anarchist_nomad: (Loch Ness Monster)
( Feb. 26th, 2017 11:09 am)
It's a lazy Sunday morning here at the House of the Red Roses.

Stumpy and I are sitting in the conservatory[*], watching a couple of robins indulge themselves on our bird feeders outside.

I just finished induliging myself on a yummy weekend breakfast[**] of Sheffield toast coated with Sheffield honey. To wash it down, I enjoyed a cup of Sheffield tea, with a splash of Sheffield milk.

I'm rather pleased to be able to use so many local products. The bread comes from a local chain, Roses the Bakers; we discovered it after moving into the House of the Red Roses and are working our way through their many different loaves -- today was a corn-topped white load.

The honey was the soft-set type from The Sheffield Honey Company. Not ideal for tea, due to its thick consistency, but perfect for spreading.

My drink was a chocolate tea, called 'Muddy Boots' from the Birdhouse Tea Company. I'm also a fan of their straight black tea, the 'Full Monty'.

Finally, the milk came from what may be Sheffield's second most famous[***] local brand: Our Cow Molly. Once the weather gets a touch warmer, [ profile] cheshcat and I need to get out to their farm[****] and visit Molly. For one cow, she sure does put out a lot of milk!

I don't normally do product placement, but I am pleased to be transitioning to local foods wherever possible. Support local industry and reduce carbon footprint. Good stuff!

Next step will be to move to local eggs; I don't think any are commercially available, but I bet we can find a farm nearby.[*****] Knowing how awful the egg industry is, I would feel much better buying from a local farm after confirming first-hand that the chickens are treated humanely.

Anyway, that's my lazy Sunday morning. There is much to do later today to prepare for the week -- marking science outreach projects, finalising parts of the WATCHMAN research proposal, writing my talk for an upcoming conference in Venice, and preparing for tomorrow's tutorial on thermodynamics. But, for the moment, the day has a slow start, just enjoying the sun (!) and the birds from the warmth of our conservatory.

How about you, dear friends? What are you up to on this Sunday morning?

[ profile] cheshcat and I agree that the conservatory is our favourite room in the house. Although, for me, the posh bathroom with the oversized tub runs a close second.

[**] My standard weekday breakfast is a bowl of honey-nut cornflakes, as it is nice and quick, which is what I need on a work morning.

[***] The most famous local brand, known to everyone in Sheffield and nearly no one outside, is Henderson's Relish (or 'Hendo's') -- a sort of vegetarian variant of Worcestershire sauce.

[****] In the village of Dungworth -- what a name!

[*****] The House of the Red Roses is three miles from Sheffield city centre and one mile from the entrance to the Peak District National Park. As such, it's a nice portal between urban and rural. Turn left at the end of the road to go into the city; turn right to get into the countryside!

The new semester starts in the morning, so I'm having a late night of marking final exams for my second year quantum mechanics module.

(Go me and my rockstar lifestyle!)

Getting through 169 exam scripts is particularly boring, so I've been playing classic 80s videos and petting Stumpy to keep me company.[*]

Winds of Change by The Scorpions just came on the mix. It made my think of this entry, which I wrote back in the Summer of 2013.[**] That entry was a happy and hopeful piece, reflecting on the state of the world following a lovely 10K run that started in Gorky Park and followed along the Moskva River.

Gods, how things have changed.

On my bedside table sits It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, the 1935 biography of our so-called President. After years of inaction, I have been to two different rallies this week. Following decades of rising inequality caused by neo-liberalism, we are at a tipping point. I hope that we can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old. I fear that a new age of facisms stands ready to consume the West -- particularly the country of my birth (and if that happens, can my adopted country be far behind?).

I'm using the anarcho-syndalist icon for this post, though I don't know if I am an Anarchist anymore. That identity -- held for over two decades -- relied on a fundamental belief in human beings to be both good and capable of making sound decisions on a significant scale. I'm not saying anything definitive yet... just that I am doing a lot of questioning.

So much more I could say but, for now, there are still 36 more quantum mechanics exams that need marking... and I have a lecture to give in the morning... and a draft of a research proposal to submit on Tuesday.

Maybe more later, if anyone's still on Livejournal to read it.

[*] This is made somewhat awkward by the fact that Stumpy wants to sit in the office chair. Every time I stand up, she steals it. She is an unrepentent seat thief! Even worse, if I lean forward, she will sit behind me and stretch out, until I am sitting at the very edge of the chair. If I try to take any more room than that, she complains and makes annoyed cat noises at me.

[**] How was that three and a half years ago??!

Today's Guardian has an article about outrage over a high school maths problem. Seriously?

The question in question was described as "disastrously hard", "especially unfair", and "proving impossible even for the most able students". Really??

I was intrigued, so I had a look at the question. It read:
There are n sweets in a bag. Six of the sweets are orange. The rest of the sweets are yellow. Hannah takes a random sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet. Hannah then takes at random another sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet. The probability that Hannah eats two orange sweets is 1/3. Show that n²-n-90=0.

So... what's the big deal? It's a straightforward and easy question. I solved it in under two minutes. Could have taken half the time, but I set it up carefully, under the impression that it was difficult. Thought perhaps it was a trick question, but it's a rather straightforward bit of elementary probability.

Then I went on to show that n = 10. The question didn't ask for it, but I was curious.

I really hope they let the question stay. It's perfectly fair, and I think it's reasonable to expect children to learn how to think in school.
anarchist_nomad: (Intrepid explorer)
( Jan. 5th, 2015 11:59 am)
Just over ten years ago, I posted this entry, entitled "Grounded". It starts off by saying:

As of today, I no longer have a valid US passport. As alien as it feels to me, I can no longer leave the [United States].

Ten years on, the passport that I applied for at that time has recently expired. Once again, I no longer have a valid US passport. The weird part is that I can now go to just about any country in the world... except the United States.

My British passport is valid until 2023, and this is the primary passport that I use when travelling these days. However, US citizens are not permitted to enter the United States on a foreign passport. This is true even if they hold multiple citizenships and citizens of their other country (or countries) may travel to the United States without a visa.

The United States does not forbid dual nationalities (like, for instance, Japan), but they don't recognize them, either. To quote from the webpage of the United States Embassy in London:
Under U.S. regulations, dual nationals must enter and leave the United States on valid U.S. passports; they are not eligible to apply for visas or travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.

So I find myself in the strange situation of being able to go anywhere except for the country where I was born and lived most of my life. How odd.

Thankfully, I have no upcoming travel planned for the United States. Next trip, in three weeks, is to Japan, and the one after that will be to Spain.

Meanwhile, the passport renewal application was collected by courier today. I expect the current oddity will be cleared soon with the arrival of my next passport.
anarchist_nomad: (Intrepid explorer)
( May. 22nd, 2013 01:26 am)
Off to bed shortly. Need to wake up early tomorrow morning; my tour guide is collecting me from my accommodations as 07:30. Before I sleep, however, I have a few thoughts about tomorrow that I want to write down beforehand. May be interesting to compare after the fact.

I've been in Korea for three days so far. I'm having a great trip. I have toured Royal Palaces (particularly Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung); I have visited the Royal Shines (Jongmyo). I have seen the Presidential residence (Cheongwadae, the "Blue House") and strolled through an astounding garden (Huwon) and ridden a cable car up the mini-mountain of Namsan to look out from the observation deck of N Seoul Tower. I hope to write a travelogue, complete with pictures, about all of this -- and more -- when I get back to Oxford.

Tomorrow is my last full day for this trip to Korea. Being me, there is a fair bit left that I want to do here in and around Seoul. First and foremost, though, is the tour that I leave on in about six hours -- a visit to Panmunjom, the Joint Security Area in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.[*]

Last March, I spent five days in Berlin. I remember visiting the mock-up of Checkpoint Charlie and thinking about what it must have been like in the old days, when it was the only crossing point between the "American sector" of West Berlin and the "Soviet sector" of East Berlin. I think that tomorrow I am about to find out.

Actually, the similarities between the two are quick striking when one thinks about it. The two halves of Berlin came about because the Western Allies and the Soviets split the city between them after World War II; the two halves of Korea came about because the Americans and the Soviets split the country between them after World War II. Tis true that Germany had been an aggressor nation, whilst Korea had been an occupied land for decades before the war. Even so, the long-standing split was mainly the result of nascent Cold War politics coming into play as WWII wound down.

Of course, Germany has been reunified for decades now, with the Communist GDR (East Germany) dissolving and joining the Capitalist FRG (West Germany). In contract, the Communist DPRK (North Korea) is still going strong, and still at odds with the Capitalist ROK (South Korea). Thus, the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom -- Korea's "Checkpoint Charlie" -- is still in full swing.

I suspect that this is going to be a very interesting experience tomorrow. Technically, there is the possibility of injury or death -- I will be up against the North Korean border with armed DPRK soldiers present. There have been incidents at the JSA, like in 1984, when a Soviet citizen -- on tour from the North -- ran across the border to defect. That said, approximately 100,000 tourists per year visit the JSA, and the overwhelming majority of tours experience nothing unusual. Despite having to sign a form acknowledging that I am entering a war zone and could be injured or killed, I'm not really worried. It's true that I have never actually been in a war zone before. On the other hand, I have had to sign similar forms before jumping out of a plane (minus the part about the war zone). No, I'm thinking that the experience will be a nice counterpart to last year's visit to Checkpoint Charlie... and that the two should bookend each other nicely. Will almost certainly provide me with some good food for thought on the long plane ride home.

[*] Ironically enough, the Korean "Demilitarized Zone" is the most militarily fortified border on the planet.

anarchist_nomad: (Still me... but wearing a funny hat)
( Feb. 12th, 2013 12:02 am)
People frequently credit songs like The Power of Love, Hip to be Square, and The Heart of Rock & Roll to Huey Lewis, disenfranchising the News entirely. In contrast, I've never heard anyone neglect to give shared credit to the Mechanics when discussing songs like The Living Years, Silent Running, and All I Need is a Miracle.
Happy Leap Day! My my, how much has changed since the last time I wrote an entry on February 29th! Looking back, I see that last leap day, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I were struggling to save poor Foxy's life, and dealing with immanent threats to our jobs[*]. I was dating somebody highly incompatible, our darling Giles wasn't born yet, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.

Recently, my beloved [ profile] cheshcat started re-watching Heroes season three, to remind ourselves of what's what before we launch into season four. In one episode, everything takes place four years in the future. Given that this season started in 2008, that's basically like looking from last leap day into now.

If I could have had a sneak peak from then into today, what would I warn myself about? Not much, really. Overall, life is much better now than it was back then -- early 2008 was a particularly difficult and challenging time for us. I guess that I would warn myself not to get involved with anybody afflicted with borderline personality disorder. Also, I would caution myself to get out of a dysfunctional community before investing myself too deeply for my own good. Other than that, not much else to change, really. Most of the past four years have been pretty good... and there is reason to believe that the next four may be even better!

Guess I'll have to check back on February 29th 2016 to see how that prediction pans out!

[*] Retaliation for union organising for her, budget cuts from the research council for me. Ultimately, both of these threats did cost us our jobs but, thankfully, we managed to find better ones.
anarchist_nomad: (Look Like An Egyptian)
( Jan. 31st, 2012 11:59 pm)
For many people, New Years is a time of looking back through the years, reflecting on that which is coming to a close. For me, New Years generally involves a whirlwind tour through the United States, visiting as many dear friends as possible. As such, the retrospective introspection is usually postponed until late January.

As this is an election year, the question of the great Saint Ron also come back to me right about now. In the lead-up to the 1980 election, he asked: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" Well, let's see about that.

It is the end of January 2012. Where am I now compared to the past four years:
  • Compared to January 2011, I have a better car. By "better", I mean that it is newer and more reliable. Also better fuel efficiency.

  • Compared to January 2010, I have a better flat. By "better", I mean that it is significantly larger (~33%), which has allowed it to be set up into something feeling much more like home. Also costs about the same as my previous flat.

  • Compared to January 2009, I have better relationships. By "better", I mean that my partners are sane and stable, making it possible to form stronger, healthier, more lasting, and more nurturing connections. Also I have some partners, like my beloved [ profile] cheshcat, who are as the same now as they were then -- as wonderful as ever.

  • Compared to January 2008, I have a better job. By "better", I mean that I work on a more interesting experiment in a research group where I feel valued and appreciated. Also the pay is significantly higher (~30%).

Am I better off now than I was four years ago? Sure seems like it! Several important components of my life -- work, partners, domestic comfort -- have improved in taht time. Huzzah! How about you, gentle readers? What is better now for you than it was four years ago?

Life is good! Here's to the next four years, with all the joy and adventures that they will bring...

Sunday night and, as suggested in the previous entry, I am indeed still in Japan. Spending eight extra days here, which will cost our travel budget a pretty penny between the rental car, the changed flights, et cetera. I estimate that my extension will cost between £150 - £200 per day. Still, when I suggested it to my boss, he was not only supportive of the idea... he all but insisted that I stay. As he put it, this is a key moment in the life of a £500M experiment. In contrast, another thousand quid or so is pretty paltry. Additionally, I sent my student on his way back home today, which makes me the last "Brit"[*] working in the Kenkyutou at this critical time.

One consequence of this extension is that I will not be going to vacation in Korea, at least for now. As usual with these things, I am simultaneously delighted to be staying and disappointed to be postponing my holiday. Ah, for the powers of Jamie Madrox! What is it with me and Korea, anyway? I was supposed to visit last May... and that got preempted by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud that grounded all flights out of Europe for a week! Nevermind, I will get there eventually.

Another consequence is that I am technically homeless tonight. My dormitory reservation was made with the expectation that I would be leaving today. New reservations are not possible on the weekend, so I cannot get another room until tomorrow. Shouldn't be a big problem; I will likely crash in the sleeping room in the Kenkyutou or, if that is already occupied when I am ready to zonk out, on the couch in the video conference room. Won't be the first time that I've slept in the Kenkyutou -- not by a long shot! Though it will be the first time that I sleep here because I don't have anywhere else to go. Usually, it results from working until the wee hours preparing a result that needs to be shown at an early morning meeting!

Which brings me to another point worth musing on. Being here again, especially for an extended period, is weird. I worked here half-time from December 1998 through June 2003. I first arrived at the age of 23, which makes it strange to return to work here at the age of 36. So many ghosts and so many memories. Here's the seminar room, where I watched the Diamondbacks defeat the Yankees in game seven to clinch the 2001 World Series; [ profile] cheshcat and Resourceress and the Kiddo were online watching with me from afar. Here's the video conference room, where I watched the Twin Towers fall two months before that. Here's where I slipped away to have long phone chats with Resourceress in Spring 2000, as we got to know each other in the earliest days of our relationship. Oh, wait, I can't go into the room where I bawled my eyes out after Grampa died in January 2000, because it is a locked clean room now. There's the area where I first sat when I arrived, wet behind the ears, at this world famous experiment in December 1998 -- not knowing anyone or anything, but eager to learn. You get the idea.

This is not a bad thing... just very, very strange. Is it déjà vu if you really have done this before??

I suppose that I should really write more about Mozumi itself and post some pictures for visual effect. Especially now, as everything is all lush and green with the Spring. I started writing a post on Tuesday, but the work intensity dial has been turned up to eleven on a ten point scale, so I've not yet had time to finish. Perhaps tomorrow.

Speaking of work, I should get back to doing some, as I have a Skype meeting with RT in a little while. Before I go, though, here is one somewhat touching story from this afternoon:

I went into Toyama to extend the contract on my rental car for the duration of my trip. The clerk there was a funny guy who knew a fair bit of English and used it to tease me about being a big brain doctor studying neutrinos and dark matter. He asked when I would win my Nobel prize. All in good fun, of course. Then he got a bit more serious and, realising that I am a US-ian, thanked me for all the help that has been given in the face of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Disaster. He thanked me several times and, in particular, thanked President Obama, too. I am rarely -- very, very rarely -- proud of the United States for anything, but I could not help feeling just a little touched by his obvious gratitude.

ETA: It is one o'clock in the morning and there are still a good handful of us still hard at work here. I'm hacking away at some new particle simulations and listening to Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond in the background as I work.[**] I love this feeling of late night camaraderie and productivity!

[*] In these international collaborations, the nationality of your home institution generally matters much more than your individual country of citizenship. Thus, for all intents and purposes, I am a Brit on T2K. This is not terribly unusual. Of the five senior people (i.e., non-students) in the T2K group at Imperial College London, three are US-ians, one is French, and one is Japanese. Not a true Brit amongst us!

[**] Another habit that dates back to when I was working here circa May 1999. (Twelve years ago???)

anarchist_nomad: (Look Like An Egyptian)
( Feb. 25th, 2011 12:13 pm)
Riding the Oxford Tube once more, on my way back to London. Sitting across from me, in one of the other four chairs that cluster about the laptop table, is a woman working on a presentation. Apparently, she is a speech therapist. Somewhat predictably, this has prompted another member of our impromptu party to ask her about The King's Speech.

On an entirely different topic, I was in the shower this morning when in occurred to me that I am thirty-five years old. How the helavic did that happen?? I say this not in the sense of bemoaning my age and whinging about getting older. At thirty-five, I know full well that I have decades of wonder and amazement ahead of me. One of my current role models is in his forties; another is fifty-two. Plenty to look forward to and to aspire for. Rather, I say this with a sense of wonder and amazement. Seriously, how the heck am I thirty-five? I certainly don't feel it, whatever that is supposed to mean. At Brushwood, last Summer, I was chatting with a lovely young lady who was twenty-one at the time. During our long and rambling conversation, she asked me how old I felt. Twas a question that I had not really considered before. After some thought, I concluded that I feel about twenty-four, plus or minus a year. I'm definitely not a teenager anymore... but I don't feel like a man in his mid-thirties, either. Early to mid-twenties seems about right.

I'm curious now, gentle readers: Relative to your physical age, how old do you feel?
anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( Dec. 4th, 2010 11:59 pm)
A few days ago, there was a meme making the rounds in which people were supposed to sum up 2010 in a single word and then encapsulate their hopes for 2011 in a different word. Not being one for memes, I did not participate. However, recent days have involved many plans for the new year.[*] Additionally, it will soon be time for me to make my annual "goals list" -- which I do in lieu of resolutions -- so I have been giving some thought as to what I am hoping to achieve in 2011.

In terms of theatre, the new year already seems to be richly stocked! My beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I already have fifteen sets of theatre tickets for the first third of 2011. Not too shabby, especially as I am planning to spend a month working in Japan during that time! Eight of these shows are in our most frequented venue, the Oxford Playhouse, with a couple of others elsewhere in Oxford -- Marlowe's Dr. Faustus performed by Creation Theatre in the basement of Blackwell Books and an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece at the Burton Taylor Studio. The five other plays will take us further afield: The RSC's new theatres will be the venues for The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet, and another rendition of The Rape of Lucrese. Milton Keynes will be where we see Derek Jacobi as King Lear, and in Woking the lovely [ profile] miss_amaranth joins us for Chess. For the past few years, including this one, my annual theatre count has tallied in the high thirties. With such a strong start, I am aiming to break 40 shows in one year for 2011!

With regards to travel, I have been looking at where the obvious holes are in our English sightseeing and attempting to fill them in. Thus, at a minimum, in 2011, I want to visit Windsor Castle, Chester, Westminster Abbey, the white cliffs of Dover (as well as nearby Hastings and Battle), the South Downs National Park, and the Broads. Also, at D&J's Thanksgiving Party, TH and I made plans for where to go cruising this Summer on his narrowboat; looks like in 2011 we will be cruising the Thames upriver from Oxford -- should be fun! Additionally, [ profile] cheshcat and I want to complete the tour of Wales that we started on our fifteenth anniversary in 2009. Back then, we spent five days exploring South Wales; in 2011, we plan to take a similar amount of time in the North. Outside of Great Britain, I would like to take a long weekend off from one of my Japan trips to finally visit South Korea. I had been planning a nice lil' trip to Seoul back in May this year but, to paraphrase Mr. Burns: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men... can be thrown asunder by volcanic ash!" The other travel question is what to do with the eleven day holiday that has been brought to us by the Royal Wedding. Possibly a road trip to somewhere on the continent? Must ponder further...

Looking at Pagan events, [ profile] cheshcat and I are no longer responsible for running the Super-Sekrit October Pagan Festival, but we will surely be attending. Indeed, 2011 will make my fifteenth consecutive year of doing so! Besides, the circle that we opened for P**T*** 2010 is still in place and we need to be there to take it down! For my Summer festival, I am a bit more perplexed. This year, I found Brushwood's new SummerFest to be very..... okay. I had fun, but it just wasn't anywhere near the intensity of Starwood. I miss that. So, for 2011, I am currently undecided about whether to return to SummerFest, whether to sample Brushwood's larger and more established Sirius Rising, whether to follow Starwood to their new home at Wisteria, or whether to make a long-overdue return to Free Spirit. Ah, would that I had all of July off to sample three in a row! Any thoughts from you fellow Pagans? Where will you be going in Summer 2011? Additionally, [ profile] cheshcat and I have plans to get more involved with local Pagan community in Oxford and the UK. Nearly five years after moving to the City of Dreaming Spires, we are still feeling the lack of community on the East side of the pond and we are hoping that this will fill an open need.

In bell ringing, I would like to ring my first quarter peal on a working bell. Thus far, I have only rung QPs on a covering tenor or a hunting treble. In 2011, I would like to ring tower bells for a quarter of Plain Bob Minor or Major. Plus, I would like to ring the trebles to a QP of Plain Bob on handbells. I would also like to get to the point where I feel competent to ring touches of Grandsire (Doubles or Triples), and Stedman (Doubles and Triples). Finally, if I reach the stage where my plain courses of Cambridge Minor are smooth, I will be a happy camper; touches of Cambridge can wait for 2012.

Interestingly enough, I have a very difficult time in assembling professional goals for the coming year. It is a very exciting time for T2K and I want to continue working with my students to get some physics results. But framing specific goals for the next twelve months? That is proving to be more elusive.

Of course, there are other goals that do not fit into specific categories. I would like to go SCUBA diving again in 2011, I would like to try gliding again, I plan to compete in an Olympic Triathlon, and I want to write the book that has been percolating in my head. Plus, I am toying with the idea of reading my entire Iron Man collection, starting from 1963's Tales of Suspense #39 up to the present day.

Those are my initial thoughts as the list of goals for the new year start to come together. What about you, gentle readers? What are you hoping to accomplish and achieve in 2011?

[*] Indeed, there are so many plans falling into place that my next completely free weekend is that of June 3rd to 5th! Not sure how that happened. It used to be usual to find that weekends for the next two to three months were full. Six months, however, has come as a bit of a surprise!

[ETA: Why does the emoticon for "thoughtful" always look so sad? Being thoughtful is not a bad thing!]

Physically, today has been largely spent on moving into the new flat. We only have both flats until Monday, so time is running short. Thus far, we have been setting everything up as we move in, which is exceedingly convenient. I would like to be able to finish the job in this manner, but we shall see if there is enough time to do so. Alas, the move has been all-consuming and so I missed ringing bells at Iffley tonight[*] and had to skip a meeting. Thankfully, this job will be over soon... leaving behind a significantly nicer place for us to live!

Mentally, much time today has been spent mulling over the election results. Not good. Indeed, the title of this entry is my more succinct commentary on said results. Let's voice our discontent with the economy being a mess by re-electing the party that made a mess of it. Sure, that makes sense! Let's do the same thing again and expect different results, why don't we?

Of course, being an ex-pat, I get the dubious honour of witnessing two unfortunate elections in one year -- indeed, in under six months! Whee! At least the Democrats kept the Senate; this is actually rather unusual. Normally, when midterm elections swing one of the houses of Congress, they take the other along for the ride. Not that I have any love for the Democrats, mind you. I most certainly do not! However, I tend to eschew their policies a bit less than that of the Republican party. Honestly, the Democrats don't deserve to be in power, as they have no idea how to use it. With the slimmest of majorities in the Senate[**], W managed to ram policies through Congress during his first term with far more ease than Obama could with a fillibuster-proof super-majority. Oy vey! Many more thoughts here, but I will not bore you with them, dear friends. All I will say is this: The next two years are certainly going to be interesting ones...

Meanwhile, if the Republicans are on the rise in the United States and the Tories have free rein in the United Kingdom, is there another English-speaking country that I could consider fleeing moving to?

[*] After attending the Wednesday practice there for the first time last week, making it the tenth Oxford tower at which I have rung and the fifteenth overall tower. Last week, I managed to ring on all six of the Iffley bells, which was rather satisfying!

[**] In other words, a 50/50 tie with Vice President Cheney required to cast the deciding vote.

anarchist_nomad: (The cape as red as blood)
( Oct. 25th, 2010 11:29 pm)
This year, my focus on Samhain has been largely one of wrapping up the Wheel of the Year that is ending and preparing for new beginnings. As mentioned previously, it has been a challenging year. I lost somebody very precious to me to mental illness; my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I were given stewardship of a community during what turned out to be a time of severe crisis. You get the idea, gentle readers: Many serious responsibilities.

Some of these situations turned out better than others. For instance, although it took much effort, I do believe that [ profile] cheshcat and I were able to captain the ship of our community through the storm. Our efforts prevented what had threatened to be a major fracture, a serious schism. Was everybody happy? No, of course not. As one dear friend[*] commented to me: "Welcome to being a Pagan Elder. You get to do work, and people will yell at you." True that! Still, we did good WORK and our efforts had a positive transformative result.

Successful or no, all of these responsibilities were rather costly in terms of time and energy. With this turn of the Wheel winding down, my own personal work has been on tying up the loose ends so that I can move forward with fresh new beginnings. Already, there are projects and goals for the next turn that I am eagerly waiting to launch myself into.

As such, this Samhain has been centered on the positive aspects of endings. I believe that this is a Good ThingTM. However, as the Universe seems to insist on reminding me, Samhain is also a time for traumatic endings and Death. At the start of this month, I learned that an old friend had passed away. He had been the wife of my first Secondary, back when [ profile] cheshcat and I had started being polyamorous back in 1997. As so often happens, we lost contact about ten years ago. No reason for it -- time and distance just caused us to drift apart. Thus, I was rather startled to hear of his passing, especially since he must have only been in his forties! Unfortunately, he is not the only loss. Last week, I received news that one of the longstanding members of my Pagan community had finally passed on, after long battles with illness. Whilst I was not entirely surprised, this awful news weighed heavily on my heart. Just a few days ago, I learned that somebody that I knew long ago -- a friend of The Kiddo when we were growing up -- had died. I remember when he was a mere child and, indeed, he must have been only thirty or so! Again, far too young. Then, tonight, I received word that the partner of somebody who is like a brother to me had tried to commit suicide.

Thus, I say to the Universe: I get it. Samhain is a time for endings... and not all endings are good. Can you please knock it off now? I am still very much focused on my Samhain goal of closing out the year of challenges that is now ending and beginning a new year of projects in its place. Can we agree, Universe, that there has been enough Death and trauma for one Samhain? Can we move on without losing anybody else in the spirit of the season? Thank you!

Condolences to all who could use them. No matter what my personal goals are for this Samhain, methinks that the Ancestor Ritual is going to involve some particularly heavy WORK this weekend...

[*] Who is only not getting credit by name because I'm not sure I have permission. If said person wants to speak up, you are more than welcome to do so!

After leaving the theatre this evening[*], my beloved [ profile] cheshcat and I went out to a noodle bar to grab a quick bite. At the end of the meal, my fortune cookie divulged the following "advice":
Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned.
Now, obviously, one does not take fortune cookies seriously. Indeed, the best cookie fortune that I ever received (Your next cookie fortune will be better than this one) was blatantly wrong! Still, this simple phrase got me thinking.

Samhain is coming, bringing an end to a year that held many challenges. Some were overcome, leading to great progress and triumphs; others had to be let go. As this year winds down, I have been making a number of changes, to restore and revitalise myself... and to begin the next year afresh, with clear goals in mind. To do this, I have been evaluating which parts of my life work well and nurture me, which parts that could nourish are in need of more energy, which parts are not playing out as I would like and need tweaking, and which parts I should acknowledge as necessary to let go. It is an introspective process, which is rather fitting for this time of year.

I do not believe in fate, as I prefer to choose my own path in life. Nonetheless, this cookie phrase made me think about the path that I have currently selected. I believe that it is a good choice, even if some difficult decisions are necessary. In that sense, I suppose that the cookie is right -- I shall indeed depart not from the path which I have chosen for myself.

Right, then. Enough navel gazing for one evening. Bed soon, with the Super K Sonic Booooum Gold (and time with the lovely [ profile] sweetcyanide) coming up this weekend!

[*] We saw a very interesting show called The Big Fellah. It was about an IRA unit operating out of New York City between 1972 and 2001. Ended, most interestingly, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September when one of the main characters -- a firefighter -- goes off to work.

Re-reading Kafka's In The Penal Colony now, in preparation for watching an operatic adaption of it on Wednesday. Philip Glass's work is playing at the Oxford Playhouse this week; the lovely [ profile] miss_amaranth and I are seeing it together on Wednesday evening.

It has been quite some time since I read any of Kafka's writings... and about nineteen years since I read this particular short story. Before picking it up again, I only remembered it in the vaguest of terms and recalled that it had left a strong positive impression long ago. I had liked this one very much! Better than The Metamorphosis or The Trial, in fact!

Reading In The Penal Colony as an adult is a markedly different experience. Much of the story comes back to me a page or two before I re-read it, showing that the old memories are still there, deep down. However, I find the tale to be much more shocking and horrific than I did at the tender young age of sixteen. I am still enjoying it, to be sure, but also rather taken aback in a way that I was not before. This is not the first time that I have revisited a story with adult eyes and I am still fascinated by the way that my reactions differ.

It will certainly be quite interesting to see how they turn this one into an opera!

Meanwhile, I have to wonder what it up with me tonight! First The Wall, then Kafka? My, my -- aren't we in a cheerful mood this evening? Tis actually pure coincidence, brought on by the upcoming performances of each in the next week or so. Still, were there a Jedi knight on hand, they would probably recommend that I watch an episode of Jeeves and Wooster before bed, just to restore balance to the force.
For my fellow pannapictagraphists, the simplest and most concise self-description that I can make is this: "The Nomad is a variable admixture of Tony Stark and Peter Parker."

Like the Man of Spider, I have a strong sense of the whole power/responsibility correlation, and this guides me every day in my decisions. My chosen career path prioritized doing what I enjoy, rather than that which will net the largest salary. I have maintained a long-term relationship for over sixteen years. Also, I am very close to a Black Cat.

Like the Man of Iron, I have made my career in the field of experimental science and technology. I've built or worked closely with some amazing machines, such as the Central Laser Facility of the Pierre Auger Observatory (which I co-constructed) and the Kelvinox-400 helium dilution refrigerator. I enjoy a jet-setting lifestyle, I keep active with a multitude of hobbies, and I am polyamorous. Also, I don't drink.

The ratio of Tony Stark and Peter Parker within me varies with time and with circumstances. Back in early 2008, I was feeling very Peter Parker. This was a time of hard luck, where my best efforts to do good didn't stop the universe from punching me in the gut with several serious crises. Wasn't feeling very Tony Stark at that time; no, not at all!

In contrast, at the moment, I am feeling rather more Stark than Parker. This month, alone, I have spent time on three continents. Whilst Stateside, I visited and enjoyed quality time with many lovely partners, including the terrific [ profile] tawneypup, the luscious [ profile] livetbd, the phenomenal [ profile] perspicacious, the incredible [ profile] iamthesphinx, the delightful [ profile] danaeris, and the LJ-less April.[*] I felt like a minor celebrity several times at Brushwood -- especially when a big cry of "NOMAD" rang out as I hit the dance floor on the big bonfire night.[**] I filled the socialite criterion by hosting a fantastic party at the Event Horizon -- one of the best we've ever had! For the moment, I am [co-]President of an international organization, doing my best to lead it in a time of crisis. Also, of course, I am playing an active role in the Tokai to Kamioka long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment -- a project on the cutting edge of particle physics, advancing the frontier of human knowledge. Meanwhile, I have several other Irons in the proverbial fire, like co-organizing the annual Oxford University Cosmology Day[***], and arranging some crafty real estate machinations back in the States. With all this excitement bubbling over, I am definitely feeling much more Tony than Peter right now!

This is not to say that I have lost my Peter Parkerness -- nor that I would ever want to! Tis not a simple dichotomy between flourishing and tough luck! I wouldn't want to completely lose my Peter Parker -- it is part of what makes me who I am! Much as I love dear Tony, I would not want his inability to hold down a long term relationship or his financially motivated career choices. Still, after having spent much of my energy in the first half of this year grappling with an intractable problem, it feels really good to spread my wings -- or, in the case of this metaphor, put on a suit of shiny armor -- and soar to new heights!

Right, then -- that's enough navel gazing for one day. Off to BiCon in a few hours! Looking forward to seeing many of you lovely people there!

[*] Who, despite being devoid of a LiveJournal, is a rather excellent kisser!

[**] Tis good to be known and loved and to fit in! I absolutely adore Brushwood!

[***] For those interested in attending this event, where I will be delivering two lectures, please see here. Applications are still being accepted.

Had a really nice date with my beloved [ profile] cheshcat. We started by going to see a play called One Small Step at the Burton Taylor Studio -- a small blackbox theatre run by the Oxford Playhouse. This delightful little show was commissioned by the Playhouse and has since toured the world; the current run is at least its fourth in Oxford. In almost exactly one hour, two actors take us through twelve years of the US/USSR space race, beginning with the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and ending with the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969. Produced on a tiny budget, the actors each play over a dozen rolls and make amazing use of a variety of junk props, telling a tale that is extremely funny... yet, at times, also manages to be poignant and inspiring! We have seen the show once before, but it was well worth a second performance. Indeed, if it returns to Oxford again, I shall try to catch it once more!

Following the show, our date continued to a nearby Thai restaurant where we enjoyed a dinner most delicious. Then home for cuddling on the sofa as we finished volume three of the Heroes DVDs, ending the night with some quality alone time. All in all, an excellent evening! It made me think of a conversation that was had at [ profile] fire_kitten's party last weekend, about how important it is for primary partners -- especially those who, like [ profile] cheshcat and I, fit into the role of "old married couple" -- to consciously make time to go out on dates. Being polyamorous, it can be too easy to let this slip by, especially when there are shiny new people to see and chores to be done. However, that would be a shame... not least of which because it would mean missing out on lovely evenings like this one!

Whilst watching the show, I was particularly struck by the last quarter, where the focus is on the Apollo 11 lunar landing. I find in all-but-inconceivable[*] to comprehend how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin must have felt. Particularly Neil. I love basking in the warm glow of achievement when I have a particularly good day at work, or when I learn a new skill, or when I set a new personal record. I can only presume that this is the same emotion... but magnified to the Nth degree! I cannot even imagine that winning the US presidential election could feel so good. After all, other people have achieved that before -- or reached the height of power in previous empires of similar prestige. To be the very first person in history -- after so many tens of billions have lived -- to step on the surface of the moon? Truly, the mind boggles![**]

In a sense, I got a small taste of Douglas Adams's Total Perspective Vortex. I consider myself to be a reasonably accomplished individual. I expect that I will do more, and I still have hope of achieving great things in my lifetime. However, there is no way that I will ever do anything as exceptional as being the first person to walk on the moon![***] Mr. Armstrong, my hat is off to you!

Bizarre, though, to think about how much was accomplished in the twelve years between 1957 and 1969, especially when compared how little has been done in the four decades since! Indeed, no person has set foot on the moon during the entirety of my life...

[*] Yes, I do know what this word means.

[**] Indeed, even now only twelve men have accomplished this... which is less than the forty-three who have been President.

[***] Extremely small caveat: In the past, when NASA has had openings for astronaut candidates, I have applied. If I am someday accepted... and if the program to send a person to Mars is revived... and if it is actually achieved in the next two to three decades... and if I am chosen to participate... well, then I might be able to match Neil Armstrong's feat. All in all, I think it best not to hold my breath on such a longshot. Whilst more likely than the Large Hadron Collider destroying the Earth, the odds are, indeed, truly astronomical!

anarchist_nomad: (Road trip!)


( Jul. 1st, 2010 05:18 pm)
[WARNING: This is a boring post of car-related musings and numbers. Probably best to skip... although input from people who know about cars would certainly be welcome!]

Alternative titles to this post could be: Who's Gonna Drive You Home Tonight? (redux) or Alas, Poor Rover! I drove him, Horatio! Two years ago today, I purchased Peter II, my 1997 Rover 416. Sadly, he now sits motionless in my parking space at the Flat With No Name. I made the mistake of lending him out to somebody untrustworthy who did not care for him properly; he was returned to me with a blown head gasket.

When I purchased Peter II, I was rather excited, as he was effectively a reincarnation of Pazu, my 1998 Honda Civic. In the 1990s, Rover partnered with Honda, and thus the Rover 400 series is effectively a twin to the Civic. Indeed, Peter II even has a Honda engine under the bonnet. I was rather fond of Pazu ever since I bought him -- brand new -- in July 1998. He was with me in Long Island, Phoenix, and Chicago... and I was very sorry to have to sell him in March 2006 when I moved to Oxford. Thus, bringing Peter II into the family was quite a pleasant surprise! It was just like picking up where I had left off two years earlier; the two cars were very nearly the same age and mileage -- I had sold Pazu with 110,000 miles on the odometer and bought Peter with almost exactly the same!

I had purchased Peter II for an excellent price -- a mere three hundred quid! To be perfectly fair, this was not as excellent a deal as it initially sounds. In the past two years, I have needed to give Peter II a new exhaust system, new tyres, new brakes, a new battery, and a new drive shaft. Overall, I have put £1550 in repair work into this car. This figure does not count expenses that would have been necessary on any car, such as fuel, insurance, road tax, MOT inspections, and regular maintenance. £1850 is not a terrible price to spend on owning a vehicle for two years... but nor is it a great bargain, either! All things considered, I cannot (and am not) complain(ing).

Now, however, Peter II needs an additional £600 to get moving again. Much as I am fond of this car, I do not think that I can justify spending this amount of money -- double what I spent for the original purchase -- on a thirteen year old car with 134,000 miles on the odometer. It would be, by a goodly margin, the most expensive work done on him since he came into our care. As such, I have been searching about for a replacement car -- preferably another red Rover. I did find a 2002 Rover 45[*] with very low mileage -- only 52,000 -- in Swindon , selling for about £1400. And it is red! Tis definitely tempting!! This find is basically the same car except five years newer, eighty thousand miles fewer, air conditioning, and a standard transmission. Oh, and no Honda engine as, by 2002, the Honda/Rover partnership had ended.

Were there a Honda engine powering the thing, I think that this purchase would be a no-brainer. Although we would certainly feel the £1400 hit, I think that it would be quite a wise move. Without Honda inside? Not as certain. Maybe better to spend the £600 on fixing Peter II? Hard to say. For that matter, I am off to the States soon, with a trip to Japan following shortly after -- maybe best to just sit without a car for two months before procuring a replacement?

That would be my current car cituation. Any opinions from y'all, gentle readers? Thoughts from those who are in the know about things automotive would be particularly valued!

[*] The "45" series being the successor to the "400" series.

I miss being an activist...
There is now an MP3 for the Total Eclipse of the Heart literal video. I'm listening to it right now.

Hurm. A literal video without the video. This strikes me as..... somewhat strange. A bit post-postmodern, perhaps?

Like everyone else in the Free World -- or at least every child of the 80s -- I enjoyed this literal video immensely. Without the visuals, however, it is more an assortment of random words than parody. Bizarre.

ETA: On second thought, the altered lyrics don't make less sense than the original lyrics to some other songs from the 80s.

[*] Why, yes, I am posting in uncharacteristically large volume today! Why do you ask?

[**] No, really, what do you think my current choice of music is?



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