1 chance in 4096

This morning I had bread for breakfast. This is unusual, as I almost always have cereal – home-made muesli with fruit and yoghurt on weekdays, and Weet Bix on weekends. But I forgot to order the groceries for pickup on Friday, and we’d run out of milk, so I couldn’t have my normal Weet Bix. And I’d baked a new sourdough loaf yesterday, trying it with some rolled oats for the first time, so I decided to just have a couple of slices, one with butter and one with marmalade.

After breakfast I went for a 5k run. The morning was warm and humid and it was pretty draining. But it was good to have that done before the day got hotter.

Before lunch I played another game of Root with my wife. She wanted to try Marquise de Cat again, after attempting the Eyrie last time. Playing the Eyrie birds myself, I was attempting to gain territory by initiating battles to gain clearings and then build roosts. When you battle, you roll two dice, which are 12-sided, but numbered 0-3 three times each, so there’s an equal chance of each number form 0 to 3. Battles favour the initiator: the defender loses warriors equal to the higher number rolled on the dice, while the attacker loses warriors equal to the lower number.

What should have been about halfway into the game, I started a battle. I rolled the dice and got double 3, meaning we each removed 3 warriors. So I took heavier losses than expected, as double 3 is the only way of losing 3 attackers, a 1 in 16 chance.

In the next battle: I rolled double 3 again.

In the next battle: I rolled double 3 again.

I took so many unexpected losses, that my wife ran away with the game from there. Yes, she was losing the same number of cat warriors as I was birds, but the cats recruit forces significantly faster. I should have been inflicting a lot more casualties than I was sustaining. Anyway, it was basically a debacle from that point, and my wife won easily.

After lunch, we went to visit some friends, taking Scully so she could play with their dog. We hung out for a bit in the very slight breeze outside, in the shade at the rear of the house. It was really pretty hot out in the sun.

Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter, forecast up to 37°C.

New content today:

Wadanggari Park

After my ethics class this morning I went with my wife to get our next COVID vaccination booster. On Tuesday I’d seen signs at the local hospital pointing to a COVID vaccination clinic, so we went there. But… there were no signs. So we went to the main entrance to ask where the vaccinations were, and they said that they were no longer offering them, and yesterday was the last day! So we called up a nearby pharmacy and checked that they were still doing vaccinations. This confirmed we walked over there and got our shots.

My wife had a day off because she just ended a job and starts the new one next week. She went into the city to do some shopping, while I took Scully and went to the nearby pie shop so I could get some lunch. Then we went to a brand new park that was opened only last weekend: Badanggari Park. Here’s Scully enjoying the grassed area:

Wadanggari Park

It’s a very nice little park with a couple of grassy areas, edged by sandstone seating enclosing native plant gardens.

Wadanggari Park

Wadanggari is a native Cammeraygal clan word meaning banksia. Which is nice, but I didn’t see any banksia pants among any of the gardens. I dunno, that sees like kind of a big missed opportunity. It would have been nice to have some feature banksia trees in the park.

But then I noticed that in the really excellent looking children’s playgrounds, this enormous climbing tower is a stylised banksia flower:

Wadanggari Park

And this tower is a stylised banksia cone:

Wadanggari Park

The park is elevated above the local train line, and on one side of the wall below the park is this artwork, with an explanation of its cultural significance:

Wadanggari Park

The patterns in the brown metal sheets are representations of the seed pods on the surface of a banksia cone. It’s actually quite neat, if you know what a banksia cone looks like. Here’s one I happen to have photographed years ago:

Banksia nut

And here’s a flower so you can compare to the giant stylised flower above:


Tonight is online board games night with my friends. We’re playing the brand new Board Game Arena implementation of Heat: Pedal to the Metal, which we’re really enjoying.

New content today:

Online teaching country 46

I keep track of where students in my Outschool classes are connecting from. Today I recorded my 46th country: Zambia. t was actually a girl who normally connects from her home in Wales, but she’s currently travelling with her family, and joined my class from Zambia. So that’s pretty cool! I also have another student who live in Italy, who joined this week from Thailand. It’s so cool that some students are continuing to do my classes even while on vacation.

Most of today I spent working on new Darths & Droids comics, trying to build up the buffer before my own trip in November. I took Scully out for a walk at lunch and got fish & chips, eating them at my favourite lookout.

That’s about it, not much else to report today.

New content today:

A nice Italian lunch for all of us

I got up this morning and while using the bathroom I noticed a small dark lump on my neck, which looked a little like a dried scab of blood. I figured maybe I’d accidentally scratched myself somehow and not noticed it. I used a fingernail to lightly scratch the lump to probe what it was like, and it came straight off. I looked at the tiny dark blob on my fingertip and realised it was a tick!

Somehow I’d attracted a tick. I guess it was probably late last night when I took Scully out for her pre-bedtime toilet, and it maybe fell on me from a tree branch overhead, and attached itself to my neck. Now I was concerned that I’d just removed the body, and the head may have detached and still be embedded in my skin. But I examined the wound carefully and had my wife check it too, and we don’t think there’s anything embedded in there. I put some iodine solution on it to prevent infection. I’ll keep an eye on it in the next day or two and if it doesn’t get better I’ll go see a doctor.

Following that drama, I did a 5k run and had a shower. By 11am my wife and I were ready to go out for lunch. We took Scully and went down to the local ferry wharf, where we caught a ferry across the harbour to Balmain. We walked up the street to the shops and restaurants and found a place to have lunch. We found a nice looking Italian place called D’Vine Ivy.

As we sat down at one of the outside tables, a woman who we presumed to be the owner came out and greeted Scully and asked if she’d like some Italian sausage. I said yes, she’d love some, not thinking that the woman was actually serious. She ran off and returned quickly with a plate of sliced sausage for Scully! Then she took our orders for lunch. My wife had a daily special vegetarian lasagne, and I had penne boscaiola. The serves were very generous and delicious. After we ate, the woman admitted that she’d run out of the vege lasagne and had tossed it together quickly after our order, which explained the somewhat free-form assembly of the dish, although honestly it looked and tasted great. I also had to try the dessert, which was hoe baked carrot cake, served hot and delicious, with fresh berries. Scully got a blueberry.

Then we walked back to the ferry wharf and caught the ferry back home. It was a very nice day out. And it’s now almost 9pm and I’m still not hungry after that lunch!

New content today:

A very brief trip into the university

This afternoon I dropped Scully at my wife’s work and hopped on a train into the city to head to the University of Technology Sydney for tonight’s image processing lecture. In the city I stopped at a Malaysian restaurant near the university for dinner. This is part of my plan to try a new restaurant every week during this semester. I had some curry puffs, and a beef rendang with roti. It was okay – the roti was excellent, the rendang was tasty but a bit fatty, which I don’t like, and the curry puffs were a little disappointing. Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

After eating, I got to the university and noticed it was a lot emptier than normal. There’s usually a huge queue in the main building foyer every Tuesday where they hand out free noodle soup meals for students, but that wasn’t there, and there were barely any students around. I got to the lecture room, and the electronic timetable showed that the room had nothing booked for the evening. I texted the lecturer to ask if the lecture was on, and he replied saying that it was mid-semester break!

So I had to come straight back home again. So, wow, that was a bit of a waste of an evening. At least I got home in time to spend a bit of time writing up my lesson plan for this week’s new ethics class, on Pets.

I did manage to get a nice sunset photo at the university though:

UTS sunset

New content today:

Seeing into the future: Crystal balls!

Monday morning is the regular end-of-ethics-week final classes in the morning. Morning classes are usually full of kids from North America, because it’s early evening over there. Honestly I was glad to be finished this week’s Energy topic, for reasons I touched on earlier. I tried to revise the plan on the fly to include more open-ended discussion questions, and it worked a bit, but was still not as open as I’d have liked. Never mind, on to the new topic! It’s on Pets, and I’ll write the plan tomorrow.

This afternoon I worked solidly on Irregular Webcomic! I made 10 new strips, using the photos I took a few weeks ago. I now have a full 3-week buffer, which will hopefully give me time to write new strips and take more photos before it runs out.

Tonight was lesson 3 in my current instance of the Creative Thinking/Board Game Design class. This is where the course gets really interesting and fun, as we converge down the brainstorming ideas we did last week and come up with a theme for the game we’ll be designing. After the three students voted, we had two theme ideas on equal footing: Colonising lands, and “a shiny crystal ball”. I did a tie-break and selected what I think is the more interesting option, the crystal ball. So… we’re designing a board game about crystal balls!

We’ve already thought of one possible rules mechanic. During the game set up, you lay out a series of cards face down, which represent things that happen on future turns of the game, and by using a crystal ball you get to look at a future card. So you know what will happen on that turn. Then you can use that knowledge to your advantage. Perhaps the rules require you to reveal or hint something about the future to the other players, or perhaps you can bluff about it. Next week we’ll work on more mechanics and refining the game rules into something workable.

New content today:

Bath day

This morning I did another 5k run. After a shower I decided I didn’t feel like a second shower today, so decided that this evening I’d have a bath instead! I rarely have baths, but I felt like a good soak in nice warm water might do my tired muscles some good. I also had a bath bomb which I got some time ago and haven’t had the chance to use yet – something colourful and scented and moisturising. It just felt like a nice day to use it.

At lunch we took Scully for a walk over to the Italian bakery at Cammeray. I had a slice of pizza and a custard tart – delicious.

Back home we played another game of Root, this time my wife tried playing the Eyrie while I took the Marquise de Cat. It’s going to take us both a few games to get used to the wide array of strategy options.

Not much else to report about today. It was pretty easy and relaxing. Especially with that bath that I just had.

New content today:

First 7.5k run, and learning Root

A couple of firsts today:

This morning I decided to push myself to a new running distance. I’ve been doing 5k more regularly and feel more or less comfortable with that now. I’ve been thinking about going to 10k, but decided I should go for an intermediate distance. So today I went for 7.5k for the first time. Given my time for 5k is around 27-28 minutes, I was hoping to be able to complete the 7.5k in under 45 minutes as a goal.

I combined my two 5k routes, which overlap for about 2.5k, so the combination comes out to the right distance. I kept a slowish moderate pace to make sure I didn’t get too tired, and managed to keep it up for the whole distance. I was pleased when I completed it in 43:16. Here’s the Strava log.

Scully had an overdue groom today, losing a lot of hair. She looks a lot neater now. In the early afternoon we took her for a walk down to the harbour to run around and chase a ball for a bit.

And then in the late afternoon and early evening my wife and I learnt how to play the board game Root. I’d bought this a while back, but we’ve delayed it some time as it has a reputation for being difficult to learn. It’s a game for up to four players, battling to control an area of woodland. Each player controls a different faction of woodland creatures, and each faction follows different rules for what it can do, so it’s asymmetrical. We started with the two simplest factions, the Marquise de Cat and the Eyrie (i.e. the cats and the birds). It was actually not as difficult as I expected to get through and explain the rules. The complexity comes the large number of possible choices you need to make during your turn, and needing to figure out the tactics that will or won’t work.

It’s a race to 30 points. My wife played the cats and I played the birds, and we kept the same roles for two games to get used to them. The first game I won, 30 points to 27. The second game my wife won, 31 points to… uh… 1. I got stuck in loop of being unable to do anything and losing points each turn. I needed to draw cards in either of two suits to get out of it, but for something like 5 or 6 turns in a row I only drew cards of the other two suits. So it was a bit of a debacle!

Here’s the end game state of the second game. You can see my blue score marker on 1 point and my wife’s orange one on 31. My blue bird soldiers are confined to just one clearing in the forest, at upper left, while my wife’s orange cats are in charge of the remaining 11 clearings.

Root, endgame

If you know Root, in the first game my wife was shocked by how quickly my birds expanded across the board. So in the second game she proactively took the fight up and knocked me back so I never had more than 3 roosts on the board. Eventually I got stuck in the fox clearing, with a handful of mouse and rabbit cards, which meant every turn I ended up in Turmoil. Game over, baby. But we had fun, and are both looking forward to trying it again soon.

New content today:

Observations on energy ethics

I’ve run this week’s lesson on critical/ethical thinking about “Energy” a few times now, and I’ve noticed two interesting things.

Firstly, I ask if there are any problems with all of the electrical wiring that we use to carry electricity from power stations to our homes. Several kids have pointed out potential dangers if they fall in storms, and the possibility of animals being injured by them. Apart from that, they’re mostly of the opinion that they’re fine. I’m very surprised nobody so far has said they are ugly! They get in the way of scenery, they make cities look grimy, etc.

Secondly, I present several alternatives to burning fossil fuels for generating electricity, and we go through the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. Then I ask which they think we should prefer switching to. Nearly all of them have said solar power. I point out the disadvantage that it’s very expensive, and the kids are all dismissive of this is a problem. They say things like, “The cost doesn’t matter”, or “Well, we can just make it cheaper”. It’s very hard to convince them that cost does matter, and we can’t just magically make things cheaper.

This evening I was supposed to be running Dungeons & Dragons for my friends, but a couple of them called in sick, not wanting to spread cold symptoms. So that put us below threshold and we called it off for tonight. Hopefully we’ll get to it in a couple of weeks. So tonight we’re doing online games instead, which means our sick friends can still participate.

Weather was cold today! A nice change after the record heat of earlier this week. We had overnight rain and a chilly southerly wind. I made use of it with a 5k run.

New content today:

Beach trip, and Outschool training

Today at lunch I took Scully on a drive to the beach. I went to my favourite pie shop to get pies and we sat on the grass just above the beach to eat them. After the hot weather of the past few days, today was chilly, with a strong wind blowing cold off the ocean. While it was chilly, it was a welcome change from the record hot weather.

Fishermans Beach

Walking around the peninsula a bit, we stopped here to get a photo of some of the birds that always hang out here. Here’s an Australian pelican, a little black cormorant, and a bunch of silver gulls.

Big birds and little birds

I also stopped at the cricket field to let Scully off leash and have a bit of a run around.

Scully at Collaroy

I get her to “sit” and “stay”, while I walk away about 20 metres, then I call her to “come”, and she comes running.

Scully at Collaroy

She expects a treat for this!

This afternoon I did some educational training, which is being organised by Outschool. They’ve aded a teacher accreditation program and you can choose to get a badge on your teacher profile for completing a series of webinar training videos. I figured this would be a good thing to attract more parents, so I’ve started the course. Today I watched a 1-hour video about enabling inquiry-based learning for science subjects, and then did a quiz. I’ll get credit for it and then need to do a few more similar things. It was actually pretty interesting!

New content today: