anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Feb. 11th, 2017 04:20 am)
Curled up in bed with Giles[*] as the snow falls ever heavier outside. This is the first real snow I've seen since we moved into the House of the Red Roses.

Since I'm not quite ready to sleep, it seemed worth noting. For posterity and all that. (Who knows, maybe in a decade or two, I will happen back on this and smile.)

I hope it piles up whilst I sleep and sticks. I could turn on the underfloor heating in the conservatory and sit reading in there tomorrow afternoon. Looking up every now and again to watch the birds taking their turns at the feeders. I can definitely think of worse ways to spend a Saturday!

[*] Stumpy won't come to bed if he's here. I love my baby girl, but I wish she could get on with other cats.
anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)


( Feb. 10th, 2017 01:28 am)
It was two years ago today that I applied for a job at the University of Sheffield. Disheartened and ready to give up on my career, I put barely any effort into it -- literally recycling an old application.

Goodness, how my world has changed since -- and how grateful I am to two-years-ago-me for taking one last chance.

I realise that I've become a much more boring person over the past year and a half. Less social, with fewer adventures to write about. Do I regret this? Nope. Having finally obtained my dream job, I have thrown myself into it wholeheartedly.

Sometimes I get asked what the research / teaching balance in my role is. I smile and say: "My contract is 35 hours per week... so I do 35 hours of teaching, and 35 hours of research." It's a joke, except that it isn't. That is pretty close to accurate, actually. Some weeks[*] end up being quite a bit more, others can sometimes be a bit less, but 70 hours per week is probably a realistic average.

I organised my first international conference last year: The 11th Conference on the Identification of Dark Matter. My first conference as lead organiser is coming up in two months: The Institute of Physics annual Astro-Particle Physics and High Energy Particle Physics conference.

People keep forgetting that I've been in the role for only 1.X years. I've bedded into the department, the faculty, and the university so well, it seems like I've been there a lot longer. We have a couple of lecturers hired after me; one was rather surprised to learn I'd only been in the department a year longer than him. It's going well enough that I'm looking to complete probation -- effectively equivalent of 'making tenure' in the USA -- this Summer, a year earlier than normal. (Then it's on to Senior Lecturer -- equivalent to an Associate Professor in the USA as quickly as possible!)

Despite only teaching for three semesters, I have already won an award for "Sustained Excellence in Teaching". (Those of you who have heard me do outreach talks will not be surprised. No false modesty here; I am very good at teaching.) In addition to my undergraduate teaching in the department at Sheffield, I also co-teach science communication to Masters students at the Faculty of Science level and teach at our new outpost in Nanjing. And I was tagged by the Faculty Director of Teaching to be part of a new educational leadership exchange programme.

Meanwhile, I have PhD students on three continents right now -- one is presenting his work on supernovae in Japan next week, one is building hardware in Switzerland this month, and one is living at Fermilab and rocking the Accelerator Neutrino-Nucleus Interaction Experiment (or ANNIE). I'm kinda psyched for 2019, when my very first PhD student graduates. I was super proud introducing him to CK last year, who was my PhD supervisor. In academic-speak, I was introducing my "son" to his "grandfather".

It's not just my department or my faculty. I've thrown myself into the wider univeristy as well. Last Summer, I walked a personal record of 130 miles as part of The Big Walk to raise money for refugee students. Thanks to our efforts, six refugees will be brought to the University to do postgraduate degrees -- fully funded, with maintenance money. The refugee crisis is overwhelming, but I'm proud to have done some small part to alleviate it.

(By the way, if you want to donate, my JustGiving page is still open until the end of March -- just click here!)

And, of course, the research proceeds apace. I'm involved in a number of experiments in both Japan and at Fermilab... plus I recently joined the WATCHMAN project -- that's the WATer CHerenkov Monitor for AntiNeutrinos. It's not a particle physics experiment -- it is applied particle physics. The goal is to use antineutrinos for nuclear non-proliferation and threat reduction. Right now, I'm pushing hard on the effort to get the WATCHMAN prototype built here in Yorkshire.

So, yeah, that's my life. Toldja I had become boring. In a typical week, whatever time doesn't go into the job goes into the House of the Red Roses. Or my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. Or Stumpy & Giles, who make sure to demand their share of attention.[**]

I'll try to LJ more in 2017, though. At the very least, I should make it so my landing page of most recent 20 entries is all from the same year! Maybe next time, I should post some pics of the House of the Red Roses.[***]

Meanwhile, on this anniversary of my application, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on just how lucky I am, and how grateful for this opportunity. Also glad that so many of you are actually still on LJ -- huzzah for the faithful!

Right. Bedtime now. I've a lecture on time-dependent quantum states to deliver in the morning, followed by conference organising, then running an analysis meeting. Whee!

[*] Like this one -- being the start of a new semester!

[**] Like Stumpy is actually doing right at this very moment, looking to hop in my lap! (ETA: Now in my lap! Which makes it hard to type...)

[***] Those of you for whom I have an address may have already seen it with the Yule cards we sent out in December.
Took all four cats to the vet yesterday. As you may be able to tell from the picture below, Chirp was not pleased:

Not Pleased

(click for full-sized version)

Not really sure what else I can say. This shot stands on its own. Poor Chirp wanted to flee as far away as possible -- and if Giles already happened to be in that space... well, she wasn't going to fuss about the details.

(Poor Giles, too! Having to go to the vet is bad enough without having a cat heavier than you decide to use you as a seat!)

Apologies for the poor photo quality. This was obviously a rather impromptu situation, so I just grabbed my phone to point and shoot before the moment was gone. Er, I may have also been shaking with laughter whilst this was being taken.
Back in Japan now. I flew out first thing Saturday morning for a week of shift work at Super-Kamiokande, followed by three days of holiday.

As is usually the case on the day before an intercontinental trip, Friday was rather busy. I took the Oxford Tube into London to work during the day; in the evening, I went to the Oxford Playhouse with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and my darling [ profile] miss_amaranth to see a fairly dreadful musical adaptation of Golding's Lord of the Flies.

After the show, we went to Indulge to indulge in some going-away dessert. Then we dropped [ profile] miss_amaranth off at the House of the Rising Bun and stopped in to visit our lovely girl, Stumpy. Those of you that know Stumpy will not be surprised to learn that she was very happy to see us. Although, to be fair, any three humans petting her would have been welcome to this attention-seeking kitty!

Next, [ profile] cheshcat and I headed back to Chiron Beta Prime. We got in at about midnight and ate dinner. Yes, gentle readers, we had dinner after dessert -- is there a problem? Following food, it was time to pack for Japan.

All of this was finally accomplished around three o'clock in the morning. With one exception, all of the pre-flight items on my "to-do" list had been ticked off. That exception? My third -- and final -- Bridge-to-10K run. Oooops.

I've done nighttime runs before. Actually, when I first started Couch-to-5K last Summer, I only ran at night. I'm not too proud to admit that I was fairly self-conscious back then; as an obese and out-of-shape bloke struggling through sixty second bursts of running, I preferred to minimize any "audience" of onlookers. That hasn't been true for many months now, though, and the timing of my runs is dictated more by scheduling than anything else. I prefer to run during daylight hours, but I am also comfortable running after dark if necessary. Between work, theatre, and bell ringing, it is often necessary. I have done plenty of late-night runs, with the latest being a couple where I set out at about half past one.

Even so, there is a big difference between going out at half past one and starting at half past three -- especially when my running workout has grown to 70 minutes[*]. Also, I needed to leave for the airport bus at six o'clock, to be reasonably sure of catching my 9am flight. Thus, I must confess, I entertained the notion of not running. It would certainly be easier and would allow me to get a couple of hours rest before my travels. If I did run, I would need a shower after; together, the two would consume nearly all of my remaining time before setting out. I would have a few minutes to stock up on snuggles with [ profile] cheshcat... but that would be all.

On the other hand, this was to be my graduation run! My final Bridge-to-10K workout! After months of effort, overcoming the major setback that was January's torn muscle injury. Yes, I could do the final run in Japan... but there seemed something fitting about completing the programme before my travels.

Thus it came to pass that, at a quarter past three in the morning, I did my pre-run stretches and changed into my running gear. Mere moments before I set out, I received an e-mail from the ever-awesome [ profile] tawneypup. She had written to tell me that she had just returned from her final Couch-to-5K run. Her graduation run sounded lovely, running into the sunset and passing a couple of deer.

Well, that clinched it. If I had not been certain about this run before, I certainly was now. T'would be a beautiful symmetry -- [ profile] tawneypup finishes Couch-to-5K with a run into the sunset; minutes later, I set out on my final Bridge-to-10K workout with a run into the sunrise. And that's exactly what I did.

When I left the house, the first glimmers of twilight were beginning to show in the night sky. When I returned, seventy minutes later, it was well past the dawn. I enjoyed a fantastic run, feeling fast and strong, as I ran a variant of my usual East Oxford route whilst watching day break. It was, in all ways, an absolutely amazing run. At that time of the morning, there was a certain serenity in the air. Alas, there were no deer on my path, I'm afraid. On the other hand, the unusual hour meant that there were also very few people -- and cars -- to watch out for.

Crunching the numbers afterward, the numbers bore out what I had felt during the workout. This had indeed been my best run ever. Twas the fourth time that I had run for sixty minutes -- and only the third time that I had done all sixty minutes in one continuous stretch.[**] Of the four runs, this was my best speed and distance yet: 10.7 kilometers (or, if you prefer, 6.66 miles). That's an average pace of 5:36 per kilometer (or 9:01 per mile). Were I "only" aiming at 10 km -- rather than 60 minutes of running -- this average pace would have meant crossing the finish line at precisely 56 minutes. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

I returned home in triumph as a Bridge-to-10K graduate, with just enough time to shower and change before the aforementioned pre-flight [ profile] cheshcat cuddles. Then it was six o'clock and time to catch the coach to Heathrow.

And thus it was that the Nomad became a 10K runner...

[*] Five minutes of brisk walking to warm up, sixty minutes of running, then five minutes of not-as-brisk walking to cool down.

[**] Week 5 Run 3 of Bridge-to-10K consists of two 30 minute runs, with a 1 minute walk separating them.

anarchist_nomad: (Baby Giles -- two weeks old)
( May. 18th, 2013 08:52 pm)
In other news, our littlest furry baby turned five today! I find this somewhat hard to believe, but today is the birthday of Giles, our gorgeous -- though temperamental -- silver tabby!

Giles is the only native Brit in our household. He was born in Oxford and, indeed, has never left the City of Dreaming Spires. Our other three kitties -- Chirp, Stumpy, and The Boy -- are US-American and well travelled. They were born in Arizona, and travelled the 1900 miles to Chicago by car a year later, eventually followed by a trans-Atlantic flight to Merry Olde England.

We met Giles when he was four days old and brought him into our home five weeks later; since then, he has been a much loved part of our household. Excepting, of course, when The Boy is trying to sleep and Giles wants to play; at those times, there is a little less love in the house for him.

Giles is a bit of an odd duck cat, inventing new games for us to play with him like "Sink Game" -- wherein he jumps in one bathroom sink and meows for attention... then suddenly runs to the other bathroom sink and meows for you to follow and continue what you were doing in the first sink! Rinse and repeat -- he can go back and forth between the two bathrooms for quite some time!

This is how baby Giles looked, nearly five years ago, at the age of two weeks...

Normally, I would include a birthday picture, to compare "THEN" with "NOW". Alas, being in Japan makes this difficult. Even so, here is an non-birthday adult shot, showing how the little guy developed:

Giles came into our home shortly after a time of profound loss, not long after a four month period where we lost our previous tabby, Totoro, to kidney failure and our lovely Foxy to cancer. Not only did my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I find our hearts deeply wounded from the loss, but our surviving kitty, The Boy, was confused and lonely at being without other feline company for the first time in his life[*]. Whilst nothing can make us forget our departed furry children, Giles filled a much-needed space in our home and in the hearts of all three of us. So happy fifth birthday to him... and I wish for many, many more!

[*] At that time, his sisters -- Stumpy and Chirp -- were still living at the Event Horizon, some four thousand miles away!
Ten years ago, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I were living in Arizona. Whilst we lived there, we had gotten into the habit of feeding the stay cats in the area, of which there were many. It started one evening, in July 2002, when a hungry kitty followed me home. We put out a dish of food for him... and, come the morning, it was gone. We repeated this nightly and, in time, our flat got a reputation amongst the local strays. We had several regular visitors; no matter how much food we left outside, by morning, all would be devoured. That Summer, we got to know the kitties that frequented our doorstep. The original was a sweet and petite grey tiger. There was also a black mommy cat who travelled with two of her kittens, one as black as she.

Ten years ago today, I was in Japan, getting ready to publish this paper. I received a phone call from [ profile] cheshcat; it was five in the afternoon for me and one in the morning for her. She had called to tell me that the black mommy cat had shown up at our door, as usual, but this time something was different. She was desperate to be let in, to come out of the desert heat. She also looked like she -- in [ profile] cheshcat's words -- had "swallowed a basketball". Clearly, there were little kitties inside, getting ready to come out. We deliberated for some time; bringing in a stray could put our two kitties -- Foxy and Totoro -- in danger if she was carrying an infectious disease like feline leukemia. On the other hand, if she gave birth outside, not all her babies would survive the heat. Finally, we decided to take her in, segregate her in the second bathroom for the night, and get her to a shelter in the morning.

Ten years ago today, I received a second phone call from [ profile] cheshcat; I was getting ready for bed as it was one o'clock in the morning for me. I was surprised that she had called and asked her: "It is nine am there; why aren't you in class right now?" The answer was simple -- the babies had started to come out!

That's right, dear friends, ten years ago today, we went -- literally overnight -- from being a two cat household to a seven cat household. The black mommy cat had given birth to four kittens. All were fully black, same as she, leading us to suspect that her all-black kitten from a previous litter was the most likely father.

Twas our intent to keep the mother and find homes for all four kittens, once they were old enough to be separated from mom. We had great fun with a house full of kittens... but plans changed. We interviewed several people who wanted to adopt a kitten; none of them seemed like they would provide a suitable home. All too many people want a kitten when it is young and cute, not realising that adopting a cat is a lifelong commitment that can last two decades.

Five months later, we flew the black mommy cat -- who we had since named "Rocks" -- to New York, where she was adopted by the ever-awesome [ profile] ms_redcat. The four kittens? We kept them all.

Ten years have passed since the day that my babies were born. For the first four years, all four kitties lived under the same roof, as a family, never spending a day apart. In 2006, we moved The Boy to England, along with Foxy and Totoro. He is sitting in the next room right now, as I type this. His three sisters -- Stumpy, Chirp, and Nona -- remained at the Event Horizon, my US home, with [ profile] gyades. In 2007, we gave away one of the "kittens", Nona, to a friend; we didn't want to let her go, but Nona had chosen who her favourite person was and it seemed cruel to keep them apart. This Autumn, after we empty the Event Horizon, Stumpy and Chirp will follow in their brother's footsteps, flying to England and joining him (and Giles) here at Chiron Beta Prime.

Meanwhile, what would be the point of a post about kitties if there were no pictures to go with it? So, gentle readers, for your viewing pleasure, I now present birthday pictures and baby pictures for The Boy (and sisters). Enjoy!

THEN: The Boy (front), Chirp (back) and either Stumpy or Nona (center) at eleven weeks, sprawled on the sofa in our Arizona apartment.

NOW: The Boy and I today, celebrating his birthday on the cat tree in our Oxford flat.

THEN: Close up on The Boy -- look at that face!

NOW: Same face, nearly ten years later.

THEN: Nomad, aged twenty-seven, holds one of the baby girls for the camera.

NOW: Nomad, aged thirty-seven, holds The Boy for the camera.

So a very Happy Birthday to all four of my furry babies! It has been a delight to have these kitties for the past ten years. Very much looking forward to having them with us -- happy and healthy -- for another decade!

[*] Um, for somewhat large values of "two".

anarchist_nomad: (Still me... but wearing a funny hat)
( Mar. 1st, 2012 04:50 pm)
Writing this entry from the Event Horizon! Ah, tis always good to be back! Stumpy has already come out to greet me (and demand the requisite petting), though Chirp is invisible thus far. Perhaps she knows that I'm bringing her to the vet for dental work tomorrow morning?

There's quite a week ahead of me, with both work and play to enjoy. I hit the ground running, as the lovely [ profile] danaeris will be here in about an hour. After grabbing a bite together, we are off into the city for Poly Karaoke. Looks to be a fun evening to get me started; the work part begins tomorrow morning.

And on Saturday? BIRTHDAY PARTY! Wahoo!!
Helllllloooooooo again, Chicago!

As previously mentioned, your friendly neighbourhood Nomad will be making a surprise appearance in the Windy City during the first week of March. Although this is a work trip, there will be time for some fun, too! Because what's travel without fun, right?

Here is what my itinerary looks like so far:
  • Thu Mar 01: 14:10 - Land at O'Hare. Go home, settle in. Poly Chicago's monthly karaoke meetup at Sidekicks in the evening! (Huzzah!)

  • Fri Mar 02: 07:00 - Bring Chirp to the vet for dental procedure. Work. 15:00 - Pick up Chirp from vet. EVENING: FREE!!


  • Sun Mar 04: Breakfast at Butterfield's. Maybe some spare time in afternoon. Prepare for big work week ahead in evening.

  • Mon Mar 05: Big important day of work at Fermilab. Collapse in evening. Dinner with friends possible.

  • Tue Mar 06: Recover from Monday. Prepare for Wednesday. Maybe get dinner with certain friends who have recently returned from cruising.

  • Wed Mar 07: Bigger importanter day of work at Fermilab. Includes delivering the Particle Astrophysics Center's weekly seminar. Professional dinner in evening. Pack like mad when all is done.

  • Thu Mar 08: Depart the Event Horizon at 06:00. Fly out of O'Hare at 08:50. Sleep.

Looking at the above plan, t'would appear that the best times to see some of my lovely Chicagoland friends would be on the evening of Friday March 2nd and on Saturday March 3rd.

Well, it just so happens that ten days after Saturday March 3rd, a certain Nomadic Anarchist is having a birthday. So it occurs to me: Why not throw a birthday party for myself at the Event Horizon! That would be pretty spiffy, huh? Possibly even bordering on the awesometacular if enough people show up!

Which means that it is time for that inestimable of beasts: The LJ POLL!

[Poll #1820132]

Those gentle readers who live outside of Chicagoland are also welcome to attend, of course. However, due to issues of distance and the fact that I've not yet completed work on the teleporter, tis understood if you cannot make it. This time.

Looking forward to seeing many of you lovely people sooon!!
anarchist_nomad: (Look Like An Egyptian)
( Nov. 16th, 2011 11:57 pm)
Haven't played this game in a while, gentle readers. Here goes:
  • CHUTE: Am writing this entry on the Oxford Tube, during the trip that never ends. Leaving London after 22:00, we immediately got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the A40. Not exactly what I would expect at that hour. After finally making it through the jam, we seemed to be moving along well... until the motorway (M40) got closed off. So we are now diverting through High Wycombe -- whee! Eventually I will return home. I think.

  • LADDER: Yesterday, I went to Cambridge. There, I presented a high energy physics seminar on the first results from T2K at the Cavendish Laboratory. It went rather well, I think... with some post-talk discussions that may prove rather fruitful in the future. So now I have spoken at both Oxford and Cambridge -- spiffy!

  • CHUTE: I have just learned that one of our darling kitties -- probably The Boy -- has puked all over the bed. Feh. So on my arrival home, after midnight, I will need to strip off the sheets and put clean ones on. Irksome. I love him dearly, but I wish that his walnut-brain were keen enough so that he knew better than to vomit where he sleeps.

  • LADDER: The reason that I am coming back from London so late is that I had a very nice dinner in South Kensington with my high school history teacher. She is one of only three teachers that I actually liked in my high school (and only two of those are still alive). We last saw each other in October 2007, when I dropped in during a visit to NYC. However, she is now living in London for a year and looked me up online. I was rather pleasantly surprised, and it was a lovely evening of chatting and catching up. We have tentative plans for her and her partner to come visit Oxford next month, where I will treat them to one of my now-famous tours.

  • CHUTE: The new Muppets movie -- which comes out next week in the United States -- will not be released in the UK until February! What the...?!? I have no idea why some films are released concurrently in both countries, whilst others have an enormous lag. The latest cinematic adaptation of Jane Eyre, for instance, had a whopping six month delay -- coming out in March for the US and September for the UK. I very much hope that this Muppet movie will still be in the US theatres come late December, because I really don't want to wait three more months!!

  • LADDER: Quite by surprise, I appear to be headed to Berlin in March! Apparently, I am taking a five day holiday with the lovely [ profile] faerierhona (plus one other). Rather excited about this, as I have not yet been to Germany properly... and Berlin is very much on my list of European cities to visit. As an added bonus, it looks like she has found us a splendid apartment for the trip -- located right on the Ku'damm! Excellent -- couldn't ask for a better location than that!!

  • LADDER: Speaking of plane tickets and March, the ever-exuberant [ profile] tawneypup and the fabulous [ profile] jadesfire55 have now purchased their tickets to come visit us in Merry Olde Englande! Huzzah! Looks like there will be much happiness and excitement in Oxford (and beyond) during the last week of March!

Additionally, there is one more ladder. It is a sooper sekrit ladder that I cannot talk about in this space... yet. If things go well, all shall be revealed in time. Stay tuned, true believers!

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Oct. 4th, 2011 02:50 pm)
Landed in Merry Olde England yesterday morning. Had a fabulous day in Oxford, where the October weather feels more like what I would expect from July! After a fortnight away, it was lovely to see my darling [ profile] cheshcat again, as well as my furry babies, Giles and The Boy. The Boy, in particular, was absolutely delighted to see me come home. Also, the wonderful [ profile] miss_amaranth and I took advantage of the unseasonal warmth to go for a walk through Angel & Greyhound meadow. We were also able to share some special quality alone time, which will help to tide us over during these back-to-back separations.

Now I am back at Heathrow, Terminal 5, where I disembarked yesterday. In less than an hour, I should be in the air again, en route to Chicago and the Event Horizon! Looking forward to seeing the germane [ profile] gyades again, as well as my home and my dear furry baby girls, Stumpy and Chirp!

Time to board! Have an awesometacular day, gentle readers, and I shall write again from the other side!
anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Jul. 7th, 2011 11:07 pm)
Just returned to the Event Horizon for my Summer trip... and upon landing in Chicago, I am pleased to pronounce that it is really Summer here! Unlike Oxford, where the highs hover in the high-60s and low-70s, the forecast here is in the high-80s, and expected to hit 90 on Sunday![*] I may go to to the Cypress Cove water park on Saturday -- anyone care to join me if I do?

Getting here was uneventful, by which I mean that I slept through most of the trans-Atlantic flight. Once past passport control and immigration, the ever-awesome [ profile] gyades met me at O'Hare in Lucretia II, the Infiniti G20 that [ profile] cheshcat and I share as our US car. That was a nice touch, to be picked up in my own car; I used to try to do the same when making airport runs for [ profile] gyades and [ profile] cheshcat and [ profile] polymorphism. What was also nifty was starting to catch up with [ profile] gyades on the drive from airport to Event Horizon. Much more of that to follow in the coming weeks!

I have been back at the Event Horizon for about half an hour now; [ profile] gyades dropped me off and then returned to Fermilab to continue working. Hard to believe it has been nearly half a year since I last left here, on January 9thth! Still, it has... and so much has happened since then! Getting our Indefinite Leave to Remain in the United Kingdom and my full British driving licence, exploring Prague and Vienna, adventures in Chester and Dover and the Lake District, working in Japan on the T2K electron neutrino appearance results, visits from [ profile] kat1031 and [ profile] tawneypup. So far, 2011 has been treating me rather well!

The first thing that I did after arriving was take a look in our backyard to see the rosebush that we planted above Scarlet, the five week old kitten that Resourceress adopted in June 2005 who died a few days later. I was pleased to see that it is doing well and in bloom. Poor Scarlet -- she would have been six years old now! Speaking of cats, Stumpy was quick to greet me... and to demand petting! The little love was rewarded for her efforts with much affection (which she liked) and with the trimming of six month's growth from her talons claws (of which she was less fond). Chirp, being the more skittish of the two, has yet to show herself. That will come in time -- probably when I try to read in bed tonight!

Between now and then, however, there is fun to be had! When booking my travel, it had completely slipped my mind that today is the first Thursday of the month. This means that tonight is Poly Chicago's karaoke evening at Sidekicks! Awesome! I was reminded by an e-mail that came through whilst waiting to board my plane. After posting this, tis time for a shave and a shower, then off into the city for some cavorting with old (and presumably new) friends!

Ah, Chicago! Tis good to be back!

[*] That is about 32oC for those of you who prefer metric. Which, for temperature, I do not. I see clear advantages in metric units for distance, mass, and volume. For temperature, not so much.

anarchist_nomad: (Baby Giles -- two weeks old)
( May. 18th, 2011 11:19 pm)
As hard as it is to believe, our furry baby turned three today! That's right: Today, Giles, our delightful silver tabby, celebrates his birthday!

Giles is our Oxford-born cat. Unlike his Arizona-born and widely-traveled adopted uncle, The Boy, our Giles has never even left Oxford in his three years. We met him when he was four days old and brought him into our home five weeks later; since then, he has been a much loved part of our household. Excepting, of course, when The Boy is trying to sleep and Giles wants to play; at those times, there is a little less love in the house for him.

Hard to believe that three years have zipped by so fast! Where has all that time gone? This is how baby Giles looked, nearly three years ago, at the age of two weeks... and how he looks now![*]

Just a wee bit of difference, huh? Gods, but they grow up so fast!

The latter photograph is not a birthday shot, as I am in Japan today and do not possess a telephoto lens capable of taking accurate pictures of Oxford from Tsukuba. I'm working on it! However, this is a recent picture that accurately reflects how my little guy looks now. Truth be told, his appearance has not changed in some time; take a look at the pictures from his first birthday here and you will see what I mean.

Giles came into our home shortly after a time of profound loss, not long after our previous tabby, Totoro, and our lovely Foxy had both passed away within the span of a few months. Not only did my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I find our hearts deeply wounded from the loss, but our surviving kitty, The Boy, was confused and lonely at being without other feline company for the only time in his life. Whilst nothing can make us forget our departed furry children, Giles filled a much-needed space in our home and in the hearts of all three of us. So happy third birthday to him... and I wish for many, many more!

[*] Note the fast moving tail thrashing about during the photo session!

anarchist_nomad: (Guess who?)
( May. 2nd, 2011 07:11 pm)
Gentle readers: The rumours are true! Your friendly neighborhood Nomad has made his triumphant return to Chiron Beta Prime!

Yes, dear friends, I am back in Oxford now, after a very lovely vacation. I left Vienna in a sleeper car on the overnight train yesterday evening, returning to Prague at 04:00 today. After six leisurely hours re-experiencing some of my favourite scenic spots, I made my way to the airport and hopped one flight to Geneva... then another back home to Merry Olde Englande, entering the country for the very first time on my permanent visa!

Hmmmm... Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. That makes four countries that I have been in during the last twenty-four hours. I do believe that such is a new record for me! Amusingly, this trip -- to visit the Prague and Vienna -- has resulted in two new stamps in my passport: One from Frankfurt and the other from Geneva. Ah, the joys of European travel!

Speaking of which, although all but one of the above countries are in the EU, each uses a different currency. In the past twenty-four hours, I have had the option of spending euro, crowns, francs, and pounds. Indeed, in my wallet at present there are three of the four: euro, crowns, and pounds.

As I mentioned above, I had six hours to spend in Prague before heading to the airport. Arriving before dawn, I decided to watch the sunrise over the Charles Bridge... then get breakfast in one of the many caf├ęs around Old Town Square. It was interesting to watch the transition of people who were out during this time. When first I arrived, the late night party crowd was still about. In fact, two people fitting the "ugly American stereotype -- one Canadian and one English -- approached me. Rather drunk and not realising that I speak English, they loudly asked if I knew where they could get a "beerski" and a "smokeski" and cannabis. Oy vey! Some time later, you could see the last of the late-nighters peacefully strolling about in the sunrise before bed. They mingled with the uber-early risers -- mostly shutterbugs who were choosing to take advantage of the hour to take pictures sans tourists. Then the normal earlybirds, like joggers... finally followed by everyone else. Well, everyone else except for the party crowd, that is!

Thus, when I watched the astronomical clock mark the arrival of 05:00, I was alone in Old Town Square. At 08:00, I had the company of a very small group of tourists. On my third and final time -- the very last thing I did before leaving for the airport -- it was 10:00 and the throngs of people were thronging away!

Here are some photographs from this morning, some of my very last taken in Prague: )

(During more "civilized" hours, this bridge is packed with a mix of tourists and vendors!)

More pictures behind the cut! )

And, finally, just because:

One last shot of that amazing Prague Astronomical Clock!

I had a most wonderful time... and am now rather happy to be back home. At least for about twelve days, before I head to Japan. The Boy has been delighted to see me, requesting uninterrupted attention. Now, once I post this, I am off to pick up my beloved [ profile] cheshcat so we can spend some quality alone time together this evening.

Slept in the new flat for the first time last night. Very nice, though I did miss our kitties, who will be coming over later in the week. Had a good chat at work today about a new project for the Neutrino Interaction Working Group that I can start sinking my proverbial teeth into. And I've got a twenty-five mile bicycle ride from Banbury to Oxford planned for next weekend, as a good way to kick off my triathlon training. So it looks like my new year is off to a good start, filled with all sorts of beginnings! Huzzah!

Meanwhile, the old year ended on a pretty spiffy note. On Friday night, we broke in the new flat by hosting a Halloween party. Some very lovely people showed up, and we enjoyed gaming, good food, and some great conversations. Special thanks go to my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, the jolly [ profile] josington, and the lovely [ profile] miss_amaranth for helping with set-up in advance and for assisting in hanging the Halloween decorations!

One of the highlights of the evening for me was bobbing for apples. I've not done this in a great many years, probably over a quarter of a century. Maybe that's why I ended up buying an 85 litre bin to put the water and apples in. This may have made things a wee bit tricky... but, in the end, I was able to successfully retrieve two of the apples! Hooray!

This being a Halloween party, there was some most fantabulous costumes on display. In particular, [ profile] miss_amaranth's devil was soul-seductively fetching. [ profile] cheshcat's spectre probably was the spookiest! My own costume evolved somewhat over the course of the weekend. Below, please to find a photograph -- taken by the awesometacular [ profile] darkfloweruk late Friday evening -- of my favourite incarnation:

Don't run away -- it's only me!

When the evening wound down and people had gone to bed, I was happily able to squeeze in some quality alone time with my darling [ profile] miss_amaranth. Due to my recent travels -- both in Merry Olde England and abroad -- we had not seen each other for a month; it was quite good to reconnect!

Since nearly everyone slept over, we made our way over to Atomic Burger for breakfast on Saturday morning. We semi-took over the restaurant and enjoyed the most important meal of the day in a most delicious way!

After we finished up at Atomic, around two o'clock, people began to disperse... including us! We drove on up to Nottingham to set up for our traditional Samhain ritual -- an Ancestor Feast and Toast. We had the same size group as last year, with two new people replacing the two that have left us. The ritual, which is the most intense ritual that I regularly participate in year after year, went well. [ profile] cheshcat ran it solidly and, from my own perspective, it was interesting to observe how the experience has changed and evolved since I first began doing this WORK in 1994.

The ritual lasted for five hours, covering the time change. Shortly after, I went to bed. Sunday was a much more mellow day, at least in the beginning. I had a lie in, ate a leisurely breakfast, and sat about chatting. In the afternoon, [ profile] cheshcat and I did a private purification and cleaning ritual -- third in a series of three for this Samhain -- and then we made our way back to Oxford. Once settled in there, I completed the season with the salt circle mentioned in the previous entry.

Definitely a very good weekend... and, it appears, one that has led into a very good week!
The good thing about living with the sweetest, sluttiest cat in the world is that there is always affection on offer -- anytime, day or night!

The bad thing about living with the sweetest, sluttiest cat in the world is that, no matter how long I pet her, I always feel guilty when I stop. She obviously still wants more[*] and looks so very disappointed when the petting ceases.[**]

More later, my dear friends! There is much else to write about -- indeed, I have been having quite a long day that began with a meeting at half past four this morning! However, I have another meeting in three and a half hours, with a deadline to make before it begins. So for now, recreational on-line time is limited and posts, comments, e-mails, et cetera will have to wait!

[*] In contrast to her brother, The Boy, who generally will approach you for petting (often crushing your ribcage in the process), enjoy his fill, saturate after a few minutes, thank you, and move on.

[**] Alternate hypothesis: Besides being the sweetest and sluttiest cat in the world, Stumpy is also amongst the most empty-headed. It is possible that, a second and a half after the petting is curtailed, she simply forgets that it ever happened!

Writing this entry from the living room of the Event Horizon, as Day One of the 2010 Nomad US Summer Tour draws to a close. Tis most excellent to be back here again! As much as I love the Flat With No Name, it is small! Returning from there makes me appreciate the spaciousness of a three bedroom house... as well as the quarter acre of land surrounding it! I have a front yard! And a back yard! Perhaps best of all is the fact that [ profile] gyades and I own this. No renting -- it is ours!

I have back back in the U.S. of A for nearly fourteen hours now. I touched down into O'Hare at 10:30 this morning. Shortly thereafter, I was collected by the ever-awesome [ profile] xirpha. Twas excellent to see him again and chat for a bit on our way out to the 'burbs. Once home, he waited whilst I took Lucretia II -- our 1999 Infiniti G20 -- out for a short test drive... just to make sure that my US car was still functioning! With all good, he took off and I spent a little time settling into home. Stumpy was rather helpful with the whole "settling in" business. She marched over soon after I arrived and announced that petting was necessary. Ah, I have missed my furry little girl!

A little past noon, I made my way over to my former place of employment, Fermilabm and filled out the forms that should get me a visitor's ID badge tomorrow. The Summer 2010 US Tour is rather long -- four full weeks! -- and is not all holiday. Some of it will be spent on vacation, of course, but there is also work that I need to do when I am here. Analysis for T2K is chugging along and I certainly do not want to be left behind! Tomorrow I should be able to set up shop in the Neutrino Visitors Center. Tis good, as I have two deadlines to meet before the end of the week!

Once work was done for the day, I met the delightful [ profile] danaeris for an impromptu dinner date. That was most lovely -- I have not enjoyed the pleasure of her company in far too long!

Following dinner, I made a brief stop back at the Event Horizon where I spoke to my beloved [ profile] cheshcat about some very good news that she received today. I cannot say more, as it is not my news to share. Suffice to say, the conversation left me feeling very happy and optimistic!

Then it was time to head back out again to meet [ profile] gyades and to print out 300 invitations to the Souper Sekret October Pagan Festival! For those of you who attend, watch your mailbox -- they should be getting sent out tomorrow or Thursday!

Finally, home again to unwind for bed in preparation for a busy day tomorrow. Apologies to all those that I owe e-mail or LJ comments. As you can see, today has been quite the busy one -- especially since I did not sleep last night before my trans-Atlantic flight! Overall, I do think that Day One was a success! Here's to twenty-seven more like it!
Gentle readers, I believe that I am somewhat known for my inability to make short LiveJournal posts. Amongst other things, this is why I do not use the ever-reviled Twitter![*] Well, dear friends, it suddenly occurs to me that my verbosity this may not be so unusual, given other circumstances!

"What circumstances are those?" you might fairly ask. Good questions! I shall tell you anon!

First, consider my country of residence. I live in the country with the longest name in all the world. "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" -- try beating that one out! Even "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea" does not come close!

It does not stop there, living in the country with the longest name! Oh, no!

Were one to browse through my music collection, one would find within the album with the longest name. I speak of Chumbawamba's 2008 release, entitled:

"The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or From Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother's Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don't Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to 'Guard' Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It's Over, Then It's Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won."

Can you blame some of us for colloquially referring to it as simply: "The Boy Bands Have Won"?

With all these words, then, is it any wonder that I am so loquacious? Still, as we all know that a single picture is worth one thousand of these words, I shall conclude this garrulous entry with two photographs of my dear The Boy and Giles, cuddled up in our bed last month. Enjoy!

[*] Also the fact that I believe fairly strongly in Marshall McLuhan's thesis: The medium is the message.

At ten o'clock... eleven o'clock... twelve o'clock... sixteen o'clock... twenty-two o'clock... and twenty-four o'clock!

No, that is not my answer to Macbeth's witches; it is actually my meeting schedule for today. That's right -- first meeting began at ten o'clock in the morning and the last one starts at midnight. That one goes until about six o'clock tomorrow morning... though I promise you, dear readers, that I shall not be awake when it ends!

I did say that T2K was entering a very exciting phase right now, as the neutrino beam begins and we take our first data. Tis quite true... but it also begets many many meetings! These days, I tend to describe our experiment by paraphrasing the old quote about the Spanish Empire[*]: "T2K is the experiment in which the meeting never ends." I suspect that, at least during weekdays, this sentiment may not be an exaggerations -- somewhere in the world, I think that there is always a T2K meeting going on!

Nonetheless, today may be a personal record for me. I am only squeezing this entry in between my third and fourth meeting of the day. And I was late to the third one because I desperately needed some lunch!

There is quite a bit more that I would wish to write -- especially as Tuesday and Wednesday were quite busy and interesting days. However, the next meeting begins in less than ten minutes, so it will have to wait. Instead, gentle readers, I leave you with a photograph of my UK kitties.[**] Just because.

[*] That being the 16th century comment by Fray Francisco de Ugalde to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, about the Spain having an empire on which the Sun never sets.

[**] Actually, the silver tabby (Giles) is British... but the black kitty (The Boy) is an American ex-pat, just like my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and myself. Generally speaking, though, when I say "my US kitties", I mean The Boy's sisters, Nona and Chirp, who are still living in Chicagoland at the Event Horizon.

It's one of those Thursdays... where the first meeting of the morning starts at 10:00 and the last meeting of the evening winds down close to midnight. Thus, dear friends, rather than an entry approaching coherence, here are some random snippets about my day (or so). Feel free to ignore this entry -- it really is just Sleepy Nomad RamblingsTM.

Random the First: Due to unavoidable scheduling changes, I ended up sleeping in Ringstead, at the Leveret Warren, on Tuesday night so that I could bring the four youngest leverets to school on Wednesday morning. I confess to being somewhat nervous about this, having never put any children through their morning routine before... let alone four at once! I should not have worried -- it all went swimmingly. Actually, this co-parenting thing is quite fun... though I did get a bit overprotective when another child shoved L2 on the playground.

Random the Second: Upon returning to Oxford yesterday, I made some serious progress on our proposal to obtain Super-Kamiokande atmospheric neutrino and decay electron data for our study on optimising the fiducial volume for the T2K experiment. This is a Good Thing, as this particular proposal has been dragging on for far too long. Hopefully by next week, I will have wrapped it up.

Random the Third: The final Oxford BiFest planning meeting was last night, at the Brewery Gate... with a delicious dinner at Malmaison afterward. Oh, my goodness! Oxford BiFest starts in 203 hours! Panic!!

Ahem. Actually, preparations for Oxford BiFest are actually going quite well. Rationally speaking, there is no need to be concerned. In fact, we have a rather phenomenal team that has been excellent at making things happen! I just think it was inevitable that a state of being mildly terrified would set in right around now... and it has. Hard to believe that things have come so far from my initial suggestion that we organise an Oxford BiFest six months ago. Harder still to believe that, in just over a week, it will be reality! Most awesometacular and spifftastic, indeed!

Random the Fourth: After the Oxford Bi Meetup wrapped up last night, I made my way back to Eynsham with the ever-nifty [ profile] xmakina and the delightfully delicious [ profile] miss_amaranth. This allowed [ profile] miss_amaranth and I a bit of date time, which we had both been quite looking forward to. Suffice to say, it was quite lovely!

Random the Fifth: Went to the weekly tower bell ringing practice at St. Giles this evening. Actually, this is not so unusual... but I realise that I have written very little about my bell ringing progress in recent months. This is quite unlike the early days, when every new milestone got a blog entry all its own. In contrast, it has been more of an uneventful slog of late, as I try to master two of the easiest methods (i.e., Grandsire and Plain Bob). Tonight, however, was another milestone worth mentioning: I had my first attempt at a more complex method, known as Stedman Doubles. In Stedman, every bell works; I rang the treble and did well with the work at the back... but got somewhat confused at the front. No matter -- there shall be other attempts!

Random the Sixth: Just finished our T2K-SK meeting a few minutes ago. It's amazing how things are speeding up, now that the data is coming in. We are actually talking about finalising our analysis techniques at the Japan meeting next month... at least for our 2010 results, and maybe for 2011 as well. It is always very exciting to be a part of a big experiment when it is just starting up. Big things are ahead for T2K... and I am quite enjoying the ride! It's a good time to be doing neutrino physics!

On that note, tis time to wind down for the evening, gentle readers! After posting this, I have a phone call to place to the always-incredible [ profile] gyades... then it will be time to hop into bed with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. The Boy will likely make a cameo appearance there, too... if only to crush our ribs and sit on our heads whilst purring loudly.
Just returned to the Event Horizon, safe and sound. The flight from Tokyo to Chicago was boring and uneventful. At least I think it was -- I slept for most of the way, so I wouldn't really know!

This was my second flight since all the fuss was raised on Christmas Day about security. Perhaps more importantly, it was my first flight into the United States since then. I am happy to say that there was very little added hassle -- the main change was that some very polite Japanese women came into the gate area just before we boarded and conducted very polite checks of our bags and very polite pat-downs of our bodies.

Now that I am home, the kitties here -- both sisters to The Boy -- are quite happy to see me. Stumpy wasted no time in asking for attention, and she is sitting next to me as I type this. Chirp has also gotten some petting and love, though she is much more timid and approaches in her own special way.

I am only in Chicago for about twenty-nine hours, so I do not expect to be online much. As is usual for me, there is a "to-do" list -- with seventeen items on it -- that I want to accomplish in this time!

Before I go, though, I will make one interesting observation. My flight was about twelve hours long; the time change was fifteen hours. Hence, I landed in Chicago about three hours before I departed for Tokyo. This is a known effect when flying from Japan to the United States -- something that I used to do frequently from 1999 to 2003. Still, it has the interesting effect of making this journal entry come before the one that I wrote in the Tokyo airport, before leaving!


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