anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Mar. 21st, 2009 10:45 am)
Yesterday morning, I went to Queen Mary to work with RT. RT is a post-doc there who is also working on the T2K experiment. Although we barely knew each other before last year, we both did our graduate work at Stony Brook, in the same research group, with the same advisor[*]. These days, however, we work fairly closely together, taking turns on having one of us visit the others' institution every fortnight and keeping virtual contact in-between.

We worked until only about two o'clock, then headed out. Why the reason for this early end to our workday? PC and LW, another two former colleagues from our student days, were in town. Both are now post-docs on the MINOS experiment, and had just landed in London on their way to a collaboration meeting in Cambridge. I had never met LW -- she was another Stony Brooker but joined the group after I had left; PC was never at Stony Brook, but I mentored him in Japan during his first year (and my last) on Super-Kamiokande. Although we had kept in touch sporadically, I had not seen him in over five years... and was thus very much looking forward to getting together again.

We met near the Tate Modern, at the Founders Arms. The weather has been uncharacteristically beautiful lately, so we sat outside and watched the Thames and St. Paul's Cathedral as we drank, and caught up. Lots of stories were told, remembering some very good times... as well as shared bitching about a certain collaborator that is hated, to various extents, by all of us[**]. At one point, popping inside to use the loo at about four o'clock, I was surprised to see one of my colleagues from Imperial College there, too! I expect to see random people I know when I go out in Oxford. Not so much in London, especially somebody that I work with on a workday afternoon!

When it started getting close to sunset -- and, therefore, cold -- we moved on. As we left the Founders Arms, I realised that I recognised their porch as one that I had gotten dead-ended on last May, during my twenty-two mile urban hike around London. Our next destination was The Blackfriar. On the way, we passed Doggetts, which was the second blast from the past for the day. As the venue for both Polyday and BiFest London, I have been there several times, of course. However, the last time I was there, back in October, was to finalise the ending of a relationship. It was my choice to do so, and I believe that it was the best choice... but it was still sad that things had progressed to such a state that such was the right thing to do. Walking by Doggetts, then, I felt a twinge of loss for something that had once been good but, ultimately, not able to be sustained in a healthy fashion.

At The Blackfriar, we came indoors to admire the unusual interior decor of this pub... as well as get food, get warm, and get more to drink. I, of course, am a life-long teetotaler. However, my three compatriots were starting to get a bit buzzed from all the drinking. Given that the three of them were a generation behind me at Super-K, I really had not been out drinking with them before. Thus, they were all quite surprised to see that I am most capable of getting just as drunk as any of them... without imbibing a single drop. This has been true for as long as I can recall, dating back to parties in high school where I was ostensibly the only sober person. I think that it is because I am somewhat empathic, riding the energy of those who are around me. In any case, I managed a couple of jokes and puns that cracked up the whole party, prompting RT to raise a toast -- the only one of the evening -- to me. If I were prone to blushing, I probably would have blushed at that point... but it was very sweet!

Also sweet was something that PC said after the toast. He told me that the advice I had given him, during our brief months of overlap on Super-K, on what to expect during his graduate career there had proven to be quite accurate. He said that, in the past five years, there were many times that he had thought of me... often as something or other had happened that made him think: "Yes, Nomad said that this would happen like that." It made me smile to be remembered and appreciated... as well as to know that I had helped my friend.

Finally, around nine o'clock, we had to call it an evening. PC and LW needed to get to King's Cross to catch the train to Cambridge for their meeting, which began this morning. I made my way to Notting Hill Gate and caught the Oxford Tube back to Oxford. On the coach, I checked my e-mail and found a note from Mom, containing the third blast from the past. From 1979 to 1985, from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, I attended the Building Blocks Montessori School in New York. A woman named DH had been my first grade teacher, then bought the school many years later when the founder retired. Every so often, I would go back to visit Building Blocks. When I last went, in October 2006, DH -- who still remembered me well -- was impressed to see that her former student had become a research scientist at Oxford. She explained to the secretary, who had never met me, that I was "the smartest student to ever go to Building Blocks."[***] In any case, that was the last time that I saw her... and the last time that I will ever see her, as Mom had written to inform me that she had died of cancer, at the age of only sixty.

Despite this bit of sad news, I can say that yesterday was an excellent day. It was great to catch up with old friends, and to make a new one in LW. I don't often mesh well, socially speaking, with other physicists, for a variety of reasons. There are exceptions, of course, the most notable is [ profile] gyades, who is my best friend! However, I very much like both RT and PC, and LW seems good to spend time with, too. So, yes, an excellent day!

Now I must be off to run some errands and then, this afternoon, [ profile] cheshcat and I are heading to Milton Keynes to see Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart perform in a production of Waiting For Godot...

[*] I graduated and left the group shortly after he joined, which is why we barely knew each other. That and the fact that, in my last two years of school, I was rarely ever at Stony Brook. Those were the days that I lived in Arizona, worked in Japan, and went to school in New York (i.e., at Stony Brook) -- when I first adopted the name Nomad.

[**] The prson in question being a somewhat charismatic, but vicious and cruel, individual. The degree to which we can't stand him is quite proportional to how much we have had to work with him. Still, in a collaboration of 120 people, having only one such person is probably doing quite well.

[***] Yet another opportunity for blushing!

As is not terribly uncommon for me, I am having a fairly busy week. Work, in particular, is really taking off. This is generally a good thing, but definitely keeps me on my toes.

Given the hectic pace of the week, and the fact that I spent a three day weekend away for my birthday, I am only now -- riding home on the Oxford Tube at nearly nine o'clock -- truly going through the barrage of birthday wishes that came my way last week.

Holy macaroni!

I knew that I had received many warm wishes for my special day... but until I started going through them properly[*], I had not realised just how many! I received birthday greetings from no fewer than thirty-eight people![**] Um... wow!

The greetings took many forms: phone calls, physical cards, e-cards, e-mails, LJ posts, LJ comments, text messages, and more! Some special people sent greetings by more than one medium -- several by as many as three!! Yeah... wow! Way to make me feel special, people! Y'all collectively rock!

Y'all should be careful, though. Keep it up and you're going to make me feel special or something...

[*] In this case, "properly" means assembling a spreadsheet to list who sent me a greeting of which type. Yes, I have OCD -- why do you ask? I know that at least one person reading this will appreciate the inherent power of the spreadsheet to conquer all. Besides, spreadsheeting this information makes it easy to see that no one whose name begins with a letter after "S" sent me a greeting, all but three of the greetings came from people in the first half of the alphabet, and more than half of the greetings came from just three letters (eight from "A", seven from "J" and six from "C").

[**] Or sets of people, as when a married couple or family sent me a collective greeting, I only counted this as being from a single source.

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who sent along a greeting for my birthday! In any medium: LJ comment, LJ post, e-mail, text message, phone call, card. This year, I was blessed with a barrage of good wishes. Including from some people who I would not have automatically expected to remember my birthday[*]. What a nice surprise!

I did have a great birthday weekend, which I will try to write a travelogue about later. This makes three such entries from the past month that I need to write. I know, I know -- I deserve a proper thrashing from the LJ Flogger Fairy. I suppose that if I weren't such a perfectionist, it would be easier to scribble down a few lines. But I like to write detailed entries -- especially when I travel! With pictures and everything! I don't really know if anyone else enjoys them, but the work that goes into such proper travelogues pays off later, when I refer back to remember details of what I did whilst away.

Meanwhile, I will note that today -- March 1818 2009 -- is the first day of the year in Oxford where the amount of daylight time exceeds the amount of night time. I expect that this will be true of many places in the Northern hemisphere, as the Equinox is only two days away. Today in Oxford, the time from sunrise to sunset is twelve hours, two minutes, and thirty-eight seconds. For the third time, I have successfully endured a dark English winter. Go me! When we move the clocks forward to British Summer Time in a week and a half, there will be even more daylight to revel in! Excellent!

So far, this week has been nice, though probably not particularly interesting for anyone to read about. The irony of this is that it makes the week much easier to write up than the weekend, which was far more interesting. On Monday evening, I met the lovely [ profile] pogodragon after her class and we went out together for a long-awaited dinner. It was lovely to have time to sit and chat with her, getting to know her better. The food -- we went for Indian -- was excellent, as well! Tuesday evening was similarly themed, although with less charming company: My boss had to work a very late night and so I went out to dinner with him and some other colleagues. Nothing terribly exciting there at all.

Tonight will be a little bit better, and it will introduce a little variety into my week. [ profile] cheshcat and I have tickets to see the newest Alan Ayckbourn play -- Life & Beth -- at the Oxford Playhouse this evening. This will be the eight play that I have seen in 2009. Eight plays in eleven weeks. Not a bad start to the year!

In any case, the coach is getting ever closer to London, so I suppose that I had best finish pottering about on LiveJournal and start reading through some old talks that are relevant to one of the projects that I am working on now for T2K. This way I can start the day running[**] when I get into the office!

[*] Come to think of it, the same thing happened last year. I am beginning to suspect a certain mythical cat's involvement in all this, but she just grins at me when I broach the topic.

[**] Proverbially, of course!

...and that moment is almost over.

Tomorrow, dear friends, the Nomad begins his thirty-fifth year of life on this planet. To celebrate, I shall be embarking on a weekend road trip with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and my cherished [ profile] bunnypip. We shall depart tomorrow morning on an adventure in which we will spend three days exploring the New Forest, Winchester, and Salisbury.

Planned destinations include Beaulieu, with its palace house, gardens, and monastic ruins; Winchester Cathedral, home of -- amongst other things -- the 12th century Winchester Bible; Salisbury Cathedral[*], home of one of the four surviving original Magna Cartas[**]; Exbury Gardens; and some of the more scenic points of the New Forest itself. Along the way, there shall be theatre and swimming and lots of good birthday fun!

I am very much looking forward to this trip! We have designed an itinerary that is quite exciting... and it also allows me to cross several more items off of my list of Places To Visit In England! Excellent! For some reason, I seem to have started the traveling earlier than normal this year -- by mid-March, I will have already had three weekends away exploring new places[***]. Usually, I wait until April or May to begin the road trips... but, somehow, I am not complaining about this early start. There is a reason that I am known as the Nomad, after all!

Have a lovely weekend (and Friday), gentle readers! I shall see you all again when I am a year older[****]!

[*] The only destination on the list where I have already been, with [ profile] resourceress, back in 2006.

[**] I have seen the one in Salisbury Cathedral -- reported to be in the best condition -- and also the one in Lincoln Castle. The remaining two are in the British Library; visiting them to "complete the set" is definitely on my to-do list!

[***] Cambridge last month with [ profile] cheshcat to celebrate our Tenth Double-D Day anniversary, then Essex a fortnight ago with [ profile] bunnypip to celebrate our demiversary... and now this!

[****] And also a very happy thirtieth to the ever-adorable [ profile] squeektoy42, whose birthday -- one hundred years to the day after Einstein -- follows directly behind mine!

Hadn't planned to write another entry today, but this is too good to miss. It really bookends my day.

I am writing this entry from Ye Olde Oxford Tube, heading out of London. No bus racing this evening... particularly since, after dark, I cannot cut through Kensington Gardens so I wait at the very last London stop. If I miss the coach there, there's no place to race to.

I did have to wait for the coach to arrive, which never sits well with my impatient self. After all, there are always better things that I could be doing than waiting for a bus! When the coach did come, however, the driver greeted me with a smile and said: "Glad to see that you're still alive! Did you have a good day?" Turns out, he was the same guy who warned me to be careful this morning!

This came as a bit of a surprise to me. After all, he picked me up in Oxford a little before nine o'clock this morning... which means that he must have left Gloucester Green -- Oxford's central bus station -- at about half eight. He then picked me up this evening at seven forty... which means that he won't be back at Gloucester Green until about half nine. That's a long day! From what I understand, a typical day for the Oxford Tube drivers is two round trips to London. He must be on his third!

In any case, it was an amusing way to end what was a reasonably productive workday!
Whilst I may continue to be delinquent in updating with my January/February summary, I can at least get three thousand words (and change) closer by employing the PIWOTW rule[1].

On February 21st, I went with [ profile] cheshcat, [ profile] bunnypip and [ profile] darkfloweruk to the British Museum to see the Babylon: Myth & Reality exhibit. Whilst waiting for the time on our tickets, we explored other areas of the museum, including the Michael Cohen Egyptian gallery -- newly reopened after ten years of conservation work and research. There, I met with definitive proof of my ancestry! If [ profile] bunnypip and [ profile] darkfloweruk had not previously believed me when I said that I was of Egyptian descent[2], then this picture provided sufficient proof[3,4]:

Meanwhile, the following week I was in Essex with [ profile] bunnypip to celebrate our 0.5th anniversary[5]. We visited Colchester, with its awesome castle/museum; Southend-on-Sea, where we took a long walk on the world's longest pier; and Chelmsford. The trip was most excellent, and deserving of a true travelogue. In the meantime, however, here is an inspired photograph that we took on the Southend Pier (as well as its inspiration):

And, on that note, my coach has arrived in London. So heigh ho, heigh ho, to study neutrinos I go...

[1] Known in less acronymic language as "Picture Is Worth One Thousand Words".

[2] Which, I might add, is different from Arab descent. The Coptic Egyptians, of which I am ostensibly one, did not interbreed all that much when the Muslim Arabs arrived. Hence, the Copts are genetically the direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians.

[3] And I swear that I made no adjustments whatsoever to my hair before the picture was taken!

[4] It is worth noting that, whilst our hair has not changed in the last five millennia, our eyes have moved from the side of the face to the front. Evolution at work!

[5] Also known as a demiversary.

anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Mar. 11th, 2009 09:07 am)
Ended up doing another short bicycle versus bus race this morning, as the Oxford Tube was already between me and my stop when I left my flat. I'm not sure why, in recent days, I keep coming in so close to the coach that I have to race. This time, however, I ended up making it to my usual stop before the bus, so no need to chase it on to the next one[*].

Ensuring that I beat the bus to the stop did require a bit of weaving about through different traffic lanes... though I did not have to run any stoplights (this time). When the driver pulled into the stop, he hopped out of the bus to unlock the luggage compartment where I store my cycle during the journey. The first words out of his mouth to me?
You have to be more careful riding that bike! You could get killed!
I assured him that I don't normally ride so recklessly, that I only did it to make sure that he didn't miss me. He was, however, unswayed... insisting that it did me no good if I got killed in the process.

Perhaps I am just deranged, but this amused me a great deal[**]. Maybe because it was actually quite sweet to see that the bus driver cared about my health and safety? Maybe because I only learned to ride a bicycle at the age of twenty-nine and didn't ride in real traffic until less than two years ago -- thus, being skilled and confident enough to ride recklessly[***] is a milestone? Maybe just adrenaline pumping from having successfully raced the bus, mixed with relief that I didn't have to chase it to the next stop yet again? Maybe some combination of all these reasons?

Ah, the world may never know... but sitting here on the bus into London, I am still grinning!

[*] Ergo, no increase in the official Nomad vs. Bus score.

[**] Indeed, enough to enshrine it for posterity in a LiveJournal post!

[***] At least in Oxford. Whilst cycling in London, I am significantly more nervous and careful.

Spoiler-Free Synopsis

This movie would have been better titled: WATCHMEN FOR DUMMIES. Possible with a subtitle reading: The Lobotomized Version.

Unlike with Iron Man, this time my expectations going in were basically met. Visually, the movie was stunning. Much of what they did was also really good. However, there was far too much that they did not. Basically, the film was just the skeleton of the story, with no nervous system or muscles or organs or skin.

Picture Les Miserables, but with a few minor details removed. Like the Paris Uprising of 1832. And the Thenardiers. And Eponine.

Additionally, to cover for parts that were removed, a fair number of changes had to be made that struck me as just plain dumb. Meanwhile, while all the meat was being removed from the bones, extra fight scenes were added to flesh it all out. This is a Hollywood flick, after all.

Probably the worst sin committed by the film is the removal of the affect. When we got home, I asked [ profile] sanjibabes what she felt when SPOILERS HERE ). Her answer, put quite simply, was to shrug and say: "Nothing." Exactly. It is just one more such scene put out by Hollywood. We've seen it all before and will see the same thing again. When this happened in the comic book, I was utterly horrified. Shell-shocked. Left feeling really raw for quite some time afterward. The way that it was told in the comic book invested the scene with a large emotional attachment. I know others who have had the same reaction to the last two issues of the comic book. Whereas in the film, nothing.

One of the main differences between this film and other super-hero movies is that in this case, a specific text was being translated from one medium to another. When you make a film about Iron Man or Spider-Man or Batman or the X-Men, you are not drawing on one specific text. You take the character and combine elements of certain classic stories with new material to produce a screenplay that is largely a new work. Whereas, for The Watchmen one specific text -- a twelve part mini-series -- is being directly transferred to an alien medium.

Ultimately, I stand by my original impression, formed years ago, that this story was too complicated to be made into a movie in any form that preserves the intricacy and detail that went into crafting it. I commend Alan Moore for his decision not to see it. I think that he would cringe to see his work reduced to such.
Have now finished my re-read of The Watchmen. Two hours and twenty minutes to go until the eight o'clock showing begins.

When I finished reading this series the first time, in late 2000, I was quite shell-shocked. This time around, knowing what was coming, I was less so... though I am still disturbed by how the story plays out. I won't say more, to avoid giving spoilers.

More than ever, though, I am convinced that the film adaption is going to be utterly horrible. Sure, most people who go see it will not have read the book; they will chide those of us who have done so as being too "purist" or "close-minded" to appreciate the film. This is fairly standard fare, in my experience. Ultimately, I believe that the film cannot do the story justice because it is simply not a story that can be told in film. Not to go all Marshall McLuhan here, but different mediums have different capabilities. You wouldn't try to make a comic book version of a piano concerto -- it wouldn't work. There are things that comic books cannot convey. This is true of any medium. In this case, moving The Watchmen to film will also not work, because there are things that film cannot convey. This story is one of them.

The length of the film is a problem... but it is only part of the problem. The Watchmen tells, to various extents, the story of a great many people over the span of six decades. Some of those people are masked heroes, others are ordinary folks. To tell the tale in under three hours necessitates the removal of much of the story. Indeed, I would argue that the length necessitates the removal of most of the story. Although the main plot will, of course, be there, it is only the skeleton of the story. Without all the rest, you have a skeleton with no muscles, nerves, organs, et cetera. And what good is that?

However, even if the length were greatly increased -- a la a television mini-series -- it would still not work, I believe. There are things that you can do with comic books that you cannot do with film. Most comic books do not probe the depths of their medium, of course, and thus translate fairly easily to film. Indeed, these days many comic book creative teams are practically writing their comics as a film transcribed to page. In contrast, The Watchmen makes good use of the advantages of comic books as a medium... and, as such, is basically unfilmable.

I will update again, later tonight, after I have seen the film. It is possible that I will have to take up a knife and fork to eat some of these words. I have been wrong before: I predicted that the Iron Man film would be terrible, and ended up liking it very much! Yet, somehow, this time I do not think that I am likely to be off the mark. Iron Man, as a character, can work just fine in a variety of media. I had not expected the studios to put in the effort to produce a good story for the film, but I never doubted that it was possible to do so. For The Watchmen, we are talking about a very specific story. A most excellent story... but one that really does not work in the medium of film. My expectation is that I will say the visual effects were stunning... but the story fell far short. In a few more hours, we shall see if this prediction is correct.
Astute readers will have noticed that I have not yet written the promised summary of January and February. Do not abandon hope, all ye faithful! I still plan to do a synopsis, as there were several important events and milestones in that time. Not least of which were two weekend adventures -- one in Cambridge and one in Essex[*] -- to celebrate important anniversaries. At the very minimum, I plan to write a travelogue for each before embarking on my next weekend adventure in eight days!

Meanwhile, what has March (i.e., this week) brought to everybody's favourite Nomad?

Bell ringing )

Particle Physics )

Bus racing )

Watching the Watchmen )

What else has been noteworthy? )

So that is the Great Nomad Update (GNU) for this week! Tune in next time, gentle readers, for more... ah, but that would be telling, wouldn't it?

Footnotes )

Knowing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, it seems wise to resume using my LJ as a journal now, rather than wait until that magical moment when I have enough time to compose my Jan/Feb summary. I don't have that much time right now... but I do have enough to write about today.

Today I slept in, as a consequence of being in an international meeting until nearly midnight[*]. Mirroring the end of my night, I began my day by participating on a national meeting. Yes, Gentle Readers, it is one of those weeks, where we have our usual Thursday afternoon group meeting... followed by a late night international video conference, followed by a Friday morning UK-wide video conference! Whee!

This afternoon, I went to a talk in the Cultural Platform series, organised by Oxford Inspires. The main speaker at this platform was Shami Chakrabarti, once called "the most dangerous woman in Britain." I thought that the talk was good. She is definitely an excellent speaker, though I must admit that her views were a bit too much to the centre for my liking. Phillip Pullman was also in the audience, and she made several amusing attempts to [playfully] embarass him.

This evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I are going to the Oxford Playhouse to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Othello. There is a certain aesthetic to this. After all, the two most frequent sources for our theatre fix are (a) the Oxford Playhouse and (b) the Royal Shakespeare Company, which usually required a trip to Stratford-on-Avon. Having the RSC perform at the Playhouse for a change seems..... I don't have the right words. Much like a comic book fan in 1975 must have felt when the first Superman / Spider-Man crossover took place, I would imagine. I am particularly looking forward to tonight's performance, as the role of Othello is being played by Patrice Naiambana, who we saw as the Earl of Warwick last year in the History Cycle plays. He did a phenomenal job and I will be quite happy to see him on stage again. Tonight's performance will also feature Natalia Tena as Desdemona; those of you who are particular fans of the Harry Potter films may recognise the name, as she played Tonks in the movies.

After the theatre ends, I shall be loading the car and driving North, starting another road trip[**]. Can anyone tell me what day comes six months after August 28th? How about six months after August 29th? August 30th? August 31st? Well, I'm not quite sure when the actual day is, but there is a six month anniversary to celebrate sometime this weekend, and that is just what I intent to do!

Have a lovely weekend, Gentle Readers, and I shall "see" you all again on Monday!

[*] Mind you, rather than complain, I should be grateful! The meetings are set to start at 7am in Japan. Right now, they run from 10pm until midnight in England... but once we change the clocks next month, it will be 11pm until 1am!

[**] The last was two weekends ago, when [ profile] cheshcat and I spent the weekend exploring Cambridge to celebrate our tenth Double-D Day.

Is it possible for a human being to fail a test that was designed for books?

[*] Brought to you in lieu of a real post by the "I Have No Time" committee as I finish a work meeting and prepare to go to a cultural platform this afternoon, an RSC performance of Othello this evening, and then a weekend road trip.

...begins with a single post!

Welcome to the first post of the second thousand entries in the Adventures of Anarchist Nomad![*] As the number one thousand is easy to divide by in base-10 maths, it seems appropriate to begin my second millennium by reviewing some statistics from the first. Here goes:

Who watches the Watchmen? )

Having received 9200 comments, my average number of comments per entry is 9.2. Once one subtracts out the 3518 that were made by me (38.2%, or slightly more than 3/8ths), that leaves 5682 comments left by others -- an average of 5.7 external comments per post.

If I really had a lot of time to waste were on the proverbial ball, I could tally up the distribution of moods that I have experienced in the first thousand posts, to see what fraction of the time I am "cheerful" or "chipper" or whatnot. Likewise, I could do the same for my current music choices. Whilst knowing this information appeals to me, I'm afraid that it really isn't worth the time investment. As much as I am curious to learn what my average number of footnotes per post is, some things shall just have to remain a mystery!

Besides statistics, the start of my second LJ millennium is also a good time to do some housecleaning. In particular, now seems to be a good time to implement the overhaul of my f-list that was promised about a month ago in this entry. The basic guidelines are these:
  • Anyone who does not have my on their f-list will be removed from mine[**]. This is not a comment on how I personally feel about anyone being removed. Rather, it is a return to a rule that I set for myself in the early days of this journal.
  • Anyone who is already on my f-list who I have not met in person will not be removed. There are, I believe, two people who fit this criteria. They will not, however, be on the "Default View" list. Whilst I am sure that you are lovely people, I am hard pressed to read my f-list right now and need to prioritise people that I actually know.
  • Anyone who has not left a comment in my journal in the past four months is presumed to not be reading this journal. Most of these people will be removed from my "Default View" to save time and allow me to keep up with my f-list. An exception will be made for anyone who has posted to their own journal an average of less than once per week during this time period. After all, if you aren't on LJ much at all then it doesn't cost me any time to leave you in my "Default View".
  • A few people who do not pass the previous criteria will be removed from my f-list entirely. The people selected for removal will be those for whom I feel that any real-life connection has become non-existent. It is not intended as any sort of judgement; sadly the phrase "unfriending" has such negative connotations! It is simply a reflection of the fact that this journal is intended as a forum for me to interact with people that are actually my friends in real life.

In the interests of full disclosure, here is the list of people on my Default View page. )

This winnowing removes about 30% of the active users on my f-list[***]. It is my intention to stay current on all the entries written by the people on my new, reduced, f-list... and it is my hope that the lower volume will make it possible for me to do so.

Right, then. I think that this is enough housecleaning for now. This journal has been notably devoid of content for anything beyond my return to England from the States on January 6th, despite the fact that quite a lot has happened since then. I aim to rectify this soon with a summary post detailing the most significant developments of 2009 to date, then to follow with more regular updated.

Welcome to the Next Millennium, Gentle Readers[****]! Hang on and enjoy the ride...

[*] Otherwise known as: "I would write one thousand entires, and I would write one thousand more..."

[**] There is one exception to this, with a complex historical basis. Think of it as the exception that proves the rule.

[***] "Active" being defined as "posting, on average, more than once per week."

[****] So... who is going to be the first person to comment on the second thousand entries?

Gentle Readers,

This is the proverbial it! Tis the moment you have all[*] been waiting for! Strike the drums and sound the trumpets... because the 1000th post chronicling the Adventures of Anarchist Nomad is here!

Looking back at the entries from last week, I could not settle on a sole winner. Indeed, there were even unexpected similarities! Who would have thought that more than one person would choose "Andorra" as their pick of country?? Or that there would be more than one selection of "mongoose" ("mongeese"? "mongooses"??) for a noun??? Indeed, in the end, you are all winners and, as such, everyone who took the time to help me out is being awarded the promised points! And, even more exciting, now your story can be told[**]:

acelightning )

bammba_m )

bunnypip )

cheshcat )

dcseain )

emrldgirrl )

faerierhona )

llamachameleon )

lunarbitch )

pogodragon )

sanjibabes )

sciffy_circo )

tawneypup )

theentwife )

thehalibutkid )

winewiskeywomen )

And now it can be told! Here it is -- THE ORIGINAL STORY!!![***] )

So there it is! Choose the story you like best -- there are plenty of choices! Some of you seem to have guessed that I was setting up for a Mad Libs entry, others may not even know what Mad Libs are! Either way, I hope that y'all had as much fun reading these as I did![****]

Tomorrow we return you to your regularly scheduled Anarchist Nomad LiveJournal, dear friends!

[*] For some definition of "all".

[**] Arranged in alphabetical order, by LJ name, with the original story template at the very bottom.

[***] Kind of boring, actually. Especially when compared with some of what you lot have come up with!

[****] And without needing to do any of the work, either!

Greetings, Gentle Readers!

As many of you know, I have been nicknamed the Knave of (K)Numbers! Indeed, it is even my honour to serve as such in the unofficial [and purely ephemeral] Tarot deck of the Super Sekrit Pagan GatheringTM! Thus, it will likely come as a surprise to none to learn that I have noticed that this is my 999th LiveJournal entry!

In and of itself, that is not terrible significant. However, it is a harbinger of doom my one thousandth post. And that, Dear Friends, is not something that I could let pass without pomp and circumstance! Nosiree, Bob!

Long-time readers of this journal may recall the special edition that was released for the five hundredth issue of Anarchist Nomad! Copies of this rare collectors' edition can be found here! That epic tome revealed the previously untold secret origin of the Anarchist Nomad!

For issue #1000, something even more amazing, more spectacular, more sensational[*] was required! So uncanny and incredible, in fact, that I could not do it alone! No, Gentle Readers, your assistance is required to bring forth the most mighty and invincible issue of Anarchist Nomad ever!

To that end, I ask you to leave a comment in this, the penultimate chapter in our countdown, providing me with some choice words. Twenty-five of them, in fact! But not just any words, mind you! Each word needs to be a very special type. So special that I have prepared a guide to help you in helping me!

The Guide! (Da da DA dum!) )

Please leave your words as a comment -- the best answers shall both feature in the milestone 1000th entry and win one hundred points! Good luck!

[*] And more web of.

On Monday, it snowed. A lot. Or, at least, a lot for here. I believe that the last time London received this much snowfall was eighteen years ago. As I cycled through Kensington Gardens on my way into work, folks were taking walks, taking pictures, building snow-people, et cetera. Tuesday and Wednesday were perfectly clear -- and cold -- days... and now it is snowing again, with four to six inches on the ground from overnight!

This is more like it! Tis what Winter should be like! Winter should be cold and snowy and dark -- but not too dark. Thus far, I have lived in and around New York City[1a,1b]; Amherst, Massachusetts[2a,2b]; Kamioka, Japan[3a,3b]; Phoenix, Arizona[4a,4b]; Chicago[5a,5b]; and Oxford, England[6a,6b]. Oxford is, by far, the furthest North that I have ever lived. As such, Winters here are far too dark... but generally not very cold -- I regularly go out sans coat -- and nearly no snow. In 2007, my first Winter here, we had exactly one snowfall that stuck. It was such a momentous occasion that the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers declared a snowball fight (photos here, including some of Yours Truly) in the University Park! In 2008, there was no snow whatsoever in the Winter. The only snow that we had fell after the Spring Equinox... and the one snowfall with any accumulation fell on April 6th! Even then, it only lasted for a few hours before melting away.

In short, my Winters in Oxford have been, until now, completely wrong: Too much dark, nearly no cold and snow. Hence, this week is a great relief! It has been cold, it is snowing as I type this entry... and the dark is finally abating! As of the day before yesterday, February 3rd, Oxford now receives more sunlight than New York City does on the Winter Solstice. This may sound like an odd measure, but I am a native New Yorker and, thus, my sunlight standards are set by where I grew up. In contrast, Oxford receives less sunlight than the shortest day in New York City on each day from November 8th through February 2nd! That is eighty-seven days where we get less light than the minimum that I am accustomed to! Eeep! Thankfully, I have gone South for part of this time -- two weeks in the States and one in Japan -- to break up the period of Great Darkness. Still, it is very much something that needs to be endured and I, for one, am happy that it is over once more.

Thus, for now, we have finally achieved what I believe Winter should be. It is cold. It is snowing. It is dark... but not too dark. My only regret is that I will be in London this afternoon, when the follow-up to the 2007 OUSCR snowball fight happens. Other than that, all is well. So... huzzah! And welcome, Winter!!

Footnotes )
To sleep, perchance to dream. Or, on the other hand, to be jetlagged... and do neither! Tis well and truly the middle of the night, yet I am still not asleep. Not for lack of trying, either. I wound down the evening many hours ago by having a lovely phone date with the even-lovelier [ profile] tawneypup[1]. During the phone call, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat proved once again how sweet and thoughtful she is by bringing me a cup of hot cocoa to help me relax. At the end of the call, I made a valiant effort to sleep. I hopped under the covers to cuddle with [ profile] cheshcat, and was joined by both Giles and The Boy.

Alas, despite all these accoutrements and preparations, sleep was ever elusive and evaded capture.

So. As long as I am to be awake in the wee hours of the night, I may as well put it to good use, yes? It seems like now is as good a time as any to write the final instalment of my holiday adventures in the States[2]. Perhaps I can write myself into at least half a night's sleep[3]...

Thursday January 1st 2009 I started the day off by checking out of the hotel where the O'hana party had been held. [ profile] gyades and I played a game of Go, which he won... though not be all that much. Either I am improving, or his skills are atrophying. Not sure which, but our recent matches have not been nearly the slaughter that they once were.

In the afternoon, I did some mundane things, like tidying the house and seting up my 2009 SlingShot organizer. I also spend quite a bit of time with Stumpy and Chirp; Stumpy, in particular, remains as sweetly slutty as ever! I miss my little furry black girls when I am in England. I still hope to bring them over someday, to reunite them with their brother, The Boy.

After a relatively mellow day, things got more exciting in the late afternoon. "Why is that?" you may fairly ask, gentle readers. It is because the terrific and tantalizing [ profile] tawneypup arrived from Michigan for a visit![4] Having not seen my delightful darling since October, it was all thrilled and bouncy to be with her again. After suitable greetings were made, I introduced her to [ profile] gyades. It was not in the least surprising that the two of them took to each other quite readily. There was really no question in my mind that these two would get along swimmingly -- after all, [ profile] tawneypup is basically a female version of me[5]. The only real risk was that having two of me in one place might fry [ profile] gyades's brain!

Before [ profile] tawneypup arrived, [ profile] gyades had been cooking dinner. In recent years, he has specialised in Indian cooking. Had he and [ profile] tawneypup not bonded instantly, I suspect that this would have closed the deal. Ever since her trip to India last year, my darling Tawney has been quite the fan of Indian food. And [ profile] gyades cooks it quite well!

Following dinner, we broke out Ticket To Ride. I had never played the U.S./Canadia version of the game before. However, it is similar enough to the European version that I settled into it quite easily. It was a very close game, but I managed to win. Final scores: 152 points (me) to 120 points ([ profile] gyades) to 110 points ([ profile] tawneypup). This doesn't seem all that close. However, on my final turn, with my final card, I bought my final train... for a total of sixty-four points. If anything in that delicate situation had not lined up, I would have been -- what is the technical term? -- completely hosed!

We followed up Ticket To Ride with a game called Quelf. [ profile] tawneypup had brought it with her -- I had neither played it before nor even heard of it. It is a very silly nonsense game, with a bizarre set of rules. The sort of thing to play when you want to game, but not think very hard. In the end, I won... again by the proverbial skin of my non-proverbial teeth. [ profile] tawneypup and I made it to the final square at the same time... but I won the challenge on the final card drawn.

When we were done gaming, we bid a good night to [ profile] gyades, then went upstairs to reacquaint ourselves and catch up on some long overdue quality alone time.

Friday January 2nd 2009 On Friday morning, [ profile] tawneypup and I lounged in bed decadently for a very long time. When we finally arose, we showered and then I took her out to Butterfields for breakfast. Butterfields is my favourite breakfast place; since [ profile] tawneypup had taken me to breakfast at her favourite place, it seemed only fair to return the favour. It took quite some time to choose only one item from the menu. However, we finally did manage to order -- I had a spinach, feta, and mushroom omelet with hash browns and pancakes. When the food arrived it was, as expected, superb!

After breakfast, [ profile] tawneypup was extremely patient and accommodating, as I needed to pay a visit to the Illinois Secretary of State's office to renew my driver's license. Alas, this was the sole day during my Chicago trip that it would be possible to do so. Whilst there, she got to witness the egocentricity of Jesse White, our SoS. We also got to entertain ourselves by sitting on the "Group W" bench[6].

Once that errand was done, we met up with [ profile] gyades and went to go play Laser Tag! This was only my second time playing laser tag -- the first was with [ profile] tawneypup in Michigan last October. I am really enjoying it though! Quite a shame that the Oxford Laser Tag shut down a couple of years ago! I could see myself getting seriously addicted otherwise! Unlike the October games, which were divided into three teams, this was a free-for-all. When all was said and done, I had done... okay. Out of thirty-two players, I was ranked number thirteen. [ profile] tawneypup was not far behind me, at number sixteen. [ profile] gyades may need a little more practice -- he came in at number twenty-five.

We dropped [ profile] gyades off at home and made our way into downtown Chicago. Our destination was a Middle Eastern restaurant where one of [ profile] tawneypup's friends was performing. This made for quite an excellent evening -- both the food and the dancing were exemplary! When she was done dancing, we all sat and chatted for quite some time before [ profile] tawneypup and I made our way back to the Event Horizon.

Saturday January 3rd 2009 Slept in once again! Really, it is hard not to with such company! When we finally managed to pull ourselves out of bed, we joined [ profile] gyades, who made breakfast for all. Then it was time for a rematch at Ticket To Ride. This time, I started with a terrible hand of route cards. In Thursday's game, I had built all of my routes, drew more, then built them, too. This time, I adopted a different strategy: Built what I had been dealt, then end the game as quickly as possible, making sure to take the "longest road" bonus with me. Although not as satisfying a strategy, it did work. I forced an end to the game whilst both of my dear opponents still had several unfinished routes underway. Final scores: 120 points (me) to 102 points ([ profile] tawneypup) to 58 points ([ profile] gyades).

Since the weather was nice, we all hopped in the car and drove half a mile to the Morton Arboretum. One of the many things that I love about the Event Horizon is that it is situation so close to such a wonderful place. I try to visit there every time that I am in Chicago. However, I think that I had not actually had a Winter visit before! It was really nice, seeing the place partially covered in snow! It was great to share this special place with a very special person! We started off in the children's section, climbing the adventure playground equipment. Then we did a "Gnome Hunt"[7] and successfully tracked down all twenty-four gnomes. Sneaky little buggers, those gnomes are! Afterwards, we drove about the site, stopping at times to do a bit of hiking -- for instance, we made our way down the Big Rock trail to see (what else?) the Big Rock!

We stayed at the arboretum until it closed. After that, I took [ profile] tawneypup out for dinner at a Mexican place in Glen Ellyn. I had not been there before, nor had I known of the place. [ profile] gyades uncovered it by doing some web research... and I can now highly recommend it!

After dinner, [ profile] tawneypup and I headed into Chicago once again. Our destination was Sidekick's, the karaoke bar that I used to frequent when I called the Event Horizon my primary residence. It is the site of the monthly Poly Chicago get-togethers, so I have quite a few happy memories there. In contrast, [ profile] tawneypup had never been to a karaoke bar... so taking her there to lose her karaoke-virginity was not optional! By the end of the evening, I had sang alone twice (Billy Joel's Still Rock & Roll To Me and Scandal's Goodbye To You), she sang alone once, and we sang together once (Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart). It was gangs of fun, and next time we are planning to do a duet of Sweet Caroline. Mainly just for the fun of the bah-BAH-bahs! However, seeing as this was our last evening together for some time, we did not want to stay at Sidekick's until we were ready to fall over for the evening!

Instead, we left around 10:30pm, made it back to the Event Horizon by about eleven, and celebrated the rest of the evening by ourselves.

Sunday January 4th 2009 Started the day with a return trip to Butterfields, this time with [ profile] gyades in tow, too. It had been so difficult for [ profile] tawneypup and I to choose only one item from the menu last time that we decided a return visit was in order! This time, I got an apple and caramel waffle with some very creamy cheese, to boot!

After breakfast, [ profile] xirpha joined us at the Event Horizon for gaming! We started with Settlers of Catan. Once again, it was a very tight game. I made the mistake of building a settlement too soon, allowing [ profile] tawneypup to beat me in a race to a valuable port. This set me back significantly, though I finally managed to eke out a win. Final scores: 10 points (me) to 8 points ([ profile] gyades) to 7 points (both [ profile] xirpha and [ profile] tawneypup).

Next game was Betrayal at House on the Hill[8]. This is where my winning streak came to an end. As luck would have it, I was fated to be the traitor in this game. However, some bad dice rolls kept me from doing anything more than killing [ profile] gyades before I was taken down by the others. There was also a bit of Fluxx played after me and my army of demons went down in flames.

Around half five, [ profile] tawneypup and I bid an all-too-soon farewell. Then she embarked on the drive back to Michigan whilst I drove to the Lisle train station to pick up the enchanting [ profile] iamthesphinx.

I won't say much about the date with [ profile] iamthesphinx here. For one thing, although she is almost never on LiveJournal anymore, she has a habit of popping in and checking up on me when I least expect it. Which is just after I have said something about her in these pages[9]. For another thing, my relationship with the lovely Sphinx is, without a doubt, the most unusual relationship that I have ever had. There have been quite a few ups and downs in the nearly three years that we have been together. I have learned that, whatever my expectations are for when we go out together, they are almost certainly wrong[10].

Case in point: This date went nothing like how I had expected it to go. Indeed, it exceeded my expectations by a wide margin! Blew them all to smithereens -- wherever that is -- one might say. It was a very, very good date. And that is all that I will say in a public forum.

Monday January 5th 2009 After not nearly enough sleep, I brought the enchanting [ profile] iamthesphinx back to the train station. I waited with her until her train arrived, then bid her a most fond farewell.

After that, there was the usual barrage of last minute errands to tend to. Mainly hitting several stores for items that I cannot procure in England. Also, giving poor Lucretia II a good wash to recover from over twenty-five hundred miles of driving before putting her away until Spring. And packing. Lots of packing. Nothing really exciting there.

When [ profile] gyades came home from work at lunchtime, he and I exchanged our holiday presents. Then he drove me to the airport, where I had a nice boring flight back to England.

And that, dear friends, is what I did on my Winter vacation...

[1] Said conversation was particularly welcome, due to the fact that we have not spoken in nearly two weeks. Ordinarily, we have a standing weekly phone date. However, we each went travelling for a week... and the two trips were timed just right so as to be serial, rather than parallel.

[2] Actually, given that the trip ended three weeks ago, I would say that two and a half weeks ago would have been a better time. However, that time machine is still in the pipeline. Have to perfect the transporter first, then get started building the invisible aeroplane.

[3] In which case I will finish this composition tomorrow.

[4] Were I Kermit the Frog, this would be an appropriate place to run about, waving my head wildly and shouting "Yaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!"

[5] Except slightly younger and slightly cuter.

[6] Alongside the mother-rapers... father-stabbers.... and father-rapers!

[7] Very similar to the "ghost hunt" that I did with Darelle and company in November, or the pumpkin hunt that I did with [ profile] cheshcat at Blenheim Palace in October.

[8] Affectionately known as The Shinning.

[9] See here for an example.

[10] Unless she is in a monogamous relationship at the time we go out. In which case my expectation -- that we are going out as friends only -- is always right. And I would not have that any other way. I am polyamourous; I do not cheat.

Back from Japan now. Not quite home yet, though. Am writing this from the coach between Heathrow and Oxford.

In my nearly thirty-four years on this planet, I have lived in three countries: the United States of America, Japan, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. Interesting enough, this month -- January 2009 -- is the first ever where I have been to all three countries in the span of a single calendar month!

The trip, overall, was quite good. The food issue was not fun, as expected, but everything else went fine. My meeting went very well, and I now have lots of momentum, ideas, and enthusiasm about continuing my work on T2K. Collaboration meetings can be good for that. It was also nice to see some familiar faces from my Super-Kamiokande colleagues for the first time in a long time: Takeuchi-san, Miura-san, Nakahata-sensei, Suzuki-sensei, and more!

Going from the US to the UK to Japan in short order, I was rather surprised to notice that there are quite a few cultural parallels between Japan and Great Britain. A priori, I would not have expected to see so many similarities between the island nation in the Atlantic[*] that I now call home and the island nation in the Pacific that I used to call home. I was not the only one who noticed. After I made this observation, one of my colleagues from Imperial College -- who, like me, is a US citizen now living in the UK -- initiated a discussion to this effect.

Anyway, am nearly home now and there will be much to do this evening. I may write more about the trip to Japan later[**]; for now, I mainly wanted to let the world know that I made my return journey safely!

[*] Technically speaking, I suppose that Great Britain is not in the Atlantic. It is much more surrounded by the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Channel. Only a little itsy bit actually touches the Atlantic Ocean proper. But you get the idea...

[**] I also may not, considering how far behind on blogging I am!

Looking back at previous years, it seems that I rarely blog about the Decemberween[1] celebrations. I suppose that this is not too shocking -- I spend most of Decemberween on the go, and away from a computer. By the time that the holidays are over, too much has elapsed to try to chronicle it all.

This year's attempt to do a holiday write-up is perhaps an illustrative example; it is now late January and I am still not quite finished with my report! I realise that no one else much cares at this point what I was doing one month ago. Indeed, since my holiday in the States ended, I have come back to England, left England for Japan, and returned to England yet again[2]. Obviously, I am well behind in my blogging and it would make good sense to simply give up. However, I am not known for my common sense... and it would feel wrong to leave my travelogue unfinished. Thus, I resume telling my story.

Tuesday December 30th: Woke up at Mom's place again[3], gathered my belongings, and headed out with [ profile] cheshcat. Mom was very happy to have had our company, but was obviously quite broken up to see up go. I will try to bring her to England for a week in 2009; I think it would be good for her.

The plan had been to drop [ profile] cheshcat off with [ profile] resourceress at [ profile] squeektoy42's house, then drive four hundred miles to Ohio by the evening to have a date with the lovely [ profile] livetbd. Well, we all know what Robbie Burns has to say about plans, don't we?

Just after we arrived in Jersey City, right before I was about to bid farewell to my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, we received a phone call from C&M, who were back in Oxford. Apparently, Giles -- our seven month old tiger kitten -- had gone missing. Oh, crap! We had a series of friends looking in on our Oxford kitties whilst we were away. In addition to feeding and watering them, we asked our friends to make sure that the cats were okay. This was added to the cat care request after last December, when we returned home to find our poor Totoro at Death's door from kidney failure.

But I digress from a very important point: Oh, crap! Giles had last been seen on Boxing Day -- four days earlier. When T had gone to the [as yet unnamed] flat on Dec 28, there was no sign of Giles. Now C&M were there, and he was still missing. At first, I assumed that Giles, being a cat, had simply found a good place to hide. We spent nearly an hour on the phone with C, guiding him about the flat and suggesting places to search. It began with known hiding locations, then progressed to any possible spot that we could conceive of that Giles might get into. We had poor C moving furniture about and climbing on top of things. Still no Giles.

Oh, crap! After searching every conceivable location in the flat, it began to become clear that somebody had accidentally let our cat out. Which means that he was likely lost to us. I had been reluctant to believe this; for one thing, it seemed quite improbably. Yet, as Sherlock Holmes said, when one eliminates all the other options, then what remains, however improbable, must be true. I was also painfully aware that this was one year, to the day, since we returned home to find Totoro nearly dead. Needless to say, both [ profile] cheshcat and I were becoming very upset.

We kicked into emergency mode. We asked C&M to check with the neighbours to see if they had noticed a tiger kitten about. We called T to see if there was any chance that he had let Giles out. Although that had been my original suspicion, he managed to convince us that he was not at fault. We alerted local cat shelters. Then we called the company that manages our flat to see if they had sent over any repairmen to work on the flat in recent days. After all, there are only a limited number of keys to our flat. T has one and C&M have one; both convinced us that they had not let Giles out. Neither [ profile] cheshcat nor I had done so, of course, since we were on another continent. It is possible that Darelle or [ profile] dr_jen could have done so... but since both were out of Oxford, it seemed unlikely. The sole remaining key belonged to the company that managed the flat.

It was out of hours, so we called their emergency number. The woman who answered said that if I called back in an hour, when she was near a computer, she would check for me. However, she also said that they do not normally do repair work between Christmas and New Years. Hurm.

So maybe no one could have let Giles out. Perhaps he was in the flat after all? But... where? He likes to hide from people who are not [ profile] cheshcat or [ profile] anarchist_nomad, but where could he be hiding? I came up with a cunning plan. We asked T to go to the flat and remove the cat food. Leave plenty of water, but no food. Then, when C&M returned on the following day, Giles would be quite hungry. In such a case, he would likely come out when anyone -- even a stranger -- rattled the food bag.

With all these plans in place, I finally departed from Jersey City, several hours later than planned.

Total Miles Driven: 1509

Shortly after leaving on my journey, I got a phone call from C. Apparently, T had gone back to the flat and, before he got inside, noticed Giles lazily washing himself in the front window.

That little $H!+!!!!!!!!!!

I was relieved, incredulous, and furious at the same time! Where they hell could that little terror have been hiding? To this day, I still do not know his secret spot! While covering away in it, however, he managed to scare, upset or disrupt a large number of people: There was T, his wife and mother (who he brought on Dec 28 to help search the flat for Giles), C&M, [ profile] dr_jen (who T had called on Dec 28), Darelle (who [ profile] dr_jen had called), me, [ profile] cheshcat, [ profile] squeektoy42 and A (whose home we turned into Command Central for our emergency operations), [ profile] resourceress, plus [ profile] livetbd (who I was now hours late in meeting) and her husband D. How could one little kitten cause so much trouble??!

Anyway, I phoned [ profile] cheshcat and let her know that all was well. I then continued making my way to Youngstown, Ohio.

I arrived at [ profile] livetbd's house at 11pm -- far later than planned, and much to late to have a proper date. I am grateful that both she and her husband, D, were understanding. As cat people themselves, they understood, and have been in similar situations themselves. Still, I felt somewhat guilty and promised to make it up to [ profile] livetbd with a theatre date in Chicago the next time that I am in the States. She did not turn down this offer of penance.

After the three of us spent some time together catching up, D went out to midnight karaoke with friends. That left [ profile] livetbd and I to have some quality alone time together. Priorities are important: We started off with her giving me a tour of back porch. There sits the new hot tub that they had installed since the last time that I visited. A full appreciation of the installation work required closer inspection, which I was happy to engage in. Nothing quite like soaking in a hot tub in the middle of a cold winter night! Especially when one has some rather delightful company and a distinct lack of clothing!

I am quite grateful that [ profile] livetbd, like myself, is a night person. Despite my late arrival, we spent quite a few hours -- inside the hot tub and out -- deliciously enjoying each others' company!

Total Miles Driven: 1914

Wednesday December 31st: I wish that I could say that Wednesday began as well as Tuesday had ended. Alas, this was not to be the case. I awoke -- with far too little sleep -- around 10am to the sound of [ profile] livetbd crying. Even before I pulled on clothing and rushed downstairs, I feared that I knew what had upset her. I was not mistaken. During the night, one of their cats -- who had been very sick -- had passed away.

Like [ profile] cheshcat and I before moving to England, [ profile] livetbd and D had had six cats living under one roof. Since my previous visit, one had escaped, so they were down to five. Now it was four. My calendar sense was tingling -- two cat crises in less than twenty-four hours... plus, they lost their kitty on New Years Eve -- just as we had lost Totoro on New Years Eve the year before.

Both [ profile] livetbd and D were, understandably, rather upset. My heart went out to them; I could feel their pain. I gave both sympathy and advice on options for dealing with the body. When D decided to bury their furry friend in the backyard, I helped to dig the grave. I stayed with them for a few hours longer than I had originally intended, because I could sense that my presence was appreciated and doing some good.

Eventually, however, I did leave to finish the return to Chicago and the Event Horizon. Neither [ profile] livetbd nor D were going to go out to celebrate New Years Eve. Who could blame them? How could they? Who can lose a loved one, then immediately go out to party? The previous New Years Eve, when Totoro passed into the Summerlands, [ profile] gyades and [ profile] cheshcat and I cancelled our plans to party into 2008 in London. However, I had party plans and very much needed to keep them. I could not spend two consecutive New Years Eves in a row mourning for dead cats. In a very real sense, I needed a New Years party to help me bring about closure for my dear Totoro.

Thus, slightly before 1pm, I said my goodbyes, hopped into Lucretia II, began the four hundred forty-one mile drive back to Chicagoland. The trip was uneventful. Six hours and fifteen minutes later, I pulled into the driveway at the Event Horizon.

Total Miles Driven: 2355

I arrived home just minutes before 2009 began in the United Kingdom, putting an end to my "Christmas on Wheels" adventure! I texted Darelle one more time, hoping to be the last text that she received in the old year. Then I waited to a short while past midnight -- giving her time to celebrate the changing of the year properly with those that she was actually with -- before calling her up. It was rather amusing to have a phone call spanning the years! And, of course, it was absolutely wonderful to hear my beloved's voice once again!

After a nice conversation with Darelle, it was back into overdrive. Unpack, shower, eat -- all as quickly as possible, so that [ profile] gyades and I could get to the O'hana New Years party as early as we could! We arrived around 8pm and spent the rest of the evening enjoying good company, good food... as well as a pool and a hot tub! Hot tubbing two days in a row? What an excellent way to end the year! Indeed, I could easily make a habit of it!

I will not write too much more about the New Years party, as it already has its own LiveJournal entry. Suffice to say that, at a few minutes before 11pm, I got out of the hot tub and phoned [ profile] cheshcat -- who was in Connecticut with [ profile] resourceress, TinMan 2.0, LaForza, and others at the Treehouse New Years party -- to welcome her into 2009 in my home time zone. To mark the occasion, I turned the telly onto the same station that they were viewing at the Treehouse so that we could watch the ball drop together. Then it was back in the hot tub for me! At midnight, Chicago time, we all celebrated the local onset of 2009!

[1] "Decemberween" is the term that I use to refer to the period from December 12th to January 1st. Those three weeks contain [ profile] cheshcat's birthday (Dec 12), [ profile] resourceress's birthday (Dec 20), Yule (Dec 21), Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. As such, the entirety of those three weeks gets merged together into a single long holiday; one that involves an enormous amount of travel and visiting and celebration.

[2] Not strictly true, as I am writing this in Narita Airport as I wait to board my flight. However, by the time I am able to post it, I will be back in England -- most likely on the airline bus to Oxford.

[3] Still not surprising, as this is where I went to sleep again.

Just ducked out of the T2K collaboration meeting party. Now I know what alcoholics feel like!

Until I was twenty-six years old, I was not really an omnivore. I was a carnivore. I ate meat. All the time[*]. In contrast, I only ate four vegetables: spinach, corn, broccoli, potato. I had considered the idea of being a vegetarian, but figured that I simply could not do it. What would I eat?

Eventually, of course, I did pluck up the will to go vegetarian. When I did, I had the good sense to not make the shift "cold turkey." I designed a "three-step plan" that lasted for about twenty-six months. I became full vegetarian at the start of 2004, and have been ever since. It is one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.

Sometimes, in jest, I will say that I am not a vegetarian but, rather, a "recovering carnivore." There is truth in those words. There are several foods that I miss, but most of all is Japanese sushi. Conveniently enough, I have not been in Japan since becoming a vegetarian... until now. Although sushi in the United States isn't bad, it is not in the same league. So resisting the temptation was not too difficult.

Tonight, however, at the collaboration party, there were tables and tables covered with catered sushi platters. One of my colleagues described it as tasting so fresh that "it tastes like it was alive an hour ago."

So, yes, now I know what alcoholics go through.

Indeed, there was also enough beer at this party to make it difficult for a recovering alcoholic. I don't drink... but I never have, so it is not even remotely tempting to me. But the sushi? I was practically having the shakes!

A couple of years ago, I contemplated allowing an exception for sushi if (and only if) I returned to Japan. However, I decided that this is not acceptable. I am a vegetarian. Ethics are not only to be followed when convenient. Nor do I wish to undo all the hard work that I did to give up eating dead animals in the first place.

So, ultimately, I was good. I ate tamago (egg) and some of the few vegetables that were available and fruit[**] and ikura (salmon eggs). CKJ, my graduate advisor, saw me eating ikura and accused me of "cheating." It isn't the first time. People always seem to be surprised when I eat ikura. I really am not sure. I am not vegan. If I eat chicken eggs, why does it surprise people when I eat fish eggs?

The party is still going on, but I left to do some work. Besides, I have limited patience for a party that consists largely of sushi and beer. Indeed, it seems like a waste of the ¥4000 that I paid to get into the party. If I can't eat or drink most of what is there, why bother? Maybe next time I will just not pay and show up anyway to socialise, sans consumption.

[*] Well, not whilst sleeping. But you get the idea.

[**] Including pineapple.



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