31 January, 2009

Chrystal Macmillan Prize

Well, I was pleasantly surprised to open the post today and find a letter from Middle Temple enclosing a cheque to me for being awarded the 'Chrystal Macmillan Prize' in 'recognition of [my] acheivements on the BVC'.

A brief research on the internet shows that Chrystal Macmillan was a suffragette and one of the first female barristers, the prize is therefore for women at the Bar. However, more than that, I have been completely unable to find out.

I have e-mailed Christa Richmond back and will update you all as soon as I have more information.


I also have some VERY exciting other news (not related to the Bar at all) but will have to wait for a few days before telling you. . .

28 January, 2009

The funniest man in the world has a blog....

I have just discovered, to my joy, that the funniest man in the world (or at least the 2007 and 2009 debating world championships) has a blog.

For those dear blog watchers out there who don't know who Willard Foxton is, I can tell you that words cannot possibly do him justice and you just MUST go over and have a read.

He will be added to the blog roll straight away.

(ps: the rule with Willard, by the way, is that the more outragous a story seems, the more truth there is in it. A story about him being kidnapped by pirates whilst shopping for milk is likely to be true*, a slightly humourous story about who said what to whom is less so).

* to understand Willard's relationship with the truth, try imagining the truth as a person. Now imagine their relationship is as functional as a play boy bunny's relationship and about as long lasting. Then you're about 6.5% of the way there.

26 January, 2009

Japan and languages

Well, I got the Japanese tour so I'm very excited about that. I go in October, which is useful in terms of annual leave.

Decided that seeing as the Japanese are allegedly about as good at foreign languages as the English it would be a good idea to spend the next few months being able to read and speak some Japanese before I go.

Turns out, after a very brief bit of internet research, that having learned Chinese for a year is helpful when it comes to one of the three scripts that they use. More helpfully, Salford University offers evening classes which I think I might take up as they seem reasonably priced and I can (just) get from the office to the classroom by 6.

I have to say, I've missed learning stuff since leaving uni. The job has been quite good in that repsect as most of it is still new, but I like to learn for it's own sake and I think languages could be useful in this regard.

I'm too old to become fluent in another language - though I am encouraging the Boy to get work in Germany if he can because that would be my best bet for a second fluent language - but I think it would be good to have c250-1000 words in say 15-20 languages and a smattering of grammar. Means you can be understood literally anywhere in the world and could usually get around.

So far on that list I probably only have 4 - good German, basic French, very basic Chinese and very very basic Turkish. By very, very basic I mean I can count to ten, ask where stuff is, order various foods and drinks and haggle at a market as well as the various 'polite words' - it's all vocab, no grammar.

In non-Roman scripts, learning how to look a word up in a dictionary can take ages in its own right. Try "我是英国人" without using an online dictionary. And typing into a computer is also a lesson in itself (in this case, I typed the pinyin in making sure it was on Chinese input setting and the computer converted the pinyin into characters)

Moral quote of the day

"Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."

-Jingo, Terry Pratchett

24 January, 2009

ESU interviews

I recently applied for ESU debate tours and went to London for the interviews today.

Was asked what I was doing in life and I am increasigly glad for The Barristers as I now get to say "well, I've just finished Bar school but I'm working as a paralegal whilst I search for pupillage which is like a barrister apprenitceship" and the response is "oh yes, I watched the TV programme on that..."

My first choice is Hong Kong, then Japan, then Lebanon, then Bermuda, then Austria and then Armenia.

More details on interview tomorrow - tired and bedtime now. Yawn, zzzzzz

Fingers crossed!

23 January, 2009

Home Schooling

I was reading one of NHS's facebook notes and so have directly stolen the following from him, needless to say, I like it. for those of you who do know him, the link is here . EDIT: Forgot he has a blog, the original post can therefore be seen here.

The government loves micro-managing classrooms in the state sector. And why not, you might ask? It's their money, and if they want to decide what consitutes great literature, a major historical event or the right way to introduce literacy, then who are we taxpayers to quibble?

But the government often tires of its own toys and experiences an irrepressible desire to reach out and play with the education of children who don't use state schools. This would seem not to be their business, until you remember this is the 21st century and they hold both the rights'n'responsibilities card and the child protection card.

The latest finger-dipping is yet another review into home education, the Elective Home Education Review, which will be the fourth review into home education since 2005. Education, education, education, education: if only reviews were outcomes...

Headed by Graham Badman, the EHER will consider
1) Whether local authorities and other public agencies are able to effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities for safeguarding and ensuring a suitable education for all children.
2) Whether home educating parents are receiving the support and advice they want to ensure they provide a good, balanced education for their children.
3) What evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude.

Allow me to translate.

1) In 2006, The Education and Inspections Act placed a duty on all local authorities to make arrangements to identify children not receiving "a suitable education". Without knowing what happens in your living room, they can't make that judgement. So inspectors need to be sent into people's homes to gather that information. But we don't know how many children are home educated - between 20,000 (DCSF) and 50,000 (Education Otherwise) - so expect a policy requiring parents to register their home-educated children with the local education authority.

2) Home educating parents often do not want or seek advice from the LEA: it is, after all, the organisation whose schools they are avoiding. Nor are they under any obligation to receive such advice. But as Mr Badman reminded the BBC "Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home but with those rights go responsibilities, not least being to secure a suitable education." Expect the word "suitable" to be defined by Mr Badman and the inspectors to have a strong mandate.

3) The child protection card. If the government can find a single example of neglect or abuse, it gives it the green light to investigateand regulate the lives of all home educators. You can only find a bad apple by checking all your apples. The government hasn't yet given an example of alleged abuse - Education Otherwise asked for the evidence and none was provided - but making the claim means that a claim has been made and must, therefore, be investigated.

Parents have a right to educate their children privately or using the state system. This private education can be in a school or at home. Parents who choose home education are often helping their children to escape the abuse of bullying, or get out from the anti-learning culture of their LEA schools. The government is heaping review after review on these people and branding them as potential abusers.

The government wants to control and regulate the education of every child. How else can it guarantee every child an equal start in life? Parents may play the freedom card, but rights'n'responsibilities and child protection will surely beat it.

22 January, 2009

Rickshaw analysis

It's questions like this one (on the varied behaviour of rickshaw drivers in Mumbai and Delhi) that make me remember why I love the Freakonomics blog :-)

The human side of the second law of thermodynamics

People behave more badly when they are in worse environments.

By worse environments, I don't mean surrounded by bad people or violence or crime.

Litter, disorder (mislaid shopping trolleys) and graffiti all made people behave in less acceptable ways than when the same situation was set up in a tidy/pleasant area.

Well worth a read, here.

(For physics geeks, go here)

21 January, 2009

Obama and the inauguration

I like Obama as a symbolic president, I think he's pretty to look at and nice to listen to but I cannot say that I like his policies and I would never claim to be a fan of his - unlike the many other 'Obamaniacs'.

Frankly, had McCain not gone crazy - and boy will I concede that he did, even before Palin - I would have voted for him over Obama (or Clinton).

So perhaps it's my instinctive dislike of over enthusiasm for popular ideas or my already existing apathy towards Obama but I didn't especially rate his speech yesterday. I kept on waiting for the line, you know, the "ask not what your country can do for you" moment - but it failed to materialise.

Abrahamic or Judeo Christian?

I like this piece on why the idea of 'Judeo Christian' culture/heritage/society makes more sense than Judeo-Islamic.

20 January, 2009

South Africa, Apartheid and Sanctions

This article is interesting in taking down the common claim that popular sanctions ended apartheid in South Africa and arguing, instead, that it was that Apartheid became economically unfeasible.

It's a tempting argument, and I'm happy to believe that the fall of many undesirable social systems was caused by economics rather than any moral imperative (see Anne Applebaum's Gulag - worth a read, by the way).

However, if the principle reason for the fall of apartheid was money, then sanctions surely exacerbated this?

19 January, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Another pupillage application rejection. Bugger.

Well, I didn't like them anyway.*

And who cares about getting pupillage?**

*Not strictly true

** Erm, so asside from me and 2000 other people every year, no one. In a world population of 6 000 000 000. See, it really isn't that popular!

18 January, 2009

Prince Harry and wordplay

No, I wouldn't use the word. Yes, the world would be a nicer place if we were all nice to each other. On the other hand, he said it in private, to a person who hasn't publically objected. Frankly, what is the issue?

A word has no inherent value in its own right, it's just a sound. All words are context specific. "You bitch!" said to a woman is very different when the proceeding line is:
1. "Who was that man you were talking to? Were you chatting him up? I saw you flirting with him"
2. " OMG, I love your new shoes. I can't believe you managed to get a pair of Jimmy Choos for less than £50".

Yes, some words are more likely to be offensive, on average, than not but ultimately all are situation specific and it is that which must be looked at, not the word itself.

Unsurprisingly, Spiked takes a similar view point but articulates it far better than I can.

17 January, 2009

Newsflash gripe

Does anyone else get very annoyed that newsflash advertises new pupillages, but then doesn't provide a link to the chamber's page on OLPAS/their own website?

It surely wouldn't be difficult to do and would save crucial minutes of annoyance each time.

There is a hearing tomorrow which I am providing paralegal cover for (as we get days off in lieu and the solicitors don't). As most of it will be waiting around whilst the panel is in camera, I currently have the intention of doing pupillage applications for several hours.

What will actually happen, no doubt, is that I will watch hours of programmes on the i-player, read my book, continue to knit my scarf, finish/get bored with the above, go out and get a paper... And then feel very virtuous asa I would have had a pupillage window open in the background all day meaning I would have worked on applications for a good few hours according to the 'revision' (1) theory of timekeeping.

(1) the revision theory, as practiced by students down the ages states that "1. Work done is equal to amount of time relevant documents are open UNTIL 24 before any given deadline. 2. Where student has fallen asleep on open book, student may count sleeping time as double revision time as the process of osmosis aids learning."

16 January, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Went and saw this the other day.

It manages to be 'feel good' whilst being fairly brutal and decidely non-corny. I definitely recommend seeing it.

The Boy's Birthday

Annoyingly, the Boy's birthday is on 4 February - ie: only a month from Christmas after the long 'pay month' which is January :(

However, I found the 'perfect' present for him. I won't say what it is as whilst I don't think he reads the blog, Sod's law has to kick in at some point.

However, annoyingly, it's a 'thing' to do which I can only do on 7 February. I just asked him if he was free that day - telling him to keep it free- but he says 'he might go to a work do'.

What is it about possessing a Y chromosone that makes someone completely useless?

He also didn't notice my haircut the other day.

15 January, 2009


Have a new computer :)

Now I have no excuse to not blog frequently!

13 January, 2009

Grimm and Grimmer

Child abuse, abandonment, slavery, cannibalism and being burnt alive - the recipe for a good story, usually, as Hanzel and Gretel would seem to show.

However, these sorts of tales are now 'too scary' for children, apparently.

I remember as a child, one of my favourite books was a complete collection of Grimm's fairy tales. There were loads of stories in there that aren't in the 'usual' fairytale collections, which I loved. Might get the copy which is at my parents house and see if it is still as good today.

Shame that some parents are so good at projecting their own fears onto their children that a generation will lose out.

12 January, 2009

'Tis the season....

For pupillage fun and games to begin again.

Logged onto newsflash today to find 6 new pupillages up. On the other hand, two of them are for property/land sets so not going to be applying to those. The other 4 are London and look way out of my league meaning my decision to apply could well be partly based on how long their application form is...!

I'm more worried about the fact that they want all results for all three years at uni. I did 8-10 modules a year for each each of my degree years and I'm really not sure chambers are actually bothered about my detailed knowledge of British Economic History (1800-1914) or my ability to discuss the evolution of houses in Chester and the way this shaped family living. Fascinating as these may be to everyone else. More annoyingly, it means I'm going to have to phone the university to get my mark transcripts.

On a happier note, thanks to a barrister at the hearing today (Scary Defence Barrister (SDC for short)) I think I have just found my ideal set. They specialise in medical law (yay!), employment (double yay) and police (never studied, but who am I to waste a 'yay', Yay!). Plus, the pupillage award is actually livable. I'm excited enought that I idly looked at the cost of renting an apartment in London (before fainting in shock as I realised many of the 'oh, that sounds reasonable' prices were per week, not per month.... I was especially impressed with the studio apartment in Islington (or similar) going for £50. Then I realised that this wasn't a weekly sum but a daily one.

SDC recommended that I mention her on my form but I don't know whether to take that offer up or not. It feels wrong somehow, those I'm not quite sure why. Thoughts?

So, now for the OLPAS application followed by rejection :( (boo!). Oh well, let's have the brief moment of hope in the meanwhile!

11 January, 2009

Desert Island

I have an answer to the old question of "if you could take one thing to a desert island, what would it be?"

Think taking Ray Mears would be the obvious choice, really!

On a side note, work computers weren't letting me blog and the computers at home have packed up. However, my new computer is due to arrive in the next week (fingers crossed!) so will start blogging again far more regularly then.