Sunday, May 8

Fun Run 2011

The school Fun Run yesterday and Sonnet organises the event - field marshals, aid stations, St John's ambulance and 200 or so runners. Me, I do the BBQ - picture coming. The five-mile course, which may be 5.5 miles as the crow flies, starts at Sheen Gate then through the park and concluding on the school grounds, pictured.

Eitan tells me he aims to win and comes pretty close, taking second behind a 14-year old school alum. He holds back until the final mile then puts in another gear to finish in 38.09.

Madeleine equally fantastic, finishing the race in 54.12 for a two minute improvement on last year.

Saturday, May 7

Rock On

After the ramble I pick up Katy in Oxford and back to London. Katy has been in the UK for four years and is an interdisciplinary scholar and a senior researcher for the UK Energy Research Centre at OxfordU. "Her role is to integrate social and technical dimensions of changing building practices for a lower carbon future" and (from Oxford) :

"Katy has studied the interface between social and technical systems in the built environment since 1990 and is particularly interested in why different social groups decide to promote or reject environmental technologies. Social groups she has studied include: building designers, environmental advocates, and building users. Technical systems she studies include energy-efficiency techniques and green building strategies. Her research encompasses three principal areas:
Social dimensions of energy use;
Social, economic and environmental implications of ecological design; and
The relationship between environmental technology adoption and organizational decision-making.
Katy also leads the Worldwide Status of Energy Standards for Buildings project, an investigation of the worldwide status of energy standards for buildings in more than 80 countries linked to the legal status and building sector coverage of the standards in different countries."

Katy and I once danced ourselves silly Thursdays at "Funk Night", Freshman and Sophomore years @ Brown. We walked the couple hundred meters to campus bar "The Underground" where a dj spun beats and a lot of Prince . The weekends for frat and off-campus parties or the occasional concert somewhere downtown, Providence, but who had the dough? There was also studying but most of the learning elsewhere. At least, for me.

New Peeps

Madeleine's orange spectacles chewed to bits by the dog so our gal gets a new pair and goes for blue, pictured. Her prescription not particularly strong but it makes a difference in the classroom and for reading.

Eitan under a blanket sprawled out on the sofa.
Madeleine: "Eitan has been watching TV all day."
Madeleine: "Can I watch what I want to watch?"
Madeleine: "Just say 'yes,' Dad."
Me: "Yes."
Madeleine: "Eitan! Give me the remote. Dad said I can watch whatever I want!"

Br'er Rabbit

My first thought before the field, pictured, is Uncle Remus and the trickster rabbit who succeeds through his smarts rather than strength, sticking two fingers at authority and bending social mores as ever he did wish. No doubt Br'er Rabbit, who originated in Africa, represented Southern slaves who use their wits to overcome circumstances and to exact revenge on the slave-owners. He does so without violence. Though not always successful, Br'er Rabbit a folk hero - even I understood, back in the drive-in, thumb-in-mouth, before the main-feature "Robinson Crusoe," Br'er is a multi-dimensional character : while he may be a hero, his amoral nature and lack of any positive restraint can make him a villain as well. This why the rabbit one for the ages.

“You can't run away from trouble. There ain't no place that far.
--Uncle Remus

Burford OX18

Since Friday, Dave and I meet in Oxfordshire for a ramble through the Cotswalds.

"Burford's history began in the middle Saxon period with the founding of a village near the site of the modern priory building. This settlement continued in use until just after the Norman conquest when the new town of Burford was built. On the site of the old village a hospital was founded which remained open until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. The modern priory building was constructed some 40 years later around 1580. In 1649, the church was used as a prison (during the English Civil War), when the New Model Army Banbury mutineers were held there. Some of the 340 prisoners left carvings and graffiti, which can still be found in the church. Between the 14th century and the 17th century Burford was important for its wool. The Tolsey, midway along Burford's High Street, was once the centre of the local wool trade, and is now a museum. " (Wiki)

Wednesday, May 4


Britain's April the driest on record and our good fortune continues - I take advantage, sitting in a lounge chair in Green Park (cost: £1.50/ hour) reading the USA Today and drinking coffee. The lunch crowds arrive and soon there is barely a patch for a picnic or nap. Suits and skirts next to loafers, teenagers and late-risers. Double decker red buses and black taxis speed along Piccadilly while the Green Park tube station, the busiest on the network, undergoes an overhaul.

There are more than 2 trillion ways of feeding a lace through the six pairs of eyelets on my trainer. Go figure.

Monday, May 2

American Apparel - Bin Laden Dead

Returning from the pool this morning I listen to Presca Ahn, a Yale graduate and Fulbright Scholar at the LSE, who, with 16 others, signed a petition now with the US Dept of Education stating sexual harassment at Yale has created an environment non-conducive for learning. She sites October 2010 when several members of a Yale fraternity marched across its 300 year old quadrangle, lined up outside a women's hall of residence, and chanted "no means yes". Her petition takes courage.

Sexual harassment at Yale, Ahn says, handled lightly, sending the message that such behavior tolerable. She further suggests that 20% of college women raped by graduation. But where does the blame end? Without doubt the individual/s involved and perhaps the frats or the university - but look around us : American Apparel, pictured, a publicly traded company which did $530 million sales last year. This ties into popular (and favorite) show "Mad Men" and, without apparent irony, the same Radio 4 Women's Hour program where I hear Ahn concludes with "Losing Your Virginity". Our culture entertained by sexual exploitation until it is not. Eitan and Madeleine absorb the message.

"Those who want to solve our problems at the UN are hypocrites... Those who claim to be Arab leaders and whose countries are UN members are infidels."
--Osama Bin Laden, November 2001, from a videotape obtained by Al-Jazeera.

“For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol. The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda."
--President Barack Obama, 1 May, 2011

“This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
--President George W Bush, 1 May, 2011

Sunday, May 1

Rusty's Nose

Nathan comments that a dog's sense of smell 150x humans so I investigate : turns out, it is 1000x more sensitive than ours. In fact, a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its nose, while us humans have about 5 million. So sensitive is a pooch's snout that it can, when trained, detect an early stage tumor in the human body. For his part, Rusty has never missed a dropped kibble nor best mate's ass.


Dana and Sierra, who is ten months at yesterday. Cute as a button.

Dana and Nathan are superb parents and we should know, having observed them to three.

Good Day, Sunshine

The weather a surprise - it's sunny! - for the long-week end. We take advantage, preparing a picnic for Primrose Hill with Dana & Co. The dog none to happy about the ride, either, making his displeasure known in the boot. We forget his lead. Usual stuff.

Rusty gets plenty of exercise as, per our w/e usual, Sonnet and I walk him around Richmond Park. Between the Internet and Trailhead Capital, with two kids under two, living in a flat with no office nor prospects, Sonnet and I walked, every morning, to her V&A or about 50 minutes from Maida Vale through Bayswater then Hyde Park and South Ken. This saved me, I think, these moments of intimate respite. Sonnet a strong woman. Afterwards I took my notebook to the British Library or some museum to job-search or idle. That was a time I missed California most but we were not set up to return and so here we are now. The sun is shining and life is good. Do not think for a moment I am not grateful for every day.

Saturday, April 30

Madeleine Starts A Business

Madeleine, without any suggestion from me or anybody, thinks up "Dream Clean", a gardening service, pictured. She sets out to canvas the neighborhood so I join to make sure everything Ok; her pitch perfect : "Hello, I am Madeleine. Me and my friend, Billy, have started a new business, 'Dream Clean.' We rake all the leaves, pull weeds, sweep, clip and tidy up. It is six pounds." Within an hour she has 2 and half customers and I throw in our house so she adds up the maths: "that's £21, Dad!" Eitan sniffs an opportunity and asks to join the business but Madeleine demures - as she should. Her idea, her effort. Why share ?

This morning Madeleine and I march down the block to No 22 with two rakes, a broom, some clippers, one saw and a bunch of green refuse bags. I am quality control. Mr X's front yard requires a half-day's work - more than the business plan anticipated - but we have a good time hacking through bushes and pulling weeds. By afternoon we are nearly done so Madeleine asks for the final check and gets a "thumbs up". I walk out-of-sight so she and her customer can complete their business. Madeleine returns with 15 quid - a fortune. She remains poker faced until 20 yards from the house then lets out a giant "Whoopie!" The kid is in business.

'Murderers's End' Continues . . .

Detective Bob started to pack his bag! He left on Friday, he had said goodbye to his wife and his children then set out [Dad's note : Madeleine decided that Detective Bob's wife being murdered too gruesome]. His crew of detectives were waiting for him by the office.
Bob's friend, Peter, was a well known detective. He had seen many crimes and knew what to do. Peter would tell Bob stories of what he had done. Not all of them were nice, but Bob had gotten used to them.
Bob stopped and gasped. Blood, everywhere ..... and a huge lake. "What can we do?" trembled Bob.
"Never fear Peter is here!" cried Peter. "I can call my good old friend, Tumnes, he is sure to bring us a boat!" cried Peter.
Ten minutes later. "Ahhhh, here he comes now with a nice big boat." said Peter. "See, you can always count on MY friends can't you?"
"Yes, yes, now let's get on board this ship!" shouted Bob.
"All aboard!" yelled Bob and they began.
The sea was very, very, very, cold. One day Alex screamed and pointed out the biggest monster. It was twice the size of the ship! Alex did a stupid thing of diving in the water. Unfortunately he got eaten.
Bob, expecting to hear Peter cry "Do not fear Peter is hear" but instead he heard a splash and a scream. Peter had been eaten too!
"I know what to do!" yelled Max.
"Get the meat of four cows and three pigs and one horse and put them in the cannon and fire out as far as you can he will follow it!" cried Max.
Two minutes later, "Have you go the meat?" asked Max.
"Yes," said Tom.
"Good, now fire!!!" roared Max.
"It worked, the beast is gone!" cried Bob.
"Land ho!" yelled Tom.
"Max you are a hero!!!" Tom, Bob and everyone shouted.

The story continues.

Friday, April 29

It's Official

Kate and William take their vows - the first Royal Kiss, pictured (Eitan tells me they kiss twice). The Queen, being The Queen, confers the ancient title of Duke of Cambridge on her Grandson knowing full well that his future is her future and the future of the monarchy. In a flash they are relevant again : this is one heck of a Fairy Tell that us commoners, whoever we are and wherever we may be, can celebrate in full. Not so in '81 BTW in that pre-arranged and gloriously choreographed affair. The British do pomp and circumstance like nobody's business and today The Firm is "on".

Sonnet watches the Big Show and breathlessly notes the dress : Alexander McQueen ! The choice seems unusual since McQueen committed suicide last year but, Sonnet tells me, the McQueen brand important for British fashion : celebrity, creative and avant guard. This is a global niche filled by British design shops - Kate agrees. Of greater importance - she is stunning, as is her sister, Pippa, whose swishing derriere watched by 2 billion people. These gals have been on some kind of training diet, no doubt.

The kids, for their part, watch like they watch any television. Madeleine becomes bored and chases Rusty in the backyard. Eitan considers certain peculiarities like what happens to the horse manure on The Mall leading to the castle? Why are there so many Americans ? Why would anybody want to marry a girl anyway ?

And Great Britain : the world may be coming to a standstill but the country has reason to celebrate its Royals and itself. The banks are closed, bunting everywhere and block-parties fill the streets with cucumber sandwiches and joy; and, yes, a youthful Prince and Princes : the future as ever before us.

Sonnet wonders if the Queen sings "God Save The Queen" and, moments later, we see that she doesn't.

Thursday, April 28

Olympic Tx

Mo Farah, pictured (AP photo), a Somali-born British athlete, is a great prospect for London 2012. Mo holds the British road record for 10,000 metres, the British indoor record in the 3000 metres, the British track record for 5000 metres and the European indoor record for 5000 metres. On 27 July 2010 Farah won Britain's first-ever men's European gold medal at 10,000 m in a time of 28 minutes 24.99 seconds. He followed this with a gold in the 5000 m, becoming the 5th athlete to complete the long-distance double at the championships and the first British man to do so. A bad ass.

Tickets for the 2012 summer Olympics closed on 27 April - there were > 20 million applications for 6.6 million seats, making it the most sough-after event in UK history. Wowza. At least half the sessions sold out and the opening ceremony is ten times oversubscribed. 95% of the applications had come from the UK. In all, 1.8 million people participated who, on average, sought 11 tickets from £20 to £2,012 each.

The cost of the Olympics, which is now somewhere over £10 billion and up from £2.5 b suggested to the Olympics Committee, passed on to us via tickets and taxes since the British Government picking up the full tab. Of course the games to regenerate East London - they better - and improve our transportation and underground networks - we hope. I have visited the Olympic grounds at Athens which are depressing : unused, unloved. And who can forget Montreal in '76 which the city still paying for?

Me, I love that the Olympics are on the door step. Sure, it is expensive and even irresponsible how much money I may pay for tickets but, hey, this is something special. Go with the flow, I say.

Wednesday, April 27

Arcon Payloader

My and Madeleine's rocket nearly complete, pictured, requiring only black fin paint and the decals. Then blast off, baby. I have yet to investigate if one is actually allowed to launch, you know, a missile in Richmond Park given the flight path to Heathrow follows the nearby Thames. I do, however, note a park-posting that propeller-powered model airplanes permitted yet not meant above 40 feet. My D12-7 Estes Model Rocket Motors promise 2,500 feet of lift which is, like, a multiple on London's tallest building. I can understand a worry.

Madeleine: "Mom, when I grow up, I want to live in California. If I have kids, I want to raise them there."
Sonnet: "That's great. You've got an American passport. You can do that."
Madeleine: "The problem with that is I would be far away from you."
Sonnet: "Well maybe by that time I will be living in California too. Oh, but maybe you wouldn't want me living that close to you."
Madeleine: "Don't worry, Mom. By then I will be over the teen-age years. It will be fine."

Madeleine: "Can I have some ice cream?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "Today is opposite day. Wednesday is always opposite day. So when you say 'no,' it really means 'yes' and I am gong to have some ice cream."
[Madeleine opens the refridgerator.]
Me: "Go ahead, have some. There won't be any consequences. I assure you."

Beef Valley

Tweed Valley, a long, deep valley in Scotland sometimes called "Devil's Beeftub" or even "Devil's Beef Valley."

Me: "What did you learn in school?"
Madeleine: "We didn't actually do any real learning today."
Me: "Oh, really? What did you do?"
Madeleine: "We cooked."
Madeleine: "And we are studying everything there is to know about Scotland."
Me: "Cool, now we're talking. Where is Scotland?"
Madeleine: "I don't know. They didn't teach that yet."
Madeleine: "We learned about Devil's Beef Valley."
Me: "What's that?"
Madeleine: "It is where murderers hid beef. Stolen cows. I mean it is where murderers hid stolen cows."
Me: "You're kidding."
Madeleine: "Look it up on Google."

[Dad's note: I googled "Devil's Beef Valley" and, indeed, there is a "Devil's Beeftub" which, Travels In Scotland helpfully informs us, draws its name "as a popular (and safe) place to graze stolen cattle."]

"Beware Dog Around"

Madeleine takes it upon herself to warn robbers of Rusty - she is outside painting some wood after I decide that carving the message dangerous - using a thick marker on sticky labels, which now plaster the garden gate. Just wait 'til mom gets home.

I am in Paris yesterday and enjoy spring. Spring! Paris is the only place to be this time of year and I sit in Jardin Tuileries and sunbathe. I had scheduled time for a museum - maybe the Louvre or the Petit Palais - but I cannot be bothered.

I arrive home to find a banner draped across the hallway: "Welcome home Dad!"

Madeleine: "Can I take these scissors and cut Rusty's hair?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "It is getting long. Especially around his tail."
Me: "No way Madeleine."
Madeleine: "Don't you trust me?"
Me: "Of course I do. This has nothing to do with trust."
Madeleine: "You don't trust me. Well I am going to cut Rusty's hair."
Me: "Two words: Dead. Meat."
Madeleine: "Sheesh, Dad, stop looking at me that way."

Me: "Madeleine, do you think you will ever go on a date with a boy?"
Madeleine: "That was so random, Dad."
Me: "Well, what do you think?"
Madeleine: "How should I know? I'm not an outcast."
Me: "Well, if you do, make sure he treats you well."
Sonnet: "Hear, hear."
Me: "And he has to bathe. I won't let anybody smelly in the house."
Madeleine: "Oh, Dad."
Me: "Only the best for you kiddo."

Madeleine: "If a robber tries to get in our house, and Rusty attacks him, will they [the humane society] kill Rusty?"
Me: "I don't think the robber has anything to worry about."
Madeleine: "But it is illegal for a dog to attack a robber."
Me: "If Rusty could talk, he would be, like, 'come on in and help yourself to the television.'"
Madeleine: "We have to warn the robbers. I know! I will put signs up! 'Dog Around' signs!"
Sonnet: "That is a great idea, Madeleine."
Me: "How about if we paint the sign on the house. Out in front?"
Madeleine: "Really?!"

Sunday, April 24


Sonnet, who no longer seems exasperated with me, sends this photo of Eitan and Madeleine and the three Zs from this morning in Oxford.

It is Easter Sunday which, I am told by Radio 4's Gardner's Hour (on, in the background, as I do some gardening) is the business gardening day of the year.