Thursday, September 29, 2005

I've officially moved out of Southampton. It's been a great 15 months in the house on Highfield lane and I'm going to miss it. It's also a pain to have to move again for the seventh time in as many years. It would be great to be settled for a decent length of time and have my own place. It's going to be another few years yet. Last night was spent at another gig. Chatted to a guy in a second han bookshop and it turned out he plays Jackson C Frank in the Bent Brief on a Thursday night as part of the open mike night. Good fun but a bit shambolic after Derrin the previous evening.

So having taken two car loads bursting at the seams back to Oxford I have gone from this idyllic paradise:

To this chaotic mess:

Along with the other boxes of books lying in wait to receive a designated shelf, most of my stuff is still in storage where it will remain for the next two years when I go to China. I've still got to find some way of transporting my papers and clothes without slipping a disk.

On the book front, I've now finished 'The Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri. Having been left a little luke warm by the first few stories, it turns into a rather charming collection. Most of the stories don't feel like they have a particularly structured beginning or end but just tell a passage in one or two people's lives. Often the stories set themselves up for a twist which is never the obvious one and the last few pages of each one turns the passage from a simple narrative into a thought-provoking account. Having lived in three fairly different cultures, Lahiri's stories have interesting quirks that give a glimpse into each part of her upbringing.

Anyway, I will read it again some time soon to see if the first stories come to life with a little more thought. Next I'm going to read 'Immortality' by Kundera which I'm really looking forward to. Having enjoyed all of his books but 'Slowness' this one should be great.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Last night was a get together of friends before I leave Southampton. We went to see Derrin Nauendorf, a great roots guitar player. His set had a fair few Dylan covers. Everyone seemed to have a good time and it was nice to get a decent number of people together before leaving.
Here are some photos from the evening.

Monday, September 26, 2005

OK, lets try this again. It's Monday morning, I've officially handed in my thesis. My viva is in another three weeks. I've done the exhiliration of finishing emotions. Now I'm just a bit bored. Yesterday was a lovely day spent in Oxford helping out as the house descends into chaos. The idea is that the house will become an ordered Nirvana, however, I think that the route there may take us through complete mayhem before coming out the other side. I think I've also finally managed to persuade my parents that a dvd player might be a good idea. I'm still failing miserably to add photos to this. It says that it has uploaded them every time and then doesn't show 'em. Any ideas would be gratefully received. Anyway, got to pretend to look busy....

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A lovely day spent yesterday in Leamington spa with friends I havn't seen while I've been in the depths of thesis writing. Went rowing on the river with Laura and her man Mark, who is currently artist in residence at Laura's house as he writes his book and tries to sell his really rather good photographs. They're detailed close-ups with interesting textures and patterns. Also rowing were Steve and Sarah and Sarah's university friend from Warwick. Steve is currently doing extremely well with his comedy writing and along with the other two members of the Dawson Brothers seems to be taking over Channel Four as I type. Great things are in the near future I'm sure. Anyway, a great evening catching up with others too, though I do hope to see people again before I head off.

Finished off the Iliad on the train on the way to Leamington yesterday. I hadn't realised how many famous incidence from the Trojan wars didn't come from the Iliad, though it is nice to have a bit more context to my small knownledge of ancient history. I'd like to have look at Chapman's poetic version rather than the straight prose of Rieu.

I also read An African Elegy which is a wonderful book recommended by someone who seems to have a really varied and interesting taste in books. I hope to find out more from them. Anyway, it's a book partly about the African diaspora, partly about what Africa is now and how it has been pulled and manipulated, and partly a more personal account of what it is to be African. Anyway, a really powerful use of language with a lot of fantastic imagery. Some beautiful passages and some very painful ones. Having read The Famished Road which is almost psalmic in its rythm (though not a poem), I'd love to read some more of his.

I'm now reading the Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, a book of short stories by a woman born in England of Bengali parents who moved to the States. I've only read the first one so far so will comment when I have the bigger picture.

In my non-writing freedom I'm suddenly spending a lot on bargain DVDs. I picked up Lucas Moodyson's Together which I've yet to see, though Show Me Love is a very touching film. It always sounds bad when you try to explain that it's a Swedish film about teen lesbians, but it's in no way excplicit, just an interesting look at first love between seemingly opposite personalities.

Friday, September 23, 2005

This is my first attempt at putting a picture on this blog. I went to India in December for a conference. The conference was in a place called Khajuraho in the middle of nowhere. It's one of the most untouched Hindu temple sights because of its remoteness, the Mogul emporers never managed to destroy it as they did so many of the other sites. Anyway, Khajuraho is a five hour train ride followed by a three hour taxi ride from Delhi. I had a couple of days in Delhi first and took the chance to see as many things as possible. These included the Jamma Masjid (India's largest Mosque)The Lotus temple, which is a Bahai temple in the middle of the city.The Humayan tombs which are the tombs to one of the Mogul emporersAnd of course Khajuraho itself which is a complex of around 25 temples, each dedicated to a different God. Each is covered in erotic sculptures, showing what one should and in many cases shouldn't do.Well that seemed to work as an experiment anyway.

Wow.....I didn't know how stressed I was until the weight was taken from my shoulders. I e-mailed my finished copies of my thesis to my two examiners and took three copies to the binders. Had a beer, came home and juggled for a while and then went out in the evening.

Orange rooms was busy but good friends there. I could hardly stop smiling and felt like I was free for the first time in about three months. I thought that it wasn't affecting me much but it must have been more subconscious than I'd guessed. Anyway, some great music, a few drinks and dancing for the first time in months. Wonderful....Then got home and got some rather nice news online. All good.

Slept in and listened to desert island disks. Leasurely breakfast followed by a trip into town to spend money on great DVDs including The General (Buster Keaton) and Don't look now, which is likely to scare the pants off me. Then sat in a cafe with a large cappucino and almost finished the Iliad which is getting better having had a fairly dull and repetitive middle part. Achilles is now back in the picture and Hector is about to get it.

Looking forward to a weekend in Leamington Spa catching up with friends I haven't seen for a good few months. Adam and Tim, your presence will be sorely missed.

Am attempting to arrange Mandarin lessons for October in Oxford though I've got lots of other work to do as well. Enough for now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Two days to go until the official hand in date. I think I'm supposed to be feeling stressed at the moment but I guess I did all that over the last few weeks. There are still a few bits and pieces I'm not ecstatic about but I can hopefully get them sorted tomorrow.

I think I've got a few interesting projects to work on soon. For those of you not working in String theory, skip this bit....
I want to study the relationship between quark mass and meson mass using deformed geometries. I know that in the case of Constable-Myers though the masses follow the Gell-Mann-Oakes-Renner relation at low energy, chiral symmetry is restored for high masses and so the relationship becomes linear. I think that even when the physical coordinates aren't known, I should be able to calculate the eigenvalues to prove that chiral symmetry breaking really doesn't occur. Anyway, that's project number one....we'll see. First I'll hand in and relax for a while.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tuesday evening having just come back from my sister Joanna's where I've been editing my thesis. Only ten days to go until I have to hand it in. Starting to panic a bit.
This is obviously my first blog, so more of a test than an attempt to write anything profound.

I'm heading off to China at the beginning of November but before then I have the small task of completing my PhD. I'm going to be working for two years at a university in Beijing as a postdoctoral researcher. By a strange series of winding paths I have ended up as a string theorist, specifically I'm working on something called the AdS/CFT correspondence. I will explain what it is some time soon but not right now. Right now I'm spending enough time already writing about the damn thing. Almost done though, almost done.