Friday, January 31

Dippy The Dinosaur


King Edward VII gave "Dippy", a 26-meter Diplodocus, to the Natural History Museum in 1905.  I think he looks like Dino in the Flintstones.  But Dino a Snorkasaurus.  You know, a sauropod.

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, post school, I would find myself at Jeff Morgan's house watching Gilligan's Island followed by Star Trek and ... the Flintstones reruns, which otherwise aired on 'prime time' from 1960 to 1966. Hard to believe people watched cartoons while eating TV dinners but there you have it.

Jeff's brother, Louis, had cancer so his parents were never around which suited me and Jeff just fine - unsupervised afternoons, junk food ..  candy .. . as much television as we could handle.  We were modern day Tom Sawyers. That's what it seemed like back then.

Me: "What happened at school today?"
Madeleine: "Nothing."
Me: "Anything interesting happen?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "Let's try something different. You choose a subject. You know, something you want to talk about."
Madeleine: "How about 'can I leave the dinner table?" ?"
Me: "Ok, It's a start."

Tuesday, January 28

Self Portrait XXXV

Charlie Shrem, the CEO of Bitcoin exchange company BitInstant (backed by the Winklevoss brothers) and a well-known voice in the virtual currency community, charged with scheming to sell and launder $1 million worth of Bitcoin to users of the illegal drug website Silk Road.

The Manhattan Federal Court deems the 24-year old Shrem a flight risk and sets bail at $1 million, puts a tracking device around Shrem's ankle, and remands him to his parents' house in Brooklyn.  They must be like, WTF ?!  Raise the kid with good values - check.  Feed and clothe the little bastard - check. Pay for private college - check, check, check. And the payback ? Mom is picking up Charlie's dirty clothes again.

Monday, January 27

Cold Shower

One of the things I notice about getting older, other than an inability to keep up with Eitan running, is that I am now more clumsy revealed by several recent falls caused by mis-judging stupid situations including a dangerous one on my bike. I also have lost some of my sixth sense like when you drop a pencil and your hand is there to catch it without thinking.

To counter this, and I have no idea if there is any scientific merit here, I take freezing cold showers alternating with hot water. It certainly gives me a goose in the morning.

Sunday, January 26

Box Dress

11 fading fast

Madeleine soon to turn 12 and we consider her celebration. I push for a party but neither kid comfortable with that at our house. Could it be the cow suit ? But anyway, I have to remind myself that this fabulous kid is not the same age as her older brother. She holds her own just fine.

In other news, Hollande mans up and - finally - Trierweiler is out.  It's hard to sympathise with Hollande, the putz, but Trierweiler sounds like a complete whack job. I have some insight into her type having also found myself trapped in the company of an insecure, opportunistic and ambitious (Asian) woman - may her career RIP.  From humble origins, Trierweiler forced her way on to the scene, damaging people along the way, without failure, until now. Hollande should have seen the signs well before the inevitable crash.

Friday, January 24

Cash Flows

Eitan walks to the coach which takes him and a bunch of local kids to school.  He looks like he could have an HP-12C or a bond table tucked inside his coat pocket.

And the boy has expressed an interest in business. Who can forget the methodical planning behind the bakery business which netted our neighbors, Helen and Martin, as customers? Or Eitan's attempt to sell my old Sony VAIO on eBay which I discouraged since it's missing a couple of important keys and the battery life about nil. He bemoans the Internet for squashing the paper-route (having listened to my glorified stories of delivering the long-gone Berkeley Gazette) and now he puts his Great Brain to work on books or, specifically, how to get them from the pulping skip to Africa.  These are all excellent initiatives.

Madeleine plays field hockey, a new sport, which takes over from net-ball, which comes to an end this month.

Tuesday, January 21


Danish 'functionalism', which began in the 1930s and spread outwards, relied on rational architecture making use of concrete, iron and glass, preferably to meet social needs.

The Bellahoj Svommstadion fits the bill, constructed by the City of Copenhagen, Culture and Leisure, Copenhagen Properties KEjd, who designed the building in 2005. It's also a magnificent aquatics complex with 50-meter swimming pool, diving well and spectator stands all sunk in industrial cement and supported by by white steel beams.  Floor to ceiling windows allow a view of the pool and the outdoors.  I feel like a million bucks doing my back and forths.

Copenhagen for meetings, home for dinner.

Women at Goodyear factory in Northern France shaking the President's hand: "It's not soft, your handshake !"
President Hollande: "Neither my hand nor my head. And I'll say nothing about the rest. "

Sunday, January 19

Low Skies

Richmond Park jog

Britain's top sugar watchdog, Ian Macdonald, is on the Coca-Cola and Mars payrolls, never admitted by him and only recently made public thanks to a Channel 4 investigation.  Ian chairs the government panel examining the impact of sugar consumption on health; his recommendations later this year will frame the national guidance.  But I'm sure there's no conflict.

Lena Dunham, who is all out there and gnarly on her hit show 'Girls' and promotes 'anti-glamour' for more realistic images of women in the film and media industries is seriously photo shopped in next month's Vogue magazine. On the online fallout, she tweets: "Some shit is just too ridiculous to engage." Unless, that is, you have a twelve year old girl in your house.

Our last-night dinner party a success at 15, including kids, though we learn that our Spanish friends Alberto and Lucrecia returning to Madrid.  Now we have even more reason to visit a wonderful city.

Saturday, January 18


Penny boarding

When I was about Madeleine's age I had a penny board, also known as a skateboard, which I practised in the backyard of 1530 Euclid. Unfortunately our block too steep, and trafficked, to learn it properly.

We are with Veronique and Marshall, whose pal, the CEO of BP, caught by Marshall last summer throwing water balloons from Marshall's 7th floor roof deck with Houston, Marshall's 16 year old son. Central London, mind you.

Tony visits for a walk in Richmond Pk and in town for the Davos pre parties (Tony a member of the Dean's Council at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University). Tony a 'recycled entrepreneur', his expression, who's first company, Morris Decisions Systems, a NYC-based PC dealer and network systems integrator, #9 on Inc. 500 in the year before its acquisition in the 1980s. Since, he has been a formidable investor in vc. We share a number of interests.

Me: "How was the walk?"
Madeleine: "Good."
Me: "Was the dog behaved?"
Madeleine: "Yes."
Me: "Were there a lot of people in the park?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "Can you answer all my questions with one word?"
Madeleine: "Maybe."

Wednesday, January 15

Engine Hall

So .. . back from Paris in time to see Madeleine's net-ball game at her school against some team (I don't know, she doesn't know). Emanuel wins, 11-3.

I am in Paris for the Astorg New Year's party which is at a trendy nightclub in the 9e which we take over for the affair. The evening entertainment around a hypnotist.  Weird in a very French sort of way.

2013 attendance at the British Museum sets a record with 25,000 people a day, on average.  The Elgin Marbles have never been so popular.

Me: "What's your homework ?"
Madeleine: "I have some Spanish thing.  I have to write about our family. In Spanish."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. Like 'we have a dog' or 'mom has brown hair.'
Madeleine: "And 'dad has lots of hair.' "
Me: "Good. You're learning."

Sunday, January 12

Swimming Day

Homework Sunday

I spend Saturday at the Mountbatten leisure center in Portsmouth, a wonderful new swimming complex with a modern design including an undulating wooden roof covering the 50-meter pool. The Shakespeares attempt qualifying times for 'the Surreys' regional swimming championships. Madeleine just misses the 50-meter freestyle in 34.45 while Eitan has the 100-meter (1:04.14) and 200m freestyle. Eitan: "I didn't get much training done recently over Christmas so I wasn't very fit."  

The drive to Portsmouth about 90 minutes through Surrey on the A3. We arrive home late but in time for me (and Sonnet) to catch some of the NFL playoffs.

Mr Normal

Dough boy

When things go down a good scandal in order and France's Hollande gives us just that, shagging a Fr movie star 20 years his younger. In past, the French turned the blind eye to their leader's dalliances but Fonzi changed all that, rubbing the post-crisis struggling nation's face in it, with the sexy and talented Carla Bruni. No, Hollande promised to return some respect to the highest office (even though he ditched his longtime girlfriend and mother of his children for a hot tempered editor at Paris Match but whatever)

France could use some presidential virility but pictures of the famously hen pecked Hollande taken around the corner on a moped and hustled into his sexual den wearing a motor helmet to avoid detection, well, a bit too much.

The President's popularity now in the teens and no wonder : it has been a mess from the start. It poured rain on his inaugural march down the Champs Elysee (he, refusing umbrella). Then the plane  on his first diplomatic mission struck by lightening (Germany, flight turned around). Of course there was the tax-the-rich fiasco of 2012 and, today, France the sole country in the Western World not forecasting growth while 54% of the workforce in public services. No fun here.

"I could have made a fortune in cheeseburgers, but I finally chose politics."
--Francois Hollande, President of France

Photo from AP and Getty Images

Friday, January 10


`Well, it's Friday night.  Back in business.

There's a good vibe in St Pancras as I return from Paris. First real Friday, post-holidays, and people are happy: life mostly sucks about now but, hey, we made it thru the week. It's worth something.

The kids back in school and into their routines : up at 6:30AM or 7, out the door for respective trips east and west by coach or train.  This morning Eitan has swimming practice, Sonnet works on labels. Madeleine creates an itinerary for a date with mom including Whole Food for sushi followed by Anchor Man 2 (movie).

Me: "This dog doesn't listen to anybody."
Eitan: "You've made Rusty what he is - dumb and stupid and all over the place."
Me: "Gee, thanks a lot."

Sunday, January 5

Wildcard Game

Sean Alexander is tackled

I prepare for some NFL football and tonight it is the 49ers v the Packers, a good rivalry, being played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, despite A) record shattering cold temps and B) the Niners 12-4 and the Packers 8-7-1.  The playoffs have begun.

Sonnet befuddled by American football btw - what is the point of grown men battering each other, she ponders? (Dad's note: this is exactly the point). But then, one would expect this opinion from an art major from Smith College.  I recall '94 when we saw the Bears play Washington State at Memorial Stadium, her first Div 1 football game (the Bears lose on the final play), seated close to the field and next to the cheerleaders. "Perky", she said.

The kids and Aneta have friends over, which I comfortably sleep through (it is the afternoon).

Saturday, January 4

Hip Hip

The rain comes down - another once-in-a-hundred-years storm batters the UK - raising a 'severe weather warning' from the Met Office and assembling the elite government "Cobra" team who respond to national emergencies. It all sounds pretty macho to me.  The BBC weather people have a ball, warning us to "stay inside unless absolutely essential" and "your life could be in danger" and so on and so forth.

This is the fifth mega storm in the last four or five years, go figure. The convergence of high tides, winds and low pressure systems coming down from the arctic pole, floods the south and midwest, making life miserable for thousands of people.

Rusty sneaks under the kitchen table.
Me: "The dog is scared of me. He knows when I'm gonna brush his teeth."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "Whenever I use that voice, the dog knows it's coming."
Eitan: "I know when you are going to give me chores, by your voice ."
Me: "Oh?"
Eitan: "And by the way you walk up the stairs."
Eitan: "And the way you open the door. If it's fast, without knocking, I know: chores."
Me: "I guess I had better change up. So you won't know what's coming."
Eitan: "Well I'm still not going to do them."

Friday, January 3

A Beautiful City

Oxo Wharf

We say a sad farewell to Auntie Katie and the holiday season, which crept up on us slowly, stayed for a bit too long, then ended rather abruptly.  Same as forever.

I visit my office, Sonnet takes down the Christmas tree and the kids do some revisions. Work and school boot up Monday and Tuesday.

"Great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies!" 
--Boris Johnson describes the London Assembly members who voted not to debate his budget amendment.

Thursday, January 2

London Skyline

From Richmond Pk

While we are at it, Madeleine's sushi menu (prepared by Madeleine with sou chef Katie)
Salted peas
Miso soup

Main course:
Salmon nigiri (Plain salmon on rice)
Treasure of the sea (salmon caviar and rice)
California hand roll (carrot, rice, avocado and mini caviar and salmon)
Cuttlefish nigiri (plain cuttlefish on rice)
Salmon and tuna handroll (salmon, tuna, rice, avocado, grated carrot and mini caviar)
Salmon sashimi (plain salmon)
Tuna roll (plain tuna wrapped in rice)
Inside out roll

Business Owner

The holiday routine continues into the New Year: Sleep until 11AM, some coffee, a bit of exercise ..  dog walk, television.. vodka martini, dry, with a twist (or olives, if Katie).  Next week's gonna be a shocker.

Eitan makes busy preparing dinner:
Butternut squash soup with bread and cheese
Seasoned Chicken breasts with potatoes and cabbage and tomato and goat cheese salad
Chocolate mousse with lemon glazed fruit salad for dessert

Surrey Hills

We ramble in the Devil's Punch Bowl, a large natural amphitheatre near Hindhead, Surrey. An ancient story claims that two giants clashed here, and one, scooping up earth to throw at the other, made the landmark before missing the throw and creating the Isle of Wight. 

In any case, the kids whine and complain since they would rather stay inside and play with their gadgets.  It does not help that, en route, there is torrential rain.  Sonnet rolls her eyes.  Rusty has the time of his life.