The 31st annual Astronomy Weekend at Oxford University is now over. I am delighted to report that the physics-fu has been strong with me during this weekend.

Despite the fact that I was up on "Friday night" until four thirty in the morning, I did indeed finish my talk with hours to spare. Kudos to me! Also, kudos to all those who left comments on my last post, giving me some virtual company through the long night. In fact, I appreciate it enough that, more than offering mere kudos, I will retroactively give one hundred points to each person who left a message for me on Friday ngiht.

I must confess that I was somewhat nervous about presenting my lecture on Cosmic Rays: Messengers from the Extreme Universe. Last year's talk was so well received -- getting me invited back for a second year in a row! -- that I had concerns about being able to fill my own shoes. I need not have worried; immediately after my talk, one person came up to me and said that it was even better than last year. Nice! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat -- who had come to hear me speak -- commented that it was not as funny as last year's talk... but that was not really a surprise. Although I moments that incited laughter in this year's talk[*], I knew a priori that it would not be as funny. It is very easy to make fun of yourself when you are presenting a talk from a search with no results -- like my dark matter lecture -- and those easy inroads to humour are gone when you actually have significant findings to report.

Nevermind. I can live with being a littls less funny this year. The talk went well, and that was the main thing.[**] Indeed, I even had a few people asking me if I would come back again next year... and saying that they would request it on the comment sheet at the end of the course. Hmmm... is it possible to have physics groupies?

It is a tradition on Saturday afternoon of the astronomy weekend to have an option tour arranged for the attendees. Last year, the tour was of Green College. I sat out, as I wanted to rehearse my lecture. This year, it was of the Denys Wilkinson Physics Building... so I was roped into giving part of the tour. The crowd was broken into four groups, with each group taken to one of four places: The rooftop telescope, the electronics laboratory, a lecture by an astronomy graduate student... and the cryo-detector lab. Can you guess where I was based? The groups rotated so that all the attendees got to do see all four places. As a result, I ended up giving four tours -- each accompanied by a miniature dark matter talk -- of my old stomping grounds... and came face-to-face with my old nemesis: the Kelvinox-400! It seems that this was quite a hit as well -- I later got thanked by many people for the tour and, at the end of the weekend, the organiser[***] publicly commented from the stage that he had enjoyed getting to see the inside of my old lab. That was quite nice of him -- were I prone to blushing, I may have changed hue!

One extra bonus whilst in the cryo-detector lab was that I ran into JI, my old graduate student. He will be finishing up at Oxford in a few months and had talked to me in February about the T2K experiment. Knowing there was an post-doctoral opening at Stony Brook, in the group where I worked for my PhD, I encouraged him to apply. When he did, I wrote him a recommendation letter... and put in an informal word or two to the leader of the group, my thesis adviser. Turns out that he got the position... and has accepted it! Excellent! I think that he will be good for the Stony Brook group and they, in turn, will be good for him. It feels quite nice to be able to make such a match!

Speakers at the astronomy weekend are welcome to stick around to hear the other talks. Last year, I surprised the organiser by staying for all of the talks. Apparently, most speakers do not. This year, I did the same. I really don't understand why more speakers don't do this -- I learned some fascinating things! In particular, I was impressed by the talk on Recent Results from the Hubble Space Telescope[****] and also by the talk on detecting exoplanets via the transit method. I knew that, since the first discovery of exoplanets in 1995, the field had come a long way. However, I was blown away to learn that we can now figure out what the atmospheres and compositions are for exoplanets. Wow. Just... wow.

This evening, with the astronomy weekend behind me for [at least] another year, I went to St. Giles to ring bells for the Sunday evening services. Then I came home and had a lovely dinner with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. Over dinner, she informed me that somebody had sent a text to our landline today. It came through as a call with the content being read by a computerised voice. Apparently, it was a silly cheese song. Hmmmmm... Who could have done such a thing? I have a hunch who might have been behind such a devious -- and successful -- plan to make us laugh... but I will not reveal my suspicions until they have been confirmed.

As the weekend begins to wind down, I may pick up the phone and ring some lovely people in the States. There are a few special persons that I have not spoken to in Far Too LongTM. Then I may play a game with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat to wind down before bed...


[*] Like when I used the nickname for the Higgs Boson (the so-called "God Particle") to introduce the nickname for the highest energy cosmic ray yet observed (the so-called "Oh My God! Particle").

[**] In response to a request from [livejournal.com profile] blaisepascal, the slides for the talk can be found here. Alas, due to some large pictures within, the file is about 56 MB. Can it be made smaller? Of course! However, size was not really my priority writing it in the middle of the night before presenting...

[***] Who is a professor at the Open University, a former particle physics theorist, and a current astronomy... writing a textbook on general relativity. Not exactly a slouch in the achievement department.

[****] Mainly because it had, by far, the best photographs of the weekend!


The 31st annual Astronomy Weekend at Oxford University is now over. I am delighted to report that the physics-fu has been strong with me during this weekend.

Despite the fact that I was up on "Friday night" until four thirty in the morning, I did indeed finish my talk with hours to spare. Kudos to me! Also, kudos to all those who left comments on my last post, giving me some virtual company through the long night. In fact, I appreciate it enough that, more than offering mere kudos, I will retroactively give one hundred points to each person who left a message for me on Friday ngiht.

I must confess that I was somewhat nervous about presenting my lecture on Cosmic Rays: Messengers from the Extreme Universe. Last year's talk was so well received -- getting me invited back for a second year in a row! -- that I had concerns about being able to fill my own shoes. I need not have worried; immediately after my talk, one person came up to me and said that it was even better than last year. Nice! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat -- who had come to hear me speak -- commented that it was not as funny as last year's talk... but that was not really a surprise. Although I moments that incited laughter in this year's talk[*], I knew a priori that it would not be as funny. It is very easy to make fun of yourself when you are presenting a talk from a search with no results -- like my dark matter lecture -- and those easy inroads to humour are gone when you actually have significant findings to report.

Nevermind. I can live with being a littls less funny this year. The talk went well, and that was the main thing.[**] Indeed, I even had a few people asking me if I would come back again next year... and saying that they would request it on the comment sheet at the end of the course. Hmmm... is it possible to have physics groupies?

It is a tradition on Saturday afternoon of the astronomy weekend to have an option tour arranged for the attendees. Last year, the tour was of Green College. I sat out, as I wanted to rehearse my lecture. This year, it was of the Denys Wilkinson Physics Building... so I was roped into giving part of the tour. The crowd was broken into four groups, with each group taken to one of four places: The rooftop telescope, the electronics laboratory, a lecture by an astronomy graduate student... and the cryo-detector lab. Can you guess where I was based? The groups rotated so that all the attendees got to do see all four places. As a result, I ended up giving four tours -- each accompanied by a miniature dark matter talk -- of my old stomping grounds... and came face-to-face with my old nemesis: the Kelvinox-400! It seems that this was quite a hit as well -- I later got thanked by many people for the tour and, at the end of the weekend, the organiser[***] publicly commented from the stage that he had enjoyed getting to see the inside of my old lab. That was quite nice of him -- were I prone to blushing, I may have changed hue!

One extra bonus whilst in the cryo-detector lab was that I ran into JI, my old graduate student. He will be finishing up at Oxford in a few months and had talked to me in February about the T2K experiment. Knowing there was an post-doctoral opening at Stony Brook, in the group where I worked for my PhD, I encouraged him to apply. When he did, I wrote him a recommendation letter... and put in an informal word or two to the leader of the group, my thesis adviser. Turns out that he got the position... and has accepted it! Excellent! I think that he will be good for the Stony Brook group and they, in turn, will be good for him. It feels quite nice to be able to make such a match!

Speakers at the astronomy weekend are welcome to stick around to hear the other talks. Last year, I surprised the organiser by staying for all of the talks. Apparently, most speakers do not. This year, I did the same. I really don't understand why more speakers don't do this -- I learned some fascinating things! In particular, I was impressed by the talk on Recent Results from the Hubble Space Telescope[****] and also by the talk on detecting exoplanets via the transit method. I knew that, since the first discovery of exoplanets in 1995, the field had come a long way. However, I was blown away to learn that we can now figure out what the atmospheres and compositions are for exoplanets. Wow. Just... wow.

This evening, with the astronomy weekend behind me for [at least] another year, I went to St. Giles to ring bells for the Sunday evening services. Then I came home and had a lovely dinner with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. Over dinner, she informed me that somebody had sent a text to our landline today. It came through as a call with the content being read by a computerised voice. Apparently, it was a silly cheese song. Hmmmmm... Who could have done such a thing? I have a hunch who might have been behind such a devious -- and successful -- plan to make us laugh... but I will not reveal my suspicions until they have been confirmed.

As the weekend begins to wind down, I may pick up the phone and ring some lovely people in the States. There are a few special persons that I have not spoken to in Far Too LongTM. Then I may play a game with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat to wind down before bed...


[*] Like when I used the nickname for the Higgs Boson (the so-called "God Particle") to introduce the nickname for the highest energy cosmic ray yet observed (the so-called "Oh My God! Particle").

[**] In response to a request from [livejournal.com profile] blaisepascal, the slides for the talk can be found here. Alas, due to some large pictures within, the file is about 56 MB. Can it be made smaller? Of course! However, size was not really my priority writing it in the middle of the night before presenting...

[***] Who is a professor at the Open University, a former particle physics theorist, and a current astronomy... writing a textbook on general relativity. Not exactly a slouch in the achievement department.

[****] Mainly because it had, by far, the best photographs of the weekend!


Just got home from driving the last of the UnGuests home as the second day of the Cheshcat Convalescent UnParty draws to a close!

Weekend report: The UnParty -- both days -- was an unmitigated success!

We had twelve people drop by on Saturday and six come around on Sunday. There were games and good food and good company and good conversation! Giles the kitten was exposed to more people than ever before, and admired by many. There was a tour of the cryo-detector lab and two batches of ice cream were made! At least one person told me that the ice cream was the best that she had ever eaten!! Indeed, even the weather cooperated to make for an utterly fantastic weekend!

More details to follow[*], but for now I think it is best to give a call to the delightful [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and then wind down for bed. Busy week ahead!


[*] I hope!
Just got home from driving the last of the UnGuests home as the second day of the Cheshcat Convalescent UnParty draws to a close!

Weekend report: The UnParty -- both days -- was an unmitigated success!

We had twelve people drop by on Saturday and six come around on Sunday. There were games and good food and good company and good conversation! Giles the kitten was exposed to more people than ever before, and admired by many. There was a tour of the cryo-detector lab and two batches of ice cream were made! At least one person told me that the ice cream was the best that she had ever eaten!! Indeed, even the weather cooperated to make for an utterly fantastic weekend!

More details to follow[*], but for now I think it is best to give a call to the delightful [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and then wind down for bed. Busy week ahead!


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

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

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


[*] No donut for me!

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

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

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


[*] No donut for me!

Another late night in the lab. Actually, the first in quite some time. We closed up the K-400 cryostat today, and I am now getting it prepared to cool down to 4K overnight with liquid helium.

Still have no time for a proper update on the past week. Have also continued to be a bit rubbish about replying to people. This trend will continue at least for the rest of today. In the meantime, though, there are a few things that I should say quickly:

  • This afternoon, I brought [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat home from the hospital. It was good to have her back! She seems to be doing well. She is at home, convalescing, and is off work for the next week and a half. Now that she is home, I will let her make updates on her recovery when she sees fit to do so.

  • I want to thank everyone who send energy and good wishes before (and after) the surgery. Believe me, they have been much appreciated by both of us!

  • Recent fluctuations in the stock market are causing me financial woe. Not the normal type you would expect, though. On Monday, I bet my officemate that the Dow would drop below 10,000 points at some point this week. So tomorrow, we are off to lunch at Noodle Bar -- my treat. Can't even count on the US economy to fail properly!

  • For anyone planning to attend the UnParty at Skullcrusher Mountain: I call this an "UnParty"[*] because, quite frankly, neither Chesh nor myself is really in a position to set up a formal party. Basically, we will be home all weekend as she recovers from surgery, and Skullcrusher Mountain is open to all who wish to join us. Drop by anytime on Saturday or Sunday[**] and expect to be welcomed with a variety of mellow activities: Gaming, movies, conversation, et cetera. Nothing particularly special is happening and there are no particular times to observe. With one exception: Sometime on Saturday, I will be making a batch of ice cream to share and enjoy. Other than that, you may wish to bring some snacks or other food with you, because -- as an UnParty -- we will be mellow on this front, too. Main meals will probably be takeaway. We will have some snacks and drinks, but I'm not going to spend too much time on preparation. Also, since there appears to be some interest, I will be bringing people to the University to give tours of the cryo-lab. Since the lab is less than a mile from Skullcrusher Mountain, this does not need to be scheduled -- I can easily do it more than once if need be. Finally, crash space should be available to anyone who needs it.

Right, then. Back to the cryostat so I can eventually go home and eat dinner tonight. Maybe even sleep![***]


[*] In the spirit that my dear friend [livejournal.com profile] theentwife established the Uncoven of the Solitaries.

[**] Hopefully not at 4am or anything... though if you really trek out at that time, we won't turn you away at the door.

[***] Now that would be quite the novelty!


Another late night in the lab. Actually, the first in quite some time. We closed up the K-400 cryostat today, and I am now getting it prepared to cool down to 4K overnight with liquid helium.

Still have no time for a proper update on the past week. Have also continued to be a bit rubbish about replying to people. This trend will continue at least for the rest of today. In the meantime, though, there are a few things that I should say quickly:

  • This afternoon, I brought [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat home from the hospital. It was good to have her back! She seems to be doing well. She is at home, convalescing, and is off work for the next week and a half. Now that she is home, I will let her make updates on her recovery when she sees fit to do so.

  • I want to thank everyone who send energy and good wishes before (and after) the surgery. Believe me, they have been much appreciated by both of us!

  • Recent fluctuations in the stock market are causing me financial woe. Not the normal type you would expect, though. On Monday, I bet my officemate that the Dow would drop below 10,000 points at some point this week. So tomorrow, we are off to lunch at Noodle Bar -- my treat. Can't even count on the US economy to fail properly!

  • For anyone planning to attend the UnParty at Skullcrusher Mountain: I call this an "UnParty"[*] because, quite frankly, neither Chesh nor myself is really in a position to set up a formal party. Basically, we will be home all weekend as she recovers from surgery, and Skullcrusher Mountain is open to all who wish to join us. Drop by anytime on Saturday or Sunday[**] and expect to be welcomed with a variety of mellow activities: Gaming, movies, conversation, et cetera. Nothing particularly special is happening and there are no particular times to observe. With one exception: Sometime on Saturday, I will be making a batch of ice cream to share and enjoy. Other than that, you may wish to bring some snacks or other food with you, because -- as an UnParty -- we will be mellow on this front, too. Main meals will probably be takeaway. We will have some snacks and drinks, but I'm not going to spend too much time on preparation. Also, since there appears to be some interest, I will be bringing people to the University to give tours of the cryo-lab. Since the lab is less than a mile from Skullcrusher Mountain, this does not need to be scheduled -- I can easily do it more than once if need be. Finally, crash space should be available to anyone who needs it.

Right, then. Back to the cryostat so I can eventually go home and eat dinner tonight. Maybe even sleep![***]


[*] In the spirit that my dear friend [livejournal.com profile] theentwife established the Uncoven of the Solitaries.

[**] Hopefully not at 4am or anything... though if you really trek out at that time, we won't turn you away at the door.

[***] Now that would be quite the novelty!


Hurm... it appears to be Tuesday. How did that happen?

Let's see. Saturday )

After such a late night, I suppose it would have made sense to sleep in on Sunday. )

As spifftacular as the weekend was, I think that -- contrary to its reputation -- Monday was even better. )
Hurm... it appears to be Tuesday. How did that happen?

Let's see. Saturday )

After such a late night, I suppose it would have made sense to sleep in on Sunday. )

As spifftacular as the weekend was, I think that -- contrary to its reputation -- Monday was even better. )
So it is a little after midnight on a Friday... and here I am, back in the lab.

The plans for the pub did not pan out. Or, rather, they panned out without me! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat met C&M there and had a good meal, but I was unable to leave the lab before about 8:30pm... at which point they were all back at Skullcrusher Mountain. This was slightly vexing, but more than worth it because the reason I could not leave the lab is that things were going very, very well. My boss and I were reviewing the alpha-spectrum data that I was recording from the titanium-on-sapphire proto-detector. In short, it looks very good!

Upon meeting the others at SCM, I found that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had been an absolute sweetie and made me some dinner. I ate quickly and then dug into a game of Puerto Rico with the three of them. I don't think I have played since April -- tis good to get back to this particular addiction. Apparently, I have not lost my edge, either: I won with 61 points, M came in second with 49, followed by Chesh with 47 and C with 41.

Now I am back at the lab briefly to examine the data accumulated over the past four hours, while I indulged in food and games. Then time to start a new data run and go home to sleep. With any luck, I can be dreaming before one o'clock.

Tomorrow's options have dwindled, as the Malvern Hills hike has apparently been postponed. Actually, I prefer this... as I can go soak in the jacuzzi tomorrow and still join the hike on another weekend! I have never been to the Malvern Hills and would love to see them!

Right, time for data and then dozing...
So it is a little after midnight on a Friday... and here I am, back in the lab.

The plans for the pub did not pan out. Or, rather, they panned out without me! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat met C&M there and had a good meal, but I was unable to leave the lab before about 8:30pm... at which point they were all back at Skullcrusher Mountain. This was slightly vexing, but more than worth it because the reason I could not leave the lab is that things were going very, very well. My boss and I were reviewing the alpha-spectrum data that I was recording from the titanium-on-sapphire proto-detector. In short, it looks very good!

Upon meeting the others at SCM, I found that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had been an absolute sweetie and made me some dinner. I ate quickly and then dug into a game of Puerto Rico with the three of them. I don't think I have played since April -- tis good to get back to this particular addiction. Apparently, I have not lost my edge, either: I won with 61 points, M came in second with 49, followed by Chesh with 47 and C with 41.

Now I am back at the lab briefly to examine the data accumulated over the past four hours, while I indulged in food and games. Then time to start a new data run and go home to sleep. With any luck, I can be dreaming before one o'clock.

Tomorrow's options have dwindled, as the Malvern Hills hike has apparently been postponed. Actually, I prefer this... as I can go soak in the jacuzzi tomorrow and still join the hike on another weekend! I have never been to the Malvern Hills and would love to see them!

Right, time for data and then dozing...
As mentioned last week, I've been taking a bit of an LJ holiday... inspired by a bad sprain in the left wrist. One week later, it is definitely improved, but not back to normal. This may be in part due to the fact that I really have not been resting it much. Ah well.

In any case, I am now taking a break from my LJ break to just summarise the highlights of my life from the past week. Not terribly interesting to anyone else, I know, but I want to remember certain bits of it. So here they are:

Last week:
Was pleasantly surprised on payday by a rise. Just three percent -- the annual inflation adjustment -- but welcome nonetheless. With large vet bills and seven weeks as a single income household, this year has been a bit tight and any attempt to give me additional income will not be turned away at the door. Actually, the University has been fairly generous in this regard; after twenty-six months here, my salary is nearly 21% higher than it was when I started. That's equivalent to a 0.73% monthly raise -- not too shabby!

Also had a nice "phone date" with [livejournal.com profile] frogcastle last week. It has been nearly six months since last we saw each other, as her Spring visit to Oxford was cancelled on account of her needing surgery. Happily, Starwood is next month (!!!) and we will see much of each other again there!


Weekend:
On Saturday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had a nice day out. The weather cooperated with us, so we spent most of the day out of doors. We started by getting lunch at The Trout. Sitting next to the Thames, we enjoyed our meal while watching the water flow by us. Afterward, we went to the Oxford Botanic Garden, where we enjoyed the first of their summer picnics. In the evening, we went to Lincoln College to see an outdoor production -- our first of the year -- of Twelfth Night. I had not seen it before, so this makes twenty-one of Shakespeare's plays that I have seen performed on the stage, with sixteen more to go.

Sunday's biggest news was, of course, another visit with our new kitten, which I have already written about. The rest of the day was pretty ordinary and involved things like ringing bells for services at St. Giles and preparing the cryostat for this week's work. Not terribly worth writing on.


This week:
A couple of interesting things have happened this week. I already mentioned passing the level three and level four appraisals in my final ice skating course of the term on Monday. On Tuesday I received my first circulated[*] 2008 coin -- a shiny penny, still with the old reverse. And today I made a blood donation, my seventh since moving to England.

At work, we successfully managed to record an alpha-spectrum (using radioactive Americium) with our proto-detector. I talked about this several weeks ago, but it took some time to see a result. Electronics troubles -- most particularly interference from ground loops -- slowed things down and needed to be sorted first. In any case, as of Wednesday morning, we have an alpha-spectrum measurement, which is quite a satisfying step forward.

My ringing has been making steady and noticeable progress. At Mary Mag, I have been having further gos at Plain Bob Major. I am still quite rough at doing this on tower bells, but the practice is precisely what is needed. At St. Cross last week, we did an interesting exercise -- ringing called changes with our backs turned away from each other, using only our ears to guide us. Eeep! Nerve inducing, but quite useful, really. At St. Cross this week, I rang a touch of Plain Bob Doubles... and I thought that I handled myself quite well in it! Very encouraging! Indeed, I am reaching the point where Bob Doubles -- and, yes, I know it is a simple method -- is coming instinctively, without me needing to concentrate intensely on it to ring correctly. Tonight -- in about an hour -- I have another practice at St. Giles, first on handbells and then on tower bells.

Finally, if all this babbling about my life has not driven everyone away, here is a reward for any Batman fans out there. I was completely unaware of this until [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat found it... but there is an animated Batman movie coming out later this year[**]. The trailer does not give away much of the plot, but the animation looks really cool... and the voice of Batman & Bruce Wayne is being done by Kevin Conroy, who also was the voice actor on the most excellent Batman: The Animated Series. Here is the trailer:


[*] I have a complete set of uncirculated UK coins from 2008 already, all with the old reverses. I ordered it from the Royal Mint in December and, indeed, had it before 2007 was out. However, there is still something nifty about receiving one's first coin of the year from regular circulation. At least to me there is.

[**] Direct to DVD, I'm afraid.

As mentioned last week, I've been taking a bit of an LJ holiday... inspired by a bad sprain in the left wrist. One week later, it is definitely improved, but not back to normal. This may be in part due to the fact that I really have not been resting it much. Ah well.

In any case, I am now taking a break from my LJ break to just summarise the highlights of my life from the past week. Not terribly interesting to anyone else, I know, but I want to remember certain bits of it. So here they are:

Last week:
Was pleasantly surprised on payday by a rise. Just three percent -- the annual inflation adjustment -- but welcome nonetheless. With large vet bills and seven weeks as a single income household, this year has been a bit tight and any attempt to give me additional income will not be turned away at the door. Actually, the University has been fairly generous in this regard; after twenty-six months here, my salary is nearly 21% higher than it was when I started. That's equivalent to a 0.73% monthly raise -- not too shabby!

Also had a nice "phone date" with [livejournal.com profile] frogcastle last week. It has been nearly six months since last we saw each other, as her Spring visit to Oxford was cancelled on account of her needing surgery. Happily, Starwood is next month (!!!) and we will see much of each other again there!


Weekend:
On Saturday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had a nice day out. The weather cooperated with us, so we spent most of the day out of doors. We started by getting lunch at The Trout. Sitting next to the Thames, we enjoyed our meal while watching the water flow by us. Afterward, we went to the Oxford Botanic Garden, where we enjoyed the first of their summer picnics. In the evening, we went to Lincoln College to see an outdoor production -- our first of the year -- of Twelfth Night. I had not seen it before, so this makes twenty-one of Shakespeare's plays that I have seen performed on the stage, with sixteen more to go.

Sunday's biggest news was, of course, another visit with our new kitten, which I have already written about. The rest of the day was pretty ordinary and involved things like ringing bells for services at St. Giles and preparing the cryostat for this week's work. Not terribly worth writing on.


This week:
A couple of interesting things have happened this week. I already mentioned passing the level three and level four appraisals in my final ice skating course of the term on Monday. On Tuesday I received my first circulated[*] 2008 coin -- a shiny penny, still with the old reverse. And today I made a blood donation, my seventh since moving to England.

At work, we successfully managed to record an alpha-spectrum (using radioactive Americium) with our proto-detector. I talked about this several weeks ago, but it took some time to see a result. Electronics troubles -- most particularly interference from ground loops -- slowed things down and needed to be sorted first. In any case, as of Wednesday morning, we have an alpha-spectrum measurement, which is quite a satisfying step forward.

My ringing has been making steady and noticeable progress. At Mary Mag, I have been having further gos at Plain Bob Major. I am still quite rough at doing this on tower bells, but the practice is precisely what is needed. At St. Cross last week, we did an interesting exercise -- ringing called changes with our backs turned away from each other, using only our ears to guide us. Eeep! Nerve inducing, but quite useful, really. At St. Cross this week, I rang a touch of Plain Bob Doubles... and I thought that I handled myself quite well in it! Very encouraging! Indeed, I am reaching the point where Bob Doubles -- and, yes, I know it is a simple method -- is coming instinctively, without me needing to concentrate intensely on it to ring correctly. Tonight -- in about an hour -- I have another practice at St. Giles, first on handbells and then on tower bells.

Finally, if all this babbling about my life has not driven everyone away, here is a reward for any Batman fans out there. I was completely unaware of this until [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat found it... but there is an animated Batman movie coming out later this year[**]. The trailer does not give away much of the plot, but the animation looks really cool... and the voice of Batman & Bruce Wayne is being done by Kevin Conroy, who also was the voice actor on the most excellent Batman: The Animated Series. Here is the trailer:


[*] I have a complete set of uncirculated UK coins from 2008 already, all with the old reverses. I ordered it from the Royal Mint in December and, indeed, had it before 2007 was out. However, there is still something nifty about receiving one's first coin of the year from regular circulation. At least to me there is.

[**] Direct to DVD, I'm afraid.

There is a lot going on that I could write about.

I could write about how, after ringing practice at St. Cross yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went to the Oxford Playhouse to see a production of London Assurance. This brilliantly witty play, written by Dion Boucicault and performed by the famous Watermill Theatre company, inspired Oscar Wilde... and it is easy to see why.

I could write about development and progress at work with the R&D for new cryogenic detectors.

I could write about ringing practice at St. Giles tonight, and how I practiced -- several times -- ringing the treble for a touch of Grandsire Triples in the [slightly ambitious] hopes of being ready to ring it for a quarter peal in the not-too-distant future.

However, even with all that has been going on, I was not planning to write a LiveJournal entry tonight. In just over sixteen hours, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are leaving Oxford to spend the holiday weekend exploring the Peak District... and there is much that remains to be done before we go! If you were expecting to hear from me, via e-mail or LJ comment or some other medium, it probably will not happen until next week. Don't take it personally; now you know why.

But if there is so much that needs to be done, why am I sitting here writing this? Good question!

Well..... tonight, at Saint Giles, I had a bit of a surprise )

[*] One thousand points to anyone who can correctly tell me what I am quoting in my title. I doubt anyone can do it... but surprise me!

There is a lot going on that I could write about.

I could write about how, after ringing practice at St. Cross yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went to the Oxford Playhouse to see a production of London Assurance. This brilliantly witty play, written by Dion Boucicault and performed by the famous Watermill Theatre company, inspired Oscar Wilde... and it is easy to see why.

I could write about development and progress at work with the R&D for new cryogenic detectors.

I could write about ringing practice at St. Giles tonight, and how I practiced -- several times -- ringing the treble for a touch of Grandsire Triples in the [slightly ambitious] hopes of being ready to ring it for a quarter peal in the not-too-distant future.

However, even with all that has been going on, I was not planning to write a LiveJournal entry tonight. In just over sixteen hours, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are leaving Oxford to spend the holiday weekend exploring the Peak District... and there is much that remains to be done before we go! If you were expecting to hear from me, via e-mail or LJ comment or some other medium, it probably will not happen until next week. Don't take it personally; now you know why.

But if there is so much that needs to be done, why am I sitting here writing this? Good question!

Well..... tonight, at Saint Giles, I had a bit of a surprise )

[*] One thousand points to anyone who can correctly tell me what I am quoting in my title. I doubt anyone can do it... but surprise me!

Had a nice little drive out to Tubney Woods today to bring a piece of the S-400 cryostat in for repair. I don't work with the S-400 and have only cooled it down once, but I have good contacts at Oxford Instruments from the days of the troubles with the K-400. So I am managing this little repair as a favour to others in our group. It is convenient that the world's leading manufacturer of helium dilution refrigerators is based less than ten miles from where I work.

On the drive, I had the windows and the sunroof open. The weather was nice, the sun was shining. Something about driving fast with the wind rushing by and good music on the stereo always puts me in a happy mood.

Speaking of cars, I renewed the insurance on Peter yesterday. The same company that I used last year to find me the best quote located a new company that charges £100 less. So, as of Thursday, I will be insured by a company called Chaucer. Needless to say, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are amused by this.

Still speaking of cars, I filled Peter up on Monday, while I was in London. I paid £1.249 per litre for fuel. That works out to about $9.24 per gallon. To those of you in the States complaining about $4/gallon fuel, I have to say that you should count your blessings. This is the most that I have ever paid per unit for car fuel, though not the most expensive that I have ever seen. Both in London and on the Isle of Wight, I saw places charging £1.289 per litre, or about $9.54 per gallon.

Finally, on an unrelated note, I should mark that I rung Plain Bob Major on tower bells for the first time last night, at Mary Mag. When LC mentioned that he would give me a go at it, I quickly studied the method and memorised which bells the #2 follows. When it came time to ring, he told me to take the #5. Ooops! I asked for the #2 and he told me that I could have it only if I promised that I had not been memorising which bells I should follow. Since I could not honestly promise this, he put me on the #3 bell. I cannot say that it went well... but for a first attempt it was not too bad, I think. Excited about learning something new, I spent the rest of the practice studying the method properly, learning the places and the dodges rather than which bells to follow... but, alas, I did not get to give it a second try. That was mildly frustrating, but I suppose it comes of having eighteen people show up for practice. Most of the time was spent with either the experienced ringers trying complicated [to me] methods or letting the learners ring called changes. Those of us in the intermediate level, me and one other person, each only got that one go on Bob Major during the evening. I won't be able to try again tonight at St. Cross, either. That practice caters more to my level... but you can't ring a major method in a tower that only has six bells! Must ask at St. Giles tomorrow night if I can practice this some more with them...
Had a nice little drive out to Tubney Woods today to bring a piece of the S-400 cryostat in for repair. I don't work with the S-400 and have only cooled it down once, but I have good contacts at Oxford Instruments from the days of the troubles with the K-400. So I am managing this little repair as a favour to others in our group. It is convenient that the world's leading manufacturer of helium dilution refrigerators is based less than ten miles from where I work.

On the drive, I had the windows and the sunroof open. The weather was nice, the sun was shining. Something about driving fast with the wind rushing by and good music on the stereo always puts me in a happy mood.

Speaking of cars, I renewed the insurance on Peter yesterday. The same company that I used last year to find me the best quote located a new company that charges £100 less. So, as of Thursday, I will be insured by a company called Chaucer. Needless to say, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I are amused by this.

Still speaking of cars, I filled Peter up on Monday, while I was in London. I paid £1.249 per litre for fuel. That works out to about $9.24 per gallon. To those of you in the States complaining about $4/gallon fuel, I have to say that you should count your blessings. This is the most that I have ever paid per unit for car fuel, though not the most expensive that I have ever seen. Both in London and on the Isle of Wight, I saw places charging £1.289 per litre, or about $9.54 per gallon.

Finally, on an unrelated note, I should mark that I rung Plain Bob Major on tower bells for the first time last night, at Mary Mag. When LC mentioned that he would give me a go at it, I quickly studied the method and memorised which bells the #2 follows. When it came time to ring, he told me to take the #5. Ooops! I asked for the #2 and he told me that I could have it only if I promised that I had not been memorising which bells I should follow. Since I could not honestly promise this, he put me on the #3 bell. I cannot say that it went well... but for a first attempt it was not too bad, I think. Excited about learning something new, I spent the rest of the practice studying the method properly, learning the places and the dodges rather than which bells to follow... but, alas, I did not get to give it a second try. That was mildly frustrating, but I suppose it comes of having eighteen people show up for practice. Most of the time was spent with either the experienced ringers trying complicated [to me] methods or letting the learners ring called changes. Those of us in the intermediate level, me and one other person, each only got that one go on Bob Major during the evening. I won't be able to try again tonight at St. Cross, either. That practice caters more to my level... but you can't ring a major method in a tower that only has six bells! Must ask at St. Giles tomorrow night if I can practice this some more with them...
Same thing we do every night -- work late in the lab![*]

Yes, gentle readers, it is true. I am writing this journal entry from the comfort of my office, once again. Try not to act too surprised.

Actually, work is going rather well right now. After the successes of Monday and Tuesday, I opened up the cryostat today and added a radioactive alpha-emitting source. So now I am working late to close up the fridge again in the hopes of getting in a second cooldown by the end of this week. The alpha calibration source is in there to test the proto-detector that we are working on. We know what the spectrum from it should look like -- time to make some measurements and see if our little detector measures what we think it should.

In the evening -- in between work and, well, more work -- I went to St. Cross to practice my ringing with the OUSCR. The most notable progress was on Plain Bob Doubles, where I rang the #3 bell for the full extent of the method (120 changes). I also rang up in peal at the start of the practice and down again at the end... noticing that these skills have improved quite a bit, too.

Speaking of the St. Cross church, I recently learned that it will be ceasing to operate as a church soon and will be used by one of the colleges as space for file storage. I was sorry to hear this news. St. Cross has been a site of worship for over a thousand years -- an informational card in the church gives a brief history of the first millennium -- and it is a sad thing to see something so old come to an end. On a practical level, it does make sense; there are many parish churches in Oxford and the St. Cross congregation has become quite small. Nonetheless, I regret this bit of news.

After ringing practice, I cycled into the city centre to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at the Oxford Playhouse. We saw a production of Educating Agnes, which is an adaption of Molière's L'Ecole des Femmes. The performance was good and entertaining; it is not one of my favourite plays, but we did enjoy it.

In other news, my boycott of Brighton has now ended. I received word from the city today that the battle we were waging against them was successful -- go us![**] Between this and my victory against New York City last month[***], I am starting to feel that cities everywhere should rightly fear the Nomad![*]

Finally, does anyone on my f-list still read super-hero comic books? If so, is anybody currently following the "Brand New Day" story in Amazing Spider-Man?[****] If so, what do you think? I just finished OMD last night and started on BND; so far I am enjoying the story but am also appalled at the absurd retcon required to make it all happen. In a way, it almost feels like Heroes Reborn all over again. I suppose that I should just relax and go along for the ride... as it is unthinkable that Mighty Marvel will not return to Ye Olde Status Quo in good time.

[*] Cue megalomaniacal laughter.

[**] Especially [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, who did most of the work.

[***] Admittedly a much longer and harder battle involving much higher stakes and a much more important cause (to me), but fought against a much more significant city.

[****] And the "One More Day" story that led into it.


Same thing we do every night -- work late in the lab![*]

Yes, gentle readers, it is true. I am writing this journal entry from the comfort of my office, once again. Try not to act too surprised.

Actually, work is going rather well right now. After the successes of Monday and Tuesday, I opened up the cryostat today and added a radioactive alpha-emitting source. So now I am working late to close up the fridge again in the hopes of getting in a second cooldown by the end of this week. The alpha calibration source is in there to test the proto-detector that we are working on. We know what the spectrum from it should look like -- time to make some measurements and see if our little detector measures what we think it should.

In the evening -- in between work and, well, more work -- I went to St. Cross to practice my ringing with the OUSCR. The most notable progress was on Plain Bob Doubles, where I rang the #3 bell for the full extent of the method (120 changes). I also rang up in peal at the start of the practice and down again at the end... noticing that these skills have improved quite a bit, too.

Speaking of the St. Cross church, I recently learned that it will be ceasing to operate as a church soon and will be used by one of the colleges as space for file storage. I was sorry to hear this news. St. Cross has been a site of worship for over a thousand years -- an informational card in the church gives a brief history of the first millennium -- and it is a sad thing to see something so old come to an end. On a practical level, it does make sense; there are many parish churches in Oxford and the St. Cross congregation has become quite small. Nonetheless, I regret this bit of news.

After ringing practice, I cycled into the city centre to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at the Oxford Playhouse. We saw a production of Educating Agnes, which is an adaption of Molière's L'Ecole des Femmes. The performance was good and entertaining; it is not one of my favourite plays, but we did enjoy it.

In other news, my boycott of Brighton has now ended. I received word from the city today that the battle we were waging against them was successful -- go us![**] Between this and my victory against New York City last month[***], I am starting to feel that cities everywhere should rightly fear the Nomad![*]

Finally, does anyone on my f-list still read super-hero comic books? If so, is anybody currently following the "Brand New Day" story in Amazing Spider-Man?[****] If so, what do you think? I just finished OMD last night and started on BND; so far I am enjoying the story but am also appalled at the absurd retcon required to make it all happen. In a way, it almost feels like Heroes Reborn all over again. I suppose that I should just relax and go along for the ride... as it is unthinkable that Mighty Marvel will not return to Ye Olde Status Quo in good time.

[*] Cue megalomaniacal laughter.

[**] Especially [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, who did most of the work.

[***] Admittedly a much longer and harder battle involving much higher stakes and a much more important cause (to me), but fought against a much more significant city.

[****] And the "One More Day" story that led into it.


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