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.