Hey there. Things have been settling into a nice routine here in Oxford.
I have moved into, then out of a local co-working space - and I'm now working out of a little home office. The co-working space was nice, but I've been traveling to New York every 4-5 weeks, and it was hard to justify the cost. Working at home has some familiar challenges, but I've done everything I can to make sure that the home office feels comfortable and somewhat separate.
I bought a bike, and joined a local cycling club. I haven't really put many miles into my legs yet - but I am looking forward to getting into the rhythm of weekend spins out in the countryside.
Cliona is doing well; she bought a car, which has made her commute to work much more manageable. This week she's in Donegal visiting some colleagues. Next week I'm in New York, then she's in California. We are both working very hard, and traveling a bit - but we'll get a break towards the end of the year and Christmas.
We have been thinking about getting a dog for quite a while. It was never really practical in New York, because we knew that our time there was likely to be brief. Now that we're starting to feel at home in Oxford, and have some more space, we've started to look around for an animal-pal. We visited Oxford Animal Sanctuary, and met three lovely dogs. Two of them were great, but too big for us, and one was small, but seemed to be a little on the grumpy side. Anyway, now that we've dipped our toes in the water, we're going to think about the type and size of dog that we can handle, and in the New Year go out and see if we can find that dog. We know that he or she is out there.
I have not been taking many photos, mostly because I can't find a good lab in Oxford. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere that I can find will process black and white. Most places are reluctant to take film at all. Given that I am only shooting on film these days, that's putting a cramp on things. Anyway, I might need to shoot film, then take day trips to London to get rolls processed. It's not ideal. Anyway, we'll see what happens - but I would like to get back to the camera as soon as possible.
What an amazing week. I've been in the US since Saturday.
I spent the weekend with Simon, Amy, and Trotsky in Allentown, which was lovely. We ate great food, watched Total Recall and Predator. Super chilled and fun times.
On Monday, me and Simon took part in a 36-mile bike race, the Donut Derby. In the Derby, racers have 3 minutes deducted off their time for every donut eaten at the rest stops.
Me and Simon managed a total of 6 donuts each. We then managed to get lost - adding 5 miles onto our race, and wiping out both our donut-adjusted time, and our chances of finishing in the respectable half of the field. Next year I am going to pay closer attention to the road markings, bring a GPS device, and eat more donuts. It was still a great ride, and was actually the first time me and Simon have been on bikes together since we were kids.
A busy week, a tiring week. While Cliona was settling into her new job, I stayed in London to tidy a few things up.
Yesterday I moved out of the co-working space in Hackney Wick, rented a little van, and drove our stuff up to Oxford. Our little house there is the bees' knees, and I'm looking forward to getting settled.
Today, I'm back in London to lock up our sublet in Hackney. Tomorrow morning I fly to the US. I am staying with Simon and Amy in Allentown for a couple of days, then I'll be in New York to see the good people at Sloan-Kettering.
Obituaries; not to become a regular feature.
This week we lost the founder of ITP, Red Burns. The reaction to her death on the ITP Alumni mailing list has been quite intense. Some people loved Red. Some really didn't. I think there is a consensus that she was a hardworking, whip-smart, opinionated, and uncompromising woman.
We also lost Seamus Heaney. At school we read and studied him, but I didn't hear him. Today, for the first time, I feel like I heard him.
Red Burns, founder of ITP, and true force of nature, died yesterday.
I first met Red during my impromptu interview for ITP. Cliona and I were visiting New York for just one day. We were engaged, and spent the morning buying our wedding rings in the diamond district. We stopped by ITP for a tour with George Agudow.
Red heard that I was on the floor, and called me into her office. She asked Cliona to come in too, and found a comfortable chair for her to sit in while we talked.
"So, I've read your application and I can't make head or tail of it."
Any idea that this was going to be a casual chat went out the window. She proceeded to grill me for a solid hour about what I had written, why I wanted to come to ITP, what my ideas were.
Truth be told, I didn't know exactly why I wanted to come to ITP. I was worried that I was becoming a talker and not a doer. I wanted to make things again. I was interested in health and the human body. Instead of just saying that, I had written thousands of words of the worst sort of bullshit.
Red called me out, and I had very little to say for myself.
Afterwards, Cliona and I sat quietly eating a slice of pizza in the corner deli. I was grumpy. How dare she do that in front of my future wife!? Maybe ITP wasn't for me. (Cliona rightly pointed out that I should have expected her to interview me, or at least talk to me, if I was visiting all the way from Ireland).
Anyway. I got into ITP. I got to make things again. I got to meet the most wonderful people. I learned and grew more in two years than I had in the previous ten. I got to do all of this thanks to Red.
I had many more encounters with her over the years. She took an interest in some of my projects, and made sure I talked to the right people about them. She was constantly working to make sure that our work was as good as it could be, and had the maximum impact.
Whenever I start to lose my nerve, or I feel myself drifting into excuses, I think of my interview with Red. I summon some of her clarity, and I get myself back on track.
Week 7 blurs into week 8. After a couple of months of very hard work, Cliona has found a great job in Oxford. Oxford is about an hour North of London, so over the next few weeks we'll be moving up there from our temporary digs in Hackney. Today we finished the paperwork for a little house we're going to rent in central Oxford.
Even though I'll be back here regularly, I am a little sad to be leaving London. It's a fascinating city, a grubby city, a very real city - different from New York, but sharing a sense of infinite possibility. I have really enjoyed the couple of months here.
Work is going well. We made a couple of significant steps forward on a machine-learning projects last week. I am designing and building some simple, useful little products. Even though we're a long way from finished, I am proud of the work we've done.
That's all for now. I'll write about our move to Oxford in the coming days and weeks.
Another week has flown by in London. This week we've been fortunate enough to Marcela staying with us. She's a Chilean who I met in New York who came to London from Switzerland to renew her US visa (nothing is ever simple with US visas). She leaves tomorrow, and we'll miss her.
In tangentially-related news, I'll be visiting New York at the beginning of September for work, and also to see family and friends. Plans are still coming together, but I'm looking forward to the trip.
Work has been going well. We're slowly ironing out some of the technical issues associated with me doing work for a New York-based hospital. We made a lot of progress this week, thanks to a few key people in New York. I am lucky to work with such great people.
Cliona is in Dublin this weekend visiting family, and on Sunday I am hoping to catch up with the folks from Atto who'll be in town. Can't wait.
Busy week. Desire to turn off computer for the evening. All quickies.
Last weekend we took a trip to the British Museum. It's astounding. The Rosetta Stone is jawdropping. The number of tourists in the British Museum jostling to get a terrible, flash-lit photograph of the Rosetta Stone is jawdropping, in a very different way. The British Museum is wall to wall loot, and tourists clambering over and photographing said loot in a frenzy.
We had a very tasty breakfast at Towpath Cafe, then visited Columbia Road Flower Market, and Hackney City Farm (see Duck, above). Gorgeous, gorgeous.
Cliona has been interviewing for jobs, and has made very good progress - news soon.
We've been tip-toeing our way through the latest episodes of Breaking Bad. It's so, so, so good. Probably the most compelling TV show I've ever watched.
I am making progress with yoga. I am still the sweaty beginner in the class, but I can feel myself getting stronger. Less painful vibration as I hold simple poses. Result.
A so-so week at work. Nobody said this was going to be easy.
On Saturday/Sunday I completed the Dunwich Dynamo; an overnight bike ride from London to Suffolk. I covered just over 175Km in about 7 hours 30 minutes.
The first 75Km out of London were refreshing - some stopping and starting, roundabouts, and a few gentle rises to wake up the legs. I was glad to reach the rest stop just after midnight. I took on water and had some very decent food, provided by volunteers.
With the sun completely gone, but with a bright moon to give a bit of a glow to the roads, I got into a group of cyclists from 75Km to 130km and made good time in their train. It is somewhat surreal to barrel along on quiet country roads in the dead of night, following a trail of blinking red lights that stretches off into the gloom. Just the sound of wheels on the road, and the click-click of my freewheel.
I got a little lost between 130Km and 150Km. Thankfully two other cyclists also took the wrong turn, and one of them knew how to get back to the main route. We got back in contact, and settled into the last 20-30Km. A slog. I was tired, and my legs were starting to tighten.
When I made it to Dunwich beach just after 5am I had a couple of cups of tea, a bar of chocolate, a protein drink. Some people got in for a swim. I just had a nice sit down. The bus back to London left just after 9am. At home, I ate lunch, had a shower, and proceeded to pass out for several hours.
The Dynamo was definitely the highlight of the week, and I'll do it again next year.
In other news, my work is challenging at the moment - in good ways and bad. Cliona is searching and interviewing for jobs. She is making great progress.
The first full month in London has flown by.
I am falling behind in the linear algebra class, and thinking of shelving it for now. I've already learned a lot, and I can come back to it on my own time, or the next time the online class is run.
I finished 1Q84. It's definitely the least coherent and most conventional Murakami book that I've read. Whole sections feel repititious. There's a sort of sappy misogyny about the plot. The resolution feels like an unconvincing magic trick. It's his worst book to date in my opinion.
What should I read next?
I've started taking yoga classes, they are very challenging, but I think I am making progress.