anarchist_nomad: (Default)
( Aug. 13th, 2017 10:37 am)
Speaking of important anniversaries, this weekend is the other super-important August anniversary -- that of mine & Chesh's relationship!

Technically, the anniversary itself was yesterday (12th August)... but since the original start of our relationship was a four day [long] weekend long affair, we are celebrating throughout the whole of this weekend.

That said, this year's festivities take a different form than most. In recent years, we have generally commemorated our anniversary with some sort of travel adventure. For instance, in 2015 we celebrated with a half-month road trip around Ireland; the year before that we took a two-week Mediterranean cruise.

This year is our first anniversary since we bought the House of the Red Roses. So we are doing something a little different. We are staying in and working on improvements to the house, using the time to build up our hearth and make an even-more-lovely home. We have been turning our energies inwards this time around to build something more lasting than another travel adventure.[*]

Of course, a little fun is also mandated on such a special occasion. Especially when the weather is this perfect -- something we have learned not to take for granted! Yesterday, we went out for breakfast at the new vegetarian cafe in our old neighbourhood (Crookes), and Chesh led a lovely Lammas ritual in a warm & sunny conservatory. In the evening, we also took a road trip through the nearby Peak District to appreciate the heather in all its blooming glory!

Today, the trend continues. There are books to unload on the recently-build bookcases. The kitchen needs to be restored / reorganised now that the paint is dry. And so forth. As a reward for all our hard work, we have a nice anniversary dinner to look forward to tonight -- followed by cards and gifts, of course!

The only thing I really have difficulty wrapping my head around is the number '23'. How in the world did so many years go by so fast? Although it is still too soon to make definite plans, we are starting to brainstorm ideas for how we want to celebrate our Silver Anniversary in 2019.


[*] Interestingly enough, I think the cost of our 'staycation' is comparable to many of our travel anniversaries. Over the past week or so, there has been painting done, new furniture purchased, an overhaul of the garden, et cetera.
anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Aug. 8th, 2017 11:38 pm)
The icon photo for this entry was taken fourteen years ago today. August 8th 2003. That was the day that I successfully defended my PhD thesis, and Nomad evolved into Doctor Nomad.

Fourteen years. Wow.

Fast-forward to the present: Today, I have three PhD students of my own (with a fourth starting in October).

Life is good.
anarchist_nomad: (Flowers (or Horns?))
( Aug. 8th, 2017 12:30 am)
Hello, Dreamwidth!

Despite the backlog of entries imported from LiveJournal (numbering in quadruple digits), this is actually my first true post here.

I created this journal in 2009 as a placeholder, but never used it until now.

With the LJ servers moved to Russia in April, I finally bit the bullet -- as so many others have done -- and closed down my permanent account there. The end of an era.

Looking from my posts from years past -- particular the 'heyday' from 2004 through 2010 -- I found myself really missing the interactions of LJ before the tumbleweed and mothballs set it. It would be spiffy to build that up again here.

That said, it's going to take some time to settle in, customise the size, and make the place my new 'home'.

Before I get going with a proper update, I find myself wondering: Who is actually here?

(Or, to quote Roger Waters, Is there anybody out there?)
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anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Apr. 13th, 2017 08:37 pm)
In other news, I am very seriously thinking of closing this journal down and starting a new one on DreamWidth. Not cross-posting, just a straight-up transfer.

I'd never made the leap before because I didn't really see the point and I have a permanent account here on LJ.

However, the new user agreement that follows quickly on the heels of the servers going to Russia is likely to finally induce me to make the switch. I know I'm not alone here.

So here is the question:

If I expatriate to DreamWidth exclusively, is there anyone here who is still reading that is not already on the DW platform?
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So this is a thing that happened.

It isn't the first time that I have been involved in running a scientific conference. That happened way back when I was a young PhD student -- in days before LiveJournal -- and my adviser was launching the first International Conference on Next-Generation Nucleon Decay and Neutrino Detectors (which somehow was known as NNN).

At NNN99, I was a 'scientific secretary' -- which is fancy talk for a 'student helper' or, more bluntly, a gofer.

The first time that I properly served on the local organising committee for a conference was last summer, for the 11th International Conference on the Identification of Dark Matter (IDM2016). This involved a lot more work... but our head of group was the committee chair and, ultimately, the responsible person.

For this week's IoP conference, I was the responsible person. Well, I co-chaired with a colleague... but he was out of the office moving house last week (i.e., the week before the conference), and left after the second (of three) days to fly down to Florida. So, basically, I was the main person making things happen.

It was an experience. It went very well. I would be lying if I said I wasn't relieved that it is over.

Still, tis an important milestone. I will now know quite clearly what is involved the next time somebody asks me to run a conference... and I will know to say 'no' if I don't really want to take it on!

Meanwhile, there is a small Twitter feed here for those who are curious to see some of the conference highlights. And for those who just want to see your Friendly Neighbourhood Nomad cleaned up, below is a photo from the conference dinner, hosted in Sheffield's Cutlers' Hall, home to The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, a guild established by Parliament in 1634.

Banquet night!
anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Mar. 26th, 2017 12:47 pm)
Eleven years ago right now, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I were in Heathrow Airport, having just landed from Chicago to begin a new life in the United Kingdom. Other than my new contract as a two-year postdoc at Oxford University, visas, and four 75 lb suitcases[*] full of stuff, we had nothing else in our new country -- not even a place to live![**]

Eleven years later, I have a permanent faculty position at the University of Sheffield, and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat has her own business. We own our own home, the House of the Red Roses, in one of the best neighbourhoods in England[***]. We are naturalised British citizens with all the rights that come with that, including the ability to vote and have our say in matters that affect our adopted nation. We even have a British kitty (Giles) to keep our USAmerican kitty (Stumpy) "company".

As the minute of our landing arrived at 11:55 this morning, I celebrated quietly, standing in the conservatory and watching the ornate bird feeder in our back garden. Then I pet Stumpy for a moment, who was sprawled in the conservatory chair and basking in the sunlight[****].

By coincidence, the calendar for 2017 is the same as it was for 2006. Indeed, it is the first year since 2006 to do so! Thus, I welcomed this anniversary in the Spring sun on the first day of British Summer Time[*****], just as our original landing coincided with the start of BST in 2006.

The past eleven years have had their ups and downs, their challenges and losses and triumphs. Overall, though, I am happy to say that these years have been good to us. As we move forward into an uncertain political climate, I very much hope that we can continue to stay in our adopted country[******] and that I will be writing an entry eleven years from today to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of our move to the United Kingdom.


[*] Back then, international flights permitted two free pieces of checked baggage... and each piece could weigh up to 75 lbs. So that is 150 lbs of free baggage per person. These days, such flights permit only one free piece of checked baggage, with a weight limit of 50 lbs. So the airlines have cut the free baggage allowance by a factor of three. Greedy &*£$%!

[**] Oxford University permitted us on-campus accommodation at St. John's College at a reasonable price (£35 per night) for one week. Nothing more.

[***] According to the government's 2015 deprivation index, our neighbourhood ranks in the 4% least deprived places in the country -- out of 32,844 areas considered.

[****] This may be why I had to stand.

[*****] Or "Daylight Savings Time" to you yanks!

[******] As citizens, we cannot be legally forced out, any more than any other British citizen can. However, if the political situation here becomes intolerable, we may need to move to somewhere more humane. Hard to know what the future holds anywhere right now, but particularly for the US and the UK.

All of my LJ entries this year have been written from the House of the Red Roses. Which makes it ironic that this post -- which is about the House -- is written from Zurich.

Recently, [livejournal.com profile] dragonmamma said: I am amused by the name of your house since you are in White Rose country!

Well, that's a fair comment, since we live in Sheffield which is [nominally] in Yorkshire[*] -- the home of the White Rose!

Given that we do not live in the House of the White Roses, it seemed worth clarification. Our house name has nothing to do with its location. Rather, it derives from the stained glass decoration:

A Red Rose


There is such a red rose on all outward facing windows (except on the converatory), with a more ornate version on the three outside doors. You can sort of see what I mean in this picture, taken from our back garden:

House of the Red Roses


From a distance, it is more difficult to see detail, but the top portion of each window contains a rose like the one seen in the above picture.

Thus, as you can see, it would be a tad strange to refer to our home as the House of the White Roses!

(Hmmm... I think I need to make a red rose icon from the stained glass to use in future house-related posts.)

I hope that all of my dear friends are having a lovely weekend!


[*] Personally, I tend to think of us more like being in the now-defunct Hallamshire than Yorkshire. Being in the south of South Yorkshire, Sheffield is about as far out of Yorkshire as you can get and still be in it!

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anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Feb. 26th, 2017 11:09 am)
It's a lazy Sunday morning here at the House of the Red Roses.

Stumpy and I are sitting in the conservatory[*], watching a couple of robins indulge themselves on our bird feeders outside.

I just finished induliging myself on a yummy weekend breakfast[**] of Sheffield toast coated with Sheffield honey. To wash it down, I enjoyed a cup of Sheffield tea, with a splash of Sheffield milk.

I'm rather pleased to be able to use so many local products. The bread comes from a local chain, Roses the Bakers; we discovered it after moving into the House of the Red Roses and are working our way through their many different loaves -- today was a corn-topped white load.

The honey was the soft-set type from The Sheffield Honey Company. Not ideal for tea, due to its thick consistency, but perfect for spreading.

My drink was a chocolate tea, called 'Muddy Boots' from the Birdhouse Tea Company. I'm also a fan of their straight black tea, the 'Full Monty'.

Finally, the milk came from what may be Sheffield's second most famous[***] local brand: Our Cow Molly. Once the weather gets a touch warmer, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I need to get out to their farm[****] and visit Molly. For one cow, she sure does put out a lot of milk!

I don't normally do product placement, but I am pleased to be transitioning to local foods wherever possible. Support local industry and reduce carbon footprint. Good stuff!

Next step will be to move to local eggs; I don't think any are commercially available, but I bet we can find a farm nearby.[*****] Knowing how awful the egg industry is, I would feel much better buying from a local farm after confirming first-hand that the chickens are treated humanely.

Anyway, that's my lazy Sunday morning. There is much to do later today to prepare for the week -- marking science outreach projects, finalising parts of the WATCHMAN research proposal, writing my talk for an upcoming conference in Venice, and preparing for tomorrow's tutorial on thermodynamics. But, for the moment, the day has a slow start, just enjoying the sun (!) and the birds from the warmth of our conservatory.

How about you, dear friends? What are you up to on this Sunday morning?


[livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I agree that the conservatory is our favourite room in the house. Although, for me, the posh bathroom with the oversized tub runs a close second.

[**] My standard weekday breakfast is a bowl of honey-nut cornflakes, as it is nice and quick, which is what I need on a work morning.

[***] The most famous local brand, known to everyone in Sheffield and nearly no one outside, is Henderson's Relish (or 'Hendo's') -- a sort of vegetarian variant of Worcestershire sauce.

[****] In the village of Dungworth -- what a name!

[*****] The House of the Red Roses is three miles from Sheffield city centre and one mile from the entrance to the Peak District National Park. As such, it's a nice portal between urban and rural. Turn left at the end of the road to go into the city; turn right to get into the countryside!

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anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Feb. 11th, 2017 04:20 am)
Curled up in bed with Giles[*] as the snow falls ever heavier outside. This is the first real snow I've seen since we moved into the House of the Red Roses.

Since I'm not quite ready to sleep, it seemed worth noting. For posterity and all that. (Who knows, maybe in a decade or two, I will happen back on this and smile.)

I hope it piles up whilst I sleep and sticks. I could turn on the underfloor heating in the conservatory and sit reading in there tomorrow afternoon. Looking up every now and again to watch the birds taking their turns at the feeders. I can definitely think of worse ways to spend a Saturday!


[*] Stumpy won't come to bed if he's here. I love my baby girl, but I wish she could get on with other cats.
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...who is still here, anyway?

I've been missing the heyday of LJ recently, and likely to make regular posting a thing again.

Looking at my profile, though, the list of 'friends' feels like a ghost town. Seems like the vast majority haven't been on here in forever.

I've heard from a few lovely people in the past few days. Who else is still on deck?

(And, yes, I really am writing this at three in the morning. I was in the office until one writing next week's quantum mechanics homework. It is a kickass problem set, though. They're going to hate it -- except that I'll sell it to them in a way that they can't help but enjoy it.)
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anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
»

Two

( Feb. 10th, 2017 01:28 am)
It was two years ago today that I applied for a job at the University of Sheffield. Disheartened and ready to give up on my career, I put barely any effort into it -- literally recycling an old application.

Goodness, how my world has changed since -- and how grateful I am to two-years-ago-me for taking one last chance.

I realise that I've become a much more boring person over the past year and a half. Less social, with fewer adventures to write about. Do I regret this? Nope. Having finally obtained my dream job, I have thrown myself into it wholeheartedly.

Sometimes I get asked what the research / teaching balance in my role is. I smile and say: "My contract is 35 hours per week... so I do 35 hours of teaching, and 35 hours of research." It's a joke, except that it isn't. That is pretty close to accurate, actually. Some weeks[*] end up being quite a bit more, others can sometimes be a bit less, but 70 hours per week is probably a realistic average.

I organised my first international conference last year: The 11th Conference on the Identification of Dark Matter. My first conference as lead organiser is coming up in two months: The Institute of Physics annual Astro-Particle Physics and High Energy Particle Physics conference.

People keep forgetting that I've been in the role for only 1.X years. I've bedded into the department, the faculty, and the university so well, it seems like I've been there a lot longer. We have a couple of lecturers hired after me; one was rather surprised to learn I'd only been in the department a year longer than him. It's going well enough that I'm looking to complete probation -- effectively equivalent of 'making tenure' in the USA -- this Summer, a year earlier than normal. (Then it's on to Senior Lecturer -- equivalent to an Associate Professor in the USA as quickly as possible!)

Despite only teaching for three semesters, I have already won an award for "Sustained Excellence in Teaching". (Those of you who have heard me do outreach talks will not be surprised. No false modesty here; I am very good at teaching.) In addition to my undergraduate teaching in the department at Sheffield, I also co-teach science communication to Masters students at the Faculty of Science level and teach at our new outpost in Nanjing. And I was tagged by the Faculty Director of Teaching to be part of a new educational leadership exchange programme.

Meanwhile, I have PhD students on three continents right now -- one is presenting his work on supernovae in Japan next week, one is building hardware in Switzerland this month, and one is living at Fermilab and rocking the Accelerator Neutrino-Nucleus Interaction Experiment (or ANNIE). I'm kinda psyched for 2019, when my very first PhD student graduates. I was super proud introducing him to CK last year, who was my PhD supervisor. In academic-speak, I was introducing my "son" to his "grandfather".

It's not just my department or my faculty. I've thrown myself into the wider univeristy as well. Last Summer, I walked a personal record of 130 miles as part of The Big Walk to raise money for refugee students. Thanks to our efforts, six refugees will be brought to the University to do postgraduate degrees -- fully funded, with maintenance money. The refugee crisis is overwhelming, but I'm proud to have done some small part to alleviate it.

(By the way, if you want to donate, my JustGiving page is still open until the end of March -- just click here!)

And, of course, the research proceeds apace. I'm involved in a number of experiments in both Japan and at Fermilab... plus I recently joined the WATCHMAN project -- that's the WATer CHerenkov Monitor for AntiNeutrinos. It's not a particle physics experiment -- it is applied particle physics. The goal is to use antineutrinos for nuclear non-proliferation and threat reduction. Right now, I'm pushing hard on the effort to get the WATCHMAN prototype built here in Yorkshire.

So, yeah, that's my life. Toldja I had become boring. In a typical week, whatever time doesn't go into the job goes into the House of the Red Roses. Or my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. Or Stumpy & Giles, who make sure to demand their share of attention.[**]

I'll try to LJ more in 2017, though. At the very least, I should make it so my landing page of most recent 20 entries is all from the same year! Maybe next time, I should post some pics of the House of the Red Roses.[***]

Meanwhile, on this anniversary of my application, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on just how lucky I am, and how grateful for this opportunity. Also glad that so many of you are actually still on LJ -- huzzah for the faithful!

Right. Bedtime now. I've a lecture on time-dependent quantum states to deliver in the morning, followed by conference organising, then running an analysis meeting. Whee!



[*] Like this one -- being the start of a new semester!

[**] Like Stumpy is actually doing right at this very moment, looking to hop in my lap! (ETA: Now in my lap! Which makes it hard to type...)

[***] Those of you for whom I have an address may have already seen it with the Yule cards we sent out in December.
The new semester starts in the morning, so I'm having a late night of marking final exams for my second year quantum mechanics module.

(Go me and my rockstar lifestyle!)

Getting through 169 exam scripts is particularly boring, so I've been playing classic 80s videos and petting Stumpy to keep me company.[*]

Winds of Change by The Scorpions just came on the mix. It made my think of this entry, which I wrote back in the Summer of 2013.[**] That entry was a happy and hopeful piece, reflecting on the state of the world following a lovely 10K run that started in Gorky Park and followed along the Moskva River.

Gods, how things have changed.

On my bedside table sits It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, the 1935 biography of our so-called President. After years of inaction, I have been to two different rallies this week. Following decades of rising inequality caused by neo-liberalism, we are at a tipping point. I hope that we can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old. I fear that a new age of facisms stands ready to consume the West -- particularly the country of my birth (and if that happens, can my adopted country be far behind?).

I'm using the anarcho-syndalist icon for this post, though I don't know if I am an Anarchist anymore. That identity -- held for over two decades -- relied on a fundamental belief in human beings to be both good and capable of making sound decisions on a significant scale. I'm not saying anything definitive yet... just that I am doing a lot of questioning.

So much more I could say but, for now, there are still 36 more quantum mechanics exams that need marking... and I have a lecture to give in the morning... and a draft of a research proposal to submit on Tuesday.

Maybe more later, if anyone's still on Livejournal to read it.


[*] This is made somewhat awkward by the fact that Stumpy wants to sit in the office chair. Every time I stand up, she steals it. She is an unrepentent seat thief! Even worse, if I lean forward, she will sit behind me and stretch out, until I am sitting at the very edge of the chair. If I try to take any more room than that, she complains and makes annoyed cat noises at me.

[**] How was that three and a half years ago??!

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anarchist_nomad: (Default)
( Oct. 3rd, 2016 12:37 am)
Another collaboration meeting over. I am writing this entry whilst sitting in Haneda Airport and waiting for my flight from Tokyo to Beijing.

Beijing is just a stopover on my way back to Sunny Olde England. After a short stay at home in Sheffield, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I will be off to New York for the Sooper Sekrit Pagan Gathering... and then I will be on to Chicago for another meeting at Fermilab.

Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom all in the same week. (Plus a cameo in China.) I'm starting to get déjà vu here... because it all sounds a lot like this entry!

It has been two thousand four hundred fifty-six year -- nearly seven years -- but compare for yourself how similar things can be. Many things have changed... but I guess others stay the same.

Back then, I shared a photograph of the contents of my wallet. Six bills (or notes) -- none of which were the same -- representing the "coin of the realm" for three different countries. This time, my wallet had only five notes (or bills)... but, again, none were the same and the represented currency from three different countries.

Take a look for yourself:

January 2010


October 2016


Time to go through security and get ready to board. If any P**T***ns are reading this, I can't wait to see you next weekend!!!


ETA: By the way, that is indeed the brand new plastic five pound note that debuted less than three weeks ago. If you caught it, kudos for the sharp eyes!
anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Apr. 6th, 2016 10:41 am)
Back from Japan now. Had a lovely time viewing the sakura; pictures forthcoming.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that Your Friendly Neighbourhood Nomad is 15,000 days old today! That's right, dear friends, fifteen thousand days ago -- right now -- yours truly was a crying newborn, just mere minutes old.

The Nomad Awesomemeter has been steadily ticking upwards since then, leading us to where we are today.

Whilst not without its bumpy stretches -- especially in the teenaged years -- the first fifteen thousand days were pretty darn good! Here's looking forward to exciting adventures in the next 15k!
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anarchist_nomad: (Default)
( Apr. 2nd, 2016 09:48 am)
All finished with my work in Tokai, where I have been all week for T2K.

My flight home is Sunday night, which leaves the weekend free. Since it is now the first week in April -- always the best time to be in Japan -- I get to go see the sakura[*] in Tokyo! Hooray!

I've been in Japan many times for the sakura, but it is a treat that never grows old. Also, I've seen the sakura in Toyama, and in Takayama, and in Tokai... but never in Tokyo![**] The East Capital is sure to take this treat to another level! I've been looking at the sakura status online -- for instance this report from yesterday -- and it looks absolutely amazing!

I plan to start in Ueno Park and then wander to some of the other sakura locations in central Tokyo. The weather is good, so getting in a boat ride is a must, as is seeing them illuminated after dark.

So long as my phone camera works (not certain; it's been dodgy) there will be pictures to follow!

Sakura! Huzzah! Banzai!


[*] Cherry blossoms!

[**] Or, really, any city that doesn't begin with a 'T' in romanji.

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This post is mainly for [livejournal.com profile] crystalcazzie (she knows why), but it's worth sharing widely because it's so awesome.



Kudos to my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat for bringing this to my attention last week...
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anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
»

Ten

( Mar. 26th, 2016 11:04 am)
Need I say more?

Of course, I am celebrating by leaving; I write this entry from Manchester Airport, en route to Japan.[*]

My, what a decade it has been! Ups and downs, to be sure... but mostly ups. In fact, I have described the year just ended[**] as my best so far!

Looking forward to the next decade, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are currently house hunting and putting down roots in Sheffield, whilst I am planning for my next triathlon and my first marathon, plus have grand schemes for both my research and teaching.

Here's to the next ten years!


[*] The pre-celebration happened Wednesday evening, when I repeated the same journey from O'Hare to Heathrow -- these days en route to Sheffield, not Oxford -- but still. Speaking of which, it was lovely seeing many of you at the birthday party on Monday!

[**] By which I mean February 2nd 2015 through February 1st 2016. Not exactly the conventional calendar year, but since when did I hew to convention? These dates bookend a year, but are not arbitrary. It starts with the job advertisement for my faculty post and ends with the news that the chemo was successful and my father's cancer is in remission. Much more in-between, but that is more fitting for a separate post than a footnote.

Hi all, and Happy New Year!

The holiday festivities have come and gone; my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had a lovely fortnight visiting friends and family in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

I am now in the Dominican Republic, where I will be spending a week with a handful of people from the Sooper Sekrit October Pagan Festival, to help one of our number celebrate a milestone birthday. It is warm. There is sun. There will be scuba diving. This is as January should be.

All of this is lovely... but not the point of this entry.

NEXT week, I will be arriving in Chicago and spending about four weeks at Fermilab. My PhD student will be joining me, and we will be building a new particle physics experiment. I arrive [late] on Monday January 11th and leave after work on Friday February 5th to get home for the start of Spring Semester on the following Monday.

Although I will be working at the lab full-time Mondays through Friday, I should have free time on the weekends and evenings to see many of my dear Chicago friends. Believe me, you are missed!

If you are around and available to get together, do drop me a line via e-mail or LJ comment! Can't wait to see you!!!
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Wow.

Yesterday marked the end of my first semester as an academic.[*] Intense.

My mind still boggles at just how much we are expected to do. Undergraduate teaching, research, PhD supervision, obtaining grants, administration, public outreach. It sort of like holding down three jobs at once! Technically, my contract states that I work 35 hours per week. I'm certain that I was doing double that.

Many evenings, I came home to have dinner with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat... then went right back to the office. (Out of hours working is often the most productive time, as there are no meetings, there is no teaching, there are no students knocking on the office door, and far fewer e-mails arrive.) At one point, I jokingly noted to [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat that if it weren't such an absurb idea, she should probably suspect me of having an affair!

That said, I really love the job! My department is a very friendly place to work, as is my research group. I get on with just about everybody -- other academics, students, the admin team, the cleaners. People know me and like me, and the feeling is mutual.

I just finished teaching the first half of my second year quantum mechanics course. After a brief introduction to the history and motivation for quantum mechanics, we covered the Schrödiner equation, the infinite potential well, and the finite potential well. We then moved on to operators and eignenfunctions, measurements in quantum mechanics, and quantum fluctuations. I wrapped up the semester with experimental tests of QM (especially the Stern-Gerlach experiment), the Dirac delta potential, and the Schrödiner equation in two and three dimensions. We are all ready to pick up in the Spring semester with simultanous measurements, and then move on to time-dependence.

I thought that my teaching has gone very well. To be honest, it plays nicely to my natural strengths. I'm told that the second year students normally hate quantum mechanics. This time, however, here is some of the feedback that I received via anonymous survey:
  • I really enjoyed the course and can't wait for more quantum next semester!
  • Overall, it has been a very clearly taught module, and you are a very accessible lecturer, if I ever had any questions.
  • In general I loved the course and it is my favourite module overall this year! This is partially due to Matthew Malek just being absolutely awesome! I'm really excited to continue quantum next semester
  • Quantum Mechanics is as superposition of a fun and not fun subject. I observed it as fun, and so it will always stay that way.


The last comment is a clever QM joke[**] that made me laugh. In fact, it was clever enough that I had to share it with my colleagues... who laughed, too. Nicely done!

Yes, definitely a very busy time, but also quite rewarding! I'm looking forward to a bit of a break now, yet also looking forward to the second half when Spring semester begins in February.

Off to the States tomorrow for seven weeks. Hope to see some of you whilst I am there!



[*] I'll use the UK dialect, since I work in the UK higher education system. A brief translation to the US dialect: 'academic' = 'faculty'. Also, my job title 'lecturer' = 'tenure-track assistant professor' in US-speak.

(I know there are also positions called 'lecturer' in the United States but -- like 'pants', 'suspenders', and 'pavement' -- the word means something different there.)

[**] About the collapse of the wavefunction.

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Last weekend, I participated in a National Three Peaks challenge with two of my colleagues. For those who don't know, this consists of climbing the highest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales... all in the space of 24 hours.

From North to South, the peaks are:
  • Ben Nevis (Scotland) - 1344 meters
  • Scafell Pike (England) - 978 meters
  • Snowdonia (Wales) - 1085 meters

Making things more challenging, of course, is that the peaks are not adjacent to one another. Their location within Great Britain can be seen here:



The 24 hour countdown starts when you set out on the trail at your first peak, and ends when you complete the trail at the end of the final peak. All intermediate time -- including the drive between peaks -- is on the clock. When you figure that the drive from Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike is nearly six hours, and the drive from Scafell Pike to Snowdonia is another four... well, that takes a big bite out of those 24 hours.

I planned the trip back in January, with the idea of hiring a PhD student to be a dedicated driver. Students always need money, so I figured a hundred quid plus fuel would be sufficient enticement. Suffice to say that we did not end up finding a driver and very nearly called the whole thing off. In the end, though, we decided to split the driving between the three of us (which, in practice, became two).

We started on Saturday afternoon (25th July) at 15:00. Here are the relevant times:


2015-07-25 15:00 - Start at Ben Nevis (Mountain Track trailhead)
2015-07-25 17:33 - Reach summit of Ben Nevis
2015-07-25 20:00 - Finish at Ben Nevis

2015-07-26 01:51 - Start at Scafell Pike (Wasdale Head trailhead)
2015-07-26 04:11 - Reach summit of Scafell Pike
2015-07-26 06:10 - Finiah at Scafell Pike

2015-07-26 10:52 - Start at Snowdonia (Miners Track trailhead)
2015-07-26 12:52 - Reach summit of Snowdonia
2015-07-26 14:49 - Finish at Snowdonia



Our challenge was successful, and I completed the three peaks in 23 hours and 49 minutes. Towards the end, I wasn't so confident that we would be under 24 hours; the final stretch of the trail is on flat ground for a mile or two, so I ran the last bit to make it back to the car park in time!

Looking at this in triathlon terms, my times break down as follows:

  • Ben Nevis: 5:00 (1344 meters)
  • T1: 5:51
  • Scafell Pike: 4:19 (978 meters)
  • T2: 4:42
  • Snowdonia: 3:57 (1085 meters)


  • TOTAL: 23:49



My colleague TD did the driving between Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike. I did the drive from Scafell Pike to Snowdonia (plus all the off-the-clock driving from Sheffield to Scotland and from Wales back to Sheffield).

Astute readers may observe that our ascent up Scafell Pike began in the night. Indeed, it was pitch black and we had only our head lamps to guide us. In such conditions, we inadvertantly went off the trail... and ended up in a scramble, climbing the side of the mountain. It was only on the way down, after dawn, that we saw how far we had veered off. Our way up couldn't even be called the more difficult path -- it wasn't a path at all!

Despite being the tallest of the three peaks, Ben Nevis proved to be the easiest to climb. As mentioned, Scafell Pike was done in the dark... and Snowdonia threw rain down upon us the entire way. The clothing under my waterproofs was drenched!

One of the fun parts of this little adventure was seeing so many other people doing the same thing. Our schedule was offset from most others by two or three hours, with us starting first. Thus, on the way down Scafell Pike, I said "See you on Snowdon!" to nearly everyone that we passed. (Unlike Ben Nevis and Snowdonia, which are attractions in their own right, nearly nobody climbs Scafell Pike except as part of a National Three Peaks Challenge.) Indeed, I wasn't wrong -- several hours later, we passed a lot of familiar faces on the climb down Snowdon!

After finishing the challenge, we made our way to a nearby hotel and collapsed. I slept for 12 hours; can't remember the last time that happened! We passed out at 7pm... and didn't get up again until 7am Monday morning, when we started back to England and the new work week. I was limping for a large part of Monday, and some of Tuesday... but it was totally worth it!

Finally, gentle readers, I will end with a picture of the three of us at the top of Ben Nevis:

The Most Altitudinous People in Great Britain

(click on picture for full version)


(Alas, at the top of Scafell Pike it was too dark to get a good picture... and at the top of Snowdonia it was too wet!)
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