Virtual Finland

I should be in Finland right now. If not for COVID-19, I would be. My next ISO Photography Standards meeting was scheduled for Tampere in Finland, beginning Monday. But of course it’s been converted to an online meeting, so I’m still at home. I was really looking forward to this one too, because I’ve never visited Finland.

Normally for these meetings I travel to arrive a couple of days early, to give myself time to do some sightseeing. Sightseeing helps with the jetlag, because I stay awake all day despite any tiredness and crash into bed in the evening. I use this method whenever I travel and it works reasonably well for me.

So, today I should have been sightseeing in Tampere. Instead, my wife and I went over to her sister’s new place. She recently moved house, so we went over to have a look at the new place. It was raining moderately heavily this morning, and we got a bit wet, but it was good to visit and see the place.

We got home, had lunch, took Scully for a run in the park, and played some Codenames Duet campaign games – winning Paris, but losing twice at the more difficult Madrid.

This week I have the virtual meeting. After last time, when it was at a time that meant I had to stay up late, they’ve shifted the time zone for this meeting. This time it’s on from 07:00 to 10:30 in my time zone, so it’s much more convenient. But because Australia is so far east, it’s actually on from Tuesday-Saturday in my time zone.

New content today:

Day in the city

My wife and I took a trip into the city today. Normally we’d go by train, but dogs aren’t allowed on trains. But they are allowed on ferries! So we went down to the nearest ferry wharf to our place and caught a ferry across the harbour into the city.

Scully on the ferry

It was a very nice trip. In all the years I’ve lived here, I don’t recall ever taking the ferry into the city before.

Circular Quay panorama

The goal of this trip was to buy a new hat for my wife, in preparation for the summer. While in the women’s department of the department store, I happened to mention that menswear had moved from the adjacent building where it used to be located, to an upstairs floor of the current building. My wife took this as an invitation to go up there and start looking for a new lightweight jacket for me! So we ended up browsing the whole floor and getting me a new jacket.

Afterwards, we went to Hyde Park briefly so Scully could have a play on the grass.

Scully at Hyde Park

We stopped off in The Rocks for lunch at a patisserie before catching the ferry back home. It was a good day out! The city was sparsely populated, because of COVID. It was weird being there with no tourists around at all the usual spots. But nice in way, without the usual crowds.

New content today:

Comic photos day

It was a busy day today. First thing off the agenda was the weekly grocery shop. Normally it’s a short drive up to the supermarket, but today there was some sort of traffic blockage on the street I normally take. I could see police lights flashing, and the traffic at a standstill. So I turned off into a back street and took a roundabout route, which took me several minutes longer, but probably faster than waiting to get through the blockage.

When I got home, I started doing photography for the batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I finished writing yesterday. I got about halfway through and then took a break for lunch. I walked up to the oval and ran a 1k, and managed my fastest time, a second faster than previously, at 4:25.

I grabbed some lunch on the way home, and then finished off photographing the comics. Then it was time to go pick up Scully from my wife’s office, and bring her home. Then shortly after that my wife came home, and we went out for dinner at the local pizza place.

Oh, I forgot to post a photo I took yesterday of the cool change hitting after the hot day:

Cold change

New content today:

Comic writing day

Not much to report today. I spent most of the day writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! scripts. I powered through plenty of scripts, and I should be ready to take photos for them tomorrow.

The other notable thing about today was the weather. It was very warm, getting up to 31.7°C in Sydney, which is unusually warm for September, to say the least, although a couple of degrees short of the all-time record for the month. But the heat lasted until pretty much 4pm, when I was at the dog park with Scully. We were standing there in the still warmth, and then suddenly a strong gust of wind blew in across the harbour, and the temperature dropped from “this is quite warm” to “oh! I wish I was wearing something warmer!” in a matter of a few seconds. It was the most remarkable and sudden change of conditions I’ve seen. By the time we left the dog park a few minutes later, it was so chilly that I really was regretting wearing only a T-shirt and shorts. Tomorrow is forecast to reach a maximum of only 20°C.

New content today:

Last Ethics for the term

This morning I had my last Ethics class for the current school term. There is a class next week, but I will be attending an ISO Photography standards meeting at the time, so will be unable to take my class. Then there’s two weeks holiday, and classes resume for Term 4. Today the class were better behaved again, which was nice. We had a good discussion and got through a lot of material, which was nice.

At lunch today I had an impromptu game of Scattergories with friends in our Discord chat, using the game bot my friend coded up. Our letter today was a difficult one: U. Now, if you don’t know the game, you need to think of words for each category, and you get 2 points if you were the only person to come up with your answer, but only 1 point if more than one person got your answer.

Here’s how the scoring went for the category “girls’ names”:

Friend 1: Ursula
Friend 2: Ursula
Me: Uma
Friend 3: Ursula
Friend 4: Ursula
Me: You’ve been Thurmanated!!

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday: a magpie swooped me while I was out walking up the street. So the swooping season has definitely started. Fortunately the bird didn’t make contact with me, but I was startled by the whoosh of wings as it flew low over my shoulder. I’ll need to keep an eye out for the next couple of months.

New content today:

Take the cannoli

This morning, I intended to spend a quick few minutes cleaning up an old photo or two, scanned from prints that I’d taken on a camping trip back in 1993. Before I knew it, I’d spent most of the morning cleaning up and colour adjusting a dozen or so photos.

Newnes Hotel

This is the Newnes Hotel, built in 1907, as a pub and general store for the small mining settlement of Newnes, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. They mined oil shale there, but the mine was closed in 1932. Now the hotel operates as a general store and visitor information centre for bushwalkers and campers, since the area is remote and surrounded by the Wollemi National Park. There some abandoned runs of the town that you can visit.

Newnes ruins

For lunch today I took a long walk a couple of suburbs over to an Italian bakery – another one of our favourite bakeries in the area! I got a chicken pie for lunch, and a chocolate cannoli for a sweet treat. They also do vanilla cannolis and ricotta cannolis, and they’re all good.

I took a slightly roundabout route home to get some more walking done, and I stopped at an upmarket grocery store near the bakery to buy some fancy imported pasta from Italy. Local pasta is fine, but the imported Italian stuff has a different texture to it, and is really nice, so it’s worth an extra dollar or two now and then.

While in there, I noticed they had packets of sourdough crumpets reduced to sell as they were approaching their use-by date. Normally these crumpets are $7 for a pack of four(!), but they were reduced to $4.90. Still over a dollar a crumpet, but I decided I could splurge and try them to see how good they were. Regular crumpets from my usual supermarket cost $1.85 for a pack of six, or under 31 cents each. The normal price for these sourdough crumpets is $1.75 each, almost six times as much. That’s really quite insane. Even at the reduced price, they’re over four times as expensive as normal crumpets.

Anyway, I tried one when I got home, and they are actually very nice. But not over $1 a crumpet nice.

New content today:

A slower run

Monday morning was time for my 5k run for the week. I took a gentle pace, but felt like I was really pushing myself hard today, and having to struggle to keep going. I was hoping this meant I was clocking a fast time. I miscounted my laps again, discovering I was one short and had to keep going for another lap. But even though I got my sprint finish in, I recorded 27:53, which is slower than my last four times. I guess it just wasn’t my day today.

For lunch today I decided to make a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. I used three types of cheese: cheddar, Jarlsberg, and Parmigiano; added a spread of caramelised onion relish, and then sliced gherkins I used the kibble rye sourdough that we’d bought yesterday. It turned out delicious!

Other than that, I spent much of the day assembling new Darths & Droids comics.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that Scully has notified us that the bindii is sprouting thorns for the spring. She’s started avoiding patches of grass where bindii grows, and sure enough, when I bent down to feel it, the thorns have appeared. Fortunately, as we discovered last year, the thorns are only there for a couple of months, and go away by summer.

New content today:

Bread and Codenames

This morning my wife and I took Scully for a long walk, over to our favourite bakery. I bought a loaf of kibble rye sourdough for regular sandwiches and toast, and also a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, for a sweet treat. The bread from this place is really nice. I also got a mixed berry scroll, which I assumed would have a light flaky pastry like a croissant, but it turned out to be denser and more chewy – I guess something like a cross between flaky butter pastry and sourdough. It was really nice, and not too sweet – sweetened just by the mix of blueberries and I think raspberries.

A bit further along the walk we met another couple out with a poodle, a 7 month old puppy about Scully’s size. The two dogs raced around like crazy, playing with each other, which we all enjoyed because it would mean they slept for the rest of the day!

At home we played Codenames Duet, taking two attempts to win the Casablanca campaign game. The first game came down to a sudden death guess by me. I knew there was a word associated with the clue “reaction” left in the grid, and I narrowed it down to either “fever” (a reaction to infection) or “smell” (a thing you would have a reaction to). In the end I chose “smell”, but the correct word was “fever”, alas.

The second game was a lot easier, since I began with a 4-word clue, and we whittled down the spies rapidly. We won the game with a full turn to spare.

Apart from these things, it’s been a relaxing sort of day. We just started watching Series 10 of the new Doctor Who this evening (Peter Capaldi’s last season). We haven’t watched this series yet, so it’s going to be exciting over the next few weeks. We kind of lost track a couple of years ago after we first got Scully, and we’re just catching up now!

New content today:

Housework (and running poodle)

Yeah, the title pretty much sums it up. Vacuum cleaning, washing up, laundry (my wife did that), changing bedsheets, cleaning the bath, cleaning Scully (haha – we gave her a bath). And for dinner I made risotto, which is 15 minutes of prep followed by a solid half hour slaving over the stove, constantly stirring.

It was pumpkin risotto, with toasted pine nuts and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pumpkin risotto

I make risotto a bit – it’s not hard, but it is time and effort intensive. Today’s one turned out very nice. We had a bottle of white wine open, so I added a splash, which you should do, but it’s rare that we have a bottle open, so I usually don’t. The real Reggiano cheese from Italy makes a difference too. I bought that recently to replace the Australian brand of parmesan that we usually buy.

Oh! One other thing I did today. I’ve been meaning for a while to try to take some photos of Scully running towards the camera, using my DSLR in AI Servo focus mode, so it tracks moving objects. So today I went out with my wife and Scully, and we found some grass where I could lie down and aim my camera at Scully while my wife tells her to sit and stay, and then walks over to where I was lying, and then calls Scully to come over. We used our special “cheese command word”. This is an emergency recall command, which we always reward with cheese, and it’s pretty much the only time she ever gets cheese, which she loves. So when she hears this word – “Schnell!” – we picked a German word so we never say it accidentally when talking – she comes absolutely running flat out towards us.

We repeated this exercise 4 times, and I took a bunch of photos rapid-fire. About half of them turned out blurry, but… we got a couple of very nice shots.

Scully running

Definitely going to try this again another day.

New content today:

Late Friday: Games night

Yes, I’m late for the my Friday entry again, because of fortnightly Games Night with my friends.

On Friday morning I did the weekly grocery shopping, then I went for a run, a short 1 km this time. I set out at a rapid pace, but tired and slowed down, although I felt like I was really pushing myself hard, I ended up clocking 4:38, which is the slowest of the three times that I’ve timed myself over this distance. Hmmm. 🤔 I guess I need more training.

I spent some time during the afternoon helping a friend to test a new Discord bot game for Games Night – he’s implemented Scattergories. So we were testing for bugs and UI improvements, and coming up with interesting categories to add to the list.

During Games Night, we played some games of 7 Wonders, and then moved on to the new Scattergories implementation. Most of the fun was in arguing over which words were valid during the scoring phase. One particular argument was for the category “Words that begin and end with the same letter”. The letter was A and the contentious “word” was “Amanda”. Some players were absolutely fine that it was a “word”, but others insisted it be disqualified because it was a proper noun and hence was not a “word”.

  • For: It’s a collection of letters, it’s readily pronounceable, it’s commonly used in English sentences, how could it possibly not be a word??
  • Against: It’s just a name, a label, it has no intrinsic semantic meaning in modern English, it’s never used to refer to anything except a person who happens to have that as a name, it can’t be used lower-case, it’s illegal in Scrabble, how could it possibly be a word??

We didn’t come to any agreement, except to reword the categories so that they’re unambiguous as to whether proper nouns are allowed or not.

New content today: