Kitchener Commuity in the Garden

Nick Bailey

Ben Wakelin and Hannah Watson

Luke Blunden

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Vegetable Patch Extension

Here are a couple of shots of the newly extended vegetable patch in the Kitchener Community garden. I've moved the compost bin into a sunnier corner, made a square path out of the paving slabs from the front, spaced out the spinach and just last night planted the special potatoes that my step father got me. I'm rather pleased with the ridge and furrow system I have them in, sure it looks a little like a mass pet burial, but hopefully it will give good results from this carbohydrate staple.

My newly extended vegetable patch

My new hoe and th potato ridge-and-furrow system.

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Nick Bailey's Asteroid Research

If you ever wanted to know what my research was actually about you can now read a New Scientist article online about it. Follow the link above.

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Evening in the Kitchener Community Garden

Surreal, I know, but I did indeed enjoy a bath in the Kitchener Community garden late yesterday evening. In celebration of the extra hour's light and with James Ayrton gracing us with his presence, we decided to light up the hobo stove. During the day Luke and Ben had made some excellent progress on the stove adding a chimney and plating off the old top hole. We then ground down the top surface to remove the paint and gave it a good clean to prepare the cooking surface.

As it got dark we fired her up with lots of wood that Luke had broken up. As it warmed I oiled the top surface and built up the wok-like patina. I then got a couple of eggs, some sliced courgettes and tomatoes as well as some bread and fried it all up with some oil on the stove. It tasted awesome - the stove works!

We played around for some hours and tried to construct a rudimentary heat exchanger out of some old copper piping in order to fill our garden bath. Unfortunately we only succeeded in raising the temperature from outside-tab-cold to tepid warm. Not bad, but not that great either. So with a couple of buckets of hot water from inside I was ready to have a bath in the garden (wearing swimming shorts of course). I tell you it was a strangely satisfying experience. I've longed to have a bath in my house for three years and finally my wish came true. Not only that, but I enjoyed it at eye level with the daffodils. Wonderful :)

The newly chimneyed hobo stove

Me in our garden bath

Right at daffodil level

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Drinking in the USA

I tried and mostly failed to find anywhere to get a drink while out in Washington. At first I thought I'd go to a supermarket and find something nice to watch a film with. No such luck - the supermarkets just don't appear to have a beer/wine section. I did end up coming across a wine store which was pretty mahusive, and picked up a rather rough vin rouge.

I also hoped, seeing as how I was working and staying in the midst of the George Washington University that I would pop along to their equivalent of the Union Bar. I didn't so much want to go for the actual drink but with the hope of meeting and getting to know some real students. But no such luck again. Of course with the alcohol limit being 21 there is simply little need to have a bar in the uni as it could only serve the postgrads - crazy!

So I eventually found a bar in Chinatown that served a wide range of beers (real beers, not the nats piss that they usually try to pass a beer) from around the world. I tried their darkest offering which was from Michigan and very tasty, quite thick and hard work but well worth it. Sadly while I was sitting at the bar exactly nobody talked to me as they all had more interesting friends to chat with. I had much more luck with the homeless and random people commenting on my shoelessness.

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Washington Wireless - Juice Zone

I've found a wireless zone in Washington DC. 1900 I Street NW it's called Jice Zone and has a quite mesmerising array of fresh smoothies. Awesome.

Really?! This was a surprise to find I can tell you

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A Snowy Wonder Round Washington DC

These shots were taken on Wednesday after my rather horrendous conference experience (previous post). It had snowed all day and the city looked pretty beautiful.

The last remnants of prohibition (not really)

Standing in the (drained) National Monument reflecting pool

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

The Washington Monument

America likes it's flag, and I quite like that

Last Minute Planetary Defence

So the conference today was a bit of an experience. Preferably one not to repeat again. Quite frankly it near enough put me off continuing in my field of research.

I arrived for breakfast with a pretty bad headache and the organiser asked if I'd be able to expand my poster presentation (2 minutes) up to a full 20 minute + 10 mins of questions job. Like I could refuse. Knowing it's all for the good of my research I agreed and then proceeded to spend the whole morning sessions writing an entirely new presentation. All the talks today were totally related to my work and I could really have done with giving it my full attention. Throughout this my headache didn't abate and rather got worse. In fact I know realise it was a migraine as I threw up in the toilet three times before lunch (one of which I didn't quite make it to the basin). Unlike a standard sickness this didn't make me feel any better so after finishing the slides (not having eaten any lunch) I found a sofa outside the conference room to take a nap in waking up just before I was due onstage.

By now I was feeling more stable and not sick but the head was nicely pounding. With a few prayers sent ahead I got onto the platform and begun, actually feeling quite clear while I was up there. I also felt I spoke reasonable clearly with only a few problems of not knowing what was on the slides (as I'd hardly seen them myself). Having not prepared anything I wasn't clear enough in introducing the actual results, so when I got to them I was immediately interrupted with a question from the floor. Then another. And I think there might have been a third. They pointed out that my results were void as the object I had simulated impacting should never have made it through the atmosphere (according to the research presented earlier in the day). This helped enormously as you can expect. But I think I answered their questions and continued onto the rest of the results and reached the end of the 20 minutes (surprisingly - I was expecting to fall short).

Then the questions started. Quite frankly I can't remember what was said but the first question was valid and all the others simply laid into me tearing my research to pieces. By the time I escaped the podium I was just about in tears and spent the next hour holding them back and hoping nobody would come and talk to me as that would have tipped me over the edge - especially if anyone had offered me any encouragement.

So that was all a bit shit and as I said it's totally destroyed any interest in me continuing in this research. I'd take a years postdoc if offered but only as a filler.

The ironic thing is that the final talk (and some other points made previously) highlighted how damn old the people in this field are and how they need to attract new people. The final presented said something to the effect that it's too insular and very hard for newbies to break through and present their work. I agreed and would quite definitely favour moving to the world of climate change as that is something I care far more deeply about.

So tomorrow I'll have to show my face again (though i might have a shave - I think this was one of my biggest mistakes, I should have shaved before to make myself look younger and less knowledgeable) and see if I can extract the wreckage of my research and dignity from the feasted remains. I'll also try hard not to get angry at one of the old gits who was quite horrid today.

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nickbailey the US and A

Here I am, in the good old United States for a conference this week concerning planetary defence. Yes. Panic not, the potential fate of humanity is resting in the George Washington University and I'm here to add my 10 cents later this week. No pressure of anything.

I have many things to write about here concerning America in all its... its... well, America-ish-ness. To be quite frank there is quite a lot here that gives me the willies, mostly due to the massive control that the government seems to manage to exert over the people. It smacks more than a little of China.

But for now I'll just leave you with a little excerpt from the Visa Waiver green form that must be filled in before entering the country. After filling in details about who you are and where they can hunt you down if required they try and catch out the real hard nosed baddies by some particularly cunning Yes/No questions. Question 'B' concludes:
"Are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities."
Yes. Woops! I mean no!

Old Friends and a Monastic Weekend

I've spent a glorious barefoot weekend visiting friends and making a pilgrimage to Worth Abbey for a weekend retreat.

The weekend begun at about 2pm on the platform of Southampton Central where I removed my sandals and packed them deep into my rucksack hoping not to remove them again. I boarded the 2:20 train to London (which I just managed to catch despite the horrors of the Southampton bus network trying to thwart me) and got out my MacBook and began working on my conference poster for next week. My battery lasted exactly the whole journey with the 8 minute warning just as we pulled into Victoria.

It was then 5 pm as I strolled barefoot through the station, making an oddly loud noise on the cool paving slabs. It was rush hour and the number of people all around was quite uplifting in an odd sort of way. In fact in exactly the opposite way to the crowds in West Quay. People here seem to flow better, knowing where they are going and actually using their brains (is that to harsh on the general Southampton populace?).

I picked up some supplies in a local supermarket and then caught the underground to South Kensington to take a look in the V&A Museum at the advice of my good friend Hannah Hawksley. It's free and open late on Fridays - bonus - and had a very interesting display of Chinese artefacts, some of which show the most stunningly intricate craft work. The V&A seemed to be barefoot friendly :)

I then took the tube right across central London to Stratford where a friend from my teaching trip in China, Chin Hwa, now lives and works. Chin had made a grand dinner with black bean tofu and a peanut veggie dish which was all very tasty. Another of my good friends from Hong Kong, Queenie, joined. It was simply lovely to catch up as it had been two years since we'd seen each other (actually in Hong Kong). I was also able to fix the odd light bulb and door handle crisis.

Queenie and I then took the tube back and I got off at Victoria. I must say that the underground was also very barefoot friendly. My Prague metro experience was good and London was as good - very little rubbish on the floor to worry about and nice long escalators to run up :)

My train got into Worth Station at about 1 and from there, after a brief key loss panic, I made my way to the abbey. Thankfully the majority of the road surfaces were in good repair, and only the last stretch really hurt. The warm-ish rain helped stave off the cold. When I reached the abbey I found I'd miss heard the accommodation key code and so settled down to sleep on the floor of the main abbey, which is really beautiful at night with only the alter floodlit.

The rest of the weekend retreat was simply beautiful. The monks were as loving as ever and gave good direction for my thoughts and prayers. I made one exploration down to the quite garden through quite a muddy field which was very pleasing. I also managed to finally find time to quieten my inner monologue and actually contemplate things. I also strengthened some good friendships and thoroughly enjoyed the company. I also encouraged a friend who had got her shoes soaked to take off her socks as well and go barefooted - and she loved it, which was quite exciting for me too :)

So a very blessed weekend sharing with old and new friends and with the Lord. Good. Very good.

Actually taken last year, but it's not changed much.

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