Posts Tagged ‘bbc’

BBC Balloon Release Complaint

February 1, 2010

Here’s a complaint I lodged with the BBC, on Saturday, 30 January 2010, with added links and image:

Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, on the BBC’s ‘Chemistry: A Volatile History’, (ep. 2) released a big, red, helium-filled balloon, with a string attached.

On its return to earth, the balloon will become litter. Balloons are harmful to wildlife, as documented by the Marine Conservation Society.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 unequivocally makes it is an offence to drop ‘or otherwise deposit’ litter in a public place.

The Marine Conservation Society are campaigning to stop balloon releases, both by persuasion in the short term and, eventually, through prohibitive legislation. They are supported in that campaign by a large number of reputable organisations, including the RSPB, the RSPCA, the National Farmers’ Union, the Tidy Britain Group, Keep Scotland Beautiful, county bird clubs, various Wildlife Trusts and other organisations.

Please make it BBC policy to forbid the release of balloons, as many other organisations have done.

I’ve e-mailed a courtesy copy of the complaint to Prof. Al-Khalili. I’ll let you know what responses I get.

25 things about Andy Mabbett

February 20, 2009

I’ve been wondering whether anyone would tag me to give “Seven Things you Never Knew About Me”, and how on Earth I would come up with that many. My friend and colleague Emma Routh tagged me on Facebook in a similar exercise, but requesting twenty-five factoids!

For the benefit of those of you not on Facebook (where I’ve already tagged another 25 victims), here they are:

  1. I come from a long line of horsemen (following the paternal line). My grandfather was a cavalryman in India in the 1920s, then delivered bread from a horse-drawn cart. His father was a carriage driver for a wealthy Birmingham family, before that, my ancestors were stablemen for a Duke; and were from Fairford in Gloucestershire. I’ve contacted someone called Mabbett whose family has been in New Zealand for generations, but also harks from Fairford.
  2. I love flying and watching or reading anything to do with aeroplanes. I had an hour piloting a helicopter as a 30th birthday present, I’ve been up in a microlight, and I sweet-talked my way onto the cockpit of a commercial airliner for the landing at Birmingham International Airport on the return leg of my first flight (to Amsterdam) in 1989; yet I haven’t flown since a business trip to Dublin in 1996.
  3. I’m a pacifist.
  4. My spelling is appalling. I particularly have trouble using double letters when I should not, and vice versa. This is, apparently, typical of people of my generation, who were taught to read using the “” (ITA) system, which had no double letters. Nonetheless, I’ve always been a good and voracious reader (my reading age was over 16 when I was 9), and could read “proper” English while still being taught ITA. Forbidden, as a child, to read at the meal table, my mother says I would read sauce-bottle labels.
  5. I am a published writer: I have written two books on Pink Floyd ( an update of a previous work by ; all my own work), contributed to another, and written articles on the same subject for Q and Mojo, among others. When Pink Floyd were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Seattle, I wrote the programme notes. I was subsequently invited to the induction ceremony in New York, but couldn’t go as I was in the middle of buying my house. My second book is a set text on a university course in the USA.
  6. My hair used to be waist-length. Female friends were aghast when I cut it. I sold it to a wig-maker.
  7. I used to be a professional computer programmer, in COBOL and suchlike, for Cadburys. There was a time when every bar of chocolate which left their factory at Bournville had been counted by a stock control programme which I wrote. I haven’t coded for many years, though. I’d like to learn to programme again, for the web, perhaps using PHP.
  8. My books came about because, for ten years, I published and edited, with friends, a fanzine about Pink Floyd, ““. It was read in every continent except Antarctica (I really must get around or sending a copy to our research station there) and even smuggled behind the iron curtain. We had a subscriber in Kuwait, but sadly I never heard from him after the Iraqi invasion.
  9. I hold a certificate in counselling skills. I was encouraged to take my training further, but a job change took my career away from working with unemployed adults and towards on-line work. And how does that make you feel?
  10. I absolutely love dogs, but my domestic situation means I can’t keep one. My friends laugh at how often I stop to pat dogs in the street.
  11. Through my writing, I’ve met many famous people, and become an unashamed name-dropper. JohnRabbitBundrick, the Texan keyboard player with Free and The Who, once cooked me chilli and cornbread. James Galway and the London Symphony Orchestra played just for me (but he still owes me £15). The picture researcher on my first book was Mary McCartney, daughter of Paul. Bob Geldof once called me a cynic.
  12. I am a certified first-aider, and once saved a man’s life with CPR.
  13. I’ve always done voluntary work. I now do so for the RSPB, such as entertaining children at events (I’m very skilled at making dragonflies from pipe cleaners), and as a trustee of the West Midland Bird Club, for whom I am also webmaster and chairman. In my schooldays, I did conservation work at Moseley Bog Nature Reserve. Later, I was a volunteer for the Birmingham Railway Museum, doing almost everything from engine cleaning to shop sales, and from manning a level crossing to booking guest speakers. I also acted as steward on mainline steam trains, looking after the passengers as we went all over the country. The only place I never worked was on the footplate.
  14. I only passed my driving test at the third attempt, and have since been involved in four collisions requiring insurance claims. Only one, the most minor, was my fault.
  15. I’ve been managing websites since 1994 — the year Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented them founded the W3C (he invented the web in 1991, of course). I’ve been using on-line fora for work and socialising since 1995 since October 1994.
  16. I’ve been stalked online for years. If you search the Usenet archives, you will find fake accounts (including someone pretending to be me) announcing that I’m both a convicted “cottager” and a child abuser (I have a police safety-check certificate which says otherwise), have been sacked by the people who still employ me, and more.
  17. I collect things. If I had unlimited space, I’d collect everything, but I really have to stop myself, and limit my collecting to books, original artwork showing birds, fossils, and old artefacts related to Birmingham, such as bottles and badges and beermats and coins and 78-record sleeves and… Oh dear.
  18. I’m a grammar pedant: I say “fora” not “forums”, and detest the use of “bored of”. I love copy-editing and proof-reading, too.
  19. I had the job of demonstrating the World Wide Web to Michael (now Sir Michael) Lyons; the first time he saw it. He’s now head of the BBC Trust, and ultimately responsible for bbc.co.uk, ““.
  20. The Guardian‘s Ben Goldacre once referred to me as “the ever-vigilant Andy Mabbett“.
  21. I own an original drawing by Bill Oddie, from one of his books, “Birdwatching with Bill Oddie”. It cost just a couple of pounds on e-Bay, in a job lot with a signed photo of Liberace.
  22. I love old street furniture, especially the old cast-iron stuff we have inherited from the Victorian era. One of my achievements was to save the street-urinal from where Birmingham‘s International Convention Centre now stands, for Birmingham Railway Museum (though I don’t think they’ve yet re-erected it).
  23. I hate bananas. I really wish I didn’t as I know they’d be good for me, and are handy to carry when out in the countryside, but I can’t stand the taste or texture. Even the smell makes me feel nauseous. I love almost all other fruits and, as a child, would usually prefer fruit to sweets.
  24. If I go near fresh paint, I can still smell it for a week or more afterwards.
  25. The Duke of Edinburgh once trod on my cousin’s toe.

hAccessibility: BBC drop hCalendar microformat

June 23, 2008

Almost two years after I first raised the issue (to a reaction from the cabal that runs the microformats “community” which began with denial and moved to hostility) the BBC have stopped using the hCalendar microformat due to accessibility concerns.

Maybe now something can be done to incorporate one of the several, more accessible proposed work-arounds, into the relevant standards?

Thanks to Bruce Lawson and Patrick Lauke for breaking the news.

Update: Patrick now has a post on the subject, at webstandards.org

Stupid, Stupid BBC!

May 29, 2008

One of my favourite indulgences is to watch a whole TV series, on DVD, seeing each episode in quick succession. I saw most of The West Wing that way, for instance. It means that I don’t have the week-long wait after a cliff-hanger ending, and there’s no danger of missing a broadcast episode, and ruining (at least, as it would have done before the advent of BitTorrent!) the whole run.

Late last year, I treated myself by spending some cash I’d received for Christmas on two double-DVD sets, of the BBC adaptations of John Le Carré‘s cold-war spy thrillers, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and its sequel Smiley’s People (in print, these were separated by a third volume in the trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy, but this was not adapted by the BBC).

Two damaged copies of the former arrived, one after the other, needing to be returned, as the discs were loose inside the packaging. Then, Amazon were out of stock for some time. After a very frustrating wait, a further replacement copy finally arrived only a week or so ago.

I took advantage of the bank holiday weekend to set aside a couple of afternoons and three evenings to watch the whole lot. I thoroughly enjoyed the seven episodes of Tinker, Tailor…, starring Alec Guinness and with marvellous supporting performances by, among others, Bernard Hepton, Beryl Reid, Ian Richardson and a very young-looking Hywel Bennett. I then decided to watch the accompanying DVD “extra”, a documentary about the making of the series, before moving on to Smiley’s People.

In their wisdom, the BBC had included, with no prior warning, a scene which gave away the plot-twist-ending of Smiley’s People, and even showed the final scene! Though I still enjoyed the second series, it was nowhere near as engaging as it should have been had I been properly kept in suspense.

Whoever allowed such thoughtless idiocy should be sent to a gulag.

What would my grandfathers have said?

May 22, 2008

Back in 1996, or thereabouts, I gave a presentation to a meeting of my then colleagues and senior managers, and said something to the effect that the web, and the technologies that were emerging alongside it, would “change the way we work, as surely as the coming of electricity changed the way our grandfathers worked”. They looked at me as though I was raving mad, and there was even a murmur of embarrassed laughter. [To be fair, one of the few present who seemed to accept what I said was Michael — later Sir Michael — Lyons, whom I had earlier shown his first ever view of a web site. Now, as chairman of the BBC Trust, he’s responsible for overseeing bbc.co.uk!]

Last week, I wrote a review of a concert by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall (please feel free to comment on my review, below). During the interval, still sat in my seat (booked, of course, by e-mail), I wirelessly bluetooth connected a pocket-sized, folding keyboard (an iGo device, purchased on-line) to my Nokia N95 mobile computer (it’s really not fair to refer to the latter as a mere “phone”) and jotted down my thoughts on the first half. After the concert, I sat in the ICC’s adjacent cafe and, using the same kit, fact-checked some spellings and dates on the web, then completed the draft of my review, which I then sent by e-mail to my home PC. To be more precise, I hit “send” and dropped the N95 into my back pocket. The e-mail was actually sent from there, as I walked to my car.

When I got home, I tidied my prose, then e-mailed the review to the publishing site’s editor, who, after his usual procrastination, uploaded it to his web server. Can you imagine me writing a review that way, in 1995? I think I had the last laugh, after all. My grandfathers, George Mabbett and Harry Brazier, would have been astonished. And, I hope, proud.

Suggested method of publishing microformats in Twitter posts

January 5, 2008

Twitter posts like this one:

We’re still deep in the Sundarbans, near Tambulbunia, meeting experts on dolphins and tigers. l:Tambulbunia, Bangladesh=22.27722,89.71905

have a place- name and corresponding coordinates (indicated by the prefix “l:”). This has allowed them to be plotted on a map.

It should be possible for the poster to send, say:

We’re still deep in the Sundarbans, near Tambulbunia, meeting experts on dolphins and tigers. #hcard: fn+locality:Tambulbunia: country-name:Bangladesh: geo:22.27722,89.71905

using colons as delimiters and have Twitter render that comment marked up as an hCard.

In the short term, this could be achieved by a third-party site, like #hashtags .

UPDATE:  being more mindful of the 140 character limit than I have in the above example, perhaps class names might be abbreviated (“loc” for “locality”, “ctry” for “country-name”, and so on).

Free music, courtesy of your library

January 4, 2008

I lay awake last night (or rather, early this morning) listening to Radio 3, and heard some wonderful music by Paul Gilson, a composer I’d never previously even heard of.

The pieces were all delightful, and were “La captive”, “Andante and Scherzo for cello and orchestra” and “La mer”, performed by Timora Rosler (cello), Brassband Buizingen and the Flemish Radio Choir and Orchestra with conductor Martyn Brabbins.

If (like me in Birmingham), you have an enlightened library service, they will have paid for a subscription to Naxos Music, so, by entering your library card number (you do have a library card, don’t you?) you can listen on-line, for free, to a “CD quality” stream of their recordings of Gilson’s music (or anything else in their vast and ludicrously high-quality catalogue). From home (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Well, what are you waiting for?!


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