Tuesday, June 30

Chords And Murray

Madeleine, before school, yesterday morning. I love her hat+she looks like her mother. Uncanny, really.

I have found myself without a notebook or blackberry power chord on more occasions than I care to guess. Usually, my error discovered at the destination point or on an airplane resulting in A) aggravation; followed by B) panic and then C) wasted time trying to desperately find a charger that works. D) would be extreme cursing. Well, help is on the way - finally - as Apple, Nokia, Sony and others agree to have one standard chord from January 2010. It is about time these guys did something nice for us given how much money I fork over for their products much of it unnecessary like the sweet little Sony Vaio I just bought for a couple grand. My Dell perfectly fine but so what? So from next year I can chuck a number of cables and that is good news.

Last night the entire country up late glued to Andy Murray and Wimbledon - The Great British hope from Scotland, and now one of our own since he has progressed to the quarter-finals. Murray did so by defeating
19th ranked Stanislas Wawrinka who took him to five sets and exhaustion (me, that is - I am sure Murray fine). Can he beat Federer if given the chance? Probably unlikely but who knows? Murray's progression has been impressive - ranked no. 407 at the beginning of 2005 or the year he turned pro, then 17 by 2006 and No. 3 by May 2009. He began Wimbledon as the third seed, but bumped to second when Nadal pulled out lame. Murray's career record 195-71 with 12 titles; he hasn't broken through the Grand Slam but did final at the US Open earlier this year. His success has earned him $7,612,322, a £5 million house in Surrey and a fine-ass girlfriend Kim Sears who is often seen in the family box emoting. All this and only 22 (but I'll bet he could not have gotten a job in investment banking the year I did. Sour grapes). So Federer .. if any one can defeat the Swiss, who now pursues his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam, it is probably Murray, since he has done so six times in their last eight matches, though losing most recently at US Open Final. Stay tuned, the entire country is.

Monday, June 29

Silvio, Encore

To his credit, Italian PM Berlusconi promised to give at least four of his 12 cabinet posts to women when he returned to office in 2008, Mara Carfagna (above, right), a former Miss Italy contestant who we are used to seeing, ahem, differently and now the Minister for Family. Stefania Prestigiacomo given the European Affairs portfolio after serving as Minister for Equal Opportunities. Unlike Belosconi's other tarts, at least Stefania qualified having been elected to the House of Representatives as member of the Forza Italia party in 1994. Fortunately for her, she is also hot in a swim suit otherwise, what career? All of this worth noting because the faux tanned PM today setting forth his agenda for the European Parliament (from his yacht in Naples Bay) whilst under considerable pressure regarding his fantasy island in the Mediterranean. Here, sensible reader, he flies high-class call girls and under-aged women who call him "Papi" - paying them handsomely, it would appear. He denies all this, of course, though photographs and tape recordings from former model/actress/escort Patrizia D'addario may confirm Belusconi recruited her at least twice for adult entertainment - she notes BTW that Siliva an animal in bad "he does not sleep." Not bad for a 72 year-old weasel and at least he's not in our face and all family-values like some US politicians we've gotten to know too well. For this reason, and unlike those same dufus American politicos, Silvio maintains his popularity - 66% by his reckoning, though down from 77% last month he admits. Isn't the quote "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?" Silvio knows this, even if he may and should be stripped of his power.

Drag Queen

Well, here is something I don's see every day - my father wearing a dress and pantyhose (unfortunately below the cut off). He dresses up for a Rotary skit and informs us "In major boxing matches, it is traditional for a sexy babe to walk around the ring between rounds and carry a sign announcing the next round. That was my role in the play, to be sexy and carry a sign announcing the next scene." Brilliant. I have no doubt Moe was the cut-up in his grade school class.

Eitan and I out the door for an hour of morning football practice - Madeleine declines the offer to join us (she's no dummy). Now that the sun up around 5AM the day offers plenty of useful hours though we do receive some unusual glances from the dog-walkers on Sheen Common. The training consists of a few laps around the park, some fast-jogs and star-jumps then we get into ball-control and finally practice headers and bicycle kicks, which he is able to nail on a few occassions. Football, like water polo, is all about what you cannot see - elbos, knees, holding and so forth. It is a physical game as well as elegant, and Eitan no longer complains when I flick him to the grass to steal the ball. Most of the time now he has me in circles and no doubt in several years he will be the master. How I do recall awaiting him to walk so we could do stuff like today. Now I anticipate eagerly his advancement in life and since football is the litte dude's life, his progress deeply satisfying.

Sunday, June 28

Sanford And Others

Farah, and as importantly her form of anal cancer, overlooked by Michael Jackson's death

A fellow happily relieved by the pop stars attention-deflecting end (in an Alistair Darling sort of way) is South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - the "family values" scum bag who went MIA to Argentina to stick it in his girlfriend despite his wife and four kids. The disappearance followed a bruising completion of the political term where the state assembly overturned ten vetoes imposed by Sanford on new legislation, and had won a legal battle to force him to accept South Carolina's quota of the $787bn federal stimulus package despite his avid opposition to the scheme. 

Ok, we all need a little relief, I appreciate, but there are better ways like basketball. Sanford's wife had been aware of the affair for five months, having discovered incriminating letters; she received her husband's pledge that he would never dally again. Fat chance. Of course the Governor A) refuses to step down and B) used tax-payer funds for his excursion. 

The hypocrisy amazing - Sanford and other Republican adulterers like David Vitter, John Ensign and that fat fuck Newt Gingrich boinking his junior assistant - each pursued Clinton's impeachment (Newt gets extra points for doing so while shagging the intern). 

The Democrats have done no better on many notable occasions (er.. Clinton. And Edwards - now that guy a real work. There may even be a sex tape made by his mistress Rielle Young) but at least they aren't selling themselves as all morally superior, church going Ward and Judy Cleavers. Then again, the Republicans are just damn entertaining right now - how enjoyable it is to see these politico blowhards and liars caught out for the same weaknesses they heap scorn onto their opponents. Think there is a connection to our decline in the 21st century?

"She isn't young enough or pretty enough to be the President's wife."
--Newt Gringrich, to biographer Gail Sheehy on his first wife, 1980

The Great Brain

Eitan reads "Me And My Little Brain" by John Fitzgerald, which I enjoyed about his age. Here I pay him £1 to take this photograph.

The kids anticipate their "Candy Sale" by getting Sonnet to bake cookies and a trip to the newspaper agents to buy liquorice, skittles, and gummie bears. Eitan draws up ten posters, which are placed on a front window and dropped in a few mail slots. At one-thirty sharp, a lawn chair set up in front (Eitan: "come on, mom, it is 1:28!"). The one hour affair nets £3.65 including six cookies to our neighbors Mike and Jill. And lest you think the outcome a tad dire from a business outcome, never in life need you worry. The kids have a few extra pounds plus they suckered their mom into making cookies they otherwise would not be eating now in front of the television. I appreciate my industrialists and their industiousness. The way this is going both will have a paper route in no time at all (assuming there's a newspaper left to be delivered).

Madeleine's homework: "Make a travel brochure. To make this activity more fun and easier, please get a travel brochure from an agent. The child then makes up their own description and ideas. For example, transport, how to get there; hotel- describe the bedrooms, pools and facilities &c. Food- describe meals available, times, &c. Activities - excursions - what can families do whilst there .. Children can cut out or draw pictures and make up two or three sentences about each topic."
Madeleine groans, "Noooooo .. ooooooo"

Madeleine sings (over and over): "There was a great big moose, who drank a lot of juice."

Saturday, June 27


Jim, who looks a bit like Tony Soprano here, I met in '98 via his brother Richard, who I worked with at First Boston. At then, Jim was involved with Excite @Home and trying to save the European business after being poorly managed by his predecessor. Prior, he was a lawyer at White and Case and banker at Credit Suisse and Salomon Bros covering Turkey where he met his wife; subsequently he spends some considerable time in Istanbul, where he has a second home (Jim's wife Perry founded the largest air business between Turkey and Britain).  

Today, Jim at Google (with Richard) and responsible for global content partnerships - a senior role requiring time in California. In that sense, he and I enjoy a need to be on the West Coast while not especially appreciating the travel. Lucky him, travelling business class while I'm usually in Premium Economy. Being a sole trader has its disadvantages, no doubt. I meet a number of super interesting middle aged dudes and their manicured wives, who mostly stick to themselves around a lawn table drinking white wine. Us men talk about BBQ, finance, football .. usual stuff, with a different angle: most have a connection to Istanbul as well as London making it a dynamic group. 

One of the fellows (Irish, indeed) a criminal prosecutor for the government and we talk about his various assaults, murder and rape cases "which barely result in a conviction" he notes. "Disgraceful." Jim's house is large and airy with a backyard that makes me think of the Midwest. Unusual in any city and especially London. Perfect, though, for a lazy afternoon while the kids run around beet-red (Madeleine comes up to me breathlessly: "Dad, I threw up, but it's Ok" before darting off. Hmm). 

 Kids buzzy in the car ride home and now watching Andy Murray at Wimbledon following a cold bath. I pick up Sonnet on the way home from her conference at the train station and she manages not to freak out that I leave the kids solo. It's gonna happen sometime, oh boy.


Eitan has been relentless in his pursuit of a pair of Nike football boots and so today he is rewarded with a trip to the Kingston Mall. Since Sonnet at CHODA, I am solo with the Shakespeares and shuffle them about from soccer, to birthday party then BBQ in Wimbledon. Somewhere in there I double up the sports store. Eitan's first choise is day-glow colour ("just like Michael Owen!") but since they retail for £159 not a chance. I steer him to the lads section and we are disappointed when his first choice, the Nike T90 Laser in red, not available to size. He does get the yellow and here is Nike's advertising from earlier this year: "The Total Ninety Laser boot has a significantly big ’sweet spot’ through unique precision rings - that help control ball spin and trajectory. The Laser’s upper, with its innovative circular-pattern PowerZone - emblazoned with a “90″ and the words “Swerve”, “Precision” and “Power” is inspired by visual cues from the ripples that emanate when a stone is dropped in water, according to the designer."

Nothing like a little science to raise one's game. From Eitan's point of view, the day could not be better.

Correction: Eitan tells me that his first choice of boots not day-glow but rather "lime-green" and they were £130 not £159. For the record.

Friday, June 26

Sports Day

Here we are at Friday. This lower-res picture taken from my Blackberry since I did not have enough time to duck home for my camera. Probably better for Eitan. Today is Sports Day for years 3 to six, and the kids are grouped across ages, in color - Eitan being red. The activities take place on school grounds and include the 60 meter dash, the obstacle course, the dash-and-jump (pictured), basket-ball shot, long jump and distance race around the grass pitch. Somehow all the kids participate before the last bell. They have wonderful spirit and each team has their own song like "We will we will rock you!" and so forth. We parents mill around chatting about whateva. Eitan has high-expectations for himself and when his group comes in third out of four he is devastated, which I can understand since the reds have most of the sporty players and leading comfortably into the last events. Was there a fix? Eitan is made doubly miserable not being allowed to participate in all his events. I consul him afterwards noting that great athletes win some and lose some - what is important that they show up, to which he wails "but I wasn't even allowed to show up!" and he's got a point. So I take him to Joe and Syrus's birthday party at the Bank of England Club and tell him to get with the program.

Madeleine visits the British Gallery today with her Year 2 class.
Me: "How was the museum?"
Madeleine: "It is not a museum, dad. It's a gallery."
Me: "How was the gallery?"
Madeleine: "Don't know."

The Badgers lose 7-nil. But they are chipper about it: "We almost scored two goals" Madeleine notes.

Me to Madeleine: "Eat your peas."
Madeleine: "I am."
Me: "NOT one at a time."

Madeleine: "Can I have some ice cream?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "It's 'opposite day,' dad - can I have some ice cream."
Me: "Yes?"
Madeleine: "Got you! I am going to have strawberry."

The King Is Dead

Two pop culture icons gone in twenty-four hours. There is no doubt Michael Jackon a freak and accused pedophile but his music will be remembered forevermore. I may have missed the back slide, famously broadcast live in the US in '83 for Motown's 25th anniversy, but even in Switzerland Jackson's raw power clear: the moonwalk his signature and the best known dance move in the world (this my humble, unscientific opinion I admit - but name one other dance, aside from the tango, that competes? Anybody under 30 BTW has no clue about the tango). Jackson's dance videos epic - "Beat It," "Billy Jean,""Bad," "Remember The Time" and on and on. We college and post-college 80s kids gathered together for every release and celebrated his artistry. Reviewing Jackson's influence on pop, punctualised by awards, it is not difficult to exclaim that Jackson the most influential singer performer since Elvis, if not all times. And what a trippy ride: from abusive parents, The Wiz, to "Off The Wall" and "Thriller," to tabloids, autobiography and film, a White House visit , Super Bowl XXII, sexual abuse accusations and marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, divorces, children, plastic surgery, whiteness and more weirdness -wow. We have all participated, mostly for good, and now he is gone. The world a much less interesting place. Michael Jackson:

Major Awards Wins
American Music Awards
Billboard Awards
BRIT Awards
Golden Globe Awards
Grammy Awards
Guinness World Records
MTV Awards
NAACP Image Awards
RIAA Awards
World Music Awards
Major awards won 197

Thursday, June 25


Here is the poster I had in my room in '77 or '78. It was either John Travolta or Serpico or Farrah, may she rest in piece. I eventually replaced Fawcett with Cheryl Ladd, who I taped to my ceiling and attached bulging eyeballs. It seemed funny at the time. I was likely too young to appreciate anything else, but who knows really? Television of this era wonderful and also totally crap - production a bare minimum and the "acting" camp. Aaron Spelling, however, discovered the holy grail with Love Boat, Fantasy Island and of course, Charlie's Angels which recycled has-beens clinging to their desperation and banking one more pay check. It was the "reality" TV of the day and just as scripted as now (or vice verse?). While LB and FI were the Saturday solution to one's tweens and pre-dating, it was the "Six Million Dollar Man" on Sunday nights that was transformative for us youngsters: "Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, strong, faster." The imagination sored, Dear Reader, and I still fantasise about a bionic arm used for smashing deserving shitheads like certain members in US government. Cheney. But I digress. And the plots sublime: Steve vs. the Sasquatch went two episodes ("To Be Continued" - what commitment!). Plus there was his love interest and bionic women Jamie and the bionic dog too. Ahh, sweet heaven. Today's stuff cannot compete and despite 200 surfing channels, most barely watchable. And the four terrestrial channels, supported by advertising and my television license, ghastly excluding the BBC News and the occasional football match not owned by Sky.

"I took them away from all that, and now they work for me."

Self Portrait VIII

Me: "What are some small, simple, satisfying things?"

Eitan: "Having a drink of water when you are thirsty."
Eitan: "Sitting down when you are tired!"
Madeleine: "Taking the newspaper when you want to read it."
Madeleine: "Reading a book when you're really wanting to."
Madeleine: "Smashing a window with a brick!"
Me: "Have you ever smashed a window with a brick?"
Madeleine: "Well, once - over there (pointing to living room window). You weren't around and mom fixed it."

Eitan: "Sticking your head out the car window and putting your tongue out."
Eitan: "My flippers (for swimming) which, um, like really hurt and it feels sooo nice to take them off."

Eitan: "Play time!"
Madeleine: "Getting fresh air when you have been inside a really long time."

Eitan: "I like to put ketchup on my pasta."

Another Shot From Richmond Park

Bong and all,
Michael Phelps wins the 100 meter butterfly yesterday in 50.48 seconds, flirting with the world record as he continued his 2009 World Championship build-up at the Canada Cup. Phelps was eight-hundredths outside the world record of 50.40 held by compatriot Ian Crocker, in this past weekend’s competition. He also improved on his personal best time of 50.58sec, set in winning gold at Beijing. I remember times like this in yards, which qualified for the finals at Northcoast. Could this be the first guy under the mythical 50 seconds for the 100 meter fly? Wow. Was he shaved I wonder?

This litte nugget from the Metro caught my attention: Canterbury has been told it is "gay enough" following a two-month inquiry costing thousands of pounds. The Kent Cathedral city was found to sufficiently promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture by the Local Government Ombudsman after a complaint by a gay group. A team of three council officers had to provide "details of touring plays and musicals, for example, which would be of interest to the LGBT community." I wonder if this includes cellar bondage and rubber parties? Anyways, a council spokesman said: "We're delighted." Amen, brother.

Madeleine: "Dad, did you know that house is bigger on the inside then the outside?"
Me: "Well, how so?"
Madeleine: "It takes me longer to run around inside then around the outside."
Me: "It seems possible .. . "
Madeleine: "It is just like St Paul's. It takes me forever to get across inside."

Me to Eitan: "Are you going to have a haircut before the Olympics?"
Eitan: "Daaad"
Me: "Ok, how about by University?"

Madeleine to me: "You you that thing where you squirt water out of your hands? Do you? Well I can do it now!"

Eitan, before bath: "Do I have to wash my hair?"
Me: "Yes"
Eitan: "Do I have to use soap?"
Madeleine: "Do we have to use water?"

Wednesday, June 24


Moe took this photo, which he developed in his dark room at 1860 San Ramon in 1969 or 1970, or shortly after my parents moved from San Francisco to Berkeley. My guess is Briones Park in the East Bay. Man, the planet turns and we get older. My 42 birthday Saturday which is one of those years nobody thinks about until they are it. Turning a decade always a big deal, and 33 important since somehow I started feeling like an adult.. kids will do that to you fast. Any year during my 20s either utterly confused/miserable/desperate or completely exhilarating, depending on my reflective mood or sobriety. Post college I got hammered at First Boston and lost my college sweet heart. Nothing particularly good about that. From 25-26 I lived with my parents and got to know them as a (mostly) independent (and nearly broke) human being while I dated Sonnet and ran non-profit HTWS with retired Lt. Colonel and alcoholic Wayne Cannon. We boozed in some great places in Latin America and Africa seeing well beyond the post-card perfect beaches and typical tourist attractions. We also set up eye-care programs still in operations today. My salary was $1,000 per month+air fare. Those were most excellent times indeed. My 30s saw a little more stability until my Internet company went tits up in the midst of having a couple of sprogues. And the transition to London was not altogether smooth since all I've ever really wanted from life is to be in Northern California.. but we are beyond that and love our river-city. The economy a mess for sure yet there is always opportunity somewhere. As I tell Sonnet: we've never missed a meal yet. Each decade sets up the next and I am feeling pretty good about how things continue to roll along.

Good Day, Sunshine

Sonnet and the kids join me to Richmond Park on a sunny late afternoon so I can run repeats on the mile connector, which is a nice flat stretch in the middle of the park. While I am gone, they make friends and spend a good hour hunting for broken golf tees. A group sets up a cricket game nearby and I make sure we aren't too close to the "sticky wicket" (who the hell understands this game). The other sport going is tennis in neighboring Wimbledon yet somehow ages away. A couple of Brits get through the first round but it is Andy Murray we all want. At 22, he shows potential and many, including commentators Chris Evert and John McEnroe, pick him to go all the way. This assumes he can be Federa where he has a 6-2 advantage in games played. Not shabby. Murray is famously Scottish, which he shall remain should he crash out in the early rounds. At some point he becomes "British" (middle rounds) and finally a "Londoner" or "Our Andy" should he make it to the final. We have already forgotten Tim Henman who was a jolly good player, you see, but broke our hearts every time.

"Then we'd lie beneath the shady tree
I love her and she's loving me
She feels good, she knows she's looking fine
I'm so proud to know that she is mine.

Good Day Sunshine, Good Day Sunshine, Good Day Sunshine"

Bad, Bad, And Ugly

Here it is put simply in a graph: the lost US decade under Bush as private sector job growth almost non-existent over the past ten years. Between May 1999 and May 2009, private employment rose 1.1% or the lowest 10-year increase in the post-depression period. In short, the the American job machine has almost completely stalled out. While the privates generated roughly 1.1 million additional jobs during this time, or about 100K per year, the public sector created about 2.4 million jobs. But even this gives the private sector too much credit: recall that it includes health care, social assistance, and education, all areas which receive a lot of government support. Depressing. The French yuf riot over this stuff - they're no dummies, they want the state jobs. Think the cost of Iraq not being felt?

"First of all, in a free market, there's going to be good times and bad times. That's how markets work. There will be ups and downs. And after 52 consecutive months of job growth, which is a record, our economy obviously is going through a tough time."
--Bush, March 14, 2008, in a speech to the Economic Club of New York.

“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down."
--Bush, September 26, 2008, in the Roosevelt Room before Hank Paulson, Nanci Pelosi and others.

Tuesday, June 23

New Speaker

Today we choose a new Speaker of the House of Commons, replacing the disgraced Michael Martin and the first guy to be tossed in 360 years. Labour has done its work and select John Bercow, who is universally despised by the Tory party who already make wind about displacing him (says one: "He is not popular. He has enjoyed being Labour's man in this contest... He is quite unacceptable"). Bercow sold himself to MPs as the “clean break candidate” after the expenses scandals of the past months yet has claimed more than £20,000 annually over the past four years to cover the cost of staying away from home on parliamentary business. He has also been accused of "flipping" his second home to avoid capital gains tax on the sale of two properties in 2003, shortly after his marriage. He magnanimously agrees to pay £6,500 to HM Customs and Revenue which was my money to begin with. But let us set that aside under the assumption that every politician is on the take and we cannot be too picky. Mr Bercow yesterday saw off nine rivals to claim the Speaker’s chair in a secret ballot of MPs. He was “dragged” to the chair after seeing off his main rival Sir George Young by a margin of 322 MPs to 271 in the third round of voting. He noted further that he would like to see the issue of parliamentary expenses dealt with “in a timely fashion” and reform should not be put off for “a period of several months” or more. Such urgency, pardieu. At 46, Bercow is not only the youngest speaker in 160 years, he won't wear the traditional wig nor the old-fashioned court dress donned by predecessors including Michael Martin. His new job comes with a £141,866 salary, and a lavish apartment on the banks of the Thames and, he notes slyly, that he will personally not claim the parliamentary Additional Costs Allowance to which MPs are entitled to cover the cost of staying away from home. Such a populist, indeed.

Today is the second day of Wimbledon and the weather divine. Where else would one wish to be?

Madeleine: "Oh, dad - I've poured water onto my cereal!"

Eitan on the school run: "If you sing any more I am going to pinch you."
Madeleine adds helpfully: "And if you whistle I will hit you."

Monday, June 22


Marcus sends one from the annual Fremont Solstice parade yesterday, which he attends with his gal Lynn and a few good friends. Marcus reports that "the parade always opens with a rush of nude bikers in various stages of body paint. In past years, the City tried to stop the nudity, but the city police trying to chase down packs of brightly painted nudies using cycle patrols became extremely comical." Of course they also freak out at Stone Henge too - hippies not allowed to get near the rocks and in past this too has resulted in absurd stand-offs between the police and revellers. What harm, really? Here is what I add about the solstice, which I tried to explain to Eitan this morning on the school run: "A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is most inclined toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun's apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination or the apparent movement of the Sun's path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction." For the record, London is 51-degree latitude or on line with Adak, Alaska, which means dusk rests until 11PM and dawn from 3:30AM. Sonnet hates this but I usually manage to sleep through. Madeleine could care less - zzzz.