Smoky Sunday

Smoke descended on Sydney overnight, from the ongoing bushfires and backburning operations being carried out in an effort to stop the fires. When I got up this morning and opened the windows, I immediately closed them back up again, because the smell of smoke was so strong. There was a haze in the air, reducing visibility, but not as dramatically as it has been on some days recently.

We needed some groceries, and normally I walk up to the supermarket and back, but today I didn’t want to be outdoors breathing that air for a second longer than necessary, so I drove up. it did give me the opportunity to buy more than I’d normally be able to carry home. And I took a photo of the smoke haze form the roof of the supermarket car park:

Another smoky day in Sydney

Today I made a new Darths & Droids comic, and did some thinking about storylines for Episodes 7-9. And I starting editing some old photos that I scanned from film prints from a trip to Thailand I did back in 2005. These are photos I’ve never had in digital form before, which I scanned a while back, but hadn’t got around to editing yet. I’ll probably start posting some of these to Flickr in the near future.

New content today:

Visiting my brother

This morning I went to visit my brother and pick up a few old games from his place. I took over my game Azul, and taught him how to play, and he showed me a new game he’d got recently, Unspeakable Words, which was fun. Then he showed me his new PlayStation VR headset and after I looked at one of the VR demos I played a bit of the VR Golf game. The VR experience is pretty good, and it was fun. The golf swing mechanism was a bit artificial, but I adapted pretty quickly and I think enough experience form playing for real leaked across that I was able to hit the ball reasonably well after a few tries.

We had lunch at a pizza place near his place, and then I came home. I took Scully to the dog park this afternoon, and now this evening my wife and I have just watched most of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 – pausing it until tomorrow so we’re not up too late.

So… a fairly relaxing day.

New content today:

Unabridged writing

Early this morning I took to the local golf course to hit a ball around and get some exercise. I felt like I was doing poorly today, mis-hitting a lot of strokes, but I ended up scoring 60 (for 9 holes), which is only 3 worse than my best on that course, so I suppose that’s not too bad.

Back home I dedicated the day to doing some writing. I’m working on starting a series of tabletop roleplaying game supplements, which I hope to offer for sale through DriveThruRPG, to try and turn this time away from a job into some sort of income. I started jotting down ideas about bridges as significant structures in an adventure campaign, and I’ve got a few thousand words of stuff. I think I need a few more days of work to polish it up and format it, and then see about setting up a seller account.

So hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll start seeing RPG titles from me available. I have a whole bunch of other ideas for PDF gaming books as well. The ideas are actually the easy part – the hard part is spending the time to write them up as coherent and useful text!

New content today:

Mail and sundials

My first job this morning was to go to the post office and mail off my Reddit Rematch Secret Santa stuff. I found a box at the post office that was almost the perfect size, which was good! Then I bought some groceries on the way home.

When I got home I realised my wife hadn’t removed some of the grocery items from our shared list (in OneNote) after she’d recently bought some, so we now have a lot of tortillas and beans…. I guess we have some enchiladas in our near future.

I spent almost all the rest of the day writing up that next Proof the Earth is a Globe that I started yesterday, finishing around 8pm. My brain is fried from research and writing… But it’s posted!

New content today:

Into the city

We had rain overnight. Not just rain, but a thunderstorm. I was woken at 01:20 by a huge clap of thunder, not far away, and then there were several more over the next few minutes. There was rain too, moderately heavy, but it was nothing compared to the thunder, and I don’t think it lasted very long. Better than nothing though, as the gardens and lawns got some water for the first time in ages.

Sydney recorded 2.8 mm of rain. Which is not a lot, by any standard except the incredible drought that we’re currently in. Every second post in the subreddit /r/sydney this morning was some variant on “It’s raining!!” That’s how excited people here were to get less than 3 mm of rain.

The moisture mixed with the bushfire smoke hanging over Sydney to create a weird white smog effect that lasted through the whole day. It looked like fog, but had a faint smokey smell. I braved it go head into the city on the train to do some shopping. I signed up to be a reddit Rematch Secret Santa, and I was on an expedition to get some gifts. I won’t say what I got, but I think my recipient should be fairly pleased, as I hit many of the “likes” in their profile.

George Street in smoky haze

I got home and planned to spend the day writing up a new Proof the Earth is a Globe, but a little thing happened in Iran/Iraq that distracted me for a bit. I did eventually get into it, but I’m maybe only a third through writing it. Hopefully I can finish and post it tomorrow.

New content today:

Back to running

Wanting to get back into a regular exercise routine, this morning I took off for a 5k run. I jogged up to the local sports oval and then did the 9 laps that total to 5 km. Previously I’ve run partial laps and walked the remainder, but this time I jogged through the first 6 laps without dropping back to a walk. That was about all I could manage and I took some walking breaks during the next 3 laps. My time was about the same as previously – I think because the first 6 laps were at a slower jog than I would run partial laps, and it all evened out in the end.

Back home I finished off writing the annotations for the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! While doing that I found a bug in the database updating code I use to add the comics and annotations, so I had to spend some time debugging that and checking that it works okay, which chewed up a bit of time.

I wanted to start writing a new Proof the Earth is a Globe, but ran out of time, so I’ll get onto that tomorrow.

New content today:

Rain!

This morning I took a long walk to the shopping centre at Chatswood, a few suburbs away. I had to go to a specific shop to get a replacement filter for our vacuum cleaner. According to Strava, the walk was 6.15 km. It felt good, because I haven’t been doing enough getting out and exercising in the past couple of weeks. The day was cool and cloudy, so it was a nice time to be out.

And then this afternoon when I took Scully out to the dog park there was some thunder, and it actually rained for a couple of minutes! Sydney had 1.6 mm of rain back on Christmas Day, and the previous time it rained was 2.4 mm on 27 November. The last heavy rain we had was in mid-September. This is very weird for Sydney, which normally gets around 100 mm of rain every month throughout the year. All the grass around here is dying and turning a crunchy brown. Hopefully today’s few drops will refresh it a bit.

Work-wise, today I finished off making the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, and started writing annotations for them.

New content today:

Taking a breath, and it’s smoky

The weather was much cooler today, thankfully. The bushfire situation, while still bad, at least wasn’t terrible today. So it was a bit of a breather, before the next round of heatwave conditions hits. But cooler weather in Sydney is brought by a southerly wind, and south is where most of the fires are, so the air quality here deteriorated today, and reached well into the highest “hazardous” level this afternoon. It’s been a lot worse a few weeks ago, but it was noticeable and nasty, and my throat is sore this evening.

I spent most of the day making Irregular Webcomic! strips, in between monitoring the news and watching some cricket on TV. I should finish this batch tomorrow.

New content today:

Fiery hot

I don’t even know where to begin today. It’s been a dreadful day so far, and it’s probably going to get worse overnight. We’ve had record breaking heat over much of south-eastern Australia today. It’s nearly 10pm where I live and it’s still 34°C outside. At Penrith, a Sydney suburb where I have family living, it reached 48.9°C (120°F) today, smashing the old record high temperature within the Sydney boundary by 1.6 degrees.

A cool change has been moving up the south coast and is expected to hit Sydney around midnight. But that also brings strong winds, which could be even worse for the huge fires burning all over the place.

So far today we only have preliminary news reports indicating some indeterminate number of buildings destroyed. We won’t know until the sun rises tomorrow what sort of numbers we’re looking at. Or how many people may have gone missing or been killed.

Honestly, it’s getting exhausting just following the news day after day, even from the safety of my inner city home. People I know have been evacuated or had their homes under imminent danger of being destroyed. It’s hard to do anything else.

I did manage to make one new Darths & Droids strip today, but that’s about it, in between a bit of random homekeeping stuff, and going out with my wife and Scully for dinner. We sat at an outdoor table at a restaurant (because of Scully), watching the blood red sun set through the smoky sky. Everyone else was inside in the air conditioning. We were just sitting there, relaxing, and it was so hot that sweat was dripping and rolling down my body, even after the sun had gone down.

Tomorrow should be cooler, and hopefully there will be some relief from the fires, until the cycle builds up to another stinking hot day. It’s still early in the summer.

New content today:

Safety and games

My aunt has made it out of the bushfire danger area, after four days stranded at her holiday home, cut off from all external access by the bushfires. The road reopened briefly and emergency services personnel escorted vehicles out to safety in small groups – in case damaged trees fell across the road and cut travellers off, they wanted to make sure they knew where everyone was. She’s now back with family and safe. Whether her holiday house survives today is another story which we have to wait and see.

To take some pressure off, last night I attended the fortnightly games night of my group of gaming buddies. I played a game of 7 Wonders: Duel with the host while waiting for others to arrive. I hadn’t played this game for several years and was trying to remember strategy on the fly, so was at a bit of a disadvantage, but I managed to only lose by 2 points: 64-62, so I was pretty pleased with that.

When others arrived we had dinner, and then launched into a game of Wingspan.

Wingspan game

Rather than collect birds with lots of activated powers, like most people do, I tried a very different strategy, going for birds that gave me extra Goal cards, and then trying to fulfil as many of the goals as possible. I ended up with 4 Goal cards, requiring me to collect: birds that only nest in wetlands, birds that only eat invertebrates, birds with wingspans under 30cm, and birds with anatomical body parts in their name (e.g. roseate spoonbill). I managed to maximally fulfil 3 of the 4 goals, and partly complete the fourth, for a total of 25 goal points, which was way more than anyone else got. The issue was I got zero egg points, and moderately low scores for the other point categories. I was worried that pursuing a radical strategy might not be viable, and I’d lose by a lot, but it turned out those 25 points helped me to third place out of 5 players, not far behind second place, so again I was fairly happy with that result.

New content today: