Monday, May 31


We park the car on Soho Square and walk several blocks south to Chinatown where we meet Ferdie and Lizzie and their children for lunch. Sonnet and Lizzie once worked together at the V and A in the textiles and dress department before Lizzie departed to write her PhD dissertation on dress at Medici Court in Renaissance Italy. Both her parents are Oxford professors, surprise, surprise. Ferdi is responsible for risk at a major European bank and we discuss where the world is heading (to hell in a hand basket, we agree). Tomorrow is back to work and for me that means a plane: this time, to Dublin with my friend Ramsey who raises some dough to buy luxury hotels in Western European capital cities. Ramsey spent nine years doing the same for Pince Al-Walid ben Talal of the Kingdom creating several billions of net asset value. Before professionally, we got to know Ramsey and his wife Jennifer, from Michigan, socially. He has put together a strong team including principals from the Four Season, Savoy Group and Blackstone, the investment firm.

Sonnet notes that the white flowers in my prior blog are not Jasmine, which are smaller and fragrant. If you know, let me know.

"Dad, when I am a professional footballer, I will give you 1% of what I make."
Me: "
1%? How about 90% ..."
"Are you mad? When I am making £90,000 a week that will be £900 to you. For doing nothing."
"Doing nothing? You are, like, so much hard work."
"Do you give Gracie and Moe money?"
"No, but as a parent, all we want is to see you kids launched."
"Well, I am not giving you anything more than 1%."


These friendly white flowers, which I think are Jasmine, cheer up our backyard. With a little sunshine and plenty of light (dawn and dusk at 4AM and 10PM, respectively) this island a completely different place. Like, one would want to live here. Just in time for Wimbledon, too.
We have two families for lunch yesterday which, for the lads, turns into a boozy sun-kissed afternoon. The great Sunday roast. The kids run amok but redeem themselves by clearing the table and doing the dishes. Gold star - I am beginning to think they are useful for something (Madeleine and I sweep the front and she actually seems to enjoy herself). It does not hurt, I suppose, having a three-day week end followed by one week no-school thanks to half-term. Nothing planned for us this time, dear reader, while Sonnet organises play-dates and &c. to keep the kids fully occupied. Back in the day I recall that we kids kept ourselves busy- street ball, go-carts, tree climbing. The occasional shop-lifting. There was never a strict summer schedule nor constant parental oversight which seems to be the norm nowadays. Yes, being in a Big City causes primal anxiety while the media's addiction to child abductions freaks most of us out. Yet I do not think the world somehow less safe for youngsters compared to yester-year: same traffic, same electrical sockets, same household poisons and unguarded appliances. Same Bogyman.

Me: "May I have my blackberry back?"
Eitan: "Dad, check it out: 8,130 points on Bricker!"
Eitan: Oh my gosh! It is almost impossible for me to get by the silver things! I have never been on this high a level!"
Me: "Blackberry?"
Eitan: "Level 14! I am just cruising here!"
Me: "Umm"
Eitan: "Level 15, dad."
Eitan: "I think I am going to score more than 10,000. Way more than you."

Sunday, May 30

On Behaviour - Robert Frank

A BP add from 1999, if you have not seen it already. This company should crash and burn.
Frank Robert, below, strikes a chord consistent with the best class I took at Columbia Business School: Bruce Greenwald's "The Economics Of Human Behaviour," which explored ways to frame, and exploit, a business situation utilising human biases and inconsistencies. There is no reason why the same tactics cannot be applied to politics - in fact, politics far more fertile territory it would seem to me. Just ask Sarah and the Republicans.

The Impact of the Irrelevant on Decision-Making, by Robert H. Frank, Commentary, NY Times: Textbook economic models assume that people are well informed about all the options they’re considering. It’s an absurd claim... Even so, when people confront opportunities to improve their position, they’re generally quick to seize them. ... So most economists are content with a slightly weaker assumption: that people respond in approximately rational ways to the information available to them.

But behavioral research now challenges even that more limited claim. For example, even patently false or irrelevant information often affects choices in significant ways. ...

An intriguing example ... comes from a 1974 ... experiment by the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. In the experiment, subjects first spun a wheel that supposedly would stop at random on any number between 1 and 100. Then they were asked what percentage of African countries belongs to the United Nations. For one group of subjects, the wheel was rigged to stop on 10; for a second group, on 65. On average, the first group guessed that 25 percent belong to the United Nations, but the second group guessed 45 percent.

All subjects would have insisted, correctly, that the number on the wheel bore no relation to the correct answer to the question. Yet, obviously,... demonstrably false or irrelevant information can influence judgments, which in turn influence decisions. In such cases, Professors Tversky and Kahneman wrote in 1981, “the adoption of a decision frame is an ethically significant act.”

Policy makers have long recognized the potential danger of false statements by advertisers. ... But what about merely irrelevant statements, or only implicitly misleading ones? ... Such ads make no explicitly false claims, but that doesn’t make them less misleading, even for informed consumers. ... [P]oliticians employ patently false statements to shift the terms of important public debates. Of course, politicians of both parties have long taken liberties with the truth. But ... Republicans have lately been far more aggressive in stretching traditional boundaries. ...

Can anything be done? For a variety of practical reasons, legal sanctions promise little protection against blatantly false statements. It is helpful, to be sure, when journalists call out politicians who stray too far from the truth. But merely knowing that a statement is false doesn’t nullify its impact. To be effective, a remedy must ... discourage people from making false statements in the first place.

Economists have long recognized that social sanctions are often an effective alternative to legal and regulatory remedies. ... People who know they’ll be ridiculed for telling untruths are more likely to show restraint. ... In recent years, the most conspicuous public falsehoods have been ridiculed by independent bloggers and Comedy Central’s faux news hosts. But television and Internet audiences are highly segmented. Many of Jon Stewart’s targets may never hear his riffs about them, or may even view them as badges of honor.

That’s why it’s important for the circle of critics to widen — and why we need to remember that framing a discussion appropriately is “an ethically significant act.”

Saturday, May 29

Mr Bee

I once thought, half-heartedly perhaps, of keeping bees in the open area outside of Eitan's bedroom (I still consider a green roof but that may be a retirement project). Chillingly, bees are disappearing - in some areas of the UK honeybee numbers have dropped by as much as 80 per cent, while bumblebees across the country have declined by 60 per cent since 1970, according to the the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. In both cases this is largely due to loss of wild habitats, intensive farming and overuse of pesticides and herbicides. The simple truth is that bees need flowers, and there are very few flowers in the farmed countryside. It is not only the UK: In the US, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - where whole colonies disappear or die - has caused a devastating loss of honeybees. Since it broke out last autumn, declines of between 30 per cent and 90 per cent of honeybee populations in at least 27 states have been recorded. There have also been reports of CCD in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

But let us not dwell in more misery. Our backyard gets these unusually fat bees, pictured, who end up trapped in the house making a friendly racket. No way would Madeleine allow them to be harmed. Also buzzing about are the usual brown and black guys who I recall from our backyard in Berkeley. They always seem so cheerful. Their work effort makes the marathoner pause: a bee's wing beat covers a small, flapping approximately 230 times per second (it took Caltech engineers with the help of high-speed cinematography and a giant robotic mock-up of a bee wing, to reveal that sufficient lift was generated by "the unconventional combination of short, choppy wing strokes, a rapid rotation of the wing as it flops over and reverses direction, and a very fast wing-beat frequency"). Let us not forget that our food supply would crash out without this humble servant.

Eitan reflects on the bank holiday weekend: "Aw, man, it is raining."

Me: "What did you expect?"

Eitan: "I am wearing three layers right now. A fleece, a jumper and my pajama tops."

Flower Show

I am getting to know our backyard which, before we arrived, was clearly loved by somebody. We are amazed by the colour and change in bloom - new flowers replace old on a nearly weekly basis. I recognise hibiscus "Blue Bird," blue iris, lavender, abutilon vitolium, calla lily bulbs, chrysanthemum, fuschia and white clematis. Here we have a simple rose.
This a nice lead for the Chelsea Flower Show held in May by the Royal Horticultural Society in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, London. It is by far the most famous show in gardening-mad England and may be the most celebrated in the world - can you think of any other? The event has been a staple for the British social and cultural scene for 150 and years and features exotic plants from around the world and 'plots' designed by celebrities and other notables - being selected to display the height of one's gardening celebrity, dear reader (do note that the BBC's Gardner's World gets over two-million avid listeners each and every Sunday, winter or summer, spring or fall). 157,000 people attend the Chelsea show, which is limited by the grounds-space of about 11 acres. The Royals get a first pre-view (of course) and the BBC broadcasts much of the event for those unable to secure tickets. The flower show was cancelled for several years during WWII and re-opened in 1947 though crops and supplies were limited; it became a symbol of the country's determination to rebuild so goes deep into the nation's psyche lest one thinks it is all daffodils and frivolity. It also sets the year's horticultural trends and watched closely by retailers and others with commercial interest (the UK's gardening products market £9 billion in 2006 according to British Gardens). Her Majesty caught smiling - smiling - on the grounds last week. Go figure.

Friday, May 28

Friday Night

Well, slowly but surely, our living room comes together. The TV is hooked up, anyway, and Eitan watches the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France while I blog. He earns the privilege by doing the dishes. Madeleine upset when she learns football and not cartoons but I tell her she can choose tomorrow's program or she can do some chores herself if she wants something tonight. She slinks upstairs to play with her hamster. The kids' half-term break next week+bank holiday week-end so I figure the Shakespeares can stay up as late as they wish and watch television or do whatever. In fact, they are now old enough to put themselves to bed. Just like that - our evening sorted.

Me: "Got anything funny to say for my blog?"
Eitan: "Naa."
Me: "You must have something?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "Say something clever."
Eitan: "Uhhh. . Ok, here's a riddle. I have keys, but no locks. Um. I crash but don't move. What am I?"
Me: "I have no clue."
Eitan: "A computer."
Me: "Did you make that up?"
Eitan: "I don't know. I'm watching TV."


Well, here we are - Friday again and this time heading into another bank holiday week end. Rain expected - do not doubt it. Still, I cannot complain about my lazy Friday afternoon as London slowly shuts down and prepares to party up. The Mayfair pubs spill into the street and I side-step afternoon boozers who occupy my sidewalk. New York outlawed this liability way back when but here - despite 7,000 CCTVs in London - we still have our freedoms, damn it. Oddly for the week end, we have no plans excluding a few neighborhood friends for Monday holiday brunch. Swimming, football and performance class cancelled which means .. chores! Kids will most certainly be doing them. Oh, and Madeleine is getting a fish.

Last night we went to Yauatacha with Christine and Todd, American friends, who will sadly return to New York at summer's end (recently we celebrated their daughter's bot mitzvah). Todd was graduated two years before me at Brown though we met at an alumni thingy in London in '01 when he was training for the London marathon. He is now a partner and the COO of investment firm KKR while Christine a mover-and-shaker in the non-profit world Chairing Women-For-Women International UK, which provides assistance to women in war torn regions of the world. Todd and Christine wish to raise their four children in the US before they are .. British. Being an ex-pat seductive - how neat to be surrounded by interesting people from the US and everywhere and in a foreign country! - but it comes at a price: at some point, we fear, our lives between here and there. At Diane's wedding, I met the guy who opened Lehman Bros. European offices (RIP) who was in Paris with my Aunt and Uncle. He noted that following eight years he would have happily stayed in Paris forever but was called back to NY. Now, surrounded by family and friends, he is grateful to be home in Westchester county. An ex-pat, he says, never really belongs while giving up his heritage and roots. Another American friend, who has lived in London longer than us, once remarked that the transition permanent from seven years. He was very specific. Hmm. We still struggle with this conundrum though, for the last few years, we have given it a blessed rest.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
--Dorothy in the 'Wizard of Oz"

Wednesday, May 26

Sonnet In Motion

Sonnet is two-months into her five-month work-leave from the V&A museum. She says: "Life is good. I am enjoying no commute. I am enjoying my kids. And the new house. Plus I am perfecting my pie, not withstanding the last disaster" which, I point out, was served at a dinner party hosted by us for six. Another story. Me, I love having Sonnet closer to home. Thank goodness, too, since our to-do list is now, like, a page long and includes things like "replace the smoke-detector" and "call British Gas re carbon monoxide." Ha, ha, wouldn't it be funny to read this if I was dead.

And what about the V&A? Sonnet was recently at Fashion In Motion showcasing Osman Yusefsada, from Afghanistan, whose dress Sonnet wore to her "New York Fashion Now" exhibition. As always, these things attract an enormous following and Sonnet able to get front-row seats for the visiting Smithies and herself. She tells me she misses work which I can appreciate since she is part of the museum. Is the museum. Who else may boast of an office surrounded by Renaissance furniture or Chinese porcelain or Silk Road textiles? Sonnet's world is haute couture and the fashion gallery remains the most popular draw despite its mostly fixed collection. This is why the exhibitions key - they draw inspiration and attract large audiences interested in high fashion which, dear reader, marks us all.


Stan and Silver send the kids comics twice a month which are devoured. Eitan prefers "Denise The Menace" while Madeleine loves "The Knight Life" and "Dagwood" which, I tell her, reminds me of Roger. I think it is because of Dagwood's Sunday naps on the coach, which Roger and I used to do in the living room of his flat in San Francisco by Golden Gate Park on a week-end after a run with the sun shining through the window. Nothing to worry about accept a Chinese and some video or a movie. How did life get so complicated? My favorite comics BTW are "Doonsbury" and "Dilbert" which is sheer genius for capturing the sadistic, absurd, repetitive and meaningless nature of a corporate existence. And then makes it uproarious (Madeleine is upset with me as I blog since I promised her "a wish" for the above photo but, when she asks for a goldfish, I balk. She now stomps by me sending laser beams of hate). I read them every day in the IHT which is a highlight of the newspaper (am I the last to take this medium?).

Back in the day, when I was a paper boy for the now defunct Berkeley Gazette (this would be 6th grade), at the end of my route I treated myself to a Marathon Bar and the comics, which I read under a shady tree on some cement steps leading to nearby Hillside Park in the North Berkeley Hills. Usually there was a game of "prison ball" or touch football going on; or we were climbing one of the Redwoods for a spectacular view of the Bay from way up high. The older kids were getting stoned. Ah, yes, I indulge. A number of the comics from then remain with us now: "Sally Worth," "For Better Or For Worse," and the worst comic of all time: "Garfield." I guess the lasagna loving cat makes people smile somehow. It certainly is not the humour.

Madeleine argues for a pet fish after I tell her we have goldfish in the pond and tadpoles in the kitchen:
"Number one: I want one in my room.
Number two: I will clean it as much as Tommy.
Number three: Tadpoles are not a fish, they are a bug.
Number four: if you give me £12 I will pay for it.
Number five: "I loved Bubbles, Flipper, Gill and Speedo" (all deceased, three buried in the backyard while Speedo flushed down the toilet).


I am in Dusseldorf yesterday for meetings, which means a 5AM wake-up and 6:40AM flight from Heathrow. No glamour at that hour, boy. The good news is that A) the sun is up before me and B) no traffic. I could sacrifice a few hours of sleep for this every day. I have several hours to kick around with my colleague Martin and here we are by the Rhine making calls/ answering blackberry emails. Since I cannot say one thing about the river to my Swiss companion, here is what I learn from a few websites:
The Rhine is one of the longest (and most important) rivers in Europe. It runs for over 1,320 miles (about the distance of the KKH) from its source in the Swiss Alps, issuing from the Rheinwaldhorn Glacier, 3,353 meters above seal level. The Rhine flows through six countries - Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands before flowing in the North Sea at Rotterdam.
The river begins as a small stream and gathers speed and volume on its way to Lake Constance, which provides drinking water for most of Southern Germany. As it continues to wind its way to the North sea, the Rhine passes through the industrial town, Basel, where it becomes a major transport route through Europe moving goods and raw materials by ship. By here, it is a wide river. As the Rhine enters Germany, it becomes the border between GD and France. Through the Rhine Gorge, the landscape changes again as the river narrows to form a steep side-valley filled with vineyards and castles overlooking the river. Finally the Rhine reaches the Netherlands, a completely flat country, where it joins several other rivers on its final journey to Rotterdam and the North sea.
The River was hopelessly polluted by the mid-20th century and in 1986 a chemical factory fire spilled pollution into the river for ten days, travelling its length and into the North Sea (this seems like a trifle to the Gulf's BP misery). In response, the Rhine Action Programme developed and, today, many natural species have returned including the salmon which once thrived here and nearly gone.

Monday, May 24

Wembley Stadium

Here is something shocking: the amount of food thrown away in Europe and the United states could feed the world three times over, and British households discard enough edible food to fill Wembley Stadium to the brim eight times a year. More than a quarter of it is still in its original packaging - 5,500 chickens, 1.2 million sausages, 4.4 million apples and five million potatoes each and every day. And 328,000 tonnes of perfectly edible bread a year (Source: Times). Sonnet and I have discussed this often with the Shakespeares and it probably falls on the same deaf ears as it did in our house 30 years ago. Kids do not understand the relationship between their waste and the world's one-billion+ who are hungry. Most of us, for that matter, have no idea nor care. I was pretty gung-ho to build a compost heap but have since come off my grand plan for lack of inertia. It did not help that my make-shift kitchen drum turned into the most horrific thing I or Sonnet have seen in some while (the lid, dear reader, had an air filter unit but when opened - good, God).

So, the Brits waste one in every three bags of food which costs us £15,000 to £24,000 over a lifetime. Once more, this food finds its way to landfill, where airless in plastic bags and compressed by the weight bearing down on it, it no longer behaves as it would in my garden compost (as disgusting as that is). Instead, the food waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, and a poisonous black gunge that seeps in our waterways. In Richmond, our council offers food-waste collection bins and more of Britain is catching on: by recycling, we could reduce our carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions by 18 million tons a year, or the same as taking one-in-five cars off the road. Here's for hoping.

Me: "Shoosh!"
Madeleine: "You cannot 'shoosh' me!"
Me: "Yes I can - I am the master of the 'shoosh.'"
Madeleine: "No you're not."
Me: "Shoosh!"
Madeleine: "La di da di da .."

Madeleine (at our hotel): "I am going to take these soaps for mom."
Eitan: "You cannot do that!"
Madeleine: "Yes I can. Rules are made for breaking."

The kids take turns on different chairs in our room.
Madeleine: "Ah, this one is so nice..."
Eitan: "Don't hog it!"
Madeleine: "Get your own chair."
Eitan: "Well, this one is just right for doing homework."

Lucanus Elaphus

Madeleine races into the dining room: "Bug! It is enormous!" She begs for us to go check it out but I assume exaggeration and finish dinner. But, wow, this sucker is big, pictured. A quick Internet search identifies the creature as a "Giant Stag Beetle" which is Britain's largest insect and best known for its mouth parts, which have evolved into enormous jaws. Despite their appearance, the antlers are useless for biting and used instead to fight other males. Here is what the guidebook says about that:

"When the male has found a female, he lifts his head, opens his antlers wide and walks around her, showing himself off. If two males are interested in the same female, they will fight each other, using their antlers like a male deer. The stronger of the two turns the other onto his back and the loser retreats. Injuries are rare as the encounter is more a display of aggression than a dangerous fight."

Sounds about right. The beetle's larva lives 3-5 years while adults live only between the months of May and August. They stag beetle is now rare in Britain due to loss of suitable habitat, so Madeleine's find a treasure.

Me (often enough):" 'Rules are meant for breaking.' I learned that from your Grandmother."
Eitan: "Well, you either break all the rules or none of them."
Madeleine: "There are some rules you can't break otherwise you'll die."
Me: "Good point."
Madeleine: "In the Statue Of Liberty, there was a sign that said 'don't go up the arm' and this man did. He fell off and died."
Madeleine: "You never want to break rules where you can die."
Me: "That's a good rule."
Eitan: "Nice one, Dad."


Madeleine and Jenn's daughter Rosalie. Madeleine loves babies and is a natural with them. I note she can have one but not until she is 20. The Smithies gasp: "try 25. or 35!"

Change is coming, that is for sure. Usually puberty the last thing either wish to talk about but I try to get it across in an engaging fashion. Or at least somehow. In this day and age, girls often begin their development as early as ten while boys a bit later yet (I note to Eitan: "what if one day you woke up and found the thing you despised the most is the most fascinating thing in the world?" He shrugs, "no way."). On another note, Madeleine and Eitan now read my blog - mostly for the funny quotes, Eitan tells me - but I must wonder: at what point are my missives a violation of their privacy?

Madeleine pulls the sheets over her head not wishing to get up: "I am no longer part of this planet."

Madeleine re dog races, learning the dogs chase a rabbit: "They should have used squirrels."

Madeleine: "I am going to give you your fact of the day. Your feet are bigger in the evening than in the morning."

Eitan: "I just made up a joke. What is the second use of a rocking chair."
Me: "What?"
Eitan: "A guitar!"
Eitan: "A *rocking chair ?"
Eitan: "You just don't get anything."

At The Races

I allow Sonnet her girls week-end and spend (escape?) Saturday in the Surrey hills at a hotel & spa in Lingfield next to a race track which allows us to sit outside in the glorious sunshine watching the horses-- stunningly beautiful animals-- gallop by at break-neck speeds. There is resistance in the ranks, however, as the Shakespeares concerned that the horses will be "whipped." The kids do not know a thing about horse races but somehow they know this (Madeleine particularly concerned for the animal's welfare, not wishing to watch the poor creatures suffer). Eventually the excitement builds and we overcome our concerns for the duration of the first race, about thirty-seconds, then they are totally, utterly, bored. A sunny evening and unusual entertainment ain't enough, no sir. Happily they find the sprinklers which is not Ok since I do not have a change of clothes for dinner. But I roll with the afternoon - what choice do I have, really? The spectator stands next to the hotel take maybe 3,000 people, mostly dressed in fancy, who sit on the green grass and drink Pimms or picnic. There are plenty of children running around, separated from the action by a simple white fence. It is very casual and nothing like the formal events and gambling in my mind's eye. Much better this way in any case.

Madeleine drinks soda lemonade: "I love the way this sizzles in my mouth."

Madeline on the horse race: "Will they whip it?"

Madeleine, thoughtfully: "I just realized how amazing it is that the world is 3D and not flat."


Catherine with Anneka in Los Angeles. Sonnet and the Smithies have a busy week end catching up. I think the last time they were all together for Catherine's wedding at the Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades in '06. Impossible for me to forget since Madeleine pulled a runner and security broadcast an alert which was overhead by Sonnet moments before the ceremony began. Yes, but that is another story. The women and their husbands all doing interesting stuff: Catherine's Peter is setting up film projects between Hollywood and China; Jenn is working for the state of MA; Halley's Zoe is at a top grammar school and Willem has attracted £millions of funding for his Mood Disorders Centre at the University of Exeter. Sonnet has the V and A. All this with babies, toddlers and tweenies. Life in full.

Friday, May 21

Fight Club

Eitan and Madeleine burn off some chocolate cake by fighting. Me, Sonnet, Catherine and Jenn sit in the conservatory carrying on a conversation as though nothing out of the ordinary. The kids kick and head punch each other interrupted by an occasional dash into the house which nets my ire. Do not doubt that sugar is a drug and whenever I reward the little monsters with seconds or a large helping, it ends up in tears. As it does tonight when the children ordered to bed. Recently, Eitan and Madeleine have shared a bedroom on their volition but, now, the love-in over. Eitan refuses to be together and huffs off with pillow and blanket to sleep in the bathtub (Madeleine follows noting she, too, wants to sleep here). When the tub proves wet, the boy moves into our bedroom until Sonnet yells at him "Get in your bedroom and go to bed!" (Madeleine: "sheesh, mom, you don't have to scream."). I command them to face opposite directions or else. This morning, over cereal, Eitan and I replay the evening and decide that it is tough being a kid sometimes.

B'Day Girl

Catherine arrives yesterday for L.A. and Jenn from Boston while Halley and Nita today. It is 20 years since the gals graduated from Smith College and rather then celebrate there, they are here. Lucky them as the weather heavenly. Sonnet has arranged a full week end including today's high tea at The Wolseley (of course), then a comedy show followed by cocktails and dinner in the "smart part of town." I will pick up the kiddies from school, take Madeleine to a Dr's appointment then drop her off for an overnight at school which she is excited about. Eitan has swimming practice until 9PM and that is pretty much it.. until tomorrow morning when I am up at 7:AM to work a car pool around Eitan's football tournament while trying not to forget about Madeleine's pick-up. Phew. The kids and I will scram to a countryside hotel to allow the ladies some time on their own. Me, I love being solo with the Shakespeares. It is the only way to get inside their private world and, believe you me, a lot is going on there these days. They may act otherwise but I know, dear reader. I know.

Sonnet's cake candled by Madeleine, who empties three packs. There are a few more than Sonnet's age.

Thursday, May 20

Wenlock and Mandeville

Well, get used these strange alien dudes who are now, officially, the mascots for the 2012 Olympics joining the games' worst-ever logo. London is a world-leading media and creative city and here is the best we can come up with. Bunk. A mascot is supposed to be instantly accessible and stir national pride or, at least, offer a universal recognition of something, anything, relating to the host or the event (Is it possible, dear reader, that I am suddenly on the other side of a generation gap? The Olympics are, after all, largely a celebration of yuf. Still: I use the Internets. I have a Facebook account. I blog.) No, I think Wemlock and Mandeville designed by a bunch of guys who wanted to create something digital and modern - you know, for the iphone era - and will have excluded the vast majority of their audience. Under 20s will approve, I suppose, and this group a major reason for hosting the Olympics - to get the youngsters into sports and off the Big Macs - so maybe I am being too critical. Yet I wonder: what would Churchill think? (Now we just know that Lady Di would be euphoric). Photo from the

Wednesday, May 19

Elephant Parade

Over 250 elephants can be found across London - pictured, Green Park - in a public art exhibition aiming to raise money for elephants throughout the world. The model elephants are part of the Elephant Parade, organised by the Elephant Family charity that have set up similar events in other countries to raise awareness of the plight that faces many of planet's beloved creatures. Each of the models the size of an adolescent elephant and decorated by an artist or celebrity; they will be auctioned at Sotheby's with proceeds going to the charity. It is hard not to think of Babar, even if that is another European Capital, and I enjoy watching kids, photographers and tourists climb about the statues.

At the turn of the 20th century, it is estimated that there are 5-10 million elephants, but hunting and habitat destruction had reduced their numbers to 400,000 to 500,000 by the end of the century (source: Microsoft Encarta). While elephant populations are increasing in parts of Southern and eastern Africa, other African nations report a decrease in their elephant populations by as much as two-thirds, and populations in even some protected areas face elimination (WWF; National Geographic). Chad has a decades-old history of poaching of elephants, which has caused the regions population, which once exceeded 300,000 in 1970, drop to 10,000 today. In Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, there were 348 left in 2006.

My family saw elephants in Kenya and Tanzania in 1989 when Grace organised a trip that remains a memory of a lifetime. We stopped at the Ngorongoro Crater, Masai Mara National Park and vast Serengeti during the wildebeest migration; we also visited The Great Rift Valley which is a continuous geographic trench that cuts 3,700 miles from northern Syria to Central Mozambique in East Africa. Richard and Mary Leakey studied human evolution in this part of East Africa and came away with "Lucy", a hominid ancestor dating back 3 million years. I was there, dude. We climbed Mt Kilimanjaro whose glacier is nearly gone (bare in mind a glacier three degrees south of the equator remarkable). I almost did not make it to the top but forced a second attempt so I would not be here, now, thinking-- some day. A main consideration for my parents was Malawi where they spent the first years of their marriage as Peace Corps volunteers. It was memorable in every way.

He Must Be A Republican

Remarkably, according to the Washington Post, there are as many as 39 interviews of disgraced Indiana Congressman Mark Souder conducted by "part-time" (as though this relevant?) Tracy Jackson including the one below where the two discuss abstinence while the married Souder porking Jackson on the side sometimes at the local park. Where children play on the swings! Souder does not give much credit to our nation's yuf. Recall the Congressman elected as a family values conservative as part of the Republican revolution in 1994 which gave us Newt Gingrich, who shut down the government, and George W, who wrecked the country. Still, at least Souder has the balls to resign unlike David Vitter of Louisiana or john Ensign of Nevada, both of whom remain in the US Senate unbothered, apparently, by their "sins against God."

Monday, May 17

Connected To Our Past

How does one explain the Holocaust to a nine and eight year old? We try, but how?

"If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will look back into you."
--Fredrick Nietzsche

German Vs. Greece Household Debt: Germany Has More

Be careful about your cultural stereotypes (source: Bloomberg).

For those who think we are out of the woods take note: The scale of bailouts is mushrooming. During the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, for instance, South Korea received $10 billion. But, after the rescues of Bear Sterns ($40 billion), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mace ($200 billion), AIG (up to $250 billion), the Troubled Asset Relief Program for banks ($700 billion), we now have the mother of all bailouts: the $1 trillion European Union-International Monetary Fund rescue of troubled eurozone members. A billion is a big number, too: a billion seconds ago it was 1959. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. A billion hours ago was the Stone Age. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet. A billion pounds ago was only 13 hours and 12 minutes, or the rate the British government spending it (thank you

So where is all this heading I wonder? Governments that bailed out private firms now need .. bailouts. But what happens when the political willingness of Germany and other disciplined creditors - many now in emerging markets - to fund these bailouts fizzles? Who will then bail out governments that bailed out private banks? It starts looking increasingly like a Ponzi Scheme.

Sunday, May 16


Sonnet and I have a most busy week end (she naps upstairs as I blog). From the Fun Run, we have our friends Tony and Susan over for dinner. Tony and I know each other through the investment business and share a keen interest in technology and venture capital, where he was a pioneer in the PC industry having founded one of America's first "value added" PC reselling and network integration businesses focusing on the corporate marketplace in '79. His company, MDS, ranked Number 9 in the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing privately held companies in the US. Sadly for us, they will leave London for Boston at the end of this year as Tony is involved with the Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The thing about Tony - I always learn something from our exchanges may it be government, business or religion whose influence, he notes, is growing in every part of the world but Western Europe. What are the implications?

This morning, Sunday, Sonnet shakes the boy from a sound sleep for swim-practice while she runs a loop of Richmond Park. They race home so I can take Madeleine and him to an awards ceremony as his KPR Blues finished first in their division in the Surrey Youth Football League. We join several hundred kids and parents and, mercifully, the acknowledgments brief. Eitan is happy with his glass objet that he receives in recognition of his and the team's efforts. Next year they will compete in Division One and we shall see how they hold up.

From the awards, Shai and Ada join us with their children and we have a late lunch and relaxing afternoon. Shai is preparing his second clean-energy fund for Richard Branson which is keeping him busy. Like us, they bought a house this year and we joke about being the only 20-year renters on the planet. Better late then never, right? They are modernising a Victorian property in Chelsea - Shai says you can stand on the ground floor and look up to see the roof beams. There are five floors in between. The kids join us at the dinner table and we enjoy Sonnet's family-style macaroni pasta. We make paper airplanes but a trip to Richmond Park foiled by work and rain showers.

Saturday, May 15


The Fun Run starts at 10AM sharp and Sonnet on the grounds well beforehand to ensure everything tip-top for the 250 athletes. Eitan is determined (hell bent?) to be the first from his school to cross the finish line .. and he does, covering the 5.4 mile course in 41 minutes. Not bad. Madeleine places third for the girls -- wearing jeans and a double T-shirt. For whatever reason, she refuses to put on shorts or something appropriate for the warm weather and arrives, at the end, beat red. I love her for this. Meanwhile, on the school grounds, I and a motley crew of Dads fire up the industrial grill and flip burgers. We serve about 300 of them, complete with ketchup, mustard and "salad" which few people enjoy. Krispy Kreme donates sugar doughnuts. So much for the healthy morning.

Friday, May 14

Sonnet's Office

We are temporarily without Wi-Fi as the house rewired for, well, everything. This is rather bothersome for Sonnet who is helping organise tomorrow's annual five-mile "Fun Run" which is hosted by the school for .. fun. This requires getting Council permissions, sorting field marshals, securing an ambulance and First Aid, setting up water and food stations, bibs, runners, volunteers, timing and &c. She thought she was on work-leave. The Head Teacher will greet the runners at the finishing line with stop-watch to hand. Yours, truly, is responsible for the BBQ and I apply my adroit management skills to the task: my burger-flippers have their marching orders. It takes an army.

Thursday, May 13

Motley Crew

While not a great photo (taken from my mobile), it does capture something timeless somehow. I own a number of similar pictures from this age: a gang of scuffy kids on parched grass, washed out colouring, baseball bat and soccer balls, unwilling photo participants ... yep, same as it ever was. On our block, San Ramon, it was the Emerson kids, the Prices, Porters, Churches, Hiennas and others - probably 20 of us in all. Since it was a quiet street, we often played in it: prison ball, tag, whatever as long as there was sunshine we were out there. San Ramon was also memorable for the go-carting. Our neighbor Todd (four years older then me) and I spent months nailing planks and wood-scraps, stealing grocery-carts for the wheels and devising hand brakes from broom-shafts, which were jammed on to the downward pavement (alternative: the sole of one's sneaker; feet otherwise used for steering). Rubber-band guns optional -- lock and load, baby. Of course the best part was the whooping and hollering down some crazy hill, traffic or blind curve be damned. And where were the adults?