And a perfect half day…

After yesterday’s perfect autumn day, the forecast today predicted rain, although not until the afternoon. So I decided to take advantage of what may be the last fine morning of the week to go and play some golf. And I decided to take advantage of the New South Wales Government’s COVID stimulus voucher program by getting them to pay for my round, so it was a free day out.

It really was a nice morning, although cooler and cloudier than yesterday.

Nice day for golf

This is the “pitch and putt” course where every hole is a par 3. My local full-sized course doesn’t (AFAIK) accept the COVID vouchers, so I travelled out here to use one. The course was fairly empty today, and playing by myself I used two balls in parallel, playing each hole twice as I went around the course once. I kept score separately and managed my best ever total for one of the balls, so that was good.

On this hole, 13, I managed to hit both balls from the tee onto the green! I was playing one pink ball and one yellow ball. The pink one should be easy to see – the yellow one is way at the back of the large double green (left of the big light pole on the right)… but that still counts!

Two tee shots on the green

After golf, I drove over to my favourite pie shop for lunch, and ate pies by the beach. There were pelicans hanging out there.

Pelicans and gulls

This afternoon I spent time working on some ISO Photography standards stuff, in preparation for the next meeting we’re having, which is coming up in June. I had to write up some comments on a draft document and submit them, and do some admin stuff with the meeting agenda and so on. Nothing particularly exciting, but it consumed much of the afternoon.

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The last perfect autumn day?

Carl Sagan said in the TV series (and book) Cosmos:

Some 5 billion years from now, there will be a last perfect day on Earth… then the sun will begin to die, life will be extinguished, the oceans will boil and evaporate away.

Today felt like that last perfect day. It’s late autumn and we’ve already had a couple of cold weeks as we descend into the chilly depths of winter. But the past few days have been nice, and today was the culmination of a short warming trend. It reached 25°C here in Sydney, and the sky was a brilliant shining blue, with a gentle breeze just to keep the air moving so you didn’t feel hot in the sun.

I had occasion to be out and about. After my Monday morning online ethics class (teaching two 10-year-old boys today, same topic as last Friday’s class), I had an appointment in North Sydney for an ultrasound examination, which my doctor had ordered to check out a niggling persistent pain in my abdomen. It’s about half an hour’s walk, and I decided to make the most of the day by walking, rather than catching the train.

And it was gorgeous being outdoors in the late autumn sunshine. My route took me past St Leonards Park and to the Ridge Street Lookout, from where I captured this view looking south towards the city centre:

Ridge St Lookout

The city centre is on the right, and the harbour stretches east (left) towards the ocean. You can see the Harbour Bridge (giant steel arch on the right) and the Opera House (left of the big white “Bayer” building near the Bridge).

For my ultrasound, I had to fast all morning – no food or drink since last night. So by the time it was done at 11:30 I was really hungry. I walked back north to Crows Nest and a local pub where I like their chicken schnitzel lunch special. It’s a bit decadent, so I don’t get it very often, but it’s the best chicken schnitzel I’ve had anywhere.

From there I went straight to pick up Scully from my wife’s office, so I could look after her during the afternoon. Late afternoon I took Scully to the dog park down at Waverton. And from here I got another amazing view of the city, in the late afternoon light just as it was transitioning from the harsh midday sun to a beautiful warmer glow.

Sydney from Waverton Park

Again you can see the Bridge. And yes, you can see the Opera House in this photo – but you need to either know where it is or be really good at spotting it. You can also see a few clouds just starting to creep in. The forecast for tomorrow is a cooler 21°C and afternoon rain, possibly including a storm. And with the rain and cooler weather set to last for several days, I think it’s highly possible that today was indeed the last perfect autumn day for the year.

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Mother’s Day lunch

Being Mother’s Day here in Australia, we had a family day today. In the morning, my wife and I took Scully on a long walk to let her get some energy out. Then we drove over to my wife’s mother’s place, picking up a lemon meringue pie on the way from the really nice Italian bakery. We had pizzas for lunch, and then the pie. We hung out for some of the afternoon with her family, before heading home for the evening.

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One of those interstitial Saturdays

After the late update for yesterday, I don’t really have a lot to report on today. It was a day of mixed housework and getting a few odd jobs done.

The major unusual thing I did was to update the Irregular Webcomic! forum software version. My webhost is deprecating PHP version 7.2, and doing an enforced upgrade to 7.4. Since my phpBB install was a few versions behind, moving to 7.4 broke it, so I had to update it to the latest version. And updating phpBB isn’t a job for the faint-hearted – it’s not press a button and it all happens automatically, like WordPress. You have to download a zip file, backup your database and installation files, then modify some configuration stuff, then copy a whole bunch of files over the top of the previous version on the webhost machine, then run a database update script, then check and possibly update all your plugin extensions, and make sure everything works, and then redo any customisations that you made by editing the source code.

So it was a solid couple of hours of work. But I’m happy to report that it all went well and the forums now seem to be working fine under the new PHP version 7.4. I should keep them more up to date… Last time I neglected to update the version for several years and a change to PHP completely broke things so badly that I had to spend a whole day or more doing a complete reinstallation and migration of the database using an upgrade tool that I fortunately managed to find. That was almost a disaster, and I don’t want to go through that again.

Apart from that it was mostly housework. But my wife and I took some time to relax this evening at a Turkish restaurant up the street. They do some really nice food there.

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Late Friday games night update

On Friday I was very busy! I did the grocery shopping first thing, then I had a doctor’s appointment to get a flu shot before winter sets in. This was slightly complicated by the fact that my doctor is a couple of train stations away, and they’re doing some major construction work at my nearest station, necessitating a long pedestrian detour to reach the station from my place. On the way back I considered just walking all the way home, which takes about half an hour. But I decided it’d be quicker to get the train again—forgetting about the detour—and then I just missed a train and had a ten minute wait for the next one… basically it ended up taking just as long overall.

I had to work on my lesson plan for the second Outschool ethics class, which I had at 4pm. And in the middle of it I had to go pick up Scully from my wife’s work and bring her home. Then to ensure that Scully didn’t want to go out for a toilet or a walk during the ethics class Zoom meeting, I took her out to the park at 3pm and gave her a run around to tire her out. This was tiring work for me, because she’s a fairly reluctant ball chaser, and does it in a leisurely fashion. The best way to get her to run is to play chase with her, and run around after her myself. So I did a bunch of short sprints, wearing myself out in the process.

But it worked – I got her to do a toilet after the running and then we came back inside and Scully flopped into her dog bed and stayed there throughout the entire ethics class. The topic for the day was “generalisation”, including jumping to conclusions, and touching a little on prejudice. The main questions raised were when is generalising valid or invalid, and what caveats do we need to take when generalising from our own experiences? It was a really good discussion, and at the end the two students both said that they’d “loved” the class. So think both of them will continue with weekly lessons for a while, which is good.

In the evening it was games night. We had an attendance of only four due to people having various other engagements. We played Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!, then Istanbul, and then had a big game of Apples to Apples, which caused several hilarious moments.

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Home baking with pastry

I was planning to make quiche for dinner tonight. Normally I use pre-made pastry sheets from the supermarket. But tonight I decided to have a go at making my own pastry – for the first time ever. I found a simple shortcrust pastry recipe, and made it up. It wasn’t difficult at all. However, after making the dough, I thought it looked like a lot, so I checked the total weight of ingredients, versus the weight of a pack of 5 pastry sheets… and found that I’d made close to twice as much pastry as I would normally use for one quiche.

So I used half the pastry to make the quiche for dinner.

Cauliflower quiche

And then after we ate I used the other half to make a couple of small apple pies. I’ve never made pies before, but I didn’t use a recipe. I just stewed some apple with cloves and cinnamon until it was soft, then rolled and baked the pie shells, then filled with the apple and topped with the remaining pastry.

Apple pies

They turned out pretty good! A little amateurish around the edges, but I had one still hot with a scoop of ice cream for dessert, and it was a fine apple pie. Now I’m really full…

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Double ethics classes

This morning I had my normal Year 5/6 ethics class. We started a new subject: Vanity. The first lesson of the topic was really just about exploring the idea that people look different, and asking whether some people look better than others, and if it’s okay to want to look good, or specifically better than other people. We got through the material a bit quickly, as most of the answers were agreed to by the class, without a lot of discussion or differing opinions.

And then straight after my usual class, I took relief for another ethics teacher who was away this week. He has a Year 3 class, younger than I’m used to (although I have taken a Year 2 class a couple of times before to fill in). The kids can bit more excitable and uncontrollable at that age, but they’re also a bit more obedient when asked to do things. It was a large class and they had a tendency to blurt out answers over the top of each other without putting their hands up to wait their turn. I stopped that fairly quickly by saying I noticed the polite students with their hands up. It kind of bubbled along a bit, but never got out of hand, so that was good.

The topic was Persuading, and today’s lesson was about advertising in particular. I showed the kids a couple of (fictional) advertisements and we discussed how honest they were, and if they were trying to persuade you to buy something by being deliberately misleading. It was a really good discussion, and I think the kids really latched onto the idea that advertisers are trying to sell stuff, so they’re not motivated to be entirely honest.

After the double class, I hung out a bit in the shopping area near the school, and then grabbed some food for a slightly early lunch before heading home. I picked up Scully at lunch time, and it was rainy again today, so we got a bit wet coming home. Fortunately she behaved at home all afternoon, since I didn’t feel like heading outside in the rain again.

This evening I did my usual Italian practice on Duolingo. I’m now up to a 300-day streak of uninterrupted lessons every day. I did have a longer streak a few years ago, but it got interrupted by an overseas trip and reset my counter, and then it took me a while to get back into it. But I’m feeling a lot better now about some of the different tenses, particularly the subjunctive and the conditional. I’m still working on modal tenses.

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More Japanese food

I didn’t have anything particular that I needed to do today, nor any plans for anything. It would have been a good opportunity to go for a long walk and take photos or something, but unfortunately the weather decided today was a good day to break the four-week long dry spell we’ve been having. After yesterday’s lovely 25°C autumn day, today’s maximum was only 17°C, and there was steady rain from about 10:00 to mid-afternoon.

So I worked on some comic writing, until a friend messaged me and suggested going out to grab some lunch together. He suggested a new Japanese place near him. So I grabbed my umbrella ad caught the train over. The restaurant had a selection of bento box lunch specials, and I chose the panko prawn set, with the option of sashimi (there were other options including a salad, tofu, and something else).

Bento box - panko prawns

It was pretty good!

My wife messaged me to see if I could pick up Scully on the way home. Apparently Scully had been a bit barky this morning, and my wife wanted to get her out of the office early. So I picked her up and brought her home, where she then slept on my lap for a few hours until my wife also got home!

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Sushi and books

This morning I had another Outschool class, a second session of the ethics course, on the same topic of greed as last Friday, with a different student. I just had the one boy this time, so it was very one-on-one, and we had a pretty deep discussion of what greed is, and whether it’s wrong or not – or rather in what circumstances it’s wrong or not. I could tell he was really thinking hard about the questions I posed, and he said he enjoyed it at the end, so that’s good!

For lunch today I decided to walk up the street to the local shops and get something. I didn’t have anything in mind, but settled on sushi when I passed a sushi shop. I took my bento box of sushi to the nearby square, where there’s a grassy area and trees and some steps to sit on, and ate there with some other local workers who had come out for lunch. And a gaggle of magpies, who stalked everyone looking for handouts. But I never feed birds, no matter how persistent.

After eating I stopped in the bookshop to browse around for a while. I saw some mildly interesting things, but nothing inspiring enough to buy. I flipped through an Italian recipe book and found a simple ratio of ingredients for making pasta dough, which I committed to memory. I’ve been thinking now that I’m making my own bread and pizza bases, I should give hand made pasta try. I think dinners for this week are more or less covered already, so maybe I’ll try next week.

On books, I recently finished reading the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Curse of Strahd, which is a 5th edition conversion and expansion of the classic original 1st edition adventure Ravenloft. Ravenloft has long been a favourite of mine, and I’m very pleased with the expanded content in this version.

Sticking with the D&D theme, I’ve now started on another book in my list of unread books: Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection, Foil Hardcover edition. This is a classic old school series of books containing various dungeon traps originally published in the 1980s, collected together into a republished compendium. The book weighs a ton, and should take a while to get through. I like the nostalgic feel of reading old gaming material like this.

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Standard sort of Sunday

I did the same walk as yesterday with Scully, but today my wife came along as well. She didn’t recall ever having done the new route which Scully chose yesterday, and Scully picked it again today, so that was good. I stopped at the bakery along the way for a piece of chocolate babka, which is really delicious, and a good Sunday morning tea treat.

At the Oyster Cove marina, I spotted this white-faced heron, which I managed ot get close enough to to take a half-decent photo with my phone.

White-faced heron

At home, I worked on more Darths & Droids strips, getting the buffer back into something resembling good health after running it down to the bone recently.

During the afternoon I got into a chat with some friends on Discord, and we talked about TV shows we’ve been watching. It was interesting because every time anyone said anything about a show they’d watched, they put it in spoiler tags to avoid spoiling anyone else who was interested in watching but wasn’t up to that bit yet. I’ve been watching The Irregulars, and am up to episode 6 of 8. Two of my friends are also watching it and are up to different episodes. So although we’re all watching the same TV show, we can’t really have a proper conversation about it without being super careful.

Remember back in the days before streaming, when TV shows aired on television at a specific time, and everyone you knew would be watching the same episode at the same time? So you could all talk about the latest episode and speculate what would happen next week? I miss those days. I watched The X-Files in its initial run, and one of my friends and I would get together every week and compare our impressions of the last episode and theorise wildly about what was going to happen in the next mythology episode. This is a joy that young people these days will never know.

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