Monday, July 30

Summer In Full Swing

To be a kid is to straddle indifference and boredom, a pattern disturbed by some occasional learning, a few chores, a pet and the television. Yes, the Shakespears on summer break for less than ten days and already it feels like the dog days of summer. Even the Olympics fail to occupy their full attention.  I assign reading (more Huck Finn for Eitan, more Hobbit for Madeleine) and other requirements but really, what they crave, is routine.  Swimming, drama, school, football, etcetc. cannot come soon enough.  Without it, the slightest exertion fought with the spirit of a cornered animal.  It is not even August.

Sunday, July 29

Red White And Blue

We have an exhilarating day at the Olympics Park watching a morning of swimming including Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Rebecca Adlington and Liam Hancock.  The stadium, which we are familiar with from the British trials, a jewel and today it is rocking : British medals a distinct possibility and several swimmers already known from Beijing, including crowd favourite Adlington.

After the swimming we anticipate a picnic with Maddie's family. Maddie a swimmer for Wandsworth who will join Madeleine at hill form in September. She is a sweet kid. Unfortunately thunder storms drive us in to Westfield Mall built outside the Olympics grounds to draw the post-games traffic and boy does it heave.  Prada, Dolce And Gabbana, Apple, , Top Shop .. . River Island, Abercrombie & Fitch (which I check out and am humiliated by the half-nude male modles), Armani, Valentino.. .it's all here.

Eventually the rain relaxes and we return to Stratford Underground then four stops to Lizzy and Ferdi's in Islington for an afternoon coffee and cake. Ferdi once responsible for risk management at Unicredit Bank in Italy but I think that was too depressing so now he does something else at the bank. His basic notion is that Europe is toast . In his spare time he has developed elaborate programs to lock in sports trades . £20 here, £50 there..  every little counts.

Madeleine: "Can I get a pretzel?"
Sonnet: "No, you haven't had lunch."
Madeleine: "I don't want a bagel though. I just want a pretzel. Please. Please?"
Me: "For Pete's sake go get a pretzel."
Sonnet: "You like to do that don't you ?"
Me: "What?"
Sonnet: "Undermine my authority."
Me: "Yeah, I'm sorry."
Madeleine: "So I can't have a pretzel?"
Me: "Ask your mother."
Madeleine: "But I ate half the bagel."
Sonnet: "OK, Okay, you can have a pretzel."

Eitan: "Where are mom and Madeleine ?"
Me: "Over there. Getting a pretzel?"
Eitan: "What?! I get one too!"
Me: "Sorry Madeleine did all the work on that one."
Eitan: "That is so unfair."
Sonnet gives Eitan a pretzel.

Breastroke Start

Saturday, July 28


 This morning we stroll to Richmond Park to watch the men's cycling final - pictured. It is a community activity and many set up their stall at 7AM for the 10:15AM passing which takes all of twenty seconds. Maybe. My favourites, surprisingly, the police who wizz by on motorcycles , smiling, extorting us to cheer and giving high-fives. They and the volunteers enjoy themselves.

A helicopter announces the peloton, which begins at the Pall Mall and cruising 40kph through Central London on its way to Surrey and Box Hill, which they will lap 9X. We are at the 10Km point of the 130km race, which goes through the park again this afternoon. Most people wait around for their return and why not ? It's a perfect day for a picnic.

Remarkably Bradley Wiggens competes only two weeks after becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France. It takes minimum three months to recover from a marathon let alone two weeks scaling the French Alps.

Sonnet: "So the swimmers shave their bodies ?"
Me: ".. to remove a skin layer. It creates a most amazing sensation."
Eitan: "I once saw a guy swim a proper race in beggy trunks."
Sonnet: "Do they shave their whole body? And their backs?"
Me: "Yes, there was always some discussion about the under arms.. ."
Sonnet: "It doesn't sound very comfortable."
Me: "It's not like we shaved our balls."
Eitan: "Ha, ha, ha!"

Opening Rings

The Olympics Ceremony last night and the NYT gets it about right:

"The noisy, busy, witty, dizzying production somehow managed to feature a flock of sheep (plus a busy sheepdog), the Sex Pistols, Lord Voldemort, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a suggestion that the Olympic rings were forged by British foundries during the Industrial Revolution, the seminal Partridge Family reference from “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” a group of people dressed like so many members of Sgt. Pepper’s band, some rustic hovels tended by rustic peasants, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and, in a paean to the National Health Service, a zany bunch of dancing nurses and bouncing sick children on huge hospital beds."

Uniquely British and weird. I love the recognition of the otherwise under-valued NHS (which delivered my two kids) and the giant gold rings that slowly cross the stadium suspended, it appears, in thin air, joining to form familiar icon. Madeleine and I watch the athletes parade until Cuba then to bed. Eitan at a sleep-over at Luke's. Photo from the AP.

Sonnet bemoans Eitan, who has not bathed in four days.
Me: "Are you going to shower by school?"
Eitan: "It's not that bad."
Me: "Your mom says she can smell you a block away."
Me: "Does Luke takes baths ?"
Eitan: "Yeah I guess so. "
Me: "What does he say?"
Eitan: "It's not like we sit around and discuss how often we bathe or anything."
Me: "Fair point."

Friday, July 27


Daniella and Sophia and their family over for a BBQ.

Big Ben chimes 40 times this morning at the unusual 8:12AM or 12 hours before tonight's opening ceremony. This the the first time the clock rung outside its regular schedule since 1952, when it tolled 56 times for King George VI's funeral (once for every year of his life). The Torch, at mid-day, winds its way down the River Thames to Tower Bridge on its way to the Olympics Stadium. Not even Mitt Romney can bring down the good vibe (Says Romney : 'It's hard to know just how well it [the Games] will turn out"; retorts Cameron : "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere", ie, UTAH).

This country may over-spend (£9.5B vs £2.5B initial bid), threaten strike (Border Control), extort the public (bus and tube unions), slag off work (GS4) and militarise (the army); rain may come - it is expected - but for two weeks the nation will pull itself together, welcome the world and celebrate itself, its youth, its global status and the joy, the pure joy, of the Olympic Games. I am glad to be here.

Wednesday, July 25


I am in France and it is the vacation before the holiday. Nobody skives like the Europeans and why not? with so many beautiful places to go . France no different and maybe at the front : August a complete shut-down.  Astorg's offices, for instances, closed for two weeks (but this is a firm that works hard ).  So, now, everybody chilaxing. A stroll along rue du faubourg st honoree sees less formal attire than usual with colourful dresses draping six inches above the knee (legs bronzed, toned).  The men have their pointy shoes while the cloth of choice (white) linen (and perhaps no tie).  It is hot and so the cafes brimming and smoke, smoke smoke. Why worry when the soiree happening now ?

After visiting Astorg I am back at the hotel wishing Sonnet here for a stroll in Tuilerise Gardens which remains open late for the advanced sunset.  The Eiffel Tower unlit until 9PM.  Last time in Paris I stayed in St Jermaine 6e but I prefer being close to the Astorg offices.

Tuesday, July 24

Backyard Fun

The kids waking up to the idea that they can do things on their own .. like walk to the High Street by themselves without an adult. Eitan boldly asks for a bus-pass so he and his pals can go to the movies .  Sonnet and I discuss their freedoms and I am more relaxed than she : the world no more dangerous then when we were kiddies and I recall using public transportation from 4th grade .. and walking across the Berkeley campus to Telegraph Avenue with a couple dollars burning my pocket.

Did you know that the Olympics Village dining hall is the largest in the world ? It can serve 5,000 meals at a go.

Madeleine: "I am going to drop off my thank-you cards by myself, Ok Dad?"
Me: "Take the dog."
Madeleine: "But then I can't go in the shops."
Me: "And no candy."
Madeleine: "You just want me to walk by them and just look in the windows?"
Me: "Be back in 30 minutes."
Madeleine: "45."
Me: "Ok, what time is it now ?"
Madeleine: "7PM.  Don't be worried unless I come home after 8."
Madeleine: "Then call the police."

The Torch

The Olympic Flame passes through Richmond not too far from us. Kamila takes the kids to check out the action on a glorious summer's day (Kamila's photo).  The Shakespeares on holiday and already the summer habits with us : up late+sleeping in, messy rooms, complaining over small chores. .. Eitan lounges in his red robe.  Usual stuff. To keep it sharp, I tell Madeleine she must read 'The Hobbit' and Eitan 'Huckleberry Finn' by Friday; failure to do so - book report by Sunday.

Madeleine: "Oh, no Dad! I cannot read the whole Hobbit! I am reading something else!"
Me: "Well, kid, you have until Friday."
Sonnet: "It's a pretty long book.  How about the first 50 pages?"
Me: "Seems reasonable."
Madeleine: "You are always spoiling any fun."
Me: "What happens when you start Emanuel ? You will have a ton of reading and homework then. Let's start getting used to it now."
Madeleine: "But that's, like, a month from now!"

Sunday, July 22

Sonnet Cooks

Super woman.

We join Dana and Nathan for lunch with their friends Jennifer and Scardon who got pregnant and married in the same month they move to London for work. May was busy. The two met at HBS then again recently in L.A. Scardon a runner at Harvard when I was competing for Brown and he recalls a few guys like Greg Whiteley. As the world turns.

From there, we host Grace and Richard, who are in London celebrating Richard's father's 80th birthday with brothers Jim and Ted - both also in London.  Richard was, like, the second guy I met in NYC in July 1989 when he lived on the 4th floor of 373 6th Avenue and I was on the third floor.  8 financial analysts shared two "railroad" style flats in your basic tenement house.  To access my clothes I had to exit the apartment to the main stairwell then re-enter via the main door, mostly in near darkness.  Mark chose to live in a walk-in closet to save a couple-hundred bucks a month. My rent: $500.

So today Richard a Sr product guy at Google and their 125th hire. His children are in the first and third grade and amuse themselves with ours making arrows and fishing for goldfish in the backyard pond. Sounds about right.

Madeleine: "Are you going running without your shirt on?"
Me: "Yeah, so?"
Madeleine: "If you see any of my friends, hide behind a bush."

Madeleine: "So can I get a hamster or what?"
Me: "I thought we had moved beyond hamsters."
Madeleine: "You mean they all died?"
Me: "Well now you have a dog. Isn't that enough?"
Madeleine: "I love Rusty. But I want something for my room."
Me: "I don't miss the hamster shavings and the food everywhere."
Madeleine: "I used to clean it in the bathroom, Dad. Besides I remember you saying that if I got into Emanuel you would get me a pet."
Me: "Rusty  is the ultimate pet."
Madeleine: "So are you saying I cannot have another pet?"
Me: "Yes, for now, no pet."
Madeleine: "I can buy one with my own money you know."
Madeleine: "I just read a book about a girl who bought a pet hamster without telling her parents."
Me: "That's nice."
Madeleine: "And they moved to Australia."


Saturday morning and Sonnet and the kids in Oxford with Nita, Alain and the three zeds.  Last time together was a blast off.

I do the usual stuff a fella does on his own : stay up late watching TV, sleep in, and go to the office where I should be doing my US tax returns but instead catch up on two weeks of missed work.  Rusty keeps me company.  The building otherwise empty which suits me fine.

Me: "Who is more strict, me or Nita?"
Eitan: "Nita. You should have heard her yell at Zebulan when he left his retainer in his glass at the pizza restaurant . .."
Madeleine: "Definately Nita."
Me: "Good to know there's room for me to improve."
Madeleine: "Oh, Dad.

Saturday, July 21


On the Victoria Line.

The burqa is not common nor unusual in London : it depends on the area.  The Edgeware Rd (where the eZoka offices once located) for instance has a large Muslim community complete with the Islamic Bank and the Beirut Express restaurant. Older Women often covered while the next generation less so.

The burqa has caused debate in the UK with former Home Secretary Jack Straw asking Muslim women to remove veils covering their face in face-to-face meetings with him. He explained this was a request, not a demand, and that he made sure that a woman staffer remained in the room during the meeting. A media furor followed, of course. A 2011 poll indicated 66% of British support a burqa ban in public places. This has been ruled out by the Conservative-Libs and previous Labour govt (In France, then President Sarkozy said: "we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.")

I initially found burqa's shocking and now just strange : in London, everybody welcome so why not ? The bandar (a metal face mask often worn with the burqa) however disturbing : I think of something from Dune.

The Olympics Are Coming !

Madeleine after hours.

We anxiously brace ourselves for the Olympics, which begin in five days. The weather seems to take a turn for the better : a breathless weatherwoman announces "Jet stream moving north!" offering, just maybe, a break from the last four months of floods and record breaking rainfall.  To the organiser's credit, I receive multiple emails on how to navigate the city during the games (in a word: don't) while others warn us to avoid the 120 miles of central London roadways set aside for the Olympic Committee (absurd) and athletes or receive a £130 fine.  Adding to the fun : Heathrow border control agents taking "industrial action" the day before the opening ceremony or the busiest day at the airport ever. The police remove a bagel display of the Olympic rings at a local bakery on the torch route "sponsorship violations".  Then the security freak out : Bring in the army! Surface-to-air missles on council house rooftops !  Even Bruce Springsteen, jamming with Paul McCartney, shut down when their Hyde Park Olympics celebration concert went past the council end-time.  Where is the British sense of humour ?

I think it is going to be a hoot. Britain will organise itself, as it always does , and the games will be a success.  Longer term, whether the Olympics Stadium will pull the city center Eastward, well, that remains to be seen.

I lie on my stomach, naked; Sonnet gives me a back message.
Eitan enters our bedroom without knocking: "Arrgghhh!!"
Me: "What's the big deal?"
Eitan: "Put some clothes on Dad!"
Me: "It's my bedroom for Pete's sake. As for disgusting, you should have seen yourself at three.. Now that was gross."
Eitan: "But I was just a baby."
Me: "I'm just saying."
Eitan: "Just don't roll over whatever you do."
I move to roll over.
Eitan: "No, don't! Don't!"

Friday, July 20

Leavers Party

Y6 Graduation

Eitan's graduation ceremony takes place in the school auditorium, built our first year at Sheen Mount seven years ago and named after Tim Berners-Lee, who attended the school in the '60s.

Watching Eitan receive his recognition makes me think back to my sixth-trade exit ceremony from Longfellow grade school, where I very nearly was not allowed to participate. That morning I let off a stink-bomb on the orange school boss, crystallising the simmering wrath of ancient bus driver Gloria who hated trouble makers and most especially me (usually seated in the last row). This was no ordinary stink bomb, either : in an air-sealed film canister I mixed burnt rocket fuel and hydrochloric acid separated by aluminium foil; once turned, the HCL burned through the aluminium, reacted with the sodium elements creating pressure and - pop! - the thing blew emitting a remarkably noxious smell. Today the bus would have been evacuated and I would have ended up at the police station. Since this the 70s, Gloria opened the windows and carried on, glaring at me through gritted teeth, assuming,, correctly, that I had done the deed.

Once at Longfellow, the kids filed from the bus while my exit blocked: straight to the principal's office. Mrs Faulk a large African American who who wore African native garb and large jewelry and scared the bejesus out of us kids; I sat expectantly, anxiously, awaiting my punishment. The law came down hard : no graduation walk. In my classroom a buzz surrounded my mis-deed and my teacher, the lovely Mrs Riles, devastated : I was her most earnest student, after all. Riles marched me back to Faulk's office where they conferred and I cried (knowing my parents would be in the audience). Faulk relented and I participated.

I recall like yesterday the ride home : I stared out the backseat window of the Volvo 544 as the houses went by knowing I was really in for it later. Secretly, my mom told me later, she and my father rather quite proud of my chutzpah.

Wednesday, July 18

Year 5 Celebration

Madeleine celebrates her departure from Sheen Mount with a few best friends. She will miss her final year at Sheen Mt entering Hillhouse for year 6. Friend, teacher and parent reviews are glowing.

Madeleine themes the afternoon around "clay building" and the kids make faces, monsters, worms .. usual stuff (below, one of hers. The head comes off to reveal a secret hiding place). From there it is an hour of football while I cook burgers then dinner and desert (sugar high! sugar high!) . The parents linger over rosé . Our gal is moving on to her next big adventure.

Tuesday, July 17

Customer Support And Spider Man

The friendly people at Eric's telecommunications company keep Eric on hold 15 minutes.

I catch Eric in the midst of everything : programming educational maths with the head of the Arizona math department funded by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation ; co-authoring and editing another Calculus text book; shopping for groceries, ripping out tarmac and being a newly wed while his kids grow up : Ben to college in August to study applied math (with a full scholarship); Jonah in to modern theatre (football long gone) and Isabel at horse camp. Phew. We troop around Cambridge looking for a cable for his internet which takes us to Harvard Yard where we sit and watch the commotion.

Eric helps me out re Spider Man and the Hancock Tower (from The story opens with Spider-Man racing to Kennedy Airport to catch a flight to Los Angeles.The Daily Bugle is sending Peter Parker to L.A. to document the end of the Champions. He goes to the downtown high rise that served as their headquarters. Construction on the building hadn't been completed when the team called it quits. Because of those construction issues, two large panes of glass pop out of the window frames and fall to the street below. One of them falls directly for Peter, who is lost in his own thoughts as usual. The Angel sees the incident and flies out the window. He's able to divert one pane, but the second one continues falling toward Peter. However, the combination of his spider-sense and his superhuman leaping ability enable him to move out of the way.

Monday, July 16

Back Bay

Let's see.. .catching up on my blog from last week. From Park avenue to Berkeley St where I join Tony and Susan and admire the view from their roof deck, pictured, enjoying dinner and drinking white wine on a cool summer evening.  The sun sets over sailboats in the Charles and across the river is MIT.  They live in one of the only NY style condominiums in Boston and keep the 6th floor. Every window has a similar impressive view.

The John Hancock Tower : Inventing a way to use the blue mirror glass in a steel tower came at a price. The building's most dangerous and conspicuous flaw was faulty glass windows. Entire 4' x 11', 500-lb windowpanes detached from the building and crashed to the sidewalk hundreds of feet below. This used in an early Amazing Spider Man comic but I cannot find the issue doing a web search. Spidey saved the day of course.

Wednesday, July 11

Park And 61st

I assume this fellow, caught on Park Ave in front of the Regency, walking home from work, 3:45PM. Though he could just as easily be returning from the drug store.  At First Boston we had a similar guy : Paul Miller, who was from the olden days of investment banking before Salomon Brothers and the trading floor blew it up (and nearly destroyed the economy - but I digress). No, Miller was in his 70s and at the tail end of his, presumably, illustrious career.  He kept a corner office in PAZ (largest on the floor) and his ancient secretary would shuffle by the analyst bullpen without a nod nor hello, 10:30AM sharp, 15-minutes before Miller (Her day concluded five minutes after he left).  

I met Miller a few times in investment committee meetings where he was always impeccably dressed and rarely said a word.  Once, he stopped the table, surrounded by 15 or so of the firms most sr investment bankers, by noting: "These valuations are based on future cash flows. How the hell do we know what that means?" The conversation resumed following a respectful pause.

While I am far from contemplating retirement, I see some of my business school friends who are already into theirs.  How does one transition from work gracefully in this day and age, assuming one would wish to work indefinitely, as I do. The new economy, at least for MBAs, based more on capital flows and relationship services than hard-earned skills; most of us want it rich and want it now which is not necessarily a satisfying long-term strategy even if successful somehow.  Law is one profession that does it right : lawyers gain respect as they get older. Same as the Japanese.  

Me, I would like to go like "Uncle Ed" who I met at the Benjamen Moore paint shop in Providence, RI , in the summer of '87.  Uncle Ed in his 80s and helped around the store, always with a smile and friendly word to us painters. He loved his job.

Tuesday, July 10

First Office, First Love

Katie's new office - woo hoo! - on Varrick St in a converted art-deco warehouse. It is a busy place with lots of young companies and young people. Free coffee. A keg on every floor. I park for the day and do some emails and other things that qualify as work in the  new-new economy.

New York was a by-lane during the first Internet boom-bust with its lame-ass "Silicon Alley" magazine and bunko companies like Novic Media and But now, well into Web 2.0, Manhattan seems loaded with tech media activities. There are some good vc's, too, like Union Square which has backed tumblr and Twitter. Still, the Big Bucks remain in SV: FB alone accounted 20 percent of California’s personal income growth for the 2011/12 calendar year). It all makes me kinda itchy - like itchy to be in the game.

I watch a riotous MTV program 'Friendzone' where a college dude prepares for a blind date with assistance from his best female friend .. . only the best friend is his love-interest, and he asks her out instead. It's kind of like Candid Camera and I am surprised how emotionally raw these poor kids are (She: "I am likes totally shocked. I totally did not expect this. It's so sweet." He: "So where do you think it's going to go?" She: "Well , um, oh my God I don't know"). Still , I am watching (between ads for 'female pads' and Kit Kats). I think of Ben and Jonah.

"Oh my god. Losing him would be like losing my right arm and starting over. Without my arm."
--Cheryl on MTV's Friendzone

The Coffee Man

This fellow mans his stall on 41st and 5th across from the NY Public Library - 6:45AM and he serves his customers with enthusiasm and watches the others go by.  We shake hands after I take his picture.


Brian and I once worked together on Wall St. We have remained in contact periodically and through Christmas cards. He is now the CFO for HSBC North American responsible for the group's global investment portfolio or about $80 billion of balance sheet assets.  Brian tells me that following '08, the portfolio down to $30 billion but, since he joined two years ago at the behest of the CEO, things have improved. I am not surprised.

Monday, July 9

Lower East Side

Katie and I find our way to Chinatown, home to the largest enclave of Chinese in the Western hemisphere. We eat some Chinese food.

Afterwards I am drawn to Columbus Park, at the end of Mulberry St, by the sound of Chinese ceremonial gongs; confusingly there are four 'orchastras' performing ancestral music with men and women singing (to my ear) off-beat . (Katie: "Maybe they are telling a story") The green is completely unexpected surrounded by toy shops, vegetable stalls, an uninviting hotel, tenements and restaurants. I spy this clever dude gambling.

The park built on Five Points’ "height," famous in the 19th century for its population density, disease, infant and child mortality, unemployment, prostitution, violent crime, and urban destitution . It's only rival : certain neighbourhoods of London's East End. I find about everything in NY beyond human scale.


What's Up, Girl?

Katie and I by the Beacon Theatre - I think she is checking out what is showing.

In Londonberry, Eitan is "Coach's Player of the Year" for the Elm  Grove All Stars which, dear reader and for posterity, finished 4th in the Premiere Elite Division of the Surrey Youth League.  This is like football central with hundreds of teams competing across the 'home county' in various age classes.  It is nice to observe Eitan's recognition since he now plays defensive-back and often outside the limelight.  He is a safe pair of hands (feet) though, and Coach observes "he never makes mistakes". I enjoy seeing him part of the team, modest, getting his bit done and building some confidence.  It is what sport is all about.

"A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe and 50 times: It is a beautiful catastrophe."
--Le Corbusier

Sunday, July 8

New Yawk

I arrive in Manhattan for a week of meetings and catching ups.  And it is hot as hell.  Katie and I walk from 104 St to Worth Street or about 120 blocks or six miles.  A highlight the highline in the 20s and teens which winds its way through Chelsea.  Here we are on B'Way entering Times Sq. Sean John - or whatever he is called now - still pulls (see 20 story billboard behind me).

"The island. The island belongs to the devil."
--Crazy man on the street

Saturday, July 7

Walmart Turns 50

Eitan at Walmart USA in April.

Having experienced the 200,000 SF mega-store at 7,000 feet next to Evergreen, Colorado (population 9,038), I was interested to learn a few facts : like Walmart employs 2.2 million people or third most in the world after the US Dept of Defence (3.2 million) and the Chinese army (2.3). Walmart crammed with useful stuff from coca-cola crates to deer rifles all priced to shift and the economies work : who can compete ? Local shops sure can't. For every two jobs made by Walmart, an estimated 2.8 jobs killed - I sure saw this in Montrose whose charming High Street slowly gutted.  But is this such a bad thing ? Walmart makes life cheaper , if less pretty. This is an American business success story.

No, the thing I find difficult about Walmart is that 67% of hourly wage-earners are women and less than 15% of Sr Managers are women. 4 of 16 board members are female.  In the 1980s State Farm Insurance, the largest insurance provider in the US, argued that women did not want the high-paying jobs : 97% of sales agents men while over 2/3 of the assistants and secretaries women. It took Guy Saperstein's civil class action to change that - now agents are 50-50 male: female with State Farm's CEO reporting the quarterly ratio to Saperstein and the overseeing judge for years after the judgement. Walmart needs the same kick in the can.

All datas and sources at

Friday, July 6

Quick Test

In one of the creepier images, the Shard opens with a laser display that makes me think of "The Day The Earth Stood Still." (photo from Getty)

Sitting around the breakfast table, Eitan, Madeleine and I take the abbreviated test required of those seeking citizenship administered by the UK Border Agency. Of 15 questions we answer five correctly. Questions include 1) Who was the first PM of Britain; 2) What are the countries that make up Great Britain; and 3) who was the first Norman King of England?  Eitan nails Boubicca, the she-male warrior who helped defeat the Romans.  Thank goodness for me and Sonnet that our citizenship application, in 2003 after six years in the UK, required simply a pledge to the Queen or to God (I chose the former, Sonnet the latter).  Six weeks later, the papers arrived.  Eitan and Madeleine also received passports. Unlike in the US, being born here does not count.

Me: "I got us a few books."
Madeleine: "That's nice Dad."
Me: "Let's see, 'The English Civil War,' by Diane Purkiss.  'The Tudors, Henry VII and Henry VIII,' by C. J. Meyer"
Me: "'The Gunpowder Plot' by Alan Haynes. 'The Scourging Angel, The Black Death in the British Isles' by Benedict Summer."
Madeleine: "I'm reading 'The Great Brain."
Me: "Which one do you want first?"
Madeleine: "I've already got a book Dad."
Me: "How about if we start with the plague. That's probably pretty good."
Me: "Definately the plague. I'm going to read that one first."
Madeleine: "I'm going to finish 'The Great Brain Goes To The Academy.'"

Thursday, July 5

All In The Gang

I take Rusty to work today and realise I am with him all day.  My beloved companion as the kids reject me.

I take Eitan, Jack and Joe to football practice. As I usually jog during this time, I wear my running tights which puts the boy on high alert ("Dad will you please take those off").  On the pitch, after my run, I stretch ("Dad please don't do that OK). I sit with the dog and watch the boys train ("Can you go farther away?").  I take it all in stride though and this is only the beginning.

Eitan: "I always wonder why Scooby Doo and Shaggy eat Scooby snacks. Why Shaggy?"
Me: "What are you boys doing this summer?"
Joe: "I'm going to Ireland for a week, then we are back for the Olympics and then Spain for two weeks."
Eitan: "We're going to Italy!"
Jack: "I'm going camping."
Me: "Cool. Is your brother going?"
Jack: "Nah."
Me: "Why not?"
Jack: "He can't be bothered. He's too busy partying."
Joe: "Party, party, party."
Me: "Like what's that mean? What does he do?"
Joe: "Party. Like hang out with girls and stuff."
Me: "Sounds fun."
Jack: "I guess."

Date Night

This groovy couple, who I spy in Mayfair, somehow capture London's mood : on the move, full of confidence.  Rich.  The city's time will inevitably pass but for now, it remains all that.

Wednesday, July 4

4th July - Fr Siren

US Independence Day is something else altogether in Britain so no need to belabour the point. It is work as usual for these Brits who otherwise let America celebrate in peace. I am in Paris anyway and, while I miss the BBQ and fireworks, it is not so bad either. The Tenth amendment BTW my favorite : it allows that, unless prevented by the constitution or the state, people free to do whatever they wish. Highly unusual this. Extraordinary, really.

Sitting in my corner office in Paris, 12 noon, a siren wails and I think : lunch (some blue collar cities in the US do this, like Warren, RI, where I once painted a few houses. Real dump, smelled like fish, but I loved the small movie theatre and legit burger joint).  Strangely, another sounds at 12:10.  Catherine at Astorg tells me : "it happens on the first-Wednesday of every month since the Second World War. It is a test to make sure the alert system is working across France. I can remember it all my life." And what happens if the alarm for real? Catherine: "I have no idea."

Monday, July 2

All England

While we wait for the dry, an official stops by to chat and provide encouragement about the weather : "there is plenty of good tennis left", he winks.  And what does one do with one's ticket should it rain (a one-day debenture allowing access to the grounds goes for a cool £1,200) ? If two-hours play, no refund. One-hour, and it is a 50% refund.  With the strawberries and cream, the climate part of the charm.


Sonnet and I have excellent seats at Wimbledon thanks to neighbors Helen and Martin, whose mother Kitty Godfree won Wimbledon in '24 and '26. We watch maria sharapova, pictured, upset by Sabine Lisicki of Germany in two sets (Lisicki laughs as tears stream down her face) followed by Andy Murray vs. Marin Cilic until the damp delays play. At one point we are told, helpfully, that the court "still a bit slippy"

Tennis sure is different today : the men  average over 6-foot and serve at 130mph. The women not far off : Lisicki clocking first-serves at 118mph .  There is limited net-play and the baseline pounded until exhaustion or error occurs.  How different from the '70s and '80s when McE , Connors, Borg et al wore tighty-shorts, played with wood, and finessed the ball in imaginative ways; each came with different personalities adding to the game's entertainment.  We all tuned in. Since "Pistol" Pete Sampras, it is about the Big Man, which I find less compelling .  The women's game still tops, though - somehow their play at human scale. 

"Do you have any problems, other than that you're unemployed, a moron, and a dork?"
--John McEnroe

Sonnet Works

Sonnet multi-tasks with her various multiple devices.

Given the USA shut down for the all-important Fourth of July weekend when Americans were, by today's standards, terrorists in 1776, it feels, well, a bit like a holiday though I have plenty to do and tomorrow Paris. Today, though, should it stop raining, we will be on No. 1 Court watching Murray chasing the All England glory.

Sunday, July 1

Tomato Sunset

My tomatoes, my babies.

Jim and Peri and Simon and Sabi to dinner representing Turkey, Tanzania, Wales, Washington DC, California and Alaska now all in London , go figure. Jim once advised me, when I was five years into our re-location, that "something changes around year seven." He may be right and I pass along these bon mots to the younger expats I know. But for this evening nobody in England for less than 15 years though Jim spends a good amount of time in Redwood City as he is the Global Head of distribution for Google . He notes : America has become conservative.

Eitan, looking at the Roehamtpon council estate: "Why did they have to build that there?"
Me: "Do you want the long answer?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "Le Cobusier the architect .. . "
Eitan: "Dad I am not interested."
Me: "He had a vision of grand boulevards and massive highrises. Roehamption the only place in Europe where his ideas put to work."
Eitan: "La la li la li la . .. "