An anniversary

It’s New Year’s Eve, 2022.

On New Year’s Eve, 2002, I posted this on my web site:

the first Irregular Webcomic! strip

Which makes today the 20th anniversary of Irregular Webcomic!

Who ever thought that I’d still be posting comics under the same banner twenty years later? I didn’t, and in fact I had no idea that the anniversary was today, until a reader told me about it earlier today. So I didn’t have anything special planned to celebrate.

But New Year’s Eve is kind of a celebration anyway. My wife and I had our traditional wine and cheese snacks after dinner. And we noticed Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was newly available on Netflix, so we watched that just now while waiting for midnight to roll around.

See you in 2023!

New content today:

Day out in Berrima

Today we went out for a driving day trip, my wife, Scully, and myself. We’d booked a lunch at the restaurant Eschalot in Berrima, which is about 90 minutes drive from home, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

It rained overnight here in Sydney, and cleared up around breakfast time. I checked the rain radar and saw a few showers lingering around the Southern Highlands area, so I suggested we should take umbrellas just in case. We took the M5 motorway out of Sydney, heading south-west and then on to the Hume Highway. Where it started to rain. Heavily.

Really heavily. It got so hard that all the traffic on the freeway slowed down to about 50 km/h for a while, with visibility down to maybe 50 metres or so. The temperature also plummeted. I was expecting warm weather, since it’s summer and it’s been warm in Sydney. But by the time we got to Berrima, it was only 15°C. And pouring rain.

We were there just after 11:00, and so had an hour to kill before our lunch reservation. Normally we’d walk around the small town, but with rain pelting down we used our umbrellas and dashed into a shop to browse around indoors a bit. Then, because the town is spread out, we raced back to the car and drove down the street to find a parking spot closer to the restaurant, where we could dash inside a few other shops. We also tried to get Scully to do a toilet on some grass, but given the rain and wetness and unfamiliarity if the surroundings with people walking by, she was reluctant.

We went into the restaurant and they had a table set up for us outdoors (so we could sit with Scully), under a marquee which was very well protected from the weather by clear plastic sheeting. It was a really nice set up.

Rainy day table at Eschalot

They had a few tables out there, but we were the only ones eating outside.


We had a selection of dishes, including pork belly, fresh curd, charred onion & rosemary consomme, garden peas:

Pork belly, fresh curd, charred onion & rosemary consomme, garden peas

And dry aged sweet potato, almond, labneh & pomegranate:

Dry aged sweet potato, almond, labneh & pomegranate

For dessert I had lemon tart, macadamia crumble, white chocolate mousse, frozen curd:

My loves lemon tart, macadamia crumble, white chocolate mousse, frozen curd

The rain eased a bit as we ate, but didn’t stop. I did manage to take Scully out to the grass and get her to toilet though. We scrambled back into the car, trying not to get too wet, and headed off. We stopped at the nearby town of Bowral to check the Gumnut Patisserie and grab some sweets to take home. I really wanted a vanilla slice, as this bakery has won prizes for theirs and it really is amazingly good. But unfortunately they were sold out, so we left empty handed.

We drove back to Sydney via a different route, crossing the mountains to the coast via Appin, and then north from there. This was an interesting drive, on a road I’ve never been on before. We arrived home about 5:30pm.

Total distance driven: 282 km. Here’s a map of our driving route:

Map of route

New content today:

Making cast pages

The weather today was cooler and overcast all day. Apparently we might even get some rain overnight.

I spent too much time today updating cast pages on Darths & Droids. I added a lot of characters to the page for Episode VII, and I created a new page for Episode VIII. You’d think that this wouldn’t take very long, but somehow it occupied pretty much my whole day.

It was broken up by going for a run this morning, then taking Scully out for a walk, and then having lunch, and then going for a longer walk with Scully and my wife, and then cooking pizza for dinner (mushroom tonight, and I added some fried leftover Christmas ham cubes to my slices after cooking).

My wife went out for lunch, meeting an old friend of hers, and Scully got to go and meet her dog Bella. This is the friend who sometimes minds Scully for us when we travel, so Scully and Bella know each other well. She said that she could mind Scully for us in June when we’re planning to go to Japan for the ISO Photography plenary meeting in Okayama. Our plan is for me to attend the meeting while my wife explore Okayama, and then we’ll move on to Kyoto for a week or so, maybe spending a day or two in some smaller town to spread our experience around a bit.

Tomorrow we’re planning to do a day trip, driving out to Berrima and Bowral. We booked a lunch in Berrima, which will hopefully be nice.

New content today:

Shower repair, day 3

The ongoing battle with the shower continues. Today I applied another coat of the grout sealer first thing in the morning. Then I looked at the silicone sealant to check the instructions. It said to use mineral turpentine to clean the surfaces before application, and also for cleanup after application. Fortunately I have some turpentine stowed away in the garage, so I went down to get it.

The bottle was ancient. I must have bought it over 20 years ago. The price label (from back when everything had individual price labels) said $2.50. The same amount of turpentine from the hardware store website today costs $5.95. The bottle was a little over half full – I would have used the rest of it years ago for cleaning up painting work.

I wiped down the surfaces with turps (common Aussie abbreviation for “turpentine”). And I remembered just how powerful turps smells, and how much I can’t stand that smell. It pervaded the whole house. The rag I used to wipe the surfaces I put outside on the balcony to avoid having it in the house and emitting more smell.

I wiped the surfaces clean with a dry cloth and then applied masking tape to make sure the silicone sealant had nice clean edges. And then late in the afternoon I tackled the hardest part, the actual silicone sealant. I needed to bring in the turps-soaked cloth for wiping up excess. I made some plastic spatulas by cutting a thick plastic yoghurt lid into round-ended shapes, and I used those to smooth the silicone into the grooves. It got a bit messy and I got silicone all over my rubber gloves, so I ended up just using a gloved finger to do a lot of the smoothing.

As soon as all the crevices were sealed, I peeled off the masking tape. Hopefully I got it off fast enough, before the sealant skinned over. Now to let the silicone cure for… the instructions said 72 hours!! SO if we wait that ling until we can use the shower again, it will be Saturday evening (it’s Wednesday today). By then we’ll have been nearly six days without a shower. Lucky we have a bathtub!

I forgot to mention yesterday that the family of the boy who I was sorting out Magic: the Gathering cards for came by to pick them up. They were headed off for the day and driving past so dropped in yesterday morning. I met them out the front of my place and handed over the heavy shoebox full of cards. The mother and the boy got out to greet me (leaving a father and a slightly older girl in the car). The kid was super excited, and he gave me a hand drawn thank you card, on which he’d drawn a cool picture of a dragon:

MtG Dragon art

He’d written a thank you message inside. The mother gave me a paper bag which turned out to contain a bottle of port and a small Christmas cake. They were both very grateful, and I was happy to see the boy so excited to get the cards.

The other main thing I did today was go through photos from my first day in Amsterdam back in June. I edited selected photos and tried to figure out where exactly I’d taken them all. A lot were of random canals and bridges and I had no idea what they were when I took them. But I retraced our steps roughly on Google Maps, using identifiable landmarks to establish waypoints, and used Streetview to identify the intermediate locations. But doing this, I managed to locate the site of every photo. This was satisfying, as sometimes I’ve returned home from trips and have no way of figuring out exactly where some of the photos were taken.

Frans Hendriksz Oetgensbrug

I posted the photos to my Flickr album for the trip and incorporated several into my travel diary for that day, which I also updated with some of the now-identified locations.

New content today:

Shower repair, day 2

First thing this morning I washed the surfaces of the shower that I’m planning to reseal with silicone sealant, using sugar soap to make sure they’re really clean. I want to make sure the sealant sticks to the surfaces, and doesn’t peel away quickly due to any dirt or residues. The bottle says not so use it on aluminium, but I checked online and the problem is it can cause discolouration, but the risk is low if it’s wiped off quickly. So I went ahead and used it.

I inspected the areas that I was considering patching up with grout. I poked a Stanley knife into the grout, and found to my horror that it was crumbly and easily scraped out. Well, here’s something that definitely needs fixing! I’m now very glad I bought a tube of grout yesterday. I scraped out the areas of loose grout everywhere I could find them and cleaned them up.

After wiping off the sugar soap and letting things dry, around lunchtime I applied grout to the newly formed cracks, filling them up to ensure a good seal. I’ve never done grouting before, but it wasn’t too difficult, and I wiped up the excess around the edges with a damp cloth so the result looks neat and tidy.

Then this evening I looked at the grout sealer product that I’d also bought. I want to let the new grout cure for 24 hours, but there was old grout in some places that I wanted to make sure was sealed against water penetration, so I applied the grout sealer to those areas. I’ll do the newly grouted areas tomorrow.

So we’re on day 2 of baths instead of showers, and we’ll be doing the same tomorrow.

The weather was warm again today, 28°C like yesterday. We’re still not used to the summery heat, since it was unusually cold up until just a few days ago, so we stayed out of the heat of the middle of the day and took Scully for walks early and then in the evening.

New content today:

Boxing Day labour

Boxing Day is Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race day, and the Boxing Day Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, this year between Australia and South Africa. I had the cricket on the TV for most of the day, but I was mostly occupied in the bathroom, cleaning up the shower stall.

I’d said to my wife that I wanted to reserve a few days after Christmas to redo the shower seals. We won’t be able to use the shower while this is in progress, and it will take a few days, so we’re stuck having baths for the next few days.

The problem is the clear silicone sealant between the shower hob and the aluminium frame of the glass shower screen was getting mouldy underneath, and nothing I did cleaned it up. So I spent a few hours today stripping off the sealant, scraping out the crevices, cleaning various nooks and crannies that haven’t been cleaned properly in years, so they were pretty gunky.

I mentioned what I was doing with my friends and a couple of them gave me tips and suggested specific products from the hardware store to do what I wanted to achieve. One suggested a grout sealer as well, to prevent water leaking through grouting, and I thought that was a good idea as we’ve had a very minor issue with that happening. And then he said I should actually grout the gaps rather than use silicone, but I checked and grout isn’t good for metal surfaces, so I’ll have to stick to silicone. But I did get a small tube of grout for a few minor cracks, so hopefully that will go okay because I’ve never done grouting before.

My wife and I walked up to the hardware store this evening to buy the supplies. We went late, after 6pm, because it was a very warm day and we only did a shorter walk with Scully at lunch time in the heat.

So, I spent much of the day on my knees, or kneeling down, hunched over, or sitting on the floor, and scraping and scrubbing tiles and metal fittings. I had to take several breaks to stretch my legs and back out, but got the first part of the job done. All the silicone I want to replace is removed, and the surfaces are cleaned. Tomorrow I’ll go to work with the grout, and then maybe Wednesday I’ll do the silicone sealing.

Dinner today was leftover turkey slices and potato gratin from Christmas lunch yesterday. Scully also got a bit of festive turkey!

New content today:

Aussie Christmas Day

This morning I spent baking a maple-glazed ham for my wife’s family Christmas lunch. It cooled enough to take in the car to my mother-in-law’s place, where we had the traditional Christmas lunch with eight people.

My wife’s nephew was back from Norway for the first time since COVID began – he’s working over there now, and he brought his girlfriend with him on her first trip to Australia. So she was having fun experiencing a southern hemisphere Christmas. After the lunch we all went for a swim at the nearby beach. It got up to 27°C today, so warm, but not really hot.

For gifts I basically got some sweets, some mustards and sauces, and some bathroom niceties (fancy bath bombs and shower gel).

We relaxed into a long, lazy afternoon of snacking on chocolates, and then the evening viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on TV. We just got home for the night, at 10pm.

New content today:

Christmas Eve family stuff

It’s Christmas Eve, which means the big gathering of my extended family. We’ve always had it on Christmas Eve, which makes it easy for people with partners to attend the other family’s Christmas Day events.

It used to be a gathering at on the family member’s house, but with all of my mother’s generation having now downsized or moved out of the city after the kids have moved out, nobody has a suitably large home to host it any more. So for the past few years it’s been held at a park in Sydney’s west, by the Nepean River, but we’ve missed them because of COVID. This year is the first year we went to attend the event in the park.

It’s about a 45 minute drive there on motorways most of the way. We arrived a bit after 2pm (it had started at 2, though a few people had got there early to reserve a spot in the park. They needn’t have bothered – I thought the park would be packed with people out having picnics, but we actually had the whole park to ourselves! Scully got to run around free of the leash for the whole afternoon (and now she’s super tired tonight).

It was warm there: 35.5°C. Fortunately we were sitting in the shade and there was a bit of a breeze, so it didn’t feel bad at all. The generation below me (my cousins’ kids) are all roughly teenagers, and they were playing variously casual cricket, softball, and soccer. I joined in and had a bit of a hit with the softball bat. I prefer cricket, but by the time I joined in they’d retired that and moved on to softball. We also played some quoits.

There were just a few snacks and nibbles, and the wife of one of my cousins made her famous caramel slice. Everyone else was moving on to dinner at a nearby rowing club in the evening, but we left a bit before then to drive home (where I just made omelettes for dinner).

On the way back we stopped for petrol, and I went in to pay and said, “Pump 2”, and the guy behind the counter seemed confused and said, “No, you’re 1”.

I said, “No, I checked, I’m 2”.

He said, “You’re the black car there, right?”

I said, “No, I’m the blue car at the other pump.”

The guy had a look of horrified revelation and said, “That guy who just walked out paid for your pump!”

He must have realised there was something wrong because he came back in. The guy behind the counter said, “Sorry, you’ve paid for this man’s fuel.”

And the man turned to me and said, “Merry Christmas!”

We had a bit of a giggle and the guy behind the counter sorted it all out. Unfortunately… because then I had to pay for it!

After we got home I took advantage of the cooler evening to go for a 2.5k run. I really wanted to get this done before Christmas, because this run took my total running distance for the year 2022 to 500 km! I noticed a couple of months ago that this landmark was within reach, and have been diligent to try to reach it, so that felt pretty good. Although I ran a fairly slow time in the evening heat. (25.3°C, 66% humidity)

Tomorrow we have Christmas Day lunch with my wife’s family. I’m looking forward to meeting her nephew’s girlfriend, who is from Norway and has never been to Australia before. I hope she’s enjoying the heat which has finally hit us after that unusually cold start to December.

New content today:

Magic card sorting II

Another day mostly spent sorting Magic cards, like yesterday. I completed a set of cards and put them neatly into an old shoebox. They fit with a little space left over, so I filled it with basic land cards. I didn’t count the cards, but measuring the piles and dividing by the known thickness gave me an estimate of close to 2500 cards that I’ll be giving to this boy.

This morning I picked up the groceries. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve been ordering everything but fresh fruit and vegetables online, to make it fast and easy to pick up, but when I get there I grab fruit and vegetables myself. I tried ordering those as well, but found I wasn’t happy with the produce they selected for me. Today I grabbed the usual apples and bananas, and also more mangoes, which continue to be cheap and abundant. So far we’ve had R2E2 and Calypso mangoes, so today I grabbed some Honey Gold variety.

At lunch I drove to my wife’s work with Scully and a large package that we’d picked up at the post office yesterday. It’s for her boss, and it was heavy, full of books, so she didn’t want to have to carry it to work herself. She got to finish work at midday today, being the last day before the Christmas break. So we drove from there over to the Naremburn bakery to ave lunch and pick up a dozen fruit mince tarts – some for us and some for her family.

This evening I did a 2.5k run. I’m now up to a total of 497.5 km for the year, which means my next run will tick the total over to 500.

Tonight is online board games night with my friends. I’ve lost badly at two games of Jump Drive, but managed to win the last one. And we’re now deep into a game of Ticket to Ride.

New content today:

Magic card sorting

I spent much of today sorting through old Magic: the Gathering cards, to pull out sets of common cards to give to that boy I mentioned a few days ago. I’ve got several piles of cards earmarked. I emailed the mother and said it would be about a shoebox full of cards, but it’s looking like it will be a bit more than that.

I was going to take Scully for a long walk at lunchtime, to pick up some mince tarts from the Naremburn bakery, but I looked at the weather radar and noticed rain heading in. It might have hit us before we got home, so I elected to take her for a shorter walk down to Bayview Park instead. We made it back before the rain hit, which was good.

For dinner tonight, my wife suggested we grab fish & chips from the local shop. We walked up there and grabbed a table under the awning to eat as the rain began again. There’s somethig nice about fish & chips under a shelter in the rain.

A couple of nights ago I finished reading the last volume of Peter Ackroyd’s History of England. I checked my “to read” list and decide to start work on Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. I’ve had this on my shelf for several years, but have never begun it because it’s so huge and daunting. But I’ve started now, and I’m several pages into the first 60-page chapter, which is entirely about milk and dairy products. It’s fascinating so far – I think this will be a great read!

New content today: