Archive for the ‘annoyances’ Category

Moved to

July 27, 2010

This will be my last post on this site; I’ve migrated the whole blog to, including all the past posts and comments; and you can still comment on them there.

It’s been by far the most pain-free website migration I’ve ever been involved in 😉

If you have subscribed to one of this blog’s RSS feeds, or the e-mail version, you’ll need to update your subscription. Apologies for any inconvenience.

See you over there, I hope.

The Highway Code should be available as a set of linkable HTML documents, not just PDFs

July 22, 2010

This post has been moved to Sorry, but won’t let me set an automatic redirect.

When writing about the web, links are required

July 11, 2010

Today’s Telegraph has an interesting article about MPs (and their agents) allegedly bowdlerising articles about themselves on Wikipedia.

What it doesn’t have, though, are links to any of the articles, let alone to the edits under discussion (such as this edit).

The Telegraph needs to understand that the word “Web” in World Wide Web refers to the interlinking of articles on different sites.

Adding links to the articles and edits discussed would serve at least two purposes. It would provide evidence to support the allegations the paper is making; and it would be a convenience and a courtesy their readers.

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.

Bacchus Bar, Birmingham. Awful.

November 21, 2009

I spent yesterday evening, from 7-11, in , Burlington Arcade, Birmingham, one of Mitchells & Butlers supposedly “Classic Pubs”. Had I not been there as a guest of others, for whom I have great respect, I would have left.

The only guest ale was off.

The dirty plates left by the departing people whose table we occupied, and their and our empty glasses and bottles, were not collected once. The plates included uneaten food, which sat festering for four hours.

The men’s toilets were an utter disgrace: stinking, awash with urine – footsteps caused audible splashes; I’m going to have to have my trousers laundered – and clearly not attended to all evening. Everyone who entered, each time I was in there, commented. I was told the women’s toilets were little better.

A pile of vomit on the carpet outside the toilets was marked with a “wet floor” A-frame, but otherwise left for over an hour, remaining until after closing.

I have never seen such bad practice, even in run down inner-city pubs; let alone a supposedly prestige, and pricey, city-centre venue.

Update: I have contacted Mitchells & Butlers, and asked them to respond here. Their contact form includes several unnecessary yet mandatory questions, such as wanting my postal address (which I declined to give, using bogus data instead) and the number in the party, which must be a number, making it impossible for me to say “over 15”.

I am not a Twitcher!

June 8, 2009

Three times this week, people have referred to me, in good faith, as a “twitcher”. I’m not, and I blame lazy tabloid hacks for creating this misconception, which I will now try to lay to rest.

I am a birdwatcher or, if you will, a birder. I like to be outdoors, with my binoculars and sometimes a telescope, to watch birds. I like to travel to different places, such as hills or the coast, to see different kinds of birds, but I also like to watch common birds, like Starlings, in my garden, or as I move around my home city.

[Picture: Common Starling, Sternus vulgaris, from Creative Commons, by Paul Stein; licenced under Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.]

I like to know their life histories, and to read about and study their behaviour, their conservation and their contribution to human folklore.

All together, this brings me a great deal of enjoyment, and helps me to de-stress after spending long hours at a desk in front of a computer, or in stuffy meetings, in my day job. I try to pay some of it back, by sharing my interest with non-birders, and beginners, and by doing voluntary work for the RSPB and the West Midland Bird Club, of which I’m a trustee.

Occasionally, I am pleased to chance upon a rare bird, or to travel a short distance to a local reserve, knowing one is present. The interest in seeing a new species this way is sometimes tempered by the fact that, if it’s a rare vagrant from Siberia or the Americas, it is likely to be exhausted and near death. At the very least, it will never get home or find a mate.

Twitchers, on the other hand, enjoy an extreme, compulsive type of birding, whereby they will hunt out such rarities, competitively, often travelling great distance, at great cost, and enduring considerable discomfort, to do so. They will often prefer to see one bird of a new species, involving a day or more travelling, over the opportunity to spend time looking at a whole range of other, more common birds (which some of them refer to as “trash birds”). There have been cases of twitchers paying hundreds of pounds to charter a boat or plane to get them to The Scillies or The Shetlands, and one once famously left his own wedding reception and missed the start of his honeymoon, to chase after a rarity.

Unlike some birders, who disdain them, I make no judgements about twitchers, and I know that some are very knowledgeable, and are just as likely as other birders to be involved in voluntary and conservation work.

But I’m not one of them. I trust that that’s now clear.

Poorly lawnmower

May 25, 2009

One thing that really irks me is when an otherwise working product fails because of one component which is not easily fixed or replaced – “built in obsolescence”, as its called. It may be good for the maker’s bottom line, but it’s bad for mine; and really bad for the environment.

Black & Decker GR280C - blade in situ

I have a Black & Decker GR280C rotary lawn mower, which still works, but the blade keeps spinning loose once it’s switched off – as it decelerates, the bolt which holds the blade in place unscrews.

Black & Decker GR280C - blade and spanner

Can anyone suggest how this can be repaired, or a part replaced, before I have to junk the whole mower?

How microformat developments are blocked

January 9, 2009

The hCard microformat can distinguish between a person and an organisation, by the use of the org property:

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn">Andy Mabbett</span>

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn org">The Red Cross</span>

but it cannot distinguish between an organisation and a place:

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn org">The Wembley Stadium fan club</span>

<div class="vcard">
<span class="fn org">Wembley Stadium</span>

treating them both as organisations.

On 31 December 2007, I described a way in which hCard microformat could be used to differentiate between hCards for places and organisations.

On 9 January 2008, having received favourable comment, I made a formal proposal to update the hCard specification.

Despite this ten-day gap, Brian Suda, one of the microformats “admins”, the cabal who control microformats, complained that he’d only had two days to consider the matter, and that “More time is needed to fully look over the implications of this change.”

No objections to the method, nor issues with it, have been raised.

Toby Inkster’s superb microformats parser Swignition (formerly called “Cognition”) has supported the method since version 0.1-alpha8, released in May 2008.

One year on from my formal proposal, what changes have been made to the hCard specification, in this regard? None.

Wine REPugnant

October 31, 2008

I love The Rep in Birmingham. It’s a great theatre, with a noble history (as the civic Birmingham Repertory Theatre), and the staff are invariably helpful and friendly. But I’ve been disappointed recently to see that they’re using six seven “Heatstore” electric heaters (four pictured) outside the building.

Picture shows four of the seven electric heaters outside Birmingham Rep's Wine Rep

Every evening when I pass by there, the heaters are on, over empty tables, with no-one benefiting from them. This is madness, from an environmental and a financial point of view.

I decided to let them know that I thought so, not least since Jon Bounds tells me that I’m good at complaining (I think he meant that as a compliment, and that any complaints I make are always well-founded and cogently-expressed, but I could be wrong…). The heaters actually belong to wine REPublic (see what they did, there?) the trendy wine bar within (and owned by) The Rep, so I phoned and spoke to their manager.

He told me that they’re only [sic] on for three hours each night — we don’t use them during daytime (so that’s the equivalent of having one heater on for 75% of the time 21 hours a day, then), that they are low voltage [sic] and that we aren’t allowed to discriminate against smokers, we have to give them somewhere to smoke.

230-240 volts, 1350-1500 watts'

Which leads me to ask the question, since when has discrimination against smokers been outlawed? Why have no pubs or wine bars been fined for doing so?

And if smokers are protected, why are the Rep allowed to discriminate against them in the daytime, when the temperature is still below freezing?

Winterval – the truth

October 30, 2008

This post has been moved to Sorry, but won’t let me set an automatic redirect.