Friday, 22 January 2021

French students bemoan studying isolation and being stuck in front of a computer

I was reading earlier this week about the concerns raised by French students currently studying (or trying to) at university with minimal in-person interaction.

I'm sure students all over the world are saying much the same thing at the moment. And I get that facing these tribulations when you're younger can prove even more challenging and scary. But let's face it, huge swathes of employees are currently struggling with being holed-up in their spare bedrooms, hunched over a laptop trying to get work done. That's for those who are lucky enough to still have jobs. Students aren't the only ones who have got a raw deal here.


I'm not convinced what the answer is: resuming face-to-face teaching isn't a viable or safe option at the moment and there should be no calls for that to happen.

I remember being holed-up in my room in halls of residence for long periods of time trying to do work - and that was in the early to mid noughties. Admittedly, I (reluctantly most of the time) had lectures and seminars to attend so I had the opportunity of seeing other people. We didn't even have in-room internet access in my first two years, so whenever you wanted or needed to get online, it meant a trudge down to one of the 'computer rooms'. We weren't all permanently attached to smartphones, either, thank God!

From Coronavirus: French students highlight pandemic's mental health toll - BBC News

[Heïdi Soupault, a political science student from Strasbourg,] sent a letter to President Emmanuel Macron last week. "I'm 19 years old and I feel like I'm dead," it began. "I no longer have dreams. If we have no hope or prospects for the future at 19, what do we have left?"

Well, you've got your youth. That's something.

"We don't have perspective anymore," Ms Soupault told the BBC. "There's nothing to look forward to. When you're in your early twenties, you live intensely and social interactions are at the centre of your life." 

 

"At first it was supposed to be temporary, but being on the computer all day long is tiring to the point where you can't focus on anything," she added. "Everything just feels sad at the moment."

That's working life, love. Get used to it.

Harsh, perhaps, but true.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Brexit agreement proof-reading balls-up

Tee hee. This is a good one.

Brexit deal mentions Netscape browser and Mozilla Mail - BBC News:
References to decades-old computer software are included in the new Brexit agreement, including a description of Netscape Communicator and Mozilla Mail as being "modern" services.

Experts believe officials must have copied and pasted chunks of text from old legislation into the document.

The references are on page 921 of the trade deal, in a section on encryption technology.

It also recommends using systems that are now vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The text cites "modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x."

The latter two are now defunct - the last major release of Netscape Communicator was in 1997.

I think all solicitors have experienced that sinking feeling when they find they've left something in an agreement that really should have been removed from the precedent on which it was based. The name of a previous client is a classic or the product/service that that previous client provided. Instances of irrelevant technical crap being left buried in a schedule isn't unheard of either.

But this stuff happens; it's not the end of the world. And it's proven that someone's reading the Brexit agreement at least.


I remember Netscape Navigator fondly. On my first PC, back in 1999, I found it to be much more reliable than the pesky installation of Internet Explorer 4 with which I had to grapple. As I recall, it would often freeze my entire system without warning, forcing me to switch it off at the wall.  

It was eventually fixed after I completely corrupted that computer in late December that year — apparently, uninstalling software wasn’t as straightforward as manually deleting the programme files, sigh — and it necessitated a mercy dash to computer man extraordinaire ‘Slim Steve’.

Once Steve finally got round to it some days after the drop-off, he reinstalled Windows for me and generally saved the day, allowing me to get my teenage kicks through the internet once more. 

Thanks again, Steve, wherever you are now.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

What happened to the Law Society’s professional development centre?

I've come to rely on the Law Society’s professional development centre (let’s call it PDC) as part of my diet of CPD or continuing competence or whatever we’re meant to call it these days. Over the past 12 months or so I viewed webinars the Law Society offered on vertical agreements, legal privilege in 2020, cyber security and a contract law update. All were pretty good. And all were reasonably priced (not that I personally pay for it).

The Professional Development Centre... gone, but not forgotten

In November, the Law Society pulled the plug on their PDC service. The portal is still there, but all courses have been marked as ‘inactive’ and you can’t purchase new material. I still had a webinar to complete before the switch off occurred. Damn!

It turns out the Law Society put out a blog post out about it in early November, but my attention was elsewhere at the time.  

Changes to the Professional Development Centre | News | Communities - The Law Society

From 23 November 2020, the Professional Development Centre (PDC) will no longer be available.

You’ll need to complete any courses you have begun by this date. You’ll also need to download any training records and certificates you want to keep while you still have access.

Members can soon access future training through our new platform – Law Society Learning.

Ah — so that’s the plan. 

The advent of Law Society Learning is all well and good, but there’s a paltry selection of content on there currently — just practice management stuff. 


And that’s a real shame. What I don’t get is why they couldn’t port across all of the existing content from PDC. They seem to be starting completely from scratch. Perhaps it's a licensing thing.

Oh well. I’m sure it’ll improve over time.

Friday, 18 December 2020

A Christmas checklist from B&Q

 I received the following piece of nonsense in my inbox earlier from B&Q. 



Seriously? A Christmas checklist. I've annotated it accordingly!

Because that's what you really need over Christmas, isn't it - a fricking toilet seat! Actually, they say 'seats' - PLURAL. What sort of digestive calamities are B&Q anticipating here??

What utter bollocks this is. Mindless consumerism at its absolute worst! (On second thoughts, that award probably goes to secret santa arrangements in workplaces up and down the land. Suffice it to say that I always opt out of that nonsense.)

Friday, 25 September 2020

The last six months…

They’ve been interesting, haven’t they?

Thankfully, I wasn’t furloughed, unlike many of my colleagues, and work for me has stayed pretty buoyant throughout (apparently commercial deals are still being done, generating a need for contract negotiation and drafting — and us commercial contracts lawyers haven’t been (totally) replaced by AI just yet).

2020 was meant to be the year we finally moved house. We thought COVID had put paid to that, but when the property sector reopened with gusto in the early summer, we decided to give it a go. We’re glad we did: our house is sold (STC) and our offer to purchase has been accepted. We’re hoping to move pre-Christmas… provided the moving gods are still smiling on us.

So the summer was largely a blur of estate agent viewings and that sort of stuff. All pretty tedious — and it wasn’t helped by two of our neighbours also listing their houses within a fortnight of us going on the market. Bastards.

I worked from home even before COVID hit — save for two or three trips to the office per month — so there wasn’t a great deal of adjustment needed for me on that front. The daily firm-wide webcam calls have been a bit of a drag, but it’s been a small price to pay in exchange for avoiding all commuting.

I’ve also had no issues adjusting to wearing a face mask — provided I use my ‘ear saver’ (a rubber strap with notches onto which the mask’s ear loops can grip*). Fun fact: I’ve sensitive ears and I don’t like things pulling on them. One of my hobbies (nothing kinky) requires me to wear a respirator for lengthy periods of time, so popping on a surgical mask whenever I womble around Sainsbury’s isn’t much hardship.

* For the benefit of the uninitiated, this is the type of thing I'm talking about:


I suspect the next few weeks and months will be a continuing ball ache of conveyancing nonsense, mortgage applications and quotes for removals. Actually, we’re quite a way down some of those roads already — and I even had to dust off (electronically) my property law and practice materials from the LPC to remind myself of certain points in the conveyancing process. 

The law firm we’ve instructed in connection with our sale and purchase are all right, but that’s about as much as I can say for them. I’m sure my numerous emails, letters and phone calls to them have been getting on their ‘thruppney bits’ (to quote Sharon and Tracy from Birds of a Feather that my wife and I are currently re-watching, episode by episode**). Having a client who’s both a lawyer and a bit of a control freak must be a bit trying. Still, I have to bear it as part of my day job, so why shouldn’t they?

** That’s the original nine series that ran from 1989 to 1998 on the BBC, not the subsequent ‘comeback’ drivel that aired on ITV more recently.



Friday, 13 March 2020

Movies to self-isolate by

Actually, that should be: 'movies to watch while self-isolating'. Ne'er mind.

I saw yesterday that the Guardian had compiled a list of movies that people self-isolating from the Coronavirus could watch to while away some of the time.

That list was strange, very strange — to say the least of it.

I’d not heard of at least half of them, and they were supposed to be ‘comfort films’.

Even those that I had heard of, wouldn’t have brought any comfort to me.


So instead of the utter trash that the Guardian suggested, here’s my suggested list of films.

Airplane (you can't beat a spoof)
Airplane II (you really can't beat a spoof)
The Big Bus (spoofs are the best, you know)
North Sea Hijack (also knows as ffolkes)
Jurassic Park, I, II, and III (my wife’s suggestions, seconded by me)
The Core (it’s surprisingly watchable)
The Mummy, I, II, and III (or whatever their correct titles are)
Die Hard (I, II, and, at a push, III)
Airport (the 1970 original)
Airport 1975 (in some ways better than the original - watch out for the singing nun that inspired the corresponding scene in Airplane)
Airport 1977 (this was a corker)
Airport 1979 (turns out there was nothing you couldn't do with a Concorde)
Speed (but not Speed II)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick's obviously, not the Stephen King's mini-series abomination)
Jaws, I, II, III (and the revenge if you get really desperate)
Piranha (the 1970s version)
The Final Destination movies (cos we're probably all doomed anyway)
The Bond movies — any until Pierce Brosnan’s rather lame attempts in the 1990s, and absolutely none since)
Journey to the centre of the earth (my wife's choice, not mine)
Fire, Ice and Dynamite (Roger Moore and Simon Shepherd and a complete lack of meaningful plot or acting). Actually, don’t watch this: it’s atrocious.

You'll be pleased to know that I might update this list over time.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

The world is falling down around us


I just can’t COPE with this Coronavirus business. It feels like the world as we know it is disappearing in front of us, and it’s far from clear whether it will ever be the same again.


Schools are closed in Ireland.

Tom Hanks has been bitten by the bug and is mopping his fevered brow as I type.

McLaren have withdrawn from the Australian grand prix.

My work meeting next week has been cancelled and replaced with a call, but I’ve already bought an advance train ticket in the GWR sale to travel to London. Bum! Do I go into the office and do the call from there, or write off the cost of the ticket (it was cheap, stupidly cheap, compared with the standard price), or do I try to exchange it for £10 and use the ticket at a later date. I like to show my face in the office occasionally, as it helps to underline the fact to my colleagues that I’m still alive and I still do work.

My wife and I want to stick our fricking house on the mother fricking market, having been focusing for the past 8-9 months on getting it up to scratch. It’s an absolute outrage. First Brexit, now Corona. 

Still, you kind of feel that humanity has brought it on itself. We’ve long been due a plague: just think about what Stephen King prophesied in The Stand — not that we can rely on him as being an authority on anything, save perhaps for writing (too) many verbose books.

And now there’s a dirty great big bluebottle crawling on the outside of my office window — a bad omen, if ever there was one.

To paraphrase the great Murray Walker: if we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.