Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Weight update

Three years ago I posted about my weight loss journey. And later about reaching my goal weight. I said I'd post an update after three years, so here I am.

I haven't managed to keep all of the weight off. I've managed to keep the regain to 'slow and steady' and have only regained about half of what I lost.

Not only that, me at this weight now looks substantially better (to me, anyway) than me at this weight on the way down. I guess it's more muscle than it was that time.

I'm still not happy though. I did manage to still be down at least 30 pounds after a year. I printed the forms to apply to that Nationals Weight Control Registry. But I never sent them and no now longer qualify.

Lately I've been feeling a lot like this:

So I need to reopen that line of communication. Too high a proportion of my clothes have moved into the 'not right now' pile. Time to get them back. Well, soon. Soon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paddy -v- Patty, and the joy of acceptance

I'd bet good money that there are no actual Irish people, in Ireland, who refer to the 17th of March as 'Patty's Day'. Maybe there are some blissfully unaware that anyone at all does this. But you only only need to check out the twitter feed at the end of Paddy, Not Patty to see that they do, oh they do. 

This, understandably, frustrates a lot of Irish people. I'll admit, that the first time I found out, I spent some time, Canute-like, on Twitter, politely asking people not to do that. I don't think it helped. This feeling spawns some excellent art:


But it probably doesn't achieve much. I realised, recently, that I'm much happier just accepting that we're talking about two different holidays. St. Patrick's Day, also known as Paddy's Day, an Irish celebration, and Patty's Day, and Irish-American derivative holiday. It's okay everyone, their thing is not our thing, they can have it.

The main reason behind seems to be a noble enough one. They don't want to say 'Paddy' because it's a slur. I know that for us that's super weird, because it's not a slur here, it's just a name. The name, in fact, for the patron saint of our country. The 2nd most popular name for 52 year old men in the country. But that's here. That's us. It isn't there. They don't know what it's like to be Irish. But we don't know what it's like to be Irish-American. We don't know what it's like for Irish to be just your culture and heritage any more than they know what it's like to also have it be your nationality. If calling it Paddy's Day hurts people, why should we try to make them?

On a tangentially related note. I recently learned that Mammy is a racist term in America. I was shocked. I called my mother Mammy until I was old enough to call her Mam. I still do, occasionally, when joking or wheedling. Likewise my son with me. I'm bothered when anyone calls me his Mum or his Mom. That's not who I am. I'm his Mammy. Knowing what I know now I'll be careful with that term if I'm over there. But I won't stop using it here. They have their thing, we have ours.

And really, in the end of the day, I think it's time to sit back and accept this, 'cause we're not going to win this one:

Monday, February 22, 2016

A quick 'what not to do'

Lately, I've been dipping a toe into wearable electronics (clothes and accessories that light up or make noise, that kind of thing). On Saturday just gone, the nice folks at DAQRI sponsored a few of us to work on our own projects in the vicinity of their stand at Career Zoo. They paid us in components, and we drew interested passers-by to their stand. It was a win win situation for everyone involved.

Over the course of the day lots of people came over to ask what we were doing. We talked several people through the project we were working on, recommended Adafruit enough that I thought several times that they should be the ones sponsoring us, and had some really excellent chats with people. I mostly let my excellent sister, who has more experience with this stuff than I do, do the talking.

I'm not sure whether (the also excellent) Vicky was specifically tasked with recruiting women for this role. I do know that everyone in the group except her husband was a woman. I wasn't really aware of it though, until a man, probably not quite old enough to be my father, but approaching that age, came over to us and 'hi, I'm female friendly!'. No, sir, you are not.

'Female friendly' is a useful term when it comes to events and spaces, particularly in tech or other male-dominated fields. It's good to know before committing to something that I'm going to be welcome, and that there is at least an implication to the men there that they should be on good behaviour in relation to people that don't share their gender. Drawing attention to gender in these situations can be dangerous, risking invoking stereotype threat, among other potential problems. But often, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

But in the case of this gentleman's statement, there were no such advantages. We were the ones in the position of authority, it was not up to him to make us feel comfortable there, all that we needed was for him not to make us feel uncomfortable. And in that he failed miserably. His statement served to draw attention to our female-ness, said, in fact, that that was what was interesting about us, more so than what we were doing. The other two women at my table noticeably, understandably, went cold once they'd heard this statement. I managed to give a polite, brief introduction to what we were doing. But he had taken me out of my comfort zone. For the next hour or two I would occasionally think about that interaction and shudder slightly.

I was sorry, afterwards, that I didn't say something to him about it. After all, the fact that he was familiar with the term, and tried to use it, implies that he meant well, that he was trying to be nice. He may even pride himself in trying to make tech spaces welcoming to women. I wish that I had had it in me, right then, to tell him how badly he was failing. But I didn't.

If you don't get why this bothered me, that's okay. You don't need to understand why it's a problem. But please understand that it's a problem. And please, please do not draw attention to the 'female'-ness of women in tech spaces. Just don't do it. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sorcha the Hobbyist (Crosspost)

This is a cross post from a few years back on a blog that has since been made private that I wanted to have public. The blog is 'a celebration of the diversity of what it means to identify as girls and women.' It's a little out of date, but I've left it unedited.

Me? I’m a hobbyist. A person of passions. When I discover something that I love I throw myself into it. I’ve been an actor, a singer, a pianist, a martial artist, a poet, and a songwriter. These days I’m a dancer, a runner, a boardgamer, a knitter, and a coder. And that’s just in my spare time. My day job is a cross between consultancy and support. Oh, and I’m someone’s wife and someone’s Mam. I live for my passions, and for sharing them with others. I have walked into rooms of strangers who were also dancers or also gamers and been instantly at home.

I’d say I probably wrote my first computer program around the age of 7 or 8. Written in Basic; drawing pictures on the screen. I studied computer science in college. I’m getting involved in the open source scene at the moment, and finding any excuse I can to write Python programs. I mentored at the Coding Grace Python beginners workshop for women and their friends recently and I’m looking forward to my first PyCon Ireland Python Conference in October.

I’ve played and loved boardgames all my life. In college I discovered better boardgames, and people that identified as gamers. Since then I’ve been an active member of the wonderful Irish gaming scene. I’ve helped to run a few games conventions and I’ve dabbled in other types of games, such as RPGs, LARPS, and computer games. My boardgames collection takes up a wardrobe in our sitting room. And I write boardgames reviews for the gazebo: http://issuu.com/the_gazebo/.

I’ve always loved to dance; but aside from a few years of ceili dancing on and off in school, and the odd salsa lesson, I hadn’t done much about it, until I broke my foot in a playground, age 23 (it’s a long story). While I was incapacitated I realised that I didn’t miss walking, or many other things, nearly as much as I missed being able to dance. I attended my first swing dance lesson class before I was fully off the crutches. And I’ve been swing dancing when I can ever since. I’ve danced in Sweden, the UK, the USA, and of course at home in Ireland. I lead and follow, and love both.

I did Couch to 5k in Feb 2010. By November that year I was running (very slowly) in BHAA (BHAA.ie) races, which I still do. I joined the BHAA committee in late 2011. I ran the Mooathon marathon in September 2011, and you can read all about it on my blog here: http://www.saoili.blogspot.ie/2011/09/i-accidentally-ran-one-of-hardest-and.html. I’m currently recovering from the Run Kildare half marathon 2013. I’ve never gotten very fast, but I really love running. When everything works just right, running feels like flying.

My grandmother taught me to knit when I was a small child. This skill lay mostly dormant for a long  time. I’d knit the odd scarf here and there, but never much until quite recently. I knit my son a baby blanket, which I finished the day he was born. One Christmas I knit a scarf for my father-in-law. The following year, by request, I knit a Christmas jumper for my sister-in-law. She got it on Easter Sunday (I never said I could knit fast). She also got me a book of dinosaur knitting patterns for Christmas and I’ve been knitting dinosaurs most times I’m sitting still since.

I don’t own a television, or read magazines. Even so, sometimes I struggle to not think of myself as ‘there to be looked at’. But mostly I’m too busy for that.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


On Thursday evening, my husband called me over and asked what colours this dress was.

A photo of a dress that could be a blue and black dress in bright light or a white and gold dress in deep shadow.

I thought it was obviously blue and black and said as much. He said he saw it as white and gold and then showed me the conversation on Tumblr about it. Apparently a lot of people see it as blue and black and a lot of people see it as white and gold. We were lucky enough to be able to rule out room lighting, monitor quality, and a bunch of other things, by virtue of us being in different  'camps' while looking at it together.

We were confused, so we googled for an image editor (pixlr, because apparently there are no e's on the internet). We took samples, one from the bit that looked blue to me and white to him, and another from the bit that looked black to me and gold to him. What we found made the whole thing make sense to me. The blue / white bits were a very light shade of blue, the black / gold bits were a very dark shade of gold. So the blue bits were so light he saw white, and the gold bits were so dark I saw black.

This white-balance illusion hit so hard because it felt like someone had been playing through the Monty Hall scenario and opened their chosen door, only to find there was unexpectedly disagreement over whether the thing they'd revealed was a goat or a car.I thought this was very interesting and posted about it on Facebook. Around about the same time, many, many other people saw this and wanted to share it. When you come across this, you're going to want to get as many opinions on it as possible, which is a great way to makes a thing go viral, which it promptly did. Just under my post on Facebook, someone else was talking about it. For a while there seemed to be almost nothing else on Twitter. There were Buzzfeed and Wired articles. It was on Reddit. There were interviews with the people that originally posted it, and with colour scientists. There was an XKCD comic.

I wasn't surprised that it got shared around so much. I was slightly surprised that for some people, it seemed to change colour, as it never did for me. But I was very surprised how vehemently some people were arguing that people who disagreed with them were wrong. I've seen people stating that there's obviously something wrong with the monitors of people seeing it the other way. I've seen people call the people stupid, or colour blind*, or 'deficient in some way' because their perception differed. So many people were saying that the dress was 'clearly', or 'obviously' the way they saw it. Many people wondered if every single person claiming they saw it the other way was lying, in some sort of gigantic internet troll conspiracy.

There were #TeamWhiteAndGold and #TeamBlueAndBlack hashtags on Twitter. Personally, I'm on #TeamCantWeAllJustGetAlong**. Now, I like a good argument as much as the next person, but I don't see the point in arguing with someone if there's no chance either of you will change your mind. Because, the dress is blue and black***, the only argument left to have is what colour people see it as, and expecting to change what the other person sees by force of argument is madness.

Another thing I've heard a lot of is people say is 'it's just a really badly taken photo, get over it'. But it's not about whether or not the photo accurately represents the dress (it kinda does, but only to some people). It's about how it divides people, reasonably neatly**** into two groups. It's an opportunity to realise that we all suffer from the typical mind fallacy. We all trust our own perceptions too much, and we don't trust what other people tell us about theirs enough. Most of the time, what two people perceive is close enough that we don't see the cracks, but this is a rare opportunity to do so. It's fascinating, but it's not really about the dress.

* Not that I think it's anything offensive about being colour blind, but someone isn't necessarily colour blind because they don't see a colour exactly the same way you do!
** Though this would be a terrible hashtag really. Most of your tweet is gone on it.
*** No, really, I'm not just saying that because that's the way I see it. The person who took the photo said that in person there is no doubt. Also, there are photos of the dress for sale. (You should read the reviews).
****I've met a few 'blue and gold' people, as well as a few other varients.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The story of my wedding dress

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for nearly two years. I decided to dust off, finish it, and share it. Enjoy.

One of the first things I organised before getting married was my dress. In fact, I had my dress organised before we'd picked a venue. At least, I thought I had.

I didn't like the idea of having a wedding dress hanging around after the wedding. It takes up space and gets in the way, it costs money to get cleaned, and it's not like I'll have any use for it. I wouldn't even get the traditional 'make your child or children's Christening clothes out of it', since, if I do have any more children, I won't be getting them Christened, just like I didn't with my first. So I decided to hire one.

Online I found Bride's First Choice. According to their website they are 'Ireland’s first modern mobile bridal salon targeting on bringing the most comfortable, unique and stress free bridal experience.'. That sounded good, not only did I get to hire my dress, but I don't even have to go to their premises. They even do bridesmaids dresses. It sounded perfect.

So, we organised for Tanya to come to my sister's house in Maynooth, where I lived at the time, with a car full of dresses. We agreed that we would cover Tanya's petrol expenses up from Limerick. My two bridesmaids, my mother, my mother in law, and I, had a lot of fun trying on dresses and talking about colours and the like. I commented that what I really wanted was the top of this dress, and the bottom of another dress she had.

I was pleasantly surprised when she said she could do that. I didn't think she did bespoke dresses at all, but she assured me that it would be no problem, even for hirin. It would be a little more expensive than hiring an existing dress, but still far less than the usual cost of a wedding dress.

Having discovered she could get dresses made for us, we also decided to get dresses just like these ones for my bridesmaids:

But in green and with a halter neck. We spent some time selecting the perfect shade of green from a book of samples she had. I also asked, speculatively, if she could do a waistcoat in the same colour, since one of my bridal party was my best friend, who happens to be a guy. She said it was no problem and I was delighted.

We paid for her petrol costs once or twice more for fittings and getting measurements. I wondered if I should be concerned because it seemed like maybe she hadn't taken enough measurements. But this is her job, I reasoned, she must know what she's doing.

We were in the process of organising a dress fitting for June 3rd, about two and a half weeks before the wedding, which Tanya assured me was the perfect timeframe for alterations, when the first major flag went up. The bridesmaid's dresses had arrived, in the wrong material. Now, I don't know a lot about different materials, but I could tell from the photos she sent that they were wrong. This looked like a completely different dress than the one we'd ordered.

She assured me that the different colour was just because of the light, the camera, the other dresses around it and whatever, and that it looked right in person. She also assured me that the halter neck we'd requested was there, just not attached, and that the halter neck being separate to the rest of the dress was perfectly fine and normal. But the dresses we ordered were flowy, and silky, and pretty. This thing looked to me like a bad bridesmaid's dress cliche. I told her the fitting (and attendant round trip petrol fee) could wait until the new dresses arrived.

Which is how I ended up not trying on my wedding dress until June 14th, a week and a day before my wedding.

To say that fitting went badly is something of an understatement.

The new bridesmaid's dresses, which were, at least, made of a silky material this time, still had no halternecks. My sister's dress could be made, at a stretch, to be straight at either the front, or the back, but not both.

But, at least it closed on her. My sister in law's dress, which was, apparently made to fit her precise measurements. looked like this:

The 'waistcoat' was laughable. It looked like something made by someone who had never seen a waistcoat, but had had one described to them. You wouldn't put it on a chorus member in the background in stage production. Let alone one of the main party at a wedding.

My dress was not right. It was made of what looked and felt like a cheaper material than the one I'd tried. It wasn't quite the right style, the detailing was all wrong. There was this weird sort of fold in the material at the front. And oh yeah, it didn't fit me.

My Wedding Dress Didn't Fit Me. A Week Before My Wedding!

Tanya tried to convince me that these problems could be fixed. That there was enough material in the seams of my dress and my sister in law's to 'let them out'. Why she thought I would be willing to give someone who had messed up this badly over the course of months a week to fix it, I have no idea.

I got all of the money I'd already put down towards the dress back from her. For some reason I didn't demand the money I'd paid her for petrol back as well, although I had budgeted this in as part of the cost of the dress. I even paid her for her petrol for that day. I wanted to get her out of my life as quickly as possible and that seemed like the easiest way to make that happen.

My mother in law went to the wonderful Bridal Boutique just down the road and explained the situation. When I followed a few minutes later they were fully prepared for damage control. Actually, I was finding the whole thing pretty hilarious, which seemed to make me some sort of hero in their eyes. I tried on a few dresses, but as soon as I came out in this one, my mother in law, sister, and sister in law informed me that this was the dress I was getting married in.


The shop model fitted me almost perfectly and needed only minor alterations. 
I got a large discount, because normally the shop would have the same dress made specifically for the bride, but there wasn't time to do so in this case. 

On the day it fit like a glove, and my groom's face when he first saw it was worth all the hassle.

It lives in my wardrobe now. I'll get around to selling it one of these days.