Dog party!

Somehow I got stuck with the job of baking a ham for Christmas lunch with my wife’s family. So this morning I ventured out to acquire a ham. When I got to the supermarket, I found a section with Christmas hams… they were about $20 a kilogram, and all huge slabs of meat weighing 4, 5, 6+ kilos each. Christmas lunch will be for about 8 people… I really don’t think we could get through $100 worth of ham. So I wandered off to get some other groceries, wondering what to do. But then I ran across another section of the store where they had baby hams, closer to 1 kilo. Perfect!

Ham acquired, I bought some other stuff and went home. On the way, I popped into my dentist, as I was walking past and it reminded me that I’m overdue for a teeth clean. The receptionist wasn’t at the desk, so I had to wait a couple of minutes to make my appointment, and I looked over at the coffee table covered in magazines for waiting patients to read. And I spotted something interesting:

Mechanical Dentistry by Charles Hunter

Mechanical Dentistry by Charles Hunter

Well it’s good to see that my dentist is up on all of the latest techniques and practices! There was even a chapter on how to alloy gold for use in a filling or for a false tooth!

The rest of the morning I spent cataloguing all the bird photos I took yesterday, extracting photo metadata (date, time, GPS coordinates, etc), matching it to species IDs, and then importing the lot into my bird photo database. (You can browse this database, but it’s still under construction – I have to go back and import all my historical bird photos. At the moment it only has photos I took this year, so many of the birds click through to an empty page. For one with several photos, try the New Holland honeyeater.)

This afternoon, we had another Christmas party that Scully was invited to – this time at her dog park that we go to a couple of times a week. It was just organised by the group of regulars there, who invited everyone and their dogs to show up with a plate of food. We arrived early, to go for the usual walk along the shore with the group of dogs that Scully has become familiar with. By the time we got back from the walk there were maybe 20-30 dogs plus their owners there, enjoying plenty of food and drink.

Dog park party

As you can see, Scully was wearing her festive kiwifruit bandana. We stayed for a couple of hours, until about 6pm, when we left to go in search of dinner (the food we ate there was really more of an appetiser than a meal). We ended up at an Italian place, walking a large circuit from our place via the dog park. In total it was almost 8 km we walked this evening. Scully should sleep well tonight, as hopefully will I!

New content today:

School presentation and birds

This morning was the end of year Presentation Day assembly at the primary school where I do my volunteer science teaching stuff. As in the last few years, the school invited me to present the Science Award to the best science student. I get a reserved parking spot, and a seat on the stage with other special guests – it’s pretty cool. They present a whole bunch of academic, sports, and community awards to students, and “graduation” awards to the departing Year 6 class, going on to high school next year. This was the last time I’ll visit the school before the new year starts, and I wished the kids I saw from my Science Club a good Christmas holidays.

Afterwards, I decided to take advantage of being up on the northern beaches and took a walk for about an hour and a half around the Long Reef headland, which is a good spot to do some bird watching. I opened my account today with a crested pigeon:

Crested pigeon

I got a good shot of a red wattlebird (the bird isn’t red, it has red wattles, below the eyes):

Red wattlebird

And I managed to get a decent shot of a bird I hadn’t photographed before, a nankeen kestrel. It was flying overhead and I couldn’t tell what it was, silhouetted against the sky. I boosted the exposure and shot wildly, trying to follow it across the sky:

Nankeen kestrel

I could go on, but rather than post all the photos here, I’ve stuck them in an Imgur album with species IDs, which you can check at your leisure if interested. (They’re also in my Flickr stream, link below.)

I had some lunch nearby, and then drove a few minutes to Warriewood Wetlands, which is another bird hostspot, and photographed some more birds (also in the album). I got home just in time to take Scully out to the park for afternoon exercise. And then I spent the rest of the evening processing and uploading bird photos. 🙂

New content today:

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:

Report writing

Today was a working day. I needed to write a report on my recent trip to Germany for the ISO Photography standards meeting in Cologne. Standards Australia requires a meeting report, and I also need to prepare notes for a follow-up meeting with photography experts here in Australia, to report on what was discussed in Germany. Part of the meeting outcomes was a plan to host a meeting in Sydney in February 2021, which we now need to begin planning.

So I spent most of the day writing that report. Later in the afternoon we had a big thunderstorm crash through Sydney, although we only caught the edge of it and didn’t see a lot of rain, but we certainly got a lot of lightning and thunder. We have more storms forecast for tomorrow. It’s good to get some rain, although it’s not clear if it’ll make much difference to the current drought. Sydney goes onto Level 2 water restrictions in a couple of weeks, because our dams continue to dry up.

New content today:

Debug day

Ugh, what a day. I spent basically all day trying to reconstruct the Irregular Webcomic! forums after yesterday’s disastrous PHP upgrade event on my webhost.

I tried several things, battling with cryptic documentation and apparently non-working installers. I installed a brand new copy of the latest version of phpBB, expecting that I could import/convert the old database containing all the forum poster user data and posts. The installer said there was a convertor included, but when I got to that step, it just wasn’t there. I fiddled around for some hours, trying things, searching for help, discussing with other people. Eventually I tried the installer again, and lo, this time the mysterious convertor interface was there! I don’t know why it wasn’t there the first time.

Anyway, I managed to import the old database, so all of the old forum data is now in the new forums. It looks like it’s working fine, but all of my graphical customisations have vanished. I may try to reinstate some of them, but it was actually the extensive modifications I made to the previous forum’s appearance that caused me to give up upgrading the software in the first place, since the customisations and upgrades interfered with each other and made the upgrade process a real pain in the neck each time. So this time I plan to keep any modifications minimal, so that I can keep the software up to date and hopefully avoid this sort of issue again.

While doing all this, I also got a report that the PHP 7 upgrade has also broken the comics on mezzacotta.net. I spent a bit of time debugging that as well, replacing some deprecated/removed functions. The code now seems to run okay under PHP 7 on the command line, but for some reasons it’s still failing when run via the web page. So I’m currently stumped on that one.

I also squeezed in a few other minor coding tasks in between bashing my head on a brick wall all day. I finally figured out getting an SSL certificate for Darths & Droids, so now the site loads with that trendy padlock icon instead of the “This site is not secure” warning. I’ll add this to all my sites in the next day or so – there’s apparently an interaction with WordPress sites that makes it less trivial than what I did today.

And I set up my new photography website on a brand new domain: dmm.photo. I’ll be expanding this site a bit soon, with a view to offering photo prints for sale. Oh yeah, and it links to a trendy new Instagram that I’ve started too: @davidmorganmar. These two items are part of a campaign I’m beginning to try and make some income as a photographer. Since it’s something else I love doing, like making comics.

New content today:

Germany travel diary completed

I’ve completed work on my Germany travel diary from last week’s trip. I’ve revised the text a bit and added photos, after completing work on the photos I took over there.

And in some other good news: Remember how one of the hotels I booked through Amoma, and then Amoma went bankrupt, leaving my booking in limbo and me out of $500? I applied to Visa for a chargeback, and submitted evidence of Amoma’s bankruptcy and defaulting on my prepaid hotel bill. It took 7 weeks for Visa to process the claim, but today I got the money refunded! Woo!

Apart from that, I didn’t do much today. I strained my back yesterday while hauling those groceries home, and wanted to take it easy today, so I relaxed a bit.

New content today:

More Germany photos

This morning I went up the street to get some groceries, to restock things after being away for a week. I walked up the hill to the supermarket, and hauled three heavy bags of stuff home, including a cooler bag full of stuff to go in the fridge and freezer. I got home… and realised I hadn’t taken the key. Oops.

Fortunately, two circumstances made this not a disaster. Firstly, one of my neighbours was home, and let me put my cold groceries in his fridge, and leave the rest fo them in his kitchen. Secondly, my wife works only 20 minutes away. So I headed over to her work to pick up her keys, then came back home, picked up my groceries from the neighbour, and finally let myself in. So that was an interesting waste of an hour or so.

I spent much of the day sorting through Magic: the Gathering cards, trying to catalogue all the bulk commons in my collection. It’s time to clear them out and regain some (a) storage space and (b) cash, if I can. In between, I processed and uploaded a bunch more photos from last week in Cologne. Here’s my travelling companion Monkey at Cologne Cathedral:

Monkey at Cologne Cathedral

On one afternoon after my meetings finished, my wife and I checked out the Wallraf-Richartz Museum of art. It has this painting, among others: Drawbridge at Arles, by Vincent van Gogh (my photo):

Drawbridge at Arles

And then also the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK), a museum of art and design. The historical permanent exhibit was closed for renovation, but the modern design exhibit was open, with lots of funky design stuff from around 1900-1950, like this Russian radio:

Russian radio

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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.

New content today:

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.

New content today:

Ticking the boxes

This morning I did a half hour or so of stretching routines to ease my tired muscles after yesterday’s long walk. Then went for a walk! To the supermarket to get some essential supplies for lunch and dinner.

When I got home I decided to clean the fridge. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and it felt like the right time to get stuck in. I moved everything and pulled out all the shelves and stuff and washed them in soapy water, wiped off the inside of the cabinet, and all of the door compartments. It took two hours to do the whole job, but the fridge is sparkling now. I did a few other small odd jobs and housework tasks.

More productively, I transferred some panorama photos off my phone from yesterday’s walk. Crater Cove (notice the water dragon sitting on the rock at foreground left):

Crater Cove panorama

Reef Beach:

Reef Beach panorama

This evening, my wife and Scully were out at a yoga class (its dog-friendly and Scully enjoys stretching and chilling out too). I turned on the shower to wash off the day’s manual labour, and was just stepping in when I noticed a weird thing on my leg. I tried to brush it off but it didn’t move. I tried to scrape it more vigorously… and saw a bunch of little legs wave around as the tick dug its head deeper into my skin. I’m guessing I picked up the tick during yesterday’s walk, since it was through a lot of bushland. I did take Scully to the park this afternoon, but we were only on grass and concrete, not in any bush.

I’ve never had a tick bite before, so had no experience on what to do. I quickly looked up a few web sites, and consulted with a friend in chat who is a pharmacist. The best course of action would be to freeze the tick with some sort of spray and then pull it out with needle-nose tweezers, neither of which I had. I decided the best course of action was to have a doctor remove it, and raced up to the hospital emergency room – fortunately just 10 minutes walk from my home.

I figured I’d have a bit of a wait, not being a serious emergency, but fortunately there weren’t many people there, and I was in an out within about an hour. A doctor saw me, applied some freezing spray to kill the tick, then extricated it carefully, and I was good to go. Thankfully there seems to be no adverse reaction, no itching or swelling or allergic reaction. (Also, thankfully being in Australia, there was no bill to pay.)

It did ruin the dinner I’d planned to cook, as my wife arrived home from yoga hungry and decided to make herself a sandwich while waiting for me to come home from the hospital. Ah well! 😀

New content today: