This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Brolly Brilliant

A few years ago I went for a walk, a biggish walk, which I do sometimes do. And I took with me a very excellent umbrella I'd been given by the delightful people at RTE when I did a workshop at the BISA event they hosted. That wooden handled brolly served me proud on my walk in Andalucia, keeping the worst of the sun off me as I tramped up through the Alpujarras, and making a very handy walking pole.

When I got up into the Sierra Nevada peaks proper, above the snow line the brolly kept on working- a decent walking pole now doubled as a stop gap ice axe, and a wind break on exposed ridges as I hunkered down with a few biscuits. It even stood up well as a photo monopod with the Gorilla pod grip for my compact camera.

My trusty brolly did me proud, and I actually rather liked sauntering around BBC facilities with another broadcaster's logo splashed about- it got looks, raised eyebrows. It was cool.

And I left it on a bus in Brighton, sigh.

Still, what this brolly led me to think it that there is a real gap out there. That the last piece of outdoor gear to get properly techno fetishised is the umbrella, and there's a hell of an opportunity there.

Firstly it's a stick. Shock absorbing, adaptable, strong, and extendable- so many options in terms of mechanisms and materials immediately spring to mind- carbon fibre being the obvious first choice.

It needs a handle, shock absorbing, comfortable, ergonomic, possibly including atachments for cameras, and small compartments for storage. And perhaps this handle can convert into an ice axe head?

Then it has a spike, or whatever ending is appropriate for the terrain, with a sleeve to cover the far end/ centre of the canopy and act as a temporary second handle.

And there's the canopy itself- this is already water and windproof, but we can go further, and ensure it's properly impermeable to UV, and perhaps radio waves too (see later) but just porous enough to act as a large area water filter.

The spokes, always the weak link of an umbrella design, could be so much better made- titanium is the obvious choice, light, strong, springy, it could be structured to give the perfect shape...

The shape- why not a perfect parabola? Imagine the potential benefits of having an accurate parabolic reflector surface on hand in the wilderness to boost mobile phone reception (radio waves!), or to boost the visibility of signalling lights!

I tell yah this has got to be a winner! The Gentlemans Adventure Umbrella! I'd call it 'The Penguin'!

Mean while, these really do float my boat....

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year Quiz

We just played this- have a go and feel free to post answers in comments:

1. Arlene Philips was dumped as a Strictly Judge in favour of Alesha Dixon- what’s their age difference?
a. 25 years
b. 30 years
c. 35 years

2. Shudderingly odious toe rag Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time- how many complaints did the BBC get?
a. 110
b. 340
c. 1040

3. Gail Trimble won, but then was disqualified, from which show?
a. America’s Got Talent
b. University Challenge
c. I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here

1. Silvio Berlusconi was hit with what?
a. A fist
b. A tiny portable tv
c. A scale model souvenir of Milan Cathedral

2. Where was Roman Polanski arrested?
a. Rome
b. Switzerland
c. L.A.

3. Tony Blair wasn’t made president of Europe, but who was?
a. Angela Merkel
b. Herman Van Rompuy
c. Toad of Toad Hall

1. What was discovered about the sheep on the Scottish Island of Hirta?
a. They swam there from the mainland
b. They’re shrinking because of climate change
c. They have no fear of helicopters

2. There was a total eclipse of the sun over India, Nepal, China, and Japan in which month?
a. April
b. July
c. October

3. The rocket to replace the space shuttle was test launched- what’s it called?
a. Ares?
b. Saturn?
c. Roger?

1. Who said “She’s gotta have tit’s” ?
a. Tom Cruise
b. Mickey Rourke
c. James Cameron

2. What won the best picture Oscar?
a. Milk
b. Slumdog Millionaire
c. Curious Case of Benjamin Button

3. What was the biggest selling film in the UK in 2009?
a. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
b. Slumdog Millionaire
c. Up

1. What living artist sold the most recordings this year?
a. Lady Gaga
b. Beyonce
c. Kings of Leon

2. Who did Kanye West interrupt with his “Imma let you finish” brain fart?
a. Britney Spears
b. Rhianna
c. Taylor Swift

3. Who headlined Glastonbury (Saturday, mainstage, closing act)?
a. Neil Young
b. Blur
c. Bruce Springsteen

1. What was White Air 2009?
a. A climate change conference
b. An extreme sports event
c. An art installation on the south downs

2. Who was appointed to be the curator of the Brighton Festival 2010?
a. Simon Fanshaw
b. Anish Kapoor
c. Brian Eno

3. Brighton Rock is to be remade; who is not known to be in the new film’s cast?
a. Dickie Attenborough
b. Helen Mirren
c. Pete Postlethwaite