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Men of Limerick, please help to repeal the 8th

We’re just starting week 4 of the Limerick Together for Yes campaign and it’s going great. We have canvasses 5 nights a week and stalls in town at the weekend. The people of Limerick have been warm and welcoming and open to our message.

But there’s been an absence from the campaign. An absence of men.

Here’s a photo from one of our canvasses in Limerick. Only one man, and he travelled in from Clare that night (you’re a legend Ronan!). We urgently need to correct this gender imbalance. Although we’re campaigning for a woman’s right to choose, we shouldn’t just leave it to women to make the ask to change the constitution. By standing with our sisters we can show our support and solidarity, and help knock on as many doors as possible to ensure safe healthcare for women who are pregnant.

I’m running a men’s training session on Wednesday 11th April at 7pm in the Absolut Hotel with the legendary Paul Bowler from Kerry. Our goal is to ensure all men attending will feel more confident and prepared when engaging with members of the public/friends/family/partners in discussions about the campaign to repeal the 8th. To come along, just email repeallkvolunteer@gmail.com – and while you’re at it you can sign up as a volunteer on the Repeal LK website.

Women of Limerick are knocking on doors asking their fellow citizens for control over their own bodies. As men, the least we can do to help is to stand with them.

If you’re lucky, like me, then campaign for Repeal

I’d like to see the eighth amendment removed from the Irish constitution. I feel strongly enough that I’m going to be out knocking on doors and campaigning as much as I can on this referendum.

In some ways I’m completely unqualified to have an opinion on this, let alone go out campaigning on it. I’m a straight white man in his late thirties. I’ve been married for 11 years, but my wife and I can’t and won’t have children.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone less qualified to write or speak about women’s reproductive rights than me. Yet it is precisely for that reason that I want to stand with women who are campaigning for this referendum.

I am an incredibly lucky person. I am a straight, white male. I was born in a relatively rich country. I received a good education, most of it free of charge. I am a beneficiary of most of the structural inequality in this country, because I am on the winning side of it. I live in a country where women are paid less, where people who grow up in disadvantaged families are themselves more likely to suffer disadvantage as adults, etc. etc. And (bear with me!) sometimes that’s difficult. It’s not my individual fault, right? I’m doing the best I can to be a decent person, occasionally succeeding, and while I didn’t create my genetic, historical and social good luck I can’t really do anything to reverse it either. But I can empathise, and imagine. Imagine what it is like to not have the rights and privileges that I enjoy by accident. And, in particular, imagine what it might be like to have the fricking constitution inserting itself between me and my doctor on what is the best for my health, life and well-being.

It is just awful that Irish women not only have had to put up with an incredibly draconian reproductive rights regime, but that, over the next two-and-a-bit months, they have to go out to the Irish people and ask and say please. Ask and say please for rights that they would enjoy in almost every other developed country.

I think it is time for Irish men like me, with our privilege and our luck and our sorry-but-what-can-you-do demeanour to stand up. Stand beside the women who are campaigning for control over their own bodies. Stand up and say please to the Irish voters who will ultimately decide on their rights.

If you’re lucky like me, then I hope you’ll join me. I’m involved in Repeal LK, the local campaign in Limerick to repeal the 8th amendment.  There are similar campaigns starting up all around the country. I somewhat gingerly came to the first few meetings, not sure if I’d be welcome to join the fight, and worried that I might say the wrong thing. I met a group of funny smart courageous people, mostly women, who are operating with no funding, affiliated to a national campaign which is also short of people, time and money. I was welcomed, and educated, and encouraged. We have an introductory event in Limerick on Monday March 12th. Maybe you could canvass, fundraise, or even just donate. It’s going to be a tough campaign. All support will be gratefully appreciated.

I know there are many people, some of whom are my friends, who disagree with my views on abortion, and I want to do my best to respect those views. I’m sure what I’ve written here may sound tone-deaf, patronising or even insulting to women. I know I’ve a lot to learn.

With rights and privilege come a responsibility to fight for those without. Offering to help out in this referendum campaign may not atone for the rights and privilege that I have been gifted, but it feels like a start. If you’re lucky, like me, you’d be very welcome to come and put your shoulder to the wheel.

Supercharging Public Transport around Limerick’s Superblock

Liveable Limerick are proposing a “Superblock” in the city centre (PDF link with more information) bordered by William Street, Parnell Street, Mallow Street and Henry Street. The Superblock would be accessible for vehicles, but would not allow vehicles to travel through the block on their way to somewhere else. It’s a fabulous idea that would allow us to achieve a really ambitious people-centered city centre that would act as a magnet for investment in the region.

Here is a simplified schematic of the current traffic configuration around the Superblock, with each lane shown in black:

Cities that plan to grow need excellent public transport. Buses in Limerick City are…less than excellent. The most frequent service from Raheen to Castletroy in particular suffers large delays because buses have to thread a meandering route through the city centre. There is also little integration between bus services. How could you configure the streets bordering the Superblock that would give priority to public transport? Here’s one idea, with bus lanes in green:

You would need to remove on-street parking from Mallow St to enable a third lane of traffic. But the benefits would be huge:

  • All buses have fully segregated routes in both directions around the superblock
  • All bus services interchange at the bus/rail station, apart from the Westbury/Fr Russell Rd service which offers a cross street interchange with all other services at Mallow St
  • Faster bus times
  • More reliable service

Here’s what the city bus services would look like with this plan:

For a stretch goal, Parnell St could easily accommodate an on-street terminal for private buses, allowing private buses run by Dublin Coach, Citylink and JJ Kavanagh’s to interchange with city services, and to take advantage of segregated routes around the city centre.

Links 2018-03-04

Here’s How Cornell Scientist Brian Wansink Turned Shoddy Data Into Viral Studies About How We Eat – BuzzFeed

When even BuzzFeed is getting in on the p-hacking, you know you have a problem. The incentives here (media coverage, research grants, etc.) so clearly rewards this sort of behaviour it’s difficult to know what to do about it, but at least we’re on the verge of admitting we have a problem.

How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life – The New York Times

Trying to understand the addictive corrosiveness of modern technology, starting with the red alert badge that appears on your app icons. Bonus points for quoting Human Interface Guidelines (I wish more people whose job it is to design apps would).

Monica Lewinsky: Emerging from “the House of Gaslight” in the Age of #MeToo – Vanity Fair

An interview with a wise person, who has a lot to say about misogyny and celebrity worship, because she’s been living with its effects for 20 years.

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

Find out the shortest link distance between any two Wikipedia articles. This got me for hours.

Links 2018-02-25

The Unchecked Influence of NRA Lobbyist Marion Hammer – The Trace

A sober account of how efficient lobbying works to horrific ends.

Inside the OED: can the world’s biggest dictionary survive the internet? – The Guardian

I’ve always had a weakness for dictionaries, and this is an interesting account of the most comprehensive. I hope the OED has a brighter future than Encyclopaedia Britannica: whatever about general knowledge, I think that analysis of language benefits from opinion, preferably weakly held.

The Tyranny of Convenience – The New York Times

You could read this as an anthology of First World Problems but privileged or not, we must face our ennui nonetheless, and this article feels like a good place to start.

Links 2018-02-18

The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry – The Guardian

I’m not (and won’t be) a parent myself but as many of my friends start to raise families I’m struck at how awfully difficult parenting can be for some, and how easy it can be for others. And how, if you’re having a difficult time parenting, everybody else judges you incessantly.

Email is your electronic memory – Fastmail

I’ve been a happy customer of Fastmail for a few years now. Leaving all your email to Google may be easy, and cheap, but it’s not a good place for memories.

The Good Room – Frank Chimero

A lovely article about libraries, train stations, the commons, the Amish, design, spiritual technology, and a whole lot more.

Goodnight Chrome Podcast

I never, ever sleep during the day. But this glorious podcast, which starts by reading out incredibly boring technical specs before injecting them with nonsense, had me dropping off after 5 minutes. If you’re an insomniac then you need this.

Links 2018-02-11

No one’s coming. It’s up to us. – Dan Hon

Making the case for humane technology. The photos of old Usborne futuristic books brought back a lot of memories. I particularly liked the phrase “inadvertent algorithmic cruelty”.

Don’t Be Evil – Fred Turner on Utopias, Frontiers, and Brogrammers – Logic

An interview with a Stanford professor about techno-utopianism (and there was I thinking I coined that phrase) and the ethical frameworks used by software engineers. Full of deep wisdom and throwaway wisdom.

The tech industry needs a moral compass – Rachel Coldicutt – Medium

Another new phrase (to me): Tech Humanism. While I’m not sure I 100% agree with all of the proposed solutions in this article, I’m absolutely in agreement that we need to start the conversation. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that as technologists we are gaining increasing power, and we’re long overdue a conversation about the responsibility side of that equation.

Advice to the newish programmer – Tom MacWright

A wise article that also offers a pretty good explanation of programming for non-programmers (spoiler alert: everything is pretty much broken).

Has Anyone Seen the President? – Michael Lewis – Bloomberg

Michael Lewis has a really lovely writing style, and this article, ostensibly about President Trump but really about Steve Bannon and the politics of anger, offers some insight into how US politics arrived at its current state.

Links 2018-02-04

The Sierra Network – The Digital Antiquarian

Jimmy Maher runs a wonderful site where he posts deep dives into computer history. This post is about an online pre- (or rather proto-) internet network run by a games company, Sierra.

If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week? – Harvard Business Review

This research into over-work talks about “insecure overachievers”. Whatever about overachievement, I know that professional insecurity has been a cause of overwork for me in the past.

The punk rock internet – how DIY ​​rebels ​are working to ​replace the tech giants – The Guardian

Thanks to Georgia for sending this in! I think, or at least hope, that the indie/corporate tension will always exist on the internet, with both sides vying for dominance and succeeding for brief periods without completely destroying the other.

Sriracha is for Closers – Esquire

This profile of WeWork may be laden with snark but it’s still an entertaining read about what a boom feels like.

The Dirty War Over Diversity Inside Google – Wired

Why diversity is hard, and oh so vulnerable to attack.

Links 2018-01-28

The Follower Factory – New York Times

I’ve been aware of these “pay money for followers” schemes for a while now, but this was a really interesting deep dive into the companies who will sell you social media followers. Also it’s the first time in a while I’ve seen a page with JavaScript fanciness that didn’t completely suck.

How to Win Founders and Influence Everybody – Wired

In some ways this is just a profile of a PR hack but what I found interesting about this profile was that, amidst all the hype of new communications channels, good PR is about relationships.

A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage – The Awl

Given that The Awl is shutting down this month, I’m reminded to post one of my favourite articles from that site. I just love this flight of fancy based around an everyday commodity.

Links 2018-01-21

A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop – Scientific American

A listener to Worst Case Scenario (thanks Jane!) listened to our latest episode where I was talking about trying to systematically use a paper notebook. I’m a relatively quick typist so the quoted researchers’ conclusions that writing forces you to summarise and therefore think differently rings true to me.

How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next – The Guardian

A timely article on how and why people are more suspicious of statistics post-Trump and Brexit

BuzzFeed Style Guide

I have a weakness for style guides, and this one is surprisingly comprehensive. Like pun-laden tabloid headlines you may not admire the content of BuzzFeed’s listicle-driven posts, but it’s difficult not to ignore the craft.

The 29 Stages Of A Twitterstorm In 2018 – BuzzFeed

While we’re on the subject of BuzzFeed, this is an amusing summary of most Twitter drama (with an odd number in the headline, natch).

The Invasion of the German Board Games – The Atlantic

I need to write a German board games blog post some day. A good summary if you’re new to the genre.