Friday, January 30, 2009

Dating A Banker Anonymous

"Are you or someone you love dating a banker? If so, we are here to support you through these difficult times. Dating A Banker Anonymous (DABA) is a safe place where women can come together – free from the scrutiny of feminists– and share their tearful tales of how the mortgage meltdown has affected their relationships. DABA Girls was started by two best friends whose relationships tanked with the economy. Not knowing what else to do, we did what frustrated but articulate girls have done since the beginning of time - we started a blog. So if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life, lighten your heart with laughter and email your stories to dabagirls@gmail.com." dabagirls.com

You really couldn't make this stuff up.. via the NYT.. "Despite the seemingly endless stream of disparaging remarks and shaking heads, some of the appeal of dating a banker remains."

UPDATE:"'Dating A Banker Anonymous': Did The New York Times Get Punk'd?"

Powernap

How to fail Metaphysics

at the University of Hawaii..

Metaphysics DISCLAIMER

"..That’s ok with me -- you have a right to consider me narrowminded if you want to. But the important thing is this: You should not take this course because you expect to study astrology, ESP, and so on. I will not ask my students to study topics that I consider foolish, and I consider astrology, etc., very foolish. So if you signed up for the course because you are interested in the supernatural or paranormal, please drop the course. You will not be able to pass the course by concentrating your attention on the paranormal, and trying to prove its existence to me. Many people have tried. None of them has passed the course. Please don’t add your student record to the gruesome list of people who believed that they could convince Amundson that they possessed ESP.." via MR

from Comments..

"That Metaphysics teacher is obviously a Cancer, or maybe a Leo."

Made me smile on a rainy Friday morning..

Thursday, January 29, 2009

818m

Q: How do you say 'bubble' in Arabic?

A: فقاعة

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Done like disco


Click the illustration to view in FULL size, can you name them all?

Le naufrage britannique

"..obsessed with money, drowning in debt and morally bankrupt.." How Britain lost its way

Jim Rogers

Is an American investor and financial commentator. He is co-founder, along with George Soros, of the Quantum Fund, and is a college professor, author, world traveler, economic commentator. wikipedia

He recently, and now famously, made statements with regard to the UK economy, one of which appears below..

"I would urge you to sell any sterling you might have. It's finished. I hate to say it, but I would not put any money in the UK. It's simple. The UK has nothing to sell. I don't think there is a sound UK bank now."


This, given his investment acumen, caused a sell-off in Sterling and much alarm amongst other pundits, some of whom were quick to try and disparage his remarks. Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, accused Mr. Rogers of 'talking his own book'.

Mr. Rogers has responded to some of the criticism in a letter to the FT. His response to Mr. Brown was particularly good.

"I also note that Gordon Brown accused me of talking my own book. I made it crystal clear to everyone last week that I have absolutely no position in anything in the UK either long or short so whatever happens will not affect me at all. Mr Brown once said: "A weak currency is a sign of a weak economy which is a sign of a weak government." Perhaps Mr Brown should examine his own book and find someone to attack besides neutral, objective observers."

Hear, hear.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How we set for firearms

Dilbert.com

Nationalize

"The current bailouts have shown themselves to be expensive, ineffective, and replete with Moral Hazard and other corrupting abuses. Not only are we wasting vast sums of money, but all too often, we are rewarding the incompetent management teams that created the mess in the first place. Its time to move past them. Nationalize now." ritholtz

"What we must understand is that we have been evolving as an economy for a very long time. Governments’ stepping up to bailout the crisis raises concern. For had we just let the Investment Bankers fail and stood behind the public deposits 100% in Commercial Banks, we would have been better-off." armstrong

I've linked to the second article just last week, but I read it again today and it's very good. I thought from the outset that what needed to happen was to guarantee retail or public deposits FIRST. All that has happened is exactly as quoted at the top.

Kung Hei Fat Choi





Year of the Ox!

California Waiver

"Known as the “Californian waiver” under the Clean Air Act, it would allow California and 13 others to set their own emission and fuel efficiency standards. These 14 states account for about half of the American market for cars and light trucks. The move had been vehemently opposed by the auto industry who argued they would have to make one set of more fuel efficient vehicles for California and another set for everyone else. A spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, criticised Obama’s plans saying. “Applying California standards to several different states would create a complex, confusing and very difficult situation for manufacturers”. The industry obviously couldn’t be intelligent enough to think that – hey – they could just make one lot of more fuel efficient vehicles and stay with the curve of increasing environmental consciousness and the credit crunch. But no it is an industry with its head firmly in the sand." oilchange & AP No comment. Words fail me.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Holy Hoolitt Pakurd

Pearls Before Swine

The Missing Ride

Had dinner at Aquavit on Saturday.. very good indeed although it didn't turn out quite as I had anticipated with regard to pre-ride prep. Had a really good time but had to bail on the 7 a.m. Ebisu meet as it really wasn't that much before then that I managed to roll into my bed.

Ride report at Positivo..

Friday, January 23, 2009

New house

Fogcouver

Flying into Vancover in a couple of weeks time.. hope the fog clears by then.

The record for fog days in January is 13 (in 1985). Currently stands at 9.

bclocal
via ag

High on Obama fumes

"Cheney was looking pretty rough at the inauguration on Tuesday. He was on his third baboon heart, and previously had all of his bones replaced with steel recovered from ground zero. With his titanium kidneys and cobalt spleen, he is more machine now than man. Though there are those that believe Cheney isn’t a man at all, rather he’s actually a highly evolved insect that has learned how to use it’s natural camouflage to mimic a human appearance. Personally, I believe that he is ageless. He was birthed of the primordial fires of creation, and roamed the Earth long before any other sentient life. He drove the demons, trolls and orcs deep below… or they banished him to the surface… either way, he is as ancient as he is evil and he is large amounts of both.

I’m guessing Cheney has been assuming different identities throughout history. Who was he? Zeus? Jack the Ripper? Joseph Stalin? Dracula? I bet he was Dracula. Also, feel free to share your ideas for other ways Cheney has kept alive all these years. I would have defaulted to the obvious conclusion that he’s a Cylon, but without the Resurrection Ship, I’m not sure how that would work.

And before you tell me to take it easy on Cheney, or the Bush administration, save it. I’m still high on Obama fumes and I’m not nearly ready to come down." HijiNKS

Send in the clowns

"Now, after a week of buffoonery unparalleled in the history of football, they have finally achieved the international recognition they craved for so long. Manchester’s little-regarded other team is now a laughing-stock throughout the world!

Kaka did the football world a huge favour when he knocked back Cook and his associates.

On Wednesday night it was reported that City were preparing to make an eight-figure offer for Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 'The dynamics’, said a club spokesman, 'feel right’."

telegraph

Starter or Dessert?

A rather brilliant complaint letter (via Popbitch) to Richard Branson, clicking each picture in turn will take you to a larger and hence more readable version.. bon appetit.





Read on..

In Plato's cave

"Black-Scholes is just a model, not a complete description of the world. Every model makes simplifications, but some of the simplifications in Black-Scholes looked as if they would matter. For instance, the maths it uses to describe how share prices move comes from the equations in physics that describe the diffusion of heat. The idea is that share prices follow some gentle random walk away from an equilibrium, rather like motes of dust jiggling around in Brownian motion. In fact, share-price movements are more violent than that.

When David Viniar, chief financial officer of Goldman Sachs, told the Financial Times in 2007 that the bank had seen “25-standard-deviation moves several days in a row”, he was saying that the markets were at the extreme tail of their distribution. The centre of their models did not begin to predict that the tails would move so violently. He meant to show how unstable the markets were. But he also showed how wrong the models were.

Modern finance may well be making the tails fatter. When you trade away all sorts of specific risk, in foreign exchange, interest rates and so forth, you make your portfolio seem safer. But you are in fact swapping everyday risk for the exceptional risk that the worst will happen and your insurer will fail—as AIG did."

Excellent article from the Economist this week, well worth reading it all.

A more historical perspective, but the same with the following one..

The Collapse of Capitalism or is it Socialism?

"The debt crisis is always distinguished from the mere speculative bubble. The Tulipmania did not change the course of history as did the Bubble of 1720. Likewise, the excessive borrowing by Spain and the desperate attempt to invade England to payoff those debts with its Armada in 1588, resulted in the collapse of Spain taking with it Italy, who was its banker. In the end, Spain and Italy lost their ability to be any sort of a world power. It is always debt that destroys a nation. It destroyed even Rome.

Our socialistic life may be coming to an end because our promises exceed our resources. This bailout is likely to push the government over the edge. If we cannot see how we make the same mistakes over and over again, what hope do we have? We can survive as a society only when we open our eyes. If we cannot do that, then we may be headed into a new dark age of feudalism with the break-up of organized states. We have to stop the debt and insane taxes before it is too late once again. We need to restructure or we will lose it all."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How the mighty have fallen


Click the picture to view larger from FTAlphaville

Go here to see the same thing but with a 'normalised' view on order to get a better idea of relative proportional 'shrinkage'.

And, via Chart of the Day..



The KBW Bank Index is a modified cap-weighted index consisting of 24 exchange-listed and National Market System stocks, representing national money center banks and leading regional institutions.The index is intended to reflect the evolving financial sector and was developed with a base value of 250 as of October 21, 1991. Effective March 22, 2004, the index had a 10:1 split.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Old & new


Old & new, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Inaugurality



Speech in full

Barack Me Obamadeus

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Get a room?

I'm wondering if we've had any Star Wars stuff here recently?



In Japanese...

I saw her first dude

The Gate to the Groin



Frenchman.. so who cares right?

Question: Do your dogs get on with your baby?


Answer: Erm, I suppose.

It's like watching 'The Office'

Unsold cars

The Guardian has a slideshow of images from around the world of unsold cars. "Carmakers around the world are cutting production as inventories build up to unprecedented levels. Storage areas and docksides are now packed with vast expanses of unsold cars as demand slumps."

If you buy a new car in the next year or so, it might actually not be 'new'.

Irresponsible rejection

Public anger growing at irresponsible banks
"Mr Brown admitted that taxpayers were justified at feeling angry. While the Prime Minister insisted that it was right to come to the banks’ rescue, he did put the blame for the crisis squarely at the door of senior executives and the reckless lending which he said took place at many of the troubled institutions."

Of course Brown is blameless as ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer.

RBS shares crash 67percent
"Shares crumbled 23.1p, or 67pc, to 11.6p as investors took fright at the size of its losses. RBS told its long-suffering shareholders that it expects to report credit writedowns of between £7bn and £8bn for last year."

Worth £75 billion only two years ago, is now valued at £4.5 billion, even though it received £32 billion from taxpayers and shareholders less than three months ago. 11.6p per share is basically the equivalent of an option premium that RBS will not be nationalized. Sell it.

And in Milan..

Kaka rejects Manchester City
"He turned down the money saying he preferred the love of the Milanese people, the friendship of his team-mates. He won’t ask for a pay rise."

Manchester vs. Milan.. hmm, tough call.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Economic Outlook


Meet me at the Gun Show with your Gold.

Or are you just glad to see me?


Penguin in the pants, click the picture to play..

This might all be just a giant hologram

"DRIVING through the countryside south of Hanover, it would be easy to miss the GEO600 experiment. From the outside, it doesn't look much: in the corner of a field stands an assortment of boxy temporary buildings, from which two long trenches emerge, at a right angle to each other, covered with corrugated iron. Underneath the metal sheets, however, lies a detector that stretches for 600 metres.

For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.

For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram.""

newscientist

Wish some of my investments were only holograms..

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sun18th - Second Ride of 2009

Big group.. 8 of us at one point.. usual routing so no new tales.. grey and cloudy today.. not sure if that is why I didn't stop to take photos or simply that there was nothing new to shoot?

Set out to cover 120km and be back by 1pm.. 125km and was back by 1:30pm.. few more detours and stops than normal so makes sense.. all in all an excellent day on the bike.. thanks to both Michaels, both Davids, Alex, Ludwig and Bryon.

UPDATE. Wrote this last night and can only assume I was pretty tired. That said, whilst there was no new routes and that it was overcast all day, it was a great ride for such a cold wintry day. We came back on the rollers of what I have dubbed 'tank road', although that sobriquet officially belongs to the path through the park that was once the Mitsubishi Heavy tank proving ground. The path that we missed on the way back yesterday. I always assume I will find my way in Japan, especially once I have done a route once. Never has any place thrown my sense of direction and route memory so much. Odd. Or obvious. Not sure which. A few photos from Ludwig at Positivo. The group shot without passing car or motorbike - finally! - was very well done. Not sure about the others, but I slept like a rock last night.




View Larger Map

Friday, January 16, 2009

Letters to the Editor

'Alton Towers - Where the magic never ends', or so the commercial says. Imagine my disappointment when it closed at 7.30. Colin Hill

I am married to a Taiwanese lady, and people often ask me if she was a mail-order bride. I find this very insensitive. The Royal Mail loses around 2 million letters and parcels each year, and to suggest that I would trust the delivery of my wife to them is insulting in the extreme. She was sent by DHL next day delivery. L Palmer, London

With reference to Mr Palmer's previous letter. I am also married to a Taiwanese lady, but nobody ever asks me if she is a mail order bride. But perhaps that's because I am also Taiwanese. And we live in Taiwan. Lo Chi Chang, Taipei

On the BBC website, I read with interest that some scientists in Australia have discovered the smallest fish known to exist. They've obviously never been to the Britannia Chippy on the Gloucester Road. Alan J., London

Never mind ventriloquists like Keith Harris and Roger DeCourcey. What about Professor Stephen Hawking? I saw him on telly blathering on about galaxies for hours and I never saw his lips move once. Genius. Mike Woods, e-mail

Hats off to the witty burglars who stole my entire CD collection with the exception of "There is Nothing Left to Lose" by the Foo Fighters. I hope that when sentencing, the judge takes into account their splendid sense of humour. Chris Scaife, Jesmond

I see on the news that Lord Hutton says he is "satisfied that David Kelly took his own life". He may not have liked Dr Kelly that much, but isn't this taking gloating just a little too far? Dave Owen, Edinburgh

I was being chased by a police dog last week, and made the mistake of trying to escape through a little tunnel, over a see-saw and through a hoop of fire. It finally caught me as I was weaving in and out of some sticks. Stan Herschel

I was shocked to hear Home Secretary David Blunkett say that Britain's prison population has been ballooning for the past ten years. My God, has the world gone mad? Those people are there to be punished, not to be given 'thrill of a lifetime' experiences that most law abiding citizens can only dream of. Mrs Close, Headingley

On our wedding anniversary this year, my husband promised to treat me like a Princess. He was as good as his word: he took me for a meal, got completely pi**ed and on the way home crashed into a concrete pillar at 120mph, killing me instantly. Mrs B. Essex.

The person who coined the phrase "as different as chalk and cheese" obviously hadn't tasted Kwik Save's cheddar. John Sampson, Southampton.

If Eastenders is so true to life, how come none of the loveable Cockney characters are Man Utd supporters? P. Sullivan, Birkenhead .

If smoking is bad for you, how come it cures Salmon? Stalker, Bournemouth .

Why does Frank Bruno get a gong just because he's good at hitting people? I'm brilliant at it but the most I've ever got is 200 hours community service. A Woodward, Sheffield .

They say good manners cost you nothing. B*llocks. I sent my daughter to finishing school and it cost me twenty bloody grand. J Morgan, Wigan .

These so-called speed bumps are a joke. If anything, they slow you down. Tim Wakefield, Surrey.

Now I've been going out with my girlfriend for some time, it seems OK when I break wind in bed. It's when I follow through that the petty arguments begin. I will never understand women. Chris Mapply, Carshalton.

So Sting is able to shag his wife for five hours without going off. I know how he feels. My wife is no oil painting either. J Leonard, Hull.

via Monsieur Le Taff

Pocket Money

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaká, is a Brazilian midfielder who plays for Italian Serie A club A.C. Milan and the Brazilian national team. Whilst the UK Premier League transfer window is open he has been given permission to talk to Manchester City about a transfer.

"Milan announced on their television channel that they were considering an improved offer of €115 million (about £103 million) for the 26-year-old. Mark Hughes, the City manager, has defended the cost of the proposed deal and claimed that the numbers — which include wages of £500,000 a week for Kaká — add up. “It’s not just something we’re throwing money at,” Hughes said." timesonline

He does have to live in Manchester though, and that seems to be have been working out real well for Ronaldo at Manchester United.

"It’s not just something we’re throwing money at, " Bokay! If you say so. Five hundred thousand pounds a week. That's sixty six million yen. Every week. Is it getting silly yet?

All 155 onboard safe. Amazing.

Click the photo for NYTimes slideshow. US Airlines plunged into the Hudson River less than five minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, and at least a half-dozen small craft converged and rescued the 150 passengers and 5 crew members. Fantastic outcome. Full story here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Doh


xkcd

TARP ETF

How can I short this?

The Bailout Game


"Dick Cheney accidentally shoots Constitution in face."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ponzi? Fonzi?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 Dakar

"The Dakar Rally was traditionally an off-road multi-stage race from Paris to Dakar, Senegal. However, due to fears of terrorist attacks, the Rally was cancelled last year - and this year moved to an entirely different continent, South America. 540 teams started the 2009 Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 3rd, and, after 9,578 kilometres (5,951 mi) in 14 stages, will return to Buenos Aires on January 17th." bp



Monday, January 12, 2009

Absolut Icebar Tokyo


Icebar, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Strange abominable snowman found!

Quail's egg, sea urchin, seaweed, fried rice

How good is that ?

Bouillabaise


Bouillabaise, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Cheers


Cheers, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Plans for the 12th

Going to start at the Traders Bar, then Keyakizaka for dinner, following which will continue on to the Icebar.

Then try and get up for the gym tomorrow morning..

Dooooood.. that was sick


wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Comfy looking scooter

Banana Republic

"Meanwhile, my advice is: eat bananas while they are still available from producers who will accept U.S. dollars in exchange for them. If the U.S. dollar is totally destroyed, as recent and impending government actions suggest it might be, then we may be reduced to barter, at least for a while. I wonder if we can trade Hollywood films for bananas. And, most important, I wonder whether I can get a job in the movie business, perhaps as an extra for the crowd scenes. I think I have the talent needed for that role." U.S. will go to hell in 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

Robbie “Maddo” Maddison



Apt nickname. Watch to the end.

Thirteen

Just read this. Enjoyed it a lot. Been a while since had picked up a book that I didn't want to put down. "Bladerunner - which the wife hasn't seen, a shocker I know - meets Silence of the Lambs." Hmm. Not quite, but the comment holds some truth. Sci-fi without too much sci-fi. Good stuff.

Have moved on to a mafia theme.. reading Tokyo Underworld with Gomorrah and The Ice Man to come. Dark.

UPDATE. We watched Bladerunner last night - the 19th - great movie, can see why its a cult classic, can't believe its 27 years old! Released 1982.. I remember watching it at Gerrards Cross Cinema. I think.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

and back to a Star Wars reference..

Logical thinking

At Think-logically (a place to “sit back, relax, and explore the art of logical thinking”) you can take a logic test. I scored 93%. How’d you do? Take the test.

Next, can you draw yourself? Flashface

'Not a big fan of Rap'

"Hey, did you see this in the paper? In an interview with the Washington Times, Vice President Dick Cheney said he is not a big fan of rap music. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was stunned by that. Actually, I’m surprised. I mean, look at the guy. Cheney gets driven around in a limo, he’s surrounded by body guards, shot a guy in the face — he is a rap star." Leno

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Population Centre



"The point on earth closest to everyone in the world on average is in the northern part of South Asia, with a mean distance of 5,000 kilometers (3,000 mi). Its antipodal point is correspondingly the farthest point from everyone on earth, and is located in the South Pacific near Easter Island, with a mean distance of 15,000 kilometers (9,300 mi)." wikipedia

Well I never.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Snow derivatives

"If anything, derivatives worked too well. Perhaps they made investors too complacent toward risk. Just as snow tires make you more likely to drive in a blizzard, derivatives encouraged investment in markets that were previously considered too risky. If derivatives contributed to the current mess, then they did so by discouraging diligence, rather than enabling greed." Free Exchange

Numbers

18 The number of daily 5%+ moves on the S&P 500 in 2008.

17 The number of 5%+ moves on the S&P 500 between 1956 and 2007.

$61,000 The cost of insuring $10 million in U.S. Treasuries against default for five years. At the beginning of 2008, this cost was $6,000.

bp

Saving

"The MOST numerous victims of the economic crisis are not, and will not be, the unemployed, or those who lose their homes. They are savers. The first people to suffer are not reckless borrowers, or greedy bankers, who are mostly being protected, at public expense, from the full consequences of their follies. They are those who committed the stupid mistake of acting responsibly."

Savers not spenders need the tax breaks

Plus Sterling has taken a BATH. Responsibility sucks.

Matthew's Party

"I do not have any black pants so will spray paint my legs on the night."

"I once leaped across a creek that was over five metres wide and almost made it."

Dear Neighbour, you are not invited to my party. from spider-drawing-overdraft-guy

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to reality..

The end of the financial world as we know it.

How to repair a broken financial world.

"Rather than tackle the source of the problem, the people running the bailout desperately want to reinflate the credit bubble, prop up the stock market and head off a recession. Their efforts are clearly failing: 2008 was a historically bad year for the stock market, and we’ll be in recession for some time to come. Our leaders have framed the problem as a “crisis of confidence” but what they actually seem to mean is “please pay no attention to the problems we are failing to address.”

In its latest push to compel confidence, for instance, the authorities are placing enormous pressure on the Financial Accounting Standards Board to suspend “mark-to-market” accounting. Basically, this means that the banks will not have to account for the actual value of the assets on their books but can claim instead that they are worth whatever they paid for them.

If we are going to spend trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, it makes more sense to focus less on the failed institutions at the top of the financial system and more on the individuals at the bottom. Instead of buying dodgy assets and guaranteeing deals that should never have been made in the first place, we should use our money to A) repair the social safety net, now badly rent in ways that cause perfectly rational people to be terrified; and B) transform the bailout of the banks into a rescue of homeowners.

There are a handful of other perfectly obvious changes in the financial system to be made, to prevent some version of what has happened from happening all over again. A short list:

Stop making big regulatory decisions with long-term consequences based on their short-term effect on stock prices.

End the official status of the rating agencies.

Regulate credit-default swaps.

Impose new capital requirements on banks.

Another good solution to the too-big-to-fail problem is to break up any institution that becomes too big to fail.

Close the revolving door between the S.E.C. and Wall Street.

The funny thing is, there’s nothing all that radical about most of these changes. A disinterested person would probably wonder why many of them had not been made long ago. A committee of people whose financial interests are somehow bound up with Wall Street is a different matter."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Get in my belly


Get in my belly, originally uploaded by Knotty.

How to eat ramen


How to eat ramen, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Hakone Ekiden 2009

Before. Or after you read this, make sure you read this.

Hakone Ekiden, which is officially called The Tokyo-Hakone Come and Go College Ekiden Race, is one of the prominent university ekiden (relay marathon) races of the year held between Tokyo and Hakone in Japan on 2 and 3 January.

This two-day race from Ōtemachi to Hakone and back is separated into five sections on each day. Due to slight variations in the courses, the first day distance is 108.0km while the distance on the second day is 109.9km.

Each runner runs one section, so each team has ten runners. They run with their teams' sashes, and at a station they alternate with the next runner, handing over the sash to him.

Twenty universities, which belong to The Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto, participate.

Hakone Ekiden was started in 1920. At first, it was held irregularly, and runners usually started in the afternoon so that they could study in the morning. Thus runners, especially in fifth section, had to run at night. Moreover, the start and goal point was provided but the course was not, so runners could choose the way their own way.

Today it has become one of the most famous sports events in Japan. The whole race is broadcast live. More than one million people line the course to cheer the runners along.

So. With all this in mind David suggested that we join him on his traditional New Year Ekiden ride. The plan was to meet a little ahead of where we anticipated the runner's to be and then cycle the same route that they take. The roads are closed ahead of the runners, and so if we managed to time it right, we thought we would be able to ride on traffic-free streets.

Suffice to say the plan worked. To perfection.

I left home at 8 a.m., coasted down the hill to Shinagawa station, then headed out on Route 15. The police and spectators were out in force. The inside lane of the multi-lane road was coned off to traffic. Perfect. In that lane I went.

Met up with Michael, Ludwig and David just the other side of the Tama and we cycled on. I've put a Flickr slideshow below to try and give you a feel. Weather was standard fare for this time of year - clear skies, dry, cold, sunny, perfect for riding. Reasonably flat ride of about 80+kms until the climb up to Hakone. Crowds pretty much the entire way. Everyone in good spirits, flag waving, cheering and the like. We arrived at the bottom of the Hakone climb, took a breatha nd headed up. I was feeling pretty strong and had cycled to about 200m elev. when I asked Michael the elevation at the top of Hakone. 800m was his response. "Find your rhythm, it's a long climb," he murmured as he pulled on by. Crikey. That knocked the wind out of my sails a little. I settled down, brought my heart-rate back into a more sustainable zone (the 150s, rather than 160s) and grinded it out. Tons of support from the crowds on the way up. It was long though. And bloody steep in sections. When Michael had asked if I was up for it earlier, I hadn't thought about it much. I was enjoying the crowds, the day, the route too much to contemplate actually having to put some real effort in for the day!

A big steep climb 800m+ climb then. Cold at the top and, as along all of the course - yes, all 108kms - people lined up. All the way up. Considering the temperature, the wind and the numbers not standing in the sun - in the shade.. schoolboy error - I did wonder what had brought them all out. I guess this Ekiden thing is a really big deal indeed! I crested, was blasted by a chilly headwind and found that it was a false peak with a little more climbing to be done. Finally crested and started the short descent into Hakone itself and the Ekiden finish line. Now it was 2 or 3 deep on the pavement, taiko drums, cheerleaders, singing, cheering and, bless them, lots of "gambattes" and "go, go, go" from the crowds.

Down through the spectators - fousands of 'em -and past the finish line. Should I stop and actually do some spectating? The leaders were literally only about 5-6mins behind me at this point. To be honest it was tempting, but really busy. Plus a call to Michael to check the route out of Hakone, had elicited the information that he was holed up somewhere warm with a hot bowl of noodles watching the finish on TV. Sorry University boys, my belly calls! Small climb back out of Hakone - you can see it on the chart above - and then the rest stop at Hakone Pass and some much needed sustenance. Plate of cha-han (fried rice) and can of Coke for me. We'd all got a bit split up through the climb, but managed to rendezvous at the rest stop.

We continued on. A little climb more, then onto Route 20 for a fast, scenic descent into Atami. Side stops for photos at famous signs - a Positivo tradition. Side stops to gaze at Fuji and the amazing views. Michael loves this road. I can see why. The station looked really good when we pulled up there around 3:30 p.m. 15:57 Shinkansen home to Shinagawa - standing room only! But the Kirin went down nicely on the journey home.

Thanks to David, Michael and Ludwig for their company today. A brilliant day on the bike.


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Thursday, January 01, 2009

First nap of 2009


First nap of 2009, originally uploaded by Knotty.

New Year's Day

We had a very good start to the year so far. Up and about this morning with no hangovers, we hit our favourite dog walking spot with Pepper, Dylan and Milly.
Riverbank
Happy Dylan
What you looking at?
Now back at home putting Milly down for her afternoon nap and then cooking Roast Beef with all the trimmings.