Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Please don't close the Exchange (an open letter to Ray Yeates, Dublin City Arts Officer)

Hello Ray,

I tried to call you at the Arts office, but I was told that you're on holidays this week. I hope that you see my letter before it is too late.

I understand that you have told Exchange Dublin that they need to close their doors by Friday due to 'Anti-social behaviour'. I assume you're already familiar with the petition on to reverse this decision.

I just wanted to personally add my voice to this. I am not directly involved with the Exchange. However, I have visited there several times; for arts exhibits, story evenings, hand-craft sales, and other things. A few times my husband, son, and I, have stopped in while passing and there is always something interesting on. And even when I haven't been able to visit myself, I have been glad to know that this island of art and culture existed in our city. 

According to John Tierney, Dublin City Manager, in a press release in 2011, your role as Dublin City Arts Officer means that you are 'responsible for the continued development of the arts in the city of Dublin'. Even if this alleged anti-social behaviour exists, and can be traced back to the existence of the Exchange, I cannot see how closing it fits with that purview.

For the sake of arts in Dublin, please reconsider.


Slightly edited from email version sent to

Monday, October 14, 2013

Quick hello to Python people

I'd like to welcome anyone coming to my blog from Pycon Ireland, I hope you enjoyed the convention as much as I did. If you're here to get a feel for who I am, I recommend this post which I wrote for this blog

I love blogging for the same reason I love delivering training, programming, arguing about Monty Hall, and teaching boardgames. In all these cases it's about understanding something well enough to be able to explain it to someone else. It just happens that in one of those cases the someone else happens to be a computer. However, I blog very irregularly because it's rare that I get the inspiration and time to do so at the same time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to fix (or at least open) a toilet

Some time ago there was some problem with the inner workings of one of the two toilets in the house. Unfortunately we have one of these new ones, with the flush buttons on top, which we didn't know how to open.

Flush buttons

My husband sort of did battle with it until it opened and he could fix the problem. Over the next while whenever I was in that bathroom I fiddled with it until eventually I had it reassembled. In the process, I discovered a magical truth. Those buttons screw off.

Just pinch the outside and turn anti-clockwise (lefty loosey). At first it will seem like it's not going to do anything. But keep turning and eventually.
Buttons and mechanism, unscrewed

At this point you can just lift the top of the cistern like an old fashioned flush on the front model and get at the whatever you were trying to get at inside.

A while later the other toilet in the house started flushing constantly. The cistern was constantly filling up and emptying at the same time, wasting huge amounts of water. So I simply unscrewed the buttons, lifted off the top and had a look. That black thing at the right had drifted up, and water was flowing over the top of the white pipe in the middle. So I pushed the black thing down, put the lid back on, screwed the buttons back on, and felt very satisfied with myself.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My current weight loss journey

I have another post about weight loss, thin privilege, size acceptance, yo yo dieting, obesity discrimination, being both fit and fat, the myth of how easy it is to lose weight if you'd only try, and much more, sitting in my drafts folder. It is a complicated and nuanced question, so it'll probably sit there for a while. This post, on the other hand, is on a topic I definitely am qualified to talk about: me.

Through a combination of good fortune, privilege, and conscious effort, I am less affected by our culture's body policing than most women. I had made peace with being overweight, and wasn't going to take 'but it's for your health' from anyone who couldn't keep up with me on a ten mile run. But recently I realised that I was not just fat, but getting fatter. Despite continuing my running, trying to cut down my portions and carbs, and trying to avoid deserts; I was getting large enough that I needed to buy new clothes, and heavy enough that it was slowing me down when I ran. So I am dieting.

I lost quite a lot of weight on Weight Watchers At Home several years ago, so it was the natural choice this time. I put a lot of that weight back on during pregnancy and breastfeeding*, and more since. I enjoy Weight Watchers. There are rules that I find easy and fun to follow; I quite like rules. I find the challenge of trying to pitch my eating in the narrow band between the daily minimum and my daily allowance pleasing. And most of all I enjoy Weight Watchers because it feels like a game, and it's a game I'm good at.

I expected to hate the ProPoints system which replaced the comfortably familiar system I used last time; change confuses and angers me. The new system removes half points, introduces weekly points in addition to the existing daily points, changes how points are calculated, and makes almost all fruits and vegetables 'free'. All of these changes, to my mild irritation, make it better.

Despite starting with a five day week, I lost six pounds in week one. I've been losing a steady pound or two a week since. Last time I aimed for the mid range of 'healthy weight' for my height, but found that my face started to get too angular under ten stone. That was before I took up running, and I have gained a lot of muscle mass since. So this time I'm aiming for ten stone six, the high end of 'healthy' for my height. I've already lost more than 5% of my starting weight, and I'm about a third of the way to my goal weight. I might update again when I get there.

I've struggled with my weight my whole life. I was a large child, I gained several stone during my junior cert, and apart from the brief period between the first time I did Weight Watchers and a month or two into my pregnancy, I've always been big. Some times more than others. So the really interesting bit here isn't how I look and feel in a few months when I reach my goal weight, but how I look and feel in three years time. Maybe I'll update on this again when I get there, too.

*A lot of people say breastfeeding makes you lose the baby fat. Maybe it does for some people. But I think this didn't work for me for the same reason exercising for weight loss doesn't work for me; it makes you hungrier, and only makes you lose weight if you ignore that extra hunger.

P.S. These comparison photos also teach me that my running bra is whatever the opposite of flattering is. But it is very good at its job.
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3 
Week 4 
Week 5

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sorry I've been so quiet.

This is just a quick apology to those of you that read this blog without me linking to it somewhere, if, in fact, such people exist.

I blog because I enjoy taking an idea and making it into something that I hope is interesting, informative, or entertaining for someone to read. That requires an idea, and time, together. I have a lot of ideas, but, being fortunate enough to have a lot of things I love to do, find time harder to come by. But still, it's been over six months, which is getting silly. Expect a real post soon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Musings on a privilege

I have read quite a lot of stuff on the internet written by or about women who get hit on a lot. I particularly like this one explaining what it's like with a metaphor about coffee and evangelists.

I don't get hit on a lot. There was a period in my life when I did get hit on quite a lot by friends and acquaintances. But even then, few or no strangers hit on me. These days all my friends and acquaintances know I'm happily monogamous. So that amounts to pretty much no one hitting on me. Not that I mind, see previous statement about happy monogamy.

On the rare occasions when a stranger does hit on me, I usually take it as a compliment. It puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I respond the same way as the stereotypical men who are quoted in these stories expect a woman to. I respond as they claim that they would themselves. In short, I respond as someone who has the privilege of being hit on only rarely.

My first thought on the source of this privilege was that it was a function of not being 'conventionally attractive'. But after seeing this series of gifs of the gorgeous Emma Watson, I realised that that is probably not the entirety of it. 

Looking back, I can't think of a single Irish stranger that has hit on me other than in nightclubs. And, while it is rare for me to get hit on, it is a large enough sample size to see a pattern. I think the main source of this privilege is living in a country where people rarely hit on strangers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Children's Referendum

This Saturday the Irish people are invited to vote on whether to add the following new article 42a to the Irish Constitution.

Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution
1. The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.
1° In exceptional cases, where the parents, regardless of their marital status, fail in their duty towards their children to such extent that the safety or welfare of any of their children is likely to be prejudicially affected, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means as provided by law, endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.
2° Provision shall be made by law for the adoption of any child where the parents have failed for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law in their duty towards the child and where the best interests of the child so require.
3. Provision shall be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.
1° Provision shall be made by law that in the resolution of all proceedings -
i brought by the State, as guardian of the common good, for the purpose of preventing the safety and welfare of any child from being prejudicially affected, or
ii concerning the adoption, guardianship or custody of, or access to, any child, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
2° Provision shall be made by law for securing, as far as practicable, that in all proceedings referred to in subsection 1° of this section in respect of any child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the views of the child shall be ascertained and given due weight having regard to the age and maturity of the child.

This will put it in the section Fundamental Rights. This new article will also replace the last section of article 42.

Article 42 
1. The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.  
2. Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.  
1° The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.  
2° The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.  
4. The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.  
5. In exceptional cases, where the parents for physical or moral reasons fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good, by appropriate means shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents, but always with due regard for the natural and imprescriptible rights of the child.  

You can read the constitution here to see where it fits in if you like. Warning, reading the constitution of Ireland may induce moments of 'it says WHAT?'.

Is the new article perfect? Absolutely not. Does it do everything an article on children's rights should? Nope. Is it better than nothing? In my opinion, yes.

When I sat down tonight to go through all the links I'd picked up various places on this I was leaning slightly to the No side. Probably primarily because the only thing I'd actually read on the subject before now was this argument from someone I know and admire, against. But after an evening of reading and watching, I have now decided to vote Yes. If you still haven't made up your mind, here's a few more of my sources, in no particular order:

A refutation of an argument to vote no. I haven't actually seen the argument it's refuting anywhere, but this is worth reading anyway.

There are a bunch of videos here arguing for a yes vote from the Children's Right's Alliance. They use the same music on all of them, which gets really annoying. This is the only one I found any way convincing.

A not particularly convincing (to me anyway) argument for no.

Some good arguments against, from a 'how do we actually interpret this' point of view. Including the insightful: "They should have been more brief and less prescriptive.  That's what constitutions are about."

To quote another person I know and admire 'I think the amendment does marginally more good than no'.