Monday, December 31

Friday, December 28



Madeleine, cradling the cat: "You know cats can be like Wolverines?"
Me: "Oh? I wasn't aware of that."
Madeleine: "Their claws can come out like metal things."
Me: "Do you like the cat more than Rusty?"
Madeleine: "Is that a serious question?"
Me: "Who do you like more, Eitan or Rusty?"
Madeleine: "Rusty."
Eitan: "Madeleine!"
Me: "That's the way it goes. How about me?"
Madeleine: "I am sorry to say not even close Dad."
Me: "See?"

Thursday, December 27


We check out Jasper at Obscura Digital.

Eitan, Katie and I run a familiar trail; Eitan and I do the second half, or about 2 miles, hard. We are evenly matched and, dare I say, the boy now nips me.

Eitan: "I am going to have a shower."
Me: "Just make sure you wash your hair."
Eitan: "I've washed my hair."
Me: "Oh, Really? How many times?"
Eitan: "I've washed my hair twice."
Me: "And how long have we been here?"
Eitan: "A week."
Eitan: "Ok, Ok, I will wash my hair again."


OP (Original Peet's) never disappoints : this morning I talk to a fellow, pictured, about rain and electronics. We agree, water is bad.  I also learn that he is a Viet Nam vet and is against gun freedom in America: "Man, it is insane" he says.


With howls of protest from the back seat, we visit the SF Museum of Modern Art to see the Jasper Johns and the permanent collections.

Madeleine enjoys Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's "Frequency and Volume" exhibition that "responds to the size and position of visitors' shadows on the gallery wall, encouraging participants to use their own bodies to tune in to a range of public and private radio frequencies — from commercial music stations to police bands and air traffic control."

Me: "Do you guys know what Boxing Day is?"
Eitan: "Is it a famous boxing match or something?"
Me: "Guess again."
Eitan: "Is it a day for the dead?"
Madeleine: "That's Hallow's Eve, Eitan."
Eitan: "Oh, yeah, right."
Me: "It's when the servants would get their presents."
Madeleine: "They have to wait that long?"
Me: "I guess they were happy to get something."
Madeleine: "Yeah. Having to wait must have made it worse."
Me: "Probably so."

Wednesday, December 26

Boxing Day UK

Bridge to bridge with Berkeley in the foreground

We see Tim and Kitty for breakfast on the way to the airport, where I drop Sonnet off for El Lay where she will visit Catherine and see a museum or two. Last time Tim and I together, earlier this year (he reminds me) I left my driver's license in London and could not rent a car so my parents (God bless them) drove me around the Bay Area waiting in the car while I had meetings. We chuckle about this.

England's Boxing Day is the day following Christmas when servants and tradesmen receive gifts from their superiors.  It is a major UK holiday and everything, excluding the retailers but including the underground, locked down tight.

Tuesday, December 25

Family Gathering

Eitan eats some Jelly Tots (before breakfast)
Me: "What's your favourite candy?"
Eitan: "Probably .. I don't know.  It's a hard decision. "
Eitan: "Hmmm.. Does that include cake and ice cream?"
Me: "Sure."
Eitan: "Then probably something really moist .. a soft chocolate cake with mint oreo ice cream."
Me: "How about every day candy?
Eitan: "There are so many choices.  Umm. Hmmm... "
Me: "Don't kill yourself kid."
Eitan: "Then either oreos or toffee pop corn. 
Me: "Good picks."
Eitan: "I also like sherbets."

Merry Christmas From The Cat

Sonnet and I up before the kids and use the quiet time to go running on a favorite trail in Strawberry Canyon above the Laurance Hall of Science.  We are the only ones about.

Wedding Cake

"Grace came to the Peace Corps from Upper Arlington, Ohio, which, in my mind’s eye, IS America of the1950s : Grace raised with Protestant values, wore saddle shoes and bobby socks, and a cheer leader who rooted for the Golden Bears high school squad who played on Friday lights. She was looking for a way forward and she found Peace Corp.

The next two years Moe and Grace got to know each other in a village outside Lilongue, Malowi, where they taught maths and French and history. They climbed Mount Kilimanjarro and travelled the world. When it was time to return home only one city spoke to them : Berkeley, California. This was 1965 or, as Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate, noted: “Mrs. Robinson, if you don't mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.”

Moe grew a beard, passed the State Bar, and went to work at the NLRB. Grace founded a Montessori school in Oakland and Katie and I got to know public transportation from an early. My parents tried marijuana once, they told us, though had an elaborate Turkish bong hidden in the closet. Katie and I advanced in the Berkeley Unified School district. "


Grace and Moe, 1962

My parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary (officially, December 28) with a party at The City Club in Berkeley, a Julia Morgan designed treasure built in 1927 (Morgan also the architect behind San Simeon).  They and we are surrounded by family and friends from many generations - Moe points out three who have known my father for at least 50 years : Bob Siegel, a volunteer in Peace Corps 1; Ken Fisher, a St Louis pal, Rhodes Scholar and pulmonary specialist and the Best Man at my parents' wedding; and Joy, my father's sister, who gets credit for knowing Moe the longest.

From my remarks:

"My parents met the first week of the first Peace Corps, announced by JFK at the University of Michigan where Moe was a law student.

At the time, Moe did not rate the Kennedy family. He had not been impressed by the Kennedy-Nixon televised debate. Moe’s room- mates convinced my father to cross the street, for Pete’s sake, to Hill Auditorium to see the President of the United States.

During Kennedy’s speech, which my father describes as “captivating”, Kennedy suggested he would send America’s willing young people around the world in a “united corps for peace”; afterwards pressed, JFK announced the Peace Corp and my father knew right then he would join up. 

Sunday, December 23

Retro Swimming

Carolyn (far right) organises a Berkeley Barracudas reunion at UC Berkeley's Spieker pool.  We swim 1500 yards or just about enough.  Way back when, it was ten miles a day.  Eitan joins us for the next generation (he kindly takes the photo).

The Hulk

Madeleine discovers my comics, secured all these years in the downstairs of my parents house.  The collection might be worth several grand so nothing to get overly excited about. But, as a multiple of investment, probably OK.

Madeleine: "I love the smell of these comics."
Me: "Mmm."
Madeleine: "Isn't Bruce Banner the Hulk?"
Me: "Yes."
Madeleine: "But it says here the Hulk wants to kill Bruce Banner. .."
Me: "That's the psychology of the thing."
Madeleine: "But then the Hulk turns into Bruce Banner."
Me: "Yes he does."
Madeleine: "How can he be two people at once?"
Me: "Don't you ever feel that way? Angry one moment, happy the next?"
Madeleine: "Yeah ?"
Me: "So the Hulk is Bruce Banner's alter ego. He does all the things the mild mannered scientist cannot do like express rage and throw tanks and stuff."
Madeleine: "Woa. So he can be, like, angry and yell at people whenever he wants?"
Me: "That's the idea."
Madeleine: "That is so cool."

Re United

 Saul's Jewish restaurant and delicatessen

Madeleine: "Gracie, on Christmas Day, can we open our presents in the afternoon so we have longer to look forward to them?"
Me: "Good idea. How about if we wait until 2014?"
Madeleine: "Until 2014 ?"
Me: "Just think about how excited you would be then."
Madeleine: "Yeah, right Dad."
Me: "We could combine 2013 and 2014. It would be over the top."
Madeleine: "We are not going to wait until 2014 to open our presents."
Me: "Let's see if Gracie and Moe would agree."
Grace: "Jeff we are not going to wait until 2014. Don't tease your daughter like that."
Madeleine: "See?"
Me: "You're just lucky you have your Grandmother on your side."
Madeleine: "Whatever, Dad."

Saturday, December 22

Gun Job

Bay Bridge and San Francisco from the East Bay

We listen to Terri Gross interview Tom Diaz, the senior analyst for the Violence Policy Center, who says one of the weapons found at the site of the Newtown, Conn., shooting was a variant of a gun developed for troops in Vietnam.  This is what the US is talking about right now: guns and the 'fiscal cliff,' which are both destabilising and spreading a palpable fear, the first time I have felt anxious in this country.

The NRA launders the gun industry's dirty business, promoting and protecting semi-automatic weapons, while companies like A-Square and Bushmaster reap profits from their $31B market, by annual sales. The US owns over half of all firearms in the world (another stunning statistic: Since Robert Kennedy assassinated June 8, 1968, more Americans have died by firearms in the US, including suicides and accidents, then in all American wars combined).

The industry's fall back, that guns don't kill people, delusional : the US, with an estimated 270-300 million guns in circulation, the only western society with a murder pandemic. The UK, for instance, has as many wackos who play violent inter-active video games yet 1/200th the number of people murdered (adjusted for population etc).

Obama has asked Congress to put 'common sense' gun control legislation on his desk in one month.

“I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed officers in every single school in this nation.”
--Wayne LaPierre, Exec VP of the NRA, responds to Newtown

Holiday Travel


We say good-bye to Aneta then Heathrow for the long-haul to find our jumbo defective so BA finds another one, three hours later. In fact we are lucky that they have a spare - not too many 747s hanging about I imagine.  The kids settle in for 10 hours of entertainment so they really aren't all too bothered by inter planetary transport.  As with so many things that would astound my grandmother, it is all as normal as pie for the Shakespeares.

Wednesday, December 19

Kennel Bound

Rusty gets one last scratch 

At the kennel drop Rusty looks at me balefully then is trotted away.  He peers over his shoulder one last time : we could be at a train station . in Austria .. circa 1938, the engine's steam filling the platform . a whistle blows .. as the the cabins move . forward.. .separating the lovers. . forever.

I tell the guy the dog takes dry dog food and not to spoil him.

Eitan's iPod screen shattered to bits. Eitan: "We can fix it." 


The Queen attends a cabinet meeting forcing us to ask : What the hell is she doing there ?

The Gang Skates

Madeleine, Jackson, Joe and Eitan at Hampton Court Palace

Eitan sings in the Hampton choir at the St Mary's Parish Church and seeing Sonnet's happiness makes me happy, too. We work our way through the 18 page program complete with Christmas songs, readings and prayers.  Madeleine insists I check my mobile 'off' and squirms at the idea of me singing; she gets the loud hiccups as the lights dim for Chorale Preludes on Nun komm der Heiden Heiland und Wachet auf ruft uns die Stime by Bach. I try not to giggle.

Eitan's last day of school at 12-noon and the boy reports his class watches movies.  I have already emailed Eitan's form teacher about a ' homework break' so close to the four week Xmas holiday but this time I let it ride.

Photo from Sonnet.

Sunday, December 16

Baseball, Hot Dogs And Apple Pie


Eitan 'disposesses' the ball