Posts Tagged kids

Three of Diamonds: The Family Tradition

One plus one makes three? (of diamonds)Your father, his father, and his before that,
Your mother, her mother, and all the way back
Have kept a tradition by chance or by will
To each have a baby (or several) until
The flame’s passed to you, but now you have a choice
So don’t join the choir till you find your own voice.
Creating a person’s a huge thing to try;
You can if you want, but first think about why:

Not to continue this age-old tradition
Not to be sure that your life has a mission
Not for a god or a country or norm, oh
Not for a lark, or the whim of a hormone
Not for a vague or instinctive desire
Not just to copy the folks you admire
Not out of fear you’ll leave nothing behind
(Not that your DNA outdoes your mind)
Not ’cause you’re bright so you should spread your genes
Not ’cause you’re dim and don’t know what that means
Not to rebel against Mum and Dad’s view
Not because they want their vengeance on you
Not as a snake oil to quiet your fears
That you might feel a twinge of regret in ten years
Not when your body clock’s ticking through dates
And you’re always a sucker for ‘Buy now! Don’t wait!’s
Not because well-behaved babes tug your heart
Not so your parents can relive that part
Not ’cause your partner would like to have some
Not ’cause you’re grateful that Dad convinced Mum
Not ’cause you’ve thought of a name you must give
Or things you’d do better if you could relive
Not when a thoughtless mistake involved sex
Not ’cause you’re married and that’s what comes next
Not because all of your friends ask why not
Not because they’re doing well with their lot
Not ’cause you’re told that it’s selfish to live
without making a beggar to whom you can give
Not because parents say nothing else matters
Not to add glue to a romance in tatters
Not because children learn more tricks than cats
Not to prove your kids would never be brats
Not so your welfare amount will be goin’ up
Not ’cause you think it’ll make you a grownup
Not so they’ll pay for your food in old age
(for pyramid schemes have to collapse at some stage)
Not to fulfil a perceived need for love
Not if you’re not sure, when push comes to shove
Not ’cause you read this and thought, ‘This’ll show ’em!’
Not for the sentiment closing this poem.

But only because you adore helping youth
and can’t think of life without living that truth.
You know that their life-long love’s not guaranteed
and you’re yearning to face unconditional need
of a boy, girl or intersexed, well, sick or crippled
dunce, saint or murderer, one, twins or tripled.
You’re deeply concerned the resources you borrow
may add to the hardship of grandkids tomorrow
and realise your efforts to curb your consumption
are more than undone if you make the assumption
that your kids survive and continue to breed
and their kids spawn ever more hungers to feed.
If raising a person is your lifelong dream,
and not just a gesture to race with the team
then go ahead, try to conceive, but know this:
it’s not just a baby that’s made in all this.
You remake yourself as you start your new quest,
as parent first up, and then some of the rest.
From baby’s perspective you’ve made the whole world;
you’ve led them from nowhere to cosmos unfurled.
So enjoy your big bang and enjoy your inflation,
And cherish your well-informed act of creation.

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Second Joker: This is how the world goes mad… not with a blog but with a Twitter

jokers“The Texas vote leaves loopholes for teaching creationism, so consider this your duty. It is so important to get into the Word of God,” said the speaker. “Some say that the New Testament is a sad tale of a kitteh who could not find a loving home, but the forgiving Ceiling Cat that C.S. Lewis called Aslan is on the move. For even when they just nail these pieces of him to a cross, He says, ‘thanks for following me.‘”

The crowd clapped enthusiastically. “But however you feel about Jesus, Leonard Cohen is still the coolest human being on the planet. When he doesn’t deliver, you know it’s not that profundity pressure produces protean prattle, no, today’s song will be posted late due to disheartening technical problems. Why is my internet being so slow? Internet spies from China, probably. But we can put our faith in Leonard Cohen.”

A chorus of “Hallelujah” broke out.


“Honey, I’m home!”

“Hi, Dave!” said Bea. “I’m repeatedly telling myself I don’t need the 50th Anniversary hardcover edition of Elements of Style, but it’s so tempting. I need you to convince me to save a few trees.”

“But Daddy, I don’t understand how paper is made out of wood!” interrupted James, their eldest son.

“It just is,” said Dave. “You can’t make books without killing trees. It’s just one of those things that suck. Having to order in pizza because you look too terrible to leave the house, but have no groceries, is another. Thanks for ‘cooking’, Bea.”

Bea poked her tongue out at him. She knew he was only teasing; they were comfortable enough with her facial deformity to joke about it. “I didn’t get pizza, I got cheesy stir-fry. Besides, You don’t have to be photogenic to be a good wife. Remember what my mum used to say: in a photo gallery, mostly dead people are displayed.”

“Yeah, and in an art gallery…” Dave began, leaving Bea to finish her aphorism.

“Only the adults need art. Psychiatrist holds up doll and asks kid, ‘show me where Santa was naughty and where he was nice’ and the kid just takes the doll and plays. It doesn’t matter whether Santa made the doll disfigured, it’s a gift.”

“As the great Leonard Cohen said, ‘A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.’ Hey, and about gifts…” Dave pulled a box of chocolates from his bag and gave it to Bea. “I saw John Pridmore speak at a men’s conference today. He reminded me to read more Cohen. I found this quote, ‘I taught him how to dress, he taught me how to live forever.’ And I know it’s not what he meant, but it made me think of James. He learnt to dress himself and I wasn’t even here to see it. I don’t want it to be that way with Bart. It really got me thinking that men should take more of a role in child-rearing. I’m sorry for not serving you, my queen Bea; I didn’t know I was a drone.

Bwahaha! Your turn now,” said the mummy to the daddy as she pointed at the little monster’s full and smelly pants.9 months from today, hundreds of babies will be born to those who get turned on by fleeting conscience.

“I know exactly what you mean,” he said, though he did not understand the full significance of her remarks. “I am full of angst and gouda. Full of stir-fry. But also, my pants are nowhere near empty, as I am happy to see you.

As the months went by, his pants got less and less empty, but not for the same reasons as before. He was getting fat. One day, as he was checking the weather and making plans… skiing, shopping? a button flew off his trusty pants. He tried to sew it back on, but the pants were hurt; the pants were broken, and could never trust again. So he went shopping, bought some bigger pants and ski pants, and then went skiing.

He was out-of practice, and his increased girth made it difficult to balance. He fell, and as he sat in the snow, he felt a huge pressure in his abdomen, as if he needed to do the biggest poo of his life. He pulled his pants down and pushed, trying not to touch the cold snow with his bare buttocks. For he was just a sheep following a sacred cow named God, and in their mysterious wisdom, the cows on the moon shaved the sheep’s buttocks.

He gasped when he saw what was coming out. An egg! His wife had been telling the truth; it was his turn, his turn to bring a child into the world. Laying there in the snow he wondered whether it was really worth the effort.

The birth of his new baby caused a great upheaval in his life, not least because he was the first of hundreds of men to give birth. And yet, somewhere, he was sure, that life continued normally for a great many people.

Another upset came when he asked for paternity leave.

“Given your recent performance, I’d be better off firing you,” said his boss.


“You completely forgot to file our tax returns. Remember, If you have a corporation, the tax return due date is 3/16/09!

“Oh, man… must have been the hormones. They’ve thrown my migraines out of control again. But I’m doing better now. We’re looking for some community feed back for the next round of developments. I got excellent feedback from my readers about this recommendation.

“Mr. Jones, do you know how much your mistake cost us?”

“Please? I really need the time and money to raise my kids.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. I am only leaving severence now. You understand, it’s a recession. We’re all in the same boat, and we can’t have somebody sailing close to the wind.”

Boat ride in the dark, coming right up,” Dave mumbled to himself as he left the office for the last time.

With that, he became the house-husband. He searched for jobs on the internet, but was too depressed to really try. Bea got a job as a journalist.

One Sunday, as Dave was tweeting on PSP while burping baby, Bea asked him, “If you could tweet with anyone from history, who would it be?

“Steve Wozniak, for sure. We could talk about the good old days when Macs were still around. Does anybody know why gnome-screensaver is using 2.1% of my 2GB of RAM when the system is active? I’m moving from CoreGraphics to OpenGL for this?! If I could just get a Mac again, it’d be like going from a 16 tonne bus to a tiny smart car. If all you care about is freedom and sharing, then sure, a bloated gas-guzzler with lots of seats will do the job. Me, I’m happy with something smart and efficient that goes where I want.”

“Well if you weren’t wasting so much time on facebook instead of promoting your favourite OS, maybe we wouldn’t have that problem. Thanks to all of your forgetting, the ‘Woz’ word outlook is pretty grim.”

“What do you mean, wasting time on facebook? Do you need a reminder? The Official Vote For Woz Facebook group is found here!”

“And you really think Woz would make a good president? He’s smart, but not a politician.”

“Exactly! And that’s just what we need. Perhaps we should force the political leaders to play chess, and declare their victories, without shedding blood. Then there’d be no more unnecessary pain. As the great Leonard Cohen said, ‘Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed.'”

Crustaceans feel pain, but are still boiled alive. We’ll never have a world without pain. I think you’re just on facebook because you can’t keep away from it. You know, anyone these days could create a stunning new design for your website in five minutes, no skill needed, but you, you spent an hour to get it all done. And I’m really feeling the effects of the lost hour this morning.

“Okay. Maybe you’re right. I think I may have finally developed a full-on internet addiction. But life is so much better there. The world is so much sparklier when it’s reflected on the side of my toaster, even… when reflected on the internet, it’s a woot off!

“You got that right… heck, even from the command line it’s great. I love using tar in verbose mode, it makes me feel cool. Gimme that,” she wrestled the keyboard from him.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea… let’s get the internet to write a story. All those ugly geeks stuck at home ordering pizza for their kittehs could really do something to please the Ceiling Cat!”

And so 52 drones ate 52 pizzas, while 52 cats wailed out 52 notes, until the lost chord was found, then lost again.

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Three of Diamonds: Stretch Marks

justthismuch1You feel my quickening heart
My heart marks you…
       only my heart?

Quickening, you stretch my heart,
you feel my body…
       only my body?
you stretch my body-part,
only you.

You… my heart,
you feel my quickening.
Only… you part.

Stretch marks part my heart,
stretch marks part my body.

My parts stretch,
My stretch parts.

Feel my part-you body part,
Feel my only part-you heart.

my part-you body marks my heart,
only, my body marks my part-you heart…
feel my part-you heart quickening,
feel my part-you heart stretch,
feel my part-you heart part.

Stretch marks part my heart,
stretch marks part my body.
Stretch marks, only stretch marks.


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Six of Spades: Three perspectives on CERN Open Days

 Five of Spades showing Calorimeters for ATLASStrong: Did you miss the CERN Open Day? I did, in 2004. It wasn’t my last chance.

I planned my visit to CERN far in advance, and found out on my arrival that an open day was planned for a few weeks after my departure.

Thanks to an Englishman arranging a lift, I did manage to get to CERN’s 50th birthday party in Crozet. The speeches were enlightening… I had never realised that humans could make such bizarre sounds. What they were saying in French, I could only guess. My English companion had learnt enough French at school to understand some of it. From him I learnt one of my first words of French: Cernois, a person who works at CERN.

I wrote in my travel log:

After I’d looked at everything, I bought too much stuff at the souvenir shop, just like I did at the Apple Campus. The reason is the same — ‘when am I ever going to be here again?’ and so is the answer to that rhetorical question… when I work there.

A month before writing that, I had found out that my application for a CERN junior fellowship had been rejected. While still in Geneva, I found out that I had not been accepted into CERN’s Marie Curie fellowship programme either. So when I got home, I applied again.

My Marie Curie fellowship began in April 2005 and ended two years later. Before the end of the fellowship, I had been offered a position at ETH Zurich, based at CERN, so I continued going to work as usual, inasmuch as working at the world’s largest scientific facility can be considered usual.


That September, I got wind that CERN would be having open days the following April. I sent the news to everybody I knew, hoping that with enough notice, nobody with the slightest chance of making it to Geneva would miss out as narrowly as I had. I realised that as a Cernoise, I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance of not only going to a CERN open day, but being part of it. So I signed up as a volunteer for the Cernois-only open day on the Saturday.


Weak: I arrived at CERN at 8a.m, and was given a lift to the CMS pit in Cessy by a colleague and fellow volunteer. We all had our official T-shirts, windbreakers, and polar fleeces, several sizes too large. Guides had their hard hats, the people at the info point had their souvenirs to sell, physicists had brains brimming with answers, and I… I had tables, paper, coloured pencils, and pictures of CMS for colouring in. Kids’ corner.

After lunch I found myself alone at the art table, with two children approaching. Their mother asked in French if this was where they would be minded while she went underground, and would I like to take down her phone number? Would I? I had no idea. I looked around, only to have some guides confirm that it was indeed me in charge of the kids’ corner.

I mutely took the number, and finally the mother asked me in English whether I spoke French. Oui, oui, bien sûr… I like to pretend that I do. She explained to her kids that I didn’t. By this time the kids had the idea that I was a little odd, and sat there glumly staring. I asked in French if they wanted to draw something. They didn’t. The older one started halfheartedly colouring in. I tried to bribe them with promises of prizes for good drawing. They did not respond. Not sure of what else to do, I sat and dutifully watched them, feeling like some kind of psychopath. I started drawing, in an attempt to look less like one. Anyone who had seen my drawings would not have been convinced.

To my relief, a friend appeared with his young nephews, and I talked to him for a while, occasionally checking that my charges hadn’t exploded.

When the mother finally came to rescue her children from their ill-adapted babysitter, the younger one, who had barely touched his pencils, didn’t want to go. Perhaps, in the end, I am quite interesting to glumly stare at. I probably would have held the Cernois in awe too, if I’d been a member of the public at the 2004 open day.


Electric: Sunday was the open day for the general public, and the day when I, too, would be in the general public rather than a volunteer.

The bus to CERN was almost full at its first stop. It was great to see that I wasn’t the only one excited about the open day. At CERN, there were already crowds surrounding the Globe of Science and Innovation, near the entry to visit the ATLAS experiment. I’d already seen ATLAS, thanks to a friend who was trained as an ATLAS guide, so I headed into the rest of the site to see what else there was to see.

The whole place was eerily quiet. I saw a few signs, but no crowds to show me what might be interesting. I went to the café in bulding 40, knowing that there should be some events there, or at least some coffee. There were more volunteers than visitors, and no food yet. Still five minutes until the official start of the open day.

The restaurant was not crowded. I bumped into the friend from the day before, with his nephews and the rest of the family. Was it another day for the Cernois, after all? I checked the volunteers’ interface on the web. There was a few hours wait to visit ATLAS. The amateur radio club was still waiting for visitors. Shuttles supposed to take people from the Meyrin site to visit the ALICE experiment had still not arrived. At 9:30, I heard that some friends of mine who had come from Lausanne early that morning had already been underground to see CMS. What was going on?

What was going on was that 20 000 people were going underground to see the LHC and the detectors. 20 000 out of a previously stated maximum limit of 15 000. 

The first visitors arrived at CMS at 7a.m. With queues filling the detector assembly hall and stretching hundreds of metres down the street, there was little choice but to start the underground visits half an hour early, at 8:30. The elevators ran at full capacity and full speed. At LHCb, tour sizes were kept smaller in order to allow more foreign language tours, but they still had a huge number of visitors. By 11a.m. the waiting time to see ATLAS was close to four hours.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 53 000 visitors were dispersed around the various sites, watching machines making machines, Nobel prizewinners making revelations, superconducting magnets making people and things fly, superfluids making their way up the walls of their containers, and actors making out they’d lost some protons.

By the end of the day, the forecast cold and rain had finally arrived. My friends drove me the short distance to the bus stop, where a busload of people were already waiting. One had come from London. One from Paris. One was an art student from Lausanne, who was more interested in the logo and other designs used for the event. One was a guide for CMS, who had volunteered to guide people in English and Portuguese, but ended up speaking French all day and getting a sore throat from it. When the bus arrived, the crowd surrounded it like a plague of zombies… but so much more alive.

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