Voting and pizza

The weather was a bit better today, at least after mid-morning when the rain cleared up. I went on a big walk with my wife and Scully, down to the local council chambers, where they had pre-poll voting open for the local council elections that will be held next Saturday. We decided that we’d take the opportunity to vote early, rather than on election day, to avoid the crowds.

Here in Australia we have three levels of government, and so three types of elections. Federal government (which will be coming up for election early next year), State government, and local government. This is a local election, to elect the mayor and councillors of local government areas, which are essentially either towns, or chunks of large cities – for example Sydney has 12 local government areas. So anyway, this was a local government election, which had been postponed last year due to COVID, and then again this year for a few more months, so it’s about 16 months overdue.

There were almost no other people there to vote, so we didn’t need to wait at all – it was just straight in and out. There were a few campaigners outside trying to talk to anyone going inside. I got to snub the mayor. I always just ignore all of the campaigners and walk straight past them.

I worked on some Irregular Webcomic! strips and annotation this afternoon. And for dinner we went out for pizza at the local place up the road. It was a good casual dinner, simple, with some cheap chunky glasses of red wine, and staff who know us and stop to have a chat while serving.

New content today:

Extreme wet Friday late update

On Friday morning I received an email response to a question I’d sent to Outschool. (Friday morning here being Thursday evening in the USA, which is relevant.) It said that they’d get back to me in a while, because currently staffing was very low due to the holiday. My first thought was, “Are they all on Christmas holidays already?”

It took me a few minutes to realise it was Thanksgiving in the USA. This happens every year around the end of November – people all start wondering why nobody in America is answering their emails all of a sudden. Just one of those weird international things.

Friday was wet – very wet. The rain was pretty heavy most of the day, with very brief periods when it eased up a bit. I managed to get a 2.5k run in, starting with no rain but it was drizzling again by the time I finished. I had a couple of Outschool lessons and there was thunder and lightning.

Sydney’s not even copping the worst of this weather. Inland is getting a lot more rain, which is causing widespread flooding. Some places have received triple the average November rainfall in the past week, and some of the flooding is approaching “worst ever” conditions. Meanwhile, nearer home, Warragamba Dam is reported to be overflowing this morning. This could cause floods in north-west Sydney, downstream from the dam.

During the day I worked on a report for Standards Australia on the latest ISO Photography Standards meeting I attended back in October. We have a follow-up Australian meeting next week, so I had to get this report written.

And in the evening was virtual games night. I played Balloon Pop, 6 Nimmt, 7 Wonders on Board Game Arena, then we played Scattergories and finished with a round of Gartic Phone.

New content today:

Rain, sushi, and data engineering

More weather – more rain. The morning was cloudy and the rain started a bit after lunch – while I was taking Scully home from my wife’s work. I went via the shops to get some sushi rolls for lunch and we sat under a plane tree for shelter in the village square. Fortunately it didn’t rain too hard while we were there.

But I did hear a woman get attacked by magpies. She was sitting and eating her lunch, which looked like a box of hot chips and something, maybe fish or a burger or whatever. She was there for some time with magpies stalking around her, looking for a handout. The magpies don’t bother me while I’m eating there because I have Scully with me and she gives them the evil eye. I was looking the other way when suddenly I heard a loud scream, and I looked around the the woman was beating off magpies from the lunch on her lap. I didn’t see, but I assume one jumped right onto her food, because she got up and threw the lot into a bin.

This is the problem with feeding birds in urban areas. They get used to handouts, and they get aggressive when people are eating.

My main work today was planning out lectures for next year’s data engineering course at the university (for which I’m assisting the lecturer in redesigning the course from this year). I wrote lecture outlines for a lecture on data presentation, and one on data fitting and modelling. Next Tuesday we have a meeting to go over and discuss the plans to start locking things into place and moving onto the next stage of developing the course. We need to figure out the assessment tasks, and weave them into the course material.

New content today:

Introducing species

The weather today was forecast to be rainy again but the morning seemed dry, so I went out for a run while I could do so without getting wet. It was time for another 5k, and I agonised over whether to do laps of the oval, which is nice and flat, but incredibly boring, or do my street route, which is much more interesting, but also much more hilly. I decided I’d go for interesting, and grit out the hills. Given the humidity (91%), maybe it wasn’t the best choice, because I was struggling by the end.

And then it wasn’t helped by the fact that the footbridge I usually run across to cross the creek in the last few hundred metres was closed for construction work when I got there! I had to take the alternative route which goes down into the gully via a series of steps—about 30 or 40 steps—followed by climbing back up the other side. That slowed me down a lot, but I managed to finish the 5k in 30:15. Phew!

Today I worked on the new ethics class material for the week, on introduced species. Then I ran the class this evening with the first three groups of kids. The kids never fail to surprise, and really keep me on my toes. I’d written a sequence of questions beginning with the idea of culling to control introduced species that have become invasive and are serious pests, destroying native species and costing billions of dollars in crop damage (specifically starlings in North America). I’d kind of assumed that the kids would be okay with controlling the species in this way, and staged my follow-up questions based on that. But I was surprised when two of the kids in the first class said that culling should not be done, because it’s cruel, regardless of the fact that the birds cause immense damage. So I had to think on my feet and restructure the follow-up questions, to avoid it descending into a series of “Same as my previous answer” responses.

The next two classes went a bit more according to plan, but now I have some alternate pathways through the material depending on what responses the kids give to the early questions. I do this a lot with the classes. Usually by the end of the week the sequence of questions is quite different to what I started with, as it evolves every class.

New content today:

A couple of 500 milestones

In a strange coincidence, two milestones involving the number 500 occurred in the last few days:

I reached a 500 day streak of Italian practice on DuoLingo. I’m not sure if this is my longest streak. I had a long streak going a couple of years ago before it got interrupted by travel. But a few minutes of language practice every single day has become a habit now.

And my wife reached 500 sales of dog bandanas on her Etsy shop!

Also, not quite 500, but today’s 2.5k run this morning brought me up to a total of 60 kilometres run this month so far. The weather was intermittent light drizzle today, but we have heavy rain coming up for the next few days.

Today I worked on science slides for tonight’s one-on-one science lesson with a student online. I’m doing chronological dating tonight, explaining carbon and uranium radioactive dating, and dendrochronology using tree rings.

New content today:

Chilly and a bit wet

The cool wet week continued on this Monday, but it wasn’t as rainy as yesterday. I had to bake a sourdough loaf this morning so that we had bread, so I didn’t have time to go for a run before my two ethics classes.

That finished off the week of the topic on cancel culture. It was an interesting topic to discuss with the kids, because there was a wide range of opinions about it. Some of them thought it was fine to cancel celebrities who do something offensive, because they’re in the public and eye and need to behave themselves, and if they suffer the consequences then it’s their own fault. While others thought that the public acting as judge, jury, and executioner, potentially ruining someone’s career and life because they said something online, was going way too far. And there were a range of kids in between, thinking it was fair enough for really offensive things, repeated, but not for mildly offensive things, or things that might be one-offs or accidents.

After my classes I had some lunch and then picked up Scully from my wife’s work. I used the afternoon to write annotations for a new week’s worth of Irregular Webcomic! When my wife got home I went for my daily 2.5k run, then came home and made pizza for dinner (I’d made the dough just before my wife got home).

New content today:

A very rainy Sunday

Sydney was cold and wet today. We only got up to 16.3°C, which is ridiculously cold for late November, and it rained basically non-stop all day. This is only the beginning too, as rain is forecast every day for at least the next week, with significant amounts on several days. Warragamba Dam, our main water supply, is already full to capacity, and the surrounding catchment area is already saturated from rain last week. If it has to be spilt to release water, it could lead to flooding downstream. It could in fact lead to the second “once in 100 years” level flood event in Sydney – this year, after the floods of February.

This is La Niña in action. We were told months ago we’d be in for a cool, wet summer, and it looks to be the case. Although in some sense it’s better than El Niño and the dry hot summer we had two years ago, with all the terrible fires.

Despite the rain, I gritted it out and did a 2.5 km run. I picked a period where the rain radar showed what looked like easing conditions, but it lied, and the rain actually got heavier as I ran. Since this exercise routine is still very new, I haven’t done a run in steady rain before. It was somewhat unpleasant… but at least I didn’t get too hot. Oddly, although a do a there-and-back sort of route, somehow the wind was blowing the rain straight into my face for about 90% of the route.

In the dry comfort of home, I worked on comics again. I managed to churn out three new Darths & Droids strips and five new Irregular Webcomics, so that gives me some breathing room to work on other things for the next few days.

New content today:

Joint Friday/Saturday update

I missed Friday’s post because I got home late after the first face-to-face board games night with my friends since before the Sydney COVID lockdown began in June. I headed over after teaching my Friday evening ethics classes, and arrived in the middle of a game of Jump Drive. The host ducked out to cook sausages and onions on the barbecue while I joined in for another game. I was doing reasonably well, but ended up coming second (of three players) after another player surged ahead in the last couple of turns.

After eating dinner, we played Nidavellir, with the Thingvellir expansion set, with 5 players. We’ve played Nidavellir on Board Game Arena a lot this past year and it’s a bit of a favourite right now, but this was the first time any of us had played it with the physical board game components. One guy had bought it just before lockdown and had been itching to play it. It’s the first time we’ve played with the expansion. It added some additional options and complexity, but seemed straightforward enough. It didn’t really affect the game much, I thought. I did okay, but one guy completely ran away with the game with a ridiculous number of green dwarves.

Next we played It’s a Wonderful World, which I hadn’t played before. It was easy to learn and quickish to play – under an hour including teaching time. You could play a game in about 40 minutes once players are familiar I think. It was intriguing and fun, with lots of interactions as you build up your resources and empire.

Other things done on Friday: Weekly grocery shopping, in person, rather than just picking up and online order. I’d forgotten how time consuming it is to walk down all the aisles of the supermarket. 2.5k run. And looking after Scully all day because my wife had a training thing at work and didn’t take her in to the office.

Saturday: 2.5k run. Worked on Darths & Droids writing. Unfortunately our buffer is still non-existent. I need to write and construct at least a week’s worth of strips in the next day, and then do it again a few days later, to build it up.

This evening we all went out for dinner to a French crêpe place. We had savoury galettes, and then sweet dessert crêpes. It’s a nice and slightly exotic dinner, to make us feel a bit like we’re on a holiday somewhere.

New content yesterday and today:

More frogmouth

Today was much less busy than the past few days. However I still had a few things to do. A morning run, another 2.5k. An ethics lesson at 11am. I went out to get lunch from the fish & chips shop, which I haven’t done for a few weeks now, and eat it sitting at the lookout spot over the harbour.

The day was warm and sunny, and rather than walk home along the streets, I decided to take the bushwalk route down to the waterline and then up the creek, which is much shadier, being deep below the forest canopy. It’s a pleasant walk when dry, but gets muddy for several after days rain. With no rain for the past week or so, it was a good time to do it.

This afternoon I worked on some Darths & Droids story issues, which needed to be resolved before writing the next few strips. I hoped to get at least one new comic completed today, but I didn’t get that far.

I took Scully out for a short walk late in the afternoon, over to the bridge where I saw the tawny frogmouths yesterday, because the chick was still there today.

Tawny frogmouth chick

There was a small crowd of a few people there watching the chick and taking photos. One woman pointed out that the parents were on a branch high above. So they were definitely hanging around.

New content today:

Double busy double day update

I completely missed writing a post yesterday due to my day being full of work, and wanting to get to bed not too late. Today was also very busy, but I thought I should not miss two days in a row!

I spent a lot of time yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) marking and finalising my comments on the UTS image processing course student assignments. I really wanted to get them done today, so I can move on to other tasks tomorrow.

Yesterday I also did a 5k run. I’m trying to fit in a 5k distance once a week and figured it was a good day to do it. Last time I did my street route, with hills, and it was exhausting, so this time I went back to running laps on the oval.

After completing the run, I walked home via the Gore Hill Cemetery, where spring wildflowers are blooming. This is an old cemetery—no burials have taken place here for many decades—and it has been allowed to become overgrown with plants. And this time of year it’s incredibly beautiful with all of the flowers.

Gore Hill Cemetery in spring

Gore Hill Cemetery in spring

Because I spent the rest of the day working on marking, I didn’t have time to prepare new slides and material for my one-on-one science lesson on Outschool. So I repurposed an old presentation I made years ago for a primary school talk on stars and stellar evolution, and used that.

Today, this morning I did another 2.5k run. I write my lesson plan for the next week of ethics classes, this time on the topic of cancel culture. Then I got stuck back into marking to finish off that task. I managed to complete it, and posted all of my marks and comments for the lecturer to collate.

I made vegetable soup for dinner, because I needed something I could eat early before my ethics classes began at 6pm, and that my wife could heat up easily later when she got home from gym to eat. I gobbled down some soup quickly and then got stuck into three classes in a row, ending at 9pm…. when I had an ISO Photography standards meeting! This is an “in between” ad-hoc technical group meeting for the topic of visual imaging noise, one of the technical topics in which I have more of an interest. It was scheduled to go until 10:30, but ended up running late and not finishing until 11pm. So now it’s getting close to midnight while I type this up.

Oh, I almost forgot! On my run this morning, towards the end, I cross a footbridge over a creek. While running across, I saw two tawny frogmouths sitting on a branch, at eye level and only about 4-5 metres away from the bridge. I completed my run and went home, and came back out with my camera, hoping they’d still be there. It was a good bet, as frogmouths are nocturnal and tend to find a roost for the day and then not move during daylight hours. And indeed, they were still there when I got back:

Tawny frogmouth with chick

It’s a chick and a parent, nestling together. A really great opportunity to get some close up photos, even if they were fast asleep.

Tawny frogmouth with chick

And with that… time for bed…

New content, yesterday and today: