Working from home

My wife started working from home today, as part of Sydney’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means both her and Scully are home during the working week (since she normally takes Scully to the office with her – Scully is much loved as the office dog), when I’m normally here by myself. It’s a bit of a change, but it wasn’t too bad. We mostly kind of ignored each other as we went about our business, so as not to disturb one another.

At one point I went for a walk to get out and stretch my legs in the sunshine. I walked over to the suburb of Greenwich, where I spotted this cool home-made climbing tree for kids.

Suburban play gear

I walked down to the water, at Bay Street Wharf:

Greenwich wharf

And across to the adjacent Bayview Park, where someone has their seaplane berthed:

Bayview dinghies

And here’s a view of the park, looking down to the water. Pretty nice!

Bayview Park

Apart from the walk, I mostly worked on Darths & Droids comics today – coming up with strip titles and editing HTML code and stuff. In between keeping up to date with all the massive changes around here to deal with COVID-19.

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:

Christmas Eve

I got up early this morning and went to play golf with my friend Andrew, the one who got me started playing golf this year. We’d only played together on the short par 3 “pitch and putt” course where I started learning, but today he came along to the local course near me at Lane Cove, and we played 9 holes. I felt like I was dong poorly, because I didn’t do very well on any hole, but neither did I have any blow-outs like a 10 or 12 which I’ve had previously, and I ended up with a total of 57, 2 strokes better than my previous best at this course. So that was pretty good!

Andrew hit the shot of the day, a gorgeous long, straight drive off the 9th tee… until it hit an overhead power line and bounced off straight down into the turf. That easily cost him 50-100 metres of distance on the shot. My skew-whiff tee shot skimming across the grass ended up going virtually the same distance.

After returning home I relaxed a bit, before my wife and I dropped Scully with our neighbour for dogsitting, while we drove about an hour across Sydney to my aunt & uncle’s place where they were hosting my family’s Christmas dinner. We’ve always done a big family gathering on Christmas Eve, being the German tradition, and it’s convenient because all the people then visit the spouse’s family on Christmas Day. Tonight there were several aunts and uncles and cousins and kids of cousins, and a few friends of the family who aren’t related but just came over because why not?

We caught up and chatted over drinks and pretzels, and then dinner was served and people helped themselves to cold plates of ham, chicken, roast pork, a beef salad, a green salad, a pasta salad, roast potatoes, and the spicy lentil balls that we made yesterday.

After dinner was the giving of gifts. A cousin got dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out all the gifts from under the Christmas tree. The children get most of the gifts as usual. The gifts were then opened and everyone showed off what they got. It’s interesting the contrast between Christmas traditions. In my family it’s always been the case that someone dressed as Santa hands out all the gifts, and people collect a small pile of wrapped presents next to them. Then once they’re all handed out, everyone opens them all simultaneously, and there’s shouting and excitement and people yelling “Thank you!” across the patio as everyone is ripping off wrapping paper. But I’ve been at other family Christmas gatherings, where each gift is handed out, and then the recipient opens it while everybody watches, and then the next gift is handed out, and so on.

After gifts, dessert was served. This is always a highlight because the wife of one of my cousins is a great cook and always makes amazing cakes and treats. This year she’d made a super moist date cake and a batch of reindeer cookies. There were also cheesecakes and whipped cream and custard. After this my wife and I said goodbyes and we came home to retrieve Scully from her playdate with the dog next door. She’s exhausted, as are we!

And tomorrow, Christmas Day, we get to do it all again with my wife’s family!

New content today:

Golf and chores

I left home early this morning for a round of golf at the Lane Cove course I’ve played before. I think I’m getting a bit better slowly, but I messed up some long putts today and didn’t score much better. I did at least manage to finish with the same ball I started with, rather than losing several balls like last time, so that’s something!

At one point I caught up to a group of 4 players, and they invited me to tee off with them and play through. Under the pressure of them watching me, I flubbed my tee shot badly, ending up in thick brush about 10 metres left of the tee. One of them joked that he was happy to see a shot worse than his. They helped me look for my ball a minute, before heading off to play their own, leaving me lagging behind again. I did find my ball a couple of minutes later, but had to take a drop to make it playable.

After finishing, I went home and then walked up to the supermarket to get some food supplies. And when I got home I turned to some chores that needed doing. I’ve been putting off calling a plumber for a noisy, vibrating bathroom tap for ages. I thought maybe it needed reseating and asked a friend I know who is much more of a handyman then I am how difficult a job this is, and if he thought I could manage it. He suggested that the vibration I described was more likely caused by the type of valve/washer I’d installed last time I replaced the washer, and to try a traditional flat washer instead. So I did that, changing the washer… and lo… the vibration problem vanished! However, my friend suggested I should probably also get a reseating tool and use that on the tap to ensure no leaking. So I’ll do that another day.

I also did some other general housecleaning, and I emptied the damp collecting tubs in the wardrobes and closets and replaced the absorbing crystals. Normally I have to do this every couple of weeks because Sydney is generally a bit humid, but it’s been so dry lately that it’s been a couple of months since I did it last.

New content today:

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:

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:

Running and phoning

This morning I went for another 5k run. I skipped last week due to being overseas, and I’m still getting over a back strain I sustained during the trip. I’m setting this up as an excuse, because I didn’t manage to best my previous time. This time I averaged 6:13 per kilometre, which is my second fastest time. Hopefully next week I can improve again!

After getting back home and cooling off, I set out to a shopping centre a few stops away by train to pick up a new phone. It turns out the latest release of iOS is no longer supported by my old iPhone, with the result that when I upgraded my desktop machine some apps got broken and no longer synch between phone and desktop. This was kind of unsupportable as I use those apps frequently for things like shopping lists and keeping appointments. So I decided to bite the bullet and get a new phone.

One advantage is that the camera technology has improved a lot over my old phone. And for someone like me who takes a lot of photos, and enjoys the technical side of photography, that’s a substantial positive change. I experimented with it a lot this afternoon, and here’s one of the photos, taken while out walking Scully on the path we take by the harbour:

Berrys Bay

For lunch today I had leftover ratatouille that I cooked for dinner last night. There was some drama while cooking it, as I’d added all but one of the ingredients and the dish was basically 90% done, when I discovered we had no tomato paste in the pantry. I had to get my wife to watch the stove while I raced out to the grocery store to buy some. I tracked the walk on my phone, and it was almost 3 kilometres and took over 20 minutes. I wonder if other people do this sort of thing often.

I also started writing another of the 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe today. I’d hoped to finish and post it today, but there was so much other stuff going on that I’m barely half way through. Maybe tomorrow, although I have some other more urgent things I need to do then too.

New content today:

What monsters lurk in men

I was reminded today of just how horrible humans can be sometimes.

I decided to walk up to the fish & chip shop near my place to get some lunch, and then out to my favourite eating spot. It’s a lookout at the end of a street, perched on a hill with a view of Sydney Harbour. Not the grandest view, but a pretty nice one, and convenient for me to walk to. This is the spot where I mentioned magpies accosted me and my meal recently. No magpies today, thankfully, and this was the view:

Vista Street view

Lovely, right? Here’s a panorama to show more of the surroundings:

Vista Street lookout panorama

At the left of the panorama you can see the wooden bench where I usually sit to eat my lunch. There’s also an old white wooden chair frame, but the seat is missing – I don’t know why it’s still there. Anyway, here’s a closer shot of the bench:

Vista Street bench, with poisoned shade trees

This is where it gets nasty. See the trees, the partly foliaged one in the middle, the deadish looking one on the left, and the one on the right with many branches removed? Normally these trees have very full foliage and provide a deep, full shade to the wooden bench, making it perfect for sitting on. Today, as you can see, the bench is at best 30-40% shaded, with the hot spring sun burning down on the rest. What’s going on? And wait… what’s that sign?

Illegal tree poisoning notice

Some inconsiderate bastard has illegally poisoned the trees! This is unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence in Sydney, almost always around the harbour where some inconvenient tree happens to block the waterfront view of someone’s house. When these trees are fully dead and gone, the views from the houses behind them will take in considerably more of the harbour (and will provide no shade at all to my lunch seat). As you can see, tree poisoning is such a serious concern in Sydney that the law provides for fines up to $1.1 million – if the culprit is caught.

Tree poisoning notice

The council may have installed some CCTV cameras to keep a watch on the area, but I fear it’s too late. There have been some successful prosecutions for tree poisoning in Sydney, but often the perpetrator gets away with it due to lack of evidence.

On a brighter note, this morning I did another 5k run. I tried to push myself a bit faster than last time, and managed to drop my time from 6:25/km (8 Oct) and 6:19/km (15 Oct) to 5:52/km today! I still feel there’s a decent amount of improvement to go, so I’ll be keen to keep this up and try harder next time. Also, I can feel that my body is getting used to the exercise – I don’t feel nearly as sore as after that first run.

And otherwise I’ve been preparing for my trip to Germany tomorrow. I’m flying to Frankfurt via Dubai, then getting a train to Essen. On Sunday I’ll be attending the Spiel board game exhibition. The Monday morning I get a train to Cologne for three days of ISO Photography Standards meetings, before flying home on Thursday. I arrive back home Saturday morning, 2 November, so I’ll be gone just over a week. I’ll try to post updates from over there, but may not manage it – I’ll have to see.

New content today:

Running faster

One week after my first 5k run of the current exercise plan, I returned to the oval today to clock up another 5 kilometres. Again I alternated sprints and walking segments, though I did a few longer sprints than last time. Overall, last week I clocked 6:25 per kilometre, and today 6:19 per kilometre, so that was an improvement! And I don’t think my legs had fully recovered from last week either – they were already a little sore at the beginning.

I walked home from the oval through the Gore Hill Cemetery, which is an old historical cemetery, decommissioned some years ago, and now overgrown, with most of the graves forgotten and untended. There’s an angel headstone here which is one of my favourite photographic subjects. Her mood changes with the season and the weather. Today she was in a spring mood:

Considering a spring day

This afternoon I worked on some website coding for a new project that I’m not quite ready to announce yet. And my wife and I took Scully for a walk down to the harbour where there’s a park where she can run around off leash. For dinner I was going to make pizza, but I forgot to buy cheese today! So we converted to pasta instead, with a pumpkin, walnut, feta, and chilli sauce. (Which would have been our pizza topping.)

New content today: