24 November, 2008

Two book reviews and a top ten list

I was feeling very intellectual when I decided to spend the portion of my birthday money that people had insisted be spent on books (damn) on Amazon the other day (see here) and bought:

Atwood, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

Ferguson, The Ascent of Money

Scharma, The American Future

I haven't yet started the last one, but thought I might review the first two.

I thought Payback was good, until the end where it became a bit preachy. Atwood's study of debt through history and in literature (as well as modern psychology) was one of those nice random read where the author has obviously done a lot of background reading and presents you with the more interesting things she found out as well sa what she thinks are the links between them. It's a nice, neat, little book and if you have any of the Myths series it will sit nicely alongside. Where I ended up not liking it so much was when Atwood used what had been an interesting ramble through debt to plug her environmental views which, whilst worthy, certainly felt over laboured and actually out of place in the book - which is ironic as at the end, I suspected that she had been wanting to spring the surpirse all along. It just felt disjointed That said, it is only the last 5% of the book and the rest is well worth a read.

I very much enjoyed Ascent. I have read a couple of Ferguson's books (notably, Empire and War of the World) but through no fault of the author, hadn't really finished either. Ascent pulls you through the book much faster. He did an excellent job - on thw hole- of explinaing financial terms which I had no idea baout before I read the book and was good at boiling reasonably complex ideas down into managable pieces. I regret that many of the footnotes were simply references to other texts without a one-linre explinaing why the text was relevant. In terms of examples where you think "must use that in a debate" the book was fantastic and I would certainly put it on a 'helpful to read' debating reading list - thought probably not in the top ten.

Hmmmm, what would be the top ten debating must reads in my view?

The Economist and West Wing defy any list making (and technically aren't books) so the other top ten are:

1. Mill, On Liberty
2. Swift, Political Philosophy
3. Levitt and Dubner, Freakonomics
4. Harford, The Undercover Economist
5. Ferguson, Empire
6. Friedman, Capitalism and Friedman
7. Dawkins, The God Delusion
8. Locke, Two Treatises on Government
9. Hobbes, Leviathon
10. Bryson, a Short History of Nearly Everything

Admittedly, with 6, 8 and 9 it would be enough to have a really good idea of what they said (and why they said it) without reading the original texts. Equally, I can argue 7 without having read it either.

21 November, 2008

The Barristers (part 2)

I've just watched the second episode of the Barristers and it made me miss dining quite a lot as I always really enjoyed it (perhaps I'm odd in that regard?). I do like seeing Middle Temple on there though - and I did like that they interviewed the porter (who holds a special place in my heart for letting us park the MDU mini bus there for a weekend instead of paying extortionate London car parking charges. Brick court went BMW, porsche, audi, 25 year old decrepit minibus with chipped paint and no brakes, porsche, mercedes....Well, you get the picture. Raise the tone of the neighbourhood, we did not!)

How on earth did that guy get pupillage (I can't remember his name). Having sat down over the last week with various people and chatted about the programme, we were all sure he wouldn't.

Without wanting to be unkind to all of the candidates, I do hope that the programme doesn't show everyone succeeding as it would somewhat undermine the 'only 1 in 5...beware....BEWARE!!!!!' statistics and would make it inconsolably unrealistic.

Put it all down to insane jealousy.

Thought the post-interview rejection feedback was very interesting, however, and made me realise that perhaps I did make the right decision on the paralegal front. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job quite a lot (though it's pretty intense at the moment on the piles of work front) but when I was offered this job, the same day, I was offered another, non-legal job paying £8000-£10000 per year more. As anyone would find, it was a difficult decision. Ultimately, I decided that I like the atmosphere of Law Firm better than the other place, but when I get my paycheque though, there is always that little bit of doubt lingering....! Had I enjoyed the atmosphere of the other place (having temped there) I might have found the decision much harder and gone the other way - and then watched the feedback given to the applicant tonight with my heart sinking through the floor!

Oh well, back to watching QI.

17 November, 2008

The Barristers (and other pupillage matters)

I watched The Barristers last night on the i-player and enjoyed it very much.

By the end of it, I remembered quite how badly I want a pupillage and consequently wandered off to pupillages.com to look at the newsflash. Well, one more application in the post....

It was slightly nice, actually, I was re-reading my covering letter and whilst it wasn't bad it didn't flow especially well. Having spent the past few month paralegalling and writing (seemingly) hundreds of letters, I was able to edit it into something much better, reasonably easily. Nice that my job isn't just giving me money and the legal experience box on the CV but actually helping me. Now I just need to complete that training contract application form so I have a back up.

I've also decided that I will apply to some chambers in London. I enjoy the work I do at the moment and I know we instruct a fairly narrow range of chambers. I'm therefore going to go onto the system on Monday and find the list of who we do and don't instruct and apply to them when the time comes. I note that the Nursing and Midwifery Council were also offering a pupillage last year. I didn't apply as it wsa London based but having now talked things through with the Boy a little more, I think if it comes up again, I'll go for it.

Talking of pupillage, a person came into the office the other day who had also completed the BVC. He had been searching for pupillage for a few years, but without success. It's alright for him though as Daddy is a barrister and so he starts his pupillage in Daddy's chambers in January. As he was telling us about it, he didn't seem ashamed in the slightest. He pointed out he had applied for a couple of years without success. It makes me so cross. If I apply for a couple of years and fail, I will accept that I am not good enough compared to the other applicants. I don't have Daddy to rescue me. So not only is the Bar not getting the very best people, this person has also 'stolen' a pupillage from someone else. Good Lord I was furious, I could scarcely speak to him - at the very least he should have been utterly ashamed at what he had done. Ethics my arse. Given that applications for pupillage have fairly strict guidelines, why on earth doesn't the Bar Council ban people from applying to chambers where they have a relative working there? Fairly simple, I would have thought!

16 November, 2008

Botswana Worlds bid 2011

When I first heard of the Botswana Worlds bid for 2009 I thought it was a little crazy. Whilst I would have liked to visit Botswana (blame Alexander McCall Smith), it was almost impossible to get to (flights into Jo'Berg or Harare - neither is particularly appealing), would cost the earth to travel to and the debating base in Botswana and the surrounding area didn't seem strong enough to pull in the judges. For 2009, I don't think they sufficiently addressed these concerns and so Cork won the bid instead.

For 2010, Botswana bid again, this time against Singapore and Turkey. Most people thoguht the competition would be between the latter two, but Singapore's bid was rejected fairly quickly. Possibly because we were in Thiland at the time (with the huge cost of flights that entailed) and because (whilst I wasn't there, I have been told that) the last Singapore worlds was pretty boring.

Turkey/Koc had just run the most amazing Euros labelled by many as the best ever, so it isn't so surprising that they took the win in this even, but Botswana's bid was certainly far better this time around.

Now, it turns out that Botswana is bidding for Worlds again. Thir bid is still in a reasonably early stage, but on the basis of what they have on their website, it certinaly seems stronger than in previous years and I can genuinely see it being far more successful this year. They have tackled the travel problem by pointing out the options and saying that they will facilitate those. In addition, the psat two years has given time for debating to develop more in the region giving them a stronger argument on the judging front.

Given that North America is out because of Vancouver's costing problems leading to no alcohol and USA's drinking laws, given Europe will have hosted it twice, I think they could be in for a chance. If a sounds instittution such as Sydney bid for it then there would be a case for it going btack to Australia, or if Qatar put in a bid then again, there would be competition, but in the absence of that - I hope that they are home and dry.

I wont have a vote as I am not on the council, but best of luck to Botswana this year and I hope they do win their bid for 2011.

13 November, 2008


Went to see Manon the other night at the Palace theatre.

I've not been to the ballet before but was very fortunate to be given tickets by the barrister who I was clerking who was unable to go at the last minute. (The five-year-old girl in my got very excited!)

Persuaded the Boy to go with me (he was a tad apprehensive) and initially sounded like he would prefer to learn how to walk on hot coals than go.

It was excellent and I enjoyed it very much :) .... makes me think that maybe I should check out the opera for once after all. I tend to think that I should try everything once....

12 November, 2008

Amazon (rant)

As I had recieved money for my bitrhday with the instruction to spend it on books, I decided to poodle along to Amazon as I had a fair idea of what I wanted as was sure it would be cheaper (it was).

When it came to shipping, I typed in my home address figuring that even if I wasn't there, it would be delivered to the Royal Mail depo which is around the corner and I could pick it up later, after work, or at the weekend as the dep it a 5 minute walk from my house with heavy books, as opposed to a 35 minute walk.

Turns out Amazon doesn't use Royal Mail, but a courier company who is based in Warrington. 23 miles from Manchester. The courier company phone me and say they haven't been able to deliver the package (note that this is not a criticism of the couriers - yet) and that they would hold it for 5 days before returning it.

Having been told where they are based, I ask their opening hours. 9-6, Monday through Friday. That's no use to any person who either
(a) works normal hours not in Warrington
(b) doesn't own a car and so can't drive to their depo

They said they would normally leave the package with a neighbour. Unfortunately, I live in a secure block of flats which means people cannot get access without being let through and there wouldn't be a neighbour with whom it could be left, anyway. I ask if they could redirect it to my place of work.

They can only do that with Amazon's permission. I couldn't find any way of contacting Amazon through their website so I can't change that.

Luckily, the Boy's sister and her partner live in the same block of flats and the couriers were nice enough to let me re-direct to them. The package should be delivered today or tomorrow.

Fingers crossed, eh?