April 20th, 2011

me: art

National Poetry Month No. 2: Philip Larkin - Next, Please

Philip Larkin - Next, Please (from The Less Deceived)

Always too eager for the future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say.

Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear,
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!

Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks
Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked
Each rope distinct,

Flagged, and the figurehead with golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors, it's
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last

We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.
But we are wrong:

Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.


I love this poem because it reminds me to value my present situation, which is one of contentment, privilege and a good deal of flexibility and freedom. It reminds me that I'm in this situation largely through the making of conscious choices, and that I must keep making those choices to remain there. It reminds me of the responsibility for my actions and achievements, as well as my miseries and mistakes, that I take upon myself by choosing to be an atheist. It fills me with fierce joy and galvanizes me to complete the tasks I set for myself. My black ship approaches. I hope she's still a long way off, but it's impossible to judge the distance from this perspective. I want to be ready for her with maximal satisfaction and minimal regret, whenever she arrives.
lolcat: science

Outreach event: Cafe Sci at Clapham Picturehouse

Cafe Sci poster

Click to embiggen to readable size

The events organisers at the Clapham Picturehouse knocked together this excellent poster for a Cafe Sci I did recently in their sweet little foyer bar. With hindsight, I realise I should have let my London circle know I was going to do this in advance. I'm not certain the space could have accommodated everyone if you'd all decided to turn up, however. Of the 25 people who were there, some of them had to sit on the steps.

It was one of the best adult-focused outreach events I've ever done. The audience - I hesitate to call them that, because a Cafe Sci is intended to be more of a discussion group - came from a variety of backgrounds (experiential and racial) and age groups. I was pleased that there were as many women as men, and they asked as many questions and brought up as many of the issues surrounding manned spaceflight, from the political to the technical. They kept me there for nearly two hours. I had intended to leave right after the event, but I was so absorbed in conversation that I stayed for two more pints and didn't get back to Cambridge until very late indeed. I wish I could do more adult-focused outreach. Most of what I do is targeted to secondary school audiences.
laibach: kitten

Tough Cat

Tough Cat Is Tough

Telstar acquired an ear nick a couple of weeks ago and has been insufferably smug* ever since, but this is the first chance I've had to document it. Tough Cat Iz Tuff. His scar, let me show you it.

* Not that this is all that distinguishable from his usual state of "unbearably smug". He is, after all, a cat.