Am I a legal commentator or not?

I had to face a quandary today — am I a leg­al com­ment­at­or or not? I write a blog, which has been known to dis­cuss leg­al mat­ters in the pub­lic aware­ness, or indeed com­ment on indi­vidu­al cases, from time to time. But is that enough? And does it even mat­ter?

The reas­on for this thought is that the Lord Chief Justice has today issued a new prac­tice guideline, cov­er­ing who may tweet, or use oth­er forms of text-based com­mu­nic­a­tion, from inside the courtroom. A “journ­al­ist or leg­al com­ment­at­or” is not required to ask per­mis­sion before doing so, every­one else is required to ask per­mis­sion of the presid­ing judge.

There is a prob­lem in this guid­ance though. There is no test to identi­fy who is a leg­al com­ment­at­or. Journ­al­ists are usu­ally able to rel­at­ively eas­ily identi­fy them­selves as such if chal­lenged. How­ever, there is no single identi­fy­ing fea­ture for the dis­par­ate group of us who from time to time com­ment on the law. Should we carry a prin­tout of our blog, per­haps?

So is the cat­egory of leg­al com­ment­at­or of any use to indi­vidu­als? I sus­pect not. If I tweet from court without ask­ing on the basis that I am a leg­al com­ment­at­or, I doubt assert­ing that I am would aid me if the judge notices that I haven’t asked and hauls me up to explain myself under threat of the pro­vi­sions in the Con­tempt of Court Act.

There­fore, even if I con­sider myself a leg­al com­ment­at­or, I would sub­mit that, for oth­er than accred­ited journ­al­ists, the best course of action is always to ask per­mis­sion of the presid­ing judge, via the court staff. The prac­tice guid­ance, by its lack of defin­i­tion of who are mem­bers of its per­mit­ted cat­egor­ies of tweeters, leaves too much room for mis­un­der­stand­ing. As in indi­vidu­al, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of any such mis­un­der­stand­ing caus­ing me grief.

Calculate your Open University Law Degree classification

Some­time ago I pos­ted a link to anoth­er blog con­tain­ing a link to a degree clas­si­fic­a­tion cal­cu­lat­or for Open Uni­ver­sity degrees. How­ever, the way the clas­si­fic­a­tion is cal­cu­lated for OU law degrees is slightly dif­fer­ent. Luck­ily, it’s pretty simple to work out.

The OU law degree con­sists of 4 man­dat­ory courses: W200, W201, W300 and W301. For W200 and W201, mul­tiply your grade (1−−4) for each course by 60. For W300 and W301, mul­tiply it by 120 (to reflect the degree of sig­ni­fic­ance for these courses). Take those four num­bers and add them togeth­er. Their sum will give your class of degree:

  • 630 or few­er — First class hon­ours
  • 631−−900 — Upper second class hon­ours
  • 901−−1170 — Lower second class hon­ours
  • 1171 or more — Third class hon­ours

There is one trick to this. If you have a poor res­ult in either W200 or W201, you can replace half of it with a bet­ter res­ult in one of the law short courses: W221, W222, W223 or W224. For example:

Grade 3 pass of W200: 3 × 60 = 180 points.
Grade 3 pass of W200 and a Grade 1 pass of W223: 3 × 30 plus 1 × 30 = 120 points

That can be enough to pull you up a grade!

Just for com­plete­ness — while you need to sit 360 points’ worth of courses, it is (with the excep­tion noted above) only the 240 points of the man­dat­ory law courses that count to your law degree clas­si­fic­a­tion.

Source: (and a really use­ful read for all OU law stu­dents) Choos­ing your path to an Open Uni­ver­sity Law degree: a guide

More evidence of dumbed-down UK schools

Look what French kids get up to at their A-Level equi­val­ents:

Con­tro­versy Erupts in French Classrooms over Per­mit­ting Teens to Genet­ic­ally Modi­fy Bac­teria: Sci­entif­ic Amer­ic­an:

A row has broken out in France over wheth­er 15- and 16-year-olds should be allowed to cre­ate trans­gen­ic Escheri­chia coli bac­teria in the classroom.

Prac­tic­al exper­i­ments in which stu­dents learn how to use plas­mids to alter the DNA of the bac­teria have been under way for 17 and 18-year-olds in the final year of the sci­entif­ic bac­ca­laur­eate at schools across France for the past dec­ade.

When I was in my final year in School, in 1985–6, we used to be able to do bio­logy at this sort of level (not exactly of course, plas­mids hadn’t even been dis­covered then — but approx­im­ately the same level of tech­nique.

I bet kids in the final year of A-Levels in the UK nowadays aren’t even allowed near live cul­tures, let alone being allowed to breed new ones.

Viking found organic compounds on Mars in 1976

Vik­ing Found Organ­ics on Mars, Exper­i­ment Con­firms : Dis­cov­ery News:


Using Mars-like soil taken from Atacama Desert, a study con­firms Mars has organ­ics, and Vik­ing found them.

A reana­lys­is of Mars Vik­ing exper­i­ments shows the probes did find organ­ics.
The res­ult was not ini­tially under­stood due to the strong oxid­a­tion effects of a salt in the Mars soil known as per­chlor­ate.
A fol­low-up study on per­chlor­ate-enhanced soil sim­il­ar to what’s found on Mars revealed fin­ger­prints of com­bus­ted organ­ics.
The Vik­ing 1 Lander, illus­trated in this mod­el, touched down on the west­ern slope of Mars’ Chryse Plani­tia (the Plains of Gold) on July 20, 1976.

My ideal retirement home

This is to where, one day, I would hope to retire:

View Lar­ger Map

It’s a dream, but it’s a good one. Look around in the map on the link. The house to the left of the blue door is where I spent many many hol­i­days as a kid.

The main win­dow, on the middle floor, used to be a big bay win­dow where you could sit in and read books and watch the fish­ing boats come in and out of the nearby har­bour. I’d change it back to how it was.

Why I find Angels In America unsatisfying

I was a child of the mid-80’s,  and I don’t empath­ise with the gay films of that time — the UK work of Derek Jar­man was too arty- I appre­ci­ate this some­what now but it has no great­er rel­ev­ance to me now than in 1983; and most of the films from the US depic­ted a cul­ture with which I only now empath­ise with because of my more recent exper­i­ence with the US’ gay cul­ture. In say­ing that, I still remem­ber ACT-UP and Out­rage in the UK, and, whilst HIV/AIDS and the act­iv­ism cul­ture around it was some­thing that was only rel­ev­ant to me in a broad­er sense of act­iv­ism camarader­ie, I was still aware of its tropes. Even though it was anoth­er five years before I met the first man who told me he was HIV-pos­it­ive.

I have watched Angels In Amer­ica twice now, and I will not attempt to add to the cri­ti­cism of that play and of the HBO films, because I have only one thing to say, and it’s per­son­al, and not rel­ev­ant to the broad can­vas it paints. One ques­tion, that’s all.

And that ques­tion in simple: why is Joe dis­carded? I ask this because I empath­ise most closely with him, and, trite, I know, I would like for the char­ac­ters with which I empath­ise to be giv­en an end­ing. He, of the people whose stor­ies take the nar­rat­ive for­ward, is not. The oth­er char­ac­ters are even giv­en a res­ol­u­tion: he is left hanging in the storytelling void. And I sus­pect there are a few of us, who feel that their lives may hang in a sim­il­ar void of best-inten­tioned choices, might have taken some­thing more pos­it­ive from <i>some</i> sort of res­ol­u­tion to the character’s con­flicts.

Like Joe, I have tried to do the best for the great­er situ­ation around me. He fails. I have failed. I have done things because I think they are “right”, I have equally done so, and oppos­itely (and often at the same time) taken advant­age of things whilst I was feel­ing worse than usu­al: more unful­filled, more lonely. Unlike Joe, I have not deceived a part­ner in so doing. I think I may have deceived poten­tial future part­ners how­ever.

My prob­lem with Joe, is not <i>the</i> prob­lem with Joe. Char­ac­ters walk on, and walk off, and there is no require­ment for a storyteller to wrap up the loose ends, even the obvi­ous ones. Heck, some storytellers have been jus­ti­fy­ing their advances for years on the basis that there is always anoth­er character’s view­point to tell. But not Tony Kush­ner. Not in this case. The char­ac­ters in Angels in Amer­ica are giv­en res­ol­uton. Even Joe’s wife Harp­er is shown fly­ing off to an unknown — and glor­i­ously uncer­tain — future.

Joe has no future. He kisses his moth­er, dishevelled, unshaven, and goes to work. Five years later, his moth­er is part of a meet­ing of people at the Beth­esda Foun­tain. Louis is there. Pri­or is there. Bel­ize is there. Joe?



I know that it’s big, and com­plic­ated, and con­flic­ted. I know that we try to do the right thing and fail and try again, and fail again, and we need to be told and to believe that fail­ing is OK and no-one is actu­ally often judging — except your­self, how do you improve if <i>no-one</i> says “bet­ter, next time”?. I know that the world and the people in it are end­lessly dis­ap­point­ing but at the same time won­der­ful and thought-pro­vok­ing and chal­len­ging and beau­ti­ful. I know that you know that self-grat­i­fic­a­tion is really not good, but there’s only a tiny little line between that and respect and that is put­ting the oth­er per­son first.

Joe, I know you know all that, and the primary reas­on that I’m writ­ing this is that I’m annoyed that Tony Kush­er wasn’t clev­er enough to write a coda for the per­son who was, essen­tially, a foil. But per­son­ally, and sec­ond­ar­ily, there are those of us whose roles seem to be foils. And I would like my happy end­ing too. Is it selfish of me to think thus? And be annoyed enough to write about a char­ac­ter who didn’t get their end­ing?


Long overdue update

The acer tree is turn­ing red, it’s a bit cold in the morn­ings, and it’s been four months since I’ve even tried to write a blog post. It’s been a fun sum­mer.

Work­wise, at the start of the year, a friend and I star­ted work­ing on a start-up idea: spe­cial­ist web-based pro­ject man­age­ment soft­ware. We got a lot of interest from people it was tar­geted at, but not enough from poten­tial fun­ders before our money ran out. Hope­fully we can resur­rect the idea in the future.

Unfor­tu­nately this has left me stony broke and under­em­ployed, so I’m now busy hunt­ing for work.

The sum­mer itself has been a bit of a wash: after three glor­i­ous weeks in May, there seemed to be a full ten weeks of rain over the height of the “sum­mer”. Mean­while, we were labour­ing under a hosepipe ban!

Not that I let that stop me water- I’ve been grow­ing herbs and veget­ables this year with vary­ing degrees of suc­cess. Pars­ley and spring onions and lettuce have been fant­ast­ic, basil less so, which is frus­trat­ing. Cori­ander has bolted instantly each time, and my toma­toes still aren’t ripe- it may be green tomato chut­ney in their future.

For the first time prop­erly in a while, I made it up to Edin­burgh and caught a bit of the Fest­iv­al. It was great- except that the aver­age tick­et price is now about a ten­ner. The only people profit­ing are the ven­ue own­ers, which is a shame. It would be good if they didn’t look at the fest­iv­al as a cash cow, but go back to the old spir­it of col­lab­or­a­tion with per­formers. Of course, I’ll have a pony too whilst I’m dream­ing.

I skipped Pride as usu­al for Team_Waste Sum­mer Camp, and had a great time- helped a little by the fact that the weath­er was bet­ter this time than the past few years. Much beer was drunk, much con­ver­sa­tion was had. A little quieter than in the past, but people have moved away and stuff. It’s still the high­light of my late sum­mer.

I haven’t been out on the bike too much, apart from the usu­al kick­ing about town. Only a couple of long runs- once with my friend Ian, and the run down to Camarthen. The weath­er put paid to rides, most of the time.

The final thing that’s been tak­ing the vast amount of my spare time is study­ing. After a dis­astrous course last year which made me drop the BSc in Tech­no­logy, I decided to start on law- a sub­ject that’s always inter­ested me. It’s been ser­i­ous hard work. Not because it’s dif­fi­cult, but def­in­itely because there’s a lot to cov­er in the course and it *is* com­plic­ated. Well worth it though- I feel as if I’m being chal­lenged.

So that’s the sum­mary of the sum­mer.

Be strong, Liberal Democrats — don’t form a coalition.

Be strong, Nick Clegg and the Lib­er­al Demo­crats, and don’t get seduced into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. A sop-seat in the Cab­in­et isn’t worth it. You won’t get to for­ward your agenda. And the voters, next elec­tion, won’t for­give you. This has happened before, in 1979. It took the party a gen­er­a­tion to recov­er.

There is anoth­er way. Look to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment for inspir­a­tion. Sup­port the issues, not the party. It doesn’t mat­ter to you which of the major parties is hold­ing the reigns of gov­ern­ment. You have pref­er­ences, sure, but those pref­er­ences surely must be sub­or­din­ate to exer­cising the man­date of the elect­or­ate. They didn’t vote for deals.

This route has oth­er advant­ages. You’ll be in the media all the time, and we now know you can do well there. Without uncon­di­tion­al sup­port, the (admit­tedly remain­ing) excesses of either party’s polit­ic­al agenda won’t be able to be pushed by them. Your party’s opin­ion will count on every issue.

The last thing the UK needs right now is strong gov­ern­ment. Don’t get sucked into giv­ing us it.