Icing my back

Despite taking it easy last night and trying not to aggravate my twinged back, it stiffened up badly overnight. I made an appointment with my physiotherapist, at midday today. The guy I see is really good and loosens up my pelvic joints and realigns things so it feels a lot better. Then it’s just a matter of getting the inflammation down, which in the past has taken a few days. But today he mentioned that if I was an athlete I’d put an ice pack on it for 15 minutes, take it off for half an hour, and repeat that all day, and by tomorrow it’d be completely fine. I never realised I could do something like that! If it helps heal faster, I’m all over it!

So I’ve been icing my back on and off for much of the afternoon. And yeah, it feels a lot better already, so it seems to be working. I’ll see how it is after another night’s sleep.

The other main thing I did today was write up my lesson plan for the new online ethics topic of Food. I included stuff on dumpster diving for discarded food, food waste, healthy and unhealthy food, and some ethical questions about the impact of raising meat on the environment, and also the impact of shipping food around the world just so we can buy peaches in the middle of winter. One kid tonight had a very interesting idea about junk food, suggesting that people should get a maximum quota of junk food per month, “maybe two chocolate bars or something.”

Oh, and the rain is back again… It was very cold today, a maximum of only 13°C in Sydney, which is the second coldest day of the year so far. It’s supposed to be rainy for the whole week. We’re definitely approaching that all-time yearly rain record.

New content today:

In brief

I’ve strained my back a little today, so I’m keeping this short to avoid sitting at the computer too long. I’ve also decided to take a bit of a break from making new Irregular Webcomic! strips, to recharge my creative batteries, and also to try to get some other things done that I really want to do, like add new classes to Outschool.

New content today:

Magic: Goldfish Draft results

I missed posting an entry last night because I was busy last night and bedtime crept up on me. Since I still haven’t quite fallen into a regular sleeping pattern after getting back from Europe, I decided to go to bed rather than stay up later writing a blog post.

I mentioned just over a week ago that I was playing a new game of Magic: the Gathering Goldfish Draft with my friends. Well, now a week later I can tell you the results of the game. Yes, it took me that long to calculate my score, using a spreadsheet – that’s what I was finishing up last night that caused me to have a late night. My result? I scored 10246.8 points.

Now you might think this is an awful lot of points to score in any sort of game. Surely I must have beaten everybody else’s scores! But you’d be very far from the truth. In fact, I came last out of six players. All the players’ scores were, in increasing order:

  • 10246.8 (me)
  • 1074682
  • 10628960
  • 103×1014
  • 10↑↑4.1
  • 10↑↑↑↑2.7

The last two use Knuth’s up-arrow notation for writing extremely large numbers that are beyond the capability of standard exponential notation – using a monotonic extension we worked out for interpolating non-integral operands. Also, these scores are all approximate – there’s no point, or even possibility, of tracking all the digits of the numbers we’re calculating here.

Also yesterday: did some housecleaning, dog walking, cooking, the usual day-to-day stuff.

Today: I slept in a bit after a solid sleep, which was good. I think I’m now pretty much back into a sensible sleeping pattern, which was not something I would have said yesterday. My arm is still a tiny bit sore from the 4th COVID shot on Friday, but otherwise that seemed to be fairly unremarkable.

I went for a big walk with my wife and Scully, out to our favourite bakery for a kind of brunch-ish snack. We just had a pastry each. Then on the way home we took a longer detour to see some different scenery and stretch our legs more. The day is actually nice today! Sunny and a forecast maximum of 20°C, which is considerably warmer than it has been for the past few weeks. So it was good to get out and enjoy it.

This afternoon I cleaned out the garage a bit and put some things out for the fortnightly household items collection that the council runs. Every two weeks you can put large items out on the kerb and council trucks come by and pick them up for disposal. I got rid of an old chest of drawers that we’d been storing in the garage for years, but it was pretty filthy and we were never going to use it again. I also took out my old set of golf clubs – the ancient ones I got second hand for about $50 and used until our neighbour passed away and his wife gifted me his very nice set of clubs. I’d seen second hand clubs at the golf course and asked if they wanted a donation, but they said they get lots of old clubs and don’t know what to do with them any more. So I didn’t expect to be able to get rid of them any other way, and placed them out for collection, and then a neighbour drove into our apartment driveway and saw me putting them there and asked if he could have them, for a friend of his who was just beginning to play. I said sure, and helped him take them. I’m really happy that they will get one more life with a new player!

New content yesterday:

New content today:

This darn winter

It’s cold and it’s wet.

Now, you may be thinking it can’t possibly get all that cold in Sydney. You’re right. A cold winter’s day in Sydney is a maximum of 12-14°C, and even at night it never gets colder than about 4°C where I am near the coast. But the thing about Sydney is that our homes are not designed for this weather. Insulation is poor to non-existent. I have never seen a double-glazed window in Sydney.

This means when it’s 14°C outside… it’s 14°C inside. This morning after getting out of bed I was sitting here, with three layers of clothing on, drinking hot cups of herbal tea, and shivering. The design of Sydney homes actually violates the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on safe winter indoor living temperatures, as pointed out by this article from today’s news. It’s a very common observation by visitors from northern Europe or North America, where they get regular snow during winter, to say that they’ve never in their lives felt as cold as spending a winter in Sydney.

And then this year there’s also the rain. I’ve been telling you about the record rainfalls all year. Has it let up in July?

14 days into July, Sydney has already set a new record for the highest ever rainfall recorded for the whole month of July. We still have more than half the month to go! And we’re now only about 200 mm short of beating the wettest year on record – a record that will almost certainly be surpassed. And now the weather bureau is saying there’s a greater than 50% chance of the coming summer being another La Nińa, meaning more rainfall.

I took a look at the latest minutes form the monthly meeting of my apartment complex’s managing committee. 9 out of the 18 items on the agenda were about building leaks or other rainfall-related problems such as damp and rotting woodwork, collapse of garden retaining walls, or inadequate drainage leading to puddling of water.

In non-weather news, I see the news sites are all hyping the latest “super double wolf blood moon” for the current full moon. Have people forgotten that full moons happen every month, so that they get excited about it every single time it happens and have to hype it up into something “amazing” each time? Anyway, I was inspired to write a quick mezzacotta random supermooon generator.

New content today:

Secret Project milestone

That secret project I’ve been talking about recently – I completed a major milestone today. The hardest and most time-consuming part has now been completed, as of this morning. There’s a bit of tidying up around the edges required before it’s ready to unveil, but that’s all very minor and mechanical compared to the major creative parts that are now finished. Yes, it’s a creative project, and yes, you will see it soon. Just not quite yet.

The other thing I achieved today was finishing watching season 4 of Stranger Things. I’ve loved this show since the first episode of season 1. I thought season 3 was a bit weaker than the first two, but this new season was amazing, and my wife and I both were spellbound from start to finish.

The other main thing today was I got my fourth COVID shot. The Australian Government approved them for people aged over 30 on Monday, and I made sure to get in early before demand ramps up and makes bookings difficult to get. I had it about 5 hours ago now, and still feeling fine, so hopefully no fevery side effects like I had for one of my previous shots (I forget exactly which it was, but it was just one of them).

New content today:

History off the rails

This morning I had some spare time, and my golfing friend had suggested we take the opportunity to play a round at the short “par 3” course that we go to sometimes. We had to check the weather this morning, as rain was forecast, but the morning was sunny, so we met at the course and managed to get our game in before the clouds closed in. We played two balls each, and I started well, hitting the ball cleanly in the air and putting decently. But unfortunately my game deteriorated a little as we continued and I ended weakly, posting rounds of 75 and 76 with the two balls, just shy of my best score of 71 on this course.

After the game we went to have lunch at a nearby bakery, where I had a sausage roll and a salted caramel tart as we watched the dark grey clouds roll in.

Later in the afternoon I went to pick up Scully from doggie daycare, just before the rain came down. It’s been raining moderately heavily throughout the evening.

And this evening I had three online ethics classes in a row. The third one went a bit off the rails, as the kids were all keen to interrupt and provide comments about stuff that became increasingly tangential to my lesson plan. I had a question about the Black Death, regarding how we can be sure that such an event actually happened, considering it was almost 700 years ago. But one kid started asking questions about plague doctors and why they had masks with pointy noses, and then two other kids started taking about the various things they had stuffed into the noses to try to filter out the plague, and it kind of took off from there. I don’t mind too much, as long as the kids are enjoying the class and hopefully learning something, but I did try and get it back on track. It was exhausting though, and I understand why school teachers have breaks for recess and lunch – so they don’t have to handle kids for more than 2 hours in a row!

New content today:

Thinking critically about history

It’s Tuesday, start of a new week of online ethics classes. This week the subject is History – which is really more on the critical thinking side of things than ethics.

I start with a story about the Library of Alexandria, mentioning how the huge collection of scrolls has been lost, and ask the students how tragic a loss that is for our understanding of ancient history. Then we go through a series of questions about how we can know that historical records are accurate, and how important it is to know about history. I end with thinking about people in the future considering the present as a part of their history. We are recording more and more of our lives and storing or uploading enormous amounts of information. But imagine if YouTube went out of business and all those videos were lost – and people 100 years from now heard stories about how YouTube contained hundreds of millions of videos, and all of them were lost – how would they feel?

New content today:

The end of Fighting

Highlights of today:

  • I got a package from a Kickstarter I backed in April 2021. I’ve stopped backing new Kickstarters, but the trickle of rewards form old projects continues to flow in.
  • I finished off the Fighting topic in my online ethics classes. It was a good one. Next up for this week is History.
  • I made calzones for dinner. My wife made the pizza dough, and I stuffed them with spinach and ricotta and made a tomato and garlic sauce to spoon on top of the cooked calzones.
  • It rained. of course.
  • I took Scully for a walk for lunch, a bit late since we waited for the storm to pass. We met Bongo, another neighbourhood dog, and had a bit of a walk with him and his owner.
  • I worked on a very special Darths & Droids strip, which took a lot more work than normal. (to be published on Thursday)
  • I forgot about tonight’s Irregular Webcomic! – I hadn’t made it in time and had to rush to make it and upload it before going to bed.

New content today:

A Short Cut to Mushrooms

There are a lot of mushrooms sprouting all over the place around where I live. From all of the rain. I’ve been finding weird shapes and species I’ve never seen before. A friend of mine forages for wild mushrooms, but I wouldn’t do anything like that without knowing for sure if they’re safe, so I don’t touch them.

And yes, it rained a lot again today. There were sunny breaks, but the showers in between were heavy and windy and cold.

We took advantage of a long break in the middle of the day to take Scully on a walk to a bakery. I had a passionfruit tart, which was really good. Very tart, in the sense of not too sweet. We got home just as another shower broke, dashing in the last few metres to the door and getting a few drops on us. A minute later, once inside, it was pouring down, so we were very lucky not to have been a couple of minutes longer.

New content today:

Friday games, Saturday game

Friday was online board games night with my friends, so I didn’t have time to write up an entry. We played games of Fruit Picking, 7 Wonders: Architects, Codenames, Nidavellir, 7 Wonders, and then Sketchful.

Fruit Picking is a new game we tried for the first time. It’s based on mancala; you move “seeds” round several “farms” mancala-style, and then use sets of seeds to buy fruit cards form the market to build winning sets of fruit. The tactics were interesting and we may try it again. The Codenames game was hilarious, as both sides had difficult combinations of words to clue, and also one side had SAND while the other had DESERT, so the team spymasters (me and a friend) also had to come up with clues that indicated one of those words but not the other. Our team-mates ending up hitting numerous bystanders and failing to make sense of either spymaster’s loose associations. Eventually the team opposing my team won, alas.

The other big event on Friday was Scully had her annual vaccinations at the vet. She’s been healthy the past year, with no visits to the vet since her last vaccinations. After the vet visit we gave her a bath and extra cuddles all evening.

The other thing I was doing on Friday, which extended into Saturday, was drafting a new round of our Goldfish Draft Magic: the Gathering game format that we invented. I may have mentioned this before – it’s a game based on Magic: the Gathering, in which players attempt to score the most points, and scores can often be so large that they require exponential notation to write down, or even more than that, things like Knuth’s up-arrow notation.

Today we finished drafting our cards, and now my mind turns to calculating my score. This is non-trivial, and can take several days to work out, often involving a spreadsheet. Yes, we’re complete nerds – we’re playing a game that requires a spreadsheet to calculate our scores, and often we actually deal in the logarithms (or super-logarithms) of our scores to make it easier to handle. When I’ve figured out my score, I’ll let you know, and I’ll also report what the other players scored.

Also today I worked hard on my current secret project. It’s approaching completion – so close I can taste it. Potentially I could knock it over tomorrow, but it will probably take until Monday or Tuesday given I have other things I want to work on too. You won’t see the finished result straight away – its publication is contingent on another thing happening first, but it will finally be ready, and that other thing will happen within a few weeks. So all the teasing is nearly over – you will see the result soon.

For dinner tonight, I took my wife out to the French galette and crêpe place in the next suburb. They’re having a series of special “French flavours” this month to celebrate Bastille Day. I had a galette with duck confit, carrots, potatoes, Swiss cheese, and pickled onions as my savoury meal, followed by a sweet crêpe with poached pear, flaked almonds, and chocolate sauce. All very delicious!

New content today: