Sunday, 30 December 2007

On the 6th day of Christmas

Christmas Picture While I wait in the semi-expectation of being berated for my scathing attack on the ‘innocence of the festive season’ by my series of captioned images in the previous post, I can take heart from the fact that I won’t be the only one. Catherine Tate’s Christmas special is being investigated by Ofcom, the broadcasting standards watchdog, following a barrage of complaints from viewers.

I didn’t see this show first time around, but caught up with it a couple of days ago on the BBC’s excellent new online viewing facility: the iPlayer. Being one that has his ear very much to the technical ground, I heard about this project well in advance of launching. So far, I’m very impressed. The Catherine Tate complaints are, quite honestly, a little flimsily substantiated. While it’s remotely plausible to claim that the scene involving the Irish family exchanging gifts contains a vague element of racism, the complaints regarding the excessive swearing in the opening sketch are just silly. I mean, it was aired at 10.30pm, was accompanied by a warning, and is a show that is notorious for containing clips with a foul-mouthed granny. My advice: if it offends you, then switch channels and quit moaning. Don’t bitch to Ofcom that it’s inappropriate for Christmas Day viewing.

The Michael has had a fairly calm, relaxing Christmas, thankfully with little law involved. I have, inter alia, derived great pleasure by tinkering with wireless network settings this Christmas both at my flat and at home. While momentarily causing network outage (in one case for about half an hour around midnight on Christmas Eve, much to the annoyance of a family member) the ‘essential network maintenance’ as I dubbed it, was a success. It just wasn’t entirely pain-free, that’s all.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Christmas Caption Competition


Once again this year, the caption competition has been a closely-run thing.  Here are a few of my favourites. 

Saturday-Night Santa

captured santa
















If you think Im sexy final



Too Old














Mrs C what the fuck have you put on our credit card final

would you trust this man child





Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Christmas Update

Congratulations for making it this far through the festive frivolities and general merry-making. After spending Christmas at home this year, the Michael will return to his flat tomorrow, after which normal service should hopefully resume.

As a break from the turkey, stuffing and God-knows else what today, I swung by Digg to catch up on things and was amazed to discover this statistic: in 2007 there are CONSIDERABLY more people using Yahoo Mail over Google’s offering, Gmail. Don’t believe me?

And finally, to accompany my post today, an all-too-fitting image which captures the common mood in a variety of situations on Boxing Day across the UK. So whether you’re pi**ed off with turkey and stuffing, have suffered one disappointment after another on the present-front this year or, God forbid, have the in-laws visiting, this, troubled reader, is for you.

Monday, 24 December 2007


As befits this time of year, the Michael and Law Actually are going to be enjoying a little festive downtime for the next 2/3 days.

As I noted last year during my Philly trip, tonight is that all-important night for the ‘busiest guy in show business’ – Father Santa. Quite what that bearded buffoon gets up to for the other 364 days of the year is another matter, but I’ve heard it rumoured that he’s got a premium subscription to the Fantasy Channel and a widescreen TV in Santa HQ behind a lockable door away from Mrs Claus. But who knows.

So while most of us prepare to drink ourselves into oblivion and consume our own body weight in food tomorrow, Father Santa will be hard at it busting his ba**s in that sleigh of his. Although last year I debated whether his sleigh is actually still pulled by Reindeer or whether he’s joined the 21st century and fitted jet engines, I've no intention of adding to that talking-point this year. Instead, as Santa nears the half-way point in his annual deliver-a-thon and tackles the Northern Hemisphere, I intend to skulk off and join in the family festivities. Yep, unsurprisingly, I’m reaching for the wine already.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Forget Sat-Nav – ask a meter warden

Parking Meter The Michael has had a busy time of it lately. Having travelled back from my flying visit home on Monday/Tuesday, I’d barely settled in when I was notified late Tuesday afternoon that I had a job interview to attend later this week. On Wednesday, I skulked into town to reconnoitre the location of the interview and pick a suitable route. Having safely relied on Google Maps before, I put my trust in it again. Big mistake.

Because of the erroneous map, what should have taken me minutes from the centre of town, took me nearly an hour and a half, aided and at times, hindered, by the directions of about 5 different people. I had nearly given up hope and started to head back to base for the day when I had an overdue stroke of good fortune. At the last moment as I staggered on, frozen in the near-arctic conditions, I spied a parking meter warden, solemnly doing his duty and slapping fixed penalty notices on a few parked cars. Without too much hope, I casually asked him if he knew where it was.

Well, with his clear directions, I was within sight of the building in little over a minute. With my mission accomplished, I deviated to the nearest House of Fraser to purchase a new pair of cufflinks – that’s what you get for travelling light, thinking you won’t need anything like that before Christmas. Troublesomely, I was nearly hounded by the pesky Pig and Tigger again (see my earlier encounter) but fortunately arrived back at base in one piece.

So the moral of this story, children, is that when lost and in need of guidance, when technology, passers-by and Google maps fail you, you can always count on a trusty parking meter warden to direct you. At least think twice before you verbally abuse them for ticketing your car next time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Christmas is coming – believe it or not

Nativity Scene The blawging community seems to be winding down for the impending festivities at the moment. While the more prolific blawgers of us out there reflect and take stock on what has undoubtedly been an arduous first term, crawling away to lick our wounds from a battery of mock exams and assessments, one notable thing has struck me this December - just how ‘unChristmassy’ it seems.

So what is it with Christmas this year? Is it still on? Has anyone heard? The whole thing seems to be passing me by on the outside lane as we career inevitably towards another 25th December and all the associated festivities/suffering that comes with it.

So I’m left wondering if Christmas has indeed been cancelled this year. But to whom do you write to find out? Father Santa? The God Squad? Or just average Joe out there on the street? Answers on a postcard, please.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Finally - Data Protection Law to be Reviewed

Laptop Security Inverted From: Outlaw 14/12/07

The Government has launched a consultation into how personal data is treated in the aftermath of the HM Revenue and Customs' loss of 25 million people's sensitive information.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas is one of the two men in charge of the consultation, which will focus on the use and sharing of information. The other is Government science and technology advisor Dr Mark Walport.

The consultation will consider changes to the Data Protection Act and will present Government with options for changes to the law.

“The review will be concentrating on information sharing. When do public bodies, in particular, need to make use of personal information held by others to do their job properly?" said Thomas. "Law enforcement, child protection and more personalised services may be examples. But we will need to assess the dangers if information is shared too freely."

And about time too.  This one is long overdue and imposing more stringent guidelines and operating procedures for data controllers has become a necessity.  The fact it's taken a series of high-profile blunders to bring about a review of the law is a crying shame and highlights the need for a more proactive review process of legislation.  Clearly the changes in the law must be mirrored by a change in attitude and working practices.  Simply making it compulsory for data controllers to encrypt data is of little use as to be viewed or edited, data must be unencrypted - thus returning it to a vulnerable state.  Better education and attention to security policies by those who work with data and more stringent rules relating to how and when data may be unencrypted and disseminated are needed to close the existing holes in the net. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Work Experience – the plight of all law students

Law student work experienceThe Michael has decided that it’s time to embark on a little extra work experience to further improve his CV. I know, better than most, the true importance of having a solid work experience background for a law student and what a difference it can make. Earlier this year, I had another bash. Having enjoyed the usual response to the array of letters I sent out to law firms seeking work experience-- i.e. the letter is ignored or at best, answered bluntly in the negative-- I struck it lucky this time and have received a favourable response. So with my appointment set up, I tottered along, suited and booted this morning, to meet my potential mentor.

In short, I can happily report that it looks promising. I’ve been assured of some work experience, at least, with a variety of partners in different departments. Luckily, my interviewer sympathised greatly with the affliction that is work experience, and expressed his palpable dislike of it when as a student, he himself suffered the torment first hand. He explained to me that he vowed from that point on, if ever he were in the position to offer work experience himself, he would do his utmost to ensure that such horrors were not repeated for those budding lawyers taken ‘under his wing’.

I’ll hold him to that.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Fred Claus - The Law Actually Review

Fred Claus Final

I freely admit that I’m not a fan of your typical ‘Christmas movie’. At the risk of perpetuating the growing opinion that I’m the reincarnation of Ebeneezer Scrooge, I never really subscribed to the whole ‘magical Christmas movie thing’ even as a kid. Save for Home Alone 1 and 2, of course. When we skulked across to the cinema on a wet and windy December afternoon, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Given the time of day there were just two film options open to us. We opted for Fred Claus, merely to save waiting around for ‘The Golden Compass’ showtime, a decision which I surprisingly didn’t regret.

Simply getting into the cinema proved more difficult than expected – all the doors were locked. We were left for several minutes with nothing to do but wander aimlessly up and down, stamping our feet and shivering uncontrollably in the near-arctic conditions. After trying all the doors for a final time, and starring awkwardly into the dimly-lit entrance, a female worker behind the counter finally appeared and vigorously gesticulated ‘5 minutes’ to me. Although the cinema is situated right in the city centre, it’s often pretty deserted and this trip proved no exception. Once we were finally granted entrance, we saw no one besides 2 members of staff and some ‘elderly gent’ who came in to complain about something – probably the disgraceful state of the lavatories.

After a somewhat shaky start, the movie soon gets into a swing – well more of a festive jaunt actually. Thankfully, instead of force-feeding the audience the almost-expected annual helping of festive claptrap, the film delivered a more quirky, less self-righteous style of humour.

On the subject of humour, it has to be said that the film itself was not that overtly funny. While not having many true ‘laugh-out-loud’ moments, it was still inherently watchable. Vince Vaughan as Fred was entertaining throughout, as was his on screen brother, Paul Giamatti, who played Santa.

Save for the irritating little elves, particularly the Elf-come-DJ who was satisfyingly locked in a metal cupboard at one point, no one stood out as giving a truly sparkling or lousy performance. The film had an adequate dollop of the requisite corniness, required of any self-respecting Christmas film with the romantic storyline between Fred and Wanda. And talking of Wanda, ably played by Rachel Weisz, I felt the over-done British accent grated a little too much at times in a film that was quintessentially American. The love-conquers-all theme played out between little elf Willy and Santa’s sexy helper, Charlene went down less easily, but hey-ho, this is a Christmas movie after all said and done.

Once I’d got over the somewhat freaky portrayal of Clyde Northcut played by Kevin Spacey, I settled in for the duration with my choux bun with toffee icing to indulge on. My girlfriend opted for a generous-sized Belgian bun, known to her as a t*t-cake. We smuggled our contraband pastry goods into the cinema and luckily, being the only ones in there, we could gorge openly and unashamedly on our sumptuous baker-shop delicacies. Lovely.

So what of the plot? In a nutshell, run-away sibling Fred, brother to Santa is a lovable rogue operating scam after scam in Chicago just to make a buck or two and ‘get along in life’. His antics include setting up a gambling storefront outside the stock exchange as well as cashing-in on the Salvation Army’s collection for Christmas – still, it’s all good stuff. On top of this he finds time to half-heartedly date Wanda – a Londoner who’s moved out to the good ol’ US to work as a … parking meter warden. Go figure. Suffice to say, their relationship is a bit of an 'on-off' thing, as you might imagine.

Fred is struggling with debt and soon calls on the help of little brother Santa for financial assistance. When Santa learns that big bro wants $50,000, he persuades the distanced sibling to come to the North Pole and work for him during the ‘Christmas rush’. Meanwhile, efficiency guru Clyde Northcut has come to inspect Santa’s operations, threatening the shut him down if he doesn’t like what he sees.

Fred, estranged from his parents since an early age, reluctantly visits his little brother’s empire where he is now living with Mom and Pop. Santa tries, bless him, to engineer reunions between Fred and the parents, hoping in vain that they will all settle their differences. Things take a turn for the worse when Santa discovers that Fred’s taken a few shortcuts in filtering the Christmas letters from the nice and naughty children – the precious task he was entrusted with in return for his $50K. After a bitch-slapping in the snow which leaves Santa with a bad back and Fred heading back to Chicago, it’s time for the magical Christmas conscience to kick in. Yeah, you can guess the rest. With Santa laid up and regulations stipulating that only a Claus can deliver presents on Christmas Eve, big bro Fred has a change of heart and saves the day.

In short, then, all comes right in the end, with both Fred and his brother learning those all-important lessons in life. The odious Northcut comes full circle, Willy gets it on with Charlene, despite being less than half her height and weight and the other various loose ends are adequately tied. Overall, this film is well worth watching. It won’t blow you away, nor move you to tears but it might, just might, get you a little more in the holiday mood.

Star Review Bar small 3 lit

The Michael’s rating: 3/5

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Call Centre worker's accent not English enough

dual call centres From: CPD Webinars 03/12/07

A British man of Asian origin has won a racial discrimination case against his employer, Talk Talk Direct, because his accent “wasn’t English enough”.

Chetankumar Meshram, 27, a call centre trainer from Northampton, was selected for a two month secondment to Talk Talk Direct’s Delhi office to train staff but was sent back to England after just three weeks.

Mr Meshram was born in India but moved to Britain in 2005. He said: “I was called into a meeting with my boss, who told me I was to be replaced with a better English speaker.  I know I speak with an accent but my job out there was to give technical advice, not to give expertise on how to communicate. It was an embarrassing and humiliating experience.”
Bedford Employment Tribunal found that he had suffered both direct and indirect discrimination and awarded him compensation for hurt feelings and expenses incurred during his trip to India.

The whole call-centre-rep's-difficult-to-understand accent is almost so cliched it's 'fresh' again.  But I'll say this: the negative press that outsourcing call centres seem to generate for a business more than negates the financial incentive it offers.  As more and more companies are slowly coming round to the realisation that their customers would rather speak to a call-centre rep in the UK -for whatever reason, I might add - perhaps it's time that ALL companies finally twig that dealing with customer's calls via outsourced call centres invariably creates more problems than it solves.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Not so green computing

green computing

From: 05/12/07

"Experts have warned that the IT industry's carbon footprint is skyrocketing and could soon surpass that of the aviation industry.

The survey of 120 senior IT directors in the UK found that 86 per cent are unaware of their IT department's carbon footprint, and 61 per cent of data centres had capacity for only two more years of growth.

In this environment, a flabby business that guzzles budget and energy is likely to be a prime target for impending legislation."

Energy-hungry electronics are not going away anytime soon; in fact, it's only going to get worse as dependency on electronics further increases. I still can't help but feel that we've missed the boat here. As the world has been clearly heading down the tech road for decades now, why is it only now that true panic is setting in? Whilst a change in the law to force IT departments to become more energy efficient would help, surely educating the wider public would yield more substantial savings more quickly.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Tuck me in before you go go

Just tucking in


The Michael spent a little time today catching up on back issues of TWIT podcasts (mainly Windows Weekly and This Week in Law though I have to admit that I'm tuning into this latter offering less and less nowadays).  I also took a swing by Leo Laporte's blog and found this picture of him readjusting his 'trouser furniture' during a break in filming.  He claimed he was just 'tucking himself in' though I'm not entirely convinced.  Either way, it makes uncomfortable viewing - particularly for the more impressionable blogwatchers out there.

Couldn't you have gone backstage, Leo?  Charming, just charming. 

Another Trip to Looe - the town that defies categorisation

Sunday marked the Michael's second trip of 2007 to the quaint Cornish town of Looe (see my earlier visit). Earlier this year - around Easter time - I sampled the delights that this unfathomable seaside town has to offer. I have to admit that I still don't 'get' Looe; it's like no other Cornish place that I've been to. It undoubtedly has elements that smack of the archetypal Cornish village: narrow winding streets, ice cream palours, tea-rooms, cheap gift shops, bakeries and pubs all by the bucket-load. It's even topped off by a respectably-sized sandy beach at the end. But sitting uncomfortably amongst these stereotypical ingredients are the following misfits:a couple of strangely expensive gift shops, a well-stocked arcade, a joke shop, a variety unremarkable shoe/clothing shops and a chandlery - yes, a freaking chandlery!

Moreover, it has fishing boats aplenty but seems devoid of fisherman, and strange shelters along the beachfront, perpetually inhabited, it seems, by the OAP squad, huddled up and stinking of cabbage as only old folk can, grumbling about the heat in the summer and the cold in winter.

My overriding point here is that Looe has many facets, none of which sit well with each other. It's quite heavily commercialised but in strange, uncomfortable and uneasy ways. The trashy arcade overlooking a river filled with fishing boats is a case in point. It's rumoured that the chandlery is diversifying into new sectors and will soon carry lines of lingerie and sex toys. Okay, I'm just kidding with that one but I think my point is made. Something's seriously wrong in Looe and I'm sure it's not just me who's noticed it. The town is stubbornly hanging on to the more traditional elements of a Cornish coastal village with old meeting new in a disturbing mix. My advice is simple: go the whole hog, one way or another. Commercialise completely, turn the gift shops in the brothels and finally kill off the old conventional theme in Looe or get rid of those trashy 'towny' elements once and for all.

For what it's worth, this trip was a blast. Quite literally, in fact - we were nearly blown off our feet on several occasions, lashed, whipped and generally beaten by torrential rainshowers and gale force winds. At times, it was all we could do to stay on the quayside but still couldn't resist a storm-lashed walk on the beach, too. Probably not the best time for a visit but you know how these spur-of-the-moment things go down.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

International AIDS day

From: Baltimore Sun 1.12.07 - Bush makes AIDS Day visit

"MOUNT AIRY - On a visit yesterday to a Carroll County church whose members have volunteered for overseas AIDS programs, President Bush said he will travel to Africa early next year to view the progress of a multibillion-dollar U.S. effort to control the deadly virus.

Bush, speaking on the eve of World AIDS Day, repeated a call for Congress to double the nation's commitment to foreign prevention and treatment programs to $30 billion over the next five years. Millions of lives could be improved, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, he said, where a $15 billion administration initiative is yielding progress."

If you were wondering, the picture accompanying this post was produced by the French Government. Some time ago they released an advertising campaign highlighting the plight of AIDS and unsafe sex with this hard-hitting, provoking and memorable graphic.

General observation to no-one in particular: This post has undertones of those occasional serious, poignant and often disturbing snippets with which Chris Tarrant peppers his flagship show 'Tarrant on TV'. You know the ones, where after 29 fun-filled minutes of his show consisting of clips of Japanese torture, naked Danes romping for the hell of it and the crazy exploits of the world record holder for the most nasal piercings, he finishes up with something atrociously depressing and sad, compounded by those immortal words of his, 'Night, Night'.