Lay off Roscommon

in ireland

Averaged referendum results map of Ireland

Okay so. As far as my data goes:

  • Click either here, or on the image of Ireland, to see a bigger version of the SVG file.*
  • The Google spreadsheet I used to compile the numbers can be found here:
  • I pulled all of my raw data directly from this page at the website:
  • In the case of link rot, the raw referendum numbers are also available on Wikipedia:
  • I used this map of Ireland’s electoral constituencies as my source.


Roscommon and Leitrim have been slammed since yesterday’s referendum results. Every single constituency except Roscommon-Leitrim South had a majority of votes in favour of the marriage referendum. The proliferation of maps like this one and this one have cultivated the image of Roscommon as some sort of Irish Afghanistan. Tweets and posts on Reddit have conjured images of gun-toting Irish Taliban policing the polling booths. It’s a disingenuous narrative that builds a false dichotomy about Roscommon’s outlook. Half the people there voted “yes”; as Paddy McKenna pointed out this morning, parts of Donegal voted overall yes by the barest sliver of margin.

The truth of it is that awful visualization of data-and nothing else-has fed into this image. Generated maps of the referendum (the first) either used binary colour coding to represent yes/no, or used a different base colour (a shade of red instead of green) to highlight constituencies where the vote dipped below 50%.

I took the raw referendum data, averaged it into increments of five percentage points, and shaded a map of constituencies thus. The tally of votes of across most of the country hung very close to a 50:50 split. Sure though, there are trends toward positive in urban areas and to negative in rural constituencies. But regardless, when averaged and presented as shades of the same colour all of the differences tend to vanish.

Statistics can be used to lie and numbers made to dance if presented. In this case I believe the result is entirely accidental, but this should still be a warning for you to take heed! The maps in the media overlook the fact that every vote counts. Every individual “yes” and “no” vote goes toward the national tally. 48.6% of people in Roscommon-South Leitrim-almost half!-voted with a resounding “Yes!

Any divide conjured by media or commentators is based on visualizations that were only intended to provide quick, shallow overviews.

*I have no idea why the stroked borders between constituencies are uneven, sorry.

Ireland votes yes!

in ireland

On Friday, Ireland voted in favour of equal civil marriage for all people without regard to gender. This has not been without controversies. The movement for equal marriage has steadily gained traction in Ireland right from the moment that the country decriminalized homosexuality in 1994, and right here, now, it has reached the critical mass it needs to effect change. A great deal has been said for and against equal marriage in the last year. To briefly summarize:

On one hand, the Roman Catholic Church and Iona Institute were the binding agent of a number of loosely-connected groups and individuals who opposed equal marriage. The sum of their arguments were:

  1. The natural bond between a mother and child should be paramount above all else, and two men raising a child a mockery of this fact.
  2. A fear that the unrelated matter of equal surrogacy, without consideration of your gender or romantic association, would see children be treated as commodities bred on demand for homosexual couples.
  3. A man woman traditionally wed to produce children. Permitting unfruitful relationships undermines
  4. Civil partnership in Ireland is almost the same thing and just as good in terms of rights granted.
  5. Homosexuality is a natural inclination toward evil and sodomy is an outright sin, in the opinion of the Roman Catholic Church.
  6. Deriving from #6, a marriage between a man and a woman is a blessed union in the eyes of God. To allow a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman is a perversion of the union’s sanctity.
  7. Ew, faggots.

There is a religious American list of objections that you can pursue if you want more information.

On the other hand, a large number of grassroots groups put their ad-hoc shoulder behind a call to arms. Their arguments:

  1. A marriage, reduced to a primal state, is the simple recognition of the bond between two people. Who cares about their gender?
  2. It is a question human rights independent of religious morals. Heterosexual-only marriage is an act of arbitrary discrimination against homosexual couples.
  3. There are extra legal protections conferred unto, recognitions granted, and benefits enjoyed by marriage, versus civil partnership. Discrimination and morals aside, equal marriage is a matter of economic and legal necessity.
  4. Action begets action: a move to equality in one area will foster equality in others.

You can find more reasons in this list from a secular Australian website.

Sinead, Tommie, Eric, Eadaoin and I outside Dublin Castle Eadaoin with a rainbow headband Sinead, Eric, Eadanoin and I in Dublin Castle for the vote announcement The courtyard of Dublin Castle as the yes vote was announced Sinead and Eric Dame Street outside of Dublin Castle after the yes announcement Anti-gay protestor at Dame Street after the announcement Garda and random person on Dame Street I follow Eadaoin along Dame

And Mark Sez…
Concerns about surrogacy are valid, albeit unrelated to the referendum. The awfulness that occurred in Thailand is only one surrogacy among tens of thousand, a blip way out on the edge of the bell curve all possible surrogacy outcomes. It should still serve as a prime example as to why the Irish government should legislate surrogacy for the protection all parties.

Beyond that, the “no” movement stuck to tautologically circular arguments about the welfare of children: fact is true because fact is true. Fact needs to be tackled because fact needs to be tackled, despite fact having no relation to the referendum. It led to a wide media (social and big) perception that the “no” side couldn’t muster a strenuous counterargument beyond a reflexive rejection. Ben Conroy was given the @irleand Twitter account ahead of the referendum. It generated controversy and many questions that Ben tackled at length in a blog post on Storify.

The majority of his arguments are circular, nebulous or unrelated: children’s welfare is irrelevant and we shouldn’t change marriage because marriage hasn’t been changed is tautological.

The yes side simply offered the better argument on the grounds of humans rights, although some were insufferable in their conduct. There was a massive mobilization of youth and a highly visible and vocal presences in cities and the Internet. I gave out at length on Facebook and Twitter about the juvenile conduct of yes supporters: great, you’re going to win. Now act like bloody adults.

Gripes and Facebook trolling aside: I came down firmly on the yes side:

  1. The arguments given against equal marriage were weak, hypocritical and reeked of condescending paternalism.
  2. Every deserves to find a partner or raise a child independently of their sexual orientation.
  3. As a separated parent fighting for access to his children, I felt a large amount of outrage and anger at the “no” movement’s implicit “mothers above all” argument. Their sentiment leans toward an outlook that would not recognize my bond with Caira, nor those present in other non-traditional families. I also feel that my relationship with Garrett would be deprecated too under such a regime.

I was in Dublin for Saturday to meet and interview potential housemates. After the last, Eadaoin and I took off into town by way of a walk along the River Dodder and Grand Canal Dock. Lovely walk-I saw new parts and sides of Dublin. We made it to Dublin Castle ahead of the announcement of the tally. There was a massive crowd in favour of the projected yes vote. Lots of people, great cheer and good buzz, but the gates of the castle were closed for crowd control, so Eadaoin and I hung around. We (pretty fortuitously) met up with our friends Eric, Sinead, Tommie and Emily. Boredom drove us to a bar for a drink; the announcement of the results drove us back to the castle. By this point the gates of the castle had been opened, so we all ran in to take selifes in order to say that We Were There. :)

Alanna hinted that Eadaoin and I were in the background shots of high-powered international news reports. Besides that, our group was picked up by at least two gargoyles and tens of thousands of other cameras. It’s a tad surreal to Be In the News and a Part of History.

There was an amazing buzz on Dame Street after the crowd spilled out, thousand milling around in great spirits. Sinead, Eric, Eadaoin and I wandered up and down outside the castle for a good hour recording everything. Photos, videos, audio and impressions-the works. Garda crowd control turned up around seven, but at that point stomachs had started to rumble, so we left anyways for dinner at a tiny Lebanese fast food place. Hurray for falafel.

It was a brilliant day and fantastic to see Ireland take this step. It’s the first time that the younger generation has exercised their collective political muscle, and the world has listened. Individuals and parties alike are moving to ride the inertia on abortion and the presence of the Church in Irish schools. The next decade promises to be interesting!

CoderDojo Galway

in 091 labs

David Kelly has started a CoderDojo with the support of the Bank of Ireland branch on Mainguard Street. A CoderDojo is a programming workshop aimed at children in the 9-15 age range. The idea is to give an introduction without overwhelming. A CoderDojo is there to convey the concepts in an accessible and inclusive manner. We tackle through roleplayed logic games and software such as Scratch.

The CoderDojo is a real blast in truth. The kids bring in buckets of energy and keen intelligence. They tackle the games and challenges with zest and a sense of fun. It is satisfying to see someone pick up an idea, and make the deductions to move on to the next task.

Scratch in operationPaper logic gameCoderDojo group

So, CoderDojo
Dave, with the help of Pat at Bank of Ireland, as a trial before summer holidays begin at school. Treat the last sentence as a supposition. I am bad at retaining this kind of background information. I volunteered, I turned up, I did awesome things with kids, and I would love to do so again. As a four week trial, I think the CoderDojo has been a huge small success. The class size has remained around ten. The kids come in excited and leave excited, and their parent seem to be happy with the course.

This CoderDojo has also been a test of what I know. I don’t understand a topic if I can’t explain it to a child in twenty words or less.

In weeks 1 and 2, Dave used Scratch to teach the kids how to build a simple Breakout-style ball game.

Scratch is like Lego, but for programming. In Scratch you select blocks of code to build up programmatic functionality. One block of code may perform an action ten times. Another may check whether one block is touching another.

Logic games are a great and fun way for us to introduce to children how we think. A computer will follow any command given, and there are only so many commands that you can give one.

A reduced instruction set computing (RISC) processor only supports about thirteen different operations. RISC is common in the space industry, the idea being that simpler is better. Your smartphone isn’t any cleverer, in truth, down at the level of bare metal.

This restriction forces programmers to use creativity in how we solve problems. We have to look at the problem, and first break it down. Then we query a solution, and build up one from a limit set of instructions.

Logic games operate on the same premise. We give the children limited, strict set of actions.

  1. Pick up the cup.
  2. Put down the cup.
  3. Move the cup half its width left.
  4. Move the cup half its width right.
  5. Turn the cup 90 degrees clockwise.
  6. Turn the cup 90 degrees counterclockwise.

From this they have to to complete a set of tasks, tasks being elaborate pyramids of cups. By the end of the night, the kids had it down pat. We were able to give each team a piece of a bigger puzzle to complete.

The Future Dave and Pat have raised tentative plans to to run another CoderDojo in September. I will not be in Galway for this, but I would love to lay groundwork for continuity.

The kids deserve to learn this. Primary and secondary curriculums in Ireland don’t tackle programming. The most children learn in secondary school is how to turn use a desktop computer. There isn’t a lot of material that tackles how to write and execute their own programs. At least that was true when I was in secondary school in the late 90’s. There are plans to introduce some programming by the Department of Education. I do not believe those have come into effect yet, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong!

I believe everyone should learn logic. Anyone can benefit from it. Break down problem, solve problem, repeat.

So CoderDojo, to me, isn’t a career incubator. I know people and parents can focus on STEM. It is a way to teach children critical thinking. We get to show children that it’s okay to not know something, okay to ask naïve questions andSocratic questions, and then keep asking until they understand.

For me, CoderDojo lets me do many things I would teach to my own children. I get a real joy of watching them learn and explore these ideas.

What We Need
We need you. A building is easy to find, and insurance easy to secure. Props are as simple as a stack of paper and a packet of plastic cups. No, we need you.

It is possible that you may need to undergo Garda vetting if the class size grow. It has not been an issue so far-the parents present within arms reach of the children.

Despite this, we need you, especially if you have any programming experience or knowledge. A 1:4 adult to child ratio is perfect. It makes groups easier to manage and easier for us to give everyone attention.

Don’t worry if you do not have any coding knowledge. We are teaching this to eight year old children. The material is easy to understand follow with five minutes of preparation.

The length of a class is not fixed. Some run longer and others shorter. A good estimate is between ninety minutes and three hours. It’ll vary by the age and size of the group, the day of the week and complexity of the lesson.

Interested? Email me!

You’re never too old to learn a basic lesson

in me

So I shit you not, I have to learn to walk again. Story time:

Back in the Prehistoric Time of May 2008, I used to catch a crosstown bus most of the way to work in Las Vegas, and then walk the rest of the three miles. I did this way because it was exercise, and because the routes were timed so that it was faster for me to just walk.

One day, one lovely summer morning, I stepped off the sidewalk and stumbled. I guess I landed wrong, for I limped a little all the rest of the way into the office. It was grand, sure whatever. At lunchtime I got up from my desk and almost fell flat on my face when my leg went from under me.

My leg was completely fucked. I didn’t see a doctor because Mariah threw a shitfit about costs, so I got a leg wrap and walked around on some borrowed crutches for a few days after. Afterwards, through to 2015, I would limp when I walked. My right leg kept on being bad-if I exerted my leg it would start to ache and cramp. Separate to this (so I thought), I got the worst backaches. Occasionally either my back or my leg would lock up entirely, like at Charleville 2014.

Last month my back spontaneously locked up in the middle of the night. I could barely move around when I got up the following morning; I couldn’t bend over, sit in a chair or walk too far. It hurt to even lie on my flat stomach.

I caved in and made an appointment with a local physiotherapist, Ciaran, who turned out to be a former classmate from secondary school.

The tension and restricted mobility in my arm came from the tension and restricted mobility in my back. The tension and restricted mobility in my back came from the tension and restricted mobility at my hip, which, finally, came from the tension and restricted mobility in my leg.

The crux of all of my problems is that I tore my calf when I stepped off the sidewalk. My calf healed badly because I quite simply didn’t know it was so damaged, and so down through the years my whole posture was gradually twisted by a cycle of negative feedback: I would compensate for my leg, which would put more pressure on my leg, which would lead to more compensation. This alone, given the time to develop, completely fucked up my back, but in a thankfully treatable way.

As well as stretches and related exercise, Ciaran has me out learning to walk again, which is surprisingly fucking hard. I have to consider every step, every rise and fall of foot; it takes concentration. But it works, because I can move my back and the pain is mostly gone. There’s still further work to do on other areas of tension in my neck and arm, but the point of this story is that I did something wrong for a long time, took a corrective lesson, and so now I have to learn how to walk straight at the age of 34.

The moral is this: you’re never too old to learn. You’re lying to yourself if you say you can’t. It’s truer to say that you won’t, for whatever justification.

Godspeed you magnificent ornery bastard

in friends

Michael O'Connor

It is easy to be a fair-weather atheist. Anyone can do it with a tiny bit of laziness; you just don’t go to church, don’t pray and scoff at the notion Big Dude up above. But, inevitably, there comes a day when you have to face up to what it means to deny an eternal souls and an afterlife both.

To an atheist, a person comes from dirt, and lives out theirs lives in whatever goodness they may before they go back to it. Proverbial dirt, mind-we’re all made of starstuff. You pop into existence, do stuff, pop out of existence. It, to me, makes life special and precious: we’re all monkeys who climbed down from different branches of the same tree, albeit we are monkeys who can apply abstract concepts like beauty to the wider universe. A dumb deterministic universe ticked along nicely for seventeen billion years, before out birthed you, a conscious little mote who can appreciate beauty and irony.

And someday, for all of that, you’ll die. As far as you’re concerned the universe ends with a rather abrupt stop. Being an atheist does make life precious; I deeply appreciate all the twists and turns that brought Caira and Garrett and Eadaoin and all my friends intos my life, and that in the end they’ll be taken away too.

Mike passed away suddenly last week after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. As far as I understand it, Mike came down with pneumonia and his health snowballed. He was active on Facebook right up until the very end, delivering snark and jibes and jokes. And then, gone.

I remember one time when I had Caira in the hackerspace, Mike said something to her. I have no idea what was said, but she laughed for a solid five minutes.

Mike was the nicest mean bastard I had ever known, a true gentleman who took everything in stride with a joke a node and a smile. By the gods, you’ll be missed.

Michael O’Connor, 1991-2015