anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Mar. 26th, 2015 08:13 pm)
Nine years ago today, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I arrived in Merry Olde England. It wasn't my first time, having been twice before... but the date is significant because that was when we arrived to make our home here.

Seriously? How has it been nine years?? Still the proof is there -- see for yourself!

I don't have much to say today, given that I've made length entries in each of the past three days[*], but I thought that this was an anniversary worth noting.

We spent the first night in London, so tomorrow will be nine years since the very first time we set foot in Oxford. I still remember the two of us arriving at the train station, four 75 pound suitcases in tow, and not knowing where anything at all was located.

[*] Four consecutive days of LJ entries? Wowza, that's like old times!

Gentle readers, if there is one thing that you know about your friendly neighbourhood Nomad, it may well be that he likes doing new things.

Sometimes this takes the form of going to new places -- hence the "Nomad" name -- but, more generally, I enjoy and actively seek out new experiences. Right now, for instance, I am posting this entry from approximately 39,000 feet over Russia, as I fly to Japan. Posting from a plane? That's a new experience. Also, I have with me my brand new UK passport, but have left my US passport at home. Travelling solely as a Brit? That's also new for me.

Fun though these tidbits might be, they are little things. So, my dear friends, let me tell you of another new experience that I had yesterday. Much more interesting than in-flight WiFi, or the first stamp in my UK passport.

This picture, taken by my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, is where we spent last night:

(click on picture for full version)

That would be the Natural History Museum in London.

For about five years now, the Natural History Museum has had a monthly sleepover event for children, which they call "Dino Snores". This involves an animal show and t-shirt making, before putting the kids to bed at midnight and then feeding them breakfast in the morning.

Museum nights for kids are not particularly uncommon. There are several other museums in London that do sleepover events for children, including the British Museum and the Science Museum. For that matter, I know that theAmericam Museum of Natural History in NYC also does its own sleepovers, and Chicago's Field Museum has Dozin' with the Dinos.

What makes the Natural History Museum different is that they also do a sleepover event for adults: "Dino Snores for Grown-Ups".

Apparently, after they started doing the monthly Dino Snores, they started getting questions about doing an event without the children. So, back in 2012, that is precisely what they did. Dino Snores for Grown-Ups different from the original event in several ways. It is a much smaller event, capped at about 200 people. It is also much pricier -- the kids' "Dino Snores" costs £52 per person; the adult version is £175 a head. However, it also comes with a heck of a lot more -- like a three course dinner, a selection of activities to choose from (rather than a fixed plan). And, of course, no "bedtime" at midnight.

Here is what our Dino Snores evening was like last night:
  • At 19:30, we arrived at the Natural History Museum, just as things were getting started. We set up camp in the Central Hall with our sleeping pads right next to Dippy, the Diplodocus skeleton seen in the picture above. We also met up with our friends C&J, who were joining us for the evening. After taking some pictures, we popped over to the bar (something else not present at the kids' event) to grab a couple of drinks.

  • At 20:30, we were brought into the restaurant for the aforementioned three course meal. As we ate, there was a raffle with some silly prizes from the souvenir shop given out. The only one that I really wanted was the dinosaur head puppet... but, alas, we did not win. Even so, the food was good, as was the company and the conversation.

  • At 22:30, directly following dinner, we had a choice of stand-up comedy or a talk on the sex lives of insects. The four of us opted for the latter. It was a good choice. The scientist giving the talk was quite the stereotype -- the nerdy, slightly frumpy "fly girl" with big glasses who talked with great gusto about all these different insect penises. It was a great talk and quite entertaining. Gauging from the audience reaction, everyone there had a fantastic time. I know we did!

  • At 23:30, we had another choice to make: We could eat some of the bug genetalia that we had just learned about, as there was an edible insect tasting. Or we could attend an interactive video presentation about evolution. C&J went to eat bugs. Meanwhile, [ profile] cheshcat had no interest in joining them and, as a vegetarian, I cannot do so. Thus, our choice for this slot was easy. Whilst J was taking pictures of C chowing down on bugs, [ profile] cheshcat and I learned about the ways in which we are related to other hominids, lungfish, parasitic worms... and bananas. Personally, I'm more pleased to have bananas in my family tree than I am about those parasitic worms.

  • At 00:30, the museum galleries were opened. We went to see the Hall of Mammals and the Whale Hall. Then we took a break to pop back over to the Central Hall bar for more drinks and snacks before it closed at 01:00 (though the free tea & coffee would stay available until 02:00). There was live music in the Central Hall -- the harpist provided a lovely atmosphere for the setting. Soft and pretty, but subtle and unintrusive. Next, we took our sweet time going through the special exhibit on this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Checking out the WPotY exhibit is an annual tradition for [ profile] cheshcat and I. However, we normally have to fight our way through a crush of people when we go during regular museum hours. Going at night was a lovely change of pace -- with only a handful of other people in the gallery, we practically had a private viewing!

  • At 02:30, the museum galleries closed. Some folks started going to bed; we gathered to hear ghost stories about the museum. Apparently, there are tales going back to the museum's Victorian origins, and other stories dating back only to recent weeks. Much of the haunting seems to take place at three o'clock in the morning... so it was rather amusing when the lights had an unscheduled switch-off for a minute or two at 03:00!

  • At just after 03:00, once the ghost stories were over, most people went back to the Central Hall to get some sleep. For those of us who preferred to keep going, there was a movie marathon. We had several choices but, not surprisingly, the vote went quite easily to Jurassic Park. Which, I may add, I had never seen before. J started to doze partway through, and went off to bed. Meanwhile C and [ profile] cheshcat and I stayed to watch the film.

  • At 05:15, the next film voted in was Jaws. Which I have also never seen. C opted to stay, but [ profile] cheshcat and I decided to get a couple of hours rest. I'm glad we did -- walking through the darkened museum to get back to our sleeping pads in the Central Hall was one of the best parts of the night. I hadn't expected this, but it was really cool being there, by ourselves -- most others were already asleep -- strolling through the dark halls as we peered into cases to see stuffed pandas and ostriches and whatnot inside. After brushing up, we got into bed around 05:30 and claimed a couple of hours of sleep. I had expected to stay up all night but, in retrospect, I think that this was the better choice. Falling asleep next to Dippy was also pretty awesome!

  • At 07:30, we arose -- waking up next to Dippy was pretty awesome, too! C&J were already awake -- indeed, C had never gone to bed. We got caffeinated with the tea and coffee being served in the restaurant and chatted whilst waiting for breakfast to be served.

  • At 08:00, breakfast was served. Nothing special, just a traditional full English breakfast, with a vegetarian version available. The freshly squeezed orange juice was rather yummy, though! During breakfast, we filled out feedback forms -- we each gave them a 10 out of 10 for the event. Also, prizes were awarded for the pictures taken and tweets tweeted during the event. Not being a twit, I hadn't even tried to win this one!

  • Finally, at 09:00, we packed up and headed home.

Definitely a new experience, and very different from anything that I've ever done before. I had a great time. I know [ profile] cheshcat did, too, as we were only a few hours in when she said that we should do this again sometime. I'm game for that! C&J also had fun, and I'm glad that I could convince them to come out and play with us!

With no rest for the weary, I drove [ profile] cheshcat and I back to Oxford and proceeded to pack for Japan. And, in about seven hours, Japan is where I will be.

I am rather delighted (or, as the Brits might say, "chuffed") to have done this. It was a spectacular experience. I don't know of any other museums that have overnights for adults, but I hope that more will pick up on the idea and it will become a trend.

Meanwhile, my friends, tis time for this Nomad to post his museum adventure and then try to get a little shuteye before landing. Be well, everyone, and talk to you soon!
anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Jan. 11th, 2014 12:23 pm)
Dear friends, today is a very special day. Literally a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

For lack of a better term, today is my "halflife-versary" -- or merely "halflife" for short -- with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat.

Not familiar with the term? I'm not surprised, as I coined it myself. Allow me to explain:

My relationship with [ profile] cheshcat began on August 12th 1994. I was 7092 days old. Today is January 11th 2014, and my relationship with [ profile] cheshcat is 7092 days old. (Not coincidentally, I am now 14,184 days old) As you can see, today marks the day where I have been with my dearest life partner for half my life.

If you think about it, this is somewhat of a "lopsided" celebration. I mean, birthdays are clearly about one person -- the birthday "boy" or "girl" -- and relationship anniversaries are generally about a couple. This "halflife" anniversary involves elements of both. The relationship lasting 7092 days is an achievement of both [ profile] cheshcat and myself... but the "half my life" status is particular to just me.[*]

By the way: If you are aware of an existing term to describe such a day, gentle readers, do feel free to let me know. Otherwise, I am going to continue to use my own makeshift terminology, calling this my "halflife" celebration.

Today is a day that I have been looking forward to for several years, and it marks a significant milestone. After all, from here on, I have spent more of my life in a relationship with [ profile] cheshcat than not. Not quite sure how to express that transition in words, but it feels like a Big DealTM to me.

This is also an achievement that I am rather proud of. It is not unheard of by any means, and I know others who have achieved the same. But not many others. And especially not many who passed this point whilst still in their thirties. So yay for us! Huzzah!

To celebrate, [ profile] cheshcat and I will be heading into London for dinner in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, followed by a performance of Cirque du Soleil's "Quidam".

Thus, I will sign off now to spend the rest of the day with the aforementioned [ profile] cheshcat. I wish all of my dear friends a very lovely Saturday!

[*] We will have a different halflife celebration in a couple of years when we reach the point where we have been together for half of [ profile] cheshcat's life.
Last night, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I made our first visit to London's Donmar Warehouse theatre to see a production of Coriolanus.

This production was special for us in a couple of ways and, actually, we were quite lucky to get tickets. All the seats for the two month run of this production sold out within half an hour. Tis only because I was at the ready, keyboard in hand, at the moment that they went on sale to the general public.

Part of the reason for the quick sellout is that the Donmar Warehouse is a rather small venue, with only 250 seats. The other part, which I did not realise when buying tickets months ago, is that the title role is played by Tom Hiddleston -- best known for portraying the recurring villain Loki in Marvel's cinematic universe. Indeed, it wasn't until after reading this NY Times review of Thor: The Dark World, that I became aware that we would be seeing "Loki" on stage.

Hiddleston was very good and, in a true testament to his ability as an actor, he played a character very different than Loki. The production was good, although I must confess that this is not one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Indeed, I would say that it is my least favourite of the four Roman plays; Coriolanus is too flat of a character, lacking the depth of a Brutus, an Anthony, or a Caesar. To say nothing of a comparison with the brilliance of Titus Andronicus

At the end of the performance, I turned to [ profile] cheshcat and said: "That's it. We've done it." The woman next to me -- who had flown over from Ireland[*] to see Tom Hiddleston -- overheard and, being curious, asked what we had done. I explained to her that we have now seen every one of Shakespeare's extant plays performed live on stage. This one, Coriolanus, was the last of the lot. After nearly eight years of living in Merry Olde England, we have seen a live production of every single one of the Bard's thirty-eight plays.

Accomplishing this goal took a fair bit of hunting! As noted in this comment, I had seen 23 of the 38 after living here for two years and a bit. It then took over five more years to track down the remaining 15! After all, tis easy to find a Hamlet or a Midsummer Night's Dream or a Richard III or a Twelfth Night or a Henry V. Much more challenging to find a Timon of Athens or a Two Noble Kinsmen or a Cymbeline. Or a Coriolanus.

So, yes, it took time. And effort. Living in Oxford -- an hour's drive from Stratford-upon-Avon and two hours from London -- helped a lot. So did this page, which was a tremendous resource. It took work, but we did it. Every single one of the Bard's plays, live on stage. Mission accomplished. To be honest, that was even more of a treat than seeing Tom Hiddleston up close, from our third row seats.

Speaking of which, Hiddleston's performance continues a recent trend of seeing some Big Name ActorsTM tread the boards.

In October, we saw David Tennant perform the title role in Richard II at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It was the first time that we have seen him on stage since 2008 and, quite frankly, he did much better at Richard than he did then in either Hamlet or Love's Labours Lost. In both of those shows, he was basically playing David Tennant, which didn't work so well -- particularly as Hamlet.[**] This time around, he only lapsed into himself once or twice; his Richard II was a suitably tragic king.

We then continue the trend next week in New York City, when we will be seeing Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen in Pinter's No Man's Land. I've seen each of these amazing actors on stage multiple times, but only once before have I seen them together. That was nearly five years ago, March 2009, when we saw them perform in Waiting for Godot. I'm not a Beckett fan, but they made that show well worth seeing. I suspect that they will do the same for Pinter next week.

Meanwhile, I sit here in the post-Solstice light, enjoying the gradual return of the newborn Sun, and contemplate what my next theatrical goal should be. I suggested seeing all of Alan Ayckbourn's plays -- currently 78 of them -- but this idea was swiftly vetoed by [ profile] cheshcat.[***]

[*] Which is nothing compared to her friend, who had flown in from Canada to see Hiddleston!

[**] It's rather similar to how I enjoy seeing Jim Carrey act when he's not playing Jim Carrey.

[***] Mainly because, having seen roughly ten of his plays so far -- including six of the most recent eight -- we find the quality to be rather inconsistent. Some are quite good, and I particularly enjoy Communicating Doors. Others are rather disappointing. Definitely hit-or-miss with Ayckbourn. We will be seeing his latest, Arrivals & Departures in February, and I hope it is one of the good ones!

(Not to mention three days before Yule!)

Good evening, gentle readers! I hope that you are all having a lovely holiday season so far and that -- whatever Decemberween festivities you partake in -- your plans are coming along swimmingly!

Life here in the City of Dreaming Spires is good, if a bit hectic. Our own preparations have been coming along well, though there is much buying of gifts left to be done! About a fortnight ago, we purchased our Yule tree -- a beautiful Nordman Fir -- so Chiron Beta Prime is well decorated for the season.

Speaking of which, here is a virtual Yule card for all of you who are still out there in LJ-land! This picture was taken in our living room three nights ago, on Sunday evening. Please to enjoy!

(click on picture for full version)

Actually, tis very similar to a shot that I posted in 2011. You can find that entry here. Heh. Is actually somewhat amusing to look at the two side-by-side. Remember those games in the newspaper when you were a kid? The ones where there would be two cartoon panels, and you were supposed to spot the subtle differences between them? This is sort of like that. Go on, click the link and check it out for yourself! (It's okay; I'll wait...)

What else have we been up to besides decorating our flat? Well, last night, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I went to the carol service in the Chapel Royal, at Hampton Court Palace. Built for Henry VIII -- and currently the property of his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandneice, Elizabeth II -- the chapel is a breathtaking setting, with a particularly magnificent ceiling. Again, don't take my word for it; see for yourself here:

The next two days, I will be attending the NuPhys 2013 meeting in London. After that, the festivities really kick in. Yule ritual in Oxford on Friday; Solstice morning at Stonehenge again on Saturday, followed by a carol singalong at the Royal Albert Hall; then a screening of "It's a Wonderful Life" in Greenwich with friends on Sunday. My darling [ profile] miss_amaranth is hosting a holiday feast at the House of the Rising Bun on Monday evening... which takes us to Christmas Eve and Day. Those will be spent celebrating in Oxford with my dearest [ profile] cheshcat; then on Boxing Day, we jet off to the States.

For those who are interested in seeing everyone's favourite Nomad during his 2013/14 USA Winter Tour, here is my planned itinerary:

  • 26 Dec - 28 Dec: New York City with friends
  • 29 Dec - 30 Dec: New York City with Mom
  • 31 Dec - 01 Jan: Philadelpha for New Years at Asylum House
  • 02 Jan: Driving to Michigan (with [ profile] gyades)
  • 03 Jan - 04 Jan: East Lansing, Michigan (to visit the wonderful [ profile] tawneypup and the rest of the Lansing Pagan Village crowd)
  • 05 Jan - 07 Jan: Chicagoland
  • 08 Jan: Flying back to Merry Olde England

Most of this time has already been planned, but if you want to catch me as I zip on through your area, drop me a comment and let me know!

Chicago people -- take note! The Chicagoland portion of the trip is the only bit still entirely unplanned... so that leaves three free days to grab a Nomad! Due to the 2012 decomissioning of the Event Horizon, it has been over a year since I have been back to the great state of Illinois, and there are lots of awesome people there that I miss. So if you are one of them, and you want a visiting Nomad, do speak up!

Right. On that note, I'm going to call it a night. Need to wake up way too early tomorrow morning. So sleep well, dear friends, and I hope to see many of you soon!
anarchist_nomad: (A Crown of Flowers)
( Dec. 12th, 2013 05:30 pm)
Today is the birthday of the ever-wonderful [ profile] cheshcat!!! Go forth and share birthday wishes with Her Awesomeness via e-mail or phone or by leaving a comment in her LJ![*]

Being true to the "cat" part of [ profile] cheshcat, my beloved Chesh likes to reckon her age in cat years. By that token, today she turns seven and a quarter! Huzzah!

The day's celebrations began, as they should do, at the stroke of midnight. We stayed awake to mark the start of Chesh's special day, then went to bed soon after to share some quality alone time.

After six hours of rest, the fun continued when I greeted my dear Chesh with breakfast in bed.

Tonight, we are going down to the Cowley Road to celebrate the birth of the Chesh with our Oxford friends. We start with dinner at Atomic Burger, then follow that up with dessert at Indulge.

Finally, we will extend the festivities with a mini-holiday over the weekend. After work tomorrow, my dearest darlingest [ profile] cheshcat and I will be heading off to enjoy a spa weekend together at the Aqua Sana, whilst spending the night nearby in The Old Rectory. Should be both fun and relaxing! (A perfect chance to take a deep breath before the holiday madness sets in!)

All in all, methinks this makes for an excellent start to what I hope will be an excellent year! Huzzah!

[*] Disclaimer: My beloved [ profile] cheshcat last updated her LiveJournal one year ago today. So whilst you will find a birthday post there, it is slightly out of date. Is all good -- leave her a message anyway!

Two recent numbers of significance worth noting here:

First, on my most recent run -- earlier this week -- I passed the 11 km mark for the first time.

These days, my standard running workout is a five minute warm-up walk, followed by a sixty minute run, then ending with a five minute cool-down walk. When the workout is over, the running app that I use reports an average pace for each of those three parts; I ignore the walking segments but use the data for the run to work out how far I went. Previously, my best record was 5:32 per kilometer (or, if you prefer, 8:54 per mile) -- set on the 5th of August. That works out to a 10.84 kilometer run (or 6.74 miles).

When I was new to running last year, I used the NHS Couch-to-5K podcast series. The narrator, Laura, frequently reminds us that some runs will be better than others, often without clearly identifiable reason. (She also points out that a bad run is still better than no run at all -- helpful advice!) Well, I'm not sure why... but my most recent run -- the day before yesterday -- turned out to be a very good run! That was evident early on, as I just felt "in the groove" and the distance reports every five minutes were impressive, compared to my normal pace. I knew if I pushed on, I could likely set a new record... and thought I even had a chance of squeaking past the 11 km mark for the first time.

Turns out, I was doing better than I thought -- my average pace for the hour worked out to 5:19 per kilometer (or 8:33 per mile)! That's 11.28 km -- well past the 11K mark! Tis also well beyond the record set eight days earlier! Measuring in Imperial units, I ran 7.01 miles -- just barely passing the seven mile marker for the first time! As the title to this post mentions, this was indeed a literal milestone for my progress as a runner. Go me!

Next, we get more figurative. On Monday -- August 12th -- my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I celebrated our 19th anniversary! Go us!

We celebrated by spending a three day weekend in London[*]. Not long ago, right here on LJ, [ profile] acelightning had a discussion about travel, in which we noted that there are often opportunities to see interesting things without going far from home. For our anniversary this year, [ profile] cheshcat and I decided to do just that. Next year, for the big TWO-OH, we are planning a two week cruise -- either to Scandinavia or the Mediterranean -- so this year we decided to stay nearby and finally see some of the many things in London that we've been putting off for years because, after all, we can go anytime!

The idea was good, and our weekend was delightful -- we finally visited Westminster Abbey (seeing the graves of Newton and Dirac!), we caught a West End show, we indulged my passion for tall buildings by going up to the viewing platform at the Shard, and more. Hopefully, I can find time for a detailed entry -- with pics, of course! -- before heading out for Moscow next week! Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, dear friends, I will share one shot from the weekend. Just because. The picture below was taken at Kensington Palace. Construction on this palace began in 1689, on the orders of William & Mary; the motivation was to construct a royal residence closer to London than either Hampton Court Palace or Windsor Castle... but further from the polluted air of the city than Whitehall Palace, which used to sit on the banks of the Thames -- William III was asthmatic and couldn't breathe well whilst at Whitehall.

Over the centuries, Kensington Palace has been home to a great many royals. Princess Di lived there, as did the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret. It is also where Queen Victoria was born and where she grew up. The picture below was taken in the so-called "Red Saloon" room at Kensington Palace, which is the room where Victoria held her first privy council on the morning where she became queen. We heard an excellent lecture in the room, and there were also costumes available for folks to play "dress-up". A common tourist attraction, I don't usually succumb... but I thought this jacket was just too good to pass up! Take a look at the pic itself (try to ignore the fact that I'm wearing shorts and sandals underneath!) and tell me if you agree:

(click for full-sized version)

Oddly enough, whilst [ profile] cheshcat was taking this picture, one person thought I was a statue in the exhibit! He was visibly startled when the photo had been shot and I started moving and talking -- go figure!

Anyway, a very happy anniversary was had by us! Yay for nineteen years... and yay for the next nineteen years, too!

[*] Many thanks to my sweet [ profile] miss_amaranth for looking in on our darling kitties whilst we were away. And even more thanks for the lovely card and flowers, set up to make for a wonderful surprise when we got home!

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.

Much of yesterday was spent celebrating the birth of my darling [ profile] miss_amaranth. As she likes to continually mention: "I'm twenty-three. I'm old now." When she does this, I generally threaten to break up with her in order to find a new nineteen year old. Seems the only appropriate reply to claiming that twenty-three is old.

The day was full of celebrations around Oxford. We started in the afternoon at The Rose, home to the best cream teas in Oxford. It was all very casual and unstructured, with people coming and going from the party as we sat around chatting. Indeed, after my own tea and scones were finished, I had to duck out for a few hours, missing the second stop -- Far From The Madding Crowd. In the evening, I collected my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, and we rejoined the group for dinner at the Japanese(ish) chain, Wagamama. I don't usually get to enjoy vegetarian gyoza, so that was a nice treat. Then we finished the night off with ice cream (and presents!) at the best dessert parlour in Oxford[*] -- Indulge. Finally, at the end of the night, I went back to the House of the Rising Bun with the birthday girl for some quality alone time.

Due to the unstructured nature of the festivities, we don't have a tally of how many people actually came along. [ profile] miss_amaranth felt no need to count... and the Knave of Numbers (me) was not there for the whole time. Still, I estimate that twenty-something people showed up -- from as far away as London and Reading -- to celebrate. Huzzah!

Hard to believe that so much time has passed. When I first met [ profile] miss_amaranth, she was barely nineteen and just about to start university. Now she's twenty-three and in her second job post-graduation. Not quite sure where the past four years went -- maybe it's hiding under the sofa?

In any case, I don't have a picture from yesterday's party, so I shall re-use this older photo, taken at Oxford's Harcourt Arboretum two years ago:

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! I know that twenty-two ended on a high note, with many wonderful things falling into place for you right now. May twenty-three be even more spectacular! I look forward to sharing it with you!

[*] As a side note, I particularly like the fact that all of the chosen venues of celebration were local Oxford businesses, save one. Wagamama was the only chain. I may have an Oxford party at some point that follows much of the same itinerary, except perhaps substituting Atomic Burger for Wagamama. And maybe have The Eagle and Child as my choice of pub, instead of Far From The Madding Crowd.

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( May. 31st, 2013 06:51 pm)
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a citizenship ceremony at the Oxfordshire County Hall. Thus, since about 15:30 yesterday, your friendly neighbourhood Nomad is also your friendly British neighbourhood Nomad. Tis true, dear friends, I am now a Brit. Huzzah!

Some of you may recall this entry, from last November, in which we announced that my beloved [ profile] cheshcat had been approved for British citizenship. Now I have followed in her footsteps.

There was a remarkable sense of déjà vu, given that my ceremony had the same Deputy Lieutenant representing the Queen. The venue was, of course, the same; the procedure was the same; all the speeches were the same. Excepting the fact that the Lieutenant's mobile phone stayed silent this time -- she had accidentally left it on at [ profile] cheshcat's ceremony; it rang several times whilst she was speaking -- I could have been watching a 3D full-sensory replay of December, when [ profile] cheshcat became British.

Here is a picture, taken by the professional photographer, of yours truly receiving my certificate of naturalisation:

Citizen Nomad

(click for full-sized version)

That piece of paper I am taking is the actual, honest-to-goodness legal document that proves I am now a British citizen. We are not supposed to do anything to it -- not even laminate for safekeeping. I am going to need that paper as-is when I apply for my UK passport.

In addition, new citizens get a "welcome pack" that includes a "Commemorative Certificate of Citizenship". No legal value whatsoever, but it is certainly prettier than the official paper! Much more suitable for framing and hanging. In fact, I have already put mine in a nice new frame; it shall soon reside on a wall in Chiron Beta Prime, next to where [ profile] cheshcat's C.C.C. has been hanging since December.

Here is another photograph, taken by [ profile] cheshcat after the ceremony had concluded, of everybody's favourite Nomad holding his pretty commemorative certificate:


(click for full-sized version)

The most common comment I have received about all this (besides "congratulations", of course!) is that I now need to acquire a proper accent. The most common question is whether I have had to give up my US citizenship -- the answer to that is "no". Both the United States and the United Kingdom permit their citizens to hold more than one nationality[*] Thus, I am now a dual citizen, or what we like to call a "half-and-half".

Besides the psychological benefit of no longer being a foreigner, there are also practical legal benefits. I have already begun to take advantage of these -- this morning, I registered to vote in the United Kingdom and requested a registration form for voting in European Union elections. When I there is a six week gap where I will not be leaving the country (November?), I will also apply for my British passport. Indeed, once I am able to vote and have my UK passport, there will be absolutely no difference between my legal status in the US and my legal status in the UK.

This is the end of a long process that stretched on for more than seven years. I've certainly come a long way from where I was in Spring 2006, just arriving in a country where I knew no one and had difficulty with even simple tasks like getting a bank account (due to no prior credit history). It's nice to reach the end of this road and finally claim to be a citizen of my adopted home!

[*] There are countries that do not, like Japan. Likewise, Germany does not permit this except under some rather unusual circumstances (e.g., a child who was a dual citizen from birth).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[**] Try saying that five times fast!

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

anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Dec. 12th, 2012 12:12 pm)
Today is the birthday of the ever-wonderful [ profile] cheshcat!!! Go forth and share birthday wishes with Her Awesomeness via e-mail or phone or by leaving a comment in her LJ!

Being true to the "cat" part of [ profile] cheshcat, my beloved Chesh likes to reckon her age in cat years. By that token, today she turns seven! Huzzah!

Tis also worth noting that today is 12/12/12 -- the last triple day left in this century! Last month, some of us were chatting about date formats. The US-Americans like to use MM/DD/YY, the Europeans use DD/MM/YY, and the Japanese prefer YY/MM/DD. Today, my friends, it matters not which one you like best -- use them all, for they are one and the same!

(Unless, of course, you prefer the Japanese Imperial system, in which the year is counted from the time that the current Emperor ascended to the throne. In which case, today would be 24/12/12. It would still be [ profile] cheshcat's birthday, though.)

anarchist_nomad: (Look Like An Egyptian)
( Nov. 6th, 2012 10:38 pm)
This is one of those days where I really enjoy being an Oxonian.

It started off with a drive into work with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. I dropped her off at her new job on my way into Oxford University. Then I spent the day meeting with a small group of colleagues that I am working with on a very interesting neutrino oscillation project. At midday, we had a nice lunch at the French restaurant on Little Clarendon Street; at five o'clock, we went to the Lamb & Flag for drinks.

Around half six, I bid my colleagues farewell and picked up my dear [ profile] cheshcat on the way home. We spent a little bit of time, then I was off to St. Andrew's Church, here in Headington[*], to ring bells. Tonight was the monthly "advanced practice", so I got some good practice on my Grandsire Triples and, more importantly, my Stedman Triples.

Just before the ringing practice ended, I ducked out and drove over to the Barton pool. Jumped in and managed to swim 2000 meters before it closed for the night. Came home to tuck [ profile] cheshcat into bed, and now am writing this entry.

I didn't leave Oxford once today but, all in all, it was a pretty full day. The sensible thing to do would be to go to bed now; however, I am heading over to Littlemore[*] to attend an Election night party hosted by the ever-excellent [ profile] ayaron. Yes, I know that it is a bit crazy to go out to a party at half past ten on a Tuesday night -- especially when I have a meeting in East London tomorrow. What the heck, though; tis only once every four years!

[*] The neighbourhood in East Oxford where I live.

[**] The neighbourhood in South Oxford where [ profile] ayaron lives.

My beloved [ profile] cheshcat, my darling [ profile] miss_amaranth, and I returned to Oxford from Nottingham[*] earlier this evening, where we had travelled to commemorate Samhain with our traditional Ancestor Circle. I was rather lucky, having no new people to toast this year; unfortunately, not all others in our circle could say the same.

I have done this particular ritual more than any other, as I first partook of it in 1994, when I was only nineteen. Nearly every Samhain since, [ profile] cheshcat and I have repeated the ritual -- that's nearly half my life now! The long continuity means that I know most of the stories that [ profile] cheshcat will tell, and vice versa; there is a certain comfort in hearing them again, year after year.

We started doing the Ancestor Circle with others in the UK back in 2008; this marks the fifth year that we have held the Circle with our Pagan friends here. This year, we had seven people in our Circle -- besides [ profile] cheshcat and myself, there was one person who had first joined us in 2008, one person who had first joined us in 2009, one person who had first joined us in 2010, one person who had first joined us in 2011, and one new person for 2012. It made me smile seeing each year thusly represented.

For reasons of privacy and confidentiality, I will not repeat any of what happened within the Circle itself. I will note, however, that this ritual marked the close of the 2011 - 2012 Wheel of the Year. Once again, I am pleased to note that [ profile] cheshcat and I were able to celebrate all of the sabbats in this Turn of the Wheel. The Wheel has turned four times since we first committed to making this happen; I am happy to say that we have succeeded in three of those four times; only in the 2009 - 2010 Turning did we slip, when much of our life was thrown into disarray due to the chaotic energy of a particular person who was in our coven during that period. Not only have [ profile] cheshcat and I continued to honour our commitment to WORK all the sabbats, but we have added others along the way. For instance, this Turn was the first time that [ profile] miss_amaranth was present for all sabbats -- so many congratulations to her!

I hope that all had a most blessed Samhain. As the new year begins, there are many new beginnings to look forward to; for instance, [ profile] cheshcat starts her new job tomorrow and she becomes a British citizen next month. I am excited to see what other adventures the new year will bring.

[*] Well, more specifically, Long Eaton.

anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Aug. 15th, 2012 11:58 pm)
Last Sunday -- August 12th 2012 -- marked eighteen years since the start of my relationship with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. Eighteen years?! How did they fly by so quickly? There are now adults walking around who were not even born when we met for our first date!

Eighteen years. That is 6575 days... or 48.1% of my life. Wowza!

To celebrate, we took a weekend road trip to Yorkshire. Setting out after work on Friday evening, we made it up to Doncaster at a reasonable hour. Knowing that we would arrive slightly before midnight, we booked nothing more posh than a simple Travelodge. No point in splurging for the night where all we needed was a comfy bed. Even so, we were pleasantly surprised, as our hotel room window boasted some spectacular lake views.

The other advantage of our basic accommodation was that we started Saturday in close proximity to our first destination: Pontefract Castle. Originally constructed in Norman times by a man named Ilbert de Lacy, on land granted to him by the Conquerer, the castle is now in ruins. Ah, but what a history it had!

Pontefract -- or Pompret, as it was then called -- is perhaps best known as the place where Richard II was held captive and then murdered, after being deposed from England's throne by his cousin, the usurping Bolingbroke -- later known as Henry IV. Shakespeare immortalizes this in his history play The Life and Death of King Richard the Second. This incident is also referred back to in the more famous play Richard III, with the lines:

Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the second here was hack'd to death

Pontefract Castle was also a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War, where it was besieged three times. First by the Roundheads and then, after they successfully took the castle, by the Royalists, who wanted it back. They got it, too... after which the Parliamentarians went right back into siege mode. Indeed, Pontefract Castle contained such devoted Royalists that theirs was the last castle to surrender at the end of the war; King Charles I was dead two months before they finally gave up the fight!

Unfortunately, all this stubborn resistance was ultimately Pontefract's downfall. After winning the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell set into motion plans to destroy the castle, lest it ever be used against him again. Hence the current ruin.

Here is a picture of the castle in the twilight of its glory days, painted in the early 17th century:

Impressive, isn't it? However, it certainly does not look like that now! If there is interest, I can upload photographs from the weekend, showing the castle in its current ruined state (including a certain Nomad in the basement of the tower where Richard II was held prisoner).

After finishing with the castle, [ profile] cheshcat and I made our way a little further North, to the city of York. We had been before, of course! [ profile] cheshcat and I enjoyed a lovely trip to York in 2007. Additionally, I had stopped by for dinner with my dear [ profile] miss_amaranth on our way back from Scarborough last year... and, just this May, I spent a weekend in York with our friend EB, who was visiting from the States. So we are certainly no strangers to York!

Upon arriving on Saturday, [ profile] cheshcat and I began by taking in some familiar sights, like touring the Minster and taking a stroll down the Shambles. In the evening, we checked into our hotel; for our anniversary proper, we had booked much more extravagant accommodation -- the luxurious Grange Hotel, located in a Grade II listed building. After settling in, we cleaned up from a day of scurrying about on castle ruins and, properly attired, enjoyed a phenomenal dinner at the Ivy Brasserie. Absolutely marvelous! With soup, a generous main dish, sides, and dessert, I certainly ate too much... but, hey, it was our anniversary dinner!

Following the meal, [ profile] cheshcat and I moved to the hotel sitting room to open our cards and gifts. We chatted with another couple, who was there to celebrate their first anniversary. When all the gifts were open, we retired to our bedroom to enjoy some quality alone time together.

On Sunday morning, we rose late and, after breakfast at a yummy café (found with EB in May), set off to explore parts of the city that we had not visited on previous trips. So no Jorvik Viking Centre, no guided walking tours, no Richard III Museum, no evening ghost walks (or ghost cruises on the River Ouse), no National Railway Museum, no walk along the city walls, no York Castle Museum (with its awesome Victorian street), no climbing of Clifford's Tower, no descent into the haunted cellar of the Treasurer's House. All of these places are lovely... but I have seen them all before. After re-visiting some old favourites on Saturday, for Sunday we wanted something new.

We began our afternoon by taking a turn through the Museum gardens, laid out in the nineteenth century by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, and situated on the land that had once been home to St. Mary's Abbey before the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The garden naturally let us out at the side of the River Ouse, so we continued to stroll alongside the river for a bit. We then ducked into the Yorkshire Museum to see their special exhibit 1212: The Making of the City, commemorating eight hundred years since York was granted a City Charter by King John. Whilst in the museum, we also attended a lecture on the history of the York Medieval Mystery Plays. More on those plays in a bit!

When the museum closed, we crossed the river and took a ride around the Wheel of York, a sixty meter ferris wheel -- sort of a younger sibling to the London Eye. Actually, we took three rides around the Wheel, taking advantage of the uncharacteristically excellent weather to enjoy some spectacular views of the city from way up high. Then we grabbed a quick dinner before returning to the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey... just in time to be seated for the evening's performance of the York Mystery Plays.

Performed once every four years, the York Mystery Plays tell the history of the Universe, from before the Creation to the Last Judgment. The English mystery plays originally date to the mid-fourteenth century, when they were performed on the feast day of Corpus Christi. We know that at least thirteen cycles of medieval mystery plays once existed, although only four remain in a complete or near-complete state. Each cycle consisted of a series of biblical plays, and each play told one part of the story. The York Mystery Plays are the most complete cycle that we have, consisting of forty-eight pageants.

Traditionally, the annual production of these plays were organized, financed, and performed by the York Craft Guilds; each guild would take responsibility for a particular play. Rather than being staged in a fixed arena, the plays were performed on pageant wagons. These wagons would parade though the streets of York, stopping at twelve different playing stations to perform.

Although vastly popular, the mystery plays stopped being performed shortly after the Protestant Reformation took hold in England. The plays were viewed as being too Catholic, which was unacceptable. The last record we have of the York Mystery Plays being produced dates to 1569. At least until the modern era.

In 1951, the cycle was revived for the Festival of Britain. The twentieth century revival was based on the original medieval text, though several significant changes were made. For one thing, the overall length of the cycle was shortened from the original runtime of about fourteen hours. Also, the language was modernized from Middle English to something like Early Modern English (think Shakespeare here); words like "mickle" and "gramercy" still pop up... but the revised text is understandable by a modern audience. Finally, it is worth noting that the 1951 production took place on a fixed stage, in the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey, rather than on travelling wagons.

This revival was an absolute success, and the plays have been regularly produced ever since -- first in three year intervals; then, from 1988, these became four year intervals.[*] In addition to being spectacular theatre, the modern York Mystery Plays are also a major community affair. A professional director is hired, and two professional actors play the roles of God/Jesus and Satan; the rest of the 250-member cast is composed entirely of local amateur volunteers. Indeed, 500 volunteer actors are recruited from the local community, forming two casts that alternate performances. This year, Ferdinand Kingsley (son of the more well known Ben Kingsley) played God and Jesus, whilst Graeme Hawley made a delightful Satan (especially when flanked by his ultra-sexy band of devilettes!).

The cycle ended at 23:00, after which we embarked on the three hour drive home. Thus, we got back to Oxford and Chiron Beta Prime at 03:00 on Monday and were rather tired when it was time to get ready for work in the morning. Even so, it was well worth it! I thoroughly enjoyed having front row seats for this astounding spectacle, and I was thrilled to participate in a work that has such a rich and resounding history!

Without a doubt, [ profile] cheshcat and I had an extremely memorable anniversary weekend, ensuring that our eighteenth will be looked back upon fondly for many years to come! Huzzah!

[*] Interestingly enough, in recent years, a revival of the wagon-based plays has also sprung up, circa 1994. As in days gone by, they are sponsored by the York Guilds. These productions are not as elaborate as the originals; rather than perform all forty-eight plays at twelve stations, they are currently running twelve plays at each of four stations. Even so, that's pretty spiffy! The wagon plays are also done on a four year interval, covering the even numbered years when the stationary cycle is not performed. Think of these as the Winter Olympics complementing the original revival's Summer Olympics -- indeed, even the years work out correctly in this anology! [ profile] cheshcat and I definitely want to go back to York in 2014 to see the wagon production as well!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the runner ups are...

(click for full-sized version)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weekend started with a most excellent party on Friday and Saturday, courtesy of the lovely R and the awesome [ profile] wolfpeach. Many fantastic new people to meet, cuddle, et cetera! Plus cake and sauna and cabaret and ritual! Huzzah! As best I can tell, a fantabulous time was had by all!

After everything wrapped up, the rest of yesterday was spent at home, sharing some quality alone time with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. We stayed up until nearly three o'clock in the morning, playing games, sharing pictures from my recent trip to Berlin, and other stuff.

This morning, I got up early again. These days, it seems that the nights where I get more than four or five hours of sleep are few and far between. I think it has happened once in the past week, on Thursday. As the observant [ profile] wolfpeach noted, it seems like I'm not only burning the candle at both ends... but taking a flamethrower to the middle, as well. One of the reasons that I love the man -- he says the sweetest things![*]

Today, the early rise was motivated by the need to pack. As I mentioned last month, the bulk of April will be spent in Japan, splitting my time between Mozumi (for shift at Super-Kamiokande) and Tokai (for the T2K collaboration meeting). After it all wraps up, in about three weeks, I will be popping over to Taiwan for a four day holiday. Exploring a new country is always fun -- I am particularly looking forward to ascending Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010.[**] As an extra special bonus in my travels, I will get to enjoy the splendid company of the lovely [ profile] bonzifan, who will be showing me around during my stay in Taiwan.

As I write this, the adventure has already begun.[***] Right now, I am sitting on the Oxford Airline bus, making my way towards Heathrow. I expect that we will arrive in just a few minutes. Nearly time to check in and buckle down for the long[****] flight. Next stop: Tokyo Narita!

Happy Easter, everyone! See you from the other side!

[*] Odd as it sounds, I'm not actually being sardonic here. For one trying to live life to the absolutely maximum, complements on productivity are a sure-fire way to bring a smile to my face and warm the cockles of my heart! (One of these days, somebody is going to call me an "overachiever"; when that happens, I may just melt away!)

[**] Currently ranked #3, behind the newly completed Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower and the record-shattering Burj Khalifa -- the latter of which is the tallest structure of any sort every build by humans. Tis nearly as tall as one Sears Tower placed on top of another!

[***] Albeit the less adventurous part of the adventure.

[****] Twelve hours.

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Mar. 26th, 2012 11:56 pm)
Six years ago today, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I touched down in Merry Olde Englande to start a new life here. Fresh off the plane, carrying only four suitcases -- packed to the seventy-five pound limit -- we spent our first day in London with [ profile] nw1, before heading to Oxford on the next day.

Oxford -- the only place that I have ever moved without setting foot in it before arriving to live there. Six years later, I can unambiguously state that it was the right decision. The City of Dreaming Spires is still very much like a town out of a fairy tale. Despite having lived here longer than anywhere else in my adult life, the novelty has not worn off. On the contrary, I love showing off my special city, giving tours to friends passing through.

As for England, and the United Kingdom, as a whole? Well, there are ups and downs -- just as there would be anywhere. Having the Conservatives in power for nearly two years now has brought in quite a few of those downs. The weather is also often a bit of a down[*]. Still, there are many advantages over the country that I left behind. We have health care as a basic right[**], we have easily accessible history going back many hundreds (or thousands) of years. The list goes on and on. I do find myself missing many of my dear friends back home... but, in terms of place alone, this is absolutely where I want to be.

So here's to the past six years! In that time, I have seen more of England than anyone that I know -- English or otherwise -- and a pretty respectable bit of Scotland, Wales, and the continent, too!

A typical Oxonian

A couple of his friends

All Souls College, Oxford.
Just one of the many amazing (and picturesque) sights around town.

[*] That said, the weather this past week -- ever since I returned from Germany -- has been utterly amazing! A picture-perfect Spring, if ever I saw one!

[**] When I hear people in the States decry "socialized medicine", saying "We don't want to turn into Europe", I have to hold back a double take. Here in Europe, things are mighty nice. Especially when it comes to health care.

anarchist_nomad: (Look Like An Egyptian)
( Mar. 1st, 2012 09:18 am)
Writing this entry from an airline coach en route from Oxford to Heathrow. By this afternoon, I will be back at the Event Horizon, and I hope to see several of you, dear friends, at Poly Chicago's monthly karaoke tonight.

February was a quiet month for travel; I rarely left Oxford. A handful of visits to London, one overnight with my darling [ profile] miss_amaranth in Winchester, and some ringing in towns and villages around Oxford proper. That's all. With March upon us, and Spring immanent[*], tis time for the Nomad to start Nomading once more!

I begin March with a one week trip to the Windy City, visiting Chicago and Fermilab. This is mainly to meet some people at the lab and deliver the Particle Astrophysics seminar next Wednesday. Afterward, I will return to Oxford for one week before popping off in the other direction to spend five days sightseeing in Berlin with the fabulous [ profile] faerierhona.[*]

Rounding out March is a ten day visit from the ever-adorable [ profile] tawneypup, and the always-awesome [ profile] jadesfire55.[*][*] This is certain to involve some domestic travel, as road trips around the UK are a must -- particularly since it will be [ profile] jadesfire55's first time here!

That, gentle readers, is the Official Nomad Forecast for March 2012. This should be a nice way to kick off the year's travelling; subsequent plans include a three week trip to Japan in April, followed directly by a visit to the lovely [ profile] bonzifan in Taiwan. There is also talk of a possible expedition to Spain in May with my sweet [ profile] miss_amaranth before my return to Japan in June for Neutrino 2012. And, of course, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I are in the process of planning our big trip for the year. Stay tuned, dear friends!

[*] Hooray!

anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Feb. 14th, 2012 10:33 pm)
Today is February 14th. Valentine's Day. Same over-marketed romantic commercialization, whether you are in the United States or the United Kingdom. Single, as I was through adolescence, or coupled, as I have been for my entire adult life, it is a holiday that I have never observed.

That said, today is a very special day for my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I... and it is special by our own making. Nothing to do with St. Valentine in the slightest. Today is our thirteenth Double-D Day. The term originates from the movie What Dreams May Come. It is effectively our "other" anniversary.

Long time readers of this journal should feel free to skip the rest of this entry, as it is a commemorative retelling of a story that I have told before. Or, better yet, go have a look at [ profile] cheshcat's own post from today, which can be found here. She tells the story there, and does it better than I do!

Thirteen years ago today, to the surprise of all our close friends, [ profile] cheshcat and I began our relationship anew. Eleven months of increasingly bitter fighting had poisoned the relationship that we had spent four years building. Despite all the praise we now receive for "doing polyamory right", I cannot pretend that being poly had nothing to do with it. On the contrary, being polyamorous had been at the very heart of all the strife. Back then, we were still very new at poly, and we each had our own difficulties with it... difficulties that rebounded off of each other and came back magnified. We tried everything we could think of to fix our relationship. None of it worked. Then I moved to Japan half time, suddenly taking myself out of [ profile] cheshcat's life (and our shared home in the Adirondack House) for large stretches of time. Although, we had talked in advance before making this massive change and we had reached the decision together, this would have been a challenging transition under the best of circumstances. Ours was most certainly not the best. Living in Japan half time means three months there, followed by three in the United States. Rinse and repeat. Two months into my first trip, after a lull in the tensions, things flared back up. We agreed: No more. Work it out now, or go our separate ways.

No one honestly believed that we could do it. If months of trying to work things out face to face had failed, how could we possibly manage it in one go from half a world away? The date was set: Friday February 12th would be the phone call where we would make one final attempt to work through things. [ profile] cheshcat had our support network on hand if things went badly; I had plans to relocate to Japan full time.

The day came and went with many hours spent on the phone. Much good work was done, but it was not enough. Saturday, we continued the work -- all day on an international call (in the days before Skype, too!). Still not finished. At last, on Sunday -- February 14th 1999 -- we made it through the storms. We had beaten the odds. We had worked our way through all those months of arguments and tension and hostility out. The nightmare was over.

The past thirteen years have all been possible because of the dedication and effort that [ profile] cheshcat and I poured into those three days. It has not been all bread and roses. Sometimes not enough bread, sometimes not enough roses. But often enough we have both...

So who needs Valentine's Day? I have a very real -- and personal -- reason that February 14th is a celebration of love. I love you, [ profile] cheshcat. And I thank you for being strong enough to make the dream happen.


anarchist_nomad: (Default)


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