I'm in Japan this week, doing a week of shift at Super-Kamiokande. I often get asked by non-scientists what "shift" means in this context.

I like to describe it as "babysitting" for our experiment. Generally speaking, when a particle physics experiment is running, it runs around the clock -- we don't limit our data taking to regular business hours. (That would be astoundingly inefficient!) Thus, there always needs to be somebody present to keep an eye on the experiment, to make sure all is running smoothly and nothing goes wrong. And, of course, to make things right again when something does go wrong!

Doing shift is generally boring. In fact, you hope it is, as "interesting" usually means that something has indeed gone awry! I've heard shift described as "hours of boredom, broken up by moments of terror."

Each collaboration has its own rules for how to distribute shifts and what constitutes a fair quota. The starting point is usually to add up all the shifts required in a particular year, then divide by the number of collaborators. This number can then be tweaked in various ways, giving more important people (i.e., senior faculty) a lighter load having less important people (i.e., graduate students) make up the difference. Usually, though, everyone ends up doing shift at some point. In my current experiment, T2K, I end up doing one week of shift each year, based at our far detector -- Super-Kamiokande.

What that means is that, for this week, I am sitting in the shift room for eight hours each day, watching the event display and -- every two hours -- running through a list of periodic checks. The event display shows a realtime readout of what our detector is seeing. It is the end result of a large number of systems, so if that looks good then all is likely well.

In fact, the event display is actually rather pretty. Don't take my word for it, though! There is a realtime feed on the web, so you can see for yourself:

[N.B. Originally, the event display was supposed to be embedded in this entry, because that would be pretty. Far prettier than an external link. However, it appears that something as simple as embedding a webpage into LJ is not trivial. Why LiveJournal chose to disable standard HTML embed commands -- and replaced them with a custom lj-embed that is effectively undocumented -- is beyond me. Feh.]

In other news, there was an amusing moment this evening when one of the secretaries came into the shift room. Her English is not great -- and my Nihongo is even worse! -- so it was a bit of a challenge to communicate. She said that she wanted to talk to me about board games on the internet. Not something that I would have expected! Then she mentioned YourTurnMyTurn. Again, strange. I certainly use the site -- have done so since [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach introduced me to it back in March 2011.

She went on to explain that she is on the site. One of my collaborators, RW, told her about it and set her up with an account. Okay, that makes a little more sense -- I told RW about it some time back, and we played one game of Go there. So not quite as random as I had thought.

Then she continued to say something that I couldn't quite make out at first. Was she saying that we should play a game together some time? Sure, I would be okay with that! No, I heard her wrong... she was saying that we had already played a game! Really?

Turns out, she was right! Back in January, she and I faced off against each other in a game of go-moku, during a tournament. I vaguely recall the game in question -- I remember it being quite close... but, ultimately, she won. Of course, I had to immediately challenge, er, invite her to a rematch!

Although this was not as random as I first perceived -- having been part of the chain of events which led her to the site -- it is still fairly odd to find out that I gamed with one of the Super-K secretaries back in January... and didn't even know it at the time!
anarchist_nomad: (Guess who?)
( Jun. 26th, 2013 03:48 pm)
Your friendly neighbourhood Nomad has a veritable backlog of LJ entries waiting to be written. However, I just received some Nifty NewsTM that had to be pushed to the front of the queue!

Following on from my previous entry, there is yet another reason to love Oxford. Today, I learned that the City of Dreaming Spires will soon be getting its very first board game café!

That's right, gentle readers. As if my fair city were not spiffy enough as is, next month will see the opening of the Thirsty Meeples Board Game Café. See? Tis indeed pretty nifty, yes?[*]

Perusing their website, I definitely like what I see so far. They will be located right in the city centre; they will be open until midnight seven days a week, opening at 11:00 on weekdays and 09:00 on weekends; they have over 1500 games in their library that will be available to play in the café (with 400 different games available for purchase); and they will serve smoothies, coffee, and snacks. Sounds rather awesometacular to me!

Opening day is July 20th. I will definitely have to organise a band of friends to check it out then, or soon after. Seems like a most pleasant way to spend an evening (or afternoon... or morning...).

Methinks I may soon have another place to add to my list of "favourite food spots" in Oxford!

[*] For those of you not familiar with the concept, a "meeple" is one of the small wooden playing pieces from the the Carcassonne board game. They look like this.

anarchist_nomad: (The Eyes Have It)
( Jan. 1st, 2013 02:44 am)
To all of you out there in 2012 -- which is the bulk of my f-list right now -- here is a message (or three) from 2013:
  1. The world does not end in 2012. (Huzzah!)

  2. 2013 appears to be a very dark place so far.[*]


Right now, I am winding down from a lovely New Year's Eve party here at Chiron Beta Prime with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, my darling [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, the fantastic [livejournal.com profile] dragonmamma, and several folks with no LiveJournals[**]. There were games -- like Give Me The Brain and The Shinnin' -- briefly interrupted by a quarter peal attempt at 21:00 to ring in the new year with some Stedman Doubles. Afterward, there was baked camembert (with garlic bread) and a chocolate fondue! Not a bad send-off for the old year, if I do say so myself!

A traditional year-in-review retrospective for 2012 shall be forthcoming. For now, however, tis time for bed. I hope that all of you still reading from last year are having a spectacular celebration... and I look forward to meeting you when you finally catch up with the times!

[*] Though there are street lamps and the like, which helps.

[**] Gasp!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

(click for full-sized version)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[**] Try saying that five times fast!

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

Good evening, gentle readers!

Your friendly neighbourhood Nomad has been a bad bad blogger of late! Too many lovely goings on and not enough time to write about them. Alas, there are far worse fates!

With only six days left before Christmas, what have y'all been up to, dear friends? Enjoying the holiday season, I hope?

Here in the City of Dreaming Spires, all is quite well. The holiday hecticness is in full swing. On Friday evening, we had a party to celebrate the birthday of my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, starting with a feast at the Pink Giraffe -- one of our favourite Oxford restaurants. Once we were all quite, quite full, the party moved back to Chiron Beta Prime for birthday cookies (replete with firework candle), presents, and games. On Saturday, our coven celebrated the another notch in the Wheel of the Year by doing our Yule ritual WORK. Tis a good start to the season, with much more to follow, of course! The fun continues tomorrow, when the lovely [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess and J arrive for a visit from the States!

Meanwhile, here is a Christmas card for all of you out there in LJ-land! From our living room into yours (or wherever you may be reading this) -- Enjoy!

(click on picture for full version)

Event Horizon Halloween party just ended. Whew -- what a great day! I am blessed with some truly amazing friends here in Chicagoland!

Twenty-five people came and a grand time was had by all. Some really excellent costumes and props! For my part, I reprised my Joker costume, which seemed to be a big hit!

There were games, there were costume photos, there was a veritable smörgåsbord of delicious foods, there was a bonfire... and there was the now-traditional fire walking! We had a record number of people walking over hot coals (nine), and we also set a record for first time walkers (seven). Good times!

Must get ready for bed now, as I have to wake in about three hours. Hope to write a more complete entry about the party later on, possibly after returning to Merry Olde Englande!

For now, goodnight dear friends!
So because I don't have enough to do before leaving for Japan in four days, I randomly challenged some stranger to a game of Go-moku on Your Turn My Turn. I blame [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach -- he and I are locked into a fierce four game final round in a Carcassonne: The Castle tournament, but he has not moved all day. How dare he have a life?? The nerve of some people! Anyway, starved for a gaming break, I wandered into the site's waiting room and challenged somebody who was looking for an opponent.

I have never played Go-moku before, but it is basically an m,n,k-game. Most of you will be familiar with at least one m,n,k-game, namely tic-tac-toe. Specifically, tic-tac-toe is a (3,3,3) game, as the "m" and the "n" represent the size of the grid and the "k" tells how many pieces you need to line up diagonally to win. With some slight additions, Go-moku is a (19,19,5) game.

Way back in 1990, during my tenth grade Algebra-II class, I was rather bored and decided to solve all possible variations of tic-tac-toe. That didn't take long. Still bored with the class, I started generalizing to other m,n,k-games. Mind you, at the age of fifteen, I had no idea that this is what they were called. In retrospect, however, it seems appropriate that I used my math class to do this. In the intro to the wikipedia page on these games, it notes that they are primarily of mathematical interest!

I started off with a (4,4,4) game (i.e., a 4x4 grid where 4 in a row wins) and quickly proved that, like ordinary tic-tac-toe, the game should always end in a draw. Moving on to a (4,4,3) game, (i.e., a 4x4 grid where 4 in a row wins) it became clear that the first player always wins. I went on to higher variants, until I ultimately settled on what I termed "Infinite Grid Tic-Tac-Toe". In mathematical parlance, this was a (infinity, infinity, 5) game. This turned out to be highly addictive and lots of fun, so many hours of that year were spent playing against my friends.

Since then I have not played Infinite Grid Tic-Tac-Toe in many years -- possibly two decades! Go-moku is not quite the same thing... but as close as I am going to get for now. Let's see how much I remember from way back when!

Meanwhile, in what is likely a highly arrogant move that will see me humbled for such hubris, I issued an unsolicited challenge to the highest ranked Go-moku player on the site. Their record is 144 wins and 9 losses -- a success rate of about 94% -- so this may be a bit of a foolish endeavour. On the other hand, I specifically set myself up to go first, and the first player should always win in such games. We shall see. In any case, I suppose that I can afford to be a touch cocky in this game -- after all, I basically invented it!

Wish me luck, gentle readers!
...the lovely [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth has taken the record for my longest emotionally serious and significant relationship in the UK![*] Huzzah! Congrats to us, Sweetie! And here's to the many fun times ahead!

In other news, this week has been both hectic and full of surprises. Hectic is easy to explain: I leave for Japan in eleven days, with a collaboration meeting to prepare for. I have one or two analyses of my own to present there, plus two or three students that I am helping to ready for presentation, as well.

One day after returning from Japan, I head to New York for P**T***, the Sooper Sekrit Pagan Festival. This P**T*** will not be quite as much work as last year, since we are not the organizers this time. Still, I continue to wear a lot of Official HatsTM in the community: Vice-President (along with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat), member of the Board of Directors, Chair of the Feedback Analysis Committee, and now a new administrator for our new online facilities. Roughly translated, that means boatloads of work! So even though Dreaming Spires[**] is not running the show this year, preparing for P**T*** is a rather involved process. At the moment, I am preparing two workshops, using our expertise from last year to assist the current organizing team, writing the closing ritual for 2010, interfacing with the main ritual coordinators, preparing a private ritual with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, and gearing up to field questions about the feedback analysis. I am not the only person working this hard. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is certainly doing as much as I am... and I know that several other people on my f-list are also busting their butts in preparation.[***] Tis proof of how amazing P**T*** is -- I would not give so much if I didn't love the community so very very much!

Other items that have (or will have) grabbed some of my attention include: Bell ringing at Iffley on Wednesday and at a new tower -- North Hinksey -- last week; theatre in Oxford tonight, and on Monday with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon; and the annual Oxford Open Doors event this weekend!

As for the surprises? These have come in various shapes and colours. For instance, in one of my online games of Carcassonne: The Castle, it seems as though I may defeat the #2 player on the site to advance to the finals in my current tournament. Being the #14 player, this was not at all expected! In the other part of the playoffs, the fantastic [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach has completed a similar upset, trumping the #4 player to advance. If I can pull this off, it will be the first time that I face off against a friend in tournament play... and for a championship, no less! Definitely not what I expected... but good fun!

Another surprise was, less than one week after declaring my intention to leave the UK bisexual community, receiving an offer to help run the community's biggest event in 2013! Given that the two happenings seem entirely unrelated, the coincidence is rather amusing!

And, of course, I wrote about a really fantastic surprise earlier in the week: Receiving the incredible list of shows lined up for the World Shakespeare Festival next year!! Hooray!

Hurm. This post was supposed to be a quick events round-up leading into an entry about the bells of St. Giles. However, the lead-in seems to have taken on a life -- and a length -- of its own! Perhaps better to end this update now, then, and make a completely separate entry on the bells. Stay tuned, gentle readers!!

[*] For the pedants out there, I should state that I am not considering [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat when counting. Since I imported her from the States, she does not qualify here!

[**] "Dreaming Spires" = Our coven, founded at Samhain 2008.

[***] In the interests of respecting your privacy, I won't say who you are publicly... though do feel free to stand up and take a bow if you like! Y'all know who you are, awesometacular people, and you are absolute gems!

I blame [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach. Yes, indeed, I do.

It was about two months ago[*] that I randomly encountered him on Ye Olde Oxford Tube as I made my way back from London. Foregoing my usual seat at one of the small onboard laptop tables, I sat down next to my friend to chat, rather than engage in my usual online antics during the journey home.

Partway through the trip, he asked if I would excuse him for a moment, as he wished to briefly check on one of his online games of Carcassonne: The Castle. I was intrigued.

I had originally become familiar with the game shortly after my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I moved to Oxford. Not knowing anyone there at the time[**], we made a point of importing many of our two player board games... plus buying others for our new home. Carcassonne: The Castle -- a variant of the more commonly known multi-player Carcassonne -- was one such game. Although I enjoyed it, twas was not much to [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat's liking and so we eventually donated our copy to the Oxford BiFest raffle last year, to help raise money for BiCon's scholarship fund. From there, it found a good home with the aforementioned [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach. I confess that I had not thought of it much since, as we have developed a much fuller Oxonian social network and, accordingly, two player games have become the exception, rather than the rule.

Returning nearer to the present, that selfsame [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach introduced me to the website known as YourTurnMyTurn.com. There, one can play a variety of two player games online -- thirty-nine to choose from -- at one's convenience. You make a move when you are able; your opponent is notified via e-mail and returns to the game to respond at their leisure. Since that introduction, many of my spare moments have been wasted spent on this site. I am currently engaged in a fierce multi-week game of Go with the awesometacular [livejournal.com profile] gyades, and I have played a multitude of short games -- including Dominoes, Battleship, Penguin, Connect Four, Lost Cities and more -- with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. My staple on the site, however, remains Carcassonne: The Castle, with both [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach and my darling [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup as frequent opponents.

This seems to be a game well suited to my natural talents. Thus far, I have won over 80% of the twenty-one games that I have played. What's more, as play continues, my dear opponents sharpen their games, forcing me to resort to new strategies and tactics if I am to have any hope of maintaining an edge. Of the 108 active Carcassonne players registered on the site, I am ranked 18th... and I suspect that I am improving. Hmmm, perhaps I should enter a tournament at some point. After all, I am having too much fun to stop now!

As I said earlier: I blame [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach.

[*] March 15th 2011, to be precise. A Tuesday.

[**] And being able to count all acquaintances in the UK on the fingers of one hand -- with a couple left over!

I've but one weekend in Oxford between the recent trip to Europe and the upcoming week to Asia. That weekend is rapidly drawing to a close now. It has been mellow, but fun!

On Friday evening, things got started when I came home from work to spend a spiffy night with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, the exquisite [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten, and the devious [livejournal.com profile] ayaron at Chiron Beta Prime. We ordered pizza and played games; I taught Puerto Rico to [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten and [livejournal.com profile] ayaron and managed to squeek out a slim win during a close game.

On Saturday morning, we made our way just outside of town to pay our annual visit to the bluebell meadow at the Harcourt Arboretum. Thanks to the hottest April on record, the bluebells were a bit past their prime, but they still made for a pretty stroll.

Here is my darling [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and I in a lovely Beltane photo at the arboretum:

And here is a peacock, just because:

On Saturday evening, our Beltane ritual took place, marking the halfway point in the wheel of the year. In 2008-2009, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I worked ritual with more-or-less the same group at every sabbat. It worked really well and coalesced into an experience that was greater than the sum of its individual rituals -- most of which were pretty spectacular by themselves! I missed doing that last year, so we have returned to the practice for the 2010-2011 turn of the Wheel of the Year. Once again, it is proving to be rather powerful WORK.

Finally, we wound down Saturday with a very interesting kink discussion. Details of which are not suitable to be repeated in this forum.

Sunday morning -- today -- I had an excellent lie-in with my dearest [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth. The early afternoon was dedicated to practicalities, like setting up logistics for my upcoming trip to Japan (work) and Korea (play). In the evening, I rang bells at St. Giles for a quarter peal attempt -- the method was Grandsire Triples and I rang the treble. Ringing was followed up by a stint at the Barton Pool with [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, where I did my usual mile of crawl. We then headed to the cinema, where we met [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and [livejournal.com profile] ayaron for the 21:00 showing of Thor. Visually stunning, I expected better of a collaboration between JMS and Kenneth Branagh. Still, there were amusing moments.

All of which brings us to the present moment. When I finish this write-up, I will phone the sweet [livejournal.com profile] livetbd for a spell... then make my way off to bed! Less than one week remaining in Oxford before I jet off again, and much to do in that time!

So, as you can see, gentle readers, it has been a quiet weekend but a good one, nonetheless. I hope, dear friends, that you have also had a pleasant time... and that you have a lovely night!
Good Friday to you, gentle readers! As you may (or may not) have noticed, the Nomad has not been the most conscientious blogger of late. To that, I say: Um... whoops! In an attempt to get the LJ ball re-rolling again, I bring to you that time honoured and ever-reviled much anticipated of entries: The Week-in-Review post! So sit tight, dear friends, and fasten your seatbelts! The week is about to begin!

Friday: Last Friday, I spent the day with a visiting [livejournal.com profile] josington. Although I stayed home from work, it was still a workday and, thus, we passed the time by installing Ubuntu and other useful software onto my new laptop. In the evening, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I went to visit the supertastic [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, who gave us lessons on how to make our own [vegetarian] sushi. Much yummy food was made and consumed; there was also a game of Settlers of Catan, in which I eked out a very difficult win. On our way home from [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach's place, we picked up the adorable [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth from The Island. Once home, all four of us -- [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, [livejournal.com profile] josington and I -- stayed up late with much talking and cuddling.

Saturday: Woke up early and made my way into city centre with [livejournal.com profile] josington to attend OxCon, the annual gaming convention hosted by the Oxford University Board Game Society. These days, I mainly attend for the Puerto Rico tournament. This consists of four games of PR, with tournament points calculated based on the scores of individual games. I have been participating since 2007, making this my fourth year[*]. By the end of the third game, I was ranked amongst the highest four players, thus earning myself a seat at the top table for the final game. Alas, I came in third (of four) there and so I did not win the tournament. Maybe next year.

In the evening, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten rounded out our numbers to five. We made our way to the delicious -- and vegetarian -- pub, The Gardener's Arms for dinner, then came home to play games. We started with Apples to Apples, in which the delightful [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth achieved victory, then finished up with Bohnanza, where my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat took the cake. Or at least the beans.

Sunday: Sunday began with [livejournal.com profile] josington and I making our way to St. Andrew's church to ring bells for services. After that, she made her way to a Quaker meeting whilst the four of us who were left headed out to the church-turned-restaurant, Freud, for brunch.

In the afternoon, we all reconvened in Chiron Beta Prime and prepared for our Imbolc ritual. This was the third ritual that we have WORKed together in the current turn of the Wheel of the Year. Just as we did two years ago, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I have committed to observing all eight sabbats during this turn. In October, my dearest [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat ran our traditional Samhain ritual; in December, I stepped up to the proverbial plate and ran Yule; now [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat re-took the reins to be HP for Imbolc. The ritual itself was rather interesting, involving elements that I had not worked with previously. I cannot give much detail in a public forum, but my sweetie put together another job very well done!

After ritual, [livejournal.com profile] fire_kitten needed to go. [livejournal.com profile] josington and I headed out at the same time to ring bells for evening services at St. Giles church, in city centre. Shortly after we returned home, [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach arrived. Together, the five of us played Puerto Rico. Because I had not played it enough the day before, of course! Actually, I rarely get tired of PR... and a five player game has a very different dynamic than the four player rounds that I was engaged in the year before. Due to this, I started out way behind as [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat took a commanding lead early on. She was so far ahead of everyone else that I bet her a pizza she would win. As the game went on, however, some early investments in infrastructure began to pay off and I caught up, winning by eleven points. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat still passed everyone else by a wide margin, but I claimed victory... and she claimed a pizza!

When the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach left, the four of us remaining wound down for the evening with an episode of Jeeves & Wooster.

Monday: Monday morning started, as Monday mornings so often do, with the weekly T2K UK analysis meeting. One of my students was giving a presentation, so I paid particularly careful attention to her talk. It went rather well, I am pleased to report!

After work wrapped up on Monday, [livejournal.com profile] josington and the delicious [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and I met my sweet [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at The Mission for burritos. Then the evening's extra-curricular activities began.

This week, the theme seems to be a double-dose of evening activities. For instance, on Monday evening, [livejournal.com profile] josington and I rang bells at St. Leonard's church in Eynsham -- a new tower for both of us! This makes the eighteenth tower that I have rung at. The Eynsham bells are a little tricky, though nowhere near as frightful as what [livejournal.com profile] josington has dubbed "The Devil Bells of Garsington". Actually, the #4 at Eynsham was rather nice... and the #2 was not bad, either! The band was moderately experienced, so nothing more than Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles was attempted.

When ringing ended, we collected [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth from the Island and went to the aforementioned Oxford Go Club. I played on a 13x13 board with the same gent who I had squared off against the week before. It was close... but he did defeat me, 23 to 11. Meanwhile, the lovable [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth had been learning to play. She and I had a 9x9 game and she did very well for her first match!

The evening ended with us gathering up [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and going for bagels and ice cream at G&D's... then [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth had some lovely alone time for talking and snuggling and whatnot!

Tuesday: During the day, Tuesday was filled with errands. My dearest darlingest [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had our semi-annual dentist appointment, which I am pleased to report went rather well. Then I made a blood donation before bidding [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and [livejournal.com profile] josington farewell.

In the evening, my first extra-curricular activity was bell ringing at St. Andrew's church, here in Headington. That was followed with heading into city centre to meet [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at the Burton Taylor studio for a performance of Edward Albee's first play (from 1958), The Zoo Story. I have seen this before, but not for many years. Indeed, [livejournal.com profile] yavin7 and I starred in a production of The Zoo Story that I had directed for my acting class at Hampshire College, way back in 1992! It was interesting to re-visit the play with adult eyes. Whilst I still enjoyed it, it was not as compelling as it had been all those years ago.

Wednesday: I began Wednesday -- Groundhog Day -- in a time loop... as some of you may have noticed. Then I made my way into London to spend the day working with RT and others at Queen Mary University of London. Upon my return to Oxford, my first evening activity was to ring bells at St. Mary the Virgin in Iffley. I followed that on with a T2K-SK meeting at 22:00. When the meeting ended, my wonderful [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I enjoyed a lovely stir-fry that she had cooked in her new wok, then I wound down for the evening.

Thursday: Yesterday began by continuing the string of meetings that had begun the night before. The first was our weekly Imperial T2K group meeting, which I chaired. Then I had a brief one-on-one with one of my doctoral students, GK, before the collaboration-wide T2K analysis meeting began. We are very close to approving our first results, so the meetings are coming at us fast and strong!

In the evening, I scaled back to only one extra-curricular activity. In honour of a visitor from Sweden, I opted to forego ringing at St. Giles, playing with the Oxford Go Club, and attending the Oxford Pagan moot. Instead, we convened at Skullcrusher Mountain for an evening of transhumanist gaming. We started with Betrayal at House on the Hill, in which AS commanded a hoard of bats determined to suck us dry. Thankfully, we scared them off and won! Particular kudos go to H, our visitor, for role-playing the Professor so remarkably well!

After Betrayal, the kid gloves came off and we played Illuminati. This was a rather long game, and extremely hard fought. I played the Bavarians and, after many hours and a couple of close calls, finally managed to squeeze through to victory!

Hmmm... If one considers each game separately, I suppose that Thursday can be counted as having two extracurriculars, too! Each game certainly took longer than the other activities this week!

Friday (again): Today has been mostly spent on working. And writing this entry. This evening, I will meet my phenomenal [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat at the Oxford Playhouse to see our third show of the year, Master Class, a piece based on the life of the opera singer Maria Callas.

And that, gentle readers, is the week that was. Still with me? If so, congratulations for sticking it out through the dreaded WiR post! Consider yourself awarded fifty points for sheer perseverance -- well done!

[*] I was unable to attend in 2009, as I needed to be in Japan for a T2K collaboration meeting.

Was supposed to head to Manchester this afternoon for participation in the Super K Sonic Booooum! Gold. However, one thing led to another and mid-evening set in before I would have been ready to go.

As such, plans changed to an evening of gaming, with the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, the cunning [livejournal.com profile] josington and my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. We played at the new flat, breaking in the dining room table there -- much better for games than our current setup. We started by introducing [livejournal.com profile] josington to Dominion. She took to the game well, commanding a strong early lead. In the end, I crept ahead though and won with 34 points to [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat's 23 to [livejournal.com profile] josington's 22 to [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach's 20.

[livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach got his revenge, though, when we played Betrayal at House on the Hill! As the traitor, he made short work of [livejournal.com profile] josington with his zombies and later took down [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. As the sole survivor, I gathered an arsenal of objects and very nearly won! Victory came down to a couple of consecutive dice rolls -- any one of which in my favour would have won the game for the heroes. Alas, they all went badly and [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach's madman-controlled zombie horde emerged victorious!

Time for bed now, then off to Manchester first thing in the morning!
The verdict is in: The 2010 Event Horizon Summer party was a resounding success! We had a completely and utterly awesometacular time! Games! Four Square! Bar-b-que! Bonfire! Fire jumping! Fire walking! And more...! Thirty people turned up -- I took particular delight in spending time with many old friends for the first time in months (or years); I also met some fantastic new people who were quite vunderbar! I am off to bed shortly... but, first, I wanted to write a summary of the day:

The party began at one o'clock, which meant that -- as always -- the first guests would not show up until nearly two. At this point, the time delay factors into my planning -- I stop doing party prep at the time when guests are supposed to arrive and hop in the shower. I end up clean shortly before the first knock on the door.

There were a couple of board games played. I engaged in a round of Ingenious with [livejournal.com profile] gyades and his sister as we waited for people to arrive. I won, which was a bit of a surprise. I've never won at Ingenious before.[*] Later on, there was a game of Iron Dragon going on inside whilst I was outside minding the bar-b-que. There may have been other board games but, if so, I was outside at the time and did not notice.

The first guest to arrive was [livejournal.com profile] xirpha. As usual, he came bearing with him a veritable feast of baked goods (and deviled eggs!). This man is a genius in the kitchen... and -- fortunately for us -- rather generous with his creations! After the Ingenious game ended, we sat around in the Event Horizon living room chatting as more people arrived.

After enough people -- about a dozen -- had accumulated, we made our way outside for the annual High Stakes Super-Mutant Sudden Death Four Square Match. As usual, I played with grace and aplomb, dominating the game all the way.[**] Actually, I played significantly better than usual at several points. Oddly enough, having a drink of water in one hand seemed to help immensely! My increased skill was particularly unexpected, given the triple distractions posed by the disarmingly delicious trio of [livejournal.com profile] datahawk, [livejournal.com profile] osprey_cat, and B[*]. As usual, [livejournal.com profile] wiktowasichu played exceptionally well -- sometimes whilst smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer!

A couple of hours later, the Four Square game wound down... with yours truly ending in the top spot, of course! It was then time to break out the grill and start making hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs! A rather yummy time was had by all, even if there was a bit of a "burger malfunction" partway through. Thankfully, it was [livejournal.com profile] xirpha to the rescue in an emergency supplemental grocery run, and all was then well. No one left the party hungry!

As night fell, [livejournal.com profile] gyades reprised his role as firemeister and -- with just three matches -- started the backyard bonfire burning in our firepit. As always, it was a sight to behold... particularly at the beginning when the flames extended upwards quite high. It was at this very point when [livejournal.com profile] wiktowasichu surprised and amazed us by jumping through the fire and across the pit. Twice! Um, wowza -- color me impressed! That is a new tradition for the Event Horizon; no one has ever done fire jumping here before!!

The fire burned for a few hours, during which time [livejournal.com profile] nova_wolf added immensely to our bonfire experience by playing a lovely tune on her tribal flute. More of that for future bonfires, please! As it burned, much chatting and cuddling occurred. Your friendly neighborhood Nomad was a very happy camper after receiving some personalized attention from several most delightful women. Let's just say that thinking and walking were not always within the realm of physical possibility during this time!

Eventually, as the fire started to burn down, it was time to begin the annual tradition[****] of firewalking over the hot coals. The firewalking began at about half past midnight, at which time about one dozen of us still remained at the party. Both [livejournal.com profile] osprey_cat and [livejournal.com profile] wiktowasichu are old pros when it comes to walking on the hot coals. For me, this was the third year that I have tried firewalking. Unlike my past experiences, I found that I was nervous... but no longer terrified. I walked the full length of the firepit three times! Sweet! As [livejournal.com profile] wiktowasichu -- who happily dances in, rather than walks across, the firepit -- put it, this is no longer about conquering a fear. Now I walk over hot coals simply because I like it. This year, we had quite a few new people give firewalking a try. In 2008, four of us did it; in 2009, only three. This time around? Out of twelve people who were still present, eight of us walked across the firepit. Go us! For several people, it was their first experience; I really enjoyed watching them ride the adrenaline high that comes with it. I remember quite vividly what it felt like on my first attempts, two years ago!

By half past one, we extinguished the coals -- which were no longer terribly hot -- and moved indoors. Two people left; everyone else sat about and chatted for awhile longer. Finally, at a quarter past two, the diaspora began -- leaving only [livejournal.com profile] gyades and I behind and awake. We moved to the family room and talked for an hour or so. Then he went to bed and I came up to the office to write this entry. Now that it is complete, I am also off to dreamland. I am covered in sweat (from Four Square), grease (from bar-b-queing), and bug repellent; my feet are coated with ash from walking across the hot coals. I am particularly happy. A most excellent day is coming to its close. I love my life!

Thank you to all who helped make this an exceptionally amazing and incredible party! I really am quite lucky to have such an astoundingly awesometacular group of friends!

[*] This was the third time that I have played.

[**] This statement has not been verified by the FDA.

[***] A beautiful and charming newcomer who was brought by her partner, the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] samiitiger. To the best of my knowledge, she has no LJ.

[****] Begun at the 2008 Event Horizon Summer party.

anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Mar. 19th, 2010 11:58 am)
I am writing this entry from Ye Olde Oxford Tube, heading into London. Tis Friday again! Another weekend is nearly upon us!

Speaking of weekends, there is quite a bit going on this weekend! Although that may not be so unusual. Upon looking in my Slingshot yesterday, I was struck with the realisation that my next completely free weekend is September 17 - 19. Eeep! That is six months from now! The last free weekend in the next half-year (June 11 - 13) just got filled yesterday with a narrowboat trip on the Walden III, cruising the Oxford Canal from Banbury to Oxford!

I am used to having my calendar filled two or three months in advance... but not six! I suspect that the surfeit of upcoming trips -- two to Japan, one to South Korea, one to the United States, and one to Scotland -- have a lot to do with it! Thankfully, some of those weekends are only partially booked, with space still available for other activities!

Speaking of weekend activities, last weekend was quite packed! My official birthday celebration[1] was gangs of fun and an awesometacular success! All went according to plan -- we started off Friday evening with the All You Can Eat menu at the Pink Giraffe. Can anything that begins with some of the best vegetarian Chinese food be less than fantastic? As usual, the Giraffe did not disappoint, with favourites like the Beijing [mock] duck and the [mock] chicken satay and the [mock] chicken with cashews and yellowbean sauce. Even the meat eaters enjoyed! As is also usual when doing AYCE at the Giraffe, everyone left the meal feeling like we could roll home[2] and we wouldn't need to eat for a week! We wound down Friday evening with a couple of rounds of Dominion, introducing L1 to the game.

My actual birthday -- Saturday -- began with the traditional phone call from my mother. This is an event that defies description; one truly needs to hear it to appreciate it! After breakfast and a bit of prep work, people began to arrive... which meant that it was time for presents! I got a particularly awesome stack, including some coins from the Royal Mint, comic book t-shirts[3], the new Chumbawamba album, sushi-making lessons, My Neighbor Totoro[4], a very sweet framed photograph, and more! Once all the presents were opened, we let the games begin! We started out with Wise & Otherwise (which my darling [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip won), then moved on to Betrayal at House on the Hill The Shinnin'. I ended up as the traitor -- this was my third time in the role... and I have never succeeded at my task! Guess I am just too much of a good guy! As the day went on, we also played Bag o' Nouns (my team won), Apples to Apples, Lost Cities[5], Monte Python Fluxx, and a few rounds of Werewolf. Good fun!

Partway through the afternoon, we mixed up some liquid nitrogen ice cream. It was a collaborative effort -- F and L2 mashed the strawberries, [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach each helped pick up the supplies, I mixed them all together, [livejournal.com profile] topbit poured the LN2, and [livejournal.com profile] xmakina stirred. I was less than ecstatic... as I had overestimated the ingredients, leaving some of the mix unfrozen by the time we ran out of liquid nitrogen. I really need to purchase a larger dewar! Still, methinks that I was just being a perfectionist -- everybody else seemed to really enjoy the ice cream![6]

In the evening, we ordered pizza and then had a karaoke sing-a-long! Starting with the Bohemian Rhapsody, we moved on to Video Killed The Radio Star, Karma Chameleon, American Pie, Build Me Up Buttercup and more! We even Rickrolled ourselves! This was a phenomenal group to have a sing-a-long with -- I have not laughed so hard in nearly a year!

Throughout the day, calls and text messages had streamed in. That was very nice -- thank you to all who could not make it, but send something on! We had a decent turnout for the party, too; nineteen people helped me bid farewell to the first half of my fourth decade. At the Event Horizon, I would consider this number to be quite small and the party to be a bit of a flop. But, bearing in mind that I still have far fewer friends in England than in either Chicago or New York, it was a decent turnout.

As the hour got late and people started to head home, we broke out The Shinnin' again for another game. This time [livejournal.com profile] xmakina was the traitor -- helping a giant spider to lay its eggs in one of us and waiting for them to hatch. Alas, the poor victim to get caught in its web was the arachnophobic [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat! Luckily, we heroes managed to free her and destroy the eggs, then get the hell out of the haunted house in time! My explorer did not survive... but at least I was on the winning team! We finished playing around four in the morning... but with two arachnophobes in the game, it was not considered an ideal way to end the night. L1 wanted to play The Shinnin' yet again... but no one else thought this was a good idea. So out came Dominion once more, which I won by a reasonable margin. Finally, we dropped off to sleep around five o'clock in the morning -- which was still my birthday in Eastern Standard Time, where I was born!

Sunday was a much more mellow day. To wind down from the weekend, I planned to have us watch a few of my favourite films. The choices were made according to the movies that I have been waiting to introduce to [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip. We started with The Princess Bride, as I have been waiting to show it to my British friends ever since I learned that the film was not ubiquitous here -- inconceivable! Next up was my favourite anime, My Neighbor Totoro. After those two, we took a break for chocolate cake -- complete with Red Dwarf figures and rocket candles on top! Awesometacular, indeed! Finally, we finished off the films with one of my favourite comedies: Michael Frayne's Noises Off! It was wonderful watching how hard everyone laughed at this hysterical show!

Shortly after the movies ended, I made my way to St. Giles -- accompanied by my dear [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth -- to ring bells for Sunday evening services. Then three of us went up to the roof to watch a particularly striking sunset. Upon returning home, [livejournal.com profile] xmakina and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth and I played Lost Cities (which [livejournal.com profile] xmakina won). Then it was off to Atomic Burger in Cowley for dinner. Finally, I dropped [livejournal.com profile] xmakina and [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth off at home before settling down for the evening with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat. Twas a very good weekend. A very good weekend, indeed!

So now, my dear friends, I am thirty-five! It began with a bang... let's keep the excitement -- and the good times -- rolling!

[1] In contrast to the unofficial surprise party held the week earlier!

[2] Except for the fact that it would mean rolling up a rather steep hill!

[3] Iron Man, and the movie version of the Watchmen.

[4] Extremely important for Sunday! See below.

[5] The four-player board game, which was new to me, rather than the familiar two-player card game.

[6] Either that or they were just being very polite!

This coming Saturday is my birthday. As such, I have been planning a weekend of fun to celebrate. Apparently, my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat beat me to the punch.

Last Saturday was my surprise party. And what a surprise it was! Shortly after New Year's, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat told me to block off the entire weekend for something that she was organising. Very mys-TEEEER-ious! All I knew at first is that the lovely [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip would be coming along, too.

No problem. I blocked off the days and thought little about it. Until -- bit by bit -- it kept coming up. The adorable [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth mentioned knowing what was planned and assuring me that I would enjoy it. She would be at the Pride march in Brighton on that day, though. The ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] xmakina asked if we could hang out, as [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth would be out of town; I told him he needed to consult with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat... as she was in charge of the scheduling for the weekend. In the end, it turned out that getting together in the morning would work... before the Cat and the Bunny and I had our evening plans.

Time passed and hints continued to come my way. [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip mentioned needing to do preparation. This meant "bake a cake"... but [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat covered it by saying that [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip needed to read the play -- making out like we had tickets to a special performance of something. This became odder on Friday, when [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip said: "Why is my kitchen a mess? I can't tell you." To borrow a phrase from Alice: Curiouser and curiouser!

Come Saturday morning, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat went to get crunched and the chiropractor and I went to meet [livejournal.com profile] xmakina in the city centre. He played his part -- that of the distraction -- beautifully! I had no clue what was going on. Texts from [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth convinced me that she was in Brighton -- not Oxford! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat claimed to need a nap, requiring that I call before coming home. Very clever! Unwittingly, I held up [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip by calling to chat when she was on her way to Oxford. Ooops!

Eventually, [livejournal.com profile] xmakina and I returned to the Flat With No Name. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat greeted us sleepily at the door in her bathrobe. [livejournal.com profile] xmakina requested a drink, which I went to fetch........ and -- of course -- was greeted with a rousing SURPRISE!!!

Well done, everyone!

The party was well set up for your friendly neighborhood Nomad: The helium balloons were red and black -- one of my two favourite colour combinations. The cake had an Iron Man head on it. Mini-rockets -- instead of candles -- were used to mark the decades on the cake! There was also a karaoke set ready to be hooked up to our telly. Excellent planning!

Giving me an early welcome to my thirty-sixth year was [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip, L2, [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, [livejournal.com profile] xmakina, [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach (with a small in tow), [livejournal.com profile] topbit, [livejournal.com profile] pinkoi, and [livejournal.com profile] hughe. This gave us enough people to bring out the party games -- hooray!

We started off with the awesometacular Bag o' Nouns[*]. With two teams of four, ours won... but barely! We then moved on to Apples to Apples which, amazingly enough, I won! I enjoy A2A... but am not usually very good at it! I ended with seven cards; apparently I am: obnoxious, insulting, depressing, miserable, unreal, philosophical... and colourful! Whee!

By popular demand, we then returned to Bag o' Nouns. This time, the teams were off balance -- five to four. Not surprisingly, our team -- with five -- won... but it doesn't really matter, as a great time was had by all! Next game was Saboteur, which [livejournal.com profile] hughe won. I ended up as a saboteur in two of the three rounds; I think I work best when I don't have to lie.

Afterward, we took a break from gaming to get some food and sing some karaoke. After L2 and I began with some solos -- I sang Billy Joel's Uptown Girl -- it evolved into a group sing-a-long. With [livejournal.com profile] da_pupdetz as the backup singers. And many excellent dance moves! Wunderbar!

In the evening, we broke out The Shinnin'[**]. [livejournal.com profile] topbit was eventually revealed as the traitor... and proceeded to kill me then marry off my ghost. Ooops! It was a close game, though! If the spectral wedding had not concluded when it did, [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth would have charged in to save the day!

Finally, too tired to game any further, we sat around and chatted until stupid o'clock in the morning. Then I drove the last guests home and snuggled into bed with my beautiful [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip. Truly an excellent early birthday celebration!

The originally planned party is still taking place this weekend... so watch this space for more details tomorrow! In the meantime, this was a most excellent start to my birthday season... so an enormous "thank you" to [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and everyone else who made it such a success! Y'all can pat yourselves on the back, knowing that you made this Nomad feel all special and tingly inside! I am quite, quite lucky to have such phenomenal friends and partners in my life!!

[*] Many thanks to the amazing [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup for teaching me this game!

[**] Also known as Betrayal at House on the Hill -- another excellent contribution from the spectacular [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup.

Time for the aforementioned "What I Did at the Weekend" post". After all, all the cool kids are doing it![1]

Friday evening, I mounted Peter II -- my trusty steed -- and made my way up to Northamptonshire for a date with the lovely [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip. It was a mellow evening in. We ate dinner -- the first time, in eighteen months together, that I have sampled her cooking[2]. We played games -- one of Dominion (she won), and three of Cathedral (I won two, she won one). And we enjoyed quite a bit of quality alone time.

Saturday afternoon, I made my way back to Oxford, picking up the charming [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth, and then returned home to the Flat With No Name... where we joined my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] xmakina, and the ever-adorable [livejournal.com profile] pinkoi for an afternoon of games[3], spiffy conversation, and ice cream. Always important not to forget ice cream! As an added bonus, I saw a poster at the ice cream parlour advertising a production of The Revenger's Tragedy that will be running this week. I am quite excited about this, as I have never seen this Renaissance classic.[4]

Saturday evening, after all the group social time had wound down, I had a date with the marvelous [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth. I must say, the more time I spend with this wonderful woman, the more she manages to surprise and impress me. Three months (and eight days) in, this trend shows no sign whatsoever of abating! This can be classified as a Very Good ThingTM.

Sunday -- today -- it was time for a date with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat[5]. We made our way into London this morning for our annual pilgrimage to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum. This is a tradition that began very soon after we moved to England four years ago -- within weeks, actually! As always, there were some truly stunning photographs in the gallery this year. Tis quite difficult to choose... but I think that my favourite two may be this one and this one. After finishing with wildlife photos, we still had some time... so we perused the dinosaur galleries. Just because, well, they're dinosaurs! Everyone loves dinosaurs! Once they shooed us out of the museum to close, we returned to Oxford and wound down the evening together: a game of Dominion (I won), dinner, and then cuddling up on the sofa with the next episode of Smallvile.

All in all, a most excellent weekend! I only wish that I could do more with it but -- alas! -- tis very nearly over now! That's okay, though, as there is a most excellent week taking its place that I can look forward to.

Thus, let me say, Happy Sunday to all[5]... and to all a good night!

[1] And, as is common knowledge, I am nothing if not a strict conformist!

[2] Toast not included. Because, well, its toast. Anyone but Resourceress can make toast -- even me! (And I think that Resourceress could have done it, too, were I not in the room during the attempt!)

[3] One of Saboteur, in which [livejournal.com profile] xmakina and I tied, and one of Fluxx 4.0, which I won.

[4] I will definitely attempt to procure tickets -- probably for Tuesday or Thursday (maybe Friday) t 20:15. Anyone want to join me? Tickets are only five quid!

[5] Yes, we still go on dates! Yes, even after nearly sixteen years together. What's your point?

[6] In particular, I might add, a very happy Sunday to the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] theentwife... who sent me a lovely virtual gift two days ago to help me celebrate the Fridayness of Friday! You rock, my dear! Thank you!

Saw an incredible production of Pride & Prejudice with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat last night! It was performed at the Oxford Playhouse, by a touring company from Theatre Royal Bath. This was the fourth show that we have seen together this year... and, by far, the best![*] The house was packed, as the show apparently had a number of fairly famous actors in it[**], for this excellent performance! The acting was incredible, the sets were extraordinary. Everything about this show -- except, on certain occasions, the lighting -- was utterly wonderful. Much humour was injected, as well, which fit perfectly. I am not certain where this tour will be going... but if it comes near you, gentle reader, I heartily recommend seeing it!

Hurm. I really do need a theatre icon for shows that are neither musicals nor Shakespeare.

Other than that, it has been a relatively quiet week. Just for the sake of journaling, here are some recent comings and goings of everybody's favourite Nomad:

On Tuesday evening, the fantastic [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach came over for ice cream and gaming and hanging out. This was -- as always -- good fun! We taught him how to play Dominion and played two games (the so-called "first game" and the "interaction" game). I won both... although just barely on the latter!

On Monday evening, I made my way to St. Aldate's Church in the centre of Oxford for an extended ringing practice focusing on Plain Bob Minor. I feel that my work here is getting better and I would hope to participate in a quarter peal before this year is out.

Also of note, I hopped in the pool this weekend and swam a mile for the first time in Far Too LongTM. That felt good! Being a water elemental, I need my immersion on a much more regular -- and frequent! -- basis! Must remember to make more time for swimming in the near future!

Finally, my dear friends, I know that I inundated many of you yesterday with my fairly technical post of sciencey goodness. I appreciate your collective indulgence and would not normally inflict such on you again so soon. However, there is one more piece of news that is so awesome, so totally bounce-inducing that I cannot hold it back! The news is actually from yesterday... yet I was not able to mention it publicly until the press release went through this morning. Here it is:


This, dear friends, is the first T2K neutrino event seen in the Super-Kamiokande detector. The brand new neutrino beam was fired down into the Earth... travelled nearly 300 km across Japan... then was detected in an enormous water tank on the other side of the country! How cool is that??

The three rings of light that you see are from particles resulting from the neutrino detection. The first two are probably from what we call a π0, which decays immediately into to particles of light. The other ring -- barely visible -- is from something else. Possible a nuclear interaction?

Anyway, I have been saying for some time now that T2K is moving into a very exciting era. This event marks that... and is the start of much more niftyness to come!

[*] The first three were a stage adaption of Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop, a fairly bizarre rendition of Medea, and a delightful Ayckbourn piece entitled My Wonderful Day.

[**] So I am told, anyway. I am notorious for being clueless about celebrities. Want to know who was king of England in 975 C.E.? I can help you. Who are Susan Hampshire, David Beames, Natalie Burt, Peter Ellis, or Carolyn Pickles? I have absolutely no idea[**]... except to say that I saw them on stage last night and they all did a superb job!

[***] To emphasize my lack of cluefulness, I should point out that I have read their bios in the programme and, even after seeing all those television and film credits, I still have no idea who they are! Mainly because I have not heard of all these television shows and movies! [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is frequently embarrassed by my profound ignorance.

Hurm. It would appear that a fine layer of dust has settled upon this journal. That won't do. Without ever intending to drift away from the Wonderful World of LiveJournalTM, other projects and whatnot have been rather pressing of late... and it appears that I lost my LJ momentum for a spell.[*] Time to have a little Spring clean here, brushing off my virtual world. As there is no better way to resume journaling than to journal, here goes!

Two weekends ago, I went to Northamptonshire for a date with the beautiful [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip. Last weekend, I traveled to Manchester to enjoy two fantastic days at the mercy of in the company of the exquisite [livejournal.com profile] sweetcyanide. After spending a couple of weekends away, I was very much looking forward to spending some time with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat this weekend.

Making everything even more special, I should note that yesterday -- February 14th -- [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I commemorated the eleventh anniversary of our Double-D Day. To celebrate, we spent quality time together, bonding over various fun activities:
  • We played games together. More specifically, we played two games of Dominion, of which she won both -- 40 to 38 in the first game, 37 to 30 in the second.

  • We went to Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry to visit the final resting place of C.S. Lewis. More than once, we have visited the Wolvercote Cemetery, just North of Oxford, to pay our respects to J.R.R. Tolkien; however, we have been living less than a mile from C.S. Lewis for over a year without ever popping over for a visit. Not acceptable, and I was happy to rectify the situation.

  • We went to view the cottage, just East of Oxford, where the aforementioned C.S. Lewis lived for the last thirty-three years of his life. This is akin to our stroll, two years ago, past the house where J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings trilogy.[**] When the weather is warmer, we shall have to return to explore the C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve.

  • We went out to a new restaurant for a very nice anniversary dinner. Part of which was a most excellent wild mushroom lasagna! Yummy!

  • We snuggled and watched another couple of episodes of Smallville season eight, commiserating at how this once delightful series could have gone so abysmally astray. We also marveled at how it is still on the air and may even go into a season ten!

Overall, it was an mellow but excellent way to celebrate all the adventures and the experiences that we have sharing in the past eleven years... and to congratulate ourselves to have the strength and the tenacity that made it all possible.

[*] Besides not been posting much since my return to Merry Olde England one month ago, I have also not been reading or commenting much. Thus, if you have noticed a dearth in my comments on your journal, please rest assured, dear friend, that tis nothing personal. Conversely, if you have received one of the rare comments from me of late, know that I either think that you are rather special... or that you posted something particularly fascinating!

[**] After living about one thousand feet away for nearly two years... without knowing it!

I composed the initial part of my holiday write-up from a motel in Ohio, USA. Thus, it seems somehow fitting that I now write its counterpart, concluding the holidays from a hotel in Tokai, Japan![*] Without further ado, here is a summary of the last two states visited in the Nomad 2009 Decemberween Five State US Tour! Have at it, gentle readers!

Day Nine: (Thu Dec 31) Arrived in Michigan with [livejournal.com profile] gyades, where I greeted my darling [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and her husband, [livejournal.com profile] plasmonicgrid. After settling in, we were introduced to Little Big Planet and the four of us spent a couple of hours bonding over the Playstation 3. When finished, I took a call from the future -- the charming [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, the beautiful [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip, and the marvelous [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth phoned from 2010! We chatted for a bit, then it was time for homemade pizza paninis!

Guests[**] began arriving at half eight -- in total, fourteen people attended, making for a cozy little group. We played a couple of games of Bag of Nouns -- each time I was on the winning team by just a razor-thin margin of victory! I passed around the Signspotting book that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had given me for Yule -- it was generally a huge hit, with much laughter ensuing! At midnight, we watched an animatronic Dick Clark ring in the new year -- and decade! -- as we enjoyed malts at midnight! Yummy!

We got comfortable in the new year by chatting and having random attacks of silly string. Around two o'clock in the morning, it was suggested that we go to sleep... but we played Apples To Apples instead! Despite an early lead, I came in third with six cards to my name. Apparently, I am "pure" & "eternal"... as well as "chunky", too! More sleepy -- and slightly tipsy -- musings followed, so it was nearly six o'clock in the morning before people finally made their way to Dreamland. Definitely a fun way to see out the old year and welcome in the new one!

Day Ten: (Fri Jan 01) After a lazy lie-in, [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and [livejournal.com profile] gyades and I went out for a delicious breakfast of omelette and hash browns and pancakes! Then we exchanged gifts before packing up for the drive to Chicago. [livejournal.com profile] gyades drove on first in his car; [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I followed half an hour behind in hers. The weather outside was frightful -- much snow and ice assailed us. Still, my dear Tawney handled the roads expertly... and the slow speeds required gave us all the more time to talk in the car! When we finally ran out of things to say, we spent the last hour or two singing various and sundry songs together, especially a few duets!

On our arrival in Chicagoland, the three us of went out for a dinner of Mexican food... followed up by games! I managed an amazing rally to beat [livejournal.com profile] gyades at air hockey... only to lose the next game to [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup. I then scraped by a win -- in overtime! -- against [livejournal.com profile] gyades in foosball before we all headed in to the Lazer Tag arena. This time around, I tried a new strategy: Hide in one of the highest spaces and try to pick people off sniper-style. It didn't pay off, though; not enough people in my field of view to rack up sufficient hits. Out of fourteen players in our free-for-all, I ranked only twelfth -- compared to [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup (clad all in black ninja gear) at #3 and [livejournal.com profile] gyades at #5. Oh, well -- better luck next time! After our session shooting each other in the backs[***], we returned to the Event Horizon for some good old fashioned Rock Band. That topped off the night well, until we were all ready to collapse into bed!

Day Eleven: (Sat Jan 02) After waking, [livejournal.com profile] gyades and [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I made our way to the Morton Arboretum to wander about the grounds. Although this magnificent arboretum is located only half a mile from the Event Horizon -- making me a frequent visitor when I am local -- this is only the second time that I have dropped by in Winter. The ground was covered in snow and the sun glistened beautifully off the shiny white surfaces! I had never seen the arboretum like this before -- it was absolutely lovely! We drove slowly through both sides, stopping in the middle to wander on foot. We attempted a gnome hunt... but found too many gnomes were hiding beneath the snow! Whoops!

After we returned to the Event Horizon, we let the games begin! [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I played Tic Tac Doh! using my Icehouse pieces, each winning several games. We then moved on to Martian Chess -- also an Icehouse game -- where I won. By this point, [livejournal.com profile] xirpha had arrived; we broke out Betrayal At House On The Hill and played with all four of us. Interestingly enough, we stumbled on the one scenario -- out of fifty -- where there is no traitor! Instead, the four of us had to collectively defeat our evil twins, which I am proud to say we managed without sustaining any casualties! Go us! By this point [livejournal.com profile] gyades was feeling a bit off so he went to take a nap whilst [livejournal.com profile] xirpha taught [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I how to play Ingenious; the first game was a close win for [livejournal.com profile] xirpha (eight points for him, with seven for each of us), whilst the second was a much more dramatic win for [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup (eleven points for her, seven for me, one for [livejournal.com profile] xirpha. Next up, we played Empire Builders. This was a close game -- and a long one! -- but I managed to achieve a victory! By this point, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] wyldekyttin, & [livejournal.com profile] unclevlad, as well as the charming [livejournal.com profile] emrldgirrl & [livejournal.com profile] wiktowasichu had arrived! We introduced them to the now-infamous Bag of Nouns, which was a hit! I teamed up with [livejournal.com profile] wyldekyttin and [livejournal.com profile] unclevlad against the rest... but, alas, we were undone! At the end of the game, we were behind three points!

We had a little time to chat and schmooze before we needed to head out to catch the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My dear friends, I am proud to say that your favourite Nomad is a Rocky virgin no longer! Before the show, us virgins were rounded up and made to mimic barnyard animals having an orgasm -- my turkey garnered great laughs... and came in second only to the walrus! The show itself was lots of fun! The shadow cast was excellent and came equipped with very elaborate props! Of course, I have no basis for comparison... but [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup has seen half a dozen such productions of Rocky -- and she thinks that this one was the best! Originally, we had planned to dress me up as Magenta for the show; to that end [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup had brought a French maid's costume with her. Alas, time did not allow... so there are no compromising photos to share with you, gentle readers! Perhaps next time!

The cinema itself was impressive, with a fantastic ambiance and seating at conference-style tables. This permits a full restaurant menu, with food and drink delivered throughout the show. I very much enjoyed the venue and plan to return on future trips to Chicago -- either for Rocky or just for other movies! The admission fees are quite reasonable (only eight dollars), though everyone is required to purchase at least one item from the menu. No complaints there -- tis a good deal! Meanwhile, I owe thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wyldekyttin and [livejournal.com profile] unclevlad... as the surreptitiously intercepted and paid the restaurant check for [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup and I![****]

When the show ended, we bid them farewell... then returned to the Event Horizon to collapse into bed once more, circa three o'clock in the morning!

Day Twelve: (Sun Jan 03) Vacation over -- hop a flight to Japan!

Thus completed the Nomad's Twelve Days of Christmas in the US of A -- all in all, it was an excellent holiday and a wonderful start to the new year! Now I am in Tokai, batteries recharged and eagerly looking forward to the start of our next collaboration meeting tomorrow! The experiment is turning on now so these are some very exciting times!!

[*] Hey, I've got a name to live up to!

[**] Other than [livejournal.com profile] gyades and I, of course!

[***] And front. And shoulders.

[****] Indeed, I would have thanked them sooner -- and in person! -- except that I did not learn of this until after we had already parted ways for the night!

anarchist_nomad: (One of my babies)
( Jan. 3rd, 2010 02:46 am)
Just got back from seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- I am no longer a virgin! Writing this entry whilst [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup gets ready for bed, so I have to be quick. I get about three hours of sleep, then need to wake to pack for Japan. In five hours from now, I will be on my way to the airport!

Today continued the 2010 trend of excellence! Had a lovely outing to the Morton Arboretum in the morning, followed by a nifty games party at the Event Horizon, then Rocky Horror to cap the day. I have enjoyed the company of my darling [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup, who I don't get to see nearly enough, as well as several other excellent Chicago friends! As I write this, my darling kitty Stumpy is sitting by my left elbow -- curled up, cute, and purring. Life is good!

A more detailed write-up should follow from Japan, when I summarize the last few days of my holiday trip. For now, though, merry Sunday to all... and to all a good night!


anarchist_nomad: (Default)


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags