Sunday, September 6

Super Sonnet

Our gal at mile 13
On a chilly Surrey morning, Sonnet bangs out the Richmond Half Marathon, somehow sneaking in the training since winter. The course starts in Kew Gardens, runs along the Thames until Ham House, then returns to finish at Old Deer Park near the Richmond High Street. While (she insists) it was not for time, her 1:50 puts her pretty close to the PB of 1:48 she ran four years ago when she was bloody well trained. It is a celebration.

Eitan in Bitburg, Germany, this weekend for the Olympic Development Program (ODP) that assesses and selects players to join the player pool for ODP Europe.  If successful, he will be invited back to future camps to train at a high level and compete with local European teams.  Sonnet drops our man off at the airport, 6AM, and off he goes with a few dads and the other ODP hopefuls.

The Cal Bears win their opener in style against Grambling State, a lesser team in a lesser division. Still, hope springs eternal.

Friday, September 4

Back To School

And with an abrupt summer's end, Eitan and Madeleine return to school, 10th and 9th grade, respectively (since the UK begins formal education one year before the US, they are in the equivalent of 9th and 8th grades). Even worse: homework the first day. Only Rusty is happy to have everybody up at such an early hour.

Eitan enters the GCSE zone (General Certificate of Secondary Education) which determines where he will go to university - unlike US colleges which look for rounded candidates who excel in sport or music or the arts, Britain mostly ties its future generation to several standardised tests. This places a huge burden on the kids to deliver on the day, which I do not favour. Eitan and Madeleien will spend the 18 months revising. The school system is optimised for the test, new learning be damned.
The GCSEs are rigorous, recognised abroad, taken in a number of subjects usually over two years, with students selecting a handful of electives.  Eitan will tackle history, geography and drama.

Sonnet, too, gears up for the fall: her next exhibition (2017) will be on Cristobal Balenciga. She is invited to speak on post-Second WW fashion in Italy at a conference in Brighton and to contribute a chapter to a book on same for early 2016. Me, I've got €2bn to raise.

Monday, August 31

Back To Work

West Wycombe
Since it is the last summer "bank holiday" Monday, I settle in for the rain (good for the tomatoes, I reassure myself) and the latest instalment of Wallace & Gromit.  Sonnet offers Earl Grey tea, taken with milk and a few crackers. We fortify ourselves with a brisk walk in Richmond Park so the dog can take exercise.

The UK shows a remarkable resilience this time of year: it's back to work and the British do so with a vengeance.  The kids return to school, the workers the salt mines, and anybody in finance to a prison of their own making, regardless - or because of - the pay. Traffic returns to normal which is to say it was quicker to cross Central London via horse-and-carriage 100 years ago than today in a black cab. True fact.

Me: "Are you looking forward to school?"
Eitan: "Uhhh looking forward to it I guess. The only bit I'm not looking forward to are the mornings. But otherwise I can't wait to get back into the swing of things."
Me: "Which classes?"
Eitan: "English, Spanish, maths, physics and biology. "
Me: "Why those?"
Eitan: "They're interesting. And fun."
Me: "How about football?"
Eitan: "Yep, it's going to good to play for Hampton this year."
Me: "What are your goals?"
Eitan: "To score more goals. To win a trophy. To win the ISFA or the Surrey Cup."
Me; "Lot of good things to ahead of you."
Eitan: "Yeah."

Bedfont Friendly

Back flip, soft touch
Autumn can mean only one thing: The Lions are back in action.  Yesterday our U15s take on Bedfont in a "friendly."

The pitch notable for its proximity to Heathrow and us Dads marvel at the Airbus 380s and the 747s taking off - holy Jesus, how can anybody live so close to the airport ? Of course it is a human rights violation to build a 3rd runway. I digress.

Eitan the team captain, chosen by his teammates, and a nice honour. He is determined to put one in the net against Bedfont and sees a 30-yard free-kick hit the top goal post and several other shots barely miss the outside corners. Finally, satisfaction, as a chip shot hits the top left corner leaving the goal keeper frozen.  All the sweeter as Bedfont pummelled the Lions 9-1 last year in the same pre-season match.

A moment for optimism - sport, family and work.

W Wycombe

Happy reunion
Halley and Ava spend Saturday night following a football match cancelled as a commuter plane hits a motor route, bursting in to flames, and creating a traffic problem to Bristol. Same as it ever was. 

Ava now plays for the Arsenal U15 squad and the kid is wired for the game: powerful body, gentle touch. She taps the ball constantly. I ask her record for picky-uppies and, while she unsure,  it has to be over 400. Easily.

Sunday we reunion with Nita, Alain and the wonderful Three Zeds for a hike in West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Unsurprisingly Zebulon crushed his GCSEs with 12 A*, the very highest possible outcome. He contemplates a future of computer sciences or math. He already has a live gaming app to his name.

Alain continues to dish out applied math PhD projects like M&Ms from the jar. To what reward? I ask. The satisfaction of answering the unknown, his reply. This year his team solved the puzzle of the chameleon tongue, whose force velocity relationship made no sense.  Still doesn't, but at least there is an equation now.

Elevators

Gentle reminder: Do not fuck around with the elevator
In all the cities I visit elevators are a Big Deal since my meetings seem to be above the 40th floor. China had about three million elevators in operation at the end of 2013.

I am reminded of a trip to Nairobi for HTWS where the building elevators did not work. Nobody seemed to mind and 20 floors easily walked (which we did).

Seoul

Still sane - barely
My week ends in Seoul where our hotel overlooks the skyline from the many rolling mountains that surround the city.

Stephane and I run to the top of Namsan Mountain, where the Namsan Tower located, and the highest point in the city. It's kinda straight up and, since it's not like competitive or anything, we over-exert ourselves and, again, I must remind myself that these things no longer come easily.

Of course we get lost on the route back, starts to rain and the sun goes down. Sat nav not working.

Eventually, after a reasonable run becomes a long run, we are back in time for an evening drink. A highlight : passing a floodlit baseball pitch where professionally youngsters play into the after-evening hours, regardless of the weather.

Sunday, August 30

Tokyo

Westward; on a clear day one can see Mt Fuji
Tokyo goes on forever.

From the cereal box: In striking contrast to the ethnic and racial diversity that characterize large American cities, Tokyo, like the rest of Japan, is overwhelmingly mono-racial. The largest non-Japanese minorities that live in Tokyo as Japanese citizens are Korean and Chinese nationals, who are never considered Japanese even though some of these families have lived in Japan for centuries. Tokyo has always attracted Japanese from areas beyond its borders, mostly people from the rural areas to the north and east who come in hopes of benefiting from Tokyo's economic prosperity, which is often in stark contrast to the depressed economies of much of rural Japan. Many of these newcomers, and many native Tokyoites, are young people, who throng the streets at all hours of the day and night, infusing the city with an atmosphere of youthful vitality.

Sushi san


While extremely polite, the Japanese are also very difficult to read. They are often poker faced in meetings and react to facial expressions, instead of jokes or words, which can be disconcerting. I'm bewildered when saying "online dating" results in a senior figure throwing his head back laughing. His junior colleagues take their cue and also howl with laughter.

I learn a few sushi etiquettes : never dip the rice-side in soy sauce, which absorbs the liquid (and is insulting to the itamae). Never rub one's chopsticks together. Do not mix wasabi in soy sauce. Ginger is a palate cleanser and should be consumed between each sushi, not with it. Never use chopsticks to take or pass food from another's plate. Infractions will likely result in being ignored by the itamae.

I had a friend in business school named Jushi. Only I called him "sushi" for one semester and he never corrected me.

In Europe, the migrant crisis continues - Merkel says it is a test for the union greater than Greece.

Japantown

Bento bo 
Tokyo : Stephane is a super dude who recently made partner at Astorg.

Our arrival too late for restaurants so we find a 24 hour sushi joint near our hotel in the Shiodome, not far from the fish markets. It's honestly the best sushi I've ever had - better than London's Akeda or Umu, which nets a check for several hundred pounds for dinner. As cool is the hustle-bustle at 2AM : businessman, revellers, couples. No tourists.

Tokyo is the most modern of all cities - there are multiple skylines in different districts, putting Manhattan to shame. The streets are clean, it feels safe, and the Japanese don't speak English (though the signposts are also in English even if they make no sense). If asked for directions or anything else in English, the Japanese will walk away - not rudeness but embarrassment for not being able to answer.

The Japanese remarkably polite. My favourite : upon departure, the hosts wait in a bow until the elevator doors are closed.  

Teipai

B2 - two levels below surface
I arrive Taipei at midnight, time for a swim before bed.

Of my meetings, most impressive is WTT, the family office of Tsai Wan-Tsai (public record) who founded the Fubon Group, the biggest and most profitable insurance company in Taiwan which recently overtook Cathay for the  No. 1 spot ( Cathay remarkable founded and run by by Tsai’s brother).

Not moved ? The family further owns Taiwan Mobile (#2 mobile co in Taiwan), the largest cable TV company, the biggest TV shopping network and China Bank (regional license for Taiwan). All in, WTT controls over one-third of the Taiwanese economy.

Unusually (to me), much of daily life takes place underground as restaurants and shops and fitness centres must take advantage of the free-space beneath the city streets. 

Taipei, compared to Tokyo, Singapore or Seoul, has shabby infrastructure despite its $45k per capita. Most expect China to invade one day - why invest ?

Last time I was here was 1994 sourcing eye-glass frames for Help The World See.

Beijing

View from my room
Beijing traffic is surprisingly sparse as we make our way around the city's tourist sites and to meetings. I learn that many of the main roads closed for a military parade (joint, with Russia) for 3 Sept, which requires practise and planning: public not allowed. The celebration marks the 70 year anniversary of the Second World War's end. Interestingly this is the first time for the parade - a signal of strength, perhaps ?

Also: the World Athletic Championships taking place at the Beijing "Birdcage" National Stadium and factories ordered shut to reduce pollution. It works, too. No smog.

Beijing's population is ca. 21m or world's 8th largest (Tokyo number one with 37m). I arrive as 2015 H1 growth below expectations while Xi Jiping's anti-corruption campaign has caused a serious political  wobble inflicting pain on equity exchanges around the world : Hong Kong down 30% from its May peak; the NYSE around -10%. Yet it is only calm with the investment professionals I meet. Of course concern, but otherwise only confidence.

From Beijing to Taipei.

Center Of The Earth

Visiting The Center Of The Earth
Stephane and I pay a visit to the China Investment Corp with its $600bn of assets under management. If one wants to know where the power is in China, have a look at the Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors, all public on Wiki, a website not available in China. Nor is Facebook, Google or Youtube. 

From CIC it is CICC, the largest investment bank in China. 

We meet only women, as is JJ, who shows us around. She tells us in China, a male dominated Asian culture, women have equal opportunity. 

Back home, the Shakespeares enjoy summer - Eitan has pre-season football practice while Madeleine "chills out and nothing else" (Me: You must have done something? Madeleine: Nope) which makes me feel good.

"NBA games are exciting to watch and have global appeal. They are very popular in China. I do watch NBA games on television when I have time."

--Xi Jinping

Temple Of Heaven

Temple of Heaven
I catch the direct from Heathrow to Beijing Capital Airport, the sixth largest building in the world by area AND a third runway built in no-time-flat for the 2008 Olympics. Heathrow may get a third runway after 20 years in 20 years.

I depart London on Saturday, 2PM, arriving in China on Sunday, 12 noon, a bit disorienting : travelling East always the difficult direction.  At our hotel I swim on the 59th floor (the building once the tallest in China and now it is No. 2) before joining Stephane and Laurent for lunch on the 68th floor. At this height, inside an atrium, everything a bit weird like the trees or the floor-to-ceiling wine on display behind glass walls.

From the Park Hyatt we go to the Temple Of Heaven (pictured), a medieval complex of religious buildings visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
--Mao

Saturday, August 22

Railroad Tracks

One year of braces
We go for a day hike Alpes Maritimes which are remarkable for the rock formations that tower above the path.

Madeleine finishes re-reading "Fault In Our Stars" and when I get a bunch of "dunknows" to my questions regarding the book, I ask her to make up the sequel. She entertains me for a several miles of walking. Her creative mind always at work.

S. France

Chillax
Eitan about as excited for Manchester football as about anything and we plan the evening around ManU vs. some unheard-of-team which is broadcast on the cable channel. The kids beg for McDonald's and Sonnet relents meaning they enjoy the perfect night in France.

We are on the beach for one week.

Eitan reads the biography of Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary Manchester United coach. Joyce's 'Dubliners' stays in the suitcase. Fair enough.

Turn Around

We arrive home from a long-drive from Scotland to catch a plane to Provence.

Madeleine: "Do they call you forehead because it is as big as four fingers ?"
Me: "I'd not thought of it like that before."

In the line at customs we ponder the notice, "P before Q"
Me: "What the hell does that mean?"
Madeleine: "Pee before queuing. Go to the bathroom before the line."
Me: "You are a genius."

Coastline Of Muck

We do a hike circling Muck and ending on its peak or ca. 421 feet from sea level.  This entails a mild/ slushy hike across fields, along the coastline, through ferns and finally up a sharp path that takes us to the summit. It ain't Rakaposhi.

The kids are mostly good sports about it but happy when the walk behind us. At the tea house Madeleine feeds a cow. The dog is in his element.

Welcome To The Isle of Muck

"Come to the Isle of Muck to get away, relax, and enjoy the wonderful wildlife and scenery."
For many years I have wondered about the islands off Britain and so Sonnet puts things in motion: We visit the Isle of Muck in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland (we cross Rum and Eigg on the ferry). 

Muck measures about 2.5 miles east to west and has a population of around 30, mostly living near the harbour at Port Mor. The other settlement on the island is the farm at Gallanach. There is a small hotel, a tea shop and not much else on the High Street.

Tom picks us up at the ferry station in an ancient Land Rover meant not for Chelsea but the unpaved roads of the isle. With us are 12 or so visitors here for a family reunion which means the local accommodations are otherwise sold out (this would qualify as "packed"). Tom and his family live here 365 days a year for the peace and solitude. They own a bunch of sheep, which Rusty chases with joy to Sonnet's horror, on a farm estate that stretches to the water. Amazon delivers the essentials. Of course it is rainy and window but that is the point.
I find an unexpected emerald bay to skinny dip.

Sunday, August 16

Maillag

Sound of Sleat looking at the Isle of Rum
Eitan and Madeleine survive camp and we pick them up outside Ft William and drive to Maillaig, a fishing town founded in the 1840s, where we catch a ferry to The Isle of Muck.

Sonnet, Eitan and I have visited Maillaig before - for a day-trip in October, 2001 - or shortly after Eitan turned one-year old. We were visiting Fort William so I could climb Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain at 1,344 meters located on the western end of the Grampian Mountains in The Highlands. The summit can be reached with a vigorous day hike up. So I and Eitan (dutiful strapped in a backpack) set out for the base in the pouring rain and spring snow. The taxi driver suggests it might not be an optimal day for a climb and Eitan's howls convince me the reasonable - safe! - thing to do is to not do it. Probably the right call.

So Maillaig. along with being the busiest Herring port in Europe during the 1960s, is famous for its scallops and the family restaurant where we dined in 2001 still there and we enjoy a meal while I ask myself the inevitable question : where did the time go ?

Dad's factoid: The Mallaig railway - Hogwarts Express - used during the filming of the Harry Potter

Loch Hourn

Self Portrait XXXXVII
Sonnet finds a charming hiking station at Loch Hourn where we hole up for the night following a day trekking along a section of the 200 mile Cape Wraith Trail.

Loch Hourn runs inland from the Sound of Sleat (about right) opposite the island of Skye for 14 miles to the head of the loch at Kinloch Hourn. At the entrance, it is 3 miles wide, becoming less than 1.5 mile wide for much of its length, with successive narrows in the upper reaches and reducing to a 300-metre-wide basin at the head, where we start our walk.

The Loch is fjord-like and mostly steep-sided, with Beinn Sgritheall to the north and Ladhar Bheinn rising from the southern shore. The sea floor has been shaped by glaciation into five progressively deeper basins with relatively shallow sills; combined with the narrow and sheltered aspect of the loch and the high local rainfall, these result in an unusually wide variation of salinity and sea habitats over the length of the loch.

The Highlands

The kids shipped off to Scotland and Outward Bound for a week of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, canoing and surviving [Dad's note: Outward Bound founded in the UK, now more popular in the US, and aims to foster the personal growth and social skills of participants by using challenging expeditions in the outdoors. Bill is on the Board]. Madeleine: "Do I have to go?"

Sonnet and I drive to The Highlands for some hiking before picking up the Shakespeares. Despite the population density of Britain (64m people in an area half the size of California), most of Scotland is remote, beautiful .. . and wet. Our rainy days punctuated by brilliant sunshine that warms one to the bones.  Unusually for so far North (56.8 degree latitude) the fauna is tropical thanks to the jetstream, which dumps warm damp weather across the British Isles.

The Berkeley Way

This dude a fixture in my and many friends' memories from years ago. Every morning, rain or shine, Jeremy stood on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Way (formerly Grove Street until 1984) and Russell Street waving to motorists and encouraging us to have a good day. This was the 1970s and not everything hunky-dory btw. He made the corner a better place. Where have guys like this gone ? (photo from Laurel, 3rd grade friend)

Madeleine and I go to the local pool. A cartoon poster of an overweight balding sunburned middle age man exhorts us to "get in shape this summer."
Me: "Does that guy look like me?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "Well, phew."
Madeleine: "You don't have a sunburn". 

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Jotting Joe has left and gone away.
--Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends

Still Crazy After All These Years

Park and 57th
I am in New York for a few meetings, travelling with JL from Astorg. JL a founder of the firm and charismatic like few people I know: he draws a room's attention without saying a word. He could easily be in the movies, playing an enforcer or ruthless assassin. I mean this as the highest complement.

A joy of visiting Manhattan is seeing Katie which works out to a bunch of times a year. I always make sure to plan my trips around at least one dinner with her, solo. She is doing the most interesting things and the only little sister I have. One of those things that makes life worth living and I cherish all the more with age.

In college Katie and I spent a night dancing at the Palladium (1986!) then hanging out in an all-night  diner, me smoking, waiting for the first morning train from Grand Central Station to Bronxville. Pretty cool, youth.

Manhattan Sunrise

OK, seriously catching up on my blog. I am feeling the loss of momentum - whereas until recently I pounced on each missive, I now find myself resisting, a drag - like running in water. So why the inertia ? Partly, perhaps, there is less to blog about : not that the daily humour of life and kids diminished (my main subject matter of course) but rather I find a greater need to filter what the Shakespeares say and do. No teenager wants their Dad writing over their shoulder.

Also this is a crunch period : kids becoming adults, parents aging - I'm aging - and work requiring full-on attention.

So, that aside, here is a Manhattan morning taken from the southside of Sheep's Meadow. Like nowhere else, a new day in New York City can change one's life.

Friday, July 31

Cultural Experience

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

I refuse to join.

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

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

Madeleine: "Math just ruins everything."

8e

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 27

Paris Express

Etan joins me in Paris.

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

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

So Sozy

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

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

Sunday, July 26

Notting Hill

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

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

Willamette River

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

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

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

David - Donna - Thierry

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 18

The Gals

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

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

Hulk #169

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

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

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

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

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

Muzak

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

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

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


Friday, July 17

Hormones

Wimbledon track
And another Friday. Thank goodness.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 12

My Vines

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

Brown Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

Self Portrait XXXXVI

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

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

Ray

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

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

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

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

Running

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

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

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

On Astorg

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

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

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

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

Wimbledon And Greece

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 11

Warm Up

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

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

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

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

Roger 49

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

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

A Megawatt

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

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

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

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

Evolution of global annual installation:

Sweety Pie

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

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


L.A. Gehry

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

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

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