Sunday, May 31

So Long, Oscar's

Est 1950
Oscar's burger and hot dog joint in Berkeley is closing after 65 years. A fixture from the ancient past, up there with Top Dog and Giant Burger, Oscar's took on Jack In The Box, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King and won, all opening - and closing - at various times along Shattuck Avenue. Only McDonald's survived Berkeley's fast food wars of the 1980s.

Oscars served simple greasy food which could be eaten on site or take-away through a simple slide- window on the parking side wall. The burgers weren't particularly great nor the service ever good but it was comforting to see the retro logo in an area now populated by a micro brewery and a bunch of coffee shops. I went out of my way to drive by Hearst and Shattuck just to see it. Oscar's as real to Berkeley as People's Park. Or the original Pete's.

All good things must come to an end.

Good Bye Dear Aggie

For the love of bugs
Madeleine bangs out some homework. On Friday, following exam week, her bio teacher took the class onto the school fields to search for bugs for the microscope (she draws them now for her half-term break assignment). She notes, following those exams, the kids sank into the grass and sunshine, thoroughly spent, taking a moment for themselves. Fair enough.

Aggie returns to Poland after 13 years in London. When she arrived in the UK she knew a handful of people and her English limited to classwork assignments. She joined our family as a nanny. The last 4.5 years she has been a professional at Deloittes. She plans to start a business introducing Western businesses to Poland.

Aggie: "You must come to Poland and visit me in Krakauer." 
Me: "We would love to. What we need is a beach holiday."
Sonnet: "I'm afraid those days are over for me." [Dad's note: Sonnet has been advised not to spend time in the sun as a precaution against melanomas]
Me to Madeleine: "When your mother lived in San Francisco she sunbathed on her roof deck. Naked."
Madeleine: "Dad!"
Me: "Mother. Naked."
Madeleine flees the kitchen.
Sonnet: "We loved Tortoreto Lido."

On Questions

The Christ Church bells ring, something I appreciate, along with the BBC Sunday morning program and Sonnet's waffles.

Eitan going through another "curious" phase similar to when he was 4 or 5 and everything an open question. In a real way, he is navigating similar uncharted territories trying to make sense of the world us adults have created for him . What, for instance, does a job mean? What do Sonnet and I and everybody do during the day and where does one fit in ? How to figure out one's interest and why the fuss ? What the hell is it all about, really ?

I tell him our job is to help him find his path and navigate the uncertainty as best we can as a family. I also tell him, "being a kid is hard work." That never changes.

Saturday, May 30

Dog's Life

It's about time somebody did something about FIFA and it takes the Americans, as usual. It's not like there has been a lack of evidence to nail this crummy organisation and its bribe taking members. Qatar? Seriously. Finally something fun in the news. Only question is: will they get Sepp Blatter?

While on football, the FA Cup today: Arsenal and Aston Villa. England and millions around the world tuned in to watch the beautiful game. Regeneration.

Friday, May 29

Week End

Madeleine in the garbage pale
Just another Friday.

This week has zipped by from meeting to meeting to meeting. Sonnet engrossed in McQueen and preparations for Italian Fashion which opens in Nashville, TN, next week. By my last count, 35 friends and family will descend upon the Frist Center for her exhibition.

Madeleine: "Will I have earned your respect if I climb into the garbage pale?"
Madeleine: "Will I?"
Me: "Is this a trick question?"

Sonnet, observing Eitan: "He was so cute when he was little."
Me: "At least he doesn't smell bad."
Eitan: "What are you talking about?"
Sonnet: "We were talking about how cute you were when you were little."
Eitan: "I just don't want you to feel bad when I leave for college."
Me: "Are you kidding, it's going to be the best day of my life."
Sonnet: "I'm going to be really sad but I'm not going to show it."
Eitan, me:
Sonnet: "Didn't Grace break down in the airport when you went to Switzerland?"
Me, Eitan:
Sonnet: "Are you listening?"

Monday, May 25

Katy J

Katy, whom I have know since 1985, visits for the bank holiday weekend. Katy is at Oxford where she is a Senior Researcher in the Environmental Change Institute. She recently raised £500K to study energy strategies in the retail sector. In the UK, surprisingly, there is little information on energy use for commercial and public spaces. Katy is looking to better understand how these organisations can be run more efficiently.  When not on campus, she is happily hiking or biking in the English countryside.

Sunday, May 24

Madeleine Runs

Proud mum
Madeleine competes the 800m at the Surrey County Championships, a UK regional race. Her time of 2:32 just off her standard and nets her fourth in her hear (top 2 advance). She runs a smart race, starting out slowly then picking off three girls on the final lap. 

Proving one can teach an old dog new trips, Rusty learns how to jump in to the car boot. Maybe it's that you can't teach a dumb dog new tricks. Anyway it makes our life easier not to have to chuck the dog in the back since he ways 30 lbs.

Sonnet: "I would love to see Fleetwood Mac."
Me: "We can. They're playing at the Isle of Wight Festival this summer."


Terminal 5
Eitan leaves Saturday morning bright and early for an American football camp in Stuttgart, Germany. At play: an invitation to the Olympic Development Program (ODP) Region 1 in Pennsylvania, July 2015. US coaches are scouting for players to attend.

Eitan, who has not travelled solo outside of school excursions or, on occasion, with Madeleine (swimming camp, Grandparents) connects with Rocco at the airport and all is good (Rocco's dad, Peter, is from Holland and so utterly dependable). I give him an awkward hug and off the boy goes.

We have Madeleine to ourselves and Katy joins us from Oxford (Madeleine ditches for Richmond to hang out with a friend, returning 9PM. Connected by mobile of course)

Sonnet walks into Madeleine's room, 11AM. Madeleine: "Mom I'm still in my pajamas"

Friday, May 22

Best Coast

Electric Ballroom, Camden
Friday again. Three day bank holiday weekend. The London mood: giddy.

Madeleine's exams come back and she pulls the 3rd top score on her history exam, 4th in drama and well above average on RS. The history prof notes before handing out the exams that today's result but a grain of sand on the beach of life. Madeleine: "we were kind of worried."

Thursday, May 21

Happy 47

Love of my life
Sonnet the Birthday Girl wakes 6:05AM and out the door to yoga (I roll over, long day ahead). She pampers herself, taking a day off to do her nails, bake a maple cake, bake pulled porc and BBQ sauce which is FABULOUS. We sing our gal happy birthday and so very grateful to have her in our lives.

Last night Sonnet and I go to Camden's Electric Cafe to see LA band Best Coast, which Christian and I caught five years ago at a small venue in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. They were excellent then, excellent now. Since the lead singer Bethany Cosentino (think shampoo. Think hair) there is a large supportive female audience and lots of happy couples on dates (I imagine) or between shagging sessions. This is London afterall and it is springtime.

Madeleine completes her final year-end exam - physics, 26 pages, our gal reports. She is home free. Eitan's exams after next week's half-term break, poor kid. 

V&A Develoment

Self Portrait XXXXIV
In January 2014, the V&A broke ground on a new entrance, courtyard and purpose-built subterranean gallery for temporary exhibitions facing the Exhibition Road across from the Sciences Museum. The budget for the project is £49 million with 80% raised by private donations so far. The naming of the entrance goes for a cool £5 million.

Recently I have joined the museum's Corporate Development Board, invited by Standing Chair of the Trustees, Nicholas Coleridge, who is also the President of Condé Nast. Our aim is to raise support for projects and exhibitions with a particular focus on the 30 and 40 year old jet set who may comprise the museum's future funding base, taking over from an older generation of donors.

We have a tour of the work site led by the project engineer who informs me the courtyard will slope slightly downward allowing for a grande entrance stairway; underneath two galleries and a coffee bar offering 1000s of feet of modern use space. Several massive beams 5 ft in diameter hold the ancient building up as the digging goes down. We learn that the "services" (electrics, piping and cables) took nine months to be removed and, as the original building dates to the 1840s, there was no master plan ("a bit of a mess" our guy tells us). 

The expected opening is for late 2016.

Tuesday, May 19

rue d'Italie

A golden year
I spent my 16th year being educated at College de Candolle in Geneva (where I am today for a meeting). CdC a private school whose structure and curriculum similar to my first year of college (maybe better, in fact) : physics, calculus, chemistry, biology, geography . .. French literature, history and art on Saturday. I opted out of PE and the languages: Italian, German and Swiss Romanche. French was enough for me.

Yes, it was an exceptional experience. There were three other American exchange students and I remain in contact with two: Pam (who lives in Berkeley and a documentary film maker) and Kurt (Director of Global Engagement at Southern Utah University). My Swiss friends sadly did not stick.

During that year I had my first girlfriend (kissing, non sexual; can't remember her name), swam with the Swiss Olympics team (Eitenne Dagon won the first swimming medal for Switzerland, a bronze, in the 200m breast stroke) and lived with a local family who I recall fondly. I also set myself up to live in Europe forever.

Me: "If we were in California we would be surfing every day." (Madeliene and I do the secret handshake)
Madeleine: "I would get a long board."
Me: "And hiking in the Sierras."
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "Or wine tasting in Sonoma."
Madeleine: "Why can't we move there?"
Me: "Maybe you will one day.  And I will come visit."

Pinball Wizard

Work'n it
Justin shows his prowess. He's also pretty good at ping pong (we compete doubles at a cool club off Earls Court), bad mitten and bowling.

I am in Zurich for a beautiful evening enjoyed with a long run along the lake.  People sunbathe, play frisbee, read and picnic and it is that sort of a day. This time of year I'm so used to blah weather that it is like, well, sunshine on a cloudy day. I'm not sure why but the Euro vibe different than New York or  Boston or San Francisco with similar sun draped grassy exposures but it is. Or maybe it is simply the young people I tune into.

Madeleine now done with 8 of 12 year-end exams, which has seen our gal revising in angles of repose: on the floor, a couch, the desk and the kitchen table slumped over, listening to music. Concentrating. She reports that the exams have gone well and she has done her best.

Sunday, May 17


Just groovy
I play reggae on the soundsystem. Eitan: "Are the people coming over Jamaican?"

Jimmy Cliff's 'The Harder They Come" my introduction to reggae in the 1980s listened to (of course) on my Sony Walkman (the kids have no idea what a tape cassette is).

I spent some time in Kingston, Jamaica, with Help The World See setting up a national eye health program across the Caribbean islands which were up and running in Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines when I split for business school.  The University of West Indies, outside Kingston, the Caribbean's best university, offered the medical statistical data we needed for the preliminary work. It was an efficient place if under resourced. I also spent time in the local libraries on several islands. Good memories.

Of note, during my visit to Kingston, I joined a reggae concert at a local auditorium that was more akin to a school gym rather than concert hall.  Ziggy Marley, the final act, paraded as royalty. And of course he is. Raggae one of Jamaica's most significant cultural exports.

On the day of the concert I visited Bob Marley's house, which is now a museum (Barak Obama paid the museum a visit when he became the first sitting US president to visit Jamaica). For a small country, it plays large on the world stage.

On Town

Sonnet and I celebrate with Arnaud and Julia, pictured. They have two children under age three but one would never know.

Me: "Check out this photo of Ben and his girlfriend." [Dad's note: this week I had breakfast with Dale. Ben is now a freshman at Georgia U. He has a longtime girlfriend]
Sonnet: "They are so handsome together. And having fun."
Me: "Someday Madeleine you are going to come home with a guy and you know what I am going to do?"
Madeleine: "Embarrass me?"
Me: "No!"
Me: "OK, yes, but it will be in your self interest."

Madeleine's year-end exams begin next week. We strike a deal at her suggestion: I keep her iPhone but she gets the radio.
Madeleine: "But how will you and mom get ahold of me?"
Me: "We trust you. So who cares?"
Me: "Your mother and I survived, didn't we?"
Madeleine: "Nice one Dad."


Rusty and I watch the scenery
From my office, beginning at the Stag Brewery, is a well used towpath that affords beautiful views of our changing tidal river. The Thames Path, as it is known, covers the river's 236 miles from the Thames Head in Gloucestershire to the North Sea. Along its way, there are 45 navigation locks (and accompanying weirs) with 38 named tributaries.  The river contains 80 islands. With its waters varying from freshwater to seawater, the Thames supports 23 species of fish plus eels (30 years ago down to 2 or 3; the river once a salmon run).  Human activity, dating to Pre Roman Britain, is visible at various points of the river. 

Madeleine: "Do you have Spotify Premium?"
Me: "Yes."
Madeleine: "Can I get it?"
Me: "Sure. Ten pounds a month."
Madeleine: "That's a lot."
Me: "You better get a job kid."
Madeleine: "I knew you were going to say that."
Me: "And now is when I tell you that 'money doesn't grow on trees.'"
Me: "And don't get pregnant while you're a teenager."
Madeleine: "Can we change the subject?"

Wednesday, May 13

A Boy And His Dog

Here we are in mid May and I wonder: how did that happen? Almost half-way through the year.

This year Astorg will raise a next fund and the moment to strike is now: the markets are hot as the the pension funds circulate their record distributions back to private equity, an asset class that delivers 11-12% IRRs and the hope of matching unfunded liabilities. The flows go to the best managers; middling and lesser GPs go home empty handed. It's a mature market.

I'm in pfäffikon and Paris on Monday and Tuesday and home for dinner on Tuesday. Sonnet hosts Deloittes at an Alexander McQueen party at the museum.

Today's blog is what one calls a placeholder.

Sunday, May 10

Trainers And A Teraflop

In the digital era, one is never alone.

Speaking of this age, in 1996 the US government built the world's fastest supercomputer, the ASCI Red, to simulate nuclear tests and similar high complexity events. It cost $55 million and its one hundred cabinets occupied about one tennis court of space. It was the first computer to score above one teraflop or one-trillion floating point operations per second. To do this, it used eight hundred kilowatts per hour, about as much as eight hundred homes would.  In '97, it hit 1.8 teraflops

Nine years later another computer hit 1.8 teraflops yet taking up less than a tenth of a square meter of space and drawing about two hundred watts of power.  The PlayStation 3, launched in 2003, retailed for under $500 and sold 64 million units (the ASCI Red was taken offline in 2006).

Saturday, May 9

Aneta Visits

St John's Wood
Aneta #1 visits us from Prague where, she reports, she works for a famous software company as an executive assistant. She has her own flat and keeping, mostly, current with her English which remains very good. We are proud of her. She remarks, "Eitan and Madeleine have grown so big !' 

Madeleine and I jog in Richmond Park and see the annual Sheen Mount Fun Run.
Madeleine: "Who were you talking to just now?"
Me: "A Sheen Mount dad."
Madeleine: "What were you talking about?"
Me: "He's got a year-zero and year-two at Sheen Mount. Isn't it funny how we are so wrapped up in where we are yet life just goes on. I remember when your mother and I attended the Sheen Mount reception like we were the only parents to ever send their kids to kindergarten."
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "Your mom was crying and I was like, relax, we still have them for a while."
Madeleine: "Nice Dad. You definitely know how to choose the right emotional words."
Me: "Are you being sarcastic young lady?"
Madeleine: "'Mom was crying and you said 'Relax.' Just saying."
Me: "And here we are. Already thinking about when you are leaving."
Madeleine: "Are you sad?"
Me: "Sad that I'm going to miss all the chores you do.  Who's going to clean the dishes?"
Madeleine: "Or the sweeping. And yard work."
Me: "I'm going to have to hire two cleaners to replace you."
Madeleine: "So you won't miss me?"
Me: "Of course I will silly. You are my everything."

Friday, May 8

The Inside Out Building

The Lloyd's building, in the middle of my photo, was constructed in 1986 and is the home of the Lloyds insurance market located on the former site of East India House in the City of London. The building is a leading example of radical Bowellism architecture in which the building services, like ducts or lifts, are on the outside to maximise space on the inside. I've been invited inside before and the open space in the atrium is .. unexpected.

The building received a Grade I listing in 2011 - the youngest structure ever to obtain this status - and noted by English Heritage to be "universally recognised as one of the key buildings of the modern epoch."

In 2011, over £23.4 billion of gross premiums were transacted in the Lloyd's market.

In a surprise outcome, the Tories take the elections with a majority of parliamentary seats. Cameron retains the thrown. And now to the referendum on Europe.

Palma Violets

Front stage

I see the Palma Violets last night at the Hippodrome in Kingston. The band has been around since 2011 and formed in Lambeth, London, by Samuel Fryer and Chilli Jesson (pictured). They remind me of the early Clash. I first heard of them from Christian (Sonnet takes a pass; I wear wax earplugs)

And these guys put out serious energy. The audience mostly young and split between those who mosh and those who don't. The large bouncers forced to catch the lads thrown from the crowd towards the stage, which is really a dangerous business. But so what ? The crowd pumped up on the music and their youth.

At entrance, talking to two women: 
Woman #1: "Where are you from?"
Me: "California."
Woman #2: "That is so cool. How long have you been in London?"
Me: "Since '97. Where are you from?"
Woman #1: "We're from Essex."
Me: "How long have you lived in Essex?"
Woman #2: "Since 1998."
Woman #1: "We were sort of born there."

Thursday, May 7


Madeleine gets some advice from Mark, a coach at Hercules Wimbledon athletic club where Eitan and Madeleine train on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings (me, sometime joining though not lately).
Mark is a masters runner and shares his enthusiasm and knowledge with the younger runners. As it is the beginning of the long outdoor season, races today are mainly for practice and to judge the necessary work required to meet pre-season objectives.

Pre Race
They're off !

Polling Day UK

These are important elections with the outcome, known tonight after 10PM, coming down to the wire. The Tories will likely hold the majority of the minority while Labour, the second largest minority, may form a government with the Scottish National Party meaning that Labour's expected higher taxes and wealth taxes, mainly levied on Londoners, will be delivered to Scotland, who recently voted to devolve from the UK.

Alternatively, the conservatives may maintain status quo should the Lib Dems rebound in the polls, as they seem to be recently, but to play kingpin the Lib Dems would have to join the nationalists UKIP, who they refuse to do.

At stake? Probably about £20-25 billion of public spending during the parliament with the Tories investing less while maintaining or reducing taxes; and Labour more, using debt and higher taxes to reach their objectives.

The next PM ?

Sunday, May 3

Movie Night

Madeleine and Wylloughby hit the Fun Fair on the Putney common and now watch "Ride Along" starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. There's sexual content. Gratuitous Violence, excessive swearing and naked women.  It's a comedy.

Me: "Is it cool that you guys are watching this?"
Madeleine: "We've seen people killed before Dad."
Me: "Wylloughby does your mom let you watch this stuff?"
Madeleine: "It's a 15." 
Wylloughby: "Yeah, I guess."
Me: "Let me get some potato chips."
Madeleine: "Can we watch the movie?"
Me: "Let's do it."
Madeleine: "Alone."


Thames across from the Fulham FB stadium
Bank holiday weekend which means rain but we are still treated to a nice afternoon. We visit Mike and Lucy for cocktails and yesterday afternoon with Natalie and Justin and their crew.

I take a wine class in Fulham led by a fabulous New Zealander who knows her vintages. It's a day with 12 different wines ranging from the pinots to chardonnays. 12 wines means 12 glasses plus more for lunch. I'm the only one using the spittoon.

Here are some of the wines I've had with Xavier and Astorg:  Chateau Bonnet 2012 (white), Chateau Les Hauts de Smith 2010 (white), Chateau Larrivet-Haut Brion 2007 (red), Clos de l'Oratoire 2007 (grand cru - red), Chateaux Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2007 (1er grand cru - white), Domaine Paul Blanck 2008 (Alsace, grand cru - Sommerberg), Meursault 2009 (Burgundy, Domaine Jacques Prieur), Chateau Siron - Margaux 2005 (Bordeaux, Grand cru classe), Clos de Vougeot 2006 (Burgandy, Domaine Meo Camuzet, grand cru), Chateauneuf du Pape 2008 (Grand cru), Chateauneuf du Pape 2008 (Cotes du Rhone); Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey 2005 (Bordeaux, 1er grand cru); and a Veuve Clicquot champagne founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron