Friday/Saturday Double

I missed yesterday’s post because I was out most of the day, so I’ll cover Friday and Saturday now to make up for it.

Friday morning I had a meeting at Standards Australia, chairing the committee on photography standards. I caught a train into the city, where Standards Australia has their offices in the Australian Stock Exchange building. So you have to check in and get a security pass, and the lifts have this weird operation where you swipe your visitor card and a lift comes and takes you to the floor you’re allowed access to, without you having to press any buttons – in fact the lifts have no buttons at all inside them.

We have committee members form various research and cultural institutions, as well as representatives form industry and professional photography associations. I reported on the work done at the international standards meeting in Cologne that I attended in October. One particularly interesting project is updating the formulation of visual noise measurement in photos, to revise the current international standard. Experimentally, the current definition doesn’t correlate very well with human observer opinion on how much noise is in an image. People from several countries have been doing experiments designed to derive and then verify a new formula based on image statistics – including an experiment that I ran in December 2018 (while I was still employed). The work is approaching the final stages and a revision of the standard should progress through the approval process in the next year.

After the meeting closed, I walked through the city to do some Christmas shopping. For someone I wanted to get some classic thriller movies, so I checked out a major retailer and their BluRay section. They had a bunch of Hitchcock films, and I thought I’d get Psycho and Vertigo. Both were available for $12.95, but Psycho had a discount sticker on it saying “2 for $20”, while Vertigo had a sticker “Buy 2, get 1 free”. I grabbed them and went to the counter and asked if they could treat the second sticker like the first and give me both titles for $20. The person said no, the stickered items were very strictly applied, and they couldn’t change the discounts. Feeling cheated of a bargain, I walked out empty handed.

A few blocks south, there was another shop of the same retailer, so I went in to see if their stick was any different. Again Psycho and Vertigo for $12.95, but here Vertigo had a “2 for $20” sticker, while Psycho had no discount sticker. If I’d managed somehow to get Psycho from the first shop and Vertigo from the second, I could have had them both for $20! But at this shop they again refused me the combo discount, so I stubbornly refused to buy either of them. If the stickers are “strictly applied”, how come the same titles are stickered differently at different shops??

Anyway, I progressed through a series of other shops, buying gifts along the way. The shopping areas were moderately crowded with Christmas shoppers, but not as bad as it’ll get in the next few weeks. Then I headed home on the train again. The sky was very grey and smoky still from the bushfires, but it seemed higher up, and not clogging the ground level with smoke like it had on Thursday.

After a brief stop at home, I set out for fortnightly Friday games night at a friend’s place. We started early, to give us an hour and a bit to write some Darths & Droids comics, at which we made good progress, writing four new strips. We’re still finishing off the Muppet storyline, and haven’t started work on The Force Awakens yet. We’re planning a group viewing of The Rise of Skywalker when it’s released in a couple of weeks, after which we’ll sit down and figure out our storyline through the final three films.

Then it was into games! We started with The Quacks of Quedlinburg, in which each player is a quack doctor, brewing magic potions in an attempt to sell them to suckers patients, in order to buy more ingredients to make more profitable potions:

The Quacks of Quedlinburg

This game was interrupted a bit by several of us veering off to play Magic: the Gathering games to complete the high-powered cube draft we started back in September. The final few games were completed, and Steven ended up winning, while I managed to come dead last, despite being the only person who knew in advance what cards we were going to be playing with! While this was going on, other players played hot seat in the Quacks game, taking over as other people subbed out to play Magic. I started the game in one seat, but returned later to take over another seat, from where I managed to come second in the game – while the seat I started in came last!

After this, we split into two groups to play two different games. I ended up playing Wingspan, which I’d never played before. It’s a game of collecting different birds, using food to gather them, and then they lay eggs, and various other things happen that score points.

Wingspan

This was two rounds in; I was playing the board at the bottom with the red cubes, and I thought I was going rather poorly. But by the end of the game:

Wingspan

I had a lot of birds, with a lot of eggs. My birds were not worth many points compared to the other players, but I had so many eggs that I won the game by 3 points! (89 on the score sheet in the photo.) It was a fun game, and I’m definitely keen to try it again.

The other guys were all ribbing me during the game, saying I’d find factual errors or stuff on the bird cards, since I’m interested in birds. I don’t recall the details, but I certainly made some erudite bird comments during the game, which only served to prove their point!

I got home late, so didn’t make a post last night. Today, Saturday, I spent the morning cleaning the bathroom and then making one of the new Darths & Droids strips that we write last night. And then after lunch my wife and I went out with Scully to a market, to meet her mum and sister there. Scully got to chase ducks and geese, which I don’t think she’s seen before. The geese were three times her size, but she was keen to chase them! The market ate up the afternoon, and then this evening we went out for dinner at a Greek place near us – that was established in 1969, so is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Today was warmer, and the sky a smoky grey all day. This smoke is really starting to get to people, me included. It feels like we haven’t seen blue sky for weeks. And the outlook isn’t good either, with forecasters saying it will most likely hang around Sydney for weeks, if not months. Blah.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Delta Dog training

Last night was fortnightly games night with the guys. We played Azul: Summer Pavilion, which I picked up last weekend:

Azul: Summer Pavilion

And Deep Blue, one of the games I got in Essen:

Deep Blue

I didn’t win either game, alas.

But on to today: After Scully passed her Delta therapy dogs exam last weekend, my wife had her training scheduled today. The training is for human handlers only, so I had to look after Scully for the day.

We dropped my wife off at the training place before 9am this morning, and then Scully and I drove back home. She was a bit distracted on the trip, and kept putting her front paws on the armrest console, thus activating various buttons. She does this occasionally when in the car with just a driver. She can turn the radio on and off, change the station, one time she set up a new favourite station. Today she managed to activate the satnav and store a new favourite address!

Back home, she relaxed in her dog bed while I made a new Darths & Droids strip. We went out for a bit of fresh air in the park across the street, and then it was time to go get some lunch. We drove back to a bakery near where my wife was training, and I got some pies for lunch. We walked over to a nearby park where Scully could run around and chase a tennis ball. The park is on a slope running down to Drummoyne Oval, where a grade cricket match was in progress.

Watching cricket at Drummoyne Oval

At one point I tossed the ball, and it rolled down the hill with Scully chasing it… but she’s not a terribly agile dog like some others, and generally has to wait for the ball to roll to a stop before she can pick it up. I could see what was going to happen and ran after her, but by the time we got to the bottom of the hill, the ball had rolled under the fence and into the cricket ground. I could see it, some 10 metres inside the fence. So we had to walk around the outer fence to find a gate that was open, and then go inside the spectator area, and walk around the edge of the playing field while the game was in progress, to retrieve her ball. Fortunately grade cricket matches don’t charge admission for spectators, so we could get in and out without any trouble.

After an hour of playing in the park, we went to pick up my wife. Her training went fine, and she’s selected some hospitals near us that she’d like to visit with Scully as part of the Delta program. They won’t start until early next year, but she’s pretty excited.

New content today:

Games night!

Late update, because last night was fortnightly games night with friends. I took my new games acquired at Spiel in Essen, and we played Walking in Burano:

Walking in Burano

And Deep Blue:

Deep Blue

Burano was a hit. Deep Blue I think we need to play a few more games of, and with more players. We had four players for Burano, which was great, but two more people arrived after that, and Deep Blue only supports up to five, so we split into two groups of three. The box says Deep Blue plays in 45 minutes, but we took almost 2 hours to play the first game. It’ll speed up as we become more familiar with the rules and strategies, but my feeling is that more interaction with more players will be better as well.

We also played a new game that AS brought, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, a magic potion brewing game which was a lot of fun:

Quacks of Quedlinburg

Earlier in the day I wrote a few scripts for Darths & Droids, hoping to be able to go through them with the guys before games started. But AS was hosting, and it’s difficult to do at his place since he doesn’t get home from work until later, and by then everyone just wants to get started on the games. So we’re going to review the strips over online chat this weekend – hopefully in time for Sunday’s new one to be published!

Doing that, and other stuff, meant i didn’t have time to complete that 100 Proofs entry I started on Thursday. Maybe today??

New content today:

Back to Ethics

It’s Wednesday, which means Ethics teaching day. I walked to the school – which is a bit of a hike, and very hilly. The kids told me that last week they didn’t have a substitute Ethics teacher, so I did the final lesson of the Homelessness topic with them.

One of the scenarios today was about and 8-year-old girl named Jenny, whose mother and father lose their jobs, and can’t afford their rent any more, so they move to a caravan park, and then after a while the bills pile up and they can’t even afford that, so the family ends up sleeping in their car. The question: Did Jenny‚Äôs family choose to become homeless? Or did they have no choice in the matter?

The first kid to answer said it was the parents’ fault, because they must have done something wrong at work to get fired and lose their jobs. As someone who lost my job earlier this year, because the company was closed down, I had to bite my tongue. Fortunately some other kids mentioned that people can be made redundant and companies can shut down, so no, it probably wasn’t their fault. I think some of the kids have had their assumptions challenged during this topic!

I walked home via a longer route, passing by the post office depot where I had a package waiting to be picked up. It’s weird – when I have to pick up a package sometimes it’s an one of the nearby post offices, sometimes it’s at the other post office, and sometimes it’s at the further away postal depot. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to which place I have to pick it up from. Oh, the item was a Kickstarted roleplaying book that I backed almost a full year ago – so it was good to receive that! And my total walk was close to 9 kilometres.

I got home close to lunch time, and spent the afternoon mostly cleaning the house. Oh, and this evening I played the first game with my wife of Walking in Burano that I picked up at Spiel in Essen. It’s very strategic for a small game. My wife beat me 61 points to 53. But it was only a learning game, so the result doesn’t count! ūüėČ

New content today:

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 B√§renpark 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.

New content today:

Bread and Codenames

Saturday – more housework! After cleaning various things this morning I got stuck into writing some new Irregular Webcomic! scripts. I want to get another batch made next week if I can, and then complete another batch before I leave for my trip to Germany at the end of October. I wrote about half the batch today – hopefully I’ll have time to finish it off tomorrow.

It was approaching lunch time and I was getting hungry, so I checked the kitchen. We had 2/3 of a loaf of bread bought from the supermarket on Thursday, so I planned to make myself some sandwiches. I grabbed the bread… and noticed that the plastic bag had a large hole in it at the bottom end. Ragged, like it had been torn open. And a big chunk of the bread inside the hole had been… eaten away. It looked like mouse or rat damage.

Now I’m pretty sure we don’t have mice in the house, and we store the bread under a plastic cake cover so there’s no way anything could get in. So this must have occurred at the supermarket, and we just didn’t notice it until now. My immediate problem was that this left me with nothing straightforward to eat for lunch. (I wasn’t going to eat slices of a loaf that’s had mice/rats chewing on it.) So I took the rodent-gnawed loaf and went for a walk up to the supermarket to exchange it, and to buy some lunch on the way. I got sushi. The supermarket exchanged the bread for a new loaf with no issues, and the woman I spoke to said she’d show the damaged loaf to the manager.

This afternoon: more comic writing, distracted a bit by wondering if I have a Lego Boushh or not, and how much it would cost to acquire one (about $35 it turns out – too much for one comic). Then I watched Australia’s first game in the Rugby World Cup in Japan, as they played against Fiji in Sapporo. Fiji got off to a good start and led the scoring until the 62nd minute, when the Aussies finally pulled ahead – and from there the Fijians were visibly fatiguing while the Aussies stormed all over them, scoring multiple more times to win comfortably in the end. Our next game is against Wales next weekend.

After the game my wife and I took Scully to the park for some exercise. We’re trying a new training treat: tinned salmon, which she gets a morsel of for successfully responding to our call to “come here”. She obeys that one reasonably well, but not if she gets distracted by something, so we’re working on strengthening it. The good news is she likes the salmon, and was very keen to “come here” to get some.

This evening I played some games of Codenames Duet with my wife. We lost the first game when I guessed an assassin card. Here’s the layout midway through the second game, where we’re going better:

Codenames Duet

At this stage I had to clue to my wife MARATHON, ST PATRICK, WEREWOLF, and MONKEY. I considered “hairy” for WEREWOLF and MONKEY, but was stymied by the presence of BEARD. I plumped for “person” to clue ST PATRICK and WEREWOLF, which thankfully worked, and after that it was all downhill to the finish, as we won it handily. So 1 loss, 1 win.

New content today:

Architects of the West Kingdom

Today was spent getting used to my new tooth, and also in doing some comics work. I assembled a new Darths & Droids strip for Sunday’s update, and then wrote a bunch of new Dinosaur Whiteboard comics for the first time in six months. It’s funny how having more spare time means I’ve had less time to spend making those. Anyway, I’m hoping to keep those up 5 days a week for a while again.

I did some admin work involving contacting my mother’s ISP to sort out some account stuff for her. Then went out for lunch and to buy some groceries to lead into the weekend.

Tonight was fortnightly games night with friends. Five of us gathered at Steven’s place, and we kicked off with a Darths & Droids writing session, titling the strip I’d made this morning and then writing new strips. After we did that we got stuck into games.

I played a couple of quick games of Rubik’s Race, which was really only there because Steven has primary school aged children. It’s nowhere near as difficult as a Rubik puzzle, and is essentially a simple sliding tile puzzle that is played as a race between two players.

After pizza we got stuck into a serious game: Architects of the West Kingdom. This is a worker placement game, in which you have 20 meeples and each turn you place one on the board in a location of your choice, and then depending on the location you perform an action per meeple that you have at that location. Some locations simply give you resources, while at others you spend the resources you have to buy artisans, or build buildings. There are also some actions that interact with other players’ meeples, such as capturing them, or ransoming them off to the prison tower for money. You gain virtue for doing virtuous things, such as building the cathedral, giving goods to the king, or paying off debts, while losing virtue for things like raiding the tax store, or visiting the black market to secure a better trade deal.

Here’s the game partway through. I’m playing red, with my supply on the far side of the board in this view:

Architects of the West Kingdom

It’s really engaging because each turn is only a few seconds long and your turn comes around again quickly, so it always feels like you’re doing something, rather than waiting for your turn. You get victory points for buildings, gold, marble, coins, virtue, having built parts of the cathedral, and also any bonus points on cards you may have bought during the game. So there’s a lot of variety in ways to accumulate points, and thus a lot of different strategies that you can use that feel like viable ways to winning. All these are good features, and it’s a fun game. As it turns out, I won with 34 points! The next player had 30.

If you’re looking for a good new game that supports up to five players, I recommend it.

New content today:

Cleaning and creating

Housecleaning day! After dealing with the usual Saturday morning routines, I spent some time organising details for the special Magic: the Gathering games night I’m running for my friends in three weeks. I have still have quite a bit of prep to do, and will be devoting a few days to it in the coming week. No details yet, to avoid spoiling the surprise for my friends! I’m getting more excited about this every day though.

In between I worked on some photos from my trip to Portugal in May, completing another day of the trip, which meant that I could complete my travel diary entry for the day.

View of Porto

I also did some Real Work type work, reading through a proposed ISO standard for photography and writing up comments on the draft. This is work that I started when I had a job at Canon (and got paid for it), and am now continuing in an independent expert (i.e. unemployed) capacity, because I believe in supporting the work and representing Australia’s interests in these international standards. The next face-to-face meeting of the ISO Photography committee is in Cologne, Germany, in the last week of October, and I am going to attend – I’ve booked my flights and hotels already. Standards Australia may provide me with funding, dependent on their budget and how important they think it is for me to attend this meeting – but I’ve already spent the money, so I’m going whether I get funded or not.

While in Germany, coincidentally the huge Spiel board gaming fair is on in Essen just days before my ISO meeting. And since Essen is less than an hour from Cologne, I’m taking the opportunity to visit and attend the fair – probably a once in a lifetime chance for me. So I’m pretty excited about that!

New content today:

Architects of the West Kingdom

It was a very rainy day today, which is good because Sydney needs a lot of rain to break this drought we’re in.

Andrew C. organised a lunch at his place today, with sausage sandwiches and board games. Steven was supposed to be there, but unfortunately he was sick, so we only had three players: Andrew, Tim, and me. We played Architects of the West Kingdom, which has a lot of possible options every move, but individual moves are very small and quick, so we cycle through turns quickly. You place one of your workers each turn, and perform a simple action depending on where you put them: either collecting resources of various types (wood, ore, bricks, silver, gold), constructing buildings, hiring assistants, or – and this is the interesting one – rounding up opponents’ workers with the aim of ransoming them to the prison for silver. I concentrated on building buildings, while Tim went for completing the cathedral, and Andrew aimed for prestige. I ended up winning by just a couple of points thanks to my stockpiling of gold and marble. It was pretty cool and definitely a game to play again. Thumbs up!

I stopped off on the way home to buy some liquorice tea to refill my empty container at home. It’s my favourite hot drink.

And then in the afternoon my wife and I took Scully out for some exercise, thinking we needed to despite the rain. We got to the dog park and there were only three of the regulars in attendance. We went for a walk under our umbrellas, and with Scully wearing a doggy raincoat. But within a few minutes Scully was soaked and shivering with cold, so we had to scoop her up and carry her back to the car and try to warm her up again. The rain was getting heavier and we all got pretty wet.

Back home we dried her off with the hair drier, which warmed her up again. She’s very good and doesn’t mind the hair drier. But then this evening she was restless and demanded some play time to get out her energy, running around the house and shaking her dog toys around a lot. Thankfully she’s settled down for the night now. Tomorrow will be interesting, as it’s supposed to be even more, heavier rain.

In between all this, I wrote some Irregular Webcomic! scripts for a new batch of comics that I’ll have to make over the next few days.

New content today:

On a road to nowhere

This morning was my Ethics class, and we continued the topic of stealing, with three example stories about various common forms of theft that many people do: pirating software, not reporting being undercharged by a shop, and public transport fare evasion. We discussed whether these things are actually morally wrong and, if they are, why so many people do them. The kids were reasonably well behaved today – I think my behaviour management efforts from last week have had some effect.

After the class, I’d decided to go for a bit of a drive and check out a game shop out in the suburbs which has a good reputation but which I’d never visited before. They had a bunch of sale items on their web site and I thought I’d browse around and maybe pick up a cheap board game or two. The website said they opened at 10:30. I arrived a few minutes early, so went for a a bit of a walk around the premises, which was an industrial estate – it seems most of their business is mail order shipping, rather than walk-in customers.

I got back a few minutes after 10:30, but the door was still locked. I looked on it and saw a faded sign saying they opened at 11:00! So I had half an hour to wait. There wasn’t anything else interesting in the area, so I checked Google Maps and found a bakery about 10 minutes walk away, where I could go to get a snack and a drink. I did so, then waked back again, arriving a bit after 11:00… only to find the door still locked. I examined the sign again, and saw that they opened at 11:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They were closed all day Wednesday!

So I’d driven 40 minutes to this place for no reason, spent over half an hour waiting around fruitlessly, and could do nothing but drive home again. That pretty much wasted half the day, and it was hard to get motivated again after returning home, so I ended up wasting a lot of the afternoon too. I did achieve going to the hardware store to buy some stuff, and taking Scully to the pet store to let her browse around – she loves visiting the pet store and sniffing everything. But didn’t get any sort of work-type stuff done.

Sometimes you just have one of those days.

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