Golfing

Today’s post is going to be a bit self-indulgent, so I hope that’s okay! I played my postponed round of golf this morning – it was my very first time on a “proper” golf course. All my learning and practice so far has been on the Terry Hills “Pitch and Putt” course that I wrote about a couple of months ago.

This morning I went to Lane Cove Golf Club, which is the nearest golf course to where I live. It’s not a full length course, having only 9 holes with a mix of par 3 and 4. If you play it twice, the 18 holes have a par 64 for the course. But it was still a daunting step up for me, who had never hit a driver before apart from a few times at the driving range last time I played with Andrew.

I started at hole 1, and two other guys appeared behind me, waiting their turn. Under the pressure of them watching, I messed up my tee shot, and so invited them to play ahead of me. They were friendly and agreed to go ahead, and I felt a lot better following them than having someone behind me the whole time.

Here’s the par 3 hole 3, an uphill hole, with my ball waiting to be hit at the bottom:

Hole 3, par 3

I hit my tee shot pretty well! Here’s where it landed:

Hole 3, par 3, tee shot

From here I pitched onto the green, but needed 3 putts to sink it, so I scored a 5. As I approached the green, the guys ahead of me were preparing to tee off on hole 4, adjacent. They asked me how I was going so far, and I said okay. They said, “Wait until you get to this next one!” I looked at it:

Hole 4, par 3

Whoa! Now that probably doesn’t look too hard for an experienced golfer, but to me that wooded gully was very intimidating. I couldn’t get away with a flubbed stroke searing along the grass – I had to hit a nice lofted shot through the air. With the pressure on, I lost two balls into the gully! My third attempt cleared it, thankfully, but rolled back down that hill on the other side, and I had to drop a ball. Oh well – better luck next time.

The 6th hole presented another interesting problem:

Hole 6, par 3

It’s downhill, and pretty short. If you hit too far, you’ll go over the green and into the bush there. So I deliberately tried to hit short. My shot landed on the slope leading down to the green and rolled….

Hole 6, par 3

Right onto the green! Yay!! That was one of my best shots of the day. Unfortunately, it was a very long putt, and I needed 3 putts to sink it, but that got me a bogey, which I’m fairly pleased with. Hole 7, on the other hand, was a disaster:

Hole 7, par 4

My first attempt at teeing off hit the trees on the right. I tried again, and went into the bush on the left. Finally my third shot went down the fairway. But not very far. I ended up taking 12 shots to finish this hole. And here’s the 9th hole:

Hole 9, par 4

I did well on this one. My first shot went down the fairway, and my second shot ended up right next to the green. I pitched once, and putted it in 2, for a total of 5, my second bogey of the day.

I stopped after 9 holes, with a total of 64, exactly twice the par for 9 holes (of 32). I don’t think that’s too bad for my very first go on a “big” course!

Phew! And tonight is fortnightly games night with the guys – I’ll be leaving home soon and queuing this post for automatic posting later tonight.

New content today:

Smoke and wind

This morning I’d planned to go to the local golf course to play a round of golf. This would be my first time on a full sized course, as opposed to the short “pitch and putt” course I’ve been playing on with my friend. I thought I’d have a go myself to try to get a bit of practice before playing a full course with my friend.

But when I got up this morning, there was a faint smell of smoke in the house. Overnight, a pall had descended on Sydney, blown in from the out of control bushfires north-west of the city. It resembled a thick fog, reducing visibility to maybe a couple of hundred metres or so. Despite having the windows all closed overnight, it had permeated into the building. Going outside, the smell was overpowering.

So I called the golf course and postponed my round until tomorrow. They were very understanding about it. And rather than let my wife and Scully walk to work as they usually do, I drove them up, in the car with the vents closed to try to stop the smoke getting in.

Here are links to a couple of reddit posts with photos taken by other people in Sydney this morning:

The smoke hung around all day, so I didn’t go out at all, until it was time to take Scully to the park for some exercise this afternoon. By then it had cleared a bit with a stiff breeze, but the sky was still grey and you could still smell the smoke faintly. The weather bureau says it won’t clear fully until some time tomorrow. But that it’s likely to come back several times over this summer as more fires burn around the city.

New content today:

Application day

After applying for the Alaska Robotics Comics Camp yesterday, today I did another application. This time for a job. Primary Ethics, the non-profit organisation that runs the ethics classes I teach, is seeking people to train ethics teachers.

I remember the training course I did nearly 3 years ago, and I’m sure I can deliver the training. I have all the relevant experience and skills as per the job description. And it’s a contract position, expecting an average of 2 full days of work per month. This is exactly the sort of thing I wanted, to give me a bit of income while still allowing me to do my creative projects close to full-time in an effort to turn them into income as well. So here’s hoping!

Speaking of Ethics, today was my weekly class with the Year 6 students. We discussed reasons why it’s okay to kill animals for meat (next week discuss reasons why it isn’t okay). Most of the class were away today – being year 6 kids near the end of the year, they had a high school orientation at one of the nearby high schools, to prep them for moving up in January. With only about 8 kids, the discussion was tighter and more focused, and I got a lot of good responses from them.

New content today:

The downslide

I spent much of today doing coding tasks as well, after yesterday’s epic effort. I did a lot of tidying up of minor things, in particular setting up the permissions on the IWC forums so people can’t do bad things and can do the things they should be able to do. phpBB’s permissions administration interface is not at all intuitive, and at one point it was configured so that nobody could read anything. I think I managed to sort it out now, though. I also added an anti-spam extension, and a dark theme for users who prefer that. (If you want to use the dark theme, you can access it thus: Click your username in the top-right corner of the forums, choose “User Control Panel”, go to the “Board Preferences” tab, and select your board style as “Prosilver (Dark edition)”, and Submit.)

I also installed a bunch of SSL certificates on all my sites, and then went through the tedious work of tracking down all the security errors and fixing them. Now all my websites should show shiny padlock icons in the URL bar, instead of the scary “Not secure” warning they used to show. (If you see any pages that don’t show the padlock, please let me know.)

Finally, in a stab in the dark, I decided to apply for a position in the 2020 Alaska Robotics Comics Camp. For years I’ve envied everyone who has gone to this annual event, and wished I could go. This time, I don’t have a job to keep me home… so I thought why not apply and see what happens?! It’s a lot of money, getting to Alaska and then paying for the camp, but if I get selected you can bet I’m going to do everything I can to afford it!

New content today:

Debug day

Ugh, what a day. I spent basically all day trying to reconstruct the Irregular Webcomic! forums after yesterday’s disastrous PHP upgrade event on my webhost.

I tried several things, battling with cryptic documentation and apparently non-working installers. I installed a brand new copy of the latest version of phpBB, expecting that I could import/convert the old database containing all the forum poster user data and posts. The installer said there was a convertor included, but when I got to that step, it just wasn’t there. I fiddled around for some hours, trying things, searching for help, discussing with other people. Eventually I tried the installer again, and lo, this time the mysterious convertor interface was there! I don’t know why it wasn’t there the first time.

Anyway, I managed to import the old database, so all of the old forum data is now in the new forums. It looks like it’s working fine, but all of my graphical customisations have vanished. I may try to reinstate some of them, but it was actually the extensive modifications I made to the previous forum’s appearance that caused me to give up upgrading the software in the first place, since the customisations and upgrades interfered with each other and made the upgrade process a real pain in the neck each time. So this time I plan to keep any modifications minimal, so that I can keep the software up to date and hopefully avoid this sort of issue again.

While doing all this, I also got a report that the PHP 7 upgrade has also broken the comics on mezzacotta.net. I spent a bit of time debugging that as well, replacing some deprecated/removed functions. The code now seems to run okay under PHP 7 on the command line, but for some reasons it’s still failing when run via the web page. So I’m currently stumped on that one.

I also squeezed in a few other minor coding tasks in between bashing my head on a brick wall all day. I finally figured out getting an SSL certificate for Darths & Droids, so now the site loads with that trendy padlock icon instead of the “This site is not secure” warning. I’ll add this to all my sites in the next day or so – there’s apparently an interaction with WordPress sites that makes it less trivial than what I did today.

And I set up my new photography website on a brand new domain: dmm.photo. I’ll be expanding this site a bit soon, with a view to offering photo prints for sale. Oh yeah, and it links to a trendy new Instagram that I’ve started too: @davidmorganmar. These two items are part of a campaign I’m beginning to try and make some income as a photographer. Since it’s something else I love doing, like making comics.

New content today:

Good news and bad news

Good news first:

Scully had her behaviour and obedience test today to qualify as a Delta therapy dog (see part 1 from last Thursday). I drove Scully and my wife out to the testing site, where there were dozens of other dogs trying out. This is my wife’s initiative, and she wants to be the human companion when Scully is on duty, so it was up to her to accompany Scully for the test. She didn’t want me around to be a possible distraction, so, I went over to a nearby shopping centre to pass the time.

When I got back, my wife reported that Scully had passed! Now they have to do a day of training, and then I’m not sure what the next step is. But we could have Scully visiting local hospitals to cheer people up pretty soon!

Bad news:

My webhost has been reminding me repeatedly to upgrade my servers to PHP 7.2 (from version 5.6), with a deadline of some time in November before they just do it for me. Well, the upgrade happened today. Most of my sites are fine… except for the Irregular Webcomic! forums. The upgrade has utterly broken them, and the forums are now inaccessible.

The problem is that I installed phpBB forum software ages ago, and upgrading it was always a pain in the neck due to my UI customisations, so in 2005 I gave up upgrading phpBB. Up until today the forums were still running code from 2005. Unfortunately, that code relied on PHP 5.6, and is incompatible with PHP 7.2. Thus the brokenness.

I’m still pondering what to do about this. The database is still there, with all of the users and posts. It’s just the web page code that can’t run any more. Theoretically, it should be possible to install a current version of phpBB and import the data from the old database into the latest database format. But in practice I don’t know how easy this will be. If I can’t find someone with a convenient script to do all the work, the odds that I can do it myself are extremely low. I may have the necessary coding skills, but I certainly don’t have a spare month to do the work.

At this point I have to estimate that it’s probably 95% likely that the old forums are completely gone forever. It’s my own fault, really, for running such outdated software – it was bound to break eventually.

If anyone reading this knows phpBB and would like to help me, please let me know!

New content today:

Proof 33/100 – almost a third done!

I finished off the next Proof that the Earth is a Globe, and have just posted it. It’s one of the more basic ones in my list, but it took a long time to write and make the diagrams for. And there’s a surprising corollary at the end of it. I completed it several hours ago, but wanted to wait until after dinner to post it.

My wife and I went out for pizza tonight at our favourite pizza place, a 15 minute walk or so from where we live. It’s a little suburban place run by a guy and his wife from Lipari, in the Aeolian Islands of Italy. He always greets us in Italian as we arrive, and she has a chat with us in between serving tables. They have checked tablecloths, and photos of Italy on the walls, and a giant poster of Sophia Loren eating a bowl of spaghetti on one wall. We’ve been going here for years, and always go back because the food is good and the atmosphere is casual and friendly – it feels like visiting relatives, not a restaurant.

Anyway, when you see the post, you’ll understand why I wanted to wait until after dinner to post it.

New content today:

Ballet Friday

I’m queuing this post up early for automatic publication because I’ll be out late tonight. For our wedding anniversary I got my wife tickets to the Australian Ballet’s production of Sylvia, which is on at the Sydney Opera House. So that’s where we’re going tonight. This is one of the more obscure and rarely performed ballets, so it should be interesting.

It’s a 12 minute train trip and 15 minute walk away from where I live, which is easier and more convenient than battling traffic by driving. Normally we’d eat dinner out somewhere near the Opera House, but our neighbours are minding Scully and they don’t get home from work until late-ish, so we can’t leave early enough to squeeze in dinner.

Otherwise, today I’ve been working on writing a new proof for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe. Unfortunately it’s not finished yet, so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Oh, and processing some more photos from May’s trip to Portugal.

New content today:

Fitness Thursday

I’ve been busy every morning this week so far, so today was the first real chance to go for a run. I did my now usual 5k run route, from home up* to the nearest sports oval, and then laps until I reach the 5k mark.

* Literally up. From my place to the oval is an elevation rise of 40 metres. There are stairs.

I tried to beat my previous best effort, by doing longer running segments and fewer walking segments, and I succeeded, with a time of 5:49 per km, beating my previous best of 5:52. (i.e. 29:05 for the 5k, versus 29:20.) One annoying thing I discovered with my new phone is that it’s impossible to unlock it while running. My previous phone had fingerprint unlock, which worked fine, but the new one has face ID, which I could not get to work while running – I presume because it needs your face to be relatively still, not bouncing around all over the place. And forget trying to type my password while running, without my reading glasses. So I couldn’t get lap times or anything, and had to wait until I’d completed the run and stopped before I could unlock my phone and stop the timer.

For lunch I went out to the fish & chip shop, but this time I decided to try one of their burgers rather than seafood and chips. I got the basic beef burger, which of course comes with tomato, lettuce, fried onions, and sliced beetroot. It was good! I’ll have to get burgers from there more often.

To eat I went to my favourite lunch spot, about which I previously wrote about someone illegally poisoning the trees. The shade trees are now even more dead looking, and throwing essentially zero shade on the seats. I sought a shady spot down the slope, sitting on the grass under a large gum tree, where the view isn’t as good as this:

Lunch spot view

To head home, I decided not to walk along the streets, but to take the bushwalk route along the creek. It’s a steep set of carved sandstone steps down from the lookout point to sea level, where you walk along a mangrove swamp for a bit, before heading inland and uphill, following the creek gully.

Gore Cove mangroves

It’s a 1 kilometre walk up the creek back to my home, and was very pleasant being in the deep shade of the forested gully, rather than the hot and sunny streets. I really like having areas, albeit small, that look like wilderness so close to home.

This afternoon, Scully had her first exam to qualify as a Delta therapy dog. My wife organised this to see if we can volunteer with Scully to visit hospitals and so on, to let patients interact with a dog to help brighten their day. The Delta Society is a volunteer organisation that does this. They have pretty strict requirements on the dogs, so we have to go through a bunch of tests. Today was the physical exam by the vet, which Scully passed with flying colours. On Sunday we do a 15-minute interview during which they test Scully for obedience, calmness, and ability to be handled by strangers without reacting adversely. We don’t know if she’ll pass that one, but we don’t think there’s any obvious issue that will instantly rule her out. It’s going to be a matter of degree and how strict they are. We have our fingers crossed.

New content today:

Ethics and Discord

Today was Ethics teaching day. I walked to the school, thankful for the cooler weather after yesterday’s heat. I was the first scripture/ethics teacher to arrive today, as I often am – I like to get there early to set the classroom up with the chairs in a circle. As I signed in, I decided to count how many classes there were for each of ethics and the various religions.

Scripture rolls

When I started teaching Ethics here in early 2017, there were only 3 Ethics classes. We’ve expanded to 7, which is now the same number as Anglican and Catholic. That’s pretty good! Good to see that plenty of parents are aware of the secular option and are electing to put their kids into it.

In the class today we started a new topic: Is it okay to kill animals for food? The first lesson was basically just introducing the topic and then asking the kids to come up with as many reasons as they could think of for both sides of the argument. Next week we’ll start discussing which reasons might be better or worse than others.

This afternoon I spent some time polishing off the slideshow for the Science Club presentation at the other school, where I went on Monday and Tuesday. I calculated the size of the Earth using the data the kids have been collecting since May, measuring the length of a vertical stick’s shadow. We got a value of 40574 km for the diameter, not too far from the true value of 40008 km for the polar diameter.

Also since yesterday I’ve been reconfiguring my Discord server that I’ve been using as a Patreon reward for high-level patrons. A few people in the Irregular Webcomic! forums asked me about having some sort of Discord server so that followers of my various works could hang out and discuss things. I realised that rather than start a new server, I could just reconfigure the existing one, creating a set of restricted access channels for Patreon patrons, and public channels for anyone who wanted to join and chat with fellow fans of my stuff.

So what this means it that anyone who’s interested can now join the server! Here’s an invite link, just click and you can connect to the Discord chat. I hope to see some more of you there!

And also! I was editing some typos in Planet of Hats transcripts, when I realised that I have the images at high resolution (for a possible future book printing, if anyone would buy it). Which means I can set up the web pages with hig-res images for people with high-res monitors. A quick Photoshop macro and a multi-file search and replace later, and all the strips are now double resolution. Check them out! (if you have a high-res monitor)

New content today: