I attend last night's opening party of the wonderful V&A exhibition "The Cult of Beauty, the Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900." The reception in the main entrance under the magnificent Chihuly chandelier, which is now a permanent fixture (previously on loan). The Great and the good ensemble drinking champagne flutes while nibbling hors d'oeuvres. We are escorted into the gallery and treated to romantic bohemians Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Whistler and Frederic Leighton and G.F. Watts. Oscar Wilde surely has a part to play and so receives a commemorative (from the V&A gallery):
Thursday, March 31
Wednesday, March 30
Tuesday, March 29
Meanwhile, Cal held off defending champion Texas 493-470 1/2 to win its first men's NCAA swimming championship in 31 years Saturday night. The Bears' Graeme Moore, Josh Daniels, Tom Shields and Nathan Adrian clinched the title by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay in 2 minutes, 47.39 seconds. Je-sus that is fast. Adrian also won a third straight 100 freestyle in 41.10 and was named the meet's top swimmer. Cal's women's team took their second NCAA swimming in three year the week before. Holy Catfish.
“It's kind of like a funnel. Meets are just stops along the way and everything funnels down to that goal.”
(From the FT) In common with the rest of the world Britain suffered severe dislocation during the two world wars and the intervening years. The unemployment rate rose to 15% during the Great Depression, but in many ways the early 1920s were even worse, with deflation exacerbating the postwar recession. An inflexible exchange rate caused problems of adjustment throughout the period and the 30% devaluation of sterling in 1949 finally underlined that Britain was no longer a dominant power. The return to a peacetime economy after demobilisation saw a populace determined not to repeat the experiences of the past 30 years.
Monday, March 28
Sunday, March 27
Madeleine leaps into my arms following her week-end in Paris. Snails! Post cards! The Eiffel Tower! Room Service! Here is our darling woofing down a snail at Terminus du Nord.
Saturday, March 26
Eitan and I are mano-a-mano as Sonnet and Madeleine in Paris to see Rana and her daughter Darya. Rana a London friend who lives in Brooklyn's Park Slope with her children; she worked for Newsweek (business editor) until poached by Time when Newsweek merged with The Beast in one of those weird new media meets old media deals.
Friday, March 25
I walk about Notting Hill before a late afternoon meeting at Electric. The sun is shining and this a lovely part of town where I have not been in maybe three years. We used to frequent this neighborhood following a stroll along Portobello Road from the flea markets on the Golborne Road side to the antiques in North Kensington. While the weekends draw crowds, it is otherwise a somewhat lazy, affluent, and fashionable part of London with attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses (A Daily Telegraph article in 2004 used the phrase the 'Notting Hill Set' to refer the young Conservatives including David Cameron and George Osborne. It captured the idea perfectly). My friend tells me (with a twinkle) that he bought his house in '78 for 78 Grand and it is now worth around £8 million. This was not a certain bet given the IMF bailed out the UK in 78 and the Notting Hill race riots of '58. Notting Hill's fate sealed by Julia Roberts and her "Notting Hill" movie in '99. The consequences : Starbucks, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and American Apparel.
Thursday, March 24
Madeleine performs and I dash home from Eitan's swimming gala (Late!) then across town (Traffic! Madeleine fidgets) arriving in a nick of time (Sonnet worried look; music teacher irritated !). Once seated, the brass plays Miles and we are treated to "Kind of Blue" including a wonderful trumpet solo by Madeleine, which she nails. The large dedicated audience cheers the kids - there are five or six ensembles covering various different instruments - and we stay until the very end including a synthesizer "display." All in the name of art and love.
Eitan competes four events in the borough swimming finals following the trials two weeks ago. The gala opened to all local schools, state and independent ( US private), drawing maybe 600 kids. I see happy healthy faces at the finish line - no obesity here, which is fast becoming a problem with UK youngsters. Yesterday's 65 events cover years 4, 5 and six with finals in each discipline+relays. Eitan is sixth in the 33 meter butterfly (year 5) and second in the backstroke though I have never seen him actually train backstroke. Eitan's year-5 squad place second overall earning the boys a plaque - I overhear a referee: "you have done your school proud" she says. The Mall's year-six boys break the 4X33 meter freestyle relay record which has stood since 1983.
Monday, March 21
Sunday, March 20
"Today I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun."
“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”
Eitan has a swimming gala so the morning logistics complicated. Sonnet up at 6:05AM to drive Madeleine to the pool then returns to get me and the boy, returning to the pool so she can pick up another swimmer then Guildford and me with Madeleine to bring her home on the bus, pictured. We take the the top of a double decker which, even to this day, thrills - look out, said the passenger, we're going to hit those tree branches. Busdriver don't care.
Saturday, March 19
This week tickets for the 2012 games went on sale, online, and Visa cocked it up, unable to take payments from cards ending August 2011 or in like five months. If that weren't bad enough, the Omega count-down clock in Trafalgar Square quit inside 24-hours. It is all starting to feel a bit like the Millennium Dome and boy oh boy that is another something we don't need. Still I and we have great faith in Seb Coe, the games organiser, and no doubt the glitches will be worked through. Meanwhile, the Olympic-rings greet passengers arriving to London St Pancras from Paris, as I did yesterday following a return voyage and lunch.
Said Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games and designer of the Olympic rings in the 1912 Revue Olympique:
Thursday, March 17
Sonnet and I attend the kids' mid-term parent-teacher consultations. How strange that such things now "old hat" as we look upon anxious moms and dads whose children in the earlier years. Madeleine has made big improvements in spelling, hand-writing and concentration. She enjoys drama and wants to participate in class discussions. We are told her hand always up for participation and "she is an enthusiastic contributor to the classroom discussions." Eitan, meanwhile, continues to be an imaginative writer who excels "in punctuations." We're told he recently scored 20 of 20 on a "mental maths" test and, strangely, 17 of 25 when solving the same equations on paper (Eitan says: "I hate showing my work - it is so much easier to do it in my head."). We are delighted with the reports, which we convey to the kids over dinner.
D-Day: "War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one."
Bluto: "Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
Otter [whispering]: "Germans?"
Boon: "Forget it, he's rolling."
Pi (π) is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. And Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th (In the mm/dd date notation: 3/14); since 3, 1 and 4 are the first three digits of π. March 14 is also the birthday of Albert Einstein and the two events are sometimes celebrated together (Freaky, dude) Pi = 3.1415926535.
With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal. Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating. The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.
There are a large variety of ways of celebrating Pi Day and most of them include eating pie and discussing the relevance of π. The first Pi Day celebration was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The museum has since added pizza to its Pi Day menu. The founder of Pi Day was Larry Shaw, a now-retired physicist at the Exploratorium who still helps out with the celebrations.
MIT often mails its acceptance letters to be delivered to prospective students on Pi Day. Of course they do.
Wednesday, March 16
An F/A-18F Super Hornet crosses the speed of sound while performing at New York Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York on May 23, 2009 (photo credit?). The condensation of water we see around the plane caused by a rapid expansion and consequent adiabatic cooling of air parcels induced by the shock (expansion/compression) waves caused as the plane outruns sound waves in front of it. Me, I just thought this was a cool photo for a Wednesday.
Sonnet and I visit Emanuel School for Madeleine. Emanual located in Battersea near Clapham Common, southwest London - an area that boasts the highest concentration of young families in Europe, so I am told. Consequently the school's intake of 680 from the excellent local state and public primaries like Honeywell, Thomas's and Eaton House. The grounds are, strangely, on an elevated triangle-wedge bracketed by two rail lines heading to Clapham Junction. Yet, for an urban school, the trees and greenery bountiful with rugby, football and cricket pitches next to tennis courts. The towering red-brick main building imposing especially on a grey London day like now. Of importance for our girl, Emanual emphasizes art and drama; it is not inclined towards league tables, which it removed itself from last year. Despite this, the academics very good and, while not equal to London's best, Emanual offers students a rounded experience"Just like an American high school," Sonnet observes. The gal who shows us around certainly sensible - she fields my usual queries covering physics, "clicks" and cigarette smoking without batting an eye.
Here is what is on the brochure: "Emanuel School is a co-educational, independent school founded in 1594. At the time Lady Dacre wrote that one of the main aims of the Foundation was 'for the bringing up of children in virtue and good and laudable arts so that they might better live in time to come by their honest labour'.
Tuesday, March 15
Monday, March 14
I am reading Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With The Wind" which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 (it was her one and only book). Anybody who thinks this a frilly romantic novel sorely mistaken. It is the story of the rape of Georgia during, and after, the Civil War. But this is not my blog. Instead, I have often wondered about the lyrics to "Yankee Doodle" sung by the Confederates known by every American grade-schooler:
Yankee Doodle went to town
Sunday, March 13
Waves from the 8.8 earthquake off northwest Japan Friday are off the charts reaching 12 feet in some locations. The above graphic, by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the wave sizes as they move halfway around the world.
Our Sunday morning so far: Sonnet up at 0620h to wrestle the kids from bed and swimming practice. Myself, I awake an hour or so later to make coffee and a run with Rusty, who resists for all his life (strangers in the park look at me kinda funny as I drag the unwilling pooch). Rusty supposed to enjoy these things I thought. Sonnet makes pancakes etc. and I read the Sunday Times which I have come to enjoy though a poor comparison to the NYT. Last night we join friends at the River Cafe, which has become our favorite; The RC our first "serious" restaurant in London back in '97.
"The River Café specializes in Italian cuisine and owned and run by chef Ruth Rogers and until early 2010, Rose Gray. Located on the north bank of the Thames in Hammersmith in the former Duckhams oil storage facility modified by architect Lord Rogers, the husband of Ruth Rogers (Lady Rogers). Opened in 1987 as the employee café of the architectural partnership, there is a garden with views of the River Thames.
Saturday, March 12
Friday, March 11
And, voila!, Brown's new performing arts building (picture from the NYT). I am reasonably certain the location in a parking lot next to the sciences building two or three blocks from the main campus. Freshman rumor suggested the science building's late night and unusual smells from burning animal carcases, post lab-room dissection. I still might believe this - indeed, I cut up a shark and a few rats back in the day.
And here is what we know about Marty Granoff (from the Brown website):
Thursday, March 10
After my class-time story, Madeleine shows-and-tells "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked" which is, afterall, consistent with the theme of "fantasy." Our dear fills with pride as she describe's her Auntie Katie: "a writer who lives in New York city with lots of really tall buildings."
So I wonder - has Tucson changed anything? (On January 8, 2011, near Tucson, AX, 19 people were shot, six of them fatally, during an open meeting that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Those killed include US District Court for the District of Arizona Chief Judge John Rolland one of Rep. Giffords's staffers. Gifford was shot through the head at point-blank range, and her medical condition was initially "critical"). Congress's then boldly pronounced corrective initiatives have so far netted one proposal: a ban on the sale of ammunition clips that allowed the gunman to fire 31 shots in 15 seconds. Seems reasonable. But no, the gun-clip ban has zero Republican supporters, which is a problem since the Republicans are the House majority. Meanwhile in the states, there is legislation for more guns in more places (public libraries, college campuses, Starbucks). Gail Collins in the NYT notes that Georgia allows guns in bars, Arizona eliminated concealed weapon permits and Utah has designated its own official state gun. Should we be surprised?
Wednesday, March 9
Here is how Sonnet/I accommodate two evening sessions at different times and pools: 5:30PM pick up Eitan, Madeleine (double-check for goggles, swimsuits, towels and gear), drive to ABC pool and watch Madeleine for 75 minutes; (double-check goggles, swimsuit, towel and gear) race across southwest London to drop off Eitan at XYZ pool. Drive home, Madeleine dinner. Back to the XYZ for Eitan (double-check goggles, swimsuit, towel and gear) then home, dinner, brush teeth and bed by 10PM. Eitan can stay up as late as he wants.
I visit Madeleine's class to tell a story - this time, about "fantasy" which is being taught as part of the curricula. Madeleine is my trusted assistant elf. My on-the-fly tale about Bobby Bogart (which gets a chuckle) who enters Middlearth, via a hidden basement door, finding himself at the "Strange and Wonderful Creatures" ball where he is the only human-child, surrounded by witches, ogres, trolls, elfs, dwarfs and wizards. To return home, Bobby must retrieve Princes Leia who slumbers under a spell at the end of a long, dark cave inside a mountain guarded by a dragon. Nobody will go with Bobby except a troll and I tell the adventure from the troll's perspective, dressed for the part including a wicked nose, walking shaft and orange red hair purchased at "Party Palace" (agree, this is an interpretation). On the way to Leia, Bobby and the troll discover three ogre-brothers debating whether to kill a girl and grind her bones or roast her on the fire spit; a botched rescue finds Bobby and the troll in the same predicament with the sun-up in two hours - trolls, we know, turn to stone in daylight. Bobby negotiates everyone's release in return for gold, to be found in the dragon's mountain. The ogres keep the girl for recourse and promise to eat her in 21 days if no treasure. Eventually Princess Liea freed, the dragon thwarted, the girl saved. All made possible by the help of kind elves (Madeleine) and therein lies my message to the kids: whenever faced by life's challenges, ask for help and it can usually be solved.
Tuesday, March 8
Many of you may recall that my (little) sister wrote a book "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of A Fairy Tale" which was an Amazon best-seller and has gone through several printings (go on, buy a copy). Last night Katie attends the Hollywood film premier "Red Riding Hood," pictured, staring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman and co-produced by Leonardo Dicaprio. Katie makes an appearance in the movie and provides the narrative for the DVD release, which includes the history of the fairy tale and interviews with various meaningful players. The Warner blurb:
Sunday, March 6
Stanford's success no doubt because of coach Skip Kinney (photo from Stanford), who has been with the Cardinal since '85. Not surprisingly, given yesterday, he has been the NCAA Coach of the Year six times and Pac-10 Coach of the Year 21 times; he was Head Coach of the US Men's Swimming Team at the '96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and assistant coach at the '84 and '88 games. Like Mike Troy, Kenney from the military: Marine Corps, with combat in Vietnam for 13 months in 1965 to 1966; four months spent as a sniper. Kinney brings a military sensibility to training: "Whether you are racing or in combat, for you to be at your best, your mind takes over and your body follows. Your expectations rise." No shit - getting chased by the Cong in a 500 freestyle would bring the best out of anybody.
When I was a youngster I spoke to Kinney about swimming for Stanford though I would have been hard pressed to score a point at the Pac 10s looking at today's results (nor was I accepted to Stanford). Kinney was quiet and intense - few words but big presence - and he always had a smile or nice word when I saw him at swimming meets around Norcal.
Saturday, March 5
Maybe it's the cold grey morning but I've seen a few shocking things which confirm that most people are mindless or stupid. At the gas station, an Audi Q5 pulls up too far from the pump so the driver (male, 40s, wearing mocasins) stretches the hose while petrol sploshes about everywhere. Retard. A few moments later, a BMW (women driver, probably a local mom) mis-judges traffic and so stuck on the level crossing as the warning lights go so she honks furiously then guns her motor around incoming traffic. Or the various countless idiots who text while driving. Again, this morning: I watch a near-miss collision at a busy circus as some mope talks on his cell phone.
The total number of deaths in road accidents fell by 7 per cent to 2,946 in 2007 from 3,172 in 2006. However, the number of fatalities has remained fairly constant over the last ten years.
Nearly half (49 per cent) of people killed in road accidents were car users in 2007. Pedal cyclists and motor cyclists represented 5 and 20 per cent of those killed respectively. Occupants of buses, coaches, goods and other vehicles accounted for the remaining 5 per cent of road deaths.
The total number of road casualties of all severities fell by
4 per cent between 2006 and 2007 to approximately 248,000 in Great Britain. This compares with an annual average of approximately 320,000 for the years 1994-98.
The decline in the casualty rate, which takes into account the volume of traffic on the roads, has been much steeper. In 1967 there were 199 casualties per 100 million vehicle kilometres. By 2007 this had declined to 48 per 100 million vehicle kilometres.
The UK has a good record for road safety compared with most other EU countries. In 2006 it had one of the lowest road death rates in the EU, at 5.4 per 100,000 population. The UK rate was also lower than the rates for other industrialised nations such as the United States (14.3 per 100,000 population), Australia (7.8 per 100,000 population) and Japan (5.7 per 100,000 population).
Friday, March 4
To celebrate my fifth online anniversary I somehow feel the above vibe, captured at the American Ambassador's home in Regent's Park, London, in July 2005, appropriate seeing how the website began . . . .
Thursday, March 3
Sonnet takes Madeleine to a Japanese restaurant for dinner.