Last day of summer heat

29 February, leap year day! Also the last day of summer, and Sydney really turned it on for the occasion. We reached over 40°C in some suburbs, although nearer the coast it was thankfully a few degrees cooler. I took Scully for a walk in the morning before it got too hot, but it was hot and humid enough to be uncomfortable. At lunch I just took her out briefly and kept our short walk in the shade of the trees. We went out at the same time as our new neighbour with their dog Sophie, and the two dogs are getting along pretty well, keen to see each other and wagging tails in a friendly manner. They seem to want to play, but so far the neighbours have always kept Sophie on a lead. We let Scully off in the park across the street sometimes so she can play with other dogs, but the neighbours might not be confident enough to do that.

I had 5 ethics classes today, 4 with the younger groups and one on the new Confession topic with older kids. That went well, and generated some very interesting discussion.

For dinner I made fried rice. And I spent a bit of time in the afternoon trying to write new Irregular Webcomic! strips, but I was struggling to come up with ideas and it didn’t go very well. Also perhaps because it was such a warm day and even with the air conditioning on it made me feel a bit lethargic.

New content today:

What is data and what is ethics?

Today was a busy teaching day. This morning I wrote my lesson plan for the older group of kids and the ethics topic on Confession. Then I dropped Scully off at my wife’s work and took the train into the city and the university for the second lecture of Data Engineering. Today the lecture was about different types of data: nominal, ordinal, numeric, qualitative, quantitative, subjective, objective, and so on. Th first coding tutorial took place during the lecture and as usual someone asked me a question that basically came down to debugging Matlab syntax, which is always a pain since I don’t use Matlab regularly and always have to relearn the syntax every semester.

The students spent some time during the first tutorial break moving around to find their assignment groups. The lecturer splits the class into random groups of 6 students to work on their final projects. It’s always a bit chaotic since few of the students know each other and they’re assigned to these groups with strangers, and have to work out who they are and find them. It doesn’t help when one student can’t find Group 10 and I go around shouting “Group 10! Group 10! Put your hand up if you’re in Group 10!” and nobody reacts, and then 5 minutes later it turns out Group 10 is right there but they were too busy introducing themselves to have heard me earlier.

After coming home I finished off the Confession lesson, in time to start making some lentils and chick peas with rice for dinner, before the three in a row classes on the “What is Ethics?” topic. This is a pretty deep topic and I can really see the kids are thinking hard about some of the questions. Which means it’s a good one!

New content today:

A day for fish & chips

It was cool and cloudy and drizzly this morning. I spent time working up one of my next classes for this week’s ethic lessons. It’s a simpler version of the “Philosophy of Ethics” lesson I did last year for the older age group, so I could adapt a lot of the material. For the older kids I’m doing a topic this week on “Confession”, which I still need to write up. As in confessing for any bad acts, but we’ll also touch on Catholic confession too.

For lunch I took Scully for a walk through the drizzle to the fish & chip shop and then we went down to the water by the ferry wharf to eat.

Cloudy day at Greenwich wharf

The rain stopped while I was waiting for the food to be cooked, and the bench in the park had dried out a bit by the time we got there, so I had somewhere to sit. And while sitting by the water, eating fish & chips, I could hear lots of birds.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos, noisy miners, and kookaburras. I think there was also a galah. Yes there was a gull or two as well, but it was interesting that the most obvious birds in the area here by the harbour shore were cockatoos.

Not much else to say about the day, really.

New content today:

The spelling of chilli / chili / chile

Yesterday I wrote about the troubles I’ve been having with my latest chilli plant. Carl commented on that post:

Your problem is that you offend the plants by continuing to misspell “chili”, which has exactly one “l”. In Spanish, “ll” is pronounced identically to English “y”.

To which I replied:

“Chilli” is the preferred and common spelling in British/Australian English. So it’s even more complicated than that.

This may be surprising to users of American English, but it’s genuinely another example of the weirdness of spelling differences between our dialects. My Australian dictionary lists “chilli” as the preferred spelling. My computer, set to Australian English, accepts “chilli” while marking “chili” as a spelling error. And I went through my pantry and found every relevant product:

Chilli products

As you can see, three out of three in favour of “chilli”. So that hopefully explains what up until now some readers may have assumed was a strange individual quirk of mine.

In another follow-up, recall last Friday I visited Loreto Kirribilli to talk to some of the students there. The school has posted photos of me and some of the students to their accounts on LinkedIn and Instagram.

As for today… it was a bunch of ethics classes from 10am to 2pm, with a brief lunch break in between. I took Scully for a couple of walks. This afternoon I made sourdough bread, and also pizza dough for dinner. And I’m not sure where the rest of the time went. I had another class this evening after dinner… and now time to relax.

New content today:

Lazy Sunday, apart from the running and walking

The heading pretty much sums it up. I did a 5k run first thing in the morning, and for lunch went on a long walk (over 5 km) with my wife and Scully to the shops at Naremburn to have a chicken pie. Something like 12,000 steps all together.

But in between I just worked on some comics for Darths & Droids, and this evening started doing online ethics classes again, continuing the topic on Sleep that got interrupted by last week’s ISO standards meeting. I finish the topic tomorrow before moving onto the new one from Tuesday.

For dinner I made vegetable fajitas, spiced up by chilli from our new chilli plant. I’m still not sure if it’s doing well – it seems a bit scraggly, and the crop of chillis that were on it when we bought it were starting to rot and fall off, so we picked them all today and sorted through them. The good ones I chopped into pieces and stuck in olive oil to infuse and make chilli oil. We’ll see if the plant manages to stay alive long enough to produce another crop of them. It’s weird – the first chilli plant we got lasted several years and produced copious chillis, but both the ones we’ve bought since seem to have struggled and died quickly.

New content today:

Titardinal’s Tower, session 1

Friday was a very busy day! I did final preparations for the evening’s Dungeons & Dragons session. A full play report is below!

I also drove over to Loreto Kirribilli, dropping Scully off at my wife’s work on the way, to give my talk to the students there. The day was very hot, reaching 38°C, and humid, so I really didn’t fancy walking all that way. I was worried about finding parking near the school, so gave myself plenty of time. But I found a spot right in front of the school gate, just three or four metres from where I could walk in! Most of the parking around Kirribilli is restricted to 2 hours parking, but this spot right in front of the school was unrestricted between 10:00 and 14:30 – but was no parking during the school drop-off and pick-up times.

The teacher in charge of my visit met me and took me into the lovely cool air conditioned room where I’d give the talk to the kids. This was in the junior school, so kids about 8-10 years old. I gave my talk on the overlaps between astronomy, photography, and human vision, to a group of about 40 kids. They looked pretty rapt, and several asked interesting questions. A very articulate girl named Alice gave a short thank you speech at the end, several kids hung around to ask me more questions, and then they all ran off to their classes at the end of lunch. It was really good, and the teacher was very happy and asked me to come back as often as I could manage.

In the evening I ran D&D with my friends. Saturday morning I went for a 5k run – my first for nearly 2 weeks since I skipped last weekend to let my ankle recover. It was cool and rainy, and I did a reasonable time. And then most of today I was typing up the following D&D play log…

Tidying up and Training: Brandonstead to Neensford

After the vanquishing of the Wyrm of Brandonstead, the heroes returned to Brandonstead with their treasure. The villagers were united in thanking them for slaying the dragon. Having found the bodies of the dwarven brothers Grimni and Kedri, it seems that the third brother Brol was somehow cursed into turning into the dragon.

Garamond had claimed the magical Sword of Sir Brandon and Plate Mail of Sir Brandon, but the villagers insisted politely that these historical relics belonged in the village. Garamond gracefully gave them up.

The party returned home to Neensford, three days march south. Here they cashed in much of the treasure, using it to pay their mentors for training. Notgandalf’s mentor Jessica the Mindstoker gifted him a new spell for his spellbook: Levitation. Garamond returned from his time training with the elves of the forest with the new spell Wizard Lock.

Swirling Rumours: Neensford to Benton

Towards the end of their training period, with the weather turning from summer into early autumn, a travelling merchant arrived from the east, bearing news of import: The great wizard Titardinal had died! Titardinal was known for having a secluded tower a week’s ride to the east, past the village of Benton. The party gathered to share what rumours they’d previously heard about Titardinal. They augmented this by asking around the village for anything that anyone else knew.

  • Titardinal? Crazy old coot. They say he went off the deep end and built that tower all by his lonesome up by the lake.
  • They say the lake spirit cursed the wizard for his arrogance, twisting his tower into a maze of madness. Those who enter never return the same.
  • They say the undines imprisoned within the tower’s fountain are not as innocent as they seem. Some claim they hold the key to unlocking the tower’s secrets, while others warn of their vengeful nature.
  • Rumours swirl of a secret chamber hidden beneath the lake’s surface, accessible only to those who know the right incantations. But tread carefully, for the spirits of the deep do not take kindly to intruders.
  • There are those who claim the wizard’s tower holds the key to great power, but it’s guarded by creatures of nightmare. Only the bravest—or the most foolish—would dare to enter.
  • There are rumours of a secret entrance to the tower, accessible only during the full moon when the barriers between worlds are weakest. But those who seek it must first navigate the treacherous cliffs surrounding the lake.
  • I’ve heard tales of a hidden library within the tower, filled with ancient tomes and forbidden knowledge. But beware, for the books themselves are said to be cursed, driving those who read them to madness.

Questioning the merchant revealed that the news had travelled slowly. Titardinal seemed to have vanished several months ago, but nobody had carried the news to Neensford before now. The party decided that a recently deceased powerful wizard’s tower should contain many treasures and potentially magic items, and was worth investigating.

They equipped themselves with two wagons for transporting the party (Brigette, Drashi, Garamond, Nogge, Notgandalf) and their retainers (Fingers, Tarlan, and 5 other journeymen adventurers), plus four horses to draw them. Nogge bought a riding horse for himself, not wanting to ride in a wagon. They journeyed six days to the east, up into the foothills of the Black Peak Mountains, to the village of Benton. Here they paused to refresh themselves from time on the road, and approached the innkeeper to ask about Titardinal:

  • Rumour has it Titardinal was head over heels for the Spirit of the Lake. Built his tower smack dab by the water just to catch her eye, they say.

Titardinal’s Tower still lay a day’s travel to the north-east, up into the Black Peak Mountains. They travelled up the narrow track and made camp near the pass that gave access to a valley with a beautiful blue mountain lake, surrounded by slopes covered in pine, cedar, and fir trees.

Approaching Titardinal’s Tower

The next morning dawned clear and sunny. From the pass, the party spied out the land below. On a small tied island attached to the near shore of the lake rose a circular stone tower, narrow, about seven storeys tall. No door was visible from the pass, but four floors of widely spaced windows could be seen making up the upper four floors of the tower, above a smooth section below with no windows. The battlement on the roof was partly crumbled in places. As they watched, a large white pelican flew from the lake up to one of the lowest windows, perched, and ducked inside. Another pelican emerged from a different window at that level and flew off to forage.

Also visible from the pass was a small encampment on the shore, about half a mile from the tower, by a stream emptying into the lake. A dozen or so small humanoid figures could be seen occasionally, scurrying under a large sky-blue tarpaulin set up as a shelter. Goblins! The party deliberated dealing with the encampment first, to ensure no surprise attacks from behind while exploring the tower, but decided to tackle the tower first.

Nogge: All I’m saying is it could come back to bite us in the butt.
DM: So you’re setting up an “I told you so” for Nogge?
Nogge: Right.

Rather than take all the retainers and the wagons down to the lake, where they might be seen by the goblins, they instructed the retainers to set up camp in the pass and wait there.

Drashi: Equals sign the wagons.
All: Huh?
Drashi: You can’t circle them. There’s only two.
Nogge: You’d need an infinite number to make a circle. We need three or more to even make make a polyhedron.
Brigette: Polyhedron? Just how mountainous is this region?

They approached carefully in the brush, avoiding making themselves obvious to the goblins. Fingers scouted around the base of the tower, reporting that there was a large double door on the far side, facing the lake. He also said the lock had evidently been broken.

The party pushed open the doors carefully, revealing a “welcoming” hall decorated with iron gibbets hanging from chains, containing skeletons. They carefully probed the skeletons with poles to make sure they weren’t undead, then ratcheted the chains down to examine them more closely. They found a silvery ring on the bony finger of one skeleton. A search of the room also turned up a pewter scroll case which contained an old sheet of parchment with a letter:

Most Esteemed Titardinal,

I beg of you to reconsider this mad project of yours and return to my side as my most trusted advisor.

(Signed) Duke Trayko of Verge.

The Madness of Titardinal’s Tower

As they stood in the reception hall, tiny motes of sparkling light appeared and attached themselves to each party member, circling above their heads. These appeared harmless, and not bright enough to explore by, so the group lit torches and lanterns and progressed into the tower.

First they tried a passage to the south, which led to a square room with floor length tapestries on each wall. The passage they emerged from was hidden behind a blue tapestry showing the lake. Other walls contained a red tapestry showing a mountain scene, a yellow one depicting a desert scene, and a green one with a scene deep in a deciduous forest. Notgandalf, drawing a map, expressed confusion as, according to the pacing out of room sizes, this tapestry room should be outside the southern wall of the tower. Brigette suggested it was some wizard shenanigans and the tapestries actually transported people who stepped past them to different locations. So the tapestry room itself was not within the tower, but somewhere else, and if one were to step from the room past the blue tapestry they would be transported into the tower.

They decided not to pass beyond the blue tapestry, but retreated to the entrance hall and tried the other exit, an arched doorway with a wooden door that had fallen off its hinges. This led into a dismal cell, with manacles and shackles.

This Titardinal really didn’t like visitors, did he?

In the cell, a second spark of light joined the first around each adventurer’s head. And they noticed a brass symbol inset in the floor, a number “2”. Quickly they went back and checked the floor of the welcome hall more carefully, finding a long, straight strip of brass set into the floor, which they now recognised as a numeral “1”. This prompted some experimentation.

Nogge, accompanied by two sparks, went to look at the tapestry room again. Pulling the blue tapestry aside, he spotted a brass number “18” on the floor. He decided to enter the room, pushing past the tapestry. When he set foot inside the room, the two sparks around his head vanished. One returned when he re-entered the welcome hall, and a second when he went back into the cell. The party surmised that sparks would accumulate as they traversed rooms in numerical order, but would reset to zero if they ever entered a room out of sequence.

Now they continued exploring. An open passage from the cell led to a north-south corridor with five other openings on the sides. They tried the south-east one first, revealing a cell numbered “23”. This cell contained windows, and they could see that they were no longer on the ground floor! Going in to check, they saw the eastern window was on the 5th floor of the tower (with one window below them and two above). There were also heavy, rusty chains dangling down from the window above, and down from the sill to the window below. The other window, in the north wall of the same room, appeared to be looking south from the 7th floor!

Now the party realised what madness Titardinal’s Tower held.

Deeper Exploration

The group quickly checked the other cells along the corridor. The south-west was labelled “6”, and had another passage leading west. The central west cell was “5”, with no exits. The north-west cell was “4”, and had a window in the north wall, which appeared to look west on level 5.

Next they tried along the corridor to the north. This opened into a large room covered in muck and guano, inhabited by giant pelicans, taller than a human. Nogge carefully took a step into the room to see if he would attract a third spark, but the two around his head vanished. He concluded this was not room number 3, but a pelican took unkindly to his intrusion and attacked! Nogge beat off the giant probing beak and smote the pelican with his magical two-handed sword, driving it back into the foetid rookery.

The final cell, in the north-east, turned out to be room “3”. People collected a third spark as expected, and Nogge returned to the welcome hall to reassemble his as well. Cell 3 also had a window in the north wall, looking west from level 6. As this was directly above the window in cell 4 directly across the corridor, they tried stationing one person at each window at the same time to see if they could see each other by looking up/down, and they could. The group concluded that at least it was only spatial weirdness going on, and not time shenanigans as well.

Then they traversed rooms 4, 5, and 6 to accumulate 6 sparks each. The other passage from cell 6 led them north-west up a set of stairs to a circular room with exit passages north and south, a window north-west, a brass “7” in the floor, and a large fountain in the middle. Could this be the rumoured fountain of the undines?

As Brigette approached the fountain, ghostly shapes like young children appeared in the water. They saw the sparks about Brigette’s head and merged into a serpent-like shape that stretched from the water to attack her! Brigette yelled to stop attacking, that they were here to help them. The undines paused, and asked why they had the sparks; they were doing the evil wizard’s work! Brigette conversed, trying to convince the undines that the party meant no harm. The undines revealed that Titardinal had trapped them in the fountain to power a devastating spell to “destroy everything”, and the sparks were part of it. They begged the party to “destroy the altar” so that the spell could never be completed.

The group discussed ways to free the undines, including siphoning the water out the window and smashing the fountain to spill the water. But the undines said they were trapped here magically and the only way to free them was to destroy the altar. They asked the party to swear a solemn oath that they would do it. When Brigette swore, they presented her with a sword from the fountain water, saying it was the sword of the Lake Spirit.

What Madness is This?

The group decided the right thing to do was to return the sword to the Lake Spirit as soon as possible. They retreated out through the cells and the entrance hall to the front door of the tower, seeking to gaze out on the lake. They pulled the doors open warily, half-expecting the camp of goblins to be waiting for them. But there were no goblins.

And there was no lake.

The beautiful blue mountain lake had vanished. All they could see was mountain slopes lined with green trees. Everyone stood dumbstruck for a minute.

Nogge: That…. is the last thing I expected.

Brigette walked forward carefully, probing the ground with a pole. After several steps the pole indicated the edge of the lake and Brigette walked forward, getting her feet wet. The lake seemed to be there, but none of them could see it. Brigette placed the sword in the (unseen) water and called to the Lake Spirit to accept their offering. But after several minutes, nothing happened and the sword was still there – Brigette feeling for it in the unseen water.

She decided to strip off her armour and swim out into deeper water. Others suggested tying a rope to her, since nobody could actually see the lake, to avoid her getting lost. This done, Brigette swam out and dived with the sword, attempting to offer it to the Lake Spirit. But after some minutes of this to no avail, she gave up.

As she dried off on the shore of the lake they could not see, they discussed the mysterious illusion before them. How did this happen? Why was the lake hidden from them? What time was it? They looked at the sky.

They couldn’t see the sky.

They saw stars in inky blackness. But the sun was up – it was dazzlingly bright in the sky, they could feel its warmth, and see the shadows on the ground around them. It was daylight, but the stars were out.

They concluded that if the Lake Spirit was too distant or too busy to take the sword, they would just have to go back into the tower and try to find and destroy the altar.

Drashi: Good thing it’s still daynight.

But first they wanted to check the tapestry room again, as they suspected that maybe there was some strange teleportation going on. They wanted to check if they were still in the tower behind the blue lake tapestry. But when they walked down the corridor from the reception hall to the tapestry, it wasn’t there – the corridor ended at a blank stone wall! Nogge felt the wall… and found he could feel a tapestry. He pulled it aside, revealing the tapestry room beyond, with the red, yellow, and green tapestries. But entering the room, the tapestry behind could not be seen, and it looked like a stone wall, though he could still feel the tapestry and pull it aside to re-enter the corridor. Curiouser and curiouser…

Finding the Altar

The group returned to the fountain room, not bothering to collect sparks by traversing rooms 3-5. They told the undines what happened as Fingers scouted the corridor to the south. He returned and said it led to a dining room with a couple of giants, twice the height of a person, sitting on the floor, grumbling and playing cards at the dining table. The window here looked north (as determined by the sun) from level 7.

The passage north led down a stair to a square room with exits in all four walls and the number “8” on the floor. Old paintings were hung on the narrow walls between the exits. A window in the west wall revealed the view from the level 7 northern window. They determined the passage east led downstairs to the pelican room. Nogge feared the pelican room would be room 9, but the number was hidden under the muck and guano and it would be impossible to find without killing all the pelicans. He did an experiment collecting sparks to test this idea. He returned from the entry hall with 8 sparks and stepped carefully into the pelican room, timing it when none of the pelicans was looking his way, and collected a ninth spark.

Having proven this, they proceeded north from the art gallery room, descending into a landing before a wide staircase leading back upwards. Large alcoves in the east and west walls housed evil looking human statues. A brass number “13” was set into the floor. The party climbed the steps to an intermediate landing, with more steps leading up to the north to a similar looking landing with statues. But here in the middle landing there were narrow passages leading east and west.

They chose the eastern passage, emerging in a crypt containing a stone sarcophagus, engraved with a magical looking sigil, and a brass number “14” in the floor. Stairs led up to the north and down to the east. The eastern stairs led down to an L-shaped room “15”, which appeared to be the bottom of a cess pit, with a mound of rotting food refuse, filth, and dung, below a shaft that ascended from the ceiling. Two giant flies that were buzzing around the muck attacked them but the party took care of them with some swift sword blows. The group didn’t fancy trying to climb up the reeking shaft to reach what they expected would be room 16, so they retreated to 14 and took the stairs north.

This led to Titardinal’s study, with a desk and bookshelves, in disarray and clearly partly searched through by someone. The floor was labelled with a brass “22”. Notgandalf perused the books, looking for anything magical. Fingers hushed everyone and said he could hear voices and shushing noises. He indicated a corner where the noise was coming from, and said he recognised goblin language. He translated, “Shhh, stay quite and they won’t notice us.”

Notgandalf cast Detect Magic, but this didn’t reveal anything, except a couple of the books still on the shelf, which he grabbed quickly, and the ring that had been taken from the skeleton in the entry hall. Nogge and Brigette advanced on the corner of the room and poked ahead of them with the sword blades. Suddenly one noticed resistance and a voice cried out in pain! Goblin voices called out and disembodied arms wielding swords appeared out of nowhere, charging the party!

The goblins fought bravely, perhaps thinking they had the advantage, but three were cut down by swords and Notgandalf’s Magic Missile, and Drashi, wielding the Silver Axe of Sir Wylt, sliced clean through the arm of the fourth, dropping the arm and sword to the floor. Tarlan located the screaming invisible goblin and pulled an invisible cloak off it, revealing the now armless creature. He applied some bandages while others found the other bodies and removed invisible cloaks from them as well.

They questioned the goblin, who claimed to be from the Rikalu tribe, the “best goblins, better than the dirty Fivarin tribe”. He said the goblins in the camp would make short work of the party, for not only did they have warriors but also a mighty shaman. The party debated, and decided they couldn’t let the goblin flee to inform his comrades, so they put him out of his misery.

Brigette tried on one of the “invisibility cloaks” and discovered to her dismay that she couldn’t see anything while under it. “What use is a cloak of invisibility that you can’t see through?!” They also realised that the cloaks had not detected as magical to Notgandalf’s spell. Nevertheless, they bundled the invisible cloths up and took them.

Among the mess in the study they found several architectural drawings, showing apparent alternative layouts for the tower rooms. They all showed numbered rooms, and described the final room 24 as being the altar room. Furthermore, the window in this room looked east from level 6, directly above a window in the cell room 23 they had already visited. They surmised they were meant to climb down the chain from 22 to 23, and then out the other window from 23 to reach the altar in room 24.

Notgandalf actually wanted to climb down the chain directly to 23, but the others decided to just walk back the way they’d come through the rooms. They reached cell 23 to find Notgandalf waiting for them. Looking out the other window, on level 7 looking south, they noticed it not only had a chain dangling down to whatever unknown room had the window on level 6, but there was also a chain leading up to the rooftop. This seemed intriguing enough that they despatched Fingers to climb up. He secured a rope at the top to tie to people to avoid falling, and the rest of the party clambered onto the rooftop.

Here they found an 8-foot square stone altar placed on the crumbling roof, with carved magical sigils on the sides. Set into the stones of the rooftop was the brass number 24. This was the altar the undines wanted them to destroy!

Brigette: I gently stab the altar with the undine sword.

That did nothing. They tried chipping away at the magical sigils to deface them. Brigette and Drashi, using their dwarven stonecunnning, determined that the altar was not attached to the roof, and could probably be dragged or pushed if enough people were available. They estimated about ten people would be needed to shift it. And perhaps they could push it off the roof and let it smash on the ground below. They considered using ropes or levers, but there was no simple way to arrange this to gain a mechanical advantage.

The seven of them weren’t strong enough together to shift the altar. But they had five retainers waiting for them back at their camp in the mountain pass. The group sat to consider their options…

New content today:

Virtual Tokyo meeting, day 3

The final day of the ISO Photography Standards meeting was relatively easy compared to the first two. We had technical sessions on ISO DNG file format, and measuring image flare. This last one was the most interesting to me, and there was a cool presentation with videos showing how image flare changes as a bright light source is moved across the image frame. After this we had the closing plenary session, with administrative wrapping up of the meeting, finalising action items, and so on.

In between I spent a bit of time working on new character sheets to print out for D&D tomorrow night. Everyone has levelled up to third level and I also want to introduce a variant combat rule that relies on PCs making defence rolls instead of monsters making attack rolls, so I thought it was a good time to refresh the character sheets to contain the new defence roll stat.

The weather was warm, and I thought the air conditioning was struggling, until my wife got home and pointed out that one of the living room windows had been wide open all day! Oops.

New content today:

Virtual Tokyo meeting, day 2

It’s day 2 of the ISO Photography Standards meeting in Tokyo, which I’m attending virtually from home. But this morning’s first two sessions I had to miss as I had to go into the University of Technology, Sydney, for the first lecture of this year’s first year Data Engineering course. I’m tutoring the class again, which has about 150 students. The lecturer gave the introductory lecture and introduced me and the other tutors. In past years the course has been held in the evening, but this year it’s been timetabled from 12-3pm. This is actually good because it doesn’t clash with any of my existing online ethics classes, unlike in previous years when I’ve had to move some of them around. But it did mean I had to miss those first two sessions of the ISO meeting today.

I went into the city and grabbed some sushi from Woolies (supermarket) to eat quickly before the class began. I also dropped in at the photo printer I use to make art prints of my photos, to pick up the canvas print of a Portuguese door that I had made for a friend. I was hoping I could get it home on the train without having to deal with rain, and fortunately the unsettled weather held off so I got it home safely.

This afternoon/evening the standards sessions covered technical discussions on: revising the “Removable memory” standard to reflect modern movement away from removable memory in cameras; a new standard proposal on machine vision cameras; the current draft of the autofocus repeatability standard; and long discussions on high dynamic range gain maps and how to use them.

New content today:

Virtual Tokyo meeting, day 1

I’m virtually in Tokyo this week, attending the ISO Photography Standards meeting there by remote video link. Of course I’m actually still in Sydney, enjoying our super wet and humid weather. We had more thunderstorms today, but not as severe as yesterday.

The meeting began at 10:30 my time, so I had time to take Scully on a long walk this morning, with the goal of trying her out so she’d be relaxed for most of the day while I’m wired to the computer. I took her down the peninsula towards the ferry wharf, although not quite that far, as that’s a really long walk. She was indeed tired by the time we got home. Although it didn’t rain, I was soaking wet with the sweat and humidity and had to change my shirt again. On the way back in, we passed the new neighbour and their dog out in the park across the street, so stopped to say hello and let the dogs have another greeting. Their dog is a little growly towards Scully, but they met and sniffed each other a bit. So hopefully Scully is getting more used to the fact that the other dog is around.

When the meeting began we launched into the administrative opening session. I had a presentation to give about the Sydney meeting in October, covering things like the meeting venue, transport from the airport, visas for visiting Australia, hotels, and so on. We have a staff member from the Art Gallery of New South Wales on our Australian standards committee, who has offered to give the international delegates a behind-the-scenes tour of the gallery. This is best done on Wednesday evening, as the Art Gallery is open late on Wednesdays, so there will be staff around to meet and the delegates can browse the gallery at their leisure afterwards. The tour will be of the gallery’s photography labs, where they digitise artworks for preservation and publication purposes. The fact that this is best done on Wednesday evening restricts the exact dates of the meeting to certain days of the week, so we discussed refining the dates.

Other future meetings were discussed, and it looks like a meeting in Shenzhen or Hong Kong may be on the cards for October next year. And then perhaps a meeting in Cambridge in the UK for June 2026. That should be good if it goes ahead!

I took Scully out (in the pouring rain) and made a hurried lunch during the first coffee break, since the actual lunch break was two hours later in my time zone and I didn’t want to wait that long.

We had a presentation by a guy from Adobe about the new digital provenance initiative called C2PA. This is a collaboration between Adobe, Microsoft, and the BBC as the founding members, with several other major companies joining in, to establish standards for verifying the provenance of files such as images, videos, and so on. The idea is that there will be digitally cryptographically secure signatures that can be attached to files to establish the creator of the content. If a file is edited, the editor can attach additional information indicating that the file has been edited. Either way, the signature will no longer match the signature hash, indicating that the file is no longer in the same form as the original publisher released it. In this way, you can confirm that a file published by, say, the BBC, is the original content that they published, or if it has been altered in any way. And the metadata can save the original content with hash, so you can actually see what the original file was before it was edited. It’s a little tough to explain in words, given I’m no cryptography expert, but it sounds pretty neat, and something that is desperately needed in our current environment where fake images and edits and AI content abound and it’s getting harder and harder to tell truth from fiction.

The afternoon sessions were dedicated to technical discussion on high dynamic range image file formats. There’s a lot of this topic scheduled for this meeting, and it’s a technical topic that I’m not especially familiar with or interested in, so for me these sessions were a little tedious.

After the meeting ended, I quickly made some fried mushrooms on toast as dinner for myself, as my wife ate earlier without me while I was still listening to the technical discussions.

New content today:

A Monday off, sort of

I had nothing on my calendar for today. I used the time to work on a bunch of new comics for Darths & Droids. I wrote four strips, with help from co-authors, and made two of them. I could make another but it’s getting late.

The main exciting thing about today was the weather. The morning began thickly overcast, warming up with a stifling humidity. I took Scully for a walk at 08:30, and by the time we got home I had to change my shirt because it was soaked through with sweat.

The storm rolled in at midday. Thunder and lightning cracked across the sky. And then the rain pelted down. The gutters here overflowed within minutes, sending great sheets of water down past my windows. It was torrential. It eased off to steady hard rain, but intensified again and varied back and forth for about three hours. We recorded almost 30 mm of rain in those three hours. The storm caused flash flooding across the city.

There was a lot of lightning – the evening news said 75,000 strikes were recorded in the Sydney area. One of my friends’ office building was struck, shorting all the power including the lifts, doors, and fire panels. Nearly 20,000 homes were blacked out. And four people were struck by lighting and are now in serious condition in hospital. There were a couple of cracks of thunder that must have been lightning striking very close to my home.

It eased off later in the afternoon, and I managed to take Scully for a walk about 4:30pm, in just light rain. The creek in the park across the road was roaring with water. Normally it’s nothing more than a trickle. I wondered if our garage would have flooded again, but we’ve had new water pumps installed after the last time, and while there were some small pools in places there was no flooding.

I didn’t have any work for the day, but I did have to deal with a bunch of administrative emails from Outschool parents and kids, asking if there was a class today – they must have missed/forgotten the news that there were no classes this week. I had one ask for a refund for the missing class, unaware that they’d paid a week in advance for next week’s class, and last week they hadn’t been charged for this week’s (missing) one.

For dinner I made pizza with zucchini flowers that my wife had bought at the farmer’s market on Saturday.

New content today: