Games night roundup

I’m posting late again due to the fortnightly board games night happening last night. Yesterday was very busy.

I started with the weekly grocery shop, then launched straight into taking photos for a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I finished that just before lunch, had lunch, and then went on to writing my lesson plan for the afternoon’s online ethics class. In between I had to pick up Scully from my wife’s work, and then after I’d finished writing the lesson I took Scully out for a bit of exercise to get her tired so she’d rest through the lesson and I wouldn’t need to interrupt it to take her out again.

After last week’s class had 5 students in it, this time there were only two, and one had connection problems, so popped in and out a bit before giving up. So for most of the lesson I only had one kid. We discusses natural resources, and the questions of whether it’s okay or not for people to use resources that are just lying around in nature – such as forests, water, minerals, etc. I raised many questions over whether various resources were needed by people, or whether using them deprived other people, or caused harm in various ways. With just the one student it was interesting to explore exactly what she thought on these issues and dig deeply into her reasoning. Several times when I asked her to explain why she thought a certain way, it took a lot of thinking for her to articulate her reasons. She said she really enjoyed the lesson, when it was done.

When that was done it was time to head off for games night! Usually we order pizza, but tonight we decided to get Thai food from the place near where we all used to work. They make excellent dishes there, and we used to be spoiled having them for lunch, but we’ve all missed out since losing our jobs there and going our separate ways. One guy picked up a bunch of dishes on the way and we all shared them – it was great.

For games, we started off with A Fake Artist Goes to New York. This is a party-style game where everyone has to collaboratively draw a picture. The catch is that all the drawers except one know what they’re drawing. At the start of each round, one person (who will not be drawing) selects a thing to draw and writes it on slips of paper, and gives those to the artists – except that one of the artists just gets an X and has no idea what the other artists will be drawing. The artists then take it in turns to draw a piece of the artwork, by placing their pen, drawing a contiguous line, and lifting just once. Each artist who knows what they’re drawing tries to draw something so that others will know that they know; while the artists who doesn’t know just has to bluff as best they can. But the catch is that the artists can’t make it too obvious, because then the artist who doesn’t know will figure it out. Once everyone has drawn twice, the artists all simultaneously vote/accuse someone of being the imposter. If a majority get it right, the real artists get a point – unless the imposter can successfully name what they were trying to draw, in which case the imposter gets a point. If the artists don’t identify the imposter, the imposter gets a point. And you play several rounds.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York

Here’s what we came up with (with the correct word added after the round so you can see). Because the artists are trying to reveal they know the word but without giving it away to the imposter, the drawing become rather abstracted. Of course this runs the risk of other artists not being able to successfully infer that you know what you’re doing. For example, for the “Church” drawing, two real artists drew two parts of a cross, separately, and they knew what each other was doing, but the other true artists had no idea what they were drawing and thought maybe one of them was the imposter.

Next we played Fantasy Realms. This is a card game where you have to collect a hand of seven cards, drawing and discarding rummy style, except the discard pile is laid out in full and you can draw any discard you want.

Fantasy Realms

Once the draw pile is exhausted, each player totals up the points in their hand. Simple! Except each card is worth a certain number of points, which usually varies depending on other cards in their hand. So the goal is to collect the various combos that enhance one another and minimise the combos that subtract points. I won this game with a combo hand of wizards and beasts! I actually grabbed the Warlock Lord (shown in the discard pile in the photo) despite having 5 wizards and thus it having a -40 point penalty, because another card gave me +100 points for having five cards of the same suit (wizards in this case).

After this we moved on to King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo

A simple dice rolling, beat-em-up game where each player is a giant monster attempting to rampage through Tokyo and defeat all the other monsters. I didn’t do so well in this one!

After that we split into two groups and I tried a new game for me: Nova Luna.

Nova Luna

This is an abstract game in which you need to collect tiles and lay them out in front of you, forming various combinations that allow you to place discs on some of the tiles. The goal is simply to be first to have used up all your discs. The intricacy comes about from the method of claiming tiles using a “moon phase” board – if you select low numbered tiles they are less useful, but you get to move again before other players, whereas if you select high numbered tiles they are often more useful, but you will need to wait longer before you get another turn. So there’s an interesting mix of strategies to consider. It was a very close game. I thought I was going strong and set myself up to win on my next turn with a high numbered tile, but the other players then each got multiple turns before I could go again, and two of them managed to finish before me!

To finish, we played Tussie Mussie. This is a very innocent looking card game in which you have to collect a set of four flowers, and then everyone scores points for their set. Each flower is worth 0, 1, or 2 points, but many also have abilities that give them bonus points when combined with other flowers, or restrictions that attract penalties if certain conditions are met.

The evil comes in the way the you collect flowers. Each person in turn draws two flowers, looks at them, then places one face up and one face down, and offers them to the player on the left. That player must choose one – either the one they can see, or the face down one. So the idea is to make the one you want to keep for yourself seem less tempting, without giving away that you want it for yourself. There’s a lot of psychological warfare and guessing going on, and it becomes very difficult to figure out the best move.

Another fine entry in the category of games that look sweet and innocent but are evil psychological minefields. We love them!

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Fish & chips & birds

My wife was a bit under the weather this morning and called in sick to work. She stayed in bed all morning, so I looked after taking Scully out for a morning jaunt (normally her job). And then at lunch time I felt like going out for fish & chips, so I took Scully on a longer walk.

We got the food and walked out to sit at my usual fish & chips lunch spot.

Holloway view

I let Scully off the lead to run around a bit on the grass while I ate.

Scully at Holloway Reserve

There were magpies there eyeing my lunch, and Scully chased and scattered them a few times before settling down and just letting them be. One magpie lurked in the tree above me.

Australian magpie

I stood up to get this photo and it didn’t retreat. This was shot with my phone, and the image is not cropped at all. I was maybe only 30 cm away when I took it.

Back home, I mostly worked on writing Irregular Webcomic! scripts. I’m hoping I have enough time tomorrow to shoot photos for this batch. But I also need to prepare my lesson for tomorrow afternoon’s ethics lesson. What’s the topic…. Natural Resources. Hmm. I guess that shouldn’t be too difficult.

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Random task ticking

For my face-to-face ethics class at the school this morning, I’d been informed that the Year 5 students would be away at their school camp this week. My class is a combined Year5 + Year 6 group, with mostly Year 5s. So today I ended up with a class with just 4 students in it.

This was not bad, as such a small number makes it practical to let them off the tether a bit more, and devolve into spontaneous discussion of the topics without needing me to quell the chatter so much. All I needed to do was keep the conversation on the topic. And because I didn’t want the Year 5s to miss out on the conclusion of the moral responsibility topic that we’ve been doing for the past two weeks, I skipped to a different topic and discussed arguments with the kids today. As in the structure of a logical argument, and how the conclusion depends on the premises and on the logical connection between them.

We did get a little sidetracked on one of the examples:

Premise: Downloading music without paying for it is illegal.

Conclusion: Downloading music without paying for it is morally wrong.

Validity of the logic aside, the kids actually got stuck complaining about the first premise, saying that there are plenty of sites now where you can download free music legally. I’m pretty sure the intention of the exercise was that the premise be true, but that times have changed since it was written. I’ll have to submit a note to the curriculum organiser that the example should probably be changed to avoid kids going off on a tangent.

Today I intended to write a bunch of new Irregular Webcomic! strips. But I had a bunch of other little tasks to get done, and I ended up spending much of the day ticking those off. Random boring stuff like banking, and contacting the hospital to make sure they have all my data for the tonsillectomy next week. I’m not looking forward to that!

On a different topic, here’s Scully wearing one of her winter outfits:

Scully's winter outfit

The bandana is one made by my wife, and available on her Etsy shop: Scully xo.

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Closing the ISO meeting

It was back to work today after the long weekend for my wife. This gave me time to work on catching up on Darths & Droids writing to repopulate the buffer. I want to get several strips in reserve because next week I have surgery to remove my tonsils (mentioned previously), and I’m not sure how productive I’ll be able to be for the few days afterwards. Surgery is never fun and I’m not looking forward to it.

This afternoon I took Scully to the dog park. It was a chilly day, and partly cloudy, and as the afternoon passed it threatened rain. Fortunately the rain didn’t develop while we were out at the park, but the clouds were dramatic and illuminated beautifully when the sun approached the horizon.

Blazing sunset at the dog park

With sunset being around 5pm here at the moment, it’s starting to get dark by the time we head home from the dog park. I always look forward to the winter solstice and knowing that the sunlight hours are starting to get longer again.

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Queen’s Birthday holiday unwind

Today is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday here in New South Wales. We’re a weird country – half our public holidays are observed on a state-by-state basis and can occur on different days of the year even when multiple states have the same named holiday.

Anyway, it was good for my wife to have the day off after we both laboured at the market all day Saturday and Sunday. We took Scully out on a long walk around lunchtime, when the day had warmed up a bit and the early grey cloud had parted to let the sun through.

Before that, I had another online ethics class in the morning. It was a repeat of last Friday’s one on advertising, with three new kids. This time it was very interesting, because there were some rather fundamental disagreements among them, which made for a lively discussion. One student was of the opinion that advertising was just annoying and should be banned altogether, or at the very least that any false advertising or exaggeration in advertising should be banned. Another student said that yes it was annoying sometimes, but advertising was important because otherwise people would have no idea what products were available, and companies would go out of business and people would lose jobs and so on. He also said that while outright lying was bad, it was okay if advertisers exaggerated, because everybody knew that ads didn’t really tell the whole truth anyway, so they should expect it. The third student was somewhere in the middle.

It was good because it stayed civil, and it was definitely more interesting than lessons where all the kids just agree with one another on everything.

This afternoon I worked on Darths & Droids writing and comic construction.

And this evening I tried an experiment and put some pomegranate arils onto pizza that I’d made for dinner (after it came out of the oven). It worked pretty well, and my wife put more on her subsequent slices.

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Second market day

This morning I was very tired, and could hardly drag myself out of bed at the appropriate time to get ready for the second day of the Turramurra Market. My wife and I arrived there just before it opened, which was fine since everything was still set up from yesterday.

Today went a bit better, with more people coming through, and more stopping to chat and look through our stuff. I sold more greeting cards, and my wife sold a lot more doggie bandanas. But although we did better, overall it wasn’t quite enough to turn a profit on the stall rental for the weekend. This market is on again in September, but I don’t think we’ll go next time.

We had some more conversation with the woman who was running the biscuit stall next to us. She’s English, and she was telling us tales about her days over there. And… it turns out that her brother-in-law is the drummer and founding member of the band Racey! I was in awe, but she was actually surprised that I’d ever heard of them.

At the end of the day we packed up and I had to do two trips home in the car to take everything, but that was okay because the woman who runs the market was still packing up by the time I got back for the second load.

And this evening I’m just relaxing, watching some Doctor Who and taking it easy, after a very busy seven days.

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Last late night and market day

Last night was the last of five late nights of Zoom meetings for photography standards. The session again began at 23:00 and ended a few minutes late, after 02:30. The wrap-up session is administrative stuff, going over results from the technical discussions, action items, and setting up the next meeting, which will be in October. One important issue was deciding on a response to the Chinese notice of intention to start working on photography related standards within the International Telecommunications Union. I won’t go into details here, but we’re putting on the diplomatic cotton gloves because this is potentially a large issue.

I slept in to 08:00 this morning, but then had to get up to prepare for the day at Turramurra Market. I’d driven most of my stock out yesterday evening and set it up in the venue (which is locked up overnight). So this morning I basically only had to show up on time, and set up a small amount of additional stock that I brought on the second trip. My wife and Scully came along, so she could sell her doggie bandanas as well.

The market was… small. Very small. Smaller than I expected. There were just nine stalls, including mine. Lindfield has about 50 stalls, and Kirribilli which I did twice has close to 200, and of course correspondingly higher traffic. People did come through regularly, but there were never any significant numbers – maybe a maximum of 8 or 9 people browsing at any one time, and dropping down to virtually zero at times. I sold a few greeting cards, but not enough to make a profit on the stall rental. And we are booked to do it again tomorrow. Hopefully more people will come through on the Sunday.

Our stall was next to a woman selling biscuits. She had a small baking company, making shortbread style sweet and savoury biscuits. Food stalls always do well. People walk past my photography stall and have a glance and, no, they don’t have any use for greeting cards or a wall hanging. But everyone eats. So she was selling biscuits hand over fist. In between we chatted and she was telling me stories about her life and travels around the world. It was good, because it helped to pass the time in which there were no customers!

When the market closed up for the day we came home, and then went out for dinner at a local Greek restaurant. After a long week, I really felt like relaxing and having a nice dinner that I didn’t have to cook. Just the market tomorrow to go, and then I can really relax next week.

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Surprisingly easy Friday

After yesterday’s horrible headlong crash into COVID-19 vaccination side effects, I managed to get a decent sleep and woke up this morning feeling a lot better. And also much more refreshed than I had any right to be after going to bed at 02:30. I presume the nap attempts I took yesterday helped. I was actually much more alert during last night’s standards meeting than I have been any previous night, as well. So I’m happy to report that the feverish/lethargic reaction to the vaccine has passed almost as quickly as it came on.

Last night’s standards meeting went through a few more technical sessions, on image stabilisation, depth metrology, and high dynamic range and wide colour gamut image encoding.

After I woke up this morning, I had the weekly grocery shop to do. I spent some time working on Darths & Droids, and then had my online ethics class in the afternoon, today with 5 students, which is a new record number. It does mean each student doesn’t get as much time to answer questions and I have to cycle through them, but hopefully they all enjoyed it and got something valuable out of it. The topic today was advertising, and pondering questions of why we have advertising, whether you can trust it, and whether it should be regulated in various ways.

After that, I drove out to Turramurra (a Sydney suburb) with the car full of stock for my market stall, as I am running the stall there on both days of this weekend. The venue is indoors and was available for setting up this evening to save time tomorrow morning. I was happy to take advantage of this since I won’t want to get up early tomorrow after another 02:30 finish for tonight’s ISO meeting!

Then I drove home again and watched the Twitch stream of a guy who was solving puzzles from the 2016 mezzacotta Puzzle Competition that I’d written. And that ended just before tonight’s ISO meeting session, which I’m now in…

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COVID vaccine effects

Last night was rough. As I said yesterday, I had my first COVID-19 vaccination. I’ve never had any reactions to flu shots before, so I wasn’t expecting much.

As the evening wore on and I prepared for my 23:00 start for the ongoing ISO standards meetings, I began to feel worse. I was very tired, although that could easily have been due to the accumulation of late nights, but I also started feeling a bit feverish. Then a lot feverish. I started shivering during the ISO meeting, quite violently. This was not helped at all by the fact that we’re experiencing unusually cold weather at the moment. I was rugged up with warm clothes, but still felt pretty bad, and I had to struggle through the Zoom meeting in this state.

Finally after the meeting ended at 02:30 I crawled into bed, feeling pretty awful, chilly and shivering. It took me a long time to warm up and fall asleep. Then this morning I had to get up at 07:00 rather than sleeping in, because my wife had a Zoom interview and wanted me to take Scully out so there’d be no interruptions.

I rugged up again and took Scully up the street to a nearby cafe for breakfast. I very rarely go out for breakfast, but when I do I often have eggs benedict, since I’ve never felt like tackling hollandaise sauce at home. So I got that, and it was very good. Although the weather was cold—and more about that in a minute—I felt better and was comfortable with Scully keeping my lap warm as I ate.

I was waiting for my wife to message me that she’d finished her Zoom call and had gone to work, so I could drop Scully at the office with her. But I’d finished eating and was ready to go, and no message. So I decided to see what sweets they had, and the carrot cake looked good. When the waitress came by, I asked, “Can I please have a slice of the carrot (ping!) cake?” The ping was the message from my wife! But now I’d committed to the cake and couldn’t back down. So I sat for another 15 minutes and ate the cake. It was really good, a top notch carrot cake, and I don’t regret it at all.

Today I tried to have a bit of a nap around lunch time, when I had a sudden wave of tiredness. I’m not sure if I really slept, but lying down and closing my eyes for 1.5 hours seemed to help. I also hopped into bed after dinner, at 8pm, to try and sleep a little before tonight’s meeting began at 23:00 again. As I type, the meeting has just begun, and I feel much better than last night. So the COVID vaccine reaction lasted about 24 hours and seems to have subsided fully now.

On to weather. Today was remarkable – it was very cold. The temperature in Sydney rose to only 10.3°C, which was the coldest day for 25 years, and the coldest June day for 122 years. And persistent light rain and wind made it feel even colder. A lot of areas further inland got snow, and there were many images of it as the lead item on the news tonight.

Finally, last night’s photography standards meeting was again interesting, with technical discussion of image noise measurement, camera autofocus performance, and image flare measurement. We also had an update on the issue with China pursuing separate standards via the ITU which I mentioned yesterday. The representative from Apple had had a conversation with Apple’s legal team and reported that standards work is technically open – if interested members of the public want to access meeting records they can, although the process is not necessarily easy. So the US State Department prohibition on US citizens meeting Huawei employees doesn’t apply. Also, there was some other legal advice regarding how ISO can react to other organisations essentially stealing scope. Overall it’s going to be an interesting process to see what happens out of this.

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Taking it easy… until 2:30 am

Last night I had the second night of Zoom meetings for ISO Photograph standards. We got stuck into the technical sessions. First up was a presentation by some people from JPEG (by which I mean ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1, Subcommittee 29), mostly about the new JPEG XS streaming image file format they are developing. They explained briefly how it worked and the advantages over other streaming image compression methods. They also gave some updates on other things that JPEG are working on. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about image coding formats so didn’t get a whole lot out of it, but some parts were interesting.

Next was discussion of the revision of ISO 12233, a standard for measuring camera lens resolution. This has been being updated for nearly 3 years now, and we’re still not converging on something agreeable to all the technical experts in all countries. We ended up with the project leader deciding to give it one more go and submit a new draft for balloting, to see if we can get it finalised before the looming project deadline. If we can’t get consensus with that, we may have to cancel the project and restart it afresh.

Then we had updates on the adoption of Adobe’s DNG digital negative format as an ISO standard. That seems to be progressing slowly, as it has for a couple of years now.

And finally we had a new liaison proposal letter from the International Telecommunications Union, suggesting a formal liaison with a new group under that organisation who are proposing to standardise material related to (1) automatic white balance, (2) image metadata related to aesthetic qualities, and (3) metadata related to computational photography. This was interesting, because as the ISO committee on photography, these things very likely fall under our scope, and other organisations trying to standardise them pose a danger of proliferating/incompatible standards. And a further issue was that every single person listed on the liaison technical committee leadership was Chinese. The Chinese are known for pursuing their own standardisation goals, including existing cases where China then adopts a commercial standard that other countries don’t use, but which manufacturers in other countries suddenly need to follow if they want to continue doing business in China. So this is quite a delicate situation. It was further complicated by the US delegates pointing out that they are forbidden by the US State Department from conducting closed meetings (i.e. meetings not open to the public) with representatives of Huawei. The proposed liaison could be construed as such a meeting. So we actually have a very tricky situation to deal with. Most people at the meeting last night suggested that the best thing to do was ignore the liaison request, while others suggested a measured response to probe exactly what their intentions are and to point out that their proposals fall within ISO scope, and hint that they should back off. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out.

After the meeting ended, a few minutes late at about 02:40 this morning, I finally went to bed. I couldn’t sleep in too late this morning, as I had my face-to-face ethics class at the local school. I was extremely tired last night, but my body is still in the same time zone, so during the day today I didn’t feel too bad. Tonight at the meeting is going to be difficult though.

After ethics I had a booking for my first COVID-19 vaccination shot. It was very quick and easy, but I had to drive a few suburbs away to a clinic that was doing them. As it was lunchtime, I found a bakery afterwards to grab some lunch, which I reviewed once more for Snot Block & Roll.

This afternoon I considered taking a nap to catch up on sleep, but I’ve never been able to have naps effectively. I just can’t fall asleep during daylight hours. And I didn’t even feel all that tired, so it would have been pretty impossible. So I just relaxed and did some fun things. Let’s see how I go tonight…

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