anarchist_nomad: (A Crown of Flowers)
( May. 4th, 2009 09:29 pm)
When last we left our intrepid Nomad, he was writing during the tail end of an international T2K SK video conference, following a day of theatre that kicked off a holiday weekend.

The story continues.....

After said video conference ended, certain other activities -- all in line with the spirit of the season -- kept me preoccupied. No complaints per se, but said activities resulted in this Nomad getting only about an hour of sleep before needing to wake up at 4:30am to partake in the May Morning festivities here in Oxford. We left the Flat With No Name shortly after five and, despite the closure of the Magdalen Bridge[*], we made it into the city centre by half five. Walking to the Magdalen College chapel tower, we passed the usual array of drunken college students -- some in very colourful attire. We made it to Magdalen with plenty of time before the college choir sang the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the rooftops -- a tradition dating back more than five centuries.

Once the singing had ended, we wandered through the city centre, taking in the Morris dancers, and the people dressed as trees or bushes, and the other street performers. At half six, I broke away from the group to transition from spectator to part of the entertainment. I joined a band of ringers from the OUSCR and we rang the bells at the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. This is only the second time that I have rung at SMV -- the first being May Morning last year -- and it is good to get some practice on heavier bells. Also good to ring for such a festive crowd and, best of all, the aerial vantage point from SMV provides some of the best views of the May Morning excitement! Looking out from the tower, one can simultaneously see the Rad Cam, the campuses of Brasenose College and All Souls College, the crowds, the Morris dancers... and more!

By half seven, I was done ringing. Our group reformed and we made our way to the Queen's Lane Coffee House for breakfast. We were home again by nine, at which point I collapsed into bed instantly, grabbing another two hours of sleep before needing to wake at eleven for a T2K UK analysis meeting. When the meeting ended at noon, I promptly fell back into bed, to collect another three hours of sleep. At that point, I was up for the rest of the day and proceeded to cook for [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and the two eldest leverets.

Once fed, we left Oxford and made our way back to [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip's home. During the journey, I introduced her to a number of my favourite David Rovics songs. I may not have done much to celebrate May Day as an Anarchist this year -- something that I plan to make up for in 2010 -- but it was good to get in a sampling of my favourite Anarchist holiday.

After arriving in Northampton and bringing the children to their fathers, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and I were able to have a date night to ourselves, in which we were able to celebrate Beltane properly. Again, Not Enough Sleep ensued -- I estimate five hours on Friday night.[**]

On Saturday morning, we had a failed attempt to bake bread and a successful attempt to hold a private Beltane ritual[***]. Afterward, we made our way back to Oxford to collect [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen. Together, we all headed to Leicester, specifically to the home of [livejournal.com profile] thehalibutkid and [livejournal.com profile] sanjibabes. As always, it was nice to see the lovely [livejournal.com profile] sanjibabes and, for that matter, [livejournal.com profile] skibbley. However, our main purpose in making the trip was to hold our group Beltane ritual. Ever since Samhain, a group of us have been working together regularly, with organisation done by yours truly and High Priestessing done by [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. I don't think that I have ever formally worked all the sabbats in a single turning of the Wheel of the Year before; the experience is turning out to be quite the positive one... not just for me, but for everyone in the group. These are not closed rituals -- most have had "guests" in addition to the regulars -- but the same five people have been at all five rituals thus far, which makes for a nice flow of continuity.

For Beltane, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had organised a fairly traditional ritual: We did a Maypole, we jumped over a bonfire, we feasted, et cetera. Nothing terribly esoteric, but the way that Chesh had assembled the usual elements was excellent -- everything flowed together powerfully. It did not hurt in the least that the weather was good and so this became our first outdoor ritual in this sequence[****]. Flowery head dresses were assembled -- mostly with nimble expertise by [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip, though the talented and charming [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen made quite a lovely one on her own. Here are a couple of photos from just before we started the ritual )

After the ritual was done, we all sat around the bonfire and talked for a bit... just enjoying the energy and the warmth and the flames. Then we hugged [livejournal.com profile] thehalibutkid and [livejournal.com profile] parallelgirl goodbye and returned to Oxford. Not quite sure how much sleep I got on Saturday night, but I estimate that it was another five hours.[*****]

Sunday morning, I spent a little more time with [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip before sending her on her way and spending the day with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. I finished the first Sandman trade paperback -- Preludes and Nocturnes -- and then she re-read it so that we could discuss. We got in a fair bit of cuddling. And we managed to spend a bit of quality alone time together.

Today, Monday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I took a day trip to the Stowe Landscape Gardens, a National Trust property about twenty-five miles from Oxford. The gardens were founded in the 18th century by Sir Richard Temple, also known as Lord Cobham. The site takes up 750 acres, though much of it is parkland. The gardens themselves are quite beautiful, with several lakes and valleys and fields. It is then further enhanced by forty-two monuments scattered about the grounds. There are sculptures and temples and columns and bridges (oh my!), so that our map became a sort of checklist guiding us around the gardens today. We spend most of the day at Stowe and managed to take in the entirety of the garden, much to our pleasure! At the end of the day, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I wound down with cream teas before heading back to Oxford and home.

Overall, it has been quite an excellent weekend! Happy Beltane! Happy Spring!

Now then, time to end the weekend by ringing up my darling [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup, who has also been away. Cannot properly claim to have celebrated Beltane without including her!


[*] To prevent drunk students from jumping off and breaking their legs in the very shallow water below.

[**] Bringing the running total for the two nights to eleven hours thus far.

[***] As distinct from the celebration of the night before.

[****] Not counting our Yule ritual, where the circle did remain open through the longest night... which included our trip to Stonehenge to welcome in the dawn.

[*****] Raising the running total for three nights to sixteen hours. Not serious Sleep Deprivation -- certainly nothing like what I pulled last Decemberween -- but definitely not running on a full tank, either!


anarchist_nomad: (One Day More)
( May. 1st, 2009 12:11 am)
I'm being bad right now, writing this entry whilst also participating in an international video conference for the T2K Super-Kamiokande working group. What can I say? We are up to the final talk, on a proposal for a blind analysis... which is not exactly a topic that I care about.

Today has been a really good day. My darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I got to sleep in until about half ten, as we were both taking the day off from work. Catching up on sleep was definitely a good thing, as I have not been resting nearly enough of late. The beauteous [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip arrived at the Flat With No Name around noon, with L1 and L2 in tow. After getting food and whatnot, we made our way into city centre, where we had two o'clock tickets at the Oxford Playhouse.

The performance of the day was a theatrical adaption of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, performed by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. As it is too long to reasonably collapse into a three hour show, the show was presented as two three hour shows. Part One ran from two until five, after which we had a two hour break for dinner. Part Two ran from seven until ten.

Alterations from the novels still needed to be made to make the show fit. For instance, Mary -- the dark matter researcher -- was completely removed. So was Lee Scoresby's death. Nonetheless, the show worked well. Really well. During the second half of Part Two, I was starting to feel frustrated... but then the ending was done so well that I ultimately ended up forgiving them.

Overall, then, I thought it was a really good show. So did L1, who absolutely loved the books. Additionally, it was most appropriate to see it performed in Oxford, where much of the story is set. Indeed, at the end of Part One, I announced that I had found a window to another world -- if we walked through the theatre doors then, like Will and Lyra, we would also find ourselves in Oxford! The author, Phillip Pullman, lives here as well... and apparently he made a surprise cameo appearance in last night's performance!

After the show, there was a short question and answer session with part of the cast. I asked a question about the puppetry in the show -- which had been excellent -- and started a discussion about that. Needless to say, [livejournal.com profile] da_pupdetz[*] were quite chuffed by this!

When our day at the theatre finally ended, we zipped back to the Flat With No Name as quickly as possible, as I had my video conference beginning at 11pm. Is still going on. When it ends, I am off to bed immediately, as I need to wake up at half four to go back into city centre to celebrate the May Morning festivities. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, having done it all before, is sleeping in until her regular wake-up time, then going to work as normal. [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip is joining me, though, as is L1 and L2. The usual singing from the Magdalen tower will happen at six, I am ringing with the OUSCR at half six, the usual contingents of Morris dancers and street bands will be present, and breakfast is at half seven.

Looks like sleep isn't on my agenda for the next day or so. I only expect to get three hours tonight, due to the late-night meeting and the early-morning festivities. Last year, I was asleep again by nine o'clock in morning for a nice nap. Not so likely this year, as I would like to bring L1 to the Oxford Botanic Gardens[**] when they open at nine o'clock tomorrow. Then, at 11:15, I have another meeting to attend, this time from the T2K UK analysis group. Should be done by 12:30, at which point I can squeeze in a little bit of rest before tomorrow evening, when I have a private Beltane ritual and celebration to attend!

Still, sleep or no, this is a four day weekend with many fun things in it... and it is just beginning! Can't really complain about that! (Who need sleep, anyway?)

I hope that all of my fellow Pagans are also having an excellent Beltane weekend... and I wish all of my fellow Anarchists a marvelous Mayday!


[*] Who may well be my daemons.

[**] Largely to flesh out his His Dark Materials experience, as Will & Lyra's bench is located in the Botanic Gardens.


Guess I wasn't wrong in my assessment of how well my presentation as the Oxford University Astronomy Weekend went. This morning, I woke up to find an e-mail in my InBox from the organiser, which began:

Many thanks for the part you played in the successful astronomy weekend this year. I am receiving requests to invite you back for an unprecedented third time in a row – requests with which I am very happy to comply.

I cannot pretend that I am not pleased by the invitation... especially when one considers that some seriously big-name physicists and astronomers -- like Alan Watson, Sir Marin Rees, Roger Davies, etc. -- have lectured at this event over the past thirty-one years!

So..... I guess I know what I am doing for the third weekend in April next year! In 2010, the theme of the weekend will be "Advances in Astronomy", and I have been invited to speak on the topic of "Neutrino Astronomy," which I can (and will) quite happily do.

After that, I think I'm done. I have spoken about dark matter, I have spoken about cosmic rays, I will speak about neutrinos. That covers all three areas where I have done research! No matter how popular my next talk is, they cannot invite me back in 2011 -- I will have nothing left to speak about!
Tags:
Today was a surprisingly good day. Not surprising because I had expected anything bad to happen -- I hadn't and it didn't. Just surprising because not very much at all happened... and yet a number of small but positive things contributed to making it a good day.

It actually started last night, when I was ringing at Mary Mag during the first OUSCR practice of Trinity Term. Right after walking in, the master asked me if I wanted to ring a touch of Plain Bob Triples. Now nobody actually rings Plain Bob Triples. They ring Plain Bob Doubles (five bells), Plain Bob Minor (six bells), or Plain Bob Major (eight bells). No one rings Plain Bob Triples (seven bells). Indeed, the standard book of methods that I use doesn't even have PBT in there!

As such, I am not at all practiced in this method. I do consider myself quite adept at Plain Bob Doubles, though, and getting skilled at Minor. Sometimes I can do Major, but not reliably. On the fly, I pieced together what I know from Major -- since eight is close to seven -- and Doubles -- since five is also an odd number of bells -- and gave it my best shot. Amazingly enough, my best shot was quite good! I kept the method consistently for quite some time... and I could even hear that my striking was well placed. Very nice, if I do say so myself!

I have been doing a fair bit of ringing lately, and I feel I am making more progress. So that put me into a happy mood that continued into today. From there, things just got better.

For one thing, the weather today continued its recent trend of being incredible! By and large, one of the things that I dislike most about living in England is the weather[*]. Of late, though, that complaint is baseless. Good! Coupled with the fact that the days are now nearly fifteen hours long -- and still growing -- it is positively a joy to be outside! On my way into work this morning, I had a lovely bicycle ride across Kensington Gardens, taking in the weather and the lake and the greenery!

Work itself continues to go reasonably well. I still have more to do than I can get done. But what else is new? Progress is happening, and I am getting excited about the upcoming trip to Japan. Not as excited as I will be about the September Japan trip -- where, at long last, I get to return to my "home" area of Gifu and Toyama after six years away -- but excited
nonetheless!

It goes on from there, though: Our flat was inspected today, and passed with flying colours. As a nice side-effect of this, the Flat With No Name is now quite, quite tidy. Just the way I like it! When I got home from work, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat was in a cheery mood. No matter what else is going on, that always brightens my day. And if it is an already-bright day? Well, so much the better! And brighter! I arrived home just as her music -- set to shuffle play -- switched onto Another Day (from Rent). With no discussion, we naturally slipped into a very energetic version of this duet. We had a blast... though I think that we may have startled both kitties!

After eating dinner, I had a delightful "phone date" with the terrific [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup. She has only been gone for a couple of weeks, but I definitely miss her. Ah well -- at least it will be May very soon[**], at which point I can say that I am seeing her again in the month after next!

Finally, the day is almost done... but I have an excellent weekend to look forward to! Tomorrow, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip is coming down to join [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I for a two-part theatrical rendition of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy at -- you guessed it! -- the Oxford Playhouse. Then there is a weekend of Beltane fun to follow! Huzzah!


[*] In contrast, one of the things that I miss most -- aside from certain special Anarchists -- about living in Phoenix is the delightful weather there!

[**] In just over twenty-four hours!


Here are various and sundry things going on right now:

  • Work is going well, both personally for the T2K experiment as a whole. The calorimeter for the near detector, which was built here by the UK group, is currently in Switzerland for a test at CERN. Meanwhile, the actual neutrino beam, which is in Japan, switched on for the first time last week. Exciting times! Personally, I spent today supervising my students and installing Kubuntu Linux onto Arkham, my laptop, so that I can get a number of high energy physics tools like Geant and Root and T2KFit running on my personal machine.

  • Tonight -- in about an hour -- I will be at the first ringing practice of Trinity Term with the Oxford University Society of Bell Ringers.

  • Nearly done with the first Sandman trade paperback now. Good stuff!

  • Having had no new travel adventures since my birthday weekend in March, I am starting to feel a bit restless. Thankfully, plans are currently being made for a number of trips in the next few months: In two weeks, I will be off to Japan. Just days after I return, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I have a five day road trip planned up North as we continue checking items off of our "Explore England" checklist[***]. As we move into Summer, there will be the annual visit to New York and Chicagoland... and Starwood! Ah, yes, Starwood! That never fails to be exciting! And then, on my return, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I planned a very nice cruise vacation to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. Air travel, road travel, sea travel all coming up -- that's a good way to make a happy Nomad!



[*] Okay, there really isn't a checklist. It's actually a spreadsheet.

This post is entirely concerned with the organisation of fun social stuff here in Merry Olde Englande. For my dear friends back in the States, you should feel free to read no further unless you are inclined to fly over to join us.[*]

Following the well respected Rule of Three[**], I present to you three upcoming events and ask if you wish to join me for them!

Event The First is the annual pilgrimage to Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice. I have been doing this each Midsummer for a couple of years now, and it is always a lot of fun. See, for instance, the photos in this post if you don't believe me. So... anyone want to join me for Solstice 2009? Just you, me, ancient stones, and twenty or thirty thousand of our closest friends. How can you say "no" to that??

Event The Second is the midnight showing of Troilus & Cressida at Shakespeare's Globe on Friday July 31st. I have been to the Globe before... but never for a midnight performance. The prospect of Shakespeare in the middle of the night is intriguing and, for me, certainly different! As the title for this entry says: It will be a midnight's summer dream! I plan to pick up a few of the nicer seats, at £33 each. If you wish to come along, I can pick up one for YOU, too! However, you can also join in the fun even if you don't want to shell out that much cash; there are a plethora of spaces left for "groundlings" to stand... selling for only five quids per person! I see no reason why we cannot accommodate both budgets and physical requirements to have as many people there as possible!

Event The Third is a bit further flung. In February, I organised a very successful outing to the Babylon: Myth & Reality exhibition. Twas a great day out and much fun was had by all! As a follow-up, I am planning an outing to the Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler exhibition that will open in September and run until January. Tentatively speaking, I am looking at going on Sunday November 29th. That's the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which means that I will most likely have spent the day before at D&J's flat in Greenwich, having another Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat! I am not irrevocably committed to this date, however, so if there is another that works better for people, I can be persuaded to change my mind!

Keeping track of one social event at a time is tricky enough. Doing three at once requires a bit of special help, so I have created..... A POLL!

[Poll #1390852]

Looking forward to seeing some of y'all at these events (and others) in the coming months!


[*] Which you really should do!

[**] Actually, I can think of three "rule of three"s. Seems appropriate, huh? There is the Rule of Three in Writing and the Rule of Three in Programming and the Rule of Three in Wicca! Pretty spiffy, yes?
One of the things that I love about Oxford is that it is small enough to get around easily by bus or push bike and, whenever you go out, you run into somebody that you know... whilst being simultaneously big enough that there is always something going on. Thus, although I did not leave the city this weekend, there was plenty to do and it made for quite a pleasant weekend, indeed!

On Friday evening, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip came down for a date. When she arrived, we headed into Jericho to get dinner at my second favourite vegetarian restaurant in Oxford -- The Gardener's Arms.[1] As usual, the food was quite good. After eating, I took her on a stroll through Jericho before we headed back to the Flat With No Name. Upon our return, the rest of the evening was spent locked in a room together.[2] Although we see each other frequently, too much of our recent time together has been group social time, or dealing-with-practicality time, or child time. This left us both quite eager for some time with nothing to do but be alone together... and so we opted to forgo the various options for theatre or a concert in favour of sharing some much needed quality alone time.

Come Saturday morning, both [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and I were quite happy, though moving a little slowly. Thus, I put her on the Oxford Tube at about the same time that I should have already been in city centre. Hopping on my bicycle immediately afterward, I arrived at the Town Hall twenty minutes late... but just in time for the start of the day's activities.

Just what were the activities of which I speak, gentle readers? It is a fair question... and -- fear not -- I shall tell you! Yesterday, to celebrate its 275th anniversary, the Oxford Society of Change Ringers had a ringing day. Those of us who were participating were divided into four teams that were to compete in five areas: (1) Ringing six bells down in peal and then up again, (2) Tune ringing on twelve handbells, (3) Ringing an Oxford method on eight tower bells, (4) Ringing Stedman Cinques on twelve tower bells, and (5) a trivia quiz. I am not experienced in tune ringing, which is very different than change ringing -- indeed, one does not even hold the handbells in the same way! Still, I joined in the handbell tune ringing competition.[3]. Our assignment was to learn Ode To Joy; we practiced for some time in the Priory Room at Christ Church, then gave our performance back in the Town Hall. I rang on the fifth and sixth bells of the twelve... and thought that I did reasonably well. Shortly after our performance, it was time for lunch... during which I had several enjoyable chats with fellow ringers.

As I was not participating in the tower bell competitions during the afternoon, I snuck out after lunch and met up with my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat for a trip to the exhibition hall at the Bodleian Library. The current displays were entitled Hallelujah! The British Choral Tradition and After Arundel: Religious writing in fifteenth-century England. The first display covered one thousand years of British choral music in various settings: in churches, at coronations, et cetera. There were a number of impressive manuscripts; true to form, my favourite was the oldest -- the Winchester Troper, used one thousand years ago at the Old Minster in Winchester[4]. The second display was smaller, featuring seven religions manuscripts from the early and middle of the fifteenth century. All were concerned with the suppression of heresay, in the aftermath of John Wycliffe and the Lollard movement[5]. Thomas Arundel himself, as archbishop of Canterbury, had fought to suppress the Lollards; these works were written as the legacy of that religious conflict.

Once we left the Bodleian, I headed back to Christ Church to rejoin the Oxford Society's Ringing Day. We had a group picture taken on the Great Stair of the college[6], then congregated to learn the results of the day's competitions. Our handbell ringing had come in a close second, out of four, in technical merit. Unfortunately, our artistic presentation was rated the lowest of the four groups. I think that this may have something to do with our choice to ring loudly; the judge thought that this detracted from the music. Ah well -- it was all in good fun.

When done with the Ringing Day, I rejoined [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, who was reading in Oxford's lovely[7] Bonn Square. We went out for dinner together, then headed to the Oxford Playhouse to see a performance of The Fiddler On The Roof. The Playhouse puts on many high quality shows and has hosted the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as shows headed to the West End. This production, however, was put on by the Oxfordshire Youth Music Theatre. As such, it was very much a student production -- good, but not quite the same caliber as other shows that we have seen there. Perhaps I am a bit harsh here, but I have seen Fiddler twice before -- both times on Broadway -- and so there were very large shoes to be filled. A sixteen year old playing Tevye -- no matter how good -- is not going to compare to the performance I saw Topol give in 1990 or the one that [livejournal.com profile] pomoloco and I saw Harvey Fierstein put on in 2005. That said, it was still an enjoyable show... and I always seem to forget just how difficult Fiddler is to watch. It is a testament to the potential of these kids that there performance still managed to tug on my heartstrings with the sad plight of Anatevka.

After the curtain fell, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I returned to our flat in Headington. Here, we continued making plans for our fifteenth anniversary -- which is coming up in less than four months -- and then ended the evening by watching the last two episodes of Smallville Season Seven.

Today, I began my day by heading out to St. Giles to ring for the Sunday morning services. Then I came home to meet up with the charming [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen, who joined [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I on our annual trip to Oxford University's Harcourt Arboretum. The Harcourt does not measure up to the fantastic Morton Arboretum that the Event Horizon is near in Chicagoland; however, it does have one advantage. For two weeks each year, at the end of April and beginning of May, the bluebells are in bloom. During that time, the Harcourt has a spectacular bluebell meadow, which is a wonder and a delight to behold. The three of us spent hours wandering around the arboretum, taking in the seasonal beauty. Thankfully, the weather was quite obliging and there was ample sun to take many lovely[8] photographs.

When we finally left the arboretum, which is on the southernmost edges of Oxford, we made our way to the Wolvercote, in the northernmost part, to get lunch at The Trout[9]. Sitting outside by the Thames, we spent a couple of hours enjoying a delicious meal whilst taking in the greenery and the waterfowl... including a very amusing trio of frisky ducks!

After eating, I dropped off [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, then proceeded back into the city centre to ring for evening services at St. Giles. Amongst other things, we rang a couple of extents of Plain Bob Doubles, during which I finally realised that I have this method down quite well. Indeed, I find it safe to say that this is the first real method[10] that I am fully comfortable with. Yay for me! Next, I want to extend this comfort to Plain Bob Minor, as I would love to ring a quarter peal on this sometime in the not-TOO-distant future.

When we were done ringing the changes, I returned to Headington, picked up the first Sandman trade paperback, and headed out to Bury Knowle Park to read some more. It is not quite summer yet, but it is still nice to read outside in the evenings, just before the sun goes down.

Finally, that brings us to the present. It is still relatively early in the evening, but I expect to go to bed soon after posting this. There is a very busy week ahead of me, and I want to get an early start on it whilst also being fresh and rested.[11] Many pentacles need to be hammered in the coming weeks!

So, on that note, dear friends, I will end this entry by saying this: Happy Sunday to all... and to all a good night!

[1] The Pink Giraffe, whilst not strictly a vegetarian venue, holds the title of my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Oxford. Every one of their dishes can be made in a vegetarian form, with a variety of fake meats. As such, it is good enough for me to count as a vegetarian restaurant, since I can eat anything on the menu.

[2] Figuratively, not literally.

[3] Besides, it should give me some appreciation for what it is that [livejournal.com profile] jadesfire55 does with her ringing.

[4] The Old Minster, built in 660, was the precursor to the New Minster which, in turn, was predecessor to Winchester Cathedral, which I visited last month during my birthday weekend.

[5] Wycliffe was a prominent theologian at Oxford in the mid-fourteen century... who was then kicked out for his heretic teachings. He did such devious things as translate the Bible into English. Terrible, really!

[6] Harry Potter fans may like to know that this staircase appeared in the first Harry Potter film, as the steps leading into Hogwarts.

[7] "Lovely" in this one instance meaning "ugly as all get-out." Last year, the city spent two million pounds renovating the square into something quite drab and awful.

[8] "Lovely" actually meaning "lovely" this time!

[9] Somewhat well known, in part, because of its mention in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels.

[10] Ignoring non-methods like Plain Hunt.

[11] And I did not sleep enough either night this weekend!


Hwaet!

Tis the Friday of our content, marry sir:
Didst thou talketh like a Shakespeare anon?
For yesterday, by the hairs of my beard
Twas all to speak merrily as the Bard.

It is indeed Friday and, whether you spoke like a Shakespeare or no, gentle readers, it is time for an entry highlighting the, um, highlights of this week. First, though, we have a word from our sponsors a poll!

Last week, I asked YOU when you could come to play games at the Flat With No Name[*]. The winner from that poll appears to be Saturday May 9th. So it is likely that there shall be a games party anon on that date. Before confirming, though, let me make sure that there really are enough people who can attend to make it worth our while:

[Poll #1389214]

In particular, there will be an emphasis on teaching and playing Betrayal at House on the Hill, using the awesome new set made for me by the adorable [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup. Other games are also on hand, though, and much fun shall be had by all who can attend!


Right. That said, what has everybody's favourite Nomad been up to this week? I will not bore you with the details go into full descriptions, but here are some notable happenings from the week now ending:

  • One of the attendees from the Oxford University Astronomy Weekend is a member of the Newbury Astronomy Society, about thirty miles from here. Apparently, she liked my talk so much that she e-mailed me and asked if I could deliver the opening lecture to the Society's next season, in September. I was very flattered to be asked and I agreed, of course. The talk on cosmic rays is already written, and that is the part that I hate about giving a lecture. The actual delivery is fun, as are the questions afterward. So there is no reason at all not to give my talk again, to a different audience!

  • Whilst at St. Giles on Sunday to ring for the evening services, somebody looked at the mail... and noted that there was an envelope for me there. Well, that came as a bit of a surprise! I have never received mail at the church before! Turns out, it was from the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Change Ringers. I was inducted into the Guild at the start of the year[**] and this envelope contained my certificate of membership and some information about the Guild. I know that I am only a learner, even after two and a half years of ringing, but it is nice to be part of some ringing societies now. It feels validating, as it were.

  • Speaking of ringing, I have made it to both handbell practice and tower bell practice at St. Giles for two Thursdays in a row. Given the London commute, this is no longer a given... nor is it trivial to accomplish. However, the benefits are tangible. On handbells, I have brushed the dust off of my Plain Bob Major -- last week, I assured myself that I could still ring the trebles and tenors; this week, I went back to what I was learning before: the 3/4 pair and the 5/6 pair. Coming along nicely, if I do say so myself. On tower bells, I practiced trebling to a long touch of Grandsire Triples. Also, I extensively practiced my inside bell work on Grandsire Doubles last week, and this week I got in some work on a touch of Plain Bob Minor.

  • Unlike Skullcrusher Mountain, the Flat With No Name is managed by a letting agency. Overall, this is a good thing, as our previous landlady[***] did absolutely nothing ever. However, one disadvantage is that the agent makes semi-annual inspections of the property. Joy and rapture. Wednesday was to be the first such inspection, so I stayed home from work on Tuesday and spent the entire day cleaning like mad. To be honest, our flat needed it. When I began, it was an utter mess; when I ended, it was spotless. However, on Wednesday afternoon, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat gets an e-mail saying that they are putting off the inspection for a week. Oi! I had her call to chew them out, and to explicitly state that the flat was currently immaculate and that we would not be cleaning it so thoroughly for them again. The situation is irksome... but at least, with that incentive, we now have a clean place to live once again!

  • For some odd reason, it seems to be the season for old girlfriends to hunt down Nomad on Facebook. I do not have a Facebook account, nor do I intend to ever get one[****]. But a couple of former partners -- who have never met -- recently contacted me asking if I was there. No, that is not quite true. One previous partner asked me if I was on Facebook, as she had been looking for me. The other correctly concluded that I was not there... so she sent me a letter demanding that I get a Facebook account. Indeed, she was adamant and would not take LiveJournal for an answer.[*****] I do consider myself to be on good terms with most of my ex-girlfriends -- indeed, I am rather proud of this fact -- but it is still a tad odd for two to ping me at once because they were searching for me on Facebook! Ah, well. Tis good to be wanted, I suppose!

  • Over the past few years, I have been starting to fill in certain gaps in my education. My cultural education, that is. In 2005, after seventeen years of comic book collecting, I finally read the Crisis on Infinite Earths. In 2007, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I became two of the last people I know to watch Babylon 5. Now, at long last, I have begun to read Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. No spoilers, please! I have successfully avoided any for close to two decades now! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat has all the issues in trade paperback form and I have only read the first three thus far. I have been looking forward to this for ages and am quite excited as I begin to finally see what all the fuss is about!

...and that is about all the news from the week, dear friends!

Now tis time to rush off, as the weekend looks to be fairly full, as well. Tonight, I have a date with the lovely [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip. Tomorrow, the Oxford Society of Change Ringers is having a celebration for its 275th anniversary -- plus, I may sneak away for a bit in the afternoon to see an exhibition in the Bodleian Library -- and then tomorrow evening, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I have tickets to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Oxford Playhouse[******]. Then, on Sunday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen and I will be going to the Harcourt Arboretum to see the bluebell meadows. They only bloom for about two weeks per year... but when they do, they are a phenomenal sight to behold! And, gentle readers, they are in bloom right now!

So...

I go, I go; look how I go,
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow.


[*] It will feel good to get out of the rain!

[**] Making it the second ringing society that I am a member of, as I am also a life member of the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers (and the only person with an identifiable photograph on their home page!).

[***] The irony does not escape me that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I each co-own a house in the States... and yet we find ourselves renting our primary residence in Oxford.

[****] Similarly, I have never been on MySpace. I spend more than enough time online as it is, and that is not enough for me to keep up with my e-mail and LiveJournal. As such, I do not need additional online distractions, even those that I might enjoy (as opposed to things like Twitter, that I just find annoying). I may get myself a Dream Width account -- just because everybody seems to be migrating in that direction -- but that would be as far as I would be willing to go.

[*****] Somehow this particular partner has always had a way of presenting her demands in such a fashion that they came across as rather sexy, instead of whiny.

[******] Which will be the fourteenth theatrical production that I have seen, thus far, in 2009.

As mentioned earlier, I stayed for the full astronomy course this weekend, rather than just presenting my lecture and leaving. This allowed me to hear several interesting talks on topics that I do not usually encounter.

Two of these talks were on exoplanets -- or worlds outside of our solar system. In my previous post, I mentioned the talk by Dr. Suzanne Aigrain on New Insights from Transiting Exoplanets. In her talk, she discussed how we can work out the composition and atmosphere of exoplanets, which impressed the heck out of me.

The other talk on exoplanets was more general (titled, quite simply, as Exoplanets), and given by Prof. Hugh Jones. Overall, I found it to be a less interesting -- and less organised -- talk than Dr. Aigrain's. However, he did mention -- somewhat cryptically -- that we should keep our ears pealed... as there would be an exciting announcement coming on Tuesday.

Well, it is now Tuesday. So what was Prof. Jones hinting at?

Turns out, he was not exaggerating. The news is out, and can be read about in brief here.

Or, to be even more brief, just read on: Another planet comparable in size to Earth has -- for the first time -- been discovered! How cool is that??

For those who are unimpressed, please recall that, until 1995, the prospect of finding any planets outside our solar system was considered to be more fantasy than fact. Hundreds have now been located, by a variety of methods, but they are nearly all giants -- making them far easier to detect. The discovery of a planet comparable in size to Earth -- orbiting a star twenty light years away -- is an astounding discovery, indeed!

Still not impressed? Fine. Perhaps this will entertain you instead: Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sep 19) and the more amusing Talk Like A Ninja Day ([*]), the day after tomorrow -- Apr 23 -- is Talk Like A Shakespeare Day. Zounds! To celebrate the birthday of the Bard, people are being encouraged to speak like an Elizabethan playwright! Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious Springtime by this son of Chicago...


[*] The concept of Talk Like A Ninja Day evolved as a response to Talk Like A Pirate Day. It was independently proposed by multiple sources, of which yours truly is one. As such, it is difficult to find which is the best day to celebrate, though Dec 05 may have the strongest claim.

The 31st annual Astronomy Weekend at Oxford University is now over. I am delighted to report that the physics-fu has been strong with me during this weekend.

Despite the fact that I was up on "Friday night" until four thirty in the morning, I did indeed finish my talk with hours to spare. Kudos to me! Also, kudos to all those who left comments on my last post, giving me some virtual company through the long night. In fact, I appreciate it enough that, more than offering mere kudos, I will retroactively give one hundred points to each person who left a message for me on Friday ngiht.

I must confess that I was somewhat nervous about presenting my lecture on Cosmic Rays: Messengers from the Extreme Universe. Last year's talk was so well received -- getting me invited back for a second year in a row! -- that I had concerns about being able to fill my own shoes. I need not have worried; immediately after my talk, one person came up to me and said that it was even better than last year. Nice! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat -- who had come to hear me speak -- commented that it was not as funny as last year's talk... but that was not really a surprise. Although I moments that incited laughter in this year's talk[*], I knew a priori that it would not be as funny. It is very easy to make fun of yourself when you are presenting a talk from a search with no results -- like my dark matter lecture -- and those easy inroads to humour are gone when you actually have significant findings to report.

Nevermind. I can live with being a littls less funny this year. The talk went well, and that was the main thing.[**] Indeed, I even had a few people asking me if I would come back again next year... and saying that they would request it on the comment sheet at the end of the course. Hmmm... is it possible to have physics groupies?

It is a tradition on Saturday afternoon of the astronomy weekend to have an option tour arranged for the attendees. Last year, the tour was of Green College. I sat out, as I wanted to rehearse my lecture. This year, it was of the Denys Wilkinson Physics Building... so I was roped into giving part of the tour. The crowd was broken into four groups, with each group taken to one of four places: The rooftop telescope, the electronics laboratory, a lecture by an astronomy graduate student... and the cryo-detector lab. Can you guess where I was based? The groups rotated so that all the attendees got to do see all four places. As a result, I ended up giving four tours -- each accompanied by a miniature dark matter talk -- of my old stomping grounds... and came face-to-face with my old nemesis: the Kelvinox-400! It seems that this was quite a hit as well -- I later got thanked by many people for the tour and, at the end of the weekend, the organiser[***] publicly commented from the stage that he had enjoyed getting to see the inside of my old lab. That was quite nice of him -- were I prone to blushing, I may have changed hue!

One extra bonus whilst in the cryo-detector lab was that I ran into JI, my old graduate student. He will be finishing up at Oxford in a few months and had talked to me in February about the T2K experiment. Knowing there was an post-doctoral opening at Stony Brook, in the group where I worked for my PhD, I encouraged him to apply. When he did, I wrote him a recommendation letter... and put in an informal word or two to the leader of the group, my thesis adviser. Turns out that he got the position... and has accepted it! Excellent! I think that he will be good for the Stony Brook group and they, in turn, will be good for him. It feels quite nice to be able to make such a match!

Speakers at the astronomy weekend are welcome to stick around to hear the other talks. Last year, I surprised the organiser by staying for all of the talks. Apparently, most speakers do not. This year, I did the same. I really don't understand why more speakers don't do this -- I learned some fascinating things! In particular, I was impressed by the talk on Recent Results from the Hubble Space Telescope[****] and also by the talk on detecting exoplanets via the transit method. I knew that, since the first discovery of exoplanets in 1995, the field had come a long way. However, I was blown away to learn that we can now figure out what the atmospheres and compositions are for exoplanets. Wow. Just... wow.

This evening, with the astronomy weekend behind me for [at least] another year, I went to St. Giles to ring bells for the Sunday evening services. Then I came home and had a lovely dinner with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. Over dinner, she informed me that somebody had sent a text to our landline today. It came through as a call with the content being read by a computerised voice. Apparently, it was a silly cheese song. Hmmmmm... Who could have done such a thing? I have a hunch who might have been behind such a devious -- and successful -- plan to make us laugh... but I will not reveal my suspicions until they have been confirmed.

As the weekend begins to wind down, I may pick up the phone and ring some lovely people in the States. There are a few special persons that I have not spoken to in Far Too LongTM. Then I may play a game with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat to wind down before bed...


[*] Like when I used the nickname for the Higgs Boson (the so-called "God Particle") to introduce the nickname for the highest energy cosmic ray yet observed (the so-called "Oh My God! Particle").

[**] In response to a request from [livejournal.com profile] blaisepascal, the slides for the talk can be found here. Alas, due to some large pictures within, the file is about 56 MB. Can it be made smaller? Of course! However, size was not really my priority writing it in the middle of the night before presenting...

[***] Who is a professor at the Open University, a former particle physics theorist, and a current astronomy... writing a textbook on general relativity. Not exactly a slouch in the achievement department.

[****] Mainly because it had, by far, the best photographs of the weekend!


Friday night. Just got back from the opening of the Oxford University Astronomy Weekend. Lots of familiar faces that remember me from last year. In just over twelve hours, I present my lecture for this year -- Recent Developments in Cosmic Rays.

The talk, which I estimate will be able forty slides, is just over half written. Oi! It is going to be a long night[*].

I am supposed to be a reasonably smart guy. You would think that, after all these years, I would know how to not stay up until stupid o'clock in the morning the night before giving a talk.

Ironically, last year I was nervous because I had never delivered a lecture to this sort of audience before, nor had I delivered a talk of any type at Oxford. This year I am nervous because last year went so amazingly well... and I find myself wondering if I can live up to my own example.

Ah, well. Time to press on. Last year, I finished writing by about two o'clock in the morning and managed to get five hours of sleep. Let's see if I can do the same tonight[**]...

ETA: Nearly one thirty in the morning now. Thirty-five slides down. Probably about six more to go. I won't be finished by two -- that much is certain. Still, I am also starting to feel good about this lecture, which is a very nice feeling. Also, I still have one more energy drink in reserve.

EFTA: Ten minutes to three now. Forty slides down. Three to go, I think. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat has been wonderful -- she fixed me a snack (cheese, humous, and crackers[***]) and surprised me by buying five energy drinks when I only requested two. So I still have three left in reserve. She has been taking terrific care of me. It makes me think fondly of when I was an undergraduate, fourteen years ago, and she would take similarly good care of me when I was up all night writing a paper -- then edit the paper when I was finished! With any luck, I will be done in an hour or so and get get four hours to sleep. The talk itself is either turning out better than I expected... or I am too tired to tell the difference. I think it is the former, though...

ESFTA: Four thirty in the morning. Finished. Forty-three slides. Whee! Time to sleep. Should be able to get nearly four hours if I wake up in time to listen to the talk before mine; five and a half if I do not. We shall see. All I need is rest (or caffeine) to get me through this and I should be alright. It is a good lecture.


[*] As I type this, my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is taking a stroll to the corner store to pick me up a couple of cans of energy drink. I am loved.

[**] Any comments that you can make, gentle readers, would be greatly appreciated. Especially those of you in the States who are likely still awake. I may not have time to respond to them tonight, but they will bring a smile to my face as they break the monotony. If you truly have no idea what to say, just sing me songs of cheese.

[***] As we all know, cheese is love!


Some things are just too big to be kept from the world. One of those things makes its public debut now! Gentle readers, I give you.....

The Silly Cheese Song Project!

The SCSP grew out of humble origins. Some of you may know that my beloved [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I have so many esoteric things in common that we have taken to referring to ourselves as the Good Twin and the Evil Twin[**]. One of these commonalities is that, in both of our homes, the saying "Cheese is love" has been a household phrase for some time. For me, I use it to explain to [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat why there is more cheese than she wanted on her food. After all, if I love her, how could I not give her bountiful cheese? I am not sure of the origin of this phrase for [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and [livejournal.com profile] plasmonicgrid, but I am assured that it has been in use for quite some time.

In any case, if cheese is love then love is cheese. And, during [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup's recent visit to Merry Olde England, I realised that this could revolutionise the way that we listen to music. Just substitute cheese for love in a given song, and see how much better[***] it gets!

Well, this idea could not be kept to ourselves, so we let [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat in on it the very next day. Indeed, this led to a long cuddle-and-giggle session at the Flat With No Name that was gangs of fun! A few days later, my darling [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip was introduced to the concept. And now, it is ready for THE WORLD!!![****]

Below are just a few examples of how the SCSP improves music[*****]:
  • The Beatles:
    All you need is cheese,
    All you need is cheese,
    All you need is cheese, cheese, cheese is all you need.


  • Foreigner:
    I want to know what cheese is
    I want you to show me
    I want to feel what cheese is
    I know you can show me


  • Heart:
    What about cheese?
    Don't you want someone to care about you?
    What about cheese?
    Dont let it slip away
    What about cheese?
    I only want to share it with you
    You might need it someday


  • Meatloaf:
    I would do anything for cheese
    Yes, I would do anything for cheese
    I would do anything for cheese...
    but I won't do that. Oh no, I won't do that.


  • Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes:
    Cheese lifts us up where we belong.


  • Whitney Houston:
    The greatest cheese of all is happening to me.
    I found the greatest cheese of all inside of me.


  • Pat Benetar:
    We are young, heartache to heartache we stand
    No promises, no demands
    Both of us knowing: Cheese is a battlefield


  • The Supremes:
    You can't hurry cheese
    No, you just have to wait
    She said cheese don't come easy
    It's a game of give and take


  • Belinda Carlisle:
    Ooh, Baby, do you know what that's worth?
    Oooh, heaven is a place on Earth.
    They say in heaven, cheese comes first
    We'll make heaven a place on earth.


  • Jackie DeShannon:
    Think of your fellow man
    Lend him a helping hand
    Put a little cheese in your heart

    You see it's getting late
    Oh please don't hesitate
    Put a little cheese in your heart


  • Air Supply:
    I don't know how to leave you
    And I'll never let you fall
    And I don't know how you do it,
    Making cheese out of nothing at all


  • White Snake:
    Is this cheese that I'm feeling?
    Is this the cheese that I've been searching for?
    Is this cheese or am I dreaming?
    This must be cheese


    And, to conclude, one of my favourites:

  • The B-52s:
    If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says
    Fifteen miles to the... Cheeeeeese Shack! Cheese Shack yeah
    I'm headin' down the Atlanta highway,
    Lookin' for the cheese getaway
    Heading for the cheese getaway
    I got me a car, it's as big as a whale
    And we're headin' on down
    To the Cheese Shack
    I got me a Chrysler, it seats about 20
    So hurry up and bring your jukebox money

    The Cheese Shack is a little old place
    Where we can get together
    Cheese Shack baby, Cheese Shack bay-bee.
    Cheese baby, that's where it's at,
    Ooo cheese baby, that's where it's at

    Sign says.. Woo... stay away fools,
    'cause cheese rules at the Che-e-ese Shack!

There are some of the best that I've heard so far -- but they are far from the only good ones out there. Get into the Silly Cheese Song Project... and you will never listen to music in quite the same way again! Got any good cheese songs that you want to share? Post them as a comment and I shall award fifty points for each one that makes me laugh!


[*] And what's wrong with that?

[**] Somehow I ended up as the Evil Twin! Go figure!

[***] Or at least funnier.

[****] Cue maniacal laughter!

[*****] I present these without credit to the person that thought of them, as several have been independently suggested by more than one person.


Hello, World!

I've been a terrible, terrible LiveJournaler of late. I know[*]. Life has been... complicated. I will try to catch the wide world up on my comings and goings sometime soon, as I know y'all have been waiting with baited breath. In the meantime, though, I have other matters pressing for my attention. Remember that Astronomy lecture on dark matter that I delivered last year at the Oxford University School of Continuing Education? Well, it was such a smashing success that I was invited back to present a talk on "Recent Developments in Cosmic Ray Astronomy" this coming weekend. Which is lovely and flattering... but also means that I need to write a talk on recent developments in cosmic ray astronomy post haste!

Whilst I may not have time to put together an update at the moment, I do have a hankering to play some games! In particular, I would very much like to assemble some people to play Betrayal at House on the Hill, using the spiffy new set that the exceedingly-awesome [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup gave me for my birthday! Our games shelf grows ever larger, though, so other hits -- like Apples to Apples and Wise & Otherwise and Settlers of Catan, just to name a few -- are also possible!

I would love to bring all my excellent friends[**] here for gaming. Alas, I have been negligent in assembling the functional transporter. As such, only those who are on this side of the pond can reasonably expect to attend. For those lucky few, I present.... a poll!!!

[Poll #1383633]

Hope to see as many of you as possible sometime soon for a night of terror day of fun and gaming!


[*] Anybody interested in administering suitable punishments can line up in the queue now. (Yes, US English and UK English in one sentence -- don't want anyone to feel left out!)

[**] And even a few of the "eh, they're alright" ones!


Just got back from bringing [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup to the airport bus. I waited with her until the bus came, then put her on board and waved as the bus drove off. Then I watched for a minute until the bus was out of sight[*] before turning and walking back to the flat.

It was wonderful having her here and, by and large, it was a really good visit. Yes, there were a couple of unforeseen happenings[**] that were not so great, but overall the week was fantastic. Much as I love being Nomadic -- and the opportunities that it has offered -- one of the hardest things to do, even after all these years, is parting with a loved one. One would think that, with all the experience I have, the separation of long distance relationships would be easier, yes?

On returning to the flat, I saw Giles sitting in the bedroom window. He stood up when he saw me to stretch and meow lovingly. Looking at my baby -- now nearly full grown! -- reminded me that I should not get too maudlin; there are many blessings to be counted. This visit very nicely split up the three months since I last saw [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and the three months until I will see her again at Starwood. We had a lovely visit and did many nifty things. She and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat get along swimmingly. Et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.

I have to get ready for work now, as we have a big T2K UK meeting in Oxford starting in about an hour. And, with some luck, I may be able to procure my car from Kent today, too.[***] So, as usual, a busy day ahead. I will be fine and shall rise to the challenges it presents. I will also just be a little sad inside, whilst I miss my tawney girl.


[*] I tend to be sappy and romantic like that.

[**] Like, oh, the car story that I have not yet told.

[***] We shall see about this, as I have no confirmed ride yet. But I am going to do my best.


Tags:
anarchist_nomad: (Road trip!)
( Apr. 5th, 2009 06:44 pm)
This post is aimed at my UK-based friends who hold a full British driving license and, ideally, own a car.

Does this describe you? If so, read on! )
Tags:
Today has been an... interesting day. Started off with high plans, followed by a comedy of errors and salvaged into a fun evening.

That is not what this post is about. This post is about my birthday gift from [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup. Just opened it now... and, holy cow, it is incredible!

Since the Betrayal at House on the Hill game is out of print -- and online copies cost a couple of hundred dollars -- she made me a version of the game. And it is fantastic!!!

Wowza. Am busy being floored now. This is a pretty incredible woman. Wow.
Writing this entry from the Oxford Tube. In and of itself, this is not uncommon these days. However, there are a couple of unusual bits to this journey. One is that I am sitting on top, in the front, with a lovely view of the road and the setting sun. I usually sit downstairs at one of the tables, to accommodate my laptop. The other difference is that there is a tantalizing [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup sitting next to me, gently dozing. Indeed, she is the reason for the first change, too. And the fact that she is asleep gives me time to write this entry.

There has been much going on this week, and I don't have time to write about it all in detail. Here, though, is a snapshot:

Monday: Had a very busy day at work, in that I needed to produce a number of plots and distributions to send to a colleague in the States, then I had volunteered to do a question & answer session with high school students... all before leaving at five o'clock. The early departure from work[*] was because my dear [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I were going to attend a drum class and jam session at the Lake Street Community Centre in Oxford. I had learned about these back in November, quite by accident. However, the conflict with ice skating lessons and whatnot had kept us from going until now. It was really great to play, once again, on the beautiful djembe that [livejournal.com profile] resourceress and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had bought for me for Yule 2005. It had been far too long! Methinks that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I will be going back for more of these classes in the future...

Tuesday: Woke up early -- 6am -- Hand drove to Heathrow to pick up the charming [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup, who is visiting for the week. The airport pickup went without hitch and I was so very happy to see her again! We made our return to Oxford without incident, where I introduced her to the Headington Shark and then to [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. To my delight, they seem to be getting along quite swimmingly![**] After driving [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat to work, we grabbed pasties for breakfast. Then I took [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup on a tour of Oxford. Most of it was a simple walking tour, showing off my city. We went by Carfax, the Martyrs' Memorial, Oxford University Press, the Eagle and Child, and more. We stopped in the University Museum of Natural History and lingered there until it was time to meet [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat for lunch. We all ate together at an Indian restaurant; afterward, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat went back to work whilst [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I went home to nap. We got up when [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat left work to shower and prepare for the evening.

The evening's entertainment was a trip to Stratford-on-Avon to meet up with the beauteous [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Winter's Tale. This is the third time that I have seen this play on stage... and it was, by far, the best! The first time was an amateur production in Oxford in December 2007, the second was last August -- also in Oxford -- by a touring company from Shakespeare's Globe. The Globe does good work, but they are just not in the same league as the RSC. This production was fantastic... and it managed to increase my appreciate of the play by a couple of notches! After the show, we all hung out and chatted for a bit before [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip needed to go to her home and we needed to go back to ours.

Wednesday: Slept in with [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup who was somewhat sleepy from several days of insufficient rest. Once awake, we headed into Oxford to explore my home city for a second day. We had lunch at the Eagle & Child, in the Rabbit Room where J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis used to meet every week. We climbed the last publicly accessible tower in Oxford that I had not yet ascended: the old Saxon tower (c.1040) of St. Michael's at the North Gate. Whilst atop the tower, we heard the buskers down below playing a variety of songs. When they reached "Dancing in the Moonlight" we couldn't resist breaking out into a dance of our own, together on top of this nearly-a-millennium-old building! Loads of fun! After leaving the tower, and the attached church, we took a break from crepes in Bonn Square, then climbed the Oxford Castle Mound. On our descent, we took a stroll through the grounds of Christ Church, entering on St. Aldates and emerging at the botanic garden. Then it was a walk across the Magdalen Bridge and up to Headington Hill Park before catching a bus home. In the evening, we went out for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at G&D's so that we could have bagel sandwiches and ice cream!

Thursday: Today, I had to go to work. There was no way around it. We had our usual group meeting, and preparation needed to be done for a meeting in Oxford on Monday. Plus we have an international video conference at 11pm tonight and I am introducing my students to the global T2K SK group. [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup joined me for the trip into London, showing me how to play Settlers of Catan online along the way. Then we walked across Kensington Gardens together and I showed her where I work before sending her on to the Natural History Museum and the V&A whilst I got down to work. We met up again after my meeting ended and are now making our way back to Oxford -- very nearly there -- where I shall bring her to St. Giles Church and show her what all this change ringing stuff is about! Then dinner at the Noodle Bar Nation and home in time for my late night meeting!

And that, gentle readers, is the news of the week. So far! The only thing I really have time to add before the coach gets into Oxford is a comment about how very wonderful it is to have my dear [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup visiting here with me this week. I'm looking over at her sleeping in the seat next to me as I type this -- and simultaneously watching the bright red sun set below the clear horizon -- and I can't help but feeling like I'm a pretty lucky guy!


[*] The week before I had not left before seven o'clock on any night, and sometimes stayed as late as ten.

[**] Possibly because [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is [usually] much less frightening than a shark?


On the Oxford Tube right now, heading home. Yes, the timestamp on this entry is correct. It is indeed after 11pm. I should be home shortly before midnight; plenty of time to microwave a quick dinner, grab seven hours sleep, then head in to do it all again!

Work has been really picking up of late. I don't think I've left the office before 8pm this week! This means that I have been to no extracurriculars at all. There has been something going on every evening... but I have had no time for any of it.

Whilst I am obviously becoming a very boring human being -- "all work and no play..." -- this is actually not a particularly bad thing. Progress is being made, and being productive feels good. After all, I like my job; I enjoy being a physicist. At the moment, I am directly supervising two students, getting ready to supervise a third, and have my fingers in four different pies (i.e., projects).

All in all, not bad... just somewhat time consuming.

One particularly memorable part of the week was yesterday. I am a convener of the T2K Super-Kamiokande UK group. Over the past few weeks, RT[*] and I organised a T2K SK UK meeting. Once it became clear that said meeting would be held at Imperial College, most of the organising naturally fell to me. This is the first time that I have organised a non-local meeting -- we had participants from as far away as Lancaster and Liverpool. It is also the first time that I have chaired a meeting. I will confess to being a tad nervous at first but, not surprisingly, everything went rather well. So well, in fact, that one of the Imperial faculty suggested today that we do these particular meeting two or three times a year. So... go me!

Tomorrow morning, I have to finish writing a talk (or perhaps two) for the T2K UK analysis meeting. Then I have plenty of other things to do before the weekend hits.

I realise that I am indeed becoming much less interesting a person to know when all I do is work. However, that might not be the worst possible thing for some time. During our Oestara ritual on Sunday, we did some tarot work. One of the cards I drew, advising me on how to get where I need to be, was the Eight of Pentacles. The image features a man working hard by himself. In the distance, we can see a city. I think that there is a good lesson there -- I can easily fill my life with hobbies, people, and activities. There is always more that I want to do. However, I need to bear in mind that sometime in the next couple of years, I need to stop being a post-doc and move on to a faculty position. The work I am doing now -- both the physics analysis as well as the supervision of students, organisation of meetings, et cetera -- is very important if I am to make that next step.


[*] The other convener.

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anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Mar. 26th, 2009 10:17 am)
Three years ago today, I arrived in England to begin life here as an expatriate and a job at the University of Oxford.

Three years? Wow. As [livejournal.com profile] resourceress likes to say: "Time's fun when you're having flies!"

Really, though, three years? That's a fairly long time! More than half of this journal has been written since I moved to Oxford. Indeed, I have lived in seven places -- New York City, Amherst (MA), Long Island, Japan, Phoenix, Chicago, and Oxford... and, by now, I have been in Oxford for longer than I spent in half of those places! Longer than the two years that I spent in Japan and the two years that I spent in Arizona, longer than the two and a half that I spent in Chicago. Wow.

Indeed, in another year, I will surpass the four years that I spent in Amherst, Massachusetts... and if I am still here a year after that, I will have been here longer than the five years that I lived in Lawn Guyland... making Oxford second only to New York City in terms of how long I have lived in a given place. Growing up in NYC means that I spent nearly eighteen years there; I don't think it is in danger of losing the top spot any time soon.

One other item worth mentioning: Being here for three years now means that I am at the halfway point between my arrival and the point where I can apply for citizenship. Three years down, three more to go.

Almost at work now, so I'd best post this. Will try to update later tonight about what has been going on in this fairly productive week...
The uncharacteristic weather here in England, which started with my birthday last week, continued to be unusual through the weekend. Which is to say, warm and dry with sunny blue skies. No complaints from this Nomad.

On Saturday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went to Milton Keynes[*] to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen perform as Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot. I had seen a version of the play performed, also with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, in the mid-1990s... but I must confess that I remembered none of it. It made that much of an impression. I saw Beckett's Endgame with [livejournal.com profile] polymorphism in 2005... and the best thing that I could say about it to her was: "I really wish that this had been your idea!" Suffice to say, Beckett is not my favourite playwright.

That said, I have to say that this production of Waiting For Godot was simply phenomenal! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had front row seats and, thus, a perfect view of the action[**]. I have concluded that, as a play, I think Godot is far superior to Endgame -- it simply makes more sense. Much more sense! Furthermore, I had prepared myself by reading commentaries on the play, so that I was able to have maximal appreciation for this performance.

The other members of the case -- playing Pozzo and Lucky and the boy[***] -- were quite good. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were, simply put, outstanding. We have seen Ian McKellen on stage once before -- in the RSC production of King Lear -- and we have seen Patrick Stewart trod the boards several times. Individually, each is already outstanding; together on stage, they defy description. Despite my propensity for words, nothing I say here can truly do their work justice. For my friends on this side of the pond, I heartily recommend purchasing tickets whilst it is still possible to do so!

As a side note, I will observe that when I saw McKellen in King Lear, he ended up stripping naked when Lear goes mad. As Gogo, in Waiting For Godot, he also drops his trousers near the end when Estragon removes his belt to see if it is suitable for the "heroes" to hang themselves with. Seems that I can't see Sir Ian perform without him stripping to some extent or another!

One other observation: Watching Stewart and McKellen perform side by side in roles that are effectively interchangeable has made me realise that Patrick Stewart is, just slightly, the better actor. Both are, of course, incredible! But Stewart brings just a shade more exceptional talent to the stage. Had I not watched them perform side by side thusly, it never would have been noticeable enough to distinguish -- the difference is that small and subtle.

After the show ended, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I discussed whether to be fannish and gather near the stage door. Having spoken to and shaken hands with both Stewart and McKellen in the past, we didn't feel a burning need to do so again. On the other hand, we were waiting for [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip to arrive... so we may as well wait by the stage door instead of the car! Stewart came out first, interacting with his fans in as polite and pleasant a manner as usual. He duly signed autographs on everyone's programmes, then went along his way. A short while later, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup -- the actors playing Pozzo and Lucky -- came out. Since we were there anyway, we had them autograph our programme, too. After all, their performances had also made the show what it was! Sir Ian, we were told, was receiving a back treatment and would not be coming out.

The timing worked out well. Shortly after we were done gathering autographs, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip arrived with L2. As we moved everyone (and everything) into Peter II for the drive down to Oxford, L2 had questions about the show that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had just seen. Since L2 is nine, we tried to explain who we had seen by using cultural references. We asked him if he had seen the Lord Of The Rings movies. He said no. We had more success with the X-Men franchise and explained that we had seen the actors playing Magneto and Professor X:

"Ian McKellen is Magneto." we explained.

"And Professor X?" he asked.

"That's Patrick Stewart." I said.

It was at this point that I looked up and saw somebody walking by, about five or six meters away. I pointed and basically repeated myself: "Actually, that is Patrick Stewart."

Perhaps it is a moment where one needs to be present to appreciate the humour... but I found it amusing. We did, of course, lower our voices and allowed the man to pass in quiet dignity without intruding upon his personal time and space.

I am almost back to Oxford now, so I shall finish writing about this weekend later. All in all, though, this outing made for a wonderful Saturday afternoon. Again, I strongly recommend this production to my local friends... and I want to give a very special thank you to [livejournal.com profile] jeneralist for making me aware of it in the first place!


[*] Getting to the show on time was quite an experience. Due to a series of miscommunications and errors on our parts, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I left Oxford with insufficient time to get to the show before the curtain went up. This is quite the aberration; [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I go to the theatre fairly often. Yet, in our nearly fifteen years together, we have only ever been late to two shows: An Inspector Calls in Connecticut in 1995 and Marlowe in Chicago in 2005. Both times, abnormally high traffic caused us to arrive after the curtain went up. Still, this is not a common occurance. In time, I am certain that we will be late to a third show... but I did not want it to be this one! To rectify the situation, we coalesced as a team -- I drove like a madman whilst she monitored the GPS navigation unit to keep me on track, watch for speed cameras, et cetera. I kept me eyes glued to the road to keep us safe, whilst she handled all of the directions -- allowing me to fully concentrate on going as fast as safely possible. I find that our sat-nav's time estimates are usually quite accurate for my driving. This trip, however, I managed to shave fifteen minutes off of a seventy-five minute trip. That's better than a 20% improvement! We arrived with time to park, pick up our tickets, use the loos, buy a programme... and still be in our seats five minutes before the curtain went up. Kudos to us!

[**] Or inaction, such as the case may be with Beckett.

[***] As opposed to The Boy.


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