Saturday, June 29

East Bay

We all have a restful place somewhere in the mind's eye and mine is the Nimitz Way off Wildcat Canyon Road in Tilden Regional Park.  I have been coming here since age four, made out with girls in high school in the dry grass, trained up for several marathons on the ancient cracked blacktop, and Sonnet and I visited inside one week of knowing each other.  I can rely on it.

Madeleine sets new school records in the 100 and 200 m dash for Hill Form (under 11s) during Emmanuel's sports day.  We are thrilled for our gal.

The Forecast Is Sunshine

Moe this morning

Moe is all about the routine, which is up at 4AM to hit the Berkeley Y by 5AM where he is part of a crew of the fit and the young at heart. This morning I meet Willis, a former Navy SEAL, who tells me his 200 missions in the '70s left his knees shot and we joke about push ups : his qualification was 1000, which he did in increments of 100 straight, with 15 minutes in between.  The next day, 1000 pull ups.

From there I go to Peet's coffee and observe three guys playing Frisbee in the intersection. Why not? A suburban pulls up with a dog in the front seat, the wife and kid in back. Another wears a Chinese hat I've seen only on the rice paddies and always there is talk talk talk.  These hippies don't go away though now their homes make them millionaires.

Thursday, June 27

Industry Ventures

Justin works a deal

I arrive in California on a beautiful day, blue skies and 80 degree temperatures. It even smells good, like home. On the way to 1530 I pick up flowers for my parents and think how it might feel to be them, waiting for their kid to arrive. It is a nice feeling.

In London : At a Hampton School competition Eitan runs the 1500m in 4:59 setting a new course record for the Under-12s (Sonnet says he is not impressed though we are). Otherwise Eitan off to Kew Gardens on a biology field trip and Madeleine practicing with the Brass Band for Monday's summer concert.  It rains.

Wednesday, June 26

"The State Capital"

 I write from Tallahasee, Florida, where Thierry and I stay at Hotel Duval, one of three four-star hotels and billed as the city's best.  It was formerly a Howard Johnson's.  Before our meeting with the Florida State Administration, a potential LP in Astorg's next fund, I bone up on my local knowledge : The Seminoles won the Orange Bowl last season. Disclosing this as important as anything else we discuss. And so it goes.

The friendly young women at the hotel front desk looks at me like I have grown horns when she hears me talk in French.  Every now and then the dog has his day.

Monday, June 24

Southernmost Tip

A jogger in Battery Park.

I am still not used to being downtown without the WTC towers; it is a strange feeling not to have them. 

One WTC is nearly complete yet its 105 stories hardly leave an impression, so like any Midtown or modern skyscraper anywhere. Sure, the WTC website tells us, it is America's tallest building - and an indelible New York landmark. But it also lacks any kind of magnificence.

"We remember, we rebuild, we come back stronger."
--Barack Obama, on a steel beem hoisted to the top of the tower.

Sunday, June 23

Cafe Flesh

Sheep Meadow

Along with the usual sunbathers, some gay dudes strike yoga poses, a couple practise martial arts, the entrepreneur makes the rounds ("Ice cold water! Mohitos!") with his ten year old son carrying the load.

We watch a comedy troupe including some of NY's best who have a hard time keeping it PG for the Sunday afternoon. On another patch, we see a sword fight with maybe 12 participants dressed in medieval costume.  It lasts maybe three minutes.  Bikers, joggers, power walkers and roller bladers whizz by navigating the pedestrians. A skinny black dude with over-sized headphones stands in the middle tarmac singing full volume.  Nobody cares.

Upper West Side

Cafe Con Leche @ 81st and Amsterdam

I arrive Manhattan Saturday afternoon and it is a proper summer's day: hot. I drop my bags at Katie's flat and, since she returns from South Africa Sunday morning, head to 22nd St and 7th Ave to drink champagne cocktails and a 2009 cru with Kelly and Christine, who recently had twins, and I am impressed by the peace & quiet.

Katie arrives around 8AM and we go for a morning run in Central Park and coffee at neighbourhood bakery Silver Moon, which has created a special corner on B'way and 106th. From there it is a walk southward via Riverside Park and the Riverside Walk then across midtown to Central Park.

Red House

The Red House, on the corner of York Ave, designed by architect Arthur Young and built in 1904 when there was surely nothing else around.  Since we are on a hilltop, the views of the river (now not visible) would have been superb. It remains a convenient several hundred yards into Richmond Park. Yours for £7M.

Saturday, June 22

Tomato Stalks

The tomatoes about half mast or behind pace for this time of year since there has been little sun this summer so far.  I still have hope that this will be a vintage year.  For all of us.

I am off to America in an hour.

Friday, June 21

Toothy Grin

Eitan will have braces
The kids and I to The Plough - burgers and chips for them, salad for me as I (barely hang on) to Sonnet's low carb diet.

The kids have swim practise, 5:30AM, so up at 5 to ensure a 5:20 pick up.  Then a 45 minute nap and to the pool to facilitate the transfer to their respective school buses (Sonnet's egg-bacon sandwiches devoured).  Sonnet and I stumble through the rest of the day. TGIF.

London On My Birthday

Justin and I have lunch at Sotheby's then walk about Mayfair taking a few photos. He wonders if one has permission to post pictures of strangers on the Internet (blog). A bit of research and I am home free : In the UK it is perfectly legal to take and also to post pictures of members of the public if they are taken in a public place.

Tuesday, June 18

Dog Days

Rusty gets in on the summer

People talk about the weather all the time in Britain, I observe, sitting in a cafe eavesdropping. It is like Seinfeld in the 90s or baseball maybe. If sunny, nod knowingly : "Let's hope summer lasts longer than today." If rain, nod knowingly: "Well, summer has finally arrived." And so on and so be it.

The protests in Brazil remind me of Brad Pitt's movie "World War Z" where zombies climb over each other to mount a wall. I would be pissed, too, knowing that the Brazilian government has spent billions in preparation of the 2014 World Cup and little or nothing on education or the banlieues. Won't be going there any time soon.

Monday, June 17

Any Given Monday

At Madeleine's school

Our week begins with the usual news about Syria (US to arm the rebels, the Russians support Assad); the NSA (who wire tapped world leaders at the G20 Summit in 2009 ); a week end massacre in Omaha, Nebraska. And so on and so forth.

What to tell one's kids these days ? The cost of education soaring, jobless ness in the Eurozone is 24% for the U25s (20% in the UK), cities and living un affordable and then there is the debt for the their generation . Global warming, too. Me, I say : go to work.

Sunday, June 16

Teen Boy


At a cocktail party I meet fair skinned Rose, who sings at St Martin's On The Field.  In confidence, she informs me, she and her choir have recorded the gospel for Nelson Mandela's passing. They did this four years ago so it is 'off the shelf.'

Madeleine: "Who's been searching for 'making out' and 'how to kiss better' on the computer?"
Me: "Huh?"
Madeleine: "Right here, see in the search history, 'making out.'"
Me: "When was it?"
Madeleine: "Um, last Sunday. At 8 o'clock."
Me: "It could have been me, so I know how to kiss your mother" (I kiss Sonnet)
Sonnet: "Mmm"
Me: "How do we know it wasn't you?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, right Dad. It must have been Eitan."
Me: "Well you are the problem child."
Madeleine: "Whatever."

Post Play

Madeleine at school

An example of a morning discussion, on the walk to the train , which Madeleine now takes to school.
Madeleine: "What would Rusty do if he caught a cat?"
Me: "Grab it by the neck and shake it to death, probably."
Madeleine: "Yeah, probably so."
Me: "All creatures great and small. How about that snail there, would you kill it?"
Madeleine: "No. It is still a creature."
Me: "What about a swarm of veg destroying locusts? "
Madeleine: "So?"
Me: "Without crops, people will die."
Me: "Death is never an easy subject."
Madeleine: "Of course I wouldn't want people to die. So I guess I would kill the locusts."
Me: "A wise decision."

A Play

Madeleine is Dandini

Madeleine in play "Cinders," a spin on Cinderella, which the drama class has been working since winter.  I rush to join from ..  Amsterdam and meet Sonnet and the other parents who mingle over luke warm white wine and nibbles.  Madeleine is Dandini (male character), the confident to the princw (played by the dreamy Jack) who is looking for a bride at the ball and the glass slipper and all that. It goes down well and afterwards the three of us have sushi. Nice way to end the week.

Thursday, June 13

Exams In

Madeleine reviews her report card

Sonnet and I have a date to catch ourselves up on work, the Italian exhibition, neighbourhood gossips - usual stuff.  We consider strategies for the kids' school work - the Shakespeares are committed yet we are rarely together evenings as they swim etc.  This makes it difficult to help with their studies, something we would wish to change, in these important next several years.

Me: "How was your trumpet lesson?"
Madeleine: "Fine. I'm learning 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"
Me: "Excellent. I used to sing that to you when I was changing your diapers."
Madeleine: "TMI, dad."

Tuesday, June 11


I always think of Star Trek at the abandoned Eurostar platform, Waterloo Station

I visit Stuttgart for lunch with Armin. New airport, new city. Unfortunately the weather kills any charm : I arrive, it is sticky hot, then it rains. Buckets. I go for a concrete jog dotted by sun fading 1970s objets d'art and graffiti here and there. A palpable sense of : nothing going on, as young people hang by the tramway smoking fags or drinking coffee at sidewalk cafes. It is 2:30PM. Otherwise there's "Das Broadway Musical: Sister Act!" postered everywhere. Robbie Williams visiting in September. I avoid the Mercedes and Porsche museums - both have mfr plants outside Stuttgard , employing ca. 37,000. I am sure there is Hanzel und Gretyl but today I do not have the time to find it.

"Worlds are conquered, galaxies destroyed...but a woman is always a woman. "
-- Captain James T Kirk in 'Conscience of the King'

Monday, June 10

Queen's Guard

St James's Palace, entrance from Pall Mall

Our beloved backyard Scots Pine, which reminds me of Northern California, is toast.  She took a heavy hit when the crown hived off, losing 30% of its volume and becoming unbalanced. Despite the violence, we clung to the tree but no more.  Jamie, the doe eyed arborist, took one climb then dashed all hope, giving us two options: take the tree down or leave the stem, which is what we choose to do.  Perhaps, as he suggests, we will install a climbing pulley for the kids. Or the story.

Ian M Banks, 1954-2013 RIP

Ian M Banks passes from cancer. Banks a prolific British author who is celebrated for his fiction but I know him best for his science fiction, specifically "The Culture", an evilly benign utopian world :

"The Culture is characterised by being a post-scarcity society (meaning that its advanced technologies provide practically limitless material wealth and comforts for everyone for free, having all but abolished the concept of possessions), by having overcome almost all physical constraints on life (including disease and death) and by being an almost totally egalitarian, stable society without the use of any form of force or compulsion, except where necessary to protect others." Wiki

"Law abiding citizens have nothing to fear".
--Foreign Secretary William Hague responds to the NSA's clandestine recording and analysing of global communications


At NYC hospital w/ Katie's friend, a neurosurgeon

Me: "How was the film? " [Dad's note: Madeleine and Molly sees  the movie 'After Earth'; the girls otherwise by themselves]
Madeleine: "It was so scary.  And you're never going to guess what Molly did."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "They, like, asked me my age and I said 12." [Dad's note: 'After Earth' an 12A, meaning a film-gover must be over 12 or accompanied by a parent. Madeleine is 11]
Madeleine: "And Molly said ten. Can you believe it?"
Me: "So how did you get in?"
Madeleine: "The ticket guy was quiting and so he didn't care about being fired."
Me: "Well done". I give Madeleine the Obama rock.

Me: "So how is my reputation around the house these days?"
Madeleine: "Um OK I guess. It could be better. "
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "Like when you tell me to clean the front yard because I haven't talked to Eitan or something. "
Me: "Don't you realise it's part of a bigger plan?"
Madeleine: "How is sweeping the front yard a plan?  None of the other kids have to do chores like we do. "
Me: "I have two words to say to you. "
Me: "Karate Kid."
Me: "Miyagi-san knew what he was doing. "

Saturday, June 8

Stamen & Stigma

Eitan and I check out a flower being pollinated by a bee. Since he does not know the mechanics, I ask him to investigate plant-reproduction on the web and report back to me. When he asks if he has a choice I tell him, sure, he can do the research or the backyard. He goes for the research.

Later, we sit around the living room and Eitan describes what he has learned to Madeleine (under threat of punishment). Who said learning isn't fun ?

I prepare to kill an insect in the kitchen. Madeleine: "All creatures great and small."
Me: "All creatures small and dead."
Madeleine: "Nice, dad."
Me: "It's a bug."
Madeleine: "Whatever."

Brilliant Green

Spring Celmatis, pre flower

Silver would exclaim, when visiting London, early summer, "The Green, Jeff, oh the green!" and so I look around with an extra appreciation, pointing out to Eitan how fabulously brilliant it all is. Tree crowns at maximum, grasses long and vines and bushes flush. Yeah, sure, I try to explain for the umpteenth time photosynthesis (collective groan from the Shakespeares) but even this does not spoil the joy.


Carpenteria californica (I think)

Eitan thoughtfully munches on a custard filled, chocolate sprinkled, croissant : "You can get anything at Tesco." [Dad's note: Tesco is the third largest retailer in the world with ca $100bn of turnover from 6,351 stores]
Me: "Oh?"
Eitan: "Nutella. Pancake mix. Doritos. .."
Me: "Can you imagine the day when you aren't driven by your next sugar hit ?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "Probably not."

Thursday, June 6


Les flics

Cops on mopeds strap on their helmets, gun their small engines, and blitz into Place du Madeleine. Why is this amusing ?

Lights, Camera

Film crew, Gare du Nord

My day starts in Paris where I navigate the metro to Gare du Nord and the fast train to Brussels. The metro stressful, since rush hour, while my station (Gare du Nord) is marked (for some crazy reason) Magenta. But I digress.  I am in Brussels to entice a serious investor into a serious fund and, as I tell Sonnet, it is not every day one asks for 50M bucks.

Tuesday, June 4

Duty & Booze

 Madeleine plays it cool (Auntie Katie's sunglasses)

David an entrepreneur in the drinks business, introducing the UK's benighted and blinkered boozers to exotic imports like "Poison Brew" from Sweden. We have a case of "Carnaby Brown" coolers in the pantry.

Since cheer a big business here not surprisingly government wants a piece of the action.  The duty on beer, for instance, is £19.51 per hectolitre per alcohol content.  So 15 beers or 7.5 litres at 5.3%  would raise a tax of £7.75 (.1971 * 7.5 * 5.3).  The tax per bottle , then, is 51p  - interesting as I see a case of Becks (20 bottles) at Tesco going for £12, or 60p a bottle. Loss making and also cheaper than water.

Last year a movement towards a minimum price on liquor snuffed out by both parties afraid of losing, well, the entire voting public. Britain enjoys its bender.

Monday, June 3

Get Lucky

This cool kid reminds me of Daft Punk.

I lunch with T, who is in town to attend Hg Capital's AGM and to meet with some venture funds and tech guys, which is where his interests are since he is a "recycled entrepreneur", as he once liked to say.  Since 2000, his tech portfolio, which includes Benchmark, Index, Apax, BlueRun, Correlation and Industry Ventures, is 30% net IRR based, in part, on several early exits. We agree : the timing of cashflows has a mighty effect on performance - obvious, but nice to see it confirmed in real numbers (the median vc industry performance over this period 3%).

Sonnet and Madeleine make it home in one piece. Back to work and school tomorrow.

Sunday, June 2

Bounce And SAT

Eitan takes a break from revisioning - tomorrow begins his exams, which last one-two hours per discipline, all day, all week.  Today he puts in six hours compared to six hours over the last seven days.  I try to stay out of it as, his teachers' tell us, part of the learning is learning how to learn.  This year for practice, a goof, but from year eight, it is a mark on the boy's permanent record.

US universities, unlike England, look for the fuller picture : grades, teacher recommendations, extra curriculars and, of course, test scores.  My second SAT exam, for instance, in '84 and I had the flu and did not want to go - Grace got me fed and into the car, which broke down four blocks from our house. She raced up Euclid, in the rain, and swapped for Moe's difficult-to-drive 544 and off we went to the test center, me arriving late but allowed access to the exam hall. I improved and got into college but, if this were the only data point, I would have been f***ed.

Saturday, June 1

Big Tree

The tree out front that we hope won't fall on the house.  It has grown, like, 20% since we moved in.

Eitan and I have dinner at The Plough (fabulous local gastropub converted from the neighbourhood boozer for the over 50s) and discuss the usual stuff : school, sports, goals and expectations .. girls, though nothing new or on the horizon here - or that he would wish to share, anyway. He's never around the opposite sex as Hampton School all boys but (I learn) Joe and Shaheen have gone on a movie double date, while the counter parties unidentified. It still kinda counts.

Crazy Frankensteins

The backyard in first bloom and it is payback for the long winter, particularly hard this year as we adjust to the kids' early morning schedule. Can I take another? But for now the sunrise is 4:30AM and sunset at 9PM.  Amazing what a little extra light does.

Another reason to appreciate this time of year: Roland Garros. And soon, Wimbledon.