Comic photos and walking

This morning I spent taking photos for the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! This involved cleaning my desk off for setting up the Lego sets, which prompted me to do a proper dusting and cleaning… and then of course I had to clean a bunch of other dusty surfaces around the place. Oh, and I also had to clean up the balcony after yesterday’s super windy conditions and the toppled plant mess that I hadn’t cleaned up yesterday.

My right thumb is a bit swollen and red from the bee sting, but it doesn’t hurt, unless I put pressure on it. Hopefully it’ll be fine in a few days.

I went for a walk to get lunch, and then took a long way home, going along three bushwalk tracks which skirted the edge of the harbour, in and out of the coves along the way.

Red gums

It’s nice being able to walk along paths that look like you’re in the middle of nowhere, even though you’re really in the middle of a big city. Occasionally you get glimpses of the city through the trees.

City from the bush

This area was home to a tribe of Aborigines at the time the English settlers arrived in Sydney, and there’s still evidence of their inhabitation, in the form of shell middens and carvings in some of the rocks.

In the afternoon I started assembling the photos from this morning into new comics. I still have most of them to do, which will take another day or so of work.

New content today:

Man 0 – Nature 3

Remember last Tuesday, when we had that incredibly intense but short storm? And it blew over my chilli plant, and I spent hours cleaning up the mess and repotting the plant?

This morning I woke up, and the chilli had been blown over again by strong wind during the night, spraying the new soil all over balcony. I quickly collected as much as I could with a dustpan and broom, and returned it to the pot. The plant is now leaning over again, so I’ll have to re-insert the stake and tie it up to hold it vertical again. But I didn’t have time to do that in the morning, because I had to leave to go the school where I talk to the kids about science, and run the Science Club.

Today I had the older classes, from year 3 to year 6, and I did a general Q&A session with them. They had a lot of good questions today, on a variety of topics, covering astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics, and geology. I talked through most of the answers, but a couple I had to admit I didn’t know the answer to and suggested they look it up later. The session with the Year 6 class, one boy asked the very first question: “How big is Uranus?” – setting off a lot of giggling. I quickly said something factual about the planet and then moved on. Only afterwards did I realise I should have answered: “Not big enough to be sat-urn. Next question.”

After the group sessions (and the recess break) I had Science Club with my 13 students who I’ve been working with all year. As this was our final session, I didn’t have time to run another experiment, so we just sat and had a discussion about what we learnt this year, about science in general, about what sort of jobs you can get in science, and then I let them ask any questions they had, and tried to answer those. Here’s the whiteboard we were using, at the end of the session:

Science Club board

I cam home mid-afternoon. I went out on the balcony to assess the leftover mess from the chilli plant blowing over. And then, as I was standing out there, another gust of wind blew over the basil plant I’m growing for use in cooking! Soil went everywhere, and because the balcony door was open, including inside, on the carpet, and even on the dining table!

Today was really windy. I had a late lunch out, after finishing Science Club, sitting by the beach, and the wind was blowing wildly, making trees sway violently, generating huge whitecaps on the ocean. It was really awful conditions. Oh, and as I was driving to and from the school, I passed some of those areas where the power lines were still down today, 6 days after the storm last week. A friend of mine had no power from last Tuesday to Sunday night – 5 full days.

Anyway, with the wind still blowing strongly, I just quickly swept up the largest piles of soil, righted the basil, and placed the plants in sheltered positions against a wall, so hopefully they won’t blow over again.

I also decided not to take Scully out to the dog park where we meet other people and dogs, as it’s down by the water and it gets windy there even on calmer days, so today would be intolerable. Instead I took her downstairs, intending to cross the road to the nearby park which is a lot more sheltered, and let her just chase a ball for a while. As we were coming out of our property, Scully pulled up lame, favouring a rear leg. I thought she must have a burr or something stuck on her paw, as she was trying to get something off. I grabbed her leg and brushed the base of the paw, finding a sticky lump, which I pulled off…

It was a bee.

Next thing I knew, I had a shooting pain in my thumb. It stung me right on the pad of my thumb. I’ve never been stung by a bee before, so my lifetime record is now trashed. The bee fell to the ground, but the sting was stuck in my thumb. I scraped it out with a fingernail. It hurt a lot – but honestly nowhere near the pain I got from a jack jumper ant sting a couple of years ago. Given a choice, I’d take the bee sting any day. Anyway, I aborted the park trip and went back inside with Scully to wash the sting area and apply ice for a while.

Ten minutes later I was fine and resumed taking Scully out for exercise. (The jack jumper ant sting throbbed for months.) We played in the park a while. Then, just as we were turning to head home, a huge gust of wind blew into my face from the south, bringing a strong smell of smoke.

The bushfires around Sydney have been burning for a couple of weeks now, and every few days the winds bring the smoke into the city. Some days it’s been really terrible – horrible choking smoke everywhere. Today had been okay, up until that moment. As we walked home, I could see clouds of smoke, made orange by the late sun, wafting across the sky.

Here’s a photo someone posted to reddit as the smoke drifted in: [photo]

And another photo from nearby shortly afterwards: [photo]

In the endless struggle of Man versus Nature, today Nature won.

New content today:

More comic writing Sunday

Much of today was dedicated to finishing off writing that new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips I started yesterday. I managed to finish the writing, so the next step is taking photos, which I’ll probably do on Tuesday morning, since I have another school Science Club visit tomorrow.

This morning I did some grocery shopping. My wife wanted a lift to Milsons Point, on the north side of the Harbour Bridge, so she could walk across the Bridge with Scully to The Rocks and check out the markets there, before walking from there all the way home. Rather than drive home and then walk to the nearest supermarket like I usually do, I decided to park near the Aldi at North Sydney and try that. I’ve only bought things from Aldi a few times, and never done a full grocery shopping there before, so it was a bit of a new experience.

Later in the morning I walked to a nearby park to practice hitting a few golf balls with a pitching wedge. Also in the park was a large picnic birthday party for a boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, and they’d hired a guy to run a Nerf gun battle thingy, complete with a marked combat zone with cloth barriers set up as cover This guy was herding 20 or so rowdy boys in the game, enforcing rules and keeping things running smoothly. At one point he told them that if anyone got out of line he’d get me to whack them with my golf club. I obliged by turning to face them and raised my club menacingly.

New content today:

Comic writing Saturday

I managed a bit of a sleep-in this morning, since my wife didn’t have to get up early to go to work. Then there was Saturday housecleaning, which today included vacuuming and washing the bathroom and kitchen and balcony floors.

But I spent most of the day writing comics, both for Darths & Droids and a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! that I want to get completed in the coming week.

And for dinner we went out to a newish place nearby for fish & chips. We hadn’t been there yet, and they had some outdoor tables where we could bring Scully to sit, but when we got there they had them all inside – possibly because the evening was cool. But we said we wanted to sit and eat with our dog, and they set up a table outdoors for us, so that was good. And the food was pretty good. I think we’ll go back there again.

New content today:

Beating the heat

I spent most of today working on the next 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe, which I posted a while ago. It’s about heat.

It wasn’t actually a very hot day today – today’s post title was really about completing that article. Still, I stayed inside mostly, because there was a hint of smoke in the air still from the bushfires. The weather bureau reckons this will hang around Sydney for weeks.

Early this morning I did make a trek to the supermarket to get some groceries. My wife drinks coffee – I don’t. She had coffee on the shopping list. I know the type she likes is “Medium roast, Strength 5”.
Looking at the shelves, I saw that a jar of that was $9. But right next it was the same brand, “Dark roast, Strength 8”, on sale for $6 for the same sized jar. There was no sale sticker on the Medium roast.

So I thought: if I get the Strength 8 stuff, and water it down an extra 37.5%, that’d be the same as Strength 5, right? And because it’s more watered down, I’d be using 37.5% less of it, so we’d be saving that as well. Which makes the effective price only $3.75 for the same size jar as the $9 medium roast. And if I buy a dozen jars of the Dark roast, we save a whopping $63 !

I’m sure that all the coffee drinkers out there would find this eminently satisfactory, yes?

However, I bought the $9 jar of Medium roast, because I know my wife. I told her the story, and she said she wouldn’t have minded if I got the Dark roast! đŸ™„

New content today:

Science assembly presentation

Today was the presentation by my Science Club kids at their school assembly, in front of the whole school. (I wrote about the preparation for this here.) Since it was at 2 o’clock, I decided to head out and get some lunch somewhere nearby, and then head to the school after that.

I went to a Spanish tapas place at Dee Why, a beach suburb. Here’s the view from my lunch table:

Lunch view

The meal was pretty good! I’ll have to come back some time with my wife and Scully. After eating, I went for a brief walk along the beach:

Dee Why Beach

And then back to the ocean pool at the southern end of the beach:

Dee Why Baths

There were a lot of people out for a Thursday lunchtime, enjoying the warm but not-too-hot late spring day. There’s still a bit of bushfire smoke in the air, which you can see in the photos, but it didn’t smell particularly bad today. Far out to see I saw a giant yacht on the horizon (a racing yacht, not a motor yacht). It must be out there with the crew practising for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which begins on Boxing Day.

The extra wide lens on my new phone camera is pretty cool:

November day at Dee Why

I drove over to the school and checked in with the science coordinator. She said that the preparation I’d done, writing a script for the kids to read along with the slides, couldn’t be found because the girl I’d written it with had been away for a week and hadn’t told anyone where she saved the file! So the other kids had had to write their own script from scratch!

At the school hall, there were a couple of rows of seats in the back for parents, although there were only a handful there. A woman came up to me and introduced herself as Belle’s mother, Belle being one of the girls in the Science Club. She thanked me for volunteering my time at the school and helping out with the kids’ science education, and said Belle was really keen on science. I said I enjoyed doing it, and especially showing the kids that if they like science then it’s possible to have a career doing it. We chatted for a bit before the kids filed into the hall.

There was some preliminary with kids getting weekly merit awards, and then the Science Club kids gave their presentation using the slides I’d prepared. Their script was a little bit wrong in places, but I don’t think it mattered much. It was great to see the kids on stage talking about all the experiments we’ve done this year.

Afterwards I chatted some more with Belle’s parents, until the bell rang and classes were dismissed, and Belle arrived. Her mother took a photo of me with Belle! Although I didn’t really do much at the school today, it was good seeing the presentation, and meeting Belle’s parents.

Then I had to drive home… On the drive out there, I’d seen just how much devastation there was from the storm on Tuesday. One road I drove along had trees down every hundred metres or so, in some cases with power lines still down and safety tape around the site. Some of these had power company workers busy clearing the trees and restoring the power lines, but others were completely unattended. Clearly they don’t have enough workers to get to all of the downed lines at once. I heard on the radio news while driving that the job is so large that they expect up to 20,000 homes to remain without power over the weekend. It was incredible seeing so many destroyed trees.

At home I’ve been working on a new 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe post, but it won’t be ready today – hopefully tomorrow.

New content today:

Ethics of eating animals, round-up

This morning was the last lesson of the current Ethics topic on whether it’s okay to kill and eat animals. Since most of the kids missed last week’s lesson when we went through arguments that it was okay, I did a quick recap of those arguments, before launching into today’s lesson on arguments why it’s not okay. It went fairly well, with fewer interruptions and blurting out, and more kids putting their hands up to speak, so we had a good discussion of the topic.

At one point the very quiet girl (who I’ve mentioned before) put her hand up and I noticed it – but I was busy quelling some diverging discussion between a couple of other kids. One had started talking about how vegetarians are hypocrites because plants are living things too and have feelings and feel pain, and then another kid interrupted and said no they don’t, and then the two of them were talking at once and I had to step in and quieten them both down. I said that we weren’t discussing plants, we were discussing animals, and to stick to the topic. Then I turned to the quiet girl and she had her hand down, but I asked her anyway if she had something she wanted to say – because I want to encourage her to speak whenever I can. She said, “No, it was about plants.”

My pleasure at seeing her raise her hand was somewhat deflated. But after the class, she hung around because this was her regular classroom. She always helps me put the furniture back from the circle of chairs to the regular desk layout. As we were doing this, I asked her what she was going to say during the lesson. She said that leaves of plants can die, so they’re definitely alive. Okay, it wasn’t that profound, but I was happy that she’d raised her hand, and that after the class I’d followed up and encouraged her to talk. I only have two more lessons with this group of kids, and this girl is the one I hope the most turns out to have a good life ahead of her. And that in some small way my teaching her helps lead to that. I mean, I hope all the kids do well, but I think this girl will need a bit more luck than most of the others, and I hope she gets it.

I’d walked to the school, and I took a longer route home, via the hardware store again to buy some garden stakes, because after yesterday’s repotting our chilli plant was leaning a bit, and I wanted to stake and tie it to keep it vertical. Along the way I passed a kitchen supply shop and decided to poke my nose in to browse around a bit, since I’d never been in there. It’s way bigger than I expected, and full of all sorts of fascinating gadgets, as well as cookware and tableware, and some other stuff on the extreme fringes of things related to food preparation and service.

As I walked home through the grounds of Royal North Shore Hospital, I saw that a whole tree had been uprooted and blown over, probably by yesterday’s storm.

At home, I spent the afternoon writing some Darths & Droids strips. Oh, and doing a bit more housecleaning – the job that never ends! And tonight played a couple of games of Codenames Duet with my wife. We managed to win both by the skin of our teeth, phew!

New content today:

Fire and Ice

Today I planned to do another 5k run in the morning, but when I got up more bushfire smoke had blown in overnight, and the air was pretty awful to breathe. It was bad enough going outside for a couple of minutes – I didn’t want to be out running around and inhaling deeply, so I abandoned the exercise plan. This smoke is still being blown across Sydney from the large fires burning in bushland north-west of the city.

By lunchtime the day had warmed up a lot. And then the weather turned. It got very dark, and there was a lot of thunder. And then as I was watching through the glass balcony door, there was a sudden huge gust of wind, and a spray of water smashed into the glass, as if someone had thrown a large bucket of water at it. My chilli plant was blown off the table on the balcony and smashed to the floor, scattering soil everywhere. Hailstones clattered on the bricks and tiles.

And then a minute later it all stopped. 15 minutes later and the sun was out again. It was the most incredible blast of storm, lasting only a short time, but in that time it certainly packed a punch. It was part of a line of storms that left a swathe of destruction across Sydney. The highest recorded wind gusts were 96 km/h. In some suburbs, multiple trees were toppled, destroying several houses and cars, and bringing down power lines, leaving over 50,000 houses without power. Fortunately nobody was killed, although it could easily have happened. Here’s a news story about the storm.

The damage at my place was limited to my poor chilli plant. Once the storm had passed, I went out to the hardware store to buy some potting mix, so I could repot the plant. After doing that, I had to clean up all the spilt soil, from all over our outdoor furniture and the balcony floor. Overall, including the time to go to the hardware store, I spent about 4 hours cleaning up the mess caused by the storm.

New content today:

Report writing

Today was a working day. I needed to write a report on my recent trip to Germany for the ISO Photography standards meeting in Cologne. Standards Australia requires a meeting report, and I also need to prepare notes for a follow-up meeting with photography experts here in Australia, to report on what was discussed in Germany. Part of the meeting outcomes was a plan to host a meeting in Sydney in February 2021, which we now need to begin planning.

So I spent most of the day writing that report. Later in the afternoon we had a big thunderstorm crash through Sydney, although we only caught the edge of it and didn’t see a lot of rain, but we certainly got a lot of lightning and thunder. We have more storms forecast for tomorrow. It’s good to get some rain, although it’s not clear if it’ll make much difference to the current drought. Sydney goes onto Level 2 water restrictions in a couple of weeks, because our dams continue to dry up.

New content today:

Christmas market

This morning I did a bunch of house cleaning. This afternoon, my wife wanted to go check out the Sustainable Christmas Artisans’ Market, a new twilight market held at the Coal Loader, a historical industrial site near my place, now converted into a public facility.

We walked over about 4pm – according to my walk tracking app the return walk totalled just over 5 kilometres. Fortunately today was overcast and not too hot, although it was pretty humid. As we approached the market, there were streams of people walking form the nearest railway station, as well as cars choking the streets, seeking elusive parking spots. We realised it was going to be busy.

Coal Loader market

Although there were a lot of people there, the market was spread out in a large area, so it wasn’t too crowded. They had some food vans and a bar set up, with some seating in the middle for people to eat and drink, with the stalls set up around the perimeter of the space. Several people had brought their dogs, so Scully got to say hello to a few, including Norman, another black poodle who we’ve met a few times in a park near our place.

It was the sort of market that has stalls selling giant pepper grinders, hand-turned from native Australian woods:

Grinders

The Coal Loader is in a nice location, on the side of a cliff overlooking the inner harbour:

Christmas market

Well, the water is behind the row of stalls! We bought a Christmas present for Scully – a new lead, with a cool Pac-Man design (although I suspect she’s too young to know Pac-Man). There was also a stall selling syrups and marmalades made from native fruits – I got a couple of bottles of cocktail mixer syrup: native lime, and riberry.

The walk back home was pleasant, in the cooler evening air, although uphill a lot of the way.

New content today: