A Scully haircut day

It was another busy day for me. I needed to go to a pathology centre this morning for a routine blood test, so that ate up an hour or more walking up there, waiting in the queue, and then coming home again.

Then I worked on writing a lesson plan for my older students, on The Singularity. It takes a bit of explaining to get up to speed on what exactly this means and how it works before we can start discussing the ethical implications of it, so it was a complex write-up. I also needed to make a couple of diagrams, showing technology timelines. And then tonight I had three classes in a row.

I managed to squeeze in a 2.5k run in the afternoon. It was cold today, much colder than it has been for the past couple of weeks, but fine and sunny. And yes, Scully went in for a wash and groom today. She always looks so nice with her fur neatly trimmed, before it starts growing again and becomes unruly!

New content today:

Caramel slice photos

Here are some photos of that caramel slice I made last night.

First, the base has been baked in the left, and I’m making the caramel filling.

Caramel slice: 1

I think the base is meant to be a bit more uniform in colour. I could have mixed the flour, coconut, brown sugar, and butter more thoroughly. But it didn’t affect the texture. Second, here’s the caramel filling after baking:

Caramel slice: 2

And then here are the final cut pieces of the slice, with the chocolate top layer:

Caramel slice: 3

And it tastes delicious! Overall I’m really happy with how it went.

Today I spent much of the day writing up my report on the ISO Photography Standards meeting that I attended in Japan, for Standards Australia. I have a meeting next week to fill in the Australian experts committee on all of the events from that Japan meeting.

And finally today, I know that much of the northern hemisphere is currently in the middle of record-breaking heatwaves. The stories have been shown here about heat in southern Europe, east Asia, and North America. But here in the south it’s winter at the moment, so we’re not especially hot, but we are also experiencing highly unusual warmth for this time of the year. It actually really feels like spring already, and it’s confusing many of the plants, with potentially devastating consequences for our crops. There was a story about it in the news today.

New content today:

Cooking a caramel slice

I decided this afternoon I had a craving for caramel slice, so I decided to get some ingredients and make some. I used this recipe.

I started making it after dinner, about 7:30pm. Now it’s almost 10pm and it’s finally in the fridge for the final 1-hour cool before slicing it. Gah… that took way longer than I expected. I thought I’d be eating it by now.

It rained again this morning, but cleared up by the afternoon. I think tomorrow is supposed to be warm again. The other main thing I did today was write my lesson for the next week’s ethics class starting tomorrow, on the topic of “Fear”.

New content today:

Rain and wattle

It rained today. Not much, but a few passing showers, occasionally mildly heavy for a little. I managed to avoid it on my morning 2.5k run, and taking Scully out for a walk after lunch.

A noticeable thing in the area is that the wattle trees are now in full flower.

Wattle in flower

Australia’s colours are green and gold, and now in midwinter is when we see why.

Wattle in flower

Not too much else to report today. It was mostly routine, keeping up with Outschool class planning, teaching, cooking, baking some sourdough, and other usual activities.

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Multiple board games over two days

Yesterday was intended to be Dungeons & Dragons night at my place. However due to multiple different circumstances, several of the players couldn’t show up, and we ended up with only three people plus myself. I decided the successful threshold for D&D would be 4+me, so we abandoned that and played board games instead.

We started with Fujiyama, one of the games I bought in Japan. It works differently with more than two players, and I think better, as you have a different opponent sitting on either side of you to make the tile passing interactions more interesting. You also end up with a lot more animals for higher scoring opportunities.

Next we played Evergreen, which I bought a while back and have played with my wife a few times.

And we finished with a nice chaotic game of Camel Up. These games plus a break to eat pizza was enough to fill the night. Most of the rest of Friday was taken up by teaching ethics classes online, and cleaning the house before my friends arrived.

Today I went for a run in the morning. The weather was beautiful and warm. It really doesn’t feel like winter here at the moment, despite us being in the middle of it.

We went out (with Scully) to Newtown for lunch. We went to the Carriageworks Farmers’ Market to look around, and then walked over to The Pie Tin for pies. They had some interesting ones that I hadn’t seen before: chicken pesto; duck with hazelnuts and cherry sauce; and one with pulled pork, lentils, and African spices. I tried the duck and pork pies, which made a substantial lunch. They were both good, although I was a little disappointed that the cherry sauce in the duck pie was extremely muted, to the point where I wouldn’t even have suspected that it contained a fruit of any sort unless I already knew it.

This afternoon I tried the other Japanese board game we got with my wife: Gin Crafters.

Gin Crafters

You have a hand of gin cards and “brand” cards (goals, worth points). You use actions to buy ingredients (juniper, various botanicals), distil gin according to recipes on the cards, collect cash, or draw more gin or brand cards. Distilling gin scores points according to their difficulty, plus bonus points depending on interactions between cards. It’s a fairly straightforward game design and easy to play, but enough combos and competing strategies to keep it interesting and fun.

In other photos, I thought I’d share a picture of some redevelopment that is taking place near us. This area used to about 25 houses, facing on to two streets (the other at the top of the hill here, along that line of trees). The whole lot has been demolished in the past few weeks to make way for a huge new apartment complex. I dunno, but I suspect there’ll be a hundred or more apartments in the area formerly occupied by about 25 houses.

Demolition and construction

This isn’t the only redevelopment going on here either. Within the same block there are at least two other apartment redevelopments in various stages – one has started building recently, and another two are in early demolition stages. And that’s not all either. The two adjacent blocks also have dozens of houses fenced off and awaiting demolition. It’s quite crazy the amount of demolition/construction work being done in this area at the moment.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Bonus cheese

There was some pumpkin and lentil soup left over form last night’s dinner. Not enough for dinner tonight, I thought, so I pondered ways to recycle it into another dinner for two. A bit of searching turned up an idea to turn leftover pumpkin soup into a pasta sauce, by adding bacon.

That sounded good, but I couldn’t use bacon because of my wife not eating meat. So, I thought, what vegetarian substitute could I add? Haloumi cheese, fried crispy! It’s crisp and salty like bacon, and I could cut it into small pieces. Only we had no haloumi in the house.

Okay, I can take Scully for a walk before dinner and get some haloumi from the nearest supermarket. It’s a small local one, more like a corner store than a major supermarket, so I check their web site and yes, they stock haloumi, and it says it’s available for delivery, so presumably it’s in stock.

I walk over with Scully, tie her up outside, and go in to grab some haloumi. No haloumi. The section in the fridge where it should be, where the price label is, is full of feta instead. I dig through it all to see if there’s any haloumi hiding behind all the feta, but no. I ask a staff member who is stacking ice cream into the freezer if they have any haloumi, and he says no, it’s out of stock.

Hmmm. Well. Feta? Yeah, maybe the hard, crumbly type of feta will work okay. I won’t need to fry it either. Okay, so I grab a pack of feta and go pay for it. I untie Scully and we start walking home.

A minute later, as we’re walking, I remember we have feta in the fridge at home.

Oh well. I guess we can always use more feta. Anyway, I get home, do some things, my wife gets home from work, I start making dinner. I get out the leftover soup… and discover there’s a lot more left than I thought. Plenty for two people to have soup again for dinner, with a side dish, and way more than would be needed for a pasta sauce.

So, we have the soup heated up. And don’t use any of the feta at all.

Tomorrow: Search for recipes that use feta.

In other news, I scheduled a new iteration of my 6-week course in Creative Thinking & Problem Solving, with an example exercise in board game design, for kids on Outschool. This one is on Mondays, at a suitable time zone for Australia/Asia (early evening), and Europe (late morning). The Outschool class listing is here.

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Today I wrote my new lesson plan for the older kids’ ethics class, on the topic of “Fame”.

What else? Oh yes, Scully had her annual vet checkup and vaccination today. The vet said she’s in excellent health, but she needs a teeth clean some time soonish. We look after her teeth with special food and in fact I brush her teeth with a doggie toothbrush and doggie toothpaste… well, most nights although I skip it occasionally. Anyway, her first teeth clean after over 5 years is better than some dogs who need a teeth clean annually. If you don’t know about dog dental care, it’s not like a human dentist clean – they have to put the dog under general anaesthetic, so it’s a fairly big deal. We’ll have to book it in some time in the next month or two.

Also today I baked more bread, using some rye flour that my wife picked up on the weekend. And made pumpkin and lentil soup for dinner. It went well with the bread, still warm from the oven.

Oh, and I did a 2.5k run. A little faster than the ones I did on Friday and Saturday, but still a way to go to get back to my pre-trip form.

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The great MediaWiki upgrade

I ticked off a major to-do task today!

I finished porting to Obsidian the major chunks of my private wiki that I wanted to be absolutely sure I had backups of. That took most of the morning.

At lunchtime I took Scully for a long walk. I had a couple of things to do that could be combined into a single walk in the same direction. Firstly, a friend had reported that the hospital near me had large bins of COVID rapid antigen tests available, for anyone to come and take, free of charge. Another friend recently caught COVID and is in the recovery stage, but still testing positive, and has run out of tests. I said I could walk up to the hospital and get some, and he asked if he could arrange a contactless pick-up from my place, so he didn’t have to go into the hospital while infected.

The second thing was that the main light in my kitchen had been on the blink. It’s a fluorescent tube light and was starting to do that annoying thing where it takes 30 seconds or more to turn off after you flip the switch. I’ve replaced the tube before, but this time I wanted to actually remove the fluorescent fitting and install an LED replacement light. I thought I’d have to get an electrician in to replace the entire light fitting – but recently I discovered that a company makes an LED “tube” that fits into the fluorescent fitting, with no rewiring required. So I wanted to go to the hardware store to buy one of those.

Fortunately, the hospital and hardware store are near each other, so I took the chance today to go on an expedition to both. And as it happens that walk takes me past a decent pie shop that I don’t go to normally, so I took the opportunity to grab a vegetable curry pie and a spinach/feta roll for lunch. My friend was right about the COVID tests – there were three large tubs full of them, boxes containing single RATs. I was a bit self-consciously grabbing a half dozen when a nurse came out and said, “Get a bag, fill it up, take as many as you want.” So I grabbed another ten or so. They expire in a couple of months, so there’s no real use taking dozens of them, but I certainly now have enough for my friend and some spare in case we feel sick in the next couple of months.

And on the way home from the hardware store I popped into the nearby electrical appliance store to book a site inspection for my kitchen, to get a quote for installation of an electric induction cooktop. We currently have a gas cooktop and I’ve been thinking for a while of replacing it with induction. The store needs to do an inspection to make sure our fuse box and power supply are adequate, and also check out the details of removing the gas line for the cooktop and wiring in the induction cooker. So they’re coming next week to take a look at that. Once we have a quote for the installation, I can go ahead and start looking at models and select a new cooktop (assuming the installation quote is reasonable).

Back home after the lunch walk, I launched headlong into the main task of the day: Upgrading MediaWiki. The installed version was 1.24.1. The latest version is 1.40.0. But the upgrade documentation said you can’t upgrade directly from versions lower than 1.35. So I had to do it in two steps: upgrade 1.24.1 to 1.35.11, and then upgrade 1.35.11 to 1.40.0. I was a bit daunted before I began, but the steps were fairly straightforward, and there was no real difficulty at any stage. It was just a matter of doing all of the steps carefully. I started with dumping the wiki pages to XML, and also backing up the entire database, before changing anything. From there it wasn’t too bad, and I was pleased when the update script ran successfully (on the second try – I had to add a configuration line to the settings file) and the 1.35.11 version seemed to be working. Then I repeated the whole thing with version 1.40.0, which went a bit quicker because I knew what I was doing this time.

It took most of the afternoon, but I did it! And the reason was so I could upgrade my web server from PHP 7 to PHP 8, hopefully without breaking MediaWiki. The 1.24.1 version had broken when I tried switching the server to PHP 8, which was the whole reason why I needed to do this upgrade. So the last step was switching it over to PHP 8… and it works! Phew!

And I was done in time before my three ethics classes tonight, on the new topic of “Media Bubbles”. They went pretty well. It’s a complex topic for 10-12 year old kids, but they all did really well with it.

New content today:

Prepping for Finland

Mundane things: Last three classes on the “Heroes and Villains” ethics topic. I took Scully for a couple of walks, and did some ball chasing with her in the park. Weather was nice today, a warm winter day.

Speaking of winter… The next meeting of my ISO Photography Standards group is in November. In Tampere, Finland. The local organiser gave us info about the city, including typical and extreme climate data. The average daily high temperature for November is 1.5°C. The average low temperature is -3°C. The record high is 11.1°C, and the record low is -22.3°C.

Now… I live in a pretty warm place. 11.1°C is… well, I don’t even know if Sydney’s ever had a winter day that didn’t exceed that temperature. It gets lower than that at night in winter, but around where I live nowhere near as low as 1.5°C.

I don’t even own clothes that would keep me comfortable at temperatures close to 0°C.

I don’t even want to think about the possibility of experiencing temperatures around -20°C. Now, if I want to travel to such a place, I need to work out how to survive. Obviously I need some serious cold weather gear.

But, apart from this three days in Finland, I’m most likely never going to need such clothes again in my life. So buying heavy winter gear seems stupid. So today I searched to see if there was any way to hire suitable clothing in Finland. Maybe something at Helsinki Airport, where incoming travellers can pick up the stuff they need to survive the weather, and drop it back off before getting on their outgoing flight. It appears that such a service actually used to exist, according to one website I found, but the link to the company offering the service was dead.

And then I found some forum posts asking the same sort of question. Almost all of the responses I found said that sure, you can hire winter clothing once you get to Lapland – the northernmost region of Finland – but nobody knew of any place you could hire winter gear in Helsinki. I quote one:

In Helsinki, if you won’t be spending long periods of time outside, a ski jacket and wearing lots of layers might be enough – such as wearing a pair or two of leggings under your jeans etc. Although I’m saying this as a Finn, who is used to the cold and doesn’t mind freezing for a short while.

Great… I don’t have a ski jacket or two pairs of leggings to go under my jeans!! I don’t want to buy a ski jacket! And even if I have all this and I’m not a hardy Finn used to freezing for a while, I’m probably gonna die of the cold anyway! “might be enough”!

Anyway, I decided to email the local organiser in Finland to see if he knows any way I can hire some winter clothing for the trip. Hopefully he’ll come back with useful information and won’t laugh at me too much.

New content today:

The dreaded comics hiatus

I made a hard call today. I need to take a brief hiatus from making/publishing new Irregular Webcomic! strips. I managed to buffer enough to cover my trip to Japan, but at the moment I have an urgent need to upgrade my web server software, namely MediaWiki and PHP, to avoid either breaking my personal note-taking wiki or end up paying an extra maintenance fee to my webhost for keeping an old unsupported version of PHP around. I’ve been spending spare time all week preparing by porting some essential content from wiki to Obsidian as a backup. Once I’ve captured enough of that, I’ll backup the wiki to an XML export and try the upgrades. Some time this week hopefully. And hopefully it’ll all work and my porting/backing up won’t have been necessary. But in the worst case I’ll need it.

Anyway, that gives me no time this week to make new IWC comics. I’m keeping up with Darths & Droids though.

Another thing I mentioned a few days ago:

There’s a large house we walk past regularly, and since we got back from Japan I’ve seen that the brick wall around it has been partially destroyed. It looks like a car went out of control at the adjacent intersection, mounted the kerb, and smashed into the wall.

I walked past it again and took a photo today:

Broken fence

This house is on a Y-shaped intersection, so it could easily have been a car coming down the leg of the Y and not turning at all, and ploughing straight into the wall here. The wall has actually been cleaned up since I saw it the other day – then there were partly demolished sections of the brick wall remaining which made it look more like an accident than a deliberate removal.

Not much else to report today. Weather was fine and sunny and not too cold for winter, but windy, which was annoying. And for dinner I made a pizza with mushroom and eggplant topping. I don’t use eggplant that much, and it might be the first time I’ve put it on a pizza. I cubed it and fried it a little to make sure it cooked enough. It turned out good!

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