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

The story continues.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[*] Who may well be my daemons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Figuratively, not literally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[10] Ignoring non-methods like Plain Hunt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, it seems wise to resume using my LJ as a journal now, rather than wait until that magical moment when I have enough time to compose my Jan/Feb summary. I don't have that much time right now... but I do have enough to write about today.

Today I slept in, as a consequence of being in an international meeting until nearly midnight[*]. Mirroring the end of my night, I began my day by participating on a national meeting. Yes, Gentle Readers, it is one of those weeks, where we have our usual Thursday afternoon group meeting... followed by a late night international video conference, followed by a Friday morning UK-wide video conference! Whee!

This afternoon, I went to a talk in the Cultural Platform series, organised by Oxford Inspires. The main speaker at this platform was Shami Chakrabarti, once called "the most dangerous woman in Britain." I thought that the talk was good. She is definitely an excellent speaker, though I must admit that her views were a bit too much to the centre for my liking. Phillip Pullman was also in the audience, and she made several amusing attempts to [playfully] embarass him.

This evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I are going to the Oxford Playhouse to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Othello. There is a certain aesthetic to this. After all, the two most frequent sources for our theatre fix are (a) the Oxford Playhouse and (b) the Royal Shakespeare Company, which usually required a trip to Stratford-on-Avon. Having the RSC perform at the Playhouse for a change seems..... I don't have the right words. Much like a comic book fan in 1975 must have felt when the first Superman / Spider-Man crossover took place, I would imagine. I am particularly looking forward to tonight's performance, as the role of Othello is being played by Patrice Naiambana, who we saw as the Earl of Warwick last year in the History Cycle plays. He did a phenomenal job and I will be quite happy to see him on stage again. Tonight's performance will also feature Natalia Tena as Desdemona; those of you who are particular fans of the Harry Potter films may recognise the name, as she played Tonks in the movies.

After the theatre ends, I shall be loading the car and driving North, starting another road trip[**]. Can anyone tell me what day comes six months after August 28th? How about six months after August 29th? August 30th? August 31st? Well, I'm not quite sure when the actual day is, but there is a six month anniversary to celebrate sometime this weekend, and that is just what I intent to do!

Have a lovely weekend, Gentle Readers, and I shall "see" you all again on Monday!

[*] Mind you, rather than complain, I should be grateful! The meetings are set to start at 7am in Japan. Right now, they run from 10pm until midnight in England... but once we change the clocks next month, it will be 11pm until 1am!

[**] The last was two weekends ago, when [ profile] cheshcat and I spent the weekend exploring Cambridge to celebrate our tenth Double-D Day.

Writing this entry from the Oxford Tube. Brain is fried from a three hour group meeting. Have about two hours to regenerate said brain before the next meeting begins. Whee!

It seems odd to relish the commute home as my time to relax. However, today has been ridiculously hectic -- albeit somewhat productive -- making this the first chance I have had all day to do something fun.

Which means I'm not going to talk about anything physics related. Nope. I'm on break. Instead, I am going to talk about theatre!!

So, as I have already chronicled within these [virtual] pages, last week [ profile] cheshcat and I went to see Chess. Leaving the show, I realised that what I wanted, more than anything in the world[**] was greens, greens, nothing but greens was the soundtrack to Chess. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an "Original London Cast" recording. And I am sure not going to be bothered with the farce that passes for the Broadway version. What I would love is a copy of the version recorded at the Royal Albert Hall last year. However, that will not be released until Spring so, for now, I have to make do with the concept album.

Said album was acquired the next day. One week later, I am not quite sure how many times I have listened to it... but I am well on my way to having the entire score memorised.[***] Good stuff![****]

Since I ice skate on Mondays and ring bells on Tuesdays & Thursdays, Wednesday night is the best opportunity for theatre. Yesterday was a Wednesday, and it did not break the mould. [ profile] cheshcat and I went to go see the Creation Theatre company perform a version of Hans Christian Anderson's tales in the Mirror Tent. These are the people responsible for giving me hypothermia back in August. Since it is now December, they have wisely stopped doing outdoor theatre for the year. The Mirror Tent is a very spiffy venue for performances. It is one hundred years old and normally lives in Holland[*****]. Creation brings it to Oxford each December to use; last year, we saw them do a production of The Brothers Grimm in it! Fun times!

Finally, I owe an enormous:


to one of the wonderful Dr. Jens on my f-list[******] -- the ever-amazing ever-adorable [ profile] jeneralist. She recently brought it to my attention that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan will be starring together in a production of Waiting for Godot that will be touring in the UK next year. Without her intervention, this may have slipped entirely beneath my radar. However, due to her considerate e-nudging me in the right direction, [ profile] cheshcat and I now have tickets to see this Dynamic Duo perform in Milton Keynes on March 21st. I suspect that more than one person on my f-list would enjoy seeing Magneto and Professor X waiting around for Godot, so I am passing the favour along. There are many seats left -- if you are a fan of Beckett, Stewart, or McKellan then get thee to a [virtual] ticket booth!

[*] Because I am feeling generous, I will award one hundred points to the first person who correctly identifies where the title of this post came from.

[**] Not really... but I will award another hundred points to the first person who correctly identifies where this line comes from. Note that I even gave y'all a hint!

[***] Does that make me the Arbiter? (One hundred points to the first person who correctly explains why this is a pun)

[****] Note to [ profile] squeektoy42: By mentioning Chess again, I am affording you another opportunity to join in on the musical theatre discussion. You were conspicuously absent from said discussion last week, my dear. I will forgive it this once, given that you were away eating dead birds and whatnot. Please don't make the same mistake twice, oh Queen of Musical Theatre!

[*****] I don't know what it is about Holland that produces such spifftacular things! One of the highlights of last weekend, where we went to see Oxford's Winter Light event, was a brass band from Holland -- called Decibel -- that was much fun! They had forward-facing euphoniums and a sousaphone stuffed with a chicken... and they played songs like Eye of the Tiger and YMCA. They also take requests shouted out of a window across the street and one story up by a bloke wearing nothing but a bathrobe!

[******] Yes, there are more than one.

Had a proper date with [ profile] cheshcat last night: Dinner and a show, all dressed up and everything. [ profile] cheshcat picked the restaurant -- a Thai place very near to Carfax[1]. The identity of the show that we would see after was unknown to me until we got to the theatre -- another in the series of "surprise theatre tickets" that [ profile] cheshcat bought for us back in August.

Upon arrival at the Oxford Playhouse, I learned that we would be seeing the Oxford Operatic Society[2] perform Chess. I congratulated [ profile] cheshcat on coordinating our dinner (Thai) with the show (which is partially set in Thailand)... though she denied that there was any conscious link between the two.

Until last night, I had never seen Chess before. I have to say that I definitely enjoyed it! It is not one of my absolute favourite musicals... but it definitely made the grade in my book![3] I would see it again, and I have charged [ profile] cheshcat with going to the library today to find the soundtrack for us to listen to.

Thus, it was not surprising that, on boarding the The Merry Oxford Tube this morning, I went to Wikipedia -- the source of all human knowledge -- and looked up the show, to learn a bit more about it. What was surprising is what I actually learned.

For starters, the show began life as a concept album, a la Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Between the release of the concept album (1984) and its first performance in the West End (1986), some changes were made. Not terribly shocking. Indeed this is quite normal; who here remembers the sub-plot in Evita wherein Che desperately attempts to get rich selling insecticide? Exactly.

No, what first startled me was reading about the transition from the West End to Broadway, wherein the entire show underwent dramatic changes. Two chess tournaments, separated by a year, were reduced to one. The roles of challenger and champion were switched. The reception of the press to the US-ian was completely reversed. And the ending? Not even close! Wow. May as well remake Les Miserables, but end it with Eponine and Marius going off to live with Jean Valjean in the glorious new era following a successful revolution![4]

Somehow, I am not at all surprised to learn that the Broadway version was a complete flop.

Still, what really raised my eyebrows was reading that, due to "an unknown contractual stipulation", the London version is not permitted to be performed within the United States.[5] Wow. Double wow. Not allowed to be performed in the United States??

Having read the synopsis of all three versions, I am very glad that that Oxford Operatic Society choose to produce this show. I believe that the London version is the better one by far... and it baffles me to hear that I would not have been able to see this show if I were back in the States! Furthermore, it boggles my mind to know that, when talking to any more my friends back home[6], the musical that I am talking about when I refer to Chess is not the same show that they will be referring to (if they have seen it).

This is weird. It's weird. Very weird. Fuckin' weird.[7]

Anyway, overall yesterday was quite a lovely day, ending with quite a lovely date. Good food, good show, and alone time with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. Definitely a winning combination!

[1] The tower that marks the centre of Oxford.

[2] Last year, we saw them perform The Boy Friend (after which I declared that I would not need to eat cheese for a week). In 2006, [ profile] cassiopia and I saw them put on The Gondoliers.

[3] I loved it. It was better than Cats.

[4] Javert lives next door and babysits the grandchildren sometimes.

[5] I realise that, with Wikipedia as my only source on this thus far, there remains room to doubt the validity of this claim. For the moment, however, I choose to tentatively accept it as true.

[6] As I am doing with quite a few right now, by writing this.

[7] I'm so mad that I don't know what to do.

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

So what has your Friendly Neighborhood Nomad has been up to? )
Our lease on the new flat began on Friday. We are currently in the process of moving from the old place to the new one, and expect to be entirely out of the old apartment by the end of this coming weekend. In the meantime, here are so initial thoughts on the new space:

Cons (major):
  • Size: New flat is definitely smaller than the old flat. Which is saying something!

Cons (minor):
  • Location: New flat is further from the Oxford city centre (about two miles, compared with our previous flat which was about one mile away).
  • Management: New flat is run by a professional company, meaning more interference into our lives.
  • Rent: New flat is £45/month more expensive than the old flat.
  • Showers: Thus far, water pressure is not impressive. Nor is the hot water supply. We shall see if something can be done about this.

Pros (major):
  • Location: New flat is much closer to the Oxford Tube stop (a five minute walk, or three minute run, compared to a fifteen minute drive). This will also make it easier to take my bicycle on the coach, helping to shorten the London side of the commute.
  • Location: New flat is also on a bus route that brings [ profile] cheshcat directly to work.
  • Location: New flat is in an active neighborhood -- directly above shops -- so there is life outside my apartment. And I can see it just by looking outside of my living room window!
  • Condition: New flat is in much better condition than the old flat! Much!! (For one thing, there doesn't seem to be rampant mould growth, which the old flat suffered from -- due to insufficient insulation -- every winter!)
  • Dishwasher: We have one now!

Pros (minor):
  • Facilities: Two full bathrooms! Excellent!
  • Management: New flat is run by a professional company, so any problems that we have will hopefully be tended to. (As opposed to the last landlady who did absolutely nothing ever about anything -- not even returning letters, calls, or e-mail)
  • Neighbors: I live next to the Shark House! How bloody cool is that??

In short, the new place[**] is not perfect... but it is an improvement, especially given the location of our current jobs.[***] These are just the initial impressions. It will be interesting[****] to see how they evolve as time goes on.

[*] Apologies to the Barenaked Ladies for my subject line...

[**] Which still has not officially been christened. Chesh favours calling it "Skullcrusher Mountain II", whilst I tend to favour an original name.

[***] In all fairness, the old flat was much better suited to the location of our previous jobs, for both of us. Had we lived at the new place whilst working at those jobs, it would have been very inconvenient.

[****] At least to me.

For nearly three years now, I have been living in Oxford, at a latitude of nearly fifty two degrees. This is significantly further North than New York City[*], which is at forty degrees latitude (and change). Indeed, Oxford is further North than any point in the contiguous forty-eight States... as is London, where I now work.

The almost twelve degree difference is quite noticeable. Especially at this time of year[**]. I am going into my third winter in England... and I have learned not to take these Northern winters lightly. The weather is generally quite mild -- it rarely gets terribly cold, nor is there much in the way of snow and hail[***].

What makes the English winters challenging for me[****] is extensive amount of Dark. Since I grew up in New York City, I use the amount of Dark there as my baseline -- it is what my body is used to. On the shortest day -- the Winter Solstice -- New York City receives nine hours and fifteen minutes of sunlight.

As part of the process of entering winter, I monitor the progression into the Dark. There are several milestones that are particularly noteworthy for me. The first, Stage Zero, occurs at the Summer Solstice. Although we are at the point where the light is most dominant, it is also the point where the Dark starts to return. However, the light is so prevalent that it is not worth a second thought at that point, nor for months to come. That is why I have named it Stage Zero.

Stage One of the progression comes a few days after the Autumnal Equinox, when the days shifts to have more hours of Dark than of light. This stage is quite natural, dictated by astronomical bodies.

Stage Two in the progression comes when the clocks turn back, making the Dark arrive an extra hour earlier each day. This is a wholly artificial step -- the length of the light does not change drastically -- but it is significant because it is the single biggest shift in how much light I receive. When we enter Stage Two, I bring out the LiteBook to supplement my daily ration of sunlight. I do not actually suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I still notice a decrease in energy when the days are so short. In particular, it always feels later than it is and I get tired earlier. The LiteBook, which sits on my desk at work, helps to counter that trend. I find it especially useful to turn it on shortly before sunset to artificially prolong my daylight hours.

The final step, Stage Three, is purely personal. It begins on the day when Oxford (or London -- it's all the same) received less light than the minimum that I am used to. In other words, Stage Three of the Dark is the period where the amount of sunlight I receive each day is less than that in New York City on the Winter Solstice. During this period, I get less light every day than I ever got growing up[*****].

Stage Three began three days ago, on Saturday. It continues through February 2nd. That is eighty-seven days where the amount of sunlight is less than the minimum that my body is used to receiving. It is at times like these that I wish I had invested in a winter home in Argentina. Since I did not, I think back on Summer memories like Solstice at Stonehenge or evenings like this one to warm the cockles... and I look forward to the light of next Summer and the adventures that it will bring!

[*] Where I grew up and, despite all the Nomadic movings about, have still spent more than half of my life.

[**] And, correspondingly, the polar opposite point in the year.

[***] Though I have already seen both snow and hail this winter season.

[****] And would make it delightful for [ profile] acelightning.

[*****] Ignoring the effects of things like cloudy days. Not like England has any of those. It is also worth noting that the quality of the sunlight here is affected -- not just the quantity. At this point in the year, the sun never gets more than twenty-one degrees above the horizon; by Winter Solstice, it will be reaching a maximum height of less than fifteen degrees!

Been a tad busy these past few days. Instead of saving everything up for one big post -- which, due to time constraints, may never get written -- I may just put out a series of small entries today.

Although we took possession of the new flat on Friday, we are still in the process of moving into it. We slept in the old flat on Friday and Saturday, then slept in the new one for the first time on Sunday. Thus, my first commute to London from the new place happened yesterday.

The living room in the new flat looks out on the London Road -- the main road in East Oxford[*]. Yesterday, as I was coming home from London to the new flat, I sent a text message to [ profile] cheshcat letting her know when the coach had arrived at the outskirts of Oxford. Six minutes later, I was walking up to our building when I heard a loud "BEEP" from above. I looked up and saw [ profile] cheshcat there -- smiling and waving at me! After receiving my text, she had gone to the window and leaned out to greet me as I returned to our new home for the first time. That was very sweet of her, and a most pleasant welcome home! I was grinning for much of the rest of the evening after that...

[*] Others may disagree with me on this, citing the Cowley Road and the Iffley Road. However, I consider the London Road to be the main road in East Oxford, while the Cowley and Iffley Roads are the main roads in SouthEast Oxford. The Abingdon Road is clearly the main road in South Oxford and the Botley road is just as obviously the main road in West Oxford. North Oxford, like SouthEast Oxford, has two main roads -- the Woodstock Road and the Banbury Road, though the Banbury Road -- where we have been living -- is clearly the "main-er" of the two.

Tonight's meeting was shorter than expected -- only about fifteen minutes long. When it ended, I was a touch shaken, but fundamentally okay. Decided that, rather than head straight home, I would take a walk along the Thames to ground myself.

Some say that things come in threes[1]. I am not sure that I believe this[2], but tonight the Universe gave me three things in a row -- all of which helped me to gather my inner strength, focus, and balance. The first happened as I crossed the Blackfriar's Bridge, just before commencing my walk. I am not sure where it emanated from -- possibly St. Pauls, or maybe the Southwark Cathedral -- but the music of change bell ringing filled the air. It was an unexpected surprise, and the beloved music helped me to find my center once again. Next was the stroll along the waterfront. This was not a surprise; being a water elemental, I knew that a walk alongside water would do me good. I walked until I felt calm and balanced once again. Before that happened, my walk led me to the lion statues near Cleopatra's Needle. Two years ago, [ profile] resourceress and I walked by these lions -- indeed, I took a photograph of her that has become one of her LJ icons. Upon reaching the lions, I curled up between the paws of one of them and sat for awhile, looking out over the water. I remembered the strength and the longevity of the bond between [ profile] resourceress and myself. I drew strength from this bond. I also remembered an important metaphor about lions that my dear [ profile] tawneypup recently shared with me. This, too, warmed the heart. While sitting with the lions, I called on that strength to make an important phone call. Eventually, I left the lions and walked further, until I was ready to come home. I am doing so now, writing this entry from the Oxford Tube[3] on my way back to Skullcrusher Mountain.

Tonight's meeting concerned an ending, and was part of this year's Samhain. My Samhain began last Saturday night at sunset. For one thing, that was the final sunset before we changed the clocks back here in Merry Olde England[4]. Since then, the clocks have been changed and the sun sets before five o'clock. This large increment of lost daylight is an essential part of my Samhain experience, and it signals the coming of Winter. Saturday evening was also when my first Samhain ritual of the year took place; [ profile] cheshcat and I did a small private ritual to honour some who are newly amongst the ranks of the Beloved Dead.

Samhain is the start of Winter, and the turning of the year. This year has certainly been all about Change[5]. Compared to this time last year, I have a new job in a new city, working on a new experiment in a new country. [ profile] cheshcat has a new job, too. Her health is also in a new, and potentially better, place. Together, we have a new car, a new cat, and are about to have a new flat. With one exception, all of the significant romantic relationships in my life have changed, too. I won't pretend that it has been an easy year; most of these changes were quite painful when they were happening -- the period from December 17th to April th hurt like hell![6] However, I find that I am in a strong and positive headspace this Samhain season.

Indeed, I find that my current energy makes for an interesting contrast with Samhains of the past two years. In 2006, somebody turned up the Samhain volume too much; that year, the Samhain energy was particularly intense as the Universe chose to beat the crap out of not just me, but also many other people that I know. Samhain 2007 was quite different; possibly due to a cold, or maybe due to the intensity of Samhain 2006, I felt very little connection with the Samhain energy last year. We did a small ritual and went to WitchFest in London, but it all felt very distant. To use the Three Bears as a metaphor, Samhain 2006 was too much, Samhain 2007 was too little, and Samhain 2008 feels just right. I am wrapping up the last loose ends of the year and moving forward into next year from a place of strength and grounding.

In addition to doing our private ritual on Saturday, [ profile] cheshcat and I celebrated the season on Sunday with a visit to Blenheim Palace to attend their "Very Victorian Halloween" festivities. These included haunted ghost stories, a show from a nineteenth century magic lantern, and a pumpkin train... as well as a more generic stroll in the formal gardens and past the waterfall.

Plans for upcoming Samhain and Halloween events include running our traditional Ancestor Ritual for a group of good friends on Friday (Samhain proper), followed by a visit to a haunted farm, and a walk in Salcey Forest to watch the leaves changing colour over the weekend. Backup plans, in the event of rain, could include the Halloween festivities at the Oxford Castle, a ghost tour of Oxford, or a performance of Sweeney Todd at the Old Fire Station Theatre in Oxford[7].

To all those on my f-list who celebrate this holiday, I wish you a very Blessed Samhain! To everyone else, I wish a Happy Halloween[8]!

[1] Which may come as a surprise to the lovely [ profile] tawneypup, given her Halloween costume this year.

[2] Indeed, I probably don't.

[3] Where I seem to write most of my LJ entries of late.

[4] A side effect is that, for this week only, I am a mere four hours ahead of the East Coast and a scant five hours ahead of Chicago. If anyone wants a phone call from their favourite Nomad, this is probably a good week to arrange one!

[5] And not the sort a certain politician likes to talk about, either!

[6] The first date is when [ profile] cheshcat's knee got injured, starting the period where the Universe decided to use us as a punchingbag. The second date is when we laid our beloved Foxy to rest, which was the last of the large traumas. Much rebuilding work remained -- indeed, it is not yet all over -- but the continuous volley of tragedies finally stopped raining down on us at that point. Which gave me the breathing room to stop doing triage and start on the rebuilding.

[7] I am somewhat torn about this. On the one hand, it is Sweeney Todd. On the other hand, it is OFS -- a venue for [very] amateurish productions. Just out of curiosity, would anyone be interested in joining us for this if we were to procure tickets for Saturday night (Nov 1)? It probably won't happen, as we already have plans if the weather is good... but I am just putting out some exceedingly tentative feelers to evaluate the potential of this as a backup plan.

[8] And, to my dad, I wish a happy 65th birthday! That's right -- my father was born on Halloween and my mother was born on 9/11.

It is Tuesday afternoon. This morning, I took a short trip to the United States.

Yes, gentle readers, you heard right. I needed to visit the U.S. Embassy here in London to get some papers notarized for the refinancing of the Event Horizon. It was weird to walk off the streets of London and be back in the United States again, including paying for things in dollars (and needing my passport to get in!). I took the underground from Imperial College to the Embassy, but walked back. Oddly enough, the return trip, on foot, was shorter than the outbound one!

It is Tuesday afternoon. Since Monday morning, I have:
  • Found a new flat for [ profile] cheshcat and I to move into
  • Had a follow-up meeting at the hospital with [ profile] cheshcat's surgeon[*]
  • Gotten Peter the Red Rover through his MOT, making him legal to drive for another year
  • Gone ice skating
  • Visited the Embassy to finish the final (?) papers needed for refinancing the house
  • lots of other little niggly bits, like arranging cat care for our upcoming trip to the States, that I won't bore anyone with here[**]

Whew! Good thing for those super powers, or I might be feeling a bit worn out after all that!

Right. Back to work then. Let's see if we can't get some physics done before it is time to pack up for the day and head back to Oxford for tonight's ice skating lesson...

[*] There was some good news to be had there! I won't discuss it, as it is Chesh's to tell, but good news should be acknowledged!

[**] I realise that this journal is boring enough of late already, seeing as I have not jumped out of any planes, walked on hot coals, climbed the ruins of a Norman castle, witnessed any exploding Time Machines, danced round any seven story bonfires, visited any extreme geographic locations, attended any historic concerts, or mudwrestled since the end of August. [Note to new readers: The above paragraph is the summary version of my July and August] Ah, Summer, old friend! How I do miss thee!

Checked out the flat in Headington this morning... and decided that it is a winner! Put down the money to hold it and start the application process this afternoon. Looks like we will be moving to east Oxford in a month.

The main motivation for the move is location. The new flat is as perfect for our new jobs as our current flat was for our previous jobs. Overall, the inside of the new place is also an improvement over our present flat.

As an added bonus, it turns out that the front door of our building is just half a block from the [in-]famous Oxford shark house. If I look left when leaving the building, this is what I see: )
It looks like it has been about two weeks since I updated this journal with much content about what I have been doing[*]. I suppose that I should write an entry soon to rectify that. This is not that entry.

This entry is just a collection of random uncorrelated bits that have been percolating in my head today. Skim through and see which ones catch your interest, gentle readers...

  • Had the best commute ever today. Which is to say that I gave myself permission to work from home. Everyone else in the T2K group at Imperial College was going to be away today, anyway, so I figured that I could be as productive alone in a room in Oxford as I could be alone in a room in London. I was right. Am still working from home, despite the fact that it is a Friday night. Productivity is a Good Thing(TM).

  • The weather has been stunning for the past few days! It almost makes me wonder if I am still in England! This sort of cool, crisp, clear Autumn weather is absolutely lovely!

  • My bus pass for the Oxford Tube also permits me to ride on any of the local buses in Oxfordshire. Thus, I have achieved some sort of Nirvana for local transportation in Oxford. I can now get myself anywhere in the city -- when I choose and free of charge -- by either (a) bicycle, (b) car[**], (c) bus, and (d) on foot. Indeed, I could even borrow (e) Cheshcat's scooter, if I really wanted to! This is a great improvement from two years ago; between July 2006 and May 2007, my only free option was to walk everywhere!

  • "Andy" is the most common name amongst the people that I know in Oxford. I know four Oxonian Andys.

  • Watching the Katie Couric interviews of Sarah Palin has convinced me that there may indeed be Vice-Presidential material there. Katie Couric may have the makings of a competent veep...

  • Alas! Tis with great regret that I must contradict my previous post about going to the Poly MeetUp on Tuesday. It looks like I will be taking remedial ice skating instead. More accurately, I will be missing the last lesson of the term for my ice skating course, as I will be in New York on October 13th. It turns out that this coming Tuesday is the only time that I can make up the lesson. So no Poly MeetUp for me this month. Hope to see many of you lovely people at the next one, on November 4th! Meanwhile, have extra fun on my behalf while I'm gone, okay?

  • Six days from now, I will be on an aeroplane to New York! One week from right now, I will be back at my spiritual home, at the start of my twelfth consecutive P**T*** gathering!!!

  • Over the past two weeks, the relationship velocity has started to slow down somewhat, after being at unprecedentedly high levels for about eight weeks. I believe that I may even be approaching a stable new relationship configuration[***]. Most of the developments have been positive, though there is one case that has me feeling a little sad. In effect, I think that I need to fall out of love -- something that I have never done before -- with somebody who is very dear to me, in order that the relationship can survive[****]. How to even begin doing that is a mystery to me! Thankfully, I have all the time that I need to figure it out.

  • Twenty-six!!!
Okay, back to work for a little while longer, then off to spend some quality alone time with [ profile] cheshcat...

[*] Besides riding the Oxford Tube, that is!

[**] Okay, to be fair, there is a petrol cost for driving. But this city is so small that the expense is negligible.

[***] Famous last words, I know.

[****] On the plus side, it looks like this particular relationship will survive.

Quickie Updates On The Life Of Me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

[*] Thank you.

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

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

After that cheery title[*], it is time for another entry chock full of randomness! Whee!

Random the First: If any of my friends in the UK could use a car, let me know. Peter I has been sitting in our driveway unused for about two months now, ever since shortly after I purchased Peter II. Peter I is a 1997 Volkswagen Vento (see here for photos). His engine is in very good shape. However, he needs about £300 of suspension work to pass the MOT. A new battery is not strictly necessary, but would not hurt. And at least one new tyre will be needed soon. This is why I chose to buy Peter II -- especially for the bargain price of £300 -- rather than fix up Peter I. However, if anyone could use this car, it is yours for the rock-bottom price of £000.00! It would make me happy if I could help somebody I know out by giving them the car. Otherwise, I will offer it away on FreeCycle.

Random the Second: Ice skating lessons tonight! For the first time since mid-July! The summer break at the rink is over and the new term begins tonight. I will be starting the NISA Level Six course tonight. Here's hoping that I have not forgotten everything I ever learned in the past month and a half!

Random the Third: I have been reading about the atrocities committed by police during the 2008 RNC in St. Paul. I must say that I am absolutely horrified. As bad as things were in 2004 for us in NYC, this sounds like it was even worse -- concussion grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, smoke bombs! Oy! Makes me remember one of the reasons why I left the United States... and makes me all the more reluctant to consider returning, even if it does turn out to be the best career path. One friend -- who is not an activist -- has referred me to somebody who was arrested and held for forty hours last week, so that I can offer advice from my experience. I am happy to help, if I can, but I do feel like I really should have been there. So I make a promise to myself now, to be at the 2012 RNC, wherever it is held. Sad to say, watching the police brutality and fascist repression increase tells me that we failed in 2004... because all our efforts -- during the convention and afterward -- could not stop the same (and worse) from happening again.

Random the Fourth: The St. Giles Fair is on! The fair goes back about two hundred years (although that photograph goes back only about half that). It is held on the first Monday and Tuesday following the first Sunday after September 1st. The usually busy street of St. Giles is closed to traffic and turned into a carnival for two days. I work at the very Northern end of the street, so all I need do is wander outside to see rides and carnival games and food vendors and whatnot. Definitely a change from the usual -- and a very interesting contrast with the ancient buildings that line the street! I plan to take in the fair a bit tomorrow evening (possibly with some company...). I don't really know why they have a fair there every year, but tis nifty. Rumour has it that St. John's College -- the richest of the Oxford colleges -- owns the street and, although they let the city use it for general traffic most of the year, they choose to shut it down for two days as a way of asserting their ownership rights. Is this correct? I don't know...

[*] Title goes with third randomness, icon goes with first, "current music" goes with second. The St. Giles fair is left out and will just have to cope somehow...

First things first: I hope that everybody reading this knows that, when the Large Hadron Collider turns on this week, the world will not come to an end. If anybody is still in doubt about this[*], I have the following exercise for you to do:

Step One) Make a fist.
Step Two) Hit the wall as hard as you can.

Does your hand go through the wall without touching it? If not, go back to Step One and repeat. If and when your fist finally passes through the wall without touching it, call me up and we will talk. The chances that your fist will pass through the wall without either touching the other are greater than the chance that the LHC will end life on Earth.

Right. Now that we have that sorted, what has everybody's favourite Nomad been up to lately?

Well, I just got back to Skullcrusher Mountain after being out for much of the weekend. Still have not spent a full weekend in Oxford since the end of May. I guess I have not been doing a terrible job of living up to my name, the Nomad...

Thursday evening, I went to the usual handbell practice at St. Giles. Got through a plain course of Little Bob Major on the trebles and a plain course of Plain Bob Major on the 3/4 bells. Shortly before tower bell practice began, [ profile] mattp arrived in Oxford and I brought him to ring with our band. Actually, we had quite a good group, which made for a very good practice!

Friday, I realised that I am doomed. As my dear [ profile] resourceress likes to say, I am doomeder than a doomed thing. "Why is that?" you might ask, gentle reader? Because, on Friday, [ profile] mattp and I drove up to Warwickshire to attend the Ringing Roadshow. "What is THAT??" you might fairly ask[**]. In a nutshell, it is a convention for campanologists. Mini-rings to practice on, clinics to help struggling ringers, vendors selling handbells and various other bell ringing paraphernalia, ringing simulators, ringing authors to sell and sign their books... you get the idea. Contributing to my degree of doomededness, I purchased my first ringing book -- Steve Coleman's The Method Ringer's Companion -- and had it signed by the author. Yup -- definitely doomed! Not directly related to campanology, there was also a fifty bell carillon, with demonstrations given by Dutch carillonneur Boudewijn Zwart.

Friday evening, I put [ profile] mattp back on the coach to London, then [ profile] cheshcat and I met up with our friends C&M to go to an artsy event called The Magic Hour at the Oxford Botanic Garden. The installation celebrates twilight and ran for three evenings from seven to ten pm. Within the botanic garden, there were several pieces of art commissioned for this exhibit. As night fell, the art itself would change with the magic of the hour. The event was very well done and we enjoyed it... though we could have done without the rain. As one of [ profile] cheshcat's colleagues noted, it was more of an "Enchanted Rainforest" than a "Magic Hour".

Saturday, I had a lie in, to catch up on all the sleep that I have not been getting of late. Then [ profile] cheshcat and I were off to London to visit our friends D&J and attend their housewarming party. We had not seen them since last November, which is far too long![***] Their "new" place in Lewisham is quite, quite nice! I think that my house envy sense may be tingling! The party was good, if a bit more rambunctious than what I usually expect from their parties... especially once the alcohol began to flow! Before the evening was out, I got a surprise massage from a drunk massage therapist... then shoved into a chair and treated to a lap dance. I wasn't complaining, precisely, but it certainly was not what I had expected.

The party finally broke up in the wee hours of the morning, after which [ profile] cheshcat and I pumped up the air bed and went to sleep. When we woke up, we spent the morning and early afternoon just being mellow with D&J, catching up on each others' lives. We also hatched a conspiracy to get D's sister, the stunningly beautiful [ profile] pomoloco to come and pay us all another visit!

Eventually, [ profile] cheshcat and I bid our dear hosts goodbye and headed back to Oxford. Upon my return, I went to St. Giles and rang for the Sunday services. Now I am winding down from a fun weekend and getting ready for what promises to be a very busy -- though likely pleasant -- week! A week which, I should add, will not feature the end of the world as we know it...

[*] If you are still in doubt, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

[**] Indeed, the delicious [ profile] tawneypup already has!

[***] Interestingly enough, our last visit to D&J and this weekend's visit acted as a set of temporal bookends.

anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Sep. 3rd, 2008 11:22 pm)
Today has been a fairly productive day.

At work, I completely blew off installing the latest proto-detector into the Kelvinox-400 cryostat. Instead, I read through this paper -- which I mentioned last week in this journal. It was really quite fascinating. The paper builds on the data analysis that I did at Super-Kamiokande for my doctoral research, back when I was searching for relic neutrinos from supernovae in the early universe. This new paper was put together by two theorists -- not other experimenters -- so they just use the data that I published in 2002, complete with all my selection criteria, et cetera. However, they test theories that have been developed in the past six years[*], as well as do searches for other neutrino types besides the anti-electron neutrino (which, as the dominant signal, is the only one that I looked for). Interesting reading...

In the afternoon, I spent a little time beating Skullcrusher Mountain into shape. Our flat had become quite the disaster area. I am far from finished with reclaiming it from the Mess Monsters... but the work has now begun. Also had a wonderful chat with the ever-adorable [ profile] squeektoy42 while I cleaned house. We talked about her mangos. She really does have the best mangos! I smile every time I see them!

As for the evening, this was a night of double extra-curriculars. First, I went to St. Cross to ring bells. We had a small band -- so I ended up ringing up five out of the six bells myself -- but I got to do a touch of Plain Bob Doubles and a plain course of Plain Bob Minor. I also rang down in peal... and did so quite well, if I do say so myself!

The second extra-curricular of the evening was theatre. After leaving St. Cross, I cycled to the Oxford Playhouse to meet [ profile] cheshcat for a production of a play called Lucky You. It was a very bizarre comedy set in Florida. I have never heard of it before -- or the novel it was based on -- but the plot was cute, the actors were superb, and the music was hysterical. How can you not love a play that has a song called "God's Shit List" in it?? When the show ended, I amused the director when he saw me dancing out of the theatre while the "Lucky You" song was playing.

After leaving the Playhouse, [ profile] cheshcat and I went to get some dinner... and now here I am, back at Skullcrusher Mountain. Having only slept for four hours last night, I will try to turn in relatively soon and make up for lost time tonight.

[*] I am quite pleased to note that the topic of supernova relic neutrinos became a moderately hot topic after my doctoral research was published. Before that, it was quite the esoteric and niche topic that nearly nobody had ever heard of.

Just got back to Skullcrusher Mountain after an evening spent in the early seventeenth century[*]!

Tonight, [ profile] cheshcat and I saw a production of The Winter's Tale, performed by a company from Shakespeare's Globe. This is one of the later plays penned by the Bard, written in about 1610. Early seventeenth century. The performance took place at the Old Schools Quadrangle -- built between 1613 and 1619 -- at the Bodleian Library -- opened in 1602. Again, early seventeenth century.

From what I understand, this was the first theatre performed in the Bod Quad; the Oxford Playhouse, who organised the event, is experimenting with using unusual spaces around the city. I like the idea very much... and it was spifftacular to be watching the play in a space that was contemporary to it!

If that were not enough, the Bodleian currently has on exhibit a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623. Early seventeenth century. I drooled appropriately. Of course, the Folio was opened to Act III, Scene iii, which contains Shakespeare's most famous stage direction...

[*] Who said that the Time Machine was actually destroyed when it exploded?



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