Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Law Actually 2009 Review

2009 has been a good year for the Michael all told. I completed my LLM, landed a great legal job (and did so just before handing in my dissertation, so the timing was perfect), earned more money than I’d expected overall, and generally survived yet another year in this miserable world. OK, perhaps that’s a touch harsh, but it’s not all been sweetness and light along the way.

2009 high-point:

- completing my LLM exams

- erm …

…There are probably a load more but I like to focus on the negative! ;-)

2009 low-points:

  • - being stuck in my stuffy home office during the summer, slaving away on my dissertation. As readers of my blawg are aware, that quickly degenerated into a DVD-fest as I chain-watched my way through series 1 and 2 of Spooks, series 1 – 4 of the Office - An American Workplace and a bunch of other stuff too. I really loved my LLM but the dissertation process really took the sparkle off of it, sadly.

  • - Realising the best internet connection I could receive in the new house was 512mbps.

  • - When Michael Schumacher had to call off his return to racing in August.

And with that out of the way, I guess now’s the time to be looking forward to 2010.

new years eve graphicI’ve got a New Year’s resolution (kind of relating to my blog and social networking services) that will ABSOLUTELY BLOW YOUR MINDS in the next couple of days so, you know, stay tuned for that one! ;-)

More seriously, though, now my GF and I are both in relatively stable full time employment, we’re looking to buy our first house in the coming months and do a few more ‘normal’ things (like taking a conventional holiday together with no work/study distractions etc. etc.). As for the rest, I guess I’ll just have to wing it!

Anyway, here’s to a good one!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

December’s Wacky Search Terms

december's wacky keywords There have been rich pickings for weird and wonderful search terms over the last month.  Here are some of my favourites.

“formula on how to benchmark high attrition of lawyers” - I think it's called the credit crunch... don't ask me for the formula though.

“just minxy models” - Just?

“perv chat” - oh you dirty web-surfer, you.

“fu*k you” – Charming.  Just charming.  Why would somebody search for this?  I guess that's the typical user for you!  :p

"santa claus sample" - oh boy... a sample of what, exactly?

“what to revise for property equity and trusts exam” – try your syllabus for starters.  But aren't property law and equity and trusts usually split?!  

“shenanigans law” - ....I smell a sitcom brewing!!

“send-a-smile office 2010 turn off” - it certainly turned me off from the beta until I disabled it.

“facebook sex” - I get about half of dozen of this searches on Law Actually most days.  Shocking, isn't it?

“grandpas porn” - oh.... dear!!  You'll find nothing to get 'Gramps' off at Law Actually, I'm afraid.  Or is this Gramps in the starring role - which is even more disturbing? 

“are people who own fountain pens lawyers?” - Well, probably not ALL of them...

“advocate cocktails” - ill-advised.

“getting a job in new york as llm”  Ok… I'm going to explain to you everything that's wrong with that question... this might take a while....

“how to make use of a calligraphic biro” - a calligraphic biro... errrrrm.....  I refer you to my previous response.

"jeans bared her buttocks" - I hope the surfer from New South Wales who searched for this found what they were looking for...

"uk laws against santa" - seriously, what is this?

“in a lecture would you need to sit at the front with a Dictaphone” - Oh, no - most dictaphone users go out of their way to cause maximum annoyance/frustration to others present in room.  They usually insist on sitting at the back but squeeze by and scramble over everybody else to go and place their wretched dictaphone at the front, switch it on and off during breaks and, of course, collect it at the end.

"underwear problems in office" -I should imagine there were lots of 'underwear problems' across offices all over the UK this month - what with it being Christmas party season and all!  ;-)

“death cow attack” - Is this some kind of Star Wars spoof?

"nigella lawson gloopily and glossily" Oh yeah?!?! :p   ;-)

"santa claus laws" - Strange as this might seem, there are no laws that I know of (in England and Wales at least) that specifically pertain to Santa Claus.  That's not to say that no laws at all apply to him - see my previous post.

“lawyer on christmas tree” - I guess it makes a change from an angel, though it would certainly bring tears to his or her eyes.

“hitting dead ends with the dissertation” – An inevitable stage of the process.

“free nasty texting” – Please, show some restraint!

“colorado's vail ski accident l dangling upside legal sues down and pantless a ski lift. vail's blue sky basin” - It started off well, didn't it and then....?  Typing random words into Google isn’t usually the best way to quickly find what you’re looking for.  And just out of interest, what WERE you trying to look for?!

“i am here as the personal lawyer of the deceased to ensure that we have a successfully claim” - I think you can all make your own minds up about this one.

“dissertation work for bed students” – bed students?  Is this a lazy form of distance learning?

“old boys clubs, uk, law” - It's invitation only, I'm afraid.

“paralegaling in hospitals” - Is that essentially junior ambulance chasing?

“sexey x-mis photos” - I'm not sure if that's a poor attempt at a play on words or just dodgy spelling.

“the legal law of the usage of a Dictaphone”
- the legal law - I love it.  :D

...and to top it off, here's a classic I found yesterday - a visitor from New Jersey with an apparent problem has turned to Google for help:

"sperm when texting a girl" - what do you even say to that?  :-|

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Santa Claus: Legal Risk Assessment

santa cease and desistFollowing on from my post last week regarding Santa setting a bad example, I've got a few more suggestions for making Santa Claus a touch more politically correct (plus a bunch of concerns for potential liability and steps that could be taken to mitigate those risks).

He’s an older gent – so tick the box for heading-off allegations of ageism.

He’s white and male though, so he’ll need plenty of female elves (and ideally those from ethnic minority backgrounds) - see the Race Relations Act 1996 (as amended).  Perhaps Santa should morph into some kind of androgynous character, just to make doubly-sure the anti-sexism box is checked.

Using reindeer as his means of transport puts a bit fat tick in the 'watching his carbon footprint' box - should keep Greenpeace happy - (score one for Santa).  :-)

This is negated, though, by potential allegations of animal cruelty.  Also, watch the food-miles of the reindeer’s fodder.

As much as I like Christmas and the concept of Santa, the lawyer in me says he should call the whole thing off entirely and enjoy his retirement.  For starters, his antics on 24th December would be to open himself up to liability in respect of claims of trespass.  Moreover, leaving gifts scattered around could also lead to personal injury claims from homeowners tripping over them or otherwise injuring themselves.

Santa must also have had a criminal records check (and any other necessary checks) seeing as he’ll potentially be coming into contact with young children – particularly where he creeps in under the pretext of leaving gifts in the bedroom of a sleeping child.  (Social Services would be having kittens at this prospect, no doubt).

Flying his sleigh at more than the speed of light is also a potential litigious nightmare, not to mention the high likelihood of him falling foul of various aviation and driving offences.

He should voluntarily take a breathalyser check after stopping at each home (just to prove he’s left those glasses of sherry utterly untouched) and pull over every couple of hours for a break, lest he should fall asleep at the reins.

He should also ensure he’s fully insured for his deliver-a-thon on 24th and that his insurance is valid across the globe.

To the extent that it's applicable, questions should also be asked regarding Santa's compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 in respect of his keeping names, addresses and the wish-lists of giftees on record.

In the interests of mitigating potential civil claims and heading-off possible criminal charges, Santa should wear a head-mounted camera so that his exploits are recorded for evidential purposes.  After all, should he come into contact with an excitable child who caught him in the act of leaving gifts or an aggrieved homeowner wondering why the old codger’s landed on their roof, without hard evidence, it’ll be their word against his.  The last thing Santa wants is a trip down to the local station half way through the night on a charge of some offence against the person, or, God forbid, something under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Naturally, to the extent that the video footage is retained, compliance with the DPA (see above) should be verified.

Best also make sure Santa has got suitable legal representation, ready to nip down to the local police station anywhere in the world, should the police arrest and interview him during the night.  Might want to look to a magic-circle firm for this kind of cover.  ;-)

And this is all before we start considering Health and Safety legislation, plus the thorny issue of potential liability over defective gifts which cause injuries to the giftees.

I should imagine that employment law as it applies to the elves and Santa's other pint-sized helpers making the gifts, would prove to be a bit of a proverbial can of worms.

I hope his 2009 exploits passed without significant incident.  I've not heard anything on the news at least.  ;D

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas Eve versus Boxing Day

Whether you’re counting today as Boxing Day or the Bank Holiday on Monday, I think the point’s equally valid.

christmas eve vs boxing day


So true!

My Xmas Eve Journey Nightmare

train lateChristmas Eve proved a touch eventful for the Michael and what should have been a 4 hour journey down to Cornwall took well over double that. The fact I’m nursing the onset of a cold, only made matters worse.

I’d been feeling a touch rough in the last few days with a pathetic tickly cough (with curiously few other symptoms) but on Wednesday night and all of Thursday, I was sounding more like a dirty old man with throat cancer. Whenever I spoke on my mobile in public, I found I was attracting curious glances (some bordering on stares) from nearby travellers.

Having driven halfway down to Cornwall with my GF, I initially missed the train I had intended to catch after stupidly following our Sat-Nav’s advice which took us on an off-piste adventure through the twisty and icy roads running through the Cheddar Gorge. I returned to my GF’s parents’ house in Exeter while I waited for the next non-stopping train down to Cornwall.

When I finally returned to the station some two hours later, it transpired that kids / vandals / someone with a grudge had stolen a bunch of signal cabling from the Taunton area which wreaked absolute havoc for all Christmas travellers trying to get up and down through the Westcountry! Once I’d finally made it down to the Plymouth, the final leg of my journey (so much for booking a trip with no changes) was further mired by some curry-stinking goon with an apparent cold sitting next to me and a very annoying ‘artist’ opposite who was chatting incessantly to some bearded guy whose sycophancy towards the former was nauseating.

Suffice it to say, I was having a tough time embracing the festive spirit. Other than that, though, Christmas was fine.

But thank God it’s over for another year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Schumi Returns – (for real this time!!) :D

michael schumacher Today it was announced that the legendary Michael Schumacher would be a making a much-anticipated return to F1 with Mercedes. When the possibility of Schumi returning to deputise for the injured Felipe Massa after the Hungarian grand prix this year, I became incredibly, uncontrollably excited. And believe me, that doesn’t happen very often – I’m quite a low-voltage kind of guy.

As I infamously tweeted at the time:

“No matter how excited you might think I am at the prospect of Schumi returning, I’m a little bit more!”

And that pretty much sums it up this time, too. I’m absolutely thrilled that Michael’s returning and 2010 promises to be a great season. You can’t help wondering whether Mercedes didn’t have this planned all along and wanted shot of the mediocre Button in favour of a true (and German) great. McLaren, of course, were labelling the signing of Button as a massive coup over Mercedes – I guess the joke’s on them now!

Michael, of course, started his professional motorsport career with Mercedes and he referred to this move allowing his career come full circle in a press release earlier. There was always a feeling he retired before he was ready and that sublime drive in his final race in 2006 hinted that even more greatness was yet to come.

Schumi left Ferrari, of course, after they had painted themselves into a corner with their 2007 driver line-up when Ferrari snapped up Raikkonen. I’ve always felt that hiring Raikkonen was more about snatching him away from McLaren rather than truly wanting Kimi for his undoubted skills as a racing driver. Kimi’s personality always dictated that he was never going to rally the troops and inspire the team during the difficult moments – Ferrari always knew that and made no apparent effort to modify the team and their way of working to better incorporate Kimi’s idiosyncrasies. And now they’ve dumped Kimi and hired Alonso, who they hope will emulate Michael’s approach.

In any event, I think the glory days for Ferrari are over – for now at least, and Alonso’s signing will do little to change that. As more and more of the dream team (Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, etc.) have left, the force behind the Scuderia has dwindled markedly. But with Michael now returning to the paddock a new chapter begins - and that’s what truly matters.

F1 is F1 again with the greatest driver of all time returning to the sport. :D

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Santa Claus sets a bad example

From the Chicago Tribune 18/12/09:

Santa Claus should get off his sleigh and walk, run or bike, according to a cheeky public health doctor, who says Santa’s commercial image promotes obesity, reckless air travel and a general unhealthy lifestyle.

“His popularity should be used to promote healthy living,” Dr. Nathan Grills from Monash University in Australia argued in a light-hearted "analysis" in the Christmas issue of

In 2007 acting U.S. surgeon general Steven K. Gallson declared that Santa should be thinner. Despite the public outrage, Grills has jumped on the bandwagon. He wants Santa to lose his belly fat (the most dangerous kind), to eat carrots instead of energy-dense cookies and to don a helmet while participating in “extreme sports such as roof surfing and chimney jumping.”

Santa ClausI tweeted earlier this month that I’d seen a new safety-conscious Santa doing the rounds in the neighbourhood who had ditched the reindeer and donned on a hi-visibility jacket.  To be fair, the image wasn’t wholly convincing, not even to a 5 year old: red and white hat, untidy dark stubble, hi-vis jacket and aging jeans.  His sleigh had been replaced by a flat-bed trailer complete with stereo pumping out some awful Xmas musical number.

Thankfully, it seems that Gallson had intended his suggestions to be amusing – which is certainly how I found them when I stumbled across them in the Metro last Thursday morning.   I’m not sure that many kids look to Santa as a role model, fashion icon or anything to style themselves upon.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Horse Fair Victim's Claim Against Council Rejected

horse From CPD Webinars 14/12/09:

Geoffrey Glaister a County Durham man left with brain damage after being kicked by a horse at the 2004 Appleby Horse fair, has been blocked from claiming compensation.
Earlier this year a county court ruled his family could seek compensation from Appleby Town Council.   The court heard Mr Glaister, tried to grab hold of the untethered horse's rein because he feared it posed a risk to his wife and daughter. He suffered "catastrophic" injuries when the horse kicked him as he bent down, leaving him with permanent disabilities and "greatly reduced earning power".

In March, he was awarded the right to seek compensation by a Middlesbrough County Court judge, who said the town council had negligently failed to arrange public liability insurance for the event.

But Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Toulson, said the county court decision was "wrong in law" and the town council owed no duty of care to ensure the safe segregation and supervision of horses, or to arrange public liability insurance for the event.

Sitting with Lord Neuberger, and Lord Justice Jacob, he agreed Mr Glaister had acted in a "selfless and public spirited way". But he said the town council was not the occupier of the land in question and did not have direct control over the way the horse fair was run.
The court heard the town council owns only some of the land used in the event, but not the area where Mr Glaister was injured.

This is one of the those very tricky cases where the concepts of fairness on the one hand and rigid legal principles on the other dictate opposing outcomes.   It is a very delicate balance to strike to ensure that high safety standards of public events are adhered to without being so overbearing that it needlessly discourages event organisers. 

Public liability insurance is, of course, optional, though very advisable when hosting public events.  However, in the specific circumstances, it seems there is little doubt that the town council was not the event organiser, did not own all the land on which the event was occurring and in any case, did not have control over the way the event was run. 

But an even more fundamental question should be asked in this case: could a claim for negligence be made out against anybody associated with the horse fair?  The horse became untethered but was the injury foreseeable?  Mr Glaister courageously intervened and was injured in doing so but it's perfectly possible, of course, that in the same circumstances, the horse could have been re-tethered without drama. 

Still, although Mr Glaister's claim against the council has failed, he surely would still have a potential avenue for redress against someone - making the allegation that he has been 'blocked from claiming compensation' a touch misleading. Whether the claim against, say, the person who failed the securely tether the horse was successful, though, would be another matter all together. The council would have been the preferred defendant on the basis of their deeper pockets.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Brucie Baby loves a courtroom drama

Brucie and his wife, Wilnelia No, I wouldn’t have thought it either. Still, it turns out that when travelling, Brucie loves nothing more than settling down with a legal thriller (when he's not playing golf or doing those famous daily stretches of his).

Despite growing up against a backdrop of my Father constantly proclaiming that Brucie’s ‘dead but won’t lie down’ whenever he appeared on TV, Brucie’s still going strong. Anybody who witnessed his performance with Alesha Dixon last night on Strictly Come Dancing can certainly testify to that: he was waggling those hips like a 17 year old!!! (And yes, they were his own hips, before you ask).

Thankfully, unlike previous years, both myself and my GF have been far too busy for her to insist that we watch much of Strictly – a show which has traditionally held about as much entertainment value for me as watching paint dry.

But I actually really like Brucie – if only for his imitable style, cheeky demeanour and thirst for life. Plus, with a wife some 30 odd years his junior, and ahem, a full head of hair at his age, the chap’s an undoubted legend!

Oh – and if you’re interested, it turns out some BBC news guy won Strictly over some other dude I vaguely recognise as being on TV (and, rather more to the point, being infamously involved in a hit and run a few weeks ago).

‘Good game, good game’ as Brucie might say.

Friday, 18 December 2009

What to get the law student (or graduate) who has everything?

Hat tip to Katie Luper for this one but her post got me thinking.

What would make a good Christmas gift for a law student/grad?

Ideas so far:A Gift

- Post it notes?  Statute books, or a bumper collection of biros? 

- An expensive, pretentious pen?  An expensive and pretentious moleskine notebook or diary to go with said pen? 

- A DVD boxset of This Life, or Ally MacBeal etc. ..... funny how you don't hear those mentioned much now!  Thank God they seem to have finally died their death.

- I should imagine that a pupillage or training contract (or a means of fast-forwarding your way through your law degree and into a job) is at the top of a lot of our lists.

- For the more traditional or conservative, what about legally-themed ties or socks or maybe something a touch more frivolous?   For instance, for that special legal lady in your life, what about legally-themed lingerie - perhaps not with horsehair wigs, though.

Any other ideas?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Demise of the Christmas card?

christmas cards This is a call for the distinguished and learned members of the blawgosphere to share with me their Christmas card sending/receiving experiences: have you sent or received any this year and if so, are the numbers lower than in previous years?  I'm itching to know.

Not so much because I'm nosy, but more that I'm wondering whether I'm alone in sensing that the sending of Christmas cards just seems to be a tradition that edges closer towards extinction as each year passes. 

I was going to order myself another bunch from the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company again, as I have in previous years. Still, I'm kind of glad I didn't bother; no one at work seems to be exchanging them, though there is a Secret Santa organised for later this week to coincide with the works Christmas do - so I hope everyone doesn't start exchanging them with one another then. It also coincides somewhat awkwardly for me with a flying trip up to London for meeting, and I'm only due to arrive back just in time for the unwrapping and the trip to the restaurant.

Let's hope the Secret Santa doesn't go the same way as that in the US version of the Office which degenerated into a somewhat cruel, bizarre and painful game called 'Yankee Swap'.

As an aside, I've recently placed my first order with Moonpig.  For as much as they’re talked-up though, I didn’t think their range of cards was fantastic.  Let’s see how I feel once they arrive and I see them first hand.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

How was it for you?

I was amused to see on Friday that the poll, “2009: Was it good for you?” on the Junior Lawyers site recorded a greater number of negative than positive responses. I’ve just checked again and the same proportion of yeses and noes holds sway:

Was it good for you poll

BTW: two of the yeses are mine so I guess there’s quite a lot of misery out there.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

How’s that for an explosive court case?

hand grenade From The Times Online – Weird Cases 04/12/09:

The principal weapon of advocates is language. Sam Kepfield, however, recently sought to extend his options in a Kansas courtroom when he put a hand grenade on the jury box ledge and pulled out the pin.

Kepfield, a defence attorney, was representing a woman charged with forgery and theft. Her defence was duress. She claimed that her co-defendant had forced her into committing crimes by threatening to kill her pet dog and hurt her daughter unless she cooperated.

In an effort to convey to the jurors what it feels like to face an imminent threat, Kepfield took the view that simple verbal descriptions would not suffice and that something dramatic was required. So he acquired a dud grenade and then, during a speech about fear and the experience of being intimidated, without notice to the judge or the prosecutors, he brandished the grenade, pulled the pin, placed it on the jury ledge and asked the jurors, “Are you afraid now?”

This was certainly a novel approach to capturing the attention of a jury. But “hand grenade” does not appear in the index of most books about how to be a successful advocate. After leaving the grenade on the jury ledge for a moment, Kepfield moved it on to the prosecutors’ table. Judge Richard Rome ordered him to remove the it immediately. Both the judge and the state prosecutor referred the incident to the local sheriff’s office.

The jurors were not impressed with Kepfield’s explosive ploy and took just 15 minutes to convict his client.

Wow.  Call me a cynic but this surely could only have ever occurred in a US court.

But seriously:  A hand grenade?!!?  Juries are notoriously difficult to get ‘on-side’.  Did the lawyer, Mr Kepfield, really think that making the jury believe a live grenade was about to detonate right in front of their faces would help his client’s cause?

Perhaps it was one of those ‘it-seemed-a-good-idea-at-the-time’ kind of things?

“Only in America”, eh?!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Panic Button Added to Social Networking Sites

From Tech Watch 07/12/09:

Facebook and other social networking sites have agreed to adopt recommendations drawn up by the government to provide a panic button on their web pages.

Bebo has already introduced this measure, which basically consists of a highly visible button that kids can click on to report offensive or inappropriate material.

The idea, which is something that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has been recommending for some time, was put forward by the government’s adviser on online safety, Tanya Byron.

Other guidelines will stress the need for sites to provide parental control options to better supervise their offspring’s online activities, and will also apply to chat rooms, instant messaging services and the like.

panic buttonI’ve been advocating something along these lines for years. However, in my opinion, a butt which simply provides a means of reporting abuse does not go far enough and it should constitute more of a ‘stop-this-and-get-me-out-of-here-now’ function first and foremost. Reporting of the alleged abuse is surely secondary to stopping it in its tracks.

So, in addition to reporting abuse, pressing the button should also have more immediate functionality. For instance, a single press on it could bring up a window which overrides any window activity below and freezes input of new communication to the user’s account (be that messages, a chat conversation, items posted on a ‘wall’ and so forth.) This window could give the victim a chance to select very easily and quickly those contacts they wanted to stop all communication with – based on who they been in contact with most recently.

This would be much more preferable to just hitting the close button in the appropriate window as, while that would stop the abuse, the victim would still be subjected to witnessing it the next time they logged back in.

The window could prevent the perpetrators from successfully contacting them again at that point or offer a cooling-off period of a pre-defined period of time – perhaps over 24-48 hours. Either way, if the block is made permanent and they wish to do so, abuse could be reported to the service provider at this stage.

In this way, a stop or ‘panic’ button on social networking services could operate in a similar way to what I advocated in my dissertation for virtual worlds which allow for sexual activity between avatars:

Through the modality of code, avatars capable of engaging in sexual activities could be required to have a ‘stop’ function – essentially allowing teleportation or some other means of escape from the unwanted attention of another avatar. This means of regulation represents an ex ante rather than ex post solution – the victim need never be subjected to the trauma in the first place.

Surely this is the right way of regulating the problem of online abuse (in whatever form)? After all, it makes sense to take advantage of the fact the environment is a artificial binary construct which allows a level of regulatory efficiency to be achieved which real-world regulators can only dream of.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Office 2010 Beta

Word WindowFor the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying out the public beta of the next version of Microsoft Office, just as I did back in summer 2006 for the second beta of what was to be Office 2007. So far my experiences are positive, but this isn’t the quantum leap (from the perspective of UI and, to a certain extent, functionality) as Office 2007 proved over  its predecessors.

I’m not going to run through all of the new stuff in there; I just intend commenting on the new features that I’ve encountered or those which I have particular opinions of - based on my (rather limited) experience with the beta.

I should point out at this stage, I guess, that as Office has matured over the years, certain additions have just felt like change for change’s sake. I get that feeling with Office 2010 – possibly more than ever.

· Pretty new icons for each application and a nice new orange Office logo. Still, I’m not sure how much your average Office user will care about this stuff.

· Stronger colour ‘branding’ for each of the apps; but was identifying between them ever a really issue?

· Much better in-program navigation – the search functionality is superb and surpasses Firefox’s inline search which not only searches as you type but also offers excellent file-wide navigation at the same time in the navigation pane.

· Multiple-paste options much improved – fantastic!

· Task panes are smarter, clearer and offer more context-sensitive options.

· Excel is meant to have got a bunch more functionality. Still, the elementary stuff I do in spread sheets could be done with Office 97 or even earlier.  So it’s a bit of a non-event for me.

· I very much like the improved UI provided the silver theme is turned on. The gradient looks fantastic when the Window isn’t maximised; when it is maximised in Visa, XP, (but not Windows 7) however, the effect is lost but it’s still less in-your-face than the more gaudy Office 2007 themes. pretty toolbar

The black theme looked awful in both 2007 and the 2010 beta, but the standard blue theme in the 2010 version, just looks horribly washed-out and lifeless.  The default blue theme of the 2007 version was much more attractive.

· Right click menus in Word are narrower, more streamlined and offer more helpful context-sensitive options than ever before.

· The ‘backstage’ screen accessed via the coloured ‘file’ tab in each of the apps might be seen as slightly retrogressive from a UI standpoint – does it really need to cover the entire workable space?

· Big improvement with Outlook. Shame the Google Calendar sync gizmo isn’t working with it yet which I rely on heavily. I’m told that a registry hack does the trick but this post is about documenting my ‘out of the box’ experience.

· Program Reliability – solid as a rock – touch wood.

· OneNote better than ever, particularly with the ribbon interface.

· The Word 2007 bug which makes text render incorrectly giving the impression of duplication until you scroll and it disappears has seemingly been fixed. I know this isn’t a confliction with a specific video driver as I’ve run across the exact same thing on around 6 or 7 machines all running Office 2007. So far, so good in Office 2010.

· Send a smile / send a frown - (the means of providing direct and immediate feedback to Microsoft about things users like and dislike about the beta) ironically is the only patch of buginess I’ve ran into so far.

There’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot of good stuff in Office 2010. Still, I’m not sure how much of a compelling upgrade it makes – particularly if you’re running Office 2007. I guess the conservative, softly-softly approach practiced by the Windows 7 team under Steven Sinofsky’s leadership, which favoured small incremental improvements and fine-tuning over quantum leaps, has filtered down to the Office team too. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; just don’t expect to be blown away by the next version of the world’s favourite office productivity suite.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Status check on the blawgosphere

84438340 copyThis post is an update to a couple of others I wrote earlier this year. First and foremost, I guess, it serves as a qualification to the post I published entitled ‘Yet More New Growth in the Blawgosphere’ back on 1st September. Of the 4 blogs I reviewed then, 2 have faltered entirely, and one can no longer be regarded as a ‘blawg’.

Dottie/Kim AKA ‘pink pop polka dot’ – while this blog is still updated, the content is given-over entirely to make-up tips, cosmetic product reviews and the like. Last time I checked, Kim doesn’t link to any blawgs either - which more or less cements the fate of her blog for me.  I’ve nothing against Dottie’s blog per se, only I have little interest reading about make-up tips. Oh well. 
Law Actually blog-roll status: Struck off.

Mad Law Student – it was always a tentative, ‘I’m-not-really-sure-about-this’ start but it finally looks like this blog has fallen by the wayside with only two or three posts to its name.  Still, a comeback isn’t impossible.
Law Actually blog-roll status: … Moved to Missing in Action/AWOL.

Legally Ginge – after being a long-time ‘commenter’ on the blawgs of others, Ginge finally stepped out and launched her own, much-heralded blog. All seemed to be going great and then… nothing.  Disappeared without trace.
Law Actually blog-roll status: … Moved to Missing in Action/AWOL.

In another post, ‘The Blawgsphere Lives On’ that I wrote in May this year, I introduced another bunch of blawgs. Sadly some of those have succumbed to the high attrition rate that seems to be cursing the blawgosphere of late.

Obiter – A high-profile and promising start, this blawg quickly petered out like a damp squib.
Law Actually blog-roll status: … Moved to Missing in Action/AWOL. Suggest strike-off, given long period of inactivity.

Lacunae – As Obiter, only more so.
Law Actually blog-roll status: … Moved to Missing in Action/AWOL. Suggest strike-off, given long period of inactivity.

Poor old Alan Plawtridge is such a new blog, it didn’t even make it on to one of my blawg reviews.  Like so many others, this blawg showed a promising start but he hasn’t posted since 18th September. Is this it or is a pre-Christmas resurrection on the cards?
Law Actually blog-roll status: …Suggest move to Missing in Action/AWOL in the New Year.

But it gets worse before it gets better; there are a whole load of other blogs which should be put on the ‘sphere’s endangered list as their existence looks increasingly perilous to say the least.

Of those, the revered Law Minx is surely the most well-known. For those that haven’t discovered yet, Minxy seems to have recently made her blawg public again, though no new posts have yet emerged. Has the popular and much-loved Minxy returned to the ‘sphere? I truly hope so!

As for the rest who are on that list, well, no doubt I’ll blog about them in good time, too.

But enough doom and gloom; there is some good news couched within all this. I was reflecting the other day looking through my list of blawgs and blogs on Google Reader that for all of the negativity and high rate of drop-outs, there are still a bunch of high-quality blawgs out there being updated frequently. Many of these are the old-skoolers who have been the distance and then some, and include Charon QC, Andro, Barmaid, Head of Legal, Scot’s Law Student, Oliver Smith, Travis the Trout, ASP Bites, Will I Be Barred, Pooni and so on.   Perhaps I should be approaching this from a glass half full perspective rather than the alternative? 

Still, it’s interesting to note, though, that very few of these active members are student blogs – and no current LPC-ers at all.  Conversely, the US student blawging scene has never been healthier.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Storm in a teacup / rat in a risotto

From BBC News 06/12/09:

I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! winner Gino D'Acampo and Stuart Manning face charges of animal cruelty after cooking and eating a rat in the show.

The RSPCA in New South Wales, Australia, said it was "not acceptable" that a rat had been killed by the pair as part of a performance.

Police confirmed they had issued court attendance notices for 3 February 2010.

The Italian chef and actor ate the rat after they were "exiled" and reduced to rations of rice and beans on the show.

D'Acampo, 33, told the show's video diary room, the Bush Telegraph: "I saw one of these rats running around. I got a knife, I got its throat, I picked it up."

The "exiled" group, including 30-year-old Manning, ate the rat as part of a meal.

Ch Insp David Oshannessy, from the RSPCA in New South Wales, told BBC Radio 5 live there was a "code of practice" which dictated how animals could be used in theatrical productions and films.

"The killing of a rat for a performance is not acceptable. The concern is this was done purely for the cameras," he said.

rat eatersThis strikes me as utterly ridiculous. I would actually contend that the rat wasn’t killed ‘purely for the cameras’ but rather purely for sustenance.  But oh well.  As well as complaining about cockroaches being ill-treated, Australian animal rights busybodies are also grumbling about horses getting their hooves wet in a river.

If you want to see an example of genuine animal cruelty, see this.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Annoying new verb for office-based communication

drop an emailI'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed a rather disturbing new trend in everyday office-speak. It seems that a new verb has descended into common parlance over the last few weeks to describe the sending of emails and faxes and making phone calls - 'to drop'.

I realise that the phrase to 'drop a line' has been around for decades to describe the act of writing a letter but the fact that it seems to have been now rolled out to cover all other forms of communication strikes me as a touch grating.  I have to endure the increasingly stale expressions, "Oh, I'll just drop you an email", I'll drop them a text now", "I'll just drop you a voicemail later on" countless times each day.  And of course, being the habitual contrarian that I am, I make a point of never using the phrase. 

I’ve heard it muttered recently on the train, too, but I’m curious to know whether it’s more of southern thing or if it’s spread across the UK like a killer virus.

… I hope the ‘sphere doesn’t mind me dropping everyone a blog post, just to highlight this annoyance.


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Poole’s Christmas Tree / Astroturf Cone

From the Times 27/11/09:

Shoppers stared in bemusement at the mysterious object that landed in a shopping precinct in Poole, Dorset, this week. Some compared it to a giant traffic cone, a witch’s hat or a cheap special effect from an early episode of Doctor Who.

The 33ft structure turned out to be their Christmas tree, designed according to the principles of health and safety, circa 2009.

Thus it has no trunk so it won’t blow over, no branches to break off and land on someone’s head, no pine needles to poke a passer-by in the eye, no decorations for drunken teenagers to steal and no angel, presumably because it would need a dangerously long ladder to place it at the top.

Last year Poole boasted a Norwegian fir draped with strings of coloured lights. It cost £500 and continued a decades-old tradition. The replacement, which is constructed on a metal frame overlaid with what appears to be artificial grass, cost £14,000 and comes with built-in fairy lights and hidden speakers to play Christmas tunes that will put shoppers in the festive mood. But the only mood apparent among shoppers who saw the tree yesterday was a bad one.

Christmas astroturf coneSeriously? This just looks terrible and at a cost of £14K, this pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree is probably worse than no Christmas tree at all. Maybe it’s just me but shouldn’t the fact that this ‘tree’ lacks branches, pine needles, decorations and  and angel on top be regarded as a bad thing?

It just looks like a cone of Astroturf pointing towards the sky. I don’t know why they bothered.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A Problem in Briefs

underpants From The Times – Garry Slapper’s Weird Cases 6/11/09:

In Florida, Judge Patricia Kinsey ruled recently in the case of Albert Freed who sued a men’s briefs manufacturer claiming he was injured on holiday by their badly designed underwear.

In a judgement she probably did not anticipate making while at law school, Judge Kinsey was required to engage in a detailed analysis of the relationship between male anatomy and male underwear. An alleged design defect supposedly exposed Freed to beach sand that had accumulated in swimming trunks he was wearing over his briefs. Judge Kinsey doubted the contention that the briefs had opened “whereupon the edges of the opening abraded his penis like “’sandpaper belts’”.

Ouch! More intriguingly:

Why had Freed spent two weeks on holiday aggravating the problem without reporting it to his wife? He said he was so excited about this holiday to Hawaii – which he had won – that he did not want to complain about his debilitating pain until they got home. [Edit – there’s a first time for everything, I guess!! --]. Asked in cross-examination why he had not inspected the problem early to assess the possible dangers, he replied that he was a “belly man” and could not see his penis.

Wow. Still, Underwear injuries seem to be more common than you might think.

According to official data on accidents, underwear injures many Britons every year. In 2002, for example, 369 people were caused serious injury by underpants or knickers.

All of these underwear mishaps remind me of watching a spoof scene based on the old BBC show 999, in which a middle-aged chap did himself a mischief pulling on a pair of underpants. I think it essentially involved him putting his left leg into the right pant hole and, well, you’ve guessed it – disaster ensued. The Fire Brigade has quite a time cutting him out of them as I recall.  Not pretty.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A gritty problem: motorist sues Highway Agency


From the Telegraph 10/11/09:

A motorist who spent two days on a life support machine after crashing on black ice is suing the Highways Agency for failing to grit the road properly.

The 47-year-old man, who is a member of the Royal Navy, sustained serious injuries after his car was involved in a three-vehicle collision at Trewint, near Launceston, Cornwall on Jan 21.

He spent three weeks in hospital and is still suffering health problems as a result of the crash.

The victim, from Liskeard, Cornwall, was one of 30 drivers whose cars crashed on a 40-mile stretch of the A30, which runs running from Okehampton in Devon to Bodmin, Cornwall.

No motorist has mounted a successful claim against the agency.

While minor roads are the responsibility of local authorities, the burden of maintaining trunk routes rests with the Highways Agency.

The accident took place more than a week before Britain was hit by the worst blizzards in decades, which led to a shortage of grit and salt throughout the country.

A Highways Agency spokesman said salt was aid on the road earlier in the day, it was washed away by showers. Then the temperature dropped freezing the surface water.

"We can't predict what the weather's going to be like just after it's been gritted, that's life. And even when roads are gritted, it's not magic - drivers still need to take a great deal of care."

While road users all owe a duty of care to one another, there is also little doubt that those responsible for maintaining the safety of roads owe a similar duty to those who use them. Both rock salt and grit are fickle substances and although excellent at preventing the icing-up of roads, are highly susceptible to being washed away by a simple rain shower.

Localised squalls which can wash away certain patches of laid salt makes the decision to re-grit very difficult – particularly within the confines of a tight budget. The salt can also be worn away by unexpectedly high levels of traffic on certain stretches of road and suggesting that all roads must remain perfectly gritted at all times during cold weather is simply unrealistic. That said, major trunk roads should always be treated as a priority in respect of gritting and a cautious, ‘better safe than sorry’ approach is far better than a laissez-faire one.

Should the claim succeed of course, it could pave the way for further action against the Highways Agency. Whether, though, within the confines of limited budgets, inaccurate weather reports and good old mother nature at her unpredictable best, the nation’s roads become any safer as a result of a humble personal injury case is another matter all together.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The ethical lawyer: a contradiction in terms

From the Law Gazette 23/11/09:

The earliest surviving records of medieval principles of ethical conduct for lawyers concern the advocates and proctors who appeared before the church courts. One very early record is a book written in 1239 by William of Drogheda, an Oxford priest and lawyer, advising the reader how to be a successful advocate. The text reveals something of an ironic disconnect between the ethical standards of these two professions on the important subject of remuneration: the author recommends that advocates should ensure payment in advance – 'Get your money while the patient is ill.'

For those who mistakenly thought that the legal profession has only recently given cause for garnering a reputation of consisting solely of ruthless, money-grapping, Machiavellian chancers.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Tech Support Cheat-Sheet

I found this brilliant flowchart via Digg a few weeks ago and what with the house move, limited internet connectivity etc. I hadn’t got around to posting it. 


tech support cheat sheet

So true.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Overdue library books returned 50 years late!

library returns From Miami Herald 14/11/09:

A high school librarian in Phoenix says a former student at the school returned two overdue books checked out 51 years ago along with a $1,000 money order to cover the fines.

Camelback High School librarian Georgette Bordine says the two Audubon Society books checked out in 1959 and the money order were sent by someone who wanted to remain anonymous.

Bordine says the letter explained that the borrower's family moved to another state and the books were mistakenly packed.

The letter said the money order was to cover fines of 2 cents per day for each book. That would total about $745. The letter says the extra money was added in case the rates had changed.

Bordine says the money will buy more books, and the overdue books will be returned to the shelves.

I found this rather cute story via Digg earlier and it reminded me of the time when, rooting around in old boxes of books in the loft at home, I found a few old school and college textbooks that had somehow come into my permanent possession.

I particularly like the fact that returner had tried to allow for the increase in overdue-rates.  I can only assume they must have had a full-on crisis of conscience to part with $1000, bless ‘em.

Perhaps I should do something about returning my textbooks someday, though no doubt amendments to the curriculum would have rendered them obsolete.  Or something like that, anyway.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

November’s Wacky Search Terms

november's wacky search terms

While my lack of internet connectivity has hampered my blogging activities somewhat over the past month or so, I’ve still been keeping up with the bizarre searches through which people find Law Actually. As ever, we’ve got some real brarmers in there!

“where as a barrister can you get tattooed and pierced” – shoulders and back for men; inner forearms and the trusty ‘tramp-stamp’ zone for women. As for piercings, well - bellybuttons all the way.  :-/

didn't like looe – I’m not particularly enamoured with it myself.

“london hotel travel fun post a comment -crap –sh*t -murder -killed- I’ve stayed in a dodgy London hotel before but nothing quite like this!

“letch – I’m on the front page on Google for this. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

“firework accident compensation claim – well, I did warn you all.

“fireworks uk law time – How about ‘never’ as a piece of possible legal reform?

“uk law student moved to be a US attorney” – Wow. I’m not sure if that qualifies as an upgrade or downgrade.

“how to turn wifi piggybackers upside down – Grab them by their ankles!

“economic burden, kid car accidents – I guess we all have regrets!

“workers compensation porn benefits cancelled”  That’s quite a perk.

“average law student blog - as the sphere's own Pooni might say, I'm not your average student, thank you.

“strawberries law
– I mean, seriously: what kind of answer were you looking for?

“dentist works on one patient – well, that’s better than two at a time, surely?

cow kicked out injury claim” – As opposed to the judge dismissing it, I suppose?

accidents down the sewers” – I should imagine there are a fair few ‘accidents’ lurking about down there.

“i dot car accident and now i am claim for injury” – good for you, I say.

“employment law pillow talk uk - whatever does it for you, darling.

“fountain pen law actually – Perhaps I should start doing my own branded pens?

“pupilages porno” – Sweet Jesus... I can sense another film idea coming on!

“Someone getting sat on by a cow” – As long as it’s not me, I don’t mind.

“police found 60 indecent images on my pc where could they have come from?” – Hmm... that’s what they all say!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Blogging is for life, not just for ......

blogging graphicWithout wanting to be accused of scaremongering (or simply being full of doom and gloom) I think it’s time I wrote up another post in which I bemoan the general ‘state of the blawgosphere’. I wrote up a particularly negative entry last December in which I prophesied that the end of the blawgosphere (as we knew it) was nigh. Happily, that proved to be incorrect, as the sphere welcomed a bevy of new blawgs into the fray in the subsequent months. There’s no denying that some of the newbies have carved out excellent reputations for themselves – relating both to the quality of the posts and the frequency of the entries.

However, since this Spring, the rate at which the new blawgs have sprung up has flat-lined and a number of those new entries have more or less died their death, descending into perpetual silence.  Any ideas about Lacunae, Obiter or Templar anyone?  Anyone?

I read somewhere recently that new blogs are somewhat like new businesses in the sense that close to half of them fail in the first year. Still, a blogger can punch out a lot of posts in 12 months and contribute fruitfully to his or her chosen section of cyberspace. But those blawgs which spring up with boundless reserves of enthusiasm only for life to dessert them as quickly as they arrived are something else all together. And, perhaps it’s just me, but I really struggle to get what’s going on with them. If the blogger isn’t too sure about continuing, wouldn’t the posts begin to falter and trail off rather than dropping off the radar entirely within the blink of an eye.

I’m certainly not advocating that blogging should take the form of some ‘old boys’ club. However, the stalwart bloggers – whom have grown considerably in number despite my foreboding blog posts every now and then – keep the sphere being what it should be. New entries are great and diversity should be welcomed but how much value do they add when their presence proves to be so hollow, meaningless and short-lived.

The last thing I want here is to discourage potential bloggers from giving it a go. But I would say this to them: try it out, experiment, embrace the sense of community by all means but don’t go and start promising the earth if you’ve serious doubts about sticking around. And if you decide it’s not for you, knock it on the head conclusively. No one wants to see a blawg – however great or not so great it was in its heyday –be left hanging around painfully and uncertainly like the last turkey in the shop. Surely the least the failed blogger can do – if only for the dignity of his or her blog – is to wrap it up with a few words proclaiming, ‘this is it folks – it was fun while it lasted’.

The tacitly accepted rules of the game have changed , too, recently. No longer does the blogger have to be chained to their laptop on a daily basis – or something like that. But in all seriousness, I think the window of acceptability in terms of posting frequency has definitely widened considerably in the last year or so. I would go as far as saying that blawgers can still remain part of the valued fabric of sphere while only posting perhaps once a month. (I think Law and Life and certain other distinguished members of the ‘sphere might be pushing their luck a bit, though).  :-)

In short, it’s the quality and loyalty of their presence which creates value and drives their readership. Of course, this acceptability shift was borne partly out of necessity. Many student blawgers have seen their lifestyles change considerably as they leave the academic world for the unknown and murky recesses of the world of work - leaving them with precious few moments to update their beloved blawgs. I, too, can now speak from experience on this score.

Ultimately, of course, the wheat and chaff are always sorted and as for those blawgs that were always destined to die after a few hope-filled weeks, well, we should perhaps just let nature take its course.

As an aside – and with the admission that Law Actually has been a bit quiet of late - I think it’s timely to give a shout-out to a few missing (and much missed) blawgers who haven’t posted in a while.

So, Law Minx, Lacklustre Lawyer and others, let’s hear from you soon, eh?!

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Firework-Fun Fallacy


From P&C Express 05/11/09:

A health chief has warned that fireworks can have "devastating consequences" if they are not used safely.

Ian Walton, accident and emergency operations director at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS), said its ambulance crews will treat a number of patients with burns to more serious, life-threatening injuries on bonfire night.

He said: "Fireworks used properly are safe are accidents are avoidable. However, they can cause devastating injuries if safety precautions are not followed.

"We recommend people attend one of the professionally-organised public displays. However, if you are planning to host your own event, we ask you exercise caution and make safety a priority to ensure everyone has a good time without getting hurt.

While it’s true that, used properly, fireworks can be safe, a significant section of the general public illustrate annually that they’re simply not capable of following safety directions and employing a little commonsense. It doesn’t seem to matter how many safety warnings go out each year, or how well-labelled the fireworks are themselves, injuries often ensue during amateur November 5th festivities.

For what it’s worth, I’m rather doubtful about the sense in selling fireworks to the general public at all – though I’m aware there are certain counter-arguments which can be wheeled-out in response. As well as the accidents resulting in terrible injuries, fireworks also have a habit of falling into the wrong hands – typically kids. For me, the significance of both of these factors outweigh any benefits that could be said to flow from selling fireworks to ordinary members of the public.

Is hosting your own private firework display really worth the danger and hassle? With society being so trigger-happy from a litigation standpoint, can the average family risk inviting others round for a typical garden display? After all, there’s little legal redress for victims injured as a result of their own negligent conduct and they may unwittingly cause actionable injuries to others.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Technical Problems

Contrary to popular belief, the Michael has not disappeared off the face of the earth, nor ducked out of the blawgosphere either. No, the reason for my lack of posting is based on the utter incompetence of certain third parties.

After a huge bodge-up of meteoric proportions by my ISP (yes, I’m looking at you, Tiscali), I still don’t have internet access at my new house. Almost worse still is that when I do receive it, the best connection I can expect is an unacceptably paltry 512kbs. This is going to cause a massive lifestyle change – at least from an entertainment standpoint – in that we won’t be able to stream content as we’ve gotton comfortably used to. Just to make sure I'm utterly left without other viable options, I'm not in a cable broadband area and it's also a blackspot for mobile broadband. Note to self: make sure you check these things out BEFORE you move next time, Michael.

So other than being royally pis*ed at the prospect of a sub-standard internet experience, things have been going all right. Still, I don't think we'll be renewing the tenancy which expires in a few short months.

Rest assured, I’ll be back to posting regularly very soon. Just with an absolute joke of an internet connection.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


train My trip ‘up North’ went reasonably smoothly, all things considered, and am hoping that I’ll be able to say the same after my trip to London on Thursday.  It’s certainly shaping up to be a busy week as we’re picking the new house keys up on Friday and moving the bulk of our stuff on Saturday. I’ve got to get the 6.30 train on Thursday morning so expect to have the energy levels of a torpid slug by the time we reach the weekend. Perfect timing as ever, of course.

After Friday, I expect to be incommunicado for the next couple of weeks while my internet account gets transferred to the new house.  Quite why it takes so long is beyond me; it would probably be quicker to tie a reel of new cabling to a mouse and let him scurry off laying new fibre optic as he went.  The last time I was without the internet for any length of time was in June 2008 and I remember remarking afterwards that I found being internet-less for a fortnight or so somewhat trying. I guess I’ll have the net at work this time so will swing by Google Reader in my lunch break now and then to keep abreast with developments in the blawgosphere.

Anyway, to paraphrase the great Murray Walker, “I’ll make no apologies for my absence, but I’m sorry I won’t be here”.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

New Month, New Job, New House,

new homeThis week has marked the first working week of my ‘proper job’, which probably explains my lack of blog posts. I’m not that optimistic that I’ll be throwing many more posts up in the immediate future either, as I’ve a spell of business travel coming up next week before our impending house move next weekend.

My new job has, for the most part, been an enjoyable, if challenging, experience although the daily commute of a bus and 2 trains has been killing me. The fact I’ve got an absolutely terrible sense of direction and managed to get on the wrong train on Monday evening which took me back to the station I’d just travelled from, just rubbed salt in the wounds.

As ever, the frustrations seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment. For example, we were warned yesterday of a couple wanting to come around and view our property this afternoon around 4pm ish, only to told about 4.15 that they cancelled at the last minute. The fact that the estate agent had walked down from their offices half a mile away (and looked thoroughly miserable when he broke the news to me) was of little consolation.

More bizarrely, it seems the world is in the grip of a global shortage of parcel tape at the moment. This week I’ve called into two branches of Tesco, one Sainsbury’s and even an Aldi – and all are out of stock completely. Apart from Aldi, of course, who don’t stock it any of the time. Par for the course with them I guess.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever? Think Again!

Strawberry From This is Cornwall 03/06/09:

One of the traditional Westcountry summer's simple pleasures is under threat from health and safety rules which have already forced the closure of pick-your-own fields at one of the region's best-known fruit farms.

For more than 40 years, the Boddington family has thrown open the gates of their farm near Mevagissey, Mid-Cornwall, for the public to pluck succulent strawberries fresh from the plant.

But after being told to install safety features including handrails on drainage ditches and to cordon off potholes in the field in case errant pickers fall in, the family has decided it cannot afford to let people on to the farm.

Phil Boddington, whose grandfather set up the farm 60 years ago and whose father helped pioneer pick-your-own in Cornwall, said it was a sad day.

"Unfortunately, it is seen to be a risk to let the public onto what's deemed to be a strawberry factory in the eyes of the insurers and the health and safety people," he said. "It's just a sign of the times.

For the last three generations, the family has welcomed pick-your-own customers.

Mr Boddington said that, during those decades, just two people had been injured in the fields while gathering fruit.

However, last year, one of them, an elderly woman, filed a claim against the farm's insurance for injuries she suffered after a fall. The claim is currently being processed, but Mr Boddington said it had caused their insurance premiums to more than double.

The family was told that if it wanted to continue with the pick-your-own element of their business, they would have to make "radical" and expensive alterations.

Mr Boddington said the alterations would have cost more than any turnover generated.

I meant to blog about this earlier in the summer, not least because the Boddington strawberry farm in Cornwall is just a stone’s throw away from where I grew up. In fact, I remember several visits to farm as a kid and the fact that they have been forced to abandon their much-loved PYO experience strikes me as a real tragedy.  As any personal injury lawyer will tell you, though, you can’t contract out of negligence.

Whenever the public are let loose in an area, of course, accidents will always happen - irrespective of how ‘safe’ it is made. While the legal mechanisms in place to allow injured members of the public to claim redress are important, they can also prove something of double-edged sword. It’s a tragedy that an unfortunate slip, trip or fall by one person can go on to deprive everybody of the chance experience the simple joys of picking your own. Children particularly love the PYO experience which, for them, typically becomes a strawberry fuelled pick-one, eat-three summertime bonanza.  I guess I should consider myself one of the lucky ones.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Coming to a Cinema Near You – Law Student 2

Law Student 2 film


Inspired by one of my oddest keyword searches yet, “law student 2”, I quickly found a film idea emerging in my mind. After all, I don’t think there are enough violent action movies featuring law students. :D

The plot:

A small group of law students with superhuman powers enrolled at law school in 2007 and formed an alliance. They were called by a mysterious voice and were drawn from the far reaches of the UK to form a team combining the best superhuman strengths that a fictitious law student could possess. (Think a grown-up version of Captain Planet’s helpers, just without the environmental stuff)!

During their first year they secretly upheld order and civility around campus using their mystical powers and superhuman strength. Known only as “the law students”, their identity was a closely guarded secret but could be relied upon to come to the aid of stricken law students. As well as porting answers to difficult questions via telepathy into the heads of students in seminars who hadn’t done the required preparation, they could also be found providing freshers with something to vomit into after yet another heavy night’s drinking in the student union.

Then disaster struck. During fresher’s week in 2008, “the law students” met their fiercest match yet in the form of an evil bunch of power-hungry fresher’s and were very nearly defeated in one of the most gruesome battles ever witnessed in a UK university during peacetime. (Think of the early scenes of ‘Demolition Man’ and you’re somewhere close to the carnage).

Most of “the law students” perished with one notable exception. A second year student known only as ‘Vontona’ somehow eluded a terrible death involving petrol bombs and a torture device resembling a high-voltage pair of hair straighteners. She was driven underground for a year during which time she re-grouped and plotted how best to avenge her fallen comrades.

Vontona’s secret weapons are her bionic limbs, quick wit, rocket launcher which fires statute-book-shells and her unparalleled knowledge of the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

And now she’s back, hell-bent on avenging the former members of “the law students”.

What the reviewers thought:

“Discard all prior perceptions of a UK law student” – the Observer

“It’s Nancy Drew meets the Terminator as a kind of vigilante crime fighter … on campus!” – ‘The Bizarre-Comparison-Maker’s Monthly.

“More shoot-‘em-up scenes than you can shake a statute book at” – The Law Gazette.

“If Arni was a student, even he might have met his match here” – The Cinema-Goer’s Weekly

“Holy Moly!!!” – The Student Bulletin

“Sweet Jesus – Hold on to your case books!” – The Young Lawyer Quarterly

I think I’ve got a real winner on my hands with this one! :-/

Friday, 25 September 2009

Putting the Letch in Lecturing

Putting the letch into lecturing

From The Guardian 23/09/09:

We've had a week of sex scandals in schools. Now Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, seems intent on stirring things up on the academic front.

Female students, he declares, are a perk of the job for male university lecturers – though they should look, not touch.

In an article for the Times Higher Education magazine on lust, part of a feature on the seven deadly sins of universities, Kealey wrote: "Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?

"Enjoy her! She's a perk."

Flashing a few literary allusions, he continued: "She doesn't yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife."


Unsurprisingly, Kealey’s comments have gone down very badly in some quarters, with his message being labelled as deeply misogynistic:

Kealey's comments were attacked by Olivia Bailey, women's officer at the National Union of Students.

She told the Telegraph: "I am appalled that a university vice-chancellor should display such an astounding lack of respect for women.

Human nature being what it is, I think it’s safe to say that a certain degree of surreptitious ogling goes on everywhere, not least by academics in lecture halls and seminar groups. What’s astounding here is that Kealey has come out and voiced – even encouraged his peers – to engage in a bit of rubbernecking over their more prepossessing students.

Several years ago during my first year at university, I personally witnessed certain females using their, ahem, charm to their tactical advantage.  This included one instance of a girl encouraging the course coordinator to allow them to transfer to the LLB once enrolled on another (lesser) legal course when she did not meet the pre-requisites to get onto the LLB.

Of course, I don’t know that it was because of her open flirting with said lecturer or whether he would have transferred her in any case. Either way, it’s an interesting strategy to get on the LLB if your A level results aren’t quite up to scratch.

Returning to the article, maybe Kealey just wanted to stir up a storm by writing a tantalising article or he was simply trying to be facetious. However you slice it, though, he’s certainly got attention, if that was his ploy. In any case, his candidness is definitely a bit of an eye-opener and however you feel about the thrust of his sentiment , I’m not sure his ‘look but don’t touch’ policy is enough of a sugar coating to appease the more easily-offended out there.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Lily Allen calls it a day (… fronting filesharing debate)

ISPs copyright police From The Guardian 24/09/09:

Just hours after saying she has no plans for a new album, Lily Allen has closed down her blog on music piracy, saying the "abuse" received had become too much to bear.

The singer posted messages on Twitter saying she was not going to attend an emergency meeting of music artists this evening to hammer out a unified position on illegal filesharing.

The star says: "Hello, there is a meeting today in London where artists are meeting to discuss Piracy. My job done.

"I wont [sic] be attending the meeting because it's going to be a press frenzy and I don't want to detract from the issues. I'm proud of the fact that I've been involved with this debate but I'm passing the baton on to other artists.

"And I've shut down the blog, the abuse was getting too much."

Allen had set up a blog "It's Not Alright" (in reference to her first album Alright, Still) collating the views of artists after her comments that "filesharing is a disaster" for new talent.

I’m fascinated to see what kind of deal can be thrashed out in the coming weeks. Inevitably, some form of compromise must be reached – to give consumers a fair deal, to preserve the sustainability of an important sector of the economy and protect and encourage the quality of creative energy out there.

Ultimately, though, record labels need to give more than take on this one, quite frankly, and for the creative industry to have half a chance at organically reducing copyright infringement and stop alienating music lovers the world over, the idea and extent of royalties is in dire need of being reconceptualised. The premise of gluttonous middlemen milking their cash cows for all they’re worth at the consumer’s expense is anachronistic and should be treated as such.

Sadly, I’m not at all confident much is going to change, not least by the close of play at tonight’s meeting. And what change does occur, I can’t imagine will involve much in the way of capitulation and compromise on the part of record labels; I’m having terrifying visions that Mandelson’s fatally-flawed 3-strike policy might actually come to pass.

Finally, as an aside, well done to Lily for snubbing wordpress, squarespace, typepad and all the other ‘pro’ solutions by going with blogger to host her now defunct blog!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Oh Crumbs: Is it Time for Biscuit Injury Lawsuits?

Hazardous Biscuits From The Daily Record 08/09/09:

Custard creams are Britain's most dangerous biscuits, it was revealed yesterday A study claimed an estimated 25million people in Britain had been injured by biscuits.

Hidden dangers included flying fragments and daredevil dunking in scalding tea. And custard creams were the worst offenders, posing the biggest risk to innocent dunkers.

Around 500 people a year need hospital treatment because of biscuit injuries.

The study by Mindlab found 29 per cent of adults had been splashed or scalded by hot drinks while dunking or trying to fish the remnants from hot tea.

They also found 28 per cent had choked on crumbs and 10 per cent had broken a tooth or filling biting a biccy.

More unusually, three per cent had poked themselves in the eye with a biscuit and seven per cent were bitten by a pet or "other wild animal" trying to get their biscuit.

Personally, I would have thought that Ginger Nuts would be the most dangerous biscuit owing to the hard and crisp nature rather than the humble custard cream. News stories like this one make it easy to lose whatever sense of perspective the average adult has these days and feel the ‘compensation culture’ taking over.

A Canadian author, Bob Beers, picked up on this story:

Liberal culture has brought us to the point where personal injury lawyers essentially run our economic system. What, you say the coffee was too hot? You say the fourteen signs warning you about the fact the coffee was hot weren’t enough? You say you bought that coffee at an evil corporate franchise??? We have got to sue!!!

Steady on, Bob. While England and Wales can’t claim to have never seen a frivolous claim or two, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that it’s time to bring civil actions against biscuit manufacturers or negligent biscuit crunchers for causing lethal shrapnel in the form of crumbs to invade the personal space or others. As I previously said, perspective is key here; properly used negligence claims can play a useful and important role in modern society to provide redress and improve standards of behaviour and safety. But I don’t think anyone is suggesting that it’s time to bring an action against a custard cream. Nor a Bourbon, Garibaldi or Hobnob, for that matter.