Games and next Lego construction

Friday was face-to-face board games night at a friend’s place. I took Scully with me and there were six of us altogether for games. We played No Thanks, then Heat: Pedal to the Metal, and then a new game for me, Dungeon Academy.

In this game there is a dungeon map made of sixteen dice which are dumped at random into a 4×4 square tray, like in Boggle. Each player has a character card with different amounts of health (red) and mana (blue). Each player needs to plot a path through the dungeon grid on their own sheet of paper, at the same time, entering from any side, traversing adjoining squares (maximum once each), and then exiting from any side. Each die in the grid shows either a monster (red or blue, small or large) or a potion (red or blue). A small monster drain one health/mana (matching the colour), large ones drain two. As long as your health/mana don’t go negative you kill the monster and gain 1 gold. Potions add to the corresponding health/mana. Your character also has a special ability (mine was gain 1 extra gold per large blue monster slain).

It’s a race to see who can plot their course fastest, without messing up. If you mess up and drop below 0 health or mana you score zero gold for that round, but heal back to full in both for the next round. When finished, you grab a numbered card from a pile in the middle, first player finished gets 1, last gets the largest number (6 for our six-player game). Then you draw a treasure card for each player and choose in order, from 1 to the last player, excluding anyone who died in that round. So being faster gets you a better choice of treasure. Treasures can do things like give you extra gold, or give you abilities such as a helmet which can be discarded to avoid a monster hitting you, or invisibility cloak which means you can ignore a monster. Some are curses, which are negative, so you don’t want to be picking last!

You play over 4 rounds. In round 2 and 4 one of the regular dice is swapped out for a special die that has different faces that do other things. The last die is the “boss die” which has, for example, a dragon that drains 3 health and 3 mana, but is worth 3 gold.

I scored a final total of 30 gold, which was equalled by one other player, but we lost to someone who managed 31.

During the day I had 4 ethics classes. One of the parents contacted me early on and said that her daughter had been sent home from school with a fever, and might not join the class. But she really liked it and might want to join anyway even though she was feeling sick. It turned out she did indeed show up. Such dedication!

Friday was also warmish, reaching 23.7°C, in fact the warmest day of May so far. But Saturday dawned cold and didn’t heat up much at all. We only reached a maximum of 14.6°C at 10am, and then it just got colder again. A strong cold southerly wind has been blowing drifting showers across the city and it really feels like winter now. But I dragged myself out for a 5k run, and actually did a decent time. Probably because I was cold and wanting to get back inside as quickly as possible!

Today I finally got back into the construction of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set. Stage 11 adds details to the exterior part of the castle/dungeon. There are spiders and plants and trees. If you look closely you can see a third spider lurking in the shadows behind the top of the left tree:

Lego D&D stage 11

The door has also been covered with a removable rock face, making it a secret door!

Lego D&D stage 11

And there’s a secret cache of gold and a key:

Lego D&D stage 11

And part of the dungeon wall is removable too!

Lego D&D stage 11

Inside this part, seen from the other side, has been added a skeletal torso guardian and a spellbook (behind the shield):

Lego D&D stage 11

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Serial dog names

I learnt something interesting the other day. Our newish neighbours downstairs have a kelpie, but we haven’t met her (the dog) until just a few days ago. I was bringing Scully in from a walk through the garage and we bumped into one of the neighbours getting out of her car, and the dog was in the back. So we had a chat and let the dogs meet each other for the first time.

The dog’s name is Chilli. Not sure if she’s named after Bluey’s mother or not. But anyway, I suddenly realised today that the previous dog downstairs belonging to the previous neighbours was Billie. I hope the next two dogs that live down there are Fili and Kili. (My friends asked me if the dog before Billie was named Allie or Ali, but alas it was Spike.)

Today was busy with ethics classes on the “Arguments” topic. It’s an interesting topic and I think is getting the kids thinking about stuff they’ve never thought about before. One girl’s mother today sent me a message saying that she’d been sent home from school sick and might miss this evening’s class. But she liked the class and wanted to attend, so might show up after sleeping all afternoon. And indeed she turned up.

I spent some time dealing with household finances, downloading about six months worth of bills for various things and saving them, and updating a tax spreadsheet with stuff. Pretty dull, but necessary.

And I started work on a special feature for Darths & Droids. I’m planning at some point soonish to release a bunch of our behind-the-scenes planning notes and director’s commentaries on individual strips, so interested readers can trawl through them and perhaps find interesting details they didn’t know, and get some insights into the creative process behind it all. it’s going to be a lot of work formatting it into HTML, so it’ll be a background task for several months probably.

And no rain for the third day in a row!

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Engineering the taste of beer

It was another busy day. I worked on a Darths & Droids comic for tomorrow, which I had to get done today so it will be ready for publication in time. Then a bit before 11am I had to leave to head into the university on the train for today’s last Data Engineering tutorial session.

The students’ final projects are due on Friday, so today was the last time they got to sit in class and work on it, and ask us any questions about their projects. One team is doing an experiment to try to determine relationships between amount of hops, boiling time, and perception of bitterness in pre-brewing beer solutions. And today they brought in their samples and were getting people in the class to taste them and answer a survey.

I did the survey. The first survey question was “How much do you like bitter drinks?” (1-10 scale). I said 8, since I like beer and stuff like Campari and herbal bitters. Then I tasted the four samples and rated them as bitterness levels 2, 5, 4, and I think 6 (out of 10). Then the professor did the same test, saying 5 for how much he liked bitter drinks. His ratings of the bitterness levels of the samples was about 3 or 4 points higher than mine.

And then I saw them have a woman in the class do the survey. She said she didn’t like bitter drinks. She tasted the first sample, and said “Oh my god! That’s horrible… yuk!!!” And she ended up rating them all in the 8-10 range for bitterness. And immediately ran out to get some water as soon as she was done.

The students said one of the things they were trying to determine was if a taster’s preference for bitter drinks affected how bitter they perceived the solutions to be. Looks like that’s a positive correlation!

On the way home I went via the game shop where I still had some store credit to spend. I found a copy of Kids on Bikes, which I snapped up, as I’ve been trying to get my hands on it for some time. That left me only about $30 credit left, which I used to buy some card sleeves and hard plastic top loaders for safely sending Magic cards through the mail. I’ve been using quite a few selling my cards, so a few extra boxes won’t go astray.

Tonight I started the new ethics class topic on Arguments. Had a couple of new students, and things went smoothly.

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Science mentoring meeting

Today I visited Loreto Kirribilli school to meet with four Year 9 students who the teachers there have selected for mentoring in science. They are advanced students with a strong interest in science. I introduced myself and briefly described my career from university degrees to industrial research, then asked the students what areas of science they were interested in and what they hoped to learn in our mentoring sessions.

They have a diverse range of interests in terms of topic: physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, computer science. But one thing I found out was they have a common desire to obtain a more rounded and deeper understanding of science than they are taught in classwork. Actually understanding what the science is, rather than just learning ways to solve problems that will be on their exams. They were a little reserved but hopefully will get more enthusiastic as they get used to the mentoring sessions.

We finished up our time (we had 50 minutes) with a discussion of atomic theory, going a bit deeper into quantum physics than they get at a Year 9 level. It ended up a bit rambly, because there are so many interesting digressions I can make along the way! Hopefully the next session (in a fortnight) will be a bit more focused. Th girls have been given some homework to come up with some specific questions they are interested in, either about science topics or careers.

In other news, there was a strange meteorological phenomenon today. Th sky was a weird blue colour and there was a strange ball of light in it. Yes, the rain has finally ended, after beginning on 30 April. It was so nice to be out and about without getting wet.

The dampness left behind a nasty legacy though. I mentioned the mould spots in the house yesterday. Today I went around with some mould killer and treated all the areas I could see. It’s horrible, but hopefully stopped before it gets too serious.

All of this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to write my ethics class for the new week. I dashed it off quickly after dinner. The topic is “Arguments”, as in heated disagreements, not logical arguments. What causes arguments? How can an argument get out of control? How does it feel to be in an argument? What strategies can you use to stay more calm and reasonable in an argument? What’s the difference between healthy debate and harmful argument? And so on.

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Is the rain finally at an end?

Today was the 13th straight day of rain in Sydney. but… things cleared up a little in the afternoon and there was even a weird glowing thing in the sky for a bit. The forecast for tomorrow is sunny!!

But I noticed spots of mould starting to appear on the walls inside the house. Tomorrow I’m going to have to do a thorough go around everywhere with the mould killer spray. And hopefully air the place out with some lower humidity air.

Six classes today to finish off the topic on Mysterious Beasts. I still have the last one to go beginning at 9pm as I type this. That’s the latest class I have and it makes for a very long day.

Scully managed to get a long walk at lunch without getting wet, although the bush path we walk along on the loop route down to the harbour was a bit muddy. I carried her through there though, because the council has laid poison fox baits to kill feral foxes in the bushland, and I don’t want her to accidentally find one and eat it.

Not much else to report today.

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Mother’s Day lunch, more rain, no aurora

Today is Mother’s Day in Australia. I called my mother this morning, and she said she was on the phone with one hand in a mixing bowl, mixing together some hamburger meat and stuff.

I did a 5k run, again managing to get most of the run in before it started raining again, though it started sprinkling as I approached the finish, and was raining heavily within about 10 minutes.

The rain is just getting super annoying now. We were supposed to have a good chance to see some aurora australis from Sydney tonight because of the ongoing geomagnetic storm conditions. But again it’s a complete washout, with rain and thick cloud in the evening.

For lunch today we went to my mother-in-law’s place, where her family gathered for Mother’s Day. We took most of the cinnamon rolls which we’d made yesterday. It was a casual lunch with party pies and sausage rolls and quiche. We left in time for me to be home for my 4pm ethics class.

And it’s been classes until mid-evening now. I should probably go and think about something to eat for dinner…

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Cinnamon rolls!

My wife and I made cinnamon rolls today! Before rising and baking:

Cinnamon rolls

And after:

Cinnamon rolls

She got me a “bake at home” box with all the dry ingredients and instructions. We aded milk, butter, and an egg and produced 20 rolls. Most of them will be taken to Mother’s Day lunch at her mother’s place tomorrow.

This morning I did a 5k run, managing to time it almost perfectly in between the rain, which has hung around all day. (It’s pouring as I type this.) There was a news article this morning saying that we might potentially break the record of 16 rainy days (≥ 1 mm) in a row for Sydney. It’s been 12 so far, and the forecast is about 50/50 for it lasting at least another four days.

It’s pretty horrible. We have a drying rack in the bathtub, festooned with wet clothes from whenever we go outside, and they take forever to dry because the air is so humid. There are umbrellas constantly drying off, and wet shoes everywhere. I don’t mind 3 or 4 days of rain, but when it gets up near two weeks without respite, it’s pretty miserable.

We gave Scully a bath this afternoon because she’s been getting a bit “wet dog” smelly. We might need to do it again in another few days.

Oh, apparently there have been sightings of the aurorae caused by the current geomagnetic storm as far north as Sydney’s latitude. Just not in Sydney, of course, because we’ve been under a blanket of cloud and rain. Pretty sure we missed the last lunar eclipse or two because of rain too.

And oh yeah… I didn’t post anything yesterday because it was online board games night with my friends. It was… a rainy Friday. I did some online classes, took Scully out briefly, but spent most of the day inside sorting through more Magic: the Gathering cards to get them into sellable lots. For dinner we had pizza at the local pizza place, which is always good. They have a nice cosy “al fresco” area out the back where we can sit with Scully, which is covered and sheltered from the rain.

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Marking done

Today I did the marking for the first experiment planning report for Data Engineering. I had four teams’ reports to mark. I think the quality is definitely better than last year, though there was still some significant variance overall.

There was more heavy rain this morning. It’s been raining every day since 1 May, and the forecast is for rain every day until at least 13 May. I needed to go to the post office to try to get them to reroute the lost package back to me, rather then continue delivering it to Canada, as I refunded the buyer all of the money. In the channels where I’m selling these cards, reputation is everything, and I’d rather take the hit on refunding the money than get a negative seller reputation that would make it difficult to sell more cards. But the post office said there was no way they could do that. So, I have to trust that if the buyer eventually does receive the package that he’ll let me know and be reasonable about sorting things out fairly from there. I do have reasonable trust that he will, since as I said reputation is prime in these circles and the guy has a positive rep that he won’t want to tarnish too.

Anyway, I decided to drive up instead of walk in the rain. It doesn’t save much (if any) time, but it does mean about a kilometre less walking in the wet. But by the time I got there, the rain stopped and the sun came out!

Since I had the car out by now anyway, I decided to drive over to Maggios’ Bakery at Cammeray for lunch, where I got a slice of pork sausage pizza and a pistachio chocolate scroll. And tonight for dinner we have minestrone, to round out the Italian food day.

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Tale of a missing package

I’ve been selling my old Magic: the Gathering cards piecemeal over the last 4 years, and as indicated here recently I’ve started a renewed effort to sell more of them. I’ve ever had a problem with shipping them to all corners of the globe. Until now.

On 24 April I sent a package of cards to a buyer in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. This morning he sent me a message indicating he hadn’t received them yet. I always send the packages with tracking, so I checked the tracking info on Australia Post’s website and discovered that the only update on there was that the package had been received at my local post office where I lodged it. The next step should be “Cleared and awaiting international departure”, but that wasn’t there. Apparently the package is still in Australia somewhere.

I went to the post office and talked to someone there about it. They brought up the tracking details in their system, which has more info recorded than shown on their tracking website. The delivery address was correct, except for some reason it didn’t display “Canada”. I’m not sure why – I filled out the customs form online and it did auto-completion of the address, so it should know that it’s in Canada.

My theory: I guess the bar code has been scanned and it just shows a street address and Victoria (the city in British Columbia), without Canada, so it got sent by domestic mail to Melbourne, in the Australian state of Victoria. Presumably it’s sitting there somewhere, waiting for someone to figure out that it can’t be delivered, actually read the handwritten address, and realise it’s meant to go to Canada.

So… maybe it will get to international post handling eventually, and from there it should be smooth sailing to the destination in Canada. But… the problem is that the buyer wanted some of those cards specifically because he’s meeting the artist at a tournament on Wednesday next week, and he wanted to get them signed. Even if they figure the parcel out tomorrow and get it on a plane, it’s not going to be delivered to the final address in time.

Also today there was a bit of an incident in my Data Engineering course at the university. The professor and I had to defuse a situation with some members of one of the student teams having a disagreement. I don’t want to go into details, but it was rather uncomfortable and I felt like some lines were crossed. Hopefully we resolved things and nothing similar will happen again.

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Working on mysterious beasts

Lego D&D set, stage 10 of construction today, which adds castley bits to the top:

Lego D&D stage 10

Today I wrote the lesson for this week’s new ethics/critical thinking class topic on “Mysterious Beasts”. Stuff like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, chupacabras, and so on. Much more a critical thinking type class, although there are some ethical questions along the lines of “If such creatures were proven to exist, what should we do about it?” and “Should we take into account potential undiscovered creatures when doing environmental studies for proposed developments?” and “If Bigfoot is intelligent, should we leave them alone?”

I took Scully for a drive today to the Allambie pie shop, and to fill up on petrol on the way there. The cheapest petrol station by far in this area is on the way there, so it’s a good doubling up of reasons to go that way.

And I started work on marking the first student reports for the Data Engineering course. This is the experiment planning report, with the final report and video presentation due in two more weeks.

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