Unexpected golf

When I got up this morning, I opened some windows… and immediately closed them again. Smoke had descended on Sydney again, from the ongoing bushfires. It wasn’t as bad as it has been, but certainly bad enough to avoid opening any windows and avoid going outdoors if possible.

But then I got a message… A guy from Houston who had posted on a forum asking about golf in Sydney a few weeks ago – and I had responded with some info – had just touched down here at 06:30 , and wanted to hook up for a game. This morning.

I told him I needed to be home by 2:30 pm, so we’d have to tee off no later than about 10 am to give me us time to play and me to get home. A few frantic messages later, we had a 09:44 tee off time booked at Moore Park Golf Club… and I had to leave almost right away to get there in time. Fortunately by the time I got there a storm had moved in and some rain had cleared the sky out a bit, so it wasn’t so smoky by the time we started playing. It rained on us a bit during the first few holes, but then cleared to a muggy overcast.

Moore Park is a longer course than I’ve ever played – it has four par 5 holes, and I’d never played a par 5 hole before. Our visitor was much more at home, and played the course a lot more competently than I did. However, I did manage to par the par 3 fifth hole:

Hole 5, Moore Park

And I scored two single bogeys, on par 3 and 4 holes. So I was happy with that, although my score on several other holes really blew out. Here’s the 17th hole, a par 4 on which I scored 8.

Hole 17, Moore Park

We finished the round in good time, and I made it home a bit before 2pm, so that was good. My wife had an appointment at a nearby hospital and I had to look after Scully. The appointment was a positive one – it was her orientation as a Delta therapy dog owner, prior to her first patient visit with Scully, which is on next Tuesday! While my wife was out, I took Scully to the dog park for a run around and a walk along the shore.

And then this evening we all went for dinner at a Thai restaurant that we like, a short drive away. They have outdoor tables, so we can take Scully. I was really hungry after the golf, and not having time for a proper lunch!

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Late for Thursday

I was so busy working on finishing off a new article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe last night that I neglected to update here, so this is another “next morning” post. Not that there’s much to report – working on that article is basically all I did yesterday, apart from the usual daily life stuff like eating and taking Scully for a walk.

I’ve read that writing 1000 words a day is a good pace for a professional writer. I write up to 2000 words in a day for these 100 Proofs articles, plus the research and often creating diagrams as well. So that’s a pretty hectic work pace and doesn’t really leave time for much else.

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Golf and Ramen

Missed last night’s update, so I’m writing this on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday my friend Andrew suggested we play a short round of golf at my local course (where we’ve played before). We assembled there at 07:30, and teed off at the first hole. We both hit our first drives handsomely down the fairway, drifting a bit to the right near a clump of trees maybe 120-130 metres away. We chatted as we walked off to locate our balls. We found them:

Tee shot balls, hole 1

Over 100 metres from the tee, and the golf balls were within half a metre of each other! I hit first because I was about 5 cm further from the hole.

As our round continued, it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a good day, for either of us. We both struggled to hit later tee shots, with several dribbling just a few metres and necessitating trying to smash the ball 100 metres or more out of thick grass, or worse, leaf litter and sticks in close proximity to trees. I scored my worst score on this course for 9 holes: 66, my previous worst being 64. Oh well, at least we got out and had some exercise!

We returned to my place and played a few games: Fluttering Souls, Claim 2, and Codenames Duet. Then we headed up the street to get some lunch somewhere.

We didn’t have anywhere in mind, and walked past a tiny Japanese place that I’d seen before, but never gone inside. It had a hand-written sign outside advertising $12 ramen for lunch. That’s cheap for Sydney, so we poked our noses under the hanging cotton banners to have a look and the man behind the counter said, “Would you like some ramen?”

We said, “Sure!” and went in to grab a seat at the small bench.

Ramen Shimizu

The menu was simple. The hand-written sign stuck to the array of roughly a thousand different types of Japanese whisky read: “Lunch Menu: Mon-Wed. Tonkotsu Ramen $12 (this is the only option)”. So we had the tonkotsu ramen.

Tonkotsu Ramen

It was thick and rich and absolutely delicious. This is an absolute steal for $12.

Andrew headed off and I returned home. In the afternoon I dealt with some administrative stuff for ISO Photography standards, as well as trawling AirBnB for accommodation for a short Easter road trip that My wife and I are planning. We’re taking Scully with us, so we needed to find places that allow dogs to stay, which cuts down on the options a bit. We couldn’t even find affordable accommodation in Orange, where we’d planned to spend a couple of nights, so had to reconfigure our itinerary and instead decided to visit Singleton, where I found a suitable place to stay.

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Taking care of business

I had a busy day today. I had a meeting scheduled at 2pm with a guy who runs an art photo printing company. One of my contacts through the Standards Australia committee for photography that I chair was the former owner of the business, and he arranged to meet us there and introduce us.

The site was in the city, not far from where one of my friends works, so I contacted him and asked if he wanted to meet up for lunch beforehand. With a lunch appointment set, I headed into the city on the train a couple of hours early, so I could browse around in some bookshops and then walk from there to lunch. I took some photos along the way:

Sydney Town Hall

This is Sydney Town Hall, the seat of the local city government council. They’re the ones who put on the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks, among other things. This lovely old building also hosts concerts and other events. It has a magnificent pipe organ.

From here I walked south down George Street, the central city’s main thoroughfare, until I reached Broadway, which is really just the continuation of George Street as it gently turns west. Here there are some lovely old Art Deco hotel/pub buildings:

Bar Broadway

This is the Bar Broadway, which used to be Sutherland’s Hotel (hence the old signage above). Behind it you can see the tall tower of the newish Central Park building, with the greenery on the exterior. Closer up it looks like this:

Central Park, Broadway

The dangling thing over the middle is an array of solar reflectors, to reflect sunlight down into parts of the building that are in the shade. This building is mostly student accommodation, because the University of Technology, Sydney, is right across the road. Here’s an exterior walkway along the road just outside one of the university buildings:

UTS tunnel

And out the other side there’s another old Art Deco hotel:

Broadway Crown, formerly Hotel Broadway

This one is the Broadway Crown, formerly known as the Hotel Broadway. This is near where I had lunch with my friend. We discussed various things, including our stalled comic project, Eavesdropper. He said that what we’d been doing was essentially a first draft of the story in his head, and it wasn’t a final polished version in his opinion. What he needs to do is get the whole story down on paper, and then revise it. So illustrating it further as a comic doesn’t really make sense – doubly so because of how much effort I had to put into drawing the artwork. So I think we can officially call the comic project finished, albeit not completed.

We also talked about games we’ve been playing lately and plan to play in the future. I need to knuckle down and write the next instalment of our current D&D adventure that I’m running.

After lunch, I headed to my meeting at the photo printing place. I met the owner and he showed me around the print shop, and we discussed the various printing machines and paper stocks and mounting and framing options he had available. I said I wanted to to start selling mounted and framed prints of my photography, from an online shop on my website, and he said they had art photographers listing photos for sale on the print shop’s website, so the photographers themselves don’t need to run a shop site. Customers can order prints, they print and frame and ship them, and give the mark-up to the photographer, minus a small percentage for hosting the online shop. This sounds perfect! So I’m going to go through the details with him by email and produce some photo files that they can sell as large prints. Initial selections will be some of the photos that you can see on my portfolio site.

I got home late in the afternoon. My wife and I took Scully for a walk and run around the park near our place. Then we made some more pizza with the home-made feta. I’d left a chunk of it sitting in a bowl of milk in the fridge all day, to draw some of the salt out, and that trick worked well. The resulting cheese was milder, and the pizza wasn’t as salty as yesterday.

As I was relaxing into the evening, news broke of a fire in a school in Sydney. It was Lane Cove Public School, which is the school where I teach Primary Ethics! Fortunately the kids are still on summer holidays, but their school hall and canteen are reported to have burnt down. The hall apparently had a lot of musical instruments stored inside, so the students are going to have it tough until they can buy new instruments. Fortunately no classrooms were affected. It’s going to be interesting to see how the recovery is going when I return there in a few weeks to start teaching a new year of kids Ethics.

New content today:

Cheese results

This morning I took the drained feta cheese that my wife and I had made yesterday and put it into the brine solution:

Home made feta

It definitely looks like feta cheese. And it was nice and firm. The recipe said it had to soak in brine for at least five hours, so I tried a tiny bit at lunch…

It was salty. Really salty. Too salty to eat. By itself anyway. So this evening for dinner I tried crumbling some onto a pizza:

Pizza with home made feta

This worked reasonably well, with the salt diluted amongst all the other ingredients, and the result was pretty good. (Also on there: tomato paste, home grown basil leaves, mozzarella/cheddar cheese mix, zucchini flowers, pine nuts, and chilli flakes.)

I looked up online what to do with overly salty feta, and apparently this is a common problem. Several sites suggested soaking it in milk for an hour or two before eating it, which will draw out some of the salt. So tomorrow I’ll try that. And next time we make this, I’m going to reduce the amount of salt from what the recipe said. But salt aside, it looks and crumbles and tastes like feta, so that’s pretty good! I’m happy with my first ever batch of home-made cheese.

It was stormy in Sydney today. A lot of very heavy thunderstorms with large hailstones passed over the city, but they were small and localised, and where I live we barely got any rain. Some of the weather stations in the city suburbs recorded over 20 mm of rain, but the nearest one to me recorded only 2.8 mm (and another suburb only got 0.2 mm).

I kept an eye on the rain radar and it seemed like a clear window during the late afternoon to take Scully to the dog park:

Scully and the storm

This band of cloud came over, but didn’t drop any rain where we were:

Storm over Waverton Park

I was keeping an eye on the radar for incoming storms, in case I had to hurry back home to get the car safe from hailstones. But it stayed dry for a good hour or so, giving us enough time to walk along the harbour shore, where we have a view towards the city:

Storm over Sydney

It was a pretty dramatic day. We got back to the car just before a few fat drops of rain fell, but it petered out as we drove home, and overall didn’t deliver much, apart from some loud thunder rolls.

Scully is good with thunder – she’s not frightened at all by it. Our puppy school dog trainer suggested teaching to the class that we teach our dogs to be calm during storms by getting them used to sudden loud noises – by doing things like dropping pots and pans into the kitchen sink, and them immediately giving them yummy treats, to get them habituated that a sudden loud noise is good, not bad. We did this with Scully from a very early age, and she’s adapted very well. She has no problem at all with thunder, or the loud fireworks that go off here in Sydney on New Year’s Eve (not very far from where we live, so they’re very loud).

Today I also worked on some more Darths & Droids stuff, getting comics prepared in advance and queued up, so we can set them aside and start working on Episode VII.

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Cheesemaking!

Today I made three more Darths & Droids strips, which builds us up a nice buffer in the run-up to beginning Star Wars: Episode VII. I also discussed some of the aspects with the fellow writers online.

One of my friends decided to start a Google Docs spreadsheet listing all of the games that we have in our group, so we can know what’s available for Friday Night Games, and for borrowing from one another. So I spent some time going through my collection and filling in spreadsheet rows.

And the other thing I did today was make some cheese! I got my wife a cheesemaking kit for Christmas, and we decided to give it a go today. The kit makes a few different types of cheese, and we selected feta as our first attempt. It’s pretty easy, but it takes several hours of waiting around for the milk to curdle and the bacterial culture to start working. At the end of the waiting we had curds that could be scooped into cheese moulds:

Curd scooping

The cheese is now draining for a few more hours before being flipped upside down to drain even more overnight. And then tomorrow it goes into a brine solution, and voilĂ , we’ll have feta!

Curds in moulds

At least I hope we will. I’ll tell you what it tastes like when we try it…

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A nice dinner out

Today it was supposed to rain heavily here in Sydney. The forecast said up to 50 mm of rain. Which would have been welcome as we need the rain. However it turned out to be nothing more than an intermittent sprinkle all day, and as I type this now the official rainfall figure recorded for Sydney so far today is only 2.2 mm – less than 1/20th of the forecast. That’s kind of been the story for the past few days – forecast of heavy rain, and while we’ve had some heavy showers, the totals have been nowhere near the forecast figures.

Today I worked on Darths & Droids, assembling a couple of comics from completed scripts, and doing some background planning tasks.

And then this evening I had a nice dinner out with my wife, at one of our favourite fancy restaurants. We dropped Scully off with our neighbour for dogsitting, and drove about 20 minutes to Balmoral Beach. We had a lovely dinner, and the walk back to the car along the beach after dinner was beautiful.

Balmoral Beach night

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Games night and comic discussion

Last night was fortnightly Games Night again, which is why this update is a few hours late. It’s really early on Saturday morning, and I’m up because Scully apparently really needed to go out in the rain at 5am to sniff the grass. The rain has been on and off, but that’s definitely better than off for the past 4 months. It’s now so wet that the trees are weeping with joy:

Blood rain

And there are frogs roaming the streets!

Fence frog

I spent much of yesterday sorting and collating a couple of boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards that my brother had lying around. I’m planning to sell a bunch to get some money for him, since I have experience at doing this.

Games Night started early, so we could go over scripts for upcoming Darths & Droids strips. We also had a discussion about the future of the strip, and moving into Star Wars: Episode 7-9 now that 9 has been released. The logistics are going to be very different because we no longer work together, so can’t dedicate lunch hours to writing strips together in the one room. We decided that we have plenty of ideas for Episodes 7-9 and would like to make a story out of it, so we’re going to start on it and see how it goes.

The plan is that I will outline plot action for several strips and try to write skeleton dialogues for each strip, perhaps without punchlines if I can’t think of any. And then we’ll have short discussions, either in person at Games Nights, or via voice chat on Discord or something, to go over the scripts, fill in gaps, write punchlines, and tweak them with suggested changes. Hopefully this will be enough to enable us to go back to publishing three strips a week as we did before. We’re not sure if this will work long term, so it’s going to be a bit of an experiment to start with. But the gist of it is that we’re now ready to start Episode 7 after we wrap up the Muppets episode.

We moved on to games. First up was Werewords, a bizarre cross between Werewolf and a twenty questions type of guessing game. Since each game takes only about 5 minutes, we played several times. The young daughters (ages 8 and about 10?) of our host watched the first few times, and then decided they wanted to play too. They did really well, each one being the critical component of a victory for their side.

After the girls’ bedtime, we moved on to try The Shipwreck Arcana with four players, while another two played Marvel Champions at the same time.

The Shipwreck Arcana

Shipwreck Arcana is a very interesting logical deduction game. You draw two numbered tiles, then play one on a tableau of pseudo-Tarot-like cards which have rules for which numbers you can play on them, and everyone else has to work out what your unplayed tile is, by examining what you chose to play (and what you chose not to play). Everyone’s working together to guess a certain number of tiles before time runs out. We managed to win the game without too much difficulty – I think we got a moderately lucky shuffle of the deck. I can see how it could be a lot trickier.

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Retrieving my sunglasses

This morning I walked over to the golf course to pick up my lost sunglasses. It’s a fair walk, and very hilly – it took me almost exactly an hour to walk there and back. Here’s a view looking down one of the hills.

Downhill and the city

Scully was doing a lot better today, after yesterday’s sickness. I took her to the dog park down by the water this afternoon and we had a walk with the other dogs and owners there. She had a good run around and has her appetite back.

Oh, and I updated the Irregular Webcomic! poll question. From Christmas decorations to… mint…

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