One week from Japan: Fujiyama board game

It’s been a full week since we got home from Japan. I still feel like I’m in catch-up mode a bit, because I’ve been concentrating the past few days on copying material off my private wiki as a safety precaution before upgrading it. Which hasn’t given me a lot of spare time to catch up on other things. I think I’m going to have to let Irregular Webcomic! go on a brief hiatus until I get this sorted – maybe a week or two.

That’s what I was doing most of today. I also went for another run, but didn’t manage as quick a time as yesterday. I think my muscles were still recovering a bit from yesterday after three weeks with no hard exercise.

My wife and I went on a long walk with Scully over lunch, to the Italian bakery. It’s about the longest walk we do with any regularity, clocking in at just under 6 km return. I had a slice of pizza there, and a special pastry of the day, it was a mandarin and ricotta danish-like thing. On the way back through the closer shopping area I picked up a couple of the limited edition spiced caramel apple scones from another bakery. I’ll try one of those for dessert later tonight.

This afternoon my wife and I tried playing one of the board games I got in Japan. The first one is Fujiyama.

Fujiyama board game

Each player starts with an empty board and the goal of the game is to fill it with hexagonal tiles in such a way as to maximise points by forming complete forests (triangles of the same colour) and groups of animals. The forests come in four seasons: spring (pink: flowers), summer (green: deciduous and evergreen trees), autumn (brown: chestnuts, mushrooms, grapes), and winter (blue: snowflakes). Each completed forest scores points in a different manner depending on its season, while mixed forests score zero. You also score points for groups of animals, more for groups of more different animals. The tiles are acquired by choosing which ones to give to your opponent/s and them choosing which tile to use – if they choose the one you gave them, they give you an animal to place. If they don’t choose the tile you gave them, you don’t get the animal. So there’s quite a strong incentive to give your opponents tiles that they can actually use.

It plays in 20 minutes or so, and there’s plenty of strategy going on. I look forward to playing this with my friends at one of our board game nights.

New content today:

First run in a while

This morning I went to pick up the groceries from the supermarket. I order online most things, but choose my own fruit and vegetables before I collect the online order. Today I needed to get onions, but … there were no onions. The place where the onions normally are was full of bags of potatoes. At first I thought they must have reshuffled the vegetable section like they seem to like to do every so often, but scanning the rest of it I couldn’t find any onions at all. A staff member noticed me searching in vain and asked if I needed some help. I asked if there were any onions. He led me over to the organic produce section, where there were a few dozen tiny onions for two or three times the cost of regular onions. I sort of looked askance at this, and without any further prompting the staff member picked up a couple of the onions and said, “I’ll just peel the stickers off for you.” So he peeled the “organic” price stickers off them and handed them to me. Okay. Not one to look a gift onion in the mouth, I took them.

I had four ethics classes today, so there wasn’t a lot of time to do much else. But after the first I managed to fit in my first 2.5k run since returning from Japan. It was a little too cold to be comfortable, and I took it easy since I was out of practice, and clocked just a couple of seconds under 13 minutes.

After that I had a shower and also cleaned the bathroom and shower. Then had lunch and then went out to pick up Scully from my wife’s work. I drove back via a bakery where they had a new product: a mini sticky date pudding. I like those so I tried it. It didn’t have butterscotch sauce which is the usual topping, but did come with a blob of icing on top. And the woman there asked if I’d like it heated up, which I accepted given it’s winter and a warm pudding would really hit the spot. The icing melted and made a kind of sauce, though a more sugary one. It wasn’t quite the same as a sticky date pudding you might get after a restaurant dinner, but pretty nice anyway.

Then it was into three ethics classes in a row – phew! I had another older group among them on the Privacy topic. There was an interesting contrast with yesterday’s class. I ask the question: At what age should children be given privacy by their parents, with respect to things like using email or messaging apps to talk with friends, or with what websites they visit? Yesterday, both students said about age 14. Today there were three students, and the first two said 18, while the second nominated 16.

Which actually reminds me of another interesting thing, from the younger classes. We’re talking about heroes and villains, and i bring up the story of Robin Hood – steals from the rich to give to the poor. I ask the kids is Robin Hood a villain for robbing people, or a hero for giving money to the poor? So far, almost all the kids have said he’s a villain. Stealing apparently feels so bad that it’s enough to make someone a villain. Then we have a bit of a discussion which brings up the point that in this story “the law” is actually being made by the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham.

After my classes, I went out for dinner with my wife, to our usual pizza place. It’s comfy and homey, and a good place to relax, and was really nice after our recent trip away.

Tonight is online board games with my friends. I’m in the middle of losing another game of 7 Wonders….

New content today:

Prepping for server upgrade

This morning I had the first class in the older kids’ ethics with the Privacy topic. That went pretty well. And then a younger class on the Heroes and Villains topic. This class used to have three students in it, but all three have left, and today three brand new students had joined! So it was a new experience for all of them. They all got into it well and I think they liked it, so hopefully they’ll all be back.

I decided some fish & chips was due, so I took Scully up to the fish & chip shop for lunch. I took the order to the small park on the hill overlooking the harbour to eat it. There was an older couple there sitting and enjoying the view too. After a while they got up to leave, and they stopped to ask me where they were! They’d come on an exploratory walk from the nearest train station and basically stumbled upon this place. I asked them which way they’d come, and they indicated along the creek and up the hill, so I showed them the other way back to the station along the streets, and they thanked me and set off.

Something else I noticed while walking Scully the other day: 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. Today there was a builder there starting to work on fixing up the damaged brickwork. Presumably it happened while we were overseas.

This afternoon I began working on a task that I have to get done. Remember the web server upgrade that broke my MediaWiki installation? Well, I downgraded PHP back to a working version, but now I have a deadline to re-upgrade before the webhost starts charging me monthly for running an unsupported legacy version. But before I can upgrade PHP, I need to upgrade MediaWiki so it will (hopefully) work with the new PHP. And if it doesn’t, I need to have a full readable backup of all the data on my private wiki, so I don’t lose it.

So I’ve been porting wiki pages to Obsidian all afternoon. Fortunately I don’t have hundreds of them – it’s a tractable task, but it will need to be spread out over a few days.

New content today:

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

It should be obvious by the post title what I did today.

In the morning I worked on some comics, and also my lesson plan for the older kids’ ethics class on Privacy. But at midday I went out with my wife and we dropped Scully off at doggie daycare and went to watch a movie at the cinema for the first time since before COVID.

I’m a big Indiana Jones fan (as evidenced by Irregular Webcomic!), and I couldn’t miss seeing the new film on the big screen. Usually a Wednesday at lunchtime would be a great time to see a film, with the cinemas not full. But it’s currently school holidays here, so there are lots of kids around and parents desperate to find something to occupy them. So rather than turn up and risk the movie being sold out, I decided to buy tickets online. Simple enough.

I went to the cinema site, selected the session time, got to choose what seats we wanted (middle of the second back row). And then it gave me options to pay by card or PayPal. Since I have some cash in PayPal, I chose that. Okay, good. The cinema sent me an email with a barcode, which I could add into Apple Wallet on my phone, so it could be scanned at the cinema. The instructions in the email said to scan the barcode at the ticket office to collect my tickets. It also said I had to bring with me the credit card I’d used to pay for the tickets, and photo ID. The implication was that if I didn’t bring the credit card, I wouldn’t be able to collect the tickets. But… I’d paid by PayPal…

Well, I didn’t actually think this was a serious problem, but it was slightly annoying that their user interface had given such a useless instruction. As it turned out, I didn’t even have to collect tickets. I went to the ticket office, expecting an automated scanning station that issued the tickets, but I couldn’t find one, and had to ask a staff member, who said that I didn’t need tickets at all. Just show the barcode to the attendant at the door and they’d scan it and let us in. So that’s a second instruction in the email that was completely incorrect.

Anyway, it wasn’t a drama getting in to see the movie – just annoying that the email info was so wrong. We had good seats and saw the movie and had a great time.

Look, I even liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, despite the obvious flaws, just because it was Indy, so of course I was going to like this. But it was definitely a better film than that one. I’m very happy I saw it on the big screen.

Tonight: three more ethics classes, and finishing off that lesson on Privacy, ready for 08:00 tomorrow morning.

New content today:

New comic, new ethics

I was busy today, finishing off my lesson plan for tonight’s ethics classes on Heroes and Villains. Followed by writing, photographing, assembling, and uploading four new Irregular Webcomic! strips – enough to last for the rest of this week. I’d only buffered up to yesterday before I went overseas to Japan, and I wanted to fill the rest of the week with new comics if I could.

And then I worked on some Darths & Droids as well, as the buffer is close to zero. And I started work on the ethics plan for the older (13-15) kids, on the topic or Privacy. I’ll have to finish that one tomorrow.

In between, I took Scully for a walk up to the shops. Today was cold and rainy, so she had her padded raincoat on, and I had an umbrella. I’d had lunch at home, but was considering buying a special limited edition spiced apple scone from the bakery. They look great, but I realised the only place to tie up Scully while I went in was a wet bench where the lead would get wet and Scully would be in the rain, so I decided to ditch that for today and maybe try it another day soon.

I didn’t have time for much else. I’m scrambling a bit to fit everything in that I need to do to get back up to normal weekly speed after my trip.

New content today:

And right into the working week

I had another good, solid sleep and feel pretty much over any travel weariness now. My wife even got up super early to go to the gym before work! I got up just after 07:00 and took Scully out, then had breakfast and prepped fro a morning of ethics class, beginning at 08:00. This is the end of the “Natural resources” topic.

Which means a new topic tomorrow, for which I began writing the lesson plan this afternoon (but will need to finish tomorrow). The new topic is “Heroes and Villains”. I also just now got a message saying that some parent has enrolled a 7-year-old in my class designed for 10-12 year olds! I’ve had a few 9s and an 8 before, but this is the first time someone has tried to enrol a kid that young. I’ve sent the parent a message saying the class is too advanced for most 7-year-olds. Let’s see what response I get.

The other thing I had to do today was compete tomorrow’s Darths & Droids strip and send it off to our guest commentator so they can get their comments in before publication time. I’m going to be a bit hard pressed to keep up with comic production this week, as I barely managed to buffer enough strips to cover my trip, and now the buffers are empty. We’ll see how I manage…

In food news, recall that when I dropped off my sourdough starter with my friend to mind while I was away, he gave me a bottle of home-made Carolina Reaper chilli sauce. I tried it today, putting a couple of drops on my lunch wrap, which also had cheese, some zucchini fritter things from the supermarket, sliced tomato, and a lot of sour cream, just in case. Well… turns out the sauce wasn’t nearly as hot as I’d feared. It was actually perfectly fine at that concentration. So I might be a little more bold with it next time.

I’m still getting used to the cold weather again after being in hot Japan for two weeks. Today wasn’t too bad, with a top of 18.0°C, but tomorrow will be challenging, with a forecast maximum of only 15°C – which is about as cold as a winter day gets here in Sydney. And it’ll be rainy too.

New content today:

First full day back home

I got a really solid sleep last night, which was good! Your own bed always feels great after a long trip. I needed the sleep too after the red-eye flight from Tokyo. I can’t sleep on planes, so that was awfully tiring.

I still took it easy today, taking Scully for a morning walk, then dropping her and my wife off at a local market so they could look around a bit and then walk home from there. I tried to write a new Darths & Droids strip, but didn’t complete it.

I copied all the photos from Japan from my DSLR onto my computer and had a quick flip through them. Like last time I travelled, I forgot to change the time on the camera, so they were all tagged with the wrong time. Fortunately I have exiftool and ran a batch job to correct the timestamps on all the photos.

This evening I had my first ethics classes after the trip. Two on the “natural resources” topic, and one for older kids on “good and evil”. And in between I made pizza for dinner. Oh and this morning I had my regular muesli for breakfast. So good after two weeks of having sushi or salads for breakfast!

New content today:

Last day in Japan

Today we slept in a bit. I had some salad for breakfast and then we walked over to Blue Bottle to get coffee and granola for my wife. We came back and did final packing before checking out of the hotel and leaving our luggage to be picked up later.

Then we braved the heat and humidity once again for a short walk south to Kitashinagawa, as recommended by my colleague’s wife the other night at the Ramen Museum. Although it’s only ten minutes from the bustle around Shinagawa Station, there is an old time neighbourhood in Kitashinagawa that is relatively quiet and has small local shops and cafes along an attractively old-feeling street. We walked slowly in a light rain, passing several interesting places, nice looking bakeries, cafes, and also a couple of shrines and a Buddhist temple.

We stopped in a place called KAIDO books&coffee, which had an invitingly cozy decor with many shelves full of books. Besides coffee, they did some interesting looking meals, with home-made sausages for various hot dogs, as well as some pizzas and soups. The hot dogs actually looked really good. We ordered cool drinks – I got an iced tea soda made with ginger and lemon tea. We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere as we sat and refreshed a bit.

Eventually we had to leave and walk back. We grabbed some lunch at the French bakery just outside the hotel. I had a slice of quiche and a pain au chocolat, while my wife had some slices of a rye style bread and some small scones. We brought them into the hotel to eat, but were stymied by large notices in the lounge area prohibiting eating. So we went down to the food court and ate them there, flouting the numerous signs saying that bringing in external for was prohibited. Apparently there’s nowhere you can eat take-away food in the hotel unless you’re in your room. After eating we returned upstairs and collected our luggage and sat in the lounge area for a while to relax.

Our flight was scheduled for 22:00, which meant we wanted to leave for the airport pretty much in the middle of rush hour on the trains. That didn’t seem like fun, so we decided to go early, leaving before 17:00. We carted our luggage out and across the road to Shinagawa Station’s Keikyu Line entrance, which fortunately was on street level on our side, so very easy to get to. We queued for the train to Haneda and caught one which wasn’t too crowded.

At Haneda we checked the departures board, but our flight wasn’t yet listed. We were too early for our flight to appear at the end of the board, so we looked at some of the shops before going through the security and immigration checks. There was no queue at either, so that process was very quick. Once inside the security area I looked at a departures board again and noticed that the very first flight listed was a Qantas flight to Sydney, departing at 22:00, listed as delayed to 20:00 – presumably the next day. I checked my boarding pass and it was the same flight number. We had a brief moment of panic, thinking our flight home was delayed by a day, but realised that this must be last night’s flight, delayed until 20:00 tonight. Phew! After our experience with our last international trip (being stuck in Singapore Airport for over 24 hours), the last thing we wanted was a day’s delay getting home this time.

We slowly wandered the main terminal area, seeing where everything was. Then we found a comfortable place to sit for a bit and wandered around individually to get drinks and look at anything we were interested in. After a bit we got some sushi from the food court area for dinner and then moved to near our departure gate.

The plane was a bit late arriving from its previous destination, and the flight crew were sitting waiting with the passengers in the gate until it arrived and they could go on board. The first to board were the pilots, but the cabin crew stayed behind and continued waiting. I asked my wife why they wouldn’t also go on, and she said the pilots had a lot of work to do, flipping all the switches in the cockpit. Eventually all the crew boarded, and then passenger boarding began almost half an hour late.

As we boarded and I took my passport wallet from my wife and removed the passport, I noticed that two things that we’d put into that wallet for safe keeping weren’t there: the Magic: the Gathering card I’d bought in Nakatsugawa, and the receipt for the duty-free liquor I’d bought at Sydney for pick-up on our return. I asked her where they were, and she was dumbfounded and said she had no idea, they should have been in there with the passport. I suspect they must have fallen out when I pulled out my passport to go through customs and I just didn’t notice. With the plane boarding and no real hope of going back to find them, we had to be philosophical and just shrug and carry on.

Next day: 1 July

Once underway, the flight was uneventful and fairly short, coming in a bit under eight hours, compared to the nine and a half outbound. We arrived at Sydney a bit after 08:00. As we were taxiing to the terminal, the pilot announced that we would be disembarking by stairs to the tarmac and catching buses to the terminal! The cabin crew lady sitting facing us rolled her wyes. I wasn’t even aware that they still did this at Sydney Airport at all. I’ve never been on a flight that did this here, other than for small propellor planes for domestic flights that aren’t capable of hooking up to a jet tube.

So we managed to get into the arrival terminal by this unusual method, which took a bit longer. I also managed to pick up my duty-free bottles of booze at the counter, after confessing I’d lost my receipt. They just checked my passport to confirm my name and handed over the goods. So that was good.

But worse was to come. Although we had no checked luggage to wait for and could proceed immediately through to customs, we hit a brick wall there. Some other busy flights must have landed before us, and hundreds of passengers were queued up waiting to go through customs. We had to walk a long way to join the back of the queue. Annoyingly, some other people approached the exit, saw the size if the queue snaking across the baggage claim area, and decided to simply push their way in ahead of everyone further back. So the combination of factors meant we spent almost an hour waiting in the queue to get into the customs area.

And that wasn’t the end of it. Once we reached the front and handed our customs forms to an inspector, he instructed us to join some other randomly selected people for a sniffer dog test to search for illegal drugs or other banned items. So that took another few minutes. Ater getting the all-clear, we finally exited the arrivals process, well over an hour after having begun it.

We caught a train home, showered, changed, went out to do some grocery shopping to restock the kitchen with perishables, and then drove over to our dog-sitter friends’ place to collect Scully. She was very happy to see us again!