Australia Day 2021

It’s the last day of the unofficial four-day weekend, and also the hottest day of the current four-day long heatwave that is clenching south-eastern Australia. We are expected to get some reprieve from the heat tomorrow, but there wont be a sudden cooling down this evening – it’s still going to be quite warm at midnight, and cool gently into a milder day tomorrow.

I got up this morning, had breakfast, and was just about to get a batch of sourdough that I’d made yesterday out of the fridge to shape into a loaf for baking… and the power went out.

A check of the power company website confirmed a blackout across a couple of suburbs, affecting approximately 1700 homes. Interestingly, my property was right on the edge of the affected zone, as shown on the map. Close enough such that the block of townhouses next door to us still had power. Anyway, not knowing when I’d have power to use the oven, I left the dough in the fridge, and hoped that the blackout wouldn’t last long enough for frozen things to start melting.

It’s sobering how little of your normal daily routine you can do with no power. Instead I did a session of stretching exercises. Then I was bored enough to clean the bathroom, thoroughly washing the floor and then polishing the tiles, and start work on cleaning the kitchen. The power came back about 9:30 am, and I immediately turned the air conditioning on, because it was already getting very hot.

Sydney city reached 37°C, and some suburban areas approached 42°C. The city is almost always cooler because it’s close to the coast, and inland suburbs hotter. It was the hottest Australia Day for some large number of years which I forget – something of the order of 50 or 60 years. And, including the day before the heatwave officially began, Sydney recorded its 5th consecutive day of temperatures above 30°C – which is a thing that has happened only 7 times since weather records began in 1858. And all 7 of those 5-day high temperature streaks occurred either this summer or last summer. Sydney had never experienced 5 days that hot in a row before 2019.

Outdoors was oven-like, and also very humid by the way. This was not a “dry heat” by any stretch of the imagination. It was oppressively humid. I had to take Scully out for toilets a couple of times, and although I stood still, in the deep shade of a tree, and in fact there was a bit of a breeze, I was still dripping with sweat after a couple of minutes. So we spent most of the day inside with the air conditioning making things bearable.

Until about 3:20 pm when my wife and I settled down to watch the first episode of series 11 of Doctor Who – the first Jodie Whitaker episode. I had navigated the DVD menu and my thumb was just about to press the button to start playing the episode… and the power went off again. Checking the power company map on my phone, the same area was affected, but with a few additional small areas as well.

Again, it didn’t come back on for a couple of hours, during which the house slowly got warmer. So we had about 4 hours without power in total, over two separate blackouts. I have no idea what the problem was. I can only hope that it doesn’t occur again.

Time for some ice cream… I think.

New content today:

Long weekend by proxy, day 3

It’s the Monday before Australia Day, and my wife has taken the day off work, so it’s kind of a 4-day weekend for us.

A new poll released this morning finds that 48% of Australians think that Australia Day (our official national day) should remain on the 26th of January, while 28% think that the date should be changed (with 24% not committed either way). This is a never-ending public debate, which, frankly, will continue to never end until the date is finally changed. The tide is slowly turning – those numbers in favour of changing the date have been increasing over the years, and they will continue to increase as younger generations of Australians replace older ones.

For anyone not aware, Australia Day is the 26th of January, which is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of English settlers (and convicts) to arrive in Australia, in 1788. Australia’s indigenous population, quite naturally, don’t view this is a particularly good date to be celebrating – seeing it instead as a date when their land was stolen and their culture upended. Older, conservative, white Australians tend to say it’s a day for all Australians to come together and celebrate being a united nation, blind to the fact that this is insulting to the indigenous population. Younger Australians are more sensitive to this sort of issue and are starting to get behind the calls to change the date of Australia’s national day to something less offensive and more actually unifying.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the date of Australia Day will be changed in the future. It’s just a question of how soon. It’ll take the order of a generation, for the older conservative population to die away and the younger population to replace them. Interestingly, Wikipedia’s article on Australia Day has half the entire content just on the campaign to change the date.

Australia has this weird relationship with so many of our national symbols. There’s also a strong movement to change the flag, to remove the Union Jack from the corner, as it’s an old symbol of allegiance to the United Kingdom, which feels inappropriate to growing numbers of Australians. The flag change movement was gaining in strength up until New Zealand had a referendum on changing their flag (for the same reason) in 2016. That failed to pass 57%-43%. If it had passed, the push to change Australia’s flag would have intensified, but the failure of NZ to change their flag (this time) has dampened our own flag change campaign for the past few years.

But again, I have no doubt Australia will change its flag in the future, because the younger generations now replacing the older ones will see it as more of a priority.

Another inevitable change is changing our form of government. We already had one referendum in 1999 on removing the Queen (Elizabeth II) as our head of state and becoming a republic. That quite possibly would have passed if only the government of the time hadn’t deliberately worded the referendum questions to cause maximal disruption to the republic movement and actively campaigned for a no vote. But it will come up again, and it will pass one day.

The fourth symbol is our national anthem – the lyrics of which were actually changed just weeks ago, on 1 January. One word of Advance Australia Fair was changed, from “Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free” to “Australians all let us rejoice, For we are one and free”. The original lyric was seen as being insensitive to the indigenous population and their 40,000+ year old culture, implying that Australian culture was “young” – in other words, implying that Australian culture began when Europeans arrived. This change had been proposed for a while but its adoption by the current government came out of the blue with an announcement just before the new year.

As it stands now, the Australian national anthem is the least reviled of our national symbols, but there is a small movement to change it – mostly because some people simply feel it is dirge-like and tedious as a song. I don’t think this change movement has legs, and I don’t believe the anthem will change any time in the foreseeable future.

But the others: Australia Day, the flag, and our system of government, they will all change. Probably within the next 20-30 years, if not sooner.

For Australians, this is the state of our existence, the mixed feelings many of us have for our national symbols, or the outright hostility we have for them and the desire to change them. We live with this constant public debate over each and every one of them. Australia Day does not unite Australians – it serves to remind us that we don’t agree on the basic symbols of our country, and that an ever growing proportion of our population want to change them.

I don’t know if this makes us unique in the world, or at least in first world democracies. Can you imagine 30% of Americans actively wanting to change the national day from the 4th of July to some other date, 40% of Americans wanting to change the American flag, 50% of Americans wanting to fundamentally change the American system of government, and maybe 10% of Americans wanting to change the national anthem from The Star Spangled Banner to something else? Imagine if this were the case – how would Americans feel every time the 4th of July rolled around and all of these things got splashed all over the media again and again and you were subjected to endless TV debate and discussion about how all of these things are offensive to large segments of the population? It’s hard to imagine, but that’s what it’s like to be Australian.

None of this is going to die down and go away, until these things, our national symbols, are changed. It’s only going to get more discussed, and more rehashed, and more protests and more public campaigns until it happens. It’s just so constantly tiring to hear it all again, every year, for as long as I can remember.

Anyway.

Today was as hot as yesterday, and tomorrow is going to be the peak of this current heatwave, with the hottest temperatures yet in the city. A cool change is forecast to hit tomorrow evening, and Wednesday should be cooler, thankfully. I basically spent the day indoors, using the air conditioning to stay cool – except when I had to take Scully out. But after dinner, we went for a walk with my wife up to the local shops to get some gelato for dessert. The breezy evening air after the sun had set was very nice, if still warm and humid. I had a very nice lamington gelato: chocolate gelato with chunks of chocolate, sponge cake, shredded coconut, and raspberry jam ripples. It was a special flavour for Australia Day, and it was delicious.

At least that’s something we can agree on.

New content today:

Long weekend day 2

The heatwave has really hit today. Yesterday was hot, but today was hotter, and also more humid. Fortunately near the coast we had a sea breeze keeping things somewhat cool, and the CBD registered only 34°C, but some outer suburbs reached above 40°C. Over in South Australia Adelaide city reached 43°C and some suburbs got as high as 45°C.

So mostly today we rested indoors, trying to keep Scully from wanting to go outside too much. She has a weird thing she does when she goes outside in very hot weather. As soon as she leaves the shade and enters the sunlight, she lies down on the ground. I’m not sure if she likes sunbaking, or if it’s just suddenly all too much and all she can think to do is collapse. She doesn’t lie in the sun in cooler weather.

My wife and I made three more attempts at Codenames Duet Vatican City in our ongoing campaign. The first two games ended quickly as we picked assassins in early turns. But the third game was a nailbiter, and we got down to sudden death time with only one spy left to guess, and I had a clue, but it was very loose, because she’d had to indicate three words with her final clue. Unfortunately I chose the wrong word, and we lost by the closest margin possible. We shall have to give it another go another day.

We also watched the Doctor Who special “Twice Upon a Time” – the one which ends Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor and begins Jodie Whitaker’s. Yes, we’re a few seasons behind still – this is the first time we’ve watched up to this point.

And… for dinner I made potato salad. With purple potatoes. The local supermarket recently renovated a bit and now they have fancy potatoes, so I thought I’d try the purples one. They taste… just like potatoes. But they do look cool!

New content today:

Finishing the filming

It’s Saturday, and the first day of what is effectively a four-day weekend, since my wife has taken Monday off work and Tuesday is Australia Day.

I started with some housecleaning, doing the vacuuming. I was planning to go for a run for some exercise, but when my wife got back in after taking Scully out first thing in the morning, she said it was already really hot outside. South-east Australia is experiencing heatwave conditions this weekend, and we could certainly feel it soon after sunrise. So I nixed that idea for another day.

I drove my wife to yoga class, and later in the day I took Scully for a drive to the pet shop, so we could get out of the house and do some walking around, without being out in the sun. Scully likes to sniff and explore all the nooks and crannies in the pet shop, so it’s a good place to go when the weather isn’t good for outdoor walks. And it’s inside a small shopping complex with a lot of furniture and homewares shops, so there’s plenty of other places to walk around too.

This evening, after dinner, we all went down to the harbour to film the remaining shots of my Outschool video, which I began filming on Thursday. I wanted to do the intro and ending by the water, with the city and the Opera House visible behind me. The area there down by the water is often busy, and there were a lot of people down there today having picnic dinners, or just walking along the waterfront. So I had a lot of curious onlookers as my wife filmed me reciting my lines. Hopefully there are some good takes and I can cut the video together in the next few days.

New content today:

New golf club test

This morning I played golf with my golfing friend at my local course, and I tried using the full set of clubs gifted to me by my neighbour (mentioned previously here). It turns out they’re a very nice set of clubs, newer and with more modern design than mine. They’re not the latest and greatest, but definitely a lot better than the clubs I was using.

Unfortunately, I failed to make the best use of them today. I messed up the first few holes and very quickly assured that I wouldn’t be producing any personal best total score today. However my luck changed on the par-4 7th hole, when I sank a chip from off the green, for a par. That was good – the first time I’ve ever scored par on that hole. I bogeyed the next two holes, which was good because I’m still at the stage where a bogey is a good personal score. So overall it wasn’t great but at least I ended the round of 9 on a high note.

I also baked a sourdough loaf today. But I forgot to put any salt in the dough, and it turned out… different. Definitely a different taste to normal and what you expect from bread. It was strange, but not actually bad. Although next time I’ll definitely try to remember the salt.

Most of the rest of the day I spent writing Darths & Droids strips. It’s amazing how you churn through them publishing three per week.

New content today:

Filming a teacher intro

Today was busy! First off the bat, I needed to go do the weekly grocery shopping. I’m planning to play golf tomorrow with a friend in the morning, so my usual Friday morning expedition to the supermarket won’t be possible. And later in the day gets busy, which I want to avoid. So today it was.

After that, I’d arranged to meet another friend late morning to do some video filming. I want to make a teacher introduction video for Outschool, and I had the idea to film some of it at Sydney University, since that’s where I studied for my degrees. Unfortunately I had a problem when I got my microphone out, because the battery had leaked, so I had to clean that up before leaving home. My friend bought me a new battery and we met up to head to the university and film segments in front of the main Quadrangle and the Physics building.

This took us about an hour, and it was hot work because it was very warm and we were out in the midday sun. After finishing that, we we went to The Pie Tin for some pies for lunch. I had a Reuben pie and a truffled chicken and mushroom. Excellent as always from this pie shop, but with two pies I was extremely full afterwards, and planned on a relatively light dinner tonight.

This afternoon was less busy, with some going over the video we’d filmed to determine the best takes of each shot, code debugging, and thinking about what topic I can do for my first class on Outschool. I need to think of a topic that I can cover in a single class, because they recommend a one-off class for new teachers – obviously because parents might want to try just a single class rather than signing up for a semester long course with a teacher with no reviews.

I’m considering doing colour perception, because it’s both interesting and it’s a topic that nobody else on Outschool is teaching yet. If I did something like “astronomy”, then I’d be competing with dozens of other people doing the same or similar material. So I might work up a colour perception class over the next few days and get that ready for when I complete my intro video.

New content today:

Acronymble, Acro Quick

This morning I had to take the car to a service centre to get it inspected for roadworthiness, prior to renewing the registration. They told me it would take 30-45 minutes, but I ended up waiting for well over an hour. I did take a short walk a couple of blocks to the hardware store to look around and see if there was anything I needed to buy, but I didn’t find anything and that only took about 20 minutes, so I just had to sit around and wait.

Back home, I spent some time helping a friend debug a new Discord game he’s working on. It’s a word game in which players are given a short series of random letters, and a topic prompt, and then have to backform a phrase to fit the letters as an initialism. Examples from actual testing we did:

Disney Movie: DDHM

Answers: Dumbo Drops His Mixtape; Donald Duck Hates Mice

One (non-contributing) player then chooses the best response from the suggestions and the person who submitted it gets a point. The judge role then rotates and you go again. A fairly simple game, and we got the code to a state where we could play it in just a few hours.

In between I worked on writing and making some new Darths & Droids comics. And that was about it.

New content today:

India win the series

Today was all about the cricket. It was the final day of the fourth and final Test match in the current Australia v India series. Australia won the first game in Adelaide an absolute walkover. In their second innings India were dismissed for just 36 runs – their lowest ever innings total in history. After the game, India’s captain and best player Virat Kohli flew home to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, leaving the team in the hands of his vice captain. Having suffered a huge loss, and losing their best player, India were behind the 8-ball.

In the second game in Melbourne, India pulled together, recomposed themselves, and… well, demolished Australia. They won handily, levelling the series at 1 game each.

Then in the third match, played in Sydney last week, India were again struggling. They had lost several players due to injury, and were fielding young, inexperienced backups. Australia dominated the first four days, and set India a massive target of 407 runs to win in the final innings. I recounted that last day of play when it happened. To recap: India didn’t score the runs, but they managed to hold on and not get out before the game ran out of time, thus drawing the game. This left the series at 1-1, with a deciding game to come.

The fourth and final game began last Friday, in Brisbane. Australia batted first and scored 369. India the batted, and were looking in danger of falling far short, but managed to scrape together 336 runs, conceding a lead of 33. Australia then added 294 runs in the second innings. This set India a target of 328 to win. This is a big score, and very difficult to get in the last innings of a game, when the pitch is starting to dry out and crumble, and batting becomes more and more difficult.

To put it into perspective, the highest ever successful final innings run chase at Brisbane was 236 runs, scored by Australia against the West Indies in 1951, followed by 219 by Australia v West Indies in 1975, and the remainder are all below 200. A team scoring 328 or more to win a game in the final innings has only happened 18 times anywhere in the world in Test cricket history (since 1877). Furthermore, Australia has been unbeatable in Brisbane for over 3 decades, not losing a game there since 1988.

Furthermore, India had ended play yesterday having scored just 4 of these runs. So to win they needed to score 324 runs in one day. Scoring 300 runs in one day is considered a good scoring rate. 324 is very fast. Doable early in a game when the pitch is new, but extremely difficult on a final day with the pitch wearing out. Australia, for its part, needed to get 10 Indian batsmen out to win. In this game situation, the smart money would be on the bowling team to get the batsmen out and win the game. Anyone betting on India would be betting on wild hope, whereas betting on Australia should be easy money.

Well, I may have set the situation up too well for you, because you can probably guess what happened. This battered, bruised, young, inexperienced, captainless Indian team stuck it out all day. The batsmen stubbornly refused to get out, and slowly accumulated runs. At lunch, one-third of the way through the day, they had added 79 runs, for a total of 83, but lost only one wicket. They had 9 men left, but a mountainous 245 more runs to score. At this stage, I thought the most likely result was a draw, the game ending before either team could force victory.

At the tea break, 2/3 of the way through the day, India were 3 men out for 183 runs. Still 145 runs short. It was looking impossible for either team to have enough time to win. But Rishabh Pant, India’s wicketkeeper, had other ideas. Rather than try to survive and ensure India didn’t lose, he started hitting the ball all around the ground, accelerating the run scoring.

The final hours of the game were a tense, nail-biting whirlwind. Pant was taking crazy risks, hitting the ball in the air, several times just wide of fielders who might have taken a catch. If he got out, the remaining batsmen would be those in the team for their bowling skills, not specialist batsmen, and could not be relied on to survive. Pant was playing with fire. But he was doing it masterfully. Just before the end, two of the other batsmen got out, and India were dangerously exposed to a sudden dramatic failure. If another one got out, it would be up to Pant and an inexperienced, poor batsman to prevent India from losing. But still Pant added runs.

Until with just a few balls remaining in the game, Pant hit the ball through the fielders for the final, winning runs. India had pulled off a miracle victory against all odds. Not only to win this game, but to win the series 2-1.

With several senior players out of the team for various reasons, the burden fell on a group of fresh young players, the next generation of Indian cricketers. They defeated a full strength Australia, always one of the strongest teams in the world and virtually impossible to beat at home. This will be a victory that Indians will remember for many years. And the future success of their team looks in good hands for the next decade or so.

New content today:

Dog day day

Today Scully spent the whole day in doggie daycare. I took her over a bit after 8am, and my wife and I picked her up just after 5pm. She really enjoys playing with all the other dogs there, and it’s good socialisation for her. And she loves the staff too. She’s always so excited when we arrive, leaping about and running up to the staff.

And when she gets home she’s super tired and basically just goes into an evening nap straight away. So you can tell she’s been super active all day.

I spent most of the day doing some coding, for a quiz thing I wanted to run with some friends. So there’s not too much to say about most of the day.

New content today:

Vatican City failures

My wife and I moved on to Vatican City in our ongoing Codenames Duet campaign game. Things are getting pretty difficult now. We had two attempts at it but failed to win both times. The games were tense and brain-busting.

Otherwise, it was a fairly relaxing day. We took Scully for a nice long walk in the morning.

I watched some cricket… India batted well all day and ended up on 336 runs, just 33 runs behind Australia’s first innings. With two days left to go, it’s going to be difficult for any team to force a win, especially given the forecast rainy weather. It may well be that India has done enough to avoid losing the game, instead forcing another draw, which will draw the 4-game series 1-1. And since they currently hold the Australia-India series trophy, they’ll retain it. Probably.

New content today: