Saturday, December 23

Magic

Madeleine, with empty box: "Dad! do you want to see a magic trick? Ok, close your eyes. Now stick your fingers in your ears." She runs into the other room, returns with empy hands. "See Dad - Magic!"

We have dinner with local friends Steve and Louisa and their children twins Daniela and Sophia and Tobias. Eitan and Sophia are in the same school class. Also with us tonight is Sarah, pregnant with her fourth and so on permanent leave from teaching philosphy at St. Paul's. Not joining us is Sarah's husband Simon, who is a forensic examiner for the Home Office - there are only 37 actives in the UK. Before turning CSI, Simon was a doctor for the NHS, but decided it was more interesting to deal with (or not) dead people. His team covers London and so is responsible for the Putney Murder (women found chopped up in a suitcase), Ipswitch serial killer, and most famously the Litvinenkco case where the former KGB agent was poisened to death by plutonium 210. Interesting work, no doubt. Fired up by this, I watch The Descent when we get home.

Friday, December 22

Jingle Kids

Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun
It is to ride
on a one horse open slay
Hay!

Jingle Bells
Batman Smells
Robin flew away
He landed in the football pitch
and didn't know how to play
Hay!

Jingle bells
Batman smells
Robin flew away
Uncle Billie
Lost his willie
On the motor way
Hay!

Thumb's UP

This is Mike Gridley, a partner at Industry Ventures in San Francisco. My photograph taken in October before an investor presentation to Robeco. I told Mike that I would put him on my blog if he raised $100 million - so here he is.

Eitan and Madeleine are today at the Art Yard, where they will make artsy crafty sorts of things for their pleasure, some of which will be sent to the grandparents no doubt. London remains covered by a Jack-The-Ripper fog, without let-up for four days. Heathrow has cancelled 600 flights stranding 200,000 passengers. We are grateful not to be travelling by airplane this season.

Thursday, December 21

I'm with the kids today. The morning starts at Yoga-Bugs where they stretch, meditate, and work themselves out. Aftewards, I take the Little Shakespeares to lunch at... wait for it.... McDonald's! Who says you can't buy love? Afterwards we shop in Richmond. I try on a sweater and ask Madeleine what she thinks. She, with zero interest rolling her eyes: "It's sooo cool dad." Man, she's going to be a great teenager. From here Eitan goes to Bertie's birthday party and Madeleine and I will do something special, tbd. This evening: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" while Sonnet is out for cocktails with her girlfriends Dana and Rana.

Wednesday, December 20

Blue Sky


Things are beginning to slow down for Christmas, and this is a Catholic country. Eitan and Madeleine had their last day of school yesterday, and Sonnet greets them with a trip to Richmond Park where Eitan works his bicycle machine. After the Merry, we will head for East Anglia and the town of Holt, not far from the seaside in the county Norfolk. Everbody warns that it is flat and the weather dreadful but the scenery splendid. I plan to re-engage my Pentax SuperME and take some black & whites. I also intend to to catch-up on some reading, including favorite trash mags Hello, Esquire, and Paris Match.

This photograph taken above the Rio Grande.

Tuesday, December 19

McD's


I have lunch today at a local caf (sic), that takes its street cred from the construction and working set who gulp black coffee and smoke cigarettes while eating chips, baked beans, sausages and other disgusting over-the-counter fair. It amazes me how this country excites itself over the bubbling sizzle of animal oil where just about anything is dumped for culinary "preparation." A delicacy in Scotland, for instance, is the deep fried candy bar - most famously for us Americans, a Snickers. Yes, sadly, Britain is catching up to the USA in weight - nearly 25% of these Brits are now considered clinically obese (1980: less than 10%) making us the fattest country in Europe. Worse, child obesity and related diabetes is growing even faster. The British goverment has responded with a tepid publicity campaign to no effect. A better result comes from celeb chef Jamie Oliver, who shamed Tony Blair into giving him $500 million and responsibility for 20,000 public schools in England, where he now prepares healthy and tasty lunches. An individual can make a difference, now if only the fat would follow.

Sunday, December 17

Bucks


Richmond Park currently sustains 300 Red Deer and 350 Fallow. The general trend over recent years has been to reduce the total herd from numbers that peaked in 1985 at just under 1,000 but suffered a significant die off over the severe winter (approximately 40 Red and 50 Fallow). Even with a smaller herd and plenty of warning notices around the park, road traffic accidents still take 30 deer each year. The deer became the determining factor upon the park’s landscape as soon as Charles I compulsorily, but supposedly at a fair price, purchased the land in 1637 and emparked it with eight miles of wall (now Grade 1 Listed and on the English Heritage register). Charles moved his court here to avoid plague. Today, the deer are free to roam wherever. For this reason plantations are deerfenced as it generally takes 40 to 50 years before an oak may be able to stand unprotected. One hundred and fifty trees are planted each year in open areas of the park and with time may come to match the old oak pollards in the Highwood area of the Park which are 700 to 800 years old. Apparently trees in the 400 to 500 year old bracket are relatively common. Not surprisingly it is the Red deer, standing taller than Fallow, which determine the Park’s browse lines. There are many traditional rutting stands around Richmond Park, most notably Spankers Hill which is important for Fallow.

I took this photograph in the late afternoon at Spanker's Hill wood.

Eitan rides

Eitan has been jonesing about his birthday bike, which has remained unused since October. Today we make the quick drive to Richmond Park, which offers a number of tarmacs for walkers and cyclist - perfect for his two wheeler. This is the boy's first time without training wheels, so Sonnet and I hold him up as he works for balance. Madeleine runs behind shouting her enouragement: "Come on Eitan! You can do it!" To our great surprise he goes! I remember Eitan's first steps following 18 months (and some anxiety): one morning, arms out wide, he simply hydro-planes, never to revisit his hands and knees again. The same is today, as Eitan bikes well outside our of our eyesight pushing yet another set of bounderies between him and us.

My photo taken at the the White Lodge, nearby the Duchess Wood.

Madeleine's Life

Favorite food: Sweeties. Any kind
Favorite dinner: Pizza
Vegetable: None
Color: Purple
Cartoon: Bart Simpson
Teacher: Liz (Montessori) and Ms. Sedan (reception teacher)
Best friend: The two Nicholases
Vacation: Colorado and California, especially California to see Sweetie Pie (Gracie Moe's cat)
Day of the week: Sunday and Friday
Movie: Monsters Inc and Tarzan
Summer or Christmas? Christmas
Boats or trains? Trains
Cars or planes? Planes
Pony tail or pig tail? Pony tail
Bed-time or morning? Bed-time
Ice cream or cake? "That's a both one"
Cats or dogs? Both
Smooches or hugs? "That's a both one."
Letters or numbers? Numbers
Books or stories? "Books, because they are longer then stories."
Sport: Football
Sandwich: Salami
Drink: Apple-mango-lime
Biggest wish: "I can't tell you because then it won't come true."

I pick up Madeleine this evening from Katie's birthday party. A clown gives out lolly-pops and Madeleine asks for two - the second for Eitan. On the car-ride home:
Madeleine: "Dad, do you remember the time Eitan said he didn't like lollies?"
Me: No
She: Well, it's true. He said he liked ice cream more than lollies.
Me: Ok
She, after a pause: Dad, I would hate to waste this lolly.
Me: Well, Madeleine, it's yours to give to Eitan.
She: I'm going to eat it.
Me: It's your decision honey.
She: Thanks Dad. Just don't tell him I ate it, OK?

Eitan Weighs In

Favorite food: Chicken nuggets and chips. And spaghetti
Color: Red
Toy: Manga Men
Super-hero: Hulk and Spider Man
Teacher: Ms. Reynolds (school, year 1) and Ms. Adams (reception)
Vacation spot: California mountains
Best friend: Imogen and Harry
Desert: Chocolate ice cream
Trains or planes? Planes
Cars or boats? boats
Cartoon? Simpsons
Football team: England
Football club: Chelsea, Manchester United
Football star: Ronaldino

Friday, December 15

School portrait

Ah, who can forget the school photograph, tucked away somewhere in the closet alongside the many other treasured images not to see the light of day? Here, the kids captured on their schoold grounds, and Eitan's hair even combed (mine always displayed a handsome, upward pointing calic along with a dazed look). Fulfilling our parental duty, Sonnet orders the comprehensive set with big, medium and wallet-sized pics - to be dispersed to family and the photo box for future generations and posterity.

Aggie puts the tired kids, somewhat confused, to bed early last night at 6:30PM. Madeleine greets my arrival home: "Dad, I'm sooo awake." This morning for once she is up before us- and bounces into our room to make a "family sandwich." Eitan also joins in, at which point I bail out to go running. Aggie leaves for Poland tomorrow, where she will celebrate the holidays with her family. Tonight she takes the kids to dinner - tbd - and then movies at home. With the weather so warm, it doesn't yet feel like the holidays. Sonnet bought a tree, which we will decorate tomorrow. Birthday parties and trips to the Kew gardens are also planned for the weekend.

Thursday, December 14

Shades

Could Eitan have the makings of a rock star? This photograph taken over the summer after I have clearly taken too many.

Madeleine in bed crying.
Me (sternly), from downstairs: "Madeleine: enough with the tears."
She cries.
Me "One! Two! Three!"
She cries.
Me: OK, that's it. no TV!
She, thoughtful pause: Forever?

Eitan, over breakfast this morning, boasts about having the last bagel. Madeleine, indignant, counters that she has the last croissant. "Don't care!"
"Do!"
Don't!
Do!
Don't!
Madeleine: Dad can I have some cereal?

Wednesday, December 13

Molly

Sonnet and I watch "Pretty In Pink" last night. If I recall correctly, I saw the film for the first time with my mom at the Oak's theatre on Solano Avenue, Berkeley, in 1986. Molly Ringwald was at the peak of her teen powers with films like 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, P-I-P and Fresh Horses. And I of course was a teenager. The film has dated mostly well, and niceley captures the cliquishness, and stereotyping, of a big public high school (could have been Berkeley High School, for sure). The clothes are a hoot (especially Molly's prom git-up - fantabulous), and James Spader's Seth a wonderful rich slime-ball. In all, on the 20th anniversary viewing of the film, I feel much older then then, and ready to revisit other temporal classics like Say Anything, The Sure Thing, About Last Night, and St. Elmo's Fire. Who says we cannot live youth again?

Tuesday, December 12

Brad

Brad visits London for four hours, and for the first time, on a stop-over traveling to Mount Kilimanjaro which he will climb. We have lunch at the British Museum, overlooking the 'reading room,' then visit the Elgin Marbles including, of course, the Rosetta Stone. Brad and I met in First Boston's Natural Resources and Energy Group (known simply as "N-R-G" to us faithfuls) back in August 1989. It was generally known to be the busiest in a busy firm, and the most miserable for its underlings. Our bond of friendship stems from a shared heritage of Berkeley, where Brad went to undergrad 'out-of-state' and the entrapment of investment banking. Today, Brad is a Managing Director at Countrywide, the 8th largest bank in the United States, where his team of 25 oversees $30 billion of assets. When not running money, Brad leads the good life in Santa Monica and still occasionally surfs the warm So-Cal Pacific's waves nearby his home.

Saturday, December 9

Year-End Footie

Today the last Saturday of football before the winter holidays (team coach and organiser Loraine off to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro for charity). The kids are organised into teams and a tournament played for Madeleine and Eitan's age groups. Afterwards, Christmas arrives with our Santa-dressed coach who congratulates the kiddies for a season well done - chocolate biscuits all-around.

Eitan selected as the Player Most Valuable in the tournament, which his team takes with three wins. A proud moment for him; for me, the the dad's pat my back.

Eitan: "Do you know how I can tell three billion, five billion and seven billion are odd?"
Me: "How?"
Eitan: "Well, it is because three, five and seven are odds."

Madeleine asks me (while I'm taking a bath) if I want to play dogs-and-owner. She chooses to be the dog. OK, I say, let's go for a walk outside. She: "Nooo Dad! That is NOT how you play!"

Eitan (and Madeleine) are excited about Eitan's bunk bed, which arrived this week. Sonnet sets the rules: 1. No jumping from the upper bunk to the floor. 2. No rough-housing on the upper bunk. 3. No socks to be worn when climbing the ladder. Eitan, Madeleine and I agree to her rules.

Friday, December 8

Ho' Down

Sonnet meets me at work, and we drive to the kid's school to pick up Madeleine and Eitan from "Disco Night." We arrive with 30 minutes to go, and are treated to the auditorium filled with hyper-active 4 to six year olds dancing to Michael Jackson, the Bee Jees, Beyonce, Madonna, and other modern fair, middle-age friendly tunes. Eitan races about pink-cheeked with his pals Harry, Oscar and Samuel. Imogen, Emily and Jackson are also present. Madeleine took a few lessons from Aggie, and danced away on the stage, completing a tres cool foot-step and finger point a la Travolta '77. Madeleine falls off the stage - dramatic for watchers - but head mistress Elaine and I are there to give her a hug and put her on her feet. Now we watch Scooby Doo and look forward to the weekend. Life is good.

Words To Live By

"I've been on the other side to these wild and woolly sluts that we are seeing around our lives these days and I've taken the other side. I started my life out as pretty wild but I have decided, after much growing and living, that it's time that we got nicer. I'm wearing underwear, in fact a lot of underwear. In fact I'm wearing all the underwear that those girls are not wearing - at least two bras and several pairs of panties. Get a life, get a grip. I mean someone should sit those ladies down." Bette Midler, on Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears

Twister


A Tornado hit the north-west London suburb of Kensal Rise yesterday injuring six, and damaging at least 100 properties (photo from The Telegraph). Rooftops were ripped off and cars were badly dented when the freak weather struck at 11am. Elsewhere and nearby me, a massive storm passed overhead dropping buckets of hail and rain. Sonnet was running in Richmond Park and had to take cover avoiding trees for fear of lighting. Britain, believe it or not, has more tornadoes per land mass than any other country in the world. Go figure. (photo from www.abob.libs.uga.edu)

Sonnet takes two days off from work to organise herself for the holidays. The last two nights we have school related drinks, and mingle with the other parents from the neighborhood school. Tonight is the Holiday School Disco for Eitan's class: 6PM to 7PM in the auditorium drop-off, though parents invited to stay - ha! The older kids go to 2100. I await with eagerness the boy's outfit, which he has considered the past several days.

Wednesday, December 6

School Noel

The Christmas production is in full swing this morning, and the theme is "Global." The story of Baby Jesus is told from around the world, while the children are transported to different countries and the state of Hawaii (Sonnet and I wonder if this in error). Eitan's Year One class represents India, and Sonnet on her lunch break several weeks ago goes to Brick Lane in the East End to purchase an Indian camisole four sizes too big (I tell my neighbors it is a shalwar kameez, and meant go to the ankles). Madeleine's reception class is China, and the red dress she proudly wears from Letty. The kids belt out their numbers and a cowboy theme is used for America (surfing for Hawaii, of course). Madeleine and Eitan have been working on this Top Secret song-and-dance project for some months now, and are pleased as punch to see Sonnet, Aggie, me, and an auditorium full of glowing parents.

Tuesday, December 5

Krishna Rajamannar (12th century)

Today I visit the Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly, Mayfair, to see "Chola: Sacred Bronzes of Southern India." A small but comprehensive exhibit presents bronze and stone sculptures from 850 to 1200 A.D. when the Chola Empire came to power unifying South India, Sci Lanka and the Maldives. Very erotic, as you can see from this scanned post-card. I take the opportunity to buy a CD "Chola Music of Southern India" which Sonnet cautions me not to present to the kids as a gift.

Monday, December 4

I tell Eitan that all the cool cats wear their polo coller's up. He: "you don't know anything about being a kid." I threaten to sing on the way to school, which really bothers him. At the playground, a mum asks Madeleine about her weekend and she tells her we saw a movie about "rats in the sewer." I quickly add that this is the Hollywood film Flushed Away.

Sonnet is going to the ballet tonight with Dana and Tabatha, so I'm with the kids solo. I promise something fun ("television!" they shout in unison) and look forward to an early evening of it.

Sunday, December 3

NSM

Eitan in the industrial wing of the NSM in front of a 1950s Japanese car (unfortunately I don't have the model). He is particularly interested in how the giant turbine, built in 1795 and located in the front hall of the museum, works. We watch the earth move beneath a pendulum hanging from five stories, and observe the elevator weights moving people up and down between floors. After the museum, the kids and I play on the grounds of Imperial College, where I have parked the car. In particular several England lions, chiseled from portland stone, draw our attention for a good half hour.


Madeleine brings her stuffed 'doggie' along for the day, but s/he stays in the car for my fear of it being lost, and Madeleine's dependency which I am trying to ween. I give in eventually when we go to the movies and Madeleine brings "dog" to sit next to her in the theatre. From our very Catholic English school, Eitan and Madeleine are aware that Christmas portends to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. When I note that we are Jewish and have a different set of beliefs, Eitan ponders for a moment and weighs up the risk of switching teams - Santa Claus does bring presents afterall. Sonnet and I contemplate this, but religion is not a big part of us, so likely not for the kids either.

2001: A Space Odyssey


This is a rather creepy photograph of Arthur C. Clarke, taken by Madeleine at the National Science Museum (it's a billboard). Sonnet still plays catch-up at work. Clarke's image appropriately adorns the entrance to the space travel, and we learn about rocket boosters, planets and satellites and the space race. Did you know, for instance, that Saturn's famous ring is only 150 feet thick? The museum is crowded as it's Sunday, and Madeleine gets herself lost for about three minutes which has me and her in a frantic tizzy until she turns up in tears. She tells me she was afraid of "staying forever " at the museum. The late afternoon is spent at the Movies in Richmond where we cheer on a bunch of rats in Flushed Away. Sonnet is home for dinner, and I blog in front of the T.V. while Eitan does his homework.

Saturday, December 2

Christmas Fair

Sonnet volunteers for the annual school event and is surrounded by a crowd of kids doing their arts craft. The day before a group of mothers spent hours preparing for today's affair - we have dinner with two of the organisers last night. Interesting for us, the evening is entirely English. Normally these things are a mixture of countries drawn from our ex-pat community. Following four years, the PTA and kiddie play-dates, we are now (mostly) accepted as locals by the community. While our American attitudes are of course different, Sonnet and I appreciate the British sense of humour (subtle), organisation (superior), and reserve (famous). I observe that England's welcome to newbies is longer then, say the United States - the British are generally wary of foreigners or perhaps transients - and invitations of friendship more cautious than the American style of open hospitality and puppy-dog enthusiasms (their perception of us with some truth). Any case, the evening was enjoyable with champagne cocktails and cheer.

This photograph of Harry, Eitan, Billy and Oscar (hidden) on the spinning tea cup amusement ride.

Anto

"Uncle" Anthony has been a part of our house since we worked together at my Internet company eZoka.com during Web 1.0. Anto is from Australia, has an Italian passport, and lives in the cool part of Islington with three other lads. He splits between the nightlife and adulthood, and recently joined a software company for the entertainment industry and is proudly employee Number One in the UK. When with us, the kids have a run around and burn off some energy. On this particular occasion, Anthony bravely joins us for the school's Christmas Fair complete with Santa's Grotto, mold wine, and a thousand reved up mums including Sonnet who volunteer their afternoon to the holiday affair.

Xmas List

Eitan pastes his Christmas List above the fireplace. He has written the selection himself- see if you can match his words with his wants:

1. camr not toy
2. thunbrds
3. gardnign cit
4. sord and sheeld
5. pantign cit
6. u wokign santclos
7. bunch uv rings for magnomen
8. u wotargun
9.a cumputar
10. set uf ces

a. set of keys for the house
b. a computer
c. a water gun
d. bunch of rings for Madeleine
e. a walking Santa Claus
f. painting kit
g. sword and shield
h. gardening kit
i. Thunderbirds
j. camera (not a toy)

Answers: 1j, 2i, 3h, 4g, 5f, 6e, 7d, 8c, 9b, 10a

Thursday, November 30

Postcard story


Grandma Silver sends Madeleine this post-card, and challenges her to turn the photo into a story. Here she goes:

It.... is.... the.... Eiffel Tower, and the windows are made of glass with snow on the top. And the blue thing coming down is an arrow dragon. The arrow dragon goes side-to-side on the windows and snow. The black things are cannon. The arrow dragon burrows down under the snow to find beatles to eat. If he's unlucky, the beatles will pinch him. The little lines on the 'X' are a cut in the building from the snow dragon. The other lines are for the snow dragon's house. The little black mark is the path the mommy dragon takes to work. The blue dragon knows his mommy because of those lines. The gap means that they are in danger from a grizzly bear. The bottom black line means the snow and the snowflake are friends.

Hot


This year 2006 is proving to be the hottest in England since record keeping began 350 years ago.

The summer saw near-record breaking temperatures that, while not surpassing 2004, were sustained over unusually long periods of time. Further,
it has been the warmest extended summer period on record, according to the Met Office - and temperatures look likely to remain unseasonably high for the rest of autumn and early winter. Gardeners have seen their summer flowering plants lasting longer, late migrating birds are feeding up on bumper numbers of insects, and Mediterranean moths and butterflies are heading to Britain. According to Met Office figures, between May and September the average temperature was 16.2C. That is 2C warmer than in any year between 1961 and 1990. July was also the warmest month ever, September hit record temperatures, and now the first half of autumn has seen temperatures about 3C above average.

Kyoto, Mr. Bush?



Wednesday, November 29

Early days


Here's Eitan at less then three months. From the start he has been a happy personality and pleasure, including his big smiles which instantly bond him to us and, more pragmatically, to Sonnet's boob.

Last night we have dinner at the River Cafe in Hammersmith and one of London's finest. The restaurant, adored by foodies of all shapes and sizes, was opened by Chefs Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers, and has trained up many culinary stars most famously Jaimie Oliver. We join friends Dave and Tabitha Claydon for a four course Italian meal - the food is as simple and unpretentious as Italian should be, with great kicks of lemon, parmesan, tomato or chili. Tabitha and Sonnet became friends around babies in North London, and our paths nearly crossed at Columbia where Tabatha was a TA for Jimmy Rogers popular class on value-investing. Jimmy and Tabitha travelled together on a pair of BMW motorcycle, visiting 180 countries in their trek to establish a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, which they did. Rogers wrote a book, "The Investment Biker," which can be found on most MBA book shelves, though I don't have one. Today, Tabitha and Dave have three children, a house in St John's Wood, and a country home in Bath where Sonnet and I have visited with the children on a number of warm occasions.

Monday, November 27

The Moon And The Sky

Madeleine and Eitan display their own interpretations of the world surrounding them. These paintings created yesterday, Sunday, during a rainy day inside. Madeleine's painture above presents the moon-lit sky with stars and street lamps on our block. She cuts off the corner edges for some reason. Eitan shows the night-time sun in the upper left corner, a smiling earth and the Milky Way on the bottom right. The blotches of blue-black and red are stars, and the wiggly lines and pointy dots gravity. These treasure now hanging in my offices.

Sunday, November 26

Sunday Chatter Boxes


Madeleine, talking to (grandma) Gracie in California this evening, asks to speak to "the cat," also known as "Sweetie Pie," which she does for several moments then promises to draw the cat some pictures.

On our Sunday afternoon drive in Richmond Park we pass a buck mounting a doe. Madeleine pipes up from the back seat: "Look! The deer are hugging!"

Eitan, drawing quietly at the dining room table, starts: "Aw, man- I peed in my pants!"

Madeleine: "Daddy will you have square eyes forever?"
Me: "What are square eyes?"
Madeleine: "Square eyes are when your brain goes mush, you can't think properly, and you have to wear glasses."

Me (to kids arguing about some toy): "Stop fighting - we share everything in this household."
Eitan: "Well, you don't share your computer!"
Me: "That's because you don't know how to use it."
He, storming off, slamming door: "I do know how to use it. I use it at the library where I play catching-parcels!"

And it continues....

Eitan to Madeleine: "You don't know how to play the computer."
Madeleine, indignant: "I do to!"
Eitan, matter-of-factly: "No, you don't Madeleine."
She: "Yes- when you are at school, I played with Aggie's six times."

Madeleine at the table playing with her waffles: "Look mum, I've made a boat with people on it."

Eitan's favorite story: 'There is a bear in the woods having a poo. He is standing next to a rabbit. The bear says to the rabbit "does poo stick to your fur?" The rabbit says no, so the bear wipes his bottom with the rabbit.' This gets the usual guffaw, and especially effective when told at a dinner party to our older guests like last night's Thanksgiving. Another funny I have taught him is to break a rubber band, wrap each end around a finger, and pretend sneeze separating hands quickly so rubber looks like snot.

Saturday, November 25

Wet


We endure a rain-soaked, and cold morning of football at Palewell common. What starts out as a lovely clear morning turns sour - and we are stuck on the pitch with little more than an umbrella and good cheer (mostly). Madeleine scores four goals - two actually legitimate - as her side triumphs in the pee-wee division. She is the largest kid in the group and, I'm proud to say, the most nimble on her feet though she can bludgeon the ball on occasion. Eitan is slippery, and has mastered the "tackle" - he slides onto his knee, other leg fully extended, and strips the ball from an attacker. As the kids play at different hours, Madeleine and her friend Wylfie entertain themselves by climbing a tree.

On the walk home: "Madeleine, what is one plus one?"
She:"Eight?"
"No."
"Nine?"
"No"
Ten?
No
Eleven
No
Twelve
No
Thirteen?
No, you're guessing.
Dad! you always ask me the hard ones!

Rana and Kambiz, Darya and baby
Alexander, and Rana's mom Ann join us for a belated Thanksgiving dinner (it's Saturday). Sonnet and Rana prepare an 18 lb. turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas and of course pumpkin pie. We drink champagne and talk about the war, babies and the good 'ol U.S. of A. (Ann is visiting from Indiana, and in London until January). The only thing missing is eight hours of (American) football. Afterwards, Eitan and Madeleine stay up late watching Ice Age 2, a reward for helping me rake up the leaves in the back-yard.

Friday, November 24

Gomez

I return to London yesterday on the red-eye. After a quick nap (Madeleine I find staring at me at some point), I visit my office and organise myself and make a few semi-coherent Skype calls. Sonnet and I meet for dinner (she looks fabulous) and then see Gomez at the Hammersmith theatre in London. Gomez is a British band formed in 1996, who signed their first album with Virgin Records in 1997. In 1998 they won the Mercury Prize for 'Best Album', and have continued to produce interesting alternative rock ever since. They remind me of Pearl Jam. Eric Price introduced me to the group, and while not to everyone's taste including Sonnet (we leave after one hour) I like the sound. It's groovy.

Bring it on, make it right
Bring it on into the light
Pick me up satellite
If its wrong, make it right

I drop the kids off at school , and Madeleine and I practice our West Coast slang. I tell her to ask Aggie if her lunch today is "righteous"
, or "totally gnarly." She tells me matter-of-factly that she does not want to be a surfer when she grows up. I ask why? and she says "because there are Tiger Sharks, and they will eat you." This is a fair point. Eitan chimes in that "Tiger sharks are the most dangerous shark there is, but only found in Hawaii."

Wednesday, November 22

Park Ave.


I see Mary for breakfast this morning at The Brasserie, just across Park Avenue from Park Avenue Plaza where I worked at First Boston as a Finanacial Analyst - my first job out of college. The Brasserie used to be open 24 hours, and always a good option when pulling an all-nighter for a next-day-pitch for some high-demand-client at who-knows-where. Mary is vibrant as usual, and on her way down-town to the NASDAQ, meeting a friend who is ringing the closing bell and is the CEO of the national food bank network called Second Harvest (Mary drops this in as we separate). Otherwise, she and her family are well and educated or educating on the Upper West Side, and her career marches forward at The Boston Consulting Group.

Letty, our former nanny and beloved by the kids and Madeleine especially, stays the night with us (she now lives in Norfolk). To their delight, Letty picks the children up from school, spends the afternoon with them at the park and elsewhere, then takes them to a special dinner at Pizza Express (their choice!). Madeleine and Eitan set up a military style sleeping camp in their room, and insist that Letty is there for the sleep-over.

NYC

This photograph taken in the middle of Park Avenue and 47th, at 2300. New York has changed since I lived here last in 1997. It is clean- I mean, really clean. I have yet to see graffiti of any sort, trash or even the occasional chewing gum wrapper on the sidewalk. There is always a manic vibe, and this time no different as the Christmas lights go up on Madison Avenue and the shoppers arrive for Thanksgiving weekend. Katie and I have a late lunch and coffee at the Rockefeller Cafe next to the ice rink. We are seated by a window and can watch people smack the ground. I arrived yesterday, and will see a few more friends tomorrow before returning to London for our own Thanksgiving, which we will host this year as in the past.

MoMA

Katie and I meet today at the MoMA in Midtown to spend some time with Pablo, Eugene Delacroix, Van Gaugh, Jackson Pollack, Seurat, Monet (of course) and other friends. My favorite is Picasso's 'boy leading a horse' which I remember seeing vividly for the first time in 1991.

Katie tells me that her favorite is the Joseph Cornell box with the doll and twigs, which she likes because it reminds her of Edward Gorey's children's (sort of) book, the Gashleycrumb alphabet (especially "N is for Neville who died of ennui").


We also visit photographers Jonathan Monk, Barbara Probst, Jules Spinatsch. Probst has an interesting approach of training four cameras on her at different angles and wired to take a picture at precisely the same moment. The result is disorienting and forces the viewer to consider how the environment forces Probst's reflection.

Tonight Katie and I have dinner in the Village with long ago First Boston colleague
and friend J. Kelly Flynn and his fiancee of three weeks Christine, Tim Larrison and his girlfriend Kitty (whose father has published a book on his experience of the Holocaust in Poland), Jim Ledbetter and his friend Anne, who I learn is the Senior Editor for the New York Times Book Review, and a bunch of Kelly's friends including Mike who generously provide us with wine from his collection covering many vintage years and locations. Well done.

Monday, November 20

LA Coleseum

This is the L.A. Coliseum where the Bears got trounced yesterday by USC 23-9. The first half looked promising for us and we went into the half-time break leading 9-6. It all went pear shaped however, when Cal was outdone by superior size and bad reffing. Adding to the injury were the loud-mouthed 'SC fans who didn't let up throughout. On the positive side, I stayed with Berkeley friends Christian Wright and Mike Schrag at The Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood (as a side bar, Burt Reynolds was there and I overheard two teenagers: "who is Burt Reynolds?" Have I become so ancient, I wonder?) while Matty and Daniel Price join us for the tail-gating and game. Christian and I nurse our spirits and hang-overs with an upward run into the Hollywood hills on Runyun Canyon trail, which eventually presents us with a spectacular panorama of Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean. The temperature presses against 90 degrees and it is easy to understand why, despite it all, people love this place.

Sloan

Thursday I have dinner and spend the night with the Rob and Sloan Klein family in Mill Valley. Sloan founded Sextant Search three years ago, informing me casually that she was going to start a business as we swam across Lake Alpine in the Sierras. Today, Sextant is one of the leading executive placement and advisories to private equity and finance companies in the United States, and many of Sloan's clients are the most recognisable in their particular expertise. After founding her company with several partners, and reaching a point where the business is now stable and profitable, Sloan has stepped back to find professional balance and focus her spirit on her two children Sophie and Jaimes. She still keeps a client or two, but now her time is spent where it counts, and it shows during my visit.

Saturday, November 18

CW 'SC


Here I am at the Cal-USC football game (thank you Christian Wright). Otherwise, the hype this weekend is about the #1 Ohio State v. #2 Michigan in Columbus, Ohio. The two teams are both undefeated, only the third time they have met unblemmished in their 103 rivalry and first time both ranked so highly. The winner will take the Big Ten title, and go on to the BCS championship bowl for a shot at the national title. If not for Cal's maddening defeat by Arizona last weekend, our game in L.A. would have enjoyed similar attention.

I meet with the fellow who is opening investor Fondinvest's US offices. Fondinvest manages money for CDC and the French postal service and so an important private equity player. At a cool bar, we converse in french receiving quite a few bemused glances. This makes me feel pretty good. Pardieu!

Thursday, November 16

Traffico

At 0630 this morning I drive across the Bay Bridge to avoid rush-hour traffic (I don't) and am welcomed by an orange and pink sunrise pointed by the Campanile on the UC Berkeley campus with the North Berkeley seismic hills in the background.

I admit that it feels a bit like 1999 all over again, and I am happy to see companies like Squidoo, Bebo and Moblabber get funded. As one entrepreneur says to the Times: "We lose money on every transaction, but we'll make it up in volume."

AOL announces a new business mode: 100% free! America, unlike Britain, is a can-do country and California is the heart. Why Silicon Valley exists must date back to the earliest 49ers, when people crossed the country at their peril to find gold and re-create themselves. This continues onward today, and Californians are special in their spiritual outlook.

Where else can blowing millions of dollars of venture funding be viewed as part of the learning experience? Those who do overcome the J-curve want the rush again - retirement is not an option for those under the age of, well, never. Along with Industry Ventures and Walden Venture Capital, I will meet the founders of PayPal tomorrow.

These guys made their money when they sold to Ebay in 2002, and now they have launched new companies Friendster, LinkedIn, Slide, Facebook and others.

Maples


Another photograph from last weekend, this shot taken in Green Park at the Canadian Memorial.

Today I arrive in California to spend the night in my old bedroom in Berkeley. Tomorrow I will be with our fund Industry Ventures in San Francisco, then the Cal-USC football game on Saturday in Los Angeles. The Bears loss to Arizona last weekend dropped a sure top-5 ranking and a shot at the championship bowl series in January. Still, if we defeat the Trojans, now ranked third in the country, we will go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1959.

While driving from the airport this afternoon, I listen to Henry Waxman on NPR. Waxmen will soon chair the House Government Reform Committee and drew a funny reminder that the Republicans investigated Clinton for sending Christmas cards, and failed to look into Iraqi contracts, wire tapping, the war.... Ah, it's good to be in the Bay Area!

Monday, November 13

Breakfast at Tiffany's


This photo of Catherine taken on the morning of her wedding to Peter Shiao, July 22, 2006 at the Ritz Pasadena. Sonnet, the Maid of Honour, is in the background (probably calling me to make sure the kids are ok). This photograph taken by Scott Lightner.

Saturday, November 11

Lions

I ask Madeleine, sitting next to me now, what she was thinking about when I took this photo. She: "I was thinking about a baby lion when the hunters killed the baby lion (Madeleine makes a growling face). The baby lion then stood up on her hind legs. Then the hunters killed her again. The hunters killed the lion because they didn't have anything to eat, and that was not a way to respect the baby lion. The owner of the baby lion and the woods was angry at the hunter. The next morning, brown smoke cleared up the air. A horse came by and saw the meat . He ate the meat. And then he ran away because the hunters came. He was shot because the horse bent down. the owner thought she was dead, so the owner put him in prison. Then a man from a station came, with a crocodile. And a phone. He said to the hunter: 'are you dragging him away to jail? You will not be a hunter if you go to jail.' "

Green Park


Madeleine gets a free ride in The Green Park, which is one of the Royal Parks of London. 

Covering an area of about 53 acres, GP was originally a swampy burial ground for lepers from the nearby hospital at Saint James's. It was also a favorite spot for Mayfair dandies to have a duel. The park was first enclosed in the 16th cnetury by Henry VIII. In 1668 Charles II made it a Royal Park, laying out the park's main walks. The park lies between Hyde Park and St. James's Park. Together with Kensington Gardens and Buckingham Palace, these parks form an almost unbroken stretch of open land reaching from Whitehall and Victoria Station to Kensington and Notting Hill. 

By contrast with its neighbours, Green Park has no lakes nor any statues or fountains (except for Canada Memorial), but consists entirely of wooded meadows. The park is bounded on the south by Constitution Hill, on the east by the pedestrian Queen's Walk, and on the north by Piccadilly. It meets St. James's Park at Queen's Gardens with the Victoria Memorial at its centre, opposite the entrance to Buckingham Palace. To the south is the ceremonial avenue of The Mall, and the buildings of St James's Palace and Clarence House overlook the park to the east.

I tell Madeleine that a boullion cube is a caramel. She stuffs it into her mouth, grimaces and spits into the sink. Eitan and I have a hardy laugh; Sonnet rolls her eyes.

The Friends


Bruce and Diane Friend visit London on their return trip to Berkeley from India. I have known the Friends since the early 1970s when our families and others celebrated the Jewish Cedar. I am happy to report that they are vibrant and remain true to their liberal roots. After breakfast at The Wolseley in Mayfair, we walk through Green Park on our way to Trafalgar Square to pay tribute to the fallen soldier. Today, and the same every November 11, 1100 hour, since 1919 England stands still for two minutes to honor wartime dead. The somber moment begins with a fly-over by six Royal Navy carrier helicopters as the St. Martin's bells clang. Precisely two minutes later four Harrier jets pass overhead. After saying our good-byes to Bruce and Diane, Sonnet and I walk The Mall towards Buckingham Palace and the kids stop to build a fortress in Geeen Park. On our return to the car, we pass by the New Zealand War memorial in Grosvenor Square, to be opened today by Queen Elisabeth II. Madeleine takes a nap in the back seat on the drive home.

Eitan to me this morning, very seriously: "Do not come into my room. It's booby-trapped."

Thursday, November 9

Elections '06




The world is righting itself, following Virginia who gives us a Democratic Senator with the slimmest of margins or less than 8,000 votes from 2.3 million cast (surely a recount) following Montana and so the Senate. We also gave the Republicans a "thumping" in the House. The times they are a' changing.

Tuesday’s election was an overwhelming victory for us Democrats. Candidates planning to caucus with the Democrats took 24 of the 33 Senate seats at stake this year, winning seven million more votes than Republicans. In House races, Democrats received about 53 percent of the two-party vote, giving them a margin more than twice as large as the 2.5-percentage-point lead that Mr. Bush claimed as a “mandate” two years ago — and the margin would have been even bigger if many Democrats hadn’t been running unopposed.

I do the school drop-off this morning, wearing my running kit for a loop in Richmond Park afterwards. I've not worn these togs before, so I'm not surprised when I get several unusual looks from the mums. Yes, I am American and eccentric. Madeleine, in the school line-up pulls me close and asks "why is everybody looking at you dad?" Me: "because I'm wearing my running outfit." She: "No, it's because you've got that paper on your chin." Gasp: I had cut myself shaving and forgot to remove the toilet paper.

Here is a cool new word I learned today from my friend Dale West:
Solipsism -
1. The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.; 2. The theory or view that the self is the only reality.

Monday, November 6

Ava

Halley and Ava spend the night with us, as Ava must renew her American passport. We last saw Halley at Catherine Majkut's June wedding in Southern California, so we have a chance to do a re-cap and relive the affair, including the Madeleine Episode when she pulled a runner (broadcast announcement moments before the ceremony: "has anyone seen a little girl in a blue dress?"). Ava is in year 1 at the St Leanard's school in Exeter where, she informs me, she has "lots of friends" and is having fun. Together with Madeleine and Eitan, the kids run wild and I have to take them for a cool-down walk and some 'time-trials' (running up and down the block so they can burn off energy). Following dinner, the kids plop themselves down in front of The Muppets, while the adults drink a glass of wine. Bedtime antics keep the house up well past bedtime for everybody.

Football

Eitan takes his sport seriously, and this afternoon Sunday we head for the the common to practice some ball skills. I no longer handicap myself when playing with him - Eitan is quick, and agile. We first practice run-and-shoot drills, then ball control and finally the two of us square off for a one-on-one, which he wins 4-3 (okay, I let the last goal slip through as I wanted to leave). Eitan plays Saturday mornings as always, and Monday afternoons with his school club. And his favorite premiership team? Could be Arsenal, could be 'spurs, could be Chelsea... we will see which way the wind blows regarding this all-important, life time commitment.

Sunday, November 5

Spy state

Food for thought in Britain:

-there is one CCTV camera for every 14 people. On average, a citizen is caught on camera more than 300 times, or once every five minutes

-there are 5,000 speed cameras and 8,000 automatic plate recognition devices. London's Metropolitan police have introduced "eye in the sky" cameras attached to helicopters that can read numberplates on the ground.

-a mobile phone stores information, and in 2002 law enforcement made more than 400,000 requests for data from mobile network operators

-all UK Internet service providers must monitor the websites British users visit, and pass the information to MI5 under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill

-Loyalty Management UK, the private company that operates the Nectar loyalty card, has over 50% of the UK population holding one of their cards

Chores

There's a bit of a grumble this morning when I ask the kids if they wish to accompany me on my Sunday chores run. Eitan rejects the idea out-right, so on the fly I promise ice cream. Madeleine jumps on the opportunity, but Eitan, alas, must learn the hard way not to commit himself until all the facts are on the table. Madeleine and I go to Homebase for some household stuff including a potted flower she picks for Sonnet. Already Christmas is here, and a large area offers various holiday lights (on Oxford Street the other day I note that the decorations are way on). Following a few more stops, we visit the local ice cream parlor and not surprisingly given the temperature (8 degrees Celsius), we are the only customers. Madeleine is unperturbed and gets her favorite always - strawberry.

Halley, one of Sonnet's closest friends from Smith and now in Exeter, and her daughter Ava will spend the night as Ava must renew her passport tomorrow at the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square.

Saturday, November 4

The Grill Is "On"

This evening I oversee the Guy Fawkes BBQ. I bring home 800 frozen beef burgers, 500 hot dogs and the equivalents in buns. Eitan re the BBQ: "are you going to be the only one?"
FYI this is the poster I drummed up for the bbq, where I managed to sucker seven volunteers to flip burgers and sausages which, by the way, contain "53% pork fat." Otherwise, the Sheen Mount fireworks celebrating the quartering of Guy Fawkes are impressive and culminate with a bon fire spectacular that lights up the sky. Madeleine is, frankly, terrified and Sonnet takes her into the school for comfort. In all, we, the PTA, sell over 1,400 tickets making the evening one of our top yearly fundraisers.

Eitan, last night, being ordered to bed: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It's all so boring."

Madeleine this morning on scoring a goal during football: "My coach was really happy, but he did not give me any gold."

Me, discovering the kitchen dishes in the backyard filled with mud: "what kind of a mess is this!?" 

Madeleine, matter-of-fact: "It's not a mess, dad - it's a mud stew."

Thursday, November 2

Trick-or-treat

The Big Day arrives Tuesday, equally anticipated to a birthday or even Christmas. Eitan and Madeleine, costumes on and raring to go, bolt out the door and down the block to Andrew and Karen Pickup's house to meet them and one other family. On the way we pass pumpkins and Eitan amps out: "DAD WE'RE GOING TO MISS EVERYTHING!" Things settle down, and several bags of candy are collected by each child. The neighborhood turns out for the evening, including haunted-houses complete with faux spider webs, a stereo blasting spooky sounds and carved pumpkins. Two hours later, satiated, we return home and Eitan and Madeleine race upstairs to regard their loot. After hours, I foolishly nick a piece of candy not anticipating the boy to count each piece of his hard-earned stash. The next morning, half-asleep, I am accused of pilfering the treasure. No white lie on this one, and when I come clean the response is to be expected. Beyond tears and rage, Eitan marches into his room to hide the candy, and never to trust his paw again.