The Legion of Saint Joseph are back!


I knew I recognised the name on that poster. It was created by The Legion of Saint Joseph. They’re the same crowd that dropped a leaflet into our mailbox back in 2012 urging everyone to vote no to the Children’s Rights Amendment referendum that year.

Legion of Saint Joseph

Legion of Saint Joseph

Well, wasn’t it all true? Hasn’t the country descended into “decadence, anarchy and totalitarianism” since that referendum was passed?

Children have had their parents arrested for imposing “restrictive” religious beliefs haven’t they? Didn’t you hear that the Gardai marched into mass last Sunday and dragged out some local parents who had taken their kids there? It’s terrible the way the country has gone since April 28th when this amendment was finally made into law in this country.

Yeah, bet you didn’t know April 28th was the day did you? I only found out when I looked it up on Wikipedia. Not a peep out of the usual suspects.

Why Is Fluoride Good for Teeth?

It’s well known that fluoride is good for teeth, that it stops or slows down tooth decay. How does it do that? This video explains the process by which fluorapatite is formed and remineralises the teeth. For a more detailed look, there’s also this technical article I found that’s worth getting your teeth into digesting. :)

The hydroxyapatite of tooth enamel is primarily composed of phosphate ions (PO43–) and calcium ions (Ca2+). Under normal conditions, there is a stable equilibrium between the calcium and phosphate ions in saliva and the crystalline hydroxyapatite that comprises 96% of tooth enamel. When the pH drops below a critical level (5.5 for enamel, and 6.2 for dentin), it causes the dissolution of tooth mineral (hydroxyapatite) in a process called demineralization. When the pH is elevated by the natural buffer capacity of saliva, mineral gets reincorporated into the tooth through the process of remineralization.

When fluoride is present in oral fluids (i.e., saliva), fluorapatite, rather than hydroxyapatite, forms during the remineralization process. Fluoride ions (F–) replace hydroxyl groups (OH–) in the formation of the apatite crystal lattice (Figure 3). In fact, the presence of fluoride increases the rate of remineralization.

Fluorapatite is inherently less soluble than hydroxyapatite, even under acidic conditions. When hydroxyapatite dissolves under cariogenic (acidic) conditions, if fluoride is present, then fluorapatite will form. Because fluorapatite is less soluble than hydroxyapatite, it is also more resistant to subsequent demineralization when acid challenged.

Please Vote YES to Marriage Equality in Ireland

On May 22nd there will be a referendum in Ireland asking the population of Ireland to vote on a small change to our constitution:

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, has today announced the wording agreed by the Government for the constitutional amendment on Marriage Equality. The wording is contained in the Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 which was today approved by Government and which will be published in the coming days.
Minister Fitzgerald said: “People will be asked to decide whether the following new wording should be added to the Constitution: ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’.”

In 2010 civil partnerships became legal in Ireland, so what’s the difference between a civil partnership and civil marriage? This FAQ should help you understand the vast differences. It has nothing to do with religious marriage.

And yet some very important inequalities remain. For example, Civil Partnership:

  • does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents – only the biological one. This causes all sorts of practical problems for hundreds of families with schools and hospitals as well as around guardianship, access and custody. In the worst case, it could mean that a child is taken away from a parent and put into care on the death of the biological parent.
  • does not recognise same sex couples’ rights to many social supports that may be needed in hardship situations and may literally leave a loved one out in the cold.
  • defines the home of civil partners as a “shared home”, rather than a “family home” , as is the case for married couples. This has implications for the protection of dependent children living in this home and also means a lack of protection for civil partners who are deserted.

Voting no won’t make any difference to the person voting no but it will hurt others, as Dara Ó Briain put it in a recent tweet:

Please take a few minutes to read what David Norris has to say about this referendum on equality.

I’m glad I don’t drive to work. The No campaign put their posters up today and they’re disturbing the upsetting in their desperation to get people to vote no. I’d be raging all the way home if I had to drive past them.


There are so many reasons to vote yes to this referendum. Here’s a few that Facebook user Tony McCarthy posted:

Seeing the blatant misinformation in the No posters gone up today has my blood boiling as it’s an attempt to hoodwink the population. The point about surrogacy on one of them is downright idiotic as surrogacy already exists and there won’t be battery farms for the production of gaybies.

Annoyed me so much I’ve decided to counter every argument I’ve heard. If your views can’t stand up to scrutiny then the problem isn’t with the scrutiny.

1-The referendum has nothing to do with adoption. This was already passed under the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. The No Campaign’s posters, and many arguments for a No vote, are a deliberate misrepresentation of what the referendum is about.

2-The point raised about the “ideal” of a traditional family is moot. We live in a world where there are single parents, divorced parents, stay-at-home fathers, inter-racial marriages, adoption and surrogacy. The referendum is about recognising a union which has significant implications on, among other things, tax benefits, hospital visitation rights, and inheritance. This doesn’t affect you; it only affects the parties concerned.

3-In relation to point two, legal rights and benefits of heterosexual couples are not affected by gay marriage. Nor has there been any demonstrable impact upon “traditional marriages” in countries where gay marriage has been legalised. The function of a “traditional marriage” operates on its own, individual basis.

4-Two people having their union recognised will not negatively affect you in any way, shape, or form. However, the failure to pass this referendum WOULD negatively affect people, and not just the people seeking to have their union recognised. It negatively affects their families and friends as well.

5-Legalising gay marriage will not have an affect on the Church as the referendum relates to the State’s idea of marriage. No church can, or will, be forced to perform a ceremony which is contradictory to its beliefs. However, the next point addresses the Church’s changeable stance.

6- In addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century). These, and similar unions i.e. between two women, are recognised in Church archives up until the 18th century.

7-The argument that marriage is for the purpose of pro-creation ignores numerous factors. Infertile couples are able to get married. Couples who never intend on having children are allowed to get married. Women past child-bearing age are allowed to get married.

8-Marriage equality cannot be seen as a precedent for other ridiculous ideas which have been put forward to argue against it e.g. the foolish argument about allowing a man to marry an animal. The referendum is specific in its wording: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” This does not change the legal age of marriage, nor the laws regarding what types of marriage are illegal e.g. incestuous.

9-The argument that it is “unnatural” has no basis. In nature, homosexual behaviour has been observed in everything from bugs to bottle-nosed dolphins. It has been directly observed in hundreds of species. 10% of rams refuse to mate with ewes but will do so with other rams.

10-“Marriage has always been between a man and a woman” falls down on its premise that the status quo should always be maintained. If this were the case then women wouldn’t have the vote, slavery would still be in widespread existence in the Western World, medical treatments would still be treated with “magic” and prayer, inter-racial relationships would be forbidden, the modern technological era and the industrial revolution would never have come about, and the development of humanity would stagnate.

11-This is just a bonus point on the adoption point which, as noted, is not relevant to the referendum. 30 years of research from the American Academy of Pediatrics has failed to find any significant evidence that children raised by heterosexual couples are any better off than children raised by homosexual couples.

12-If you’ve read this far, fair play. As a final point, it boils down to whether or not you want to deny two consenting adults the right to have their union recognised in the eyes of the State. Not having that right is something which causes significant hurt. I’ll repeat that: Not having that right causes significant hurt. Forbidding that right, and causing that hurt, is an example of humans failing to display humanity.

Feel free to share. This is the only public post I’ve ever put up.

Photos are from this Red FM post.

Update on May 18th: A leaflet from the Iona Institute was dropped into our mailbox this morning. I’ve upload scans to Imgur here but here are smaller versions of them. I hope to look back on this blog post when I’m an old man and be thankful that the Ireland of 2015 is ancient history.

Isn't it wonderful that schools will have to teach children about same sex marriage? The next generation won't bat an eyelid at a same sex couple walking down the street hand-in-hand.
Isn’t it wonderful that schools will have to teach children about same sex marriage? The next generation won’t bat an eyelid at a same sex couple walking down the street hand-in-hand.
It's unfair that children aren't brought up by the best parents, be they heterosexual or LGBT.
It’s unfair that children aren’t brought up by the best parents, be they heterosexual or LGBT.
What they won't tell you is that Heather Barwick's mother and father split up, but she was still raised by two loving guardians.
What they won’t tell you is that Heather Barwick’s mother and father split up, when her father left her mother.

Standing at my Varidesk

The last time I tried standing at my desk was a bit of a makeshift affair. I piled up books on either side of a plank of wood for my keyboard and mouse to rest on, with another pile of books for the monitor. It worked, but it wasn’t pretty, it was a bit unstable, and it wasn’t flexible. When I got tired later in the day or evening I couldn’t sit down and type without lugging around a bunch of graphic novels and copies of National Geographic.

So, last December I bought a Varidesk Pro Plus. There aren’t many sellers in Ireland but I bought mine here. Prices are expensive compared to the US but they’re imported from there I think so there’s VAT, import duty and all the associated costs of bringing things across the Atlantic.

Varidesk Pro Plus

The desk can be raised and lowered easily, that’s the best thing about it. It also rests on your existing desk so you don’t have to get rid of that. I can fit my office chair under the desk when I’m standing, which is great because my office is a tiny home-office. I was worried about the space for my keyboard and mouse because I use a split Microsoft keyboard but I shouldn’t have. It fits comfortably. The mouse has plenty of room too. The area for that is about 24x19cm, or large enough to rest a 9″ iPad. I’ve never had a problem with my mouse bumping against the keyboard for want of more space.

The only negative I can think of is that you need to take care of cables when lowering or raising the desk. Sometimes my monitor cable will get caught between the desk and a raised portion of my original desk at the back, and I have an old USB2 hub for my keyboard and mouse that occasionally gets caught under the desk. Those are very minor issues. I also use foldback clips to secure cables on to the desk which really helps too.

It does show the dust badly sometimes, especially when caught in sunlight like the photo above. In reality the dust is a lot easier to ignore, especially when you have a load of documents or stuff sitting on top of it. :)

There are a few video reviews of the desk out there, here’s a good one. It’s well worth buying if you’re sitting at a desk all day!

How did Apollo get to the Moon?

It’s extraordinary that people haven’t been back to the Moon in my lifetime. I can only imagine the excitement of the first Moon landing, although from what I’ve read the later missions the general public wasn’t that interested in it. Still, the Apollo missions were an amazing feat of engineering, science and bravery.

Apollo 11's Lunar Module, Eagle with Buzz Aldrin in foreground.
Apollo 11’s Lunar Module, Eagle with Buzz Aldrin in foreground.

Over the last few days I’ve been listening to two episodes of the Omega Tau Podcast:

Both episodes are interviews with David Woods, author of the book How Apollo Flew to the Moon and full of fascinating detail. They’re well worth a listen.

If you thought flying to the Mun in Kerbal Space Program was hard just wait ’til you hear about everything they accomplished using 1960’s technology. While they did have computer assisted landing procedures when they got to their destination I bet it was no Mechjeb! There is the FASA mod for the game, adding 300 new parts, including a Lunar lander! Here’s a video (and Reddit thread) of it in action, although I’m upset that he left someone on the Mun..

As luck would have it, last night I saw that Ars Technica published 45 years after Apollo 13: Ars looks at what went wrong and why a few days ago. Another interesting read, contrasting what the film “Apollo 13″ showed to reality. Useful and insightful comments too, including more book recommendations. I have plenty of reading ahead of me.

(Thanks to Adam Heckler’s post I found out about Omega Tau, it’s quickly turning out to be one of my favourite podcasts!)