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

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, [ 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 [ 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, [ profile] bunnypip is coming down to join [ 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, [ 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, [ 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.

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 [ 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 [ 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 [ 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 [ 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 [ 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, [ 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 [ profile] dr_jen, who joined [ 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 [ profile] dr_jen and [ 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 [ 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!


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 [ 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, [ 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, [ 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! [ 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 [ 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, [ profile] cheshcat and I have tickets to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Oxford Playhouse[******]. Then, on Sunday, [ profile] cheshcat and [ 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!


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 [ 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.

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! [ 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 [ 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 [ 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 [ 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!

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 )

Woke up this morning and went back into work today for the first time after the Decemberween festivities[*]. The work day concluded, as they do every Thursday, with our weekly group meeting.

After the meeting, I high tailed it to St. Giles Church... arriving just in the nick of time[**] for the evening's bell ringing practice. This is my first time ringing bells this year. The last time I held a bell rope was December 14th -- twenty-five days ago! Indeed, it has been so long that my bell ringing callouses[***] almost completely went away!

I rang several courses of Plain Bob Minor -- some plain courses and a couple of touches. I wouldn't say that I was brilliant... but I held my own. I also rang a covering tenor for Plain Bob Doubles, and got to practice the treble on a ten minute touch of Grandsire Triples. I can use all the practice there that I can get; one of my 2009 goals is to successfully ring the treble on a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples!

Despite the fun that I had ringing, I must say that the best moment of the practice was when I realised that, as of one week ago, I am now a member of the Oxford City Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers! Excellent! I knew that I had been nominated and accepted for membership -- effective January 1st 2009 -- at the November 2008 business meeting... but, amidst all of the December activities and excitement, I had forgotten about it all! Now I am both a member of the Oxford University Society of Change Bell Ringers and the ODG!

When practice ended at 8:45pm, I hopped on my cycle and rode back to the new [as yet unnamed] flat. I arrived around 9:15 and quickly gobbled down leftovers from last night for dinner whilst petting The Boy. Then darted off a couple of quick e-mails and wrote this post. Now, with 10pm approaching, it is time to huddle over my laptop and join the bi-weekly international T2K SK video-conference. I won't pretend to be thrilled with the 10pm to midnight time slot. However, with collaborators spanning latitudes from Vancouver and California in the West to Japan in the East (and many time zones in-between), this is one of only a few reasonable timeslots. I suppose that I should be grateful; when we go to British Summer Time in late March, the meeting[****] will run from 11pm until one o'clock in the morning!

And, on that note, it is heigh ho, heigh ho -- off to work I go!

[*] Yesterday, everyone was up in Liverpool for a meeting. Due to my holiday travel plans, I did not have the chance to drive there... and I certainly could not see a point in going into the office alone. Instead, I stayed at home and joined in via video-conferencing software.

[**] Technically speaking, I was about ten minutes late. But, by a strange coincidence, tonight's practice also began late by the same margin. I entered the ringing chamber just as the band was getting ready to ring up the bells into position for the practice.

[***] One on my left palm and one on my right ring finger.

[****] Which is rooted in Japan-time.

Utterly fantastic three day weekend! Friday was [ profile] cheshcat's birthday. She turned six[1]. To celebrate this milestone there was a weekend of festivities revolving around this event.

The fun began on Thursday evening, day zero, when I secretly imported [ profile] resourceress from Boston[2]. I conceived this little bit of sneakiness many months ago, and we had been plotting together ever since. When I arrived home with [ profile] resourceress in tow, I entered our [as yet unnamed] flat and said: "Hey, Hon? You will never believe who I met on the way home from work today!" Suffice to say, [ profile] cheshcat was quite surprised! Indeed, I believe the words: "This is the best present ever!" may have escaped from her lips. Suddenly, the plans to eat leftovers for dinner were cancelled, and we were on our way to Summertown to celebrate at the Mamma Mia restaurant[3].

On Friday, we all got up early and went into London for a day of museum hopping. We hit the Natural History Museum and the British Museum. At the Natural History Museum, we saw the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. It was, in a way, coming full circle... as we went to the 2005 exhibit shortly after we moved to England. As for the British Museum, this was our first visit... not counting the our visit to the First Emperor special exhibit back in March. Twas good fun, and I now have silly photos of me posing next to the Rosetta Stone, a quartet of Sekmeht statues, et cetera. When they finally kicked us out at 8:30pm, we drove back to Oxford and went out for a very nice birthday dinner at the Pink Giraffe. This is a Chinese restaurant in St. Clement's with an array of exceptionally good fake meat dishes! A most excellent choice!

On Saturday morning, the three of us went to Blenheim Palace to listen to a carol service and see the house decorated for the holidays. [ profile] cheshcat and I have been there before, of course, but it was the first visit for [ profile] resourceress so we did a tour of the house. The choral music was good and some of the holiday decorations were quite stunning -- especially the front hall and the dining room! What amazingly large trees![4]

After leaving the palace, we returned to our flat. [ profile] cheshcat was under the impression that we were going to get changed for lunch at a posh restaurant in the city centre... then drive to Manchester for an unspecified evening performance. Instead, she was greeted by a group of people[5] leaping out at her to yell SURPRISE!!! The party that followed was a huge success! In total, we had eighteen big people, plus two little ones. Indeed, our flat was just about at capacity! I made a grocery run for snacks with JTL... who ended up being a one-woman catering crew! Antipasti, quesadillas, vegetarian sausages -- you name it! She whipped up an amazing feast of snacks!

There were so many memorable moments from the party. [ profile] cheshcat received a set of jacks for her sixth birthday, which became a surprise party hit! I did learn that (a) jacks are dangerous for somebody with OCD, and (2) I am apparently on my way to becoming a jack shark![6] We also played two games of Werewolf, led by [ profile] alextiefling. I was on the winning side both times... though I was killed in each game. Once by my fellow villagers and once by werewolves! I can't catch a break! Several games of Set were also played, and I won the one where I took part.

At the end of the night, we transformed our living room into a slumber party. Eight people slept in our flat that night, and apparently our living room can fit four air mattresses with relative ease! Thanks go out to D&J as well as [ profile] dr_jen for loaning us air mattresses; also to [ profile] alextiefling and [ profile] friend_of_tofu for bringing their own to sleep on!

The party continued into Sunday[7]! After I procured a small feast for breakfast, seven of us headed to the Oxford Castle to see the Earth From The Air art exhibit. [ profile] cheshcat and I had already been there last month, but we only saw about half of the one hundred and twenty photographs on display[8]. This time, we finished up our viewing and brought friends along to appreciate the art. When finished, we chilled out warmed up in the castle's cafe for a bit. Then [ profile] cheshcat led a group of four to the Eagle & Child, whilst I brought the rest of our group on a walking tour of Oxford.

Eventually, the two halves of our party merged again and we went to St. Giles Church for Sunday evening service ringing. [ profile] mattp and I rang, whilst the rest of our group watched to see what change bell ringing is all about. For [ profile] resourceress, it was a return to the tower, as she was present in July 2006, when I went there for the very first time. With the exception of D&J, we all returned to our flat after the tower bell ringing finished. There, we were joined by JP and L&M for a handbell practice. This was most welcomed by me, as my London commute has prevented me from ringing handbells since late September! Also, everyone present got to have a go at handbell ringing! For [ profile] resourceress, [ profile] cheshcat, and [ profile] prolificdiarist, this was their first attempts!

Even after the ringing ended at 8:30pm, the party was still going on! I was surprised, but pleased, to see [ profile] cheshcat's party continue for so long! We made and ate dinner at home, then played a couple of games of Set (I won two and [ profile] mattp won one) then a game of Bohnanza ([ profile] prolificdiarist won with twenty points, I came in second with seventeen, [ profile] mattp and [ profile] cheshcat each had sixteen).

When our game of Bohnanza ended, it was one o'clock in the morning. The party that had begun thirty-six hours earlier was finally winding down. We brought out the air mattresses once again -- there were still five people sleeping under our roof. By morning, three of us had left to go to work in London, whilst [ profile] cheshcat went to her job in central Oxford.

If I do say so myself, this birthday bash was a phenomenal success! Despite all the complex plans, everything went off without a hitch! I was thrilled to hear nearly all the guests enthusiastically tell me what a wonderful time they had at it... and I am so pleased to give my beloved [ profile] cheshcat such a happy milestone birthday. Thank you to everyone who joined us!! Additionally, the one-two surprise of importing [ profile] resourceress and the party qualify this weekend for the list of Big Surprises that I have given to [ profile] cheshcat through our fourteen years together![9]

[1] In cat years.

[2] Due to a transporter accident, most of her hair ended up staying behind!

[3] No Abba connection -- sorry!

[4] Okay, they may not be large by Rockefeller Center standards... but these were indoors!

[5] One co-conspirator in particular deserves special thanks for arriving early, tidying the flat, and letting everyone in!

[6] No relation to my neighbour, the Headington Shark!

[7] Before it did, however, [ profile] mattp and I snuck out early to ring bells at St. Giles Church for the Sunday morning services.

[8] Fifty-three, to be exact.

[9] This is probably the fifth entry on that list.

Friday / Saturday: Thanksgiving Party
Friday evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I hopped into Peter, our trusty steed, and drove to SouthEast London to visit with our friends D&J. D&J are fellow Yanks -- brother and sister-in-law to the breathtakingly beautiful [ profile] pomoloco -- who moved to London just three months before we moved to Oxford. Although we didn't know each other well when we all lived in Lawn Guyland, [ profile] pomoloco wisely put the four of us in touch soon after we moved.

Since then, it has become tradition for D&J to host a Thanksgiving party each November, on one of the two Saturdays closest to the actual holiday[**], and to invite all of their expatriate friends. This year was the third in the tradition[***]. We went out on Friday to remove the stress of travelling out from Oxford on the day of the party... and also to get a little extra time with D&J, who we had not seen since their housewarming party back in September.

The party was good fun: We got to see people that we don't often spend time with, I have an invitation to go boating down the Thames next Spring with the St. Pancras harbormaster, and the food was excellent! In total, there were twelve of us there -- nine expatriated US-ians and three Brits who came along as partners of the expats. Given the demographics, D&J's flat became a temporarily extension of US soil. In particular, somebody decided to forbid the use of British English -- anyone using "top up" or "queue" or "zed" or "bloody" would be penalized by having to take a drink. It was an amusing suggestion... though I am not certain that it is directly responsible for most people ending the evening quite tipsy!

Sunday was a busy day, filled with a variety of activity -- some social, some productive, some fun! Just the sort of day that I like!

We stayed over at D&J's placeon Saturday night as well and had a nice lay in on Sunday. As if making an enormous Thanksgiving dinner wasn't enough, J prepared a lovely breakfast spread on Sunday at around noon -- fruit, pancakes (with real maple syrup), bacon (for the meat eaters), cheese, scrambled eggs, tea, juice! Yum!

After breakfast, [ profile] cheshcat and I headed out. Before leaving London, we swung by Imperial College and I showed her the building and office where I now work. Then it was back into London traffic as we made our return to Oxford.

Upon returning to Oxford, I headed to St. Giles Church and rang bells for Sunday evening services. Nothing terribly noteworthy here.

When services ended, I met up with [ profile] cheshcat at Skullcrusher Mountain. On Tuesday, we had moved the last of our belongings into the [as yet unnamed] new flat. However, before leaving SCM for good, we wanted to do a thorough cleaning and perform ritual to release any of our energy -- or that of our kitties -- that still lingered. It took a couple of hours, but we managed to accomplish this. When we left SCM, it was for the final time. Interestingly enough, I think that this is the first time [ profile] cheshcat and I have moved house without any help from anyone else or a moving van! We did it all ourselves, using Peter as the only transport vehicle. Admittedly, we moved from a furnished flat to another furnished flat, but still...

Next, I dropped [ profile] cheshcat (and our cleaning supplies) off at home, picked up my new ice skates, and made my way out to the evening session at the Oxford Ice Rink. There, I debuted my new skates. I learned two things: (1) The blades are so obviously superior to anything that I have previously skated on, and (2) The new skates hurt. A lot. My feet were killing me, and it was all I could do to do some basic forward skating all the way around the rink without stopping! I am not entirely surprised -- the lovely [ profile] danaeris once warned me that new skates feel like that until you break them in. Still... ouch! It was a bit disappointing to not be able to do much on the ice; still the only way to break them in is to wear the things!

When I got home from the rink, [ profile] cheshcat and I got takeaway Chinese food for dinner. I walked five minutes to pick it up -- I do enjoy living in a much more active area than we previously did!

Finally, it was getting late so I tucked [ profile] cheshcat into bed, then wound down my own evening with a phone date with the adorable [ profile] livetbd. It is always nice to hear her voice and it was good to catch up on each others' lives. We made plans to see each other when I am in the States next month; I am definitely looking forward to spending time with her again in the not too distant future! We also need to find a way to see a Broadway musical together, as we are both huge theatre geeks![****]

As I said -- the sort of active and varied Sunday that I like! When my head finally hit the pillow, I was thoroughly ready for it... and asleep almost immediately!

[*] One hundred points to the first person that identifies the source of my subject line!

[**] As none of us actually get Thanksgiving Day off here!

[***] Interestingly enough, each year they are living in a different flat from the previous November!

[****] Unless you compare to the spectacular [ profile] squeektoy42, who is the Queen of Musical Theatre. Even if she cannot identify Into The Woods quotes.

The past thirty-six hours -- from Monday evening until this morning -- have been really good! There hasn't been any one single Major Good Thing... but there have been loads of little things conspiring to put me in an excellent mood!

It started with quite a nice ice skating lesson on Monday evening. I had a couple of breakthrough moments where various and sundry maneuvers seemed to click into place. I still can't reliably do an inside three-turn[*], but my backwards crossovers are looking good and my continuous curves -- both inside and outside edge -- are nice, too!

After skating on Monday, I had a lovely phone date with the even lovelier [ profile] tawneypup! It is always good to hear her voice... and it will be even better to see here again next month! It was also a good way to end my evening; after getting off the phone, I collapsed into bed with [ profile] cheshcat.

Tuesday began with the perfect commute, as I wrote about yesterday... and the day just got better from there. Apparently, I was right about the perfect commute being a good omen![**] For one thing, the weather was clear and sunny -- at this time of year, I will take all the daylight that I can get! Also, over the course of Tuesday, I received word of various and sundry bits of good news -- much of it I cannot repeat in the public domain -- which left me feeling bouncy and happy. Indeed, the bouncy happiness threatened to bubble over... so I went up to the level eight terrace and had a phone chat with Darelle so that I could bounce at her from the roof for a bit!

Tuesday evening was bell ringing practice with the OUSCR at Mary Mag. The return commute was nearly as smooth as the morning's -- only a three minute wait for the Oxford Tube -- and the ringing was quite nice. In particular, I fell into a groove whilst ringing the treble to St. Simons Triples and was ringing impressively well (for me)! These days, I am working on improving my ropesight and my listening skills. Also my bell handling, so that I can make more natural distinctions between a slow stroke, a steady stroke, and a quick stroke.

When practice ended, I picked up noodles for [ profile] cheshcat and I for dinner, then met her at Skullcrusher Mountain. We ate, then removed the last bits of our things from the old flat. With all of our stuff gone, the last task was to get the kitties moved. We had left them to the end, visiting daily with food when we came to pack. The idea -- which seems to have worked -- was to set the new place up reasonably well before unleashing them to destroy it! Before moving the kitties, we bathed them. We do this once or twice a year with our cats, using baby shampoo with conditioner to clean them up. So long as you start them on it young, they tolerate it. They never like it... but they tolerate it. For Giles, who was six months old yesterday, this was his first bath ever! He squirms like a wild thing when we so much as try to clip his claws... so both Chesh and I had anticipated the bath as being quite a challenge. Giles surprised us by taking it remarkably well -- mainly he just went limp and let us get on with it! Good kitty!

Once Giles and The Boy were clean, we put them in the car and left Skullcrusher Mountain. We need to return for cleaning and to do a farewell ritual for the space... but we are now officially moved out! Nice! Indeed, this has been one of the easiest moves I have ever done[***]. We did it all in eleven days, all by ourselves[****] and using only my Red Rover for transport. The new place is not fully set up set... but by spreading the packing over eleven days, we have had time to get a good fraction of our things into place as we went along.[*****]

The poor kitties didn't quite know what hit them! First, Mommy and Daddy take away all the things that they are used to! And go away each night! Then they get shoved into water!! And put in a carrier!! In the car!!! Then taken to a strange place!!!! Poor The Boy, he was very clingy and vocal as he explored the new place -- I made sure to lavish tonnes of attention on him! Giles, being a kitten, was less traumatised and happily explored his new home. Even though it was late, [ profile] cheshcat and I stayed up with them for some time, helping to acclimate them.

Finally, Chesh fell into bed and I hopped into the shower to wash the yuck of the old flat off of me. Then a "quick" hop online to check for mail from one or two certain someones... and into bed myself!

All in all, quite a nice day and a half!

The one downside to it all has been that, amongst all the activity of the past few days, I really have not enjoyed a full night's sleep since Saturday! I will endeavour to rectify this tonight. This evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I have theatre plans at the Oxford Playhouse. I don't know what show we are seeing yet -- this is the second-to-last of the "surprise theatre" tickets that she bought back in August -- but their shows usually let out shortly after ten pm. With any luck, I can grab a quick dinner and be in bed by shortly after eleven o'clock, thus luxuriating in the luxury of eight hours rest!

[*] But that's okay as the term is only half over. I have three more weeks to learn how!

[**] Certain good wishes from certain special people probably didn't hurt with this, either!

[***] Not counting those rare times that we have had professional movers, like when I moved from Arizona to Chicago to start work at Fermilab and the lab paid for the relocation costs.

[****] I believe that this alone is a first!

[*****] We were also able to re-use boxes after unpacking them, which is a nice eco-bonus!

Hurm. I have been informed by Secret LJ GnomesTM that it has been too long since I posted an entry to journal my life. Well, gentle readers, I'm afraid that you all know what this means! That's right -- it's the Return Of The Return Of The Week In Review Post! In fact, it has been so long since I made a proper journal entry that this becomes the Extended Edition of the RotRotWiRP!

So what has your Friendly Neighborhood Nomad has been up to? )
That's right! It's time for the dreaded "Week In Review" post![*] What has your Friendly Neighbourhood Nomad been up to this week?

Monday: After work, I had a tight commute, but got back into Oxford just in time for my ice skating lesson. Actually, I had thought that I would be late for the first time ever -- very glad to have been wrong on that count! This was the first week of the Level Seven class. We are learning inside edge three-turns[**], backwards crossovers, continuous circles on the inside edges, and continuous circles on the outside edges. The first two seem a bit tricky, but I have a fair bit of confidence that I can manage to learn them all in the remaining five weeks of the class. Eventually, I know that I will have to re-take a Level... but it hasn't happened yet, and I'd like to put that off for as long as possible!

Tuesday: Missed the Oxford Tube in the evening by about two minutes, so I had to wait fifteen for the next one. This made me late for bell ringing practice with the OUSCR at Mary Mag. Thankfully, I was only seven minutes late to a seventy-five minute practice, so it all worked out. Indeed, it is quite likely that I didn't actually miss out on any ringing. There were twenty-two people there, so I only rang every third or fourth go. I also stayed up far too late watching the election results come in.

Wednesday: This was a free evening -- a rarity during term time. Since I skate on Mondays and ring on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Wednesday evening is the only one that is potentially open... and often [ profile] cheshcat and I fill it with theatre dates (like we did last week and like we will do in two and three weeks time). I used the opportunity stay late at Imperial College. This seemed like a good idea, especially since I had arrived late, thanks to the long election night on Tuesday. Once I arrived home, I ate dinner quickly, then had a phone date with the tremendously terrific [ profile] tawneypup! It had only been about a week since we had last talked -- which is normal for us -- but it was still quite lovely to hear her voice! Before the evening was out, I also got to catch up with [ profile] frogcastle for the first time in awhile, and speak to the delightfully delicious Darelle, too.

Thursday: Today has turned out to be very different than planned. In fact, it has been a bit of an annoying day. Nothing serious has gone wrong, but I am non-plussed. I'm going to rant about my day, just to get the annoyance off of my chest. However, it really is just griping, so I will place it behind a cut, and please feel free to skip it! )

Friday: Tomorrow, we pick up the keys to our new flat! At which point, we officially start moving! Looking forward to this -- I like the new place, and it will make the commute a bit easier in a couple of different ways! Then there is a very busy weekend ahead... but I will write about that as it unfolds.

[*] Or, to be more specific, the slightly-less dreaded "Week In Review So Far" post.

[**] These involve skating forward, then pivoting on one foot, and ending up backward in a one-foot glide. We did them on the outside edge of our skates in Level Six.

[***] As anyone who knows me will attest, waiting is not my strong suit.

[****] Three cheers for mobile broadband!

Tonight's meeting was shorter than expected -- only about fifteen minutes long. When it ended, I was a touch shaken, but fundamentally okay. Decided that, rather than head straight home, I would take a walk along the Thames to ground myself.

Some say that things come in threes[1]. I am not sure that I believe this[2], but tonight the Universe gave me three things in a row -- all of which helped me to gather my inner strength, focus, and balance. The first happened as I crossed the Blackfriar's Bridge, just before commencing my walk. I am not sure where it emanated from -- possibly St. Pauls, or maybe the Southwark Cathedral -- but the music of change bell ringing filled the air. It was an unexpected surprise, and the beloved music helped me to find my center once again. Next was the stroll along the waterfront. This was not a surprise; being a water elemental, I knew that a walk alongside water would do me good. I walked until I felt calm and balanced once again. Before that happened, my walk led me to the lion statues near Cleopatra's Needle. Two years ago, [ profile] resourceress and I walked by these lions -- indeed, I took a photograph of her that has become one of her LJ icons. Upon reaching the lions, I curled up between the paws of one of them and sat for awhile, looking out over the water. I remembered the strength and the longevity of the bond between [ profile] resourceress and myself. I drew strength from this bond. I also remembered an important metaphor about lions that my dear [ profile] tawneypup recently shared with me. This, too, warmed the heart. While sitting with the lions, I called on that strength to make an important phone call. Eventually, I left the lions and walked further, until I was ready to come home. I am doing so now, writing this entry from the Oxford Tube[3] on my way back to Skullcrusher Mountain.

Tonight's meeting concerned an ending, and was part of this year's Samhain. My Samhain began last Saturday night at sunset. For one thing, that was the final sunset before we changed the clocks back here in Merry Olde England[4]. Since then, the clocks have been changed and the sun sets before five o'clock. This large increment of lost daylight is an essential part of my Samhain experience, and it signals the coming of Winter. Saturday evening was also when my first Samhain ritual of the year took place; [ profile] cheshcat and I did a small private ritual to honour some who are newly amongst the ranks of the Beloved Dead.

Samhain is the start of Winter, and the turning of the year. This year has certainly been all about Change[5]. Compared to this time last year, I have a new job in a new city, working on a new experiment in a new country. [ profile] cheshcat has a new job, too. Her health is also in a new, and potentially better, place. Together, we have a new car, a new cat, and are about to have a new flat. With one exception, all of the significant romantic relationships in my life have changed, too. I won't pretend that it has been an easy year; most of these changes were quite painful when they were happening -- the period from December 17th to April th hurt like hell![6] However, I find that I am in a strong and positive headspace this Samhain season.

Indeed, I find that my current energy makes for an interesting contrast with Samhains of the past two years. In 2006, somebody turned up the Samhain volume too much; that year, the Samhain energy was particularly intense as the Universe chose to beat the crap out of not just me, but also many other people that I know. Samhain 2007 was quite different; possibly due to a cold, or maybe due to the intensity of Samhain 2006, I felt very little connection with the Samhain energy last year. We did a small ritual and went to WitchFest in London, but it all felt very distant. To use the Three Bears as a metaphor, Samhain 2006 was too much, Samhain 2007 was too little, and Samhain 2008 feels just right. I am wrapping up the last loose ends of the year and moving forward into next year from a place of strength and grounding.

In addition to doing our private ritual on Saturday, [ profile] cheshcat and I celebrated the season on Sunday with a visit to Blenheim Palace to attend their "Very Victorian Halloween" festivities. These included haunted ghost stories, a show from a nineteenth century magic lantern, and a pumpkin train... as well as a more generic stroll in the formal gardens and past the waterfall.

Plans for upcoming Samhain and Halloween events include running our traditional Ancestor Ritual for a group of good friends on Friday (Samhain proper), followed by a visit to a haunted farm, and a walk in Salcey Forest to watch the leaves changing colour over the weekend. Backup plans, in the event of rain, could include the Halloween festivities at the Oxford Castle, a ghost tour of Oxford, or a performance of Sweeney Todd at the Old Fire Station Theatre in Oxford[7].

To all those on my f-list who celebrate this holiday, I wish you a very Blessed Samhain! To everyone else, I wish a Happy Halloween[8]!

[1] Which may come as a surprise to the lovely [ profile] tawneypup, given her Halloween costume this year.

[2] Indeed, I probably don't.

[3] Where I seem to write most of my LJ entries of late.

[4] A side effect is that, for this week only, I am a mere four hours ahead of the East Coast and a scant five hours ahead of Chicago. If anyone wants a phone call from their favourite Nomad, this is probably a good week to arrange one!

[5] And not the sort a certain politician likes to talk about, either!

[6] The first date is when [ profile] cheshcat's knee got injured, starting the period where the Universe decided to use us as a punchingbag. The second date is when we laid our beloved Foxy to rest, which was the last of the large traumas. Much rebuilding work remained -- indeed, it is not yet all over -- but the continuous volley of tragedies finally stopped raining down on us at that point. Which gave me the breathing room to stop doing triage and start on the rebuilding.

[7] I am somewhat torn about this. On the one hand, it is Sweeney Todd. On the other hand, it is OFS -- a venue for [very] amateurish productions. Just out of curiosity, would anyone be interested in joining us for this if we were to procure tickets for Saturday night (Nov 1)? It probably won't happen, as we already have plans if the weather is good... but I am just putting out some exceedingly tentative feelers to evaluate the potential of this as a backup plan.

[8] And, to my dad, I wish a happy 65th birthday! That's right -- my father was born on Halloween and my mother was born on 9/11.

Been back for nearly a week now, with nary a peep from me in this journal![*] What has everyone's favourite Nomad been up to?

When I travel, I like to "hit the ground running", as they say. I know many people who like to take a day off either just before leaving, just after returning... or both! Personally, I prefer to avoid doing as such; if I were going to take another day off, I could have spent another day travelling!

I am adept at avoiding jetlag in most situations. When I lived in Japan half time, I knew how to avoid it when flying in both directions. Trans-Atlantic flights tend to be a bit trickier, though. When flying West, to the States, I generally avoid getting lagged. When flying East, to Europe, I can mess myself up if I take the "overnight" flight. These put me on the ground exhausted first thing in the morning. A nap usually ensues, and the troubles stem from there. Departing the States in the morning and landing in the evening works best for me -- I can sleep on the plane and upon my return... and thus avoid the jetlag.

Thus it was that, only seven hours after returning to Oxford last week, I was awake and on my way into London to return to work... with a full complement of "extra-curricular" activities planned. What did the rest of the week bring?

Tuesday evening, after my first day back at work, I returned to Oxford to ring with the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers at Mary Mag. I last rung at this church in June, at the end of Trinity Term. Ye gads, an awful lot has changed since then!

On Wednesday, we had an all day T2K UK meeting at Imperial College to discuss the upcoming calibration run using cosmic ray data. In the evening, AB came over -- bearing noodles for dinner -- to play Settlers of Catan with [ profile] cheshcat and I. Together, the three of us play a bloodthirsty game, which ended with [ profile] cheshcat winning (10 points), while AB and I came in close behind (seven points and nine points, respectively). Overall, I am fairly impressed with myself for coming so close. I never produced brick during the game, so I only ever built two roads and one settlement. In contrast, wheat and rock were plentiful -- I ended with three cities, and about eight development cards (which gave me largest army and one victory point).

Thursday evening, I rang at St. Giles for the first time in three weeks. Tower bells only -- handbell practice happens to early for me to attend now that I am working in London. I will have to find some other time to continue advancing my skills as a handbell ringer.

For the most part, the weekend will be discussed in separate posts. Still, two things from yesterday are worth noting here.

The first is from when I was ringing for Sunday services at St. Giles yesterday evening. I felt very much in my ringing groove, and wanted to record that for posterity. We mostly rang Grandsire Triples and some Plain Hunt Major. However, we also rang a plain course of Single Oxford Bob Triples, with me on the treble. Single Oxford is a method that I am not familiar with. Going into the method, all I knew was this: (a) My job was to plain hunt from front to back, then back to front; (b) I always began by ringing over the #2 bell; (c) the last bell I rang over at the end of one lead would be the first bell I ring over -- not counting the #2 -- in the next lead; (d) the order of the bells on the way down would not be the same as the order on the way up. Knowing only this, I was able to use ropesight reasonably well to ring the method without going horribly wrong! I was rather proud of myself for this!

The other thing worth noting from last night is that [ profile] cheshcat and I finished watching the second season of Heroes. I don't watch a lot of telly -- Heroes and Smallville are the only two series that I currently follow. I am enjoying Heroes, though. Overall, it is a very good translation of the super-hero comic to the small screen. I may be driving [ profile] cheshcat a little bit crazy, though, by predicting -- usually correctly -- what is going to happen. Twenty years of immersion in super-hero comic books have left me a fairly good sense of plot precognition...

[*] Bad Nomad! No donut for me!

This will be my first weekend spent wholly in Oxford since May. Also, my last weekend spent wholly in Oxford until at least November. With [ profile] cheshcat convalescing from her surgery, the weekend weather forecast calls for mellow with a touch of calm.

One opportunity provided by this unusual situation is to catch up on my blogging. I have been a Bad LiveJournaler[*] of late and written very little of what has gone on in my life. Alas, gentle readers, y'all know what that means, don't you?

That's right! It is time for another one of those boring Week-In-Review entries! )

[*] No donut for me!

First things first: I hope that everybody reading this knows that, when the Large Hadron Collider turns on this week, the world will not come to an end. If anybody is still in doubt about this[*], I have the following exercise for you to do:

Step One) Make a fist.
Step Two) Hit the wall as hard as you can.

Does your hand go through the wall without touching it? If not, go back to Step One and repeat. If and when your fist finally passes through the wall without touching it, call me up and we will talk. The chances that your fist will pass through the wall without either touching the other are greater than the chance that the LHC will end life on Earth.

Right. Now that we have that sorted, what has everybody's favourite Nomad been up to lately?

Well, I just got back to Skullcrusher Mountain after being out for much of the weekend. Still have not spent a full weekend in Oxford since the end of May. I guess I have not been doing a terrible job of living up to my name, the Nomad...

Thursday evening, I went to the usual handbell practice at St. Giles. Got through a plain course of Little Bob Major on the trebles and a plain course of Plain Bob Major on the 3/4 bells. Shortly before tower bell practice began, [ profile] mattp arrived in Oxford and I brought him to ring with our band. Actually, we had quite a good group, which made for a very good practice!

Friday, I realised that I am doomed. As my dear [ profile] resourceress likes to say, I am doomeder than a doomed thing. "Why is that?" you might ask, gentle reader? Because, on Friday, [ profile] mattp and I drove up to Warwickshire to attend the Ringing Roadshow. "What is THAT??" you might fairly ask[**]. In a nutshell, it is a convention for campanologists. Mini-rings to practice on, clinics to help struggling ringers, vendors selling handbells and various other bell ringing paraphernalia, ringing simulators, ringing authors to sell and sign their books... you get the idea. Contributing to my degree of doomededness, I purchased my first ringing book -- Steve Coleman's The Method Ringer's Companion -- and had it signed by the author. Yup -- definitely doomed! Not directly related to campanology, there was also a fifty bell carillon, with demonstrations given by Dutch carillonneur Boudewijn Zwart.

Friday evening, I put [ profile] mattp back on the coach to London, then [ profile] cheshcat and I met up with our friends C&M to go to an artsy event called The Magic Hour at the Oxford Botanic Garden. The installation celebrates twilight and ran for three evenings from seven to ten pm. Within the botanic garden, there were several pieces of art commissioned for this exhibit. As night fell, the art itself would change with the magic of the hour. The event was very well done and we enjoyed it... though we could have done without the rain. As one of [ profile] cheshcat's colleagues noted, it was more of an "Enchanted Rainforest" than a "Magic Hour".

Saturday, I had a lie in, to catch up on all the sleep that I have not been getting of late. Then [ profile] cheshcat and I were off to London to visit our friends D&J and attend their housewarming party. We had not seen them since last November, which is far too long![***] Their "new" place in Lewisham is quite, quite nice! I think that my house envy sense may be tingling! The party was good, if a bit more rambunctious than what I usually expect from their parties... especially once the alcohol began to flow! Before the evening was out, I got a surprise massage from a drunk massage therapist... then shoved into a chair and treated to a lap dance. I wasn't complaining, precisely, but it certainly was not what I had expected.

The party finally broke up in the wee hours of the morning, after which [ profile] cheshcat and I pumped up the air bed and went to sleep. When we woke up, we spent the morning and early afternoon just being mellow with D&J, catching up on each others' lives. We also hatched a conspiracy to get D's sister, the stunningly beautiful [ profile] pomoloco to come and pay us all another visit!

Eventually, [ profile] cheshcat and I bid our dear hosts goodbye and headed back to Oxford. Upon my return, I went to St. Giles and rang for the Sunday services. Now I am winding down from a fun weekend and getting ready for what promises to be a very busy -- though likely pleasant -- week! A week which, I should add, will not feature the end of the world as we know it...

[*] If you are still in doubt, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

[**] Indeed, the delicious [ profile] tawneypup already has!

[***] Interestingly enough, our last visit to D&J and this weekend's visit acted as a set of temporal bookends.

anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Sep. 3rd, 2008 11:22 pm)
Today has been a fairly productive day.

At work, I completely blew off installing the latest proto-detector into the Kelvinox-400 cryostat. Instead, I read through this paper -- which I mentioned last week in this journal. It was really quite fascinating. The paper builds on the data analysis that I did at Super-Kamiokande for my doctoral research, back when I was searching for relic neutrinos from supernovae in the early universe. This new paper was put together by two theorists -- not other experimenters -- so they just use the data that I published in 2002, complete with all my selection criteria, et cetera. However, they test theories that have been developed in the past six years[*], as well as do searches for other neutrino types besides the anti-electron neutrino (which, as the dominant signal, is the only one that I looked for). Interesting reading...

In the afternoon, I spent a little time beating Skullcrusher Mountain into shape. Our flat had become quite the disaster area. I am far from finished with reclaiming it from the Mess Monsters... but the work has now begun. Also had a wonderful chat with the ever-adorable [ profile] squeektoy42 while I cleaned house. We talked about her mangos. She really does have the best mangos! I smile every time I see them!

As for the evening, this was a night of double extra-curriculars. First, I went to St. Cross to ring bells. We had a small band -- so I ended up ringing up five out of the six bells myself -- but I got to do a touch of Plain Bob Doubles and a plain course of Plain Bob Minor. I also rang down in peal... and did so quite well, if I do say so myself!

The second extra-curricular of the evening was theatre. After leaving St. Cross, I cycled to the Oxford Playhouse to meet [ profile] cheshcat for a production of a play called Lucky You. It was a very bizarre comedy set in Florida. I have never heard of it before -- or the novel it was based on -- but the plot was cute, the actors were superb, and the music was hysterical. How can you not love a play that has a song called "God's Shit List" in it?? When the show ended, I amused the director when he saw me dancing out of the theatre while the "Lucky You" song was playing.

After leaving the Playhouse, [ profile] cheshcat and I went to get some dinner... and now here I am, back at Skullcrusher Mountain. Having only slept for four hours last night, I will try to turn in relatively soon and make up for lost time tonight.

[*] I am quite pleased to note that the topic of supernova relic neutrinos became a moderately hot topic after my doctoral research was published. Before that, it was quite the esoteric and niche topic that nearly nobody had ever heard of.

anarchist_nomad: (Big Hair)
( Aug. 20th, 2008 04:55 pm)
In about an hour, I will head over to St. Cross for bell ringing practice. Meanwhile, I have a bit of spare time, which shall be devoted to an entry on nothing in particular!

Random the First: I am thrilled to announce that, at [ profile] wolfpeach's punting party on Sunday, I acquired my first 1p and 2p coins with the new designs on the reverse. I fully realise that caring about this makes me a dork, but that's okay! I also realise that I have a full uncirculated set of the new coins from the Royal Mint... but finding the ordinary ones is fun, too! To celebrate, I reorganised my coin collection. Don't look so surprised -- I did confess to being a dork!

Random the Second: I am delighted to announce, before I forget to do so, that [ profile] cheshcat and I watched Batman Begins on Sunday evening, then drove to Birmingham after work on Monday to see The Dark Knight on the IMAX screen. I will freely admit that seeing it on the enormous screen does make a big difference... especially the scenes that were specially shot with IMAX cameras, rather than being simply adapted from ordinary film. It was good to watch the movies again, back to back; I continue to be impressed with the most recent Batman movie franchise. I cut my teeth on Batman -- my second favourite comic book character -- under Denny O'Neil's long editorial reign (1986 - 2000) and fully embrace his version of the hero. As such, these movies were really spot-on! Nice work! (And anyone who liked Heath Ledger's version of the Joker should hurry out to a comic shop to pick up Alan Moore's 1988 classic: The Killing Joke)

Random the Fourth: I have the cutest -- and most energetic! -- little kitten! He is omnipresent, simultaneously occupying all parts of Skullcrusher Mountain at once. He is also utterly adorable! Last night, as I wrote the previous entry, he sat on the back of the couch and ate my hair... then relaxed with his paws on my shoulder!

Random the Fifth: I am proud to announce that -- thanks to the lovely [ profile] lunarbitch and the powers vested in her -- I have been upgraded from the Chia Pet Of Love to the One True Chia Pet Of Love! I am honoured and humbled by this distinction. I am also humbled by the big whomping tackle hug that accompanied the pronouncement!

And that, my friends, is all the news of the day!
Looks like I have neglected this journal for the past few days. Thus, I am afraid it is time for one of those greatly boring week[*]-in-review posts. Gentle readers, you may commence your naps.

Thursday evening, my after-work activity was bell ringing at St. Giles. We began with a handbell practice -- my first in over a month. I was able to practice a touch of Plain Bob Minor and several different parts of Plain Bob Minor -- the tenors and the 3/4 bells for a plain course, the trebles for a nice little touch. I still have not rung a quarter peal on handbells yet and am thinking that perhaps it would be nice to do my first on the trebles for Plain Bob Major. Bondi, if you are reading this, any chance that we could make it happen with a couple of OUS members?

As for the tower bell practice, it was nothing terribly noteworthy. Some Grandsire, some Plain Bob. I did manage to ring the extent -- only 120 changes -- of Plain Bob Doubles from the #2 bell, so it seems that I have not really lost any of my rudimentary skills while I was away in the States.

Friday evening, I drove to Birmingham for dinner and ice skating with the lovely [ profile] redandfiery. This was my first time back on the ice in over a month... and it showed. If my goal had been to bedazzle [ profile] redandfiery with my spectacular skating skills, I would have failed miserably. Luckily, I have a pretty realistic view of my own abilities and so this was most definitely not my goal! Friday was the first time I ever had an ice skating date, though -- it was fun and sweet! It was also the first time that I skated somewhere other than the Oxford Ice Rink since I started learning how to skate. This was mostly fine, except that the rental skates in Birmingham are even worse than those in Oxford. I really need to just go and buy my own pair of skates -- and soon!

Saturday, I drove back to Skullcrusher Mountain from Birmingham. The afternoon was fairly mellow, though there was one surprise waiting for me when I arrived. Could be nothing, could be significant. We shall see. In the evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I got together with M&C for dinner at the very yummy Thai restaurant near Carfax -- which marks the centre of Oxford. After dinner, we came back to SCM to play Puerto Rico -- my first game in well over a month.[**] Thankfully, my legendary prowess has not faded! Despite going first -- a position that I hate in Puerto Rico, I won with 73 points. Cheshcat went second, coming in third with 51 points; M went third, coming in fourth with 46 points; and C went fourth, coming in second with 61 points. I realise that no one cares about these details, but I plan to do a Puerto Rico analysis -- including starting positions -- sometime before the next tournament comes in January. It would have made sense to go to bed after M&C finally went home... but, instead, [ profile] cheshcat and I spent some quality alone time together.

Today -- Sunday -- I woke up and made my way to the Cherwell Boathouse to meet [ profile] wolfpeach and friends for a punting expedition. Surprisingly, the weather could not have been better! This defied all predictions, which I never believe anyway! This was my first time punting in 2008, as previous plans were cancelled due to rain. There were seven of us, so we divided into two punts. Although my punt had four people, I was the only person with previous punting experience on board, so I got to "drive" for the couple of hours that we were out on the river. Good fun! When we got back to land, the party dispersed for a bit, only to reconvene later at [ profile] wolfpeach's place for a formal tea party. Got to chat with several lovely people, some of whom I had met before and others who were new. Overall, quite a fun day... and I thank [ profile] wolfpeach for organising it!

[*] Or so.

[**] Anyone sensing a theme here?

Rang bells at St. Giles tonight. Only tower bells, though, as we had a mere two people for handbell ringing and need at least three to do a minor method or something more interesting. Seems that many people are away for the Summer holiday -- fancy that!

This was the first time that I have rung anywhere in four weeks -- and, believe me, my hands can feel it! The ringing callouses had very nearly worn off while I was in the States, so tonight I tore some skin on the bellropes. Whoops!

Thankfully, my mind did not manage to forget everything that I had learned while I was away. I rang Plain Hunt on seven and eight bells. I did a few plain courses of Grandsire Triples on the #1 and #2 bells, as well as covering on the tenor. Even though covering is pretty boring, it felt good to ring the tenor again. Cast in 1627 and weighing 1456 pounds, the St. Giles tenor is both the oldest and heaviest bell that I have ever rung. I think I'm a bit sweet on it... I rang the treble for a touch of Grandsire Doubles, a covering tenor and the treble[*] for Plain Bob Doubles, and the #2 bell for a touch of Plain Bob Minor. The last one is pretty near the upper limit of my ability... and I pulled it off okay. Thus, I can conclude that my skills -- novice though they are -- have not eroded. Excellent!

So, yes, I appear to have successfully slipped back into my England life. Theatre on Tuesday evening, bells on Thursday. Wednesday evening saw me making a trip to London to spend the evening with the irresistible [ profile] ms_katonic. To say that it was good to see her again would be a massive understatement. To say any more than that, however, would be beyond the scope of what I wish to share in a public journal.

Best make my way back to Skullcrusher Mountain now. [ profile] cheshcat is waiting on me for dinner and we have plans to make for the weekend. Tis a big weekend ahead, yes it is, but more on that later...

[*] Not simultaneously!



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