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Coderdojo: global network of self-directed hacker schools for kids


Glenn sez, "An Irish programmer started with a club in Cork to teach (at no cost) kids aged 5 to 17 how to program. It was such a hit that it's expanded to hundred of cities across 27 countries. CoderDojo has a template that includes self-directed learning with mentors on tap to help out. The notion is to provide kids a productive outlet. Among its successes is an average participation split about halfway between girls and boys in most chapters."

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Irish Freedom of Information amendment will send FOI fees to infinity

Update: Irish TD Stephen Donnelly namechecked this post in the Irish Parliament. Go, Stephen!

Ireland leads the EU in Freedom of Information fees, and they're the only EU nation that charges anything for an introductory query. Now they're raising those fees, potentially to infinity, through a law that charges you €15 per "unit" of government work necessary to answer your query. "Unit" isn't defined (government agencies get to make it up as they go along) and you have no way of predicting in advance how many units of work will go into your query.

This is actually a worsening of the already terrible FOI bill, which allowed Irish bureaucrats to determine reasonableness of queries based on how hard they'd be to answer if concerned records kept on paper -- even if those records were, actually, in a database that could be queried with a few keypresses.

Irish politicians have taken extraordinary measures to protect the state from the people finding out what it's up to. This is alarming on its face, and would be bad news even if Ireland was a paragon of good governance, and not a nation in economic meltdown that is subjecting its people to brutal austerity after being one of the centres of a corrupt investment bubble.

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Irish government updates its Freedom of Information law with exciting new "Computers don't exist" provision

When the Irish government updated its Freedom of Information law, it promised something fit for the computer era. To say it did not deliver is rather an understatement.

The new bill (PDF) says: "the FOI body shall take reasonable steps to search for and extract the records to which the request relates, having due regard to the steps that would be considered reasonable if the records were held in paper format."

Get that? The standard for whether a FOI request is reasonable is whether it would be easy to get if the records were on paper and in a filing cabinet. If the records can be retrieved from a database with one click, but would take a hundred years with a filing cabinet, then the records can remain secret forever, because clicking once is deemed unreasonable.

As Simon McGarr puts it: "The Irish State wishes to uninvent computers.

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Faced with excommunication threat, Irish PM explains separation of church and state to Cardinal


The Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny if he held a scheduled vote on Ireland's new abortion law. He responded:

Everybody’s entitled to their opinion here but as explained to the Cardinal and members of the church my book is the constitution and the constitution is determined by the people. That’s the people’s book. We live in a Republic and I have a duty and responsibility as head of Government to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are.

Redditor bleacliath created a great graphic for this quote and posted it to /r/atheism.

Politicians ‘have responsibility’ to legislate on abortion issue

Muppet Danny Boy, the only St Paddy's celebration you need

In what's becoming a regular St Paddy's tradition around here, here's the Muppet Danny Boy you know you want to hear but were afraid to ask for.

Muppet Danny Boy performed by Beaker, Swedish Chef and Animal

Irish flags OK again in Florida

The idiots who run Atlantic Beach, Florida, banned the flying of non-US flags, and even cited a Greek restaurant for displaying one. They have been told. [Reuters] Rob

How to Cheat in the Leaving Certificate: controversial Irish caper film now on YouTube

Graham sez, "Nineties Irish indie feature HOW TO CHEAT IN THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE was recently remastered, and the 1080p telecine created from the original camera negative and is now available in full on YouTube - this film was very controversial in Ireland when first released (see late night Irish TV news report here) and some consider American movie THE PERFECT SCORE an inferior remake.

How To Cheat In The Leaving Certificate (Thanks, Graham!)

Irish town councillor tries to get state-owned piece of art removed from public gallery


Niall de Buitlear sez,

A member of Athlone Town Council is trying to have a state-owned piece of art removed from a public art gallery. The artwork by Shane Cullen features transcripts of messages smuggled in and out of the Long Kesh Prison by members of the IRA in the late 70s and early 80s. The work is part of the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and was made in the mid 90s.

Cllr Mark Cooney, of the main government party Fine Gael, tabled a motion calling for the removal of the work from the Luan Gallery, Athlone. Cllr Cooney, compared the work to a piece glorifying Hitler "extolling the merits of exterminating the Jewish population". Cllr Gabrielle McFadden also of Fine Gael supported Cllr Cooney saying that public galleries should not show politically contentious art.

Independent Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne suggested the matter be referred to the board of Athlone Art and Heritage of which she and at least one other Councillor are members. The Councillors voted in favour of this proposal.

Attempt to Remove Artwork from Luan Gallery, Athlone (Thanks, Niall!)

Girls' crappy fake toy laptop is pink, and half as powerful as boys' crappy fake toy laptop


Claudia, a Dublin-based reader of Sociological Images, clipped this image of a flier for an Irish shop that sells crappy fake toy laptops in gendered versions, with the blue male version getting twice as many "functions" as the pink female version. Gwen at SocImg says, "Also, it looks more like a packet of birth control pills than a laptop."

Girls vs. Boys “Laptops”: Guess Which Does More?

Popemobile available for rent: stags, hen nights, and photo-ops

The 1979 Irish Popemobile, an armoured car designed to exhibit the Pope on his visit, has been through a €60,000 makeover, and is now available for private hire:

According to a promotional pack, the vehicle has 15 seats, including the original “pope’s chair”. Mr Dunning plans to charge up to €300 an hour plus VAT for use of it .

He said the chair used by the pope was kept in his mother’s home in Greenhills, Dublin, while the vehicle’s makeover was completed.

“Nuns over from Rome were in my mother’s house to see it,” he said.

The promotional pack lists a number of possible uses, including “hen and stag [nights], debs and photo calls”.

Debs, hens and stags to make holy show of Popemobile [Irish Times] (via Memex 1.1)

(Image: Irish Times)

Irish president lambastes right wing US radio DJ over the politics of fear

Irish politicians are justly famed for their scathing wit, and if you've ever wondered why, listen to this clip of Irish president Michael D Higgins flaying alive Michael Graham, a US radio host, graduate of Oral Roberts University and supporter of the Tea Party movement. The recording dates to before Higgins won the presidency, but one imagines that political debate in Eire is a lot of fun these days.

From May 2010, an exchange between Michael D Higgins (who was elected President of Ireland last year) and Tea Party-loving radio guy Michael Graham on Irish radio. Full exchange here.

Michael D Higgins v Michael Graham (via Reddit)

MakeShop: a hackspace in Dublin


In the Irish Times, Ruth O'Connor documents a Dublin's new MakeShop, a hackerspace launched by the Science Gallery and open to adults and children alike. It sounds like a wonderful place.

Once inside, the staff’s enthusiasm finds them, glue guns poised, creating spinning robots from sawn-up dishwashing brushes and three-volt battery packs. Gearóid Keane one of the facilitators, who helps me make a bird house-shaped clock from a Gay Mitchell election poster, says that “The workshops last around 15 or 20 minutes so we get the kids’ full concentration. We get a wide range of ages but all really interested in what they are doing.”

While the target audience is 15- to 25-year-olds, people of all ages can attend the drop-in workshops. Adults and children sit side-by-side and there is a quiet sense of community interrupted by sudden bursts of laughter and excitement. Fionn Kidney of the Science Gallery says it’s about “Taking DIY and turning it into ‘Doing it Together’. It’s about developing a spark of discovery. We want to help young people find their interests.” Fundamentally, he says, MakeShop is about getting hands-on and creative, encouraging questioning and conversation.

Niall Hunt a 14-year-old from Sandymount in Dublin was making a badge – incorporating soldering techniques with learning about circuits by connecting LED lights to a battery. “I’ve always wanted to try soldering but never had the chance before,” says Niall, who likes the idea of a space where people can try out new things. With an interest in DIY, Niall’s dad John says that MakeShop provides access to materials he wouldn’t have at home as well as being an “ideas space”.

“I think it’s important to use our hands to take things apart, to figure out how things work and to fix things rather than constantly throwing stuff out.”

It's craft - but not as we know it (Thanks, Fred!)

(Photo: Nadia Gativa/Irish Times)

TV "psychics" are stock photos


Peter sez, "This blog entry describes how Alan Rice, a student in Ireland, became suspicious about some of the photos displayed as 'Live psychics' to be called at €2.44/min on Irish TV. He used image searches to find photos of some of the 'psychics' on stock photo sites. Other people chipped in and..."

Psychic Pat was in fact a bought stock photo! I quickly tweeted about this and from that I was pointed to the boards.ie thread about the show where I posted the same photos. Things certainly took off from there and some wonderful people there started finding pretty much all the psychics listed on their website from various places around the internet including, from what I gather, a personal Flickr photo. It really begs the question who are you talking to? And in some cases from what I’ve read you only get through to a hold message.

Not only are these “psychics” giving out random pieces of information based on any detail they get from a caller they are exploiting some really vulnerable people who are desperately seeking hope for their current situation. In the brief time I watched last night there was even a call about a missing son for Christ’s sake!

How on earth can TV3 let this deplorable scam be aired and stand over this? It must be stopped from broadcasting and the money (€60 in some cases) returned to the callers.

Con artists working on national television.

Gone to Amerikay: masterful, heart-tugging Irish immigrant graphic novel

Gone to Amerikay is a masterfully told tear-jerker of a graphic novel that tells the stories of multiple generations of Irish immigrants to New York, skilfully braided together. There's a storyline from 1870, the tale of Ciara O'Dwyer and her baby daughter who arrive in the Five Points slum ahead of Ciara's husband, who is meant to catch the next boat, but does not arrive. There's a storyline from 1960, in which a merchant seaman named Johnny McCormack jumps ship to become an actor, but instead ends up in folk-music-saturated Greenwich Village, discovering turbulent truths about his calling and his sexuality. Finally, there's a 2010 timeline in which a stratospherically wealthy Celtic Tiger CEO named Lewis Healy touches down in New York in his private jet so that his lover can give him a gift for the man who has everything: the secret history of a song that changed his life when he heard it as a child.

Writer Derek McColloch and illustrators Colleen Doran and Jose Villarrubia make this three-way narrative sing (literally, at times) by exploiting the unique visual storytelling capabilities of comics in ways rarely seen. Their masterful treatment boosts an already fine -- if sleight and sentimental -- tale into a higher orbit, giving it a velocity and a mass that makes the book both unstoppable and heart-tugging.

This is a sensitive treatment of race and class, sexuality and art, betrayal and gender, and above all, the immigrant experience in America. Like a great folk song, it is at once simple and complex, a paradoxical confection that could only have been rendered in graphic form.

Gone to Amerikay

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Shredding company's awesome logo


Snapped yesterday near my flat in east London, this Irish shredding company's logo on the back of their truck. Talk about "does what it says on the tin!"

Awesome logo on hard-drive-shredding service's lorry, Brunswick Place, Hackney, London, UK