Here are various and sundry things going on right now:

  • Work is going well, both personally for the T2K experiment as a whole. The calorimeter for the near detector, which was built here by the UK group, is currently in Switzerland for a test at CERN. Meanwhile, the actual neutrino beam, which is in Japan, switched on for the first time last week. Exciting times! Personally, I spent today supervising my students and installing Kubuntu Linux onto Arkham, my laptop, so that I can get a number of high energy physics tools like Geant and Root and T2KFit running on my personal machine.

  • Tonight -- in about an hour -- I will be at the first ringing practice of Trinity Term with the Oxford University Society of Bell Ringers.

  • Nearly done with the first Sandman trade paperback now. Good stuff!

  • Having had no new travel adventures since my birthday weekend in March, I am starting to feel a bit restless. Thankfully, plans are currently being made for a number of trips in the next few months: In two weeks, I will be off to Japan. Just days after I return, [ profile] cheshcat and I have a five day road trip planned up North as we continue checking items off of our "Explore England" checklist[***]. As we move into Summer, there will be the annual visit to New York and Chicagoland... and Starwood! Ah, yes, Starwood! That never fails to be exciting! And then, on my return, [ profile] cheshcat and I planned a very nice cruise vacation to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. Air travel, road travel, sea travel all coming up -- that's a good way to make a happy Nomad!

[*] Okay, there really isn't a checklist. It's actually a spreadsheet.

...and that moment is almost over.

Tomorrow, dear friends, the Nomad begins his thirty-fifth year of life on this planet. To celebrate, I shall be embarking on a weekend road trip with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and my cherished [ profile] bunnypip. We shall depart tomorrow morning on an adventure in which we will spend three days exploring the New Forest, Winchester, and Salisbury.

Planned destinations include Beaulieu, with its palace house, gardens, and monastic ruins; Winchester Cathedral, home of -- amongst other things -- the 12th century Winchester Bible; Salisbury Cathedral[*], home of one of the four surviving original Magna Cartas[**]; Exbury Gardens; and some of the more scenic points of the New Forest itself. Along the way, there shall be theatre and swimming and lots of good birthday fun!

I am very much looking forward to this trip! We have designed an itinerary that is quite exciting... and it also allows me to cross several more items off of my list of Places To Visit In England! Excellent! For some reason, I seem to have started the traveling earlier than normal this year -- by mid-March, I will have already had three weekends away exploring new places[***]. Usually, I wait until April or May to begin the road trips... but, somehow, I am not complaining about this early start. There is a reason that I am known as the Nomad, after all!

Have a lovely weekend (and Friday), gentle readers! I shall see you all again when I am a year older[****]!

[*] The only destination on the list where I have already been, with [ profile] resourceress, back in 2006.

[**] I have seen the one in Salisbury Cathedral -- reported to be in the best condition -- and also the one in Lincoln Castle. The remaining two are in the British Library; visiting them to "complete the set" is definitely on my to-do list!

[***] Cambridge last month with [ profile] cheshcat to celebrate our Tenth Double-D Day anniversary, then Essex a fortnight ago with [ profile] bunnypip to celebrate our demiversary... and now this!

[****] And also a very happy thirtieth to the ever-adorable [ profile] squeektoy42, whose birthday -- one hundred years to the day after Einstein -- follows directly behind mine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back from Japan now. Not quite home yet, though. Am writing this from the coach between Heathrow and Oxford.

In my nearly thirty-four years on this planet, I have lived in three countries: the United States of America, Japan, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. Interesting enough, this month -- January 2009 -- is the first ever where I have been to all three countries in the span of a single calendar month!

The trip, overall, was quite good. The food issue was not fun, as expected, but everything else went fine. My meeting went very well, and I now have lots of momentum, ideas, and enthusiasm about continuing my work on T2K. Collaboration meetings can be good for that. It was also nice to see some familiar faces from my Super-Kamiokande colleagues for the first time in a long time: Takeuchi-san, Miura-san, Nakahata-sensei, Suzuki-sensei, and more!

Going from the US to the UK to Japan in short order, I was rather surprised to notice that there are quite a few cultural parallels between Japan and Great Britain. A priori, I would not have expected to see so many similarities between the island nation in the Atlantic[*] that I now call home and the island nation in the Pacific that I used to call home. I was not the only one who noticed. After I made this observation, one of my colleagues from Imperial College -- who, like me, is a US citizen now living in the UK -- initiated a discussion to this effect.

Anyway, am nearly home now and there will be much to do this evening. I may write more about the trip to Japan later[**]; for now, I mainly wanted to let the world know that I made my return journey safely!

[*] Technically speaking, I suppose that Great Britain is not in the Atlantic. It is much more surrounded by the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Channel. Only a little itsy bit actually touches the Atlantic Ocean proper. But you get the idea...

[**] I also may not, considering how far behind on blogging I am!

anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Jan. 19th, 2009 12:35 pm)
Posting quickly from Narita Airport as I wait for my bus to take me to Tsukuba. Just a little note to let everyone know that I have arrived safe and sound. For the moment, my phone does not seem to have detected a carrier -- despite the huge Vodafone advert here in the arrivals area. Hurm.

It is... odd... to have yen in my wallet again. Even odder to have them there alongside a five pound note. I feel a little like I have collapsed the spacetime continuum inwards. Or at least my personal spacetime continuum. (This is not a bad thing. Just a strange one.)

Flight was the norm for an intercontinental hop -- long, boring, and uneventful. I did finish both books that I brought onboard with me, though: Twilight and a Peter David Babylon 5 novel.
Writing this entry from the coach to Heathrow[*], as I begin my first trip to Japan as a member of the T2K collaboration. With one exception[**], I am very excited about this trip! I have not been to Japan in over five years -- my last trip there was in August 2003!

For those Gentle Readers who do not know, I lived in Japan half-time when I was working on my doctorate. From December 1998 until August 2003, I spent six months per year there, usually in trips lasting for two to three months. In some sense, it feels like I was there so very long ago -- so much has changed since then! In other ways it feels like it was just recently. In any case, it will be very good to be there again!

There are no entries about Japan travelling in my LiveJournal [yet]. That is because, when I was last there, I did not have an LJ. Indeed, when I began this journal -- nearly five years ago -- it had been nearly six months since I had set foot on Japanese soil. Likewise, my current passport has no Japanese entry (or exit) stamps in it. My previous one had fifteen. Very glad to be about to rectify this later today!

Back in one week!![***]

ETA: (Written from the plane) It occurs to me that I shall be flying East today. Thus, when I touch down at Narita tomorrow morning, I will have finally spent time at every longitude value[****]! Cool!!

[*] Which is just as conveniently accessed as the Oxford-to-London buses. Hooray for exceedingly accessible public transportation!

[**] That being the food issue. Although I have spent about two years living in Japan, I was not a vegetarian during this time. I started transitioning from carnivore to vegetarian in October 2001. By the time of my last trip to Japan, I was a pescetarian. From what I have observed, Japan is not the most vegetarian friendly country!

[***] This first trip is a short one. There will be longer stays coming up, but I have no intention to actually live in Japan again the way that I used to.

[****] Not all today, of course, and not all from the surface of the Earth. But I still will have cumulatively flown a circumnavigation of the globe.

Having been back in England for slightly more than a week already, it seems that this is likely "now or never" time with regards to writing up what I did during my recent sojourn to the United States. Given what an excellent trip it was, the "never" option would be a true shame. So here goes with the "now"...

Monday December 22nd: Travel day extraordinaire! After staying up all night for Winter Solstice, I hopped a flight from London to Chicago. On arrival, I was met at O'Hare by the extremely helpful [ profile] xirpha, to whom I owe many thanks. [ profile] xirpha brought me back to the Event Horizon, where I stayed for less than an hour. After quickly dropping off some items and picking up others, I hopped in Lucretia II and started my 828 mile journey East. I began at about 4pm and drove through the night, arriving at the Jersey City apartment of the adorable [ profile] squeektoy42 at about 8am the following morning. This may have been a daft plan. Much could have gone wrong. The flight could have been delayed, I could have been too tired to drive, Lucretia II -- not driven in six months -- could have failed to start, the weather could have been prohibitive. However, everything ended up falling into place perfectly!

Total Miles Driven: 828

Tuesday December 23rd: Upon arrival in Jersey City, I hopped into bed with [ profile] cheshcat and napped for three hours. Then it was back to the land of the living to prepare for my date with the enchanting [ profile] perspicacious. She had moved to Manhattan just six months earlier. Thus, this was her first December there... and I wanted to take her about to show her the holiday sights that my native city has to offer. I have lived in a fair number of places over the years. Still, none have put on such a show for Christmas as New York[**].

We started our date at about 3pm and strolled up to Times Square. After a brief flirtation with the TKTS booth, we decided to pass on a show for the evening and went to dinner instead at a nearby Italian place. The restaurant was quite nice and the food was excellent... once we finally got around to ordering! (We were so engrossed in conversation that it took quite some time to look at the menu!) We shared two entrees, one of which was a delicious spaghetti with caviar -- something that I had never tried before. As we ate and talked, the night fell outside, setting the stage for our evening's adventures.

When we left the restaurant, we walked uptown to pass by Radio City Music Hall (and the giant balls across the street) and then hit Rockefeller Center with its gigantic tree. We watched the ice skaters down below from a couple of different vantage points and admired Prometheus in the act of giving fire. Wandering away from the Center, we stopped outside of Saks to appreciate the spectacular Carol of the Bells display there. For those who have never seen it, Saks mounts enormous snowflakes, made of LEDs, on their building. Every fifteen minutes, they play the Carol of the Bells, with the snowflakes flashing to accentuate the music. They choose a different version of the carol each year, but the effect is always breathtaking! In addition to the giant flashing musical snowflakes, the Saks windows always tell a story. This year's story was about Snowflake Mike -- a nonconformist flake who teaches the other snowflakes to be individuals!

Next stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral, just next door to Saks. I have walked by Saint Pat's more times than I can remember... but I think that this just may be the first time that I have been inside. If I have been in before, I do not remember. However, it was not until moving to England -- and visiting a fair number of cathedrals -- that I developed an appreciation for such things. Saint Pat's is, of course, quite modern -- built in the nineteenth century. It looks it, but it is still quite a beautiful place... with some impressively old relics inside! Besides being a wonderful place to visit, the cathedral was also a good place to get warm, as the night was getting progressively more chilly!

When we emerged from St. Patrick's, we walked slightly further North to look in the shop windows at Bergdorf Goodman, admiring the holiday display there. Then we were at the Southern end of Central Park... where I surprised my delicious date by offering her a ride through the Park in a horse-drawn carriage. The ride was amazing, with the park lights glittering beautifully off the freshly fallen snow as we cuddled in the carriage. Words cannot really do the experience justice!

I had requested a half hour ride, not realising that they were sold in increments of twenty minutes. However, I was surprised to learn that the cold and the snow meant that business was slow for the carriage driver. As such, he gave us a half hour ride anyway, throwing in ten complimentary minutes! I made certain to tip him well for that courtesy.

When the carriage ride finally did come to an end, we fed carrots to the horse. Then we made our way downtown to visit Macy's and their store windows. They had a cute display of Miracle on 34th Street on view, which we enjoyed. By then, it was quite late, so we began to head back to [ profile] perspicacious's apartment in Greenwich Village. We did so via the scenic route, though -- we took a lovely stroll along a riverside walkway, taking in the lights over the Hudson. One small surprise was that we passed by Pier 57, where I had been held as a political prisoner during the Republican National Convention back in 2004. It was... interesting... to see the building from the outside.

This was the first time that I have been to [ profile] perspicacious's apartment -- it is quite a wonderful space, and in a fantastic location! I love what she has done with it, and how she has been able to use such a small small so effectively -- as both a living space and a studio! She gave me my presents -- an excellent three-CD mix and an assortment of yummy baked goods[****] -- and we got to spend a bit of quality time together.

One of the primary motivators in making the long drive immediately after landing in Chicago was that it would get me to New York in time for this date. Indeed, it was the only day on which I could have seen [ profile] perspicacious, as she flew to North Carolina on the following day, not to return until after I had departed for Chicago. Although the journey left me quite low on sleep -- and our night together did nothing to make up for the lost rest -- I can unequivocally say that it was easily worth it to spend an incredible evening with this captivating woman!

[*] With apologies to the lovely [ profile] resourceress for stealing her title.

[**] Indeed, I was quite shocked and disappointed to find that London simply does not compare in this regard!

[***] Dinner and the surprise carriage ride had been my presents to her.

[****] To [ profile] perspicacious: Everything you made was delicious (as are you), but the truffles stood out as particularly excellent! Not just my opinion, but also that of those with whom I shared your gift!

Back in England now... riding the airline coach from Gatwick to Oxford as I write this entry. From a travel point of view, this year is off to a more normal start for me. Less than one week into the year and I have already flown; unlike 2008 when I was grounded for over six months -- my first flight was not until mid-July! Now I am back in England for twelve days, then I am flying off to Japan for a week!

Alas, the return flight was less than what could have been desired. For one thing, it involved a stopover -- never a good thing. Even worse, the stopover was in Philadelphia. In my experience, the PHL airport is something to be avoided whenever possible! This time was no exception. Thanks to a hydraulic leak, we left (and landed) over two hours late. They also managed to lose one of my two pieces of checked luggage. Whee!

Still, the flight itself was good. I managed to sleep for much of the journey, I was lucky enough to have a remarkably friendly (and cute) neighbour to chat with, and I started reading Twilight -- getting through about one third of the book.

Also keeping my mood up are the fresh memories of a wonderful time in Chicagoland. I will try to write about the whole of my US trip soon, at least in summary, but for now I just want to say that the five days I spent at the Event Horizon (and vicinity) were fantastic! Particular thanks go out to [ profile] gyades, the terrific [ profile] tawneypup, the incredible [ profile] iamthesphinx, and [ profile] xirpha for making this trip into such a good time!

Finally, as a PSA, I should say that I intend to venture into the virtual swamp of my InBox and LJ backlog in the not-too-distant future -- either today or tomorrow. I have not touched either my e-mail or my f-list in two weeks whilst travelling, so it may take some time to clear everything. Indeed, it remains to be seen whether I ever catch up with my f-list or write it off as a lost cause! Still, if you have sent me something recently and have been waiting for a reply, rest assured that it should be coming soon!
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.

Just arrived in New Jersey, at the house of the delightful [ profile] squeektoy42, after driving eight hundred twenty-eight miles in fourteen hours and twenty minutes. At mile 500, I hit a snowstorm in Pennsylvania. Not a lot of fun, though I have driven in far worse weather. By mile 690, the three cans of Amp that I had consumed were not enough to keep me focused. Rather than drink a fourth can -- and I did have one with me -- I pulled into a rest area and napped for an hour. At mile 825, when I was three miles from my destination, all traffic came to a standstill because there was a car burned to a crisp in the road. Due to all of these complications, this was not the best time that I have ever made on this drive... but, nonetheless, I am now safely here.

About thirty hours ago, I was in London. Since then, I have been in Chicago -- and seen the Sears Tower from a distance, and am now a stone's throw from New York City -- and have seen the Empire State Building from a distance. Truly the Christmas travel blitz has begun -- the Nomad seems to be in good form!

One nice thing about the long drive: By half six, I noticed that the sky was getting lighter. By seven o'clock, it was definitely daylight. This is a nice contrast to Oxford, where sunrise still happens after eight am.

Off to sleep for a few hours now, before I go to spend the day with the lovely [ profile] perspicacious[**] tromping about Manhattan!

[*] With apologies to Wang Chung, a million miles is well out of my capability for one evening.

[**] To [ profile] perspicacious: It is now just after eight o'clock. I need to get at least four hours sleep, I think, since I have not had much sleep from Friday night until now. I will call you when I wake up so that we can coordinate getting together. Sound like a good plan, my dear?

This entry exists for no other purpose than to be the very first LJ entry that I have written and posted whilst sitting on an aeroplane. Have to put laptop away in a minute for takeoff, so it is a contentless entry. But it is still here. So there!
Just a couple of random and sundry as I ride home on Ye Olde Oxforde Tub:

Random the First: Is anyone in the Chicago area able to give me a ride from O'Hare to the Event Horizon on Monday (Dec 22)? I will be landing at about 1:30pm. I can always take a taxi if necessary, but I would not at all object to saving fifty dollars! I can sweeten the deal with offers[*] of dinner, foreign gifts, undying gratitude, sexual favours, whatever...

Random the Second: Being largely cut off[**] from most of mass marketed media, I only recently learned that a film adaption of Will Eisner's The Spirit is soon to hit the cinemas! Whilst I have never actually read any of the Spirit comic books, it has been on my [rather considerable] reading list for some time. After all, Eisner was one of the greats! It does not hurt one bit that Frank Miller has written the script, either! I was poking about online earlier to learn a little more about the upcoming film. It sounds like it has potential! I also was looking over the visuals on the promo posters -- one in particular managed to grab my attention...

Random the Third: I really need the powers of Jamie Madrox, especially for New Years Eve! I think I have about six different options on the table right now. Even restricting myself to the Chicago area still leaves three possibilities! Want to do all of them! Need more Nomad![***]

[*] I will be leaving the Event Horizon almost immediately to drive to New Jersey. However, I will be back from Dec 31 to Jan 05 and can make good on those offers then.

[**] Quite happily and voluntarily.

[***] Yeah, I know -- I have friends, pity poor Nomad! I am certain that somebody on my f-list is cueing up the world's smallest violin...

anarchist_nomad: (Intrepid explorer)


( Dec. 7th, 2008 08:45 pm)
...and then one day you find, ten years have got behind you...

Ten years ago right now, I was on a plane to Japan. It was my first trip to Japan to live there half time and do my doctoral research with the Super-Kamiokande experiment[*]. This trip almost did not happen. For one thing, there was the last minute Mystery of the Missing PassportTM. More importantly, though, I had nearly turned down the opportunity to live and work in Japan, because of the huge changes that it would bring to my life.

I am very glad that, in the end, I did not shy away from this experience. It was the birth of the Nomad, and a critical point in my life. Because I chose thusly, the past ten years have brought a host of adventures: Working (and SCUBA diving) in a giant cup of water lined with golden hemispheres in a mountain under the Japanese Alps, watching as a colleague won the 2002 Nobel Physics Prize (and basking in the reflected glory), building a solar powered laser facility in the Argentine pampas, driving a roving nitrogen laser to calibrate fluorescence cosmic ray telescopes in the dead of the night, working in a decommissioned underground nuclear bunker in Southern France, running a cryostat to look for dark matter in Italy, living in Oxford and producing temperatures far colder than the Universe. Life has certainly been interesting!

Looking at my flight log[**], I have flown 199 times in the past ten years. Actually, I am slightly miffed about this. I really would have liked to have broken two hundred in ten years of being a Nomad. Still, 2008 has been a particularly unusual year in many aspects... one of which is I have flown far less than in previous years. By the end of 2008, I will only have been on seven flights -- the fewest number since 1999[***]!

It seems appropriate that, as the decade mark hits, I am planning to return to Japan -- for the first time in over five years. My last trip to Japan was in August 2003, after which I received my doctorate and left the Super-Kamiokande collaboration. I do miss being there quite a bit. Coming full circle, I recently joined the T2K collaboration[****], so I shall be making my return to Japan next month for a collaboration meeting. Very much looking forward to that!

[*] To be fair, it was my second trip to Japan, as I had been there once before as a tourist. Still, going to Tokyo for sightseeing is quite different than living in Japan for two years.

[**] Yes, I have a flight log, chronicling every flight that I have taken since the start of 1990. I put it together last year as a memory exercise (see point five).

[***] And, possibly even more strangely, the only two countries that I have been in this year are my home countries of the US and the UK.

[****] Which uses Super-Kamiokande as one of its detectors.

Definitely living up to my moniker[*] today!

Woke up, as I so often do, in Oxford. Promptly headed into London. This time, my destination was not Imperial College, but Queen Mary University of London. There, I was meeting with a colleague who is also a new post-doc on the T2K experiment and also did his doctorate at Stony Brook under CKJ. I barely knew him back then, as I finished up shortly after he arrived, but we have been starting to coalesce into a team at our new positions.

After our meeting at QM finished, I started heading back to Oxford. Indeed, I am writing this -- as I do with many entries of late -- from Ye Olde Oxforde Tubee[**].

Upon arriving back in Oxford, however, I shall not be staying long! I intend to clean up a bit at the new flat and collect [ profile] cheshcat. Then we are off again!

Where are we off to, you may fairly ask. Tonight's entertainment is a return to Stratford-upon-Avon. There, we will see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Loves Labours Lost. This will be the nineteenth performance that I have seen by the RSC[***]. It has been about nine weeks since I last saw the RSC do anything -- I need to be a good theatre junkie and keep feeding the habit!

After that, we return to Oxford where I shall sleep, as I so often do.

It seems that recent events have conspired to turn Oxford into less of my home city and more of my base-of-operations. With a job in London, a passion for travel, a sweetie in the rural middle of nowhere, an addiction to Stratford-on-Avon, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth... well, I have been back from the States for twenty-five days now, and only two of them have not involved doing something outside of Oxford! Quite a change from the early days of when I was living here -- still without a car -- when I could go weeks without leaving Oxford!

[*] "Nomad", that is. What did you think I meant?

[**] Thank goodness for mobile broadband! It has made this commute so much more productive!

[***] Also, just for the record, it will be eighteenth trip to Stratford (as one time we went on a Saturday for two plays). It will also be the eighteenth play that I have seen the RSC perform (as I saw them put on Richard III twice). It will be the seventeenth Shakespearean play that I have seen RSC perform (as I once saw them perform MacBett -- an Ionesco parody of MacBeth). And it will be the seventeenth RSC show that I have seen with [ profile] cheshcat, who has accompanied me on all but two of these expeditions!

anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Oct. 9th, 2008 07:49 am)
Last night, I went out to dinner with AB, one of the graduate students from the CRESST group at Oxford. At the end of the meal, we received fortune cookies. My fortune read: "You are about to depart for a land of sunshine."

This was very good news for me, as I leave in six hours for the States, and shall be spending the weekend in the woods at P**T***! The gathering is always fun... but eleven years of experience have taught me that it is usually more enjoyable when one can hike in the woods, rather than when one can paddle a canoe in the firepit[*]! It looks like those fortune tellers may be right on the mark, too! The weather report for the site calls for sun and clear skies all weekend; highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s. I don't think that I could ask for better P**T*** weather! Very much looking forward to seeing many of you there tomorrow, my dear friends!!!

Goodness -- this will be my twelfth year in a row at P**T***. My, how the time flies!

I will be back in Oxford late on Monday the 20th. Until then, however, I will be largely out of electronic contact. Whilst at P**T***, I will effectively be in a different world and, thus, virtually impossible to reach. After the gathering ends, I will be travelling and largely away from a computer. For anyone who might need or want to know, here is my tentative schedule )

Okay, six hours to go. Time to pack and do all those other last minute things that need doing at the last minute[**]...

[*] This did happen one year when the rain was particularly heavy!

[**] Apropos to absolutely nothing, I want to note that I have recently seen two plays. On September 24th, [ profile] cheshcat went to see The Woman In Black. And this past Saturday, October 4th, we saw a production of one of my absolute favourite comedies, Noises Off at the Oxford Playhouse. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of this entry. However, I do like to keep track of the theatre I see and have been rubbish about updating this journal for the past couple of weeks. So I figured if I did not mention these plays now, before I fly away, it was never going to happen. Hence this somewhat incongruous footnote...

It looks like it has been about two weeks since I updated this journal with much content about what I have been doing[*]. I suppose that I should write an entry soon to rectify that. This is not that entry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Sep. 26th, 2008 11:59 pm)
Two and a half years ago today, [ profile] cheshcat and I arrived at Heathrow to start a new life in Oxford. Thus, this is the halfway point in the five years that we must live here before we are eligible to apply for that holy grail of Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Thirty months living living in Oxford now. Thirty months since we left Chicago and the Event Horizon behind. Hard to believe, really. Part of me feels like it was so very recent, whilst another part of me feels like it was a lifetime ago. We knew virtually nothing and no one when we arrived, but this has finally become Home.[*]

To commemorate this [non-]event... )

On that note, I think that I will acknowledge that this entry has descended into sleepy babble... and will thus take the hint that it may be time for bed.

Happy Friday to all, and to all a Good Night!

[*] For a guy who calls himself Nomad, the concept of "Home" can be somewhat complicated. See, for instance, this thread. Oxford has definitely become Home -- the gradual acquisition of community that started at PolyDay 2007 was the final step in making this place Home. However, Chicago and the Event Horizon are also most definitely Home for me -- much more so than when I wrote the comment in the link above. Also, New York City is still Home, and I suspect that it always will be.

Returned to Skullcrusher Mountain late last night after a four day holiday weekend exploring the so-called[*] "frozen North" with [ profile] cheshcat. Leaving SCM and Oxford again in under forty-eight hours... so just a quick travelogue now, with more to come later[**].

The short version of the trip is this: Just like during the August bank holiday weekend last year, we drove up to Yorkshire.

Unlike last year, though nearly everywhere that we went this past weekend was different. On our 2007 trip[***], we spent two days in York, one at Fountains Abbey, one in Whitby, and one exploring the North York Moors.

This year, we spent our first day at the stately Georgian home known as Harewood House, and then spent the evening in the spa town of Harrogate. On day two, we went exploring in the Yorkshire Dales. Day three began at Castle Howard. We had not planned to repeat any of last year's trip... but spontaneity kicked in when we left Castle Howard. As a result, we ended up driving back up into the North York Moors to watch the sun setting below the fields of bright purple heather... then returned to Whitby for a stroll on the boardwalk and a dinner of fresh fish and chips[****]. Final day was spent at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, with the evening in Stratford-upon-Avon watching the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Hamlet. Finally those tickets -- purchased last November -- put to use![*****]

All in all, an excellent weekend! We did a lot and saw a lot, and I will try to write it all out properly in good time. Meanwhile, here are a couple of the highlights )

[*] Actually, as irony would have it, the weather on some of those days was amongst the best I have seen all month! Not frozen a'tall!

[**] Hopefully.

[***] Alas, the tale of that delightful adventure fell prey to the beast which prevents travelogues from being written.

[****] For [ profile] cheshcat, anyway. I remain a vegetarian.

[*****] I think that [ profile] maufry may Officially hate me now.

Long time readers of this journal will be aware that travelogues are not exactly an area where I shine. When I do write them, they are full of detail and pictures![*] However, all too often I never end up writing a memorable account for an adventure and too many trips (e.g., Ireland, the second half of my time in Rome) never get the write-up that they deserve.

Two weeks ago, [ profile] cheshcat and I took a four day trip to Cornwall and Devon, where we celebrated our fourteenth anniversary. In a few hours, we leave Oxford again for another four day trip on this bank holiday weekend. If I am ever going to write a travelogue for the anniversary trip, it really needs to be now.

Of our four days, we spent the first two and a half in Cornwall and the remaining day and a half in Devon. In Cornwall, we started with a visit to The Eden Project. Simply put, the Eden Project is the largest greenhouse in the world. It was constructed in an old clay pit and, at its heart, consists of three biomes, two of which -- the Rainforest Biome and the Mediterranean Biome -- are covered in enormous domes. Since the first day of our trip was the rainy day, we decided that this would be a good place to begin. We were not mistaken! Eden is quite an impressive site! We started in "The Core", which is the education centre, then spent the afternoon wandering about the biomes. It was all magnificent, though I think that the indoor waterfall in the Rainforest Biome might have been my favourite part. I am, after all, such a water elemental!

The weather on the second day was much better, so we paid a visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The gardens were originally built over four hundred years ago, when the estate was the residence of the Tremayne family. However, most of the twenty-two gardeners died whilst fighting in the First World War... and the garden fell into a state of neglect afterward. A couple of decades ago, they were restored to glory and are now quite a splendid way to spent a sunny summer day!

Of course, [ profile] cheshcat and I did more than just visit gardens while we were in Cornwall. We did quite a bit of driving about, especially when the sun was shining, to admire the landscape, the coast, and the beach. We also did a bit of random exploring, diverting from our path when something interesting (or interesting sounding) caught our attention. This led us on little side adventures through villages with names like "Gweek" and -- in Devon -- "Crapstone".

Being in England's SouthWest peninsula, I also could not resist making trips to Lizard Point and Land's End. Lizard Point is the most Southerly point in Great Britain... though it is still about thirty-nine miles North of the most Northerly point in the contiguous United States. Land's End is the most Westerly point in England... though not in all of Great Britain -- Scotland extends twenty-two miles further West. Although many (most?) of my friends may not care about such geographical silliness, longtime readers of this journal -- or anyone who knows me well -- should not be surprised! After all, on our anniversary three years ago, [ profile] cheshcat and I paid a visit to the supposed "Southernmost Point in the Continental USA" whilst we were visiting Key West.

When we arrived at Lizard Point, it was getting close to dusk and it was raining... so [ profile] cheshcat and I were the only people there. I was seized by a bout of mania when I realised that I was THE most Southerly person in ALL of Great Britain! If you have ever played Four Square with me, you can imagine what this looked and sounded like. There is also a picture that [ profile] cheshcat took behind the cut below. During our visit to Land's End, the weather was much better and shared quite a delicious dinner in the most Westerly restaurant in England, watching as darkness fell over this small island.

The last thing that we did in Cornwall was visit the Tamar Otter Sanctuary & Wildlife Park. This is the project that can be credited with saving the otter from extinction in Great Britain. Although they no longer need to breed otters for conservation reasons, they still have a goodly number of these cute little guys on-site. We watched them play and get fed, then we wandered through the Wildlife Park, feeding deer and [successfully] seeking out a waterfall. Finally, we fed ourselves before moving on to the Devon part of our trip.

In Devon, we drove about Dartmoor Forest, looking for interesting views and picturesque villages. We were not disappointed! At Postbridge, we found a fourteenth century Clapper Bridge -- of course, I had to park the car and cross it on foot! We also made a point of searching for neolithic stones. Although I have been to Avebury four times and Stonehenge six, it has been quite some time since [ profile] cheshcat and I visited any new ancient Stones. I believe that our trip to the Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District during our May 2007 trip was the last time. So we hunted out the Spinsters Rock, an arrangement of four Stones -- about five thousand years old -- that marked a pre-historic burial mound.

The final day of our trip -- our actual anniversary -- was spent mainly in Devon, with a little time in Somerset. We began at Exeter Cathedral, founded in 1050. At this point, I have been to a fair number of English Cathedrals -- eight, I believe -- and have started to consider myself something of an amateur connoisseur. By my standards, Exeter Cathedral was very nice... but not overly spectacular. The bits that most caught my attention were:
  • The vaulted ceiling, which is the longest in England.
  • The canopy over the Bishop's throne. Built between 1313 and 1316 by Thomas of Whitney[**] -- without the use of a single nail! -- it has the largest canopy in Britain. During the Second World War, this wonderful piece of fourteenth century woodwork was preserved by disassembling it and moving it elsewhere for safekeeping.
  • Not one, but two colleges of Oxford University came from Exeter. Bishop William Stapeldon founded Stapeldon College, now known as Exeter College in 1314. Meanwhile, two hundred years later, Bishop Hugh Oldham co-founded Corpus Christi College in 1517.
  • The astronomical clock, because it is old and cool!
  • A long woven cushion that tells the history of the cathedral. Although modern -- from the late 1980s -- it is still an impressive accomplishment!

Upon leaving Exeter Cathedral, [ profile] cheshcat and I headed to Exmoor National Park, which we proceeded to explore in much the same way that we had done with Dartmoor on the previous day. We had picked the right time of year to visit Dartmoor and Exmoor -- the purple heather was blooming in both parks, much as it had been when we explored the North York Moors last August. We drove North through the forest, then West along the coastline -- stopping whenever a nifty village or a beautiful view caught our collective eye. It rained lightly from time to time and, as a result, we were treated to rainbows on no fewer than four occasions! One of these rainbows was the largest that I have ever seen, and the full hemi-circle of the arch was visible from our vantage point! We drove up the Porlock Hill and made our way to Lynmouth, where we stopped to watch the setting of the sun and then got ourselves a nice dinner in the village before making our way back to Oxford and Skullcrusher Mountain.

One would think that this would mark the end of a very enjoyable trip... but not quite. The drive home took place in the dark and, as chance would have it, less than twenty-four hours after the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Thus, our return journey was punctuated every now and then by a shooting star zipping by, interrupting whatever conversation that [ profile] cheshcat and I were having at the time. Definitely not a bad way to end a long weekend!

For those who have read this far, there are pictures from our trip beneath the cut. )

[*] For a recent example, see how much I was able to write about the short (day and a half) trip to Belvoir and Lincoln last month.

[**] Which, apropos to nothing, is right near Oxford!



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