Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 December 2009: Fake

According to the Kokomo Tribune, I do "a bad job faking a British accent."

I thought my faking was pretty darn fine, to be honest.

The local ABC affiliate also has a news story on the display, including a video and slideshow.

Update Friday morning: The writer from the Tribune apologizes. Kind of...

" ... the narrator of the YouTube video, I'm told on authority, actually is English. I said he sounded like an American trying to sound British. Sorry mate, Rule Britannia and all that, eh?"

10 December 2009: Mariner II

Paul Sturrock has been relieved of his duties as Plymouth Argyle manager, and all footballing responsibilities have been passed to Head Coach Paul Mariner.

Sturrock remains at the club in some kind of weird role involving him overseeing the creation of new training facilities or something. Meantime Mariner, hero of the 1975 Division Three campaign, is now the boss and has a tough job ahead of him turning the current squad - most of whom don't seem to want to stay - into a team that can finish fourth-from-bottom in the Championship this year.

Statistically it shouldn't be difficult - a run of three wins will see Argyle comfortably in the safe zone - but the debate rages as to why this didn't happen a month ago, or even back in the summer. The results have been poor - very poor - and while there have been some bright sparks here and there it seems that overall the club was destined to lose every game this season one-nil.

And the killer statistic in Sturrock's second reign is this: it is two years - two YEARS - since Argyle came from behind to win a game. Meaning once they concede a goal, that's pretty much it for the day (unless it rains heavily, of course).

So, to answer an earlier question, can you ever go back without tarnishing your reputation? It didn't really work out for either Glavine or Sturrock second time around, and both left their posts under a cloud. It's a shame, because statistically Sturrock I was probably the best manager in Argyle history. Sturrock II was probably worse even than David Kemp, although I'll have to check the figures to be sure.

Meantime Mariner I was an absolute hero and legend for his goalscoring prowess. How Mariner II does as manager/coach? We'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

7 December 2009: Christmas Lights

The fast-becoming-traditional Akting Lark Christmas Blog Thing to do seems to be to make a video and put it on YouTube. While last year's effort is now pulling in over a hundred viewers a day, I was so excited by the Christmas Light Display here on the downtown square in Kokomo, Indiana that I couldn't let another moment pass without going out to video it.

My favourite bit has to be the red eyes of the T-Rex. I mean, how more Christmassy can you get?

If anyone can beat this display (I'm looking in your direction, Flowers Estate) please let me know.

Postscript: Oh, all right, you want to see the Wee Heavy And A Half Pint one again, don't you? OK, here it is...

Update: Local Indy News Channel 6 report on the Kokomo light display. Apparently the County Commissioners have defended the dinosaur and serpent on the basis that"if we put the religious or Christmas decorations up, we'd be offending a whole other group of citizens and taxpayers." On that basis, presumably, they will be working on Christmas Day so as not to offend anyone by observing the traditional date of the birth of Christ.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

17 November 2009: Mars

Thanks to the continued copyright-busting wonder that is YouTube, I was able to see the latest Doctor Who yesterday, in pretty high quality. (Note: I've learned that most things appear on YouTube at some point, but they won't be there long and so you have to move fast).

All a bit weird and sadly I wasn't massively impressed. However, I suspect this is because we've been spoiled since 2004 in that overall the production, the scripts, the acting... it's all been exceptional, and we're so used to amazingly high standards that we ignore the excellence and focus on the bits-that-aren't-quite-as-good-as-Blink.

Still, though, the Doctor didn't do much for the first five (of seven) sections on YouTube, while everything around went wrong, and then he decided to turn into an all-powerful Time Lord (a little like the Master) and change history. A little. And it was such a shift that I actually saw it coming.

This is very unusual for me with plot-twists: I never see them coming, ever. I get into the story, try to enjoy it, even if it's poor... but here it was hard not to think 'oo, why are the fires burning when there's no oxygen' and 'domes with plants, reminds me of Silent Running' and 'I'm sick of him saying I can't do anything, I can only imagine that's going to change later in the episode'... and it did.

Anyway, more interesting was the teaser for the Christmas specials, and the rumours surrounding it:
  • John Simm in a hoodie as the Master, with the manic laugh but without a beard. Mrs Master to be present also.
  • Bernard Cribbins as Wilf and Catherine Tate as Donna.
  • Timothy Dalton as a major Time Lord... (President? Rassilon? Meddling Monk?).
  • Implying the return of Gallifrey. Possibly.
  • Other Time Lords revealed as having survived the time war.
  • Flash-back scenes of recent companions (Billie Piper allegedly seen on-set, along with Elizabeth Sladen and a few others).
  • Something about the Medusa Cascade and the Time War no longer being time locked thanks to the crazy Dalek in the Davros epiosodes.
  • The universe to be set 'back to normal' - ie pre-2005 series, maybe pre-Time War - for the new series in 2010 with Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor.
More out-there rumours include the return of the Mara (a snaky-thingy evil thingy I remember from Peter Davison's days), Donna to be revealed as a Timelord (possibly Romana), the Timewyrm making a surprise jump from novel-canon to TV-canon and all sorts of other stuff from Doctor Who lore.

Thing is, Russell T Davies, even in his final fling as chief bloke, has a habit for writing stuff that's simple and that might look good. Nothing deep and complex and science-fictiony - it's mainstream entertainment and that's how it works. In the same way as he couldn't begin the 2005 series with a regeneration scene (how many folks would have said 'what's that about then?' and turned over to watch Red Dwarf re-runs on Dave instead?), he can't really bring in Timewyrms and Maras and all that stuff... can he?

I suppose the Autons made it in that first episode, and nobody much remembered them.

Still - hopes are high that the final episodes for David Tennant will be good and a fitting send-off. They've already said that they're doing things with the Doctor's character that they can't normally do - because everyone knows the end is near for him. So let's see how far, and how creatively, they're willing to push it.

Meantime news from here is that I'm busy (apologies for lack of blogs), have made bacon that turned out ok-but-salty, playing football (six-a-side) every Tuesday for a team called the 'GSE Hooligans' (that's what Google's for, remember) and there's some American thing called Thanksgiving next week that seems to involve turkeys but not presents.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

3 November 2009: Champion

This blog is about many things, and one of the emerging features this year has been my occasional transcendence into the realm of Amateur Butcher. Not content with having a big cleaver knife with which to cut up chickens, I've also dabbled in sausage making and, as soon as a supply of cure #1 arrives tomorrow, a little bacon curing too.

But the master if the art, as you will know if you read the previous blogs or clicked the link above, is Simon Broadribb from Uptons of Bassett in Southampton. And now, not content with winning Champion Sausage and all manner of other national UK butcher awards, he's had a short film made about him and his bangers, including the process (but notably not the recipe or the quantities... I guess you have to go in and ask for those in person...)

And don't forget, it's British Sausage Week all week, even here in Kokomo. Better get down to Country Choice and get some more sausage skins...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

20 October 2009: Comparison

Gareth asks whether the Saints position is cheering me up any, given my latest moan about Argyle. Yes, it is.

If you remove the ten-point penalty saints had to overcome, then they'd be just outside the playoff places. The word is that Saints are starting to play with confidence, not to mention goals, and I'm no longer worried about their position at all: they look stable, with good players, and given the statement by the Chief Executive, it seems investment will continue to come as they build their way up the league.

Saints will be back in Prem in three to four years. I can't see it any other way.

Argyle, conversely, are in the league above Saints right now, and worked very very hard to get there. But, as has always happened before, they're looking like they're going to blow the position and go back down rather than use it as a base camp to launch an assault on the Premiership. It's frustrating because (1) I've seen it before (1986-1992 - and it's happened a lot in the past, 1975-77, mid-60's, late 50's, early 50's) but also (2) this board and set of owners seem to actually have some ambition. Sir Roy Gardner, along with the Japanese blokes, if they organise themselves and stop bickering, really could lead Argyle to great things.

That begins with having a stable management setup this season to really use the players Argyle presently have (and it's not a bad team, even without Seip, who's the best defender on the books but who won't come back while Sturrock is at the club). And from there, you stay up this season, then build in the summer and put together a team that's difficult to beat, and then a team with a goalscoring edge, and from there you make a run for the playoffs.

Going down seems a relatively small thing, but it generally results in any decent players leaving, the team fragmenting and the Premiership dream being pushed back about five years. Because then you have to build a team to get out of League One, and for that you need a good management team, etc etc.

And as wonderful as Sturrock's first spell was at Argyle, he really seems to have lost the dressing room, the fans and most importantly a LOT of football matches. If, as seems likely, Argyle go back to the bottom of the division this week, it's hard to see how things can be turned around without removing Sturrock and his team.

And maybe Paul Mariner - a well-respected coach in the US - will help. Maybe he'll be allowed to bring in his own people. Or - and here's my fear - maybe he's a replacement for Kevin Summerfield and he'll stay a while before falling out with Sturrock and leaving.

Something more major has to change than the assistant. If not, it's back to division three and the cycle begins again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

18 October 2009: Coach

And it's confirmed: Paul Mariner is the new 'Head Coach' of Plymouth Argyle.

Following yesterday's defeat at Blackpool (and given the speed of the announcement this morning, you have to imagine the decisions were all made beforehand, irrespective of yesterday's result), Argyle have announced that 56-year-old legend Mariner is coming back.

Question is, of course, what exactly is his role?

Because the problem is this: Sturrock remains at the club. The official statement says that Sturrock will now be 'assisted' in his duties by Mariner (who, by the way, was a legendary player but as a coach has only risen to the dizzying heights of assistant coach to a Major League Soccer side), which at least explains Kevin Summerfield's departure earlier this week. But can it work? Will Mariner be coach/almost manager and Sturrock as Director of Football with less of a hands-on role? It hasn't exactly been a successful model in English football in the past, although it works ok in Europe.

Beyond the Mariner appointment, it seems there's been some kind of relationship built between Argyle and Mariner's former club, the New England Revolution. Argyle chairman Sir Roy Gardner said:

The two clubs have agreed a first step of a potential ongoing relationship with a plan that a number of the New England Revolution younger stars will join Plymouth for a few weeks for joint-training sessions later in the season.

So maybe it'll be a wonderful thing and Argyle will rocket up the league. But given that yesterday's first goal conceded was scored for Blackpool by Marcel Seip, there might still be a problem. Seip is an excellent defender who fell out with Sturrock recently - as a result he was sent on loan to Blackpool, and he was allowed to play against Argyle yesterday, and probably enjoyed scoring against us. Add to that names like Stack, Walton, Easter and several others I can't think of this early in the morning - the problem right now (at least, the reason for the problem, if you define the problem as being 8 points from 12 matches) is Sturrock.

Put simply, if Sturrock stays - in whatever capacity - Seip isn't coming back.

And maybe this is a long term plan to slowly replace Sturrock with Mariner but right now what Argyle need isn't a legend from the past (unless, possibly, he's going to get his boots on and play up front), and they don't need a youth feeder arrangement with an MLS side, and they don't need a reshuffle of coaching titles. They need points, they need clean sheets, they need confidence. And while I respect the board and think they actually do have both the ambition and the resources to match the ambition, this whole approach smacks of amateurism, or at least missing the point.

When you look at the hard facts, Kevin Summerfield has been replaced by Paul Mariner as Sturrock's assistant. That's the sum total of what has happened. And now everything's fixed and solved, right?

That's what I thought.

Monday, October 12, 2009

12 October 2009: Mariner

Rumours have been around for a fortnight, but it seems to be getting more credible by the day.

Paul Mariner, former England striker and Plymouth Argyle protege back around the time of my birth, might be coming back to Home Park at the age of 56. Not, sadly, as a centre forward but as a coach of some description.

He was first touted as being a 'Club Ambassador' in the attempt to get games in the 2018 World Cup, were England to be named hosts, played at Home Park. Then rumours surfaced that Paul Sturrock was to be sacked due to Argyle's astonishingly long winless run, and Mariner was the man to take over. Then Argyle won two in a row, so that rumour died down a little.

But then a news story came up that Argyle had approached Mariner's current employer, the New England Revolution, with a view to Mariner becoming 'Technical Director' at Argyle. So there was more to this than met the eye.

And so now, over the last few days, the UK news outlets are getting hold of it and it seems that some kind of announcement of some kind of change is imminent. One rumour is that Sturrock will move up to 'Director of Football' with Mariner coming in as Head Coach - just like Saints with Steve Wigley and Sir Clive Woodward. Which was arguably the biggest managerial screw-up and disaster of Rupert Lowe's tenure at Saints, and that's saying something.

The other, more substantiated rumour, is that Mariner will come in as Sturrock's assistant, replacing Kevin Summerfield. That one comes from the Plymouth Evening Herald and so might just have a grain of truth to it.

Hmm... I wonder what Billy Rafferty is up to these days?

Postscript: The Daily Mail version of the story lines up with the Herald's assessment of Mariner as new assistant, but stops short of making it clear whether his appointment will cause cancer or cure cancer.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

6 October 2009: Perfect Gift

1 October is the busiest day of the book retail year, I've read. All the Christmas books come out, essentially all those big pointless hardback ones 'written' by celebrities that mainly contain glossy photos and aren't actually about anything.

But it was also the release date for the most anticipated award-winning romantic fiction debut novel of the year, and as the author is my sis, it's time to remind everyone that it's a perfect birthday, hallowe'en, Thanksgiving or Christmas gift, all for only £4.99 (or £5.99, depending on where you buy it). Locations to buy include Your Favourite Book Shop (if you're in the UK) or, of course, online.

Good webby places to look presently seem to involve and, to a lesser extent (because they're already out of stock) One place you probably want to avoid is the US Amazon site because (as shown above) the book has been rather substantially marked-up. I'm thinking of writing to the seller and asking whether this novel is a Fair Trade product and a good percentage of the tag price actually goes to the producer. Somehow I doubt it.

The best bit is that the shipping still costs $3.99. So that's how much delivery costs, the rest is just all about the price of the book...

If you're in the US, bookstores will order it if you give them the ISBN number (ISBN-10: 0755352939, ISBN-13: 978-0755352937) and if you have friends at a library, maybe you can pull a few strings?

Meantime I just read this morning that there will be new rules in the US for bloggers endorsing products before too long, stating there must be full disclosure of any connection to the product maker or any benefits received. Therefore I'll take advantage of the currently opaque rules and just openly state:


Thursday, September 17, 2009

17 September 2009: Batcave

Don't wish to harp on about this blog getting hits from all over the world (mainly because it's not happening so much this week) but have to mention one hit that arrived earlier today:

"Batu Caves, Wilayah Persekutuan arrived from on "This AKTing Lark: July 2007"

Now that intrigued me. Was someone really visiting my blog from a cave? And how coincidental could it be that it bears a name almost identical to that of an iconic 1960s TV show location?

Actually, a Google Maps search revealed it to be in Malaysia, in fact a location on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpar in what looks to be a fairly densely urban (not to mention foggy) area. Which is still quite exciting, although somehow disappointing given my probably unrealistic hopes that my blog was, in fact, being visited by Batman, or at least by some bored person in a cave with no running water but a decent broadband connection.

On a somewhat related note, nephew Jamie is four years old today and has proclaimed that when he grows up, he's going to be yellow bat. Puts all my ambitions to shame.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

16 September 2009: Landscape

Back in the day, as the young people seem to have stopped saying now, I used to annoy my university housemates by insisting that we watch the Landscape Channel on cable TV.

(Actually, I used to annoy them by insisting we get cable TV, mainly so that Andy G and myself could watch Premiership and winter-tour cricket. I would also annoy them by making curry every saturday that stank the house out. On the upside, I tidied the garden and on one occasion cleaned the bathroom after making a mess during our 'chip the golf ball up the stairs and into the bathroom if you can manage it' game. The ceiling never recovered though. But I digress).

The Landscape Channel was, I insisted, music video television for classical and instrumental music. It helped me relax, I told them, from my busy lecture schedule (which during my final semester saw me have to go to classes on both Monday and Tuesday, with only a five day weekend in which to do my dissertation) and I also postulated the occasional strains of Mozart and Bizet would help all our brains function better, especially the engineers who had actual work to do.

Actually, I just enjoyed watching it, or having it on in the background while doing other things. It was wonderful for reasons I simply can't explain: there was just something captivating about seeing the boat cross the canal aqueduct really really slowly to the strains of Dvorak's Hovis symphony (I don't know it's real name and I'm not going to look it up, but UK readers know what I'm on about), or seeing the penguins survive the winter and hatch their eggs while Pachelbel played in the background. My favourites were a pastel-based animation to the strains of some panpipe music ('Incantation' were the band - I even bought their 'Panpipes of the Andes' album on the back of this) and the rarely-shown 'deserted coastal resort and pier' to the sax music of David Roach (turned out to be Great Yarmouth on investigation).

Anyway, I left university and never thought about it much again, until the all-encompassing power of things like Google and YouTube made me wonder if I could find it again. And a few weeks ago, I did: I discovered that the Landscape Channel folks have struggled for a while to find a place for their work, but now some Euro-wide satellites are beaming their stuff in HD around the place, and they even have a website now, from where you can purchase HD vids for download. Not sure about that, though... it was nice having it there in the background but I can listen to WFMT for free, and if I was going to buy something relaxing I might well choose to get some white noise MP3s instead (that site deserves its own blog entry, though - and you can try it here).

But then Google did another wonderful thing and turned up not only the official site and some YouTube rips, but actually an official podcast that the Landscape folks did not so long ago, where there are nineteen 20-minute Landscape Channel snippets available for download and viewing (therefore featuring four or maybe five vids per podcast). Podcast 2 features a couple of donkeys in a field listening to Mark Knopfler's 'Wild Theme' from Local Hero and number 15 features David Roach's 'Love Is' sax thing while showing the afore-mentioned deserted coastal resort (second vid on the podcast). The penguins are in there two or three times and even the boring canal boat features once. I don't see the panpipes one there, but then I have that CD anyway so it's just you who's missing out on that one.

Why do I say all this? No idea, it just struck me as something wonderful and timeless, and for those of us who remember the Landscape Channel (or the Art of Landscape on Channel 4, as it was even prior to the cable channel), it's a chance to detox your day just like we used to, without having to annoy housemates in the process.

Footnote: Listening to the music without the pictures is better for work purposes. I've discovered that I like some of the music more than others, even though I don't know it all. Twice I've thought 'oo, I like that, wonder what it is', and it turned out to be the Art of Noise; three times I thought 'hm, don't like that much' and it turned out to be Bach. Not saying there's any absolute comparison there, but I guess I just really don't like Bach.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

15 September 2009: Sofia

Hello Bulgaria!

I'm a little curious as to the attention this blog has been getting recently from places as far flung as Vietnam, Jordan, Singapore, Poland and Finland. The stats reveal that not only are these the places people are coming from to read about this increasingly-mistitled AKTing Lark (as well as the usual suspects from Cheltenham, Salford, Redhill, Hemel Hempstead and Southampton), but it seems we've found a Google search that has taken over from Dietmar Van Nostrilboy.

Step up Google search for 'You're Not Signing Anymore' - the all-new popular anti-Chelsea football chant, and guess who's number one on Google when you search for it?

Reminds me of the time someone listed this blog as being an investment advice site due to the fact I linked to Southampton FC's page on the London Stock Exchange.

Footnote: Radio stations send QSL cards to distant listeners. I can't manage that but I'll happily send an email to anyone interested. Comments are open to anyone, O Wise Bulgarian Viewer...

Monday, September 14, 2009

14 September 2009: Classifieds

You want proof that life is stranger than fiction? Look at the classified ads.

The 'classified ads' section of the local paper (usually the Evening Herald) was always a good laugh. There'd be a number of incredibly mundane items for sale ("Large bomber jacket, blue, £35") interspersed by the occasional item of wonder ("Talking dog, it really talks. Only says 'woof', hence £3.50") and those you knew would never happen ("Will swap: unsuccessful lottery ticket from last week for Spice Girls Reunion concert in back garden. Not on the 14th though.").

Even the radio would get involved - BBC Radio Devon's mid-morning show used to feature Ian Brass reading out classified ads and you could phone in and be put in touch with the relevant elderly lady looking to sell her Breville Soup Warmer.

Then came the Framley Examiner: fiction overcame fact. Pages of wonderful fake classifieds were created over the years (before the boys presumably moved on to higher things), ranging from the beautifully honest ("Inflatable breadboard. Used once. Very disappointing. £2.") to the honestly bizarre ("Caravan Cosy. Six year of knitting. No longer required. Caravan now cosy.") and the occasional personal ad ("Made of snow? I am made of snow.") and job ("Molford business requires full-time person. Must be a person all the time. Must not sometimes be an octopus or a pot-plant or a cloud").

But now it seems that Craigslist, the classified page for the twenty-first century, has once again determined that truth is stranger than fiction. The Telegraph today (presumably bouyed by Last Night at the Proms or something) did a story about the weirdest stuff yet advertised on Craigslist: examples include a few personals -

14) My teeth
"I left my Dentures in your Silverado last night. I gave you my number but did not get yours. Please call me asap. I need my teeth. We met in the parking lot of Margarita Jones. Get back to me asap please. Thank you."

and even a cat that frankly could have come from Framley:

17) Ferocious attack kitten
"This destructive kitty has been trained as a proud warrior and will fiercely defend your house, even against you. Has a very soft and furry belly, like a teddy bear - however he will bite your face if you try to touch it. For the love of God, someone please take this thing out of my house."

- and that last line is why it's so good: you get a look, however briefly, into the desperate situation the poor person has got themselves into and how you can help out.

So there it is, proof that life is stranger than fiction. And if you don't believe me, read about Pickles, the dog who found the World Cup after it was stolen in 1966. According to Wikipedia, it seems Pickles died the following year, choking on his own lead while chasing a cat. A dog never destined to live out a dull existence, and an example to us all.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

8 September 2009: Links

Changed the order of links on the right hand side of the blogger page today (that's about as much design work as you'll ever get out of me).

In particular, note the sudden rise to attention of Ali's blog as she has brought it back to life in preparation for the release of her first novel next month. Available from all good bookstores that support romantic comedy, and probably a few that don't. Read more about it all here.

In addition, following a number of somewhat bizarre phone conversations over recent months concerning the worldwide travellings of our westcountry foodstuff known as the Cornish Pasty, it has been decided by myself and Ali to begin a semi-regular blog named 'Pasty Watch' where we will attempt, among other things, to locate the world's most far-flung pasty, determine the correct recipe and settle the Ivor Dewdney debate once and for all ("are they any good or is it just a nostalgia thing?").

And in true Daily Mail form, I need to add a health scare: according to this link and some not-yet-very-substantiated research, it seems that homogenized milk is particularly less healthy than non-homogenized milk, especially from a cholesterol viewpoint, due to smaller fatty lumps being more easily absorbed into the body (uh-oh).

Better get back to Traderspoint.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

3 September 2009: You're Not Signing Anymore

Read this article from

See that little sentence hidden away in the second-to-last paragraph?

Chelsea are banned from registering any new players, either nationally or internationally, for the two next entire and consecutive registration periods following the notification of the present decision.

Sheesh. No more signings for Chelski until 2011. Not even Ali Dia.

They'd better make sure they don't annoy the current team.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

2 September 2009: Headlines

Doug directs our attention towards the Daily Mail Random Headline Generator.

From there, there's a link to the even more fascinating (because it's real-world) study of actual Daily Mail headlines that track, on a daily basis, the essential categorization by the Mail of all items in the known universe into one of two groups: things that cause cancer, and things that cure cancer.

Recent examples (all from August 2009) include:
  • Could marriage be the secret to surviving cancer?
  • How a romantic candle-lit dinner can give you cancer
  • Don't give children ham sandwiches, say cancer experts
  • Why eating popcorn is good for your health: Popcorn could help prevent cancer, research suggests.
Still, it's better than the Daily Echo, where the top headline this morning was:

"Ten-mile jam as DVLA runs tax disc checks"

- implying that the DVLA were stopping people on a busy road and individually checking their tax discs, when in fact they had a van out on the A31 with a camera that was taking number plates based on the fact that it was August Bank Holiday and so the traffic was guaranteed to be going slowly enough to capture them all on film, for computer-based checks. Tax discs were never checked at any stage in the process, and while it was frustrating for those stuck in the jam (and I remember an equivalent jam on the A303 which lengthened the Barnstaple - Southampton run from three to over six hours) it was nothing much to do with the DVLA: they were just taking advantage of the Bank Holiday jams.

Meantime, news from the lump is that a urologist has now dismissed any remaining suggestions of cancer and has prescribed "aspirin and a jockstrap" to relieve the inevitable (yearly, he suggests) pain from the non-growing cysts. Leading to the inevitable conclusion that the UK National Health Service is better than the US health system, probably solely on the basis that at least I'd get the jockstrap on the NHS in the UK.

Hmm - kind of implies a Daily Mail headline, doesn't it?

Could Jockstraps Be Miracle Cancer Cure?

Update: Actual Daily Mail article from February states that using Facebook causes cancer. See, you're all going to die except me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

20 August 2009: Traffic

So Aviva released a second version of the Argyle advert, as the Argyle official site mentioned back when the first one come out.

Most interesting thing though is the amount of traffic this whole affair has drawn to my humble blog. Why? Because of the entry titled Dietmar Van Nostrilboy. Seems that if you search on that name on, this blog came up for ages at number one, and it has now aligned with putting me in at number two.

And therefore the Feedjit experiment reveals the following typical statistics (click for closer view)...

Weird or what? Anyway, a continuing big hello to all Nostrilboy fans out there, and maybe Argyle should sign him after all. Couldn't do any worse than Rory Fallen so far this season.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

15 August 2009: Surprise

Switched on the TV this morning and almost splurted my fresh cup of PG all over the floor.

ESPN2 showing Premier League footy. Seriously. Chelsea v Hull, live on ESPN2, complete with poor-quality British commentators mixing metaphors in classic Motson style. Why was this?

First thing I thought of was the UK rights story, where Setanta went under and ESPN (despite not having a UK presence) bought Setanta's small slice of the Premier League pie and decided to make a minor commitment to the UK market. But that's the UK - as you may or may not know, Setanta is actually still going over here in the US and doing quite well (for instance, they offer Championship football on subscription-basis over the internet as well as on satellite/cable), and anyway Setanta US didn't have any EPL ('English Premier League': that's what it seems to be universally known as outside of the UK) rights here anyway.

But, unquestionably, ESPN2 were clearly showing the game live, even down to the highly-unlikely event of six minutes of injury time, during which Chelsea scored their oh-so-predictable winner. So what was going on?

Well, according to this news story (dateline yesterday), ESPN's US operation negotiated a deal with Fox Sports International (who actually hold the EPL rights here in the US) to show up to 48 live games this season, essentially including the early Saturday game (or a regular 3pm UK time game if there's no early game) and the 12 Monday Night games (Monday afternoon over here). No hint as to why they did this other than ESPN's self-proclaimed "continued efforts to serve soccer fans in the United States."

A few years ago I would have been cynical about that, but given the amount of coverage they give the Champions League, combined with World Cup qualifiers and the native MLS coverage, ESPN is now giving a genuinely half-decent service without the need to fork out additional premium subscriptions for the Fox Soccer Channel. Maybe, just maybe, the world's most popular sport is actually making some serious ground here in the US. The fact that no other major sports take place on Saturday mornings certainly helps with scheduling.

Of course, nobody showed the real important matches today, including Argyle's Chelsea-esque injury time goal to grab a point off a reportedly superior QPR side, or Saints getting walloped by Huddersfield.

Huddersfield? Sheesh.

Footnote: as a few of you may have noticed, I've been playing around with a 'Feedjit' widget thing that I saw on Doug's blog that tells you where (geographically) visitors to your blog come from. Interesting stuff, although I seem to come from any of kokomo, Carmel and Indianapolis - but it also shows how they reached the site. Fascinatingly, I learned that if you Google for 'Dietmar Van Nostrilboy', my relevant blog entry comes up top. So a big hello to all you Nostrilboy fans out there...

Monday, August 10, 2009

10 August 2009: Shoes

Following a quick look at a very interesting link on Doug's blog, I decided to try it for myself. The original link was to a video comparison of running styles of a not-trained-to-run-barefoot runner:

"It's got to be the shoes," says the narrator. Interesting stuff. But is it repeatable? Well, I've never run barefoot much, although we used to have to run in those plimsoll things at Cornwood School (I note these are now brightly coloured and sold at ridiculously inflated prices under the name 'Converse' shoes). So, given the proximity of our local gym (just the other side of the bathroom at home), it was time to set up the camera and see what the difference would be.

These are slowed to half-speed and you can slow it still further in YouTube if you like. The interesting thing to me was the difference in angle of landing foot: when shod, I land heavily ankle-first; without, I land on ball of foot. Further thing is that the centre of gravity shifts further forward - with no shoes, the foot isn't so much in front when it lands as below, thereby allowing me to use gravity rather than quad-muscles to propel forwards. Doug also pointed out that (especially towards the end of the video) there's a lot more backlift without shoes, perhaps three to four inches.

Why do I post this? Firstly to say that it seems - as I remember when Kevin and myself went to Pompey to buy running shoes - that there's no effort on the part of the shoe manufacturer to correct running style, ever. Instead they aim to compensate for your running style, adding more padding and taking you consistently further away from the natural technique of no-shoe running.

Secondly, however, to say that if you DO change running style and attempt to land ball-first, you will notice several things: your calf muscles will ache, your shins might get sore, your calf muscles will ache more and then your calf muscles will scream out in agony saying stop stop please stop please stop now.

And, if you run barefoot-style while continuing to wear heavily-padded running shoes, you'll get shin splints and generally struggle. Just socks lead to blisters; nothing at all on feet leads to blood and possible sectioning.

Instead experts such as Barefoot Ted (and Doug, come to that) recommend these Vibram Five Finger things:

Me, I'm just wondering where my old Plimsolls went.

Footnote: Some very bizarre synaptic event occurred in my brain five minutes ago, leading me to think "where was I ten years ago today?" And I found out - well, not so much today as tomorrow: 11 August 1999, it turns out, was the day there was a total eclipse of the sun over south-west England. Remember that? I was in London (no vacation time left from QAS), watching a 98.5% partial eclipse from the courtyard at old town, while my family were down in Devon, under heavy cloud.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

6 August 2009: Dietmar Van Nostrilboy

Well, that didn't take long.

Less than a week after the afore-mentioned Aviva advert came out, an Argyle fan has gone down to Home Park and bought a shirt with the name of Argyle's most-wanted signing on it - none other than Dietmar Van Nostrilboy.

Thing is, give it a year and he'll be struggling to explain to anyone why he has that name on his shirt.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

5 August 2009: Samples

Having made more Lincolnshire sausages, it was time to try them out on the natives. Chilled, sadly, rather than piping hot as they should be served, but nevertheless in came the samples to work so I could see what reaction there would be to the two questions: (1) do you like it and (2) what does it compare with over here in the USA?

Answer to number (1) was generally 'yes' in a variety of tones ranging from bored to enthusiastic, although a few folks said they didn't like sausage generally and as such it wasn't forced on them.

Answer to number (2) varied enormously. Suggestions included:
  • "It's kind of like Italian sausage what with the seasonings."
  • "It's a little like Bratwurst. Nothing like Italian sausage."
  • "Ooh, I can taste the onions. It's like meat with onions."
  • "Hm, it tastes like venison sausage to me. You sure it's not deer meat?"
  • "It reminds me of meatloaf."
  • "Maybe it's a little like venison sausage."
  • "Beef and noodles, that's what it tastes like."
  • "Kind of like a Bratwurst and breakfast sausage mixed. Or maybe Italian sausage and breakfast sausage mixed."
In other words, there's nothing really like it over here. Next thing to do is to take it to the butcher shop who sold us the sausage skins and see if they like it. Who knows, maybe Andy was right and there's a cottage industry in this after all?

On the other hand, Doug sent me a link to his blog and it makes me feel quite ashamed that I'm having anything to do with sausages at all.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

4 August 2009: Aviva

McDougal brings the following video to our attention:

Awright, bay? Best thing about it is that Paul Whitehouse has actually got the Janner accent down pretty well - most times non-locals will just do a random countryside accent for Plymuff, which often ends up sounding like Norfolk or at best Bristol. Some Argo fans are saying 'no, sounds more like Bristol/Gloucester to me', but Becky can be the judge of that. And the vernacular is correct too:

Green Army!

Anything wrong with it? Well, he's not droivin' a bleddy Nova, is 'ee now? Ow's ee spectin to get anywhere op the loine or even jus dowwn Asders to do ees lodderies if ee ain't godda Nova?

Update: Just found a little more info from the Herald about the advert. Seems Argyle's Mr Media Rick Cowdery had a lot to do with re-writing the initial script to ensure it was genuine Janner.

Further update: Blogger's spellchecker doesn't know how to spell vernacular. Thanks Becky. And no, I don't tweet. It reminds me too much of the episode of Scrubs where J.D. decides to take a dictaphone around with him to record his thoughts and the best he can come up with is 'I like toast'.

Talking of which, time to make some toast.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

1 August 2009: Streaming

For those who attended and those who didn't, there's an archive of the streamed video for Hope For The City which took place in Foster Park here in Kokomo yesterday. The archive appears to be based on the Pacific Time Zone and kicks off around 11.30am according to that page.

Thanks to Kling's Computers for use of their broadband and for those interested, it's being streamed through, a site I've only ever come across before in the context of occasional Plymouth Argyle matches.

Monday, July 27, 2009

27 July 2009: Meatballs

Actually, that title is just to make McDougal happy.

As I've been following Le Tour fairly closely this year, I thought I should mention a few pertinent points that the mainstream media may have missed.

Firstly, the fact that Mark Cavendish won six stages and yet didn't win the Green Jersey (although without his somewhat harsh points deduction on that middle stage, he would have won it)... shows that Cavendish may well be, as he himself claims, the best sprinter in the world, but being the best sprinter in the world doesn't necessarily equate to the Tour De France Green Jersey. I suspect he's learned a lot from this experience, most notably the importance of tactical riding on days that are not sprinter-friendly in order to minimize losses to Green Jersey rivals. In other words, I think he's going to learn from this and come back next year to win Green simply by being more tactically astute.

Secondly, there have been notably few references to drugs in this years Tour. Is that because they're all clean?

Right, that's what I thought too. This thought-provoking article in the Guardian delves a little deeper into the question of third-generation EPO and blood doping, and asks some very key questions, including how it could be that Contador could climb the mountains so hard, so fast - in fact, harder and faster than anyone in the history of the Tour, with Greg LeMond (who should know) feeling that there has to be more going on with Contador than meets the eye.

Key quote:

Greg LeMond, the Tour champion of 1986, 1989 and 1990 and a noted critic of doping, used his French newspaper column to examine the implications of the statistics of the climb in which Contador soared away from his rivals, covering 8.5km of road with an average slope of 7.5% in 20min 55sec, averaging just over 30kph up a series of steep ramps linked by hairpins.

"No one in the Tour has ever climbed as fast as that," LeMond wrote, going on to talk about the findings published recently in LibĂ©ration, in which Antoine Vayer, a performance expert and former trainer with the defunct Festina team, estimated that, judging by his results, Contador must have a VO2 max figure – the measurement of a body's ability to take in and use oxygen – so high that, in LeMond's view, it would have to be superior to that of any athlete who ever lived.

Cynical? It's hard not to be, that's the thing. Bradley Wiggins going from track star to mountain expert and team leader in a little under a year? Hmm.

The fact that Armstrong can come out of retirement and hang with the best implies perhaps that simply the standards aren't as high as they used to be. OK, but the absolute stats are that Contador was out-of-this-world this year. He was unstoppable and even the mountain specialist Schleck brothers couldn't shake him on the highest of the Alps. Those standards are very high. And Contador was unbeatable.

Presumably, if he's that good, we should expect another Indurain/Armstrong-esque domination of the Tour for the next few years.


Postscript: This is the sixteenth blog this month, thereby surpassing all previous months since I began this lark in 2004. Didn't expect that.

Post-post-script: The "Markus Liebherr" Google News count stands today at 331, down from over 400 at its peak.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

24 July 2009: Lump

Please read this entry on Rob's blog. Better than any movie plot in the last ten years.

Meantime, been a weird week here. Discovered a lump where there shouldn't be a lump and if you don't like clinical language, look away now.

Looking away yet?

OK. The lump is on my right testicle. And it wasn't there before.

I know that it wasn't there before because a couple of years ago Plymouth Argyle fans were exposed to the risks of testicular cancer: both goalkeeper Romain Larrieu and commentator Gordon Sparks were diagnosed with it at similar times. Both have made recoveries (indeed Larrieu is possibly in the form of his life now and has been appointed club captain) and, in ways smaller than Lance Armstrong, have done their best to raise awareness.

One thing I always remember was shortly after they both recovered, Sparksy posted on Pasoti, saying the advice he had for all men was to examine regularly, and if they didn't fancy doing the job themselves, then they should ask their wives to do it for them. Additionally, it's Biblical: 1 Corinthians 11v28a: "A man ought to examine himself". And so, I've been a regular examiner ever since. And now, on Tuesday night, a lump was found, maybe a centimetre in diameter.

As much as I've sometimes been in shock and awe at how poor the private health networks are over here compared to the NHS (seriously? Yes - in terms of performance as well as ridiculous complexity), they pulled through in fine - astonishing - style this week. Tuesday morning we called for an appointment, a doctor (not our usual one, but that's fine) was available Wednesday morning. Went in for initial examination, referral for an ultrasound was the result and that ultrasound took place little over an hour later at the same location.

Results came through this morning. Apparently I have a number of cysts on my testicles: three on the left and two on the right. All quite small - much smaller than the lump. And they also found something called a hydrocele, which I'd never heard of before. So what is the lump? They're not sure, the nurse suggesting that it was one of the cysts with fluid collected around it - the nurse was a vague as to whether it was related to the hydrocele or not.

And what to do? It should go away, said the nurse. If it's growing, or if it's still there in two to three weeks, I'm to go back and they'll see if anything else needs to be done. But it sounds as if it were something heavy and sinister like cancer or pregnancy then the ultrasound would have picked it up.

Still, something to keep an eye on. Well, for me, anyway. You can keep your eyes to yourself.

And if you don't like clinical language, you can look back now.

Footnote: The term 'hydrocele' is seemingly not only new to me, but also to Blogger's spellchecker. No surprise there.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

18 July 2009: Stuffer

We got a sausage stuffer and made these sausages.

Following our earlier successfulle experimente with sausage recipes, it was now time to get hold of some sausage skins and see if we could make the real thing.

For those who missed the earlier excitement (or saw it get lost in the Saints melee that was this blog for three months), the story is that you can't get British-style sausages in the USA, except for some reasonably-close imitations from a pub in Indianapolis. However, a very nice man (and award-winning sausage guru) named Simon at Uptons of Bassett butcher shop in Southampton was kind enough to suggest a couple of recipes while we were there in April. Following his advice we put together a basic Lincolnshire recipe and tried them out, and deemed the recipe as successful and genuine.

So now it was time to get some skins and stuff our mixture into them. To do this, we needed an additional attachment for the mixer (acquired in Texas last week) and, of course, some sausage skins.

Phoned up the local butcher shop (well, phoned all three of them but only one would help) and he said we should use natural casings rather than artificial, as artificial tends to be a little chewy. Fair enough, until you realise that 'natural casings' means pig intestine, doesn't it? Yum.

So, assuming you have pork shoulder ground up and mixed with bread, salt, pepper and sage in the previously-stated quantities, along with a stuffing attachment and some intestine, here's what you do to make sausages.

First, run water through the intestine about three or four times:

Next, put the stuffer onto the grinding attachment, grease the stuffer and feed about four feet of intestine (sorry, casing) on there:

Then it's time to tie the end - either using string or just a careful, tight knot in the end of the casing - and begin putting the sausage mix into the top of the grinder/stuffer attachment:

Now the fun begins. Push the mix down into the grinder (using a tool, not your fingers) and it'll start coming out into the sausages:

Make sure that you don't over-stuff the casing, since it'll need a little expansion room when you twist them into links:

Once you're done, you'll have four feet of glorious-looking sausages:

If you're doing Cumberland Ring, just curl it up. We're doing individual Lincolnshire sausages, so it's time to twist:

We weren't hugely successful first time round with making them the same length, but they look pretty authentic:

Then we cut them up to put in the fridge, which is the photo at the top of this blog. Final stage of the process (aside from washing up and decontaminating the entire kitchen - and the camera - after getting raw pork everywhere) was phoning up some other British people in town and inviting them over for a barbecue this evening.

However, it might be wise just to cook one up now and check it's ok... just to avoid disappointing our guests, you know...?

Thanks again to Simon from Uptons for supplying both the basic recipe and the encouragement to make sausages in this far distant land.

Friday, July 17, 2009

17 July 2009: Definition

Today's Tour stage was interesting with that German/Aussie guy going way out the front and weeping as he crossed the line in first.

Further back down, Lance looked very strong in a reasonably-mountainous stage, but in the green jersey fight the battle seems to be twofold: one battle between Cavendish and Hushovd, and a secondary battle for the definition of the green jersey - is it for the "best sprinter" or "most consistent daily finisher"?

Back when I started following the race, there was a red jersey more purely for the sprinters, and the green jersey would usually be won by Sean Kelly. Since 1989, there's been no red jersey, and they upped the points in the flat stages and intermediate sprints for the green jersey. So it's a battle of definitions...

So today, up in the mountains, we saw that Hushovd is strong enough to remain there or thereabouts, at least when there aren't the absolute toughest mountains. Today he finished in the first main bunch (alongside Lance, Contador and the rest) and takes the green jersey back off Cavendish by five points. Tomorrow is flat-ish again, and Cavendish might take it back again. Sunday we're in the mountains, so...

There's no question that Cavendish is the fastest man in the race. But Hushovd is probably the most consistent sprint-and-hang in there guy. So which category will win green when it comes to Paris?

Hard to say, but with more mountains than flat stages left, the smart money might just have to be on Hushovd, even if Cavendish wins on the Champs-Elysees in nine days' time.

17 July 2009: Pardew

As McDougal reported, Alan Pardew is confirmed as Saints manager.

Fair enough. Good manager for this level of football (third tier in the English game). Unexciting. Will probably get promotion with some good investment.

Means I can stop talking about Saints on this blog since they now seem to be a little more stable than back on April Fool's Day, when the whole thing kicked off. There'll be a few signings before the transfer window closes at the end of August, some of which may be surprising and exciting, and Plymouth Argyle will also look to put some serious moves together as part of their newly-expressed five-year plan to get to the Premiership.

So, what else to talk about? Sausages? Scottish castles? Le Tour? The Semantic Web??

That last one is what this blog was supposed to be about in the first place. Ironic that now, over five years after starting this blog, the blog has developed more than the Semantic Web...

Or has it?

Addendum: Bradley Wright-Phillips has left Saints to join Argyle, news largely buried by the ongoing managerial turmoil and the fact that he's generally regarded as being a rubbish player. Saints fans opined that he'd been seen attempting to take the train down to Plymouth. Apparently he was right there with plenty of time to spare but still somehow managed to miss it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

16 July 2009: Mundane

Next Saints manager? Hot tip today seems to be Alan Pardew.

Which seems very mundane after all the Strachan talk, but there we are. Strachan rumours continue, as do Dennis Wise rumours and 'Director of Football' rumours, but Pardew seems to have come from nowhere yesterday to being odds-on favourite today.

Rumours continue to suggest a Saturday announcement of the new manager, although the new man won't take charge of the team until next week. Assuming, of course, that it is a man...

Now there's a thought. Anyone remember 'The Manageress'?

Update 8.09pm eastern: BBC website now reporting Pardew is to be appointed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

15 July 2009: Cavendish

Update to earlier post: Cavendish fought very hard on an uphill finish, and yet again beat all the rest. Hushovd finished about fifth, meaning Cav gets the Green Jersey back again.

But does he care?

"There's only one thing that matters now," he said in the immediate post-race interview, still out of breath and revealing what seems an increasingly strong scouse accent, "and Paris is in sight."

He wants to win on the Champs Elysees. The Green Jersey is just decoration.

15 July 2009: Versus

Speculation mounts that the new Saints manager (along with the new owner and possibly a new player or two, although that seems less likely given the lack of managerial appointment yet) will be revealed at or immediately before the pre-season friendly against Ajax on Saturday.

Rumours continue to circulate that the man in question is none other than Gordon Strachan, and that the reason there have been far fewer leaks than previous appointments is that the new regime is smaller, tighter and far less prone to give information away. Secondary rumours point to Dennis Wise, and Tony Adams refuses to go away (no jokes here about "going away" and his prison term in 1989 please), and in fact remains the current bookie favourite.

Meantime life outside the Saints bubble continues with the Tour De France and "Versus" (US TV network formally known as OLN) giving not only audio but low-bandwidth video (not sure how that link renders outside the US); alongside that the BBC Sport website are providing Simon Brotherton's live commentary on the final hour or so of the stages and of course they're doing live text commentary too. Very exciting, especially compared to previous years in the UK.

As for the race itself, Mr Lance is going ok - third, eight seconds back - with Contador his team "mate" (like they're friends, right?) two seconds ahead in second place. Alps to come this weekend, which should determine who wins. Of at least as much interest to me is Mark Cavendish, who keeps winning stages but still bizarrely is struggling to get hold of the Green Jersey due to Thor Hushovd's tactical planning and marginally better ability to get over the mountains. Cavendish is comfortably the best sprinter in the field - McDougal tells me it's due to aerodynamics trumping sheer strength at high sprint speeds - so we'll keep an eye on that. As I write this, Cavendish is six points behind so if yesterday's result is repeated (Cavendish first, Hushovd second) then Cav will be just one point behind. But... the Alps still to come... along with the usual British sporting tactic of blowing a great opportunity...

Postscript: Nostalgic YouTube link for those in the UK who remember Stephen Roche, Malcolm Elliot and the Tours of the late 1980s.

Monday, July 13, 2009

13 July 2009: Managers

Some things never change with Saints, such as the constant need to change managers.

I mean, I go away to Texas for a few days with next-to-no internet and bam, Saints new owners sack the manager. So the next appointment will be the eighteenth manager in fifteeen years, and the eleventh in the last five-and-a-bit years (Strachan (left early 2004), Sturrock, Wigley, Redknapp, Bassett/Wise, Burley, Gorman/Dodd, Pearson, Poortvliet, Wotte and New Manager).

The weird thing is, three hours prior to being dismissed, Mark Wotte was talking to the media about how positive he's feeling about the new owners.

Next thing he knows, "Here's your P45. Is that job in Egypt still open for you?"

So, rumours abound as to the next manager. Early favourite (by a country mile) was Gordon Strachan, who was a fantastic manager while at Saints who left essentially because of Rupert Lowe. Except he's since been a very successful manager at Celtic and could probably get any job he wants right now, so he probably won't be back.

More recent rumours focus heavily on Nigel Pearson, who had a brief but relatively successful stint at Saints a little over a year ago (ie, he kept Saints from relegation in the Championship). Rumour is he's unhappy with former Pompey bailer Milan Mandarin at Leicester, and might be willing to do something with Saints.

Further rumours suggest a Director-of-Football and Team Manager combination, possibly even bringing back Strachan, Le Tiss or Keegan as DoF with Pearson, Tony Adams or Micky Adams as team manager. A little far-fetched perhaps, but not as far-fetched as Saints being taken over by a Swiss billionaire.

Incidentally, the Echo has published a full and frank interview with the Administrator, Mark Fry, about the whole process. Very revealing stuff, and shows just how on-the-brink Saints really were.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

8 July 2009: Complete

As reported on this blog yesterday, the deal is now complete.

Sky Sports, the Echo, Solent and the rest are now carrying official statements from the Administrator and the club, which includes the following interesting statement:

Markus Liebherr was attracted to Southampton by a number of qualities which include the Club's rich sporting heritage, loyal fan base, first class stadium and training facilities and the potential for the Saints to regain their rightful place at the higher echelons of English football.

Maybe he thinks he's buying someone else? Anyway, the money is currently being transferred and rumours that he asked to pay for the club using Tesco vouchers are completely unfounded: he's paying in cash money. The only problem might be actually getting the dosh up from the docks to the bank...

Anyway, time to break out the Toblerone. Saints are saved!

Footnote: "Markus Liebherr" count on Google news was up to seven by earlier this morning. As I write this, we're up to forty-one.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

7 July 2009: Liebherr

That's Markus Liebherr, the new owner of Saints. He's very rich and has bought the club for 12.5 million pounds, or one of Christiano Ronaldo's knees.

He is leaning on a small tank, which is what he used to destroy Rupert Lowe and all his works.

We just have to speak very quietly and don't let on that 'League One' is not actually the top division in English football...

Footnote: As of right now, Google News has zero articles if you search on "Markus Liebherr". Wonder what it will reach in a day or two?

7 July 2009: Waitrose

Away from Saints, we were in Chicago last weekend.

And while I don't have time to go into the whole Taste Of Chicago debacle (but let's just say if we'd have known that the 2008 event featured four people being shot, one fatally, we might have not gone and thus avoided the stampede when a Saints-like rumour of 'THEY'RE SHOOTING GUNS" was being loudly dispensed from the mouths of hundreds of people running full-pelt away from the event, combined with the police advising "get out of town now"), it was certainly a time of ups and downs.

Ups included seeing a show by the wonderful, and I mean fantastic, Improvised Shakespeare Company, who are based in Chicago and who improvise a Shakespeare-style play based on audience suggestions (and on any props that happen to break during the performance); seeing Moody Bible College campus; eating at Giordano's (of course!). Downs included having to wait for ages for the commuter train out of town after the Taste debacle, getting a little ill after eating too much Giordano's, and the frozen chicken they served me at IHOP.

But as the photo above shows, if you go to Borders in Michigan Avenue in central Chicago, you can get an interesting selection of magazines to peruse while enjoying your peppermint tea and Rice Krispie square. In particular, a wide-ranging selection of BBC magazines and several well-known UK football periodicals led to an extended stay, but the most interesting is the one almost clipped out of the photo above. Let me give you another photo:

Yes, it's Waitrose Food Illustrated. Included an article on a guy in China who made his own bacon (yes, it's going to happen in Kokomo as well, as soon as we source some decent organic pork). I had no idea it had any kind of circulation outside the UK. In fact, I had no idea it had any kind of circulation outside of Waitrose.

Interestingly, I have a cousin-in-law who's something of a somebody within Waitrose/John Lewis, and the two photos above have as a result now made their way within the Waitrose organisation, along with a suggestion that they should do a story on me making sausages. Sounds a little unexciting to me, but I'll happily trade them my story for a supply of those yellow corn-fed chickens and made a Gressingham duck.

7 July 2009: Expectation

Yesterday, today was tomorrow. That means that today, tomorrow is today. So the takeover of Saints should happen today. Right?

Well, actually, maybe yes. The latest Daily Echo report states that today is, most likely, the day and that an announcement should come later. The report also adds what amounts to a disclaimer:

There always remains the chance of last-minute complications but the remaining couple of glitches are expected to be ironed out this morning so that a formal announcement of the club’s new ownership can be made later in the day.

Always the chance of last-minute complications? What, with Saints, where everything runs so smoothly and always to plan?

Update 10.05am eastern: BBC Radio Solent report in their 3pm news bulletin that the deal is "on the brink of being completed", along with news that "all issues have been resolved" and "contracts are now being drawn up". BBC Sport website also reporting the same thing. Expect the SaintsWeb forum to crash.

Update 11.13 eastern: Solent in their 4pm bulletin report that essentially the deal is done and that funds are being transferred, but that transfer may not be complete until tomorrow morning. Nothing new from the Echo or other sources, but as Radio Solent is aimed mainly at listeners over the age of 200, they tend to keep excitement to a minimum and are the least likely of any media to sensationalise a story... still, it's never over until the fat lady sings, as they say...

Update 1.08 eastern: The Echo continues to state other bidders are still in the running, but concede all details have now been ironed out with the Swiss bid. Meantime, Solent's 5.15 sports bulletin featured their Sports Editor reiterating the earlier news, stating that all that remains is for the contracts to be signed and the money transferred. He said that he had thought it might happen this afternoon but it was now more likely to finally happen tomorrow.

Tomorrow? Should have seen that coming...

Update 1.50pm eastern: Solent just reported that one Markus Liebherr is the money-man behind the takeover. Not his company, nor his family, nor his family's company - doing it himself. Everything on course to complete tomorrow, state Solent.

Update 2.15pm eastern: Daily Echo article states it'll be done tomorrow. Always tomorrow. Always tomorrow. BBC article also updated with details of Markus Liebherr as the name behind the takeover.

Monday, July 06, 2009

6 July 2009: Cheesemakers

Blessed are the Cheesemakers. The Swiss ones, anyway.

BBC Radio Solent reporting (3pm UK time, 10am eastern) that the Swiss bid for Saints are awaiting a contract from the Football League (what contract? That's another story, I'm sure) to close out the deal. They're expecting it to all be wrapped up today or tomorrow.

Hang on, "close it out today or tomorrow"? Sounds like Pinnacle... surely that can't happen again...

Update 1.17pm eastern: The relevant thread on the Saints web forum has now reached a hundred pages, equating to five thousand messages posted on it (since it began on 19 June) and has had (as I write this) 241,518 views. And don't forget, to view it you have to be a registered user so that number doesn't include casual Pompey scummers looking for a classy football club, nor does it include Google's many crawlerbots. Oh, actual news? No, nothing new, the buyer is a member of the Liebherr family, but (it seems) not the Liebherr Holdings company itself. So: not today then, maybe tomorrow?

It's always tomorrow with Saints.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

2 July 2009: Takeover

No, not that one.

Plymouth Argyle were today taken over by a consortium of Japanese and local Plymouth businessmen. Yasuaki Kagami (he's the Japanese one, by the way) now owns 38% of the club, while a couple of others, including new chairman Sir Roy Gardner, own 13%, thus adding up to 51% and overall control. Gardner becomes chairman with Paul Stapleton stepping down to vice-chairman, and existing directors Tony Wrathall and Robert Dennerly also remain on the board.

Gardner, interestingly, used to be the Manchester United chairman. Not sure what that means for Argyle, but it sounds good.

Meantime Saints fans watch on in awe as a simple takeover is performed without any arguments with the Football League, fake consortiums, firesales (and now giveaways) of best players, points deductions, administration and now doubts over whether there will be enough players to put out a team for the new season. Latest rumours include Pinnacle thinking of coming back into it, the "overseas bid" being completed sometime next week and even Rupert Lowe pretending to be Dan McCauley and riding in on his white horse in shining armour to save the day.

Sounds unlikely, but then so does Plymouth Argyle attracting major interest from Japan.