anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Feb. 11th, 2017 04:20 am)
Curled up in bed with Giles[*] as the snow falls ever heavier outside. This is the first real snow I've seen since we moved into the House of the Red Roses.

Since I'm not quite ready to sleep, it seemed worth noting. For posterity and all that. (Who knows, maybe in a decade or two, I will happen back on this and smile.)

I hope it piles up whilst I sleep and sticks. I could turn on the underfloor heating in the conservatory and sit reading in there tomorrow afternoon. Looking up every now and again to watch the birds taking their turns at the feeders. I can definitely think of worse ways to spend a Saturday!

[*] Stumpy won't come to bed if he's here. I love my baby girl, but I wish she could get on with other cats.
anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Jul. 13th, 2013 07:18 pm)
The picture below shows what I did this morning:

First, dear friends, please note the time, in the top left. That's right -- I was out running at five o'clock in the morning. Actually, that's practically required for running in Japan in July. At this time of year, the mid-day temperature hits about 90oF -- that's about 32oC for those of you who prefer Celsius for some odd reason[*] -- with high humidity. Makes running rather unpleasant. Indeed, at the start of my week here, I set out at seven o'clock in the morning for a run and found the heat/humidity combination to be oppressive. I didn't enjoy the run and my speed was noticeably slower -- reduced by about 5% -- in the adverse conditions. Second run of the week began at around six o'clock... which was still too hot! In fact, the six o'clock run was my worst sixty minute run yet -- I barely cleared 10km in the hour!

"So why not run at night?" you may fairly ask. Good question! After all, I recently wrote about night running, and I do it frequently in Oxford. The difference is that Oxford is well-lit at night. Rural Japan? Not so much. I have a strict rule about not running in poorly lit areas. I'm not particularly worried about getting mugged in Oxford... and even less so in crime-free Japan. I am, however, concerned about trip hazards, which could easily ruin a good run if I cannot see where I am stepping.

Right, so five o'clock in the morning it is, then. Late enough that there is light; early enough that the heat has not yet taken hold.

Does that make me a "hardcore" runner? In and of itself, I would say not.

This morning, however, when getting ready for my 5am run, I noticed that it was raining. Not heavily, but definitely more than a little water falling from the sky. Great. Just what I needed. Provided it isn't torrential, I will run in the rain, I have run in the rain... but I don't particularly enjoy running in the rain. Well, without flexibility on when I can run, it was either go running in the rain or don't run today at all. Gauging the intensity of the rain, I deemed it suitable for running. And off I went!

That would be all well and good... except that, ten minutes into the run, the rain increased. Dramatically so. Ye gads, it was wet out there! The front of my shirt and shorts were soaked in short order -- the backs were relatively dry, since I was running into the rain. I was sorely tempted to abort the run. However, I've never failed a run before -- even the time that I got injured (the calf muscle injury took place in the very last minute of the run, so I toughed it out). So on I went.

Well, it wasn't a lot of fun, but I kept telling myself that, as much as I wanted to stop, I would appreciate the perseverance in an hour's time, when it was over. Indeed, I was right. I didn't enjoy pressing on... but now I am glad that I did. I wasn't expecting a good run, but at least I could make it to the end.

Now, gentle readers, take another look at the picture above. To my surprise, this turned out to be a very good run! My second best ever! The total time and pace are at the top, but these are misleading. I start each run with a five minute warm-up walk, then run for sixty minutes, finally finishing up with a five minute cool-down walk. The total time, distance, and pacing at the top includes the two walks, so it is not accurate. The pacing per period, on the bottom right, is a better measure. You can see that, for the sixty minute run, I averaged 5:39 per kilometer (or, if you prefer, 9:06 per mile). That works out to a total distance of 10.62 kilometers (or 6.60 miles) in one hour. Not quite as good as my final pre-Japan run (covering 10.71 km, or 6.66 miles)... but not bad at all!

What's more, my friends, please to cast your eyes on the green chart up above, showing elevation throughout the run. You may notice that this was not a flat run. The town of Osawano lies at the start of the mountains and there is a rather clear gradient. Running South, I am going uphill; running North, I am going downhill. All the major roads in this area go along a North/South axis, so I spend about half of my time going up and the other half going down. I try to break this up, to minimize the effect on the run. Thus, you can see that I started by running South (uphill), then turned around and went North (downhill) for half the run before having to go South again to get back to my starting point. Inclined running in inherently more difficult than that mostly-flat running that I get in East Oxford. If your eyes are keen, you can see the slowdown whilst running uphill via an increase in pace on the blue chart.

To summarise: This morning, I went out at five o'clock to run for an hour... on sloped terrain... in pouring rain. And, despite it all, I scored my second best run ever!

So I will ask again: Am I a "hardcore" runner yet??

[*] Personally, I've never been a fan of the centigrade scale. In general, I acknowledge the superiority of the metric system in most units. Kilograms, meters, liters, and so on all make sense. You don't need to remember bizarre conversion factors like 5280 feet to a mile, 12 inches to a foot, 16 ounces to a pound, 128 (US) fluid ounces to a gallon, and so on.

Additionally, the units in the metric system are unique -- unlike, say, the fluid ounce, the pint, or the gallon, which differ in the US and the UK. The US fluid ounce is larger, but the US pint and gallon are smaller than their UK counterparts.

Also, in the metric system, the mass-to-volume conversion is simple. For anything that is mostly water, one can simply convert one gram to one milliliter, or one kilogram to one liter.

That said, I see no inherent advantage whatsoever in using Celsius to measure temperature instead of Fahrenheit. The Fahrenheit scale is more finely graded, so that a degree change is more precise. Also, the range of usual human experience falls between about 0o
F and 100oF. If the temperature falls below 0o, it is a really cold day! Likewise, if the mercury rises above 100oF, it is a really hot day! Since we tend to think easily in blocks of ten -- a main reason why metric is generally superior -- having most human experience within a 100-point scale makes more sense than having a cold day be -10oC and a hot day be 35oC.

Okay, rant over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled LJ entry...

Happy June, gentle readers!

Once upon a time, I would have thought of the start of June as the beginning of Summer. Here in Merry Olde Englande, however, it seems that this is really when Spring begins. After much cold and wet weather this week, it is finally a nice Spring day! Blue sky, sun -- good stuff! Still a tad chilly, only 60oF (or, if you prefer, 15oC or 288 K). Like I said, a nice Spring day.

The start of June also gives us something else to celebrate! For today is the anniversary of the birth of the awesometacularity of the [ profile] tawneypup! Huzzah!

Hard to believe that this fabulous woman has been a part of my life for nearly five years now! Wowza, time flies! With four thousand miles (and an ocean) between us, we don't get to spend nearly as much time together as I would like. Even so, the [ profile] tawneypup is very important to me, and I count myself lucky to know her!

Here's a picture[*] of the two of us together, taken at Spring Equinox in 2011. Just 'cuz.

Happy birthday, m'dear! Hope you have a blast... and here's to many, many more!!

[*] Have made this a rare f-locked entry as I'm not certain that [ profile] tawneypup would want her picture shown publicly -- especially in Druid robes. Correct me if I'm mistaken, hon.

Lots of stuff going on recently, which means not enough time for LiveJournal. There are several entries that I hope to compose in the not-too-distant future but, for now, here is a classic weekend summary post. Enjoy!

Friday: Worked in London during the day. Returned to the City of Dreaming Spires in the evening to collect my beloved [ profile] cheshcat; together, we made our way to the Oxford Playhouse. There, we saw a touring company from Shakespeare's Globe put on a performance of Henry V. It was very well done; one of the best productions that I have seen from the Globe. Makes me look forward to their Hamlet, which we have tickets for in July. It will be staged in the quad of the Bodleian Library, which is a rather wonderful setting!

Incidentally, this performance marks the fifth time that I have seen Henry V on stage -- unambiguously earning it the honour of being Shakespearean play that I have seen most frequently. At least for now. On Thursday, [ profile] cheshcat and I, along with EB who is coming from the States, will be going to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a production of The Tempest. So, four days from now, The Tempest will tie with Henry V... and, in August, I will also be seeing Richard III for the fifth time.

Meanwhile, there are five of the Bard's plays[*] that I still need to get tickets to see!

Saturday: The Oxford City Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers had its half-annual meeting, which I attended in my role as Hon. Treasurer to present the State of the Finances report. Additionally, the City Branch had its annual six-bell striking competition just before the meeting. Back in March, I was more than a little shocked when the tower captain of St. Giles Church -- my home tower -- invited me to join the competition band! My ringing has progressed quite a bit in recent months, mainly thanks to the near-daily practice in February. Tangible results are starting to be seen, with my first quarter peal on a working bell last month, and my first striking competition yesterday!

In recent weeks, I was very nervous about competing. However, all went very well. We rang at Horspath, which was a new tower for me. Still, their bells are relatively light and rather easy to ring. Indeed, there was even a brief window when I thought that we might win! Our band rang second-to-last in the randomly chosen order. When we finished, I was rather confident that we had managed the best ringing thus far. Which was correct... but the final band out-rang us. Oops! Even so, second place on my first try is not bad!

Here is a picture of our band. after the competition:

And the runner ups are...

(click for full-sized version)

For those with some interest in this weird change bell ringing thing that I do, you can click here to hear a recording of us in the striking competition. The first few single strikes are a signal to the judges, sitting outside, that our practice is over and we are ready to begin. Then we ring in rounds -- a simple reverse scale -- for about a minute. Finally, we ring a touch of Grandsire Doubles for about four minutes, before settling back into some brief rounds before setting our bells.

In this recording, I am on the #3 bell. Which will make it easy to identify me during rounds, though I will be impressed if you can keep track of my bell during the method!

Sunday: In the morning, I rang for church services at Headington. Afterward, I made my way to the nearby town of Wheatley to pay a visit to the Wheatley Windmill, which was having an open day. There has been a mill on this site since at least the mid-17th century; the earliest records are from 1671, noting that the mill of its day had fallen into disrepair. It enjoyed a resurgence in the 18th and 19th centuries, but is now only maintained for historical value by the Wheatley Windmill Restoration Society.

The mill was rather quaint and lovely. Its octagonal shape is rather unusual... and its clockwise motion is exceedingly rare. I arrived early in the day, when they were still putting the cloth sails onto the frame so that it would spin. The weather was particularly nice, so I did not mind the extended wait a'tall. Eventually, they got it going, which was much fun. After watching the arms spin for a bit, I went inside and explored the four stories of the tower. The top was particularly fun, with all the gears interlocking this way and that!

Below is a picture of the windmill, taken by your friendly neighbourhood Nomad. I wanted to share a photo of me posing with said mill... but, in all honesty, the picture that I took was much better than the one that the random stranger took of me plus the mill. Ah well!

The wild winds of fortune
Will carry me onward,
Oh whithersoever they blow.

(click for full-sized version)

You can see that the sail has just been put on the arm at the bottom... but the two at the top are still awaiting their canvas!

On Sunday afternoon, I hopped on Ye Olde Oxford Tube and headed into London. There, in Kensal Rise, I joined in a party to celebrate the 65th birthday of LF, my high school history teacher. She is one of only three teachers that I bonded with in high school[**], so having her in London for a year is really quite lovely! At the party, I met a couple of her other former students, her daughter and daughter's partner... and an old friend of hers that I had met back in March 1990, during a class trip to London!

All in all, twas a most lovely evening, which means that I didn't get back to Oxford until nearly half past midnight. Happily, my darling [ profile] miss_amaranth was also making her way home from London at the same time... so we kept abreast of each others' progress by text message! Silly, I know, but fun!

Finally, I wound down the night with a couple of phone calls. First, of course, I called Mom to wish her a Happy Mothers Day. We had a very nice conversation; indeed, twas the best interaction that we have had in quite some time! Afterward, I phoned [ profile] gyades, just to catch up on the live and times of my best friend.

When that was done, I put the weekend to bed by putting myself to bed. Snuggled up next to my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, I drifted off happily to sleep.

[*] Which are: Two Gentlemen of Verona, Pericles, Coriolanus, Two Noble Kinsmen, and Titus Andronicus.

[**] And one of the remaining two passed away whilst I was her student.

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Oct. 4th, 2011 02:50 pm)
Landed in Merry Olde England yesterday morning. Had a fabulous day in Oxford, where the October weather feels more like what I would expect from July! After a fortnight away, it was lovely to see my darling [ profile] cheshcat again, as well as my furry babies, Giles and The Boy. The Boy, in particular, was absolutely delighted to see me come home. Also, the wonderful [ profile] miss_amaranth and I took advantage of the unseasonal warmth to go for a walk through Angel & Greyhound meadow. We were also able to share some special quality alone time, which will help to tide us over during these back-to-back separations.

Now I am back at Heathrow, Terminal 5, where I disembarked yesterday. In less than an hour, I should be in the air again, en route to Chicago and the Event Horizon! Looking forward to seeing the germane [ profile] gyades again, as well as my home and my dear furry baby girls, Stumpy and Chirp!

Time to board! Have an awesometacular day, gentle readers, and I shall write again from the other side!
Landed in Japan to find the weather is warm[*], the wind is fast, and the rain is heavy. Looks like I have found myself in the midst of a typhoon!

About to hop a bus to Tokai, my first visit there since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Disaster disrupted our operations at J-PARC back in March. This poor country just can't seem to get a break this year!

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that my last weekend in Oxford (for now) was absolutely fantastic! [ profile] fire_kitten and [ profile] cheshcat and I went to a dance performance at the Oxford Playhouse on Friday; I attended a bell ringing course on Stedman Triples on Saturday; and we did our Mabon ritual on Saturday night. All of this was fun and good... but the highlight of the weekend, without a doubt, came on Sunday when [ profile] miss_amaranth and [ profile] cheshcat and I spent the day at the Cotswold Wildlife Park. My beloved [ profile] cheshcat had bought me a ticket to be Zookeeper For A Day, and it was an utterly fabulous! All three of us had a most awesometacular time, with penguins and tenrecs and giraffes and lions and iguanas and lemurs and more! (Oh, my!)

This amazing experience deserves a write-up of its own -- replete with pictures and full descriptions. Such will come but, for now, the above placeholder is all you get, gentle readers... as I must be off to catch the bus to Tokai!

Stay tuned!!

[*] About 26oC, or nearly 80oF.

Back from Brushwood now, tanned and relaxed after a week of festival. I just pulled into the Event Horizon, finishing the 502 mile drive in 7 hr 25 min[*] -- possibly record time!

Although I have been going to Brushwood for Starwood (and, last year, Summerfest) since 1998, this was my first Sirius Rising. Twas fun! A decent crowd of approximately 1200 attended, and the weather was absolutely perfect -- the best that I have ever seen in a week at Brushwood! Clear skies and warmth with virtually no rain all week! This also made for some spectacular views of the moon, which was full on Friday (more on that in a bit).

Not surprisingly, my favourite parts of the festival were the site and the people. It seems that, after sampling the new Summerfest in 2010, many of the former Starwood crowd decided to try out Sirius this year. Excellent! I frequently enjoyed the company of the Lansing Pagans & Co. I got to spend some delightful time with the adorable [ profile] tawneypup and the lovely [ profile] livetbd. And, of course, I had the pleasure of seeing many old friends who I only meet once a year.

Being a water elemental, I also indulged at least once per day in the "sacred rite" of jacuzzi-pool-jacuzzi-pool-jacuzzi! And almost every night saw me dancing to the drums by the Roundhouse fire. The main sequence of rituals was a bit light, but there were some elements[**] that worked rather well; I may make notes to incorporate some in future ritual design.

Speaking of ritual design: On Wednesday, some of us noticed that there was no full moon ritual on the programme... so we designed and ran our own on Friday night at the Earth Shrine by the North Pavilion. It went well, particularly for such quick work, and we brought in about fifty people. I was particularly touched on Saturday by a few comments that I received from some of the ritual attendees. Apparently, it had been rather meaningful to them -- twas gratifying to hear, as making a positive impact on others is the whole reason that I put effort into such things! The grassroots Friday night ritual may become a tradition; apparently another is being put together for Friday of Summerfest. The idea is to rotate the HP and HPS to give many the opportunity for leadership; I was asked to run the next ritual and would have accepted were I staying for Summerfest! Ah well, there is always next year (more on that in a bit).

Other events worth noting were a rather intensive Lakota sweat lodge on Friday... and, of course, the final night bonfire on Saturday! The wood for the final fire was piled about twenty feet high, with the effigy of a fire dragon on top. Although significantly smaller than the Starwood bonfires of yesteryear, the Brushwood bonfires are still the largest of any that I have encountered.

Overall, everything that was there was excellent! However, I could not help but noticing what was missing. Ever since ACE and Starwood left, after 2009, the energy at Brushwood has been much more mellow. I miss the old intensity. I miss the midnight rituals... I miss mud wrestling and human bowling... I miss the "Meet, Beat, and Greet"... I miss "Party Like A Rockstar" and the "Rumble in the Jungle"... I miss the Pufferdome and the Time Machine. Heck, I even miss the so-called "Faildome" of 2009, if for no other reason than it made for great jokes! Brushwood after midnight used to feel alive and pulsing with energy; now all there is at that hour is the Roundhouse. Much as I do love drumming and dancing about the Roundhouse fire, it is a loss that the other options are all gone.

With that in mind, I spent a goodly part of the long drive home thinking about what I want to do in the future for Summer festivals. It seems that this is a time of considerable flux for festivals in the NorthEastern quadrant of the United States -- Starwood is now at Wisteria, in Ohio; Summerfest came into being last year; Pagan Spirit Gathering has moved very close to my house, the Event Horizon, in Chicagoland. Tis not obvious what my choice of festival should be in 2012. However, tis late now, so these musings should be the topic of a later post.

I hope that everyone has been having a wonderful week! I look forward to sifting back through my f-list to read about what y'all have been up to!

[*] Including one short fueling stop.

[**] No pun intended.

anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Jul. 7th, 2011 11:07 pm)
Just returned to the Event Horizon for my Summer trip... and upon landing in Chicago, I am pleased to pronounce that it is really Summer here! Unlike Oxford, where the highs hover in the high-60s and low-70s, the forecast here is in the high-80s, and expected to hit 90 on Sunday![*] I may go to to the Cypress Cove water park on Saturday -- anyone care to join me if I do?

Getting here was uneventful, by which I mean that I slept through most of the trans-Atlantic flight. Once past passport control and immigration, the ever-awesome [ profile] gyades met me at O'Hare in Lucretia II, the Infiniti G20 that [ profile] cheshcat and I share as our US car. That was a nice touch, to be picked up in my own car; I used to try to do the same when making airport runs for [ profile] gyades and [ profile] cheshcat and [ profile] polymorphism. What was also nifty was starting to catch up with [ profile] gyades on the drive from airport to Event Horizon. Much more of that to follow in the coming weeks!

I have been back at the Event Horizon for about half an hour now; [ profile] gyades dropped me off and then returned to Fermilab to continue working. Hard to believe it has been nearly half a year since I last left here, on January 9thth! Still, it has... and so much has happened since then! Getting our Indefinite Leave to Remain in the United Kingdom and my full British driving licence, exploring Prague and Vienna, adventures in Chester and Dover and the Lake District, working in Japan on the T2K electron neutrino appearance results, visits from [ profile] kat1031 and [ profile] tawneypup. So far, 2011 has been treating me rather well!

The first thing that I did after arriving was take a look in our backyard to see the rosebush that we planted above Scarlet, the five week old kitten that Resourceress adopted in June 2005 who died a few days later. I was pleased to see that it is doing well and in bloom. Poor Scarlet -- she would have been six years old now! Speaking of cats, Stumpy was quick to greet me... and to demand petting! The little love was rewarded for her efforts with much affection (which she liked) and with the trimming of six month's growth from her talons claws (of which she was less fond). Chirp, being the more skittish of the two, has yet to show herself. That will come in time -- probably when I try to read in bed tonight!

Between now and then, however, there is fun to be had! When booking my travel, it had completely slipped my mind that today is the first Thursday of the month. This means that tonight is Poly Chicago's karaoke evening at Sidekicks! Awesome! I was reminded by an e-mail that came through whilst waiting to board my plane. After posting this, tis time for a shave and a shower, then off into the city for some cavorting with old (and presumably new) friends!

Ah, Chicago! Tis good to be back!

[*] That is about 32oC for those of you who prefer metric. Which, for temperature, I do not. I see clear advantages in metric units for distance, mass, and volume. For temperature, not so much.

Writing from Japan now. Landed in Tokyo about three hours ago and have just arrived at my hotel in Tsukuba. Cannot write much now, as the T2K collaboration meeting began two and a half hours ago -- just as I was walking out of Narita Airport!

On the bus, one thing was was instantly obvious to myself and the two colleagues with whom I traveled: During the thirty-five mile drive North, we were struck by how utterly normal everything looked. To find evidence that an earthquake -- indeed, one of the four largest ever recorded -- had struck, one needed to look carefully. Even then, the signs were infrequent and subtle: a patched stretch of road here, some cracks in the pavement there. Tsukuba is two hundred miles from the epicenter of the quake and, two months later, life here seems perfectly normal. We have electricity, the roads and trains are functional. To my eye, all is well. I noticed a row of chipped ceramic tiles at the entrance to my hotel; other than that, I've not yet seen any sign of the quake in Tsukuba.

Meanwhile, the weather here is sunny and mild. Mid-Spring, specifically April and May, is really my favourite time of year to be in Japan, as it is so beautiful here! Indeed, the icon for this post was taken in Japan in May, at the annual Tonami Tulip Fair (see here and here) some years ago.

Must run now. More later, gentle readers!
anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Apr. 25th, 2011 01:38 am)
Day two in Prague now draws to a close. For today's post, gentle readers, I tried to elevate Prague to the elite ranks of cities that get their own icon in my journal -- a status thus far only enjoyed by Buenos Aires and Rome. Alas, my attempted iconisation of the Orloj, or astronomical clock, failed as the resulting icon looked too unintelligible to be a serious candidate. Some things were simply not meant to be viewed at 100x100 pixels.

Thus, in lieu of a dedicated Prague icon, I'm afraid that I will be subjecting you to a dedicated pun theme in the subject line. Them's the breaks, dear friends!

Today was an absolutely lovely day! Meteorological reports had led me to believe that it would be grey and raining on my first full day in Prague. Not so! In fact, the weather could not have been better -- warm and sunny, with bright blue skies! My plans for the day went right out the proverbial window within minutes of leaving my apartment; I ran into a free tour that had just started and it shaped the majority of my day. Over the course of five hours -- and two guided walking tours -- we covered much of Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, and the Castle District. Lots of breadth, as we spanned well over a millennium of history with sites such as the Estates Theatre opera house where Mozart debuted Don Giovanni, the largest castle in the world[*], the birthplace of Franz Kafka, the square where the Velvet Revolution of 1989 rose up to remove communism from Czechoslovakia, and much more!

Our guide was a loud bloke from Maine who has been living here for seven years. He gives tours to support himself whilst trying to make it as an actor. Methinks it is better than waiting tables... and certainly better for me, as he is an aficionado of Eastern European history and, as such, had many excellent stories to share as we walked. I find that the historical context puts the sights in perspective; without knowing why they are important, most places one visits become rapidly uninteresting. Anyway, said guide is flying back to Maine in the morning to visit his mother, so I count myself rather lucky to have caught his final act[**].

In the evening, when all the guided touring was over, I strolled through a vineyard where Good King Wenceslas -- also the patron saint of the Czech Republic -- once planted grapes. Then I took a walk through Letná Park and sat at the base of a gigantic metronome that sits where the world's largest statue of Stalin once rested. When dusk fell, I procured food, then ascended the Old Town Hall for an elevated view of the city before retiring to my apartment for the night.

Choosing pictures for today's travelogue was rather a challenge! So many nifty photographs -- how to decide? With great difficulty, I narrowed nearly two hundred down to just eight, which I present for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

We start the day's adventures in Old Town Square, very near to my apartment. Note the daytime shot of Our Lady before Týn and a cameo of the astronomical clock, both of which were featured -- albeit in nocturnal views -- for yesterday's entry.

Moving on from Old Town Square, most other pictures are behind a cut... )

Finally, we end with a pair of pictures taken of Prague Castle which we noted earlier to be on record as the largest castle in the world. See it for yourself, dear friends, in this day-and-night matched set:

Today, as my first full day, involved getting a broad overview of Prague's many treasures. With three days remaining, I now intend to delve deeper. Stay tuned, gentle readers, as the best is yet to come!

[*] According to the Guinness Book, anyway. I'm not quite sure how one measures the size of a castle. Is it the area of the grounds? The footprint of the building? The volume of the structures??

[**] For two weeks, until he returns. However, I will be long gone from Prague by then -- getting ready for my Japan trip -- so it is as good as final where I am concerned.

Day one of the UK's eleven day holiday.

As the weather in Oxford today was spectacularly gorgeous, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I went to the park for a picnic and to read beneath a lovely blooming tree that periodically rained petals upon us. I appear to be in what has been termed my "19th century chick-lit phase". More accurate, I suppose, would be to describe it as my Austen/Brontë phase, having recently made my way through Pride & Predjudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Wuthering Heights. Currently, I am in the middle of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, after which I shall return from Brontë to Austen with either Persuasion or Northanger Abbey. All of this came much to the shock and horror of DL, when I stayed with him earlier this week. As he put it: "Dude, you're not supposed to admit to such things around other men!" I was amused... as was his lovely wife, J, who is currently reading Northanger Abbey herself and offered to loan me a hard copy of Wildfell Hall if I preferred to read it on paper instead of via my Nook.

After soaking up the sun's rays all afternoon, my dear [ profile] cheshcat is currently partaking of a quick nap before we spend some quality alone time together this evening. All in all, a most excellent first day of this long break.

For the UK-based portion of my f-list, I am wondering: What are y'all up to during this super-sized holiday? Staying at home? Travelling about?

As for me, I am off to the continent tomorrow morning, where I shall split the remaining ten days of the vacation between Prague and Vienna. Having not yet visited either the Czech Republic or Austria, I am rather excited! Should be gangs of fun! Needless to say, travelogues -- and pictures -- shall follow! Stay tuned...
anarchist_nomad: (The Eyes Have It)
( Feb. 24th, 2011 07:54 pm)
Good evening, gentle readers!

I write this entry from the Oxford Tube, as it slowly seeps through the morass of traffic that is the A40. Said traffic jam provides the perfect excuse for writing an entry that has been percolating in my head for quite some time.

March is nearly upon us. The days are getting longer, the air is getting warmer. Spring is starting to, um, spring! This Dark Period has been rather productive, with progress in several areas -- not least is my impending application for settlement in the UK. As the Dark receeds, however, it becomes time to venture forth once more and seek out new adventures and excitement! My beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I have our first road trip of the year coming up this weekend, with several more explorations to follow in short order. The outward looking outlook of the Light also means that it is time to start planning more social activities. And that is precisely what this post is all about!

There are a few events coming up that may be of interest to the UK-based portion of my f-list. Take a look below and see if any of these suit your fancy, dear friends:

March: Party time! My birthday -- which falls on March 13th this year -- is a mere three weeks away. Having had two most excellent birthday parties last year, though, I am planning a three day road trip with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and the lovely [ profile] miss_amaranth to celebrate this year. Besides, there is a better reason to party just one week later: The terrric [ profile] tawneypup is coming to town! After nearly two years, my lovable lass is returning to Merry Olde England, much to the delight of [ profile] cheshcat and myself. Any time that we get to spend with her is a sheer delight, and the last time she popped across the pond we all had quite a blast! Most of my UK people have not had the pleasure of meeting dear Tawney... so we will be throwing a party in her honour. If you are on my LJ f-list, you can consider yourself invited!

March 19th at Chiron Beta Prime. Be there!

May: As the Royal Wedding will be giving many of us an eleven day holiday from April 22nd to May 2nd, there will be no big social events organised by us in April. [ profile] cheshcat and I are planning a nice long road trip to the continent to get away from it all. Not quite sure which places we plan to visit just yet. Berlin, Prague, and Vienna are just some of the places on our list.

In May, however, there is much niftiness to be had. Regular readers of this journal may recall that, back in October, the Kiddo and I went to see Roger Waters perform The Wall live at Madison Square Garden. What an absolutely amazing concert that was -- one of the best that I have ever been to! Puppets, flying pigs, amazing animations... and, of course, the building and destruction of the wall itself! If you like, check out a fan-recorded clip of the show here!

The US tour of The Wall has now finished... but the European tour is just about to begin! As it turns out, I happen to have two tickets to see the May 15th performance at the Venue Formerly Known as the Millennium Dome in London. The seats are not as good as the fantastic ones that the Kiddo and I enjoyed at MSG, but they are not bad. My person that I originally wanted to take to this show when it was announced last year is no longer available. [ profile] cheshcat then had right of first refusal; she did, indeed, exercise that right quite well, having refused to go several times now. Pink Floyd is not exactly something that we agree on. Thus, I have an additional ticket. If you think you might like to go to the show, drop me an e-mail and we can talk.

June: In June, Bisexual Oxford brings you the second annual Oxford BiFest! We will be returning to the same great venue as last year, the Oxford University Club. There, from 11am to 11pm, there will be twelve awesometacular hours of workshops, social events, and pure unadulterated fun! (Okay, we will let adults in, too)

Check out the Oxford BiFest webpage here... and stay tuned for the announcement of workshops and other programming!

I have to say: 2011 has been off to a fantastic start already. Now, with the warmth and the daylight coming, things are only going to get better! Wahoo! Fasten your seatbelts, good souls, the ride is just about to begin!
anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Dec. 1st, 2010 05:30 pm)
Greetings from Tokai, gentle readers! Having touched down in Nihon[1] yesterday, I write to you once again from the ever-exciting J-PARC, home of the world's most powerful neutrino beam!

What's that you say, dear friends? In Japan again? How did that happen? When last we left our hero, two weeks ago, he was shopping about for a new high power laptop and whatnot. How ever did we get from there to here?

Well, the past couple of weeks have been rather busy and, truth be told, I've been a less than conscientious blogger. For shame, I know! So there have been some little adventures in the last fortnight -- like spending a secluded weekend on the Isle of Wight with my sweet [ profile] miss_amaranth to celebrate our anniversary... or watching A Streetcar Named Desire and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Oxford Playhouse with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat... or presenting a particle physics seminar on supernova relic neutrinos at Queen Mary University of London last week... or a Thanksgiving party that couldn't be beat in London with the ever-awesometacular D&J -- but, alas, their chronicles were destined not to be told!

After spending November -- the first of the four Dark months back up in the far North -- I am rather pleased to have escaped to Japan for a couple of weeks! In the days before my departure, the gulf stream seemed to have failed us, leaving Merry Olde England considerably colder than would otherwise be found in late November. In contrast, whilst waiting for my bus from Narita yesterday afternoon, I noted happily that the temperature was about 60°F (17.5°C) as darkness set in at 17:00. Quite a pleasant change -- both from what I left behind and from the steam bath of August during my last trip here! Also, although expected, I am finding the vast increase in sunlight to be even more delightful! Due to my relocation from Oxford (51° 45' N) to Tokai (36° 28' N), there be nearly two hours more sunlight each day.[2] Huzzah! Even better, though, is that the quality of the sunlight is very much improved! Right now, the Oxford Sun peaks at a paltry 16.5° above the horizon; as a result, even the best sunlight we get there -- at midday and when clouds permit -- has barely more than half the intensity of the zenith Sun.[3] In contrast, the Tokai Sun still rises to 32.6°, giving it 81% intensity when compared to the solar zenith. If you crunch those numbers, gentles, you will see that, at present, Tokai's sunlight is nearly 50% brighter than Oxford's! Huzzah, indeed!

An unexpected side effect of this trip is that I seem to have missed out on snow everywhere. Less than a day after I fly out of Heathrow, the UK seems to have been walloped with an unseasonal amount of snow! Last I heard, the M25 was at a standstill and Gatwick Airport was closed... to say nothing of these pictures from the North! We all know how the UK shuts down at the slightest hint of snow -- very glad, then, that I escaped before it was too late! Meanwhile, my darling [ profile] tawneypup reports that Michigan has also got the white stuff! Looks like everywhere is getting hit except where I am. Must be because I am all warmth and sunshine!

Besides being my first full day in Japan, today is also the first of December. Goodness, how did 2010 get so close to ending? I am rather excited about this month, as it promises to hold much travel and excitement. Such is welcome after a relatively quiet November. Tis true that there were the mini-adventures named above... but most of November's busy-ness was spent on relatively quiet activities -- like making progress at work, or moving into our new flat, or setting up said flat when the move was through[4], or frequent bell ringing.[5] All of this is well and good; I like building things up. Still, I have missed the buzz of excitement that was October, when I ran a Cosmology Day School at Oxford University... then jetted off to New York City to see Roger Waters spectacularly perform The Wall at Madison Square Garden... then ran a long weekend Pagan gathering for about a hundred people... then swung by my Chicago home[6] before heading to Michigan to visit with the lovely [ profile] tawneypup for a weekend of Fall festivals and games and horseback riding! After which, it was time to return to England for a meeting in Warwick, the excitement of the Super K Sonic Booooum! 2 at the Manchester Science Festival, a delightful date with the breathtaking [ profile] sweetcyanide, four different plays[7], and then closing out the Wheel of the Year with no fewer than five separate Samhain rituals! Whew -- October! Now there was a most excellent month!

Thankfully, after the relatively quiet November, it looks like December will be similarly exciting. Indeed, this month's adventures shall span three different continents! I shall be here in Tokai until the twelfth, preparing for and then attending our last T2K collaboration meeting before we publish our first results. Then tis back to the City of Dreaming Spires with me, arriving just in time to celebrate my beloved [ profile] cheshcat's birthday! In the week that follows, there will be bell ringing and no fewer than five theatrical outings -- three in Oxford and two to introduce us to the Royal Shakespeare Company's brand new theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then my dearest [ profile] cheshcat and I are planning a little weekend getaway in mid-December before the holiday fun begins in earnest! After our High Energy Physics Christmas party ends on the evening of December 20th, I am officially on vacation for the rest of the year. We begin the celebrations with our Yule ritual on December 21st and 22nd, including our third annual Winter Solstice pilgrimage to Stonehenge. Nearly everyone who joined us last year will be coming along again -- including the lovely [ profile] fire_kitten and her Texas-dwelling sweetie! Hooray! Also, my beautiful [ profile] miss_amaranth will be joining us for the first time. More hooray! And -- if I am truly lucky -- the stunning [ profile] pomoloco will be visiting from the Isle of Manhattan and hopping on the Stonehenge Solstice bandwagon![8] Keeping my fingers and toes crossed here! Just hours after returning from Stonehenge, [ profile] cheshcat and I take to the friendly skies, bound for New York City. There the usual Christmas-on-Wheels (C.o.W.) begins with the traditional all-family Christmas Eve in New Jersey, followed by visits to family and friends in New York, Boston, and Connecticut... not to mention embarking on the annual tour of Midtown Manhattan in all its December glory -- a tradition that has gone on for longer than I can remember -- with the amazing [ profile] squeektoy42! Finally, 2010 wraps up in Philadelphia, where I have budding plans with RG and possibly some other fantabulous P**T*** people!

All in all, I am bouncy with excitement at what promises to be a uber-astounding end-of-the-year spectacular! Look out, December: Here I come!

[1] Japan.

[2] At present, Tokai receives just under ten hours, whilst Oxford has to make do with barely more than eight.

[3] About 55% intensity, by my estimations.

[4] A process that is still ongoing, I might add!

[5] Besides many regular practices -- including ringing at two new church towers -- I also rang half-muffled bells for Remembrance Sunday services and rang at a wedding for the first time. The latter was a rather odd experience, not least of which because I had never been paid to ring before!

[6] Just long enough to visit the Morton Arboretum in all its Autumn glory... and to dispense a surfeit of petting to my darling Chicago kitties, Stumpy and Chirp.

[7] Including a bizarre bit of experimental theatre called A Western, which involved too much ketchup, and my first time in Oxford's New Theatre to see Spamalot.

[8] Otherwise known as Peter II, my trusty steed.

Ah, Japan in August! According to the weather report, the temperature outside is currently 91oF (33oC) and feels like 104oF (40oC). Additionally, the humidity level is at 60%. Weather more suitable for a beach than a meeting![*]

Originally, my darling [ profile] cheshcat and I were planning to celebrate our anniversary with a week of sightseeing here in Japan. The idea was motivated by the temporal proximity between our relationship and the T2K meeting -- this year, the two are just days apart! Eventually, however, I realised just how ludicrous that idea was. Introduce [ profile] cheshcat to Japan in August? Was I mad? What was I thinking?? April and May are far more pleasant times to visit -- my favourite part of the year to be here! When that penny finally dropped a few months ago, we moved that trip back to next April. Far more pleasant weather and she gets to see the in bloom! Now that's more like it!

Meanwhile, just walking outside evokes memories of the various steam rooms that [ profile] cheshcat and I visited at the Aqua Sana last week. If the humidity gets any higher, perhaps I should consider swimming to the T2K meeting tomorrow...

[*] Actually, there is a beach adjacent to the J-PARC facility and I may very well end up paying it a visit before this trip is out...

T minus four hours! See you there!!![*]

ETA: The party food is bought, the house is clean, and the Nomad is clean. It is 90 degrees out (feels like 93) with a 0% chance of rain. Perfect! Time to put on clothing and then the party can begin!!

[*] By "you", I mean the Chicago-area contingent of my f-list. Obviously, dear friends, if you live in England... or New York... or Arizona... or anywhere else that is outside this region, I don't expect to see you today. Though you could turn up unexpected! That would win you -- hands down -- the surprise of the day award!

It is nearly ninety degrees out. I desperately want to duck out and make a quick trip down to Cypress Grove, the small water park that is just a few miles away from the Event Horizon. Alas, despite having been in the States for three days now, I am not on holiday yet. I am still on the proverbial clock through today... and I have a deadline to make, editing a certain proposal to obtain Super-Kamiokande data.

Once that is complete, though, I am D-O-N-E! Vacation commences! Going out to visit friends with [ profile] gyades and his sister, who is in town, tonight... the Event Horizon Summer party tomorrow[*]... and then off to Brushwood for a week on Sunday... followed by a long-anticipated date with the lovely [ profile] livetbd on the way back. After this afternoon, I am off physicist duty for ten days, until July 27th. As for the water park? Before I leave the States, there shall be a couple of those, too...

Right. Back to work now!

(16:22) ETA: DONE! That makes it party time!![**]

[*] Where I am very much looking forward to seeing many of you, my dear friends!

[**] Technically, that makes it shower time. But party time follows soon after!

Today is a fantabulous day! The weather is absolutely marvelous, with blue skies -- dotted by small fluffy clouds -- sun and lots of warmth! Hooray!! It is also the first day of the year that I have worn shorts and sandals -- I believe that Spring has finally arrived![*]

With only ten days left before I depart for Japan, I have about 1.5 bazillion things that need to be done. Thus, a proper update will have to wait for later and, in its place, I give you that most wonderous of LiveJournalerooney delights...... a poll!

[Poll #1548783]

That's all for now, gentle readers! I hope that y'all are enjoying this lovely lovely day as much as I!

[*] I'm talking about for Oxford. I realise that my dear friends in New York are ahead of the game and moved into Summer this week... whilst those of you back in Arizona passed through Spring back in January and February, Summer in March, and are probably making your way into "blazing inferno" season now...

It's April now. As if on cue, the torrential rains have begun. Go figure! I guess that the Weather Gods have been paying attention...
I could talk of the second day of the T2K collaboration meeting, here in Tokai. I could talk of my amazement at all the snow being dumped on Oxford right now[*] and how much I would love to be there to see it. I could talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax! Of cabbages and kings!

But I shall not.

Today, gentle reader, I shall talk of opposites. In particular, I shall talk of some of my favourite opposites! Here we go:
  • We all know that the opposite of "inept" is "ept", which then means "to be competent" (as "inept" means "incompetent").

  • Similarly, we know that the opposite of "disgruntled" is "gruntled", which then means "to be happy" (as "disgruntled" means "unhappy").

  • Furthermore, we know that the opposite of "flammable" is "inflammable", which then means "not able to be inflamed" (as "flammable" means "able to be inflamed").

These are just three of my favourite opposite pairs... but why should I get to have all the fun? What are some of your favourite opposites, dear friends? Don't be shy -- shout out!

One hundred points to the three cleverest pairs of opposites! Have fun!!

[*] Sixteen inches! This is an uber-rare occurrence, caused by the meeting of two fronts over my fair city!

I composed the initial part of my holiday write-up from a motel in Ohio, USA. Thus, it seems somehow fitting that I now write its counterpart, concluding the holidays from a hotel in Tokai, Japan![*] Without further ado, here is a summary of the last two states visited in the Nomad 2009 Decemberween Five State US Tour! Have at it, gentle readers!

Day Nine: (Thu Dec 31) Arrived in Michigan with [ profile] gyades, where I greeted my darling [ profile] tawneypup and her husband, [ profile] plasmonicgrid. After settling in, we were introduced to Little Big Planet and the four of us spent a couple of hours bonding over the Playstation 3. When finished, I took a call from the future -- the charming [ profile] cheshcat, the beautiful [ profile] bunnypip, and the marvelous [ profile] miss_amaranth phoned from 2010! We chatted for a bit, then it was time for homemade pizza paninis!

Guests[**] began arriving at half eight -- in total, fourteen people attended, making for a cozy little group. We played a couple of games of Bag of Nouns -- each time I was on the winning team by just a razor-thin margin of victory! I passed around the Signspotting book that [ profile] cheshcat had given me for Yule -- it was generally a huge hit, with much laughter ensuing! At midnight, we watched an animatronic Dick Clark ring in the new year -- and decade! -- as we enjoyed malts at midnight! Yummy!

We got comfortable in the new year by chatting and having random attacks of silly string. Around two o'clock in the morning, it was suggested that we go to sleep... but we played Apples To Apples instead! Despite an early lead, I came in third with six cards to my name. Apparently, I am "pure" & "eternal"... as well as "chunky", too! More sleepy -- and slightly tipsy -- musings followed, so it was nearly six o'clock in the morning before people finally made their way to Dreamland. Definitely a fun way to see out the old year and welcome in the new one!

Day Ten: (Fri Jan 01) After a lazy lie-in, [ profile] tawneypup and [ profile] gyades and I went out for a delicious breakfast of omelette and hash browns and pancakes! Then we exchanged gifts before packing up for the drive to Chicago. [ profile] gyades drove on first in his car; [ profile] tawneypup and I followed half an hour behind in hers. The weather outside was frightful -- much snow and ice assailed us. Still, my dear Tawney handled the roads expertly... and the slow speeds required gave us all the more time to talk in the car! When we finally ran out of things to say, we spent the last hour or two singing various and sundry songs together, especially a few duets!

On our arrival in Chicagoland, the three us of went out for a dinner of Mexican food... followed up by games! I managed an amazing rally to beat [ profile] gyades at air hockey... only to lose the next game to [ profile] tawneypup. I then scraped by a win -- in overtime! -- against [ profile] gyades in foosball before we all headed in to the Lazer Tag arena. This time around, I tried a new strategy: Hide in one of the highest spaces and try to pick people off sniper-style. It didn't pay off, though; not enough people in my field of view to rack up sufficient hits. Out of fourteen players in our free-for-all, I ranked only twelfth -- compared to [ profile] tawneypup (clad all in black ninja gear) at #3 and [ profile] gyades at #5. Oh, well -- better luck next time! After our session shooting each other in the backs[***], we returned to the Event Horizon for some good old fashioned Rock Band. That topped off the night well, until we were all ready to collapse into bed!

Day Eleven: (Sat Jan 02) After waking, [ profile] gyades and [ profile] tawneypup and I made our way to the Morton Arboretum to wander about the grounds. Although this magnificent arboretum is located only half a mile from the Event Horizon -- making me a frequent visitor when I am local -- this is only the second time that I have dropped by in Winter. The ground was covered in snow and the sun glistened beautifully off the shiny white surfaces! I had never seen the arboretum like this before -- it was absolutely lovely! We drove slowly through both sides, stopping in the middle to wander on foot. We attempted a gnome hunt... but found too many gnomes were hiding beneath the snow! Whoops!

After we returned to the Event Horizon, we let the games begin! [ profile] tawneypup and I played Tic Tac Doh! using my Icehouse pieces, each winning several games. We then moved on to Martian Chess -- also an Icehouse game -- where I won. By this point, [ profile] xirpha had arrived; we broke out Betrayal At House On The Hill and played with all four of us. Interestingly enough, we stumbled on the one scenario -- out of fifty -- where there is no traitor! Instead, the four of us had to collectively defeat our evil twins, which I am proud to say we managed without sustaining any casualties! Go us! By this point [ profile] gyades was feeling a bit off so he went to take a nap whilst [ profile] xirpha taught [ profile] tawneypup and I how to play Ingenious; the first game was a close win for [ profile] xirpha (eight points for him, with seven for each of us), whilst the second was a much more dramatic win for [ profile] tawneypup (eleven points for her, seven for me, one for [ profile] xirpha. Next up, we played Empire Builders. This was a close game -- and a long one! -- but I managed to achieve a victory! By this point, the lovely [ profile] wyldekyttin, & [ profile] unclevlad, as well as the charming [ profile] emrldgirrl & [ profile] wiktowasichu had arrived! We introduced them to the now-infamous Bag of Nouns, which was a hit! I teamed up with [ profile] wyldekyttin and [ profile] unclevlad against the rest... but, alas, we were undone! At the end of the game, we were behind three points!

We had a little time to chat and schmooze before we needed to head out to catch the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My dear friends, I am proud to say that your favourite Nomad is a Rocky virgin no longer! Before the show, us virgins were rounded up and made to mimic barnyard animals having an orgasm -- my turkey garnered great laughs... and came in second only to the walrus! The show itself was lots of fun! The shadow cast was excellent and came equipped with very elaborate props! Of course, I have no basis for comparison... but [ profile] tawneypup has seen half a dozen such productions of Rocky -- and she thinks that this one was the best! Originally, we had planned to dress me up as Magenta for the show; to that end [ profile] tawneypup had brought a French maid's costume with her. Alas, time did not allow... so there are no compromising photos to share with you, gentle readers! Perhaps next time!

The cinema itself was impressive, with a fantastic ambiance and seating at conference-style tables. This permits a full restaurant menu, with food and drink delivered throughout the show. I very much enjoyed the venue and plan to return on future trips to Chicago -- either for Rocky or just for other movies! The admission fees are quite reasonable (only eight dollars), though everyone is required to purchase at least one item from the menu. No complaints there -- tis a good deal! Meanwhile, I owe thanks to [ profile] wyldekyttin and [ profile] unclevlad... as the surreptitiously intercepted and paid the restaurant check for [ profile] tawneypup and I![****]

When the show ended, we bid them farewell... then returned to the Event Horizon to collapse into bed once more, circa three o'clock in the morning!

Day Twelve: (Sun Jan 03) Vacation over -- hop a flight to Japan!

Thus completed the Nomad's Twelve Days of Christmas in the US of A -- all in all, it was an excellent holiday and a wonderful start to the new year! Now I am in Tokai, batteries recharged and eagerly looking forward to the start of our next collaboration meeting tomorrow! The experiment is turning on now so these are some very exciting times!!

[*] Hey, I've got a name to live up to!

[**] Other than [ profile] gyades and I, of course!

[***] And front. And shoulders.

[****] Indeed, I would have thanked them sooner -- and in person! -- except that I did not learn of this until after we had already parted ways for the night!



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