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!

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who sent along a greeting for my birthday! In any medium: LJ comment, LJ post, e-mail, text message, phone call, card. This year, I was blessed with a barrage of good wishes. Including from some people who I would not have automatically expected to remember my birthday[*]. What a nice surprise!

I did have a great birthday weekend, which I will try to write a travelogue about later. This makes three such entries from the past month that I need to write. I know, I know -- I deserve a proper thrashing from the LJ Flogger Fairy. I suppose that if I weren't such a perfectionist, it would be easier to scribble down a few lines. But I like to write detailed entries -- especially when I travel! With pictures and everything! I don't really know if anyone else enjoys them, but the work that goes into such proper travelogues pays off later, when I refer back to remember details of what I did whilst away.

Meanwhile, I will note that today -- March 1818 2009 -- is the first day of the year in Oxford where the amount of daylight time exceeds the amount of night time. I expect that this will be true of many places in the Northern hemisphere, as the Equinox is only two days away. Today in Oxford, the time from sunrise to sunset is twelve hours, two minutes, and thirty-eight seconds. For the third time, I have successfully endured a dark English winter. Go me! When we move the clocks forward to British Summer Time in a week and a half, there will be even more daylight to revel in! Excellent!

So far, this week has been nice, though probably not particularly interesting for anyone to read about. The irony of this is that it makes the week much easier to write up than the weekend, which was far more interesting. On Monday evening, I met the lovely [ profile] pogodragon after her class and we went out together for a long-awaited dinner. It was lovely to have time to sit and chat with her, getting to know her better. The food -- we went for Indian -- was excellent, as well! Tuesday evening was similarly themed, although with less charming company: My boss had to work a very late night and so I went out to dinner with him and some other colleagues. Nothing terribly exciting there at all.

Tonight will be a little bit better, and it will introduce a little variety into my week. [ profile] cheshcat and I have tickets to see the newest Alan Ayckbourn play -- Life & Beth -- at the Oxford Playhouse this evening. This will be the eight play that I have seen in 2009. Eight plays in eleven weeks. Not a bad start to the year!

In any case, the coach is getting ever closer to London, so I suppose that I had best finish pottering about on LiveJournal and start reading through some old talks that are relevant to one of the projects that I am working on now for T2K. This way I can start the day running[**] when I get into the office!

[*] Come to think of it, the same thing happened last year. I am beginning to suspect a certain mythical cat's involvement in all this, but she just grins at me when I broach the topic.

[**] Proverbially, of course!

On Monday, it snowed. A lot. Or, at least, a lot for here. I believe that the last time London received this much snowfall was eighteen years ago. As I cycled through Kensington Gardens on my way into work, folks were taking walks, taking pictures, building snow-people, et cetera. Tuesday and Wednesday were perfectly clear -- and cold -- days... and now it is snowing again, with four to six inches on the ground from overnight!

This is more like it! Tis what Winter should be like! Winter should be cold and snowy and dark -- but not too dark. Thus far, I have lived in and around New York City[1a,1b]; Amherst, Massachusetts[2a,2b]; Kamioka, Japan[3a,3b]; Phoenix, Arizona[4a,4b]; Chicago[5a,5b]; and Oxford, England[6a,6b]. Oxford is, by far, the furthest North that I have ever lived. As such, Winters here are far too dark... but generally not very cold -- I regularly go out sans coat -- and nearly no snow. In 2007, my first Winter here, we had exactly one snowfall that stuck. It was such a momentous occasion that the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers declared a snowball fight (photos here, including some of Yours Truly) in the University Park! In 2008, there was no snow whatsoever in the Winter. The only snow that we had fell after the Spring Equinox... and the one snowfall with any accumulation fell on April 6th! Even then, it only lasted for a few hours before melting away.

In short, my Winters in Oxford have been, until now, completely wrong: Too much dark, nearly no cold and snow. Hence, this week is a great relief! It has been cold, it is snowing as I type this entry... and the dark is finally abating! As of the day before yesterday, February 3rd, Oxford now receives more sunlight than New York City does on the Winter Solstice. This may sound like an odd measure, but I am a native New Yorker and, thus, my sunlight standards are set by where I grew up. In contrast, Oxford receives less sunlight than the shortest day in New York City on each day from November 8th through February 2nd! That is eighty-seven days where we get less light than the minimum that I am accustomed to! Eeep! Thankfully, I have gone South for part of this time -- two weeks in the States and one in Japan -- to break up the period of Great Darkness. Still, it is very much something that needs to be endured and I, for one, am happy that it is over once more.

Thus, for now, we have finally achieved what I believe Winter should be. It is cold. It is snowing. It is dark... but not too dark. My only regret is that I will be in London this afternoon, when the follow-up to the 2007 OUSCR snowball fight happens. Other than that, all is well. So... huzzah! And welcome, Winter!!

Footnotes )
Just got back to the Event Horizon, putting an end to four state tour that comprised the second part of my holiday adventures[*]. In the past ten days -- the last ten of 2008 -- I have driven 2355 miles. Indeed, today alone, I drove 441 miles to get from the Ohio home of the lovely [ profile] livetbd back to the Event Horizon!

My little "Christkrieg"[**] was fantastic! An excellent balance of friends, family, and adventures. I would love to write about it in more detail, but I need to hop in the shower and then be off to the Ohana clan's New Years Eve party! With any luck, I will find time[***] to write about it all soon, at least in summary!

Meanwhile, today's drive went quite well. I covered the 441 miles in six hours and fifteen minutes -- counting two stops for fuel. Along the drive, I listened to CDs that I had been given for Yule and Christmas -- an awesometacular three-disc mix that the charming [ profile] perspicacious had made for me and a bootleg recording, courtesy of The Kiddo, of the Last Play at Shea concert that I had been to in July.

As a side note, I should say that a hidden advantage of driving through the plains of Eastern Indiana is that you can see the whole orb of the sun in the sky... even at a quarter past five in December!

2008 certainly ended much better than it began. As my last words in LJ for this year, I leave y'all with the following lyrics:

A picture postcard
A folded stub
A program of the play
File away your photographs
Of your holiday

And your mementos
Will turn to dust
But that's the price you pay
For every year's a souvenir
That slowly fades away

[*] The first part took place in England: The two pantos, the Yule ritual, dawn at Stonehenge, et cetera. The second part was "Christmas-on-wheels", and covered New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio. The third, and final part, will take place here in Chicagoland... starting now!

[**] In my horrendous fake German, this means "Lightning Christmas"... which was my 2007 name for what I am now calling "Christmas-on-wheels".

[***] Speaking of time, I should say that I have not read my e-mail or LiveJournal in over a week. My Christmas-on-wheels simply did not allow for time spent in the virtual world. So if I have seemed out of touch, don't take it personally. I will try to catch up on all communication sometime in the not-TOO-distant future.

anarchist_nomad: (Guess who?)
( Nov. 20th, 2008 07:48 am)
Random The First:Watching the sunrise over the [fairly flat] horizon as I type this. Woke up extra-early this morning[1], attempting to catch the express version of the Oxford Tube. There are only three each morning and I was shooting for the latest, but it looks like I might have missed it by a couple of minutes. In any case, the first coach after the last express bus of the day is not a bad place to be, as it is quite sparsely populated. I highly suspect that the express bus would have been much more crowded. In any case, I get to see all of today's sunlight -- the skies are clear and I have been awake since thirty-one minutes before the dawn[2]. I am very much not a morning person, but I do like sunlight. Given that it is in such short supply at this time of year, I will take the full eight hours thirty five minutes (and forty one seconds) of today's light as a silver lining for being awake so early.

Random The Second: I have a lion-butt coin! Which is to say, I received as change one of the new 20p coins yesterday. The term "lion-butt coin" originates from the lovely [ profile] bammba_m, based on a comment that she made here. Not counting the full set of uncirculated new coins that I purchased from the Royal Mint, I now have a new version of the 5p coin (July), as well as the 1p and 2p coins (August). From 2008, I also have old versions of the 1p, 2p, 5p, and 10p coins. I find the way that the Royal Mint begins circulating coins to be odd. I always check my change for interesting (to me) coins. Even so, it is now late November and I have not yet found old-style 2008 coins for 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 denominations. Similarly, I have not yet received the new-style coins for 10p, 50p, £1 and £2.[3] Rather than add this lion-butt coin to my collection, however, I will be bringing it Stateside next month to give to [ profile] bammba_m. It is the least that I can do, really, to show my appreciation.

Random The Third: As of right now, there have been five comments on my previous entry about ice skating. That's cool. What caught my attention, though, is that they are all from women. Now this may simply be pure chance -- the statistics are far too low to conclude anything. It is also possible that this is because I have more women than men on my f-list[4]. Still, I have noticed that ice skating seems to appeal much more to people with two "X" chromosomes. I am currently in my fifth term taking lessons at the ice rink. Usually we have six to sixteen people in a class each term. Only once was there a single other "Y" chromosome in the class[5], back in my second term (taking Level Three and Level Four at once). Also, I believe that he was there mainly to be with his partner; she left halfway through the course and, although he did finish the term, he did not return for the next one. I don't quite understand why there seems to be such a gender slant in ice skating; it is not at all intuitive to me. Still, observationally speaking, it does seem to be there. Perhaps I don't comprehend it because I really am not very well attuned to gender stereotypes.[6]

[1] Seven oh two, leaving the house at seven thirteen.

[2] Which is at 7:33am in Oxford today.

[3] Although I did see somebody else behind me in a queue with a new 50p coin.

[4] Checking my list of mutual friends now, and ignoring duplicate journals from the same person plus -- for the sake of this quick scan -- people who do not self-identify as either of the traditional two genders, I see eighty-two women and fifty-one men. That's about 5/8 women and 3/8 men.

[5] Not counting the twelve year old vunderkind who passed through our class last term. Although he does have a "Y" chromosome, I choose not to count him. Not because of his age, but because he really didn't stay in our class. In week one of the term, he was in Level One. By week two, he had joined our Level Six class. He stayed there for another week or two before the bumped him up to Level Seven. By the end of the six week term, he was in the Level Nine course. I don't see him as having been in our class so much as "passing through."

[6] I had a conversation not long ago with somebody who disagreed with me on this, citing my career in a field that is mostly male and several of my hobbies (e.g., comic book collecting) as evidence. I am not convinced, however. To me, disregarding gender stereotypes is not about shunning all activities that tend to be biased in population in favour of my gender. Nor is it about actively seeking out activities because they are favoured by the other gender. It is about doing what I want to do -- regardless of gender. There are male stereotypes that I do not fit -- I hate watching sport(s) of any kind, I cry, et cetera. There are female stereotypes that I do not fit -- I loathe shopping... and the colour pink! Similarly, there are both "male activities" and "female activities" that I enjoy. What I have a hard time understanding is why some of these activities end up containing a sizable gender split. Indeed, the gender asymmetry in ice skating, from what I have seen, is far greater than it is in particle physics!

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!

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!

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.

anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Sep. 22nd, 2008 04:44 pm)
In just under an hour, we will be at the Autumnal Equinox[*]. We are moving into what will be my third Autumn living in England, so by now I know a bit of what to expect. As a season, I do like Autumn, with its crisp cool air and the changing leaves. The weather has been surprisingly nice of late; when I walk down the street the Autumn smells remind me of years gone by, of starting school again after a long Summer vacation.

Autumn also brings with it the Super Sekrit Pagan Festival[**] in upstate New York -- the one that I have attended without fail for nearly twelve years now. The site of that gathering, just a couple of weeks away now, is also the physical location of my spiritual home. It is a stunningly beautiful wooded site with a gorgeous lake and a waterfall. Since the gathering is held in October, the trees are usually brilliant in their colours during the festival.

Autumn also brings with it the coming of the Dark. We stand now at the Equinox -- the time when the day and night are nearly equal[***]. Here in Oxford, there are three more days where the Light exceeds the Dark. However, the light is moving away at a rate of nearly four minutes per day. Starting on Thursday -- Sep 25th -- the Dark period begins. At first, of course, it will barely be noticeable. Only after we change the clocks at the end of October will it truly be Dark in earnest. Still, having been raised in New York City -- over eleven degrees of latitude to the South -- the extra intensity of the Dark here is quite pronounced. So, amongst other things, the Equinox is also the time to start preparing for the Dark, enjoying the light here as much as I can whilst I still can.

This has been a year of many changes, and I do not expect that to stop this Autumn. Next week, I begin my new position working on a new experiment. There are wonderful new relationships in my life that are each growing and evolving into something unique and special. And there is a adorable new kitten in our home, who is bouncing about energetically -- occasionally stopping to attack my leg -- as I type this.

Also, for those of you in the South, I wish you all a very Happy Spring!

[*] Actually, I have cheated slightly by setting the timestamp of this entry to the time of the actual equinox.

[**] The festival is a private gathering and, as such, should not be mentioned in a public forum such as LiveJournal. It really is not so secret as I make it out to be -- that is just for fun -- and I am both able and happy to discuss it in direct personal communication.

[***] It is a common misconception that the time from sunrise to sunset (called "day") is precisely equal to the time from sunset to sunrise (called "night") on the Equinoxes. In actual fact, the day is always longer than the night on an Equinox. One hundred points to the first person that can correctly tell me why. Fifty points to anyone who can incorrectly tell me why in a way that makes me laugh.

anarchist_nomad: (England sightseeing -- Mind the monument)
( Jun. 21st, 2008 09:06 pm)
Good morning!

Yes, nevermind the time stamp -- I just got up a short while ago, having spent all of the shortest night awake at Stonehenge to celebrate the solstice with my dear [ profile] ms_katonic and the lovely [ profile] lydiasings.

This was my second year of spending the Summer solstice at Stonehenge. Just as I wrote last year, it was intense and fantastic! Druidic rituals at sunset and sunrise, fire, giant horns, drum circles, dancing upon ancient fallen Stones. All within a Stone circle that is five or six thousand years old... and in the company of about twenty-eight thousand close friends! Lets just say that the energy levels were pretty darn high!

Same as last year, sunset was at 9:26pm and sunrise was at 4:58am. Funny how that works, huh? With the long twilights, lasting at least an hour and a half, there were less than four hours of true darkness. Unlike last year -- which was clear until just before dawn -- there was complete cloud cover throughout the night and a light rain the entire time. Thus, instead of watching the sun come up from the Eastern edge of the Stone circle, we went to the heelstone at dawn to be in front for the Druids' ritual.

Due to the rain and the clouds, I got fewer nifty pictures than the ones that I took last year. However, here are a couple worth sharing:

Sunset at Stonehenge -- believe it or not, this is before most of the crowd had arrived!

Getting a bit intimate with one of the sarsen Stones...

As far as I know, no pictures of me ended up on the news this year -- my ego will just have to cope somehow!

Overall, Solstice at Stonehenge is an incredible experience and I expect that I will do it yet again next year. I know that last year, several people expressed interest in joining this year... but were not able to come for various logistical reasons. If you are one of them, mark your calendars now and come with me in 2009!
anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( May. 7th, 2008 08:13 pm)
Sitting in my office as I write this, there is a clear sky with a magnificent glowing orb in it. You know the orb I mean -- it is slowly sinking into the horizon.

This week, starting yesterday, marks the beginning of summer for me. How can I tell? Because the weather has been sufficiently warm to change into shorts and sandals. I have had quite a number of errands to tend to, and cycling about Oxford in weather like this is quite pleasant.

There is a cooling cryostat in the next room with two proto-detectors and a radioactive cobalt source inside. Indeed, I need to get back to tending them soon. Fun stuff should happen with this tomorrow.

It is early enough that I should likely finished with the cooling and home before ten o'clock.

As another sign that summer is here, I can finish work after nine o'clock and still ride home in the twilight. I don't mind working late nearly as much when I can still have sunlight to keep me company.

Last night, I had a nice conversation with RG, who some of you know from P**T***. It was good to chat, as I hadn't talked to him in months.

Earlier this evening, I rang bells at St. Cross with the OUSCR. I had a fair bit of practice ringing Plain Bob Doubles. Up until now, I have only rang this on the #2 bell (or the treble or a covering tenor, both of which are much easier than the inside bells, #2-#5) for a plain course. Tonight, I tried it from the #3 bell -- which is the same pattern but from a different starting point -- and I rang a "touch" -- where "bob" calls mix up the order. This exercise was to help my ropesight along -- my memory for numbers allows me to "cheat" on the simple patterns by simply memorising who I should follow -- and it went remarkably well. That felt good. Ringing down in peal at the end also went exceptionally well; possibly the best go I've had at it so far.

In the mail at work today, I received an invitation to the "International Symposium on Coptic Culture: Past, Present, and Future", hosted by the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Hertfordshire and held next week at the British Museum. This is not strictly a good thing per se, but it gave me a laugh. Somehow, the Coptic Church on this side of the pond found me. Sort of. The letter was addressed to me at the Oriental Institute, not the Physics Department. Close, though. I have no intention of going to the lecture -- I would if it were held in Oxford, but I can't spare the time (and miss Thursday ringing) to go to London for it -- but knowing that I set their Coptic SenseTM tingling did amuse me.
Here in Oxford, today was the first day of the year where the sun set after eight o'clock in the evening. I was working in the lab until after nine o'clock, and it was very nice to have the sunlight stay with me for most of that time. The actual sunset, visible thanks to a parting of the clouds, was much appreciated, also.

As a result of this work, the cryostat is now ready for another cooldown. Loaded into the Kelvinox are three SPEER thermometers and a relatively new one made from ruthenium oxide. For the first time, all four seem to be simultaneously working fine. Accomplishing this was no easy feat and required several hours of delicate soldering work with fragile wires. The fidgety nature of the task makes it tricky enough when performed on a workbench... but in this case it needed to be done in a vertical plane (i.e., with equipment already mounted in the fridge). That always ends up being so much fun! Nonetheless, it is done and the thermometers are ready to go, along with two proto-type detectors. One is titanium and has an experimental optical heater. The other is tungsten and has a conventional electrical heater. Later in the week, I should get to test the titanium one. We shall see if the cryostat gets cold enough (~6mK) to test the tungsten. Last two cooldowns have gotten stuck at around 20 - 25 mK. This may be one hundredth of the temperature of outer space... but it is still far too hot for my purposes.

Meanwhile, either I am starting to get into better shape than I had thought or else last night's bath had something miraculous in the water. Maybe a bit of both. Because my soreness today, after walking seventeen miles yesterday, is only barely noticeable. I am starting to get quite excited now about the Isle of Wight walk next month. Today, I booked accommodations for our trip and C booked us space on the car ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth. And yesterday C&M and I all registered for the actual walk. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to this... and we have even talked about keeping these weekend walks going after the Walk The Wight challenge is finished. My only real regret at the moment is that C&M are flying off to Tasmania on Saturday and staying there for three weeks. This leaves me with no walking partner. I can, and will, practice on my own... but it won't be as much fun. Does anybody local[*] to Oxford fancy taking a walk of about ten miles -- roughly three hours -- or more during the next few weekends? If so, do let me know!

[*] For practical purposes, I define "local" to mean "within about one hundred miles."

Today is the first day of 2008 where the hours of sunlight outnumber the hours of darkness!

At least it is the first such day for me, anyway. For those of you living in, say, New York City, yesterday claimed that honour. And for anybody living in the South, January 1st obviously took the trophy in this regard.

Nonetheless, I am excited that we have now entered the bright half of the year! That Winter darkness is no friend of mine! And, here in Oxford, the sunlight is currently growing longer by a full four minutes every day! Very nice!!

And, yes, we are still two days away from the Vernal Equinox, which happens on Thursday (March 20) at 5:48am UTC. Contrary to popular belief, the day and night are not equally long at the equinox. They are close... but the day is always longer. This is because the sun is not a point source of light. Thus, the center of the sun spends twelve hours above the horizon and twelve below on the equinox... but the day is longer because the upper limb of the sun spends more than twelve hours shining down on us. The equinox, then, is not defined as the day when there are twelve hours from sunrise to sunset but, rather, as the moment when the sun is positioned directly above the Earth's equator.

In any case, the light part of the year is now here, and hooray for that!

Meanwhile, I spent most of today at Corpus Cristi College, where we began a two day meeting of the CRESST collaboration. Our experiment is quite weird and only started holding collaboration meetings last year; this is the first one that I have been to. There were some interesting talks (and some boring ones, too) and some engaging discussion -- both of physics and of other topics. As an added bonus, since we opted to hold the meeting at my boss's college, rather than in the physics building, I got to see more of Corpus than I have previously done. We had lunch in their dining hall, which is no match for the Hogwarts Christ Church hall but is still quite impressive. And I just got back from having dinner in their Senior Common Room. Overall, it has been a good day, but I am quite tired. Now I need to do a few more things with the cryostat, then go home to collapse... as tomorrow will be yet another busy one!
Only one chute this time, but it is a big one. I shall start with the ladders:

Ladder: Earlier this week, [ profile] cheshcat used some Quorn Mince to whip up some sloppy joes. They were delicious! I have a soft spot, left over from my misspent youth, for sloppy joes... but, due to my vegetarianess[*], have not eaten any since a trip to the Chicago Diner in 2005. Kudos to Chesh for making such a yummy dinner!

Ladder: The days are finally noticeably longer. As of Monday (Feb 4), the number of daylight hours in Oxford is finally longer than that of the shortest day in my hometown of New Yawk City. With each passing day, about three more minutes of sunlight is added, too.

Ladder: Yesterday evening, [ profile] cheshcat and I played another round of Bohnanza. This is a game where she is better than I... but I did manage to win for once, with fifteen points to her nine.

Ladder: My application to extend our UK visas for another two years is almost ready to be submitted. I spent a fair bit of time on this today, and the form is in pretty decent shape now. Hopefully I can mail it to the Home Office by Monday. Assuming this succeeds -- and, with my Highly Skilled Migrant status, it is likely -- then we will be allowed to remain here until March 2010. At that point, I will need to re-apply for Highly Skilled Status and re-apply for visas for another year. If that all works out, then in March of 2011 -- five years after [ profile] cheshcat and I first arrived -- we can apply for indefinite leave to remain... and eventually citizenship. So far, things look optimistic on this front, though it makes me appreciate the experience of being an immigrant and makes me very angry at folks (like my mum) who carry an anti-immigrant chip on their shoulders. Short of getting married for a green card (or the foreign equivalent[**]), I am about as privileged an immigrant as you can get: a doctorate, a job at one of the top two universities in this country, citizenship from a rich nation, and financial assets. And I am still investing large amounts of time to make things fall into place. I can only imagine how horrific it must be for those in a less fortunate position.

Ladder: During handbell practice at St. Giles tonight, I rang the tenors -- that is, the #5 and #6 bells -- on a plain course of Little Bob Minor for the first time. It went well. I also rang the trebles for a touch of the same. On tower bells, I realised that I am getting quite good at ringing the #2 bell for a plain course of Plain Bob Minor -- and even managed it without a covering tenor behind us (to tell me who to lead off of). To be fair, I have an extremely good memory for numbers and am definitely using it as a crutch. The #3 bell follows the same pattern but has a different starting point, so I doubt I could ring that bell for this method. I need to force myself to learn standard skills, like ropesight, that ringers with a less spectacular memory employ... and I made a request of JP tonight that should help me do exactly that. Meanwhile, I am having good fun at seeing all the spiffy new things that I can do.

Chute: By a terrible coincidence, Foxy and The Boy are both experiencing health problems, so soon after Totoro's death. These are not related incidents, as Totoro passed from renal failure and the other two have very different problems. Foxy (see icon) is losing weight at a dangerously fast pace. She was eight pounds when she moved to Oxford in Aug 2006. She was seven pounds two weeks ago. She was six and a half pounds this week. Her coat looks terrible. Other than that, her behaviour is quite normal. She is active[***] and affectionate and talkative. She does not appear to be in pain. We are simultaneously very nervous and hopeful this is a thyroid condition. There is evidence -- though not yet proof -- of this diagnosis, and it would be a treatable problem. Meanwhile, The Boy has a growth in his mouth that is increasing in size. We need to have it removed and biopsied to see if it is benign. Other than that, he seems perfectly normal... but the fear of a cancerous tumor is haunting us. The surgery to remove this growth is about £250. Already, since New Years Eve, we have spent £410 on veterinary bills. Although I worry about The Boy, our "war chest" is shrinking and so we are waiting to see what Foxy needs -- as she seems in the more precarious position -- before committing money to this surgery. It is a very delicate balance, and quite nerve wracking. I do not know how I would cope if I lost another kitty so soon. Any good thoughts or energy that you may wish to spare for my little ones would be well appreciated.

Ladder: On the other side of the pond, we have three kitties, as well. Nona chose [ profile] polymorphism to be her human and, thus, relocated from the Event Horizon to Nebraska when [ profile] polymorphism did. She seems to be settling in quite well. [ profile] gyades brought Stumpy to the vet this week for a rabies shot -- thus ensuring that she is still eligible to fly to the UK -- and she was pronounced to be in excellent health. Thank goodness! I am not sure how many more feline medical crises I could cope with. Chirp was elusive and, thus, is still due for a vet visit. I will keep fingers crossed, though I do not believe that there is any reason to be concerned about her well being.[****]

[*] Hmmmm... should "vegetarianness" have one or two "n"s in it?

[**] I do still tend to think in US-based terms. It is a bad habit, I know...

[***] For a cat that is three months away from her fourteenth birthday.

[****] Other than the fact that she is chronically obese. But that is not news.

So it is now three hours past the Winter Solstice of 2007. Shortly before sunset, [ profile] cheshcat and I did a quiet Yule ritual together. Later in the evening, we were joined by the adorable [ profile] bammba_m for dinner, and by [ profile] xirpha after dinner. Having not seen [ profile] bammba_m in many months -- since the July party at the Event Horizon -- we had many things to catch up on. When [ profile] xirpha joined us, he showed us pictures[*] of the scanning work that he has been doing... using coins from the Royal Mint that I brought to him for guinea pigs. It was quite nifty to look at and hear about.

Of course, there is no way that we could all gather without playing games, so Puerto Rico came out, followed by Settlers of Catan. I won Puerto Rico by a reasonable margin, if not a particularly high score: I had 54 points, [ profile] cheshcat came in second with 49 points, [ profile] bammba_m came in third with 45 points, and [ profile] xirpha had 42 points. With the OxCon gaming convention coming up in five weeks, any extra practice for the Puerto Rico tournament is welcome. I am certainly a much stronger player than I was one year ago. [ profile] cheshcat is, too, though I am better than she is. In the Settlers of Catan game that came next, I won as well -- beating [ profile] cheshcat by the narrowest of margins. I have concluded that [ profile] cheshcat is a better Settlers player than I am -- albeit just barely -- making it difficult to defeat her. The final scores were 10 points for me, nine points for her, and five points for the others.

We were actually playing Settlers when the moment of the solstice passed. Nearby, our solstice candle continued to burn into the night... just as it does right now. I can see it from here. When the games ended, [ profile] xirpha drove home and we convinced [ profile] bammba_m to stay at the Event Horizon for the night. We got her settled in, then [ profile] cheshcat and I wrapped presents to place under our Yule tree. With The Boy back at Skullcrusher Mountain, we can freely leave ribbons and bows under the tree without remembering to lock him away in the bedroom as we have had to do in years past. His sisters may be curious about the presents, but they do not actively accost them! This year, we are forgoing the Yule vigil, as it feels somewhat odd to stay awake through the "longest night" when it is not the longest for us. So I will be off to sleep after posting this, eagerly awaiting the opening of presents in the morning... and the return of the light in the weeks and months to come.

[*] With your permission, Xirpha, I would like to share the pictures you sent me via my journal. However, since they are samples of your professional work, I would like to ask your permission before I show anything. If this is not acceptable to you, I completely understand.

anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Dec. 19th, 2007 03:30 am)
Just returned to the Event Horizon after a lovely evening out with [ profile] iamthesphinx. I braved the rush hour traffic on I-290 to pick her up after work, then we took a scenic drive around Chicago before getting food. Dinner consisted of sushi (her) and Chinese food (me), as I do not get much Chinese food of any real quality whilst in England. After dinner, we headed to one of her favourite spots, a bar on the north side of Chicago that was having its holiday party. We stayed until the bar closed, at which point I drove her home. After a brief visit back to her apartment, I then drove myself home.

The best part of the evening, obviously, was getting to spend time with [ profile] iamthesphinx. We seem to share an odd, but important, connection. The only real disappointment of the evening was not getting to sing any karaoke. We had planned to hit karaoke at a gay sports bar... but those plans got nixed when we learned that said bar was closed for the evening to have its own private holiday party. Oh well -- next time!

Incidentally, Chicago is currently receiving nine hours and eight minutes of sunlight each day. When I left Oxford on Friday, it was receiving seven hours and fifty minutes of daily light from Sol. I find this extra hour (and eighteen minutes) of light each day to be very nice, indeed! Additionally, the sun is significantly higher in the sky -- about 25 degrees maximum, compared to about 15 degrees maximum in Oxford -- which makes the intensity of the daylight considerably more potent. I suspect that most people reading this will not relate, but I am quite pleased at this break from the seemingly-perpetual night of England.

And, on that chipper note, I am going to go get myself some sleep!
Back in my office at Oxford[*], after a very nice evening out with [ profile] cheshcat. Usually, my Thursday nights are reserved for ringing bells at St. Giles. However, tonight was an exception. [ profile] cheshcat and I went to visit Waddesdon Manor, built in the late 1800s by Baron Rothschild. Although the grounds are supposed to be spectacular -- boasting an aviary, gardens, ponds, sculpture, et cetera -- we were not able to see any of that in the dark[**].

We will have to return at some point to see the estate in proper daylight -- as National Trust members, we can get in free -- but that was not our goal for this evening. Tonight, we went to see the magnificent house, all decked out for the holidays. Many of the big "treasure houses" decorate thusly... but Waddesdon added an extra twist. In the East Wing, there were not only rooms of holiday decoration, with trees and wreathes and lights a'plenty. There was also the English National Ballet, from the West London School of Dance, bringing to life tales from Hans Christian Anderson. It was very cool, wandering through rooms with The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes and more being acted out in dance.

Although the themed ballet dancers -- and the room of fish (don't ask!) -- was the main draw, the house itself is gorgeous, with a stunning art collection and brilliant decorations. Walking through the hall of weapons[***], we got our first look at a scolding mask... which was very funny looking -- like a rabbit's head -- until we found out what it was[†]. Other noteworthy items in the house include a portion of the King George III silver service (seen here) and a nifty modern chandelier designed by Ingo Maurer. We were not allowed to take picture inside of the house, though there are some on-line here, and people who read American Vogue[****] may have seen these pictures of Nicole Kidman at Waddesdon in last December's issue.

After having a very enjoyable time at Waddesdon, we drove back to Oxford. On our return, I dropped [ profile] cheshcat off at Skullcrusher Mountain, then came back to the University to fix a problem with the cryostat. To my surprise, it seems to have righted itself in my absence. That was an unexpected treat! Maybe tonight I will get some sleep[*****], after all...

[*] These days, I always seem to be here.

[**] Sunset in Oxford today was at 4pm, sharp. From tomorrow until Dec 26th, our sun will not set before 16:00. Joy and rapture.

[***] As part of the Christmas display?? Peace on Earth and good will, anyone?

[****] Does anyone on my friends list read American Vogue?!?

[*****] Yes, I am still exhausted after my late night on Tuesday. Having an 8:30am video conference this morning did not help at all. I am so not a morning person. If this entry also seemed scattered... well, I can't promise eloquence until I've had a good night's rest!

[†] ETA: [ profile] cheshcat disdains Wikipedia and has thus suggested that I provide alternate links about scolding masks. They are here, here, and here.

With Yule fast approaching, I have been thinking of what ritual would be appropriate for this year's longest night. We usually do something based around a fairly typical routine, like keeping a vigil through the night to welcome the sun back the next morning.

Then it occured to me -- what happens when the Winter Solstice is NOT the longest night?

This year, as last, [ profile] cheshcat and I will be spending Yule at the Event Horizon. On the Solstice, Chicago will receive nine hours and eight minutes of light. Here in Oxford, however, the days have been shorter than that since November 11th... and will remain shorter until February 2nd. So today, with the Solstice still nearly four weeks away, my day is already forty-seven minutes shorter than it will be on the so-called "shortest day."

Now I realize that one can simply ignore differences due to personal variations in latitude and treat the Solstice celebration as a purely astronomical event. And we may yet do this. Still, it feels silly for to then celebrate the Longest Night on a night that clearly is NOT the longest.

So, I thought I would tap into the great body of creativity and knowledge that is my friends list to see if anyone had any clever ideas on how one could modify one's Yule ritual to account for having had a different Longest Night. I have a couple of ideas of my own... but I would be curious to see what others might think.
...because it is always bloody night these days! Okay, maybe not always, but this darkness thing is beginning to get on my nerves. It is the 22nd of November; the Winter Solstice -- and the shortest day -- is still one full month away. However, sunset in Oxford is now at 4:06pm, and the total length of the day is only eight hours and thirty-one minutes. At noon, the sun climbs no higher than 18.2o above the horizon -- and it is usually obscured by clouds.

I realize that this is the flip side to those 11pm twilights that I enjoyed so much back in June. Nevertheless, I miss the sun. To the best of my knowledge, I am not afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, basking in sunlight does make me happy. So, although its absence does not make me depressed, it does leave something important out of my life for now.

Being a numbers geek, I felt the need to quantify this loss of sunlight. That's where comes in. I was born and raised in New York City; even with all the traveling that I have done in my adult life, I have still lived in NYC for more than half of my life. Thus, I did some comparisons between the sunlight in New York and the sunlight in Oxford. After all, that is the standard that I am used to.

I won't bore people with each and every statistic that I pulled out. However, it is worth noting that the shortest day in NYC is nine hours and fifteen minutes... whereas the shortest day in Oxford is seven hours and forty-seven minutes. The difference -- about an hour and a half -- may not sound like a lot. But consider it this way:
  • From the last day of November through the 26th of December, sunset in Oxford occurs before four o'clock.
  • From the 8th of November until the 3rd of February, the length of the day in Oxford is shorter than the shortest day in New York City. That means that each year, we have eighty-eight days -- nearly one quarter of the year -- where our day is shorter than the shortest day that I grew up with.

Again, I should stress that I am okay. I'm not depressed and, although I have been inconstant with my blogging about events, [ profile] cheshcat and I have still be getting out to various adventures on the weekends -- more so, in fact, than I expected in the darker months! However, I do like the sun very much and would not at all be adverse to some more light. For now, I can look forward to longer days when I come to the States next month... and think forward to those really long days in England next summer!
The dark days have begun. We switched the clocks last night. Sunset had already been earlier than 6pm before the change. Now the sun disappears around a quarter to five -- with nearly two months remaining before the solstice. I see the extra hour of sleep I got last night as a poor bribe, or perhaps a consolation prize, for losing that extra daylight hour each evening of the next five months. During the dark months, [ profile] cheshcat and I travel a lot less -- at least for the purpose of exploring England -- and I turn my focus inwards towards tasks that can be done at home. There are several projects that I have been putting off until the winter weekends, as my weeknights are often full and summer weekends are meant for venturing out to new adventures.

A second consolation prize is that, for the next week, I am closer to my friends in the States. Until the Yanks change their clocks next weekend, I am only four hours ahead of the East Coast, five hours ahead of Chicago, and seven hours ahead of the Kiddo, who now lives in California. Of course, my Arizona comrades do not change their clocks, so I am one hour closer to them for the entirety of the dark times. If anyone wants a phone call in the next week, do let me know... it will be easier to ring you when I don't have to stay up quite as late.

Now then, does anyone else find themselves irked by the fact that, in the Spring we change at 2am (skipping forward to 3am) and in the Fall we also change at 2am (falling back to 1am)? As a result of this, a typical[*] year contains the 1am - 2am hour 366 times, but contains the 2am - 3am hour only 364 times. That just strikes me as wrong...

[*] i.e., not a leap year.



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