Tuesday, March 8

Rusty Leads

Rusty has a walk
Five years along and nothing learned. And then there is the dog.

Sonnet attends an informational evening to introduce the US college application process to (insane) British and ex-pat parents (mothers).  Sonnet notes that the SATs have been completely revamped and the advisers recommend taking the ACTs as well as the SATs to provide full coverage and reduce any uncertainty from the new SAT format. One can never be too careful about one's future.

I took the ACTs (then known as The Achievement Exams or simply "The Achievements") once, on a Saturday morning in 1984, next to Hinks department store in Berkeley. I chose three subjects, didn't prepare, and never looked back. The SATS another story - Stanley Kaplan, lost afternoons to horrible practise tapes - but even then the preparation barely minimal. Back then it was rare to get a perfect score; today it is de riguerir for the tutored classes.

And one pretty much does have to get a perfect SAT when Stanford accepts 5.1% and the Ivies are generally below 10%.

Canada has it about right: no entrance exam, no recommendations and it is cheaper. Canadians happy in college and thereafter.

Monday, March 7

Hockey Action

Maddy O chases the ball.
Emanuel's A team takes on Ibstock School at the Bank of England, going down 2-zero in a hard fought match that sees our gals out-gunned in the second half. Afterwards each side gives the other two 'hips' and a 'hooray!' followed by chocolate chip cookies.

Madeleine: "It felt so good to yell out there today."
Me: "At home you're 'Madeleine Orenstein', the nerd lost behind her books."
Me: "But on the pitch it's "Maddy O", dragon of fire, fierce and determined athlete."
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "You've developed a bit of a reputation, you know."
Me: "Everybody knows your name."

Sunday, March 6

Me And Eitan

Sonnet and I now frequently reflect on the reality that the Shakespeares will soon be gone. As every parent must agree, these little people who we have watched from the beginning become so interesting. And in a heartbeat our chapter will be over and their book will begin.

Barnes SC And DofE

Eitan prepares for the Duke of Edinburgh 
I have joined the Barnes Swim Club. Practises are in the evenings from 8-9:30PM so not practical but the weekends are 10:30AM for two hours. So, after 28 years, I complete my first workout of 4.5km. As I tell Jan, a New Zealander who trained for 18 months in Ft Lauderdale and now in London and cut like Adonis: "I preferred the old model" when it comes to me. I keep up with him using flippers. At this age, I could care less about etiquette.

Eitan comes in late Friday night and so unable to pack for his D of E overnight "survival" in Surrey. The temperatures around zero and sleeting and I have to force him to take my heavy winter jacket. In the car I ask if he's got his credit card? and he shrugs no way. Some things must be learned the hard way I suppose.

Madeleine: "Can I have some money for dinner?" [Dad's note: Madeleine has some friends over for dinner]
Me: "How much?"
Madeleine: "forty pounds."
Me: "What? When I was your age I never asked for $60 dollars for dinner."
Madeleine: "Yeah because that was like 50 years ago."
Me: "It's a fair point."
Madeleine: "It's my turn anyway. To pay for dinner."
Me: "What does Mom say?"
Madeleine: "40."
Me: "I'll transfer it now. Moe would never approve."
Me: "Now is when I say 'money doesn't grow on trees.'"
Madeleine: "Whatever Dad. Can you just do it now?"

Friday, March 4

Lord Of The Flies

Eitan is Ralph
Eitan is "Ralph" in the school class play "Lord Of The Flies". It's a long showing, to, or about 45 minutes which means the small cast must know their lines. Cold. Eitan is admirable in the lead role, which he is somehow suited for.

From Cliff's Notes: Ralph. The elected leader of the boys and the main protagonist. He is neither the smartest nor the strongest but has a kind of quiet charisma and good looks. He tries to keep the boys focused on domestic order and the rules of civilization but loses his authority and almost his life to Jack's seizure of power.

The boy is happy when it is done.

Tuesday, March 1

Shake It Up

Katie celebrates with her friends Lisa Witter and Jacki Zehner, the CEO of Women Moving Millions, at the WMM gala last summer (WMM mission statement: "To catalyse unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls"). Peas in a pod.

Eitan: "I have an overnight. For the Duke of Edinburgh." [Dad's note: The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (known as DofE) is for those of 14 - 24 years and has three award levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, based on volunteering, physical, skills and expedition. It is not milquetoast]
Madeleine: "You're camping?"
Eitan: "Yeah. We are testing our survival skills."
Me: "By 'survival' do you mean 'time between trips to McDonald's?'"
Sonnet: "Don't listen to your father."
Me: "Just make sure you take a credit card."
Eitan: "Why should I take a credit card."
Me: "Isn't this about survival?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "So take a credit card. Tesco is your oyster."
Me: "Well I'm glad that's sorted."

Godzilla Rises

Today is Super Tuesday in the US and we are all interested in Trump, whose fat face is about everywhere. The Republicans have created him, they deserve him, and God hope he does not become the next US president. Interestingly Bernie Sanders polls better against Trump than Clinton - not surprising, I suppose, given the shrinking Middle Class like a bunch of angry hornets. They are pissed off at the status quo, Washington and mainly the Republican party who has delivered them nothing. They don't want an insider like Hillary or Rubio who might actually be able to govern. No, they want blood.

Because of Trump, Senate seats that should not be contested are suddenly in play. The Senate not helping itself by failing to meet any proposed SCJ nomination by Obama to replace that fuck Scalia and his anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-gun, Citizens United court. 

The waters have been poisoned for many years and now Godzilla rises from the radioactive muck.

Sunday, February 28

Surf's Up

So, in fact, Madeleine turned 14 earlier this month. Her birthday present a 7' surf-board, for which she campaigned following a family week spent in Marina Del Mar, Oceanside, California in December where the kid stood up. Pictured.

There is, I am aware, good surfing in England - mainly in Devon and Cornwall (about 5 hours drive from London) - but the water is typically below 60 degrees and requires a 4/3 density suit, booties, gloves and a hoodie to be tolerable. The water coldest in the first quarter but such things no deterrent for our surfer girl, who begs me to take her for a weekend or longer. It will come if only to ensure she uses here present once.

Madeleine via text about something: Thankyoooooooo❤️
Immediate follow up: Emoji unintended

Madeline text: Can you do me a favour? Because I don't know how the printer works can u print off 3 different versions of McBeth witches for me?

I send Madeleine a text photo of Vermeer's 'Girl With A Pearl Ear Ring."
Madeleine text response: That's a cool painting Dad.

Saturday, February 27

English National Cross Country Championships

Eitan and I head north to Leicester for the English x-country nationals, the culmination of the season and a lot of hard work. We enjoy a pleasant enough ride along the M1, stopping for refreshments and to pick up the "Planet Of The Apes" cd which we listen to along the way. We chat about various things and he graciously accepts my views on training, racing etc. though he outgrew my advise some long time ago.

We stay at classy Best Western hotel with, weirdly, a Marco Pierre White restaurant which suggests strongly that the chef's franchise has fallen off the shelf. Anyways, it's Friday night, and the town is dressed up and ready to drink. Tomorrow the hotel hosts a "fancy wedd'n" (our receptionist gushes) "which is Medieval themed".

The boy and I turn out the lights early, then up at 7AM (me) and 9AM (Eitan) then to Donington Park where the 4.5km course is a circle loop around an ancient castle. Of note, there is a serious hill at the 2km mark. Paula Radcliffe has won the race a number of times as has Mo Farah. Good company.

The event is organised like a thumb over a smooth stone.  Eitan's U15s hosts 500+ boys who line up across a combed field. Bang, they're off, narrowing quickly to a single 'shoot', huffing and puffing and sprinting for position. Eitan is in the mix, up front.

Our hero runs a solid race, about 75th at the half and around the same at the end. He is pleased with his performance. We hit McDonald's on the drive home.

Tuesday, December 15

Purisma Creek

Roger and I hike the Purisma Creek Redwoods Reserve, on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Half Moon Bay. The canyon offers towering redwoods, a rushing creek and understory of ferns, berries and wildflowers. Coastal scrub and hardwood forests of tanoak, madrone and Douglas fir border the cool, moist canyon. Since rain, damp and brooding.


The last we saw Roger, Box had gone public and now we see the fruits of the IPO: a shiny new building in Redwood City straight out of a Stanley Kubrick movie with automatic industrial lighting, painted walkways with coded numbers identifying offices and conference rooms and immaculate white work stations (desks which can be raised for standing).  Lunch and drinks still free. The self-serve snack-bar 24/7. Keg on every floor. Since an Internet company, there is a nap room. I want in.

Roger's team responsible for the partnership'n and revenue generat'n. His team multi-national which means Indian. I am certain they have a good time. Roger's style, aferall.

At the Hertz car rental. Agent: "What's your postal code. For the credit card."
I offer my postal cod.
Agent: "What kind of a postal code is that?"
Me: "It's in London."
Agent: "You live in London?"
Me: "Yes. Since 1997."
Agent: "Why'd you move to London?"
Me: "It's either a job or a girl."
Agent: "Damn straight." He offers his hand and we shake.

A Gathering

Sonnet and her cousins in Denver on the sad news of Bill Stanfill's passing. Missing from the photo is Derek.

Sunday, December 13


Confederate Flag, Confederate War Cemetery, Raleigh, NC
Two battles outside of Raleigh at the Civil War's end, Averasboro and Bentonville, flooded the capital with wounded to the point that private residents were taking in soldiers. The battle of Averasboro was meant to slow General Sherman and his fire-happy troops, who had just torched Georgia and made their way north through South Carolina uncontested.

500+ unknown tombstones.

Party Night

Meanwhile, back in London, Eitan invited to an evening affair, suit required. The Boy hits the High Street and finds himself a suit from a charity shop for £7.50.  With my tie, looking pretty good. Rusty agrees.

Now in Berkeley, I do a five mile out-and-back on Wild Cat Canyon Road at sunrise.

Cross Country

Ocean Pacific
My rest of week takes me on a tour of American cities and small airports : Columbus, Ohio (where I visit my mother's childhood house in Upper Arlington and charm the Ohio State gal who let's me swim at the athletic aquatic centre); Springfield, IL (home of Lincoln and a working town; my hotel - a Hilton - 30 stories, cities tallest by 25, with steak restaurant on floor 30), Austin, Texas, Phoenix AZ (I stay at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Biltmore; 6AM sunrise jog followed by some some lap swimming) and San Diego, just in time for sunset - Pictured.

In La Jolla I try to find the cove for an ocean swim to a buoy and back - something I did in swimming camp, 1983 - but, alas, the the waves coming in at 7 or 8 feet.

Donal Trump and his mischief everywhere.

Saturday, December 12


Sarah Cain: The Imaginary Architecture of Love
Sonnet and I visit the Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum, which has an exhibition on Joseph Mitchell and the Big Ears music festival in North Carolina. It doesn't really work, but I do buy a couple books by Mitchell.

"Joseph Mitchell was a devoted Brooks Brothers suit-and-fedora man. Between 1938 and 1965 he became one of the most influential writers in The New Yorker magazine’s history. Using fabled, lean prose, he chronicled the city’s fading neighborhoods, fish markets, overgrown cemeteries, and abandoned hotels, people and places bypassed by mainstream culture. In 1964, after the publication of his seminal work Joe Gould’s Secret, Mitchell stopped publishing. He reported to The New Yorker’s offices everyday without submitting another piece. Yet he kept wandering. Instead of chronicling voices, he collected abandoned objects—19th-century door knobs, scraps of housing trim, keys, and nails. In his small Manhattan apartment, he squirrelled away remnants from the world he’d written about, before it was gone."

Back home, an under-floor kitchen gas leak discovered by the engineers replacing the street's Victorian metal gas pipes with plastic. Lucky to find it. 


UNC campus
I spend a wonderful day with old London friend Brad Ives, who is Associate Vice Chairman for Campus Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. He basically oversees everything including the coal powered plant which supplies the UNC's gas power.  His budget: $175 million, with a team of 650 University employees and 450 contracted employees. He is also University’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

Prior, Brad was NC Assistant Secretary to Natural Resources responsible for the State Parks, Zoo, Aquariums, Museum of Natural Sciences & Marine Fisheries. He led passage of state law regulating siting of wind farms to address military flights and migratory bird patterns.

In short, Brad has changed his environment, he has had an impact. And pretty cool, too.

He shows the Triangle and we visit NC State, Duke and UNC. He exudes knowledge and pride, having grown up in a small town in North Carolina and attending UNC undergrad on a Moorhead Cain scholarship.

Friday, December 11

Modern Art

What the hell?

I like it!

Raleigh Museum

North Carolina Museum of the Arts
Catching up a bit here, I depart London last week on Thursday for Charlotte, SC, and a bunch of meetings followed by a flight to Raleigh where I meet .. Sonnet for the weekend.  We visit a bunch of museums, go for some walks through Raleigh, enjoy each others company. 

Wednesday, December 2

Climate Talks

I am in Paris this week and the security visible : Gendarmes on every corner with automatic machine guns, batons and body armour - and not only in the 8th, the wealthiest of arrondisments and where the Élysée Palace is located along with the French the government. The rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, le plus à la mode, has barely any pedestrians when I arrive in the morning time, though things more alive in the evening. The mood however is overall glum.

Yet cheered up by Barack Obama who is in Paris for the kick-off of the climate talks and the last chance to save the planet. We are off to an auspicious start as Obama's motorcade of 20 town-cars and SUVs rumble along the street outside Astorg's offices.

Me: "What do you think of global warming?"
Eitan: "Pretty terrible."
Me: "Do you know about the Paris climate conference?"
Eitan: "Uh, no. Why?"
Me: "Because it effects you. Do you think about it?"
Eitan: "Not really."
Me: "Fair enough. But it's coming."

"Don't sit back and wait for them to attack us."
--David Cameron presents his reason to bomb ISIS