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:

Final Ethics of the year

This morning was my last Ethics class of the school year. I walked to the school (3.1 km away) because the weather was cool and winds had blown yesterday’s smoke away, thankfully.

In this class we didn’t discuss ethical questions, but instead reflected on the year gone past and what the students learnt. I asked them what topics they enjoyed most, which ones made them think when other students expressed different opinions, and which, if any, changed their minds. We had a really good discussion, and the kids’ behaviour was excellent. Towards the end of the lesson I handed out completion certificates to each child. I told them I wished them well as they begin high school next year, and said I would miss them, as this would probably be the last time we ever see each other.

I genuinely will miss (most of) them, and it makes me a bit sad to think that I really won’t ever see any of them again. However when the bell went, they basically just got up, waved bye, and filed out the door. I think at their age it doesn’t really hit them when they have to say goodbye to someone forever. Come February I’ll have a brand new class with new names to learn, and no doubt I’ll grow fond of the new kids as well.

I decided to walk home through the Lane Cove Bushland Park, which is more or less an alternate “shortest” route home. The track passes through some dense bush, and it would be very difficult to go cross-country off the established walking track. I should have emerged back into a street near my place, but when I was almost there I found a fence blocking the track, with signs indicating that it was undergoing repairs and was closed for safety due to heavy equipment being used. The idea of jumping a safety fence and incurring the wrath of construction workers didn’t appeal, so I had to backtrack through much of the park and emerge an extra kilometre of so away from home, adding maybe 2 km to my journey.

On the way though, I went down some streets I’ve never walked down before, and found a lovely old estate house on a big block of land:

Fancy house

Back home, I didn’t have much time before picking up my wife and Scully to take them to their very first job as a Delta Dogs therapy dog team! This was an event held at Macquarie University for international students who won’t be travelling home to see family over Christmas, with the dogs there to give them some good cheer. They had a team of seven dogs there today, with Scully among them. Normally she’ll be working solely with my wife on hospital visits, but occasionally they have other sorts of events like this as well. Here’s Scully in her Delta uniform:

Delta Dog

While I waited to pick them up I had lunch at a nearby friend’s place, and we played a game of Wingspan (the same game I played last Friday games night), which I won handily. Then I picked up Scully and my wife to head home.

I spent this afternoon and evening doing some coding work on the mezzacotta generators, adding some stuff to a new band name generator which we’ve been collaborating on.

Oh, and last night I made a batch of eggnog, using Jamie Oliver’s recipe. It had to refrigerate overnight, so I didn’t taste it until tonight. Actually, I had some commercially produced eggnog at my friend’s place at lunch today, to compare it against. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever had eggnog. The commercial stuff tasted okay, but honestly not something I’d buy.

But then I had my own home-made eggnog tonight… and it was delicious! A much nicer drink than what I’d had at lunchtime.

Home made eggnog

Yummo! I’ll definitely be making more of this some time.

New content today:

Comic photos and walking

This morning I spent taking photos for the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! This involved cleaning my desk off for setting up the Lego sets, which prompted me to do a proper dusting and cleaning… and then of course I had to clean a bunch of other dusty surfaces around the place. Oh, and I also had to clean up the balcony after yesterday’s super windy conditions and the toppled plant mess that I hadn’t cleaned up yesterday.

My right thumb is a bit swollen and red from the bee sting, but it doesn’t hurt, unless I put pressure on it. Hopefully it’ll be fine in a few days.

I went for a walk to get lunch, and then took a long way home, going along three bushwalk tracks which skirted the edge of the harbour, in and out of the coves along the way.

Red gums

It’s nice being able to walk along paths that look like you’re in the middle of nowhere, even though you’re really in the middle of a big city. Occasionally you get glimpses of the city through the trees.

City from the bush

This area was home to a tribe of Aborigines at the time the English settlers arrived in Sydney, and there’s still evidence of their inhabitation, in the form of shell middens and carvings in some of the rocks.

In the afternoon I started assembling the photos from this morning into new comics. I still have most of them to do, which will take another day or so of work.

New content today:

Comic photos and walking

This morning I photographed the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I wrote over the weekend. I finished just in time for lunch, so went for a nice long walk to stretch my legs and get some food. I ended up doing a loop to the Italian bakery and back via a different route, completing 6.6 kilometres according to my tracking app. Phew!

Ad then when I got home I realised I should have got some groceries – we needed milk and bread, and probably something to cook for dinner. So later in the afternoon I took another walk up to the supermarket.

While at home I got a delivery – a copy of the original cover printing of the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual. I’ve had a Monster Manual since 1983 or so, but it was the updated cover art, while I had the original cover art of the Dungeon Masters Guide, so they never matched. I decided a while back to try to get an original cover Monster Manual, and have been watching eBay for several months now. I bid on a few but lost the auction, and there was one “buy it now” that looked good from a seller in the UK, except it was a large bookseller and they had a disclaimer that the cover photo was a stock photo and not the actual product, and they couldn’t guarantee that the cover art was the same as the photo. I contacted them and said I was after a specific cover art, and could they verify it for me, and they wrote back and basically said no… so I declined to purchase that one. But last week I found an inexpensive copy in good condition from an Australian seller, and snapped it up. When it arrived today, I was very pleased, as it’s in great condition for the age. And now I finally, after 36 years, have a complete collection of the original artwork AD&D rulebooks.

Monster Manual

New content today:

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:

Spit to Manly Walk

If you don’t know Sydney, the post title might be a little bit cryptic. “Spit” refers to “The Spit“, a locality in Sydney named after a spit of land in Sydney’s Middle Harbour, while “Manly” is not an adjective, but the name of a beachside suburb (although etymologically it was named by Captain Arthur Phillip for the “manly” demeanour of the native Aboriginal people who inhabited the area). The Spit to Manly Walk is a 10 km walk along the coastline of Sydney Harbour, through a mix of undeveloped bushland, parkland, a short section on urban streets, and ending with a coastal promenade.

Today I did this walk with a couple of friends. We started by crossing The Spit Bridge:

Spit Bridge

And heading east on the north side:

Ellerys Punt Reserve

The first small cove we passed was Fisher Bay:

Fisher Bay looking out

Past the Sandy Bear Cafe:

The Sandy Bear

Then along Clontarf Beach, where we had to squeeze between the high tide waterline and the back fence of some houses:

Clontarf Beach ahead

Past some small beaches of the Duke of Edinburgh Reserve:

Duke of Edinburgh Reserve

Up onto Dobroyd Head, where there are historical Aboriginal rock carvings:

Fish 1

And where there was a view of the city:

The city

Over the hill to a view of Crater Cove and North Head:

Crater Cove and North Head

Where we saw a water dragon:

Water dragon

Then down to Reef Beach (a former nude beach):

Reef Beach view

Out of the bush into more urban surrounds:

Fairlight house

Past the Fairlight Tidal Pool:

Fairlight tidal pool

Along the promenade, where there are warning signs to beware of the fairy penguins who nest around this area:

Penguin warning

Past Manly Cove Beach:

Manly Cove Beach

And into Manly, where we went to the 4 Pines Brewery for lunch!

4 Pines Brewing Company

I got home late in the afternoon and basically relaxed for the rest of the day, exhausted!

New content today:

Cleaning and painting

I achieved a lot today – most of it housework and home handyman stuff. I gave the kitchen a thorough clean, removing everything from the benchtops and dusting, removing crumbs, etc., then polishing the stone. I emptied the crumbs out of the toaster, scrubbed everything clean to get spots off: toaster, kettle, cooktop, rangehood, splashbacks, pasta jars, food processor, microwave. I moved the microwave and cleaned underneath it. I scoured the sink with steel wool. Cleaned the cupboard doors. Even cleaned the window sill. It’s a big chunk of work, but it’s nice having a sparkling, spotless kitchen.

Then I did another round of painting, both white on the ceilings, and the off-white of the walls, over the various repairs we had done a while ago. This should be the final coat, so I tidied up the paint tins that have been sitting around for weeks and threw away the paint-spattered dropsheet. There was also laundry folding, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and some vacuuming.

In between all this I went for a walk to get some lunch. I got fish and chips, and instead of walking to my usual eating spot on the cliff overlooking the harbour, where I was pestered by magpies last time, I walked to another location, a steep climb down the hill to the water’s edge on the other side of the peninsula.

Jago Street view

It was really nice here! I thought there was a path connecting it to the next park around the shore, and I tried to go there to walk back via that way, but I couldn’t find a path through the bush on the steep bank. I suspect there might be private property in between going all the way down to the waterline, making it impossible to walk from one park to the other along the shore, which is annoying. So I had to backtrack the way I came.

New content today:

New walking route

Ethics teaching day! We started a new topic today (having finished “stealing” last week): Jumping to conclusions. It’s actually about applying a bit of formal logic to statements to transform them into other statements, and how that changes the truth value. For example, one of the statements we discussed today is “All carrots are vegetables”, which is true. If you reverse the statement, “All vegetables are carrots”, you get a false statement.

Then we moved to trickier examples, like “All Persian cats are fluffy” – which you can’t reverse in the same way as easily: “All fluffy are Persian cats”. You need to add a noun to the second part: “All Persian cats are fluffy animals” → “All fluffy animals are Persian cats”. Again, true becomes false. Then “All birds have wings”, which needs to be modified to “All birds are animals with wings” → “All animals with wings are birds”. Again, true becomes false.

Next week we move on to examples where the truth value doesn’t change when you reverse the sentence. The goal of the topic is really to get the kids thinking about the rules of logic rather than to teach them rote rules, so that they can avoid jumping to incorrect conclusions.

On the way home I walked a new route which I haven’t explored before, through a local bush park. This is a park that straddles a creek, and consists of uncleared eucalyptus forest. I took some photos on the walk:

Lane Cove track

Gore Creek

It’s nice having relatively untouched bushland so close to home. There are several areas like this within walking distance of my home. The full walk to Ethics and home via the bush park was over 9 kilometres, and I climbed 176 metres of elevation. It’s a very hilly area around here.

Speaking of which, I’ve been keeping track of everywhere I walk using the Fog of World app for a few months. Here’s my current map showing everywhere I’ve walked in that time:

Fog of World map

New content today:

Bento box

Today was a bit of a lazy day, work-wise. I actually spent most of my time at home refactoring code, which didn’t achieve anything tangible beyond making it easier to add on more stuff later.

I also spent a lot of time out. I arranged to meet a friend for lunch at a Japanese place near the station two stops away from where I live. I could have caught the train, but I decided to walk to get a bit of exercise.

Now let me tell you about the area where I live. It ain’t flat. Not by a long shot. There are hills everywhere. My tracking app (I use Strava, if you want to follow my profile) tells me the walk there by the most direct route was 3.72 km, with an elevation gain of 103 metres. (I ended up only 29 m higher than I began, so I also went downhill 74 m.) The restaurant does bento boxes, and I had one with some sushi, a bowl of udon soup, and something I’ve never seen before: fish katsu! It was good.

For the walk home, I took a longer route, covering 5.55 km, with an elevation gain of 72 m. Later in the afternoon I also took Scully for a walk and play in the park. The weather’s turned windy here, but it wasn’t very cold – the forecasters say tomorrow we’ll get a blast of colder air. Anyway, here’s Scully, posing after fetching her ball in the dog park.

Chasing the ball in late winter sunshine