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!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 )

Writing this entry, as usual, from Ye Olde Oxforde Tube[*]. This morning, after I left the flat, I started cycling towards the bus stop. On the Oxford end, it is only a two minute cycle ride[**] -- shortly after I started, I could see the Oxford Tube waiting at the bus stop already. Meanwhile, I was stopped behind a red slight. Apparently, I was going to just barely miss the bus. Feh... or so I thought.

Turns out, enough people were waiting to get on that I made it. Nice! Zero minutes wait is the best kind! As an added bonus, the coach was very nearly empty. I have two seats to myself and desktop space for this morning's commute. This is about as good as it gets!

If I were superstitious, I would take this as a portent that today is going to be a good day. In fact, I think that I will choose to take it as such anyway!

[*] Not nearly as exciting as a decommissioned underground nuclear bunker in Southern France, but there you go.

[**] The point of bringing the bicycle is for the London end, when it turns a forty minute walk into a thirteen minute ride.

Today was one of those days that, while productive, are not really terribly exciting to write about.

I did my 2007 taxes and mailed them off to the States. I started writing my talk for this weekend. I did a bucketload of bicycle maintenance, from replacing punctured tubes to adjusting the brakes and other assorted whatnot. I rang bells at Mary Mag.

Like I said: Nothing particularly exciting to write (or read) about. Except for one little get well gift that I arranged to be sent by surprise to a certain lovely person on the other side of the pond. That was sneaky and fun and, judging by the e-mail I received tonight, successful!

Other than that, I think I got a fair bit done today but, as days go, it will not be particularly memorable. In any case, it is off to bed with me now... as tomorrow promises to shape up a lot like today did. In particular, there is still much communing with PowerPoint that needs to happen before the weekend...
Cycled in to the University after all. It is dry and rather warm for the middle of the night... in January... at fifty-two degrees latitude. In fact, it is fifty degrees (F) out there. So why not?

I am glad that I decided not to be a wimp about it and drive. Although I cycle in every day, this was a particularly pleasant experience. The cool night breeze in my face... the full moon peeking out between holes in the clouds... having the main road in North Oxford all to myself.

Well... almost all to myself. On the ride, I heard many a bird chirping in the trees. At one o'clock in the morning. What the...?!? Um, Nomad to birdies: Why aren't you sleeping???

The last time I remember hearing so many birds wake up in the middle of the night was when I lived in the Phoenix area, lo those many years ago. There it made sense! When the daytime temperature breaks 110 degrees, then of course sensible creatures want to take advantage of the cool of night. Heck, we would always hit the hot-tub around midnight, ourselves.

But here??? Doesn't make sense, I tell you. Weirdo birds...
So yesterday was one of those days. You know the type? Nothing special actually happens, but all the ordinary things go really well... which leads to a general good mood and sense of well being.

I realize that I've been rubbish about updating this journal recently. In an attempt to get back into the proverbial swing of things, here is what my day looked like yesterday: )

See what I mean? All ordinary things... but somehow they combined forces to produce quite an excellent day! It is days like this one that remind me that I really like my life here in Oxford!

[*] Pun intended.

anarchist_nomad: (Atum -- Sol -- Ra -- Sun)
( Jun. 18th, 2007 11:14 pm)
It is 11:15pm. I cycled home from work forty-five minutes ago, with the shimmer of twilight still in the air. On my way, I caught a glimpse of the three day old moon smiling at Venus in the Western sky. Upon arriving at Skullcrusher Mountain, I did not go inside; instead, I summoned [ profile] cheshcat to join me so that we could take a walk and enjoy the view of Moon and Venus in the 11pm twilight. Damn, but life is good.

Right now, so close to the solstice, sunset in Oxford comes at 9:27pm. I am basking in the abundance of light, and the joy of riding home[*] in such beauty after a productive day at work. Today, JI and I worked a twelve hour day, but we managed to pre-cool the K-400 cryostat with liquid nitrogen and then cool it with liquid helium all in the same day. First time we've done this -- that part of the process used to take two days. We're getting better all the time. And, in between doing all this, I still had time to take an ice cream break with [ profile] cheshcat at G&D's this evening. And I had a good conversation with my lawyer about the new settlement offer that New York City has just made in my suit over being wrongfully arrested at the RNC.

I know, it really isn't a very exciting day -- doesn't make for a great story. But there's something about topping off a fulfilling day by taking a walk with my beloved and watching her smile that just fills me with a great feeling of contentment[**]. I promise to try to write soon about more interesting things, like the OUP summer ball on Saturday night or my Sunday outing in London with LS.

[*] Note to [ profile] resourceress: As the terror continues to fade, I am indeed getting enjoyment out of using my [as-yet unnamed] bicycle as my primary means of local transportation.

[**] Coming home to three loving kitties immediately afterward does not hurt any, either!
I think that I am having a good day. Problem is, I am too sleepy to tell.

Today's seminar speaker was the guest of my boss, and he spoke on Neutrino Telescopes in the Deep Sea. In particular, he focused on the Antares detector, on which he works. However, he also discussed other such first-generation telescopes, like Nestor and Nemo... as well as going into some detail on the next generation proposal for KM3NeT. If it reaches fruition, KM3NeT would be a neutrino with a cubic kilometer of volume -- essentially a liquid version of IceCube in the Northern hemisphere.

The talk was very interesting to me, as it basically touched on all the areas of research in which I have conducted serious work: Neutrino telescopy, ultra-high energy cosmic rays, and dark matter detection. As such, I was able to ask the speaker three questions after his talk -- one on each of these topics... and we chatted for awhile after he was done. It felt good to focus on physics for awhile -- sometimes spending too much time in the lab can distract one away from the actual science. Sometimes I miss being a neutrino guy -- after all, I was one for five years!

In other news of the week, our research progress continues apace. True, the pace might be slow and it might be sucking up huge tracts of my time... but it is progress, nonetheless. Can't really say more than that in a public forum. But, yes, it has been a good week in the lab so far. Besides the cryogenics experiments, I also finished up an electronics project that I had been doing on the side.

Totally unrelated to work, the weather started off terrible this morning... but then got much better. This is a happy thing, with one caveat -- I am now dressed too warmly! Ah well. I continue to ride my [as-yet unnamed] bicycle everywhere that I go and slowly -- very slowly -- the terror of riding in the Oxford traffic is beginning to subside.

In a few minutes, I will be off to Mary Mag to ring bells with OUSCR. Only two more weeks of term remain and then I lose my Tuesday and Wednesday evening ringing until Michaelmas term begins in October. Thankfully, the group at St. Giles is not part of the university and continues in and out of term.

Before I go ring, though, I want to make a general PSA. Between work and travel and ringing and whatnot, life has been pretty darn busy lately. It is basically all good stuff -- so I cannot complain -- but it does explain why I am so sleepy so much of the time. I am well aware that I have not been as available as I often am for phone calls, e-mails, online chatting, LJ comments, et cetera. Indeed, even my friends who are local have not seen much of me lately -- in fact, some days even [ profile] cheshcat only gets a cameo appearance! I just want to be very clear to anyone who has felt me to be particularly absent that it has nothing personal to do with anyone... it is just the way my life gets from time to time. And when things start to calm down a bit -- possibly after Trinity term ends, though a lot depends on how much pressure there is at work -- I fully expect to re-appear on the radar of all my awesome wonderful fantastic awesome friends. Not to mention[*] that I am very much looking forward to seeing many of you next month during my trip to the States.

[*] Except, of course, that I did just mention it!

Commute to work by foot: 18 (and a half) minutes
Commute to work by bicycle: 9 (and a quarter) minutes

Today, I went to work by bicycle for the first time. As you can see, this cut the time of the commute in half. I measure my time comprehensively, from the moment that I step out of the door of Skullcrusher Mountain to the moment that I walk into my office. So, actually, the speed of most of the trip was improved my more than a factor of two -- not surprisingly! -- but there are bits at each end (e.g., walking through my building) that remain unchanged and even bits of added time (e.g., locking and unlocking the cycle).

Why the change? I bought a new bicycle yesterday -- a Falcon Adventurer. Although I have had a bicycle on semi-permanent loan from my former landlady for over a year now, it is not well suited to me and so I really do not ride it. Since it is no use having a cycle that one does not ride, I bought myself a new cycle yesterday at the Oxford Cycle Workshop, through the Cyclescheme that I described in the entry linked above. Basically, the cost of the cycle (£180), the lock (£40)[*], and an hour of safety instruction (£20)[**] are covered by the University, then deducted from my gross income over a period of many months. This amounts to a substantial savings -- as I do not have to pay tax on income used for the cycle purchase -- and it spreads the cost out over a long period, sans interest.

So now I have a new main means of local transportation! And I am very excited about it! When I first moved to Oxford, I got around mainly by bus -- and the local bus service is excellent -- for the first few months. Once we moved into Skullcrusher Mountain, which is only a mile away from where I work, I let my bus pass lapse and took to walking most places, relying only on the bus when either heavy luggage, great distances, or a need for speed were involved. This is the next big transition as, from here on, I expect to use my [as-yet unnamed] bicycle to go most places, reserving walking and bus riding only for when necessary.

[*] One of the cool things about Oxford is that 20 - 30% of the population uses a bicycle to commute to work. However, such wide cycle use also naturally leads to a very high rate of cycle theft.

[**] Recall that I only learned to ride a bike three years ago, at the age of twenty-nine. As such, my experience riding has mainly been in Glen Ellyn and at Fermilab, where the traffic is minimal. Riding in a heavily trafficked area such as Oxford still makes me nervous!

anarchist_nomad: (At the Haymarket)
( May. 2nd, 2006 08:03 pm)
Mayday in Oxford is fairly famous. Thousands of people attend the festivities every year. At dawn, the Magdalen College choir sings from the college tower. People Morris Dance and folks even jump off the Madgalen Bridge into the Cherwell river. Quite the celebration!

I did not spend Mayday in Oxford this year. Since I know that [ profile] cheshcat would like to join me for the celebration, I took a pass this year so that I could go next year with her instead. Thus, I spent my long holiday weekend -- as Mayday is an official holiday in the UK, as it is in most of the world -- in London.

Friday evening, after the Oxford Critical Mass cycle ride -- which I attended, somewhat in terror, but without incident -- I hopped the Oxford Espress bus to London. I made my way to Limehouse, arriving at D&J's flat just before 10pm. The flat, while admittedly yuppified, is amazing! It overlooks the Limehouse basin, with the porch almost directly over the water itself. The basin connects to both the Thames and to the intricate array of British canals. (For the record, D. is [ profile] pomoloco's brother) We hung out and chatted for a few hours, which was fun, and then I crashed for the night in his guestroom.

Saturday morning, I left the flat and made my way to Russel Square. For the Mayday weekend, the Square Social Centre, was hosting an Anarchism '06 conference. The social centre itself was quite impressive; it is housed in a six (seven?) story building that has been a squat since February. The basement and ground floor of the squat, which is in fantastic condition, comprise the social centre, with the upper floors serving as housing for residents. The conference itself was good, with a series of talks by "experienced" Anarchists on the first day, followed by a couple of sessions from the London IWW and a film screening. The film, Land & Freedom, was very heavily (and obviously) based on George Orwell's book Homage to Catalonia. A few bits were added and a few were changed, possibly over copyright issues, but the similarity was clear. This was fine, as I really love that book. Saturday night, there were a series of musicians performing. I went to watch for a bit, then sacked out for the night in the main hall, still listening to the music beneath me. Eventually, four other Anarchists came in to crash, waking me up as they did so, and we had ourselves a little slumber party, chatting and being silly for a bit before passing out for the night. I need to get myself a sleeping bag here, as the cold was the only thing that really made it difficult to get good rest that night.

Sunday morning, I went for breakfast with one of the Anarchist who I had been chatting with the day before. The official program for the day was a series of discussion groups. However, the usual [unfortunate] rules regarding Anarchists and punctuality applied. Everything got bumped back an hour, so I went to hang out by the fountain in Russel Square to enjoy the Spring weather and to chat with a comrade before things began. Once they got into gear, the discussions were interesting. I attended groups on Social Centres -- and, unexpectedly, met a couple of people from Oxford who run a similar type of space -- and on gentrification in Hackney, and on the Mayday march. Eventually, though, I got saturated with discussion groups and went out front to just talk with various people. I made some good contacts this way, getting info for Anarchists in London and in other parts of England.

After things wound down on Sunday evening, I met D. by the Bond tube station and we got some dinner at a Turkish restaurant in St. Christopher's Place. Then back to Limehouse, where we took a stroll around the basin before retiring to the flat. We ended up chatting until about 3:30am...

Monday morning, I woke up at 10:30 and made my way to Clerkenwell Green, to meet up with the Mayday march. On the way, I passed the Mayday Critical Mass riders, with their police "escort." Once at the Green, I found the Autonomous Bloc rather easily amongst the trade unions and the various communist parties represented there. After rallying for an hour or so, the march began. By that time, I estimate -- roughly -- that there were several hundred, maybe even a thousand, people in the Autonomous Bloc... with thousands more in the overall march. Interestingly, there was a solid line of police on either end of the Autonomous Bloc, while every other group in the march was free of police presence. Hmmmm... During the march, I stood near the front and helped carrier the banner for the bloc. We marched down to Trafalgar Square without incident. However, once we got to the Square, there was a confrontation with the police that ultimately ended without arrest... but with them nicking our bicycle-mounted sound system. Bah, but I do hate cops. Nonetheless, we rallied at the Square for a bit and, with our megaphone, still had an open shout out session. After two of the "experienced" Anarchists from Saturday spoke, the encouraged other people to take the megaphone. No one did, at first, so I stepped up to the plate and spoke for a few minutes. When the speaking was done, we went to march again, this time around the Square, but we were penned in by police who only let us go in small numbers. By the time we were out of the pen, the festivities were beginning to die down anyway, so we dispersed. I stayed in the Square for a bit, just enjoying the afternoon. Somebody brought a sound system in on a different cycle and folks started dancing in the Square... until the police made him leave with his music. Yes, indeed, I do hate cops.

With everything well and truly over, I got back together with D., meeting him at the base of Big Ben. We crossed the Westminster Bridge and took a stroll along the Thames, down the Queen's Walk which later became the Silver Jubilee Walk. We passed the London Eye and other nifty sights before stopping at a crepery to get a very late lunch. Then we walked on, up to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre, crossed over the Millennium Bridge (stopping midway to admire the Tower Bridge in the distance), and circled St. Paul's Cathedral. Finally, we reached the tube station and parted ways, with D. heading back to his flat in Limehouse and I heading to the Marble Arch to catch the espress bus back to Oxford.

Overall, a very good Mayday! Nice to see a big turnout, in the thousands, to celebrate this holiday, which is one of the most important to me. Looking forward to seeing what the Oxford Mayday is like next year...
Thursday evening: The sound of the church bells from the church bells at St. Giles fills the air once again.

I just got back to my office at the University, after spending a few hours running around doing errands. That's the thing about being in the office from 10am until 9pm (or thereabouts) each day: You don't get out during business hours to do business-hours-type things. When I returned to the University tonight, it was -- for the first time -- under my own steam. I borrowed a bicycle from the woman I am renting a room from and cycled down Banbury road to the Physics Area. Took about eighteen minutes, which is a bit longer than the twelve that it takes with the bus (including the walks to and from bus stops)... but the bus time doesn't include any time spent waiting for the bus at the stop. Also, I'm not a fast cyclist -- a couple of folks passed me on the road -- which I hope will change in time.

The reason why the cycling is significant is that this is also the first time, in the UK or elsewhere, that I have cycled in a significant amount of traffic. Long-time readers of this journal may recall that I learned to ride a bike less than two years ago. I'll admit that I was terrified about riding in traffic, even with the marked cycle lanes on the road. The fact that the cycle lanes often overlapped with the bus lanes did not help to reduce my terror. However, I deliberately chose to ride around sunset, so that the buses would be running less frequently and the overall traffic would be lower. I did have to stop to get my bearings a couple of times, but I made it here in one piece. Hooray for me! I'm leaving the cycle locked up in the special storage that this building offers to Physics department people. There are no lights, so I won't be able to ride home legally. It's the bus for me tonight.

We shall see if I have the nerve to ride in the Critical Mass tomorrow. I hope so, as it would be both the first Oxford Critical Mass and the first C.M. that I have ever ridden in. We shall see...

Speaking of cycles, I looked in a couple of cycle shops today. I can use the loaner bike indefinitely, but I would eventually like to buy a cycle of my own. I finally got to a place called the Oxford Cycle Workshop, which is the closest thing that Oxford has to a bike collective. While I was there, I found out about a government scheme where one can get a 33% discount on bicycles and spread the cost out over twelve months. Essentially, the University would pay for the cycle. I believe that the 17% VAT would be waived, which is the first savings. The University would then deduct the cost, in equal installments, from my next twelve paychecks. But the deductions would come from me PRE-tax income, so I wouldn't pay taxes on that money. This saves me roughly another 25%. Suddenly that £180 cycle that I had written off as too expensive becomes a possibility, at ten quid per month for a year.

And, speaking of paychecks, I received my first check from Oxford University today. This marks the first time that I have ever been paid in a currency other than the US dollar. It couldn't have been more timely, either, since I was nearly out of pounds sterling and I was hoping to avoid using a cashpoint to withdraw more money from one of my US bank accounts. In the past two weeks, the dollar has dropped significantly versus the pound and I would prefer not to get hit with that difference.

Finally, as a general public service announcement, I should mention that the battery on the mobile phone that I was borrowing has bit the dust, in what seems to be a permanent way. After charging it all night, it lasted only two hours -- without being used for calls -- this morning. So, for the moment, I cannot be reached by phone except when I am in my office. If you need my office number, please e-mail me. I will be trying to purchase a replacement phone tomorrow.

Okay, back to characterizing SQUIDs, as there are only about two more hours left before the last bus home, so I have to be done by then...
anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Apr. 21st, 2006 09:30 pm)
So it turns out that the hour or so of church bells is a regular event. St. Giles Church, which is right across the street from the building I work in, has a notice about bell ringing. Apparently it is considered to be British Folk Art and, to support it, they offer open sessions for bell ringing on Thursday evening. Y'all probably know what word comes to my mind. I think it is so awesome that I can take an evening break from physics to go ring church bells! Damn, but I do like it here!

Speaking of physics, I'm still in my office at the University at 9:30pm. Seems like as good an indication as any that I have gotten into the swing of things here. I'm the last person in the cryo-lab right now -- the second to last left half an hour ago -- and after I post this I am leaving, too. However, it feels good to be getting my bearings and getting work done. Plenty left to learn, of course, but one step at a time. This week, I learned how to cool down a rudimentary cryostat and how to tune SQUIDs and take some calibration measurements with them. Yes, that's right... I get to work with SQUIDs (Superconducting QUantum Interference Devices). Let the jokes begin (see subject line above if you need inspiration). You know what we call it when a SQUID fails, right? It's a dead SQUID. I also get to work with cryogenic liquids, such as liquid nitrogen (77 K) and liquid helium (4 K). Chilling!

In other random news, I had blood drawn at the health centre this morning. After seven or eight years, I am finally starting to seek medical attention for my periodic stomach acid problems. So they drew blood to test for bacteria that might be the culprit. Does this mean that they suspect I have an ulcer? I don't know. We shall see what happens when the test results come back in a week or so...

On another little excursion from the office, I went out to another cycle shop on my lunch break today. This one is out of the question, as the cheapest cycle that they have costs £180. Forget it! After the animal rights demo tomorrow, I plan to hit three more cycle shops, in the Cowley area, and then choose one from the five places that I will have seen. Also, the woman I am renting a room from has two cycles that she has said that I can use. They are both styled for gents, and I prefer riding a ladies style cycle -- I don't care for gender stereotypes, I go with what makes me feel more comfortable -- but I should try adjusting the seats and seeing if I can fit on them anyway. The weather is getting quite nice so if I get myself a cycle tomorrow, I can go out riding on Sunday.

My University ID card finally arrived today -- the last day of my third week at work here. So now I can access the Bodleian library, too. Turns out that there are a plethora of different types cards that you can use to access the Bodleian. Some, like my University ID card or [ profile] cheshcat's gold OULS card, can get you access to all of the libraries all of the time (when they are open). Others give only limited access to specific libraries, like the Science Library or the Japanese Library. And still others give access to the library at specific times, like only when the University is on vacation or only during evening hours. Interesting and fascinating in its complexity. Apparently the time-limited cards are mostly intended for students visiting from other institutions, so that their access is secondary to that of the people at Oxford University (like me) or visiting scholars (like [ profile] cheshcat).

The strange thing about my University ID card is the photo itself. My picture was taken by the Physics Department photography unit. One "large" print hangs by the entrance to the building, along with photos of everyone else who works in the department, and I was given a stack of smaller prints, each the size of a passport photo. One of the small ones was submitted with my ID card application, but looking at the card, something seemed wrong. My head just isn't that oval! I pulled out another of the small pictures to compare... and it turns out I was right! When they scanned and printed my picture in for the ID card, they changed the aspect ratio for some reason. My head is being smooshed into a narrowed shape. Go figure! Ah, well. They also did not remove the staple attaching the photo to the application form before they scanned it, so you can see a scan of the staple to the left of my head. Hoy vey!

Now that Easter is over, cream-filled chocolate eggs are half off at the grocery! Only 19p each! Sweet!! I shoveled a bakers half-dozen into my basket while I was waiting on the checkout line this afternoon...

Okay, enough random observations for one night. Time to head home...
I am in my office now, getting ready to head home. There have been church bells ringing quite audibly for the past twenty minutes straight! Spiffy!

Oxford is very much a bus-and-bike city. Having gotten a good feel for both of the major bus lines that service Oxford, I am ready to move on to learning how to get about on cycle. I dropped by the Summertown Cycle shop today to see what their selection and prices were like and I was pleasantly surprised to see the following notice:

Starting on APRIL 28
Then every last Friday of Every month

So, there is an Oxford Critical Mass starting up! Spiffy! And just when I move here, too, as April 28 is the very first "final Friday" that I will be living here. Perfect timing!

Of course, this means that I need to procure a bicycle by next Friday, so I can attend the Critical Mass. I found one nice hybrid (whatever that means) cycle at Summertown Cycles that looks appealing, but it is £129, which is perhaps more than I wanted to spend. I'm used to getting my cycles cheap and used from Working Bikes, which appeals to me both ethically and financially. When the guy behind the counter asked what I was used to riding, I explained to him what Working Bikes is and how I've bought several (3) cycles from them. He went on to point me to the Oxford Cycle Workshop, which he says is the closest that Oxford has to a bike collective.

Well how do you like that??? This guy, working at a bike shop, basically pointed me to a competing store! He then went on to tell me that he could take my name and call me if any used bikes came in to Summertown Cycles. And he gave me a map that showed where over a dozen more local cycle shops are! Finally, he told me that if I don't manage to buy a cycle before the Critical Mass next week, he could loan me one to ride for the Mass! Double spiffy!!

I really love this place... People are usually so damn friendly!

Apropos to nothing, I noticed that, by chance, this entry is dated 4/20 at 20:20. Spiffy!

Yesterday, [ profile] resourceress came into the lab with me, bringing her laptop along with her. Since she works remotely, she sat at the second desk in my office and we worked in parallel with each other. Partway through the afternoon, we brought our bikes outside to go for a ride around the main ring. There is a road, aptly named "Ring Road," that lies just inside the berm of the Tevatron (which is our main particle accelerator here at the lab, and currently the most powerful one in the world). Once around the ring is about four miles, which makes it a nice place to go for a quiet walk or for bike riding. There is a lake and prairie lands in the center of the ring, so the scenery is nice. The journey is punctuated every now and then by one of the collider experiments on the ring. And automobiles are scares; mainly rollerbladers, joggers, and other bikers are the only traffic one will encounter. We rode around one time, for a quick break and a little exercise.

After work, we were off to Midway, to pick up [ profile] cheshcat, who was returning from a stay in Arizona. She was only gone for a week and a half, but I had missed her. Even though she has been living at the Event Horizon for seven weeks now, we have still been apart more than we have been together in that time. Ah, well, welcome to my life... the life of the Nomad. In any case, it is a very happy thing to have her home once again.

We swung by the Event Horizon briefly, to pick up [ profile] polymorphism, then went to grab Italian for dinner. After dinner, [ profile] resouceress suggested that we watch The Best of Beakman's World. Since I generally shy away from the television screen, I had never heard of Beakman's World before, much less seen an episode. I will admit, though, that it was a lot of fun and appealed to the scientist in me. Also, it didn't hurt to know that the main actor -- Paul Zaloom -- works with the Bread & Puppet theatre company. For those who don't know, B&P is a radical puppetry group, based in Vermont. I have been a big fan of B&P since I first saw their Passion Play For Bosnia at the Northampton Academy of Music in 1996, and I attended the last of their annual Domestic Resurrection Circus and Pageant weekends in 1998. (Damn shame that those had to be discontinued) I even got to wear one of their puppets and march with them when I went to the demonstrations against the IMF/World Bank in D.C. in September 2002. Good times... In any case, I'll admit to being biased and, as such, will be especially curious to see any project that a B&P member is working on.

After Beakman ended (and I spent some time re-creating some of the tricks that I learned from the show), sleepiness was definitely in the air. The interrupted sleep that had pestered me for the past three nights was definitely taking its toll. We made some cups of Calm tea, added rescue remedy, and then the four of us sat around talking and unwinding for a little while. When the tea was done, it was off to bed. I don't know if it was the tea, the rescue remedy, or just general exhaustion... but I am pleased to report that I finally managed to sleep through an entire night with no significant interruptions! And, believe me, does that make a difference!!
Lately, the weather in NorthEastern Illinois has been very strange. The sky has been blue, the temperature has been moderate. Not what I am used to from these parts, but I sure do like it!

Taking advantage of the situation, [ profile] resourceress and I spent most of the day in the great outdoors. After sleeping in, we headed into the city where we ran a couple of errands... all of which were accomplished outside. Then we drove back to the Event Horizon and went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. No destination in mind; we just rode around for a few miles for the sheer fun of it. And fun it was. Valley View, the subdivision I live in, has all the drawbacks of being a white, middle class suburb -- namely that it is white, middle class, and a suburb -- but aside from its sociology, it is a very pleasant area. Being adjacent to an arboretum doesn't hurt the scenery any, either!

After working up a little bit of a sweat from bicycling, the two of us plus [ profile] polymorphism went to her apartment complex for a dip in the community pool. That complex has a very nice and quite sizable pool... but no one ever seems to use it. This is perplexing, but it is a situation that works for me. I am not going to complain about having the entire pool to ourselves! We floated around and chatted. We swam a little bit. And, of course, PM and I engaged in a fair bit of our customary wrestling. Possibly the best moment of the afternoon, though, was when [ profile] da_pupdetz gave PM a kiss on the cheek. Boy howdy, did I get pummeled for that one...

As the sun started to go down, we emerged back onto land and dried off. [ profile] resourceress and I returned to the Event Horizon for a nice hot shower to dechlorinate each other. Then it was off to Elmhurst for dinner with one of my colleages (MW) and his wife (CD). Other than the Moof -- who I have known for years -- these were my very first friends when I moved to Illinois, nearly two years ago. Unfortunately, though, scheduling time to get together has been very difficult for us this year. Before tonight, I do not think that we had seen MW since my birthday party in March. For CD, it had been even longer; last Yule, perhaps! Some things never change, though: CD prepared a delicious meal, with enough food to feed a small army. The conversation was lively and fun. And the evening was clear, starry, and rich with the buzz of secedas. We caught up on the adventures that 2005 has brought to us thus far, then just let the conversation roam where it wanted. Probably the most hysterical point of the evening was when CD was telling stories of meeting the other women in her neighborhood. MW and CD are German and apparently CD has been asked -- on more than one occasion -- if the people in Germany have cars. Hoy vey! I was simultaneously stunned with both laughter and incredulousness.

So, why am I awake now? Beats the helavic out of me! The past two nights, I have been waking up at 4:30am for no particular reason, and not drifting back off until nearly 8am. Go figure. With all the physical activity and sunlight of yesterday, I would have expected to sleep like a baby! Hopefully my sleep will resume some semblance of normality soon but, until then, I have been using the time to finish off a reading project of mine. It's nearly 8am now. Time to see if I can fall back asleep...
Oh. My. Goodness. I just noticed shadows outside, which is a sure sign of direct sunlight. Poked my head out the door and, sure enough, the sun is shining and the sky is blue! Holy Moses; I haven't seen the sun since I came back from Phoenix, nearly two weeks ago!

Time to go out and ride my bike, not because I have anywhere to go, but just because I can. Who knows how long I have to enjoy this before the clouds roll back in...
anarchist_nomad: (Guess who?)
( Oct. 7th, 2004 01:18 am)
We're finally all packed and, after Poly Karaoke tomorrow night, we will soon be setting off on our drive to New York. This weekend is my favourite Pagan gathering and I'm all psyched up for it. Especially after last year, which was probably the best time I've had at P****** yet.

In other news, I realized today that one unexpected benefit of using the bicycle to get around the lab is that I get a much better look at the Autumn foliage. This occurred to me as I was heading over to the auditorium for today's colloquium.

Speaking of the colloquium, today's topic was "The Physics of Brass Musical Instruments." It was a funny and interesting talk, in which the speaker built a trumpet in stages, demonstrating principles at each stage. The speaker, one Professor Holmes, is not only a physicist but also an accomplished musician and composer. During the talk, he played a trumpet, an 1835 bugle, a classical horn, and a modern French (Freedom?) horn. He also played a coiled up garden hose with a funnel at the end -- which sounded astoundingly like a brass instrument!


anarchist_nomad: (Default)


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