Friday, July 31

Cultural Experience

Tuileries fair (Eitan far right)
Eitan in Paris. Sonnet: "Are you kidding me?"

I refuse to join.

Eitan works on an algorithm for his Rubik's cube. After 24 hours straight, he is moving: "Well, it's really complicated because first, you have to know your Rubik's cube, and you have to understand the relationship between each piece. There are certain steps to cracking it. Gradually, over time, it gets closer. Pretty much it all involves understanding where to put each colour in relationship with all colours."

And, he adds, "there are 43 quintillion combinations."

Madeleine: "Math just ruins everything."


Place de la Concorde
Eitan and I finish our time in Paris visiting Petit Palais off the Champs for coffee/ hot chocolate and croissants and some art followed by the Germaine Krull photography exhibition at the Jeu de Paume. We then stroll across Tuileries before heading back to the hotel along rue du Faoubourg St HonorĂ©. It is nice to see Paris through his eyes.

In Eitan's eyes, it's a Rubiks cube and we look for the toy in le marais.

Eitan finishes "The Great Gatsby" and now reads Joyce' "Dubliners".

Me: "Give me one sentence on the Gatsby for my blog."
Eitan says: "Um, it sums up how being so close to something you desperately want can drive you mad."
Me: "Pretty good."

Monday, July 27

Paris Express

Etan joins me in Paris.

I give the boy €100 and tell him to explore Paris while I go into Astorg. He does a good job, too, visiting Madeleine Cathedral, St Augustine Church and the Tuileries garden, where he spends the afternoon basking in the sunshine, reading "The Great Gatsby."  We have dinner together.

Me: "Are you looking forward to summer?"
Eitan: "It's almost half-way over."
Me: "I suppose you're right. I guess we have different perspectives on it."
Me: "Don't grow up kid."

So Sozy

We spend the afternoon with Dana and Nathan and their growing crew - photo on the top of Primrose Hill on a summer afternoon. Nathan returns from a stage of the Tour de France despite having a metal plate and screws in his shoulder following a biking accident three weeks ago. Dude is tough.

Me: "I've noticed you've been having your friends over more often."
Eitan: "Yeah, I guess."
Me: "No longer embarrassed?"
Eitan: "Well I'm still embarrassed but my friends think you and mom are pretty cool."
Me: "Oh?"
Eitan: "Yeah, you're liked 'what's up dude' " and mom is really friendly.
Me: "She bakes you chocolate chip cookies and begs you with ice cream."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "Pleeease come to our house with your friends."
Me: "I'm so like mupload in my ish, sozy."
Eitan: "Huh?"
Me: " It's how teenagers talk these days."
Eitan: "Definitely not cool Dad."
Me: "That's so IDC"
Me: "I don't care."

Sunday, July 26

Notting Hill

Sonnet and I meet friends for dinner and sit outside for a drink before they arrive. Since Saturday, Eitan runs a 1500 (average performance) and Madeleine at the Battersea Arts Center for her next play. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with it all. Or to get enough sleep. Never enough sleep.

Madeleine: "How tall do you think I'll be?"
Me: "You're perfect now."
Madeleine: "Well how short do you think I will be?"
Madeleine: "5'3''
Me: "It's a good guess."

Willamette River

I go for a pre-dawn walk along the river, greeted by a lovely sunrise on a mild day in Portland. The joggers out walkers out in force.

Thierry and I do a rapid tour of the Pacific Northwest - Portland, Olympia and Seattle - before ending in Phoenix then home. It's like a board game. I have an afternoon to myself in Phoenix and envision hiking North Mountain Park or Lookout Mountain Preserve but it is much too hot for that. So I get a massage and find an air conditioned Starbucks to work.

We meet the retirement boards of Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Same week the New Yorker reports on "The Really Big One. An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when."

David - Donna - Thierry

David reminds me that yes, indeed, I was in Portland last week. For less than 24 hours.

It's my first time to Portland, an attractive city that everybody raves about and the locals proud of. There is a bit of the hippy-dippy combined with serious restaurants, business (Nike, Adidas) and shopping and art. A tram connects everything.  Portland is strong on culture with several wonderful museums including the Portland Art Museum which hosted Sonnet's Italian exhibition in 2014.

David's special interests include esophageal diseases, colon cancer screening and outcomes in endoscopy. He heads the Division of Gastroenterology at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). 

In '76 he and Donna visited Berkeley during a school strike that lasted 3 months.

Saturday, July 18

The Gals

With Lizzy, natural habitat
At the dinner table.
Eitan: "Can I start?" [Dad's note: We have a family rule that no one begins until the person who prepared the meal begins]
Me: "Are you going to eat as fast as you can?"
Eitan: "No."
Me to Sonnet: "He's already had a bowl of ice cream, a Cornetta and two bacon sandwiches. After 6PM."
Me: "Sorry to rat you out kid."
Eitan: "Remember when you used to time Rusty?"
Me: "Yeah, that was when he was interested in dog food. 1,500 days later. breakfast and dinner, he's not so quick."
Eitan: "Yeah that's pretty funny."
Sonnet: "We were out of dog food this morning so I got him the expensive stuff at Waitrose [Dad's note: Nothing but Tesco's finest for our Rusty]
Me, Eitan:
Sonnet: "He sure ate it fast."

Madeleine's fish dies and I find her and Lizzy digging a hole under the front tree.
Me: "Burying the fish?"
Madeleine: "No?"
Me: "Why are you digging then."
Madeleine: "I flushed the fish down the toilet. We are burying the shell."
Me: "The shell?"
Madeleine: "In its tank. The shell."
Me: "Why?"
Madeleine: "I don't know."

Hulk #169

Lovin it.
I am not ashamed to report that I stayed up late reading The Incredible Hulk, including this gem, "The Calamity In The Clouds," where Hulk battles the Bi-Beast in a hidden city above Manhattan. Brilliant.

Remarkably on pg. 19 I discover a 'Marvel Comics Survey' which I filled out, age 10.  I mark "basketball' as my sport and, for free time, check "watch TV" and "Read a comic magazine" (of course). Seeing my scratchy hand-writing at that age, wow.

The advertisements are as fun as the plot: who can forget Clark Bars (now owned by Hershey) or Sea Monkeys or get rich quick schemes like 'drafting kits' ("High pay job in drafting!") and the body building.

I am taken right back to the first year at 1530 Euclid Ave, when I snuck away in the walk-in wardrobe in my room with Hulk, Spider Man, The Human Fly and other friends for an afternoon of freedom. I still remember the smell of our house when we moved in.

I revisit my comic collection thanks to Madeleine. We share a love of the art.


Eitan freaks
Eitan and I share music as long as it has been created in the last six month. Anything older is, like, so yesterday. He cringes at the thought of  the 1980s which is like listening to the 1950s when I was in high-school. Whoa. Still, how can one not bond over Joy Division or Prince or New Order ?  Or how about the Talking Heads, Blondie and The Clash ? I mean, these were important bands. "Don't You Want Me Baby" by the Human League a seminal event for my generation. 

Some bands we like: STRFKR, Alt J, The Foals, Future Island, MGMT, War On Drugs, LCD Sound System . ..

Eitan and I do some backyard work.
Me: "Time to take a break to freak out."
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
I blast "Le Freak" by Chic. Eitan: "Agg. Turn it off!"
Me: "What's the big deal? It's just music."
Eitan: "Exactly, Dad."

Friday, July 17


Wimbledon track
And another Friday. Thank goodness.

Eitan is 5'10. And a half. The boy is in his growth spurt.

The kids in their summer break which means sleeping until 11AM, breakfasting at noon and enjoying the day to themselves.  Of course this doesn't work for me and I require them to draw a daily calendar including 1-2 hours of school revision, running and chores. Each activity to be checked off, of course.

Madeleine has the hiccups. Me: "You know, the record in the Guinness Book Of World Records for hiccups is 60 years."
Madeleine: "That's nice to know Dad. Hic."
Me: "That must have been pretty distracting."
Me: "Especially when trying to sleep."
Madeleine: "Hic. Was it really 60 years?"
Me: "At least."
Sonnet: "Don't listen to your father."

We watch athletics.
Madeleine: "What happens if that guy wins?"
Me: "I don't know. He gets a meddle ?"
Madeleine: "Does he go to the Olympics or something?"
Me: "Probably not."
Madeleine: "What happens if you, hic, do a random race and you get picked five times and you run an Olympics time in one of them."
Madeleine: "Do you go to the Olympics then?"
Me: "Sure."
Madeleine: "Really?"
Me: "What was the question?"

We watch the 1500m men's race. Eitan: "Do you think Rusty could keep up with them??

Sunday, July 12

My Vines

Every spring/ summer I do two things : tadpoles and tomatoes. For the former, we barely got beyond the second week as our holiday poorly timed to monitor the little dears. My tomatoes, however, are off to a good start following a nasty fungus which gave me some worry.  I follow Aneta's mother's suggestions: pull tiny growths from between the stalks, don't overcrowd the pot. Water every day.

Brown Sauce

The master
And what's the summer without BBQ ? Eitan takes over the tongues and delivers a classic: chicken marinated in HP sauce which, Dear Reader, has a malt vinegar base blended with tomatoes, dates, sugars and spices... apples, molasses.. raisins and even anchovies. It also carries the mark of Her Royal Highness so you know it's good. Certainly from that era.

HP is one of those things that you either get or don't in this country. It has been around since the 1800s and long replaced by Ketchup in popularity. Even Eitan, the true Brit in this family, prefers Ketchup.  Still, HP goes best with a bacon or chip butty and a hangover. Anyone here will tell you that.

Eitan returns from Surrey where he runs a 2:15 800m.

In England in 2014, 26,000 children between the ages of 5 and 9 have had surgery to remove rotten teeth.

"By Appointment to her Majesty The Queen"
--HP Sauce

Self Portrait XXXXVI

I would like to say this is me, post some ultra-event or at least a loop of Richmond Park. Gardening.

My running days would seem to be behind me as my body rejects the sport following 25 years of punishment. Now it''s walking, yoga and swimming when I am motivated to brave the pool. Sonnet and I will try a glutton free diet starting from next week (as I have my second bowl of ice cream).


In the house
Ray is over for dinner with newlywed Monica - they are visiting Paris and hop across the Channel for a few days of London, staying in the cool part of town - Shoreditch - taking it all in.

Originally from Louisiana and now Berkeley longtime, Ray is busy making and selling art, teaching silkscreen printing as an ongoing faculty member at the Richmond Art Center and a seminal member of The Art of Living Black, the Bay Area’s longest running annual African American exhibition of its kind. His studio in West Oakland at American Street Studie where his interests includes Graffiti Art, Urban Art, abstract paintings, silkscreen prints and drawings.

"Painting is layers of time, media, gesture and color that allow for declarative expressions of documentation. The act of painting is like breathing; one never stops but is often unconscious of these subliminal acts. My finished paintings are products of balance, color, texture and gesture. The necessity to paint resonates within me and the painting informs me when it is complete."
--Ray Haywood

Madeleine: "He's pretty cool, isn't he?"
Me: "Yep."


Crystal Palace
Eitan and Madeleine finish their term - summer holiday ! I own them for chores, and encourage book reading and running or other exercises. A few days in and already lethargy. 

Stan and Katie arrive for a two week visit. Katie a trained classical pianist and night owl and we are often to bed with kitchen lights dimmed and hushed voices and giggling. We have two sets of teenagers in the house.

Despite the clouds at Crystal Palace, the sun pokes through for a sunny afternoon. 

On Astorg

I am in Paris for a couple days and now in the midst of fundraising for Astorg's sixth fund. Our target is €1.5bn, a large amount, but in line with the last GP. Astorg has delivered strong performance while protecting retirement, workers and teachers money - since 1998, Astorg has lost €30m on €1.9bn of invested capital for a low loss ratio of 1.7% (the figure drops to 1.4% if co investment controlled by the GP include in the denominator).

Astorg's strategy similar to any value investor : buy niche leading global companies that enjoy large market shares and barriers to entry like economies of scale or scope. All the things I learned in a few key classes of business school (the best class, Value Investing, taught by Bruce Greenwald, close friend and advisor to Warren Buffet. Greenwald would tell his class of 300 students that he taught for the 2 or 3 students who would be able to employ his concepts. Bruce asked me to be his TA second year). Astorg has not had a write down or write off in ten years.

Eitan runs a 1500m in 3:35 at Crystal Palace.

Eitan: "Do I really have to do this again?"
Me: "What you will find in life is that if you don't do a good job on the final 2% you won't get credit for the 98."

Wimbledon And Greece

Outside Centre Court
It is that time of year, and the best time in Britain: predictably nice weather, late evening sunsets and August holidays around the corner. It makes up for the winter, almost.

The Germans should be the first to offer generosity to the Greeks, having had their own debts resolved in the 1953 London Debt Agreement. The total under negotiation was 16 billion marks of debt resulting from the Treaty of Versailles after World War I which had not been paid in the 1930s, but which Germany decided to repay to restore its reputation. This money was owed to government and private banks in the U.S., France and Britain. Another 16 billion marks represented postwar loans by the U.S. Under the London Debts Agreement of 1953, the repayable amount was reduced by 50% to about 15 billion marks and stretched out over 30 years, and compared to the fast-growing German economy were of minor impact.

No, the Germans just tighten the screws, also being the last and only hold-out for Eurobonds. The 2010 bailout was really from the Western banks, who provided over €300bn of loans - German's 56bn the largest.

Now the debt has been "nationalised" by the ECB or provisioned for by the private sector - hence, some comfort that a banking meltdown reduced.

That said, Greece will never be able to repay - the IMF says so - similar to Germany, Argentina and Brazil in the 90s. Eventually relief will come but how much longer will the Greek European citizens suffer ?

Saturday, July 11

Warm Up

It's a fine thing when a bunch of brothers from the day regroup to raft down a river, which we do on the American River, South Fork. The occasion is Christian's wedding and replaces a stag night or boozy affair, though there is plenty of that.  Despite the terrible drought in California, the river is near full during peak runs due to dam releases for recreational purposes. My family did this trip in 1985 or 86 - photo on the living room piano.

My drama occurs when the boat capsizes dumping us in the current and .. glasses gone. It is a pickle for many reasons including my upcoming meetings and how to drive home? We are in the middle of nowhere.

Yet with 9 guys thinking creatively for a solution, I am able to get a new pair inside three hours (Jorgen: code name "Mission To Succeed"). Crisis averted.

It's remarkable to see friends I have been away from for many years. We have all aged, with ups and downs along the way, but the humour remains above all else.

Roger 49

Roger and I hang out in Palo Alto on his birthday. How the hell did we get here?

Roger's company Box famously went public this year and now he is living in an exclusive postal code in a beautiful house. No commute, either. Older daughter Sophie has become a serious swimmer - having been on the school record-setting 4X100 relay and swimming in state champs last month. She's also a violinist and damn good student. And she has a driver's licence for 4:30AM practices.  College is around the corner.  Thomas is jamming in Lacrosse. Sit back and enjoy, dude.

A Megawatt

I catch up with Tim who has been living the dream, having fully transitioned from Brooklyn to the West Coast, and CFO of Yingli, the world's largest solar panel manufacturer. The margins may be razor thin but the volumes, oi vey.

In 2013, 37,007 megawatts of solar PV power were installed and world solar PV power capacity increased about 35% to 136,697 MW. One MW can power thousands of homes.

Europe, thanks to Germany, has dominated annual growth until 2013 when China topped the tables (Germany's subsidies have allowed volume uptakes that have driven pricing down globally).

Installation of solars panels in the UK is now ca. £8k. When I looked into panelling our home in 2011, it was £15K. Solar PV today accounts for 3% of electricity demand in Europe and about 6% of peak electricity demand. Trending in the right direction but will it be enough?

Evolution of global annual installation:

Sweety Pie

The cat
I am at 1530 for several days and my parents surrounded by their wonderful pets and everything else: exercise (Moe: 5AM), the view, NYT, books, a dog walk, some afternoon television followed by cooking/ dinner, a glass of wine and early to bed. Life is good.

I spend the morning with the Stanford endowment, which is loaded, yet I am more impressed by the campus : it has everything including space and nice weather. I watch a team of athletes stroll by without a worry in the world. This really is the best university in America, connected into Silicon Valley, attracting the smartest minds in the country. It makes the Ivy League seem fuddy-duddy. Who cares about the East Coast ? The action is here and now. Get in while you're young.

L.A. Gehry

Catching up following a long absence from my blog . ..

Christian and I join Lisa for lunch in downtown LA then hang out at the LA public library and it's lovely art deco entrance space and soothing Greek fountains, surrounded by skyscrapers (NB, With more than six million volumes, it is one of the largest public funded libraries in the world). 

Christian and Lisa on course to be married in September. We are on course for a weekend down the American River, South Fork. Supposed to be a surprise but that cat long out of the bag.