Kindle Lock Screen can now display book covers

The Verge:

Amazon Kindle owners can now set the lockscreen image to the cover of the book they’re reading. The long overdue Display Cover feature, first spotted by Engadget, was previously only available after jailbreaking your device (and a popular motivator to do so). Amazon says that it works with “most books, magazines, comics, and Manga.”

I’m not sure what the hold-up was – some kind of competitor’s patent or just laziness or whatever – but as someone who has been waiting for this feature for over 10 years now, I’d just like to say: fuckin FINALLY.

I’ve been reading a lot more books over the last couple of months. Physical books, I mean. I think this is partly A) coming out of baby/pandemic brain-fog and B) I’d forgotten how lovely it is to hold a physical book. Every time you see your book, every time you open it, every time you turn a page with it, you increase your connection to it. A well-beaten book is a well-loved book that’s been with you for a while.

Opening the Kindle and seeing a generic screen saver gives you absolutely nothing. It’s not cementing my relationship to the form or the content. This isn’t helped by the fact that the Kindle turns on immediately drops you where you left off with no indication of whether you’re near the end of the book or just getting started. Like getting dropped in an unfamiliar place with no map. You just have to keep going forward and eventually you’ll reach somewhere. It’s a handy feature, for sure, but my dumb lizard-brain gets something from the physicality of being able to feel where I am in a book. The Kindle’s attempt to address this – putting the % completed in the corner just fills me with anxiety. Kind of like the inverse of watching a phone battery percentage trickling down, why amn’t I making progress in this goddamn book?!

Spotify completely changed my connection to music (I could probably tell you the name of every song on every album I’ve physically owned - these days I couldn’t even describe the cover of albums I love that I’ve only listened to on Spotify), the Kindle changed my connection to the books I read. It’s not unusual for me to finish a book and not be able to tell you the name of the author. Hopefully for the sake of my already-overflowing bookshelves, this will draw me back to the Kindle as a device for reading again and my physical to-read pile (here’s a photo from last month - yikes) won’t grow any more.

Nostalgia

In December, the hardest working man on YouTube, KillianM2 uploaded a copy of the Late Late Toy Show from 1985. The entire thing1. For a little context, I’m a 41 year old man with two children and a mortgage. The toys and gadgets I currently have in my house are so fantastically beyond anything 1985 could even imagine that they even go beyond science fiction for them. In my phone, I have something with more computing power than basically all the computers in 1985, and with it I can access any information I want, read any book I want, watch any film I want, listen to any music I want.

Even still, as I was watching this flashback where Gay Byrne in his slightly snarky, slightly soused manner demonstrated the year’s popular toys to the mammies and daddies of Ireland in 1985, I found myself with this deep, deep pain and sadness bubbling up inside me. Because I would love to have – I dunno take your pick of all the crappy toys – some shitty remote control Nissan outlander. I would give up my iPhone to have one. In a fucking heartbeat, I would.

As they say, nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

Of course it’s not about the actual toys on the show. I don’t actually want a remote control Nissan Outlander. Looking at the toys with grown-up eyes, the logical part of my brain can see that they’re all cheap Chinese garbage and the ones that aren’t changing hands for obscene amounts of money on eBay are all piled up in a landfill now. It’s everything around the toys that got to me. It’s the design of the toys, the boxy shape of the cars, the vibe of the thing, the hairstyles, the clothes (the audience are dressed like normal people, not an ironically awful Christmas jumper to be seen). These are the thing that remind me of home. They remind me of my childhood. Of that special feeling of safety I was fortunate enough to experience as a child. Of feeling looked after. Too right that’s a powerful thing. At one point, the show covered some toys I actually owned back then and I swear to god right then I could smell the room in my house where I used to play with those toys, I could feel the carpet.

Create a weapon that can trigger that sensation and you’ll end all wars forever.

But I don’t think nostalgia is necessarily a bad thing. Especially now, what with one thing and another. It’s easy to dismiss nostalgia as something to be avoided, like some pithy aphorism embroidered on a tea towel: “you never move forward when you’re living in the past”. But at the same time, this kind of nostalgia can be a reliable way of recreating a feeling of safety. It’s a way of self-soothing.

As I said, I’m a 41 year old man with two kids and a mortgage and, to top it all off, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. This is my reality and I can’t escape it. Wait, no. This is our reality and we can’t escape it. I’ve found myself struggling to engage with things. I’m sure you’re the same. I start a new book and I can’t focus on the words because my brain goes elsewhere. I start watching a film and I end up checking the latest infection figures. And so I’ve found myself going back to familiar things – rewatching Parks and Recreation, for example – because they make me feel safe and looked after.

And this, in turn, lets me try to make my kids feel safe and looked after so that when they’re in their 40s and they watch a video of the Late Late Toy Show from 2020 (assuming it even happens, of course), they won’t have any memory of feeling fear or anxiety about the state of the world., they’ll just have the same warm, comforting feelings I’m talking about here.

So whatever it takes for you to get through this, whatever media you need to consume to make you feel all right, don’t feel ashamed, just do it.

Stay safe.


  1. Since then, he’s taken it down, I’m guessing for Copyright reasons? ↩︎

Best Games I Played in 2019

Previously: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

I realise we’re more than a third of the way through 2020 already but what with one thing and another, now seems like an ideal time to sit in and bang outa couple hundred words on something that no-one cares about. As with previous years, normal caveats apply: I have two small children and limited free time (which is why this post is being written in April), so I missed a lot of big-budget games that, had I played them probably would have appeared on here. 1

What the Golf?

I thought this was going to be just a good golf game. Now, let me make it clear that there’s nothing wrong with being just a good golf game. Last year’s Golf Story was a good golf game and ended up being one of my favourite games of the year. But What the Golf is so much more than just a golf game. The first level is straightforward, you pull down and release to knock a ball to the flag. The second level, you pull down and release and the golf club flies forward, and you have to make the club hit the flag. And the game continues in this manner, getting more and more wild and creative and wildly creative on each level. At one point, about halfway through, it starts making golf versions of other popular games, so you’ll get Super Meatboy with golf. Or Portal with golf. This was the most fun I’ve had with a game all year. (It’s also the most frustrated I got with a game, but that’s another post).

The Outer Wilds

I guess this is best described as a science fiction archaeology game? You launch your spaceship, visit different planets, and I guess that could describe the entire game, if you wanted it? I mean, there’s nothing driving you forward in the game except your own curiosity. But it rewards that curiosity better than any other game I can think of. And I loved it so much because of that. More games like this, please.

Heaven’s Vault

Typical. You wait your whole life for a science fiction archaeology game and two come along at once. This one is done by the people who made 80 Days, so as you’d expect, it has much more straightforward narrative than Outer Wilds (i.e. it acts and feels like a choose-your-own-adventure game). But the puzzles in this one are so cleverly constructed. You start uncovering alien artefacts and, through them, you start learning an entirely new language, creating meaning via logic and context, just like learning a real language. When the pieces started falling into place, I felt like a genius. Again, more games like this, please?

Death Stranding

I found the last few Metal Gear Solid games a little too much for me to handle, but I really liked Death Stranding so I want to say that Death Stranding is like a Hideo Kojima game with most of the Kojima-ness washed off. But even that’s not entirely true because this is an incredibly Kojima game. I think it’s because it’s got all his heart and his creativity but none of the dark cynicism? Despite the bleak setting, Death Stranding is a game about hope and I can’t think of anything we need more in 2019.

Tetris Effect

Technically this came out in 2018 but I played it for the first time in VR in 2019 and I’m usually pretty strict about such things but honestly, this was the closest I came to having a religious experience all year.

Legend of Zelda Cadence of Hyrule

I hadn’t played the original Crypt of the NecroDancer so the mechanic of this took me a while to get used to. Basically, it’s a rhythm-based Zelda game, where you need to move and fight on the beat. But once you settle into it, it works really well as a Zelda game and the art style is gorgeous. I just wish there was more of it.

Dragon Quest Builders 2

I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m not a fan of Minecraft’s story mode. It feels unnaturally bolted on to what is, essentially, just a Lego sandbox. Dragon Quest Builders 2 has the opposite problem: it has a wonderful story mode (I hadn’t played DQB1 or many of the DQ games before 8 so I’m not big into the lore and I still enjoyed it), to the point where every time it presented me with its creative mode, I wasn’t that interested. “Hey did you know you can build up a town for these people with all sorts of different buildings like bedrooms and saloons and showers and toilets?” “IDGAF give me the next bit of story”. I haven’t been pulled through a game like this in a while.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

The best Star Wars game since Knights of the Old Republic? I loved how it didn’t shy away from its Star Wars-ness and didn’t just wear it like a coat of paint over a generic sci-fi game. I’m not sure the Dark Souls influence really works in this game: the controls aren’t as good or reliable as they need to be to hang with the Souls games, but that’s a minor complaint for what is an otherwise great game.

Luigi’s Mansion

This was a lovely little palate cleanser of a game. It’s so light and delicious and every time I felt myself losing interest because it’s too light, the game would do something delightful and draw me back in again.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Again maybe another cheat because this is an old game, but it only came out on Switch in 2019 and that’s the first time I played it. And I feel weird about putting it on here because technically I hate-played it. Remember I mentioned above about how Fallen Order‘s controls weren’t as precise as they needed to be? Ori‘s controls are exactly as precise as they need to be. It’s a beautiful game from that point of view. And after a few hours, when you’ve unlocked most of your abilities and can chain together some beautiful moves, it’s a wonderful flow game. That is then completely ruined by some of the worst set-pieces I’ve ever seen that rely almost entirely on failure and memorisation. I loved this game. I hated this game.


  1. Just wanted to mention that I did, however, finish Diablo 3 because the switch is the perfect platform for this game because it meant I could chip away at this game in five-minute doses. ↩︎

Internet via Email

Knowing there’s a real risk of this blog turning into “old man yells at cloud1", here are few thoughts, sort of connected.

First there was Dan Frommer talking about his first year of running a subscription newsletter:

Social media continues to strengthen direct relationships between readers and writers. The internet has made discovery easier for quality, niche publications. (Though that is probably the biggest hurdle.) Email remains an amazing delivery and distribution method for timely written content.

Here’s John Gruber’s take on this:

And readers love newsletters. Websites are getting harder and harder to read. Paywalls forget who you are on a seemingly weekly basis. Websites put interstitial popovers directly over the content you’re trying to read. Videos are set to autoplay. How many times are you supposed to tell the same goddamn website whether you’ll accept their fucking cookies? It’s like they’re purposefully making it hard to read. Newsletters have none of that. They’re just easy and fun to read. The web can and should be that way too, but all too often it’s not.

It’s a fair point - websites are, for the most part, terrible content delivery mechanisms. Which makes me think that maybe RMS, as shitty as he could be, might have hit on something when he talked about the way he consumes the internet

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see https://git.savannah.gnu.org/git/womb/hacks.git) that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won’t fetch from other sites in such a situation).

Incidentally, I’ve recently moved my RSS from Inoreader to Feedbin and one of the features that drew me away was the newsletter-to-rss gateway - you get a unique email address with which you can sign up for newsletters and they automatically get created as RSS feeds for you. Which means you can read the content in RSS2. So I’ve spent my day unsubscribing with my email address and re-subscribing with my Feedbin address and my email inbox feels so much lighter and fresher and how an email inbox should feel3.


  1. :goodjoke: ↩︎

  2. which is how the internet was going until Google Reader killed RSS ↩︎

  3. I have a strict policy regarding notifications on my phone - no notifications unless they came from a human being directly to me. I don’t see why my email should have a different policy. ↩︎

Now

tl;dr this site now has a /now page where you can keep track of what I’m up to right now.


Back in the old days – I mean the old old days – there was this wonderful command called finger where you could look up information about users on a UNIX system1. It would tell you some personal information about the user, like their name and their phone number. But my favourite part about this command was that it would also return the contents of the user’s plan file.

.plan was supposed to be to tell people what you were working on that day, but people eventually turned started using it for other forms of expression. I guess it was an early form of microblogging2.

Looking at the blogs I still read in 2019, there’s a lot of “here are a list of curated links to cool things on the internet” and there’s a lot of “here is an article I have written so I can include it as a ‘publication’ on my linkedin profile”. But there’s not much in terms of personal writing. I never get a real sense of what the person writing the blog is doing, what they’re working on, what they’re reading, what’s bothering them (And before you say “isn’t that what Twitter is for?” I’d ask have you actually seen Twitter these days?) (And don’t get me started on Facebook).

The idea behind a ‘now’ page is to bring back some of that same .plan feeling. From Derek Sivers’s nownownow.com:

Besides answering the common question, “What are you up to these days?”, those who have a now page say it’s a good reminder of their priorities. By publicly showing what you are focused on now, it helps you say no to other requests.

So if you want to see what I’m up to now, you can just go to lowbrowculture.com/now.


  1. I realise the command wasn’t limited to just UNIX systems, but let’s just keep it simple, shall we? ↩︎

  2. For a great example of someone using the .plan file and watching its use morph over time, check out the John Carmack .plan Archive ↩︎

Best Games I Played in 2018

Previously: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

It’s probably obvious but still worth mentioning that this entire list is based on an extremely incomplete sampling. I had very little free time in 2018, so I had to be ruthless with the games I played. For example, I slowly made my way through 2017’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins somewhere around the middle of the year. And I loved it so much. It probably would have been in my list of favourite games of 2017. But am I in a hurry to drop another 60 hours on Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey now? Am I fuck.

Anyway, here we go.

Minit

Minit

My son – my second child – was born in March, which meant that my free time in 2018 was more precious than ever before. Thank fuck, then, for a game like Minit, which respects the player’s time. I was able to dip in and play this in tiny drops.

Florence

Florence

It’s pretty rare to see a video game even try to tackle the subject of interpersonal relationships, and it’s even rarer to see one incorporate the subject into the mechanics of the game.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

Is this a bit of a cheat because it’s a remaster of an old game? I don’t care. I played through this all over again on the Switch and I loved it all over again.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2

This is everything I wanted from a sequel to one of my favourite games of all time: a giant cowboy sandbox, with sliiiightly wonky controls that make everything just that little bit more interesting.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel’s Spider-Man

For a while there towards the end of the year, this game was very much my happy place. It still is. When I want to relax and shut out the world for a while, I’ll fire up Spider-Man and just swing around the city. Maybe not coincidentally, this is the first game on the PS4 that I’ve platinumed.

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

I still don’t understand how a human mind could have created something like this.

Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn

When I was 12 or 13, I got a Panasonic 3DO for Christmas along with a copy of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel. And while the 3DO isn’t the best console in the world and this Sherlock Holmes game is definitely not the best game in the world, they both have a really special place in my heart. When I think back to my time spent playing that game and the way it had my dumb little 12-year old brain cracking its mysteries, I’m reminded of all the things around the game. Like I remember that Christmas being the last one where everyone I knew and loved was happy. Like, genuinely, sincerely happy. And so it’s a very warm game for me.

It’s a strange comparison, I know, but Return of the Obra Dinn gave me those same feelings and the whole time I was playing it, I was brought right back to that Christmas, on that couch in my Ma’s front room. Which is pretty spectacular when you consider it’s basically just a giant logic puzzle

Tetris Effect

Tetris Effect

Every year, it feels like there’s one game that stands out for me because of the way it helps me tackle whatever anxiety or depression or other emotional issues I might be going through at the time. This year, it’s Tetris Effect. A real joy of a game that will be unfairly overlooked because it’s “just Tetris”.

Subnautica

Subnautica

With games like Minecraft, the most entertaining and the most magical part of the game is the first few minutes, when you’re first getting set up and exploring and struggling to survive. Subnautica somehow managed to sustain this feeling for hours.

Recent Films - June 2018

(I try to post reviews of all the films I watch over on letterboxd. Here are the most recent reviews I’ve written)

A Quiet Place - 2018 - ★★★★

Since my daughter was born, certain films hit me way harder than they otherwise should. Anything involving a child in peril is danger territory for me. Throw in a father trying to protect the child-in-peril and I’m completely screwed. I’ll be a wreck. For example, War for the Planet of the Apes had me absolutely sobbing in the cinema.

A Quiet Place is exactly the kind of film that hits me harder than it probably should, what with John Krasinski’s kind-faced father bringing the pathos like a doe-eyed hammer. Throw in a nihilistic pre-credits sequence to establish the stakes and, yeah, I hadn’t a fuckin hope.

Some late-game rule-changing to score a cheap emotional hit kinda ruins it a little, but it’s still a tight, tight film.

Super Troopers 2 - 2018 - ★★½

The only thing really missing from this film was a Rodney Dangerfield cameo where he comes out and tells the cops and the mounties to lighten up before turning on really cheesy hair rock music and starting an impromptu dance party.

As light and nutritionally void as the first film, but slightly shorter on charm.

Pitbull. New Order - 2016 - ★½

My continuing education in the less-“worthy” Polish film canon continues with this, a sub-Love/Hate gangster film set in Warsaw. The writer-director, Patryk Vega, is described as the Polish Guy Ritchie. And from what I’ve seen of his films so far, maybe people mean Revolver-era Guy Ritchie? I dunno.

The film itself is a regressive, homophobic and insecure piece of filmmaking. The main character, “Miami”, is a quote-unquote “tough” quote-unquote “sexy” quote-unquote “cop”. No woman can look at him without wanting to fuck him. No man can look at him without wanting to fuck him. “That was the best sex I’ve ever had” says one of his lays. “Coffee?” a detective offers him. “I bet you take it black.” Yes, he’s a hard-fuckin, hard-drinkin cop. Oh, and when the suits in internal affairs take away his badge, he tells them to give it back or he’ll kick the shit out of them. And they do.

It’s that kind of film. The kind we haven’t really seen since Joel Silver cut down on his cocaine intake.

I’ve read a lot of reviews saying that based on this film, it won’t be long before Hollywood comes knocking at Patryk Vega’s door. And I don’t doubt that’s true, but only because they just need any new blood. But the real person who should be tapped for better things is the cinematographer. This film is total garbage, but at least it’s handsome garbage.

Supersonic - 2016 - ★★★½

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of Oasis. Their music does nothing for me and their personalities are so ugh (although I love reading interviews with Noel Gallagher). So why am I giving three-and-a-half stars to an Oasis documentary? Well, because it’s not a documentary about Oasis. I mean, not really. It’s really a documentary about a period in time. It’s a documentary about success. It’s a documentary about regret.

The music is just helpful context.

Blockers - 2018 - ★½

Why does everyone keep saying what a great comedian John Cena is? Or even Leslie Mann, for that matter? All these huge comedy stars playing the parents and they got DEMOLISHED by the kids in this film. Very weak.

Sneakers - 1992 - ★★★★★

I fucking LOVE this film. It’s my ultimate comfort film.

BUT.

There’s a bit, a plot point, where Mary McDonnell was pretending to be hooked up with Stephen Tobolowsky on a computer date to get his office access card and his voice print and stuff and she gets stung. Except they make it look like she’s not stung. And then, being a pro grifter, she goes “This is the last computer date I go on” and Ben Kingsley mafia-hacker goes “A computer would never match her with him, I SMELL A RAT”.

BRUH IT’S 2018 AND NETFLIX STILL KEEPS RECOMMENDING I WATCH THE BIG BANG THEORY I THINK YOUR SHITTY 1993 COBOL DATING PROGRAM IS PROBABLY NOT AS FUCKIN SOPHISTICATED AS YOU THINK IT IS.

Gotowi na wszystko. Exterminator 2018 - ★★½

My first legit Polish-language film I’m watching for language homework rather than because of ‘merit’ or whatever and it’s about a middle-aged man-child who spends too much on old videogames and gets berated by his partner. Oops!

The film started to lose me in the middle when they suddenly turned the “plot” dial up a thousand notches. But it really lost me when a guy tried to convince his girlfriend to leave the mental hospital she was checked into. “But I need my meds! If I don’t have them, I don’t know what will happen!” “It’s okay because we’ll be together”.

Nope.

Paper Towns

I knew very little about Poland before moving here. Almost nothing about Warsaw. “I hear they have good pacts", I used to dad-joke1.

Since then, we’ve been trying to get better. We recently went to the National Museum in Warsaw, where they have a new “Gallery of Polish Design” exhibit which is aimed squarely at dipshits like me who have a weird thing for mid-century design and electronics housed in discolouring plastic. Here’s a video of what you can expect in the exhibit:

Although not exactly vintage, they also had a vintage-inspired “paper town” toy that reminded me so much of Nintendo’s Labo. It’s basically a box filled with sheets of cardboard that you punch out and bend and fold into various parts of a ‘town’.

As we were leaving, I noticed they were selling a couple of these in the gift shop. So, of course, I bought them.

P6260060

P6260061

Here’s the finished product from a different set that we made earlier, so you can see what they look like finally constructed:

P6260057

My daughter (who’s two and a half), was too young to ‘get’ the Labo2 but she absolutely loves these. She loved punching out the little buildings and vehicles and handing them to me to construct. The first night, she took the restaurant (the two-tiered building in the back-left of that bottom picture) to bed with her. My wife even said that if she was in need of a present for a similarly-aged toddler, she would get them one of these packs. They’re cheap, extremely cute, very tactile and recyclable.

If you can’t make it to the National Museum in Warsaw to buy them, you can also order them from ringoringo.pl.


  1. One of the good things about being a dad is that you can dad-joke unironically. ↩︎

  2. Too much waiting around for not enough payoff at the end for her ↩︎

Housekeeping

You may have noticed some changes on this blog (or maybe you didn’t - there’s too much going on in the world for you to be concerned with my bullshit website).

The short version is that I’d been thinking a lot about what I wanted this blog to be. It’s probably the primary face of my internet presence, and I wasn’t really pleased with how it was representing me. Part of the problem, I realised, is that I was using a static website generator to power the website.

Don’t get me wrong, static site generators are wonderful pieces of software. You didn’t have to worry about backups or databases or where your content lives or extracting it from some SQL file later on. But they also mean that writing a blog post is a non-trivial task. To write a post, I had to create a file on my hard drive, open that in my editor, write the blog post, generate the site, preview it locally, then upload it to this server. I was using a fucking Makefile to streamline this process. Makefiles tickle my nerdy side deeply, but the process was so cumbersome it meant that I’d only write a blog post about something that really mattered, instead of just firing off a few posts every day. And I’m many things, but I’m not a ‘once in a while, here are my thoughts on a capital-I Important capital-T Topic’ kind of guy. I don’t work well like that and I didn’t feel like it best represented me.

(An anecdotal aside: during my migration back to Wordpress, I came across a prominent Wordpress developer who had actually left the project, citing fundamental problems with PHP as a language and the Wordpress codebase in general. He also moved to a static site generator and, just like me, his output fell off a cliff after the move. You could argue that this is probably a reflection on the general state of blogging in 2018, but like I said, this is just an anecdotal aside.)

So that was the short version of what’s been happening behind the scenes. Now let’s see what happens next.

Yes

Apologies for the interruption to my (ir)regularly scheduled posts about random bullshit no-one actually cares about, but I thought this was worth bringing up. Even though I have no idea how many people are actually reading this, this is my platform for my thoughts and this is something I feel strongly about. So here we go.


The 8th amendment of the Irish constitution recognises the equal right to life of the mother and an unborn child. This has always been a controversial amendment and people have argued that such wording has no place in the constitution. So, tomorrow, May 25th, Ireland is holding a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.

I want to encourage any Irish people reading this website to vote yes to repeal the 8th amendment on May 25th.

We all have our reasons for voting yes or no. We all have our stories. Let me tell you a little bit of my story.

We spent a long time trying to conceive. It took forever. Long enough that we experienced that pain when our friends got pregnant. Why could they get pregnant so easily, without appearing to even try? Each month, we’d realise we once again weren’t successful and we’d be desolate, completely unable to comfort each other. If you haven’t gone through this, you don’t know the pain involved. When I look back on it, I remember it as being one of the hardest points in my life.

But eventually we did it. My wife got pregnant.

The pregnancy was fun, but the labour wasn’t. My daughter was posterior, which basically means that instead of being face-down, the baby was face-up, so the baby’s head and spine was pushing against my wife’s spine so that every push was intensely painful. Also, with every push, the baby’s heart rate would drop precipitously. Eventually, it was decided to bring my wife in for an emergency c-section, where they discovered the chord was wrapped around the baby’s neck (just before I heard my daughter cry for the first time, I heard a surgeon say “look at this messer!")1.

Obviously, this whole experience was extremely traumatic, both emotionally and physically. And that was just the beginning. Then there’s the issue of being a brand new mother, trying to breastfeed having had major surgery on your abdominal core. I can’t begin to explain the pride and admiration I have for my wife and how she handled the whole thing.

And this is when I realised that this only made me more pro-choice. Having seen first-hand the reality of pregnancy and labour and the reality of raising a child and the lasting (permanent?) scars, both literal and metaphorical, involved in the whole process, I firmly believe there is no way a woman should be forced to go through all this if they couldn’t manage it. And this is to say nothing of extreme cases involving, say, assault or a fatal foetal abnormality. Forcing a woman to go through all that would be barbaric.


Jump forward a couple of years and we’ve been extremely lucky and managed to conceive our second child without really trying very hard at all.

But halfway through the pregnancy, we found out there were complications. Well, no, wait, that’s not quite accurate. There were possible complications. And not insignificant ones, possibly. Which meant a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about how our child would be affected by all this. And there were a lot of tests. So many tests. During one particular test just after Christmas, a doctor (an Irish doctor) asked us “have you considered termination?”

We hadn’t, and we wouldn’t, because we knew the risks, and we knew how strong we were and we knew that we could manage it, no matter how bad it turned out to be2 and I wouldn’t judge anyone for making a different choice in the same circumstances.

And that’s kind of the point of all this: the choice already exists. When the doctor asked us if we’d considered termination, he meant “have you considered (traveling to England for) termination?” The 8th amendment doesn’t stop Irish women from having abortions, it just stops them from having abortions in Ireland3, where they can be surrounded by their loved ones when they really need it.

It’s a horrible, uncaring section of our constitution and should be taken out. And that’s what this referendum is about. Recognising that something is wrong with the current situation and trying to do something about it.

Please, vote yes.


  1. My daughter came out perfectly fine. As I write this, she’s a strong and sturdy two and a half years old. And she’s bilingual, did I mention that? She speaks English and Polish. Smartest kid I know. ↩︎

  2. It’s fine, by the way. My ten-week old son is healthy and thriving although he will need to be continuously monitored until he’s about a year old. ↩︎

  3. The 14th amendment added some extra provisions to the language introduced by the 8th amendment, saying “This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state”. ↩︎