This post is mainly for [ profile] crystalcazzie (she knows why), but it's worth sharing widely because it's so awesome.

Kudos to my beloved [ profile] cheshcat for bringing this to my attention last week...
Thanks to all who responded to the previous entry. The comments were much appreciated. As a side note, I had tried to get last Thursday's seminar postponed by one week, until today, as I knew that we (i.e., the T2K collaboration) would be releasing new results this week. In retrospect, I am rather glad I did not succeed in moving my presentation, as RSD would not have lived long enough to see it. Tis an odd realisation, knowing that in a career spanning decades, my talk was the last physics seminar he ever saw.

That said, Monday's entry was also rather grim. I shall endeavour to correct for that now, by writing a much cheerier accounting of my Thursday morning.

This entry is being written, as so many have before it, from Ye Olde Oxford Tube, as I make my way into London for the "morning" commute. Tis noon, so you could be forgiven for thinking that your friendly neighbourhood Nomad has been having a bit of a lazy day. Not so, however!

This particular Nomad has been awake since half past six and busy as the proverbial bee. Although nothing world-shaking has happened [yet] today, the morning has been filled with various unusual events, some amusing and other rather satisfying. If you read on, dear friends, you will find nothing shocking or vital... but I hope that perhaps you will share some of my good feelings for today.

For ease of reading, I will break each part of the story into a separate chapter, concerning a different topic. Read only the ones that interest you, or read them all! Enjoy!
anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Feb. 17th, 2014 01:29 pm)
It's an odd moment when your one of the many items on the to-do list for the day includes "E-mail so-and-so"... and then an e-mail comes in saying so-and-so has died. Indeed, I'm not sure that has ever happened to me before.

In this case, so-and-so is a colleague who I met last Summer in Moscow. I gave a seminar at his university on Thursday. He wasn't able to attend in person, due to a fever, but joined remotely. He was ill, but it didn't seem super-serious; also, he couldn't have been older than his mid-fifties. If that.

After the talk, we carried on an animated debate about whether neutrino masses actually constitute physics beyond the Standard Model. We only stopped when I needed to leave to catch my flight home!

Today's to-do list included e-mailing him to thank him for the seminar invite, and to offer to continue our discussion. Guess it no longer needs to be on the list...
Just finished listening to a talk about using neutrinos to probe the Earth for information about its composition and energy production. Very spiffy!

Not being a geologist, I didn't realise how much we still don't know about our planet. For instance, the Earth radiates 47 ± 2 terawatts (i.e., 47 trillion watts) into space. The energy necessary to replenish this is 5 x 1030 Joules... and it's an open question how all that energy is produced!

Regarding the Earth's composition, drilling only gives us direct information down to about 12 kilometers. Sometimes a piece of mantle reaches the surface, allowing us to probe much further down... but there is an implicit assumption that it didn't change during the journey upward. Not necessarily true!

Two neutrino experiments -- one in Italy (Borexino), and one in Japan (KamLAND) -- have come close to discovering the first geo-neutrino signal. They have a significance of 4.5 standard deviations (or "sigma") from zero; convention in the field has it that 5 sigma is required to claim discovery. More data is coming for those two, with other experiments (for instance, one in Canada) coming down the pike. Even now, they have reached the point where they can start constraining geological models.

Now that's cool!
So let's see -- on the morning after, we find:

  • The White House stays blue, with a Democratic president granted a second term,
  • The Senate stays blue, defying all early expectations because male Republican candidates can't stop making moronic statements about rape,
  • The House of Representatives stays red, because the districts are heavily gerrymandered to make them as non-competitive as possible.

In other words, after two years and over four billion dollars, effectively nothing has changed.[*]

Since the wee hours of this morning, the news has been filled with speculation of what the election results will bring, what we can expect for the next two years. Really, the answer is simple: The next two years will look just like the last two years.

The irony is that this pitiful result is basically the very best that could be hoped for. Realistically, the outcome could not have gotten any better -- there was no real chance of the Democrats capturing the House or achieving a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.[**] On the other hand, it could have gotten quite a bit worse! Polls showed that the White House was never really in doubt... but smart money had the Senate flipping colours not too long ago. Still, even knowing that this was the best possible outcome, two more years of the same old same old isn't a lot to look forward to.

Meanwhile, I had a fun evening at [ profile] ayaron's election night party, not heading home until after Mitt Romney's concession speech ended around six o'clock this morning. I'm paying for it today, though, heading into London on less than three hours of sleep. There is a half-day meeting in future long baseline neutrino experiments starting at Queen Mary University of London in about an hour, then I am off to Pimlico for dinner with the erudite [ profile] cmcmck.

[*] Some details are different, to be sure. For instance, I much prefer to see Elizabeth Warren hold Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat, rather than Scott Brown. But, from a global view, nothing has changed.

[**] Even if they did achieve the latter, Democrats have shown themselves incapable of maintaining the lock-step party unity of the Republicans, meaning even a super-majority leaves them vulnerable to the filibuster.

anarchist_nomad: (Big Hair)
( Nov. 5th, 2012 10:19 pm)
I could have sworn there was something that I was supposed to remember today...
I enjoyed a hearty belly laugh this morning. Ah, the world can certainly be an ironic place sometimes!

To understand why I am saying this, my dear friends, a bit of historical context is necessary:

A few years ago, I was actively involved in the UK bisexual community. Wanting to give something back, I created Oxford BiFest -- a one-day event following the model used in London, Manchester, and Brighton. In some areas, we wanted to put our own stamp on the event, experimenting with improvements here and there, such as a larger venue. In other regards, however, we saw no need to re-invent the wheel, and so we borrowed enthusiastically from those who had blazed a trail before us. For instance, we adapted our logo from a recent BiFest elsewhere, and we used a catchy slogan that had been circulating in the community for over a decade.

That slogan was "Like Men? Like Women? Like Both?" Seems innocuous enough, right? What's what we thought, too -- especially in light of its long history of use. We could not have been more wrong. Posting a copy of our flier, which featured said slogan, started a massive flame war as we were vehemently accused of being exclusive and making people feel "erased" by our mentioning of men and women. I was personally excoriated as transphobic, discriminatory, and a bigot.

When the attacks ramped up, I was unwilling to risk tarnishing our event by entering the fray to speak up in my own defense. Thus, I immediately fell silent. Those attacking pressed on, however, whilst shouting loudly about how they were being silenced.[*] It couldn't help but call a Monty Python scene to mind: "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"

At the time, a precious few spoke up against such unwarranted accusations, for which I am quite appreciative. Unfortunately, many others either joined the attacks or merely kept quiet. Sadly, silence has the de facto effect of resembling acceptance with such inappropriate behaviour.

Happily, the event itself was highly successful, despite all the online drama that preceded it! Yay! Thus, we decided to do it again one year later. When the time came, community leaders expressed concern that we would choose to use the same slogan, indicating that we should bow before the outrageous behaviour and personal attacks of the previous year. I was shocked that leaders could consider harassment as an acceptable means of initiating change in the community. After considerable discussion, [ profile] cheshcat and I decided to leave the UK bisexual community in response, rather than condone bullying as legitimate behaviour. We shut down the Bisexual Oxford group, donated all its assets to charity, and found other projects worthy of our time and energy.

Unfortunately, we lost many friends in the process, yet we stood by our principles... which, ultimately, matters much more. I don't think that I could have lived with myself, looked at myself in the mirror each morning, if I had encouraged harassment and accepted intimidation as legitimate tactics. We walked away, but we did it with our consciences intact.

So, gentle readers, that is the requisite backstory -- are you ready for the tale of current irony? Excellent!

Let us now fast-forward three years to the present. One of the people who took part in attacking us for not being inclusive is an organizer for a polyamorous event. She played a particularly active role in the slander, and was the first to hurl accusations of bigotry when she called me "transphobic" for our mention of "men" and "women". Clearly one who strongly believes that we should not discriminate or be exclusive, right? Read on.

Today, I found out that her upcoming event, OpenCon UK, has barred men from registering unless they do so with a partner to accompany them. Say what?? So much for being all vehement about inclusivity -- this rule is about as discriminatory and exclusive as they come! As [ profile] da_pupdetz like to say: "Whoops! Somebody screwed up!"

I have been actively polyamorous for over fifteen years, and taking part in poly events for at least twelve of those years. In that time, I have never before seen a bar against unaccompanied men, nor have I seen need of it. Not at the old "Bi Poly Rap sessions" in New York, not at Poly Chicago, not at OpenCon Catalonia -- nowhere. At times, it has been helpful to explicitly mention that a poly event is not the place for cruising, but an outright ban on men who are not accompanied is completely uncalled for!

Here is one last helping of extra-bonus irony: Besides being offensive in all the obvious ways, this ban also reinforces the heteronormative paradigm. Let's all come to talk about polyamoury in our nice little groups of two -- one man, one woman. Honestly, I would never have expected it!

Alas, the event in question has a perennial scheduling conflict with the Sooper Sekrit Pagan Festival, which I am running again this year. This is a shame -- I cannot boycott OpenCon UK for its moronic policy of discrimination and exclusivity, as I was already unable to attend. Le sigh.

Even so, the irony made me laugh out loud this morning, grinning whilst simultaneously shaking my head in disbelief. The world is a funny, funny place, indeed!

[*] Not the main irony promised for this post -- consider it bonus, gentle readers!

Somehow, September has arrived. Hello, Autumn. Two weeks from right now, I will be on a flight to Japan, for our next collaboration meeting. Four weeks from tomorrow, I will be on a flight to the States, getting ready to attend my sixteenth consecutive Sooper Sekrit Pagan Festival![*]

The start of September also means that our lease on Chiron Beta Prima just renewed for another year. I've always found it odd to own two houses in the States... but rent an flat for our primary residence.

Since we will be staying in CBP for another year, it is on track to be our longest occupied home since moving to Merry Olde England. We were in Skullcrusher Mountain for twenty-eight months, and we were in the Flat With No Name for twenty-four months. We have been in Chiron Beta Prime since the start of November 2010, which makes for twenty-two months thus far. Not yet the record -- indeed, still third out of three -- but by the end of our new one year lease, it will have risen to the top.

Indeed, the new lease also means that 2012 looks to be a very stable year for my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and myself. Looking back over the six and a half years that we have lived in Oxford, it seems like every year brings either a new flat or a new car:
  • 2006: New flat! (also, first flat, as we had just arrived!)
  • 2007: New car! (also, first car in the UK)
  • 2008: New car and new flat! (plus new cat, but that's another story)
  • 2009: Neither new car nor new flat -- needed a rest after replacing both in 2008!
  • 2010: New flat!
  • 2011: New car!

As you can see, gentle readers, on average we replace either our car or our flat each year. We are currently on Car #3 and Flat #3. This is not quite as unstable as our friends D&J, who moved to London three months before we moved to Oxford; they get a new flat every March[**] and have their annual housewarming party every September.

Even so, a bit more stability would be welcome. It looks like we will not be moving in 2012; hopefully, the car that we bought last year will last out the year as well. Given that it is far more reliable than its predecessor, things on that front are looking good!

[*] Hooray!

[**] Except for 2011, which was anomalous.

anarchist_nomad: (At the Haymarket)
( Aug. 29th, 2012 01:38 pm)
Many Republicans seem to think of themselves as the Christian party. The party that believes homosexuality is an abomination[1], the party that insists that the Ten Commandments should be on display in public places[2], the party that opposes all abortion on "pro-life" religious arguments[3] and even wants to get rid of contraception. Yup, those Republicans are sure of their role as God's chosen ones here on Earth.

Why then, if they are so in tune with the Almighty, does He choose to throw hurricanes at their political conventions?? Not just right now, although Issac is certainly throwing a monkey wrench into both the logistics and influence of their Tampa convention. In 2008, Hurricane Gustav struck during the RNC, wrecking enough havoc that (like this year) one day of the convention was cancelled. And in 2004, whilst the Republican's were re-nominating the Shrub in New York, Hurricane Frances hit Florida, causing that state's delegation to make an early withdrawal.

If these Republicans are as serious about their God as they claim to be, I would think they would get the message by now. The documentation is clear: That particular God doesn't throw down torrents of rain as a way of saying: "Good job!" He opens up the skies when you piss him off.

[1] The oft-cited Leviticus 20:13.

[2] Though I would wager that most Republicans cannot recite all ten of the commandments.

[3] But favours the death penalty (and is hawkish about starting wars).
Nine-thirty in the morning.

I've already done my morning chores, eaten breakfast (!), swam two kilometers, and now -- with a tall mug of tea in hand -- am settling down to my Monday morning video conference.

So this is what being a morning person feels like!
Nothing personal in this entry, I'm afraid. Just one of the many voices to mark the passing of Neil Armstrong. The first man on the moon... and the fourth of that hyper-elite subset to die.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, about 108 billion humans have ever lived[*]. Of these, only twelve have ever set foot on the moon. That's about one in every nine billion -- as I said above, tis a hyper-elite slice of the species.

Like the polar explorers of the early twentieth century, I am fascinated by the astronauts of the space race -- particularly those who were on the six successful Apollo missions. My one regret about being born in 1975 is that I missed all the excitement. Seems strange to think about, but there has not been a man on the moon in my lifetime. Indeed, given that the median age of humanity is 28.4 years, most people alive now were born after the last lunar landing.

Requiescat in pace, Neil.

[*] In blatant contradiction to the oft-cited myth that more people are alive today than have ever died.

Holy macaroni! The Pope just died! Wowza![*]

Also, I am still in Germany until Tuesday.[**] There was a presidential election today. Now there is a new president.

Talk about eventful weekends! Dead Pope on Saturday; new president on Sunday. Leaves me wondering what new happenings Monday will bring...

[*] Actually, I wasn't entirely sure that could happen.

[**] Summary travelogues and pictures forthcoming -- promise!

Checking the mail today, I found that my absentee ballot for the Illinois Republican Primary had arrived. I feel a bit dirty even handling something that smells like so much elephant dung, but there seemed little point in voting in the Democratic Primary this time around. Barrack Obama has handled his presidency even more poorly than I had anticipated, capitulating to the G.O.P a ridiculous amount. However, as much as I would enjoy a contested primary for the Dems, there really isn't another alternative on the donkey side of things.

Right. So which of these scumbags fine upstanding Americans will I be voting to send up against #44 in November. Reading straight off the ballot, my options are:
  • Mitt Romney
  • Ron Paul
  • Rick Perry
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Charles "Buddy" Roemer
  • Rick Santorum

Hurm. Tough call on who to choose. With the exception of "Buddy", I can't stand the lot of them.[*]

Well, at least I've got a few weeks to decide. It certainly will not be the Newt, as I would vote for primordial ooze before I voted for him. Probably not Mitt "I'll pretend to believe anything that will make you vote for me" Romney, either. Ron Paul? We disagree in the extreme on economics, but have some common ground in other areas. On the other hand, he stands as much chance of winning the nomination as Charles "Who?" Roemer and Rick "Ooops" Perry. Maybe Rick Santorum? With a race this volatile, today's polls have no bearing on tomorrow's results... but, for the moment, he has momentum. I can't imagine him ever beating Obama in the general, so maybe tactical voting is the way to go?

I guess it comes down to Ron Paul if I vote for the "best" of this sorry lot and Rick Santorum if I choose tactics. Recently, [ profile] gyades reminded me of some wise words against tactical voting, so perhaps that will determine the way forward.

Meanwhile, I do continue to enjoy the absurd reality television that is the Republican nomination race. Very sorry that Perry dropped out; it's not half as much fun without him!

[*] And the only reason "Buddy" gets off the hook is that I had never heard of him before today!
Tomorrow afternoon, I am giving a seminar on the first results from T2K at the University of Sussex. I have often said that I love presenting talks but hate actually writing them. As such, my talks always get written the day before they are first delivered. Despite attempts to circumvent this pattern, I am in the usual boat once more.

To make matters a bit more interesting, however, today is already a rather full day. Check out my schedule:
  • 10:00 - Weekly Imperial T2K group meeting (in London)
  • 12:00 - Weekly Imperial T2K group lunch (in London)
  • 16:00 - Physics Department Colloquium on String Theory (in London)
  • 19:30 - Theatre at the Oxford Playhouse (in Oxford)
  • 23:00 - T2K-SK video conference (in Oxford, at home)

In addition to the scheduled events, there have also been other urgent matters... like arranging the details of a talk that I will be giving to the British Astronomical Association in March and requesting reference letters for an open staff scientist position at Fermilab.

Somehow, in between all of this, I need to write the remaining 90% of my talk before boarding the train for Sussex at 09:00 tomorrow morning. A few hours of sleep would be ideal, but are far from guaranteed. Oi!

ETA: After the string theory colloquium, I made an executive decision to push back the theatre until tomorrow evening. It seemed the only sane option. Turns out to be a wise move, too, as I am currently on the Oxford Tube, which is sitting in heavy traffic. Although I started the journey back to Oxford immediately after the colloquium ended, it is not at all clear that I would have returned in time for the show tonight.

anarchist_nomad: (Intrepid explorer)
( Oct. 1st, 2011 12:00 am)
Here in Japan, the clock just struck midnight... putting us into October. With the exception of [ profile] chefmayhem, who is somewhere in the same dormitory building as me, I believe that the entirety of my LJ f-list is still in September.

Greetings from October, gentle readers! Greetings from the future!!

[No, I really do not have anything more useful than that to say right now. Really!]
anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Sep. 30th, 2011 11:00 pm)
About five hours from now, circa 14:00 CDT, the good people at Fermilab will be shutting down the Tevatron for the last time. After twenty-eight years, this great machine will collide protons with anti-protons no more.

Until the LHC surpassed it last year, the Tevatron had been the the most powerful particle accelerator in the world for many years. Some of you may recall the news breaking from what is arguably the Tevatron's greatest accomplishment -- the discovery of the top quark, back in 1995. I remember hearing the news in my undergraduate course on Intermediate Electricity & Magnetism. I also remember work being done on the Tevatron "Run 2" upgrade in the late 90s, when I was a young graduate student. Indeed, I did a small amount of said work myself, preparing some hardware for the DZero experiment -- one of the two collider detectors at the Tevatron.

Although I never collaborated on a Tevatron experiment, many of my friends have. Most notable, of course, is my colleague, housemate, best friend, and family member, the gregarious [ profile] gyades. Indeed, the grand [ profile] gyades did much more than I to help build the second run of Tevatron experiments, and he has been a DZero collaborator for the whole of Run 2. Or at least he will have been in about five hours time. He was there when Run 2 switched on in March 2001, and he will be there this afternoon when it is turned off.

I suspect that many of the more senior members of my field will not be thinking overmuch about this ending. After all, experiments come and they go. For me, however, this is the very first time that I have seen an experiment of this scale -- the flagship of our field for many years -- reach the end of its life and pass into history.

For anyone who is interested, there are some press articles about this event here and here. Additionally, for those who are true afficionados, there will be a live broadcast of the shutdown streaming on the web from 13:45 CST. I am off to sleep shortly after posting this... but tis tempting to wake up for this!

Hmmmm... I guess that in six hours time, the MINOS experiment -- a long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment similar to my own T2K but a generation earlier -- will be the biggest experiment that Fermilab has running.
anarchist_nomad: (Big Hair)
( Sep. 14th, 2011 11:17 pm)
Before writing today's entry, I want to thank everyone who contributed comments to yesterday's post. It has been both interesting and amusing to read the replies on morality and ethics!

As for today? This update will be relatively short, as tis time to wind down for bed -- there are several long days ahead. Today, I visited the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) for the first time. Although the lab is located very near to Chiron Beta Prime -- only sixteen miles away, near Didcot and still in Oxfordshire -- I have never had cause to go there before.

Having finished testifying before Parliament and being Spokesperson for the T2K experiment, my ever-awesome boss was recently made the Director of Particle Physics for the Science and Technology Facilities Council. For those who don't know, the STFC is the main UK funding agency for our research. This means that he spends a lot of time at RAL now. One of my professional responsibilities is handle the day-to-day research supervision of one of his graduate students, who is planning to move to Oxford and work half-time at RAL. Which means that I will be spending a lot more time there, too. That is fine by me, as the lab seems like a nice place to work -- reminding me somewhat of my time at Fermilab, actually -- and the commute is much shorter than the Oxford-to-London ride!

Anyway, said student met me in Oxford this morning and I drove us both out to the lab. Being a Londoner, this student has spent very little time in Oxford before. I met him near the coach stop and walked him back to Chiron Beta Prime so that we could get into my car and go.

It was only upon returning home alone, eight hours later, that I realised it had never even occurred to me to point out that my neighbour's roof has a large shark sticking out of it! We walked right by and the thought of mentioning it never crossed my mind! Oooops! (Indeed, were it not for a tourist in the road taking shark pictures when I returned home, I doubt that I would have realised it then, either!)

I suppose that I really have been living here for too long, if a giant shark sticking out of a roof has become commonplace!
anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Jul. 10th, 2011 03:00 pm)
The main Pagan mailing list that I am on is currently discussing polyamory. Meanwhile, one of the polyamory mailings lists that I am is currently discussing Paganism. Makes for a bit of confusion reading through my e-mail today.

Interestingly enough, the Pagan discussion of polyamory is intelligent, respectful, and well-written... and, in contrast, the poly discussion of Paganism[*] is rude, obnoxious, and patronizing. I just laughed rather heartily when somebody called me "thick" because of one of my comments and went on to condescendingly explain to me what quarks and leptons are, as well as the four fundamental forces of nature. My word, I don't believe that has ever happened to me before!

I wrote back and pointed out many of the flaws in the "facts" as he explained them, but I suspect that I shan't remain long in that discussion. I don't believe in arguing for the sake of argument -- time is too precious a quantity -- and a discussion that has degenerated thusly is not going to have any worthwhile outcome.

[*] Well, of spirituality and magic in general.

I have never been able to abide bullies, people who use their power, strength, or influence to hurt, intimidate, or abuse those that they perceive as being in a weaker position than themselves. Examples abound of times that I have stood against bullies and aided those that are targeted.

This ethos is what led me to become an activist, working for years to empower the disempowered elements of society -- from the homeless to workers to prisoners, and more. It is also why I fought a long court battle for four years after my wrongful arrest in New York City. It would have been easier to just walk away, but wrong to leave the system unchallenged. Likewise, these ethics are what prompted my recent parting from the UK bi community; I cannot maintain membership in a group where the tactics of silencing and intimidation are accepted as a standard component of community discourse.

Following these principles, I now find myself -- much to my surprise -- invested in the outcome of an election at the level of an undergraduate society. Never thought that would happen again since... well, since I finished college many years ago! Tis small stakes, I know. Nonetheless, the election in question involves somebody that I love fighting back against somebody who has been systematically harassing her for a year or more -- a situation that I find intolerable. So I do what I can to give support from six thousand miles away, and I cheer loudly from the sidelines. With any luck, this will all be resolved well twenty-four hours from now. If not? Well, then the fight goes on.

In the meantime, I think that I will let off some steam by going back to the post that I started writing several hours ago, which is of a much more peaceful and idyllic nature.
anarchist_nomad: (Feeling horny)
( Feb. 15th, 2011 11:40 pm)
Yesterday, I mentioned that I do not celebrate Valentine's Day. Actually, I have been saying as much for all my life.

Nonetheless, I have to admit to being rather pleasantly surprised when a mystery Valentine -- from "A secret admirer", no less -- arrived in my box today. We are not talking about an LJ community or an e-card[*] here. I mean in my actual physical snail mail box, downstairs at Chiron Beta Prime. For that matter, we are not even talking about an ordinary store bought card! Purely handmade craft for this one!

With no clues save a postmark, I will own up to being quite bewildered by who could have sent it... but I must confess to smiling a great deal after opening the note. Guess even the most hard-hearted and cynical of Nomads can be melted sometimes! Well done you... whoever you are!

Off to bed soon... though I may find myself pondering this one for some time before I finally drift off to sleep! Merry Tuesday to all, and to all a good night!

[*] Though I should say that I received a deliciously delightful e-card from the alluring [ profile] sweetcyanide. Thank you very much, my darling, for starting my day off with some wonderful wickedness!



anarchist_nomad: (Default)


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