's main interest is, well, Michigan, and focuses on re-energising the state, tackling budget reform, job creation and energy independence. Making a difference every day, America.
Given the hyperbole surrounding a U.S. recovery, I wanted to see some facts and one good indicator is our exports - pictured. Outbound container traffic from Los Angeles and Long Beach (about 40% of US container traffic) reflects a rebound in US goods exports. This has occurred despite the dollar's appreciation against the Euro and other currencies following Greece making U.S. goods more expensive. Indeed, outbound containers shipped from LA in May were only a few thousand shy of their level of May '08, almost a complete recovery (container traffic is not seasonally adjusted) from the global trade collapse of late 2008. Strong export activity is not only good for U.S. growth, it also reflects health of the economies of our trading partners.
Saturday, June 12
Ok, here is my morning: Up at 7AM for Madeleine, who is picked up at swimming. I race Eitan to football practice to be home in time for Madeleine's return, then bolt out the door (snack to hand) for her performance class. I have a scant few moments to get Eitan then together, we visit the dump, gas up the car and hit the Home Depot before home. Phew. Eitan's good mood falls like BP's market cap when he hears those dreaded words: backyard chores. He slumps around until I get irritated and tell him he is getting close to a yellow card, which means losing a World Cup game. "What's a red card?" he inquires. That's easy, miss an England match. He stiffens and suddenly I realise what an easy month this is going to be.
Friday, June 11
Madeleine and I hang out at the Victoria early morning after dropping Eitan off at choir practice. I think I am goofing for the photo but maybe not. Madeleine likes it any way.
The kids have their annual 'sports day' and the upper classes organised into four groups by colour with ours in red (again). Interestingly, Eitan and Madeleine on the same team and I observe .. that they get along and even (gasp) support each other. We like this. Events include team relays, long-jump, push-ups, co-ordination games and the like. Us parents shuffle from place to place following the action while the younger classes replace balls and jump ropes, mark times and generally make themselves useful. Hero warship is about age difference more than anything else at this stage of life. Were it always so. The reds are runner's up and everyone a winner says the head master though Eitan does not agree.
Wednesday, June 9
I know - I know - all hamsters the same but there is something special about Tommy. He really is darn cute and Madeleine shows him off whenever we have a guest, grabbing the creature by the mid-section and thrusting him forward like a Popsicle. The poor nocturnal yanked from a cozy sleep at least three times a day and on the week end, maybe twice that. Still, he is a friendly soul. Sure, there was that time when he sank his long teeth into Madeleine's fleshy middle finger requiring her to shake him free. Well, that was traumatising but she soon forgot and Tommy became used to us, well, part of the family even. Unfortunately, Tommy a poor substitute for a dog, which is what Madeleine dreams of. We did an investigation last year including visits to the kennel but Sonnet and I concluded a puppy with two working parents not feasible. Madeleine, though, persists and has done her research: neighborhood dog comparisons and dog magazines and books from the library. She is 24/7 on the subject, dear reader. So maybe we shall revisit. Maybe.
Tuesday, June 8
England has a couple of good months every year that allows us to forget the rest and we are now in the sweet spot: warm, lazy afternoons and sunsets after 9PM; Wimbledon around the corner and August hols to look forward to. This year, we have the extra added bonus of the World Cup and our lads may have a chance of .. winning the trophy. We are seeded fourth, in a relatively easy group and, player-for-player, field a world class squad. This is a time to dream big, baby. For my part, I would love to be in this country if the Cup came home. When England won the Ashes in 2005, defeating Australia for the first time since'87 in five Tests with the final result 2-1, the country went mad. Throughout, the nation glued to its radio, watching the weather and guessing tea-time. And, when we finally pulled it off following some dodgy wickets, Britain did what it does best: drink. England's captain Michael Vaughan met the Queen 24 hours later unshaven and hung-over, possibly still drunk. The rest of the squad doused with alcohol. And we cheered and boozed with them. I can only imagine what the celebration would be like for a WC victory. This country lives and dies by the sport, afterall. I get a tingle imagining the first kick-off, which is five days away, vs. USA. After fourteen years here I can say: come on, England!
Madeleine peddles in front of our house- her bike allows her some freedom, which I can appreciate. I have been riding her pretty hard lately - this evening, for instance, she does not listen to me on some point and - bam - she sweeps the front yard which normally is her week-end chore. Our neighbors, I am sure, find it amusing to see her bagging leaves at 8PM well past most kids bed-times on a school night. We do a repeat later this evening over some matter trivial and, boom, she does all the dishes. Eitan is smart - he hangs low. I ask him the other day if we are too strict or not enough and he ponders my question a moment: "somewhere in between" he says cautiously. Wise kid. I ask if we punish him enough? "Yes." And Madeleine? "No. You could punish her more."
Monday, June 7
Sonnet in Colorado and I get the Shakespeares to myself. This makes for a rough morning - 'inset' day, no school - when the kids do not wish to leave the house. Especially to go for a walk in Richmond Park. Here we are, 9:35AM.