Los Angeles

I had always thought of Los Angeles as the west coast version of Miami. Pretty people, sporty cars, a lot of plastic surgery, no substance. Well having spent the last week there with Kabuki I can confirm that LA loves it’s cars and the silicone implant business has many healthy years ahead of it. I can also say, however, that I was quite positively impressed with LA (at least those areas which I spent time in … Venice, Santa Monica, and a quick tour of the upcoming Arts District).Not surprisingly it had great weather but the people weren’t only nice but they actually seemed to have some depth. Who knew?

I also really loved the architecture which is surprisingly varied and creative (not to mention completely different to London). I also came to really appreciate the spaciousness of the city where each neighborhood has it’s own feel and the “city” streets are largely populated by neighbors rather than commuters.Last but not least, it was an opportunity to see old friends who I rarely get to see in London. I wish I was better at staying in touch with folks but I seem to need a common geography to actually get my social gears working.

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Mark, great seeing you after WAY too long. Vanessa great meeting you. Christian, your conversation seems to have distracted me from taking a picture. Hope to see you all in the not to distant future.

Jetlag

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Just flew back from San Francisco today and am experiencing MAJOR jet lag. It’s a shame jet lag isn’t something you can’t just get used to as I’d have had plenty of opportunities to lick this nasty inefficiency. Well here’s to trying to power through the day and going to bed at a reasonable “London time”. 

San Francisco

I’m back in San Francisco. Nominally for a conference but also to try and understand better how people will react to LifeGadget. How far away am I from being “investible”? What do I need to do to turn the corner? etc. I’m also looking forward to seeing so many old friends that I rarely get to see anymore. Should be fun, might have some bumps, but looking forward to it with anticipation.

Berlin Trip

Kabuki took her global team to Berlin for a week for some team building and all I got was a lousy teeshirt. Isn’t that what those stupid teeshirts say? Well in my case my wife outperformed (as she often does) and I got to hang out in Berlin for 4 days in her swanky hotel. “Schwing” as Wayne from Wayne’s world would say. Like many people — at least of my generation — I associate Berlin with those heady days in 1989 when the wall came down. It was such an optimistic time and it created the template for peaceful revolution that allowed other countries and people to believe that this could happen. Well, as this trip would prove, that was a long time ago. Not that the mood of optimism has vanished — to the contrary — but the distinction between east and west, the “wall”, the tension of the cold war, all of that has gone. I guess in a way that was both the promise of the revolution and a reasonable expectation of more than twenty years of integration. Anyway, I hadn’t intended to get on a podium and philosophise so let me get off my high horse and share some pictures from the trip.

First, and to shift the mood completely away from high-minded idealism, here are pictures of a duck. I like ducks. Really I like birds in general, I’m not overly preferential of ducks but being part of the larger bird family makes them good by me. Fortunately for my duck friend I had an amazing f2.0 prime lens in my bag and got some pretty decent shots of said duck:

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Now obviously very few people travel to Berlin to see the ducks so much as it pains me … it’s time to move on to other topics. Most of the remaining pictures were taking in and around the Tiergarden which is in central Berlin. Around the periphery of the park you have the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building, and many other fine tourist attractions. Much cooler than a duck but maybe not quite as personable. Here than is the Tiergarden … enjoy:

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The holocaust memorial in Berlin was build in 2005 and has over 2,000 cylindrical blocks spread over 3.4 acres of land. It was built to create a sense of uneasiness and confusion that was representative of this tragic time. It was weird though being there as there were solemn moments in the memorial where you could reflect and feel the intent of the architects but on a warm summer day over 60 years after the end of WWII there were many young people who were playing and laughing and seemingly not behaving in a manner befitting of the memorial. Personally I went back and forth on this as I think you could argue their happiness and disregard for the seriousness of this memorial is an icon for human renewal that is both a great strength and potentially a curse to repeat our mistakes throughout time. Either way, I don’t think anyone had any bad intent and being a “glass half full” guy that I am I’m happy to pass on criticising their behaviour. 

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The Reichstag building is a classic. Build with heavy masonry and of an architecture very different from the modern era. After reunification the Reichstag again became the centre for German government. As there had been so much damage to the building during the war the modern Reichstag was built to mimic many of the older features of the building but also has an ultra modern core and dome structure at its centre. Pretty cool architecture and the contrast between the two styles is pulled off really well. 

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Because of my association of Berlin to “the wall” I was quite keen to see what remained of it. The answer? Very little. It’s amazing that something so important and iconic could disappear to the amount that it has here. I guess for some Berliners this is a very good thing. The wall represented the problem, the absence represents the integration and that things are back to normal. That said, I’ll speak up for the tourists and say I’d like more wall please. We did see a little part that was restored but it is in rather poor condition and I doubt it will last to many more years:

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And of course it is considered “best practice” to always include at least one picture of yourself in your pictures so as to prove that you were indeed “there” rather than simply pulling others pictures off of google. Note the photographer is my lovely wife who made sure to include the word “madness” directly above me in the second shot. Accident? No, I don’t think so.

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And then there’s “Checkpoint Charlie” which is now manned by beggars in fake uniforms who carry American flags but speak with a distinctly un-American accent. 

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Oh and a trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without a picture of the couch in our hotel. To be fair, it is pretty cool. At a distance the couch looks like it was a fabric on its surface but on closer look it’s just nails that have been bent over. Did I sit on this bed of nails? No. But I did admire it and capture it on digital film:

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Padstow Weekend

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On July 1st this year Kabuki and celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary. As part of that celebration Kabuki organised a trip to Padstow, a quaint english seaside village in Cornwall (the southwest corner of England for those of you who don’t know). It was a nice chance for us to relax, get away from the city, and spend time together without too many distractions. One of the things that Padstow is known for is for its food. This is in part due to Rick Stein (a well known british chef) owning huge parts of the town … nice restaurants, fish and chip joints, bed and breakfasts, and more. We took advantage of this gastronomic inclination and ate like royalty … eating at Stein’s Seafood Restaurant and two of Paul Ainsworth’s restaurants (Number 6 and the more informal Rojano’s). In between meal sit downs we also made sure to break for the famous Cornish Pasty. Here are some pictures from the trip (for a complete set in higher resolution visit my smugmug gallery):

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The town

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Istanbul Vacation

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We’re now back from our week in Istanbul. The vacation originated by a friend who lives in Istanbul asking if we were interested in running in the annual Marathon and culminated in us taking a week around the race to explore the town. The week started cold, rainy, and windy but ended up sunny and beautiful.

Throughout the week we were impressed with Istanbul. It is city rich in tradition but at the same time modern in outlook. I believe that cities have a personality or ethos that reflect the views and values of its people Istanbul’s personality is compassionate, friendly, and open minded. A few examples include:

  • When it rains people in cars slow down or go out of their way to avoid puddles so pedestrians don’t get wet.
  • There is a tremendous number of homeless cats and dogs but they are all taken care of … well fed, healthy, and people in the crowd seem to be happy to play with them and appreciate them.
  • The cabbies aren’t great at speaking English but are friendly and try to help. Unlike some Asian locations, you aren’t treated as some sort of weird outsider … there is never any sense of hostility toward “a westerner”.
  • Muslim mosques are everywhere and religion is important to people here but so is partying and lifestyle. It’s a balanced view that seems much healthier than what you might imagine by just watching the television or reading press releases out of Ankur.

Here are a few pictures from our trip. For a complete set of pictures choose the link at the bottom to my SmugMug site.

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The complete set of photographs – in full resolution – are available here:

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