COVID effects

Australia reached 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, and the precautions and responses have begun to affect me. Firstly, this morning I received email from the organisers of That Great Market, where I was to have me second stall tomorrow, selling my photography prints. They have decided to cancel the market, citing both the virus precautions and also forecast bad weather, with wind and rain that would make the outdoors stalls tricky.

A knock-on effect of this is that I had booked a car hire to transport my goods to the stall (since my own car isn’t large enough). So I had to cancel the car hire, less than 24 hours before pick-up. According to the hire terms, that means zero refund – I still pay the full rental amount. So rather than making some money at the market stall to cover costs and make some profit, I’ve now had an expense with no chance to recover the outlay. The market stall booking fee is being rolled over to a later market, although honestly I can’t see next month’s one going ahead either at this point.

Next, I decided I should cancel Monday’s visit to Brookvale school. I should have gone to talk to kids about science, and run the Science Club, but for the safety of both myself and all the kids in the school I decided it’s probably better not to go ahead.

That meant I didn’t need to spend today preparing for the visit, and I used to time to finish off making the last batch of Irregular Webcomic strips that I photographed on Monday. I still need to write all the annotations, which I’ll do over the next couple of days.

For dinner tonight my wife and I went (with Scully) to a new pizza place we hadn’t tried before, 10 minutes drive from home. It’s a small place in a tiny cluster of shops surrounded by houses, and it was bustling with local business. It was good, and inexpensive, and the owner came out to have a chat with us as we ate. Our sort of place! We’ll definitely go back again.

New content today:

Sunrise at the beach

On Friday I set an alarm for 5:45, but I woke up just before 5:30. I got up, had a quick breakfast, and set out for the beach!

Sydney has a lot of beaches, and choosing the right one for a sunrise photo shoot is a matter of weather conditions, tide, time of year, angle of sunrise, personal preference, travel times, and other factors. I used an app – The Photographer’s Ephemeris – to map the direction of the sunrise from a few beaches. One constraint I had was that I had a booking for golf at 8:00 with a friend, at Cammeray Golf Club, so wherever I went I had to have enough time to drive back there, in peak hour traffic, to make tee-off.

The closest beach I could think of was Balmoral Beach, which is not an ocean beach, but a harbour beach, facing the protected waters of Sydney Harbour. I knew that Balmoral has a very small view of the open ocean, threading in between the two sandstone promontories of Middle Head to the south and North Head to the north. I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris for the direction of the sunrise:

Photographer's Ephemeris for Balmoral sunrise

It was almost perfect! The yellow line to the right shows the direction of sunrise on Friday, and it threads the needle right between the two headlands. Because of the motion of the sun with the seasons, this coincidence probably only happens on a few days of the year. So with a perfect combination of convenience and opportunity, I selected Balmoral as my target. (I did this calculation the night before.)

As I drove to Balmoral before 6 am, I could see stars in the sky. At least it wasn’t raining like last week. I got to the beach and headed down to a small exposed sandstone rock platform, jutting from the sand into the water. The tide was low – at high tide these rocks would be covered with water. The sky was just beginning to lighten, but unfortunately the cloud cover was highly sub-optimal for sunrise photos:

Edwards dawn

There was a dark, thick band of cloud right on the horizon, and barely any cloud in the nearby sky above. This is exactly the opposite of what you want for shooting a sunrise: a clear horizon for the sun to shine through, and lots of cloud above for the golden and red light to bounce off and set the sky ablaze with colour. Oh well, I was here, so I shot what was available.

First light at Edwards Beach

Early morning swimmers and joggers appeared on the scene, providing small points of interest for photos. After a while the tide started coming in, so to avoid being stuck on the rocks and having to wade back, I moved back across the sand and took photos from the path behind the beach. You can see the rocks I had been standing on in the middle of this next photo:

Dawn fisheye

This was also taken with a different lens, a fisheye, for a super wide view. As the sun continued rising, it became light very quickly. I ditched my tripod (I’d been taking exposures up to 30 seconds long), and walked around, taking handheld shots.

Morning kayakers

I packed up about 7:15 and headed to the golf course to meet my friend. We played one round of the 9 hole course, having a lot of fun. It was the first time he’d been to this course, and it has a few interesting holes, which I showed off last time I wrote about it. It had rained – a lot – since that visit, and this time the water feature at hole 6 was full (compare to the third photo on the previously linked entry):

Cammeray Hole 6

Unfortunately this meant we both landed our tee shots in the water! But I had a great tee shot at the par 3 9th hole. My ball landed on the green, pitching just 1 metre from the hole! Although it rolled a fair distance from there and I had a long putt, ending up with 4 strokes. But wow that was a great tee shot.

After golf I went home and worked on those sunrise photos, as well as some comics stuff, before preparing to head out to fortnightly Games Night with friends. We agreed to “socially distance” ourselves to minimise any disease transmission by touching as little as possible and using hand sanitisers, but of course playing board games means some interaction. Still, coronavirus isn’t very widespread here yet and it’s unlikely any of us has been exposed yet, so we felt okay with our level of precautions.

We played some games of the Throne of Eldraine Magic: the Gathering draft that we started a few weeks ago. I had two long games that both stalled with tough creatures on both sides. I ended up losing one, and winning the other, both by narrow margins. After that we split into two groups, one playing Spirit Island with 4 players, while I played Everdell with 3 players. It was a fun game, and I managed to pull together enough constructions and critters to score a lucrative 9 point bonus card, but it wasn’t quite enough – I ended up coming second with 51 points, to the winner’s 54.

New content today:

Market prep, and Star Wars

My next market day is coming up on Sunday, so I’m preparing stuff. Last time a friend gave me and my gear a lift in his large car. My car is too small to pack it in, and my friend is busy this time, so I’m having to make alternative arrangements. It looks like I’m going to have to hire a car for the day – which will add another expense that eats into my profits. But if I make as much as last time, it should be okay.

This time it’s at a different venue. East Lindfield Community Hall, East Lindfield, which is a bit further from my place. But this is this market’s established venue, where it’s been held monthly for almost 5 years, so it has an established customer base and people in the area know about it. So hopefully we’ll see more shoppers than two weeks ago at the first-time venue.

Today I also worked on Darths & Droids comics, doing some writing and then assembling the comics from screencaps. I completed three strips (although I’d done most of one before starting today), which is a week’s worth of comics in the queue and ready to be published.

Oh, I’ve also been thinking about Monday, which is my next school science visit. The coordinator has told me that the older kids (who I’ll be talking to) are studying plants at the moment. I think I’ll do a slideshow on exotic plants from around the world and their various adaptations to their environments. And I still need to find another couple of experiments for the Science Club kids as well. I’ll need to do all this probably on Saturday, since Sunday will be taken up by the market.

Tomorrow morning I’m planning to try again on my abandoned sunrise photo expedition. The weather should be better than my last attempt. I’ll be getting up around 5:30 to head off before 6 am, for the sunrise at the beach. Hopefully it will be a good one!

New content today:

Ethics and comics

This morning was my weekly Ethics class, teaching Year 6 children at a nearby school. With the weather better than last week, I walked to the school, taking the chance to be out in the fresh air. This is only my third week with this new class, and I have 21 names to try to remember. I wondered if any might be away, with parents perhaps starting to worry about coronavirus and keeping them out of school, but I actually had more kids than the previous two classes, with only 1 away today.

Once they’d arrived after the morning bell, I tried to remember as many names as I could as I handed out nametag stickers again. I managed to remember most of them, but still have a few to go. Hopefully by next week I’ll have them all down.

We discussed fairness in society today, with several examples of potential new school rules regarding who would and would not be allowed to do various activities. We had a very good discussion and most of the kids were participating well, but this year I have a couple of boys who think it’s funny to be disruptive, and they’re playing off each other, so it’s much worse than just one troublemaker. I’ve been pretty strict with them so they get the message that I’m not to be messed with. Hopefully it will get better as the year goes on.

Back home, all I did the rest of the day was work on assembling Irregular Webcomic strips from the photos I took on Monday. I got most of them done, but still have a few to finish off. And that was the day!

New content today:

Salad days

I don’t really have much to report today – I was busy doing boring financial stuff. Except I made potato salad.

Potato salad

Boiled kipfler potatoes, with the skin on, sliced; chopped boiled eggs; diced gherkins; chopped onions and garlic, lightly fried; mild English mustard; and coleslaw dressing. I like to use coleslaw dressing instead of mayonnaise because it’s lighter and tangier.

New content today:

Comic production accelerated

It was rainy again this morning. I used the time to finish off writing the batch of Irregular Webcomic strips that I started yesterday. I decided that if I could finish writing by 10 am, I might have enough time before lunch to photograph them all as well.

It was tight, but I managed to knock out the last few jokes just in time, and then I faced the challenge of shooting 20 new strips in just over two hours. Normally I’d take longer than that, so I raced through it. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I had to run down to the garage to dig out some specialised Lego pieces to use for some of the strips – twice.

I store most of my Lego bricks in plastic tubs and storage drawers in the garage. I only have up in the house the minifigures and a small selection of commonly used set pieces. So I often need to run down to find more esoteric pieces when doing a shoot. Despite having to do this twice, I managed to finish the last photo right on the 12:00 exactly. I spent a few minutes packing up, and then decided to go for a walk to treat myself to a nice lunch at the Cuban place up the street.

The rain sputtered out in the afternoon, leaving a sky punctuated by clouds. I took Scully to the park for some exercise, and to enjoy the view.

Passing showers

New content today:

No-photo Sunday

I woke up a bit before the 05:30 alarm this morning – I always wake up just before whenever I set an alarm, it’s a weird sense that I have. My plan was to head to the beach before sunrise and take some photos.

But I could hear heavy rain falling outside. I quickly checked the rain radar on my phone, and saw that multiple rain bands were blowing up from the south, and it was likely to be raining for a few more hours. So I decided to abandon photography plans, turned over, and went back to sleep.

We (me, my wife, and Scully) all slept until after 8 o’clock! We haven’t had a good lie-in for ages, and I think we all got good value out of the extra hours of sleep. And it was still raining when we got up, so it looks like abandoning the photo expedition was the right call.

My wife took Scully out for a couple of trips today – to the city to check out The Rocks Market, and then to her mother’s place to visit. This gave me some time to concentrate on writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic strips. The goal was to write four weeks worth (20+ strips) in one day, but that’s very ambitious given how long it takes to come up with each joke. I didn’t make it in the end, but I got close. Hopefully I can polish off the last few tomorrow morning and then get stuck into photographing them.

New content today:

Housework Saturday

Yeah, not that much exciting today. I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the house, changed the bedsheets, all that sort of boring but necessary stuff.

I also spent the afternoon writing and making new Darths & Droids strips, for the start of Episode VII. Which I can’t show you because that’d be giving stuff away early.

Tomorrow morning I’m planning to get up early and head out to the beach to do some sunrise photography. I’ve packed my gear into the car already. I’ll get up at 5:30, grab a quick breakfast, and head out. I haven’t done a sunrise session for a while, and have been itching to go do one. This is a good time of year because it’s still warm, and the sunrise is getting later as autumn progresses, but daylight saving hasn’t ended yet, pushing sunrise back an extra hour. So sunrise tomorrow is a relatively late 6:49. With no traffic, I should be at the beach soon after 6 am, in plenty of time.

The only wildcard is the weather. Tomorrow is forecast to be “partly cloudy”, which is the ideal weather for sunrises, but of course it could be overcast, or rainy, or clear at that time, none of which is good. And there’s no way to tell at 5:30 when it’s still pitch black. You just have to go and hope for the best.

New content today:

Planet of Hats: The Next Generation

I’ve been a bit coy with my updates this week, referring to “drawing” or random chunks of time without saying what I was working on. Well, today the secret is out – I’ve restarted work on my Star Trek parody comic, Planet of Hats!

I ended this comic three years ago, having exhausted all of the Original Star Trek series material, including the animated series and the movies. The next step would have been to start on The Next Generation series, which was a huge chunk of work, and put me off beginning.

But circumstances conspired to prompt me to draw a new strip – you can read about it in the writer comments.

So, I was working on that a bit more today. And I also had some post office errands to run – mailing a redditgifts gift, and some old Magic: the Gathering cards that I’m selling. And doing a lot of housecleaning today. There was a lot of junk all over the place after the market stall on Sunday and me having to work furiously on drawing for a while.

New content today:

Rain and more rain

It rained a lot today. I sent much of the day drawing comics at home, heading out at lunch to get some fish & chips. Although it’s only a 10 minute walk and I carried an umbrella, I was pretty wet by the time I got home.

The comic I was drawing is now complete, and I’ll be publishing it tomorrow – but for now it’s a surprise.

This afternoon I took Scully to the dog park, despite the rain. This time I wore a raincoat with hood, rather than use an umbrella. Scully had her doggy raincoat on. She doesn’t like the rain. She ran after the tennis ball a few times, but then decided she was wet enough and simply turned and walked back to the car. I had to coax her over to the park with some treats, but she really wasn’t into it.

Only a couple of the regulars at the dog park showed up in the rain, and they took a short walk before heading off, since the rain was moderately heavy. It was then that I realised that even though I was fairly dry under my raincoat, the coat itself was dripping wet… and I’d have to climb into the car to drive home. I decided to take it off and toss it into the boot before dashing into the car myself without the wet coat on. By which time Scully (in the passenger seat) had shaken the water off her and coated the interior of the car in spray…

New content today: