Cheese results

This morning I took the drained feta cheese that my wife and I had made yesterday and put it into the brine solution:

Home made feta

It definitely looks like feta cheese. And it was nice and firm. The recipe said it had to soak in brine for at least five hours, so I tried a tiny bit at lunch…

It was salty. Really salty. Too salty to eat. By itself anyway. So this evening for dinner I tried crumbling some onto a pizza:

Pizza with home made feta

This worked reasonably well, with the salt diluted amongst all the other ingredients, and the result was pretty good. (Also on there: tomato paste, home grown basil leaves, mozzarella/cheddar cheese mix, zucchini flowers, pine nuts, and chilli flakes.)

I looked up online what to do with overly salty feta, and apparently this is a common problem. Several sites suggested soaking it in milk for an hour or two before eating it, which will draw out some of the salt. So tomorrow I’ll try that. And next time we make this, I’m going to reduce the amount of salt from what the recipe said. But salt aside, it looks and crumbles and tastes like feta, so that’s pretty good! I’m happy with my first ever batch of home-made cheese.

It was stormy in Sydney today. A lot of very heavy thunderstorms with large hailstones passed over the city, but they were small and localised, and where I live we barely got any rain. Some of the weather stations in the city suburbs recorded over 20 mm of rain, but the nearest one to me recorded only 2.8 mm (and another suburb only got 0.2 mm).

I kept an eye on the rain radar and it seemed like a clear window during the late afternoon to take Scully to the dog park:

Scully and the storm

This band of cloud came over, but didn’t drop any rain where we were:

Storm over Waverton Park

I was keeping an eye on the radar for incoming storms, in case I had to hurry back home to get the car safe from hailstones. But it stayed dry for a good hour or so, giving us enough time to walk along the harbour shore, where we have a view towards the city:

Storm over Sydney

It was a pretty dramatic day. We got back to the car just before a few fat drops of rain fell, but it petered out as we drove home, and overall didn’t deliver much, apart from some loud thunder rolls.

Scully is good with thunder – she’s not frightened at all by it. Our puppy school dog trainer suggested teaching to the class that we teach our dogs to be calm during storms by getting them used to sudden loud noises – by doing things like dropping pots and pans into the kitchen sink, and them immediately giving them yummy treats, to get them habituated that a sudden loud noise is good, not bad. We did this with Scully from a very early age, and she’s adapted very well. She has no problem at all with thunder, or the loud fireworks that go off here in Sydney on New Year’s Eve (not very far from where we live, so they’re very loud).

Today I also worked on some more Darths & Droids stuff, getting comics prepared in advance and queued up, so we can set them aside and start working on Episode VII.

New content today:

A nice dinner out

Today it was supposed to rain heavily here in Sydney. The forecast said up to 50 mm of rain. Which would have been welcome as we need the rain. However it turned out to be nothing more than an intermittent sprinkle all day, and as I type this now the official rainfall figure recorded for Sydney so far today is only 2.2 mm – less than 1/20th of the forecast. That’s kind of been the story for the past few days – forecast of heavy rain, and while we’ve had some heavy showers, the totals have been nowhere near the forecast figures.

Today I worked on Darths & Droids, assembling a couple of comics from completed scripts, and doing some background planning tasks.

And then this evening I had a nice dinner out with my wife, at one of our favourite fancy restaurants. We dropped Scully off with our neighbour for dogsitting, and drove about 20 minutes to Balmoral Beach. We had a lovely dinner, and the walk back to the car along the beach after dinner was beautiful.

Balmoral Beach night

New content today:

Games night and comic discussion

Last night was fortnightly Games Night again, which is why this update is a few hours late. It’s really early on Saturday morning, and I’m up because Scully apparently really needed to go out in the rain at 5am to sniff the grass. The rain has been on and off, but that’s definitely better than off for the past 4 months. It’s now so wet that the trees are weeping with joy:

Blood rain

And there are frogs roaming the streets!

Fence frog

I spent much of yesterday sorting and collating a couple of boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards that my brother had lying around. I’m planning to sell a bunch to get some money for him, since I have experience at doing this.

Games Night started early, so we could go over scripts for upcoming Darths & Droids strips. We also had a discussion about the future of the strip, and moving into Star Wars: Episode 7-9 now that 9 has been released. The logistics are going to be very different because we no longer work together, so can’t dedicate lunch hours to writing strips together in the one room. We decided that we have plenty of ideas for Episodes 7-9 and would like to make a story out of it, so we’re going to start on it and see how it goes.

The plan is that I will outline plot action for several strips and try to write skeleton dialogues for each strip, perhaps without punchlines if I can’t think of any. And then we’ll have short discussions, either in person at Games Nights, or via voice chat on Discord or something, to go over the scripts, fill in gaps, write punchlines, and tweak them with suggested changes. Hopefully this will be enough to enable us to go back to publishing three strips a week as we did before. We’re not sure if this will work long term, so it’s going to be a bit of an experiment to start with. But the gist of it is that we’re now ready to start Episode 7 after we wrap up the Muppets episode.

We moved on to games. First up was Werewords, a bizarre cross between Werewolf and a twenty questions type of guessing game. Since each game takes only about 5 minutes, we played several times. The young daughters (ages 8 and about 10?) of our host watched the first few times, and then decided they wanted to play too. They did really well, each one being the critical component of a victory for their side.

After the girls’ bedtime, we moved on to try The Shipwreck Arcana with four players, while another two played Marvel Champions at the same time.

The Shipwreck Arcana

Shipwreck Arcana is a very interesting logical deduction game. You draw two numbered tiles, then play one on a tableau of pseudo-Tarot-like cards which have rules for which numbers you can play on them, and everyone else has to work out what your unplayed tile is, by examining what you chose to play (and what you chose not to play). Everyone’s working together to guess a certain number of tiles before time runs out. We managed to win the game without too much difficulty – I think we got a moderately lucky shuffle of the deck. I can see how it could be a lot trickier.

New content today:

Smoky Sunday

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

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

Another smoky day in Sydney

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

New content today:

Into the city

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

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

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

George Street in smoky haze

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

New content today:

Rain!

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

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

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

New content today:

Taking a breath, and it’s smoky

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

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

New content today:

Fiery hot

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

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

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

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

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

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

New content today:

Safety and games

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

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

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

Wingspan game

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

New content today: