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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sleep, perchance to dream. Or, on the other hand, to be jetlagged... and do neither! Tis well and truly the middle of the night, yet I am still not asleep. Not for lack of trying, either. I wound down the evening many hours ago by having a lovely phone date with the even-lovelier [ profile] tawneypup[1]. During the phone call, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat proved once again how sweet and thoughtful she is by bringing me a cup of hot cocoa to help me relax. At the end of the call, I made a valiant effort to sleep. I hopped under the covers to cuddle with [ profile] cheshcat, and was joined by both Giles and The Boy.

Alas, despite all these accoutrements and preparations, sleep was ever elusive and evaded capture.

So. As long as I am to be awake in the wee hours of the night, I may as well put it to good use, yes? It seems like now is as good a time as any to write the final instalment of my holiday adventures in the States[2]. Perhaps I can write myself into at least half a night's sleep[3]...

Thursday January 1st 2009 I started the day off by checking out of the hotel where the O'hana party had been held. [ profile] gyades and I played a game of Go, which he won... though not be all that much. Either I am improving, or his skills are atrophying. Not sure which, but our recent matches have not been nearly the slaughter that they once were.

In the afternoon, I did some mundane things, like tidying the house and seting up my 2009 SlingShot organizer. I also spend quite a bit of time with Stumpy and Chirp; Stumpy, in particular, remains as sweetly slutty as ever! I miss my little furry black girls when I am in England. I still hope to bring them over someday, to reunite them with their brother, The Boy.

After a relatively mellow day, things got more exciting in the late afternoon. "Why is that?" you may fairly ask, gentle readers. It is because the terrific and tantalizing [ profile] tawneypup arrived from Michigan for a visit![4] Having not seen my delightful darling since October, it was all thrilled and bouncy to be with her again. After suitable greetings were made, I introduced her to [ profile] gyades. It was not in the least surprising that the two of them took to each other quite readily. There was really no question in my mind that these two would get along swimmingly -- after all, [ profile] tawneypup is basically a female version of me[5]. The only real risk was that having two of me in one place might fry [ profile] gyades's brain!

Before [ profile] tawneypup arrived, [ profile] gyades had been cooking dinner. In recent years, he has specialised in Indian cooking. Had he and [ profile] tawneypup not bonded instantly, I suspect that this would have closed the deal. Ever since her trip to India last year, my darling Tawney has been quite the fan of Indian food. And [ profile] gyades cooks it quite well!

Following dinner, we broke out Ticket To Ride. I had never played the U.S./Canadia version of the game before. However, it is similar enough to the European version that I settled into it quite easily. It was a very close game, but I managed to win. Final scores: 152 points (me) to 120 points ([ profile] gyades) to 110 points ([ profile] tawneypup). This doesn't seem all that close. However, on my final turn, with my final card, I bought my final train... for a total of sixty-four points. If anything in that delicate situation had not lined up, I would have been -- what is the technical term? -- completely hosed!

We followed up Ticket To Ride with a game called Quelf. [ profile] tawneypup had brought it with her -- I had neither played it before nor even heard of it. It is a very silly nonsense game, with a bizarre set of rules. The sort of thing to play when you want to game, but not think very hard. In the end, I won... again by the proverbial skin of my non-proverbial teeth. [ profile] tawneypup and I made it to the final square at the same time... but I won the challenge on the final card drawn.

When we were done gaming, we bid a good night to [ profile] gyades, then went upstairs to reacquaint ourselves and catch up on some long overdue quality alone time.

Friday January 2nd 2009 On Friday morning, [ profile] tawneypup and I lounged in bed decadently for a very long time. When we finally arose, we showered and then I took her out to Butterfields for breakfast. Butterfields is my favourite breakfast place; since [ profile] tawneypup had taken me to breakfast at her favourite place, it seemed only fair to return the favour. It took quite some time to choose only one item from the menu. However, we finally did manage to order -- I had a spinach, feta, and mushroom omelet with hash browns and pancakes. When the food arrived it was, as expected, superb!

After breakfast, [ profile] tawneypup was extremely patient and accommodating, as I needed to pay a visit to the Illinois Secretary of State's office to renew my driver's license. Alas, this was the sole day during my Chicago trip that it would be possible to do so. Whilst there, she got to witness the egocentricity of Jesse White, our SoS. We also got to entertain ourselves by sitting on the "Group W" bench[6].

Once that errand was done, we met up with [ profile] gyades and went to go play Laser Tag! This was only my second time playing laser tag -- the first was with [ profile] tawneypup in Michigan last October. I am really enjoying it though! Quite a shame that the Oxford Laser Tag shut down a couple of years ago! I could see myself getting seriously addicted otherwise! Unlike the October games, which were divided into three teams, this was a free-for-all. When all was said and done, I had done... okay. Out of thirty-two players, I was ranked number thirteen. [ profile] tawneypup was not far behind me, at number sixteen. [ profile] gyades may need a little more practice -- he came in at number twenty-five.

We dropped [ profile] gyades off at home and made our way into downtown Chicago. Our destination was a Middle Eastern restaurant where one of [ profile] tawneypup's friends was performing. This made for quite an excellent evening -- both the food and the dancing were exemplary! When she was done dancing, we all sat and chatted for quite some time before [ profile] tawneypup and I made our way back to the Event Horizon.

Saturday January 3rd 2009 Slept in once again! Really, it is hard not to with such company! When we finally managed to pull ourselves out of bed, we joined [ profile] gyades, who made breakfast for all. Then it was time for a rematch at Ticket To Ride. This time, I started with a terrible hand of route cards. In Thursday's game, I had built all of my routes, drew more, then built them, too. This time, I adopted a different strategy: Built what I had been dealt, then end the game as quickly as possible, making sure to take the "longest road" bonus with me. Although not as satisfying a strategy, it did work. I forced an end to the game whilst both of my dear opponents still had several unfinished routes underway. Final scores: 120 points (me) to 102 points ([ profile] tawneypup) to 58 points ([ profile] gyades).

Since the weather was nice, we all hopped in the car and drove half a mile to the Morton Arboretum. One of the many things that I love about the Event Horizon is that it is situation so close to such a wonderful place. I try to visit there every time that I am in Chicago. However, I think that I had not actually had a Winter visit before! It was really nice, seeing the place partially covered in snow! It was great to share this special place with a very special person! We started off in the children's section, climbing the adventure playground equipment. Then we did a "Gnome Hunt"[7] and successfully tracked down all twenty-four gnomes. Sneaky little buggers, those gnomes are! Afterwards, we drove about the site, stopping at times to do a bit of hiking -- for instance, we made our way down the Big Rock trail to see (what else?) the Big Rock!

We stayed at the arboretum until it closed. After that, I took [ profile] tawneypup out for dinner at a Mexican place in Glen Ellyn. I had not been there before, nor had I known of the place. [ profile] gyades uncovered it by doing some web research... and I can now highly recommend it!

After dinner, [ profile] tawneypup and I headed into Chicago once again. Our destination was Sidekick's, the karaoke bar that I used to frequent when I called the Event Horizon my primary residence. It is the site of the monthly Poly Chicago get-togethers, so I have quite a few happy memories there. In contrast, [ profile] tawneypup had never been to a karaoke bar... so taking her there to lose her karaoke-virginity was not optional! By the end of the evening, I had sang alone twice (Billy Joel's Still Rock & Roll To Me and Scandal's Goodbye To You), she sang alone once, and we sang together once (Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart). It was gangs of fun, and next time we are planning to do a duet of Sweet Caroline. Mainly just for the fun of the bah-BAH-bahs! However, seeing as this was our last evening together for some time, we did not want to stay at Sidekick's until we were ready to fall over for the evening!

Instead, we left around 10:30pm, made it back to the Event Horizon by about eleven, and celebrated the rest of the evening by ourselves.

Sunday January 4th 2009 Started the day with a return trip to Butterfields, this time with [ profile] gyades in tow, too. It had been so difficult for [ profile] tawneypup and I to choose only one item from the menu last time that we decided a return visit was in order! This time, I got an apple and caramel waffle with some very creamy cheese, to boot!

After breakfast, [ profile] xirpha joined us at the Event Horizon for gaming! We started with Settlers of Catan. Once again, it was a very tight game. I made the mistake of building a settlement too soon, allowing [ profile] tawneypup to beat me in a race to a valuable port. This set me back significantly, though I finally managed to eke out a win. Final scores: 10 points (me) to 8 points ([ profile] gyades) to 7 points (both [ profile] xirpha and [ profile] tawneypup).

Next game was Betrayal at House on the Hill[8]. This is where my winning streak came to an end. As luck would have it, I was fated to be the traitor in this game. However, some bad dice rolls kept me from doing anything more than killing [ profile] gyades before I was taken down by the others. There was also a bit of Fluxx played after me and my army of demons went down in flames.

Around half five, [ profile] tawneypup and I bid an all-too-soon farewell. Then she embarked on the drive back to Michigan whilst I drove to the Lisle train station to pick up the enchanting [ profile] iamthesphinx.

I won't say much about the date with [ profile] iamthesphinx here. For one thing, although she is almost never on LiveJournal anymore, she has a habit of popping in and checking up on me when I least expect it. Which is just after I have said something about her in these pages[9]. For another thing, my relationship with the lovely Sphinx is, without a doubt, the most unusual relationship that I have ever had. There have been quite a few ups and downs in the nearly three years that we have been together. I have learned that, whatever my expectations are for when we go out together, they are almost certainly wrong[10].

Case in point: This date went nothing like how I had expected it to go. Indeed, it exceeded my expectations by a wide margin! Blew them all to smithereens -- wherever that is -- one might say. It was a very, very good date. And that is all that I will say in a public forum.

Monday January 5th 2009 After not nearly enough sleep, I brought the enchanting [ profile] iamthesphinx back to the train station. I waited with her until her train arrived, then bid her a most fond farewell.

After that, there was the usual barrage of last minute errands to tend to. Mainly hitting several stores for items that I cannot procure in England. Also, giving poor Lucretia II a good wash to recover from over twenty-five hundred miles of driving before putting her away until Spring. And packing. Lots of packing. Nothing really exciting there.

When [ profile] gyades came home from work at lunchtime, he and I exchanged our holiday presents. Then he drove me to the airport, where I had a nice boring flight back to England.

And that, dear friends, is what I did on my Winter vacation...

[1] Said conversation was particularly welcome, due to the fact that we have not spoken in nearly two weeks. Ordinarily, we have a standing weekly phone date. However, we each went travelling for a week... and the two trips were timed just right so as to be serial, rather than parallel.

[2] Actually, given that the trip ended three weeks ago, I would say that two and a half weeks ago would have been a better time. However, that time machine is still in the pipeline. Have to perfect the transporter first, then get started building the invisible aeroplane.

[3] In which case I will finish this composition tomorrow.

[4] Were I Kermit the Frog, this would be an appropriate place to run about, waving my head wildly and shouting "Yaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!"

[5] Except slightly younger and slightly cuter.

[6] Alongside the mother-rapers... father-stabbers.... and father-rapers!

[7] Very similar to the "ghost hunt" that I did with Darelle and company in November, or the pumpkin hunt that I did with [ profile] cheshcat at Blenheim Palace in October.

[8] Affectionately known as The Shinning.

[9] See here for an example.

[10] Unless she is in a monogamous relationship at the time we go out. In which case my expectation -- that we are going out as friends only -- is always right. And I would not have that any other way. I am polyamourous; I do not cheat.

Friday / Saturday: Thanksgiving Party
Friday evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I hopped into Peter, our trusty steed, and drove to SouthEast London to visit with our friends D&J. D&J are fellow Yanks -- brother and sister-in-law to the breathtakingly beautiful [ profile] pomoloco -- who moved to London just three months before we moved to Oxford. Although we didn't know each other well when we all lived in Lawn Guyland, [ profile] pomoloco wisely put the four of us in touch soon after we moved.

Since then, it has become tradition for D&J to host a Thanksgiving party each November, on one of the two Saturdays closest to the actual holiday[**], and to invite all of their expatriate friends. This year was the third in the tradition[***]. We went out on Friday to remove the stress of travelling out from Oxford on the day of the party... and also to get a little extra time with D&J, who we had not seen since their housewarming party back in September.

The party was good fun: We got to see people that we don't often spend time with, I have an invitation to go boating down the Thames next Spring with the St. Pancras harbormaster, and the food was excellent! In total, there were twelve of us there -- nine expatriated US-ians and three Brits who came along as partners of the expats. Given the demographics, D&J's flat became a temporarily extension of US soil. In particular, somebody decided to forbid the use of British English -- anyone using "top up" or "queue" or "zed" or "bloody" would be penalized by having to take a drink. It was an amusing suggestion... though I am not certain that it is directly responsible for most people ending the evening quite tipsy!

Sunday was a busy day, filled with a variety of activity -- some social, some productive, some fun! Just the sort of day that I like!

We stayed over at D&J's placeon Saturday night as well and had a nice lay in on Sunday. As if making an enormous Thanksgiving dinner wasn't enough, J prepared a lovely breakfast spread on Sunday at around noon -- fruit, pancakes (with real maple syrup), bacon (for the meat eaters), cheese, scrambled eggs, tea, juice! Yum!

After breakfast, [ profile] cheshcat and I headed out. Before leaving London, we swung by Imperial College and I showed her the building and office where I now work. Then it was back into London traffic as we made our return to Oxford.

Upon returning to Oxford, I headed to St. Giles Church and rang bells for Sunday evening services. Nothing terribly noteworthy here.

When services ended, I met up with [ profile] cheshcat at Skullcrusher Mountain. On Tuesday, we had moved the last of our belongings into the [as yet unnamed] new flat. However, before leaving SCM for good, we wanted to do a thorough cleaning and perform ritual to release any of our energy -- or that of our kitties -- that still lingered. It took a couple of hours, but we managed to accomplish this. When we left SCM, it was for the final time. Interestingly enough, I think that this is the first time [ profile] cheshcat and I have moved house without any help from anyone else or a moving van! We did it all ourselves, using Peter as the only transport vehicle. Admittedly, we moved from a furnished flat to another furnished flat, but still...

Next, I dropped [ profile] cheshcat (and our cleaning supplies) off at home, picked up my new ice skates, and made my way out to the evening session at the Oxford Ice Rink. There, I debuted my new skates. I learned two things: (1) The blades are so obviously superior to anything that I have previously skated on, and (2) The new skates hurt. A lot. My feet were killing me, and it was all I could do to do some basic forward skating all the way around the rink without stopping! I am not entirely surprised -- the lovely [ profile] danaeris once warned me that new skates feel like that until you break them in. Still... ouch! It was a bit disappointing to not be able to do much on the ice; still the only way to break them in is to wear the things!

When I got home from the rink, [ profile] cheshcat and I got takeaway Chinese food for dinner. I walked five minutes to pick it up -- I do enjoy living in a much more active area than we previously did!

Finally, it was getting late so I tucked [ profile] cheshcat into bed, then wound down my own evening with a phone date with the adorable [ profile] livetbd. It is always nice to hear her voice and it was good to catch up on each others' lives. We made plans to see each other when I am in the States next month; I am definitely looking forward to spending time with her again in the not too distant future! We also need to find a way to see a Broadway musical together, as we are both huge theatre geeks![****]

As I said -- the sort of active and varied Sunday that I like! When my head finally hit the pillow, I was thoroughly ready for it... and asleep almost immediately!

[*] One hundred points to the first person that identifies the source of my subject line!

[**] As none of us actually get Thanksgiving Day off here!

[***] Interestingly enough, each year they are living in a different flat from the previous November!

[****] Unless you compare to the spectacular [ profile] squeektoy42, who is the Queen of Musical Theatre. Even if she cannot identify Into The Woods quotes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[*] I hope!
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.

Highlights from today:

Had a brief conversation with [ profile] ms_katonic at lunchtime. Nothing particularly significant... but it is always nice to hear her voice.

Rang bells at St. Cross this evening. This was the first time that I rang there in three weeks. It showed. I kinda sucked at the beginning, and even let the rope get away from me once. No injury resulted this time. By the end of the practice, I was doing a little better, though. I got through a touch of Plain Bob Doubles and a plain course of Grandsire Doubles -- both on inside bells -- with no major difficulties!

After ringing, I met [ profile] cheshcat at Wadham College, where we watched the Oxford Shakespeare Company perform Twelfth Night in the college gardens. One of the things I really love about summer is all the outdoor theatre! This is the third year that I have seen the OSC perform outside at Wadham -- last year they did Midsummer Night's Dream and, in 2006, I went with [ profile] resourceress to see them do both The Taming of the Shrew and The Importance of Being Earnest. This production of Twelfth Night was vastly different than the one that we saw at Lincoln College last month; for one thing, it was extremely odd and quite funny... with a beach theme running through it.

On our return to Skullcrusher Mountain, [ profile] cheshcat produced a yummy dinner and we decompressed from our days while eating together. Then I phoned up my friend RG[*] and we spent an hour and a half catching up on each others' lives. He won't be at Starwood this year, so I'll not get to see him again until P**T*** in October. On the plus side, he is seriously considering a visit to us here in Oxford!

Finally, I am ending my day by writing this entry while a six and a half week old kitten sits curled up on my shoulder. He got there himself, climbing up from the floor via my trouser leg and then my shirt. Once he gets down, I plan to go to sleep, as it is late. Indeed, this entry probably would not exist if he had not settled there! I would have just gone straight to bed... but you can't just give up something as precious as a kitten perched on your shoulder!

[*] No, not [ profile] ashnistrike. A different friend with the RG initials... though also one that attends P**T***.



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