Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Should women cover their hair in public?

It is only relatively recently that Ireland has had a significant number of immigrants and so seeing a woman wearing a burqua  is still something strange. I was recently having a conversation on the topic and it is interesting that the male and female reaction seems quite different.

I don't have strong feelings on the topic. I think it is slightly ludicrous as a fashion statement, but if women want to dress this way I see no reason to stop them. The women in contrast felt strongly that the wearing of a burqua was a terrible thing and should be strongly discouraged. They also were quite convinced that no woman chooses to dress this way of their own free will and that the real people to "blame" were their husbands and/or fathers who make them dress in this way.

I don't really know any  burqua wearing females (the outfit tends to discourage casual social chat), but I don't think that they are forced to wear the burqua. Instead I think it is just a social taboo against uncovering their head in public in much the same way  that Irish society has a taboo on women uncovering their breasts in public. Irish fathers and/or mothers don't explicitly tell their daughters to cover up, but girls just pick up the taboo by observing older girls and women.

In France it is considered socially OK for women to sunbathe topless. In fact the practice is so common that visiting Irish women who leave on their bikini tops look out of place in much the same way that burqua wearers look out of place in Ireland.

We would rightly be outraged if laws were enacted to force Irish women to remove their bikini tops if they didn't feel comfortable doing that. In the same way it is natural that Muslims would be outraged if we tried to restrict their freedom to wear the burqua in public if they want.

Some people say that burqua wearing women are a scary sight. Ironically Catholic nuns used to dress in very similar outfits when I was a child. Mind you they were very terrifying for a young child to encounter - but that is another days discussion.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spotify's new running mode

Recently, Spotify notified me of their new running mode whereby their mobile phone detects the pace at which you are running and then selects songs with a tempo to match this. I decided to try it out yesterday morning as I went for a run. In general I was very impressed.


When you select running mode, you need to tell the app the initial pace to start the selection process from (probably because I was standing still rather than running when I launched the app). I started at 160 bpm as they recommend and then they asked me to select a playlist of songs from which they would choose music for me. I chose the epic playlist and it seemed to pick suitable songs whose beat encouraged me to stay going at the same pace (i.e. they weren't racing along like a Darude song which would encourage me to sprint and at the same time they didn't pick relaxing Whale sounds which would have slowed me to a walk).

Overall, I think that I like this feature and will use it again. In fact I ran 10km with this run rather than my more normal 5km route so this is proof of its effectiveness. One complaint I would have is the fact that it kept repeating the same song - maybe I was stuck at the same pace but still it could get boring on a long run.

One interesting thing I noticed is that Strava interacts with Spotify by turning down the music when it has statistics to report, so it is easier to hear. In contrast, BeyondPod pauses the podcast playback completely until Strava has finished reading out stats.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Is Hungary trying to re-establish the Iron Curtain

It is with a mixture of amazement and disappointment that I read recent reports that the Hungarian government is building a fence along its borders. In historical terms,  is relatively recently that the Hungarian people were rightly outraged about the existence of the Iron Curtain which restricted their rights to freely travel within Europe. Does nobody in power over there not see the irony that they are putting in place a shiny new version of the same thing that they fought so hard to pull down.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Migration between countries and within countries

There is currently a major migration crisis in Europe, because there are so many people from Africa and the Middle East who want to come into the EU. The USA have a similar problem with large numbers of people from Mexico trying to cross the border into USA. The consensus is that the problem will be solved by tightening up the border controls. However, I think that the problems might eventually be solved better by allowing free migration to all.

I know this might seem counter intuitive but I think that this lesson comes from a smaller scale migration crisis which we have within Ireland. Basically too many people want to move from relatively poorer areas in the west of Ireland to the greater Dublin area in the East where jobs prospects are better. Everyone agrees that the scale of the migration is unsustainable and it has led to unsustainable growth in rent pries which makes it difficult for people on a normal wage to afford to live.

The big difference with this local migration crisis and the larger one is that there is no international border involved. Hence, nobody is proposing to introduce border controls at the M50 junctions. Instead politicians seek out much more positive steps to solve the crisis e.g. giving companies special grants and/or tax breaks to relocate to an economically disadvantaged part of the country.

It is no longer considered OK to discriminate against people based upon their race or gender, but for some strange reason, it is generally accepted that it is still OK to discriminate against people based upon where  they happened to be born. I know that I am very lucky because I was born in USA to parents who were in turn born in Ireland. This means that I am free to live almost anywhere I like in Europe or North America. But, wht are people who happened to be born in Mexico or Syria denied that right?

Perhaps the same solution could work on a global scale or maybe I am just dreaming?