anarchist_nomad: (A Crown of Flowers)
( May. 4th, 2009 09:29 pm)
When last we left our intrepid Nomad, he was writing during the tail end of an international T2K SK video conference, following a day of theatre that kicked off a holiday weekend.

The story continues.....

After said video conference ended, certain other activities -- all in line with the spirit of the season -- kept me preoccupied. No complaints per se, but said activities resulted in this Nomad getting only about an hour of sleep before needing to wake up at 4:30am to partake in the May Morning festivities here in Oxford. We left the Flat With No Name shortly after five and, despite the closure of the Magdalen Bridge[*], we made it into the city centre by half five. Walking to the Magdalen College chapel tower, we passed the usual array of drunken college students -- some in very colourful attire. We made it to Magdalen with plenty of time before the college choir sang the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the rooftops -- a tradition dating back more than five centuries.

Once the singing had ended, we wandered through the city centre, taking in the Morris dancers, and the people dressed as trees or bushes, and the other street performers. At half six, I broke away from the group to transition from spectator to part of the entertainment. I joined a band of ringers from the OUSCR and we rang the bells at the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. This is only the second time that I have rung at SMV -- the first being May Morning last year -- and it is good to get some practice on heavier bells. Also good to ring for such a festive crowd and, best of all, the aerial vantage point from SMV provides some of the best views of the May Morning excitement! Looking out from the tower, one can simultaneously see the Rad Cam, the campuses of Brasenose College and All Souls College, the crowds, the Morris dancers... and more!

By half seven, I was done ringing. Our group reformed and we made our way to the Queen's Lane Coffee House for breakfast. We were home again by nine, at which point I collapsed into bed instantly, grabbing another two hours of sleep before needing to wake at eleven for a T2K UK analysis meeting. When the meeting ended at noon, I promptly fell back into bed, to collect another three hours of sleep. At that point, I was up for the rest of the day and proceeded to cook for [ profile] bunnypip and the two eldest leverets.

Once fed, we left Oxford and made our way back to [ profile] bunnypip's home. During the journey, I introduced her to a number of my favourite David Rovics songs. I may not have done much to celebrate May Day as an Anarchist this year -- something that I plan to make up for in 2010 -- but it was good to get in a sampling of my favourite Anarchist holiday.

After arriving in Northampton and bringing the children to their fathers, [ profile] bunnypip and I were able to have a date night to ourselves, in which we were able to celebrate Beltane properly. Again, Not Enough Sleep ensued -- I estimate five hours on Friday night.[**]

On Saturday morning, we had a failed attempt to bake bread and a successful attempt to hold a private Beltane ritual[***]. Afterward, we made our way back to Oxford to collect [ profile] cheshcat and [ profile] dr_jen. Together, we all headed to Leicester, specifically to the home of [ profile] thehalibutkid and [ profile] sanjibabes. As always, it was nice to see the lovely [ profile] sanjibabes and, for that matter, [ profile] skibbley. However, our main purpose in making the trip was to hold our group Beltane ritual. Ever since Samhain, a group of us have been working together regularly, with organisation done by yours truly and High Priestessing done by [ profile] cheshcat. I don't think that I have ever formally worked all the sabbats in a single turning of the Wheel of the Year before; the experience is turning out to be quite the positive one... not just for me, but for everyone in the group. These are not closed rituals -- most have had "guests" in addition to the regulars -- but the same five people have been at all five rituals thus far, which makes for a nice flow of continuity.

For Beltane, [ profile] cheshcat had organised a fairly traditional ritual: We did a Maypole, we jumped over a bonfire, we feasted, et cetera. Nothing terribly esoteric, but the way that Chesh had assembled the usual elements was excellent -- everything flowed together powerfully. It did not hurt in the least that the weather was good and so this became our first outdoor ritual in this sequence[****]. Flowery head dresses were assembled -- mostly with nimble expertise by [ profile] bunnypip, though the talented and charming [ profile] dr_jen made quite a lovely one on her own. Here are a couple of photos from just before we started the ritual )

After the ritual was done, we all sat around the bonfire and talked for a bit... just enjoying the energy and the warmth and the flames. Then we hugged [ profile] thehalibutkid and [ profile] parallelgirl goodbye and returned to Oxford. Not quite sure how much sleep I got on Saturday night, but I estimate that it was another five hours.[*****]

Sunday morning, I spent a little more time with [ profile] bunnypip before sending her on her way and spending the day with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. I finished the first Sandman trade paperback -- Preludes and Nocturnes -- and then she re-read it so that we could discuss. We got in a fair bit of cuddling. And we managed to spend a bit of quality alone time together.

Today, Monday, [ profile] cheshcat and I took a day trip to the Stowe Landscape Gardens, a National Trust property about twenty-five miles from Oxford. The gardens were founded in the 18th century by Sir Richard Temple, also known as Lord Cobham. The site takes up 750 acres, though much of it is parkland. The gardens themselves are quite beautiful, with several lakes and valleys and fields. It is then further enhanced by forty-two monuments scattered about the grounds. There are sculptures and temples and columns and bridges (oh my!), so that our map became a sort of checklist guiding us around the gardens today. We spend most of the day at Stowe and managed to take in the entirety of the garden, much to our pleasure! At the end of the day, [ profile] cheshcat and I wound down with cream teas before heading back to Oxford and home.

Overall, it has been quite an excellent weekend! Happy Beltane! Happy Spring!

Now then, time to end the weekend by ringing up my darling [ profile] tawneypup, who has also been away. Cannot properly claim to have celebrated Beltane without including her!

[*] To prevent drunk students from jumping off and breaking their legs in the very shallow water below.

[**] Bringing the running total for the two nights to eleven hours thus far.

[***] As distinct from the celebration of the night before.

[****] Not counting our Yule ritual, where the circle did remain open through the longest night... which included our trip to Stonehenge to welcome in the dawn.

[*****] Raising the running total for three nights to sixteen hours. Not serious Sleep Deprivation -- certainly nothing like what I pulled last Decemberween -- but definitely not running on a full tank, either!

anarchist_nomad: (One Day More)
( May. 1st, 2009 12:11 am)
I'm being bad right now, writing this entry whilst also participating in an international video conference for the T2K Super-Kamiokande working group. What can I say? We are up to the final talk, on a proposal for a blind analysis... which is not exactly a topic that I care about.

Today has been a really good day. My darling [ profile] cheshcat and I got to sleep in until about half ten, as we were both taking the day off from work. Catching up on sleep was definitely a good thing, as I have not been resting nearly enough of late. The beauteous [ profile] bunnypip arrived at the Flat With No Name around noon, with L1 and L2 in tow. After getting food and whatnot, we made our way into city centre, where we had two o'clock tickets at the Oxford Playhouse.

The performance of the day was a theatrical adaption of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, performed by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. As it is too long to reasonably collapse into a three hour show, the show was presented as two three hour shows. Part One ran from two until five, after which we had a two hour break for dinner. Part Two ran from seven until ten.

Alterations from the novels still needed to be made to make the show fit. For instance, Mary -- the dark matter researcher -- was completely removed. So was Lee Scoresby's death. Nonetheless, the show worked well. Really well. During the second half of Part Two, I was starting to feel frustrated... but then the ending was done so well that I ultimately ended up forgiving them.

Overall, then, I thought it was a really good show. So did L1, who absolutely loved the books. Additionally, it was most appropriate to see it performed in Oxford, where much of the story is set. Indeed, at the end of Part One, I announced that I had found a window to another world -- if we walked through the theatre doors then, like Will and Lyra, we would also find ourselves in Oxford! The author, Phillip Pullman, lives here as well... and apparently he made a surprise cameo appearance in last night's performance!

After the show, there was a short question and answer session with part of the cast. I asked a question about the puppetry in the show -- which had been excellent -- and started a discussion about that. Needless to say, [ profile] da_pupdetz[*] were quite chuffed by this!

When our day at the theatre finally ended, we zipped back to the Flat With No Name as quickly as possible, as I had my video conference beginning at 11pm. Is still going on. When it ends, I am off to bed immediately, as I need to wake up at half four to go back into city centre to celebrate the May Morning festivities. [ profile] cheshcat, having done it all before, is sleeping in until her regular wake-up time, then going to work as normal. [ profile] bunnypip is joining me, though, as is L1 and L2. The usual singing from the Magdalen tower will happen at six, I am ringing with the OUSCR at half six, the usual contingents of Morris dancers and street bands will be present, and breakfast is at half seven.

Looks like sleep isn't on my agenda for the next day or so. I only expect to get three hours tonight, due to the late-night meeting and the early-morning festivities. Last year, I was asleep again by nine o'clock in morning for a nice nap. Not so likely this year, as I would like to bring L1 to the Oxford Botanic Gardens[**] when they open at nine o'clock tomorrow. Then, at 11:15, I have another meeting to attend, this time from the T2K UK analysis group. Should be done by 12:30, at which point I can squeeze in a little bit of rest before tomorrow evening, when I have a private Beltane ritual and celebration to attend!

Still, sleep or no, this is a four day weekend with many fun things in it... and it is just beginning! Can't really complain about that! (Who need sleep, anyway?)

I hope that all of my fellow Pagans are also having an excellent Beltane weekend... and I wish all of my fellow Anarchists a marvelous Mayday!

[*] Who may well be my daemons.

[**] Largely to flesh out his His Dark Materials experience, as Will & Lyra's bench is located in the Botanic Gardens.

Today was a surprisingly good day. Not surprising because I had expected anything bad to happen -- I hadn't and it didn't. Just surprising because not very much at all happened... and yet a number of small but positive things contributed to making it a good day.

It actually started last night, when I was ringing at Mary Mag during the first OUSCR practice of Trinity Term. Right after walking in, the master asked me if I wanted to ring a touch of Plain Bob Triples. Now nobody actually rings Plain Bob Triples. They ring Plain Bob Doubles (five bells), Plain Bob Minor (six bells), or Plain Bob Major (eight bells). No one rings Plain Bob Triples (seven bells). Indeed, the standard book of methods that I use doesn't even have PBT in there!

As such, I am not at all practiced in this method. I do consider myself quite adept at Plain Bob Doubles, though, and getting skilled at Minor. Sometimes I can do Major, but not reliably. On the fly, I pieced together what I know from Major -- since eight is close to seven -- and Doubles -- since five is also an odd number of bells -- and gave it my best shot. Amazingly enough, my best shot was quite good! I kept the method consistently for quite some time... and I could even hear that my striking was well placed. Very nice, if I do say so myself!

I have been doing a fair bit of ringing lately, and I feel I am making more progress. So that put me into a happy mood that continued into today. From there, things just got better.

For one thing, the weather today continued its recent trend of being incredible! By and large, one of the things that I dislike most about living in England is the weather[*]. Of late, though, that complaint is baseless. Good! Coupled with the fact that the days are now nearly fifteen hours long -- and still growing -- it is positively a joy to be outside! On my way into work this morning, I had a lovely bicycle ride across Kensington Gardens, taking in the weather and the lake and the greenery!

Work itself continues to go reasonably well. I still have more to do than I can get done. But what else is new? Progress is happening, and I am getting excited about the upcoming trip to Japan. Not as excited as I will be about the September Japan trip -- where, at long last, I get to return to my "home" area of Gifu and Toyama after six years away -- but excited

It goes on from there, though: Our flat was inspected today, and passed with flying colours. As a nice side-effect of this, the Flat With No Name is now quite, quite tidy. Just the way I like it! When I got home from work, [ profile] cheshcat was in a cheery mood. No matter what else is going on, that always brightens my day. And if it is an already-bright day? Well, so much the better! And brighter! I arrived home just as her music -- set to shuffle play -- switched onto Another Day (from Rent). With no discussion, we naturally slipped into a very energetic version of this duet. We had a blast... though I think that we may have startled both kitties!

After eating dinner, I had a delightful "phone date" with the terrific [ profile] tawneypup. She has only been gone for a couple of weeks, but I definitely miss her. Ah well -- at least it will be May very soon[**], at which point I can say that I am seeing her again in the month after next!

Finally, the day is almost done... but I have an excellent weekend to look forward to! Tomorrow, [ profile] bunnypip is coming down to join [ profile] cheshcat and I for a two-part theatrical rendition of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy at -- you guessed it! -- the Oxford Playhouse. Then there is a weekend of Beltane fun to follow! Huzzah!

[*] In contrast, one of the things that I miss most -- aside from certain special Anarchists -- about living in Phoenix is the delightful weather there!

[**] In just over twenty-four hours!

One of the things that I love about Oxford is that it is small enough to get around easily by bus or push bike and, whenever you go out, you run into somebody that you know... whilst being simultaneously big enough that there is always something going on. Thus, although I did not leave the city this weekend, there was plenty to do and it made for quite a pleasant weekend, indeed!

On Friday evening, my beloved [ profile] bunnypip came down for a date. When she arrived, we headed into Jericho to get dinner at my second favourite vegetarian restaurant in Oxford -- The Gardener's Arms.[1] As usual, the food was quite good. After eating, I took her on a stroll through Jericho before we headed back to the Flat With No Name. Upon our return, the rest of the evening was spent locked in a room together.[2] Although we see each other frequently, too much of our recent time together has been group social time, or dealing-with-practicality time, or child time. This left us both quite eager for some time with nothing to do but be alone together... and so we opted to forgo the various options for theatre or a concert in favour of sharing some much needed quality alone time.

Come Saturday morning, both [ profile] bunnypip and I were quite happy, though moving a little slowly. Thus, I put her on the Oxford Tube at about the same time that I should have already been in city centre. Hopping on my bicycle immediately afterward, I arrived at the Town Hall twenty minutes late... but just in time for the start of the day's activities.

Just what were the activities of which I speak, gentle readers? It is a fair question... and -- fear not -- I shall tell you! Yesterday, to celebrate its 275th anniversary, the Oxford Society of Change Ringers had a ringing day. Those of us who were participating were divided into four teams that were to compete in five areas: (1) Ringing six bells down in peal and then up again, (2) Tune ringing on twelve handbells, (3) Ringing an Oxford method on eight tower bells, (4) Ringing Stedman Cinques on twelve tower bells, and (5) a trivia quiz. I am not experienced in tune ringing, which is very different than change ringing -- indeed, one does not even hold the handbells in the same way! Still, I joined in the handbell tune ringing competition.[3]. Our assignment was to learn Ode To Joy; we practiced for some time in the Priory Room at Christ Church, then gave our performance back in the Town Hall. I rang on the fifth and sixth bells of the twelve... and thought that I did reasonably well. Shortly after our performance, it was time for lunch... during which I had several enjoyable chats with fellow ringers.

As I was not participating in the tower bell competitions during the afternoon, I snuck out after lunch and met up with my darling [ profile] cheshcat for a trip to the exhibition hall at the Bodleian Library. The current displays were entitled Hallelujah! The British Choral Tradition and After Arundel: Religious writing in fifteenth-century England. The first display covered one thousand years of British choral music in various settings: in churches, at coronations, et cetera. There were a number of impressive manuscripts; true to form, my favourite was the oldest -- the Winchester Troper, used one thousand years ago at the Old Minster in Winchester[4]. The second display was smaller, featuring seven religions manuscripts from the early and middle of the fifteenth century. All were concerned with the suppression of heresay, in the aftermath of John Wycliffe and the Lollard movement[5]. Thomas Arundel himself, as archbishop of Canterbury, had fought to suppress the Lollards; these works were written as the legacy of that religious conflict.

Once we left the Bodleian, I headed back to Christ Church to rejoin the Oxford Society's Ringing Day. We had a group picture taken on the Great Stair of the college[6], then congregated to learn the results of the day's competitions. Our handbell ringing had come in a close second, out of four, in technical merit. Unfortunately, our artistic presentation was rated the lowest of the four groups. I think that this may have something to do with our choice to ring loudly; the judge thought that this detracted from the music. Ah well -- it was all in good fun.

When done with the Ringing Day, I rejoined [ profile] cheshcat, who was reading in Oxford's lovely[7] Bonn Square. We went out for dinner together, then headed to the Oxford Playhouse to see a performance of The Fiddler On The Roof. The Playhouse puts on many high quality shows and has hosted the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as shows headed to the West End. This production, however, was put on by the Oxfordshire Youth Music Theatre. As such, it was very much a student production -- good, but not quite the same caliber as other shows that we have seen there. Perhaps I am a bit harsh here, but I have seen Fiddler twice before -- both times on Broadway -- and so there were very large shoes to be filled. A sixteen year old playing Tevye -- no matter how good -- is not going to compare to the performance I saw Topol give in 1990 or the one that [ profile] pomoloco and I saw Harvey Fierstein put on in 2005. That said, it was still an enjoyable show... and I always seem to forget just how difficult Fiddler is to watch. It is a testament to the potential of these kids that there performance still managed to tug on my heartstrings with the sad plight of Anatevka.

After the curtain fell, [ profile] cheshcat and I returned to our flat in Headington. Here, we continued making plans for our fifteenth anniversary -- which is coming up in less than four months -- and then ended the evening by watching the last two episodes of Smallville Season Seven.

Today, I began my day by heading out to St. Giles to ring for the Sunday morning services. Then I came home to meet up with the charming [ profile] dr_jen, who joined [ profile] cheshcat and I on our annual trip to Oxford University's Harcourt Arboretum. The Harcourt does not measure up to the fantastic Morton Arboretum that the Event Horizon is near in Chicagoland; however, it does have one advantage. For two weeks each year, at the end of April and beginning of May, the bluebells are in bloom. During that time, the Harcourt has a spectacular bluebell meadow, which is a wonder and a delight to behold. The three of us spent hours wandering around the arboretum, taking in the seasonal beauty. Thankfully, the weather was quite obliging and there was ample sun to take many lovely[8] photographs.

When we finally left the arboretum, which is on the southernmost edges of Oxford, we made our way to the Wolvercote, in the northernmost part, to get lunch at The Trout[9]. Sitting outside by the Thames, we spent a couple of hours enjoying a delicious meal whilst taking in the greenery and the waterfowl... including a very amusing trio of frisky ducks!

After eating, I dropped off [ profile] dr_jen and [ profile] cheshcat, then proceeded back into the city centre to ring for evening services at St. Giles. Amongst other things, we rang a couple of extents of Plain Bob Doubles, during which I finally realised that I have this method down quite well. Indeed, I find it safe to say that this is the first real method[10] that I am fully comfortable with. Yay for me! Next, I want to extend this comfort to Plain Bob Minor, as I would love to ring a quarter peal on this sometime in the not-TOO-distant future.

When we were done ringing the changes, I returned to Headington, picked up the first Sandman trade paperback, and headed out to Bury Knowle Park to read some more. It is not quite summer yet, but it is still nice to read outside in the evenings, just before the sun goes down.

Finally, that brings us to the present. It is still relatively early in the evening, but I expect to go to bed soon after posting this. There is a very busy week ahead of me, and I want to get an early start on it whilst also being fresh and rested.[11] Many pentacles need to be hammered in the coming weeks!

So, on that note, dear friends, I will end this entry by saying this: Happy Sunday to all... and to all a good night!

[1] The Pink Giraffe, whilst not strictly a vegetarian venue, holds the title of my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Oxford. Every one of their dishes can be made in a vegetarian form, with a variety of fake meats. As such, it is good enough for me to count as a vegetarian restaurant, since I can eat anything on the menu.

[2] Figuratively, not literally.

[3] Besides, it should give me some appreciation for what it is that [ profile] jadesfire55 does with her ringing.

[4] The Old Minster, built in 660, was the precursor to the New Minster which, in turn, was predecessor to Winchester Cathedral, which I visited last month during my birthday weekend.

[5] Wycliffe was a prominent theologian at Oxford in the mid-fourteen century... who was then kicked out for his heretic teachings. He did such devious things as translate the Bible into English. Terrible, really!

[6] Harry Potter fans may like to know that this staircase appeared in the first Harry Potter film, as the steps leading into Hogwarts.

[7] "Lovely" in this one instance meaning "ugly as all get-out." Last year, the city spent two million pounds renovating the square into something quite drab and awful.

[8] "Lovely" actually meaning "lovely" this time!

[9] Somewhat well known, in part, because of its mention in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels.

[10] Ignoring non-methods like Plain Hunt.

[11] And I did not sleep enough either night this weekend!


Tis the Friday of our content, marry sir:
Didst thou talketh like a Shakespeare anon?
For yesterday, by the hairs of my beard
Twas all to speak merrily as the Bard.

It is indeed Friday and, whether you spoke like a Shakespeare or no, gentle readers, it is time for an entry highlighting the, um, highlights of this week. First, though, we have a word from our sponsors a poll!

Last week, I asked YOU when you could come to play games at the Flat With No Name[*]. The winner from that poll appears to be Saturday May 9th. So it is likely that there shall be a games party anon on that date. Before confirming, though, let me make sure that there really are enough people who can attend to make it worth our while:

[Poll #1389214]

In particular, there will be an emphasis on teaching and playing Betrayal at House on the Hill, using the awesome new set made for me by the adorable [ profile] tawneypup. Other games are also on hand, though, and much fun shall be had by all who can attend!

Right. That said, what has everybody's favourite Nomad been up to this week? I will not bore you with the details go into full descriptions, but here are some notable happenings from the week now ending:

  • One of the attendees from the Oxford University Astronomy Weekend is a member of the Newbury Astronomy Society, about thirty miles from here. Apparently, she liked my talk so much that she e-mailed me and asked if I could deliver the opening lecture to the Society's next season, in September. I was very flattered to be asked and I agreed, of course. The talk on cosmic rays is already written, and that is the part that I hate about giving a lecture. The actual delivery is fun, as are the questions afterward. So there is no reason at all not to give my talk again, to a different audience!

  • Whilst at St. Giles on Sunday to ring for the evening services, somebody looked at the mail... and noted that there was an envelope for me there. Well, that came as a bit of a surprise! I have never received mail at the church before! Turns out, it was from the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Change Ringers. I was inducted into the Guild at the start of the year[**] and this envelope contained my certificate of membership and some information about the Guild. I know that I am only a learner, even after two and a half years of ringing, but it is nice to be part of some ringing societies now. It feels validating, as it were.

  • Speaking of ringing, I have made it to both handbell practice and tower bell practice at St. Giles for two Thursdays in a row. Given the London commute, this is no longer a given... nor is it trivial to accomplish. However, the benefits are tangible. On handbells, I have brushed the dust off of my Plain Bob Major -- last week, I assured myself that I could still ring the trebles and tenors; this week, I went back to what I was learning before: the 3/4 pair and the 5/6 pair. Coming along nicely, if I do say so myself. On tower bells, I practiced trebling to a long touch of Grandsire Triples. Also, I extensively practiced my inside bell work on Grandsire Doubles last week, and this week I got in some work on a touch of Plain Bob Minor.

  • Unlike Skullcrusher Mountain, the Flat With No Name is managed by a letting agency. Overall, this is a good thing, as our previous landlady[***] did absolutely nothing ever. However, one disadvantage is that the agent makes semi-annual inspections of the property. Joy and rapture. Wednesday was to be the first such inspection, so I stayed home from work on Tuesday and spent the entire day cleaning like mad. To be honest, our flat needed it. When I began, it was an utter mess; when I ended, it was spotless. However, on Wednesday afternoon, [ profile] cheshcat gets an e-mail saying that they are putting off the inspection for a week. Oi! I had her call to chew them out, and to explicitly state that the flat was currently immaculate and that we would not be cleaning it so thoroughly for them again. The situation is irksome... but at least, with that incentive, we now have a clean place to live once again!

  • For some odd reason, it seems to be the season for old girlfriends to hunt down Nomad on Facebook. I do not have a Facebook account, nor do I intend to ever get one[****]. But a couple of former partners -- who have never met -- recently contacted me asking if I was there. No, that is not quite true. One previous partner asked me if I was on Facebook, as she had been looking for me. The other correctly concluded that I was not there... so she sent me a letter demanding that I get a Facebook account. Indeed, she was adamant and would not take LiveJournal for an answer.[*****] I do consider myself to be on good terms with most of my ex-girlfriends -- indeed, I am rather proud of this fact -- but it is still a tad odd for two to ping me at once because they were searching for me on Facebook! Ah, well. Tis good to be wanted, I suppose!

  • Over the past few years, I have been starting to fill in certain gaps in my education. My cultural education, that is. In 2005, after seventeen years of comic book collecting, I finally read the Crisis on Infinite Earths. In 2007, [ profile] cheshcat and I became two of the last people I know to watch Babylon 5. Now, at long last, I have begun to read Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. No spoilers, please! I have successfully avoided any for close to two decades now! [ profile] cheshcat has all the issues in trade paperback form and I have only read the first three thus far. I have been looking forward to this for ages and am quite excited as I begin to finally see what all the fuss is about!

...and that is about all the news from the week, dear friends!

Now tis time to rush off, as the weekend looks to be fairly full, as well. Tonight, I have a date with the lovely [ profile] bunnypip. Tomorrow, the Oxford Society of Change Ringers is having a celebration for its 275th anniversary -- plus, I may sneak away for a bit in the afternoon to see an exhibition in the Bodleian Library -- and then tomorrow evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I have tickets to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Oxford Playhouse[******]. Then, on Sunday, [ profile] cheshcat and [ profile] dr_jen and I will be going to the Harcourt Arboretum to see the bluebell meadows. They only bloom for about two weeks per year... but when they do, they are a phenomenal sight to behold! And, gentle readers, they are in bloom right now!


I go, I go; look how I go,
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow.

[*] It will feel good to get out of the rain!

[**] Making it the second ringing society that I am a member of, as I am also a life member of the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers (and the only person with an identifiable photograph on their home page!).

[***] The irony does not escape me that [ profile] cheshcat and I each co-own a house in the States... and yet we find ourselves renting our primary residence in Oxford.

[****] Similarly, I have never been on MySpace. I spend more than enough time online as it is, and that is not enough for me to keep up with my e-mail and LiveJournal. As such, I do not need additional online distractions, even those that I might enjoy (as opposed to things like Twitter, that I just find annoying). I may get myself a Dream Width account -- just because everybody seems to be migrating in that direction -- but that would be as far as I would be willing to go.

[*****] Somehow this particular partner has always had a way of presenting her demands in such a fashion that they came across as rather sexy, instead of whiny.

[******] Which will be the fourteenth theatrical production that I have seen, thus far, in 2009.

Some things are just too big to be kept from the world. One of those things makes its public debut now! Gentle readers, I give you.....

The Silly Cheese Song Project!

The SCSP grew out of humble origins. Some of you may know that my beloved [ profile] tawneypup and I have so many esoteric things in common that we have taken to referring to ourselves as the Good Twin and the Evil Twin[**]. One of these commonalities is that, in both of our homes, the saying "Cheese is love" has been a household phrase for some time. For me, I use it to explain to [ profile] cheshcat why there is more cheese than she wanted on her food. After all, if I love her, how could I not give her bountiful cheese? I am not sure of the origin of this phrase for [ profile] tawneypup and [ profile] plasmonicgrid, but I am assured that it has been in use for quite some time.

In any case, if cheese is love then love is cheese. And, during [ profile] tawneypup's recent visit to Merry Olde England, I realised that this could revolutionise the way that we listen to music. Just substitute cheese for love in a given song, and see how much better[***] it gets!

Well, this idea could not be kept to ourselves, so we let [ profile] cheshcat in on it the very next day. Indeed, this led to a long cuddle-and-giggle session at the Flat With No Name that was gangs of fun! A few days later, my darling [ profile] bunnypip was introduced to the concept. And now, it is ready for THE WORLD!!![****]

Below are just a few examples of how the SCSP improves music[*****]:
  • The Beatles:
    All you need is cheese,
    All you need is cheese,
    All you need is cheese, cheese, cheese is all you need.

  • Foreigner:
    I want to know what cheese is
    I want you to show me
    I want to feel what cheese is
    I know you can show me

  • Heart:
    What about cheese?
    Don't you want someone to care about you?
    What about cheese?
    Dont let it slip away
    What about cheese?
    I only want to share it with you
    You might need it someday

  • Meatloaf:
    I would do anything for cheese
    Yes, I would do anything for cheese
    I would do anything for cheese...
    but I won't do that. Oh no, I won't do that.

  • Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes:
    Cheese lifts us up where we belong.

  • Whitney Houston:
    The greatest cheese of all is happening to me.
    I found the greatest cheese of all inside of me.

  • Pat Benetar:
    We are young, heartache to heartache we stand
    No promises, no demands
    Both of us knowing: Cheese is a battlefield

  • The Supremes:
    You can't hurry cheese
    No, you just have to wait
    She said cheese don't come easy
    It's a game of give and take

  • Belinda Carlisle:
    Ooh, Baby, do you know what that's worth?
    Oooh, heaven is a place on Earth.
    They say in heaven, cheese comes first
    We'll make heaven a place on earth.

  • Jackie DeShannon:
    Think of your fellow man
    Lend him a helping hand
    Put a little cheese in your heart

    You see it's getting late
    Oh please don't hesitate
    Put a little cheese in your heart

  • Air Supply:
    I don't know how to leave you
    And I'll never let you fall
    And I don't know how you do it,
    Making cheese out of nothing at all

  • White Snake:
    Is this cheese that I'm feeling?
    Is this the cheese that I've been searching for?
    Is this cheese or am I dreaming?
    This must be cheese

    And, to conclude, one of my favourites:

  • The B-52s:
    If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says
    Fifteen miles to the... Cheeeeeese Shack! Cheese Shack yeah
    I'm headin' down the Atlanta highway,
    Lookin' for the cheese getaway
    Heading for the cheese getaway
    I got me a car, it's as big as a whale
    And we're headin' on down
    To the Cheese Shack
    I got me a Chrysler, it seats about 20
    So hurry up and bring your jukebox money

    The Cheese Shack is a little old place
    Where we can get together
    Cheese Shack baby, Cheese Shack bay-bee.
    Cheese baby, that's where it's at,
    Ooo cheese baby, that's where it's at

    Sign says.. Woo... stay away fools,
    'cause cheese rules at the Che-e-ese Shack!

There are some of the best that I've heard so far -- but they are far from the only good ones out there. Get into the Silly Cheese Song Project... and you will never listen to music in quite the same way again! Got any good cheese songs that you want to share? Post them as a comment and I shall award fifty points for each one that makes me laugh!

[*] And what's wrong with that?

[**] Somehow I ended up as the Evil Twin! Go figure!

[***] Or at least funnier.

[****] Cue maniacal laughter!

[*****] I present these without credit to the person that thought of them, as several have been independently suggested by more than one person.

Writing this entry from the Oxford Tube. In and of itself, this is not uncommon these days. However, there are a couple of unusual bits to this journey. One is that I am sitting on top, in the front, with a lovely view of the road and the setting sun. I usually sit downstairs at one of the tables, to accommodate my laptop. The other difference is that there is a tantalizing [ profile] tawneypup sitting next to me, gently dozing. Indeed, she is the reason for the first change, too. And the fact that she is asleep gives me time to write this entry.

There has been much going on this week, and I don't have time to write about it all in detail. Here, though, is a snapshot:

Monday: Had a very busy day at work, in that I needed to produce a number of plots and distributions to send to a colleague in the States, then I had volunteered to do a question & answer session with high school students... all before leaving at five o'clock. The early departure from work[*] was because my dear [ profile] cheshcat and I were going to attend a drum class and jam session at the Lake Street Community Centre in Oxford. I had learned about these back in November, quite by accident. However, the conflict with ice skating lessons and whatnot had kept us from going until now. It was really great to play, once again, on the beautiful djembe that [ profile] resourceress and [ profile] cheshcat had bought for me for Yule 2005. It had been far too long! Methinks that [ profile] cheshcat and I will be going back for more of these classes in the future...

Tuesday: Woke up early -- 6am -- Hand drove to Heathrow to pick up the charming [ profile] tawneypup, who is visiting for the week. The airport pickup went without hitch and I was so very happy to see her again! We made our return to Oxford without incident, where I introduced her to the Headington Shark and then to [ profile] cheshcat. To my delight, they seem to be getting along quite swimmingly![**] After driving [ profile] cheshcat to work, we grabbed pasties for breakfast. Then I took [ profile] tawneypup on a tour of Oxford. Most of it was a simple walking tour, showing off my city. We went by Carfax, the Martyrs' Memorial, Oxford University Press, the Eagle and Child, and more. We stopped in the University Museum of Natural History and lingered there until it was time to meet [ profile] cheshcat for lunch. We all ate together at an Indian restaurant; afterward, [ profile] cheshcat went back to work whilst [ profile] tawneypup and I went home to nap. We got up when [ profile] cheshcat left work to shower and prepare for the evening.

The evening's entertainment was a trip to Stratford-on-Avon to meet up with the beauteous [ profile] bunnypip and see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Winter's Tale. This is the third time that I have seen this play on stage... and it was, by far, the best! The first time was an amateur production in Oxford in December 2007, the second was last August -- also in Oxford -- by a touring company from Shakespeare's Globe. The Globe does good work, but they are just not in the same league as the RSC. This production was fantastic... and it managed to increase my appreciate of the play by a couple of notches! After the show, we all hung out and chatted for a bit before [ profile] bunnypip needed to go to her home and we needed to go back to ours.

Wednesday: Slept in with [ profile] tawneypup who was somewhat sleepy from several days of insufficient rest. Once awake, we headed into Oxford to explore my home city for a second day. We had lunch at the Eagle & Child, in the Rabbit Room where J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis used to meet every week. We climbed the last publicly accessible tower in Oxford that I had not yet ascended: the old Saxon tower (c.1040) of St. Michael's at the North Gate. Whilst atop the tower, we heard the buskers down below playing a variety of songs. When they reached "Dancing in the Moonlight" we couldn't resist breaking out into a dance of our own, together on top of this nearly-a-millennium-old building! Loads of fun! After leaving the tower, and the attached church, we took a break from crepes in Bonn Square, then climbed the Oxford Castle Mound. On our descent, we took a stroll through the grounds of Christ Church, entering on St. Aldates and emerging at the botanic garden. Then it was a walk across the Magdalen Bridge and up to Headington Hill Park before catching a bus home. In the evening, we went out for dinner with [ profile] cheshcat at G&D's so that we could have bagel sandwiches and ice cream!

Thursday: Today, I had to go to work. There was no way around it. We had our usual group meeting, and preparation needed to be done for a meeting in Oxford on Monday. Plus we have an international video conference at 11pm tonight and I am introducing my students to the global T2K SK group. [ profile] tawneypup joined me for the trip into London, showing me how to play Settlers of Catan online along the way. Then we walked across Kensington Gardens together and I showed her where I work before sending her on to the Natural History Museum and the V&A whilst I got down to work. We met up again after my meeting ended and are now making our way back to Oxford -- very nearly there -- where I shall bring her to St. Giles Church and show her what all this change ringing stuff is about! Then dinner at the Noodle Bar Nation and home in time for my late night meeting!

And that, gentle readers, is the news of the week. So far! The only thing I really have time to add before the coach gets into Oxford is a comment about how very wonderful it is to have my dear [ profile] tawneypup visiting here with me this week. I'm looking over at her sleeping in the seat next to me as I type this -- and simultaneously watching the bright red sun set below the clear horizon -- and I can't help but feeling like I'm a pretty lucky guy!

[*] The week before I had not left before seven o'clock on any night, and sometimes stayed as late as ten.

[**] Possibly because [ profile] cheshcat is [usually] much less frightening than a shark?

The uncharacteristic weather here in England, which started with my birthday last week, continued to be unusual through the weekend. Which is to say, warm and dry with sunny blue skies. No complaints from this Nomad.

On Saturday, [ profile] cheshcat and I went to Milton Keynes[*] to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen perform as Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot. I had seen a version of the play performed, also with [ profile] cheshcat, in the mid-1990s... but I must confess that I remembered none of it. It made that much of an impression. I saw Beckett's Endgame with [ profile] polymorphism in 2005... and the best thing that I could say about it to her was: "I really wish that this had been your idea!" Suffice to say, Beckett is not my favourite playwright.

That said, I have to say that this production of Waiting For Godot was simply phenomenal! [ profile] cheshcat and I had front row seats and, thus, a perfect view of the action[**]. I have concluded that, as a play, I think Godot is far superior to Endgame -- it simply makes more sense. Much more sense! Furthermore, I had prepared myself by reading commentaries on the play, so that I was able to have maximal appreciation for this performance.

The other members of the case -- playing Pozzo and Lucky and the boy[***] -- were quite good. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were, simply put, outstanding. We have seen Ian McKellen on stage once before -- in the RSC production of King Lear -- and we have seen Patrick Stewart trod the boards several times. Individually, each is already outstanding; together on stage, they defy description. Despite my propensity for words, nothing I say here can truly do their work justice. For my friends on this side of the pond, I heartily recommend purchasing tickets whilst it is still possible to do so!

As a side note, I will observe that when I saw McKellen in King Lear, he ended up stripping naked when Lear goes mad. As Gogo, in Waiting For Godot, he also drops his trousers near the end when Estragon removes his belt to see if it is suitable for the "heroes" to hang themselves with. Seems that I can't see Sir Ian perform without him stripping to some extent or another!

One other observation: Watching Stewart and McKellen perform side by side in roles that are effectively interchangeable has made me realise that Patrick Stewart is, just slightly, the better actor. Both are, of course, incredible! But Stewart brings just a shade more exceptional talent to the stage. Had I not watched them perform side by side thusly, it never would have been noticeable enough to distinguish -- the difference is that small and subtle.

After the show ended, [ profile] cheshcat and I discussed whether to be fannish and gather near the stage door. Having spoken to and shaken hands with both Stewart and McKellen in the past, we didn't feel a burning need to do so again. On the other hand, we were waiting for [ profile] bunnypip to arrive... so we may as well wait by the stage door instead of the car! Stewart came out first, interacting with his fans in as polite and pleasant a manner as usual. He duly signed autographs on everyone's programmes, then went along his way. A short while later, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup -- the actors playing Pozzo and Lucky -- came out. Since we were there anyway, we had them autograph our programme, too. After all, their performances had also made the show what it was! Sir Ian, we were told, was receiving a back treatment and would not be coming out.

The timing worked out well. Shortly after we were done gathering autographs, [ profile] bunnypip arrived with L2. As we moved everyone (and everything) into Peter II for the drive down to Oxford, L2 had questions about the show that [ profile] cheshcat and I had just seen. Since L2 is nine, we tried to explain who we had seen by using cultural references. We asked him if he had seen the Lord Of The Rings movies. He said no. We had more success with the X-Men franchise and explained that we had seen the actors playing Magneto and Professor X:

"Ian McKellen is Magneto." we explained.

"And Professor X?" he asked.

"That's Patrick Stewart." I said.

It was at this point that I looked up and saw somebody walking by, about five or six meters away. I pointed and basically repeated myself: "Actually, that is Patrick Stewart."

Perhaps it is a moment where one needs to be present to appreciate the humour... but I found it amusing. We did, of course, lower our voices and allowed the man to pass in quiet dignity without intruding upon his personal time and space.

I am almost back to Oxford now, so I shall finish writing about this weekend later. All in all, though, this outing made for a wonderful Saturday afternoon. Again, I strongly recommend this production to my local friends... and I want to give a very special thank you to [ profile] jeneralist for making me aware of it in the first place!

[*] Getting to the show on time was quite an experience. Due to a series of miscommunications and errors on our parts, [ profile] cheshcat and I left Oxford with insufficient time to get to the show before the curtain went up. This is quite the aberration; [ profile] cheshcat and I go to the theatre fairly often. Yet, in our nearly fifteen years together, we have only ever been late to two shows: An Inspector Calls in Connecticut in 1995 and Marlowe in Chicago in 2005. Both times, abnormally high traffic caused us to arrive after the curtain went up. Still, this is not a common occurance. In time, I am certain that we will be late to a third show... but I did not want it to be this one! To rectify the situation, we coalesced as a team -- I drove like a madman whilst she monitored the GPS navigation unit to keep me on track, watch for speed cameras, et cetera. I kept me eyes glued to the road to keep us safe, whilst she handled all of the directions -- allowing me to fully concentrate on going as fast as safely possible. I find that our sat-nav's time estimates are usually quite accurate for my driving. This trip, however, I managed to shave fifteen minutes off of a seventy-five minute trip. That's better than a 20% improvement! We arrived with time to park, pick up our tickets, use the loos, buy a programme... and still be in our seats five minutes before the curtain went up. Kudos to us!

[**] Or inaction, such as the case may be with Beckett.

[***] As opposed to The Boy.

...and that moment is almost over.

Tomorrow, dear friends, the Nomad begins his thirty-fifth year of life on this planet. To celebrate, I shall be embarking on a weekend road trip with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and my cherished [ profile] bunnypip. We shall depart tomorrow morning on an adventure in which we will spend three days exploring the New Forest, Winchester, and Salisbury.

Planned destinations include Beaulieu, with its palace house, gardens, and monastic ruins; Winchester Cathedral, home of -- amongst other things -- the 12th century Winchester Bible; Salisbury Cathedral[*], home of one of the four surviving original Magna Cartas[**]; Exbury Gardens; and some of the more scenic points of the New Forest itself. Along the way, there shall be theatre and swimming and lots of good birthday fun!

I am very much looking forward to this trip! We have designed an itinerary that is quite exciting... and it also allows me to cross several more items off of my list of Places To Visit In England! Excellent! For some reason, I seem to have started the traveling earlier than normal this year -- by mid-March, I will have already had three weekends away exploring new places[***]. Usually, I wait until April or May to begin the road trips... but, somehow, I am not complaining about this early start. There is a reason that I am known as the Nomad, after all!

Have a lovely weekend (and Friday), gentle readers! I shall see you all again when I am a year older[****]!

[*] The only destination on the list where I have already been, with [ profile] resourceress, back in 2006.

[**] I have seen the one in Salisbury Cathedral -- reported to be in the best condition -- and also the one in Lincoln Castle. The remaining two are in the British Library; visiting them to "complete the set" is definitely on my to-do list!

[***] Cambridge last month with [ profile] cheshcat to celebrate our Tenth Double-D Day anniversary, then Essex a fortnight ago with [ profile] bunnypip to celebrate our demiversary... and now this!

[****] And also a very happy thirtieth to the ever-adorable [ profile] squeektoy42, whose birthday -- one hundred years to the day after Einstein -- follows directly behind mine!

Whilst I may continue to be delinquent in updating with my January/February summary, I can at least get three thousand words (and change) closer by employing the PIWOTW rule[1].

On February 21st, I went with [ profile] cheshcat, [ profile] bunnypip and [ profile] darkfloweruk to the British Museum to see the Babylon: Myth & Reality exhibit. Whilst waiting for the time on our tickets, we explored other areas of the museum, including the Michael Cohen Egyptian gallery -- newly reopened after ten years of conservation work and research. There, I met with definitive proof of my ancestry! If [ profile] bunnypip and [ profile] darkfloweruk had not previously believed me when I said that I was of Egyptian descent[2], then this picture provided sufficient proof[3,4]:

Meanwhile, the following week I was in Essex with [ profile] bunnypip to celebrate our 0.5th anniversary[5]. We visited Colchester, with its awesome castle/museum; Southend-on-Sea, where we took a long walk on the world's longest pier; and Chelmsford. The trip was most excellent, and deserving of a true travelogue. In the meantime, however, here is an inspired photograph that we took on the Southend Pier (as well as its inspiration):

And, on that note, my coach has arrived in London. So heigh ho, heigh ho, to study neutrinos I go...

[1] Known in less acronymic language as "Picture Is Worth One Thousand Words".

[2] Which, I might add, is different from Arab descent. The Coptic Egyptians, of which I am ostensibly one, did not interbreed all that much when the Muslim Arabs arrived. Hence, the Copts are genetically the direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians.

[3] And I swear that I made no adjustments whatsoever to my hair before the picture was taken!

[4] It is worth noting that, whilst our hair has not changed in the last five millennia, our eyes have moved from the side of the face to the front. Evolution at work!

[5] Also known as a demiversary.

Looking back at previous years, it seems that I rarely blog about the Decemberween[1] celebrations. I suppose that this is not too shocking -- I spend most of Decemberween on the go, and away from a computer. By the time that the holidays are over, too much has elapsed to try to chronicle it all.

This year's attempt to do a holiday write-up is perhaps an illustrative example; it is now late January and I am still not quite finished with my report! I realise that no one else much cares at this point what I was doing one month ago. Indeed, since my holiday in the States ended, I have come back to England, left England for Japan, and returned to England yet again[2]. Obviously, I am well behind in my blogging and it would make good sense to simply give up. However, I am not known for my common sense... and it would feel wrong to leave my travelogue unfinished. Thus, I resume telling my story.

Tuesday December 30th: Woke up at Mom's place again[3], gathered my belongings, and headed out with [ profile] cheshcat. Mom was very happy to have had our company, but was obviously quite broken up to see up go. I will try to bring her to England for a week in 2009; I think it would be good for her.

The plan had been to drop [ profile] cheshcat off with [ profile] resourceress at [ profile] squeektoy42's house, then drive four hundred miles to Ohio by the evening to have a date with the lovely [ profile] livetbd. Well, we all know what Robbie Burns has to say about plans, don't we?

Just after we arrived in Jersey City, right before I was about to bid farewell to my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, we received a phone call from C&M, who were back in Oxford. Apparently, Giles -- our seven month old tiger kitten -- had gone missing. Oh, crap! We had a series of friends looking in on our Oxford kitties whilst we were away. In addition to feeding and watering them, we asked our friends to make sure that the cats were okay. This was added to the cat care request after last December, when we returned home to find our poor Totoro at Death's door from kidney failure.

But I digress from a very important point: Oh, crap! Giles had last been seen on Boxing Day -- four days earlier. When T had gone to the [as yet unnamed] flat on Dec 28, there was no sign of Giles. Now C&M were there, and he was still missing. At first, I assumed that Giles, being a cat, had simply found a good place to hide. We spent nearly an hour on the phone with C, guiding him about the flat and suggesting places to search. It began with known hiding locations, then progressed to any possible spot that we could conceive of that Giles might get into. We had poor C moving furniture about and climbing on top of things. Still no Giles.

Oh, crap! After searching every conceivable location in the flat, it began to become clear that somebody had accidentally let our cat out. Which means that he was likely lost to us. I had been reluctant to believe this; for one thing, it seemed quite improbably. Yet, as Sherlock Holmes said, when one eliminates all the other options, then what remains, however improbable, must be true. I was also painfully aware that this was one year, to the day, since we returned home to find Totoro nearly dead. Needless to say, both [ profile] cheshcat and I were becoming very upset.

We kicked into emergency mode. We asked C&M to check with the neighbours to see if they had noticed a tiger kitten about. We called T to see if there was any chance that he had let Giles out. Although that had been my original suspicion, he managed to convince us that he was not at fault. We alerted local cat shelters. Then we called the company that manages our flat to see if they had sent over any repairmen to work on the flat in recent days. After all, there are only a limited number of keys to our flat. T has one and C&M have one; both convinced us that they had not let Giles out. Neither [ profile] cheshcat nor I had done so, of course, since we were on another continent. It is possible that Darelle or [ profile] dr_jen could have done so... but since both were out of Oxford, it seemed unlikely. The sole remaining key belonged to the company that managed the flat.

It was out of hours, so we called their emergency number. The woman who answered said that if I called back in an hour, when she was near a computer, she would check for me. However, she also said that they do not normally do repair work between Christmas and New Years. Hurm.

So maybe no one could have let Giles out. Perhaps he was in the flat after all? But... where? He likes to hide from people who are not [ profile] cheshcat or [ profile] anarchist_nomad, but where could he be hiding? I came up with a cunning plan. We asked T to go to the flat and remove the cat food. Leave plenty of water, but no food. Then, when C&M returned on the following day, Giles would be quite hungry. In such a case, he would likely come out when anyone -- even a stranger -- rattled the food bag.

With all these plans in place, I finally departed from Jersey City, several hours later than planned.

Total Miles Driven: 1509

Shortly after leaving on my journey, I got a phone call from C. Apparently, T had gone back to the flat and, before he got inside, noticed Giles lazily washing himself in the front window.

That little $H!+!!!!!!!!!!

I was relieved, incredulous, and furious at the same time! Where they hell could that little terror have been hiding? To this day, I still do not know his secret spot! While covering away in it, however, he managed to scare, upset or disrupt a large number of people: There was T, his wife and mother (who he brought on Dec 28 to help search the flat for Giles), C&M, [ profile] dr_jen (who T had called on Dec 28), Darelle (who [ profile] dr_jen had called), me, [ profile] cheshcat, [ profile] squeektoy42 and A (whose home we turned into Command Central for our emergency operations), [ profile] resourceress, plus [ profile] livetbd (who I was now hours late in meeting) and her husband D. How could one little kitten cause so much trouble??!

Anyway, I phoned [ profile] cheshcat and let her know that all was well. I then continued making my way to Youngstown, Ohio.

I arrived at [ profile] livetbd's house at 11pm -- far later than planned, and much to late to have a proper date. I am grateful that both she and her husband, D, were understanding. As cat people themselves, they understood, and have been in similar situations themselves. Still, I felt somewhat guilty and promised to make it up to [ profile] livetbd with a theatre date in Chicago the next time that I am in the States. She did not turn down this offer of penance.

After the three of us spent some time together catching up, D went out to midnight karaoke with friends. That left [ profile] livetbd and I to have some quality alone time together. Priorities are important: We started off with her giving me a tour of back porch. There sits the new hot tub that they had installed since the last time that I visited. A full appreciation of the installation work required closer inspection, which I was happy to engage in. Nothing quite like soaking in a hot tub in the middle of a cold winter night! Especially when one has some rather delightful company and a distinct lack of clothing!

I am quite grateful that [ profile] livetbd, like myself, is a night person. Despite my late arrival, we spent quite a few hours -- inside the hot tub and out -- deliciously enjoying each others' company!

Total Miles Driven: 1914

Wednesday December 31st: I wish that I could say that Wednesday began as well as Tuesday had ended. Alas, this was not to be the case. I awoke -- with far too little sleep -- around 10am to the sound of [ profile] livetbd crying. Even before I pulled on clothing and rushed downstairs, I feared that I knew what had upset her. I was not mistaken. During the night, one of their cats -- who had been very sick -- had passed away.

Like [ profile] cheshcat and I before moving to England, [ profile] livetbd and D had had six cats living under one roof. Since my previous visit, one had escaped, so they were down to five. Now it was four. My calendar sense was tingling -- two cat crises in less than twenty-four hours... plus, they lost their kitty on New Years Eve -- just as we had lost Totoro on New Years Eve the year before.

Both [ profile] livetbd and D were, understandably, rather upset. My heart went out to them; I could feel their pain. I gave both sympathy and advice on options for dealing with the body. When D decided to bury their furry friend in the backyard, I helped to dig the grave. I stayed with them for a few hours longer than I had originally intended, because I could sense that my presence was appreciated and doing some good.

Eventually, however, I did leave to finish the return to Chicago and the Event Horizon. Neither [ profile] livetbd nor D were going to go out to celebrate New Years Eve. Who could blame them? How could they? Who can lose a loved one, then immediately go out to party? The previous New Years Eve, when Totoro passed into the Summerlands, [ profile] gyades and [ profile] cheshcat and I cancelled our plans to party into 2008 in London. However, I had party plans and very much needed to keep them. I could not spend two consecutive New Years Eves in a row mourning for dead cats. In a very real sense, I needed a New Years party to help me bring about closure for my dear Totoro.

Thus, slightly before 1pm, I said my goodbyes, hopped into Lucretia II, began the four hundred forty-one mile drive back to Chicagoland. The trip was uneventful. Six hours and fifteen minutes later, I pulled into the driveway at the Event Horizon.

Total Miles Driven: 2355

I arrived home just minutes before 2009 began in the United Kingdom, putting an end to my "Christmas on Wheels" adventure! I texted Darelle one more time, hoping to be the last text that she received in the old year. Then I waited to a short while past midnight -- giving her time to celebrate the changing of the year properly with those that she was actually with -- before calling her up. It was rather amusing to have a phone call spanning the years! And, of course, it was absolutely wonderful to hear my beloved's voice once again!

After a nice conversation with Darelle, it was back into overdrive. Unpack, shower, eat -- all as quickly as possible, so that [ profile] gyades and I could get to the O'hana New Years party as early as we could! We arrived around 8pm and spent the rest of the evening enjoying good company, good food... as well as a pool and a hot tub! Hot tubbing two days in a row? What an excellent way to end the year! Indeed, I could easily make a habit of it!

I will not write too much more about the New Years party, as it already has its own LiveJournal entry. Suffice to say that, at a few minutes before 11pm, I got out of the hot tub and phoned [ profile] cheshcat -- who was in Connecticut with [ profile] resourceress, TinMan 2.0, LaForza, and others at the Treehouse New Years party -- to welcome her into 2009 in my home time zone. To mark the occasion, I turned the telly onto the same station that they were viewing at the Treehouse so that we could watch the ball drop together. Then it was back in the hot tub for me! At midnight, Chicago time, we all celebrated the local onset of 2009!

[1] "Decemberween" is the term that I use to refer to the period from December 12th to January 1st. Those three weeks contain [ profile] cheshcat's birthday (Dec 12), [ profile] resourceress's birthday (Dec 20), Yule (Dec 21), Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. As such, the entirety of those three weeks gets merged together into a single long holiday; one that involves an enormous amount of travel and visiting and celebration.

[2] Not strictly true, as I am writing this in Narita Airport as I wait to board my flight. However, by the time I am able to post it, I will be back in England -- most likely on the airline bus to Oxford.

[3] Still not surprising, as this is where I went to sleep again. [ profile] tawneypup and [ profile] resourceress and Darelle.

Y'all rock! Just saying...
anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Nov. 19th, 2008 05:59 pm)
I have ice skates!!![*]

Today I took a big step forward in my figure skating "career"[**] -- I invested in a pair of skates. I have been meaning to do so for months, since the Level Five course started back in June. However, I have not made it happen -- for one reason or another -- until today.

On Monday, at the ice rink, I was really feeling like I needed my own pair. All but three of the people in our class have bought their own by now. On Tuesday, I did a web search for skate shops in London. Turns out that there is one just about a mile from where I work! So in I went today... and out walked I with new figure skates! At one hundred twenty-nine quid, they were a bit more than I had wanted to spend; I had been hoping to spend eighty to one hundred and prepared to spend up to one hundred twenty. However, they are well padded on the inside and feel quite comfortable -- the most comfortable out of the pairs that I tried on. Also, important to me, they were made in Italy. The pair I liked second most -- while prettier and cheaper[***] -- was made in China, most likely in a sweatshop.

Thus, I am all excited now! Indeed, I almost wish that I didn't have theatre tickets for tonight, so that I could go break in my new blades at the ice rink instead! Almost. Theatre dates with [ profile] cheshcat are always much fun... and I do have an extra practice scheduled on Sunday evening with one of my classmates.

One added bonus as I was leaving the skate shop. This place sells skates in the most generic sense of the word: figure skates, ice hockey skates, quad roller skates, inline roller skates, skateboards, et cetera. Just before I left, my eye caught the row of inline roller skates on the wall. Learning to "rollerblade" is something else that I have long been interested in. I turned to the store owner and said: "Just out of curiousity..."

Without waiting for me to finish the question, he answered what I was about to ask. He told me that the same skills used for ice skating apply to rollerblading. Indeed, he said, it was the same skill set but... rollerblading was considerably easier than ice skating. Much more stable skates, he told me.

Very cool! I am not about to splurge on a pair of inline roller skates now... especially not after dropping nearly $200 on ice skates! However, I will keep that bit of information in the back of my head for later. Perhaps I will buy myself a pair of inline skates as a present when I pass my Level Ten figure skating class.

Speaking of which! On the phone with Darelle yesterday, I realised that I do indeed have a goal for my figure skating "career"[**]. Up until now, I have just been doing this because it was fun. I started because I wanted to learn how to get around on the ice. I can now get around far better than I had ever thought when I started the Level One class nine months (and a day) ago. I had never envisioned myself doing the backwards crossovers or spins or turns that I can now do! Thus, I have surpassed my original intentions. On the other hand, I know that I will never be a competitive figure skater. Not going to happen. I see what the future competitive skaters can do -- it is much more than I can... and they are aged six or seven! That's fine; I am not particularly interested in competitions.

So where does that leave me? Until yesterday, I was not quite sure. The National Ice Skating Association (NISA) runs the SKATE UK programme, which has ten numbered levels, plus the bronze, silver, and gold stars. The ten numbered levels each have four skills that are to be learned (see here). After that, one selects a discipline (e.g., ice dancing, speed skating, synchronized skating) and enters the SKATE UK STAR programme. Each of the disciplines has three levels -- Bronze, Silver, and Gold; the STAR programme serves as a bridge from SKATE UK the the NISA Test System, and the Gold badge leads into the first NISA test.

Whilst talking with Darelle yesterday about ice skating, I realised that my goal is to pass Level Ten of the SKATE UK programme. I have no idea if I will then choose a specialty and enter the STAR programme, but finishing up all the levels of SKATE UK is my current goal. After that? Well... we shall see when the time comes.

Meanwhile, I think that I really need a figure skating icon. Most of my icons are either photos of me or photos taken by me. Perhaps a shot of me holding a skate and one of my NISA badges would serve for this...

[*] If I were a fan of LOLcats, I could probably phrase that differently. However, amazingly enough, I have never found them amusing. I know, I know -- I'm the only person that doesn't. Sacrilege, I realise.

[**] Such that it is.

[***] Though, as already indicated, not as easy on the feet.

The past thirty-six hours -- from Monday evening until this morning -- have been really good! There hasn't been any one single Major Good Thing... but there have been loads of little things conspiring to put me in an excellent mood!

It started with quite a nice ice skating lesson on Monday evening. I had a couple of breakthrough moments where various and sundry maneuvers seemed to click into place. I still can't reliably do an inside three-turn[*], but my backwards crossovers are looking good and my continuous curves -- both inside and outside edge -- are nice, too!

After skating on Monday, I had a lovely phone date with the even lovelier [ profile] tawneypup! It is always good to hear her voice... and it will be even better to see here again next month! It was also a good way to end my evening; after getting off the phone, I collapsed into bed with [ profile] cheshcat.

Tuesday began with the perfect commute, as I wrote about yesterday... and the day just got better from there. Apparently, I was right about the perfect commute being a good omen![**] For one thing, the weather was clear and sunny -- at this time of year, I will take all the daylight that I can get! Also, over the course of Tuesday, I received word of various and sundry bits of good news -- much of it I cannot repeat in the public domain -- which left me feeling bouncy and happy. Indeed, the bouncy happiness threatened to bubble over... so I went up to the level eight terrace and had a phone chat with Darelle so that I could bounce at her from the roof for a bit!

Tuesday evening was bell ringing practice with the OUSCR at Mary Mag. The return commute was nearly as smooth as the morning's -- only a three minute wait for the Oxford Tube -- and the ringing was quite nice. In particular, I fell into a groove whilst ringing the treble to St. Simons Triples and was ringing impressively well (for me)! These days, I am working on improving my ropesight and my listening skills. Also my bell handling, so that I can make more natural distinctions between a slow stroke, a steady stroke, and a quick stroke.

When practice ended, I picked up noodles for [ profile] cheshcat and I for dinner, then met her at Skullcrusher Mountain. We ate, then removed the last bits of our things from the old flat. With all of our stuff gone, the last task was to get the kitties moved. We had left them to the end, visiting daily with food when we came to pack. The idea -- which seems to have worked -- was to set the new place up reasonably well before unleashing them to destroy it! Before moving the kitties, we bathed them. We do this once or twice a year with our cats, using baby shampoo with conditioner to clean them up. So long as you start them on it young, they tolerate it. They never like it... but they tolerate it. For Giles, who was six months old yesterday, this was his first bath ever! He squirms like a wild thing when we so much as try to clip his claws... so both Chesh and I had anticipated the bath as being quite a challenge. Giles surprised us by taking it remarkably well -- mainly he just went limp and let us get on with it! Good kitty!

Once Giles and The Boy were clean, we put them in the car and left Skullcrusher Mountain. We need to return for cleaning and to do a farewell ritual for the space... but we are now officially moved out! Nice! Indeed, this has been one of the easiest moves I have ever done[***]. We did it all in eleven days, all by ourselves[****] and using only my Red Rover for transport. The new place is not fully set up set... but by spreading the packing over eleven days, we have had time to get a good fraction of our things into place as we went along.[*****]

The poor kitties didn't quite know what hit them! First, Mommy and Daddy take away all the things that they are used to! And go away each night! Then they get shoved into water!! And put in a carrier!! In the car!!! Then taken to a strange place!!!! Poor The Boy, he was very clingy and vocal as he explored the new place -- I made sure to lavish tonnes of attention on him! Giles, being a kitten, was less traumatised and happily explored his new home. Even though it was late, [ profile] cheshcat and I stayed up with them for some time, helping to acclimate them.

Finally, Chesh fell into bed and I hopped into the shower to wash the yuck of the old flat off of me. Then a "quick" hop online to check for mail from one or two certain someones... and into bed myself!

All in all, quite a nice day and a half!

The one downside to it all has been that, amongst all the activity of the past few days, I really have not enjoyed a full night's sleep since Saturday! I will endeavour to rectify this tonight. This evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I have theatre plans at the Oxford Playhouse. I don't know what show we are seeing yet -- this is the second-to-last of the "surprise theatre" tickets that she bought back in August -- but their shows usually let out shortly after ten pm. With any luck, I can grab a quick dinner and be in bed by shortly after eleven o'clock, thus luxuriating in the luxury of eight hours rest!

[*] But that's okay as the term is only half over. I have three more weeks to learn how!

[**] Certain good wishes from certain special people probably didn't hurt with this, either!

[***] Not counting those rare times that we have had professional movers, like when I moved from Arizona to Chicago to start work at Fermilab and the lab paid for the relocation costs.

[****] I believe that this alone is a first!

[*****] We were also able to re-use boxes after unpacking them, which is a nice eco-bonus!

Hurm. I have been informed by Secret LJ GnomesTM that it has been too long since I posted an entry to journal my life. Well, gentle readers, I'm afraid that you all know what this means! That's right -- it's the Return Of The Return Of The Week In Review Post! In fact, it has been so long since I made a proper journal entry that this becomes the Extended Edition of the RotRotWiRP!

So what has your Friendly Neighborhood Nomad has been up to? )
That's right! It's time for the dreaded "Week In Review" post![*] What has your Friendly Neighbourhood Nomad been up to this week?

Monday: After work, I had a tight commute, but got back into Oxford just in time for my ice skating lesson. Actually, I had thought that I would be late for the first time ever -- very glad to have been wrong on that count! This was the first week of the Level Seven class. We are learning inside edge three-turns[**], backwards crossovers, continuous circles on the inside edges, and continuous circles on the outside edges. The first two seem a bit tricky, but I have a fair bit of confidence that I can manage to learn them all in the remaining five weeks of the class. Eventually, I know that I will have to re-take a Level... but it hasn't happened yet, and I'd like to put that off for as long as possible!

Tuesday: Missed the Oxford Tube in the evening by about two minutes, so I had to wait fifteen for the next one. This made me late for bell ringing practice with the OUSCR at Mary Mag. Thankfully, I was only seven minutes late to a seventy-five minute practice, so it all worked out. Indeed, it is quite likely that I didn't actually miss out on any ringing. There were twenty-two people there, so I only rang every third or fourth go. I also stayed up far too late watching the election results come in.

Wednesday: This was a free evening -- a rarity during term time. Since I skate on Mondays and ring on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Wednesday evening is the only one that is potentially open... and often [ profile] cheshcat and I fill it with theatre dates (like we did last week and like we will do in two and three weeks time). I used the opportunity stay late at Imperial College. This seemed like a good idea, especially since I had arrived late, thanks to the long election night on Tuesday. Once I arrived home, I ate dinner quickly, then had a phone date with the tremendously terrific [ profile] tawneypup! It had only been about a week since we had last talked -- which is normal for us -- but it was still quite lovely to hear her voice! Before the evening was out, I also got to catch up with [ profile] frogcastle for the first time in awhile, and speak to the delightfully delicious Darelle, too.

Thursday: Today has turned out to be very different than planned. In fact, it has been a bit of an annoying day. Nothing serious has gone wrong, but I am non-plussed. I'm going to rant about my day, just to get the annoyance off of my chest. However, it really is just griping, so I will place it behind a cut, and please feel free to skip it! )

Friday: Tomorrow, we pick up the keys to our new flat! At which point, we officially start moving! Looking forward to this -- I like the new place, and it will make the commute a bit easier in a couple of different ways! Then there is a very busy weekend ahead... but I will write about that as it unfolds.

[*] Or, to be more specific, the slightly-less dreaded "Week In Review So Far" post.

[**] These involve skating forward, then pivoting on one foot, and ending up backward in a one-foot glide. We did them on the outside edge of our skates in Level Six.

[***] As anyone who knows me will attest, waiting is not my strong suit.

[****] Three cheers for mobile broadband!

First day on the new job went well. There are pros and cons to the switch, but overall I think that this is going to be a good thing.

Main disadvantage, of course, is the commute -- I just barely got back to Oxford in time for my ice skating lesson tonight! However, I have some ideas for helping with that. Tomorrow I bring my bicycle on the Oxford Tube, which should make the London side of the journey shorter. The eventual relocation to east Oxford should shorten the overall commute somewhat. And there are a couple of purchases that I could make to enhance the productivity of the journey.

As for the new job itself... well, that requires a longer post than I want to make tonight. Something to really go into the physics that I will be working on. Can't do that now, as I am particularly knackered and about to go collapse into bed with my dear [ profile] cheshcati

Before I do, though, I want to publicly thank [ profile] cheshcat and [ profile] tawneypup and Darelle... all of whom were quite encouraging today. On my [sleepy] way to work this morning, Darelle sent a very sweet text message for my first day. If I had not been on the bus when I received it, I might have even started skipping! [ profile] tawneypup sent multiple cheery e-mails to bolster my spirits. And those spirits weren't even low -- so that is saying something about the bouncy and beautiful goodness that is [ profile] tawneypup! Sometime in the afternoon, [ profile] cheshcat sent me a "first day" e-card that nearly brought a tear to my eye. It reminded me that this woman has shared my life since I was a mere slip of an undergraduate, scarcely a year after I decided that I had wanted to pursue a career in physics. She has been here for the trials and tribulations of my early courses, the insane stress of my first year in graduate school, and watched me in each and every experiment that I have collaborated on. Plus she (and [ profile] resourceress edited my doctoral disseration -- all two hundred pages of it[*]! If all that weren't enough... she had dinner waiting when I got home from my first day.

Pardon the incoherency, gentle readers. I did warn that I was knackered. However, eloquent or no, I felt it important to write this entry and acknowledge that I am lucky enough to have some very special people in my life!

[*] Indeed, the dedication in my PhD -- crafted back in 2003 -- is to [ profile] cheshcat.

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 [ 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!

Quickie Updates On The Life Of Me:

Monday: Went ice skating after work -- my first lesson in nearly two months. After my pitiful performance ice skating in Birmingham last month, I was afraid that I had forgotten everything that I ever knew. But, no, the lesson went well and I am already taking to several of the Level Six skills!

Tuesday: During the day, I volunteered to help out with the open day at St. Giles Church, I was unexpectedly hit really hard with a brick, I freecycled Peter I, and I had a most excellent conversation with the adorable [ profile] tawneypup[*]. In the evening, I went to partake of the St. Giles Fair with the lovely [ profile] dr_jen. We went on several rides -- generic spinning rides, bumper cars, a [cheesy!] haunted house, and a roller coaster! I absolutely love the fact that, right in the heart of Oxford, I was on a roller coaster! It almost looked like we were going to smash into one of the statues of a Saint high above the entrance to St. John's College! We also indulged in the traditional enjoyments of such a fair -- candy floss, carnival games, et cetera. Good fun and good company!

Wednesday: (World failed to end. Try harder next time.) Driving [ profile] cheshcat to work, I marvelled at how ordinary St. Giles looked. No one would know that, eleven hours later, this major street had been functioning as a carnival! After work, C came over and taught me how to perform various and sundry pieces of maintenance on Peter II. Ever since before I got Bruce[**], I had wanted to learn how to do automotive repair and maintenance. However, fourteen years later, I must admit with some embarrassment that I know next to nothing. Last night, we took steps to change this... along with change the oil, oil filter, and air filter on Peter. Next lesson coming up is the spark plugs. Once C had left, I settled down to an excellent dinner -- cooked by [ profile] cheshcat. After dinner, we spent the rest of the evening having some quality alone time together.

Today: What do you want to do tonight, Nomad? The same thing we do every Thursday night, Pinky! Ring bells at St. Giles! Handbell practice starts in about two hours -- I am currently studying the 5/6 part[***] for Plain Bob Major and the trebles for Little Bob Major. If I have time, I will also look at Grandsire Doubles for the tower bell practice that will follow.

Meanwhile, it looks like another fun weekend is fast approaching, with lots to look forward to! Tomorrow evening, I will be seeing the delightful Darelle again -- which I am very eagerly anticipating!! -- and then it will be time for PolyDay in London!!!

Hurm. I think that I may have exhausted my daily ration of exclamation marks in that paragraph... so perhaps I had best end this now.

[*] Thank you.

[**] Bruce was my first car -- a 1994 Hyundai Excel bought straight out of the dealers room on June 6th
1994 for the grand total of $8700.

[***] The only part that I am not yet familiar with.



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