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.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Copyright Infringement Part of Advertising?

Copyright debate

From Tech Dirt 14/09/09:

Famed rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) was apparently on CNBC recently talking about his "business acumen." I have to admit that having three different people all trying to interview him at once is rather annoying -- as they almost never let him complete a thought. However, when they ask him about piracy, and whether or not it makes him angry (around 2 minutes), he responds that: he sees it as a part of the marketing of a musician, because "the people who didn't purchase the material, they end up at the concert." He says that people can fall in love with the music either way, and then they'll go to concerts. He notes that you can't stop piracy either way, so why try to fight it?

The idea that low grade quality material – be that music, film or other content – on the net can actually fuel consumption for the genuine article is far from new. It’s also a theory to which I wholeheartedly subscribe and have witnessed certain behavioural trends which bear it out many times.

I’ve always argued that such problems must be dealt with at the source; punishing those who would never have bought the content in the first place makes little sense.

More liberal concepts of copyright and methods of rights management are growing in popularity and many of the proponents are content producers themselves. For instance, Leo Laporte of TWiT fame often draws an analogy between content producers making material available online and street-side fruit sellers in New York. His theory, of course, is that while a small minority of ‘theft’ occurs, this pales in significance to the greater volume of sales gained by virtue of the optimised location with greater public access and a certain extent of ‘sampling’ of goods.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Dissertation put to bed - LLM is officially over

LLM finally overYes, I can hardly believe it myself - my masters is finally over. As of Sunday evening around 21.00, my dissertation was finally RTM’d (Released to Manufacturing) and submitted the next day. I think the sigh of relief was audible throughout the entire neighbourhood.

On the whole, my LLM has been a fantastic experience and have thoroughly enjoyed (almost) every aspect of it. One thing that did catch me out slightly was the dissertation. While I picked a subject which interested me greatly, I didn’t find the actual writing of it as enjoyable as I thought I would. The research and planning stages were exciting, as were thrashing out some of the finer arguments which would hopefully set my paper above the also-rans but as for the seemingly endless writing and re-writing of a 12,000 word paper, well, it proved a descent into utter tedium.

Being cooped up in my stuffy office during the height of the summer probably had something to do with my frustration but I don’t feel that’s an entirely adequate explanation. Strangely, it wasn’t the length of the paper which bothered me – I had over 8,000 words of excerpts for example – but rather the editing of a paper so much longer than what I was used to. Trying to massage a plethora of paragraphs into a coherent and harmonious whole was much more difficult than with papers of a shorter length.

A jump from 3,000 to 12,000 word limit is significant and I think as students we could have been better prepared for this. For those modules assessed entirely by coursework, for instance, we could have been required to produce a 6,000 word essay for papers 2 or 3, to better break us in.

Also, allotting us 10 weeks was excessive in my opinion and needlessly prolonged what was already a painful experience. For the last 3 and half weeks, my dissertation was as good as finished and I downed tools, fully intending to finish the editing later that week. Sadly, I lacked any incentive or enthusiasm to resume and put the damn paper to bed, meaning I finished editing just a couple of days before the paper was due in. Those 3 and a half weeks proved a horrible time; doubts and uncertainties as to the quality of my paper constantly troubled me and felt suspended in limbo. I did, however, work my way back through series 1-3 of ‘The Office, An American Workplace’ so, you know, every cloud and all that!

The fate of my dissertation is now down to my supervisor and external markers. Trying to give myself every edge possible, I debated the psychological pros and cons of various colours of report folders for my dissertation. Ultimately, I rejected grey, dark green, red and yellow and plumbed for blue as it was the nicest of the bunch in my opinion.

In the meantime, I’m left to reflect on the experience of my LLM, my impending final result and my exciting new legal job which begins at the start of next month.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

September’s Wacky Search Terms

Septembers wacky search terms “How to pass first year contract law exam” – err, try revising perhaps?

“cow saves a life” – the really scary part is this person searched for the same thing twice and arrived at the same page on my blog staying for a couple of minutes each time.

“Lawyer with tats” – ooh tasteful.

“how to claim against pedestrian” – Allege they came at you with a baseball bat and that’s how you got ‘those’ bruises. Next?

“statute book funnies” – I can’t possibly imagine what could qualify as a statute book ‘funny’.

“when is getting an llm degree worth the cost” – when you’re stuck in a rut, not quite sure what to do and have a few grand to spare. Next?

“wallapers of sign of law and llb” – I’ve no idea what sort of thing this person was looking to find.

“how to start praying” – Kneel down, hands together, bow head.... there, you’ve pretty much got it. You’re a natural! ;-)

“fainted dental work experience” – Probably nature’s way of telling you that a career in dentistry isn’t for you.

“i have never used an ink pen before and have to use one for school in year 6” – oh, bless you.

“how much compensation for dentist dropping down throat” What, the whole dentist?

“quirky lawstudent” – I think we’re all quirky in our own special way.

“are widescreen displays better for law students?” Yes. Unequivocally.

“usb space too law to action” – No, I don’t know what this person was searching for either.

“in what circumstances did leslie ash contract mrsa” – Contaminated ones.

“what happened to schumaker's belly” – If that’s “Schumacher”, it succumbed to the G-forces through turn 9 at Fiorano.

“what looks good on a law student cv” – relevant work experience, great grades, enriching extracurricular activities. You know – the usual.

“abercrombie manager came up on me” – Firstly, “that’s what she said!” - Sorry – been watching too much of ‘The Office – an American workplace’! :D Secondly, ....

“what is the protection of drivers against drunk pedestrians?” – Err, the bumper and windshield.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Yet More New Growth in the Blawgosphere

more growth in the blawgosphere


As a follow-up to my post earlier this year in which I announced the arrival of a bevy of new blawgs to the ‘sphere and reviewed each of their rich varied contributions, I thought I should give a shout-out to four more recent arrivals.

So, in no particular order:

Pink Pop Polka Dot – Quirky, energetic, and stylish, PPPD has burst onto the blawging scene with the boundless enthusiasm that only a newbie blawger can muster whilst sporting every colour of eye shadow under the sun. The author, Kim, takes the reader on a helter-skelter trip into, to quote the blog, “everything cosmetic, entertaining, life, law and more”. Kim is about to start her second year of the LL.B and, if her last post is anything to go by, is itching to get started again. While the focus of the majority of posts so far may be weighted more on the side of cosmetics than law, this will likely change once the new semester arrives. In any case, Pink Pop Polka Dot is a great addition to the inner sanctum of UK blawgers and I imagine it will quickly become a must-visit blawg - particularly with the female blawgers out there who will no doubt lap up Kim’s quirky tips on the creative application of eye shadow.  No longer a true blawger and removed from my blawgroll.

Mad Law StudentA long time and prolific tweeter, MLS has made a tentative start to her adventures in blawging and has faltered somewhat since mid July. Let’s all hope Mad Law Student comes back with a bang as her no-nonsense and straight-talking style, coupled with the breadth of topics she covered was a welcome breath of fresh air to the blawgosphere. Also, if you don’t already follow her on Twitter, I’d recommend that you do, if only for those candid insights into her rather bizarre life and those ‘I-can’t-believe-she-just-said-that’ moments!  Missing in Action/AWOL.

Legally Ginge – After possibly breaking the world record for making the greatest number of blog comments while not actually possessing a blog herself, Ginge has finally given in and is blawging with the best of us. The youngest of all the new blawgs, Ginge describes herself as a ‘Mid 30's laydee having an early mid life crisis’ and after suffering a well-paid but somewhat dull career has taken a punt with law, successfully completing both the LL.B and the BVC. Like so many others in the ‘sphere, Ginge is very much on the look-out for a pupillage.  Missing in Action/AWOL.

All About Law - Is the blawgging side of an ambitious project, unsurprisingly named All About Law.

“AllAboutLaw is a simple concept. Everything the law student or potential law student needs to know about law. Given the chance we will take you on a journey from high school to the court room.

Not so long ago we were just like you, and to be honest we were a little lost; we just wanted some straightforward advice and insight into the possibilities ahead of us. So that’s how we started, two graduates, one law and one history and began our mission to provide the best advice there is in an easy and digestible way.”

While I have to confess that I don’t see exactly where they’re going with all this, I’m going to keep a watchful eye on their progress all the same.