Back up your information in Google — Google Takeout

Wor­ried about the amount of infor­ma­tion you have stored in Google ser­vices? Fear not. Just launched today is Google Take­out — which allows you to take a local back­up of (so far, some of) the infor­ma­tion stored in sev­er­al of the Google ser­vices.

It’s not yet full–featured: it only allows back­up from Google Buzz, Con­tact and Cir­cles, Picasa Web Albums and from your Google pro­file. But the Data Lib­er­a­tion Front promise to add the abil­i­ty to back up oth­er Google ser­vices over time.

This is their blog post announc­ing the ser­vice. Remem­ber: back­up ear­ly, back­up often.

W223: Company Law — got a distinction!

That was unex­pect­ed! I got noti­fi­ca­tion yes­ter­day that I’d been award­ed a dis­tinc­tion on the Open Uni­ver­si­ty law course I did last win­ter: W223: Com­pa­ny law and prac­tice.

The dis­tinc­tion was an unex­pect­ed plea­sure as I thought I was only in 2:1 ter­ri­to­ry — I did­n’t think I had quite the grade aver­age nec­es­sary across the marked assign­ments — the Open Uni­ver­si­ty gen­er­al­ly requires that your clas­si­fi­ca­tion for a course will be the low­er of your achieve­ment in the final exam / end–of–course assign­ment, and of the aver­age of your marked assign­ments through­out the course — though I knew I was only a per­cent­age point or two short.

So, lessons learned from this course:

  • Don’t over­ly con­cern your­self if you think you’re one or two per­cent­age points short. Don’t use it as an excuse to drop your stan­dards.
  • Take time on end–of–course assign­ments. Every­thing you need, fac­tu­al­ly, is there. What can get you the bonus marks is a mat­ter of look­ing a lit­tle fur­ther — research the cur­rent state of the law and aca­d­e­m­ic com­ment about the ques­tions at hand. Incor­po­rate these into your answer, and cite every asser­tion you make.
  • Make sure your bib­li­og­ra­phy and ref­er­ences are full and accu­rate: include every paper you read and found to be rel­e­vant, even if you did­n’t use it. You nev­er know when some­thing has uncon­scious­ly slipped through.
  • And final­ly, again, take time. Whilst mak­ing sure you can sub­mit on time, use the last day for a re-read. Out loud. It’s amaz­ing how many lit­tle gram­mat­i­cal slips you can find that way.

I enjoyed this course, and did­n’t find it a slog at any point. But have to admit I’m very hap­py with the result.

Calculate your Open University degree classification

I have just found this and though it worth a men­tion and link: Clev­eret’s Open Uni­ver­si­ty Degree Class Cal­cu­la­tor. It seems to do all the hard work cor­rect­ly, includ­ing cal­cu­lat­ing the qual­i­ty assur­ance scores.

Very use­ful if you want to work out what grades you need — there­fore also what aver­ages you’ll need to achieve in your course work over the course of the year. Accu­rate­ly know­ing the tar­get you need to hit is pret­ty much essen­tial, I think.

Writing the assignment answer you want to

I’m back on the marked assign­ments again — I’m around a week ahead of sched­ule, which is good. Like the last one, this one too is one of tight word–counts: 800 for each of two ques­tions.

I have writ­ten 932 words for one of the ques­tions, and I am around 250 from fin­ish­ing. I’m also find­ing it the eas­i­est ques­tion I’ve attempt­ed in ages.

Nor­mal­ly, when answer­ing assign­ment ques­tions, I spend more time wor­ry­ing about the struc­ture and the edit­ing than get­ting the con­tent down on paper. Work­ing out what I need to say from what I want to say is a process that can dri­ve me into paral­y­sis. This time, I’m just not car­ing. Sep­a­rat­ing the writ­ing phase and the edit­ing phase turns out to allow me to write the answer I want to, then edit it into the answer that’s actu­al­ly need­ed for sub­mis­sion to my tutor.

This isn’t a tech­nique that will nec­es­sar­i­ly work well in exam con­di­tions, how­ev­er the tech­nique of writ­ing an answer plan first is sim­i­lar, if in reverse. But I am going to con­tin­ue to use it for the rest of my assign­ments, to see if it is a method to get around the paral­y­sis I often feel when writ­ing — what my friend Simon Pride described as my “inner cen­sor”. I hope it does.

BAILII needs help

My road toward the law has been long and not direct — but one web site in par­tic­u­lar kept my inter­est when I was­n’t sure what I want­ed to do. Giv­en my sci­ence back­ground and near–obsessive need for infor­ma­tion, you may not be sur­prised that the site is BAILII.

BAILII is a data­base of case law. It con­tains recent deci­sions for the full range of courts and tri­bunals across the UK, his­toric deci­sions, and deci­sions from oth­er juris­dic­tions. It is free to access, and the best way in the UK for the lay per­son to access case law, giv­ing the abil­i­ty to inform them­selves about things like legal mat­ters in the press, but more impor­tant­ly giv­ing the abil­i­ty to research and arm them­selves in sit­u­a­tions where there can be lit­tle oth­er help — a dis­pute with a pub­lic body, or an employ­er, for exam­ple.

Run­ning BAILII is nat­u­ral­ly not free. While a num­ber of firms have made com­mit­ments to fund­ing, more is required to guar­an­tee the con­tin­u­ing sur­vival of what, to me, is an essen­tial ser­vice. Frankly, I think it should be a publicly–funded ser­vice, but that is not like­ly in this day and age.

If, like me, you believe this ser­vice should con­tin­ue, please con­sid­er donat­ing to BAILII. It is a char­i­ty, dona­tions are man­aged via the Char­i­ties Aid Foun­da­tion, and are gift-aid­able (please do that if you can, it means an extra 25% to them).

News from the Florida Justice System

A man who killed two British tourists in Flori­da will not go to jail — even though he fled the scene and lied to the police. Ryan LeVin paid an undis­closed amount to the wid­ows of those he killed, and will serve two years house arrest.

The offences’ sen­tenc­ing guide­lines call for up for 45 years’ impris­on­ment.

His lawyer was the Judge’s deputy cam­paign trea­sur­er.

For all peo­ple com­plain about the UK jus­tice sys­tem, I’m glad that it’s pret­ty much as it is.

Alex Salmond’s criticism of the UK Supreme Court is grandstanding

So, Mr. Salmond would like to see the removal of the Supreme Court’s pow­er to decide Human Rights issues with regard to the Scot­tish crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. More­over, he has cho­sen to per­son­alise the issue by attack­ing Lord Hope, the deputy pres­i­dent of the Supreme Court, and pre­vi­ous­ly lord jus­tice gen­er­al of Scot­land. The sit­u­a­tion has become so far­ci­cal that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, led by the SNP, are look­ing at remov­ing fund­ing for the Supreme Court.

Loads of heat and noise there, against a tar­get that, to retain its impar­tial­i­ty, does not involve itself in pol­i­tics. It’s easy to shoot at some­thing that won’t shoot back, isn’t it?

Any­way, the changes the SNP are propos­ing will not mean that deci­sions of the Scot­tish crim­i­nal courts will not be prone to any review — it will mean that, as before the intro­duc­tion of the Scot­land Act and the Human Rights Act, Human Rights chal­lenges to it will have to go to the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights in Stras­bourg rather to the UK Supreme Court. This will of course mean con­sid­er­able delay com­pared to now. And on the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights there are pre­cise­ly no judges with exten­sive under­stand­ing of the Scot­tish crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. On the UK Supreme Court, there are two — Lord Hope and Lord Rodger, who is unfor­tu­nate­ly ill at the moment.

What Alex Salmond is doing is trans­par­ent — and it has noth­ing at all to do with the qual­i­ty of jus­tice in Scot­land, or the rest of the UK. Salmond, as leader of the Scot­tish Nation­al Par­ty, has just won a major­i­ty in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment. His par­ty are com­mit­ted to a ref­er­en­dum on whether Scot­land should be inde­pen­dent or not in the lat­ter half of this par­lia­men­tary ses­sion. It is there­fore to his advan­tage to crit­i­cise deci­sions made by oth­ers that affect Scot­land — it’s the old “them and us” ploy. While Mr Salmond has always had a ten­den­cy to play the “poor down­trod­den Scots” card at every oppor­tu­ni­ty, to per­son­alise the attack against the Scot who, with the oth­er mem­bers of the Supreme Court, is the last bas­tion against Human Rights-based mis­car­riages of crim­i­nal jus­tice in Scot­land, is rep­re­hen­si­ble.

What we should real­ly be ques­tion­ing here is the deci­sions of the High Court of Jus­ti­cia­ry in Edin­burgh. In both their judg­ment in Fras­er and HMA v McLean (the fore­run­ner to Cad­der) — the lat­ter with a bench of no less than sev­en jus­tices — they have got a point of Human Rights law wrong. What is caus­ing this dif­fi­cul­ty in cor­rect­ly analysing whether aspects of the Scot­tish crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is com­pli­ant with the Con­ven­tion on Human Rights?