Gentle readers, if there is one thing that you know about your friendly neighbourhood Nomad, it may well be that he likes doing new things.

Sometimes this takes the form of going to new places -- hence the "Nomad" name -- but, more generally, I enjoy and actively seek out new experiences. Right now, for instance, I am posting this entry from approximately 39,000 feet over Russia, as I fly to Japan. Posting from a plane? That's a new experience. Also, I have with me my brand new UK passport, but have left my US passport at home. Travelling solely as a Brit? That's also new for me.

Fun though these tidbits might be, they are little things. So, my dear friends, let me tell you of another new experience that I had yesterday. Much more interesting than in-flight WiFi, or the first stamp in my UK passport.

This picture, taken by my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, is where we spent last night:


(click on picture for full version)


That would be the Natural History Museum in London.

For about five years now, the Natural History Museum has had a monthly sleepover event for children, which they call "Dino Snores". This involves an animal show and t-shirt making, before putting the kids to bed at midnight and then feeding them breakfast in the morning.

Museum nights for kids are not particularly uncommon. There are several other museums in London that do sleepover events for children, including the British Museum and the Science Museum. For that matter, I know that theAmericam Museum of Natural History in NYC also does its own sleepovers, and Chicago's Field Museum has Dozin' with the Dinos.

What makes the Natural History Museum different is that they also do a sleepover event for adults: "Dino Snores for Grown-Ups".

Apparently, after they started doing the monthly Dino Snores, they started getting questions about doing an event without the children. So, back in 2012, that is precisely what they did. Dino Snores for Grown-Ups different from the original event in several ways. It is a much smaller event, capped at about 200 people. It is also much pricier -- the kids' "Dino Snores" costs £52 per person; the adult version is £175 a head. However, it also comes with a heck of a lot more -- like a three course dinner, a selection of activities to choose from (rather than a fixed plan). And, of course, no "bedtime" at midnight.

Here is what our Dino Snores evening was like last night:
  • At 19:30, we arrived at the Natural History Museum, just as things were getting started. We set up camp in the Central Hall with our sleeping pads right next to Dippy, the Diplodocus skeleton seen in the picture above. We also met up with our friends C&J, who were joining us for the evening. After taking some pictures, we popped over to the bar (something else not present at the kids' event) to grab a couple of drinks.

  • At 20:30, we were brought into the restaurant for the aforementioned three course meal. As we ate, there was a raffle with some silly prizes from the souvenir shop given out. The only one that I really wanted was the dinosaur head puppet... but, alas, we did not win. Even so, the food was good, as was the company and the conversation.

  • At 22:30, directly following dinner, we had a choice of stand-up comedy or a talk on the sex lives of insects. The four of us opted for the latter. It was a good choice. The scientist giving the talk was quite the stereotype -- the nerdy, slightly frumpy "fly girl" with big glasses who talked with great gusto about all these different insect penises. It was a great talk and quite entertaining. Gauging from the audience reaction, everyone there had a fantastic time. I know we did!

  • At 23:30, we had another choice to make: We could eat some of the bug genetalia that we had just learned about, as there was an edible insect tasting. Or we could attend an interactive video presentation about evolution. C&J went to eat bugs. Meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat had no interest in joining them and, as a vegetarian, I cannot do so. Thus, our choice for this slot was easy. Whilst J was taking pictures of C chowing down on bugs, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I learned about the ways in which we are related to other hominids, lungfish, parasitic worms... and bananas. Personally, I'm more pleased to have bananas in my family tree than I am about those parasitic worms.

  • At 00:30, the museum galleries were opened. We went to see the Hall of Mammals and the Whale Hall. Then we took a break to pop back over to the Central Hall bar for more drinks and snacks before it closed at 01:00 (though the free tea & coffee would stay available until 02:00). There was live music in the Central Hall -- the harpist provided a lovely atmosphere for the setting. Soft and pretty, but subtle and unintrusive. Next, we took our sweet time going through the special exhibit on this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Checking out the WPotY exhibit is an annual tradition for [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I. However, we normally have to fight our way through a crush of people when we go during regular museum hours. Going at night was a lovely change of pace -- with only a handful of other people in the gallery, we practically had a private viewing!

  • At 02:30, the museum galleries closed. Some folks started going to bed; we gathered to hear ghost stories about the museum. Apparently, there are tales going back to the museum's Victorian origins, and other stories dating back only to recent weeks. Much of the haunting seems to take place at three o'clock in the morning... so it was rather amusing when the lights had an unscheduled switch-off for a minute or two at 03:00!

  • At just after 03:00, once the ghost stories were over, most people went back to the Central Hall to get some sleep. For those of us who preferred to keep going, there was a movie marathon. We had several choices but, not surprisingly, the vote went quite easily to Jurassic Park. Which, I may add, I had never seen before. J started to doze partway through, and went off to bed. Meanwhile C and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I stayed to watch the film.

  • At 05:15, the next film voted in was Jaws. Which I have also never seen. C opted to stay, but [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I decided to get a couple of hours rest. I'm glad we did -- walking through the darkened museum to get back to our sleeping pads in the Central Hall was one of the best parts of the night. I hadn't expected this, but it was really cool being there, by ourselves -- most others were already asleep -- strolling through the dark halls as we peered into cases to see stuffed pandas and ostriches and whatnot inside. After brushing up, we got into bed around 05:30 and claimed a couple of hours of sleep. I had expected to stay up all night but, in retrospect, I think that this was the better choice. Falling asleep next to Dippy was also pretty awesome!

  • At 07:30, we arose -- waking up next to Dippy was pretty awesome, too! C&J were already awake -- indeed, C had never gone to bed. We got caffeinated with the tea and coffee being served in the restaurant and chatted whilst waiting for breakfast to be served.

  • At 08:00, breakfast was served. Nothing special, just a traditional full English breakfast, with a vegetarian version available. The freshly squeezed orange juice was rather yummy, though! During breakfast, we filled out feedback forms -- we each gave them a 10 out of 10 for the event. Also, prizes were awarded for the pictures taken and tweets tweeted during the event. Not being a twit, I hadn't even tried to win this one!

  • Finally, at 09:00, we packed up and headed home.

Definitely a new experience, and very different from anything that I've ever done before. I had a great time. I know [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat did, too, as we were only a few hours in when she said that we should do this again sometime. I'm game for that! C&J also had fun, and I'm glad that I could convince them to come out and play with us!

With no rest for the weary, I drove [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I back to Oxford and proceeded to pack for Japan. And, in about seven hours, Japan is where I will be.

I am rather delighted (or, as the Brits might say, "chuffed") to have done this. It was a spectacular experience. I don't know of any other museums that have overnights for adults, but I hope that more will pick up on the idea and it will become a trend.

Meanwhile, my friends, tis time for this Nomad to post his museum adventure and then try to get a little shuteye before landing. Be well, everyone, and talk to you soon!
So let's see -- on the morning after, we find:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Greetings, gentle readers! Your friendly neighbourhood Nomad is writing to you from Haneda Airport, in Tokyo. Direct flights from Haneda to London started only a couple of years ago; they are convenient in several ways... but have the definite drawback of an early departure time. A take-off at half past six means check in at half four... which, in turn, means a long overnight at the airport. Taking the latest train possible from Tokai still gets me here slightly before midnight; it feels wasteful to book into a hotel for four hours[*], so the alternative is to pull an all-nighter at the airport.

To be sure, there are certain silver linings, like landing in London at ten in the morning, so one doesn't lose a day from travelling. Also, there are opportunities for lovely sunrise photographs, like these two that I took during one of my other overnights, about a year and a half ago. Plus, Wi-Fi is available for a nominal fee and there are power outlets, so I can use my laptop and smartphone as I would in a hotel or anywhere else. Just had a pair of lovely chats, one with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and another with [livejournal.com profile] miss_amaranth. Ah, no chair near the outlet, though, so this all needs to be done whilst standing. Oh, well. There are restaurants open all night, as well as an outdoor observation desk -- and it is a lovely evening, with a temperature of 75o. So whilst a night at the airport is hardly fun -- it would be much better if that accursed escalator would stop repeating the same few words -- it could definitely be worse.

At this point, dear friends, you may be wondering what about all this is making your favourite Nomad's head explode. Er, nothing. That was just me rambling. As I am wont to do.

The head-explosion comes from having just read the New York Times article here. Apparently, the city of Camden, New Jersey, is opening a new front in the war on public unions. They are firing an entire sector of the public workforce, to disband it and replace it with non-union staff.

Now normally, as you might expect, I would be up in arms, fuming at this latest attack on workers. I certainly was when the damnable Scott Walker effectively destroyed the Wisconsin public unions last year. This time, however, there is a twist: The unionized workforce being disbanded... is the police force!

Hurm. This would be a good time to cue the exploding head[**].

On the one hand, I am a fierce proponent of unions. I am a member of two -- the venerable One Big Union (the Industrial Workers of the World), as well as the UK's University & College Union. Only by organization can workers ever hope to prevent exploitation and abuse by the bosses. I have gone on strike, walked picket lines, and done my share of union organizing in years gone by.

On the other hand, it is the cops. I hate cops. Passionately. I mean, duh, I'm an Anarchist! Whilst many of my comrades would commonly refer to police as "pigs", I made a promise to myself never to insult members of the genus Sus with such a comparison.

Right. So the cops are being union-busted. Who to side with? What to think? It's union-busting -- boo! But it's bad stuff happening to cops -- hooray! Yeah, definitely an exploding head moment.

Actually, if I think back many years, to when I started out as an activist, I knew that cops were misinformed and taking the wrong side. They are paid to protect the elite, but they really don't belong to that strata of society. Basically, they are hired thugs. Once upon a time, when I was young and idealistically naïve, I thought that we could show the cops where their true allegiance should lie. I remember chants of "join us" when we were corralled at demonstrations. Somewhere along the line, though, my outlook changed. Not sure when it happened, but getting arrest and beaten enough times -- plus watching comrades suffer the same, or worse -- will do that. I came to see the police as the class traitors that they are... not to mention sadistic brutes who are three times more likely than the norm to be perpetrators of domestic violence. I remember having discussions with Resourceress, who was trained as a street medic, on whether our medics should treat cops who get injured during conflicts at protests... and I remember offering arguments against such a practice. I'm a pacifist, and I won't attack the [extremely well-armed] cops... but I sure won't go out of my way to help them!

So what to wish for as a best-possible outcome from the current situation? Side with the union? Against the cops? I know! The best possible outcome would be for the police, suddenly disillusioned by this dismissal from their masters' service, to acquire class consciousness, join with their fellow workers, and rise up to smash the state!

Likely to happen? No... but one can hope.

Right. Five more hours until take off. Maybe time to shut down the computer and go sit outside on the observation desk for a bit. If you have read this far, feel free to post something that will make me smile when I come inside. Tis good to stock up on smiles just before a twelve hour flight!


[*] It would be reimbursed as a travel expense... but just because it is coming out of somebody else's pocket doesn't make it less wasteful.

[**] Red Dwarf fans, think of it as a lobster with ketchup moment.

Just after two-thirty in the morning. Thirty-four slides written on this talk. Six to nine more to go. Oi!

Last year, I finished my cosmic ray talk for the Astronomy Weekend at half past four in the morning. Two years ago, I finished my dark matter talk at two. Tis already too late to beat my 2008 time... let's see if I can at least avoid falling behind my 2009 completion.

Have covered "What are neutrinos?" and "Where do neutrinos fit into astronomy?" and "Solar neutrinos" and "Supernova neutrinos"[*]. This gives me a tiny bit of room to summarize all the work done on correlations with gamma-ray bursters, active galactic nuclei, and high energy point sources. Should talk about Ice Cube and at least mention Amanda, Nestor,[**] and Antares. Will try to fit in a cameo from GLUE and Pierre Auger, too...

ETA: For all [two] physicists who are likely to read this: The talk is specifically about neutrino astronomy and, thus, barely mentions oscillation at all. Just sayin'

EFTA: Four o'clock in the morning now. Forty slides done. Two or three more to go. Should be done relatively soon... and even sleep for a couple of hours! This is shaping up to be a really nice talk! I'm quite pleased with it. Hopefully, I will be awake enough to present it coherently in the morning. By which I mean five hours from now...

ESFTA: Four forty-seven am. Done now. "Neutrino Astronomy: Seeing the Cosmos in a ν Light" is complete. Forty-three slides and a damn nice talk, if I do say so myself. Time to catch a three hour nap, then shower and make my way in. Then iiiiiiiiiiit's showtime!!!


[*] Bursts and relics.

[**] Oxford comma -- whee! (Semi-delirious? Me?? Whatever makes you think that?!)

[***] Though my beloved [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat did wake up a little while ago to come check on me. Isn't she the sweetest??

Happy Solstice, gentle readers! I write this entry taking a break from packing -- in the early morning, I fly back to the States for Christmas and New Years. First, though, I spent yesterday and today celebrating Yule, the shortest day, and the return of the light!

Yule marked the tenth consecutive sabbat celebrated by the fledgling Oxford-based group that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I founded last year. Chesh wrote the ritual which, as always, was excellent. This time, the theme was a guided meditation, with some tarot work as well. After the formal ritual ended, the five of us present kept vigil -- more or less[*] -- through the longest night.

At five o'clock in the morning, with the dawn just a few short hours away, we gathered in Peter II and I drove us all down to Stonehenge, with silly Christmas songs keeping us company en route. We arrived before they opened the site, so we were able to be present for the entirety of this open access period. This marks the fifth Solstice that I have spent at Stonehenge -- three Summers and two Winters. It also marks the fourth consecutive Solstice that I have been present at Stonehenge.

It really is amazing how different the two Solstice experiences are! At Midsummer, Stonehenge access starts before sunset and lasts through the whole of the shortest night. At the Winter Solstice, access to the Stones last less than two hours, starting about an hour before sunrise and going until a little after. Also, the attendance and energy is far different. Six months ago, there were 36,000 people there in what felt like an all-night rave. This morning, the official count was 689... and the tone was much more reverent. My darling [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip was quite clear about which of the two she prefers. Indeed, I may be the only person I have WORKed with who actually enjoys both Midsummer and Yule at Stonehenge.

One thing different for me this time is that there was snow on the ground... and on the Stones! I had never seen or touched the Stones like this before -- the glimmering snow was a beautiful addition! Besides the usual Druidic rituals, there was also drumming and dancing... plus an impromtu snowball fight! Now that was a fun way to celebrate the start of winter! I was in a snowball fight at the centre of Stonehenge! How cool is that?? I was bouncy about this for several hours afterward... and the energy probably helped me survive the drive home on nearly no sleep!

Here are a few pictures from this morning's revelry:

Approaching the circle, about an hour before dawn.


SNOW! On the Stones!!


Inside the Stone circle, shortly before dawn.


Looking from the outside, about half an hour after sunrise.


This little trip was loads of fun, and a fantastic way to start the Winter! Now, though, it is time to return to packing. Less than six hours before I take to the skies! Look out, my dear Stateside friends, the Nomad's coming home!![**]


[*] By which I mean that I do not think any one person stayed conscious for the entire night this year... but at least one person was awake at any given time.

[**] Speaking of which, if anyone in the Chicago area is free tomorrow afternoon, around three o'clock, would it be possible to get a ride from O'Hare to the Event Horizon? With all the frantic holiday craze going around, I may have forgotten to arrange transport! Reply to this comment, send me an e-mail, or call me tomorrow at half past two if you can give me a lift. It will earn my eternal gratitude -- and maybe more!

It is now Wednesday morning -- midweek. Seems like as good a time as ever[1] to pen my weekend write-up on how I spent Midsummer (and whatnot).

On Saturday morning, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I woke bright and early, made ourselves look nice, then piled into Peter and drove to Birmingham. The occasion? A certain very special [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip was graduating and receiving her Bachelors degree -- first class and with honours! Needless to say, we were proud as punch and quite eager to support our dear Bunny... so off we went!

It is no secret that I find graduation ceremonies to be exceedingly tedious. Like greeting cards, they are something that I do because they are important to the recipient... not because I think all that much of them in and of themselves. Indeed, I even skipped my University-level graduation ceremony when I received my doctorate[2] -- preferring, instead, to present at a conference on that day! The conference seemed to be a lot more productive -- and a lot more interesting! -- than a graduation ceremony! I gathered friends, family, and colleagues for a celebration and party when I defended my doctoral dissertation; that had a lot of meaning to me, as I was actually doing something important there. Graduation ceremonies? Not so much.

Nonetheless, I had not been to a graduation since the extremely talented [livejournal.com profile] resourceress had finished massage therapy school, three years ago. Thus, to show my pride in my beloved [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip's accomplishment, I made certain that -- come hell or high water -- I would be present to watch as she graduated. One thing that became strangely apparent to both [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I, sitting in the audience, was that British graduations are very quiet. As each graduate was called to walk across the stage, there was clapping from the audience... but no cheers! What's up with that? I am much more used to cheers and hollers and whistling from the audience to loudly show their pride. No matter. Even if no one else in the audience would cheer, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I resolved that we would do so for our Bunny -- she deserved it! And so we did, taking the rest of the audience a bit by surprise. After that, though, the crowd lightened up a bit and became a lot more vocal; I guess that they just needed someone to break the ice. Happy to oblige!

Once the graduation had ended, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I headed home so that I could grab a short (~1hr) nap before the evening's festivities. Being Midsummer, it was time to make my way back to Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice. In recent years, English Heritage has opened up Stonehenge -- usually roped off for viewing only at a sterile distance -- for the whole of the shortest night. For the past two years, I have arrived before the sunset and stayed until after the sunrise.

This year, [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen and [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip accompanied me to the Stones. The first seventy miles of the journey went smoothly, covered in a little over an hour. The last four miles? Not so much. Those took four hours, as we got caught in an enormous vein of traffic -- all headed to the same destination, of course! The magnitude of the queue caught me by surprise; there had always been traffic before... but never like this! I think that the heavy additional delays stemmed from (a) record attendance at Stonehenge[3], and (b) a much higher police presence than in previous years[4]. The long delay meant that, even though I had built traffic time into our travels, we did not arrive in time for the sunset this year. Indeed, we did not pull into the Stonehenge car park until just after midnight! I suppose that I should consider us lucky, though -- as the night went on, I noticed a long line of slow moving (or stopped) headlights waiting to get into the site was present until about half past three in the morning!

As usual, spending the shortest night at Stonehenge was intense! Ancient Stones, drums, dancing! All very good stuff! Also, I feed off of crowd energy[5], which makes the whole site -- and most particularly -- the inner Circle of Stones a very intoxicating place to be. Even without drugs or alcohol!

Having been to Summer Solstice at Stonehenge three times now (and Winter Solstice once), I feel like I can make some analytical comparisons about the event -- as opposed to my first time, when I all I could really express was astonishment at the intensity of the experience. Compared to last year, the weather was much better; that counts for a lot. In 2008, it rained all night -- this year, it was cloudy but dry... and not particularly cold. Also, in 2008, my companions spent a large portion of the night sitting by the Heel Stone, rather than in the actual Circle (where most of the energy is). However, as mentioned, we missed the sunset this year, and there was also a much more intrusive police presence. I mean, they even had a flying spy drone (compleat with flashing lights) hovering above the crowd filming us! How obnoxious!! The crowd was larger this year but, overall, fairly well behaved. There was one incident where a fight broke out near us and I came close to getting drawn in whilst trying to protect [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip[6], but overall people were about as civil and polite and friendly as you can expect in a crowd of tens of thousands packed into a small space!

Overall, I think that my favourite year was my first: 2007. That year, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I had the best of everything! We had dry clear weather, minimal police presence, no long queues to delay us, plenty of time spent dancing and whatnot in the inner Circle, and we got to see sunset along with the Druid ritual that accompanied it. It seems like each of these things was absent in either 2008 or 2009.

At dawn, many of the revellers was too drunk (or something) to notice the time... but a group of us gathered at the Eastern edge of the circle and watched the sky. Unfortunately, the cloud cover prevented the Guest of Honour, Sol, from making an appearance. Alas, this makes four Solstices that I have attended at Stonehenge... and I have yet to witness the sun rising through the Stones. I know that this is England, and I am told that the odds of seeing sunrise at Stonehenge is about one in ten. Yet I am a persistent Nomad and will have to continue attending Solstices there until I can witness something like this.

After the dawn, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and I spent some time wandering the site and greeting the Stones before it was time to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] dr_jen. Then we made our way back to the car and I drove us home.

Back at the Flat With No Name, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and I woke up [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and chatted for a bit before falling over. We had time for a few hours sleep, plus some quality alone time, before she needed to leave to return home and pick up her children. I could have used some more sleep, but opted to go to St. Giles instead and ring bells for the Sunday services. Still, it was a mellow evening and both [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I ended up going to bed early to gather our strength for what we knew would be (and is) a very busy week!

Overall, I enjoyed Summer Solstice at Stonehenge... but I seem to be the only person I know who really likes it. Of the four other people I know who have attended both the Winter and Summer Solstices there, I am the only one who does not overwhelmingly prefer the Winter Solstice. Thus, after three years of spending Midsummer at Stonehenge, we are likely to do something different next year -- Solstice at the Rollright Stones seems to be the top contender. This is quite okay with me, because I do like to have a variety of experiences. I do love Summer Solstice at Stonehenge... but I have done it three times now! In any case, I shan't be leaving Stonehenge behind, as everyone is [quite] ready and [very] willing to continue doing Winter Solstice there.

Obligatory photos behind cut )


[1] Save yesterday or the day before!

[2] To be fair, I did attend the [much smaller] Department-level graduation ceremony a few days later.

[3] When I went in 2007, on a weeknight, there were 20,000 people there. When I went in 2008, on a Friday night, there were 28,000 people there... but it was raining. This year, on a Saturday night with clear weather, a record 36,500 people attended! That's nearly double what I encountered with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat two years ago!

[4] Thanks to some new police chief who obviously feels the need to compensate for something with a loudly proclaimed "ZERO TOLERANCE" policy that did nothing to stem the flow of alcohol and drugs onto the site. All it did do was make delays.

[5] This is the reason, for instance, that I made certain to be in Times Square, Manhattan, on December 31st 1999! Millions of people! Hooray! I've never experienced another crowd -- or energy -- quite like it!

[6] One of the combatants grabbed my hair in an unpleasant manner when I tried to break things up. Nothing more than that -- he did not manage to land any punches.


Best Part of the Past Few Hours: Getting the reservations finalised for the road trip that my dear [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I will be taking at the end of the month. Am very much looking forward to this... especially since it involves visiting four places on my "Must See" list!

Worst Part of the Past Few Hours: Insomnia. Nearly four o'clock now and I am still not asleep. I'm going to be quite the wreck when the dawn comes... which is not far off. Am not at all looking forward to this... especially since there is a lot to do before I get on a plane for Japan in five days!

Question for my UK friends: Did you, by any chance, overlook this poll? I am a little surprised by how low the resulting interest levels were -- that's never happened before! Am planning to buy tickets soon, so do let me know if you want to join in the fun! Otherwise, I can change gears and do two of the events -- theatre and museum -- as dates, rather than as group outings.

Question for my US friends: Volunteers are now being accepted to hear a [non-political] rant from Nomad-Central. Want to listen? Let me know. The lucky winner(s) receive an all-expenses paid phone call from The Flat With No Name. Valuable prizes are at stake, so act soon![*]


[*] Void where prohibited by law.

Friday night. Just got back from the opening of the Oxford University Astronomy Weekend. Lots of familiar faces that remember me from last year. In just over twelve hours, I present my lecture for this year -- Recent Developments in Cosmic Rays.

The talk, which I estimate will be able forty slides, is just over half written. Oi! It is going to be a long night[*].

I am supposed to be a reasonably smart guy. You would think that, after all these years, I would know how to not stay up until stupid o'clock in the morning the night before giving a talk.

Ironically, last year I was nervous because I had never delivered a lecture to this sort of audience before, nor had I delivered a talk of any type at Oxford. This year I am nervous because last year went so amazingly well... and I find myself wondering if I can live up to my own example.

Ah, well. Time to press on. Last year, I finished writing by about two o'clock in the morning and managed to get five hours of sleep. Let's see if I can do the same tonight[**]...

ETA: Nearly one thirty in the morning now. Thirty-five slides down. Probably about six more to go. I won't be finished by two -- that much is certain. Still, I am also starting to feel good about this lecture, which is a very nice feeling. Also, I still have one more energy drink in reserve.

EFTA: Ten minutes to three now. Forty slides down. Three to go, I think. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat has been wonderful -- she fixed me a snack (cheese, humous, and crackers[***]) and surprised me by buying five energy drinks when I only requested two. So I still have three left in reserve. She has been taking terrific care of me. It makes me think fondly of when I was an undergraduate, fourteen years ago, and she would take similarly good care of me when I was up all night writing a paper -- then edit the paper when I was finished! With any luck, I will be done in an hour or so and get get four hours to sleep. The talk itself is either turning out better than I expected... or I am too tired to tell the difference. I think it is the former, though...

ESFTA: Four thirty in the morning. Finished. Forty-three slides. Whee! Time to sleep. Should be able to get nearly four hours if I wake up in time to listen to the talk before mine; five and a half if I do not. We shall see. All I need is rest (or caffeine) to get me through this and I should be alright. It is a good lecture.


[*] As I type this, my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is taking a stroll to the corner store to pick me up a couple of cans of energy drink. I am loved.

[**] Any comments that you can make, gentle readers, would be greatly appreciated. Especially those of you in the States who are likely still awake. I may not have time to respond to them tonight, but they will bring a smile to my face as they break the monotony. If you truly have no idea what to say, just sing me songs of cheese.

[***] As we all know, cheese is love!


Friday night. Just got back from the opening of the Oxford University Astronomy Weekend. Lots of familiar faces that remember me from last year. In just over twelve hours, I present my lecture for this year -- Recent Developments in Cosmic Rays.

The talk, which I estimate will be able forty slides, is just over half written. Oi! It is going to be a long night[*].

I am supposed to be a reasonably smart guy. You would think that, after all these years, I would know how to not stay up until stupid o'clock in the morning the night before giving a talk.

Ironically, last year I was nervous because I had never delivered a lecture to this sort of audience before, nor had I delivered a talk of any type at Oxford. This year I am nervous because last year went so amazingly well... and I find myself wondering if I can live up to my own example.

Ah, well. Time to press on. Last year, I finished writing by about two o'clock in the morning and managed to get five hours of sleep. Let's see if I can do the same tonight[**]...

ETA: Nearly one thirty in the morning now. Thirty-five slides down. Probably about six more to go. I won't be finished by two -- that much is certain. Still, I am also starting to feel good about this lecture, which is a very nice feeling. Also, I still have one more energy drink in reserve.

EFTA: Ten minutes to three now. Forty slides down. Three to go, I think. [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat has been wonderful -- she fixed me a snack (cheese, humous, and crackers[***]) and surprised me by buying five energy drinks when I only requested two. So I still have three left in reserve. She has been taking terrific care of me. It makes me think fondly of when I was an undergraduate, fourteen years ago, and she would take similarly good care of me when I was up all night writing a paper -- then edit the paper when I was finished! With any luck, I will be done in an hour or so and get get four hours to sleep. The talk itself is either turning out better than I expected... or I am too tired to tell the difference. I think it is the former, though...

ESFTA: Four thirty in the morning. Finished. Forty-three slides. Whee! Time to sleep. Should be able to get nearly four hours if I wake up in time to listen to the talk before mine; five and a half if I do not. We shall see. All I need is rest (or caffeine) to get me through this and I should be alright. It is a good lecture.


[*] As I type this, my darling [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat is taking a stroll to the corner store to pick me up a couple of cans of energy drink. I am loved.

[**] Any comments that you can make, gentle readers, would be greatly appreciated. Especially those of you in the States who are likely still awake. I may not have time to respond to them tonight, but they will bring a smile to my face as they break the monotony. If you truly have no idea what to say, just sing me songs of cheese.

[***] As we all know, cheese is love!


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 [livejournal.com profile] xirpha, to whom I owe many thanks. [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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!


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 [livejournal.com profile] xirpha, to whom I owe many thanks. [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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!


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 [livejournal.com profile] ms_katonic and the lovely [livejournal.com 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: (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 [livejournal.com profile] ms_katonic and the lovely [livejournal.com 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!
Back in the office now -- yes, it is an exciting Friday night, I know!

Just got in a little while ago from the opening session of the Dark Side of Astronomy weekend. The introductory talk was interesting, even though it did not teach me much that was new in the way of physics or astronomy. I did learn what my audience will be like and what level I should be speaking to. And I learned that the astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard had really lived a fascinating life! (Previously, all I had known about him was his star and his catalogue of dark clouds)

Of course, I wouldn't be me if I finished writing a talk earlier than the night before I had to give it. Thankfully, I am close to finished... which means that I will sleep tonight. Probably. Just another couple of hours and it should be done. Anyone who finds themselves near a computer in the next few hours, please feel free to leave some sort of amusing comment to entertain me as I slog along. It will mean revealing yourself to be having as uneventful a Friday night as the one that I am currently experiencing, but the effort will be appreciated.

Actually, as talks go, I have had fun writing this one. If there is interest -- and last year, there was enough to pressure me onto the programme when I had no intention of doing anything -- maybe I will show it at P**T*** in October.

Meanwhile, let me just wish a very happy birthday to the charming [livejournal.com profile] ms_redcat before I get back to work! Thus ends the few weeks of each year when we are the same age. I hope that you have a wonderful one, sweetie -- hard to believe I've known you for nearly ten years now!
Back in the office now -- yes, it is an exciting Friday night, I know!

Just got in a little while ago from the opening session of the Dark Side of Astronomy weekend. The introductory talk was interesting, even though it did not teach me much that was new in the way of physics or astronomy. I did learn what my audience will be like and what level I should be speaking to. And I learned that the astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard had really lived a fascinating life! (Previously, all I had known about him was his star and his catalogue of dark clouds)

Of course, I wouldn't be me if I finished writing a talk earlier than the night before I had to give it. Thankfully, I am close to finished... which means that I will sleep tonight. Probably. Just another couple of hours and it should be done. Anyone who finds themselves near a computer in the next few hours, please feel free to leave some sort of amusing comment to entertain me as I slog along. It will mean revealing yourself to be having as uneventful a Friday night as the one that I am currently experiencing, but the effort will be appreciated.

Actually, as talks go, I have had fun writing this one. If there is interest -- and last year, there was enough to pressure me onto the programme when I had no intention of doing anything -- maybe I will show it at P**T*** in October.

Meanwhile, let me just wish a very happy birthday to the charming [livejournal.com profile] ms_redcat before I get back to work! Thus ends the few weeks of each year when we are the same age. I hope that you have a wonderful one, sweetie -- hard to believe I've known you for nearly ten years now!
anarchist_nomad: (Road trip!)
( Mar. 28th, 2008 02:38 am)
Just got back from Birmingham[*], where [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I helped the lovely [livejournal.com profile] redandfiery celebrate her birthday. It was good fun, and nice to see [livejournal.com profile] sanjibabes and [livejournal.com profile] thehalibutkid again, too! Thanks to all of you for a fun time!

It does seem that I am completely unable to go to sleep before two o'clock in the morning lately. We did not return to Oxford until nearly two o'clock tonight. Last night, I was in the lab until five o'clock in the morning, cooling down the K-400 cryostat. Tuesday night, I was in the lab until one thirty in the morning... then came home to read, which kept me from sleep until about three o'clock. This is what a long holiday weekend does to me, I guess.

On the drive to Birmingham, I popped the David Rovics[**] CD Hang a Flag In The Window into the player. I have not listened to his stuff for awhile; doing so reminded me that I really need to get back into activism. It is hard to believe how absent it has been from my life for the past year or two, especially considering how much time I devoted to it for the five years previous to that.

During the drive back from Birmingham, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I opted to forgo the CD player; instead, we sang songs together from the early days of our relationship. It just happened -- we did not plan it -- but it was a nice way to reconnect... and there is an interesting feeling that comes with remembering so many years (and several lifetimes) ago with the person who I have shared them with. There was also one moment where Chesh's puppets made a snide comment so funny that I nearly drove us off the road, blind with laughter. Ooops.

Right. Time for bed. I realise that I have been negligent about updating this week. There has been a fair bit going on: A nine mile walk, gaming, video gaming, an evening with [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, ice skating, and more cryogenic adventures. I will try to write about them soon... but for now I need sleep. (Especially since I need to be back in the lab in seven hours)

[*] No, not Alabama.

[**] It has occurred to me that Jonathan Coulton looks and sounds a bit like David Rovics, although the subject matter of their songs is entirely different -- geeky humor for one and radical left-wing politics for the other. In fact, Coulton now strikes me as what one would get if one cross-bred Rovics and They Might Be Giants.


anarchist_nomad: (Road trip!)
( Mar. 28th, 2008 02:38 am)
Just got back from Birmingham[*], where [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I helped the lovely [livejournal.com profile] redandfiery celebrate her birthday. It was good fun, and nice to see [livejournal.com profile] sanjibabes and [livejournal.com profile] thehalibutkid again, too! Thanks to all of you for a fun time!

It does seem that I am completely unable to go to sleep before two o'clock in the morning lately. We did not return to Oxford until nearly two o'clock tonight. Last night, I was in the lab until five o'clock in the morning, cooling down the K-400 cryostat. Tuesday night, I was in the lab until one thirty in the morning... then came home to read, which kept me from sleep until about three o'clock. This is what a long holiday weekend does to me, I guess.

On the drive to Birmingham, I popped the David Rovics[**] CD Hang a Flag In The Window into the player. I have not listened to his stuff for awhile; doing so reminded me that I really need to get back into activism. It is hard to believe how absent it has been from my life for the past year or two, especially considering how much time I devoted to it for the five years previous to that.

During the drive back from Birmingham, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I opted to forgo the CD player; instead, we sang songs together from the early days of our relationship. It just happened -- we did not plan it -- but it was a nice way to reconnect... and there is an interesting feeling that comes with remembering so many years (and several lifetimes) ago with the person who I have shared them with. There was also one moment where Chesh's puppets made a snide comment so funny that I nearly drove us off the road, blind with laughter. Ooops.

Right. Time for bed. I realise that I have been negligent about updating this week. There has been a fair bit going on: A nine mile walk, gaming, video gaming, an evening with [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach, ice skating, and more cryogenic adventures. I will try to write about them soon... but for now I need sleep. (Especially since I need to be back in the lab in seven hours)

[*] No, not Alabama.

[**] It has occurred to me that Jonathan Coulton looks and sounds a bit like David Rovics, although the subject matter of their songs is entirely different -- geeky humor for one and radical left-wing politics for the other. In fact, Coulton now strikes me as what one would get if one cross-bred Rovics and They Might Be Giants.


anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Jul. 13th, 2007 11:49 pm)
Two days in, it's been a pretty good vacation so far.

Last night, I went to Sidekick's for the unofficial Poly Karaoke gathering that I had called. There was a decent turnout -- a dozen people showed up, including [livejournal.com profile] xirpha, [livejournal.com profile] salexa, [livejournal.com profile] sciffy_circo, [livejournal.com profile] electronicrope, the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] sweetsourcat, [livejournal.com profile] randyjackson221, [livejournal.com profile] raven_ap_morgan, and the lovely [livejournal.com profile] iamthesphinx. Lots of fun, good people, and good conversation. I sang four songs; it seemed appropriate to begin with something by British Anarchists, so I sang Tubthumping first, then the Safety Dance, next Major Tom (coming home), and then ended the evening with more typecasting -- She Blinded Me With Science. Good thing [livejournal.com profile] miss_tessa wasn't around, or else she would have smacked me with a telephone or somesuch.

Around midnight, things finally started to break up. I drove [livejournal.com profile] iamthesphinx back to her apartment and got the "grand tour" of her new place. It was really, really good to see her again. I finally returned to the Event Horizon around 2am. At that point, it would have been quite a sane and reasonable suggestion to go to bed. Especially since I had slept only four hours, while sitting up on a plane, the night before. However, I just had to check LiveJournal first. As chance would have it, [livejournal.com profile] kat1031 logged into AIM right after I hopped online. We started chatting, but quickly moved our conversation to the phone lines. It was nice to hear her voice again... for the first time in over fifteen years. To our mutual surprise, we each think that the other's voice has not changed. Go figure! This impromptu conversation was interesting enough to keep us on the phone for over three hours, until we were both about to pass out from exhaustion. We also starting setting up plans to get together next month, during the two weeks when I will be out in California. It was 5:30am for me (and 3:30am for her) when we finally got off the phone. I fell asleep immediately... and was so tired that I slept for seven hours solid without any disruption -- probably the best night's sleep that I have had in weeks!

Today, I woke up around 1pm. Very soon after, I called the lab in Oxford to learn the state of the cooldown and measurement. Then I did what nobody would ever expect of me: I spent the afternoon being mellow and relaxing. I don't do it very often -- I think I have now filled my quota for the year. In the evening, I got together with [livejournal.com profile] gyades and [livejournal.com profile] madandrew and [livejournal.com profile] nyssa73 to go bowling. I bowled four games, scoring well on three of them: 154, 151, 122, and 150. After bowling, [livejournal.com profile] gyades and I came home and hung out for a bit. Then I made dinner for us and [livejournal.com profile] polymorphism. They both collapsed into their respective beds shortly thereafter and, with the Event Horizon party starting in eleven hours, I will go collapse into mine shortly after posting this entry.

As I said, a good start to my summer vacation. Looking forward to seeing many, many people at the Event Horizon party tomorrow. From the RSVPs, I am expecting quite a nice turnout...
anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Jul. 13th, 2007 11:49 pm)
Two days in, it's been a pretty good vacation so far.

Last night, I went to Sidekick's for the unofficial Poly Karaoke gathering that I had called. There was a decent turnout -- a dozen people showed up, including [livejournal.com profile] xirpha, [livejournal.com profile] salexa, [livejournal.com profile] sciffy_circo, [livejournal.com profile] electronicrope, the ever-awesome [livejournal.com profile] sweetsourcat, [livejournal.com profile] randyjackson221, [livejournal.com profile] raven_ap_morgan, and the lovely [livejournal.com profile] iamthesphinx. Lots of fun, good people, and good conversation. I sang four songs; it seemed appropriate to begin with something by British Anarchists, so I sang Tubthumping first, then the Safety Dance, next Major Tom (coming home), and then ended the evening with more typecasting -- She Blinded Me With Science. Good thing [livejournal.com profile] miss_tessa wasn't around, or else she would have smacked me with a telephone or somesuch.

Around midnight, things finally started to break up. I drove [livejournal.com profile] iamthesphinx back to her apartment and got the "grand tour" of her new place. It was really, really good to see her again. I finally returned to the Event Horizon around 2am. At that point, it would have been quite a sane and reasonable suggestion to go to bed. Especially since I had slept only four hours, while sitting up on a plane, the night before. However, I just had to check LiveJournal first. As chance would have it, [livejournal.com profile] kat1031 logged into AIM right after I hopped online. We started chatting, but quickly moved our conversation to the phone lines. It was nice to hear her voice again... for the first time in over fifteen years. To our mutual surprise, we each think that the other's voice has not changed. Go figure! This impromptu conversation was interesting enough to keep us on the phone for over three hours, until we were both about to pass out from exhaustion. We also starting setting up plans to get together next month, during the two weeks when I will be out in California. It was 5:30am for me (and 3:30am for her) when we finally got off the phone. I fell asleep immediately... and was so tired that I slept for seven hours solid without any disruption -- probably the best night's sleep that I have had in weeks!

Today, I woke up around 1pm. Very soon after, I called the lab in Oxford to learn the state of the cooldown and measurement. Then I did what nobody would ever expect of me: I spent the afternoon being mellow and relaxing. I don't do it very often -- I think I have now filled my quota for the year. In the evening, I got together with [livejournal.com profile] gyades and [livejournal.com profile] madandrew and [livejournal.com profile] nyssa73 to go bowling. I bowled four games, scoring well on three of them: 154, 151, 122, and 150. After bowling, [livejournal.com profile] gyades and I came home and hung out for a bit. Then I made dinner for us and [livejournal.com profile] polymorphism. They both collapsed into their respective beds shortly thereafter and, with the Event Horizon party starting in eleven hours, I will go collapse into mine shortly after posting this entry.

As I said, a good start to my summer vacation. Looking forward to seeing many, many people at the Event Horizon party tomorrow. From the RSVPs, I am expecting quite a nice turnout...
I've long held that the reward for doing good work is more work. This explains why it is 6am and I am still at the University, sitting in the lab and taking data with the cryostat. I have been here since midnight and expect to be here for about another four hours. Not to sound like Dante Hicks, but originally I hadn't even planned to be here today. I get thirty vacation days per year -- and have used a negative number so far in 2007 once one factors in the weekends and holidays that I have worked. Thus, it seemed perfectly reasonable to use a vacation day today to recover after yesterday's all-nighter at Stonehenge. However, with the cryostat successfully cooled, there are measurements that need to be made... some of which require no one else to be using the lab, to minimize vibration. So here I am, making those measurements. With any luck, I'll be done by 10am and can get some sleep. Whee!

As for Stonehenge... well, it was intense and fantastic! Beyond words, really, but I'll try. We arrived just before sunset, as the Druids were starting a ritual within the Stone circle. Then the drumming and dancing began. I've danced at a drum circle before, of course... but never while standing on top of an ancient sarsen stone! I made a short video (45 seconds, 11 MB) early in the evening, just after sunset, that can be seen here.

As the night went on, folks continued to arrive, and it is estimated that there were 20,000 people who came to the Stones for the Solstice. I have now touched every Stone that is in contact with the ground at Stonehenge and [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat has shared an individual blessing with each of them, just as she did last year with the Stones at Avebury. Amazingly enough, the sarsen Stones feel spongy! When you press on them with your palm, you can feel them give way gently underneath! Although many of the people were just there to party and get drunk, high, & shroomed out of their minds, we did talk to a lot of very nice and interesting people -- including some folks from Colorado who had flown over specifically for this event -- and got contact info from a couple of people who live in London.

It was a clear night, with great views of the stars, Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. Check out this picture I took of the Moon:

Sunset was at 9:26pm and sunrise was at 4:58am, but there were long twilights, lasting at least an hour and a half. So there were less than four hours of true darkness between the twilights, lasting from about 11:15pm until about 2:45am. When the sky began to lighten again, we found a spot near the Eastern edge of the circle to watch from. Sitting against one of the sarsens, I learned that they like my hair. Every time I leaned forward, moving away from the Stone, my hair would stick to it and get held behind!

The clouds had moved in, and we received a light sprinkle, by the time the sun rose. However, thanks to a break in the clouds, Sol did make a cameo appearance which was cheered and appreciated by all. The Druids formed a torchlight procession around the circle as the sun came up. Not long after sunrise, there was a news photograph taken for CNN in which I can be seen in the background, standing between two sarsens slightly to the left of centre. The picture was brought to my attention by [livejournal.com profile] resourceress and the URL for it is: http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/interactive/world/0706/gallery.solstice/01.04.jpg



It is slightly odd to see a news photograph of me without law enforcement monitoring or pursuing me. I have been in a number of news publications before -- both in print and online (e.g., the New York Times, Yahoo! News, and several Georgia papers) -- but never without law enforcement sharing the "spotlight". Speaking of law enforcement and Stonehenge... it is quite nice that English Heritage spends the time and money to organize this free event each year since 1999. However, from 1972 to 1984, there used to be a three week festival at Stonehenge, beginning at the start of June and lasting until the Solstice. In 1985, Thatcher and Company decided to put an end to it all, which led to the atrocious police action known as the Battle of the Beanfield. Doesn't matter where you go -- I hate cops!

Anyway, it was an amazing night... and we'll probably do it again next year. Anybody want to come along? Just let us know...
.

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