Monday, 29 September 2008

הבלוג של ראש השנה

As if Haas students needed an excuse for a party, today was the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Dana and Amir offered their apartment and everyone clubbed together to provide the food. This included apples and honey (with the hope of a sweet new year), Gefilte fish (ground "filled" fish - yummy, but not the most popular dish at the table...) and tzimmes (baked carrots, dates and raisins). Elad gave us a talk on the symbolism of all the food and then Shauli led the traditional blessings. After that it was time to eat!

The scene is set.

Maya shows off her newly painted finger nails.

Sophia uses her vice-like grip on dad Elliot.

The gathering.

Amir finally makes himself useful.

Ground fish! I liked it...

Sagy tries to blog me, but he's too slow!

Settling in for the night.

Elad in full flow. He's hoping to become a Haas professor when he graduates.

Ready to go.

It's all happening in the kitchen.

Amanda and Fini.

Vince and Christine (still no baby).

Amir and Loren discuss business over a bottle of Sprite.

Dana illustrates the lot of the Haas partner - I know it well.

Amir makes himself useful a second time!

Elliot and me.

Survivors' photo.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Juvenile precipitation

It rarely rains in California, so instead they have to organise baby showers! Anyway, today 8-month-pregnant Christine was treated to a surprise party and the full range of baby related merchandise. Only one post-birth baby was present, Logan, and he lapped up the cooing and attention like a pro.

Looking up "baby shower" in Wikipedia gives you a range of traditional activities we could have indulged in. Apart from the cake and the presents, these were mercifully ignored.

Pleasingly non-gender-specific banner.

Amanda, hostess extraordinaire, organises.

You're eating for two now.

Elise (she's done all this before) strikes a pose and husband Elliot can only watch astonished.

Dana, my blogging arch-rival, shows off that she has a much better camera than me.


Expectant parents. It's so good that they can still joke about what's to come.

Sagy (in focus), Moran (slightly out of focus) and Jesse (completely blurred).

Logan steals the show, as ever.

A mother has to get her iron supplements somewhere!

Friday, 26 September 2008

When babies attack

I got to look after unspeakably cute and chilled-as-can-be Logan again for a couple of days this week. Thankfully his nappy didn't leak this time. I must be improving. Less thankfully I've had to turn down a number of full-time "mannying" job offers due to my visa status. Although the American economy seems to stay afloat on the employment of people with a questionable right to be here, being kicked out for providing illegal childcare would be a fairly stupid end to Hannah's MBA. I guess I'll just open another beer and settle myself back down onto the La-Z-Boy...

New trick: crawling! But backwards only.

I've lost him in the sun!

Swinging in the village.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Day out

Today I had a trip out with the Mormon moms. Yep, you read that correctly. Tamara, a fellow Haas partner and Latter Day Saints member, takes her two daughters to a pre-school club. Today the club was going to the visitors' centre of the local temple to see an exhibition of sculptures of scenes from the life of Jesus. Kids, Jesus and a trip out - how could I resist?

The temple is something to behold, perched on a hilltop south-east of Oakland. A palm lined approach includes a pebbled stream with bridges crossing at intervals, lush grass and flowers grow everywhere and there's piped hymns and organ music across the whole complex. Most Mormon's aren't allowed inside their own temples so I thought it wise not to try to sneak in for a few bloggable pics, but a plush centre next door tells you everything you need to know.

We were given a tour around the sculpture exhibition of important scenes from Jesus' life, including depictions of Jesus walking on water, Jesus raising Lazarus and Jesus appearing to Joseph Smith. I could have answered all the tour guide's questions but thought I'd let the toddlers have their turn. That degree in theology is still working out well for me.

While the Mormon church has its fair share of weird ideas, as an Anglican I guess I'm not in a position to throw any stones. There are now more Mormon's outside of the USA than in, but it remains a quintessentially American religion tied into the history of the pioneering of the west and the freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution. Jesus is depicted everywhere as a square-jawed caucasian boy with a beard (but then check out any church window in the northern hemisphere, I suppose).

As they ask in California: if Jesus was Jewish, how come he has a Mexican name?

The Oakland Temple. Nice.

The main man!

Feeding time.

Baby-zilla attacks!

The Oakland and SF skylines.

Three monkeys in the back. From the left: Abi, Lyla, Evie.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Gender is a social construct

So said the professor leading the workshop in gender communication, which had been organised by the Women in Leadership (WIL) club. After the last WIL debacle I had been cajoled into attending this by the promise that I would not be the only man. Thankfully that was true - every female attendee had to bring along a male associate. Sound exciting? Sadly not.

It started with a questionnaire. What kinds of topics do you discuss with women friends? With men friends? Are there some words you would never use talking to a man? Were you ever teased for behaviours others thought innapropriate for your gender?

By the time we'd moved on to questions about what careers we aspired to when young, and I had to confess that I'd failed to become the stuntman detective that I had aimed to be aged six, I was beginning to doubt the academic rigours of the process. The two hour session could probably have been truncated into the questions "were you ever a teenager?" and "did you grow up in the 80s?" I longed for some ants to cover me so that I could run screaming from the room. Alas not one made itself available, and perhaps that's the moral of the tale.

Bring muffins and students will follow.

The club president introduces lecturer Bill Sonnenschein.

I have a dream...

Group discussions. Group hugs were avoided.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Picnics and exams

Hannah has finished her mid-terms, the exams that they give business school students three weeks into the course. Well you don't want them to get lazy, do you?

Before her final economics test we went for a picnic with Elliot, Elise and their three daughters Maya, Hannah and Sophia. Elise is studying with (big) Hannah and claimed that it would be the perfect way to focus. We'll see when the results come out.

All the girls are bilingual in English and Spanish. I've been doing an online Spanish course, and it's deeply humbling to have your pronunciation corrected by a two-year-old.

Hannah (left) and Maya, both harsh Spanish tutors.

If you go down to the woods today...

The blogger blogg'd

There is an unwritten understanding that if one blogs one is immune from being blogged oneself. This rule is blatantly disregarded by those who study at Haas. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had been photographed surreptitiously and posted onto the official Haas students blog site.

Can you spot the shifty looking person below, someone possibly feeling paranoid about being caught impersonating a student while stealing ice cream?

Dodgy geezer.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Come again another day

IT RAINED! Finally, after weeks of waiting, weeks of baking sunshine, weeks of unnaturally good weather. Weeks during which fellow Brit, Akhil (knowing that a sunny day means apocalyptic downpours the next) has instinctively taken an umbrella to uni with him.

It was the smell at first. That angelic ozone of precipitation, evapourating from parched concrete, drifting on the fickle Pacific breeze and in through the open window of our apartment. Could it be? Could rain, that long-forgotten benefactor of my homeland, that confidante, comforter and comrade of the Anglo-Saxon race have finally made landfall on these colonial shores?

I pulled open the French windows onto the balcony, shy, timorous, not wanting to be wrong and so wanting it to be true.

There it was. Rain. Rain. Rain was falling - falling - from the cinder skies. The cars shimmered with a majestic lustre. My eyes defined a world made new, a world of gleaming hues, where every bejeweled surface refracted a million images in each droplet.

As you can imagine this was very hard to photograph, but I've done my best.

Dark skies over the village...what could it mean?

Look! The little grey speckles are where raindrops have landed!!

Told you (special thanks to Amanda's car).

Me, in the rain. OK it was very light rain, but it all counts! I'm hoping to see a puddle soon.

Science never sleeps

It was Mum and Dad's last day before they cross the country to Boston. After a trip to the post office where Dad wanted to pick up a few of the 3.75 billion US flag stamps that have been printed incorrectly, we met Hannah for lunch (she's working hard for her statistics exam) and then caught the bus up to the Hall of Science. There's an engineering exhibition on there that Dad (engineer, Birmingham university, class of 1954) wanted to see.

It was great! We built bridges, tested paper aeroplanes in a wind tunnel and got to race paddle boats. Thankfully there were very few children around to ruin our fun.

Then it was back down to Berkeley and a trip on the BART out to the airport, ready for them to catch the "red eye". We were there four hours early, which meant that Dad could relax.

I BARTed back, and through a series of bizarre circumstances had to drive Amanda's car back from the station on my own. And you'll never guess what, but not only do people here drive on the wrong side of the road but their cars are the wrong way around too! Every time I tried to change gear I wound down the window. These Americans are crazy.

Who is this man, and why has he been following me around?

It's a clear day! Berkeley all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

I looked deeply into my DNA, and saw my mother.

The earth. And the way out.

Spot the engineer.

And check out my bridge, made from a single bit of paper! See, a degree in theology can come in useful.

Big wheels keep on turning.

Davies Inc. - family builders since 1976.

The rock-steady flight of my (patented) paper aeroplane in the mini wind tunnel.

No comment.

Ahhh, the sunlight shimmering on the waters.