(james benedict brown) on the road

Unbalanced and smug

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 18 September, 2010

Back in Glasgow, and this news story caught my eye:

Glasgow tourist chiefs hit out over guide
18 September 2010

Glasgow tourist chiefs have hit out at a new guide which claims the city remains blighted by violence, deprivation and unhealthy lifestyles.

The Thomas Cook guide praises the city for its “vibrant” arts scene, high culture, green spaces and shopping.

But it also warns visitors to expect poor weather, sectarianism and alcohol and drug abuse in its deprived suburbs.

Glasgow’s weather is also drawn to readers’ attentions.

It comments: “The city’s rainy reputation is well founded and the likelihood is that you’ll experience more than a few showers, if not a full-on downpour. Going out without an umbrella or a hat is foolhardy, to say the least.”

Scott Taylor, chief executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, reacted angrily to the guide, describing it as “unbalanced” and “smug”

We spotted the link to the article at the top of the localised section of the BBC News homepage (screengrab below). Just above Man scarred for life after attack, Gang attack teenager at bus stop, Probation over runaway boy images and Man guilty of Christmas Day death. And any suggestion that it’s always rainy is clearly disproven by an afternoon of “white cloud” ahead of us in the three day forecast.


Auntie ditches another design classic

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 31 January, 2009

Back home, we are very mean to the most senior member of the Brown household, and it’s quite unfair. Just like me, he likes to watch the weather forecast, and does so religiously after the evening news bulletin every night. But he’s a victim of BBC modernisation, since the graphical presentation of the BBC weather forecast is so terrible, he can never remember what the forecast was predicting once it’s finished.

Coming up to four years ago, the BBC abandoned it’s meteorological department’s greatest asset – the ageless design classic that was the set of symbols used to adorn the television weather map. The symbols weren’t modern enough for the Beeb. and they were promptly replaced by a weather map that had no symbols, but instead a graphical simulation of what the weather might actually look like from space. The idea seemed to have been to placate young children who might have been afraid of giant black cloud symbols hovering over entire counties. At the expense of anyone with a black and white television. And while denigrating the status, size and shape of Scotland.

On Monday, the BBC will make the next bold step in insulting it’s audience. This time, there really is no hope for the classic symbols of the old BBC weather map, because the BBC Online Weather pages are being modernised royally screwed over.

Here is an example of the current, and soon to be defunct online weather forecast.


And here is the equivalent part of the new one, currently available online in beta, and live as the default for all weather forecasting from Monday 2 February.


I’ll put the next statement in a paragraph of it’s own, so that the “designer” (self-edit) who came up with the “improved” weather symbols can find it more easily than one can find Aberdeen on the distorted UK weather map.

The weather map icons have been used for more than thirty years because they worked. They are clear. They are simple. They are universal. They can be read in a millisecond. They cannot easily be confused. They can be adapted to reflect many different meterological situations with a single change, and yet retain their legibility. There is nothing wrong with a black cloud, half a sun shining out from behind it, a raindrop and a snowflake beneath it: it describes a typical Glaswegian winter’s day perfectly.


We already tolerate this (above) on our television screens, but with the courteous addition of temperature and wind speed icons. I cannot for the life of me understand this map. It may be technologically impressive, but its usefulness is one minute fraction of the old system.

Will this late night complaint be heard? Maybe. Will anyone who has the power to stop bad visual design at the BBC do anything about it?

No. Not unless a few other mouthy bloggers go on about it, of course :)

Salthouse Beach

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 31 December, 2008

A simple Christmas tradition chez Brown is an escapade to the North Norfolk coast, usually on either Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. If it’s the former, it’s to undo the culinary excesses of the previous day. If it’s the latter, it is to stride with optimism in the reliably cold and clear first day of the new year, while contemplating what the next 525,000 minutes will bring.

After an excessively digital year, it was invigorating to scrunch and crunch across the pixelated shingle beach at Salthouse. I am reliably informed that the last Ice Age forced a glacier torwards the sea, creating a terminal moraine (a.k.a. a long hill) just short of the Norfolk coastline. This shelters the gently rolling landscape of farmland that is indelibly marked on my childhood. Ascending and descending this last gentle hill before the coast conceals the North Sea until the final moments of the journey.

That scrunch and crunch is superb exercise for most of the muscles in your legs. The beach stretches to the horizon in one direction, and almost as far in the other. Distant church towers punch the horizon line, and birds dip below the lee of the dunes in search for shelter. Allowing for complete personal mobility (this is not a disabled-friendly beach) Salthouse is one of the most accessible beaches on the north Norfolk coast. There are no parking charges (and an hourly Coast Hopper bus if that offends you) and the beach is right there, sandwiched in a mini terminal moraine of its own, artificially banked up to form a shingle dune to protect the renowned marshes that shelter between the coastline and the village.

Mounting this bank of shingle, the North Sea presents itself in its wintry glory, and a cold sea sets down to penetrating your clothes following a long journey across the sea from Scandanavia.

This year, my encounter with the North Sea was on Boxing Day. The immensity of a new year had not yet arrived, and naïve ambitions to set goals and resolutions had not yet been nurtured. We walked along an endless beach with no target in sight or in mind, ploughing on against a bitterly humid Baltic wind, sniffling into gloves and remarking on the pale white skulls of long beaked birds that met their maker along the edge of this sea. Half forgotten couplets blew about in the wind, and a modest attempt at poetry to describe the situation was swept away, liable only to be blogged about in shapeless prose a few days later.

Screenshot: forecasting

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 12 August, 2008

And this is summer time. I’m going to have to get used to this, I think.