Friday, 30 January 2009

Microsoft Songsmith: So bad it's good...well, nearly!

You’ll definitely need your earplugs for this one, no matter how broad your taste in music might be. I first learnt of this monstrosity from listening to the latest TWiT (This Week in Tech) podcast and the snippet of the video they played was cringe-worthy enough the first time around.  Still, it's such a brarmer that I thought I just had to share it on Law Actually.

The ad, for what it's worth, is not an official Microsoft one but rather one made by a couple of Microsoft employees.  Quite how serious they were about it, I don't know.  They've probably been laid off by now in any event.

All together now:

“I’m singing with my laptop…

Making up new songs…”


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

'Tasered' Pensioner Under Review

Police Taser From: CPD Webinars 26/01/09:

A police watchdog has been reviewing the case of an 89-year-old man, who was shot with a Taser gun by officers.

Police claim they used the 50,000-volt stun-gun as the pensioner was threatening to cut his throat with a piece of glass after he had walked out of a local residential home into the street in Llandudno, Conwy.

The attending officers fearing he might kill himself shot him with the taser as a preventative measure. Afterwards he was taken to hospital to recover from a minor glass wound.

North Wales Police received an official complaint from the pensioner’s family and have was referred it to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

North Wales Police said afterwards that the officers had made a judgement to protect his life and it was now up to the watchdog to decide whether to hold an investigation.
They said that the use of the Taser was the "safest and most appropriate" option.  It is understood [the OAP's family] felt that police should have given themselves more time to talk to him.

It always difficult to judge these situations if you weren't present at the material time or even privy to all of the facts.  Determining whether the deployment of a taser in any given circumstance was a reasonable and proportionate course of action for officers to take strikes me as a very inexact science.  Still, that doesn't stop everyone else casting aspersions and jumping in with their two cents' worth so what the heck. 

I should think that the level of controversy surrounding the wider roll-out of tasers across police forces in the UK have put police very much on their guard when it comes to deploying them.  If nothing else, they surely know that any situation in which a person is tasered is going to be ex post very closely scrutinised.  On the facts, though, I don't think the police should be automatically criticised, notwithstanding the fact that "tasering an 89 year old" sounds a little harsh.  I'm presuming here that the police did try to speak with the man before reaching for the taser and that they acted in a responsible and appropriate manner.  If a man who is clearly acting in an irrational, disturbed and dangerous manner - he was, after all, holding a broken piece of glass to his throat - surely disabling him is the right course of action.  Sometimes a 'wait and see' policy isn't always viable with a potential suicide victim.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Penlee Disaster

Penlee Disaster After finally completing my dreaded Corporate Governance assignment on Thursday night – it was ‘RTM-d’ (Released to Manufacturing) as I still inappropriately refer to it a little before midnight - I’ve taken it relatively easy since.

Other than my two staple company law lectures, the rest of Friday was given over to reading the excellent book ‘Penlee – The Loss of a Lifeboat’ which I was sent as a belated Christmas present. While the disaster occurred before I was born, having grown up in Cornwall I was more than au fait with the tale behind that fateful night. For those who aren’t so familiar, the thrust of the tragic story is as follows. On the night of 19th December 1981 and in terrible weather, the lifeboat the Solomon Browne went to the aid of the stricken coaster Union Star which was drifting without power towards the shore. Having courageously rescued 4 of the 8 crew and passengers from the casualty and while attempting to recover the remainder, both the lifeboat and the Union Star were wrecked with a total loss of life.

Back in 2006 the BBC as part of their ‘Cruel Seas’ series screened a fascinating documentary on the Penlee disaster to mark the 25th anniversary. As well as interviews with the author of the book (Michael Sagar-Fenton) there were very interesting accounts from the helicopter crew, the lifeboat launching party and other crew members, coastguards, village locals and the some families who had lost loved ones. It also included the original (if slightly eerie) CB radio recordings of communication between the two boats, a tug sent to assist, the helicopter and the coastguard which caught the chilling moment when the transmission from the lifeboat went dead in mid stream.

The book itself was excellent, well researched and ably written; Sagar-Fenton does an excellent job of capturing the build-up of tension and sense of tragedy that ensued while handling the account of what was undisputedly a terrible tragedy in a tasteful and sensitive way. My only disappointment, perhaps, was the fact there was not more of it. I was hoping for a book that was going to flesh-out my understanding of the disaster a little more but, I have to say, it didn’t really add much over and above what the documentary provided. While I did learn a couple of interesting facts of which I wasn’t previously aware, I would have enjoyed a slightly more thoroughgoing account of the background details and felt the book came to a slightly rushed conclusion. The chapter given over to the subsequent inquiry seemed to gloss over many of findings without advancing further analysis, for instance.

On the whole, though, it was an excellent read and a treasured newcomer to my bookshelf. While I recognise it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it provides a fascinating insight into one of the UK’s worst maritime disasters in recent times and stands as a spellbinding account of human bravery, determination and ultimately sacrifice displayed by the crew of the Solomon Browne. As the pilot of the rescue helicopter, Russell Smith, wrote in a letter shortly after the disaster:

“The greatest act of courage I have ever seen, and am likely to ever see, was the penultimate courage and dedication shown by the Penlee when it manoeuvred back alongside the casualty in over 60 foot breakers... They were truly the bravest eight men I’ve ever seen who were also totally dedicated to upholding the highest standards of the RNLI.”

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Necessary Prerequisites

Tautology With the understanding that I’m certainly not above making the odd error of grammar or rhetoric here and there, I was nonetheless struck by this interesting piece of tautology yesterday in my reading for an IT seminar: “a necessary prerequisite”.

Aren’t all prerequisites necessary by definition? If a prerequisite wasn’t necessary it wouldn’t be a prerequisite, right?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just being ‘pedantic’ - which, while we’re on the subject, is a good example in itself of a word which is all too frequently misused.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that ‘it frequently happens all the time’. No, I’m just joshing now.


Happily I was able to overlook this early faux pas and, despite the article’s rather inauspicious start, it turned out to be a belter.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Nothing's More Simple than a Single Giant Button

I meant to post this a last week when I first discovered it.  It's too good not to share..

In a painful moment of self-reflection for Apple, their products and the ubiquitous Apple-fanboys and this news feature is painfully good satire

The video speaks for itself but I'll flag-up my favourite lines:

"Everything is just a few hundred clicks away".

"I'll buy almost anything if it's shiny and made by Apple" -- this is uncomfortably true of a lot of Apple fanboys.

The newsreader closes with arguably the best line of the show: "It remains to be seen whether 'the wheel' will catch on in the business world where people use computers for actual work and not just dicking around!"


Fantastic stuff!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

When Procrastination Bears Fruit

Procrastination I’ve been making heavy weather through my Corporate Governance assignment. I’m not usually much of a moaner but this paper has been horrific. Such was my lack of motivation just to get on and write this damn paper, I took to looking up a couple of (quite random) articles that certain lecturers at my previous university had written. Naturally, I turned to trusty Zetoc.

Well, as it turns out, a lecturer at the university I attended as an undergrad (and one I didn’t much care for at the time) had written some refreshingly succinct articles on a subject not entirely unrelated to my corporate governance paper. As I idly skimmed through the PDF of his paper, I remember being hit by an ‘oh-my-God: I COULD USE THIS!!!’ moment. Sitting bolt upright, I grabbed the mouse, snagged the citation of the article and had added it to my bibliography in a matter of seconds.

Someone’s looking out for me, I guess.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Term 2

New Term Today is an important one. It marks the start of a new term, the date my rent is paid (ouch) and, most importantly, the date the new Ferrari F1 challenger is launched. Dubbed the F60, this new car isn’t as horrible as I feared it might be, in the wake of a raft of dramatically new regulations for the 2009 season. 

Anyway: enough of that. Having only one lecture today, it was a graceful re-entry into the academic year and all of the scheduling nightmares that go with it. So far, at least.

I’m heavily occupied at the moment with my second assignment of the year: Corporate Governance. This first topic is very ‘theory’ based and for a non-economist like myself it can be a little heavy-going at times; I’m not used to seeing formulae in journal articles, even less trying to interpret it.

I’ve been researching this thing for over a week now, though my wandering attention has made progress particularly slow. I started the 'writing process' on Friday and have been struggling ever since to get into any kind of 'flow'. I usually find writing fairly easy but this has been more akin to pulling teeth. The last time I was this unexcited by a topic, I think, was during my coursework for Equity and Trusts as an undergrad. Tough times.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Skier's World Turned Upside Down

Skier Bum

From: The Smoking Gun 06/01/09:

[A] skier at Colorado's ritzy Vail resort was left dangling upside down and pantsless [sic] from a chairlift last Thursday morning. The January 1 mishap apparently occurred after the male skier, 48, and a child boarded a high-speed lift in Vail's Blue Sky Basin. It appears that the chairlift's fold-down seat was somehow not in the lowered position, which caused the man to partially fall through the resulting gap. His right ski got jammed in the ascending chairlift, and that kept him upended since his boot never dislodged from its binding.

I saw pictures relating to this story in the Metro this morning but it didn't detail at which ski resort the incident had occurred. Then, hours later, I stumbled across the same story via Digg.  Metro’s account of the incident suggested that the skier’s misfortune was due to the fact he was not sitting in the ski-lift correctly – unlike his son. However, that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the Metro’s coverage on their website.

I’m not quite sure which of the two I feel most sorry for: the guy for suffering the ignominy of hanging upside down for several minutes, while on looking skiers proceeded to photograph him in all his (semi) naked glory or the son who had to sit, inches away, watching on in horror. I would not like to be him when he returns to school.

If you're in the mood for chuckling over someone else's misfortune, you can check out some extra photos here.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Snow Business

Footway in snowy woods At the risk of being accused of publishing another misleading picture to accompany my blog posts, I couldn’t let the first (and probably only) dusting of snow that the Michael has encountered this year pass by without making mention of it here.

Like the majority of the nation this morning, I was greeted with a (semi) white winter wonderland outside and, unlike many of the poor souls slipping, sliding and skidding out there, thankfully didn't have to commute in it. As I drolly observed: “it only takes a couple of snowflakes to bring the country’s infrastructure to its knees”.

And talking of erudite observations, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, posing as the Comte de Bleuville, observed in the Fleming novel ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’:

We are going to have snow. It will be a good day for work. No distractions.”

In theory, then, this dusting of the white stuff offers me an excellent opportunity to get the hell on with some more work, save for the distractions unaffected by the elements - such as blogging, of course. The IT law paper was finally finished a couple of days ago and I’m now (bravely) tackling my preparation for the 5th company law seminar of the course. I’ve noted, somewhat worriedly, that the said seminar marks the half-way point in seminar schedule for the entire year. Yikes.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Start of ‘09

New Year I was drafted in to do some overtime in the last couple of days, despite having still not finished my IT law paper and still being plagued by the pesky cold/virus – whatever it is. Nevertheless, I could use the money. I’m hoping to have the paper finished in the next couple of days, after which time I’ll move on to tackle the rest of my holiday workload. Yes, I'm badly behind schedule at the moment.

2009 should be an interesting year for me. It will also mark the end (for the moment at least) of my adventures in academia. I further recognise that, sod’s law being what it is, my prospective entrance into the permanent job market coincides with the period when one of worst recessions in modern times is predicted to be at its worst. Sigh.

So, against a backdrop of Gordon Brown’s staunch warnings of the difficulties ahead in 2009 – nothing like a cheery start, is there, Gordon – the first day of 2009 is one of writing law papers and nursing my flu-like symptoms, all while a feeling of gloominess and despair looms overhead.

Not so very different from the last few days of 2008, then.