Ouch

Seems I’m not the only person who has been doing a #kenringwatch – the Clare People newspaper has been keeping an eye on the Kiwi cointosser too.  No link to the story (not been able to find the article online) but it merits three minutes of Neil Delamere’s time on the Anton Savage Show, here (starting at 55:30). Ouch.

The Marriage Equality Referendum

On Friday 22nd May, we’re being asked to vote on a referendum that, if passed, will insert this clause into the Constitution of Ireland:

Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

So, same-sex marriage, then.

This will “redefine marriage”, say the opponents. No, it won’t, say the proponents.

For what it’s worth, I think it will. And I’m ok with that.

What, exactly, is wrong with redefining marriage? We’ve done it, regularly, constantly, throughout history, especially over the last couple of centuries.

The last time we redefined marriage in Ireland was in 1995. We redefined marriage as being a permanent union between husband and wife, up until the point one or both of them didn’t want it to be permanent anymore. A margin of 9,000 people in a referendum decided that a woman didn’t have to stay married to an abusive husband, a man didn’t have to stay married to a wife who’d left him, or – get this – a couple who’d fallen out of love could separate and try to find happiness elsewhere. Novel, huh?

The time before that, in 1990, we redefined marriage to say a husband was not allowed to rape his wife. Ireland, so progressive.

The time before that was to change the age at which children could get married. To sixteen. (Note that it was raised to sixteen – it had been 14 for a boy and 12 for a girl. (This Bill to do this was passed in 1972 but didn’t come into effect until 1975, apparently.)

Then there’s the whole arranged marriage thing (Peig, anyone?), and consent, and women-being-used-as-property, and so on, going back through history.

The point is – we redefine marriage all the time. All of the redefinitions we’ve had recently? Improvements, in my opinion.

The “this redefines marriage!” argument is but one of the many shoals of red herrings that have been bandied about over the last couple of months. There may be valid reasons for voting No (although I’ve not heard one cogent argument yet), but this isn’t one of them. And there are many wonderful, genuine, heartfelt, egalitarian, humanitarian – just human – reasons for voting Yes.

I’ll be voting Yes on Friday. Please join me.

(I’ll hopefully be writing about this again between now and Friday (though I’ll be out canvassing most nights, so no promises – but in the meantime, please have a read of the wonderful Izzy Kamikaze’s blog!)

#MarRef #YesEquality #IWill

#kenringwatch results for November, December and 2014!

Happy New Year!  With the old year now over, we can look back at Ken Ring’s final predictions for the winter, his “overall” predictions for the year, and how he did in total.

So the last few predictions – sorry, he’s calling them “suggestions of potential” now – for #kenringwatch 2014, were as follows:

Nov
25. Mild temperatures up to November (1)
26. 19th November, subzeros back (1)

Dec
27. 4th to 9th, first snow of winter (1)
28. No white Christmas, but subzero on the 24th, 25th (1)

How did Mr Ring do?

25. Yes, absolutely, this autumn and winter have been mild.  In fact, Met Éireann tells us “Many stations recorded their highest maximum temperatures for winter in 6 to 15 years. Lowest minimum temperatures were the highest for winter on record at many
stations, Shannon Airport reported its highest minimum for winter in 68 years” (2) 
I might put that down to climate change – Ken would disagree, as would, according to him, most Irish farmers, who are immortal, or something, and know all of this is just cycles

Regardless of the reasoning, though, that’s definitely a point for Ken.

26. Ah, I love these black or white predictions. The Met Éireann report for November tells us that November was “Typical for the time of year, milder at the start of the month.”  That report tells us that the 19th was a perfectly average day for the month – minimum temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Centigrade, max between 10 and 15.  Certainly not subzero.

November: One for two.

27. The monthly report for December hasn’t been published yet on Met Éireann, which means checking various weather stations for particular dates.  Let’s pick Cork, Dublin, and Shannon Airports, and Malin Head. Checking them each day from the 4th to the 9th, we find:

Cork: Too warm for snow and/or little to no precipitation;
Dublin: Same;
Shannon: Same;
Malin Head: Yes, same.

No snow. No points.

We then got a cold snap and severe winter storm, which Ken didn’t mention. That brought snow – but it didn’t arrive until the 11th, didn’t last long, and only hit a few counties.

28. Ken was correct about no white Christmas, but the lowest temperature recorded over both days at the aforementioned weather stations was 0.8 degrees Centigrade.  Predicting no white Christmas is a banker (it very rarely is), but them’s the breaks.  Half a point.

December: 0.5 for two.

Ken also made two “general” predictions that we couldn’t measure until the year was over:

1. The coming winter (2013/14) won’t be severe (3)
2. No hotter than 25 or 26 degrees at any point in the year (1)

1. Looking back to the Winter 2013/2014 report for this one. The report headline tells us: “Stormy at times; wettest winter on record”.  Under the various headings, it goes into more detail: “Over 50% of stations across the country reported it was the wettest winter on record. Valentia Observatory reported its wettest winter since records began in 1866 (148 years) with 848.0mm and 183% of LTA, while Malin Head reported 530.7mm, 164% of LTA its wettest winter since records began in 1885 (129 years). Shannon Airport had its wettest winter on record (68 years) while Mullingar reported its wettest winter on record (63 years).”  Similarly, for wind speed, we’re told: “Winds were above average for winter with storm force winds on occasions. Dublin Airport’s winter mean windspeed value of 14.4 knots (26 km/h) was its highest since 1943 (71 years), Shannon Airport reported its highest winter mean windspeed in 31 years” and “The highest gust of the season was 86 knots (159 km/h) at Shannon Airport on the 12th February, its highest for winter on record (68 years).” , and “A new record maximum wave of 25 metres was reported at the Kinsale Energy Gas Platform on February 12th.” 

These records were due to the series of severe storms that arrived in January and February, and about which Ken said nothing.  But a picture paints a thousand words:

Lahinch Promenade during January storm

Lahinch promenade during one of January’s storms. Photo by George Karbus, http://www.emerald-vision.com/

Zero points.

2. Most annual highest maxima were recorded during July. The year’s highest temperature
was 31.0°C recorded at Dooks, Co Kerry on Saturday, July 19th, the stations second
highest maximum since it opened in 1997.  Five degrees higher than predicted – so, zero points.

“Overall” category: Zero for two.

Total for the year: Seven for twenty-eight. 25% accuracy, exactly.

Ken Ring claims 80% to 85% accuracy, but it turns out that when you record his predictions, and check back, then being generous, he’s right one time in four, on average.  Half as accurate as a coin-toss.

Conclusions:

1) Moon and tides are of no use whatsoever in predicting the weather.

2) Spending €50 plus postage and packing for an almanac that’s right (presumably) one time in four would not appear to be a good investment.

“It’s just a bit of harmless fun” is sometimes repeated by reputable journalists as a reason for allowing Ken Ring to use their publication or programme to publicise his almanac.  Well, he can’t be done under the Trade Descriptions Act (or else Old Moore’s Almanac would be out of business) – but he is selling his pseudoscience “predictions” at €50 a shot and claims to be selling 1,000 a year.  Which would be great if it was accurate, but not when the accuracy is only half as good as a coin-toss.  In my opinion, file under crank, snake-oil, or charlatan.  If you must invite him on to your show to fill a slow news day, then also invite on a pseudoscience skeptic, or a spokesman from Met Éireann. I suggest Evelyn Cusack.

Source: RTE Player screengrab via thejournal.ie

Source: RTE Player screengrab via thejournal.ie

Sources:

(1) http://www.todayfm.com/player/podcasts/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/8455/0/ken_rings_2014_weather_predictions

(2) http://www.met.ie/climate/MonthlyWeather/clim-2014-win.pdf 

(3) http://www.radiokerry.ie/news/new-zealand-weather-forecaster-predicts-a-typical-irish-winter/

Music

Image

I was envouchered for Christmas, and so burdened, I went to “the sales” on my way home. An assistant in a branch of HMV, which used to be a record shop, took my purchases (three DVDs). As she had with the previous three customers, she asked if it was ok if she owed me a cent, as she was out. She works for the multinational, I figured, and she was already ahead by a cent. So I declined.

Still no music, so I went to Easons, which used to be a bookshop, and bought a t-shirt, and two CDs. Lou Reed’s Transformer, was one, on the advice of Ian Dempsey. He’d played the album in full on the radio recently, and it was sublime.

Lou Reed - Transformer

Lou Reed – Transformer

A colleague, years ago, had given me a ripped copy of classic Ennio Morricone tracks, which I lost some time later, and miss. So I also bought a two-CD Morricone compilation.

Remember, home taping is killing music. Or something.

Y’know, it’s funny. Seven versions of Windows later (I’m not on 8, or 8.1, and won’t be), they’ve still not figured out how to make an intelligent CD drawer.  Put in a new CD and it still throws up that little box asking what you want to do, even if your music program is ready and waiting for disc 2 of 2.

#kenringwatch results for December, and the year as a whole, soon…

#kenringwatch results for September

The number of views on here has shot up recently. Wondering why, I googled, and yep, Ken Ring has released his “almanac” for next year (at a mere €51 incl. P&P) and the usual suspects published his press releases, with few (or no) questions asked. Which led to more people googling for him, and the happy side effect that many people are finding out the truth about his accuracy, by landing here. Which is good.

Interesting question, though – if the moon is the be all and end all when it comes to weather prediction (as claimed by Ring), then why not just release your prediction algorithm into the public domain? After all – we know exactly where the moon is going to be, pretty much forever. So, in the 21st century, why release a paper almanac, once a year, when you could just release an app?

Wait… it wouldn’t be all about parting credulous people from their money, would it…?

Anyway – #kenringwatch results for September! Ken’s predictions were:

Sep
22. 8th to 30th, no rain anywhere
23. 22 to 23 degrees, more in the 3rd week
24. Not much sunshine except last week

How did he do? Well, using Met Éireann’s report for the month, we find:

22. “Monthly rainfall totals were below average everywhere… Low rainfall totals in parts of the South, Southwest and West were due to a period of absolute drought (a period of 15 or more consecutive days with less than 0.2 mm) between the 1st and 21st, with most of these stations reporting their driest September at least 28 years.”  So, although it did indeed rain between the 8th and 20th, I think it’d be churlish to not give Ken a mark for this one.

23. A very specific prediction here – a rarity for Ken.  Met Éireann: “The month’s highest temperature was 23.9°C at Shannon Airport (on the 4th), its highest since 2004 (10 years)… Highest mean monthly temperature: 15.7°C at Valentia Observatory (its warmest September since 1991).”  The handy chart on their monthly report shows that although September was bright and dry, unfortunately, it wasn’t very warm. And it got distinctly cooler in the third week, when Ken thought it’d be getting even warmer. Zero marks.

24. “Sunshine totals were all near or above average with the percentage of average values ranging from 95% at Casement Aerodrome to 144% at Valentia Observatory. Valentia Observatory was the sunniest place, recording over 166 hours of sunshine and its sunniest September since 1972 (42 years). The month’s sunniest day was the 10th at Belmullet with 12.3 hours, it sunniest September day since 1969 (45 years). Number of dull days (days with a high amount of cloud cover recording less than 0.5 hours of sunshine) was up to eight at Casement Aerodrome and Knock Airport.”  So, yeah, bright and sunny.  Zero marks.

September: One for three.

Total: 5.5 out of 21.  26% accuracy – the average continues to rise!

Qualified?

The woman in the video has the opposite “problem” to me.  Applying for a System Administrator’s job, she states “As my resumé indicates, I have a Masters degree and a lot of education in non-technical topics.”

The satirical video is, ironically, exactly what much of the Irish public service is doing when it recruits.  If you don’t have a degree, you don’t get in the door for an interview.  It doesn’t matter what the degree is actually in – you just need to have gone to college for three or four years and passed an exam.  It doesn’t matter that you’re already doing exactly what the job requires.  That you have been for years.  That you do it consistently well.

No “qualification”, no interview.  A degree in Agricultural Science, or French Literature, or – as one’s qualification doesn’t have to be Irish – a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree in Comic Art – gets you in the door of, for example, the Office of Government Procurement, who were recently recruiting specialist ICT buyers.

If you’ve actually been working in the ICT sphere, administering hardware, software, systems and policies, for over a decade – and been buying the stuff you use, too, for all of that time! – but have no degree?  Nah, not interested, no interview.  Grr.

#kenringwatch results for June, July and August!

#kenringwatch is like waiting on a bus – nothing for ages, then three come along at once. Results for June, July and August are finally here – apologies for the delay.

In related news, Jamie points out in the comments on the May results post that Ken Ring is actually less accurate than a coin toss.  His work is available on the Silly Beliefs website – where an article on Ring’s pseudoscience has resulted in over 550 comments being posted!

Those comments are an interesting read… disappearing posts after the fact, other major misses, and failures to predict major events.  But then that’s only to be expected.

Ring has also popped up again recently in the comments to my original 2014 #kenringwatch post, where he says:

“I have also had a fair degree of success for this year with my Ireland almanac. I said no records would be broken this year and no extreme events would be likely.”

 

He forgot Christine and her sisters… the most severe storms to hit Ireland in years. Or that his accuracy for 2014’s Irish weather predictions is currently languishing at 20%.

Anyway – June, July, August. The predictions were:

Jun
19. Last week of June the hottest.

Jul
20. Last week of July the hottest.

Aug
22. Lot of wet days interspersed with dry days.

So, two easily testable predictions, and one completely vague one.

June: “The majority of highest maxima were recorded between the 16th and 18th during the mid-month period of high pressure, with the highest maximum of 27.1°C recorded at Newport, Co. Mayo on the 17th.” Zero marks.

July: “Nearly all highest maxima were recorded between the 23rd and 25th, with the month’s highest temperature recorded at Carlow (Oak Park) on the 25th with 27.6°C.” Ooh, close – the 25th is seven days from the end of the month, so one of the hottest days was technically within the last week. Let’s be generous and give half a mark.

August: How do you interpret “Lots of wet days interspersed with dry days”? The Met Éireann monthly report has a one-line summary: “Dry in parts but extremely wet in the East; cool everywhere ”  Other stations in the Dublin area and at Mullingar reported their wettest August days in 28 to 64 years, with rainfall analysis of their 24-hour totals reporting the events to have rainfall return periods of between five and 20 years. Dublin Airport, in the east had 20 rain days, 11 with no rain. Claremorris, in the west, had 26 rain days, only 5 with no rain.  So, certainly, “lots of wet days” is correct. I think Ken gets this one.  But it would have been nice if he’d said “Wettest August in years!”

June, July, August: One and a half for three.

Total: Four and a half out of eighteen.

We’re up to 25% accuracy!