Wednesday, August 11

Ze Family

Here we are this morning, shortly before Gracie and Moe return to the Bay Area (we stay through the week end and will see the gang tomorrow). Katie is sadly missing for the picture as she return to New Yawk on Sunday.

More dinner table discussions about work.
Sonnet: “How many years of education do you think Moe and Grace needed to do what they do?”
Madeleine: “Including reception?”
Me: “Including reception.”
Madeleine: “For Gracie, 25 years.”
Eitan: “For Moe, 25 years and for Gracie, 15.”
Madeleine: “What? Only 15? They call Gracie 'The Big Cheese!' (Grace was the Executive Director of The Link To Children, a non-profit that she founded to provide early childhood mental health; she is now Clinical Director).
Grace: “25.”
Madeleine: “See! I knew it!”
Grace: “I was unusual since I was working so spread my PhD over several years."
Moe: “I went straight through to Law School, so 20."
Sonnet: “I would like to bring home the point: you have a lot of studying ahead of you.”
Eitan, Madeleine:
Sonnet: “A lot of work but it can be a lot of fun.”

Lake Alpine West #5

At the dinner table.
Sonnet: “You were a ping pong champion?”
Moe: “Seventh grade.”
Sonnet: “Moe grew up in St. Louis. In Missouri.”
Moe: “I beat Jimmy Chervitz. I beat him in his home, which was unusual. He was more experienced then me. We had some tough matches but I won two out of three. We then went to the principal and informed him that we had played at home. The principal said we had to play at school, during lunch time. So we did it again. And I beat him. Seventh grade champion. Then I got to play the 8th grade champion – Bob Allen. And he beat me, it was humiliating. All his friends were cheering. Bob Allen then played the 9th grade champion Ronald Scher in the school auditorium in front of the whole school. Ronald Scher was a nationally ranked ping pong player who just toyed with Bob then killed him. I was thrilled.”

We discuss what adults do at work.
Eitan: “Well, first they wake up at 7AM to get ready. They are grumpy and drink a lot of coffee, which they take with them to work”
Madeleine: “Do they play video games like in (TV program) The Office?”
Sonnet: “What do you think I do?
Madleine: “Play video games?”
Madeleine: “Work on your computer and stuff?”
Sonnet: “Close enough.”
Eitan: “Computers are not innocent, you know. People can get killed on them.”
Madeleine: “No they don't.”
Eitan, matter-of-factly: “Yes they do. Like that time on Facebook when a teenager met somebody who said he was a teen-ager then killed her.”
Madeleine: “Is that true? Why would he want to kill a teenager?” (We have been discussing the Internet and never to communicate with somebody who approaches you or you do not know)

Lake Alpine Sunrise #2

Madeleine and I agree to rise early and take photographs at Lake Alpine. The alarm goes off at 5:20AM and I force the poor kid from her deep slumber. She clutches doggie but pulls herself together and we race up the highway as the dawn stretches before us, rewarded by the most spectacular morning – pictured. Madeleine shivers - “can we go yet?” but I give her a hug and thank her for joining me – I hope she remembers this. Sometimes it is nice to be reminded where we really are in this cosmos. Afterwards I gas up at Camp Connell – it is 7AM – and a greybeard sits at the counter drinking black coffee. We nod at each other while I pay for Madeleine's hot chocolate. “Good to be alive,” we agree.

Madeleine: "Dad, how long did it take you to learn to fast type?"
Me: "It took a while."
Madeleine: “How long?”
Me: “I don't know. I took a class in high school.”
Madeleine: “Yeah, but you only went for one day.”
Madeleine: “You didn't go back because of that girl!”
Madeleine: “The one that lost all her back teeth.”
Me: !
(Madeleine correctly recalls the story but it was sixth grade and I dropped computer sciences at Lawrence Hall of Science, too scared to join the class 15 minutes late because of my crush on Erin O'Leah who, indeed, had no back teeth.)

The Road

The distance between our cabin and Lake Alpine is 20 miles on Route 4 (pictured behind Eitan) and uphill, ascending from 5,000 to 7,300. For the last twenty years I have contemplated the challenge, the last time being 1995. That year I got as far as Bear Valley or 17 miles. Sonnet was meant to supply water around two-hours into the run but, famously, she mis-understood my signal to pull-over as “A-OK” and drove right past. Dehydrated and half-dead I pulled into the Bear Valley Lodge and begged somebody to drive me the last three miles to the lake. Oh, boy. So yesterday I take a stab at the distance departing at 2:30PM with a liter of water and high hopes. Even following last year's dreadful marathons, I have always assumed that my determination supercedes my body's abilities and, while I am no longer 23, the adjustment made with a slower pace. Chuck that one out the door. I made it to 12.5 miles and thankfully, without a plan, Sonnet back-tracks to pick me up. So, defeated again, I am grateful for the lift. We drive the rest of the way and I reward myself with a skinny dip.

Madeleine, aghast: “Dad! You are naked!”
Me: “Well, nobody can see.”
Madeleine: “That is so disgusting.”
Me: “Sweetheart, what I have learned is that the more you age the less concerned you are about showing it.”
Madeleine: “So you must be naked all of the time.”

Monday, August 9


Eitan (10AM): "Can I have a piece of cake?"

Sonnet: "No! You can't have a piece before lunch."
Eitan: "Dad – can I?"
Me: "Go for it."
Me: "Vacation rules."
Sonnet rolls her eyes disapprovingly.
Me: "The thing is, you are going to feel awful afterwards."
Eitan: "It is worth it."

Madeleine sees Eitan:
"Can I have a piece of cake too?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "Why can Eitan have a piece of cake and I can't?"
Me: "That is just the way it is kid."
Madeleine helps herself looking me in the eye, shaking her head: "Oh, dad."


Sonnet sets the example for us all – here she is running 11 miles at altitude. While Sonnet sticks to her schedule, Katie and I hike the same trail with the kids which begins at Bear Valley and continues to Lake Alpine or about three miles out and the same back. It is a beautiful day in the mountains with blue skies and warm alpine temperatures. The exposed groves covered with alpine flowers. The kids happy to be unbathed and we oblige them: each covered with a layer of dirt (this against every grain in Sonnet's body). I reason that they swim at the rec center so the chlorine strips away the worst of it. Moe keeps busy with cabin chores while my mother adjusts to her new knee – she uses a walker and determined to get on with it. My parents are now grandparents and how I remember Dorothy and George.

Sunday, August 8


Over dinner, we have a conversation about the value of money.
Katie: “How much do you think your house cost?"
Eitan, matter-of-factly: “About two thousand pounds”
Madeleine: “That guy (Richard, who sold us the house) said it is fifty pounds. But that is just a lie.”
Madeleine: “Natasha showed us a house as big as Eitan's foosball table and it was between £4,000 and £5,000.”
Eitan: “No it is not.”
Madeleine: “It is. You just did not see it in the newspaper!

At the rec club.
Madeleine: “Give me ten dollars.”
Sonnet: “Try again.”
Madeleine: “Give me ten dollars now.”
“Assuming you change your manners and I give you ten dollars, what are you going to do with that money?”
Madeleine: “I don't know. That is why I'm going the snack bar.”
Eitan: “I want some nachos and chocolate.”
Madeleine: “I am going to get a slushie. Or some skittles.”
Me: “You eat that stuff?
Madeleine: “Dad! We're kids. Of course we do.”

Rec Center

Eitan comes back from the snack bar.
Me: “What did you get?”
Eitan: “A 'Choco-Taco.'”
Me: “What's that?”
Eitan: “Um, dad, it's a chocolate taco.”
Eitan: “I love the creamy chocolaty bit. Every one is in the mood for it.”
Me: “If you're a kid....”
Eitan fondles his 'Choco-Taco,' takes bite, rolls eyes back into head.

Sonnet gets the kids a “mix-pack” of various cereals.
Me: "What's your favorite?"
Madeleine: "Frosted Flakes and Fruity Loops ."
Me: "Do you eat those first?"
Madeleine: "I save the best for last. And by the way they're not my favorite cereal."
Me: "What is your favorite cereal?"
Madeleine ponders this for a moment.
Eitan: "Cocoa Rocks? Sugar Pops? Captain Crunch?"
Me: "What's yours?"
Eitan: "Cookie Crisp which are chocolate chip cookies."
Me: "Your mother lets you eat those?"
Eitan. "No, you do."
Me: "Really? Like, when?"
Eitan: "When we were in Cuchara."

Saturday, August 7

South Grove

Katie, despite her knee surgery last week, is trooper on our six mile hike of the South Grove. Here they are next to an old friend.

At the dinner table.
Madeleine: “I hate being the youngest in the family.”
Sonnet: “You're not - Tommy is the youngest."
Madeleine: “Wait, listen to me. Tommy is, like, a teenager because hamsters only live to three-years old.”
Sonnet: “Touchee.”
Madeleine: “What does that mean?”
Sonnet: “You scored a point.”

Old Agassiz

We hike the South Grove and see the largest tree in the world: the Louis Agassiz tree which is "only" 250 tall, but it is over 25 feet in diameter six feet above the ground (my picture of a more humble brethren). Looking upwards, it is easy to compare the tree to an oil tanker or skyscraper. Sierra redwood trees are the largest trees in the world with many here between 250 and 300 feet tall and the tallest about 325 feet high. While their height is impressive, the real wonder of a sierra redwood lies in its bulk: many of these giants have diameters in excess of 30 feet near the ground, with a corresponding circumference of over 94 feet.

I learn that most trees have their diameter measured at breast height, which is about four feet above the ground on the uphill side of the tree (the redwood grove is on a steep incline). Sierra redwoods, however, are measured at six feet above the ground as their is a major circumference increase a the lower end of the tree. this "butt swell" helps the redwood ion a couple ways. It adds stability to the tree, just as a wide stance adds stability to a a football player. Also, it helps deflect falling vegetation from the tree's base. This decreases the chance of the redwood being injured by fire when that debris eventually burns (source:

As for mass, these redwoods weigh in at 4,000 tons and may provide enough wood to build over 40 five-room homes. They are as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

Madeleine: “What's your name?”
Me: “Jeff?”
Madeleine: “What's this?”
Me: “Your nose.”
Madeleine: “What's in my hand?”
Me: “Nothing.”
Madeleine: “Jeff knows nothing.”

Madeleine, sweeping, regards me on the couch:
“Dad do you enjoy watching your children work?”


We drive to Bear Valley, arriving in time for a trip to the rec center pool. The kids are into their head-phones ('Harry Potter' of course) while Katie and I catch up about her business over flank steak. The Op-Ed project is going great guns and Katie is now working with Stanford and Yale while more institutions are lining up. Katie's editor-mentor program numbers 70 including "14 Noble and Pulitzer prize winners. She is jamming and yak yak yak on the telephone. When not syncing with New York, she gives her full attention to the Shakespeares who adore their "Auntie Katie." A good thing, too, since vacations mean idle time and in our case it is to the point of distraction so, dear reader, I distract: chores. This receives their heartfelt indignation (Madeleine: "Dad! This is a holiday!) but there will be no "lazy lunkers" in our family. Madeleine sweeps the deck from front to back while Eitan does the driveway (I overhear them arguing over who has the better deal). Though they would never admit it, it puts everybody in a better mood.

We discuss chores.
Eitan: “It is so unfair. We kids have to do everything.”
Me: “How is that?”
Eitan: “Well, the adults can swim as much as they like. They do not have to do any work. They can do whatever they want that is not against the law.”
Madeleine: “They can't smash a house.”
Eitan: “Madeleine, that is not a chore.”
Madeleine: “I am just saying, Eitan.”

Thursday, August 5


We have breakfast at the Claremont Hotel with Tim, who arrives yesterday in the Bay Area. Tim and Kitty have closed their life in Brooklyn to raise their two children, both under two, in California and around Kitty's friends (she is native to the state). Tim has taken a CFO role with venture-backed company Simbol which is in the renewables space. Simbol has proprietary technologies that strip precious minerals, in particular lithium, from the water produced in geothermal plants in Palm Springs. Tim is in his comfort zone having returned to the energy industry where he began his career at Enron.

From the Claremont, Sonnet and the kids visit Alison, whose wedding to Ivor where Sonnet and I met in 1993. Wow. I am with my friends at Correlation Ventures who had a small closing the other day and contemplating investing their dough while raising more capital. Recall this is a quant driven venture strategy and, as my friend Tony says, should "this jumbo fly" they will kill it (in my humble opinion). The venture industry inefficient when it comes to syndicating deals. Add to this A) 40% of US financings under-subscribed; B) the best companies tend to be in under-subscribed rounds and C) a VC has no idea at the time of investment if his company Google or a dog, well, you have a winner assuming, of course, your strategy exploits. While on venture, my friends at BlueRun sell Slide, founded by PayPal Max Levchin, to Google for $228 million while Industry Ventures in five of the 50 likely IPOs filed with the SEC. A nice week for venture.

From the East Bay, we drive to my parent's house in the mountains. Katie takes the kiddies leaving me and Sonnet to ourselves in the rental SUV. We listen to the SilverSun Pickups along the way as Christian treated us to their concert the night before at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. They are a new top band and we will definitely catch them when they come to London. Brixton, baby.

Tuesday, August 3

Eitan Moe

Our jet lag fatigue expressed in various ways: me, stress. Sonnet, exhaustion. The kids: they get wiggy. Last night Christian over for dinner and beforehand we stroll to Cordornices Park to tire out the Shakespeares which, instead, makes them hyper. They finally crash out around 9PM (5AM GMT). Eitan gets up from the table, goes into the den and plonks down asleep. We soon follow.

Grace had a knee replacement last week and recovers in an outpatient ward. She is well taken care of. We visit her and boy, one can really see the surgery. She is in good spirits and seeing the grand kids a blessing. Eitan and Madeleine about the age when I recall Grandma and George -- we visited Columbus, Ohio every summer for a few weeks of swim lessons, fishing and King's Island amusement park. All this before my Grandfather passed away in '76 and Dorothy moved to the top tenth floor of Bay Village in Sarasota, Florida. She was wise, assuming correctly that she would see more of her grandchildren in a gulf climate.

Sonnet and I up at the crack of dawn to run Nimitz Trail, where I have been going since age three through different reflective points of my life: college, First Boston, business school and now London, most recently in May. Life may change but not the fire trail. A Eucalyptus Grove, with its stripped bark and hanging leaves, makes me think of Hallowe'en which is a nice time in the Bay Area since often warm and football season in full swing. Today it is foggy and damp - pea soup - and it takes us a few miles to warm up. Sonnet will run a half-marathon in September and we cruise along doing 8 minute miling at one point. She is fit.

Kate - Madeleine - Diner

Monday, August 2


We are seated with Ray, a groovy dude from a by-gone rock-and-roll era which he photographed and critiqued. Ray is a cousin to Jeanine and close friends with Andy Parker, the guitarist for legendary band UFO who gave us "Too Hot To Handle" and the seven-minute opus "Love To Love," which is well visited on YouTube. UFO came together in the early '70s as a transitional group between hard rock and heavy metal and Ray was with them all the way. They rocked. He describes the back stage and hanging out which allowed him to produce intimate work. He was part of the scene. Now, Ray laments, photags allowed three songs to get their shot. And worse, I speculate, the sex and drugs and rock and roll gone with Led Zepplin leaving us with Boyzone and Boyz II Men. What's a writer to do?

"Oh its been too many times, and I can't go back
Night bars, guitars, rundown hotels like shacks
What it mounts up to, I don't want it at all
Lost you, and I want you today."
--Love To Love by UFO

Leon Gets Married

Sonnet and the kids arrive Sunday afternoon and I greet them at SFO, having arrived the day before. I have to hustle across the Bay Bridge as Leon and Sunny's wedding this afternoon at Joaquin Miller Park overlooking the Bay. Here we are at the reception.

Friday, July 30


We unpack from Italy and prepare for the USA -- I leave tomorrow, followed by the kiddies on Sunday.

As Trailhead Capital's Managing Director and Compliance Officer, I receive a recent clarification from the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA) which decided to apply a "Cold Shoulder" to Daniel Posen, Brian Myerson and Brian Padgett, who made a "deliberate attempt to circumvent the requirement under Rule 9 of the City Code on Takeovers and blah blah." What I was being clarified on, "Cold Shouldering," states that I - as an authorised firm - "should not act, or continue to act, for any of the three .. individuals.. on any transactions to which the Code applies." The ruling surprisingly clear (here is Webster's definition of a 'cold shoulder': "Intentionally cold or unsympathetic treatment; 'got the cold shoulder from an old friend'"). The rarity of a "Cold Shoulder" may suggest the serious nature of the punishment - I mean, nobody wants to receive one even if they are stealing from Grandma's pension.

The FSA, by the way, is an independent non-governmental quasi-judicial body that regulates the UK's financial services industry. The FSA tries to protect the London market-place rather than the individual investor -- a big difference from the SEC. The FSA's board is appointed by the Treasury. In June this year, George Osborne, Britain's new Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced his plan to abolish the FSA and separate its responsibilities between a number of new agencies and the Bank of England. Until the financial collapse, US Republicans loved the FSA since its "framework" non-regulatory - members meant to police themselves inside a code of professional guidelines or be struck. Such irony, then, that the Tories first action is to end it.

Wednesday, July 28

Goodbyes And The Cosa Nostra

We go to the beach one last time before heading to Pescara and the airport.

On the ride, Roberto and I talk about Italy's Mafia which, he notes, replaces the government in Italy's south where people do not otherwise pay taxes. Instead, they pay the cosa nostra. The amount depends on the size of your business or income and, failure to comply, may result in violence or loss of possession or destruction of one's house. People pay and live in fear. The Mafia's stronghold Naples while they control everything from Rome to Sicily -- Italy's south compares to the third world so young men go to Milano bringing their ways with them. I ask how one joins the mafia which, according to Roberto, rakes €90 billion from the economy. "One does not join unless you offer something the Mafia needs. You have to be violent, a member may kill over 100 men in his lifetime. No, it is the family. You are born into the Mafia and taken care of. Then you give back." Burlesconi is from the south and connected to la familia - he is useful and allowed to control the media but, says Roberto, this is changing with the Internet. "People do not understand but the are learning. Unfortunately Italy does not have an opposition party." The next election is in three years - "maybe." As for the church: "they control the largest private bank in Italy (the Vatican owns aprox. one-third of Rome's property and, of course, enjoys its own jurisdiction). The Vatican is protected. They do business with the Mafia. They are in bed together -- it is how the Mafia survives."

Despite it all, Roberto is optimistic. He notes Italy's middle is free from the Mafia and this is a main reason he lives in Tortoreto. He hopes that things will change "perhaps it will take as little as a generation" but he does not seem himself convinced. We wave "arrivederci!" I hope our paths cross again.

Madeleine brings her cork-man to the beach, which she made last night at the dinner table with the wine cork and toothpicks.
Madeleine: "Do you like him more, or less, with a hat?"
Me: "With." (she puts a bottle cap on its head)
Madeleine: "You know it is actually more fun to make something without spending money."
Me: "Since when? Like yesterday?"
Madeleine, indignantly: "No."
Me: "But you love to spend your dough. It burns a hole in your pocket."
Madeleine: "Well, not all the time. It's hard not so spend your money when you're at a place you have never been before."
Me: "On what?"
Madeleine: "Souvenirs" (she gives me a look like I am crazy for not knowing)

Mediterannean Sunset

Hotel Capitano is one block from the beach. Sonnet tells me -- and not surprisingly -- there has been a lot of development since she was here last. The beach front where we are mostly the same but behind us, towards the hills, there are new stucco condominiums in various colours; Roberto points out, horror, a grocery store. This is a small vacation town and not much more to it than that, really. An ancient railway separates the old town from the new and the train's whistle a nice reminder of the evening's hour. Yesterday we are treated to an afternoon cooling shower+rainbow then a beautiful sunset, pictured. We enjoy our last night at a small family pizzeria: Sonnet orders one with gorgonzola with radichio, another with potatoes with rosemary and a third with capers, tuna and tomatoe sauce - washed down with two large bottles of Moretti beer. I eat so much I am nearly sick. The kids stick to their salami pepperoni. Madeleine coos "the best pizza I ever had."

Sonnet: "I think I saw a German family on the beach."
Eitan: "Could you tell because they were wearing socks with their sandals?"

Sonnet asks Eitan to call Madeleine to dinner, which he does at the top of his longs.
Sonnet: "I could have done that."
Eitan: "But you didn't."
Me: "Fair point."

Tuesday, July 27

On Being A Teenager

Over breakfast: what do you kids want be like when you are teenagers?

Eitan: "I want to be like Alex Rider" (from the "Alex Rider" series; sort of like the Hardy Boys)
Me: "Why?"
Eitan: "I don't know. Because he's sporty and doesn't take drugs. Plus he is quite calm under pressure. And he is 14."
Madeleine: "I don't ever want to take drugs or go to 'Fat Sam's every day."
Me: "Fat Sam's?"
Madeleine: "The chicken place (in Sheen). It's called 'Sam's' but I call it 'Fat Sam's.' Billy's sisters go there every day."
Me: "Are they fat?"
Eitan: "Uh, y-e-ah."
Sonnet: "Sam's does not count as food."
Me: "Anything else about being a teenager?"
Together: "No."

Eitan: "Are you going to do anything interesting?"
Me: "Do I ever do anything interesting?"
Eitan: "Well, no."
Me: "Not even when I am being goofy?"
Eitan: "That's just being goofy."
Me: "How about when I am telling a story?"
Eitan: "Can we just go?"