Saturday, March 31

Patriot

Pictured : general sentiment after the long haul.  At least the Shakespeares carry their own bags.

In 1990, 11.1 million Americans had passports, according to the US State Department, or about 4% of the population (I recall an investment banker at First Boston in a panic because he had to go to Mexico for a deal and did not have his documents).  Now, 109.8 million have a pp, or 34% of US citizens (I got mine in 1980).  The change, of course, for security : Americans scrutinised by USA Patriot Act signed into law by el presidente in 2001 in response to 911.  It allows roving wiretaps, searches of business records (including libraries) and doing surveillance of "lone wolves" - individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to terrorist groups. The irony : the Patriot Act led by the Republicans who otherwise want Big Government off our backs.

So I am not surprised then, passing through US Customs, to find a digital hand scanner (this has been a feature, along with cameras, since 2008). I ask the agent who gets finger printed ? and , for now, it is foreign nationals.  Soon, though, it will be any one using an airport : in fact, this would occur now but there is not the budget to tag and track every American. I note that this is an invasion of privacy and the agent replies happily: "only if you are a bad guy."

USA Patriot Act acronym : Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001

We connect in Dallas. Madeleine: "Gosh, I've never been to Texas before."

America Here We Come

We depart Terminal 5 this morning which now seems like last month after a 14 hour flight to Denver connecting via Dallas.  Eitan and Madeleine bloat on media including "Puss in Boots" (Eitan), "Sherlock Homes" (Madeleine), Simpsons (both) , Lion King (both), Premiere League football highlights (Eitan) and other in-flight crapola (Me, I read "War And Peace." No kidding - I really am ).

Me: "Good news, guys, they are going to let you on the plane." 
Eitan: "Yessss!"

Me: "You know, Madeleine, if they find a knife or a gun when you are going through security they lock you in that room over there, sometimes for three or four weeks."
Madeleine: "Really? Mom, is dad joking?"
Sonnet:
Me: "I never joke about security."
Madeleine: "Now I know you are joking."
Me to security guard, winking: "Do you lock kids up in that room for three or four weeks if you find a knife or a gun in their bag?"
Security officer: "Yes siree. We take passenger safety seriously here young lady. I would hate to see you in that room for a while . ."
Me: "See?"
Madeleine: "Oh my God."

Thursday, March 29

Good Bye Rusty+Girls

I take Rusty to the kennel, feeling guilty, as we depart for Colorado tomorrow.  Rusty is all, like, "woof, woof, woof" and I am sure he knows he is being dished off.  Maggie, for instance, gets first class treatment and travels with my mom whenever she flies, like this week, when we will see them in the Rockies.

I drive Eitan, Jack and Joe to football practise. Me: "So who do all the boys fancy?"
Eitan: "Dad!"
Joe: "J - everybody fancies her."
Jack: "In my class, it's A."
Joe: "They all fancy her. But she is really annoying. And she stinks."
Me: "She stinks?"
Joe: "Yeah."
Me:
Joe: "Like perfume. And I have to sit next to her all the time."
Jack: "Ha ha!"
Eitan:
Me: "So what do you boys do if you fancy a girl?"
Joe: "Well, everybody knows it.  Like S, he fancies J 95% and B 80%."
Me: "That doesn't even add up. It must be the addition of L'Amour."
Eitan:
Me:  "Do your palms get all sweaty and you break out into a terrible rash?"
Eitan: "It's not like we're teen-agers or anything."

Eitan and I watch Mission Impossible III; Tom Cruise kisses a women and takes off her blouse:
Eitan: "Arggh, Uggg!"
Me: "Turn away! Turn away!"
Eitan: "Why do they always have to do that?"

Wednesday, March 28

Post Practice

I pick up Madeleine from swim practise, pictured, while Eitan jumps in for his two hour work out. It is all about the logistics : Madeleine and Zara get a ride to the pool from Zara's au pair; an hour later, Eitan and I pick up Georgia (Zara's sister) and I drop them off while collecting Madeleine and Zara for their return home. Thalia (Georgia's mom) picks up Georgia and Eitan after their session finished.

Sonnet: "Has anybody fed the dog?"
Me: "No. Madeleine feed the dog."
Madeleine: "Why should I do that?"
Me: "Feed the dog and I will give you the thing I got you in Paris."
Madeleine: "Are you lying?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "So you are not  lying?"
Me: "No I am not lying."
Madeleine: "So this is not a gamble?"
Me:
Sonnet: "Good word."

Blue

Me: "What's in your pocket?"
Madeleine: "Um, nothing."
Me: "Come on, let me see it."
Madeleine: "It's nothing . . "
Me: "Out, please."
Madeleine pulls a roll of "Butter Candies" from her pocket: "I wasn't going to show you because it was a surprise."
Me: "Oh, really now?"
Madeleine: "Yes, Dad. I was going to surprise you with a gift."
Me: "Do you think I was born yesterday?"

Later. Me: "What's in your mouth?"
Madeleine: "Mffmmm."
Me: "You have a Butter Candy in your mouth. You are so busted."
Madeleine:  "I wasn't trying to hide it or anything."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "You never believe me when I tell you anything."
Me: "I always believe you, just not everything you tell me."
Madeleine: "What's that supposed to mean?"
Me: "Spit it out please."
Madeleine: "You are so mean."

Sunday, March 25

Place de la Concorde

Out of picture: the crescent moon+Venus and Mercury - the only lights in a sky otherwise drowned out by Paris.

Saturday, March 24

Girlz

Madeleine and I contemplate the future , which is in our face at the Kingston mall.

And some food for thought : The number of teenagers living in Britain will decline by 10% over the next decade. By 2017 there will 4.9million of them, down from 5.4M today, according to the Office of National Statistics.  The fall due to the so-called 'baby slump' which occurred from the 1970s , when women began having far fewer children (and far more fun).  Compared with the baby boom of the 1960s, birth-rates have steadily fallen thanks to the pill and family planning.  This impacts everything from education to retail.  Sonnet and I are happy to make a contribution.

When the Shakespeares younger, I had them evenly scared of teen-agers : "Look!" I would say. "Teen-agers in their natural habitat. Smoking cigarettes and holding hands."  We would peek through the curtains and thank goodness we did not have them in our house. This about the time I told Eitan and Madeleine that , when a fellow falls in love , his hands turn sweaty, he cannot think straight, and he starts babbling like an idiot .  Both kids horrified by the prospect of love : they, then, ensemble : "La la lala la la la la llllaaaa."


Shop 'Til U Drop

Madeleine and I have a day together which means, after the dog-walk, I am pre-occupied with the wi-fi and other home-tech CRAP that I would rather NOT be doing on the NICEST day of the year so far.  At noon I give up on the Edimax range extender to wash the conservatory windows and lay chores on the Shakespeares.  So far, it's bleak. Sonnet escapes to the V and A to process an acquisition : "lots of random little things" (she tells me now).

The afternoon turns for the better, as it always does on a Saturday in spring, and I take Eitan to Nadine and Kate's joint-birthday party at Kingston bowling. Post drop, Madeleine and I shop for Uncle Marcus' April wedding. We start at the old stalwart Marks & Spencer which is, like, endless Dockers. We then hit the High Street : Gap, Northface, Apple .. I suggest green trousers ("No way Dad! Mom would kill me") and here we are at Uniqlo for Dad, who flirts with the cashier with a nice smile, red-dyed hair and a dinosaur tattoo on her arm that looks like the Loch Ness monster ("I also have one on my ankle and other places" she tells me - "other places" left unsaid)

The great thing about shopping with  Madeleine is that she shops for boy clothes. We aim for the same stores. She has terrific style, too, and, on her recommendation, I get a new pair of trainers. Sweet.

Friday, March 23

Any Given Morning


Emily

Emily, pictured, is in Eitan's class and the smartest kid in her year. She might be the smartest 6th grader I have ever met.  Emily accepted to every secondary school she applied to and will attend Lady Eleanor Holles, which is next to the Hampton School so she and Eitan will take the coach together. I tell her "no funny business" which makes her squirm, poor dear.

Madeleine has Zac over for a play date. They do what all boys love to do : try to catch frogs in the backyard pond, have a water-fight and, now, they are at Helen and Martin's jumping on the trampoline.

V. Collis

Eitan's primary plays Collis on the home pitch in the borough school semi-finals. We lose 7-3 to a superior team.  Coach hoping we would meet Collis in the finals as SM the second best team in Richmond.

Eitan, this morning: "It smells like America."
Me: "What does that mean?"
Eitan: "I don't know. It just does."

Mal Boeuf

God bless McDonald's.  God bless America. 

Last year, McDonald's had its strongest comparable store sales in the US since '06 and it plans to invest $2.9 billion in 2012 to open another 1,300 stores including 250 across Europe and France.  This data remarkable when once considers 2004 : Jim Cantalupo, the CEO, died of a heart attack 16 months in the job. Seven months later, his successor, Charlie Bell diagnosed with cancer and resigned. Then there was the film Super Size Me which showed the dire effects of eating at, well, McDonald's.

Super Size probably the best thing to happen to McDonald's, which went into overdrive to upgrade the quality of the dining experience, including the food, while bringing "value-meals" to recession-hit eaters : it introduced a dollar-menu.   The combination a winner, too, and the 33,510 restaurants made $27 billion of turnover in 2011, up from $19 billion in 2004 (Burger King, by comparison, was $2.3B in 2011 and $1.8B in 2004). In February, McDonald's had its 106th consecutive moth of positive same-store sales growth in the USA.

Of course McD's success comes at a cost: obesity rates for children and Hispanics, where McDonald's focuses its marketing, have risen disproportionately since '06 according to Corporate Accountability Intl. Photo from the www.

"When your stores are generating that much money, the question is how do you keep growing?"
--Draren Tristano, restaurant consulting firm Technomic


Self Portrait XXIV

Madeleine: "There's a kid in our class. And he had a heart operation. And they sowed his heart together with cow skin."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "I think so."
Me: "There are a lot of people who need hearts, you know.  For an operation."
Madeleine: "Do you mean if you are, like, 70, and going to die in three weeks, they can take your heart?"
Me: "I think doctors are more interested in younger donors.  Did you know that I am a heart donor? "
Madeleine: "Really?"
Me: "Yes. I filled out the donor papers so, if I die, and somebody needs my heart, they can take it."
Madeleine: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Well, assume that I am at an intersection waiting to cross the street and a helicoptor comes landing down and - whack! - one of the blades lops off my skull and my brains spill out."
Madeleiene: "That would never happen, Dad."
Me: "I'm just saying. So, there I am, brains and blood everywhere, so the ambulance arrives and cuts out my heart."
Madeleine: "Would they really do that?"
Me: "Yep."
Madeleine: "Even if you are still alive?"
Me: "Of course not. That's why they have a mallet. Every ambulance has one, you know."
Madeleine: "Now I know you are joking."
Me: "No, way. You have to be dead if they are going to take your heart. So they wack your head a couple times with the mallet. To make sure you are dead."
Madeleine: "Could they get in trouble? I mean, if you are still alive?"
Me: "Only if there is a law suit.  When the lawyers get involved there is always trouble."
Madeleine: "Can helicopters really land in the street ?"

Thursday, March 22

Shard

The Shard nearly complete. Omnipresent.

I am at the far edge of the City for a meeting with an asset manager who may sell us some venture assets cheap. The 12th floor view uninterrupted five-miles to Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs and the Olympic Development Center in northeast London.  This area got shallacked by the Germans, aiming for the docks, during the Second World War; afterwards, it became a wasteland, deprived of transportation links and home to new ethnic arrivals looking to build a new life for their families. Now, areas like Shoreditch and Hockney, have become la mode complete with gays and dance clubs and trendy restaurants .. . bowling lanes.  A vibrant start-up tech community has grown from the area's dot-com 'new media' roots and Google opened up a tech centre in 'Silicon Roundabout' near  Old Street just last week.

Overheard between two schleppers in the City:  
"I've got a bit of an interesting day today. I'm going to prepare a 'what if' scenario and the Big Boss isn't going to like it."

Wednesday, March 21

Tuesday, March 20

Kreos

My friends from Industry Ventures in town for Kreos Ventures AGM - Kreos is a venture-debt firm that is now a "growth debt to high-growth companies" since nobody in Europe wants to invest in European venture anymore.  The keynote given by an older dude that I have known for some time whose presentation a bunch of cartoons describing how terrible private equity is , which manages to bore and insult everybody at the same time - no small feat. He  manages assets for wealthy individuals and families and, if he took questions, I would ask : why are you here ?

Otherwise it is a happy gathering at Sommerset House overlooking the Thames on a gorgeous early-spring morning, everything shiny.  This is one of my favorite places in London.  Sommerset House once home to the Admiralty (Churchill) and the Inland Revenue and Registrar offices before somebody realised the building too beautiful for admin.  The Courdault Art Institute here, too, which brought Sonnet and us to London, and home of one of the most efficient collections of impressionist paintings anywhere : Modigliani, Monet, Manet, Gaugin, Pissaro, van Gogh, Sauret , Degas .. .  today I see an exhibition of neo-platicists Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson : only 20 paintings in two galleries but, oh, so perfect to capture them at their creative peak during the Second World War.

At Kreos I bump into George, an investor in Ezoka, and we catch up on old times and people. George founded Intel Capital then opened Benchmark's European offices when I met him.  Today he invests in clean energy on behalf of Europe's largest family.  Back in the heady false dawn of the Internet, George and I drank martinis at Dukes, out to conquer the world.

Monday, March 19

Rusty At Work

I take the pooch to work. Rusty generally pretty good, too, mostly keeping to himself and not jumping on the tenants. We usually go for a lunch-time run along the Thames : good for the dog, good for me.  I begin southside - there is a well-used towpath - by Barnes , then St Paul's and the Hammersmith Bridge, my favourite, which I cross and return north side for a five-mile loop. Rusty off-lead for a third of the time which gives him a chance to chase squirrels. Now he naps.

Sunday, March 18

San Fran - Madeleine Dishes

San Francisco - fog free! - from an oblique-angle in 2004.  Image from the Space Imaging and NASA Earth Observatory.

Madeleine refuses to finish dinner and so we stair at each other across the table.  No desert, Sonnet-made chocolate chip cookies+vanilla ice cream, unless she eats her rice and chick peas (she glares at me).  I helpfully remind the girl that she had plenty of room for the ice cream truck (she uses her fork to spread some chicken across her plate).  Lying back in her chair, big sigh : "I'm done." When this don't fly it's both elbows on table and the scratch of cutlery on plate. Poke, poke, poke.  "You know, Dad, you always spend time on your computer and never with us" but I know her game: she aims to distract from the subject-to-hand. "Are you going to make me eat the bones or what?" Finally, I compromise: three bites but I am the judge re size. She measures each to the acceptable limit, Dear Reader, and quickly fills her mouth before I require more. Then bolts.

"As The Mugger Strikes"

Me, at a payphone outside 552 Riverside Drive, the day I move into the apartment I will soon share with Sonnet, our first together+Dominique the cat.  Sonnet relocates to New York that winter so we are not apart while I am at Columbia Business School.  Photo taken by Adam August 28, 1995.

Me: "Don't you feel great after swimming practise?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. I am going to have a nap."
Me: "You know, another thing - exercise makes you smarter."
Madeleine: "Really?"
Me: "What happens when you swim?"
Madeleine: "You get stronger? You get in shape?"
Me: "Yes, but what does your heart do?"
Madeleine: "It beats really fast."
Me: "And what does it pump?"
Madeleine: "Blood."
Me: "And what's in the blood?"
Madeleine: "Oxygen."
Me: "And where does it go?"
Madeleine: "Your brain?"
Me: "Excellent. So your brain gets more oxygen, which helps you learn stuff."
Madeleine: "Did you know that you can eat brains? It does not even upset your stomach."
Me: "Good to know, thanks dear."

Saturday, March 17

Swing


Ga Ga

Madeleine lip-syncs "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga at her drama class finale. The kids break into dance.  Sonnet: "We are so watching Fame tonight."

Olympic Poem


Somewhere in the background, occupying .05% of my attention, is the London schools poem competition.  The theme: the Olympics, of course, since we are now 132 days from the Summer Games.  Eitan's poem chosen for the school final, which he recites, from memory, in front of 350 kids and three judges. He is runner-up to Luke and both boys will compete city-wide schools competition. Here is his poem:

"The Olympic torch winks cheekily
Starting an emotional fortnight
Joy, grief, jealousy
competition at its height

"A swimming pool glints its perfect white teeth
Daring the swimmer to dive
Water cloaks him in a shroud of cold
He has never felt more alive

"The boxing ring beckons
The fighting starts
Life sapped faces loom
Just one more punch is all it takes
Someone will give in soon

"The podium waits
The first place spot stands
Above second and third
The medal is placed
Round the winner's neck
Through tears his vision is blurred"


Eitan and I walk Rusty.  Ahead of us : four 12-year olds in their afternoon tennis skirts. Eitan and I cross the street.

Madeleine: "Eitan's poem was so cool."
Me: "Yeah?"
Madeleine: "He read it in front of the entire school."
Me: "So you saw him?"
Madeleine: "Yep."
Me: "You must have been pretty proud of your brother."
Madeleine: "Yeah."

Friday, March 16

Thursday, March 15

Go Blues!

Justin treats me to one of the most exciting sporting events I have been to yet : while not on par with The Game, Chelsea's defeat of Napoli at Stamford Bridge in the second round of the UEFA Champions League qualifier equally memorable.  Chelsea lost the opener 3-1 in Italy and so must secure a three goal advantage to advance in the tournament. At regulation's end, the score 3-1 Blues and, since this a tie on points, we go to over-time. Chelsea scores the decisive goal - joy! - and we wait twelve agonising minutes for time to run out. The fans go mad at the final whistle

Napoli has a loud and boisterous section, too : a number of them shirtless and tatooed, leading chants and arm pointings at Chelsea , who is generally reserved (accepting the guy behind me who uses the "C" word in every sentence he utters).  Security officials separate them from us. Euphoria erupts after each strike.  The vibe remarkable exiting the stadium : I understand the fan's emotions : Life and death, dude - at least, tonight.

"This could top them all for sure."
--John Terry, Chelsea captain

On Eating A Burger

The Brits call a 'hamburger' a 'beef burger'. More unusually, they choose to eat their burgers using cutlery (case study A: Justin).

Shortly after arriving in London, I have a business lunch where the main orders are beef burgers. Having no experience of the proper etiquette, and assuming one's hands are the universal approach towards a burger's consumption, I dive in, failing to notice the protocol : knife and fork. All eyes on me. Conundrum : once engaged with hand-to-mouth, does one simply switch tactics, drawing attention to an improper style? or continue suggesting : in America, this is how we eat a hamburger ?

Justin notes: "In fact, eating a burger with cutlery in the company of someone else who is eating with hands is rude (superior behaviour). Similarly, eating a burger with hands in front of someone eating something that requires cutlery is also rude (making what they see much more casual than the general tone of the meal)."

Wednesday, March 14

Pi Day

(March 14=3.14)
Photo of 62144 bits of binary Pi ordered as a 512 x 512 bitmap. 0 = black pixel. 1 = white pixel. The bits are ordered from left to right in each row and the rows from top to bottom.

Monday, March 12

Kink

Jimmy Choo's spring design, pictured. For the very rich and the street corner.

Jimmy Choo (family name: "Chow") opened his first workshop in Hackney, North London, in 1986 , renting an old hospital building. Quickly he become noticed, and his creations featured over eight pages in a 1988 issue of Vogue. Patronage soon followed , including Diana from 1990, making Choo all that. "Sex And The City" added to the run. In '96, Choo co-founded Jimmy Choo Ltd with British Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon. Today, the company turns over £200M in sales. And counting.

We watch the medal ceremony at the British Olympic swim trials.
Eitan: "They are giving them soft toys."
Jack:  "What is it?"
Eitan.  "It's an elephant."
Syrus:  "An elephant?"
Eitan: "Yeah, a stuffed elephant."
Me:  "But you boys appreciate what the real reward is ?"
Cyrus: "The stuffed animal?"
Me: "Just getting here."
Eitan, Jack, Cyrus:
Me:  "Go get some junk food or something."

Sunday, March 11

Marc Jacobs

At the "Louis Vuitton-Marc Jacobs" exhibition, pictured, I learn that Vuitton a clever industrialist during the 19th century : He designed the first waterproof, transportable and fashionable travel trunks when High Society, especially women, moved between European capitals for the social calender.  They demanded baggages suitably stylish for their ballgowns and frocks.

Fast forward to now : LV caters to the same jet-set with advertising that promotes impossibly beautiful , obscenely rich,  women in their mid- to late 20s wearing colourful, powerful, in-your-face kind of clothes (the trunks BTW replaced with LV handbags). The  change occurred when Mark Jacobs became LV's creative director in 1997, which ruffled a few feathers since Jacobs an American overseeing one of France's most important brands.  Jacobs on his clothes: "what I prefer is that even if someone feels hedonistic, they don't look it. Curiosity about sex is much more interesting to me than domination. ... My clothes are not hot. Never. Never."

The dude knows what he is talking about. Jacobs is on  Time Magazine's "2010 Time 100" list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and ranked 12th on Out Magazine's 2011 list of "50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America".

Sonnet Paris

Sonnet and I sneak out of the house for St Pancras and Paris (Kamila retrieves Madeleine from morning swim practise; Richard picks up Eitan for Elm Grove vs. Kings Park). Here she is at the hotel.

After dropping off our bags, we spill onto Place de la Concorde and trundle along rue du Rivoli to the fashion museum at the Louvre to see the Louis Vuitton-Marc Jacobs exhibition , which opened Friday. Despite Sunday , there is an endless line and, dear reader, I am most impressed when my wife waves her card and - voila!- we are in. This so rarely happens in life.

From there , Sonnet and I walk beside the Seine to le Marais on the Right Bank inside the 4th arrondisement (question: who lives in these apartments overlooking la Cité and Notre Dame ?). The Marais has been inhabited since the 1st century BC when a bunch of Gauls sat down to eat some foie gras. History happened then the Jews settled here, noted by the kosher restaurants excluding "Shwartz's" which opened since our last visit and completely empty.

The gays took over in the 1990s and neighbourhood became le plus chic du Paris. It has cleaned up, too : once there was graffiti, dog shit, traffic .. the 4th felt counter-culture despite Place des Vosges and the Picasso Museum. Now, Sonnet remarks, "it is a shopping mall" and sure enough , amongst the boutiques,  I see Nike and even Muji, a Japanese brand. WTF is that one doing here ?  The people-watching remains top class and we find a local cafe w/ an ancient television set showing local football. Parfait.

Friday, March 9

Café

I have a quick lunch in the 8e : Parisian cafes are a wonderful thing, too. This one on rue Boissy d'Anglais, near my hotel, and where I often have a croissant and coffee before traipsing along rue due Faubourg St Honoree. According to CBS , there are around 7,000 cafes in Paris. In  the 1880s there were 45,000 cafes.

Lunch

Madeleine: "Did you go Paris just to have lunch?"
Me: "Well, yes, it was one of the reasons I was there."
Madeleine: "What did you have?"
Me: "The first thing on the menu was purple sea urchin."
Madeleine: "Woah, did you have it?"
Me: "No way. I had cod. In a layer of truffles."
Madeleine:
Me: "But you would have loved the deserts. Home made marshmallows. Macaroons. Chocolate with nugget .. "
Madeleine: "I hated lunch today. It was disgusting."
Sonnet: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "It was pieces of chicken in a disgusting sauce. And the bottom crust was like.. like ..
Sonnet: "Soggy goo?"
Madeleine: "Yes! Just like soggy goo." Don't tell Janet I said that, though."

Evans

Janet Evans, pictured, is an animal - and I mean this as the highest complement. She lit the world up with her distance freestyles : her 800 meter crawl went unmatched for 19-years before Becky Aldington took the World Record in Beijing. Evans a diminutive 5-foot, six inches, and 119 lbs in an era where elite swimmers grow bigger and taller. But, boy, does she motor : her speedy turnover goes on and on and on. Evans, who set WR in the 400, 800 and 1500 at the '88 Olympics , nick-named "Miss Perpetual Motion." Now, at 41, she is making a comeback and will compete at the US Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska later this month.

The other day I meet a Brit, Ed, who came across Evans at a USC party, where Evans a student-athlete in the '80s (she also attended Stanford for a while). Evans is pretty cute and, according to Ed, chatty and friendly. They hit it off, and she asked him point blank : "Do you want to shag ?" Not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, Ed leaves the party and ... ends up line-dancing until 4AM. He wonders, still, today: what the fuck was that all about ? (A Google search indicates that a shag dance is swing dance that originated in the 1920s). Poor bastard, he still hates America.

At the end of her first career, Evans held seven world records, five Olympic medals (including four gold), and 45 U.S. national titles — third only to Tracy Caulkins and Michael Phelps. Photo from the web.

Wednesday, March 7

Big Brother At W'Loo Station

video

Down And Out In Stockton, CA

Ugly graph, familiar story.  Stockton, California, will soon become the largest municipality in America to file for bankruptcy.

Tuesday, March 6

The Three Einsteins

Jack, Cyrus and Eitan - a goofy crew, if ever there was one. Jack crushed his school entrance exams getting places at Kingston Grammer, Hampton School, Latimer and Tiffin (which accepts less than 10% since it is the best state-school in Surrey); Cyrus, who will go to St Paul's, and Eitan (Hampton School). When together, these usually serious fellows act silly : Syrus hits a sugar high and I think : powerful drugs. It is all I can do to keep an eye on them.

In the Olympic Village shopping mall.
Me: "What's that?"
Eitan: "It's a 'Winlock.' " [Eitan holds up a small, stuffed object]
Me:
Eitan: "The Olympic mascot. I'm going to buy it for ten pounds."
Me: "You're kidding, right?"
Eitan: "No .. ."
Me: "So you're telling me that if I told you to clean the front and back yard- that's two hours work - for £10, you would spend it on this?"
Eitan: "Yeah what's the big deal ? "
Cyrus: "I'm going to buy an Olympic key ring for £12. Eitan, can I borrow 2 quid?"
Jack : "No, way, that is such a good deal."
Me:

Men's 200 Meter Freestyle Final


Olympic Trials


Butter.

Britain owns a grand total of seven Olympic-sized pools (50 by 25m), or one for every 8,888,394 people. This a pretty good reason to stay from swimming.   In California, I spent my summers at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco, whose Olympic pool bracketed by a 25 meter diving well (where we oggled the synchronised swimmers) and a 25 m lap-pool. All of it surrounded by green grass and bathed in beautiful sunshine.


But back to the London Aquatics Centre : The pool employs all the tricks : three-meter depth to dissipate turbulence and pool-floor wave-rebound; poolside deck level, allowing waves to run over the side and into a trough . .. .26-degree temps.  Further, the outside lanes kept minimise agitation.  While none of these things new, together+the arena's atmosphere, should lead to a few world records at the games (even without the hi-tech swimsuits).

We watch the good and the great including Becky Aldington (2X gold in '08+broke Janet Evens 19-year old 800-meter freestyle record in the Olympic finals); Liam Tancock (WR, 50 m backstroke), Robert Renwisk (Brit record-holder, 200m crawl) and Hannah Miley (British record-holder, 200 and 400m IM).

Sunday, March 4

Lizards


Madeleine and I to the pet store for a lizard and I am ready to do the deal, too. Ready, that is, until I learn that the Crested Gecko that we contemplate .. eats black crickets, which are sold in batches of 60.   The salesman, helpfully: "They live for, like, a week."  Madeleine justifiably upset when she learns we will get a lizard that eats less disgusting things. Like mealworms.  Sonnet thanks me for this, later, in a private moment.

My photo, taken somewhere in Colorado, is not a Crested Gecko, despite its eating a cricket.

Speaking of Lizards, a fired-up South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham , after meeting "a frustrated" hawk Benjamin Netanyahu, re Iran : “It’s not just about the Jewish vote and 2012. It’s about reassuring people who want to avoid war that the United States will do what’s necessary.”  I.e, go to war.  The Republicans must have small dicks or something.

Kamila

The British swimming trials kick off yesterday at the Olympic pool and Sonnet takes the boy while I attend to Madeleine and drama class. The competition used as a tune-up for the summer games so there are hundreds of helpful volunteers and security professionals standing in the cold rain.  Entering the Olympics park, we go through security equivalent to Heathrow, only here the guards joke in good humour. They've only been doing it for a couple weeks .

Today, we switch:  Sonnet with  Eitan at the Surrey swimming championships (he swims the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley) while Madeleine and I to the trials, joined by our fabulous Czech au pair Kamila , pictured, and her visiting brother, Mathais, who high jumps over 2-meters. Holy mackerel. He recently won the Czech under-18s for the event.

Friday, March 2

Boots

Sonnet takes Madeleine to the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy so I pick up the boy from school. I tell him : "anything you want to do" and he picks .. .Sports Direct to buy football boots. Father son bonding, dude.  He goes for the red Nikes that wazza wears but unfortunately they don't have his size.  Me, I show some unusual restraint, and walk out without another pair of Gazelles.

Maps Anyone ?


I snap the City of London Information Center in Saint Paul's Yard, across the street from the Wren cathedral.  The structure went up in 2007 , designed by make architects. It is pretty funky, too, standing-out in old London yet not distracting from the church. So bravo for that.

The architects set out their stall (from the website):

"A folded metallic envelope wraps 140m2 of internal accommodation, lending the building an angular profile and an air of lightness akin to that of a paper aeroplane. This aerodynamic effect is enhanced by the sloping roof which rises from 3m at the rear staff entrance point to 5m at the public entrance. The large spans and cantilevers required have been achieved using a steel frame braced by a structural ply skin and clad in stainless steel panels. This solution minimises the thickness of the structural envelope - an important consideration in a building of this scale. In addition, the sensitive and restricted nature of the site made a rapid construction method highly desirable. Accordingly, the steel frame was prefabricated in 2 separate sections which were craned onto the site at night and assembled over the course of a couple of days.

"The structure is clad in a specially manufactured system of 220 pre-finished stainless steel panels. This subtly reflective surface provides a striking counterpoint to the stonework of St Paul’s, and the panelisation of each elevation emphasises the crisp angularity of the folded form. By contrast, the building interior is lined with a tessellation of 174 vivid yellow panels formed from Trespa, a recycled timber product. This bright and compact interior conceals a host of high-tech equipment necessary for providing a state-of-the-art information service to visitors. Public facilities are located at the widest part of the triangular plan, and are separated from the staff facilities beyond by a specially-designed information desk.

"

Thursday, March 1

Going Going Gone!

Sonnet and I invited to a dinner auction fundraiser for the Contemporary Arts Society ; Veronique is on the committee.  The dress-code is "Circus chic" and for a moment I contemplate the cow suit but instead go for the African wrap, pictured, which Katie gifts me from Nairobi. 

The evening at the Farmiloe building in Clerkenwell, a retired warehouse now used for .. entertainings. A man on stilts greets us from 25-feet up; two Frenchmen juggle and a model smiles in a provocative clown suit.  Inside , we watch acrobats dangling from ropes contorting their bodies in gravity defying sorts of ways.  We are handed martinis and champagne cocktails.

Since this an auction, the art displayed for the 1% who bid £50,000 like it was water . The Sotheby's auctioneer moves things along : " Can I hear 35?  35 is on offer. Do I hear 36? 36 it is! 37? 37? 38! DoIhear40goingoncegoingtwice!soldtothegentlemanininsequenedtrousers" Taste is subjective. 

I sit next to the Russian whose dress holds the rest of her in. She has a gallery on Regent's Park and invites me to have a look. At the gallery. Ar ar.

Car ride to football.
Me: "So how much homework are you boys going to have at the Hampton School?"
Eitan: "I don't know."
Joe: "They say its an hour and twenty minutes. Every day."
Me: "Which will take you guys , like, three hours."
Eitan:
Joe: "Is that your way of saying we are not very smart Mr Orenstein?"