Hosting board games night

Late update for Friday, as I was hosting our fortnightly board games night last night, and didn’t have time to write up this entry.

I spent most of the day running chores. I did the weekly grocery shop, and then I had to go out again twice more, once to get some yummy Italian baked goods for dessert, and once to pick up Scully from doggie day care and also buy some beers to share with the guys. In between I did a thorough vacuum cleaning and dusting of the house and then tidying up various clutter to make space for us to sit around and play games. And then just before everyone arrived I had a shower and cleaned the bathroom.

There were seven of us for games. Four of us started a game of Azul before the others arrived, and once they had arrived they played Abandon All Artichokes until we’d finished. After those, we all played another section of our ongoing game of Legacy of Dragonholt. And finally, we resplit into two groups, three people playing Lost Ruins of Arnak, and the other four playing Parks.

New content today:

Big Lunch

My wife has taken this week off from work to use up some of her annual leave, and today we planned to go out for a nice lunch somewhere. We’d discussed a few options earlier in the week, but this morning she found a place that looked good and called up to book us a table for lunch, making sure we could bring Scully along.

We ended up at The Butcher’s Block in Wahroonga, a suburb about half an hour’s drive north of us. We got there a bit early so we took Scully for a walk around Wahroonga Park, which is a lovely bit of parkland with small rolling hills dotted with large trees, some of which were dropping autumn leaves, as well as gazebos, benches, statues, and plenty of birds. It felt a bit like a quintessentially English park.

At the restaurant we sat out the front on a padded bench facing the street, where we could see all the people walk by. Next door was a sushi place doing really good business with people popping in to grab a bento box or whatever to take away. But the place we’d chosen was excellent, with a fancy menu and attentive waiters. Although the pasta dishes looked amazing, I opted for something a bit more lunchy and chose the barbecue beef burger, with sweet potato chips.

Angus & Brisket burger

The burger had an Angus beef patty and pulled brisket, and it was very good. I also had a chocolate thick shake, and I’m happy to say it was a serious thick shake. I’ve had some disappointing ones elsewhere, where they really should have just been called milkshakes. But this one was a huge tall traditional steel milkshake cup, filled to the brim with what was basically ice cream barely on the verge of melting. And it was richly chocolatey. It was really really good.

It was so filling that it’s now after 8pm, and I haven’t eaten anything since lunch… and I really don’t feel like having dinner.

With the rest of the day I worked on a couple of things. I had to deal with insurance stuff for my market stall. Up to now I’ve been buying public liability insurance on an ad-hoc basis from the market operator each time I had a stall. But I’m planning to do another different market next month and they don’t offer this service, so I needed to get my own liability insurance if I wanted to do the market. I did some research and found a policy that will cover me for a year, meaning I can stop buying insurance individually for each market. It’s actually a bit more expensive overall, but, well, it’s a cost of doing business – so at least it’s tax deductible.

And in between I worked on more outlines for my Big Science course. Today I completed ones for quantum mechanics and plate tectonics. I also went back over the ones I did yesterday to add linkages to the other topics – there are surprisingly many. I should draw a mind map of the whole thing when I’m done with the outlines. It will be a good graphic to show during the course.

New content today:

Getting stuck into big science

This morning I had my face-to-face ethics class, after skipping last week due to the students having tests. It was the second lesson of the Vanity topic, and in this one we had three scenarios and the kids had to discuss how vain the people in the scenarios were, and assign them on a scale of 1 to 10. One of the scenarios introduced the idea that vanity can be about things other than appearance, and posed the questions of whether that was any better or worse. And we discussed the big question: Is there anything wrong with being vain?

Back at home I spent much of the day working on outlines for my planned Big Science series of lessons for my online classes. I’ve completed outlines for atomic theory, evolution, relativity, and am mostly done on quantum mechanics. After I finish that and the next two, I’ll start work on detailed lesson plan and assembling slides to illustrate it. That’s the hard part, because as discussed before I can’t just grab pictures off the Internet. I have to make sure they’re public domain, or make them myself. So that will take a bit longer.

One good thing is that I came up with a common thread to tie all these topics together. Each will demonstrate the process of science, with different aspects covered: thought experiments, physical experiments, construction of models, making predictions, testing theories, assembling evidence, refining models, and so on. Basically the scientific method. So the overall uniting theme will be the development and use of the scientific method as a means of discovering how things work. So I’m pretty pleased with that as a concept!

On a completely different topic, I was just watching a cooking show on TV – while making and then eating dinner. It’s an Australian show, in which one of our celebrity chefs invites two guests to join him, and they all cook a dish while having a chat about food, their careers, their lives, whatever. Tonight’s guests were chefs from America. There’s a theme ingredient each show that they all have to use. Tonight’s ingredient was lemons, so the host chose to make lemon chicken.

Now, everyone knows and loves lemon chicken, right? Well… apparently only everyone in Australia knows and loves lemon chicken, because neither of the American chefs had ever even heard of it! I know certain dishes are regional, but I’m surprised to learn that lemon chicken is not widespread enough to even be known in the US. To chefs, no less.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised at Chinese-derived dishes in particular being a complete disjoint set between Australia and the USA. I’ve been in Chinese restaurants in the US and literally not recognised a single dish on the menu. And I know American friends who’ve visited here and had similar experiences not recognising any dishes on our Chinese menus.

But wow… lemon chicken. You Americans are really missing out!

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A big lunch walk

Today was Darths & Droids writing day. We’re up to over 2000 strips written now! That’s a lot of comic strips.

My wife is spending this week off work, and we went out for a walk to the post office before lunch, planning to come home and then go out somewhere to a local cafe or something for lunch. But there was a queue at the post office and by the time I’d done what I needed to do there it was 11:30, so we decided to go for a bit more of a walk and go straight for lunch.

We ended up at The Grumpy Baker, where we had pies. I had a chicken harissa pie, while my wife tried the mushroom and feta. I’ve had that one a few times, and recommended it to her. The pies there are very big and filling, so it was a nice substantial lunch. We walked home via the waterfront with Scully, and overall we were out and about for over two hours.

It was a nice day too. Cool but not chilly, and perfectly nice in the sunshine. Looks like we have more similar days for the rest of the week.

This Friday night is games night, and this time for the first time I’m going to be hosting it at my place. I haven’t done it before because my place is a bit small, and most of my friends live clustered in an area where the usual hosts live, so most of them don’t have to travel very far. But my place is actually more central for a couple of other guys who have been attending regularly recently, so I put my hand up to give it a try. We’ll see how it goes!

New content today:

An errant tonsil

Most of today I spent working on taking photos for a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips.

But this afternoon I had an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. A while back I noticed a rounded lump on one tonsil. I’ve been through a sequence of antibiotics prescribed by my GP, which didn’t do anything, so he sent me to the specialist. He had a look and then sent me to a CT scan of the neck region. Today he concluded from the scan that the lump most most likely a benign cyst, but he recommended removal so they could biopsy it and to prevent any future complications.

So I’m now booked in for a tonsillectomy in late June. Surgery is never fun, but I was kind of looking forward to having an excuse to eat nothing but ice cream for a week. But the doctor said I could eat anything after the surgery, except spicy-hot foods. Well, dang. He did also say that it would be painful for about a week and I should take it easy and essentially not do work, what with being doped up on painkillers. So it looks like all the bad bits without the ice cream.

Maybe I’ll just eat a lot of ice cream anyway.

New content today:

Marginal Market profits

I spent most of today at East Lindfield Market, trying to sell my photography stuff. I feel a bit like a broken record saying again that it was really slow, with fewer customers than normal. Honestly, it feels like every market except the first few that I did has been “slower than normal”, ever since COVID hit. As one of the market organisers said today, this is the first time they’ve managed to have two markets in a row (consecutive months) in the last 18 months, with the various COVID and weather cancellations that we’ve had. We may need a run of consecutive markets to get the customer numbers back up again.

Furthermore, today was the first really cold weekend we’ve had as we move from summer into winter. So a lot of people might have just decided to stay home, not yet used to the cold weather. Hopefully next month (assuming it’s not cancelled…) people will be more used to the winter chill and come out to the market again.

Anyway, at least we did better than last month. My wife sold some of her dog bandanas, and I sold a bunch of greeting cards. Together we managed to just scrape over the line of making a profit over the stall hire cost. Which is significantly better than we did last month, so that’s good at least. It’s a tough time running a market stall at the moment.

New content today:

A day of prep work

Today I spent doing a lot of preparation, for two different things.

Tomorrow is market day, and I had a few things to do to get ready for travelling over there and setting up my stall. My wife and I will be trying to sell my photography and her doggie bandanas again. We have a new display rack for the bandanas, to get them up closer to people’s eye-lines, rather than just lying flat on the table. So hopefully we’ll sell more of those.

Mostly I worked on writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips though. The current buffer will run out this week, so I need to get a batch photographed and assembled in the first few days after Sunday. It’s actually going to be tricky squeezing it in, as I have other things to do this week too.

This afternoon we took a break (me from writing comics, my wife from sewing bandanas) to take Scully for a long walk. We went past the bakery a suburb over and down past the water – our usual long route. Although the weather was clear, it was very cold and windy. The first tendrils of winter have really hit in the past couple of days. Today’s maximum was only 16.9°C, which is pretty much a chilly winter day. I rugged up with a jumper (a sweater in US English) and a jacket, and still felt cold.

I know this is almost laughable for those of you who live in colder climates, but this is pretty much midwinter temperatures here, and I’m not used to it. It already feels like this is going to be a colder and longer winter than last year’s remarkably mild one.

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Quick Friday fill-in

I didn’t have time to post on Friday evening as I went through a string of other stuff to do. I had my online ethics class at 4pm, after which I made sourdough and spent time kneading and getting it ready for baking (which I’ll be doing in the morning after letting it rise overnight). Straight after that I went out with my wife and Scully to our favourite local pizza place for dinner.

When we got home, virtual games night was well underway, and the guys had just finished playing a game, so I leapt straight in to a new game of Nidavellir. It’s an interesting bidding game with some cool mechanics – you’re bidding coins to recruit dwarves to your army, and score points for various combinations of dwarves. You can also increase the values of your coins through various means to improve your bidding in later rounds.

After that we played Gartic Phone, which is a web implementation of Telestrations, essentially a cross between Telephone and Pictionary.

Then we played a couple of games of good old 7 Wonders. And ended with a couple of rounds of a Discord implementation of Scattergories.

New content today:

Impressing myself

I’ve slowly been trying to learn Italian for many years now. I’ve done it in fits and starts, with long breaks in between during which I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff. It’s all just self-teaching, with the help of Duolingo, a couple of books on Italian grammar that I bought, and some easy reading material (the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series in Italian). I had a long break after returning from our last overseas trip, having gotten out of the habit of practising every day, but now I’m up to over 300 consecutive days of practice – just 10-15 minutes a day, but every day, to make sure I stay in the habit.

Sometimes doing the exercises on Duolingo I amaze myself with what sentences I can manage to translate. Going from Italian to English is the easy direction, because I just have to get the gist of the meaning, and then I can write it out in English, and I don’t have to think about the grammar. Going from English to Italian is more difficult, because I have to translate the root words, then get the grammatical inflections right, and then put the words in the right order.

And sometimes there are ways of phrasing or constructing the sentence that have no direct analogue in English – for example in Italian you don’t just sit, you sit yourself. In English you say: “He sits.” In Italian: “Lui si siede.” Which is literally: “He himself sits.” The si is “himself” and you can’t leave it out.

I’m impressed that my brain can take this:

Who wants to follow us?

and turn it into this:

Chi ci vuole seguire?

Or this:

I would not have done it.

into this:

Non l’avrei fatto.

These were two actual exercises in today’s practice, which I got right on the first attempt. It’s incredibly pleasing to get a translation correct when you’re not 100% sure of it. And I’m finding that the more I learn, the more second nature a lot of the older material is becoming. I can translate stuff like “I want to eat an apple” (“Voglio mangiare una mela.”) pretty much instantly without thinking. It’s only the more complex stuff that I have to think about now.

I know I’m going on about this, but it’s honestly something that I impress myself with on an almost daily basis. As someone who never really learnt any languages when I was younger, the fact that I can progress myself to this stage is simply amazing when I stop to think about it.

What else did I do today? Hmm. Mostly I worked on a lesson plan for tomorrow’s online ethics class. The topic tomorrow is “Lying”. And I have a third student who enrolled during the week! So that should be good.

I also walked up the street to get some take-away sushi for lunch and sit in the square to eat, and then run some shopping errands for a few things I needed to get. I picked up Scully on the way home, and then took her out to the park later in the afternoon for some exercise.

New content today:

Unethical Wednesday

I don’t know what’s going on with this weather. The Bureau told us it would rain today, but there wasn’t a drop, and it was another fine day, although a bit chilly rather than warm. This seems to be a long term trend with weather forecasts here. Often they forecast rain, and it just never eventuates.

Normally I’d have my face-to-face Ethics class at the school today, but the kids are doing their NAPLAN tests this week, so my class was cancelled. I ended up driving over to the same car park by the school anyway, because my wife wanted one of the Aldi supermarket specials that was released today. They had super cheap dog beds a while back and she bought one, and of course it turned out that Scully loves the cheap Aldi dog bed and ignores the expensive dog bed from the pet store. So she’s been looking out for the specials ever since, and finally it reappeared, so she despatched me to get another one for her office.

Back home it was a comics writing day, interrupted by some more prep work for the ISO Photography meeting next month. Unfortunately for me, this time the meeting is being held in a time zone that works for the USA and Europe… which means it’s going to be the middle of the night for me. The sessions run from 23:00 to 02:30 here in Sydney, Monday to Friday. So it’ll be a week of very late nights.

In COVID related news, the Australian Government released their annual Budget last night. Notably, there was a strong underlying assumption that Australia’s borders will remain closed until at least mid-2022. That means no tourists visiting, and no residents in Australia allowed to leave the country. I’d been imagining we could start travelling again by the end of 2021, but now we’re looking at still more than a year until that’s possible. We’ll probably have to have a COVID vaccination shot, and then the next annual shot after that before we can travel… (I’m assuming this is going to end up as an annual thing like flu shots.)

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