Flat Rock Creek walk

A friend contacted me this morning and suggested we meet up for lunch, at a Japanese place a couple of suburbs over from where I live. I walked there (3.26 km according to Strava).

Sushi Taro

I got there a bit early and was really hungry, so I ordered some gyoza to eat while I waited.

Gyoza

I would have taken a photo of my main dish too, but I forgot in my hunger to get started when it arrived! After lunch, my plan was to walk home the long way, via a walking track that I noticed a while ago on Google Maps, which I’ve never walked before.

And so I set off to the Flat Rock Gully Walking Track. I had a little bit of a walk to get to the starting point. The first part of the walk was paved, and seemed popular with locals out for some exercise.

IMG_4313

After crossing under a main road, the path became more of a bushwalk.

IMG_4326

The walk followed Flat Rock Creek downstream, which was beautiful in places.

IMG_4332

Eventually the creek spills into this cove on Middle Harbour.

IMG_4347

This was the ending point of the walk that I wanted to do, but I still had a long walk back home! All together, the post-lunch walk was 9.12 km, for a total walking distance of 12.38 km. I was fairly worn out by the time I got home!

In other happenings, a friend commented on our group chat that he was watching a YouTube video of “stuff that kids are taught that is wrong”, and told us that it mentioned chameleons, and that—unlike what kids are told—they don’t change colour for camouflage, but rather to communicate and find mates. Someone else pointed out that Wikipedia disagrees, as its article on chameleons says they change colour for camouflage as well as those other purposes.

This began a half hour discussion over whether Wikipedia or a random YouTube video is more reliable. Rather than just haggle over it, I decided to check the literature, and quickly found:

  • Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A., Whiting, M. J. “Predator-specific camouflage in chameleons”, Biology Letters (2008) 4, 326–329. doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0173
  • Stuart-Fox, D., Whiting, M. J., Moussalli, A. “Camouflage and colour change: antipredator responses to bird and snake predators across multiple populations in a dwarf chameleon”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2006) 88, 437–446. doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2006.00631.x

These papers indicate clearly that at least some chameleons do in fact change colour for the purpose of camouflage. I was awarded the win for the conversation. Not only this, but these papers also found another very cool result. The chameleons they studied are hunted by both birds and snakes. Interestingly, when a chameleon sees a bird, it changes colour for camouflage in one way, but when it sees a snake, it changes colour in a different way. It turns out that birds and snakes have different colour vision receptors and see colour in different ways. (Bird vision is very similar to human colour vision, but snakes have less colour discrimination, similar to dogs.) So when a chameleon fears a bird, it changes colour to match its surroundings in a way that makes sense to humans. But when it fears a snake, it changes colour in a different way, which seems less well camouflaged to our human eyes (and to birds), but to a snake’s relatively colour-deficient vision it is actually better camouflaged.

This would be astonishing is it wasn’t actually just a simple consequence of evolution in action. But it’s still very cool.

New content today:

Un-catching up on sleep

I was hoping for another good night’s sleep last night.

On the weekend I bought a small bottle of chocolate liqueur, to flavour interesting cocktails. I decided to try it last night, duplicating a drink that my wife had a while back at a restaurant, called a “winter negroni”. It’s a standard negroni (equal parts gin, Campari, and red vermouth), with a splash of chocolate liqueur, to give it a chocolate-orange flavour. My wife liked it, and so I thought it would be a good drink to try mixing at home. So last night I had one, and it was indeed delicious.

I went to bed a few hours later. I could not fall asleep. I laid there in bed, unable to switch off my mind, and tossed and turned… all night. Until the sun came up. I did not get a single minute’s sleep. I was trying to figure out why, and went through everything I ate and drank, and there was nothing out of the ordinary… except that chocolate liqueur. And I realised that it probably has some caffeine in it. That would explain it.

I gave up caffeine about 25 years ago. I used to enjoy black tea, and Coca-Cola, but I realised through struggling with disrupted sleep that any caffeine after about 10am would result in me being unable to fall asleep that night. So at one point I decided it wasn’t worth it any more and just quit completely.

Not having had caffeinated drinks for so long, I think I’ve become more sensitive to it. I’ve cut way back on chocolate as well, because some years ago I noticed a strong correlation between eating chocolate in the afternoon and sleeping poorly at night. I love chocolate, but I basically only have it in the mornings now, and much much less than I used to eat.

Over the years, I’ve occasionally accidentally eaten something with caffeine in it, and suffered a restless night. I think that’s what happened last night. I had a yummy chocolate flavoured drink, and lost an entire night’s sleep. So… I guess that’s no more chocolate negronis for me. At least my wife can drink them.

In other news, today I took Scully for a morning play and exercise in the park across the road. At one point she got interested in something in the grass, and I walked over to see what it was. She was sniffing… a huge piece of steak! I gave her the “Leave it!” command and she obediently turned away from it. Thank goodness for training her with that command. I got a poo bag and picked up the meat. It was about the size of a coaster, and a centimetre or two thick – a good cut of meat, like you’d cook for dinner.

Now… A chunk of steak is not the sort of thing that somebody accidentally and innocently drops in a grassy park where dogs hang out. There have been several incidents of people in Sydney laying poisoned baits for dogs over the past few years, with several dogs killed. So I took this suspicious chunk of meat home and called the local council to report it. I asked if they wanted me to bring the meat in for testing. They said as it’s so far an isolated incident, that I should just dispose of the meat, but if I see any more, to report it again and they will launch an investigation.

I contacted my apartment block owners’ corporation and they’re going to notify all residents with dogs. I also posted a warning on a local social media site. And I went back to the park later in the day (without Scully) to look around to see if I could find any more chunks of meat – I didn’t find any.

Anyway, on top of a no-sleep night, that was a pretty crummy day.

New content today:

Catching up on sleep

So I went to bed early last night, and slept in until about 8am today. With that nice solid sleep, I felt pretty good today!

I took things pretty easy again, although went for a drive with my wife and Scully to get some lunch at a new bakery we hadn’t tried before, about 15 minutes drive from home. While there, we walked Scully around the neighbourhood. It’s a place we’ve never walked before, so it was interesting to look at all the houses, which had a distinct style – it was clearly an older neighbourhood, but perhaps semi-rural when first developed, as many of the older houses were built of stone, which is very unusual for a suburban neighbourhood so far from the historical centre of the city.

New content today:

Recovery Saturday

The ISO Photography Standards meeting concluded late last night. I’ve now spent the past 4 nights staying up until 2am (really a bit later, since I need to brush my teeth and get ready for bed after that), and waking up some time between 7 and 8 am, so I’m really surviving on limited sleep. So today was a relax and recover day, punctuated only by necessary housework.

I spent some time writing new Irregular Webcomic! strips. I’m now ready to photograph the remainder of the batch I began during the week.

That was about it really. It’s now just after 8pm and I’m ready for bed…

New content today:

3 nights down, 1 to go

The Thursday night of my ISO standards meeting was a little tougher , because I was a bit more tired, but also a bit easier in that the technical discussion was on topics closer to my ow expertise and interests than the previous night, so it was easier to pay attention and not drift off. I slept from 2:15 to about 8:30, so barely over 6 hours, which is about what I’ve had the past three nights.

This morning I did a big grocery shop, took Scully for a walk.

The final night of the meeting is about to begin, and I’m prepared with some chocolate peanut butter cake to boost my blood sugar levels for the next few hours.

Tonight is actually fortnightly board games night with my friends, and we’re still meeting virtually for that. So I’ve been able to stay up playing games until the ISO meeting begins at 11pm.

New content today:

2 nights down, 2 to go

I was up again until 2am last night, attending the ISO Photography Standards meeting being held virtually with delegates all around the world. I managed okay, staying alert for all of the technical discussions and contributing some comments. Which I hope were coherent and insightful.

So that’s two nights down, and tonight and Friday to go. I woke up this morning when my wife got up, and didn’t really manage to sleep in at all, so it was only about 5 hours sleep. I can manage on that for a few days, but it’ll all catch up with like a ton of bricks at some point. I just hope I can last to the end of the meeting first.

I’ve taken it a bit easy today, at least mentally. I went for a couple of walks to get some sunlight and fresh air, and I’ve spent a bit of time trying to write more comic scripts.

For lunch today I walked to the local fish & chip shop, and looking at their menu I decided to go fully retro and order stuff I haven’t had for years. I got a fish cake and a battered sav, plus some potato scallops. They even had Chiko rolls on the menu, but I didn’t opt for one of those. The potato scallops were excellent, but I understand why I haven’t bothered with fish cakes or battered savs for many years. I enjoyed it in a “this is nostalgic” sort of sense, but not so much in a culinary sense. Ah well.

New content today:

Getting back up to speed

I was up to 2am last night, with my ISO Photography Standards meeting, as explained yesterday. The meeting chair kept things moving and was meticulous with keeping discussion to time, so we didn’t go late, and the meeting ended as scheduled at 2am Sydney time (midday in New York City). By the time I brushed my teeth and otherwise prepared for bed it was about 20 minute past – an incredibly late night for me.

I woke this morning around 7am, since one late night isn’t enough to trigger a change of morning rising habit, so I didn’t get a normal night’s sleep. So now as late evening approaches, I’m pretty tired already…. but have to stay up again and participate in technical discussion until 2am all over again. I just have to keep the finish line of Friday night in mind.

Today I worked on a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips – the first new ones I’ve been able to make since I injured my hand. I didn’t have time to write a normal full batch of 20 strips (4 weeks worth), only managing to write 10 before I decided I had to go ahead and start photographing and assembling, because I need new strips ready for tomorrow night’s update when the guest strips sent by Chris Burke run out.

Normally I take the photos when my wife and Scully are out of the house, because it involves a big mess all over the living room floor as I lay out all my Lego boxes. However with my wife working from home at the moment due to COVID-19, it’s difficult to find such times. Fortunately today was Scully’s 6-weekly grooming appointment at the dog groomer. So I dropped her off and then rushed through taking the Lego photos while she at least was out of the house.

The dog groomer moved premises recently, and this was the first time we’d been to the new premises. It’s really nice, in a more modern building (the move was because the previous building is going to be demolished for redevelopment), with more space for the all the dogs in daycare. Scully was a bit nervous at first because she didn’t know what this new place was about, but as soon as she recognised the groomer she was happy.

Now, to kill another hour or so and then try to stay alert through three hours of technical standards work…

New content today:

Improving my handicap

This morning I played golf for the first time since injuring my hand. I met a friend for a round at the “par 3 pitch and putt” course we’ve played several times. Last time we played match play with me having a relative handicap of 17, and I won, so this time we reduced my handicap to 16. It was a tight contest, and my friend could have tied the round and forced us into a play-off hole by winning the 18th, but we halved the hole, and so I ended up on slightly more points, winning again. Next time we’ll reduce my handicap another stroke to 15.

My putting wasn’t great, but I made up for it with some good tee shots. One tee shot landed on the green and rolled gently past the hole, maybe 10 centimetres away, although it didn’t stop until a couple of metres past the hole – but it had been darn close to going in.

And the good news is that my left hand held up well. I was able to play all the strokes with as much strength as I wanted, without any problem or pain.

Tonight I have to stay up until 2am, because I have an online meeting for ISO photography standards. This meeting was scheduled for New York City this week, but obviously with the COVID-19 situation I’m not able to travel there, nor are most of the other delegates. ISO is holding all meetings virtually at the moment, currently until at least the end of September. Which means it affects our next meeting as well, which was scheduled for Tampere in Finland in September. The meeting after that I am actually supposed to be hosting right here in Sydney, in February, but it remains to be seen whether that will go ahead face-to-face or virtually.

Anyway, because this week’s meeting is notionally hosted in New York City, the agenda schedule is on New York time. Normally it would be 9-5, which corresponds to 11pm to 7am for me – just about maximally awful. Especially given I am not in any way a night owl – I work best in the morning and start getting too tired to do much of anything by about 9pm. But fortunately the organiser decided that the meetings could be compressed into 9-12 New York time, meaning 11pm to 2am for me. Which is better (both for me and the numerous Japanese delegates), but it means we have to extend into an extra day, so I have these hours Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, and Friday night (normally the meeting would go over just three days).

So… honestly I’m not looking forward to having to concentrate on highly technical content in an online meeting lasting until 2am, four nights in a row. But I’m just going to have to knuckle down and power through it, and hopefully catch up on sleep on the weekend.

New content today:

Block experiment

I tried an experiment today. I walked out the front door with the goal of walking around the block, defined as:

  • walk along the edge of a public roadway, keeping the road to one side (left as I chose) at all times, and
  • never cross a public roadway.

I knew the path I would trace, but I’d never actually walked it, in 20 years of living here, for reasons which shall become clear. I tracked my walk in Strava, and the statistics of a walk around my block are:

  • Distance: 2.82 km
  • Minimum elevation: 48 metres
  • Maximum elevation: 87 metres
  • Accumulated elevation climb: +67 metres

The path I walked looks like this (I’ve hand drawn it and not provided any street names):

block walk path

There are three dead end streets running into the interior of the block, so by my rules I had to walk into each one and back out along the opposite side of the street – something I’ve never done before in a single walk. The dotted lines mark pedestrian paths which provide short cuts that vehicles can’t use. Naturally, when I’m out walking I make good use of these short cuts, providing another reason why I’ve never had occasion to walk around the block like this before. The area I live in is very hilly, so there was a lot of elevation change as I traced this route.

Interestingly, I’ve long thought that if I just cross the street directly outside my place, I end up on a block of land that adjoins Sydney Harbour (as in, I can walk from that point to the shore without crossing a road – in fact have done so on many occasions). So if I tried to walk around that block by the same rules, I would end up having to walk all the way around Sydney Harbour, by a route encompassing various bridges (Fig Tree, Tarban Creek, Gladesville, Iron Cove, Anzac, and Sydney Harbour Bridges, for those counting). After doing the simpler block walk today, I checked Google Maps to see exactly what sort of route this enormous walk would take, and I realised that because of various underpasses that go beneath the bridges I was thinking of, I would actually end up either skipping some of the bridges and going even further around, further upriver (ending up crossing the river on Silverwater Bridge, of all things), or doing odd loops that cross a bridge then go around an underpass loop and then go back across the same bridge on the other side of the road.

Ultimately, I traced my path as far as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is the only way back to my place from the southern side of the harbour… only to realise that by my rules I would end up doing one of those underpass loops on the north side and then returning to the southern side… now with nothing to return me back to the northern side between there and the ocean. In fact, this “around the block” walk would take me all the way around the entire coastline of mainland Australia before returning to my home.

(In practice, you would be very hard pressed to actually walk this route as it encompasses several freeway sections where pedestrians are banned.)

But I was staggered by the fact that a simple rule mixed with the vagaries of the road system meant that my original assumption of merely walking around the harbour and across a few bridges was mistaken, and that instead it would lead to a grand walk around the whole continent.

If anyone else cares to try this, either with an actual walk, or tracing a route via Google Maps, please let me know your results.

New content today:

Paul’s Famous Hamburger pilgrimage

Today was more housework, helping my wife with laundry and changing bedsheets and stuff like that. I’ve also started cooking dinners again, after my enforced time off with my hand injury. Speaking of which, the sticky bandage the hospital pout on on Tuesday finally frayed enough around the edges today for me to pull the whole thing off, so the healing wound/scar is now fully exposed. It doesn’t actually look as bad as I thought it might. It’s still fairly bruised and sore though – I expect that will take a few weeks to go away completely.

But the main event of today was a trek, nay a pilgrimage, to get lunch at a legendary food establishment in Sydney’s south. I was inspired by it coming up in conversation with my friends during the week, and then yesterday one of them was actually inspired to travel down there to get one of the famous hamburgers. So today, finally, years after I first learnt of this place, I drove down to the suburb of Sylvania, some 30 km south of home, to sample one of Paul’s Famous Hamburgers.

Paul's Famous Hamburgers of Sylvania

The hamburgers from this place have regularly won awards for the best hamburger in Australia. Although I’ve driven past it a few times on my way somewhere else, I’ve never previously stopped and tried one.

I wrote a full review of today’s experience over in my food blog: Snot Block & Roll. So check that out if you want all the details. For here, suffice to say that yes, it was a deliciously good hamburger although, no, I don’t think it’s the best one I’ve ever had in Australia.

Scully appreciated it too.

Scully testing a Paul's burger

New content today: