Friday, May 5th, 2017 11:07 am
The last few months I've been living between three different jobs, filling my days with tutoring in Oxford, working in a box office in London and keeping the cricket club bar running in Irthlingborough.

For the first time since I was an undergraduate I'm back doing an OULES show. It's a wonderful feeling being involved in a show again, tempered only by the fact I'm not quite able to be as social as I once was living full-time in Oxford.

In complete contravention of all the quality of life research I know, I'm commuting all over, mostly by car. Travelling between the multiple jobs I'm keeping up with has me driving to the outskirts of whichever place I'm currently working, and cycling between work and wherever I'm staying, living out of a suitcase for large portions of the week.

I spend a lot of time biking in and out of central London on the Grand Union canal, which has revived my dream of someday living aboard a boat and traveling the country. It's tempting, and I might have the opportunity to buy a very cheap project boat in the next year or so, but I'm wary - I've heard too many stories about holes in the water that just swallow money, and cause stress.
Friday, April 7th, 2017 06:25 pm
I'm sorry to see people streaming away from LiveJournal, and I still can't quite bring myself to actually delete my journal there. I suspect now that anyone who wanted to use my past entries against me would be quite capable of getting them despite me requesting they be deleted from the LiveJournal servers, so I'm leaving old entries there along with this post.

If I once knew you there, I'd like to talk to you again.

I'll keep posting at Dreamwidth. I gave up posting for a long time, and only started posting private entries to remind myself of what I'd been doing and thinking. But I do miss the feeling that of thinking out loud and hearing my friends think out loud, sharing lives and impressions through long-form text, which always seemed to convey more of the person than snippets shared through Facebook.

So if you see this, come and join me at Dreamwidth. I'm using the same username there as I did here, http://spidrak.dreamwidth.org.

It really does feel like the community LiveJournal used to, and I remember that very fondly. People can be interesting together there, and that feels like much more than I can say for most places on the internet.
Thursday, December 17th, 2015 08:30 pm
To finish the post I made earlier about Berlin, I paid a visit to c-base one evening. I had directions which amounted to 'cross this bridge, take the second left, walk through a series of archways until you can't go any further, then you're there'. Even though I could just as easily have looked up the location and let my phone guide me, the experience of following directions and not knowing for certain that I'd arrive until I actually did just added to the atmosphere of the place when I got there. Again, through dark, private-looking courtyards, past some incredible art nouveau tiles made by a company called Golem, and behind an industrial-looking door, was a corridor/tunnel dimly illuminated by blinkenlights and a touchscreen inviting you to be scanned in. Inside, the walls were covered in electronics, projected graphics demos, and hundreds of lights and switches. For the first half hour or so I just wandered around, taking it all in and listening to snatches of conversation. Then I bought a schwarzbier, and stood watching a game of Go between two long-haired guys who wouldn't have looked out of place at Intrusion. I've not played for a few years, so much of the game I struggled to follow, until a lock-picking event started up at the next table along. I moved over, said hello, and had a go at opening a couple of locks with rakes, picks and tension wrenches. Trying to discuss picking techniques without any lock-specific vocabulary was a little tricky, but with some help, I managed to reliably get one lock opening with a rake, and another, unrakeable one picked open once. There was also a door and frame on wheels, for practice on installed locks, although I didn't attempt that.

Earlier in the evening, I had been to look for a VolksKuchen, which I'd heard of from Ross and the internet as a communal kitchen, probably full of crusty/hippy-type people, where I could get something to eat, and a chance to meet people and chat a bit in German. I turned up at a warehouse in Storkower Strasse and wandered about, looking for any sort of activity, which I eventually found behind a closed door - an improptu bar, with the plumbing obviously hacked-up so that there was a bucket underneath where the waste should be. The guy who opened the door was obviously confused by why I was there, and my attempts to explain didn't get very far until he found somebody else, who realised what I was asking, and told me that nobody was organising it, but I was welcome to stay and have a beer.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2015 09:51 pm
After a summer that was pretty lacking in joy, Kerry decided that we both needed a holiday. Since there were ridiculously cheap flights available to Berlin in mid-November, they booked us tickets along with Lindsey, who was visiting from New York, and we had a three-day break squeezing in as much as possible in the time available, which turned out to be quite a lot!

The night we arrived we had dinner at Cafe Cinema in Rosenthaler Strasse, mostly because it was near the hostel and we were tired enough to pick the first place that looked reasonable. Through the door at the back, there was a courtyard, which lead through walls upon walls of amazing graffiti, and a giant metal robot sculpture, that might or might not have moved if we had managed to find some change to feed it with. Then, beyond the courtyard a dilapidated-looking set of stairs led through a stairwell with walls, floors, and ceiling covered in street are. On each floor was converted warehouse block containing art galleries. The one we spent longest in had a collection of work by Albanian and Kosovar artists, including a piece representing a map of Europe, with the sea replaced by words from every European anthem, and an incredible imitation of Caravaggio's Incredulity of St Thomas, with the characters being modern, middle-aged eastern European men in tracksuits and scruffy shirts inspecting the wound in the side of a taller, thinner man opening his white shirt.

The next day we spent walking around the centre of the city, found a Korean place for lunch, and I discovered that I do indeed like kimchi. I'd heard a lot about it, and it ticks a lot of food boxes for me - cabbage-based, spicy, fermented - so I'm pleased I finally discovered it was as good as I expected. They had great tables there too - converted workbenches, with the middle having a large dip in them filled with LEGO, which Kerry took great delight in photographing. The bowls and chopsticks were brass too, and made a glorious ringing sound whenever they touched.

After the day walking around, and an abortive attempt to find tickets for a performance of Spring Awakening, Kerry saw a tattoo parlour, and decided to get a couple of tattoos they'd been thinking about for a while - a semicolon to mark that their life story hasn't ended, even though they wanted it to for a time, and an equality sign. The artist was a guy called Bhoman at KAYON, who started out as a scenery painter. His work was amazing, some fabulous, huge-scale paintings, and his tattoo work was as good as any I've ever seen. It seemed a bit like his talents were under-used on such simple pieces, but Kerry was really happy with the results, and he was great company, chatting to us both through the whole thing for a good couple of hours.

The next day, Kerry went to climb the Fernsehturm, and I went along for the walk. On the way we stopped at an anti-war cafe, and spoke to the volunteer running it about the events they ran. I was interested in finding anyone involved in Freifunk, and he pointed me at c-base, the home of the CCC, which nicely set up my plans for the evening.

One morning I spent on my own, wandering around Prenzlauer Berg, where I came across a hackerspace sponsored by a prosthetics manufacturer, Ottobock. It was great just being able to wander in, look around at the 3d printers and woodshop and laser cutters, and generally marvel at the possibilities. It wasn't until later that I realised that there is a subscription to pay to use the place, but even with that, it's an incredibly impressive range of stuff available.

It's now approaching midnight, so I'll leave writing about the VoKu that wasn't, and c-base, and going out dancing until tomorrow, and post this as it stands. I might also link some of the places we went to, as they were well worth a return visit, with a bit more planning to make sure they're open and that I catch any exciting events.
Sunday, October 4th, 2015 10:35 pm
It's almost Monday, so I'm going to weigh in with two things I'm proud of doing today - firstly, emotionally fraught email, which I talked to Peter about and replied to before the weekend was over. Secondly, making the critical step in doing my oil change of admitting that the filter hosting couldn't be removed by normal means, and having the confidence to destroy it with hammer, cold chisel and grips. Engine block undamaged, new part due by Tuesday, masculinity thoroughly performed. The toughest and most important part of the job was having the courage to just give it a go and accept the consequences if it went wrong.
Thursday, September 24th, 2015 02:49 pm
It's good to be home. Florence and the Machine gig at the Ally Pally was amazing, and I think I probably even enjoyed it more than Kerry did. Danced, waved arms, and generally bounced around to my heart's content, then followed up with more dancing at the afterparty to Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac. Dancing with and getting compliments from stangers on my dancing is not something I ever thought I'd do, but it seems that having fun makes you look like you know what you're doing :P

The last couple of days have mostly just been spent around Kerry's flat, which whilst it was a change of pace from the cycle of fixing-up Mum's house, has been a bit nervy without any real work to focus on.

I've had a succession of unexpected good fortune/lucky escapes recently. My bike lights and laptop escaped damage when I went over a pothole on Euston Road and they detached themselves from my bike. Mum's car doesn't need the £4500 of work she had thought it would, and is likely to be saleable in its current condition. I'm free to defer my thesis work until next year, and spend the time until then working and developing my skills independently. The unexpected insulation work that has given me a push to reorganise the house cabling, so I can get the home print and media servers running properly. Moving the garage around has uncovered materials so I can improve my bedroom shelving.

The only slight blot is the mixup over bar cover for the cricket club, which I need to work out with Robert before the next event. I am quite glad that the cricket season is ending, and I'll get some more of my weekends back soon - much as I enjoy spending afternoons at Windmill Road, it does limit my chances to spend time with people working 9-5 jobs.
Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 01:08 am
The prospect of having cavity wall insulation done has meant some very quick reorganising of the garage and bedrooms, so that the contractors can reach every pay off the walls to drill holes. Thankfully all the areas which are inaccessible from outside are in need of redecoration inside, so they can drill through from inside to indicate the sections above the garages and conservatory. With the sliding of items away from walls has come a pretty comprehensive tidy of those items, so it's now looking much less cluttered, and I might soon have space to get a beer brewing for the first time since Dad.

Clearing out is very much a theme at the moment - I'm due to go over to Irchester to help Fiona once she's ready and back down south, and I tipped several very wet smelly sofas and chairs for Isla and Darren, although his haste in forcing them into my car has torn a bit of trim. Not a disaster, but it's another thing on the long list of car jobs, and looks like being difficult to glue. I am grateful to have had the car though, both for helping them, ferrying to and from Windmill Rd and for the fact that I was able to help Mum out when she broke down today on the way to work. Car dependency is a fact of life living here, but by doing multiple jobs in each run and offering it out to anybody else who needs lifts or freight I'm trying to reduce it, at least.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 11:28 pm
Today I have mostly been doing work for the cricket club. I fixed two door handles that had been wrenched off, sorted out a water supply for the allotments (possibly also getting talked into taking one on myself - maybe after the garden is complete), researched the cost of accepting cards at the bar (likely prohibitive) and converted some very pixellated advertising material into a vector format that will look much better when blown up to 8x4ft.

The afternoon I spent at the funeral for Philippa's dad, which was a lovely service, for all that it's a heartbreaking, unexpected loss. He and my Dad were so similar, and the consolation now they're both gone is much the same - there's no more pain, no more embarrassment at not being able to do what they used to do, but still a massive hole in life where they were. I'm waiting to collect the photos from scattering Dad's ashes in the Lakes to come back, and I might write up that trip once I've got them.

Tomorrow should be a more practical day at home, with several car jobs, some cabling to tidy up, and the ongoing network/media centre/digitisation work. There's also some re-proofing of walking gear to do, the grass to cut, and a tent size test to do, so that I can see which of the many variants on the Laser/Zephyros might be best suited for me.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 12:23 am
TODO:
Lake District photo collation
Arrange water supply at cricket club
Resell Florence ticket

TADA:
Scary email!
Tidied costumes and props
Packed away camping gear
Washing/Bed/Clothes tidied
Cleared up cat-havoc
Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 12:45 am
TODO:
Write scary email
Pile of laundry
Book falconry trip
File papers
Election vote

TADA:
Oven collection
Conservatory repair survey
Media server public key setup
Arranged water supply to allotment
Renewed car tax
Ordered OBD reader and bike lights (finally used Amazon vouchers!)
Debugged mail filters

... posted a public social media thing?
Sunday, February 17th, 2008 07:08 pm
Yes, all of it. All the science is belong to me.

Also, 2008 citation FTW. Looks like a very useful paper too.

unfunny screenshot
click for bigger (120kb)

Sunday, February 17th, 2008 03:20 pm
...not very well, so it seems. Yes, I am in the lab office, supposedly trying to wrestle the 1.5GB of data I have into 5000 words of terse, insightful prose. However, I seem to have spent much of the morning catching up on LJ, realising how many people on here I miss a great deal, and looking forward to finally having some free time to put this right.

I did miss Intrusion this week as well, but from the comments of my flist this may not have been such a terrible thing. I'll certainly hope to go next month though, and hopefully also get down to Slimelight at some point past the end of term. Goffick types of London, how about it?

Despite being very bogged down in work, I seem to be happier than I have any right to be. Nothing spectacular, and there's not real reason for it, but on the whole the world feels like a much better place than I remember it being. Maybe it's just my brain trying to balance out the times it unilaterally declared that life was shit, and promptly went about fulfilling its own prediction.

It's bastard cold in here, other people have passed through briefly and made me feel lazy, and it'd be really good to get enough done that I can go to Aeneid rehearsal tonight. Right, cup of tea and back to work.
Saturday, January 19th, 2008 11:36 pm
Post-rehearsal discussion of LJ in the Mitre the other day reminded I still have one, and lo, when I log in it decides to present me with a post written some time last term. So, for posterity's sake:

this was my life about 2 months ago )

Since then, Christmas/New Year was wonderfully relaxing and exactly what I needed, and my experiments actually finished on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, which was amusing. (After the trials the spectrometer put us through, pushing shards of glass into my eyes would have seemed amusing). Processing the data seems to be going slightly more smoothly, and apparently my supervisor's report claimed I had 'shown flair and diligence'. At the time it felt more like horrific ineptitude and crushing despair, but I'm not going to argue with a comment like that!

Kerry managed to get us tickets to see Rent Remixed as a Christmas present, and it was very much a mixed bag, as expected. I loved what they did with Angel, making him far more masculine with a kind of punk feeling, but still very much the fabulous queen. I thought Benny was a lot more sympathetic too, and fantastically played. Collins, Roger, Joanne and Maureen were all pretty good. The guy playing Mark was pretty weak - not terrible, but he never seemed to actually take the part on, emotionally or with the trickier-sounding vocal parts. Mimi was dreadful. One of the chorus/dancers, however, was amazing. I don't think he had a single solo sung line, but he was the single most vibrant person on stage, and looked like Loki in Season of Mists.

I have plans to start brewing again, and I might try some cider too. If I get started soon, they'll have 5 months to mature before VOLES/Maelstrom season, which is about right for something light and summery. I still have a few bottles of my last brew left, which was a strong, heavy winter ale and is now almost 2 years old. I might also have managed to find a replacement cap for the lovely barrels that I have. Not exactly period, but I hope traditional barrel-shaped black-painted hammered aluminium won't be too jarring with a wet cloth draped over it... better than a slab of cans or reused 2L plastic bottles, at any rate.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2007 03:34 pm
I've just lost 2 days work, at a time when everything is moving slowly anyway, and very frustrating. NUTS seems to be incapable of saving a list of peaks and labels. This is a vital operation - it should be one of the most obvious things you'd use the software for. I can't imagine how it could be so broken and remained unnoticed. Yet again, until some technical problem I can't tackle myself is fixed, I'm pretty much at a standstill.

I suppose it's time I tried to get NMRPipe running again. Which means wrestling with linear algebra libraries. Bah.
Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 09:27 pm
I have a new monitor. This is a marvellous thing, as it doesn't take up my whole desk. However, the old one had the advantage of being here, until I got rid of it. Since then I've been without internet or music, which has been strange.

My legs ache from practicing dances for the OULES show, Aladdin. Four Star Mary are coming back to the UK, and I'm going down to London to see Kerry soon. The spectrometer seems to be behaving itself. I have finally seen [livejournal.com profile] pridehouse, and it is as sparkling and wonderful as one would expect. I'm also not going to die/get fined, having bought cycle lights. I went to Cambridge for [livejournal.com profile] atreic's birthday celebrations, and fireworks.

Mostly life is good, if over-busy. Every weekend between now and Christmas is accounted for, and most of the weekdays as well. My only worry is it's leaving very little time to figure out what I'm going to do after I graduate. I'm not nearly as certain as I was, and probably won't be comfortably sure until I'm actually doing whatever I end up going for.
Saturday, October 20th, 2007 05:50 pm
I can has enemarr spectromatar!

Am slightly worried by how happy news of my lab equipment working has made me, but loving what I'm doing day-to-day finally seems a very worthwhile tradeoff to make. Also, the reliability of a the fix (gaffa! no, seriously, gaffa!) holding a wire with a dodgy connection down is a little suspect, but as long as it's working, all is good.

I said I'd explain what it is I actually do with it, so... this is my project )In other news, I attempted to go to Brookes climbing wall on Thursday, and sat around for 2 hours waiting in vain for members of OUMC, and instead managed to meet a new caver, and anther potential climber, who also works in Plant Sciences. As per usual, term is filling up very fast, so I'm thinking it's time I made some definite bookings for trips, rather than expecting I'll slot them around other things. More exercise and being outdoors is always good, although even just having a 1-mile ride to and from the lab every day is helping my general mood and awareness.

Last night was birthday drinks for [livejournal.com profile] mi_guida at Raouls. They have lovely tasty cocktails, and everyone assembled there looked beautiful, and made fascinating conversation, and the whole evening was generally wonderful. I also seem to have been persuaded into going to Queer Bop, and buying tickets for non-Wadhamites. Just need to go about sorting out my dress, then. Also, more useful adviice from people who have left Oxford on possible future directions.

So, I'm pretty certain I want to stay in academia now. Everything about it suits me - the not-entirely-but-close-enough-9-to-5 hours, having real problems that matter to solve, living in a city with students (I'm hoping that Oxford isn't too much an isolate in this, and that other university towns have similar levels of extra-curricular activity) The only problem with this is that my current marks are unlikely to guarantee me place in a lab. If I make a decent improvement this year, I could well pull my performance up, but it's by no means a certainty.

The obvious solution now seems to be to take a year out to work, which would have the added bonus of clearing the small but bothersome amount of debt I have outside of my student loans. Then I could start applying for courses based on my actual degree classification, and take some time out towards the end of the academic year to travel and do voluntary work for a bit. There's a lot of useful work that can be done by a well-placed pair of enthusiastic hands, and doesn't require four years of specialised training, which I sometimes forget. However, having acquired the latter, I think it'd be a crime not to use and enjoy it.

A 3/4 millon pounds worth of high technology, and we fix it with gaffa. This is wonderful. :)
Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 02:15 am
It's late, and I've still not done a couple of the minor jobs I'd been intending to get around to, but they'll wait til tomorrow. Facebook and LJ are clearly more important. HHOS

I think I'm coming around to the idea that I don't actually look terrible in photos - I seem finally to have learned to turn off the gormless rabbit-in-headlights expression, and have even on occasion been caught SMILING! Facebook narcissism has its advantages, methinks. Although I need a new profile pic, as my current one is almost 3 years old, and some people seem to change them more often than their underwear (well, I'm assuming that. how would they ever have time for anything else otherwise?)

I think I'll write about my project tomorrow, otherwise I'm not actually going to manage to turn up in time to work on it. I've already had one close shave with alarm malfunction this week, and although I'm not exactly going to be fired, it's good practice. For what, I'm not entirely sure, but sage advice assures me it is so.
Monday, October 15th, 2007 10:57 pm
Did I say a few weeks ago that it would do me some good to be working regular 9-5 hours in the lab? I must have been mistaken. I've not been out before 7pm yet this week, and I was in last weekend, and will be again this weekend. On Friday night I didn't get home until 10:30. It doesn't seem to be doing me much harm yet, but it is making me wonder if I really should be looking at putting another four years of my life into this. At the same time, when I'm working things out and the problems are being solved it's like the best job I've ever had. And this is without a particularly convivial lab group (nothing unpleasant or frosty, they just mostly don't speak very much English, and I'm working in the spectrometer room on my own quite a lot)

In other news, OULES has a large and joyous new intake, and Rocksoc seem to be doing fantastically well, with lots of Wadham people, which makes me very happy. I did manage to find time to get to the Gloc and not-the-Zodiac-anymore and had a really good night dancing to skapunk and indie from a couple of years ago. Strangely, Imsoc seem to be dead silent... Kenners, Andrezj, what's going on? All the other Imsoc people I know have either left Oxford or long since stopped being involved.

I could blather more about my project, but it would probably only be understood by [livejournal.com profile] phenylfairy and [livejournal.com profile] neoanjou, so I shall refrain, and just remark that I think I cracked a big portion of it today. If people want to know the gory details, comment, and I'll stick them in a cut.
Monday, September 24th, 2007 11:07 pm
And, in further news to my not being dead, I've had a pretty good day in the lab, figuring out that an HSQC spectrum can't be phased to be all-positive, but that it's alright because the negative peaks just indicate CH2 groups rather than CH or CH3.

It does grate on me sometimes how the more abtruse areas of computing and biochemistry have a way of pulling me in with difficult problems. I swear them off every now and then, until one catches me, and I keep scratching away at it until something gives and I've solved it, and then the rush is fantastic. I suppose I could try not to care, and realise that if I don't figure it out it it really doesn't matter, but it's like a minor addiction.

Oxford does seem to be a bit quiet at the moment, so I've taken to wandering about town during my lunch hour just looking at the city again. It's wearing a little thin now, though, and I'm looking forward to people being back properly and everything starting up again. Currently debating whether to chance a trip up to Brookes climbing wall tomorrow night, to see if anyone from OUMC is up there.

But first, I think, sleep. I've not seen the wrong side of 2am for well over a fortnight, and I think it just might be doing me some good.
Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 08:49 pm
I'm still here, sometimes. Sometimes here is Merifield now, or the lab where I'm working. Two days in and it's slightly mindboggling how little of what you need to know to actually do useful work on the machines is taught. Seems like a bit of a theme, everything that's really useful to know is untaught, and you have to learn it by innovation, imitation or just muddle along until you do.