Tuesday, August 11


Sonnet forgets the kids sun lotion and Madeleine returns from soccer camp with a red face. I admonish the children to wear sun block - it is not our job to ensure the little rats lathered up - and we have like three tubes at the door including an aerosol spray. Madeleine has fair skin and freckles so she needs to be extra cautious while Eitan has olive skin that seems to get more Mediterranean every summer day, lucky boy. This on my mind since Cancer Research UK reports that sunbeds, which mimic the sun's UV, damage skin cell DNA and can cause skin cancer. Sunbeds are estimated kill 100 bathers from melanoma every year in the UK with many thousands of cases. In fact, Ministers are preparing to clamp down on the cosmetic tanning industry indicating sunbeds belong in the same category of carcinogenic risk as tobacco smoke. Bummer, dude.

When I was a youngster, Coppertone set the benchmark - remember that cute lttle girl getting her white ass exposed by the mischievous puppy? Paedophiles were loving that era. Be scared. Be scared. Coppertone offered sunblock grades from one to three to seven .. now there's protection. Kinda like using using a condom from the the 1970s. Back then, we all got sun burnt on purpose and then it faded or peeled into the perfect, beautiful summer tan just right with a white La Coste and Sperry canvas topsiders. When I was in college I even used cooking oil, you know - for cooking - then fried it up in our back-yard. Every college kid on the East Coast had to return bronzed especially if you were lucky enough to be from California. The mythology and all that. While strangely I spent every summer in Providence, RI, I did go home for a couple of weeks or so before the fall semester and boy did I lap up the sunshine and pssst sometimes a tanning bed. It would have gone against the image to do anything otherwise.

I show Eitan and Madeleine ghastly images of skin caner sourced from Google. I tell them it is a horrible way to die. Photo from the WWW.

Monday, August 10


Sarah jumping into something she knows nothing about, again. This time it is the Obama health care plan and she blogs: "death panel"for the sick or elderly or whomever. Sadly, many dip-shits seem to believe her, just as these same citizens believe that Obama does not have a birth-certificate, a rumour that the Conservatives just kick around and around though it discredits their Republican party. It is not like anything new - remember those unpatriotic pricks Swift Boat Veterans For Truth? What worries me is the President - if a substantial minority of citizens - mostly BTW in the South - feel their elected leader not American, what does this say for his security? Dr George Tiller murdered last month by a nut job pumped full of Bill O'Reilly, who surely has blood on his hands ("Dr Killer" he called Tiller; words count Mr. O'Reilly). But, really, I get away from the main point of this blog. Sarah Palin is hot! Here she is, courtesy of Runner's World, look'n like a babe! Check out the lovely curves, shiny flesh, her fecundity. Of course we want to hear her, talk about her, blog her, and twitter her. Billy Crystal no dummy - we are absorbed with Sarah Palin and who cares what the else? We get what we deserve, after all.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”
--Sarah Palin, posted on her blog


The bottle above is the amount of carcinogenic liquid one-pack-a-day smokers put into their lungs in a year’s time. I am sorry but this is fucking gross. Data collected using a smoke-simulator mimicking a typical smokers puffing patterns (source: Joel Spitzer, 2001). If a diluted form of this tar swabbed onto the skin of mice, 60% of the mice develop cancer of the skin inside one year. The good news is that smoking steadily declines in Britain; the bad news that the 20-24 age-group most active puffers at 32% their population (vs. overall 27%) (source: Cancer Research UK)

There are socio-economic differences too, not surprisingly - Manual workers start to smoke at an earlier age, with 48% of men and 40% of women in routine and manual occupations regularly smoking by 16 compared with 33% of men and 28% of women in managerial and professional occupations. Unlike yesteryear, smokers cannot pretend uneducated and every packet in the UK carries: "SMOKING KILLS" in caps. So why do we do it?

Well, if I recall from my yuf, smoking the only drug that serves as a relaxant or a stimulant depending on one's mood. It goes great with reading or late night studying when concentration required. Marbreds are cool and express one's uniqueness or contempt. It also the perfect mini-break and takes awkwardness from a conversation given its fixed timing. Now, that all gone and I do feel sorry for the poor slobs who huddle outside their building when it's raining or worse taking hits from their dirty, deathly habit. But at least they can choose to do so - this no place for Big Brother.

"The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide."
-- Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, August 9

High Speed

Europe has close to 3,000 miles of high-speed rail, or track that can take trains >150 mph. The UK has .. 68, or the distance the Eurostar (pictured) travels from St Pancras to the English Channel. It took us forever to get there too. And way more expensive then the French side- WTF? And the U.S, with its big cities, vast open spaces and leading technology? Amtrak says high speed but it is really "high speed." The Acela Express service from Boston to Washington D.C. via NY, Philadelphia and Baltimore offers an average speed of 68 mph. And if you think that sucks, non "high-speed" New York City to Chicago choo choo's at 34 mph. For Pet's sake, this is slower than a Model T which made its debut 100 years ago.

Contrast America to France's TGV which hits service speeds of 173 mph and hast tested 357 mph or the world's fastest. Japan has its famous Shinkansen network carrying "bullet" trains up to 275mph and moving >151 million people to-and-fro every year, according to expert Chris Hood in London. Even Turkey is building high-speed rail lines aiming to double track speed to 184 mph within five years. So why not America? Or worse, the Brits who invented the steam engine in 1698 when it was patented by Thomas Savory.. and then later England's steam engines made the 18th century's Industrial Revolution possible.

Our countries no doubt scheming to put in new lines if only because the World embarrassing us (China: 3,370 miles). To make it so, there must be political will and public capital - infrastructure projects notorious losers for early private investors, as the Eurotunnel aptly demonstrated. England still recovering from under-investment from Thatcher and today's recession/ debt while the U.S. competes with planes and SUVs. Still, given trains provide a cheap, clean source of transportation and the continuing concentration of our populations, there is hope.

Eurostar photo from Eurostar.

Saturday, August 8


Today the Premiere League starts all over again following an eleven-week break. Seems like just yesterday that I was leading Eitan from the Red Lion bar in The Village following Barcelona's 2-nil drubbing of Manchester United in the Champions League final. The dear boy was in tears. Inconsolable, really.

So this evening Newcastle takes on West Brom - both teams relegated last year to the Champions League. Despite this, the West Brom stadium without seat spared in their old-style stadium. Oh, it actually is old. The Premiere Leagues 20 teams each play 38 games from now until May, culminating in a winner based on one-loss or, if tie, goals. And here is more: the PL formed in 1992 following the break-away of the Football League First Division from The Football League, which was founded in 1888. This done for a lucrative television rights deal. Musta been nasty.

The Premier League has become the world's most watched sporting league, according to The
Observer. Not surprisingly, then, it is also the world's most money league, with club annual revenues of £1.93 billion in 2007–08 (source: BBC). 43 teams have competed in the PL with relegations and promotions yet only four have one the thing: Chelsea, Blackborn Rovers, Arsenal and our lads Manchester United who own last year's trophy.

New season, Eitan

Primrose Hill

Dana and Nathan have a lovely home with five floors of living space. Primrose Hill has always been a cool spot of London next to Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, which I used to run from Maida Vale. There is limited traffic due to a rail on one side and the parks allowing a bustling high street to develop with excellent restaurants and pubs, a book shop and Italian icery. An upscale grocery store perfect for picnics or whatever while people-watching most flavorful. There are plenty of celebs, too: David Miliband (Secretary of State), Gwen Stefani, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Jon Snow (news broadcaster), Sophie Ellis Baxtor, Rachel Weisz, Ewan McGregor and Agyness Deyn (Super Model) just to name a few. This inside 27 blocks. Dana tells me that Kate Moss moved to next door St John's Wood last year, oh well.

The hill itself 256 feet and we debate if London's highest, but I believe that goes to in Westerham Heights in Bromley at 804 feet (Primrose Hill doesn't crack the Top 20). It does, however, offer one of the best views of Central London and before us, stretching beyond the London Zoo, is the BT Tower, Barbican Centre, Centre Point, Tower 42 and every other highrise the city owns. Cool.

And one final trivia: in H.G. Well's "The War of the Worlds", Primrose Hill was the site of the final Martian encampment.

Raisins And Raisin Bran

Saturday morning. We drive to Primrose Hill to see Dana, Nathan, Dakota and Calvin. Anthony arrives and we have a lovely London day. Eitan none to happy about having to wear a proper shirt instead of his sloppy T-shirt; he cheers up when he sees Anthony suffering the same pattern.

Before we drive, I find Eitan putting raisins into water. I raise an eyebrow and he replies: "Testing raisins" matter of factly. Since I make tea he asks for the boiling kettle to compare raisin size to heat: temperate, warm and boiling, which kinda gets my interest. Science it is, after all. Later he notes: "they (the raisins) did not swell. They became very, very mushy." And water temperature? "It kind of turned into a different test. The hot ones became the mushiest, the cold the second and warm one the last." Mushiness determined by his touch. As to why the test - "because I was curious" which is right up there with Edmund Hillary's "because it's there." Bravo, I say.

And since we are on the topic of raisins, Raisin Bran is manufactured by several companies under a variety of brand names like 'Total Raisin Bran' and 'Raisin Nut Bran' (General Mills) 'Post Raisin Bran' by Kraft. Since I am sure you, Dear Reader, are as interested as I, Skinner's Raisin Bran was the first on the market in '26 by U.S. Mills, best known for the similar Uncle Sam Cereal. The name "Raisin Bran" was at one time trademarked, but it became genercised from widespread use of the term, so it is no longer trademark protected (according to HighBeam Research, Inc).

The mother of all raisin brans is 'Kellog's Raisin Bran' (called Sultana Bran in Britain confusing me all these years), introduced in '42. Who can forget the "Two scoops of raisins in Kellogg's Raisin Bran" and the mascot, an animated sun named "Sunny"? That campaign with us from 1966 into the 1990s. From Madison Avenue to the main street's high street to your upper kitchen cubbard next to the refridgerator. This how it is supposed to be done.

Friday, August 7

Poker Face

An arresting shot by Leon, taken in '06.

The photo reminds me of Lady Gaga, whose song "Poker Face" seems to be everywhere including, unfortunately, our house. The lyrics are really inexcusable:

"I won't tell you that I love, kiss or hug you
'cause I'm bluffin with my muffin
I'm not lying, I'm just stunnin' with my love-glue-gunning (ma)
just like a chick in the casino, take your bank before I pay you out
I promise this, promise this
check this hand 'cause I'm marvelous"

And then the riff, two-times: "p-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face."

At least in my day (that would be the '80s) one could make sense of what the hell was going on in a song (excluding maybe "Stairway To Heaven"). I mean, Styx, Boston and REO Speedwagon - now these guys were screaming about something and while it all may have sounded kinda the same, we knew what it was about. Take "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey: two small-town losers hanging on via one-night stands. Or Asterly's "Never Gonna Give You Up" - well, that one is about a dude who's never gonna give her up. It may be gay but for a while it was fun to listen to. Or Heart's "I am the flower you are the seed, We walked in the garden, We planted a tree." Then there's Princes "Little Red Corvette" where he belts: "I've got a lion in my pocket and baby he is ready to roar" or AC/DC's wondefully named "Sink The Pink." No PG-13 needed for understanding there. Righteous.

The Internet makes music selection that much easier. Joy Division, for instance, can be heard in the Editors, Interpol, the Smiths and even the Cure but you really have to listen for it. Now a song's geneology captured via the
Music Genome Project, begun in '88 by Stanford graduate Tim Westergren. Tim classified songs using >400 "genetic markers" that, applied to a song and taken together, help create a taxonomy of music. Markers include basic attributes like acoustic or electronic, to subtle qualities of the lead singer’s voice and all aspects of the arrangement - like hand claps in the mix. Dissonant harmonies, guitar effects, specific use of drums and cymbals, syncopation, orchestral music, and even subtle influences become part of the song’s DNA map. Online music companies Pandora.com (backed by Walden Ventures) and Last.fm (Index Ventures) use this technology to drive traffic and sales. This not surprising to readers of Ian Ayers "Super Crunchers" which shows how really, really large data set analysis transforming everything from industry to.. your music selection.

Thursday, August 6


Man, how trippy to blog about Centre Point then see this in Richmond Park half an hour later. I snap the buck between breaks in the rain and he lets me get within feet of him. Richmond Park is where I do a lot of my running since a perfect seven mile loop on a groomed trail. The park one of those taken-for-granted treasures like Central Park, which is about one-third the size of ours. RP is Britain's largest urban walled park and the largest of the Royal Parks in London. Moe points out that East Sheen Gate is 0.6 miles from our new house but I think it less. It is a two-minute jog, if that measures anything.

And since this England, the park's history: during King Edward's (1272-1307) reign the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII's reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the land was not popular with the local residents, but he did allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain, although they have been partially rebuilt and reinforced. All houses backing on to the park pay a feudal fee known euphemistically as “Richmond Park Freebord” ranging from about £2 to £200 per annum. Poor them, but kinda cool.

This year the a debate rages about a parking charge - today free, but this may soon change unless a local outcry prevents the greedy hands of the cash strapped Richmond Council. Personally I have no problem with a fee given the majority of visitors, at least on the week end, from outside our area. After all, otherwise the grounds upkeep disproportionately from my council taxes. That don't seem fair.

Centre Point

I have grumbled about Centre Point before, and here she is in all her nastiness. 32 stories high and 385 feet, CP located at Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road and towers above everything in Central London. Other than the City which is some miles away, CP the only highrise around. Not surprising, then, that the site was once occupied by a gallows. As my friend Nick who occupies the top floor once told me, "Centre Point is the most lovely view around. As long as you are looking from it."

Whilst on tall buildings, the Araabs make sure that our tallest to be built: Renzo Piano's "Shard" half a mile south of the London Bridge. It is expected completed by the 2012 Olympics. Otherwise London building bleak as 5.75 million square feet of 2011 office space cancelled, ka-put, according to British Land. This due to the credit crisis which, says developer Irvine Sellar, "happened arguably in the nick of time. If it had happened a few months later, a lot of buildings that have been delayed would have gone ahead" leaving us, presumably, with a load of dead space (Centre Point was vacant for years when it opened in recession, '66). These tall buildings cast their long shadow's vibe over entire neighborhoods. Today it is all steel and tinted glass while yesteryear limestone or brick. London has dug its way out of the horrible 1960s but I wonder with such crap projects as 1 Hyde Park coming online whether we do ourselves justice? Prince Charles feels obliged to take on the iconic designers and maybe he has a point.

"At the moment it looks as though London seems to be turning into an absurdest picnic table - we already have a giant gherkin, now it looks as if we are going to have an enormous salt cellar."
--Prince Charles, on the design for Renzo Piano's "Shard of Glass", 2003

Wednesday, August 5

Harvard Yard Software

Eric puffs it up. He is one of my best friends from college and writes code like nobody's business. He studied physics at Cornell and is a fearsome mathematician who cracks derivatives like wall nuts

Somehow Eric is going to combine the two and spawn a multi-million dollar business. I already see Roger handling the product management and Chas the Chief Operating Officer. Name the business 'Harvard Yard Software' or some such thing and craft a steel plated business plan complete with star quality Advisors from Eric's maths networks. Rent a shabby office and call it "Eric's garage." Throw in a chin-up bar and Mr. Coffee. Hang a model Starship Enterprise from the ceiling, ideally facing down a Klingon fighter. Hire ten Indians either there or here to bang out more code. Find a potential customer willing to serve as a reference or better, buy the product pre-completion. Engage discussions with corpdev at Google or McGraw Hill or Rand or some similar known relevant brand entity. Invite a few industry experts and investors onto the Board; occassionally seek their advice so they feel loved. Incorporate in Delaware, create a capitalisation table, consider tax structures for an exit. Produce pro formas. Call in every favor you own. 

 Me, I'll raise the dough and revel in everybody's hard work - in short, same as it ever was.

Katie And A Bath

Katie at a conference in Chicago (I think) where she discusses her Op-Ed project; shortly afterwards she hangs with Tina Brown from Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. Cool. Her Rolodex includes some very tradable business cards.

Madeleine corners me into buying her a new fish, and really who can resist? She has taken such wonderful care of Bubbles and Flippers, making sure their water clean and they well fed. Before their arrival, Madeleine painted a seaside landscape for behind the tank ("this will make them feel at home" she said). Never in life have these fish wanted for anything. Her joy at another reminds me of being a kid: like those Friday nights I would lie awake anticipating my allowance and a trip to Telegraph Avenue and Comics 'n Comics or Comix World (two within 100 meters - sweet heaven for a ten year old). Eitan feels a bit left out not getting a third-fish of his own but I remind him that we will bend the world to make sure he gets his football and so he seems Ok with it.

So this morning, there I am having a cold bath to sooth my tired legs from marathon training and the whole house, like, passes through. Madeleine has a pee. Sonnet fixes her make-up.
Eitan sits down for a chat about football ("who would your rather play with - Ronaldo or Michael Owen?"). Sometimes I feel like I am in a submarine. A narrow one too. But it is all part of the family - nobody gives a toss about nakedness or human functions. For my part, I cannot remember the last time I was alone without somebody tugging on me somewhere. But then, since Eitan born I have been completely without that most human of conditions - loneliness. Even with Sonnet or in Northern California it was there. So an easy trade-off. But this morning I just want to have my bath in peace. Fat chance.

Tuesday, August 4

Crack Up

Well, this kid one of the many reasons I get up in the morning. How can his face not put you in a good mood? Eitan at the cusp of understanding adult humor with all its sarcasim, subtly and sexual innuendo (when Sonnet not around). He just loves the fact that I try on older jokes with him, even if he doesn't get them completely. So here we are at the train station and I don't really recall what I said, only that we both were cracking up about it. He's a good kid, all I ever could have wished for.

There has been quite a halibahoo over Barclays and their bonusing, which is baaaccck. The bank's first-half earnings rose 10% as profit from investment banking doubled. Net income increased to £1.89 billion from £1.72 billion pounds a year earlier, which is a heck uv a lot of money from an institution on its knees only 18 months ago (remember Robert Diamond, a US-born banker on the board of Barclays, was set to receive a £14.8 million bonus in 2008 even though the subprime mortgage crisis in the US forced his group to take a £1.6bn hit in 2007?).Senior bankers looking to make £millions. As they should.

When the financial melt-down struck, Super Gee prepared to inject £7 billion into Barclays, who instead raised £6.5 billion of new capital on their own: £2 billion by cancellation of dividend and £4.5 billion from private investors. They have earned the right to do whatever the heck they want, including fat bonuses, as long as it is legal, does not destabalise the financial system nor effect me, the tax-payer (contrast this to Goldman BTW who has treated the tax-payer as a chump). All us liberal pasties winging about the unfairness of it all should recall that British taxes 50% so we get back half of it, in the end, anyway.

Repo Man

Private equity has not yet confronted its achiles heal - debt. In fact, deleveraging has only just begun, but it will: S&P LCD reports in the US, the top or "mega" buy-out firms have >$400 billion of responsibilty on their portfolio. These firms face over $21 billion of debt maturities in the next two years, followed by another $50 billion in 2012, $115 billion in 2013 and $192 billion in 2014. And you think your mortgage bad. The over-leverage originated from 2005 to 2007 when credit easy and PE firms took on lots of companies in multi-billion-dollar deals. Now, with credit availability gone, refinancing has become increasingly difficult and firms are seeking new ways to do so. Some are putting new equity into their portfolio companies, selling stakes in businesses to strategic buyers and then buying back debt in their own companies at a discounted rate. Firms are also attempting to persuade lenders to extend maturities on existing loans. The Financial Times notes KKR has successfully pushed back the maturity date on loans coming due in one of its biggest buy-outs so presumably others will to.

Debt, of course works both ways. During cheap credit cycles leverage most efficient whilst de-leveraging a business via its cash-flows creates equity value for investors. It also increases substantially the potential return: Buying a company for $100 then selling it for $110 nets a $10 gain or 10% gross irr over a year. Buying and selling the same asset at the same prices but using $90 of debt results in a $20 gain on the initial $10, or a 100% irr over the same period. This a 10-fold increase in performance. Of course, the debt must be serviced and often this means redundencies or failure when times slow, like today. We may yet see many companies go tits up. For good or bad, the greatest (hubristic) transactions from the largest firms - we then argued that scale a competitive advantage and the bigger the best since larger deals face less competition (fewer dudes can afford the deal) so better terms and indeed, the largest transactions >$1 billion went for multiples 5-6.5X while mid-market or <$1 billion 7-9X from 2005-07. But now the chicken has come home to roost and payments must be .. paid.

Good news, then, that there is some considerable negotiation between borrower and lender since neither wants failure. Restructurings occupies a lot of GP time, which is not good if you are paying a 2% fee to a manager to invest your dough. This not the funds competency, after all. But what alternative, really? This is where we need a Repo Man - remember Emilio Estevez? Now that was a cool flic. He'd solve our problems fer surz.

Monday, August 3

Piscine And Lazy

Since I've been talking about swimming this week, here I am in 1984 at Geneve Natation 1885. Note my groovy trunks - no rubber there. This BTW le Piscine de Vernets, a wonderful nine lane, 50-meter indoor pool whose surrounding made of marble. Outside, a separate 25-meter pool and ten meter diving platform which I refused to master. Since Switzerland, the deck spotless and locker rooms organised around a clean, open and orderly changing area complete with body-dryers and separate changing rooms for the athletes. Why can't every pool be such?

Today the first work day of August and boy, it is dead. The Nordics start their summer first taking off all of July. The rest of Europe follows in August and London's population, I read somewhere, drops 15%. Traffic suggests this to be true. Calls are also way down and today I barely have an email. No scandals in the news. Even the Thames seems to take a lazy turn now that we are outside the high lunar tides. 

I don't complain, mind you - there are plenty of things to do like web searches or buying a house. The kids, for there part, bonkers from boredom. At one point this morning I spot Eitan lying on the floor, face-planted into a pillow.

Today begins football-camp which keeps the mopes occupied for six hours, God bless. I drop the Shakespeares off and wave good-bye. Yes, August a cruel month if you are, like, the only family in Richmond not going on hols.

Sunday, August 2

The Best?

Rome's final tally: 42 world records including the final-final event the men's 4X100 medley relay which the Americans destroy by two-seconds and four teams under the standard set at the Beijing Olympics. From January 1, the rubber condom no more. And the damage? It may take 20 years to catch up to today, if ever. These are athletes who may be at the very peak of human capability unlike, say, the Montreal Olympics in '76 where 14 World Records set. 33 years ago new training principals coming into practice and stroke technique considered seriously for the first time. Today, these advances embedded so now most time-improvements from drugs (East Germany in the 1980s) or height -Michael Gross, Matt Biondi or Ian Thorp or body-freaks: Mary T. Maher, Michael Phelps. And the suit trumps them all. Once pools crackled when a WR broken and now it is ho-hum. Nobody really believes the seal-skinned times, and as Phelps coach Bob Bowman says, no ten year old motivated by these athletes who most likely will fade with their suits.

Maegher, pictured, swam the 200 meter butterfly so fast that it stuck for 19 years (there was talk it might never be broken but that absurd). In August, 1981 she cranked a 2.05.96 which Susie O'neil bettered in Sidney in 2000. Maegher's 100 meter fly equally impressive - 57.93, which Stanford legend Jenny Thompson broke (also) in 2000. To put this in perspective, the 100m fly WR finally broken this week in Rome by nearly 1.5 seconds thanks to the suit LZR Racer (who cares about the swimmer - but it is Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, all of 15)
. Since Maegher, the only athletic equivalent I consider on par is Paula Radcliffe's 2:15.25 London Marathon in 2003. No other women has gone under 2:19 (Flo-Jo changed the record books with her '88 Olympics but she was way juiced and sadly died, aged 38). I think we are going to see Usain Bolt do some things that will stick around for a half-generation. His 9.683 at Beijing slow since he hammed up the last ten meters; experts believe he could have gone 9.52 (I avoid team sports for the Michael Jordon - Scottie Pippen conundrum. MJ the greatest but would he have been as good without Scottie?). Lance Armstrong also makes a case as does Roger Federa but theirs longevity against various skilled competitors. For raw effort, I rank Maegher up there with the best. Ian Thorp would have been, but he is totally erased and Phelps? His eight golds and WR hard to argue but 19 years? Really, though, whatever - these are the people who make life interesting.

Rowdy Gaines points out every swimming World Record, with the exclusion of the 1500 meter freestyle, set from 2008.

Chicken's Feet And More Health Care

Somewhere in our yesterday we find Chinatown for dim sum. Our last order includes chicken's feet and, before arrival, I bet Madeleine she won't eat everything on the table. She is seriously dubious (as she should be) while Eitan refuses the wager. At stake: £1. Since Madeleine in debt having pre-spent her allowance, temptation great and she commits. So the feet arrive, we are titillated, and you know what - pretty good to, once you get over the display that is.

Switching gears, did you know that US health care costs are greater than the entire British economy, which is the fourth largest in the world? The main reason Americans have not received pay increases, in real-terms, since the 1970s because of health's escalating costs. While 47 million may be without insurance, 80% have it and don't want it to change since treatments best and most thorough in the world, bar none. Unfortunately, it also makes us way less competitive - GM cannot sell cars when competing with Koreans or Chinese who don't have the benefits legacy. OK, GM sucks with their SUVs and Ostriche-head-in-sand management. But IBM, GE, Boeing and any US company competing on the global stage has diminishing prospects.

Georgie And Monkman

We visit the National Portrait Gallery yesterday and this is "Georgie" by Mary Jane Ansell, 2009, at the BP Portrait Award. BP sponsoring one of the most prestigious portrait competitions in the world showcasing modern .. portriture. First prize is £25,000, chosen this years from a record >1,900 artists. Fifty-six paintings, including the three shortlisted artists - Annalisa Avancini for Manuel, Michael Gaskell for Tom and Peter Monkman for Changeling 2 - alongside the work of the BP Travel Award 2008 winner Emmanouil Bitsakis who visited China in celebration of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. There are five judges, and I met one of them several years ago: Chair and Director Sandy Nairne. We discussed charitable giving but unfortunately for me (and good for the NPG) there was a very qualified gal from Morgan Stanely leading the charge (she being American so no probs asking for contributions).

Monkman wins First Prize BTW, announced 16 June; he has also been included in the award exhibiton in 1999, 2001 and 2003.When not brushing, he is Director of Art at Charterhouse School in nearby Surrey; he studied visual arts at the University of Lancaster, John Moores University Liverpool and the University of London. Monkman's portrait is part of a series of his daughter exploring the concept of the changeling, a child substituted for another by stealth, often with an elf. The initial ideas for this portrait came from photographic studies of Anna playing in woods in Brittany "where the light had a magical quality." he notes.

Saturday, August 1

Sutton Hoo And Rome

Here's me by artifacts from Sutton Hoo (pictured) that Sonnet studied in Art 100 at Smith. It being the site of two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of the 6th century and early 7th century, one of which contained an undisturbed ship burial including a treasure chest of outstanding art-historical and archaeological importance. This of a primary importance, dear reader, to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period of English history which is on the margin between myth, legend and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when the ruler (Raedwald) of East Anglia held senior power among the English, and established Christian rulership in England.

Meanwhile, the ship-burial, probably dating from the early 7th to 9th century and excavated in 1939, is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size and completeness, far-reaching connections, quality and beauty of its contents, and for the profound interest of the burial ritual itself. Why it was buried and where - just outside of London on the Thames - one of those great mysteries.

At home, we surround the TV to watch Milorad Cavic vs. Michael Phelps, who famously beat Cavic by 1/100 of a second at the Olympics to ensure his eight goals. Cavic takes his first 50 inside 22.6 and well on-target for WR with Phelps a half-body length behind. The turn puts Cavic up by a quarter and the last 25 meters a dog fight, which Phelps wins with a 49.81 to 49.95 both the first men ever below 50-seconds. Wow. Phelps pumps his arms skywards - he is an angry fellow having lost the 200 freestyle and written off in this shorter race. His eyes say it all: I am the man. Dara Torres meanwhile quips that she is 25 years older than some of her competitors; her coach BTW has blood cancer and having a transfusion so he can see Torres 50 meters freestyle final Sunday. I am forced to admit: it is not all about the swim suit.

"Let the swimming do the talking."
--Michael Phelps, August 1, 2009

Brit Museum

Here we goof beneath the Foster quadrangle next to the Reading Room.

The kids prepared, having been here this year with their school, and Eitan makes a sheet of hieroglyphics for him and Madeleine to check-off during the Egyptian hall. Symbols include the 'key of light,' scarab, serpent and lotus flower. Sonnet and I follow the Shakespeares from obelisk, to sculpture and finally the Rosetta Stone herself while the kids fill up their page with marks. We love the enthusiasm. Eitan then happily drags us to see "ginger" who is a mummy with - weight for it - ginger hair. Me to Madeleine: "Tell me one thing about a mummy." Madeleine: "It has..." Me: "Do NOT say ginger hair." Eitan adds helpfully: "His name begins with 'g.'

Ginger entombed sometime around 2000 B.C. His crypt includes clay pots and other nick nacks confirming the Egyptian belief in the after-life. Of equal interest next door is Cleopatra whose sarcophogus also on display - she was entombed at 17.

We then hussle through thousands of years of history and many civilisations so Madeleine can hit the gift-shop. She has several pounds though not from her allowance, which was pre-spent weeks ago. So she buys a Rosetta Stone magnet.

Me to Madeleine: "Who's on top of Nelson's Column (in Trafalgar Square)?
Madeleine: "How should I know?"
Eitan: "Christopher Columbus?"
Me: "I'll give you one hint - it is not Christopher Columbus."
Eitan: "Is it Nelson?"
Me: "Good grief, thank you."