Tag Archives: equal marriage

Avaragado’s 2013 predictions – results

Here we are again. New Year’s Eve, fireworks, and celebrations filmed several weeks ago presented as if live TV. And most importantly, the results of my fabulous 2013 predictions – as marked by Chris Walsh, as usual. Commentary etc in square brackets.

News

  1. ✗ The Assad regime in Syria will fall. [Bashar al-Assad still President of Syria]
  2. ✓ There will be no changes in US federal gun-control laws. [Obama has called for tighter gun control, but no actual laws yet]
  3. ✓ The Duchess of Cambridge will give birth to a human boy. [21-Jul: Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to the future king]
  4. ✗ At least one Tory MP will defect to UKIP. [Plenty of councillors defected, and one UKIP MEP defected to the Conservatives, but this specific prediction proved false]
  5. ✗ The equal marriage bill for England and Wales will pass in the Commons but not the Lords. [15-Jul: Equal marriage bill for England and Wales has passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords]
  6. ✓ Dangerous idiot Michael Gove will be involved in a scandal over the exam board selection process for the new EBacc exams. [07-Feb: Education Secretary to announce dramatic climbdown over plans to scrap GCSEs]

[Score: 3/6]

Sport

  1. ✓ Manchester United will win the FA Premier League. [22-Apr: Manchester United won their 13th Premier League title by defeating Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford]
  2. ✗ Chelsea FC will change manager at least twice. [Only one change of manager in 2013: Benitez -> Mourinho]
  3. ✓ At least one British person will win a Wimbledon title. [08-Jul: Andy Murray wins Wimbledon 2013 men’s singles final with straight sets victory over Novak Djokovic]
  4. ✓ Mo Farah will win at least one gold medal at the World Athletics Championships. [10-Aug: Won the 10,000m. Also 16-Aug: Won 5,000m]
  5. ✗ Rory McIlroy will win at least two majors in golf. [Wikipedia: “McIlroy began 2013 with high aspirations, but mostly did not fare well in early tournaments… 25th place at the 2013 Masters Tournament… won the 2013 Emirates Australian Open]
  6. ✗ At least one footballer playing in the UK will come out as gay or bisexual. [Robbie Rogers, but he plays in the USA]

[Score: 3/6]

Science and technology

  1. ✓ Microsoft will buy Nokia. [03-Sep: Microsoft to buy Nokia’s mobile phone unit]
  2. ✗ Scientists will announce the synthesis of one or more atoms of element 119 or higher. [Ununseptium remains the most recently synthesised transuranic element, in 2010. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned]
  3. ✓ NASA will declare that Voyager 1 has left the solar system and entered interstellar space. [12-Sep: Voyager 1 departs to interstellar space]
  4. ✗ Scientists will announce the discovery of an ‘Earth twin’ – an Earth-sized exoplanet within the habitable zone of its star. [Kepler 78b is the same size as Earth, and has same proportions of iron and rock, but is so close to the sun that its year lasts 8.5 hours, rendering it a little too toasty to be habitable]
  5. ✓ The year will be one of the ten warmest years in the global record, and warmer than 2012, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. [13-Nov: “The year 2013 is currently on course to be among the top ten warmest years since modern records began. January-September 2013 was warmer than the same period in both 2011 and 2012.” We’re catching up with Kepler 78b!]
  6. ✓ Archaeologists will confirm that the bones dug up in a Leicester car park are those of Richard III. [04-Feb: DNA confirms bones are king’s]

[Score: 4/6]

Entertainment

  1. ✗ Lincoln will receive the Oscar for Best Picture. [Feb-24: Argo]
  2. ✓ Daniel Day-Lewis will receive the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Lincoln.
  3. ✓ Jennifer Lawrence will receive the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook.
  4. ✓ The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who will involve appearances (in newly filmed scenes) from at least one former Doctor. [23-Nov: Tennant and Baker T, plus future Doctor!]
  5. ✗ The BBC will cancel The Sky at Night (probably while pretending not to). [Still running – Maggie Aderin-Pocock announced in December 2013 as a new presenter]
  6. ✓ The UK entry will finish in the third quarter of the rankings (ie, top half of the bottom half) in the Eurovision Song Contest. [1pt. 18-May: 19th out of 26 puts us 73% of the way down the leader board]

[Score: 4/6]

Celebrity Deathwatch

[We decided to award half a point per death to make the scores more compatible with predictions from previous years, since I included double the usual number of names in this section. We also abandoned the idea to score based on ages.]

  1. ✗ Denis Healey (95)
  2. ✓ Nelson Mandela (94) [Died 5-Dec aged 95]
  3. ✗ Mickey Rooney (92)
  4. ✗ Nancy Reagan (91)
  5. ✗ Richard Attenborough (89)
  6. ✗ Robert Mugabe (88)
  7. ✗ George H. W. Bush (88)
  8. ✓ Richard Briers (78) [Died 17-Feb aged 79]
  9. ✗ Barry Humphries (78)
  10. ✗ Shirley MacLaine (78)
  11. ✗ Bill Murray (62)
  12. ✗ Piers Morgan (47)

[Score: 1/6]

[Total score: 15/30]

A staggering score of 50%! This makes 2013 officially my most successful year ever for predictions. And if the trend of alternating better-worse but generally rising is anything to go by, my predictions for 2014 are on course for 40%. Though I can reveal that’s not one of my official 2014 predictions, otherwise we’re adrift in a glittering sea of meta.

Anyway, return soon for the 2014 predictions in all their 40%-likely glory.

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Aggressive homosexuals vs aggressive heterosexuals

This morning I created an image and posted it to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Here’s the tweet:

For context: the phrase “aggressive homosexuals” comes from a speech yesterday in the House of Commons by Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Conservative, Aldershot) during the Report stage debate of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Sir Gerald is the current chairman of Conservative Way Forward and was Minister for International Security Strategy in the coalition government until September 2012 (according to his page on Wikipedia). Here’s where the phrase appeared in the speech:

“There are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this [same-sex marriage] is as but a stepping stone to something even further.” (Hansard — no idea how persistent that link will be though.)

Sir Gerald doesn’t elaborate on exactly who the aggressive homosexual community are, or where he thinks the big gay stepping stone leads. As Hansard shows, a number of MPs tried to intervene at that point — perhaps to press him on this issue — but he declined to give way, as is his right.

It is difficult not to conclude that Sir Gerald sees pinks under the beds. He’s worked himself up into a froth about The Gays and believes that we, or at least a significant and influential slice thereof, subscribe to some kind of Gay Agenda to… I don’t know. Insinuate our way into marriage, and then what: use it to destroy the established church? I think the church is doing a perfectly good job of that itself over both gay people and women. Perhaps, looking at the context of the speech, he thinks our goal is to turn children to homosexuality by ensuring its mention in classrooms during discussions about marriage. Just as, presumably, teaching them about different religions converts them to all of those religions, or teaching them about contour lines turns them into a hill.

Back to the image.

The response has been fascinating. A steady stream of retweets throughout the day — perhaps not surprising, as it makes a strong statement on a topical, politically charged subject — and a few responses. Here are the negative replies so far:

“You do realise that despite your intentions, you’re labelling people with stereotypes.”

“That is way more offensive and way less clever than you think.”

“No. Aggressive homophobes.”

“What’s the intended goal of this? This seems to just further divide people (and straw-man the ‘other side’).”

“This is heterophobia.”

“Yeah a bit discriminatory. Ronnie Kray was a violent homosexual as was Richard the Lionheart. And let us not forget Dennis Nilsen. Violent people are of both persuasions.  Nothing to do with their sexuality.”

“Please be careful with that big stereotyping brush of yours eh?”

I haven’t replied to anyone, at least not yet. I probably won’t — it’s impossible to have meaningful debates in 140 characters. Perhaps some of them were unaware of Sir Gerald’s speech. Of course I’m stereotyping: so was Sir Gerald. Of course sexuality doesn’t determine whether you’re violent or not (but if you have to go back eight centuries for a counterexample — when sexuality was viewed very differently to today, incidentally — then you’re already on shaky ground).

The image is deliberately exaggerated, deliberately stereotypical. But it’s also showing an incontrovertible truth. You don’t, as a rule, see gay people demonstrating against straight people — Pride marches are positive in tone, not negative — but there are demonstrations by straight people against gay people, trying to deny us the rights they enjoy. There was a demonstration against equal marriage outside Parliament during the debate yesterday. And people like those shown in the image are beaten for no other reason than their sexuality. One of the men pictured was attacked last weekend with his boyfriend. Even 45 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales it is still not safe for two men, breaking no law, to show affection wherever they wish in the way that a man and a woman can.

This is why the phrase aggressive homosexual community is so offensive. Gay people have suffered at the hands of the aggressive heterosexual community, indeed often through state-sponsored aggression, for several hundred years. We suffer still: religious leaders preach hate, political leaders deny us equality, and in some countries being open about our sexuality means a death sentence. And this is why I make no apology for the image, stereotypes and all.

But Sir Gerald Howarth is right on one point: we in the aggressive homosexual community do want equal marriage to be a stepping stone to something. We want it to be a stepping stone to the end of discrimination. To universal acceptance. To normality.

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Design and message

Last night, while wired on a trace of caffeine, I saw an infographic created and shared on Facebook by the Out4Marriage organisation. Views on gay marriage range from Of course, this is the twenty-first century to I’m the MP for Wellingborough, but leaving that issue aside, the graphic disturbed me somewhat. In fact, as a fully paid-up member of the Tufte club, I gurgled something lacking in both grammar and grace.

Here’s the graphic:

out4marriage-pie-original

I shan’t BEGIN RANT here. Suffice it to say that all those pixels have been wasted on twelve numbers, two of which are zero. And you can’t read the labels. And the colours are inconsistent between pie charts. And they’re pie charts. And they’re 3D pie charts. And pie charts with zero-sized slices don’t make any sense. And there’s a typo “Liberal Democrate”. Here’s where I would END RANT, were I ranting, which of course I’m not.

I posted a short comment against the graphic. Here’s a screenshot with the subsequent two responses:

Screenshot_06_02_2013_10_02

What particularly intrigues about Out4Marriage’s response is how it reminds me of the shields up ultra-defensive reply you sometimes receive from developers — especially of open source software — when you have the impertinence to report a bug in their code. The source is there — if you don’t like it, fix it yourself. And it made me wonder whether all voluntary organisations are inherently like that to some extent: deflecting any criticism by inviting you inside the tent to piss out.

Of course, whoever wrote that message also had a point. The people working on the campaign had had a long and tiring day and could be excused a typo, and tedious grammar pedants on the internet are the most tedious tedious grammar pedants since the Microsoft Word paperclip first interrupted us to insist we were writing a letter.

The subsequent comment, though, raised a caffeinated eyebrow. “If someone took the time to make it, we can take the time to read it,” this commenter says. I fundamentally disagree with that statement. It lets the creator of the graphic entirely off the hook. It says, effectively, design doesn’t matter to understanding. It says, effectively, user interface complexity doesn’t matter.

The principle of commensurate effort applies, naturally: you’ll put in the effort if the reward is good enough. You’ll master the incoherent hodgepodge of levers and sticks and buttons and dials and spinny things in a car’s user interface because you receive a huge benefit from doing so.

But an infographic like this has no great reward for deep study. It must communicate its messages simply and coherently and compellingly. Don’t Make Me Think!

For this graphic in particular you want to immediately convey the information that more Tory MPs voted against same-sex marriage than for it; that the other main parties are hugely in favour; and that a significant fraction of MPs failed to make a choice either way, and either abstained (technically, voting both for and against) or didn’t vote at all.

Three 3D pie charts with inconsistent colouring (with red/blue/green colours matching traditional party affiliations but not used as such) and labels too small for most to read even at full size absolutely do not convey that information. The message is lost in chartjunk.

And also: who is this chart for? If I were part of Out4Marriage I’d want a chart that supporters could share on their timelines for non-supporters to see and easily grasp. It’s the non-supporters — the ones who simply will not stop and squint and interpret a complex chart from an organisation they disagree with — you need to design for.

“Feel free to volunteer,” said Out4Marriage in its reply to my comment. So I did. Here’s what I created, minus the headlines and logos that you’d need to add:

ssm-votes

Since only one party included abstainers — the Tories — I combined them with the absentees, and so twelve numbers is reduced to nine. Three stacked bar charts with consistent colours and large labels are easy to see and understand even when shrunk into a Facebook timeline. The ‘for’ colour is taken from the Out4Marriage brand. The ‘against’ colour is contrasting, pretty much, and deliberately sickly. The ‘absent/abstain’ colour is less of a highlight but still prominent. None of the colours are associated with political parties.

Much better, I think.

(While I was creating that chart, Out4Marriage posted a newer chart that used consistent colours and included a clear legend. It still had three 3D pie charts.)

I posted another comment to the original chart, pointing to my timeline for my version and apologising if anyone was offended by my earlier comment. I hope they see it, and take notice.

Everything an organisation publishes under its name sends a message. The opponents of Out4Marriage are well-funded, sending out millions of leaflets designed and worded to convince readers to lobby their MP to vote against equal marriage. You can bet they are now redoubling their efforts, selecting data that favours their cause, even after a 400-175 vote defeat at second reading, and presenting it as if they’re on course to defeat the bill.

Design sends a message. Everyone must know what your message is. Especially you.

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Avaragado’s 2013 predictions

2012! Who could forget the glorious summer? The coronation of Queen (formerly Sir Alan) Amidala? Britain’s abject failure in the 1500m tug-of-raw at the organic Spacelympics? The universal acclaim for the politics of austerity?

As the dregs of the year drip from the meths bottle of tomorrow into the tramp’s mouth of history and dribble through the foetid beard of ornithology onto the mangy dog’s head of clinical studies at Guy’s Hospital, it is time to stare resolutely past the tramp’s outstretched palm of invisibility to what 2013 will bring forth, or perhaps fifth. Here’s what I think:

News

  1. The Assad regime in Syria will fall.
  2. There will be no changes in US federal gun-control laws.
  3. The Duchess of Cambridge will give birth to a human boy.
  4. At least one Tory MP will defect to UKIP.
  5. The equal marriage bill for England and Wales will pass in the Commons but not the Lords.
  6. Dangerous idiot Michael Gove will be involved in a scandal over the exam board selection process for the new EBacc exams.

Sport

  1. Manchester United will win the FA Premier League.
  2. Chelsea FC will change manager at least twice.
  3. At least one British person will win a Wimbledon title.
  4. Mo Farah will win at least one gold medal at the World Athletics Championships.
  5. Rory McIlroy will win at least two majors in golf.
  6. At least one footballer playing in the UK will come out as gay or bisexual.

Science and technology

  1. Microsoft will buy Nokia.
  2. Scientists will announce the synthesis of one or more atoms of element 119 or higher.
  3. NASA will declare that Voyager 1 has left the solar system and entered interstellar space.
  4. Scientists will announce the discovery of an ‘Earth twin’ – an Earth-sized exoplanet within the habitable zone of its star.
  5. The year will be one of the ten warmest years in the global record, and warmer than 2012, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
  6. Archaeologists will confirm that the bones dug up in a Leicester car park are those of Richard III.

Entertainment

  1. Lincoln will receive the Oscar for Best Picture.
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis will receive the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Lincoln.
  3. Jennifer Lawrence will receive the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook.
  4. The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who will involve appearances (in newly filmed scenes) from at least one former Doctor.
  5. The BBC will cancel The Sky at Night (probably while pretending not to).
  6. The UK entry will finish in the third quarter of the rankings (ie, top half of the bottom half) in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Celebrity Deathwatch

In previous years I’ve named six people. This year I thought I’d round it up to nine, but then discovered three of my names overlapped with Andrew’s (caution: Facebook). Consequently I added three more, to make twelve.

Also, I’m adopting Andrew’s scoring system: each valid death (occurring at any time in the year) scores that person’s age at death subtracted from 100. For example, an 85-year-old’s death would score 15 points, and a 101-year-old’s would score -1 point (thus making it a daft choice). For reference, I’ve included the age of each of my selected celebrities, as at January 1st 2013.

  1. Denis Healey (95)
  2. Nelson Mandela (94)
  3. Mickey Rooney (92)
  4. Nancy Reagan (91)
  5. Richard Attenborough (89)
  6. Robert Mugabe (88)
  7. George H. W. Bush (88)
  8. Richard Briers (78)
  9. Barry Humphries (78)
  10. Shirley MacLaine (78)
  11. Bill Murray (62)
  12. Piers Morgan (47)

Please join me next New Year’s Eve for the official adjudication and other assorted lols.

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