Saturday, April 30

Madeleine Starts A Business

Madeleine, without any suggestion from me or anybody, thinks up "Dream Clean", a gardening service, pictured. She sets out to canvas the neighborhood so I join to make sure everything Ok; her pitch perfect : "Hello, I am Madeleine. Me and my friend, Billy, have started a new business, 'Dream Clean.' We rake all the leaves, pull weeds, sweep, clip and tidy up. It is six pounds." Within an hour she has 2 and half customers and I throw in our house so she adds up the maths: "that's £21, Dad!" Eitan sniffs an opportunity and asks to join the business but Madeleine demures - as she should. Her idea, her effort. Why share ?

This morning Madeleine and I march down the block to No 22 with two rakes, a broom, some clippers, one saw and a bunch of green refuse bags. I am quality control. Mr X's front yard requires a half-day's work - more than the business plan anticipated - but we have a good time hacking through bushes and pulling weeds. By afternoon we are nearly done so Madeleine asks for the final check and gets a "thumbs up". I walk out-of-sight so she and her customer can complete their business. Madeleine returns with 15 quid - a fortune. She remains poker faced until 20 yards from the house then lets out a giant "Whoopie!" The kid is in business.

'Murderers's End' Continues . . .

Detective Bob started to pack his bag! He left on Friday, he had said goodbye to his wife and his children then set out [Dad's note : Madeleine decided that Detective Bob's wife being murdered too gruesome]. His crew of detectives were waiting for him by the office.
Bob's friend, Peter, was a well known detective. He had seen many crimes and knew what to do. Peter would tell Bob stories of what he had done. Not all of them were nice, but Bob had gotten used to them.
Bob stopped and gasped. Blood, everywhere ..... and a huge lake. "What can we do?" trembled Bob.
"Never fear Peter is here!" cried Peter. "I can call my good old friend, Tumnes, he is sure to bring us a boat!" cried Peter.
Ten minutes later. "Ahhhh, here he comes now with a nice big boat." said Peter. "See, you can always count on MY friends can't you?"
"Yes, yes, now let's get on board this ship!" shouted Bob.
"All aboard!" yelled Bob and they began.
The sea was very, very, very, cold. One day Alex screamed and pointed out the biggest monster. It was twice the size of the ship! Alex did a stupid thing of diving in the water. Unfortunately he got eaten.
Bob, expecting to hear Peter cry "Do not fear Peter is hear" but instead he heard a splash and a scream. Peter had been eaten too!
"I know what to do!" yelled Max.
"Get the meat of four cows and three pigs and one horse and put them in the cannon and fire out as far as you can he will follow it!" cried Max.
Two minutes later, "Have you go the meat?" asked Max.
"Yes," said Tom.
"Good, now fire!!!" roared Max.
"It worked, the beast is gone!" cried Bob.
"Land ho!" yelled Tom.
"Max you are a hero!!!" Tom, Bob and everyone shouted.

The story continues.

Friday, April 29

It's Official

Kate and William take their vows - the first Royal Kiss, pictured (Eitan tells me they kiss twice). The Queen, being The Queen, confers the ancient title of Duke of Cambridge on her Grandson knowing full well that his future is her future and the future of the monarchy. In a flash they are relevant again : this is one heck of a Fairy Tell that us commoners, whoever we are and wherever we may be, can celebrate in full. Not so in '81 BTW in that pre-arranged and gloriously choreographed affair. The British do pomp and circumstance like nobody's business and today The Firm is "on".

Sonnet watches the Big Show and breathlessly notes the dress : Alexander McQueen ! The choice seems unusual since McQueen committed suicide last year but, Sonnet tells me, the McQueen brand important for British fashion : celebrity, creative and avant guard. This is a global niche filled by British design shops - Kate agrees. Of greater importance - she is stunning, as is her sister, Pippa, whose swishing derriere watched by 2 billion people. These gals have been on some kind of training diet, no doubt.

The kids, for their part, watch like they watch any television. Madeleine becomes bored and chases Rusty in the backyard. Eitan considers certain peculiarities like what happens to the horse manure on The Mall leading to the castle? Why are there so many Americans ? Why would anybody want to marry a girl anyway ?

And Great Britain : the world may be coming to a standstill but the country has reason to celebrate its Royals and itself. The banks are closed, bunting everywhere and block-parties fill the streets with cucumber sandwiches and joy; and, yes, a youthful Prince and Princes : the future as ever before us.

Sonnet wonders if the Queen sings "God Save The Queen" and, moments later, we see that she doesn't.

Thursday, April 28

Olympic Tx

Mo Farah, pictured (AP photo), a Somali-born British athlete, is a great prospect for London 2012. Mo holds the British road record for 10,000 metres, the British indoor record in the 3000 metres, the British track record for 5000 metres and the European indoor record for 5000 metres. On 27 July 2010 Farah won Britain's first-ever men's European gold medal at 10,000 m in a time of 28 minutes 24.99 seconds. He followed this with a gold in the 5000 m, becoming the 5th athlete to complete the long-distance double at the championships and the first British man to do so. A bad ass.

Tickets for the 2012 summer Olympics closed on 27 April - there were > 20 million applications for 6.6 million seats, making it the most sough-after event in UK history. Wowza. At least half the sessions sold out and the opening ceremony is ten times oversubscribed. 95% of the applications had come from the UK. In all, 1.8 million people participated who, on average, sought 11 tickets from £20 to £2,012 each.

The cost of the Olympics, which is now somewhere over £10 billion and up from £2.5 b suggested to the Olympics Committee, passed on to us via tickets and taxes since the British Government picking up the full tab. Of course the games to regenerate East London - they better - and improve our transportation and underground networks - we hope. I have visited the Olympic grounds at Athens which are depressing : unused, unloved. And who can forget Montreal in '76 which the city still paying for?

Me, I love that the Olympics are on the door step. Sure, it is expensive and even irresponsible how much money I may pay for tickets but, hey, this is something special. Go with the flow, I say.

Wednesday, April 27

Arcon Payloader

My and Madeleine's rocket nearly complete, pictured, requiring only black fin paint and the decals. Then blast off, baby. I have yet to investigate if one is actually allowed to launch, you know, a missile in Richmond Park given the flight path to Heathrow follows the nearby Thames. I do, however, note a park-posting that propeller-powered model airplanes permitted yet not meant above 40 feet. My D12-7 Estes Model Rocket Motors promise 2,500 feet of lift which is, like, a multiple on London's tallest building. I can understand a worry.

Madeleine: "Mom, when I grow up, I want to live in California. If I have kids, I want to raise them there."
Sonnet: "That's great. You've got an American passport. You can do that."
Madeleine: "The problem with that is I would be far away from you."
Sonnet: "Well maybe by that time I will be living in California too. Oh, but maybe you wouldn't want me living that close to you."
Madeleine: "Don't worry, Mom. By then I will be over the teen-age years. It will be fine."

Madeleine: "Can I have some ice cream?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "Today is opposite day. Wednesday is always opposite day. So when you say 'no,' it really means 'yes' and I am gong to have some ice cream."
[Madeleine opens the refridgerator.]
Me: "Go ahead, have some. There won't be any consequences. I assure you."

Beef Valley

Tweed Valley, a long, deep valley in Scotland sometimes called "Devil's Beeftub" or even "Devil's Beef Valley."

Me: "What did you learn in school?"
Madeleine: "We didn't actually do any real learning today."
Me: "Oh, really? What did you do?"
Madeleine: "We cooked."
Madeleine: "And we are studying everything there is to know about Scotland."
Me: "Cool, now we're talking. Where is Scotland?"
Madeleine: "I don't know. They didn't teach that yet."
Madeleine: "We learned about Devil's Beef Valley."
Me: "What's that?"
Madeleine: "It is where murderers hid beef. Stolen cows. I mean it is where murderers hid stolen cows."
Me: "You're kidding."
Madeleine: "Look it up on Google."

[Dad's note: I googled "Devil's Beef Valley" and, indeed, there is a "Devil's Beeftub" which, Travels In Scotland helpfully informs us, draws its name "as a popular (and safe) place to graze stolen cattle."]

"Beware Dog Around"

Madeleine takes it upon herself to warn robbers of Rusty - she is outside painting some wood after I decide that carving the message dangerous - using a thick marker on sticky labels, which now plaster the garden gate. Just wait 'til mom gets home.

I am in Paris yesterday and enjoy spring. Spring! Paris is the only place to be this time of year and I sit in Jardin Tuileries and sunbathe. I had scheduled time for a museum - maybe the Louvre or the Petit Palais - but I cannot be bothered.

I arrive home to find a banner draped across the hallway: "Welcome home Dad!"

Madeleine: "Can I take these scissors and cut Rusty's hair?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "It is getting long. Especially around his tail."
Me: "No way Madeleine."
Madeleine: "Don't you trust me?"
Me: "Of course I do. This has nothing to do with trust."
Madeleine: "You don't trust me. Well I am going to cut Rusty's hair."
Me: "Two words: Dead. Meat."
Madeleine: "Sheesh, Dad, stop looking at me that way."

Me: "Madeleine, do you think you will ever go on a date with a boy?"
Madeleine: "That was so random, Dad."
Me: "Well, what do you think?"
Madeleine: "How should I know? I'm not an outcast."
Me: "Well, if you do, make sure he treats you well."
Sonnet: "Hear, hear."
Me: "And he has to bathe. I won't let anybody smelly in the house."
Madeleine: "Oh, Dad."
Me: "Only the best for you kiddo."

Madeleine: "If a robber tries to get in our house, and Rusty attacks him, will they [the humane society] kill Rusty?"
Me: "I don't think the robber has anything to worry about."
Madeleine: "But it is illegal for a dog to attack a robber."
Me: "If Rusty could talk, he would be, like, 'come on in and help yourself to the television.'"
Madeleine: "We have to warn the robbers. I know! I will put signs up! 'Dog Around' signs!"
Sonnet: "That is a great idea, Madeleine."
Me: "How about if we paint the sign on the house. Out in front?"
Madeleine: "Really?!"

Sunday, April 24


Sonnet, who no longer seems exasperated with me, sends this photo of Eitan and Madeleine and the three Zs from this morning in Oxford.

It is Easter Sunday which, I am told by Radio 4's Gardner's Hour (on, in the background, as I do some gardening) is the business gardening day of the year.


If you do a google image search for "British youth" the results produce under-age drunks, tarts and louts. Fine impression of today's yuf but that is not this blog.

Marshall's son graduated college yesterday and so I note, without much thinking, Oscar Wilde : "youth is wasted on the young"; Marshall replies: "It's not. Only it goes by too quick".

I love this, and other photos, by Hedi Slimane (born July 5, 1968 in Paris) who is a French fashion designer of Tunisian, Italian-Brazilian origins. Slimane studied political sciences (hypokhâgne prépa Sciences-Po), and Art History at the École du Louvre, and was also educated as a tailor. From 1992 to 1995 he worked for Jean-Jacques Picart, notably on the centenary exhibition of Louis Vuitton's "LV" monogramme label. This has given him access to the great and the good.


Washington Trust helpfully tells us: "Effective financial coordination and management is the ultimate work product of a successful family office. Planning and follow through—short-term and long-term—can improve a family's overall financial legacy and maximize the advantages of its assets." What they are really saying is don't pay taxes.

Fair is fair but unfortunately in the United States it is not: according to the Survey of Consumer Finances (sponsored by the Federal Reserve), wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of families. The wealthiest 1 percent of families owns roughly 34.3% of the nation's net worth, the top 10% of families owns over 71%, and the bottom 40% of the population owns way less than 1%.

The distribution of wealth is much more unequal than the distribution of income, especially when focusing on the bottom 60% of all households. The bottom 60% of households possess only 4% of the nation's wealth while it earns 26.8% of all income (Data for 2004). Lest you think it is mobility that counts, this debunked by Stanford and other research which shows movement between quintiles more or less static : where you are born is mostly where you will stay in America.

And so I wonder: which is a better measure of societal inequality - wealth or income? Here is what (the discredited) Alan Greenspan said: "Ultimately, we are interested in the question of relative standards of living and economic well-being. We need to examine trends in the distribution of wealth, which, more fundamentally than earnings or income, represents a measure of the ability of households to consume."

Saturday, April 23

Me And Rusty

After infuriating Sonnet by not going to Oxford this week-end, something she had planned for a while, I take Rusty for a loop of Richmond Park and now - delightedly- have the house to myself. Amen.

The hot afternoon has broken with thunderstorms and lightening. I am going to order pizza and stay up late watching TV.


Sonnet and I to Camden for Airborne Toxic Event. Beforehand we have a drink in Primrose Hill with Dana and Nathan and watch them juggle a whole lot of DNA - youngest Sierra nine months old. Dana walks us across the Regent's Canal, by Kate Moss's house, where we meet Simon and Sabi for the concert. Simon went to Uni nearby and, in his yuf, at Koko (then Camden Palace) every Friday or Saturday - Simon's dad was the CEO of EMI Film and Simon had a cool college job that gave him cred and some dough. He notes that his last time at Koko was '85 so, yes, we are on the older side of the averages but feeling young. After the show we go to a Spanish restaurant whose owner gently asks us to leave as we linger well beyond his last customer. A great evening.

Madeleine and I go for a walk in Richmond Park. Madeleine: "You know that pocket knife you gave me?"
Me: "Yes ."
Madeleine: "Where did it come from?"
Me: "Your grandfather gave it to you. Moe and I discussed the knife, which was very special to him. We thought you were ready for it."
Madeleine: "Was it his father's?"
Me: "It is a good question, I don't know. What are some of your other valuable things?"
Madeleine: "My microscope, the koala bear. Money. I have 105 pounds."
Me: "What is the most valuable thing you have?"
Madeleine: "Rusty?"
Me: "How about your genetic composition, love? You can make another human being just like you."
Madeleine: "Maybe if I have a kid I will give him my pocket knife."

Me: "So, Madeleine, after nine years what do you think of the world we live in?"
Madeleine: "It's kind of odd."
Me: "Yes?"
Madeleine: "Some places are good and other places are at war. I would like there to be more plants. And no one to kill animals. I would want it to be peaceful."
Me: "Do you like London?"
Madeleine: "No."
Madeleine: "It is too rowdy. I like Berkeley. I like San Francisco."
Me: "You and me both kid."

Friday, April 22

Semroc Astronautics

Madeleine and I assemble the Semroc "IQSY Tomahawk" which is a "1/10 semi-scale model, historical sounding rocket" which is "fun to build and fly" with "laser cut fins". My foray into rockets started with Berkeley neighbor Todd, four years older, and all that. Todd and I got ourselves into bugs and Star Trek and first-bikes, paper airplanes, tree forts, go-carts and .. model rockets. This would have been '77 or '78. Todd is now a firefighter in Chico and I am thrilled to rediscover an inch of my youth.

From the packaging:

"Semroc Astronautics Corp. was started by Carl McLawhorn in his college dorm at North Carolina State University in November, 1967. Convincing a small group of investors in his home town of Ayden, NC, to invest in a small corporation, the company was reincorporated as Semroc Astronautics on December 31, 1969.

Semroc produced a full line of model rocket kits and engines. At its peak, Semroc had twenty-five full time employees working at two facilities. One was for research and development, printing, shipping, and administration. The other was outside town and handled all production and model rocket engine manufacturing. For several years, Semroc was successful selling model rocket kits, supplies and engines by mail-order and in hobby shops. In 1971, Semroc became involvement and had to close its doors.

After 31 years of dreams and preparations, Semroc Astronautics Corporation was reincorporated on April 2, 2002, with a strong commitment to helping put the fun back into model rocketry."

Count Down

Well, be still my beating heart, we are inside one week of the Royal Nuptials. Bunting appears on the High Street; Kate's photo everywhere; the dailies cover the couple doggedly : The guest list! The Wedding Dress! The Final Shopping! The Honeymoon! Thank goodness Kate and Wills attractive since they will be in our house, like, every day for evermore. For all those grumpy anti-Royals, thank goodness Kate is no Fergie or her bug-eyed daughters. Or peaches.

Photo by Pippa Middleton's stolen camera.


Madeleine and Ava have a number of similarities easily noticed : tom boys, short hair cuts, same colour eyes. Similar disinclination for maths. Same taste in pajamas. Sonnet is Ava's Godmother and treats the crew to the V & A which, Halley whispers to Willem on the telephone: "was better than we expected."

Missing from my photo (Madeleine points out just now from over my shoulder) is the "Natco Dried Chillies" whose seed oil so hot it burns the mouth. The chilis unbearingly uncomfortable so I dare the kids to try a scrape and they do, screaming in pain. The container, in Hindu and English, suggests "Best used sparingly and handled with care." Madeleine wanted to include the jar in my photo.

Thursday, April 21

Gone In A Wink

Madeleine has a hard time re-assembling Tommy's Habitrail after a cleaning. She asks for help and I tell her, angrily: "You will face adversity, even at your age, more challenging than a hamster cage" which makes her cry.

Imperial AT-AT Walker

This "Walker", super-imposed onto something that could be Europe in the last century, is pretty cool.

The AT-AT, or "All Terrain Armored Transport", designed to favor "fear over function", is manned by two men to drive the vehicle and can carry up to five speeder bikes and 40 Imperial stormtroopers. The walkers carry two blasters and two laser cannons. Manufactured by Kuat Drive Yards, Expanded Universe sources describe the AT-AT as being either 15 or 22.5 meters tall. Their armor is resistant to most standard blaster weapons; however, the "neck" column of the walker holds no such invulnerability and, if shot, can cause the entire walker to be destroyed. The AT-AT is the primary assault vehicle during the Battle of Hoth, first depicted in The Empire Strikes Back.

In the "Empire Strikes Back", the AT-ATs responsible for destroying the shield generator protecting the Rebel headquarters, taking out many soldiers, vehicles, and installations in the process. One walker destroyed when a Rebel Alliance Snowspeeder wraps a tow cable around the legs, causing its collapse. Another AT-AT destroyed by Luke, who damages critical systems underneath the walker with his lightsaber and a grenade. The AT-AT also makes a cameo appearance inReturn of the Jedi, where one guards a landing platform on Endor.

Source: "All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT walker) (Behind the Scenes)" . Star Wars Databank. Lucasfilm

"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. "
--President George Bush, September 21, 2004

Sonnet And Halley

Halley, Zoe and Ava join us for the pre-Easter run-up. Easter a Big Deal in the UK and tomorrow begins a four-day weekend. In fact, we are in "bank holiday" heaven with the next four weeks shortened+a bonus holiday thanks to Kate and Wills, God bless. An economist on Radio 4 tries to dampen our good vibe by suggesting that the lost productivity from not working will not help us reduce our national debt. As if.

I recall our 4th floor flat in Maida Vale which overlooked the other town houses. Each year this time a neighbor put her beach chair on the roof deck and, with reflective mirror, sunned herself.

The kids themselves up to the usual stuff: water fight, ManU game (Ava a Manchester United fan and Eitan accepts her despite her being in the enemy camp, ie, girl)+they walk Rusty, go to Richmond Green for an ice cream and lie in the grass.

Many of our friends on ski-holidays or to sunny climes; me, I am happy to water the plants and do some gardening. A few hours of work maybe. Tonight we will watch the final season of Mad Men recently released on DVD. Bliss, baby.

Tomato Sprouts

Eitan and I dive into veg and watch the hatchlings from seed. With care we transfer the sprouts from their incubator into larger pots protected from the outside, inside. The dog has murdered half our crop but we have hope.

And did you know ... tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597 and largely plagiarized from continental sources (like my blog here) is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew that the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed that it was poisonous (NB the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous). Gerard's views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating for many years in Britain.

By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of the century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated that the tomato was "in daily use" in soups, broths, and as a garnish. In Victorian times, cultivation reached an industrial scale in glasshouses, most famously in Worthing. Pressure for housing land in the 1930s to 1960s saw the industry move west to Littlehampton and to the market gardens south of Chichester. Over the past 15 years, the British tomato industry has declined as more competitive imports from Spain and the Netherlands have reached the supermarkets.

Wednesday, April 20

Getting Ready For Again

I'm in Green Park whose green space reduced to a postage stamp in preparation for the Royal Wedding -- as the reception at Buckingham Palace, the festive area will cover The Mall, St Jame's Park and Green Park. 

Large white tents, lighting and security installed and there are hundreds of worker bees preparing for the Big Day. Behind all this is, well, Kate Middleton - a "commoner" without aristocratic lineage. I am all for the fairy tale wedding BTW - why not enjoy it? 

 The country has a reason to celebrate itself and the next Royal couple will provide endless entertainment forevermore. Kate already occupies a small space in our collective waking conscious. She signed on for it.

In their first public appearance together following their February 1981 engagement announcement, Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles attend a Royal Opera benefit at London's Goldsmith Hall. Lady Diana shocks the crowd by appearing in a low-cut, strapless black taffeta evening gown. "Lady Di Takes the Plunge," screams the front page of The Daily Mirror, with splendid photos of "Shy Di" spilling out of her revealing gown."

Tuesday, April 19


We prepare for Passover - Eitan's blazer two inches too short on the sleeve so Madeleine adds it to her costume, which includes Eitan's dress trousers, school shoes and grey-turtle neck. They look like hobos. Just once I would like to see Madeleine in a dress but this has happened just once in the last three years : Diane's wedding. We pick up Sonnet at Hammersmith Station then Chiswick for dinner.


The kids and I to the Hampton pool and, before that, a picnic in Bushy Park.

Sonnet joins the sofa during the ManU - Newcastle game.
Sonnet: "Ooo, fancy."
Eitan: "That's what they do, Mom. They pass the ball to each other."

Monday, April 18

Monday Morning

Aneta back to Czech for the week and today I am solo with the Shakespeares. It is sunny and warm so everybody in a good mood, 9AM. Eitan wants to go to the outdoor pool but Madeleine, who was on board initially, changes her mind (Madeleine: "I was not on board! I was never on board!"). We weigh the Barnes Wetland Center (Madeleine: "Yea!"; Eitan: "No!"), Kew Gardens (both: "naw"); Snakes and Ladders (Me: veto).

In the end, Madeleine relents re the pool in return for "a fizzy drink" and we are off.

Madeleine: "Dad, I have one-hundred eighty one pounds exactly."
Me: "Is that so?"
Madeleine: "And nothing to spend it on."

Sunday, April 17

Marathon Sunday

And here we are again - the London Marathon - and trust me I am delighted to be watching the front-runners on the tele with my feet up (Photo from The Telegraph, last year, at Tower Bridge). Recall, Dear Reader, 2009 a disaster when it comes to marathoning : two races, one cow suit and a combined ten miles of soul destroying misery. Of my five races, I have not once finished running. Never say never, but another marathon highly unlikely - these days, seven miles pain-free a luxury.

The inaugural London marathon in'81 had 7,741 entrants, 6,255 of whom completed the race. The first Men's Elite Race was tied between American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen, who crossed the finish line holding hands in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 48 seconds. The first Women's Elite Race was won by Briton Joyce Smith in 2:29:57. Last year's race had 35,859 entrants with 35,268 finishing (this does not make me feel especially good as I bonked out at mile 25). This year there are over 37,000 runners.

Course records have been set eight times in the men's race and eight times in the women's race. World records have been set four times. Khalid Khannouchi, representing the United States, set the men's world record in 2:05:38 in 2002. The following year, Paula Radcliffe set the women's world record in 2:15:25, which stands today and may not be broken for twenty years - no woman has come within three minutes of Paula's time. Wanjiru set the men's course record at 2:05:10 in 2009 in the Men's Elite Race. This is 4:45 miling for 26 miles.

Saturday, April 16

V&A Chandelier

I take this pic awaiting Sonnet. The V&A's Rotunda, or main entrance, home of the wonderful, 30ft high, blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly. After the original dome of the rotunda was reinforced, the chandelier installed in 2000 as the first stage of the V&A's modernisation and redevelopment.

Dale with us last night for dinner. Hard to believe that he and his family left London for TX six years ago and while we email often, this is our first re-union since 2006.
Eitan and I sit around watching videos on Youtube while Sonnet and Madeleine doing some errands and the mutt sleeps after a long walk in Richmond Park. The weather, which started off so promising, now overcast but at least it is warm - and the sun sets in the late evening. London has emptied for the Spring Easter holidays and the traffic, by my imperfect guess, down 10% which makes driving into town a joy. I wouldn't say it's lazy but close.

Eitan, dismissing my entire generation: "Madonna. Uh."

Ben & Jerry

Eitan multi-tasks.

Peter Pan

Madeleine's drama class ends this week with a performance of Peter Pan at Putney Arts Theatre. Our hero is an Indian (or "Native American" - but these Brits are not quite up for such a modern expression). Madeleine comfortable with her lines and has a nice stage presence. The 40 or so in the audience give the little dears our cheer. Afterwards Marcus joins us for a sleep-over.

Me: "Anything to say about 'Peter Pan'?"
Madeleine: "Like what?"
Me: "Were you nervous in the play?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, a little bit."
Me: "Like when?
Madeleine: "Especially when I did the dance. Remember that?" [The kids sing Alphavilles' "Forever Young" inserting various Peter Pan appropriate lyrics]
Sonnet: "Yes, I wish I could watch it every day."
Me: "Anything else?"
Madeleine: "Oh, Dad."

Me And The Boy

Friday afternoon I pick up Sonnet from Blythe House where much of the V&A's fashion collection will soon be stored. We then get Eitan from football camp in Chiswick, arriving in time to see his team win the final tournament (Eitan jumps in the air, pumps a fist) and an awards ceremony recognising the enthusiastic or better players.

Shard Of Glass

Renzo Piano's "Shard of Glass" at London Bridge will be, when completed in 2012, the tallest building in Europe and the 45th tallest building in the world. It is the second tallest free-standing structure in the UK after the 1,084 ft (330.4m) Emley Moor transmitting station. The building in all its various stages and seen by millions daily, will soon be a fading memory once the project finished.

(From wiki) In February 2009, a mobile crane and a small piling rig appeared on site.
In early March 2009, the small crane began putting steel beams into the ground, as part of preparations for the core of the building. Full construction began on 16 March 2009, with the first piling rig on site. Demolition work on the New London Bridge House started in May 2009.
The latter is an adjacent project to accompany the Shard London Bridge. The first steel work went into the piles on 27 April.
Five cranes are to be used to build the project, with four of them 'jumping' with the tower as it rises. Crane 1 was erected on 20 September and crane 2 was erected at the beginning of October.
By 20 October 2009, steel beams began appearing on site, with concrete being poured at the northern part of the site, ready for Crane 3.
By March 2010, the concrete core was rising steadily at approximately 3 metres a day.
After a pause in March–April 2010, it continued rising, reaching approximately the 33rd floor in mid-June, almost level with the top of Guy's Hospital, which stands at 143 m. The first glass panel was installed on 25 May 2010. On 27 July 2010 the core stopped rising as it had reached level 38 and needed to be reconfigured.
By mid-November 2010, the third core had reached level 68 (approx 235 m) with steel reaching level 40 and cladding enveloping a third of the building. In late November, it passed the 235 metres (771 ft) mark, relieving One Canada Square in Canary Wharf of its 18-year reign as Britain's tallest building.
The concrete core has now topped out at level 72, standing at 245 metres (804 ft).
The early part of January 2011 saw the installation of hydraulic screens. These are used to form the concrete floors that are needed for the hotel and apartment section of the tower. These will rise with the floors up to level 69. On 25 January 2011 the concrete pumps began pouring the first concrete floor at level 41.By the end of February 2011 the concrete floors had risen to level 46 with a floor being poured on average every week. The cladding has also progressed mainly on the towers "backpack" where much of its 15 levels were cladded in a month, the cladding on the main tower though had slowed due to the concrete floors being poured above.
April 2011 saw steady progress in construction and cladding had enveloped half the buildings exterior . Pouring of the concrete floors had reached level 50 and progression on the towers cladding had picked up pace once again with cladding reaching level 38.

London Tower

I am in the City to pick up my camera after droping David off following Friday morning meetings - freedom! It is a sunny day and I am surrounded by tourists. Near the Tower a young man, maybe 30, maybe Danish, asks permission to sit on my bench; he has a brief conversation which, to my eavesdropping, sounds uncomfortable. A few minutes later, a woman arrives with a huge smile and they embrace; she settles on his lap and they make out. Her accent Eastern European from who-knows-where. Since I would seem to be the odd man out, I move along.

The London Tower founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, pictured at top, gives the castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison since at least 1100, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. The Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

Me: "Did you know that there is a prison in the London Tower that fills with water as the Thames rises, killing whoever is inside?"
Eitan: "That is a horrible way to die."
Madeleine: "Burning in fire...."
Me: "How about boiling oil?"
Eitan: "I would want to go fast. By a gunshot maybe. Or my head cut off."
Madeleine: "You would want to have your head cut off Eitan?"
Me: "Like the Guilitine. Do you know what a Guillitine is?"
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "It is a large blade which they drop on your neck and- wack! - 'off with your 'ed!'"
Eitan: "That would be quick."

Friday, April 15

Correlation Ventures

I am a bit behind on my journal following a week on the road with David, who continues to raise capital for his firm, Correlation Ventures. Here we are, on a train, from Geneva to the airport.

Our week takes us from London to Amsterdam/ Rotterdam/ The Hague to Copenhagen then Switzerland and back to London to visit some family friends and institutions, who, despite a strong expressed interest in a quant-driven venture strategy, are unable to rise above themselves to support the partnership. Venture capital is a tough sell and a first-time fund with a unique approach almost, well, impossible. Despite this, we now have $50 million of commitments including three US endowments which are considered "prestige" and usually come in to well-established funds.

David's presentation nimble with enough geek to impress the statisticians, like the guy we meet from James Dyson (Dyson having invented the world's most popular vacuum cleaner- you may have one - and the "Airblade" dryer now in most big airports including SFO and Heathrow) and patience for everybody else. Time and again we must grin and bear it when somebody states grandly, usually at the end of our time, that "you can't use the past to predict the future." And of course this is true. What David is trying to do is exploit patterns, consistent in the venture industry during boom and bust, to enhance the odds, in a large portfolio, that there is a higher proportion of "winners" - companies that exit in the top 1% of outcomes for any given year. Given that no vc has a clue, at the time of investment, if his company a winner or loser (recall 90% of all start-ups fail) and a third of syndicates need money and exits equally distributed between over- and under-subscribed rounds - this is greenfield. As another David says : "game changer."

Monday, April 11

The Sounds

This cool photo of the Sounds from Christian who notes : "straight from Sweden."

Madeleine: "Did you go to school with Harry Potter?"
Me: "Harry Potter?"
Sonnet: "I think you mean Emma Watson, who goes to Brown."
Madeleine: "Yeah. Did you know her?"

Madeleine: "I want people to know my face. I want to sign autographs. I want to be a famous actress."
Me: "What do famous people have in common?"
Madeleine: "They work hard?"
Me: "Bingo."
Madeleine: "In drama I never get the big parts."
Aneta: "My first part I was a river. Glug. Glug. Glug.. ."
Sonnet: "When you go into drama class next term, tell the teacher you want a bigger part."
Me: "Well, Kid, show us some acting."
Madeleine: "Like what?"
Me: "How about 'I love you?'"
Madeleine: "Dad!"
Me: "Ok, say 'I really love that red car.' You know, with emotion."
Madeleine: "I really looove that red car."
Me: "I luva that red car witha alla my heart!"
Sonnet: "I think your daughter is trying to have a serious conversation with you."
Me: "Madeleine, if you want something honey, you have to ask for it."
Madeleine: "Give me the £40 you owe me."
Me: Touché.

Adjusting To A Global Market (1974-2011)

(From the FT) The postwar consensus broke down amid the "stagflation" of the mid-1970s, as a full-blow recession, with double-digit rates of inflation, followed the quadrupling of the oil price in 1973. Government economic policy moved towards greater acceptance of market mechanisms.

While globalisation saw much of the world's manufacturing industry moving to the emerging Asian economies, the UK economy shifted away from traditional heavy industries towards services, particularly financial services. The first decade of the new century ended with the deepest peacetime recession in 70 years.
Photograph: Nils Jorgensen

Saturday, April 9

Movie Night

Eitan: "Can I do football skills Monday afternoon?"
Madeleine: "You can't Eitan. You have cross country."
Me: "And how do you know that?"
Madeleine: "I'm not an outcast, Dad."

Eitan and Madeleine: "Family movie night!"
Sonnet: "Do you want to watch 'Ghost Busters'?"
Madeleine: "What about that other one?"
Sonnet: "'Whatever Works' by Woody Allen?"
Madeleine: "Yes! That one."
Eitan: "Is it rated?"
Sonnet: "It says it is rated 12."
Madeleine: "Eitan is worried that there is inappropriate material."
Me: "Eitan is worried that he is going to see a bottom."
Eitan: "Dad!"
Sonnet: "It says 'moderate sex references.'"
Me: "See, just like I said. A bottom . ."

Sonnet: "Eat your salad."
Madeleine: "I hate Salad."
Me: "Since when?"
Madeleine: "I've hated salad since last year."

Anthony Horowitz

The kids queue for hours to meet Anthony Horowitz, the author behind "Alex Rider." (Eitan, aware that Horowitz a Chelsea fan, was going to wear his ManU shirt so I am happy to see Sonnet ordered him to take it off). And who is Alex Rider, you might ask, as I once did ? Well, Alex Rider a teenage spy. In Britain. The series aimed primarily at young adults and, with nine novels, one of the most popular of its type. Both Madeleine and Eitan, especially Eitan, devour them.

Anthony Horowitz: "What's your name?
Eitan: "Eitan."
Alex: "What kind of a name is that?"
Eitan: "It's Hebrew."
Anthony: "Do you know what it means?"
Eitan: "No."
Anthony: "Have you ever been to Israel?"
Eitan: "No."
Anthony: "I've been there when I was writing the Alex Rider books and I think it is a very interesting country."

For the record, "Eitan" is a Hebrew name that means "steady" or "firmness", "long lived", "strength" and "forceful."
Photo by Sonnet

Prison If

We take a boat ride by the Château d'If, a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, in the Mediterranean Sea about a mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille. It is famous, Dear Reader, from Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo where Le Monsieur de la Count jailed - I read the book a couple of years ago to my great delight. Recall the main character Edmond Dantès(a commoner who later purchases the noble title of Count) and his mentor, Abbé Faria, are imprisoned in If. After fourteen years, Dantès makes a daring escape from the castle, becoming the first person ever to do so and survive. In reality, no one is known to have done this. There is also a 33 Champs-Élysées BTW where Le Count lived in the story.

The château a square, three-story building 28 m long on each side, flanked by three towers with large gun embrasures. The remainder of the island, which measures about 30,000 square meters, heavily fortified; high ramparts with gun platforms surmount the island's cliffs.The isolated location and dangerous offshore currents of the Château d'If made it an ideal escape-proof prison, like our Alcatraz. Its was a dumping ground for political and religious detainees and one of the most feared and notorious jails in France. It was built in the 15th century and one may easily marvel at the effort this must have required.

"My partner is my master."
--The Count of Monte Cristo

Night Out

I prepare for the night's affairs.


Astorg out-performs so really their annual general meeting a pretty tame affair. Astorg's Chairman, Xavier, jokes with the owner/manager of the one company whose performance has slipped since last year's review. Otherwise it is mostly good stories and valuation mark-ups. Xavier takes it upon himself to show us the best of his country and this year special as his hometown in nearby Nice. By Thursday all investors to hand and the Astorg team flies in for dinner, which is at Palais du Pharo, built under Louis Napoleon Bonaparte for the Empress Eugenie. Before supper we have a private viewing of La compangnie Julie Lestel's "corps & 'âmes", a modern dance production (pictured) that has received awards around the world and, I might suggest, a bit risqué for the crowd. Unexpected and sublime.

Astorg's younger ranks fun to watch - 28 to 32 or so, very fashionable, young and attractive - it is clear they enjoy being around each other.

Eitan now swims five nights a week for the regional squad+football+cross country. He is as gung-ho as ever when it comes to sport.

"Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever."
--Napoleon Bonaparte


I am in Marseilles from Wednesday for Astorg's annual investor meeting, which kicks off at Gerald Passedat's restaurant, Le Petite Nice, a three-star Michelin restaurant that even has the French going "oo la la." Passedat known for his fish work and so (of course) the fellow next to me does not .. eat fish. The rest of us marvel at his creations and accompanying wines which somehow improve the flavors. We have the restaurant to ourselves - about 30 of us - and drink champagne beforehand as the sun sets on the Mediterranean which spreads before us. Not bad for a Jewish kid from Berkeley.

I have not been to Marseilles since '83 when Geneve Natation participated in a competition at the then-new 50-meter Olympic pool built into the city cliffs. And there she is, looking a bit older maybe but connecting me to footsteps I walked 28 years ago.

Wednesday's menu:
Avant-goût (Foretaste)
Asperges de Pertuis au Naturel (Natural Pertuis Asparagus)
Truffe en Mini Brouillade (Mini scrambled of Truffle)
Cabris et petis pois (Goat meat, peas and vegetables)
Nouille fraîche aux Morilles (Fresh Noodles with morels)
Foie de Canard a l'inis étoilé (Foie gras with Star Anise)
Les fromage affinés (chees)
L'avant-douceur (pre-dessert)
Chrysalide de caramel au chocolat (Caramel chrysalis with chocolate)
Mignardises (Homemade delicacies)

Champagne De Souze Cuvée 3A
Cotes de Provence blanc Domain Mas de Cadenete Cuveé Mas Negrel de Cadenet 2097
Chablis premier cru Montmains 2007; Domain Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin
Cornas Les Ruchets 1999; Domaine Jean-Luc Colombo
Vin doux Naturel Rivesaltes Ambre 2006; Domaine Rossignol
(photo from the web, uncredited)

Wednesday, April 6


Eitan promoted to the regional swimming squad, which gets a bashful acknowledgement when Head Coach Mirella and club Chairman Nigel tell him he has earned his place "from hard-work and good progress." The boy now expected to train five or six times a week. We discuss his commitment to sport : swimming, football and cross-country, which he enjoys at school. At some point - not now, but soon - he will most likely have to make a choice between the three but for now, he is boundless energy and not enough hours in the day.

Rusty chases the broom - he can do this for hours.

Tuesday, April 5

Boob Tube

We have a fairly sharp policy when it comes to media: the less, the better. No Nintendo DS nor Xbox; no boob tubes in the kids' rooms (only one household television); one family computer which the kids use in the kitchen in the presence of an adult. Eitan and Madeleine have 'movie night' Thursdays and one-hour of cartoons Sunday mornings though relaxed around football, which Eitan cannot get enough of (+I enjoy watching with him). Madeleine gets her extra share, too, do not worry Dear Reader. The one exception radio : I have no problem with the wireless which, at least, exercises some imagination. They also go for CD boxsets of Hairy Potter or whatever (I sometimes find one or the other sound asleep with the player going). Sonnet and I figure the Shakespeares will spend half their waking life Facebooking and Twittering . . no need to rush them online when they should be reading and playing in dirt.

For the record, the British Market Research Bureau reports that Britain's children spend four-and-a-half hours a day in front of a TV or computer - one hour 50 minutes online and two hours 40 minutes in front of the television. It found that children spend more time in front of a screen in one day than they spend exercising in the entire week. 97 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds own a mobile phone – eight per cent more than the percentage of adults who own one.