Brittle Days

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Hoi An Style Poker

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Here are the rules for an impromptu game of Hoi An Style Poker.

You will need 1 or more players. The field of play is any of the bars or cafés in Hoi An, Quảng Nam Province, Viet Nam.

A street view is strongly recommended for high-scoring games.

The object of the game is to have a good time. Discard any rules that may be inhibiting this objective. To win the game, you must draw a strong poker hand. The best hand wins.

Firstly, deal each player a refreshing beverage from the bar.

Then, shuffle the pack. In Hoi An Style Poker, the pack is comprised not of cards, but of your fellow tourists. There are 2 ways to deal:

  • Time slice. “The next 5 minutes are yours, I’ll take the 5 after.”
  • Direction slice. “Anyone from the left is mine, from the right is yours.”

Anyone dressed normally is a point card and scores nothing. Ignore them.

Scoring cards consist of anyone wearing tailored clothes in a hideous fabric. As in poker, you want to make sets of alike scoring cards. They must be drawn at the same time. So a couple wearing matching watermelon fabric would count as a pair. A stag night in the same would could as 4-of-a-kind. A family of different ages would count as a flush. Two couples would be two pairs, but only if they walk by at the same time.

Suits are determined by the pattern of the fabric. The more hideous, the higher-scoring. 2 people in matching white shirts scores less than 2 wearing banana-print.

When someone draws a high-scoring hand, cheer and drink. You may wish to ask your winning hand to pose for a photo with you.

The winner is the person who has the best time.

Yoh! 🍻🃏


Stacking the deck is absolutely allowed to the point of being encouraged.

You may include yourself in the draw if you walk with someone dressed the same.

You may buy clothes for other people.

You may not wear greater or fewer than one outfit at a time.

Written by tomsulston

09/10/2018 at 18:20

Posted in Uncategorized


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Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain profoundly changed the direction of my life. Here’s a story of how that happened and why I am coping so very badly with his death.

One of the obits doing the rounds made the extremely salient point that good memoirists share their history in such a way that the reader feels close to them, present in the story. That’s blindingly obvious when you read it, so it must be true. That’s part of why Bourdain’s death has been so deeply felt by so many people. I cannot remember my first oyster, but I can remember reading about his. Maybe what follows is all a false memory, or a paean to self-service. Your narrator is, if nothing else, unreliable.

I’d always liked to cook. More precisely: to eat. It was leaving home at 17 that proved that cooking well meant eating better. Being a student meant having time to learn to turn base ingredients into delicious gold. The house I shared with James and Rosie, amongst others, was a haven of roast pheasant, deeply-discounted truffled pasta, slowly-braised oxtail, and the finest wines known to the £5-or-less aisle.

My father and I are always talking food. What’s cooking, what’s in season,  hilarious culinary disasters, recipe tweaks. The usual dinner table conversation involves what we need to prepare for tomorrow. He recommended Kitchen Confidential to me in the early 00s after hearing an extract on Radio 4. It was a sound tip. At 22ish, when young men typically get really into Bukowski, Ellis, Hemingway, or Kerouac, I was smitten with Bourdain’s description of the quasi-criminal underbelly of restaurant cooking. The central narrative was exceptionally compelling, in no small part because of its veracity. A nice middle-class boy, educated at the CIA, becomes a culinary pirate on the high seas of the restaurant industry and emerges as a zen master of the kitchen.

But it wasn’t until I was in the death-throes of a fairly dead-end office job in London that this became anything more than an intellectually-interesting sidebar. As a meta-narrative, Bourdain’s memoir showed that a person can change. They can leave one career and start another. As a chef can become a writer, an office-worker can become a cook. I dipped my toe and signed up to learn to cook properly. A month of focused class training and stages in some decent kitchens. I loved the work: the adrenaline rush of service and the quiet focus of prep. Brittle cold mornings spent quietly chopping mirepoix for stock are some of the happiest memories I hold. No thinking, just doing. Keep your mind and workspace tidy. Move efficiently. Nothing matters other than doing this one thing right, right now.

And as it was Bourdain’s career-change that brought me there, it was Kitchen Confidential that kept me away. The stories he tells about the people he meets on his journey as a chef seem larger than life – that’s part of their appeal as a memoir. The people I met in kitchens were real; beautiful, hilarious, passionate, skilled individuals to a man (and they were almost all men). Guys I would gladly spend a career with but for the fact that they were so, so broken. Men in their late twenties, holding down good jobs in the sort of restaurants that you’d go to for your birthday rather than because you can’t be bothered to cook one night. All of them unable to have a normal relationship with their family, girlfriend, or bank manager. All destroyed by an uncaring industry in which no-one is irreplaceable. Bourdain was not exaggerating and the horror was very real.

The dream was a failure. So I chose to stay in technology and was lucky to fall in with a good crowd. The people I work with now are creative, bold, industry leaders. They write books and run conferences. Some of them have their restaurant dinners interrupted by fans who ask for selfies. It’s a privilege to spend time with them. Most of my colleagues are doing this work for the safety that doesn’t exist in their calling. They’re really musicians, or artists, authors, comedians, radio presenters, distillers, distance-runners, film editors. One is a cook. We all failed our first careers.

Bourdain changed his calling without changing his essence, the core of Bourdain-ness. He’d shown us a better way to think about food, work, culture, travel, humanity. He’d emerged scarred yet smiling, beer in hand. Proof that a person can discover that their dream is not; they can find another one. If this giant of a man simply couldn’t take it any more, what hope for the rest of us? What hope for me?

And that’s why Bourdain’s death has hit me so hard.


Compassionate, adventuresome, funny, communicative, honest, warm, egalitarian. Bourdain’s masculinity sets him apart from the toxic concepts of manhood that his industry harboured.

The same week that he died, I had two conversations with men who were struggling. That they felt comfortable to share their feelings and seek support gives me hope that we are moving from toxic patriarchal definitions of masculinity and towards a near future where all of us can be more like Bourdain’s life than his death.

Written by tomsulston

12/06/2018 at 16:18

Posted in Uncategorized

Letter to Couriers Please

Hi there,

Apologies for making this letter public, but your contact form only allows 500 characters of text, so I don’t have much choice.

I’d like to give you some feedback about one of your drivers. He was driving the van with the licence plate 1FI 2TH in Carlton on the morning of the 21st February. The incident I would like to relate took place at 08:40 in the morning.

In this incident, your driver turns right from Kay St into Canning St. While doing so, he fails to give way to the dozen-or-so cyclists proceeding along Canning street and enters the junction even though it is not safe to do so. While making the turn, he over-corrects and mounts the central reservation. Fortunately, the oncoming traffic had been able to stop in time to avoid a collision.


At the next junction, one of the cyclists remonstrated with your driver, who chose to express the opinion that cyclists “shouldn’t be on the road”.

I bring this feedback to you as it is concerning for a number of reasons.

Firstly, your driver is not operating his vehicle safely. He is needlessly and recklessly putting the lives of other road users at risk. That would be worrisome for a private driver, but given he drives professionally, this is supremely poor judgement.

Secondly, he was unable to make the turn without mounting the pavement. This shows such poor control over his vehicle that it would have caused him to fail a driving test even if no other road users were present.

Thirdly, he is under the misapprehension that cyclists are not allowed on the road. This is not correct. This lack of understanding is not appropriate for a professional driver who is responsible for the safety of those around him.

Finally and most seriously, the combination of these things constitutes bullying. Because your driver believed he had more of a right to the road than a number of people on bicycles, he chose to drive in a manner that put their safety at risk for no reason other than to assert his own sense of authority.

Mark McGinley, Couriers Please’s CEO, claims that the management team is committed to “providing a healthy and safe place of work, to every employee’s health and well-being, personal growth and the right to be treated fairly and with respect.” For those employees who work on public roads, it is only reasonable to expect that they treat the public with the same regard for safety and respect as they expect from their employer.

Would you please, at your earliest convenience, share with me details of what remediation has been taken to ensure that this driver shows a reasonable level of respect to the public in future.

Many thanks,

Tom Sulston.

Written by tomsulston

01/03/2017 at 13:43

Posted in Uncategorized

Carradice and Compatibility.

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I am a big fan of Carradice saddlebags. They’re solidly-made and have a lovely retro style of their own. Saddlebags put your luggage close to the bike’s centre of gravity – under the saddle. This makes a much more natural ride than one with panniers.

A decent-sized saddlebag, like the Super C or Nelson Longflap is also perfect for holding the usual commuter kit – a change of clothes, laptop and cables, small amount of bike tools, lock, etc.

However, there are some things to bear in mind with the way that they mount on the bike. I’ve learnt some of these lessons the hard way, so am writing them down in the hope that others will make better decisions.

The most solid way to mount a saddlebag is with the Carradice Classic Rack. This rack attaches to the saddlebag loops in your Brooks saddle. If you have a different make, you may need to buy some extra loops. However, the lovely Brooks Cambium has saddle rails at a more oblique angle than the famous B17. This means that the bag sits at an angle, puts strain on two of the joints in the rack, and can cause them to crack. I (and Melbourne’s crappy bike lanes) have broken two racks like this. A fix for this problem is to wind an inner tube (or other flexible thing) around the lower part of the rack, so that it sits further from the saddle rails and at a more upright angle. However, the more upright it sits, the more likely it is to rub against your bum, so there’s a balancing act there.

Similarly, the Nitto saddlebag grip doesn’t like shallow saddle rails. Which is a shame, as it’s beautifully-made. It’s mostly useful for B17 owners who want a quick-release. On a Cambium, it makes the bag sit low enough that it bashes the back of your thighs. It also has no support to stop the bag swaying.

I have also tried the Carradice SQR system. This mounts on the seatpost and uses a wire loop to hold the saddle bag away from the back of the saddle. It works fine, unless you have a Thomson setback seatpost, or similar. The SQR mount needs to be fixed near to the top of the seatpost, to give enough clearance over the rear wheel to attach the bag. The Thomson has a bend, to allow the saddle to sit further back. This means that the SQL has to sit on the bent section, which puts the mount at an angle. This angle means that the mount is susceptible to bumps knocking the bag loose – despite the mount having a catch.

I have also used the Carradice Bagman support. This is a pretty solid way to attach and support a saddlebag. You do have to periodically tighten up the grub screws that hold it together as they have a tendency to wiggle loose. However, it is fiddly to attach and detach. So it tends to live on the bike and look a bit strange when there’s not a saddlebag on it.

In short, and in order of preference: If you have a B17 or similar, the Classic Rack is brilliant. If you have a different saddle and don’t mind excess bike furniture, use the Bagman. If you have a Thomson seatpost, use the Bagman. If you have a straight seatpost and don’t want the bagman clutter, consider the SQR.

I have a Cambium and a Thomson seatpost, which means I’m either going to have to find a way to make the Classic Rack sit more upright, or be stuck with the Bagman.

Written by tomsulston

15/02/2016 at 15:28

Posted in Uncategorized

UCI in “different to Gadaffi” shocker.

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I wish I had written this:

Floyd Landis, in absentia, has been ordered by a Swiss court never to state that that:

the Union Cycliste Internationale,  Pat McQuaid and/or Hein Verbruggen have concealed cases of doping, received money for doing so, have accepted money from Lance Armstrong to conceal a doping case, have protected certain racing cyclists, concealed cases of doping, have engaged in manipulation, particularly of tests and races, have hesitated and delayed publishing the results of a positive test on Alberto Contador, have accepted bribes, are corrupt, are terrorists, have no regard for the rules, load the dice, are fools, do not have a genuine desire to restore discipline to cycling, are full of shit, are clowns, their words are worthless, are liars, are no different to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

If you hold a racing licence, you’re paying for this bullshit lawsuit. So enjoy it.

Floyd – if ever we meet, the first round’s on me.

Written by tomsulston

04/10/2012 at 10:32

Posted in cycling

The unholy evil of the cyclosportive

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One of the many great things about cycling is that it’s easy. Here is a complete list of what you need to do to enjoy a bike ride:

  1. Get on bike;
  2. Ride bike.

Until event-organisers get their hands on it, and then this simple daily act becomes an expedition.

The Manchester Great Cycle looks beyond awful. Take the family-friendly model of the Skyride series; strip out its low barriers to participation and replace them with an unholy lawyer-fest of rules. Then add in a pile of Fred-tacular sportive riders and an uninspiring out-and-back course that’s ridden in laps. The whole thing is a complete confused mess – neither a mass-participation family-friendly no-traffic pootle around, nor a “challenge” ride, nor a race.

It’s almost as if someone had a big pile of meaningless rules lying around and was looking for an event to inflict them on. Here’s a great example of some idiocy:

Children aged 7 and under are not eligible for a finisher’s pack.

So those parents who might want to take one child younger than seven and one older will have to deal with the happy fun times resulting when one of them gets a goody bag and the other doesn’t. Great family-friendly thinking, there.

But it’s only a tenner, right? I mean, it’s not like you can just get on your bike and ride it anywhere you like for free.

Written by tomsulston

23/05/2012 at 10:41

Posted in cycling


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The grapes are fat and ready for harvest. They look fantastic.

A few weeks ago, I was riding through the vineyards around Dardagny. A small flock of about a dozen sparrows turned across my path and for a few silent moments we were motionless together as the world flew beneath us.  It was as magical as it was transient.

One of the key concepts in Kendo is “ki-ken-tai-ichi”. Spirit, sword, and body as one. This was “ki-jitensha-shizen-ichi”.  Spirit, bicycle and nature as one.

Written by tomsulston

20/09/2011 at 08:53

Posted in cycling

Four noble truths

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1. Life is suffering.
2. Suffering is caused by desire.
3. To eliminate suffering, eliminate desire.
4. To eliminate desire, follow the path.

I keep forgetting these things and so must write them down to help me remember.

Written by tomsulston

06/09/2011 at 20:44

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

I just want to live life and survive it

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I can’t get enough of this song at the moment.

Written by tomsulston

02/08/2011 at 22:56

Posted in Uncategorized

On the 2012 Olympics.

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The kerfuffle over ticket allocation and shortage has given rise to a question: why are there so few Olympic track cycling events? Track cycling requires a dedicated venue, much like the aquatic events. So let’s compare the two.


5 track events (Sprint, Keirin, Team Sprint, Team Pursuit, Omnium) for both men and woman; 10 gold medals to be won.

Construction of the velodrome: £93M. (£63M over-budget but delivered) [Mail]

Cost of hosting each track cycling gold medal: £9.3M


33 swimming events; 2 synchronised swimming; 8 diving. 43 gold medals to be won.

One Olympic aquatics centre costs £262M (£190M over-budget and incomplete) [Telegraph]

Cost of hosting each gold medal: £6M

So even though the aquatics centre is 3 times over-budget, each cycling event costs a third more to host. Not only that, but the track cycling is running only for 7 days, whereas there are events in the aquatics centre for 15.

So there’s plenty of capacity for more cycling events that would not only increase the fixed asset turnover ratio of the velodrome, but also allow thousands more cycling fans to see the events live.

That all said, I’m fortunate. In the insane Olympic ticket lottery, I got all the tickets I asked for.


I was giving some serious thought toward pitching for some of the track cycling events, but came to the conclusion that I’d rather spend my time and money on actually riding my bike than to:

  • give any money or attention at all to the IoC, LOCOG, Seb Coe or any of the various corrupt, venal, evil entities that are involved in the modern Olympic games and the corruption of the sporting ideals espoused;
  • sit in a velodrome full of “Come on Tim!”s who are only there because there’s a sniff of a British gold medal and who wouldn’t know the business end of a track bike if it did a fixie-skid all over them;
  • leave my bike in the oh-so-secure Victoria Park, rather than ride it to the Olympic village, where it would represent a “security issue”.

Written by tomsulston

06/06/2011 at 14:52

Posted in cycling