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.