What monsters lurk in men

I was reminded today of just how horrible humans can be sometimes.

I decided to walk up to the fish & chip shop near my place to get some lunch, and then out to my favourite eating spot. It’s a lookout at the end of a street, perched on a hill with a view of Sydney Harbour. Not the grandest view, but a pretty nice one, and convenient for me to walk to. This is the spot where I mentioned magpies accosted me and my meal recently. No magpies today, thankfully, and this was the view:

Vista Street view

Lovely, right? Here’s a panorama to show more of the surroundings:

Vista Street lookout panorama

At the left of the panorama you can see the wooden bench where I usually sit to eat my lunch. There’s also an old white wooden chair frame, but the seat is missing – I don’t know why it’s still there. Anyway, here’s a closer shot of the bench:

Vista Street bench, with poisoned shade trees

This is where it gets nasty. See the trees, the partly foliaged one in the middle, the deadish looking one on the left, and the one on the right with many branches removed? Normally these trees have very full foliage and provide a deep, full shade to the wooden bench, making it perfect for sitting on. Today, as you can see, the bench is at best 30-40% shaded, with the hot spring sun burning down on the rest. What’s going on? And wait… what’s that sign?

Illegal tree poisoning notice

Some inconsiderate bastard has illegally poisoned the trees! This is unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence in Sydney, almost always around the harbour where some inconvenient tree happens to block the waterfront view of someone’s house. When these trees are fully dead and gone, the views from the houses behind them will take in considerably more of the harbour (and will provide no shade at all to my lunch seat). As you can see, tree poisoning is such a serious concern in Sydney that the law provides for fines up to $1.1 million – if the culprit is caught.

Tree poisoning notice

The council may have installed some CCTV cameras to keep a watch on the area, but I fear it’s too late. There have been some successful prosecutions for tree poisoning in Sydney, but often the perpetrator gets away with it due to lack of evidence.

On a brighter note, this morning I did another 5k run. I tried to push myself a bit faster than last time, and managed to drop my time from 6:25/km (8 Oct) and 6:19/km (15 Oct) to 5:52/km today! I still feel there’s a decent amount of improvement to go, so I’ll be keen to keep this up and try harder next time. Also, I can feel that my body is getting used to the exercise – I don’t feel nearly as sore as after that first run.

And otherwise I’ve been preparing for my trip to Germany tomorrow. I’m flying to Frankfurt via Dubai, then getting a train to Essen. On Sunday I’ll be attending the Spiel board game exhibition. The Monday morning I get a train to Cologne for three days of ISO Photography Standards meetings, before flying home on Thursday. I arrive back home Saturday morning, 2 November, so I’ll be gone just over a week. I’ll try to post updates from over there, but may not manage it – I’ll have to see.

New content today:

Finishing comics

Most of today was spent writing annotations for the batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I photographed on Monday and assembled yesterday.

This morning I had my Year 6 Ethics class, and we continued last week’s discussion of homelessness. The goal this week was to educate the kids on some of the facts about homelessness, including statistics on how many Australians are homeless, and in what age and demographic groups. Most of the kids were shocked that at the last census over 8000 children of primary school age (that is their age or younger) were classed as homeless. And that the largest age group of homeless people is under 18s, not older people like they had thought. They heard the story of a homeless boy, who had been living on the street since he was 8. One student said that she had a 7-year-old brother, which is not much short of 8, and she couldn’t imagine him being out on the streets and surviving like that.

The rest of the lesson concerned stereotypes about homeless people. I asked the kids what ideas they had about what homeless people were like. Then we went through an exercise about jumping to conclusions from a small sample or hearsay, ending up with the question that if someone says homeless people are just lazy, does that mean all homeless people really are lazy? And would it be harmful to conclude that? Since last week there were a few of the kids who expressed the view that homeless people should “just get jobs”, I hope that today’s lesson made them think again about that assumption, and realise that 8 year old kids on the street can’t just get a job, and older homeless people might want to work but have trouble finding a job because potential employers turn them away.

I’ll miss next week’s lesson with my kids since I’ll be travelling in Germany. I’m not sure if they’ll get a substitute teacher or have a non-lesson time.

New content today:

Comic assembling

I spent most of today assembling the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips from the photos I took yesterday. For one comic I had to take two photos of each panel, because I wanted to composite them to create a semi-transparent figure. I also added a blue glow using some Photoshop tricks, and I think the result worked quite well:

Ghost Obi-Wan

So that’s a sneak preview of a future comic.

I didn’t really do much else today – assembling the batch of comics pretty much ate up a full day of work. Oh, I watched the new Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker trailer that was released. Pretty cool!

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:

Comic writing slog part 2

Another day of writing comics. I managed to get some momentum today and finished off the batch, ready to start photographing them tomorrow.

In some spare time I worked on another mezzacotta random generator, this time a random bird name generator. This was inspired by me discussing some actual birds with friends, and someone suggesting that since so many birds are named after colours and markings, it’d be easy to randomly generate new names. And yes, it was very quick and easy, using our generator framework.

Tonight I cooked soup for dinner, and used my new Bamix stick blender for the first time. It works really well – I can tell immediately that it’s better quality than our previous one. The old one got noticeably hot very quickly from the motor, and had to be mashed up and down to access all the vegetable chunks in the soup. The Bamix stayed nice and cool, and it creates a vortex in the soup that sucks the chunks into the blades, so there’s a lot less manual motion required. Really nice. The soup was chick pea, cauliflower, and carrot.

New content today:

Comic writing slog

I need to get another batch of Irregular Webcomic! made before I leave for a week in Germany on Friday, so I spent most of today struggling to write scripts. It’s bad when you need to write and you can’t think of anything. To distract myself and shift mental gears hoping that that would kickstart things, I did various housework and took Scully for a big long walk.

The weather was hot and sunny when we left, but as we walked the dark grey clouds rolled in, and it started raining by the time we got home.

Scully before the storm

Fortunately we got in with just the first few drops beginning to fall.

This evening I watched the Rugby World Cup quarter final game from Japan: Australia v England. What a debacle. 🙁

New content today:

Improving golf

Andrew C. suggested we play golf today, so we met up at the Terrey Hills Par 3 course where we’ve played before. I’m still a rank beginner, and this was only the 4th round of golf I’ve ever played. The course is “pitch and putt”, and I talked about our last two rounds here and here. I’ve put the scorecards into a spreadsheet, and discovered that Andrew’s arithmetic left a little to be desired, as my scores for the previous two rounds were 91 and 93 (not 92 and 95 as he’d calculated!).

Since last time I’ve acquired a very cheap second hand set of clubs. I found someone local selling cheaply on eBay. Andrew inspected the clubs and was impressed, saying I got a real bargain – the seller must have just wanted to get rid of them quickly, because he probably could have got twice or more the price for them if he’d wanted.

Today I played a couple of great shots. One tee shot bounced on the green and hit the flag! That was exciting, but unfortunately it bounced quite a way, and I couldn’t get the birdie, but managed to par the hole. The second god shot was after I landed a tee shot in a bunker. I hadn’t played a decent shot from the sand yet, but today I managed to not only scoop it out of the bunker, but stop the ball maybe 40 cm from the hole. Alas my putting still needs work, and I 2-putted for a bogey.

My total score for the round was 81, a full 10 strokes better than my previous best of 91. So it was a good day! After the round, we went to the driving range next door and Andrew showed me how to hit some longer clubs, a 5 and 3 iron, and a driver. I managed okay with the irons, but I can see the driver will take a bit more work. Andrew reckons I’m ready to tackle a longer course, so our plan is next time to play at the Northbridge Golf Club. The course is a par 64, with only a single par 5 hole. Apparently it has one of the most famous holes in Sydney, the par 3 fifth hole, which involves teeing off at the edge of a cliff, to the green far below. Here’s a photo from the tee (from the golf club’s website):

5th hole view


After driving practice, we separated and I drove out to the coast to get some lunch. On the way home I drove along Sydney’s northern beaches, stopping at Bilgola lookout to take a couple of photos. Looking south:

Bilgola view

And looking north:

Bilgola view

I relaxed back at home a bit and had a nice dinner out with my wife (and Scully). All in all, an excellent day!

New content today:

Blending and writing

Our old stick blender threw in the towel a little while ago while I was blending up some pumpkin soup. I had to finish the soup off by hand with a potato masher. It was a bit chunky and not really ideal for pumpkin soup. So I’ve been looking to replace the blender. It was a cheapish model, and didn’t last as long as I would have liked, so I did some research, read some reviews, and decided that a Bamix would be a good replacement. Unfortunately they’re quite expensive… But lo! I found a major retailer who had some on sale, for almost half price. After confirming the colour with my wife, I placed an order yesterday. On this sale item, they didn’t deliver, so I had to go into the store to pick it up.

This involved a train ride a couple of suburbs away to the nearest store. I left in the morning, after leaving my computer upgrade its operating system to MacOS Catalina while I was out. I picked up the new blender, and took advantage of the street stalls to get some Malaysian street food snacks as I headed back to the station. On the way home I realised I should pick up some groceries, so detoured via the supermarket.

I ended up not getting home until just before lunch. The OS upgrade went without incident, and my machine was ready to go. I spent the rest of the day working on an article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe, which I just finished and posted now, a bit after 9pm. I cooked dinner in between too – lentil dhal with cauliflower and rice. Phew… time to relax…

New content today:

Homeless Ethics

Today was my first Ethics class of the new school term, the last term of the year. Just nine lessons to go until the end of the year and my kids move on to high school, and I get a new batch of Year 6s next year.

We started a new topic today: Homelessness. The first lesson today was really just talking about what homelessness is, and how being homeless might affect people – making them feel unsafe, unhappy, making it harder to eat healthy food, keep clean, etc. In the next two lessons we’ll be talking about what people and society can or should do about homelessness.

The teacher’s materials started with introducing the topic to the children with a short story, and then telling them we’d be discussing homelessness, and to tell them that some people in the class might know someone who has been homeless, and so to be mindful of that during the discussion. The teacher’s eyes only notes contained advice that this topic might upset some children, and to be aware of their behaviour and handle it appropriately (using our training materials). The discussion was going really well, and the children were a bit more engaged than usual – it’s clearly a topic that some of them had pretty strong feelings and ideas about.

Then one girl put her hand up, and when I called on her she said, “My parents told me that before I was adopted I was living on the streets.”

I don’t remember what I said in immediate response. I had to handle this sensitively and keep the class both moving on with the topic and from harassing this girl with inappropriate questions. I must have said something sensible because we managed to move on with the discussion. Fortunately the girl didn’t seem upset in any way – I guess it’s a fact about her past that she’s already internalised and become comfortable with. So that was an interesting revelation – I had no idea this girl was adopted before.

The other good thing about today’s class was another girl who is usually very quiet and says nothing volunteered to answer a question, and gave a very well-considered response. I had this girl in my Year 4 class two years ago and she was similarly quiet. I feel her thought processes are not as rapid as most kids her age, but since then she seems to be gaining in confidence and ability to absorb and discuss a topic. It’s really wonderful to see her develop and become more intellectual in this way.

After my class, I took a long walk home, detouring past the new location of a kitchen supply shop that used to be near us, but recently moved. They had a normal sort of retail store before, but now they’ve moved to an industrial area and are operating out of a warehouse. It was hard to find – I walked past the building twice looking for any signs, but saw none, then finally had to go knock on a door and ask the woman who came to answer it. When I said I was looking for Kitchen Kapers, she directed me to walk around to the back of the building, through the car park, where I found the place with a giant open garage door and no signage whatsoever. I had to confirm with a guy that they were open for retail sales, which they were. Given my recent experiences with shops in industrial areas, this was relatively positive. I didn’t end up buying anything though.

This afternoon I drove across town to pick up some super cheap second hand golf clubs that I won on eBay. Andrew C. has been suggesting I move up from playing a “pitch and putt” course to a full length golf course. I’m keen to try, but needed some clubs suitable for a beginner without a job. The ones I picked up have seen some heavy use, but should do the trick. We’re planning to go play a round of the short course on Friday, followed by some driving practice at the range next door, so I can start to get a feel for hitting with more power.

New content today:

Running faster

One week after my first 5k run of the current exercise plan, I returned to the oval today to clock up another 5 kilometres. Again I alternated sprints and walking segments, though I did a few longer sprints than last time. Overall, last week I clocked 6:25 per kilometre, and today 6:19 per kilometre, so that was an improvement! And I don’t think my legs had fully recovered from last week either – they were already a little sore at the beginning.

I walked home from the oval through the Gore Hill Cemetery, which is an old historical cemetery, decommissioned some years ago, and now overgrown, with most of the graves forgotten and untended. There’s an angel headstone here which is one of my favourite photographic subjects. Her mood changes with the season and the weather. Today she was in a spring mood:

Considering a spring day

This afternoon I worked on some website coding for a new project that I’m not quite ready to announce yet. And my wife and I took Scully for a walk down to the harbour where there’s a park where she can run around off leash. For dinner I was going to make pizza, but I forgot to buy cheese today! So we converted to pasta instead, with a pumpkin, walnut, feta, and chilli sauce. (Which would have been our pizza topping.)

New content today: