More possible D&D, and an epic level miscommunication

Let’s start low key. This morning I finished off the lesson plan for this week’s older kids’ ethics class, on the topic of Probability. I did half of it yesterday so it wasn’t a lot of work.

For lunch I went on a walk with my wife and Scully, the longest regular walk we do, to the Italian bakery. On the way we went through the local shopping area and walked past the local science toy shop. As we passed, I noticed a poster in the window advertising free Dungeons & Dragons events in the store, for beginner players. I commented to my wife that I should see if they want another Dungeon Master to help run games, and she said I should go in right now and ask them. So I did!

I spoke to a woman and mentioned I’ve been running D&D since the 1980s and would be interested in running some games if they needed more people. She said yes, they definitely could use someone! She took my details and said the guy who organises the D&D events would be in touch to discuss it. They run it every Saturday evening from 6pm, and she said it’s mostly children, but sometimes they have adults join in to play as well. I wouldn’t want to do it every week, but maybe every 3 or 4 weeks would be cool. And given how much experience I have with teaching children, I think I could run a pretty cool game for a group of kids.

This afternoon just before my ethics classes began (three in a row), I decided to check my university email account to make sure everything was fine for tomorrow’s first lecture in this semester’s image processing course. I’ve been all set for the past week to go into the university for the first time tomorrow.

I opened my email and there was a message from the lecturer, asking me if everything was okay, because I missed the first lecture on Tuesday night! Yes, it turns out the course is being run on Tuesdays this year, not Thursdays like I thought! I replied and apologised for the miscommunication, saying I’d thought it was Thursdays. We went back through our email chains and discovered that he had told me it was on Tuesdays, but only in one email from December last year. I can’t remember if it registered at the time, but for months now I’ve been thinking it was on Thursdays.

So next week I need to go in on Tuesday, not Thursday. Another issue is that I have three Outschool ethics classes on Tuesday evening, which clash. So I’ve had to move them to Thursday and inform all the students that this is an unavoidable move. I know some of them probably won’t be able to attend Thursdays and will have to drop the class, so it’s a bit of a pain, but hopefully most of them can adjust to the new day.

So, it’s been a very mixed day. Some good news with the D&D stuff, but quite the mess with the evening classes.

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Another big software upgrade

Today I tackled another big task on my to-do list: Upgrading phpBB for my Irregular Webcomic! (and other comic) forums. The forums have been acting up in minor ways lately, and I think it’s more symptoms of the server upgrade from PHP version 7 to 8. So I thought it was time to upgrade phpBB again to make sure it was up to date and fully compatible with PHP 8.

I downloaded the file package, unzipped it, backed up my database and previous installation files, and then copied the new files into the installation directory. Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing. When it came time to run the database upgrade script, it failed spectacularly, both from the PHP web page, and from the command line, with ridiculously arcane error messages that I had no hope of deciphering.

After despairing for a few minutes that I might have utterly broken the forums with no hope of recovery, I realised that I’d installed the new files into a temporary directory where I’d placed files the last time I upgraded phpBB, and not into the actual installation directory. Redoing all of the file copying steps into the actual directory, I held my breath as I attempted to run the database update…. and it worked! Phew.

As a friend of mine put it when I mentioned what I’d done:

That feeling where you realise “oh I did something stupid” is a massive relief because the alternative is that you did everything right but it doesn’t work… Is that unique to working with technology? I can’t see why it should be but it feels much more common than anywhere else.

Another friend thought of something:

I think there’s a similar thing where you get a medical test and you’re relieved that it’s positive because the alternative is that you don’t know what the hell is wrong with you.

Anyway, the job is done. I’m not sure if it’s fixed those intermittent bugs with the forum or not, but hopefully we’ll find that they no longer occur.

In other tasks done, I finally transferred all the photos that I took in Japan on my phone onto my computer, so I can go through them. And I burnt a big audiobook onto CDs for my mother.

I took Scully for a long walk at lunchtime, to one of the bakeries. I felt like the richest chocolatiest treat they had, so got a slab of chocolate brownie to eat after my lunch. It was good, but I felt a bit off for an hour or two afterwards – probably because it was full of coconut oil or something, as it was a gluten-free version, and they tend to have a lot more oil in them. Honestly I vastly prefer my sweet treats to have regular gluten-rich flour in them, because, if I’m being brutally honest, they taste much better and are less queasiness inducing. But it’s so hard to actually find a regular gluten-containing brownie around here these days.

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Winter chill back in the air

Monday morning is full of ethics classes, finishing off the topic of “What If?” about alternate history.

After those and eating some lunch, I took Scully for a walk. I was thinking of a longish walk, but a look at the weather outside and a consultation with the rain radar changed that plan quickly, as there were heavy rain showers incoming. So instead I took her on a shorter walk around past the corner store supermarket, where I stopped in quickly to get a Portuguese tart for a treat (for myself). It was fairly large, so I had half and am saving the other half for tonight. Besides threatening grey clouds, it was chilly today, much colder than the balmy days we’ve been having the past couple of weeks.

I finished up another Darths & Droids comic this afternoon, which puts me a week ahead on the buffer now, so that’s good. And then I took it relatively easy for a few hours, just relaxing. Scully got another walk in the evening before my 6pm Game Design class, the second of 6 lessons. This one’s going well, and the student came up with some really intriguing ideas for potential game themes, including: writing a diary; being a pessimist; managing a hotel; and reading biographies or speeches of famous people and quoting them. I have no idea how that last one would work as a game, but it’s very interesting.

Tonight my wife and I are going to watch the Matildas’ round-of-16 match against Denmark in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Hopefully it’ll be as exciting and in favour of Australia as last week’s game against Canada!

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Catching up on buffering comics

Most of what I have to report today is really just working on Darths & Droids, writing and making comics to increase the strip buffer back to something more respectable than working just one strip ahead. It’s the first chance I’ve had to do this in a while, so I wanted to make the most of it.

The only other slightly unusual thing I can think of today is that I made French toast for breakfast. I don’t do this often – I usually just have home made muesli (weekdays) or Weet-Bix (weekends). But my wife bought a challah loaf yesterday, and I wanted to make the most of it by using that delicious soft bread.

Scully is back on her normal food after Friday’s dental work, and seems to be fully recovered.

I’m reaching for anything interesting here…

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Scully’s dental

Friday was online board games night, so I didn’t write up a blog entry. We played a host of the usual suspects, plus a couple of new ones on Board Game Arena: Exit Strategy and Gang of Dice. We also played It’s a Wonderful World, which we’ve only played in person before. I much preferred the last one, and not just because I had a runaway victory.

Exit Strategy was basically just multiplayer kingmaker – it became clear at various stages that certain players couldn’t win, and then the only real choices they had were which other players to drag down. We all agreed after one game that we probably never want to play it again. Gang of Dice is a Yahtzee variant with some push-your-luck twists. It was amusing enough and may get another run but it wasn’t a super compelling game. It’s a Wonderful World is a proper game, with some depth and strategy, and mostly about building up your own position rather than tearing other players down.

Friday was also an important day for Scully, as she had her teeth cleaned by the vet. For dogs, this is a general anaesthetic procedure, so she was there most of the day so she could recover before coming home. She was fine afterwards and got spoiled with some boiled chicken for dinner after not having been able to eat all day. They did some x-rays because apparently some of her adult teeth haven’t erupted yet, which is unusual for her age (5 years), but they said there was nothing to be concerned about.

Today I spent much of the day writing new Darths & Droids comics. I need to try and get ahead because we’re running a bit close to zero buffer at the moment. It rained a bit, but we took Scully on a couple of walks around the showers. And my wife went to the community garden again and brought back some more random vegetables. We used some radishes and green leafy things for a salad tonight with our minestrone.

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Emergency bath day

We gave Scully a bath yesterday because it had been a few weeks since her dog grooming and she was starting to get a bit “dog smelly”.

Today I took Scully for a bit of a drive at lunchtime, to a place with a good pie shop near a soccer field that is usually empty, so its a good place to let her run around and do some ball chasing. There were some kids from the adjacent primary school doing some sort of PE lessons on part of the field, but we started down the other end. We slowly migrated towards the middle of the field, where there’s a cricket pitch installed. I tossed the ball over the pitch and Scully ran after it…

And stopped at the perimeter of bare dirt around the pitch and did a face-first dive and roll into the dirt. She did a full on dust-bath. It was already too late to stop her, so I didn’t even bother trying to call her away. And so she continued rolling and wriggling in the dirt! Eventually I had to pull her away since she wasn’t stopping. She was covered in brown dust and bits of grass. Aiiee!!

So when we got home I had to give her another bath. A lot more dirt came off her into the bathwater than yesterday. So she definitely needed it. Hopefully tomorrow I won’t have to give her another bath!

Apart from that I took it bit easy today. It’s been a busy last few days and I think I needed to slow down a bit. I’ve also found and booked a small apartment in Rome for our week there after the ISO meeting in Finland in November. And I signed my contract for casual teaching this semester at the University of Technology, doing the Image Processing course again. That starts… this time next week! I’ll be doing it on Thursday evenings again.

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Dealing with ISP issues

Not my own, fortunately, but my mother’s which is essentially almost as bad, because I’m the one who has to fix it.

My mother called me this morning to say she’d received an email from her ISP (which is different to mine), saying that she had to do something with her email or it would stop working. I did some investigating and discovered that her ISP is indeed ending all support for email services, as of next month. When I set her up with an ISP some years ago, I chose the simplest option to have her email address @[ISPname]. Now they’re discontinuing it, and I’m going to have to help her migrate her email to somewhere else.

The ISP has “kindly” provided an option with a third party hosting company to continue hosting her email at the same address. They say this continued hosting by the third party company will be free until at least September 2024. Which of course means that beginning September 2024 they’re going to start charging for it.

So the next option would be to move my mother to a Gmail account, which will involve telling all her contacts that she’s changing email address. And I’ll have to do all the migration work, since my mother has no comprehension of the technical details of how email works. So, great. Another task on my list.

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Well that was a game

So, that was a brilliant game of football last night. Australia beat Canada 4-0 and proceed to the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup in top position in their group. This means we most likely avoid the strong England team in the first knockout game.

It was an amazing game, against one of the strongest teams in world football, as Canada are the reigning Olympic champions. It could have been 5-0 too, with another goal being overturned by one of the silliest applications of the offside rule ever seen.

The next game, probably against Denmark, is on Monday next week. That should be one to watch too.

Today, I finished off my class plan for the new ethics week, on alternate history.

And I ticked off a major thing: booking flights to Rome in November. My wife and I have looked at the options to visit Helsinki for the ISO Photography standards meeting there. We want to extend the trip to have a vacation too, and thought Rome would be suitable, as we like Italy, and it won’t be as cold as northern Europe in November. I checked flight costs for trips:

  • Sydney-Singapore-Helsinki; Helsinki-Rome; Rome-Singapore-Sydney
  • Sydney-Singapore-Rome; Rome-Helsinki; Helsinki-Singapore-Sydney
  • Sydney-Singapore-Rome; Rome-Helsinki; Helsinki-Rome; Rome-Singapore-Sydney

The first two are triangular options, while the last one we basically just get a return ticket to Rome, and then book a return flight from Rome to Helsinki. The way the dates work out we could have two nights in Rome before going on to Helsinki, and then a week in Rome after leaving Finland. It turns out that although this is more flights, it’s actually about 20% cheaper, because of the way that return tickets are costed cheaper than two one-way fares. So that’s what we went with, and I booked the Sydney-Rome and return legs tonight. Tomorrow I’ll look at booking the Finland flights.

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