Arts & Crafts Market

Sunday was cool and a bit rainy in the morning, but fined up during the day. My wife wanted to go check out a new market that we hadn’t been to before, dedicated to arts and crafts, at Gymea, a suburb in the south of Sydney. A friend of mine who used to live in the area told me that the venue used to be an old heritage estate, with a house and large grounds, but fenced off and inaccessible, with a bit of a spooky reputation. But in the 90s they opened it up to the public and turned the house into an arts centre. It has a gallery and studios where they hold classes in painting, pottery, and so on.

The market had stalls both inside the gallery and spilling out all over the lawn, with maybe a hundred or so different stalls. There was also a stage with a band playing live music, and a small cluster of food stalls. Several other people had brought small dogs, so Scully got to meet some of them.

Hazelhurst market

After browsing around all the stalls, we sought some lunch, heading a block over to Gymea’s shopping strip, where we found a place called The Portuguese Bakery. Figuring this was… wait for it… a Portuguese bakery, we grabbed a table and got some savoury pastries for lunch. Of course they had the well known Portuguese egg custard tarts, so I had to try one.

The Portuguese Bakery

But wait, there’s more! When we’d visited Portugal earlier this year, naturally we tried tarts in many places. All the bakeries there make them. But they make them all in the very traditional way – flaky pastry base, filled with custard. They were great, but quite similar to one another. But the great thing about a traditional baker emigrating to Australia is that they start to incorporate the local tastes into their products. They had not only traditional tarts, but also passionfruit, orange, raspberry, and fig custard tarts!

You would never see such sacrilege in Portugal, but here it makes sense. Passionfruit in particular is used a lot in baking and desserts, and marrying it with a custard tart turned out to be a genius level inspiration. Because I had one, and it had a layer of fresh passionfruit pulp under the custard, which added a pleasing fruity tang to complement the sweetness of the custard. The Portuguese may deny it, but I think this creation is even better than the traditional version. It was that good.

We got home in the mid afternoon and relaxed a bit, before taking Scully out for a run around the local park and chasing some tennis balls. And that about filled out the day!

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Caught in the rain

Housework this morning – cleaning the bathroom, shower cubicle, vacuuming the carpet. Then I spent the rest of the morning making tomorrow’s Darths & Droids strip, after last night’s writing session.

After lunch I took Scully for a walk while my wife went off to an appointment. We went for a longish walk around the neighbourhood, up and down several of the hills, through a park, past a favourite bakery, and then back along the harbour shore to complete a big loop. Unfortunately I hadn’t counted on the weather, as it began raining when we were most of the way outbound, and I hadn’t brought anything for wet weather. We sought shelter under someone’s carport for a while during the heaviest part, and I checked the rain radar on my phone to see how long it might last. But eventually we just had to push through it and walk in the rain, thankfully a bit lighter, but heavy enough to make us moderately wet.

But the good thing about this sort of weather is you can get dramatic photos:

Scully: rain mood

This was one shot of many – it’s hard to get Scully to pose and sit still for more than a few seconds!

Tonight for dinner my wife and I went out to Via Napoli, a pizza place a short drive away, one of only a handful of places in Australia certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana as making true Neapolitan pizzas. They are really good, and they had a special “10 cheeses” pizza tonight, which we had to try. It was amazing. (Unfortunatey we tucked into it before I thought to take a photo…)

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Games night

Friday was fortnightly games night with my friends (so this update is a few hours late, posted Saturday morning).

I spent the morning working on some scripts for Darths & Droids comics, to prepare for a group writing session before we got stuck into the board games. Sometimes at the writing sessions we sit staring at a blank screen for a while before figuring out what the story action is supposed to be. To avoid this loss of time, it helps if I write skeletons for strips containing the major plot points as dictated by the screencaps we’re using, which we can then either tweak or just fill in with jokes during the group writing time.

When we assembled early to start writing, it helped a lot, and we breezed through writing a batch of scripts for the next few comics. When I say “breezed through”, I mean at one point we spent 10-15 minutes discussing a single word of a script, looking up synonyms, trying alternatives, arguing about it, until we finally settled on the right word to be used – and then of course another 20 minutes or so going through the repercussions to the rest of the script and the plot of choosing that particular word and redrafting several other lines to make the word choice more significant.

We do this sort of thing quite a lot – during this process we recollected one time a few years ago when we’d spent almost an entire 2-hour lunch break arguing about the pluralisation of one word. An argument that continued later that day, and into the next week, including one of the writers logging onto chat during his honeymoon to continue the argument remotely. (When I say “argument”, these are academic arguments with points of logic, rhetoric, and carefully phrased rebuttals, not shouting matches. Mostly.)

After successfully completing the day’s writing goal, we turned to games. We still had some games from last fortnight’s Magic: the Gathering draft tournament to complete, so those players peeled off to do that, while others joined a couple of non-Magic players to start board games. Because people were in and out of Magic duels, we stuck to short games, rather than start anything too long. I played my last game of the tournament, and finally drew the Ancestral Recall that I’d drafted, so I got to cast it for the first and only time of the tournament. It didn’t help though, as Andrew S. used Armageddon to destroy my lands while he had creature advantage, and I couldn’t recover in time.

I played games of Magic Maze, Junk Art, Bärenpark, and a new playtest of the game that Andrew S. is working on developing: The Queen of England.

Bärenpark

The photo shows Bärenpark in progress. My bear park is at the bottom, Andrew C’s at left, Andrew S’s at top. Final scores: AS 96, AC 95, me 93. This game is often extremely close in scores at the end. Unfortunately I made an error in reading one of the symbols on the bonus tiles, and so concentrated on getting statues instead of sun bears, which probably cost me a few points, but oh well.

The Queen of England is a game that AS has been developing for a while now, and it seems to be approaching a version playable enough for commercial development. It’s a deck building game with vague similarities to Dominion, but with a board and area control components that add a big chunk of tactical depth. We may be ready for a wider playtest at some stage – I’ll have to ping Andrew about that.

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Bird photo walk

This morning I took a drive to Sydney’s northern beach suburbs, specifically to Narrabeen, where there is a large lagoon. There is a walking track all the way around the lagoon, over 8 km long. I didn’t walk the whole thing, but rather only a small section on the southern shore, passing through some bushland. I took my camera and longest lens, prepared to photograph birds.

Near the car park were several ducks. These are Pacific black ducks hybridised with introduced mallards. Mallards are much more aggressive breeders and hybridise readily with the native ducks. This is a concern for local wildlife experts, because it’s diluting the pure Pacific duck genotype, and may lead to the elimination of the Pacific black duck as a species.

Pacific black duck x Mallard

On the water were some black swans. Fortunately these don’t hybridise with the introduced mute swans that can be found in some places.

Black swans

The next bird I spotted was one I haven’t photographed before, a sacred kingfisher. Unfortunately I only saw it in the distance through dense foliage, and my camera refused to focus on it, so I had to fiddle with manual focus. This was the only photo I managed to get. Still, that’s another one added to my list!

Sacred kingfisher

Next is an Australian king parrot, this one a male, distinguished by the red head. The females look similar, but have a green head. These are moderately large parrots – larger than most species apart from the cockatoos. They are usually found in mated pairs, so there was probably a female hanging around somewhere out of sight. They’re very conspicuous. There’s a mated pair living in the park across the street from my home.

Australian king parrot, male

This is an Eastern yellow robin. These are fairly common, but tricky to photograph as they flit about a lot, and don’t sit in one spot very long. I have a few photos of these guys, but this might be the best shot I’ve achieved.

Eastern yellow robin

And finally, back at the water, were some little pied cormorants. These are pretty common and easy to photograph. I often see some around the harbour shore close to my home.

Little pied cormorant

After completing my bird trek, I drove to Broomfields Pies, a place I’d found by searching for pie shops, seeking a new meat pie experience for lunch. The place had a high Google reviews rating, and the menu on the website looked very intriguing. I was hungry after my walk and looking forward to it, but when I got there I found the place was in the middle of an industrial park, and it was just a wholesale bakery without any retail shopfront. The front door was locked, despite it being the middle of the day, and nobody answered the door buzzer. It looks like I have a habit of driving to places in industrial parks that aren’t open.

So instead I hopped back in the car and drove a few suburbs over to another pie place that I’d been to just once before, and wanted to go back to. I had a satay chicken and a Mexican beef pie – they were good!

This afternoon I spent going through my bird photos, processing, uploading, and entering them into my bird photo database, punctuated by taking Scully to the dog park for some exercise.

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Sore legs

My legs are so sore today after yesterday’s run. I clearly need to do more to get used to it.

Today was a writing day. I spent about 10 hours writing the next entry for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe.

That’s about it…

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5k run

Daylight saving started here in Sydney on the weekend, and today was the first day back at work for my wife after the long weekend, so we got up early today. I decided to take advantage of the cool morning to go for a 5 km run. I don’t normally do running/jogging, so this was unusual and I did a mix of jog-sprints and walking in between to regather my breath. But importantly I walked up the hill to the nearest sports oval and then did laps, so I was on flat ground rather than running up and down the hills that are endemic in this area. I completed 5 km in about 32 minutes, which I guess is pretty slow, but it’s definitely faster than my walking pace. Let’s see if I manage to do this again and make it a habit.

After completing the run, I walked to the hardware store to get some plant fertiliser. We recently got a dwarf Tahitian lime, a chilli plant, and a basil plant to grow on the balcony, and figured we should get some fertiliser to help them grow. I got some citrus fertiliser and tomato/herb fertiliser, which says it’s also good for capsicums (green/red peppers in non-Australian English), so I suppose that works for chillis. Interestingly, the two different fertilisers contain different mixtures of coloured pellets – I presume they make a bunch of different colours that have different nutrients in them, and mix them in different proportions to formulate the mixes for different types of plants.

Osmocote citrus, and herbs

The lime tree appears to be growing some tiny limes already. It flowered a few weeks ago, and the flowers have dropped the petals and are swelling at the bases into what look like baby limes:

Dwarf Tahitian lime

I wasn’t expecting a crop of limes for at least a year or two, but if we got some this summer that’d be awesome!

Oh, I also tried to buy a window squeegee with a slightly longer handle than the one I have at home, to make it easier to clean the outsides of our windows from the inside. However all the squeegees at the hardware store either had 250 mm handles (like the one I already own), or 1.8 metres! I want maybe a 400 mm handle, but there was nothing in between.

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Holiday Monday

Today was Labour Day, a public holiday in New South Wales (the other states of Australia all have different public holidays – it’s weird, I know). So I spent much of the day out with my wife and Scully. We drove to a rural area on the edge of Sydney, to visit a good bakery we know and get some lunch there. And to stop at a couple of parks on the way there and back to exercise Scully.

The bakery had a special pie today: “USA pie”. It was a smoky barbecue beef brisket and mashed potato pie. I tried it, and it was delicious.

This afternoon and evening I’ve been doing more coding work, this time on the mezzacotta Insult Generator, which we’ve now re-themed as a generator for fantasy insults suitable for use in Dungeons & Dragons games when casting the bard spell Vicious Mockery. Andrew C. did much of the CSS work, and Ian B. contributed cool artwork for us:

Bard mocking

It’s now ready to go live, so we proudly present: Mockery Most Vicious!

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Diary and dairy

It was a fairly lazy Sunday. Mostly I worked on processing more photos from May’s trip to Portugal, and then embellishing day 11 of my travel diary with them to post on my other blog.

Douro River panorama

This afternoon I did some coding work on a new maintenance feature for Irregular Webcomic!. It’s not particularly exciting, but will enable me to keep up to date with some archiving tasks with less work, and will update some stuff that has been dormant for too long. I’ll share it when it’s ready to go live.

Oh, and the dairy in today’s title? I did some grocery shopping and bought two litres of milk, a litre of ice cream, and two large tubs of yoghurt (750 mL each? They were on special).

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Humid Saturday

It was a pretty slack day today. Some house cleaning, and a couple of walks around the neighbourhood – one to get some bread rolls for making burgers for dinner, but after 2 km of walking the bakery didn’t have any rolls! So we got a loaf of bread instead and cut suitable sized chunks to use as burger bases.

This afternoon I processed some more photos from my trip to Portugal back in May. And watched the Australia v. Uruguay game from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Porto riverfront

And this evening I’ve been watching some of the newly released seasons of Disenchantment and The Good Place with my wife.

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Summery Friday

It was hot today: 33.5°C in Sydney. Summer has definitely arrived early. Not only is it unusually warm, but much of south-east Australia is in the worst drought in recorded history. Several towns are in imminent danger of their water supplies running completely dry. Dubbo, a large regional town announced upgrading to Level 4 water restrictions this week, which makes showers longer than 5 minutes illegal and all watering of lawns illegal. Sydney is currently on Level 1 water restrictions but it probably won’t be long before we start climbing the levels too.

Another big fear is bushfires. As the weather heats up towards summer, the dry vegetation all over south-eastern Australia is going to be at great risk. It’s been a couple of decades since the last disastrous level fires with tens of lives lost, but everyone is nervous about this summer.

I stayed in out of the heat today and tended to a stack of odd jobs I had piled up – literally – on my desk. I sorted through the pile of papers and paid some bills, filed some documents, organised things needed for my upcoming trip to Germany, and collated data collected from the laser experiment during my last school science visit. I calculated the wavelengths of the lasers we used from the interference patterns the kids traced and put it into a slideshow to show them on my next visit. It turned out that their sketching skills were not great, with some individual wavelengths being out by almost 100 nanometres, but luckily the averages of three measurements made with different slit configurations turned out to be within 9 nm (or under 2%) in each case. A good result, if honestly more by luck than careful measurement!

For dinner tonight my wife and I went to a French crepe place that we discovered recently. It’s run by four French immigrants who loved everything about Australia, except for the fact that they couldn’t find good crepes anywhere, so they decided to start their own restaurant. Both the savoury galettes and dessert crepes are really good, washed down with imported French cider. And outdoor seating, so Scully is allowed to sit with us.

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