Wednesday, June 30

Mike Andrea

The last time Mike and Andrea and our families together was in Provence. Only that was before we had a family - Eitan and Madeleine yet a blink in the mind's eye. Their oldest, Oscar, was two and I still recall what a cute kid he was - fascinated by a toy red double-decker bus which I brought him as a gift: it is forevermore is "the crazy bus." Now Oscar is 12 and would probably die to see his name in my blog. Mike and I went to Berkeley High together then college on the East Coast, where he met, and courted, Andrea - Sonnet and I at their wedding in '94, for sure dude. Today Mike practices law with Tyler. Despite our history, we got to know each other as adults on the Norcal trails - Mike completed the '93 San Francisco marathon with Adam, Christian and Chip, who is no longer with us. The race notable for many reasons but especially Bill Vaughan, the co-creator of PowerBar - Bill was founding his next product, the sports gel GU, in the basement of his house where it was mixed in the sink by the washing machine. Probably not approved by the FDA then. The day before the marathon Bill loaded up the guinea pigs with GU and sent them on their merry way or, in this case, to the Golden Gate Bridge for the start (GU is now a multi-million dollar operation and beloved by endurance athletes around the world). Of course nobody can out-clever 26-miles and our lads may have been a tad thrown off by a new supplement the day of the race. I recall Mike and Adam struggling on the back-half while Adam's berry flavor looked surprisingly like blood when splattered down his shirt and leg. As for the rest: results mixed though everybody finished one way or the other. The race's conclusion, a lap around the old Kaiser Stadium track, a nice touch.

I was inspired by San Francisco and so began my love affair with the marathon. It remains a physical test I have yet to surmount - my eye has been on sub-three for fifteen years. Shortly after SF, I ran Sacramento in '94 (bonk at mile-23; time of 3 hours and 41 minutes); New York in '96 (bonk at 24; 3:24); and London in '98 (bonk at 25; 3:11). Last year I did London again (DNC) and Berlin in October (bonk at .. 13; who knows the time?). I might finally be at the point of of saying: "never again."

Me: "Eitan why don't you stop sitting there and make yourself useful."
Eitan: "I am being useful. I'm singing. I'm breathing. I'm living."
Eitan: "I'm multi-tasking."

Tuesday, June 29


Here's a quick shot from Center Court featuring Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, who wins in straight sets; I also watch Roger Federer and Andy Murray take out Jurger Melzer and Sam Querrey, respectively, in straight sets. Federer does not break a sweat. In short, this a great day with lovely breezes keeping us cool despite the cloudless sky and summer temperatures. I am the guest of Barry, who I have invested with in several funds.

Mike and Andrea hit London's Big Spots including the Trafalgar Square, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's on the Field and St James's Park and the Churchill Bunker followed by Big Ben then the London Eye. This is the best way to see the capital - on foot, with an agenda. Mike is good at this. They get home around 10PM to find us sound asleep.

On Wireless Charging

PowerKiss, a Finnish company, recently launched a line of products with small receivers that plug into handheld devices (the Ring) and an electrical transmitter built into a piece of furniture (the Heart), pictured. When a device is placed on the table it charges wirelessly by using a resonating field induction that creates an electromagnetic field around the Heart transmitter. The Ring receiver adapts the current produced by the field to the requirements of the mobile device. Induction of this kind has a short range so the transmitter and receiver must be close together.

Arthur and I, on a long London walk, once discussed whether a wireless charge would one day be possible. He noted this impossible since a charge must be transferred via a conducting path of some sort. Here is what he says about PowerKiss:

"This is a clever idea and I wonder if it will really take off. You have to convince people to buy the receiver thingie. And you have to convince furniture manufacturers to build the wires into the furniture! I think when we talked about this previously, the idea was whether you could "beam" energy around across distances and that turns out to be very difficult. Radar dishes and lasers do indeed beam energy from one place to another, but it's hard to recover the energy and use it at the other end. And a person who gets in the way suffers bad side effects like cancer or just getting burned.

What they're doing here is putting you and your electronics inside a big electric field. Maybe a little bit analogous with those wires they bury in the asphalt at intersections to detect when cars are stopped at the lights, or your electric toothbrush which charges when you put it in the stand. I'm surprised they can get enough energy into the little receiver to charge a phone. Maybe over a long period of time you can charge it.

We're not talking about a lot of energy to run a phone (as evidenced by the tiny battery).


Monday, June 28


Madeleine: "You're going to court? What did you do wrong?"
Me: "I am going to a tennis court. For Wimbledon."
Madeleine: "Why are you wearing long pants?"
Madeleine: "Aren't you playing?"
Madeleine: "Once, on television, I saw two football players in a match. And they kissed afterwards."
Madeleine: "Don't do anything silly, dad."
Sonnet: "Yes, don't do anything that might embarrass the family."

Sunday, June 27

Inglorious Defeat

England crashes out 4-1 against Germany, breaking the country's heart. The team never comes together despite its talent scoring three goals in six hours on the pitch. We debate why the national team is so disappointing given the quality of the Premier League, which is the most funded in the world. Players earn £90,000 a week so one argument is that they don't give a hoot beyond their club teams. Or perhaps the best players like Beckham and Rooney and Gerard and Lampard are stars on their team but do not know how to play together- there can be only one prima donna per squad. Me, I think it runs more deeply: England's expectations are so high that they can only disappoint. The players and all involved know this and deliver.

Knock Out

We sit around the television anxiously watching England vs. Germany in the first moments of the knock-out round. Eitan: "The tension is unbearable," which become our mantra.

Eitan: "I wish the players had head phones so they could hear the commentary and do all the stuff they say."

All Whites

Christian has been with us this past week, which has been a joy. Yesterday we are joined by Mike and Andrea and their three kids including Oscar, who I first met in Provence when he was two years old. That was nearly ten years ago. Now he is almost a teen-ager and a baker with a specialty, he tells me, of chocolate muffins. Here we prepare for the USA vs. Ghana match, which the Americans end up losing in extra-time 2-1. Meanwhile is anybody aware that David Cameron announced his first budget? He calls for an increase in taxes and slashing of public services in an attempt to reduce the national deficit by £128 billion. Yep, an age of austerity. Britain's approach the opposite of the US, which spends into Already the unions are lining up for battle - we anticipate strikes at best, civil unrest at worst. Look at Greece.

Friday, June 25

Spain Scores

I ask Eitan to step outside for a moment to take a photo for this blog while Spain plays Chile. He notes seriously "I will kill you if there is a goal" and, sure enough, as soon as he is outside the view of the television - gooooaaalll to Spain ! The hand of God, dude. We re-create the moment, pictured.

The kids have a sporty afternoon at the "Motivate Competition" in Twickenham at St Mary's University. The top four boys and girls chosen from years 3 and 4 and Eitan and Madeleine on the team. Madeleine wins the sprint and Eitan takes the top spot in the sprint and the "long distance" quarter mile with 15 runners where, he explains: "I was last at the start, when every one was pushing me. Then I overtook everyone and then I won." Very matter of fact, the boy. Afterwards around 7:30PM the tired, red-cheeked, crew arrives home for pepperoni pizza - Madeleine is very sad as Marcus has a birthday sleep-over and Madeleine left out since no girls. The boys tease her on the playground.

Meanwhile, I run around these past few days with Hans from Industry Ventures meeting investors and sniffing for deals. Hans buys venture assets in the secondary market which usually means the counter-party needs to sell as typically a discount is applied to the seller's assets. It requires a certain amount of ruthlessness and Hans is charming like a snake - this has allowed him to attract almost $500 million in less than five years. I admire Hans - he is a dude who makes money. As I get older I appreciate this is a special kind of person. I met him when he had $25.

Thursday, June 24

Louise & Izzy

We have Louise and her boyfriend Izzy over to dinner with Christian and Sonnet's friend and work colleague Oriel. I met Louise, via Duane, in February at her fashion show in Covent Garden and we have talked a few times about ways to commercialise her runway success beyond Top Shop. In short, fashion design is a tough business. She tells me when 16 and considering university, it was going into knits or physics. Izzy, meanwhile, is a big-bearded dude from Croatia who splits his time between New York and London managing a handful of up-and-coming or established 'head-banger' bands; he does this in partnership with Sony and knows his way around the music business. We have a few references in common from the summer I spent at EMI Music while at Columbia Business. In 1996 nobody talking about the Internet. Life was good. Life was great! Back then it was a good business to be in since the record labels vertically integrated. By the late 1980s there were tens of hundreds of platinum records (500,000 sold per year). Say good-bye to all that, boy. In 2009, there were nine platinum albums. When Napster and free-downloading arrived, music fans could give a rat's ass about the legality of piracy. Most young people have never paid for a record. There's the future of the industry, dude. The model remains muddled while live performance ever more important - which is Izzy's business.

Wednesday, June 23

Summer Fun

Who can forget a hot day and the backyard hose? We used to have water fights with our neighbors, the Prices, when we lived on San Ramon.

Christian and I take Madeleine to school (Eitan earlier for choir). I propose to their teachers that we take the kids out 30 minutes early to watch the World Cup. I am sent to the school secretary who notes, cryptically: "I am not sure how that will go down." She does not smile. Yet I sense a vacuum of authority which shall be exploited for the benefit of CW, the children and England. Game time BTW is 3PM sharp and Christian and I prepare ourselves for another "colossal English collapse which will leave the nation in mourning" he says. Sounds about right. Still, we have hope: Eitan has run the scenarios and to reach the knock-out round England must (A) win or (B) draw while the US loses. Come on, England.

Christian and I spend yesterday in Mayfair where I have a meeting then St James's Park. We have a picnic lunch and recline in lounge chairs on a beautiful summer's day. I make a few phone calls to keep in honest, then say good-bye so he can spend the afternoon buying English football gear, have a drink at Dukes then meet his Aunt and her husband for dinner. We re-union at 10PM for a night cap.

Tuesday, June 22


Christian, Madeleine and I stroll Richmond Park late Sunday afternoon eventually finding a favorite spot - the Isabella Plantation. The area, in the smack middle of the park, is a 1950's woodland garden planted in once marshy land and now an immense canvas bursting with white, yellow, pink, red and purple petals. The flowers are at their peak at the end of April/beginning of May so we may have missed the best but here I snap a friendly iris who seems to say 'hello, summer.' Silver would be enraptured.

Isabella has 15 known varieties of deciduous azalea and houses the national collection of 50 Kurume Azaelas, introduced to the west around 1920s. There are also 50 different species of rhododendron and 120 hybrids. In spring, we see camellias, magnolias, as well as daffodils and bluebells. From late April, the
azaleas and rhododendrons are in flower. In summer, there are displays of Japanese irises and day lilies. By autumn, guelder rose, rowan and spindle trees are loaded with berries and leaves on the acer trees are turning red. Even in winter, the gardens have scent and colour. There are early camellias and rhododendron, as well as mahonia, winter-flowering heathers and stinking hellebore. Madeleine heads straight for a well-know spot.

Cool Hand Luke

David in his backyard in Bath. For the past several years David has served as a Senior Special Advisor to Foreign Secretary David Milliband. Before government, he gave advice to some of the smartest hedge fund guys on the planet, something he has returned to following the recent elections with Labour out of power. But hold on: it is not unreasonable to consider that Milliband may one day head his party - these discussions are going on real-time with Super Gee stepping down in autumn - and, should Labour win the next general elections, well, my friend might have an inside seat at the Big Show.

"Well, if you saw him it would be a big crush. I mean, he is so vibrant, vital, attractive, smart. He's really a good guy. And he is so young!"
--Hillary Clinton on David Milliband, who is 17 years her junior. November, 2009

Monday, June 21


Fireworks from David/Tab's tenth anniversary party. Bam! Boom! Pow!

England's mood dour following Friday's nil-nil tie with Algeria, a team we should have beaten handily. To make matters worse, John Terry, the defensive backbone of the squad and formerly England's captain until demoted by England coach Fabio Capello for shagging his best-mate and fellow England player Wayne Bridge's girlfriend. Terry being married himself, you see. Wayne Bridge promptly quit international football and who can blame him? Terry would seem to have an axe to grind with Coach and declares that the England players may mutiny under Capello's leadership (Capello recently inking a £4.8 million multi-year salary to coach the squad). Only most of the players think Terry speaking out of turn and not on behalf of the team; besides, Stevie Gee wear the captain's band following Rio Ferdinand's freak accident the first day in South Africa. The press having a field-day with our lads' under-achievement and general weepiness - Eitan's Blues show more spirit than this team so far. Still, with a victory - one simple victory - over Slovenia Wednesday and all wrongs forgotten in the knock-out stage of the finals. Come on, England, let us see some fireworks!

Today is the summer solstice.

Me And Madeleine

Madeleine wears a dress for the first time in a year. There are plenty of tears but finally she succumbs. I promise her that if she gets the dress dirty with a good rip or two, she won't have to wear it again. This psyches her up.

One of my favorite things about Madeleine is her energy - she is a slow starter in the morning but once she is revved up, there is no slowing her down (Auntie Katie is a night-owl and I wonder: how did Katie survive those 6:30AM workouts when we were growing up?). On the week ends I find Madeleine red cheeked from running or biking or doing some outdoor activity often wearing long pants despite the summer's heat (recall she ran the five-mile fun run in her jeans). She shows great compassion of little creatures and spends hours trying to understand bugs and backyard critters. Our poor dear was devastated when one of our frogs died and we agreed the best way forward to release the remaining 49 tadpoles into the pond - she checks every day to see how they are doing (though they seem to have disappeared - oh, dear). Last week she found an injured dragon fly and gently nursed it to life in a plastic bin with green leaves and a few bugs to eat, never you mind that one critter's life might cost another's. Madeleine's enthusiasm brings me and others along with her and, more than her brother, she owns a Californian spirit: rules are there but they are also meant to be broken. Could she be a future entrepreneur? I would not bet against it.


We join Dave and Tabitha in Bath to celebrate their tenth anniversary+Dave's 4-0, which is later this year. One of many highlights is a fly-over of the beautiful Submarine Spitfire, pictured. It is one of 44 remaining, and ours the first plane to record a "kill" in the Battle of Britain. Dave's grandfather, who I stand next to during the fly-by's, repaired Spitfires during the war. He recalls the bullet holes that suggested the intensity, and seriousness, of those overhead battles. The Spitfire has a distinctive sound to accompany its unique and elegant design and I learn from our B&B that that drivers pull of the road to watch the spectacle. It is a rare thing indeed to see Britain's most revered aircraft in action.
The Spitfire began with RJ Mitchell's design to meet the Air Ministry specification for a new and modern fighter capable of 251 mph, which netted an open-cockpit monoplan with bulky gull-wings and a large, fixed spatted undercarriage powered by a 600 horsepower Rolls Royce engine. It made its first flight in '34, and despite being airborne, it was a big disappointment to the design team. That year, Mitchell decided to use an elliptical wing shape to solve two conflicting requirements; the wing needed to be thin, to avoid creating too much drag, while able to house a retractable undercarriage, plus armament and ammunition. Beverely Shenstone, the aerodynamicist on Mitchell's team, explained the wing's qualities:
"The elliptical wing was decided upon quite early on. Aerodynamically it was the best for our purpose because the induced drag, that caused in producing lift, was lowest when this shape was used: the ellipse... was theoretically a perfection .... To reduce drag we wanted the lowest possible thickness - to-chord, consistent with the necessary strength. But near the root the wing had to be thick enough to accommodate the retracted undercarriage and the guns... Mitchell was in intensely practical man... The ellipse was simply the shape that allowed us the thinnest possibly wing with room inside to carry the necessary structure and the things we wanted to cram it. And it looked nice."
(source: wiki)

Saturday, June 19

Another WC Draw

Another Friday evening, another England draw - this time against Algeria, nil-nil. Our squad ineffective against a team that, man-for-man, does not stack up. Slovenia next week in a must-win or England's world cup hopes come to a crashing end. Happily (?), I have been rooting for the Bears my entire life so I am well versed in high-expectations that wilt to bitter herbs. Are there some lessons here somehow? No wonder Eitan roots for Manchester United. You might as well pick the winners whenever and wherever you can. Come on, England!


Marcus makes a memorial for Ray, as he would have wanted it. Ray was married to Robin and 82 when he passed. He was involved in the La Veta community where, amongst other things, he helped restore the local library which is a gem on the main street. I take the kids there during our summer visits. Ray was a skilled builder and completed Robin's jewellery studio next to their house, which he also turned into something special - my favorite feature the front porch where one could rest in a hammock and watch the local high school football team practice in a nearby field or take a nap on a lazy week end. Before retiring to La Veta, Ray and Robin lived in Virginia with their horses and border collies - we spent Thanksgiving with them my second year of graduate school (I watched a lot of college football) and their home filled with Robin's art, views of fields and woods and of course interesting stories from Ray and a lot of love at the kitchen table. I remember that well. Ray worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, rooting out moonshine makers in the Virginia hills. He was also a dowser and village story teller. He will be missed by us all.

Me: "Do you have any thing you wish to say about Ray?"
Eitan: "I didn't really know much about him. He was good at building. He let us throw the frisbee for their dog."
Me: "Are you sad that Ray is gone?"
Eitan: "Yeah. He was in our family."


Sonnet was in Colorado last week with her family to celebrate Ray's life. Here, she and Marcus are on a hike from Telluride or nearby her parents home outside Montrose. She tells me they reached a 'spectacular waterfall' and had a picnic lunch. Marcus is finishing a screen play for a television series which he hopes to sell. It is about NGO workers in world hot-spots like Afghanistan - recall, dear reader, that Marcus has helped to set up girl schools in this part of the world. He also contemplates a move to Portland, Oregon, which we both agree is a great city and well suited for his temperament. Otherwise, Marcus has been in Seattle for the last five years.

Madeleine stuffs some notes in her pocket.
Me: "Excuse me, but those are not yours. Besides, you cannot spend them here - they are euros."
Madeleine: "You mean I can have them?"
Madeleine: "Oh, I thought you said they 'are yours.'"

Eitan to Sonnet: "Will you make me some hot cocoa?"
Sonnet: "Why don't you make yourself some breakfast?"
Eitan: "Well, that is not what I asked."

Me to Eitan, hovering over my shoulder and munching on a sticky bun: "Do you have anything you want to add to my blog?"
Eitan: "It's not a sticky bun."
Me: "Well, what is it?"
Eitan: "I don't know. It's not a sticky bun."
Me: "Well, find out what it is?"
Eitan: "It is not a sticky bun."
Me: "A sticky roll?"
Eitan: "No. It is not a sticky roll or a sticky bun."
Me: "What the hell is it then?"
Eitan: "Dad! You can't write that!"

Friday, June 18

England Fans

I have said it before and I will say it again: this country takes its football seriously. And tonight, the stakes could not be higher as England plays Algeria which kicks off at 7:30PM. Recall, of course, that the three lions tied the Americans in last week's action. Eitan has his over-sized St George's flag+other ornamentations around the house and on our car. He will miss swim-practice. Madeleine is not quite so do-or-die about the whole thing though she, too, enjoys the spectacle. Me, I am just happy it is Friday following a long week.

As for the rest of the country: tens of thousands of Brits expected to skive off work to get the best seat at the pub or bar - it becomes spooky during game time when there is no traffic. And it is eerily silent, too. Today will mark the biggest day of the year for breweries given the kick-off hour+week end and the drinks industry will make an extra £40 million on top of the normal £100 for any old Friday night, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. That means nine million more pints than usual during the match. As though this country needs an excuse to drink. Come on, England!

"In soccer, the form of the encoded adjective is well-developed."
--Julian Barnes, British author and critic

How Your Bread Is Buttered

Barton = Apology to BP = Republican = Jackass.

Joe Barton is from Texas and has received $1,447,880 from the oil industry (source: Center for Responsive Politics). As at now, an estimated 73.5 million to 126 million gallons of oil has come out of the breached wellhead, wheher into the Gulf water or captured. How dare Barton wear the Stars and Stripes.

Wednesday, June 16

Vauxhall Sunset

My photo on the way home from St Pancras changing from the underground to the overland rail. Vauxhall is a poor area of London south of the Thames with a few neighborhoods that have gentrified. Parliament is on the other side of the river. The land was flat and parts were marshy and poorly drained by ditches, and only started to be developed in the mid-18th century but remained a village. Somehow it has retained this stigma.

Today, there is a large Portuguese community in Vauxhall and a favorite pre-concert restaurant of ours is a family Portuguese complete with seven old TVs showing some obscure football match without sound; the food excellent, tables checkered, wine cheap and the waiters there, like, forever. My kind of place.

Pictured in my photo is Secret Intelligence Service building (with antenna), home of MI6 (foreign intelligence) and MI5 (internal Security Service). SIS is sometimes referred to inside the Civil Service as Box 850 after its old MI6 post office box number. It has appeared in several Bond movies. The steel object across the photo is the Vauxhall Cross transport interchange, built in 2005. Its solar panels supply energy for 60% of the bus station's lighting.

And here is what makes Vauxhall vibrant: it has become London's gay village, home to an ever-increasing number of gay bars and nighclubs like Area, Barcode, Chariots, Crash, The Eagle, Fire, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern which dates back to the 1800s and was once a cabaret. When the club scene in central London became to commercial, the serious pleasure seekers went south for their good times. As often, the gays make a neglected urban area cool and then others follow - I think of Greenwich Village, NY, or Shoreditch. And now here.

"You're a woman of many parts, Pussy."
--James Bond in 'Goldfinger'

Tyler Rides

Tyler bikes The Pacific Coast Highway also known as The Great Highway or HW1 for charity. Yes, the OP behind him. Tyler and his fellow peddlers net over $10 million to fight HIV and AIDS. He notes that on the 560 mile journey he had little difficulty nor a single flat with perfect weather and, of course, beautiful scenery. His favorite stretches "the quiet valleys north and wet of Paso Robles" and the coast north of Pismo Beach, pictured. I grew up with Tyler and have known him since at least the seventh-grade. He is a Lawyer in the East Bay with his own practice - the road less travelled. Bravo!

Sunday, June 13

Corn Face

We toast each other for our week together over hamburgers and .. corn. I .. am.. ready .. for Sonnet .. to be home.

Driving to the Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, Eitan sings, repeatedly, the "Boom Boom Pow" song.
Madeleine: "Eitan stop! You are driving me crazy!"
Eitan keeps singing.
Madeleine: "You are a maniac. No, wait, you are a moron!"
Me: "What's the difference?"
Madeleine: "Well, a maniac is someone who is very, very, crazy and a moron is someone over the edge."
Me: "That sounds like the same thing."
Eitan: "Yeah, Madeleine - those are the same things."
Madeleine: "Well, Eitan, you would know."

Boss Of Me

Yes, following a week without Sonnet who is in the states with her family until tomorrow, this picture pretty much captures the moment.

Me: "Anything interesting to say for the blog?"
Eitan: "I am so glad to be done with my homework so now I can frolic."
Me: "What does that mean?"
Eitan: "I am going to play football in the garden."

Madeleine finds a dragon fly on its last legs. She takes sympathy and makes a cage complete with potted plant, a few leaves and a fish-tank castle.
Madeleine: "What do dragon flies eat?"
Me, after googling: "Looks like they are carnivores and eat bugs."
Madeleine: "Can I feed it some bugs?"
Me: "Sure, if you can find them. Won't you feel bad for the bugs?"
Madeleine: "Well, I like the dragon fly more."

Madeleine rushes into the living room with a centipede in her palm: "Is a centipede a bug?"
Me: "Yes. Actually, I have no idea."
Madeleine: "Will the dragon fly eat it?"
Me: "It might eat the dragon fly."
Madeleine: "This is a bit of a problem, isn't it dad?"

Eitan: "Dad do you realise that mum's nearly home and we have survived the most of it?"
Me: "Thanks for pointing that out."
Eitan: "Can I have some pretzels?"
Me: "No."

Eng v USA

I quietly disappear from a party last night to ensure the kids home and in bed at a somewhat reasonable hour since Eitan and I up at 6:15AM for his swim practice. It is Sunday, mind you (picture post-workout, pre-comb). Last night I drop the kids off at Joe's house so they can watch the World Cup (England v America!) while I surround myself with English fans and drink Pimms on a beautiful London sunset which stretches into the night. I rarely think about the differences in appearance between our cultures but, boy, the English squad looks, well, like English and the Americans like.. me and us. How strange. My friends blend into the same kaleidoscope and no longer look either or. Despite a thrilling start behind a powerful Stevie Gee goal inside four minutes, England takes a draw after a first-half goalie error: pity Robert Green, the most reviled man in England at now. This morning's trade rags and talkies are endless grief. No doubt every player commits hundreds of small mistakes during a match but the Goalie, well, he is not allowed even one. It takes a special dude to take that heat. God bless Robert Green.


It is hard to keep up with Katie these days. Here she is in Lansing, Michigan, where she gives a keynote to 700 people at the ProgressMichigan Summit. Her photo with the Exec Director David Holtz. ProgressMichigan's main interest is, well, Michigan, and focuses on re-energising the state, tackling budget reform, job creation and energy independence. Making a difference every day, America.

Moe attended Michigan Law School in the early 1960s, something I was vaguely proud of as a youngster- bragging rights at primary school, I suppose. I had no idea what law school actually was, mind you, but it sounded impressive somehow and Michigan Law always compared to Berkeley or Yale or other equally prestigious institutions so it had to be good. More importantly, I knew from the earliest age my father was a winner. I had complete confidence in him and never doubted once his capability, work ethic or integrity which, I hope, I have captured even a small fraction of. I recall one lazy Sunday reading comics in my bedroom, probably about age 12 or 13, and he entered to tell me he was leaving his law firm to form another one. I wanted to read my comics. Moe's firm, Schacter, Kristoff, Orenstein & Berkowitz grew into one of the largest labour management practices on the West Coast and I had no doubt: of course it would. With some perspective and kids of my own, this was a huge moment for my father and, to Moe's credit, I never once thought it might be a concern of mine.

One thing is for sure - I did embrace my father's love for college football and Michigan a powerhouse franchise. Now if only Cal could capture some of that. Deep down, my Dad remains a Wolverines fan unless we are talking baseball, then it is the St Louis Cardinals. One forms one's sports allegiances early, dude, and while we may have moved to the north Berkeley hills to be near the Berkeley campus and Memorial stadium, I grew up with the Bears while Moe adopted the team. Unlucky me since the last Rose Bowl in '58 which causes some anxiety. I think Eitan has the same relationship to England football - I can root for the three lions but the boy lives it. So last night's World Cup opener against the U.S. disappointing despite a 1-1 tie. England should have clobbered the Americans. Man-for-man, this is one of the top-three teams in the tournament final. The country's last WC title in '66 so I hope Eitan has a better chance than me and my Bears.

Rebound ?

Given the hyperbole surrounding a U.S. recovery, I wanted to see some facts and one good indicator is our exports - pictured. Outbound container traffic from Los Angeles and Long Beach (about 40% of US container traffic) reflects a rebound in US goods exports. This has occurred despite the dollar's appreciation against the Euro and other currencies following Greece making U.S. goods more expensive. Indeed, outbound containers shipped from LA in May were only a few thousand shy of their level of May '08, almost a complete recovery (container traffic is not seasonally adjusted) from the global trade collapse of late 2008. Strong export activity is not only good for U.S. growth, it also reflects health of the economies of our trading partners.

Saturday, June 12


It is hard to believe that once, Britain was the world's greatest car manufacturer. Following WWII, there was little competition from Europe while demand for new cars in America and Australia outpaced Detroit's ability to supply them. In 1937, Britain made 15% of the world's cars; by 1950, a year in which 75% of British car production and 60% of its commercial vehicle production was exported, Britain provided 52% of the world's market. Well things went pear-shaped from '55 onward as our engineering unable to compete on production cost and design simplicity or elegance. The world wanted Herbie and 22,529,464 Love Bugs rolled off the assembly line (source: Wikipedia)

And this brings us to the Austin Allegro, pictured, which was profiled on Radio 4 this morning as the worst car ever made in Britain (Richard Porter notes in his book, Crap Cars, "the only bit of the Allegro they got even vaguely right was the rust-proofing.") The Allegra was Britain's attempt in 1973 to create a design "for the 1980s and beyond" while providing a small family car. It was manufactured by British Leyland until 1983. From the start the Allegro was plagued with problems and a commonly-given example of the the car's poor design that it was more aerodynamic when going backwards. Apparently, the car had a difficult time actually going backwards and the salesman would try to avoid this procedure at all costs during a test-drive. Back in the '60s, according to the radio, people bought British because, well, they were British and 642,350 Allegros sold during its ten-year production life. There are only a few Allegros left which makes me feel a bit more safe on the A3.

My first car BTW a yellow VW Hatchback which was shared equally with Katie when she got her driving license a year later. The car was a blessing since I was commuting 90 minutes each way between Berkeley and Walnut Creek for swimming. It also gave us freedom on the week ends - a remarkable gift from our parents, really. I recall driving to Redding for a swim meet with Doug seeing if the hatchback could break 100 mph - I don't know if we hit the target but the cop who overhauled our asses was going pretty damn fast and, without one friendly word, wrote a fat ticket+points on the license. Doug was driving. That same week end we slept in the back of the car at a Red Lion not wishing to shell out thirty bucks for a room. We tried to sleep, that is, until some drunk dude threatened to beat his naked girlfriend who had fled the hotel and locked into the car next to ours. We got out of there pretty fast.

Summer Chores

Ok, here is my morning: Up at 7AM for Madeleine, who is picked up at swimming. I race Eitan to football practice to be home in time for Madeleine's return, then bolt out the door (snack to hand) for her performance class. I have a scant few moments to get Eitan then together, we visit the dump, gas up the car and hit the Home Depot before home. Phew. Eitan's good mood falls like BP's market cap when he hears those dreaded words: backyard chores. He slumps around until I get irritated and tell him he is getting close to a yellow card, which means losing a World Cup game. "What's a red card?" he inquires. That's easy, miss an England match. He stiffens and suddenly I realise what an easy month this is going to be.

Eitan: "I love the name of the player who scored for South Africa yesterday."
Me: "What was it?"
Eitan: "Shaba-laba."
Me: "Get out, that's excellent."
Eitan: "You spell it t-s-h-a-b-a-l-a-b-a. "

Friday, June 11


Madeleine and I hang out at the Victoria early morning after dropping Eitan off at choir practice. I think I am goofing for the photo but maybe not. Madeleine likes it any way.

PM Cameron in the press for not standing up to anti-British sentiment following BP so today he defends the oil company, which is not easy to do given BP has, like, destroyed the Gulf of Mexico. I listen to Deepwater Horizon survivor Mike Williams on 60 Minutes. Williams was the chief electronics technician in charge of the rig's computers and electrical system; seven months before, he had helped the crew drill the deepest oil well in history at 35,000 feet (his story miraculous in itself - he jumped 200 feet from the inflamed platform into darkness and the burning water). The guy is alive to testify that BP failed to observe safety procedures against profits, despite making $5.6 billion in the first quarter of this year. Williams notes that faster well development, pushed by BP, caused the bottom of the Deepwater well to split open, swallowing tools and the drilling fluid called "mud," which is a man made drilling fluid that's pumped down the well and back up the sides in continuous circulation. The sheer weight of the fluid keeps the oil and gas down and under control: "we actually got stuck. And we got stuck so bad we had to send tools down into the drill pipe and sever the pipe" says Williams. The well was abandoned and Deepwater Horizon had to drill a new route causing weeks and millions to BP. The next hole, well, we know the rest of that story so far. Will we rid ourselves of carbons or ourselves from the planet first?
The World Cup begins today: South Africa and Mexico draw 1-1. Here we go.

Run Around

The kids have their annual 'sports day' and the upper classes organised into four groups by colour with ours in red (again). Interestingly, Eitan and Madeleine on the same team and I observe .. that they get along and even (gasp) support each other. We like this. Events include team relays, long-jump, push-ups, co-ordination games and the like. Us parents shuffle from place to place following the action while the younger classes replace balls and jump ropes, mark times and generally make themselves useful. Hero warship is about age difference more than anything else at this stage of life. Were it always so. The reds are runner's up and everyone a winner says the head master though Eitan does not agree.

With Sonnet in Colorado, we have made it through the week in one piece, more or less. Sure, a permission slip for a field trip missed and today the kids went to school without their packed lunches. The school secretary gives me a knowing look: "mom's away" which somehow does not make me feel better or anything. OK, expectations are low for any dad left with his kids for a week but I do fancy myself above average: they're getting at least two squares a day. Maybe a bath. Anyway, we enjoy ourselves together and, chores aside, have had an agreeable time. Maybe even fun. I have.

Eitan: "When does mom come home?"
Me: "Monday."
Eitan: "It's been a bit rough without mom this week."
Eitan: "She is part of the team."
Me: "Yes, we all play an important role in our family."
Eitan: "Well, hers is more important."

Wednesday, June 9

Tommy Encore

I know - I know - all hamsters the same but there is something special about Tommy. He really is darn cute and Madeleine shows him off whenever we have a guest, grabbing the creature by the mid-section and thrusting him forward like a Popsicle. The poor nocturnal yanked from a cozy sleep at least three times a day and on the week end, maybe twice that. Still, he is a friendly soul. Sure, there was that time when he sank his long teeth into Madeleine's fleshy middle finger requiring her to shake him free. Well, that was traumatising but she soon forgot and Tommy became used to us, well, part of the family even. Unfortunately, Tommy a poor substitute for a dog, which is what Madeleine dreams of. We did an investigation last year including visits to the kennel but Sonnet and I concluded a puppy with two working parents not feasible. Madeleine, though, persists and has done her research: neighborhood dog comparisons and dog magazines and books from the library. She is 24/7 on the subject, dear reader. So maybe we shall revisit. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 8

Richmond Park, 10:30AM

England has a couple of good months every year that allows us to forget the rest and we are now in the sweet spot: warm, lazy afternoons and sunsets after 9PM; Wimbledon around the corner and August hols to look forward to. This year, we have the extra added bonus of the World Cup and our lads may have a chance of .. winning the trophy. We are seeded fourth, in a relatively easy group and, player-for-player, field a world class squad. This is a time to dream big, baby. For my part, I would love to be in this country if the Cup came home. When England won the Ashes in 2005, defeating Australia for the first time since'87 in five Tests with the final result 2-1, the country went mad. Throughout, the nation glued to its radio, watching the weather and guessing tea-time. And, when we finally pulled it off following some dodgy wickets, Britain did what it does best: drink. England's captain Michael Vaughan met the Queen 24 hours later unshaven and hung-over, possibly still drunk. The rest of the squad doused with alcohol. And we cheered and boozed with them. I can only imagine what the celebration would be like for a WC victory. This country lives and dies by the sport, afterall. I get a tingle imagining the first kick-off, which is five days away, vs. USA. After fourteen years here I can say: come on, England!

Got Wheels

Madeleine peddles in front of our house- her bike allows her some freedom, which I can appreciate. I have been riding her pretty hard lately - this evening, for instance, she does not listen to me on some point and - bam - she sweeps the front yard which normally is her week-end chore. Our neighbors, I am sure, find it amusing to see her bagging leaves at 8PM well past most kids bed-times on a school night. We do a repeat later this evening over some matter trivial and, boom, she does all the dishes. Eitan is smart - he hangs low. I ask him the other day if we are too strict or not enough and he ponders my question a moment: "somewhere in between" he says cautiously. Wise kid. I ask if we punish him enough? "Yes." And Madeleine? "No. You could punish her more."

I arrive home to find a new carpet in our living room. Finally. The kids squeal with happiness and tear off their shoes and socks: "oooh, that's nice" they coo in unison, scrunching their feet. Eitan gets out the old football before I can stop him and Sonnet will soon scream at him for the marks on the newly painted walls.

Me: "What do you think of the living room?"
Madeleine: "It smells like a hotel."
Me: "Is that good or bad?"
Madeleine: "We don't have a pool."

Me: "Do you like our house?"
Eitan: "It would be Ok if we had grass in the backyard."
Me: "When we moved into Gracie and Moe's house, all I wanted was a place to play basketball (our house in the Berkeley hills). The compromise was Hillside Park, which had several courts and close by. You have a number of parks nearby."
Eitan: "Yeah, but it would still be nice if our house had a football pitch."

Monday, June 7

What - Me worry?

Le Park

Here we are, finally, in Richmond Park which is only a short walk from our house. For those in the know, during King Edward's reign (1272-1307) the area was known as the Manor of Sheen - hence, we live in East Sheen but otherwise there is no Sheen. The name changed to Richmond during Henry VII's rein. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the land was not popular with the local residents, but he did. graciously, allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain while Richmond remains London's largest Royal Park and the UK's smallest National Park. For scale, it is about 3X the size of Central Park. On a clear day, one can see St Paul's ten miles away. In fact this is a protected view and no building may come between King Henry's Mound,. the highest point of the park, and the cathedral.

Prime Minister (I have to say that again) Prime Minister David Cameron comes out swinging this morning by noting that the budget crisis much worse than expected - about £250B vs. £160B - and the cheerful 3% growth forecast supplied by de-throned Labour will be cut in half. The PM prepares us for the slash-and-burn suggesting, as an aside, that the British way of life might come to an end. Yawn. What we observe here, folks, is politics 101: prepare everybody for the worst, blame one's predecessor for the mess, loudly denounce a few unions then business-as-usual. I sure hope I am wrong as Greece offers the reality-show which could be coming to a UK station. I discussed this with some smart financial dudes the other day who note: It has not hurt Iceland. Sure, they cannot go on vacation outside of Iceland, poor guys, but everybody is eating. What's the big deal? And the US? Fellas buying more greenbacks thanks to the Euro's recent collapse. Despite $12T of national debt, Uncle Sam the safest bet in town. Yes, Reagan's wonderful legacy: deficits? What, me worry? Well, the Big Hurt is coming, one way or the other.

Me, sternly: "Stop comparing everything to your brother."
Madeleine: "You would never say that to Eitan!"


Sonnet in Colorado and I get the Shakespeares to myself. This makes for a rough morning - 'inset' day, no school - when the kids do not wish to leave the house. Especially to go for a walk in Richmond Park. Here we are, 9:35AM.

Eitan: "I found out that the two heaviest England players are Emile Heskey and John Terry who both weigh 88 kilograms."
Me: "Is that a fact?"
Eitan: "Yeah, I got it from my Top Trumps."
Me: "What are 'Top Trumps'"?
Eitan: "They are cards. With football information."