anarchist_nomad: (The Eyes Have It)
( Jan. 1st, 2013 02:44 am)
To all of you out there in 2012 -- which is the bulk of my f-list right now -- here is a message (or three) from 2013:
  1. The world does not end in 2012. (Huzzah!)

  2. 2013 appears to be a very dark place so far.[*]

  3. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (HUZZAH!)


Right now, I am winding down from a lovely New Year's Eve party here at Chiron Beta Prime with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, my darling [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, the fantastic [livejournal.com profile] dragonmamma, and several folks with no LiveJournals[**]. There were games -- like Give Me The Brain and The Shinnin' -- briefly interrupted by a quarter peal attempt at 21:00 to ring in the new year with some Stedman Doubles. Afterward, there was baked camembert (with garlic bread) and a chocolate fondue! Not a bad send-off for the old year, if I do say so myself!

A traditional year-in-review retrospective for 2012 shall be forthcoming. For now, however, tis time for bed. I hope that all of you still reading from last year are having a spectacular celebration... and I look forward to meeting you when you finally catch up with the times!


[*] Though there are street lamps and the like, which helps.

[**] Gasp!

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Hello hello, gentle readers! I hope that everyone is having an awesometacular holiday season!

This year, for ease of reading (and writing), I have decided to split my journaling of Yuletide adventures into two parts. Instead of one "Twelve Days of Christmas", you get two "Six Days of Christmas" posts. Really, it works out to be six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Thus, without further ado, here is what everyone's favourite Nomad has been up to this Decemberween:

Day Zero: (Thu Dec 20) As the sun set at the start of the Longest Night, our coven -- Dreaming Spires -- lit a candle to hold the light through the long dark. Later in the evening, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat led us in a lovely Yule ritual.

Day One: (Fri Dec 21) At the distinctly dark hour of stupid o'clock five a.m., my darling [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I piled into the car and made the ~75 mile drive to Stonehenge. As noted in my previous post, this was my ninth dawn amongst the Stones -- three Summer Solstices, one Vernal Equinox, and five Winter Solstices.

The first seven Stonehenge dawns took after an early Pink Floyd album -- the Sun was Obscured by Clouds, making a cameo appearance... or often none at all. That changed last year, when we were fortunate enough to witness a spectacular Stonehenge Solstice sunrise!

After last year's great luck, I was ready to accept another year full of clouds, with memories to remind me how glorious the experience can truly be. Imagine my surprise, then, when we arrived at the henge to find the pre-dawn mist slowly dissipating, giving way to clear starry skies! That's right, my dear friends! For two years running, we have witnessed the Sun rising to signify the return of the light!

Don't just take my word for it, though! They say a picture is worth a thousand words... but, truth be told, I think these shots convey the beauty far better than any description that I could ever write:

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

(click for full-sized version)


Guess Who? Your Friendly Neighbourhood Nomad greets his old friends, the Stonehenge Stones!

(click for full-sized version)


Here Comes The Sun! The first rays of light emerge over the horizon!

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This is basically the same shot that I took last year, included here for comparison.
(Honestly, I liked last year's version of this one better -- what do you think?)


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Um, wow. Just wow. Really, do I need to say anything else here?

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From a different vantage point. If you look closely, you can see that the Sun is passing through two of the Stonehenge archways here. Behind the large inner arch in the foreground, there is also the lintel of an outer arch visible. Pretty spiffy, no?

(click for full-sized version)


Finally, the new Sun rose high enough that its brilliant light made everythng else seem dim by comparison. This one is taken well after Sunrise, and shortly before the site was cleared.

(click for full-sized version)


Two years in a row? How lucky is that?! And what an amazing way to welcome in the return of the light! Huzzah!!

Day Two: (Sat Dec 22) Much holiday prep during the day; in the evening, [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat went out for a delicious Yule feast at one of our favourite Oxford restaurants.

Day Three: (Sun Dec 23) Started the day by ringing a quarter peal of mixed doubles -- Plain Bob, April Day, and Grandsire -- at St. Nicholas Church in Old Marston. I am pleased to say that the quarter was a success; this makes my second quarter peal of the month.[*] Later in the day, I also rang at St. Giles Church before their annual candle-lit carol service. Along with [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, we stayed for the service. The atmosphere is really quite lovely, with the church lit up by all those candles and the celebration of the season through singing!

Day Four: (Mon Dec 24) More holiday prep ensued during the day; in the evening, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went out for a Christmas Eve dinner at The Old Parsonage Inn. Over the past couple of years, we have slowly been sampling some of the best restaurants in Oxford, splurging on an expensive meal for special occasions. This marks another one checked off the list! The food was absolutely excellent, and the venue was delightful -- particularly since we managed to reserve the table near the fireplace!

Day Five: (Tue Dec 25) In the morning, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I woke up early to see what had been left under the tree and to open our presents! I received many lovely gifts from my beloved... but, without a doubt, the most impressive was a fantastic new Citizen Eco-Drive watch! Vunderbar -- I have been in need of a new watch! Actually, this is my first analog wristwatch. I have always appreciated the art of timepieces but, until recently, opted for a high-tech digital watch for practical purposes. Now, after a quarter of a century, my smartphone can do everything any watch of mine ever could manage (and more)... which frees me up to go for aesthetics on my wrist, rather than functionality!

After all the unwrapping was done, we spent a bit of quality alone time together before packing up our bags (and a kitty) and heading out to London. Our destination was the latest home of D&J, who were hosting the Christmas feast. And what a feast it was! Other than the roast goose, all of it was vegetarian-friendly: The stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the potato and onion mix, the carrots, the roast chestnut chutney[**], the sweet potato, the onion gravy -- incredible! For those of who could not enjoy the goose, there was even a yummy mock chicken dish as a substitute!

After dinner, we played a few party games like Werewolf and Celebrity[***] before the dessert was brought out: Pumpkin pie and homemade ice cream and cheesecake! My diet may have gotten slightly derailed for a day -- whoops! But, hey, it's Christmas, right?

Day Six: (Wed Dec 26) We stayed over at D&J's after the big Christmas party to spend Boxing Day in our pyjamas with these dear friends. The mellow follow-on to Christmas was part of the plan, with nothing more strenuous in the works than a few rounds of No Thanks! and some Christmas movies, like It's A Wonderful Life and Patrick Stewart's 1999 version of A Christmas Carol.

After an exciting Christmas and a mellow Boxing Day, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I stayed over in London with D&J for one more night, before heading out for more adventures the following morning. But I believe that we have come to the end of Day Six, gentle readers... so stayed tuned to hear about Nomad's Six More Days of Christmas!


[*] The first one, on December 16th, was a quarter peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor -- my very first quarter of a Surprise method... and a significant milestone in my accomplishments as a ringer!

[**] Try saying that five times fast!

[***] A new game, for me, but one that bears a striking resemblance to an old favourite: Bag of Nouns.

anarchist_nomad: (Default)
( Jun. 3rd, 2012 03:49 pm)
Yesterday marked fifty-nine years since Elizabeth Windsor was crowned as Queen of the United Kingdom[*]. So this weekend, we take four days to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, roughly sixty years and four months after her accession to the throne. Makes sense, right? Hey, in a country where the monarch traditionally chooses an "official" birthday in the Summer months, just to get better celebration weather, why not?

As an Anarchist, it should surprise nobody that I am not being a huge fan of the continued existence of the monarchy. Thus, I am generally avoiding the Jubilee festivities on this long weekend. Even so, I did my small part this afternoon, by participating in some commemorative ringing at St. Giles.

We rang a quarter peal of Stedman Triples, which went off nicely. Not much glory should fall in my direction, though, as I simply rang the covering tenor behind. As the front seven bells mixed and matched according to the method, I simply remained in eight's place, keeping time. That said, I have been learning Stedman and hope to ring a quarter peal of it on a working bell in the not-too-distant future -- possibly by the end of the year. It is a rather fun method to ring and I enjoy it quite a bit!

Also worth noting is that this quarter peal was significant for two members of the band. For one, LT, it was his 500th quarter peal. Impressive! I think I've rung in about five successful quarters at this point, not five hundred! For another, AD, it was his first quarter peal in this method. That's a nice little accomplishment! And, as I noted above, one that I hope to mimic very soon!


[*] Queendom?

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Lots of stuff going on recently, which means not enough time for LiveJournal. There are several entries that I hope to compose in the not-too-distant future but, for now, here is a classic weekend summary post. Enjoy!

Friday: Worked in London during the day. Returned to the City of Dreaming Spires in the evening to collect my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat; together, we made our way to the Oxford Playhouse. There, we saw a touring company from Shakespeare's Globe put on a performance of Henry V. It was very well done; one of the best productions that I have seen from the Globe. Makes me look forward to their Hamlet, which we have tickets for in July. It will be staged in the quad of the Bodleian Library, which is a rather wonderful setting!

Incidentally, this performance marks the fifth time that I have seen Henry V on stage -- unambiguously earning it the honour of being Shakespearean play that I have seen most frequently. At least for now. On Thursday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I, along with EB who is coming from the States, will be going to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a production of The Tempest. So, four days from now, The Tempest will tie with Henry V... and, in August, I will also be seeing Richard III for the fifth time.

Meanwhile, there are five of the Bard's plays[*] that I still need to get tickets to see!

Saturday: The Oxford City Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers had its half-annual meeting, which I attended in my role as Hon. Treasurer to present the State of the Finances report. Additionally, the City Branch had its annual six-bell striking competition just before the meeting. Back in March, I was more than a little shocked when the tower captain of St. Giles Church -- my home tower -- invited me to join the competition band! My ringing has progressed quite a bit in recent months, mainly thanks to the near-daily practice in February. Tangible results are starting to be seen, with my first quarter peal on a working bell last month, and my first striking competition yesterday!

In recent weeks, I was very nervous about competing. However, all went very well. We rang at Horspath, which was a new tower for me. Still, their bells are relatively light and rather easy to ring. Indeed, there was even a brief window when I thought that we might win! Our band rang second-to-last in the randomly chosen order. When we finished, I was rather confident that we had managed the best ringing thus far. Which was correct... but the final band out-rang us. Oops! Even so, second place on my first try is not bad!

Here is a picture of our band. after the competition:

And the runner ups are...

(click for full-sized version)


For those with some interest in this weird change bell ringing thing that I do, you can click here to hear a recording of us in the striking competition. The first few single strikes are a signal to the judges, sitting outside, that our practice is over and we are ready to begin. Then we ring in rounds -- a simple reverse scale -- for about a minute. Finally, we ring a touch of Grandsire Doubles for about four minutes, before settling back into some brief rounds before setting our bells.

In this recording, I am on the #3 bell. Which will make it easy to identify me during rounds, though I will be impressed if you can keep track of my bell during the method!

Sunday: In the morning, I rang for church services at Headington. Afterward, I made my way to the nearby town of Wheatley to pay a visit to the Wheatley Windmill, which was having an open day. There has been a mill on this site since at least the mid-17th century; the earliest records are from 1671, noting that the mill of its day had fallen into disrepair. It enjoyed a resurgence in the 18th and 19th centuries, but is now only maintained for historical value by the Wheatley Windmill Restoration Society.

The mill was rather quaint and lovely. Its octagonal shape is rather unusual... and its clockwise motion is exceedingly rare. I arrived early in the day, when they were still putting the cloth sails onto the frame so that it would spin. The weather was particularly nice, so I did not mind the extended wait a'tall. Eventually, they got it going, which was much fun. After watching the arms spin for a bit, I went inside and explored the four stories of the tower. The top was particularly fun, with all the gears interlocking this way and that!

Below is a picture of the windmill, taken by your friendly neighbourhood Nomad. I wanted to share a photo of me posing with said mill... but, in all honesty, the picture that I took was much better than the one that the random stranger took of me plus the mill. Ah well!

The wild winds of fortune
Will carry me onward,
Oh whithersoever they blow.


(click for full-sized version)


You can see that the sail has just been put on the arm at the bottom... but the two at the top are still awaiting their canvas!

On Sunday afternoon, I hopped on Ye Olde Oxford Tube and headed into London. There, in Kensal Rise, I joined in a party to celebrate the 65th birthday of LF, my high school history teacher. She is one of only three teachers that I bonded with in high school[**], so having her in London for a year is really quite lovely! At the party, I met a couple of her other former students, her daughter and daughter's partner... and an old friend of hers that I had met back in March 1990, during a class trip to London!

All in all, twas a most lovely evening, which means that I didn't get back to Oxford until nearly half past midnight. Happily, my darling [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth was also making her way home from London at the same time... so we kept abreast of each others' progress by text message! Silly, I know, but fun!

Finally, I wound down the night with a couple of phone calls. First, of course, I called Mom to wish her a Happy Mothers Day. We had a very nice conversation; indeed, twas the best interaction that we have had in quite some time! Afterward, I phoned [livejournal.com profile] gyades, just to catch up on the live and times of my best friend.

When that was done, I put the weekend to bed by putting myself to bed. Snuggled up next to my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, I drifted off happily to sleep.


[*] Which are: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Pericles, Coriolanus, Two Noble Kinsmen, and Titus Andronicus.

[**] And one of the remaining two passed away whilst I was her student.

anarchist_nomad: (Default)
( Apr. 1st, 2012 07:15 pm)
Just got home from ringing my first quarter peal on a working bell!! Very exciting, and a major milestone for my "career" as a change bell ringer. I rang the #4 bell to a 1280 composition of Plain Bob Major at St. Giles this evening. Huzzah!!

Will explain what this means in more detail later; right now, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and the adorable [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and [livejournal.com profile] jadesfire55 are going out to dinner to celebrate!

P.S. This is not an April Fool's jest! Seriously!
Tonight was a new milestone for me in my bell ringing progress! During practice at the Church of St. Nicholas in Marston, I was asked to call a couple of plain courses of Plain Bob Doubles!

I've not written much about ringing recently, gentle readers, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been keeping up with my change ringing! In the past twenty-three days, I have been out ringing twenty-two times, scraping off the proverbial rust that accumulated during my Winter travels and getting back into the swing of things.[*]

Ringing nearly every day is really paying off! I'm feeling much more comfortable in my bell handling, and my ropesight -- the ability to spot where you are supposed to ring by looking at the other ringers' ropes -- is coming along nicely.

Since this is Friday night and no one is reading LJ anyway, I may as well go on to post about what I have been working on. At this level of detail, tis not the sort of thing that is likely to interest many people or engender many comments -- after all, the vast majority of my f-list are not campanologists![**] All this means is that now is the perfect time to make a list that takes a snapshot of my progress. Thus, without further ado, here is what I consider to be at the frontier of my skill right now:
  • Plain Bob: By now, I know Plain Bob very well. I can ring touches reliably on five bells (Doubles) and six bells (Minor). Last Sunday, we had a very nice touch on eight bells (Major), and I hope to ring a quarter peal[***] of Plain Bob Major on tower bells by the end of the year. The one thing that is still likely to trip me up is "making the single", where you have to turn around in mid-stream. However, on this method, I feel like I have gone beyond the stage of "learning" and am in the phase of "perfecting".

  • Grandsire: On five bells (Doubles), I am finally starting to be comfortable with touches. On seven bells (Triples), I can ring plain courses very well but still struggle with touches. At this rate, I think I could attempt a quarter peal by the end of the year on five... maybe on seven.

  • Stedman: I am feeling pretty comfortable with the plain course on both five bells (Doubles) and seven bells (Triples). I am making progress in ringing touches of both, though this method is unusual in that the touches of Doubles are very different than the touches for Triples (or higher numbers, like Caters -- which is nine bells). On Doubles, I am starting to get the hang of singles. On Triples, I think I have the bobs down when there are an even number of calls. I still need more work to get on with odd bobs and I've almost never tried ringing singles. I have stood beside people ringing singles and was able to follow what they were doing, though, so I am optimistic. I would love to ring a quarter peal of Stedman Triples by the end of the year!

  • Cambridge: I have not been practicing my Cambridge Minor yet this year. Even the plain course has always been a challenge for me, so I am waiting before I go back to this. If I can get the plain course down by the end of the year, I will be happy with this. Touches can come later, and methinks that a quarter peal is still a couple of years away.

  • Treble bobbing: This is a skill, not a method. However, it is a skill that is used in a variety of methods, so I have been working on sharpening it. Coming along, but needs work.

  • Little Bob: This is my newest method, which I was thrown into unexpectedly last week. I have tried plain courses of it on six bells (Minor) and on eight (Major). The skills that I have been honing in treble bobbing are helping me make fairly rapid progress here. If I keep at it, I should have the plain course down in the not-too-distant future and can move on to attempting touches.

  • Reverse Canterbury, Single Oxford, St. Simon's, and St. Clement's: I have not tried any of these four methods.[****] However, they are commonly rung in towers that I frequent. So I should start learning these guys also.


And that takes us up to tonight, when I called Plain Bob Doubles for the first time. "Calling" a plain course of a method means saying when the band should start and stop, and then when to stand the bells. Calling a touch also means knowing when to add a bob or a single to mix the ringing up. All I did was call a plain course of Plain Bob Doubles, which is arguably the simplest method. Even so, I needed to keep my mind on more than just ringing it properly -- I needed to be aware of when the plain course was ending so I could either tell the band to "keep going" (i.e., ring it again) or "that's all" (i.e., go back to ringing rounds and prepare to stop).

All in all, I'm feeling rather good about my recent progress. I'm planning to ring again tomorrow morning (at Headington) and twice on Sunday (at Headington in the morning and at St. Giles in the evening), so the momentum will continue. Indeed, until I depart for Chicago on March 1st, I think I may be able to keep up the pace of ringing, on average, once per day. Huzzah!


[*] Pun intended.

[**] I think that I have two fellow change ringers on my f-list, out of 120 people there. Pretty small minority, huh? There is also a pretty awesometacular tune ringer on the list... but tune ringing is a rather different animal, with a very different language!

[***] A quarter peal is 1260 changes, lasting about forty-five minutes.

[****] Not entirely true; I tried Reverse Canterbury a couple of times many months ago.

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anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Jan. 29th, 2012 11:46 pm)
In the spirit of my new 100 Posts in 100 Days challenge, here is a quick entry to chronicle what I did today:

Today was a fairly mellow Sunday. I started off by going to St. Andrew's Church, here in Headington, to ring bells for the morning services. Only four of us were intrepid enough to show up on a sleepy Sunday morning... which, alas, limited what we were able to ring.

After ringing, I returned to Chiron Beta Prime to make breakfast for myself and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. Over tea and crumpets with damson jam[*], I read some more of my current non-fiction book, Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal. The book was a Yule gift from the gregarious [livejournal.com profile] gyades. The man knows me well -- when it comes to matters economic, Krugman is my heartthrob!

In the afternoon, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat napped whist I engaged in such wonderment as producing an updated financial analysis for our household. Exciting, I know. On the plus side, we seem to be in pretty good shape right now! Then, when evening approached, I went into city centre to ring for services at my home tower -- St. Giles Church. The band was slightly larger -- six of us -- so we were able to ring some slightly more interesting methods, like Grandsire Doubles.

Returning home once more, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I were had the pleasure of a cameo appearance from the lovely [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach. He came bearing food, which made his visit even more awesometacular than usual! Then it was off to the Barton pool for me, where I hopped in and swam a mile. As always, it feels wonderful to get into the water -- tis the elemental in me!

When all was said and swum, I made my way back to Chiron Beta Prime once more and prepared dinner. Then I put my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat to bed and, once she was neatly tucked in, went out for a run. I recently started the NHS's Couch-to-5K programme, as part of my goal of doing an Olympic triathlon. The running part of this is 10km, which I will freely admit is beyond me at the moment. Current plans have me finishing the nine week Couch-to-5K scheme, then using it as a springboard to training for a 10km race later this year. Once I can do that, I should be in good shape to start serious triathlon training, as the swimming portion is only 1500 meters -- or 100 meters less than the mile that I regularly swim.

Finally, I came back home and curled up with LiveJournal, launching the 100 Posts in 100 Days project. As I said at the beginning, today was not a terribly adventurous day; I stuck around Oxford and did fairly routine things. Tis the dark season, which makes it a time more suited for focusing on goals close to home. Soon enough, the light will be returning in force and the outward excursions will resume once more. Until then, there is much than can be done to take full advantage of these dark days.

On that note, dear friends, I take my leave of you. Happy Sunday to all, and to all a good night!


[*] Jam courtesy of the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach.

This evening was the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Oxford City Branch of Oxford Diocesan Guild of Change Ringers. As the Honorable Treasurer of the Branch, I attended the meeting to present my officer's report and to stand for re-election in the role.

I may have gotten more than I bargained for: In addition to being re-elected as Branch Treasurer, I am now also one of the two Branch Representatives to the Guild. Whoops!

If this keeps up, my involvement with the Oxford City Branch may start to resemble my involvement in the P**T*** community, where I am currently a Coordinator for 2012, a member of the Board of Directors (in one of the 2010 seats), and a list administrator. Plus, in the past year, I have also been a member of the Survey Design Committee and Chair of the Feedback Analysis Committee for P**T***. Better be careful, or my role in the local bell ringing organisations will start to increase, too!

Meanwhile, I should note that we rang last weekend at St. Giles Church for Remembrance Sunday. Of itself, this would be no big news. After all, I have participated in the annual ringing every year since 2007 -- last week makes five consecutive years. It is somewhat special, as it is the only week all year where I get to ring half-muffled bells. Plus, as we ring, a large crowd gathers at the war memorial outside of the church. We are the start of the city's Remembrance Sunday services and, thus, this is the largest intentional audience that I ring to all year.

However, this time was a bit more special. Back in July, I mentioned that the bells of St. Giles were to be removed, retuned, and rehung. The removal took place in early August; the bells were replaced in the tower last week. The Remembrance Sunday services are the first time that the "new" bells have been rung. It was a joy to feel how smoothly they swing on their new bearings, and it was much remarked how much clearer they sound since the retuning. That said, I am still saddened that my beloved tenor bell is no longer a maiden, having now been tuned for the first time since it was cast in 1632.

In honour of the bells, I have commissioned a new icon for my journal -- see above. It was taken from this photograph, which was shot back in August when the bells were removed.

A Boy and His Tenor Bell


I wish all of my dear friends a most lovely Saturday evening. More soon, gentle readers!

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Landed in Japan to find the weather is warm[*], the wind is fast, and the rain is heavy. Looks like I have found myself in the midst of a typhoon!

About to hop a bus to Tokai, my first visit there since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Disaster disrupted our operations at J-PARC back in March. This poor country just can't seem to get a break this year!

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that my last weekend in Oxford (for now) was absolutely fantastic! [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went to a dance performance at the Oxford Playhouse on Friday; I attended a bell ringing course on Stedman Triples on Saturday; and we did our Mabon ritual on Saturday night. All of this was fun and good... but the highlight of the weekend, without a doubt, came on Sunday when [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I spent the day at the Cotswold Wildlife Park. My beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had bought me a ticket to be Zookeeper For A Day, and it was an utterly fabulous! All three of us had a most awesometacular time, with penguins and tenrecs and giraffes and lions and iguanas and lemurs and more! (Oh, my!)

This amazing experience deserves a write-up of its own -- replete with pictures and full descriptions. Such will come but, for now, the above placeholder is all you get, gentle readers... as I must be off to catch the bus to Tokai!

Stay tuned!!


[*] About 26oC, or nearly 80oF.

...the lovely [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth has taken the record for my longest emotionally serious and significant relationship in the UK![*] Huzzah! Congrats to us, Sweetie! And here's to the many fun times ahead!

In other news, this week has been both hectic and full of surprises. Hectic is easy to explain: I leave for Japan in eleven days, with a collaboration meeting to prepare for. I have one or two analyses of my own to present there, plus two or three students that I am helping to ready for presentation, as well.

One day after returning from Japan, I head to New York for P**T***, the Sooper Sekrit Pagan Festival. This P**T*** will not be quite as much work as last year, since we are not the organizers this time. Still, I continue to wear a lot of Official HatsTM in the community: Vice-President (along with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat), member of the Board of Directors, Chair of the Feedback Analysis Committee, and now a new administrator for our new online facilities. Roughly translated, that means boatloads of work! So even though Dreaming Spires[**] is not running the show this year, preparing for P**T*** is a rather involved process. At the moment, I am preparing two workshops, using our expertise from last year to assist the current organizing team, writing the closing ritual for 2010, interfacing with the main ritual coordinators, preparing a private ritual with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, and gearing up to field questions about the feedback analysis. I am not the only person working this hard. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is certainly doing as much as I am... and I know that several other people on my f-list are also busting their butts in preparation.[***] Tis proof of how amazing P**T*** is -- I would not give so much if I didn't love the community so very very much!

Other items that have (or will have) grabbed some of my attention include: Bell ringing at Iffley on Wednesday and at a new tower -- North Hinksey -- last week; theatre in Oxford tonight, and on Monday with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon; and the annual Oxford Open Doors event this weekend!

As for the surprises? These have come in various shapes and colours. For instance, in one of my online games of Carcassonne: The Castle, it seems as though I may defeat the #2 player on the site to advance to the finals in my current tournament. Being the #14 player, this was not at all expected! In the other part of the playoffs, the fantastic [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach has completed a similar upset, trumping the #4 player to advance. If I can pull this off, it will be the first time that I face off against a friend in tournament play... and for a championship, no less! Definitely not what I expected... but good fun!

Another surprise was, less than one week after declaring my intention to leave the UK bisexual community, receiving an offer to help run the community's biggest event in 2013! Given that the two happenings seem entirely unrelated, the coincidence is rather amusing!

And, of course, I wrote about a really fantastic surprise earlier in the week: Receiving the incredible list of shows lined up for the World Shakespeare Festival next year!! Hooray!

Hurm. This post was supposed to be a quick events round-up leading into an entry about the bells of St. Giles. However, the lead-in seems to have taken on a life -- and a length -- of its own! Perhaps better to end this update now, then, and make a completely separate entry on the bells. Stay tuned, gentle readers!!


[*] For the pedants out there, I should state that I am not considering [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat when counting. Since I imported her from the States, she does not qualify here!

[**] "Dreaming Spires" = Our coven, founded at Samhain 2008.

[***] In the interests of respecting your privacy, I won't say who you are publicly... though do feel free to stand up and take a bow if you like! Y'all know who you are, awesometacular people, and you are absolute gems!

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Jul. 1st, 2011 05:57 pm)
Last night, I rang the tenor bell at St. Giles for what is likely the final time. At least in its current incarnation.

Our tenor is what they call a "maiden bell". That means that it is mounted and rung just as it was cast -- back in 1632 -- without any subsequent tuning. I have long been fond of this bell, expressing my affection for her as long ago as 2007. She is an F-sharp bell with a weight of 1456 pounds, bearing the inscription "FEARE GOD HONAR THE KING".

The bells at St. Giles have long been in need of re-hanging, and we have planned this work for several years. At last, we have finally raised nearly all of the required funds, so work will commence later this month. Given how poorly the #7 and #8 (i.e., the tenor) sound when rung together, there was some discussion on how to improve the tone of the bells. One idea, which filled me with horror, was to melt down the tenor and re-cast it! This solution was, thankfully, quickly rejected. Another idea, nearly as bad, was to cast a new tenor bell; the current one would then be retired and put on display. How awful -- she is a bell, not a museum piece! She is meant to be rung! My favourite solution was to melt down the other seven bells and recast them to be more in tune with the tenor, which would be left untouched. Alas, this was not to be, as it would require approximately £20,000 on top of what we are already paying. The solution finally accepted was to keep all the bells, but tune them so that they sound more melodic when rung together. Thus, after this month, my dear tenor will be rung as a maiden bell no longer.

Whilst far better than some of the other proposals, this plan saddens me. I took great joy in ringing a musical instrument that is nearly four hundred years old... and in the same form now as it was then! The bell is not listed on the historical register and another ringer told me that it is fairly typical -- nothing special -- for a bell from its era. Nonetheless, there is something that I find special in that bell and its history... and this retuning will remove a little bit of the magic along with the bits of metal that are taken off.

Although the bells will not be removed from St. Giles until the end of the month, I leave for the States in six days. Thus, it is quite probably that last night's practice was the final time that I will ever ring this bell in her maiden form. I will miss her, and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have rung this lovely bell many times over the past five years.
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I've but one weekend in Oxford between the recent trip to Europe and the upcoming week to Asia. That weekend is rapidly drawing to a close now. It has been mellow, but fun!

On Friday evening, things got started when I came home from work to spend a spiffy night with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, the exquisite [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten, and the devious [livejournal.com profile] ayaron at Chiron Beta Prime. We ordered pizza and played games; I taught Puerto Rico to [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten and [livejournal.com profile] ayaron and managed to squeek out a slim win during a close game.

On Saturday morning, we made our way just outside of town to pay our annual visit to the bluebell meadow at the Harcourt Arboretum. Thanks to the hottest April on record, the bluebells were a bit past their prime, but they still made for a pretty stroll.

Here is my darling [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and I in a lovely Beltane photo at the arboretum:


And here is a peacock, just because:


On Saturday evening, our Beltane ritual took place, marking the halfway point in the wheel of the year. In 2008-2009, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I worked ritual with more-or-less the same group at every sabbat. It worked really well and coalesced into an experience that was greater than the sum of its individual rituals -- most of which were pretty spectacular by themselves! I missed doing that last year, so we have returned to the practice for the 2010-2011 turn of the Wheel of the Year. Once again, it is proving to be rather powerful WORK.

Finally, we wound down Saturday with a very interesting kink discussion. Details of which are not suitable to be repeated in this forum.

Sunday morning -- today -- I had an excellent lie-in with my dearest [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth. The early afternoon was dedicated to practicalities, like setting up logistics for my upcoming trip to Japan (work) and Korea (play). In the evening, I rang bells at St. Giles for a quarter peal attempt -- the method was Grandsire Triples and I rang the treble. Ringing was followed up by a stint at the Barton Pool with [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, where I did my usual mile of crawl. We then headed to the cinema, where we met [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and [livejournal.com profile] ayaron for the 21:00 showing of Thor. Visually stunning, I expected better of a collaboration between JMS and Kenneth Branagh. Still, there were amusing moments.

All of which brings us to the present moment. When I finish this write-up, I will phone the sweet [livejournal.com profile] livetbd for a spell... then make my way off to bed! Less than one week remaining in Oxford before I jet off again, and much to do in that time!

So, as you can see, gentle readers, it has been a quiet weekend but a good one, nonetheless. I hope, dear friends, that you have also had a pleasant time... and that you have a lovely night!
Well helloooooooooo, March!

Daylight lasts eleven hours, the Spring Equinox is right around the corner, and the ever-excellent [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup will be here in eighteen days! Huzzah!

What else? Well, today is St. David's Day, the feast day in honour of the patron saint of Wales. Any Welsh people on my f-list? Happy St. Davidness to you!

In honour of St. David's Day -- or, perhaps, just by coincidence -- I launched an effort to remain indefinitely in the country that subjugated Wales nearly eight centuries ago. This morning, I mailed off the forms needed for my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.[*] Fingers crossed now![**]

What else what else? I am on Ye Olde Oxford Tube right now, heading to meet the lovely [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth for a date. It's been just over a week since I last saw her, but it is always wonderful when we can share a little along time together!

What else what else what else?? Let's see... I have been working closely with a new PhD student who is a very quick learner and off to a nice start. Despite the fact that he only began last week, he is already close to producing interesting work. We should have him presenting for the T2K-SK analysis group and the Neutrino Interaction Working Group (NIWG, pronounced neewg) soon!

What else else else else??? Ringing at St. Aldate's last night gave me lots of good practice! I had a couple of gos at ringing the #2 bell in Cambridge Surprise Minor. Still needs work, but it is coming along! I also rang a touch, albeit unaffected, of Stedman Doubles, which went very well, indeed! Stedman is such a beautiful method and my practice on it is really progressing well. The highlight of the practice for me, though, was ringing several methods, spliced together, for the first time. We rang Cambridge Minor spliced with Little Bob and Plain Bob. What fun!

Actually, my bell ringing has been making much progress of late, despite the fact that I have been too lazy busy to bore you write about it here. In recent weeks, I rang Little Bob Minor for the first time, conducted plain courses of Grandsire Triples and Plain Hunt, and more! Very exciting! I also hit a personal record last week by ringing seven days in a row, for a total of eight ringing sessions. Huzzah!

What else else ELSE else else???! Well, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had an excellent day out on Saturday, where we visited Windsor Castle and the surrounding areas, including a walk down what is officially the shortest street in Britain. That was loads of fun... and ticks off the fourteenth box on the "Top Fifteen Most Popular Destinations in England" list. Hard to believe that one of the places closest to me was visited second-to-last on the list! Methinks that only the Cotswolds are nearer! Still, fourteen down and one to go! That trip was much fun and really deserves a proper entry of its own. So that is precisely what it will get. Stay tuned, gentle readers!


[*] And it is a bloody good thing that I did this now, too! The applications get continually more expensive. Last year, when I applied for my current Tier 1 visa, the cost was £870. Now, it is £1150. In five weeks, it goes up to £1458. To think, fifteen years ago, the application cost nothing at all!

[**] Hopefully, our application will be approved -- and soon! Making the application involved sending the UK Border Agency both of our passports. Thus, we are effectively grounded until the application is processed. This could take as little as two weeks. It could also take six months or more. All their website says is that they aim to decide 95% of applications within six months. Hurm. As the name implies, the Nomad is not a fan of being grounded. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I have plans for an eleven day road trip to the continent to avoid celebrate the Royal Wedding next month, and I have a trip to Japan for a T2K meeting and SK shift in May. Knock on wood that the Home Office is faster than they let on...

Good Friday to you, gentle readers! As you may (or may not) have noticed, the Nomad has not been the most conscientious blogger of late. To that, I say: Um... whoops! In an attempt to get the LJ ball re-rolling again, I bring to you that time honoured and ever-reviled much anticipated of entries: The Week-in-Review post! So sit tight, dear friends, and fasten your seatbelts! The week is about to begin!

Friday: Last Friday, I spent the day with a visiting [livejournal.com profile] josington. Although I stayed home from work, it was still a workday and, thus, we passed the time by installing Ubuntu and other useful software onto my new laptop. In the evening, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went to visit the supertastic [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, who gave us lessons on how to make our own [vegetarian] sushi. Much yummy food was made and consumed; there was also a game of Settlers of Catan, in which I eked out a very difficult win. On our way home from [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach's place, we picked up the adorable [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth from The Island. Once home, all four of us -- [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, [livejournal.com profile] josington and I -- stayed up late with much talking and cuddling.

Saturday: Woke up early and made my way into city centre with [livejournal.com profile] josington to attend OxCon, the annual gaming convention hosted by the Oxford University Board Game Society. These days, I mainly attend for the Puerto Rico tournament. This consists of four games of PR, with tournament points calculated based on the scores of individual games. I have been participating since 2007, making this my fourth year[*]. By the end of the third game, I was ranked amongst the highest four players, thus earning myself a seat at the top table for the final game. Alas, I came in third (of four) there and so I did not win the tournament. Maybe next year.

In the evening, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten rounded out our numbers to five. We made our way to the delicious -- and vegetarian -- pub, The Gardener's Arms for dinner, then came home to play games. We started with Apples to Apples, in which the delightful [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth achieved victory, then finished up with Bohnanza, where my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat took the cake. Or at least the beans.

Sunday: Sunday began with [livejournal.com profile] josington and I making our way to St. Andrew's church to ring bells for services. After that, she made her way to a Quaker meeting whilst the four of us who were left headed out to the church-turned-restaurant, Freud, for brunch.

In the afternoon, we all reconvened in Chiron Beta Prime and prepared for our Imbolc ritual. This was the third ritual that we have WORKed together in the current turn of the Wheel of the Year. Just as we did two years ago, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I have committed to observing all eight sabbats during this turn. In October, my dearest [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat ran our traditional Samhain ritual; in December, I stepped up to the proverbial plate and ran Yule; now [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat re-took the reins to be HP for Imbolc. The ritual itself was rather interesting, involving elements that I had not worked with previously. I cannot give much detail in a public forum, but my sweetie put together another job very well done!

After ritual, [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten needed to go. [livejournal.com profile] josington and I headed out at the same time to ring bells for evening services at St. Giles church, in city centre. Shortly after we returned home, [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach arrived. Together, the five of us played Puerto Rico. Because I had not played it enough the day before, of course! Actually, I rarely get tired of PR... and a five player game has a very different dynamic than the four player rounds that I was engaged in the year before. Due to this, I started out way behind as [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat took a commanding lead early on. She was so far ahead of everyone else that I bet her a pizza she would win. As the game went on, however, some early investments in infrastructure began to pay off and I caught up, winning by eleven points. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat still passed everyone else by a wide margin, but I claimed victory... and she claimed a pizza!

When the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach left, the four of us remaining wound down for the evening with an episode of Jeeves & Wooster.

Monday: Monday morning started, as Monday mornings so often do, with the weekly T2K UK analysis meeting. One of my students was giving a presentation, so I paid particularly careful attention to her talk. It went rather well, I am pleased to report!

After work wrapped up on Monday, [livejournal.com profile] josington and the delicious [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and I met my sweet [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at The Mission for burritos. Then the evening's extra-curricular activities began.

This week, the theme seems to be a double-dose of evening activities. For instance, on Monday evening, [livejournal.com profile] josington and I rang bells at St. Leonard's church in Eynsham -- a new tower for both of us! This makes the eighteenth tower that I have rung at. The Eynsham bells are a little tricky, though nowhere near as frightful as what [livejournal.com profile] josington has dubbed "The Devil Bells of Garsington". Actually, the #4 at Eynsham was rather nice... and the #2 was not bad, either! The band was moderately experienced, so nothing more than Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles was attempted.

When ringing ended, we collected [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth from the Island and went to the aforementioned Oxford Go Club. I played on a 13x13 board with the same gent who I had squared off against the week before. It was close... but he did defeat me, 23 to 11. Meanwhile, the lovable [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth had been learning to play. She and I had a 9x9 game and she did very well for her first match!

The evening ended with us gathering up [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and going for bagels and ice cream at G&D's... then [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth had some lovely alone time for talking and snuggling and whatnot!

Tuesday: During the day, Tuesday was filled with errands. My dearest darlingest [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had our semi-annual dentist appointment, which I am pleased to report went rather well. Then I made a blood donation before bidding [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and [livejournal.com profile] josington farewell.

In the evening, my first extra-curricular activity was bell ringing at St. Andrew's church, here in Headington. That was followed with heading into city centre to meet [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at the Burton Taylor studio for a performance of Edward Albee's first play (from 1958), The Zoo Story. I have seen this before, but not for many years. Indeed, [livejournal.com profile] yavin7 and I starred in a production of The Zoo Story that I had directed for my acting class at Hampshire College, way back in 1992! It was interesting to re-visit the play with adult eyes. Whilst I still enjoyed it, it was not as compelling as it had been all those years ago.

Wednesday: I began Wednesday -- Groundhog Day -- in a time loop... as some of you may have noticed. Then I made my way into London to spend the day working with RT and others at Queen Mary University of London. Upon my return to Oxford, my first evening activity was to ring bells at St. Mary the Virgin in Iffley. I followed that on with a T2K-SK meeting at 22:00. When the meeting ended, my wonderful [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I enjoyed a lovely stir-fry that she had cooked in her new wok, then I wound down for the evening.

Thursday: Yesterday began by continuing the string of meetings that had begun the night before. The first was our weekly Imperial T2K group meeting, which I chaired. Then I had a brief one-on-one with one of my doctoral students, GK, before the collaboration-wide T2K analysis meeting began. We are very close to approving our first results, so the meetings are coming at us fast and strong!

In the evening, I scaled back to only one extra-curricular activity. In honour of a visitor from Sweden, I opted to forego ringing at St. Giles, playing with the Oxford Go Club, and attending the Oxford Pagan moot. Instead, we convened at Skullcrusher Mountain for an evening of transhumanist gaming. We started with Betrayal at House on the Hill, in which AS commanded a hoard of bats determined to suck us dry. Thankfully, we scared them off and won! Particular kudos go to H, our visitor, for role-playing the Professor so remarkably well!

After Betrayal, the kid gloves came off and we played Illuminati. This was a rather long game, and extremely hard fought. I played the Bavarians and, after many hours and a couple of close calls, finally managed to squeeze through to victory!

Hmmm... If one considers each game separately, I suppose that Thursday can be counted as having two extracurriculars, too! Each game certainly took longer than the other activities this week!

Friday (again): Today has been mostly spent on working. And writing this entry. This evening, I will meet my phenomenal [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at the Oxford Playhouse to see our third show of the year, Master Class, a piece based on the life of the opera singer Maria Callas.

And that, gentle readers, is the week that was. Still with me? If so, congratulations for sticking it out through the dreaded WiR post! Consider yourself awarded fifty points for sheer perseverance -- well done!


[*] I was unable to attend in 2009, as I needed to be in Japan for a T2K collaboration meeting.

After bell ringing practice at St. Aldates this evening, I was made aware of the existence of the Oxford Go Club.

Uh, oh. I'm in trouble now!
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anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Dec. 4th, 2010 11:59 pm)
A few days ago, there was a meme making the rounds in which people were supposed to sum up 2010 in a single word and then encapsulate their hopes for 2011 in a different word. Not being one for memes, I did not participate. However, recent days have involved many plans for the new year.[*] Additionally, it will soon be time for me to make my annual "goals list" -- which I do in lieu of resolutions -- so I have been giving some thought as to what I am hoping to achieve in 2011.

In terms of theatre, the new year already seems to be richly stocked! My beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I already have fifteen sets of theatre tickets for the first third of 2011. Not too shabby, especially as I am planning to spend a month working in Japan during that time! Eight of these shows are in our most frequented venue, the Oxford Playhouse, with a couple of others elsewhere in Oxford -- Marlowe's Dr. Faustus performed by Creation Theatre in the basement of Blackwell Books and an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece at the Burton Taylor Studio. The five other plays will take us further afield: The RSC's new theatres will be the venues for The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet, and another rendition of The Rape of Lucrese. Milton Keynes will be where we see Derek Jacobi as King Lear, and in Woking the lovely [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth joins us for Chess. For the past few years, including this one, my annual theatre count has tallied in the high thirties. With such a strong start, I am aiming to break 40 shows in one year for 2011!

With regards to travel, I have been looking at where the obvious holes are in our English sightseeing and attempting to fill them in. Thus, at a minimum, in 2011, I want to visit Windsor Castle, Chester, Westminster Abbey, the white cliffs of Dover (as well as nearby Hastings and Battle), the South Downs National Park, and the Broads. Also, at D&J's Thanksgiving Party, TH and I made plans for where to go cruising this Summer on his narrowboat; looks like in 2011 we will be cruising the Thames upriver from Oxford -- should be fun! Additionally, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I want to complete the tour of Wales that we started on our fifteenth anniversary in 2009. Back then, we spent five days exploring South Wales; in 2011, we plan to take a similar amount of time in the North. Outside of Great Britain, I would like to take a long weekend off from one of my Japan trips to finally visit South Korea. I had been planning a nice lil' trip to Seoul back in May this year but, to paraphrase Mr. Burns: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men... can be thrown asunder by volcanic ash!" The other travel question is what to do with the eleven day holiday that has been brought to us by the Royal Wedding. Possibly a road trip to somewhere on the continent? Must ponder further...

Looking at Pagan events, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are no longer responsible for running the Super-Sekrit October Pagan Festival, but we will surely be attending. Indeed, 2011 will make my fifteenth consecutive year of doing so! Besides, the circle that we opened for P**T*** 2010 is still in place and we need to be there to take it down! For my Summer festival, I am a bit more perplexed. This year, I found Brushwood's new SummerFest to be very..... okay. I had fun, but it just wasn't anywhere near the intensity of Starwood. I miss that. So, for 2011, I am currently undecided about whether to return to SummerFest, whether to sample Brushwood's larger and more established Sirius Rising, whether to follow Starwood to their new home at Wisteria, or whether to make a long-overdue return to Free Spirit. Ah, would that I had all of July off to sample three in a row! Any thoughts from you fellow Pagans? Where will you be going in Summer 2011? Additionally, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I have plans to get more involved with local Pagan community in Oxford and the UK. Nearly five years after moving to the City of Dreaming Spires, we are still feeling the lack of community on the East side of the pond and we are hoping that this will fill an open need.

In bell ringing, I would like to ring my first quarter peal on a working bell. Thus far, I have only rung QPs on a covering tenor or a hunting treble. In 2011, I would like to ring tower bells for a quarter of Plain Bob Minor or Major. Plus, I would like to ring the trebles to a QP of Plain Bob on handbells. I would also like to get to the point where I feel competent to ring touches of Grandsire (Doubles or Triples), and Stedman (Doubles and Triples). Finally, if I reach the stage where my plain courses of Cambridge Minor are smooth, I will be a happy camper; touches of Cambridge can wait for 2012.

Interestingly enough, I have a very difficult time in assembling professional goals for the coming year. It is a very exciting time for T2K and I want to continue working with my students to get some physics results. But framing specific goals for the next twelve months? That is proving to be more elusive.

Of course, there are other goals that do not fit into specific categories. I would like to go SCUBA diving again in 2011, I would like to try gliding again, I plan to compete in an Olympic Triathlon, and I want to write the book that has been percolating in my head. Plus, I am toying with the idea of reading my entire Iron Man collection, starting from 1963's Tales of Suspense #39 up to the present day.

Those are my initial thoughts as the list of goals for the new year start to come together. What about you, gentle readers? What are you hoping to accomplish and achieve in 2011?


[*] Indeed, there are so many plans falling into place that my next completely free weekend is that of June 3rd to 5th! Not sure how that happened. It used to be usual to find that weekends for the next two to three months were full. Six months, however, has come as a bit of a surprise!

[ETA: Why does the emoticon for "thoughtful" always look so sad? Being thoughtful is not a bad thing!]

anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Dec. 1st, 2010 05:30 pm)
Greetings from Tokai, gentle readers! Having touched down in Nihon[1] yesterday, I write to you once again from the ever-exciting J-PARC, home of the world's most powerful neutrino beam!

What's that you say, dear friends? In Japan again? How did that happen? When last we left our hero, two weeks ago, he was shopping about for a new high power laptop and whatnot. How ever did we get from there to here?

Well, the past couple of weeks have been rather busy and, truth be told, I've been a less than conscientious blogger. For shame, I know! So there have been some little adventures in the last fortnight -- like spending a secluded weekend on the Isle of Wight with my sweet [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth to celebrate our anniversary... or watching A Streetcar Named Desire and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Oxford Playhouse with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat... or presenting a particle physics seminar on supernova relic neutrinos at Queen Mary University of London last week... or a Thanksgiving party that couldn't be beat in London with the ever-awesometacular D&J -- but, alas, their chronicles were destined not to be told!

After spending November -- the first of the four Dark months back up in the far North -- I am rather pleased to have escaped to Japan for a couple of weeks! In the days before my departure, the gulf stream seemed to have failed us, leaving Merry Olde England considerably colder than would otherwise be found in late November. In contrast, whilst waiting for my bus from Narita yesterday afternoon, I noted happily that the temperature was about 60°F (17.5°C) as darkness set in at 17:00. Quite a pleasant change -- both from what I left behind and from the steam bath of August during my last trip here! Also, although expected, I am finding the vast increase in sunlight to be even more delightful! Due to my relocation from Oxford (51° 45' N) to Tokai (36° 28' N), there be nearly two hours more sunlight each day.[2] Huzzah! Even better, though, is that the quality of the sunlight is very much improved! Right now, the Oxford Sun peaks at a paltry 16.5° above the horizon; as a result, even the best sunlight we get there -- at midday and when clouds permit -- has barely more than half the intensity of the zenith Sun.[3] In contrast, the Tokai Sun still rises to 32.6°, giving it 81% intensity when compared to the solar zenith. If you crunch those numbers, gentles, you will see that, at present, Tokai's sunlight is nearly 50% brighter than Oxford's! Huzzah, indeed!

An unexpected side effect of this trip is that I seem to have missed out on snow everywhere. Less than a day after I fly out of Heathrow, the UK seems to have been walloped with an unseasonal amount of snow! Last I heard, the M25 was at a standstill and Gatwick Airport was closed... to say nothing of these pictures from the North! We all know how the UK shuts down at the slightest hint of snow -- very glad, then, that I escaped before it was too late! Meanwhile, my darling [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup reports that Michigan has also got the white stuff! Looks like everywhere is getting hit except where I am. Must be because I am all warmth and sunshine!

Besides being my first full day in Japan, today is also the first of December. Goodness, how did 2010 get so close to ending? I am rather excited about this month, as it promises to hold much travel and excitement. Such is welcome after a relatively quiet November. Tis true that there were the mini-adventures named above... but most of November's busy-ness was spent on relatively quiet activities -- like making progress at work, or moving into our new flat, or setting up said flat when the move was through[4], or frequent bell ringing.[5] All of this is well and good; I like building things up. Still, I have missed the buzz of excitement that was October, when I ran a Cosmology Day School at Oxford University... then jetted off to New York City to see Roger Waters spectacularly perform The Wall at Madison Square Garden... then ran a long weekend Pagan gathering for about a hundred people... then swung by my Chicago home[6] before heading to Michigan to visit with the lovely [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup for a weekend of Fall festivals and games and horseback riding! After which, it was time to return to England for a meeting in Warwick, the excitement of the Super K Sonic Booooum! 2 at the Manchester Science Festival, a delightful date with the breathtaking [livejournal.com profile] sweetcyanide, four different plays[7], and then closing out the Wheel of the Year with no fewer than five separate Samhain rituals! Whew -- October! Now there was a most excellent month!

Thankfully, after the relatively quiet November, it looks like December will be similarly exciting. Indeed, this month's adventures shall span three different continents! I shall be here in Tokai until the twelfth, preparing for and then attending our last T2K collaboration meeting before we publish our first results. Then tis back to the City of Dreaming Spires with me, arriving just in time to celebrate my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat's birthday! In the week that follows, there will be bell ringing and no fewer than five theatrical outings -- three in Oxford and two to introduce us to the Royal Shakespeare Company's brand new theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then my dearest [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are planning a little weekend getaway in mid-December before the holiday fun begins in earnest! After our High Energy Physics Christmas party ends on the evening of December 20th, I am officially on vacation for the rest of the year. We begin the celebrations with our Yule ritual on December 21st and 22nd, including our third annual Winter Solstice pilgrimage to Stonehenge. Nearly everyone who joined us last year will be coming along again -- including the lovely [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten and her Texas-dwelling sweetie! Hooray! Also, my beautiful [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth will be joining us for the first time. More hooray! And -- if I am truly lucky -- the stunning [livejournal.com profile] pomoloco will be visiting from the Isle of Manhattan and hopping on the Stonehenge Solstice bandwagon![8] Keeping my fingers and toes crossed here! Just hours after returning from Stonehenge, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I take to the friendly skies, bound for New York City. There the usual Christmas-on-Wheels (C.o.W.) begins with the traditional all-family Christmas Eve in New Jersey, followed by visits to family and friends in New York, Boston, and Connecticut... not to mention embarking on the annual tour of Midtown Manhattan in all its December glory -- a tradition that has gone on for longer than I can remember -- with the amazing [livejournal.com profile] squeektoy42! Finally, 2010 wraps up in Philadelphia, where I have budding plans with RG and possibly some other fantabulous P**T*** people!

All in all, I am bouncy with excitement at what promises to be a uber-astounding end-of-the-year spectacular! Look out, December: Here I come!


[1] Japan.

[2] At present, Tokai receives just under ten hours, whilst Oxford has to make do with barely more than eight.

[3] About 55% intensity, by my estimations.

[4] A process that is still ongoing, I might add!

[5] Besides many regular practices -- including ringing at two new church towers -- I also rang half-muffled bells for Remembrance Sunday services and rang at a wedding for the first time. The latter was a rather odd experience, not least of which because I had never been paid to ring before!

[6] Just long enough to visit the Morton Arboretum in all its Autumn glory... and to dispense a surfeit of petting to my darling Chicago kitties, Stumpy and Chirp.

[7] Including a bizarre bit of experimental theatre called A Western, which involved too much ketchup, and my first time in Oxford's New Theatre to see Spamalot.

[8] Otherwise known as Peter II, my trusty steed.

anarchist_nomad: (Look Like An Egyptian)
( Nov. 13th, 2010 11:56 pm)
I think that the Scheduling Gods might find themselves a wee bit bored, and have decided to have a little fun with me. I mean, November 20th -- what's up with that, Scheduling Gods?

My original plan for next Saturday, formulated months ago, was to make my way up to Birmingham to attend Brum BiFest. After all, tis what I did on the same weekend last year. No problem, right?

Except then it was announced that PolyDay was announced for November 20th. In Bristol. Hurm. PolyDay 2007 was my introduction to the community that became the center of my social networking in the UK for a couple of years... so, with some reluctance about having to choose between them, I decided that the day would be spent in Bristol instead.

But, oh, Ye Olde Scheduling Gods were not finished with me yet! Oh, no! The lovely [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and I got to talking, as next Saturday is also our one year anniversary. Whilst talking, we decided that -- much as we would both enjoy attending either BiFest or PolyDay -- we would really prefer to celebrate our anniversary alone. What can I say -- we're greedy that way? Besides, as incredulous as it sounds, we have not yet spent an entire weekend alone together! Definitely a situation that needs to be rectified! So we cooked up a plan for a weekend road trip; just a private little getaway.

Well, it seemed as if that settled things. And, in some ways, it has. But those Gods were still determined to have a bit more fun. The Annual General Meeting of the City Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Change Ringers is also next Saturday. Hurm. I've not yet been to one of the AGMs before -- not even the one where I was elected into the Guild two years ago. They always seem to be in conflict with something else. I thought no more about it... until I was at St. Andrew's Church in Headington this afternoon, ringing bells for a wedding ceremony.[*] There, it was mentioned that the current treasurer of our branch is not standing for re-election... as he is going to stand for Branch Chair, instead. As the conversation continued I, erm, may have volunteered to stand for the position of Branch Treasurer. Not quite sure how that happened. I do not need to be present to be elected, and was clear that I already had other plans. Still, were it on some other day, it would be nice to actually be there for the election!

Okay. Ha, ha. Very funny. Four events on one day. Cute joke, SGs. Surely they would be done, I reckoned. Nope. My mistake -- not yet. When I returned from ringing this afternoon, I checked my professional e-mail. In it was a message from somebody at the British Astronomy Association. I've been in contact with the BAA in recent days concerning arrangements for me to give the keynote lecture at their annual weekend school next April... but this was from somebody different. As it turns out, they are have an upcoming meeting in Piccadilly, in London, where one of their speakers has just had to cancel due to family problems. One of the other speakers -- who was my co-presenter at Oxford University's Cosmology Day last month -- put my name forward. The date? You guessed it, gentle readers! Saturday November 20th. Alas, being asked to give a lecture would trump any of the other plans... except for my anniversary weekend. Too bad for the BAA -- [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth's gain is their loss! With great reluctance, I turned them down and wished them well on finding another speaker on such short notice.

Now it's nice to be popular... but this is getting a tad ridiculous! Five different events for next Saturday? And in November, no less? Come on, Scheduling Gods, what in the world were you thinking?


[*] There is actually a lot going on in my bell ringing life of late, though I've not yet written about it. Methinks that a campanological post should be forthcoming at some point soon!

Tags:
Physically, today has been largely spent on moving into the new flat. We only have both flats until Monday, so time is running short. Thus far, we have been setting everything up as we move in, which is exceedingly convenient. I would like to be able to finish the job in this manner, but we shall see if there is enough time to do so. Alas, the move has been all-consuming and so I missed ringing bells at Iffley tonight[*] and had to skip a meeting. Thankfully, this job will be over soon... leaving behind a significantly nicer place for us to live!

Mentally, much time today has been spent mulling over the election results. Not good. Indeed, the title of this entry is my more succinct commentary on said results. Let's voice our discontent with the economy being a mess by re-electing the party that made a mess of it. Sure, that makes sense! Let's do the same thing again and expect different results, why don't we?

Of course, being an ex-pat, I get the dubious honour of witnessing two unfortunate elections in one year -- indeed, in under six months! Whee! At least the Democrats kept the Senate; this is actually rather unusual. Normally, when midterm elections swing one of the houses of Congress, they take the other along for the ride. Not that I have any love for the Democrats, mind you. I most certainly do not! However, I tend to eschew their policies a bit less than that of the Republican party. Honestly, the Democrats don't deserve to be in power, as they have no idea how to use it. With the slimmest of majorities in the Senate[**], W managed to ram policies through Congress during his first term with far more ease than Obama could with a fillibuster-proof super-majority. Oy vey! Many more thoughts here, but I will not bore you with them, dear friends. All I will say is this: The next two years are certainly going to be interesting ones...

Meanwhile, if the Republicans are on the rise in the United States and the Tories have free rein in the United Kingdom, is there another English-speaking country that I could consider fleeing moving to?


[*] After attending the Wednesday practice there for the first time last week, making it the tenth Oxford tower at which I have rung and the fifteenth overall tower. Last week, I managed to ring on all six of the Iffley bells, which was rather satisfying!

[**] In other words, a 50/50 tie with Vice President Cheney required to cast the deciding vote.

Turns out that I did watch an episode of Jeeves & Wooster with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat last night. Seemed like a good counterbalance to my day, having read Kafka's In The Penal Colony and also listened to most of the first disc in The Wall[*].

That was last night. So far today, I have:
  • Found a new (and improved) place to live when our lease comes up in November.
  • Tallied the final attendance and meal details for the Sooper Sekrit Pagan Gathering and relayed this data to the site. Looks like we will have about a hundred people coming home for my favourite four day weekend!
  • Rung Stedman Doubles, Cambridge Surprise Minor, a touch of Plain Bob Minor, and Stedman Triples at the St. Andrews practice tonight. I'm not sure if I have ever rung so many methods in one evening. Since both Stedman and Cambridge are relatively new for me, this was rather exciting.

Before the evening ends, I also have to finish the draft of my full application for the fellowship. So it may be a fair bit longer before I can sleep. We shall see.

In other news, it looks like we are going to have a substantially larger living space when we get back from the States in mid-October. As such, we were considering throwing a party on Friday October 29th. It would be a bit of a combination celebration: part Halloween party, party flatwarming party[**], and part "Welcome to Oxford!" party[***]. Costumes, games, ghosts, ghouls, and more! (Plus plenty of crash space afterward!)

Before moving forward with these plans, we were thinking to take stock of who might be interested in such a thing. For that, my dear friends, we must move beyond even the Magic 8 Ball and use the ultimate tool in divination -- the LJ poll!

[Poll #1625181]

Right. Fun stuff over -- time to rechain myself to Ye Olde Deske and get back to work...


[*] Technically not true, as I cannot presently find my CDs for The Wall, nor have I imported the tracks to my MP3 player. However, I did pop in the first disc of Is There Anybody Out There?, which amounts to much the same thing. Might be somewhat better, actually, as I get to hear the excellent track What Shall We Do Now? instead of the far-inferior Empty Spaces.

[**] For [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and myself.

[***] For the awesometacular [livejournal.com profile] josington.

.

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