Take the cannoli

This morning, I intended to spend a quick few minutes cleaning up an old photo or two, scanned from prints that I’d taken on a camping trip back in 1993. Before I knew it, I’d spent most of the morning cleaning up and colour adjusting a dozen or so photos.

Newnes Hotel

This is the Newnes Hotel, built in 1907, as a pub and general store for the small mining settlement of Newnes, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. They mined oil shale there, but the mine was closed in 1932. Now the hotel operates as a general store and visitor information centre for bushwalkers and campers, since the area is remote and surrounded by the Wollemi National Park. There some abandoned runs of the town that you can visit.

Newnes ruins

For lunch today I took a long walk a couple of suburbs over to an Italian bakery – another one of our favourite bakeries in the area! I got a chicken pie for lunch, and a chocolate cannoli for a sweet treat. They also do vanilla cannolis and ricotta cannolis, and they’re all good.

I took a slightly roundabout route home to get some more walking done, and I stopped at an upmarket grocery store near the bakery to buy some fancy imported pasta from Italy. Local pasta is fine, but the imported Italian stuff has a different texture to it, and is really nice, so it’s worth an extra dollar or two now and then.

While in there, I noticed they had packets of sourdough crumpets reduced to sell as they were approaching their use-by date. Normally these crumpets are $7 for a pack of four(!), but they were reduced to $4.90. Still over a dollar a crumpet, but I decided I could splurge and try them to see how good they were. Regular crumpets from my usual supermarket cost $1.85 for a pack of six, or under 31 cents each. The normal price for these sourdough crumpets is $1.75 each, almost six times as much. That’s really quite insane. Even at the reduced price, they’re over four times as expensive as normal crumpets.

Anyway, I tried one when I got home, and they are actually very nice. But not over $1 a crumpet nice.

New content today:

A slower run

Monday morning was time for my 5k run for the week. I took a gentle pace, but felt like I was really pushing myself hard today, and having to struggle to keep going. I was hoping this meant I was clocking a fast time. I miscounted my laps again, discovering I was one short and had to keep going for another lap. But even though I got my sprint finish in, I recorded 27:53, which is slower than my last four times. I guess it just wasn’t my day today.

For lunch today I decided to make a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. I used three types of cheese: cheddar, Jarlsberg, and Parmigiano; added a spread of caramelised onion relish, and then sliced gherkins I used the kibble rye sourdough that we’d bought yesterday. It turned out delicious!

Other than that, I spent much of the day assembling new Darths & Droids comics.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that Scully has notified us that the bindii is sprouting thorns for the spring. She’s started avoiding patches of grass where bindii grows, and sure enough, when I bent down to feel it, the thorns have appeared. Fortunately, as we discovered last year, the thorns are only there for a couple of months, and go away by summer.

New content today:

Bread and Codenames

This morning my wife and I took Scully for a long walk, over to our favourite bakery. I bought a loaf of kibble rye sourdough for regular sandwiches and toast, and also a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, for a sweet treat. The bread from this place is really nice. I also got a mixed berry scroll, which I assumed would have a light flaky pastry like a croissant, but it turned out to be denser and more chewy – I guess something like a cross between flaky butter pastry and sourdough. It was really nice, and not too sweet – sweetened just by the mix of blueberries and I think raspberries.

A bit further along the walk we met another couple out with a poodle, a 7 month old puppy about Scully’s size. The two dogs raced around like crazy, playing with each other, which we all enjoyed because it would mean they slept for the rest of the day!

At home we played Codenames Duet, taking two attempts to win the Casablanca campaign game. The first game came down to a sudden death guess by me. I knew there was a word associated with the clue “reaction” left in the grid, and I narrowed it down to either “fever” (a reaction to infection) or “smell” (a thing you would have a reaction to). In the end I chose “smell”, but the correct word was “fever”, alas.

The second game was a lot easier, since I began with a 4-word clue, and we whittled down the spies rapidly. We won the game with a full turn to spare.

Apart from these things, it’s been a relaxing sort of day. We just started watching Series 10 of the new Doctor Who this evening (Peter Capaldi’s last season). We haven’t watched this series yet, so it’s going to be exciting over the next few weeks. We kind of lost track a couple of years ago after we first got Scully, and we’re just catching up now!

New content today:

Housework (and running poodle)

Yeah, the title pretty much sums it up. Vacuum cleaning, washing up, laundry (my wife did that), changing bedsheets, cleaning the bath, cleaning Scully (haha – we gave her a bath). And for dinner I made risotto, which is 15 minutes of prep followed by a solid half hour slaving over the stove, constantly stirring.

It was pumpkin risotto, with toasted pine nuts and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pumpkin risotto

I make risotto a bit – it’s not hard, but it is time and effort intensive. Today’s one turned out very nice. We had a bottle of white wine open, so I added a splash, which you should do, but it’s rare that we have a bottle open, so I usually don’t. The real Reggiano cheese from Italy makes a difference too. I bought that recently to replace the Australian brand of parmesan that we usually buy.

Oh! One other thing I did today. I’ve been meaning for a while to try to take some photos of Scully running towards the camera, using my DSLR in AI Servo focus mode, so it tracks moving objects. So today I went out with my wife and Scully, and we found some grass where I could lie down and aim my camera at Scully while my wife tells her to sit and stay, and then walks over to where I was lying, and then calls Scully to come over. We used our special “cheese command word”. This is an emergency recall command, which we always reward with cheese, and it’s pretty much the only time she ever gets cheese, which she loves. So when she hears this word – “Schnell!” – we picked a German word so we never say it accidentally when talking – she comes absolutely running flat out towards us.

We repeated this exercise 4 times, and I took a bunch of photos rapid-fire. About half of them turned out blurry, but… we got a couple of very nice shots.

Scully running

Definitely going to try this again another day.

New content today:

Late Friday: Games night

Yes, I’m late for the my Friday entry again, because of fortnightly Games Night with my friends.

On Friday morning I did the weekly grocery shopping, then I went for a run, a short 1 km this time. I set out at a rapid pace, but tired and slowed down, although I felt like I was really pushing myself hard, I ended up clocking 4:38, which is the slowest of the three times that I’ve timed myself over this distance. Hmmm. 🤔 I guess I need more training.

I spent some time during the afternoon helping a friend to test a new Discord bot game for Games Night – he’s implemented Scattergories. So we were testing for bugs and UI improvements, and coming up with interesting categories to add to the list.

During Games Night, we played some games of 7 Wonders, and then moved on to the new Scattergories implementation. Most of the fun was in arguing over which words were valid during the scoring phase. One particular argument was for the category “Words that begin and end with the same letter”. The letter was A and the contentious “word” was “Amanda”. Some players were absolutely fine that it was a “word”, but others insisted it be disqualified because it was a proper noun and hence was not a “word”.

  • For: It’s a collection of letters, it’s readily pronounceable, it’s commonly used in English sentences, how could it possibly not be a word??
  • Against: It’s just a name, a label, it has no intrinsic semantic meaning in modern English, it’s never used to refer to anything except a person who happens to have that as a name, it can’t be used lower-case, it’s illegal in Scrabble, how could it possibly be a word??

We didn’t come to any agreement, except to reword the categories so that they’re unambiguous as to whether proper nouns are allowed or not.

New content today:

Old camping trip

This morning I decided to bite the bullet and renew my passport. It expires next month, and I’ve had it on my desk for a couple of months to remind me to renew it, but of course with COVID and travel restrictions, it kind of dropped down my priorities list. Still, I decided today that I really should renew it before it expires, and so I filled out the forms online, printed out the PDF, and went up to the post office to have photos taken and submit the form. As part of the process, they cancelled my old passport, so I’m unable to leave the country now for about the next three weeks – not that I was going to anyway.

Since I was out, I went for a bit of a walk to get some fresh air and sunshine. And in the afternoon I walked up to my wife’s work, where’s she’s now working full time following an increase in her previously part-time hours. I had to pick up Scully, who goes to work with her, as the “office dog” – she even has a job title: “Wellbeing Officer (volunteer)”. I took her from the office to the dog park and we had a bit of a run around and did some ball chasing and meeting other dogs and so on.

In between, I spent much of the day processing some scans of old photos from a camping trip I did back in the 90s with some university friends.

Kanangra Walls and Mt Cloudmaker

We started up here at Kanangra Walls (the sandstone cliff formations) in Kanangra-Boyd National Park, west of Sydney. And we walked way down into the valley below and camped by the Kowmung River.

Kowmung River

I haven’t been camping for a long time. I’d like to get out into the wilderness again some time.

New content today:

Ethical behaviour

I had my Ethics class again this morning. It became clear very quickly that the kids had had a talking to by their regular class teachers after last week’s behavioural debacle. They were all very quiet at the start. After a few minutes I realised that the boys in the class seemed to have made some sort of pact to not make any sound at all today. None of them were talking at all, or answering any of the questions I asked. Eventually one boy raised a hand, and I called on him, and all he did was give a thumbs-up signal. I said, “Are you saying you agree with Emma?” and he nodded.

Well… this was kind of subversive, but at least the class was quiet and I was able to get through the material and have a decent discussion with the girls in the class. The pact broke down as the class continued though, and a couple of the better behaved boys actually started answering questions and contributing to the discussion. Overall it was a better experience than last week, but we’ll see what happens next week.

After the class I went home and huddled in against the cold rainy day outside, and worked on some secret project stuff, so not much to say about that.

New content today:

Golf with a dentist

I booked a round at Cammeray Golf Course this morning – not my usual course at Lane Cove. I’ve been getting a bit tired of Lane Cove and wanted to play a different course, and Cammeray is the next nearest and a nice short 9-hole course suitable for my skill level.

I was preparing to tee off, when another solo player approached and asked if we could play together. I agreed and we walked around the course playing together. It turned out he’s a dentist – and he’s friends with my dentist, who did my filling just last week! I told him that my dentist was looking at some of my photography prints to redecorate his waiting room and gave him a business card… so maybe there’s the chance of another sale somewhere down the line.

He was a better player than I am (I’m still learning and pretty bad), although he messed up a few shots as well. My round was pretty much similar in total to previous rounds I’ve played at Cammeray, but I had an excellent result at hole 6, which involves hitting a tee shot over a small lake. I’ve dropped several balls into that lake, but today my tee shot carried just over the lake, and ended up on the green.

Cammeray Hole 6 tee shot

That’s my ball foreground left. The dentist is in the background searching for his original ball – the other ball on the green near his golf cart is a provisional second ball that he hit off the tee in case he couldn’t find the first – which had landed on the rocks ringing the lake and bounced wildly in some random direction that we couldn’t follow. He didn’t find that ball. Anyway, from here I took two putts to sink my ball for a par. I’m still at the point where getting a par on a hole is a real achievement, so I was pretty happy.

At home afterwards I worked on some secret writing stuff… which I’m not ready to reveal just yet.

New content today:

5.4k run

It was about time for another 5k run today, and the weather was fine, so I set out early, leaving home before 9 am. Unfortunately I miscounted my laps again today, although this time instead of thinking I’d finished when I still had a lap to go, I accidentally ran an extra lap. Since I sprint for the last half lap or so, I didn’t have the advantage of having that faster half lap included in my 5k split time, so my time was a bit slower today, at 27:16, my fourth fastest.

After that I walked up to my dentist’s office and gave the receptionist a pack of photo prints for the dentist to look through – hoping to keep it in his mind to select one of my photos to redecorate his waiting room (as mentioned last week).

This afternoon I did some comic writing stuff, and then took Scully to the dog park for a walk and playing time with other dogs. The park we got to is 5 minutes drive away. Usually on the way there Scully just lies down in the passenger seat of the car, but on the way back she’s worked up and stands up, putting her paws on the centre console to get a view out the windows. Today she learnt a new trick… she stood on the radio button, turning it on and…

Well, let’s just say that Scully has learnt how to Rickroll me.

New content today:

More spring cleaning

Today was a lovely sunny Sunday, but I spent most of it inside doing more spring cleaning. It’s the first time since winter that I’ve felt warm enough to wear shorts and T-shirts all weekend. Although I suppose manual labour helps you keep warm!

I cleaned the balcony, sweeping up all the dried leaves and dead bugs and stuff that accumulated over the winter, and brushing away spider webs. Then I washed the tiles and cleaned the outdoor table and chairs. It’s nice to sit out there and have dinner on a balmy evening, but it’s too chilly over winter. Our balcony faces west so we get evening sunlight in the summer. I also cleaned the kitchen, scrubbing the cooktop, emptying crumbs out of the toaster, and cleaning crumbs off and polishing the benchtop.

This afternoon I spent some time writing Darths & Droids material, and my wife and I played a couple of games of Codenames Duet. We’ve begun work on the campaign format, where you play a series of games with increasingly difficult restrictions on numbers of turns, and try to win with all of the listed combinations. Each combination is represented by a city on a world map. Today we played Moscow, and then Cape Town, winning both games.

New content today: