Saturday, May 31


Richmond Green

Following the dark grey months of January, February and March it is now pay back in the UK - 10PM sunsets, 20C temps and sunshine. OK, that's a fantasy, but, still, it is better than winter.

The Richmond Cricket Club have at it on the Richmond Green, once the location of Richmond Palace (1500-1649) and former home of Henry the VIII and Queen Elizabeth.

"It is far more than a game, this cricket."
--Sir Neville Cardus

Thursday, May 29

Packard Bell CD Case

Loved, no longer

Remarkably this cardboard box may be the oldest thing I own other than a few cherished photographs and my comic book collection (lovingly stored at 1530, drip fed to Madeleine from visits home).  The packet dates to 1997 when I bought a Packard Bell home computer junked (I somehow recall) in 2001, piece of hardware crap.  The CD case stayed with me, though, moving from flats in Maida Vale W9 to our house in Richmond.

Usually it was stuffed with software back-ups for notebooks, printers, routers, etc etc - every couple years I pruned the unused items. It gave me pleasure to have such an untidy old thing storing the most sophisticated technology of the moment.

Today I throw it out.  CDs are artifacts that Eitan and Madeleine have never known. Move on.

Wednesday, May 28

Diane Has A Baby

Introducing Marcella

Our household, Thames Water tells me, uses 631 m^3 (cubic meters) of water a year.  A typical Brit household of 5 uses 199 m^3 and an efficient household 161 m^3. I am pretty sure Madeleine uses this amount for showers alone.

I visit the Thames Water website and, as expected, they treat me like an idiot. Top water-saving suggestions: only flush the toilet if you need to. Fix leaking taps. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth (the number one suggestion).  All in, the website might save our household 1 m^3 but what do I know?

And .. . I learn that in the UK every person uses 150 litres of water a day, a figure that has been growing yearly by 1% since 1930. If you take into account water needed to produce British food and products, a Brit consumes 3,400 litres a day.

The UK , in fact, has less water per person than most other European countries. South east England even more so - despite the rain on every bank holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 27

Gallery 50a Fo Sho


Samson gets down to business slaying a philistine. It is my favourite sculpture at the VA, bam pow! The marble carved in Florence by Giambologna from 1560 to 1562.  As we might say in Berkeley, "he is about to get doughed."

Another expression, unique to the East Bay I believe, is "hell of" like "she is hell of fine" or "the exam was hell of hard."  Could this be the Berkeley filial of 'Ebonics' , an African-American English vernacular which, in 1996, the Oakland school board tried to introduce as a distinct native language, to be taught throughout the Oakland school district in parallel to English? Possibly.

Of course every generation has its slang to establish boundaries from the next generation. Eitan, for his part, has a slow rhythmic cadence to keep my questions at bay: he nearly whispers, "I'm OK with that", "whatever" or "If you think so." Sometimes I get a soothing "That's nice," and "Oh, really ?" when I know he could care less. Fair enough.

"Befo' you know it, he be done aced de tesses." (Before you know it, he will have already aced the tests.)
"Ah 'on know what homey be doin." (I don't know what my friend is usually doing.)
"Can't nobody tink de way he do." (Nobody can think the way he does.)
 "I ast Ruf could she bring it ovah to Tom crib." (I asked Ruth if/whether she could bring it over to Tom's place.)
--Ebonics Notes and Discussion, Stanford University, 1996

Sunday, May 25


The dog is focused

When I was a kid I had a pretty cool boomerang which I would take to Coordinices Park and throw-about until I lost it in a redwood tree (I still wonder if it is there, 35 years on).

So I buy a boomerang and, today, Madeleine and I head for Richmond Park to give it a go, me warning Madeleine not to get her hopes and "it's going to be a disappointment."  And it is, accept for the dog, who does indeed retrieve the boomerang but only after a long chase.  We have a good laugh nonetheless.

Me: "Boomerangs are physics at work."
Madeleine: "Why do you always have to ruin it like that ? "
Me: "Well, without knowledge, we would be like Rusty. Unable to drive a car nor program a VCR."
Me: "You have now idea what a VCR is, do you?"
Madeleine: "No. Is it some sort of radio or something ?"
Me: "You win."

And off to Paris in 30.

Saturday, May 24

Hoop La

At the Connaught 

I arrive from Paris, Friday evening, same as it ever was, and lovely weather, so Sonnet and I to the local for a drink (me, vodka martini with a twist; Sonnet soda water), Eitan joins us since I forget my wallet.

For the first time, as a parent, I feel more like a parent than like, well, myself. Work, money, home, DIY . the garden ..  Rusty . all this responsibility who can lead (as Eitan would say), the care-free life?

Thursday, May 22

Dog Day

Rusty takes it in.

So I am with Paolo Scaroni the other night - Scaroni the CEO of Eni, Italy's largest industrial company with multinational operations in oil and gas and a market cap of €65bn as of this writing.  He is also on the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School.

Scaroni is direct about sovereignty - without energy independence, a nation cannot rule its destiny. Europe, for instance, imports 30% of its energy needs in Russian gas but some European countries require 90%.  For Ukraine, who lost coastal reserves perhaps greater than the North Sea last month, gas is life-or-death as temperatures reach -30 in the winter.

Ukraine owes Russia about $3bn on last winter's deliveries and Russia is threatening to go pre-pay for gas while raising prices. Since Ukraine broke, Europe (me, the taxpayer) will have to foot the bill of €8bn, give or take. And this is the best-case scenario. Should Ukraine (Europe) refuse to pre-pay and Russia turns off the gas, the Ukrainians would surely tap the Russian pipelines and Russia would plug the spigot at the source. Since those very same pipelines go to Europe, Europe would be crippled.

This is why the West's hands are tied when responding to Russian aggression. Putin's deal, announced today, to supply China gas for the next 30 years valued at €400bn, strengthens Russia's position further. Ruthless, cunning.

Wednesday, May 21

One Year More Beautiful

Sonnet is 46.

Eitan, for the record, not quite Sonnet's height but it is coming.  I stick by my prediction that, based on the doubling of his height at age-2, he will be 6'4''.

London Garden Suburb

East Sheen

Sometime in 1994 Roger, Greta, Sonnet and I went to a cartoon festival at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on one of those never ending late-summer Sunday evenings.  One feature presented a typical English neighbourhood where a put upon middle-aged (suppressed) bloke (a dentist), on his birthday, dances naked on the coffee table. His wife doesn't have the heart to tell him that all his friends are hidden in the house for a surprise party.

Anyway, the feature depicted a dense garden suburb not dissimilar from what I walk by every day.

Sonnet: "Madeleine, how was your chemistry exam today?"
Madeleine: "It was OK, I guess."
Sonnet: "Every time I think of chemistry I think of Andrew's PhD experiment. He blew up the building."
Madeleine: "So did he get his PhD?"
Sonnet: "He went home then came back the next morning and the building wasn't there. It's just so funny."
Sonnet: "He's a banker now."

Tuesday, May 20

All Come To Look For America


Our resident teenager off to see the world. Aneta will spend her summer as a camp counsellor in Western Mass then a month of travel freedom. Her whole life ahead of her.

Eitan and I go for a hard run in Richmond Park and I fall back for the last half-mile. No way am I keeping up with the bean pole.  In college, when racing, I weighed 155 pounds or about 30 pounds less than today. My friend Greg Whiteley, also about six feet, weighed 150. Yep, bean pole.

In a drugstore Eitan contemplates a wall of deodorants and goes for the Lynx Effect or, as the advertising notes, where love and attraction rule supreme. My fatherly advice to the boy (fully ignored) : keep it to one grooming product that smells.

"Will inspector Sands please report to platform 20 ?"
--From a speaker at Waterloo train station

"So I looked at the scenery,
She read her magazine;
And the moon rose over an open field.
"Kathy, I'm lost", I said,
Though I know she was sleeping.
"I'm empty and aching and
I don't know why."
All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

--Simon & Garfunkel

Sunday, May 18

Pre Party

We celebrate early summer with drinks and about 70 friends who joins us on a perfect evening weather-wise, how unusual. We move the furniture from the living room into the den or garage, prepare for the caterers etc.  I do the usual yard-work, with Aneta , made interesting when my ladder, while pruning the backyard conifer, collapses taking me with it. Three summers of painting and doing stupid things in college and never a ladder fall. This time I am pretty darn lucky to walk away more or less unscathed. Two closes shaves in the past couple of weeks. I had better start listening.

Christian sends the play list and off we go.

I do a dry run on the living room Linn Keilidh speakers.  Eitan: "Turn it down. Jesus."

Self Portrait XXXIX

Zurich Airport

I visit a few friends in Switzerland - Luzerne and Baar Zug - and end my day at a beautiful 50m outdoor pool only recently opened for the summer.

I time myself for the 100m freestyle hitting the wall, panting, thinking 1:10 or 1:15 but the clock does not lie: 1:25. No fighting middle age but, man, do I sometimes wish I had my 20s back.

Wednesday, May 14

Good Day, Sunshine

Chelsea from Battersea

A few days each May bring a sea of puffy cotton which fills the blue sky as lazy as the early summer. A Beatles song.

Race On

First bend

Madeleine has an inter-school competition at the Battersea track by the Battersea Power Station and our gal cranks out a gritty 800m coming in first place in a time of 2:43 - a PB of two seconds. Dramatically, she collapses at the end of the race in need of her inhaler but fortunately the officials aware of this and problem solved (me, unaware all the while).

Madeleine also competes the high jump finishing in a tie for fourth (of 20) 1 meter 16 cm.

It's a gorgeous day, too, and Aneta and I play hooky, watching the racers, sun bathing and making a few calls (me). Sure beats the office.


Temple Bar

Since I always get in trouble for my descriptions of The OpEd project here it is, officially:

"The OpEd Project is a community of journalists and thought leaders committed to diversifying the world's conversation.  Our Public Voices Fellowship program is a national initiative, undertaken in partnership with leading academic institutions and foundations, to dramatically increase the public impact of our nation's top underrepresented thinkers. "
--From the materials

Tuesday, May 13

Dublin Good Bye

Katie treats me to dinner in Dublin 2 and we drink draft Guinness and Katie (at my insistence) orders a Tusker beer, which brings back memories of Kenya, Africa, or the last time I enjoyed this brew.  She will be in Zanzibar later this year. But this this evening we enjoy Ireland's finest oysters and recount family stories.

Katie's business is going great-guns (recently she received a substantial grant from the Ford Foundation with fellowship programs in place with 12 universities) and her conference is buzzing on the Twitter-sphere.

In the hotel room I am asleep by 9PM while Katie watches The Avengers. Today we have lunch with Nick, the Deputy Head of the Irish Pension Reserve, and now the airport.

"How can a country that gave us Joyce not be able produce a road map?"
--Moe, somewhere in Ireland, ca 1998

Monday, May 12

Self Portrait XXXVII and XXXVIII

Photos by Katie

Katie Broadcasts

I fly to Dublin this morning to see Katie at the Women On Air conference, which is broadcast across the UK.  Katie is the Key Note speaker, "Who narrates the world," at a conference that brings together media and political figures. It fills the St Georges' Hall at the Dublin Palace.  I arrive midway thru and catch my sister's eye as I seat myself in one of the front rows. Pretty cool moment.

"Passion and credibility are both important but should be used at different times. Credibility first."
-Katie, Women On Air

Sunday, May 11

Meanwhile At The Track

 pre 200m

We enjoy a family outing at the Andover Young Athletics Meeting where Eitan and Madeleine aim to qualify for the London Youth Games this summer.  It is a windy sunny day and we spend most of it outdoors, on the overlooking grassy hillside, watching the Shakespeares compete.  In between, some homework is done and I read the new car-manual [Dad's note: we bought a new family car - a Honda]

Madeleine runs the 200m and 800m making the finals in the 200m and finishing 3rd of 18 girls competing in the U13's. Her time: 30.14.  She also takes 3rd in the 800m (no finals) in 2:45, or a six second pb. She is proud as punch, as are we.

Eitan runs the 1500 in 5:09, off his best of 4:55.


Me: "Would you rather do homework or read a car manual?"
Eitan: "Car manual."
Me: "You would rather read a car manual then learn about maths and physics and the wonders of the world? I would give my right hand to have somebody teach me stuff like that."
Eitan: "Definitely car manual."

Graduation Day

Marcus receives his masters in business from Niagra University, earning his place in the Kappa Gamma Pi honor society. Bravo !

Saturday, May 10

The Wall Of Tears


Surrey Cup Final U13's

Hampton School take on the Whitgift School in the Surrey Cup U13's school finals. The prize, the Therfield Trophy, has exchanged hands for 70 years.  Last year Eitan's Elm Grove won the Surrey Cup U12's.

Hampton the under-dogs given that four or five of the Whitgift boys play for the Academies including the brilliant No. 10, Callum Hudson Odoi, who is signed with Chelsea and selected the best Surrey U13 player for the 2014 season. Eitan assigned to mark Callum and the fist-half Eitan on his ass more often than not but by the second half he has him figured him.  It's an intensely physical game, too: loud brutal crunching that we hear 30 meters downfield; a number of collisions that stop the action and I think at least one boy concussed but no way is he coming out.

The game starts in good form with Hampton up 1-nil but we trail the rest of the match, equalising in regulation play and then again with a two minutes in over-time.  Us parents bounce along a roller coaster of highs and lows . ..  It comes down to the dreaded penalty kicks and anyone who follows English football knows that PKs mean one thing: defeat.  I have my "everyone is a winner" speech prepared for the ride home.

Hampton misses the first PK and Whitgift hit the next three. Then they miss. And miss again. Louie lines up to win the game or go down in sweet infamy.

So, the giant cumulous clouds frame the pitch as the sun sets.  Louie drops the ball on the spot and I can tell he's anxious - no shit.  One step.. then two and away she goes : all net! The boys erupt in joy and relief and fall on top of Louie. Several of the mums burst into tears. Wow wow wow.

Thursday, May 8


Ceiling, St Mark's Basilica

The St Mark's basilica constructed from 1084-1117. 

The five domes have golden tiled ceilings - to install them, the artist began at the centre and worked downward, all the while neutralising the gradient "distortion" for the viewer below.

By my simple calculation there is approximately 8000 sq meters of tiled ceiling or about 86,110 square feet or 12,400,000 square inches. If the tiles average a quarter inch on each side, well, there are about 49,600,000 tiles. 

St Mark's Camanile

St Mark's Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica in the Piazza San Marco. 

The tower is 98.6 metres tall and stands alone in a corner of St Mark's Square near the front of the basilica. It has a simple form, the bulk of which is a fluted brick square shaft, 12 metres wide on each side and 50 metres tall, above which is a loggia surrounding the belfry, housing five bells. The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weathervane of the archangel Gabriel. It was built in 1514.

Venice is literally stuffed with tourists and I hear accents from around the world and mainly from America. One can always tell the Americans who are loud and unafraid with their opinions: "I was disappointed with the Campanile maybe because I'm from Los Angeles and the buildings are taller." And so on and so forth.

Madeleine: "Will you bring me a gift?"

So Lounge

Dave and Tabitha grant each of their children a weekend solo with them in the city of their choice. Netta goes for Venice and by good chance, same weekend as us. We visit them for a swim in the pool at Cipriani, where they are staying.  Netta, age 13, plugs into her head phones and reads a book, lounging poolside.

The cool thing about Venice, which takes a day or so to realise - no cars nor bikes. It is all foot traffic or canal boat.


We have a drink with Francesco and Alex, whose family house on the Grand Canal with the most spectacular views of the passage one can imagine, esp. on a beautiful evening like this evening, as the sun sets. Yes, we drink Compari and soda, at least I do, which seems appropriate.

Joining us is Philip Rylands, the Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection - he's been there a long time and tells us about Peggy, who died in 1979 - she a trust funder, art collector, Bohemian and socialite. Ryland, for his part, a Cambridge educated bespectacled Brit, with white hair, and great attention for detail. In short, a match made in heaven. He the good shepherd.

The Canals

Outside our hotel

Venice contains over 150 canals, give or take, spanned by 400 bridges. Give or take. The largest canal in the city, the Grand Canal ("Canalasso"), is aprox two miles long and winds its way in a giant "S" curve through the city from the train station to the Piazzo San Marco and the church of Santa Maria de Salute, at which point it is over 350 feet wide. More than 170 buildings line the Canalasso.  

The grand canal is 5 meters deep and the side canals are mostly 2 meters deep. Excluding the thick muds.

Wednesday, May 7


Santa Maria della Salute

We arrive in Venice sans kids which has us giddy like a couple of teenagers. Sonnet cannot recall the last time, if ever, we have left the Shakespeares for two nights.  They are in good hands.

We are at a wonderful hotel, which was once a palace, overlooking the Grand Canal and a stone's throw from the Piazza San Marco. We drop our bags and go for a walk along the canals and over the bridges then a nap and a candlelight dinner on a checkered table. Yes, cliche, but so what?  I sing 'That's Amore' which gets an elbow in my side from Sonnet.

The Penny Board Gang

Madeleine, Maddy and Poppy

Ok, catching up, it's a so-called 'bank holiday' weekend (17 years here and I still don't get it) and Madeleine invites Maddy and Poppy for a sleep-over and, since "penny" boards are de rigeur ("penny" boards being "skate" boards in my era, which gets an eye-roll from Madeleine) the girls take to the street.

Afterwards, Sonnet joins the gaggle for a pizza chit-chat on school gossips - teachers, who likes whom, various so and so's. Usual stuff. Ms S is pregnant (Me: "Did you give her a knowing look?" Madeleine: "No, Dad, I did not give her a knowing look") and year-end exams around the corner.

The girls watch a movie, a pleasant scene, and I join the otherwise quiet living room to work on my notebook only to find Madeleine staring at me in horror.  I get the hint.

Saturday, May 3

On The Go

Eitan takes several bags to school including his sports gear and, presumably, his books. Friday is a dress-down day so the tie stays at home.  A 'tie' a misnomer BTW - he has four or five 'ties' that he pulls over his head so he doesn't have to do the thing up each morning. Pretty clever. I wonder : why don't I do that?

I walk him part-way to the coach stop and we have an engaging conversation about shaving brushes. These are the important things that a man can pass down to his son.

Made In Chelsea

Green Park tube

Eitan and Madeleine have been watching "Made In Chelsea" which is about these posh early-20s friends with names like Spencer and Binky and Cheska who whinge and whine and moan to each other about their relationships when they aren't, well, shagging. I'm totally hooked.

This evening's episode sees Spencer cheating, again, on some new girl and Binky and Alex talking about their break-up. It's all eye candy and nice to see that nobody really has much fun post university, even the trust funders. But their despair is glorious.

"You've completely broken my heart. I can't believe you've done that. Are you really going to Venice? Can I come too?"
--Binky, on 'Made In Chelsea.

Rainy Day

Doing some do-it-yourself, I step from the ladder onto the kitchen table (antique) which collapses taking me down with it - the dog jumps from underneath yelping.  It's all slow motion as I smash down and I wonder : what's broken? is an artery severed ? The noise gets the kids attention, too. I earn an afternoon of challenge-free chores.

At the sports shop buying Madeleine a NY Yankees backup. Cashier: "You follow the Yankees?"
Me: "Giants. A's. Both in first place."
Cashier: "I like the Red Sox. All the Boston teams, really."
Me: "You been?"
Cashier: "No."
Me: "Good time to be rooting for them anyway. Thanks for telling me."
Madeleine: "What were you guys talking about?"
Me: "Baseball. He likes the Red Sox."
Madeleine: "Everybody wants to live in America."
Me: "Yep."