To the person that paid our bill anonymously at Café de Flore yesterday, thank you.
To the person that paid our bill anonymously at Café de Flore yesterday, thank you.
Teruki Goto, an independent, right-wing candidate (and singer) currently running for mayor in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Don’t ask what the statement might be. Not a clue.
Having shared his campaign poster currently plastered all over Chiyoda, I wish you all a lovely weekend.
Acknowledgement: Thanks for the tip-off, David.
Postscript: I do wonder what Cicciolina is doing these days… I have rather fond memories of the Made in Heaven exhibit at Sonnabend Gallery, being tickled to death at the sight of little old purple-haired ladies screeching and gasping every time they entered another room with a giant photo of Mr and Mrs Koons. I thought, ‘But you girls have probably done stuff that I haven’t even thought of.’ Priceless. Ilena Sonnabend, RIP.
I admire the Accor Hotels group for having successfully transformed Sofitel, a European analogue of Holiday Inn, to an upmarket franchise. Today’s Sofitel has no resemblance to the one at which I stayed 25 years ago when I flew to Copenhagen for a job interview. Going downmarket is easy, but going upmarket is very tricky business. What makes their feat even more unusual is the fact that Accor were not born as upmarket hoteliers, but rather, as the founders of the ibis hotel chain who later acquired the Sofitel franchise. They are a healthy example of the past not being indicative of future accomplishments.
They recently sent me an email with the subject ‘6 reasons to get married in 2015′.
I know, CRM is difficult stuff. They are not alone in cocking it up. It’s not rare to receive bemusing promotional emails from British Airways. I think one of the main problems companies have in this hi-tech era is that they delude themselves into thinking that they know their customers because they have some fancy enterprise software that supposedly collects, collates and analyses massive heaps of customer ‘data’.
But they don’t know Tom from Harry.
People are not data. I suspect that things get a bit unhinged because companies like Accor are in the people business whilst the software vendors are in the data business who think they understand someone else’s business.
I know, it’s hard.
And, who dressed that groom? (That IS the groom, no? And, was that bubble strategically placed?)
WARNING: This post contains cycling geekiness, so if you do not own any Lycra threads, this may not be for you.
The Paris Roubaix Challenge didn’t go as planned this year because a mechanical problem forced me to retire after only 98km. However, I realised a few interesting things.
My legs were feeling springy the last week or so. When setting off from Busigny in the rain, I was feeling optimistic that I’ll complete the 163km parcours in much less time than I did 2 years ago. This time, I took a bike that has a shorter wheelbase, a steeper head tube angle and a slightly higher bottom bracket, in other words, the wrong frame geometry for the job. However, it was more comfortable. Actually, a lot more comfortable.
Last time I was on a steel frame set with a more relaxed geometry: longer wheelbase, relaxed head tube angle, bottom bracket positioned not very high, more trail and slightly longer chainstays. In theory, I would have a more comfortable ride as a result of a higher degree of vertical compliance resulting from the geometry. I had 28c tyres fitted on both wheels with box-section rims and low flange hubs. They were inflated to 7 bars.
This time, I had a 28c tyre fitted up front, inflated to 6 bars, and a 25c tyre fitted in the rear, inflated to 6 ¼ bars. (I wanted to use the 26c Panasonic Gravel Kings, which provided a puncture-free winter, but just 2 weeks before, the rear tyre got a 10mm gash during a ride. Even then, I only realised after I got home given that the carcass was still intact. Therefore, off came the Gravel Kings and the Continental GP 4 Seasons went back on.) The professionals make a big fuss about tyre pressure, and now I think I know why. Both left and right ring fingers were screaming in pain and felt like they were going to fall off, but otherwise, I was happily bouncing along each cobbled sector in relative comfort. Actually, it was noticeably more comfortable despite the tighter frame geometry. It probably helped that I was feeling a lot more relaxed than last time, but I wasn’t hurting everywhere like I did 2 years ago. I admit that I applied enough chamois cream to push the boundaries of decency. (That said, it was not enough to have it oozing through the bib shorts like my buddy CT had on one jaunt. Don’t let this happen to yourself, because everyone in your circle will hear about it AND you will never hear the end of it. Not only that, people that you don’t even know will also come to know about it. But I digress…) However, a generous application of chamois cream does not explain the lack of pain felt through the spine, rib cage and shoulders. The only bits that are still sore are my right thumb and left wrist.
Tyre choice might be important, but tyre pressure is serious business.
I was happily bouncing along when I came by a bush in the middle of a pavé sector where I had decided to stop, sit on the ground and rest whilst eating a muesli bar 2 years ago because I was in so much pain. This time, I just cracked a smile, having recalled the episode, and accelerated.
Did I mention that tyre pressure is serious business? A high quality floor pump is a worthwhile investment. I use a Lezyne Floor Drive pump. I used to have a Zéfal floor pump, but it was utter crap.
When riding on the obnoxious cobbles of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the chain gets whipped around violently. As long as you keep pedalling, it should not drop, but as soon as you stop pedalling, there is a risk of it becoming thrown off the chain ring. I previously mumbled that a chain catcher is something that I will probably never know if it works, only if it does not work. Well, I take it back. I noticed it this time. Twice, actually. The chain jumped off the bigger ring and landed on the smaller ring instead of landing on the bottom bracket, thanks to the K-Edge Pro Road Chain Catcher. It worked like a charm. It’s a doddle to fit, weighs just a bit more than a fart and does the business of keeping your chain from dropping on the bottom bracket. Whilst my K-Edge Garmin Handlebar Mount did its job up front, the Chain Catcher did its job down below. Essential equipment for the cobbles and gravel, I would submit.
The rear wheel hit a particularly large cobble on the Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosiàres sector when I tried to overtake 2 cars that were following their friends (annoying presence on narrow, cobbled sectors). When I was done replacing the rear inner tube, I noticed a rattle in the front wheel, revealing that the cones on the front hub were becoming loose. I normally use a front wheel with a Chris King R45 hub radially laced to a Velocity A23 rim with 24 Sapim CX-Ray spokes. However, I did not want to take unnecessary risks, so I put on a spare wheel with a vintage Campagnolo Record hub laced 2-cross to a Mavic Open Sport rim with 36 Sapim Sport spokes, that is, an old school bomb-proof wheel (except for Mavic’s reputation for brittleness). It transpired that I had not tightened the cones properly the last time I had serviced the hub. Lest I ruin the hub completely and risk a crash, I decided to retire and called for my personal broom wagon. Even though it did not have the ending I had envisaged, I enjoyed every minute of it and even made a couple of interesting discoveries.
Paris-Roubaix is my favourite pro cycling race. By a large margin. It’s probably because it’s completely unpredictable. Dry, wet, in whatever weather condition, it is never dull. Like other races, there are important elements like strategy, tactics and flirting with Lady Luck. Unlike other races, it is the only one on the contemporary World Tour calendar that brings ‘martial’ to my mind. Not just brains and muscles, but a huge measure of brawn.
I finally went to watch it live, at the one spot where I really wanted to watch it, Carrefour de l’Arbre.
The minor dilemma was that I actually wanted to watch the race directly with my naked eyes and not through a viewfinder or a little digital screen on some electronic device, but I wanted a few pics too. I decided to increase the shutter speed, set it on continued blast, hold the camera in front just below the waistband and keep depressing the shutter button whilst I actually watched the action. I got a few half-decent shots whilst I actually enjoyed the action.
Of course, none of the shots capture their speed, the smell of the dusty air, the sound of their bikes bouncing over the cobbles, the cheering spectators, the support cars’ claxon… all the things that make it worth being there in person.
Having parked the car 3km away and walking to the spot, I was nervous about arriving in time, but we got there just moments before Roelandts blasted through the sector. Lucky…
After something like 236km and having gone through 23 cobblestone sectors before hitting the 5-star Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, the pained look on every one of them said ‘destroyed’. Yet, considering everything, the speed at which they were going just seems implausible.
I could not help but be in awe as these guys whizzed by only inches away from my face.
One regret I have about the day is not to have come away with a shot of the last 3 riders just in front of the broom wagon after they exited the sector, onto Pavé de l’Arbre. I was in the perfect spot as we slowly walked through the fields back to the car, but I had already put away my camera. It was perhaps the most beautiful scene I saw that afternoon. John Degenkolb won the 2015 Paris-Roubaix, but I think everyone who finished the race is a winner.