Cancellations and Codenames

Saturday dawned cool and grey, although a bit of sun poked through on occasion. The forecast was for late showers, leading into a rainy Sunday.

Late morning I went for a walk with my wife and Scully, doing our usual bakery/marina/park loop. Although cool, it was humid and quite sticky by the time we got home.

There was an email waiting for me. From the organisers of tomorrow’s market, where I planned to have a stall to sell my photography prints. They said they’d received many concerned emails about the weather forecast, and consulting multiple weather sites they noted that the forecast for Sydney tomorrow is heavy rain and thunderstorms during the day. My stall is indoors (I chose is specifically to avoid inclement weather), but most of the market is outdoors. So the organisers were writing to say they had decided to cancel the market, to avoid damage to stallholders’ products, and to avoid wasting time with a low buyer turnout.

I understand why they did it, but it’s disappointing to have yet another delay, with all the COVID cancellations. And it’s also annoying because I had to book a hire car via a car share company, because my car isn’t large enough to transport all of my stock and equipment. Because the cancellation is less than 24 hours before pickup, there’s no refund. 😕 At least it’s tax deductible. Assuming I ever make enough money form this caper to pay tax in the first place.

This afternoon my wife and I played a couple of games of Codenames Duet campaign mode. We tackled Monte Carlo, which for those who know the game means 9 turns with zero bystanders allowed. The campaign games are starting to get tough – the previous city, Sydney, was 9-1 and it took us four attempts to win it. But we managed to knock of Monte Carlo in just two games today!

The first was a bit of a debacle, with some really tough clue combos. I had to clue the words TRUNK and BARK, but without cluing the word MAPLE, so that kind of ruled out any wood/tree based clues. And I had to clue GERMANY, while ALPS was an assassin (instant loss if guessed). There were other issues as well which I forget – let it suffice to say we lost badly.

The second game started terribly. I clued LAWN to indicate GRASS and BERMUDA, but my wife’s first guess was YARD, which was a bystander, so we instantly lost a turn. But we pulled it back together with consistent strong 2-cluing, and in the end it came down to my wife having to clue two words to me with the final clue for victory. She gave the clue HARD 2. Which was truly inspired, and straight away I realised the answers had to be YARD (as in “hard yards”) and NUT (“hard nut to crack”). I guessed them and we won!

That completes all of the 9-turn games in the campaign. Now we shift to the 8-turn games, which ratchets up the difficulty again. It’s getting challenging, but is a lot of fun.

New content today:

Chilly Friday photo project

Today dawned cloudy and chilly and a bit rainy. I did some comic work, but also took some time to continue a photography project I started back on Monday.

There’s a street in a suburb not far from me which is lined with jacaranda trees. Every year in late spring, basically November, the trees flower, and the location becomes a fantastic wonderland of purple flowers creating a tunnel around the street. In the past few years it’s become Instagram famous and has attracted large numbers of tourists. They want to take photos standing on the street – which of course is a hazard as the locals use it to drive on. This has become such an issue that the council has stuck warning signs on the footpaths:

McDougall Street jacaranda warning sign

Anyway, jacaranda flowering season is just in the very earliest stages right now. And given COVID, there are no tourists in Sydney at the moment. So this is the perfect opportunity to take photos of the flowering without the photos being full of tourists.

My plan is to go down to the street at least a couple of times a week, to make sure I’m keeping track of the flowering progress. And so this way I can be sure to catch and capture it at the peak. During the peak, I might try to go down there every day and take photos.

I went down on Monday, and the street looked like this:

McDougall Street jacarandas: 12 Oct

It doesn’t look like much yet. There’s just a faint hint of the earliest purple flower buds coming out. I went down again today:

McDougall Street jacarandas: 16 Oct

Not much change. But stay tuned as I keep this up, because this street is going to transform into something absolutely magical within the next few weeks.

New content today:

Fish & chips & magpie

This morning I did the weekly grocery shop. There wasn’t much on the shopping list today, so it was a fairly light one. But the supermarket has started one of its periodic things where they move everything around for no reason, so it took me longer than normal to find things. The cheese is now where the eggs used to be, the eggs are where the yoghurt used to be, the yoghurt’s where the juice used to be, and so on and so forth. I’m sure they only do this to confuse shoppers and make them spend more time in the store. And I guarantee in a year they’ll do it all again.

Workwise I mostly spent the day doing comics stuff.

For lunch I went for a walk to the fish & chip shop and then down to my favourite eating spot.

Fish box lunch

That’s actually a “lunch box” special, with the chips replaced by potato scallops. And this guy tried to get close enough to steal some of my lunch:

Hungry magpie

I actually got several closer photos, but he was so close that the phone-camera didn’t focus properly. It’s an Australian magpie, by the way. They can be extremely bold, and even aggressive, although not as aggressive as silver gulls. Except when swooping during nesting season, when magpies are significantly dangerous. (Which is right now, but this one wasn’t protecting a nest, thankfully.)

Hungry magpie

I had to keep shooing him away, and managed to retain all of my lunch for myself.

New content today:

Back to Ethics

The final term of the school year started this week, and so I had my Ethics class today for the first time since 4 weeks ago (I missed the last week before the holidays due to the ISO Photography meeting). Fortunately I remembered all the kids’ names! We’re on a new topic, which they actually started non the week I was away, with a substitute teacher. This one builds on the destiny and fate stuff we did a while back, and poses the question of whether people are morally responsible for all of their actions, or whether their actions are caused by their circumstances.

Today’s lesson concentrated on whether everything has a cause, or if some things just happen for no reason whatsoever. An example: when you feel angry, is it because something happened that made you angry, or do you just get angry for no reason? And similarly for feeling happy. I asked the kids to think of some time when they were angry, and if there was something that made them feel that way. The ones who I called on had clear examples of events that made them angry.

I then asked if you can change how you feel just by thinking about your feelings. Can you make yourself feel happy? They said yes, if you think happy thoughts, or about something you like. Then I asked if something caused you to be happy. They identified that, in this case, the fact that you were thinking about something nice was the cause that made you happy. It’s not an external event, but it’s still a cause.

By now the kids were going along with the idea that pretty much everything that happens has a cause. So we moved onto whether the decisions you make have a cause. If you’re choosing between a ham sandwich and a salad sandwich, and you kind of want the ham, but you remember a lesson on healthy eating and that the salad will be healthier, so you choose that – was your decision caused by something? Or did you just decide without any sort of cause?

The path through the questioning leads the kids to the answer that your decision is caused by the health lesson you had. They then expanded on this in a very insightful way: one of them said that this means any decision you make is probably caused by things that have happened to you, either recently, or while you were growing up. Maybe if you grew up really liking ham, you would have ignored the healthy salad and chosen the ham sandwich, but that decision too has a cause.

That was the end of the lesson, but it’s approaching the question we’ll be looking at next week. If all our decisions are caused by events in our lives, should we be held responsible for those decisions? It should be interesting.

In other news, I got my first Etsy shop order from overseas! I thought I’d go to the local office supply place to get a bulk pack of envelopes large enough to mail my greeting cards in, to save money on those, but the website said they were out of stock, and I couldn’t get them before about 5 November!! So I ordered a box, but it’ll take 3-4 weeks to arrive. In the meantime I’ll have to keep buying expensive envelopes to mail orders out.

New content today:

How to write comedy

Today was a comic writing day. I set myself the goal of writing 3 strips for Darths & Droids, which is a week’s worth of updates.

I used to write these strips in a meeting room with a bunch of friends at work, over lunch. In a long lunch break of 2 hours, we could write 3 or 4, sometimes 5 strips. Sometimes we wouldn’t get that many done, because we were discussing story planning.

Now, because our company shut up shop and we all lost out jobs, we can’t get together and do that every week. We’ve shifted to a model where we discuss things online, but not being in person it’s harder to get everyone concentrating and talking at the same time. What this means in effect is that I write a skeleton of the action and story, and whatever jokes I can think of, and then paste the scripts into a group chat so my friends can make comments and suggestions. It’s less real-time than in person, and comments come in over several hours as people drift in and out of the chat. And sometimes I have to prod people to say anything.

With most of a day to myself at home, you might think I could write dozens of strips. But it’s not that easy. I need that feedback, and to craft the joke setups and punchlines into the narrative in a natural way, so I’m often held up writing later action while waiting for a joke to be moulded.

We ended up writing two strips today – less than a week’s worth. So I’ll have to do this again another day.

I did get some other stuff done in between. The work itself is more fragmented, with periods of downtime during the day. During which I run errands, do shopping, take Scully to the park, do some work on my photography business, and so on.

Writing material takes a lot longer than you might realise.

New content today:

Thoughts on running

Lap 1.

I never used to be a runner. I wasn’t athletic at school or university. I played a bit of casual tennis and sometimes squash, and later took up swimming a bit, but I’ve never really been dedicated or high performing.

A few years ago I thought I should stop being lazy and do some physical activity for fitness and health’s sake. I took up jogging around the neighbourhood. But the area is hilly and going up and down hills the whole time is just a drag. It petered out within a year or so.

Lap 2.

In October last year decided to really give it a go again. Rather than do random distances around the neighbourhood, up and down hills, I now had Strava, so I could track distance and time. I decided to go up to Gore Hill Oval, a football/cricket field not far away, and run laps on the flat ground.

Gore Hill Oval

Gore Hill Oval is a kilometre from my place… uphill. To start with, I started timing myself from home, so including the uphill walk to the oval, which I sort of jog-walked as my legs could bear, before reaching the oval and completing enough laps to take my total distance to 5km. I did it once every week or two, and got times around 30-31 minutes.

Lap 3.

Then the summer hit, and the bushfires that blanketed the city with smoke for weeks on end. It was unhealthy just to be outdoors, let alone huffing and puffing for half an hour of exercise. So I stopped running. Once you start being lazy again, it’s easy to keep it up.

I didn’t start running again until July this year. This time I figured I’d walk up the hill to the oval, and only start timing my 5k run when I started doing laps on the flat ground. That immediately reduced my time to around 29 minutes.

Lap 4.

I’ve kept it up since then, one run a week, only occasionally skipping a week (twice so far up to now). My times are now around 27:30 consistently, but it varies a bit. The weather has an effect. Cool and dry is good. One morning was very hot, and my time was bad.

Lap 5.

Today it’s cool, but very humid. The air feels thicker and doesn’t inhale as easily. Sweat is dripping down my face, and into my eyes, stinging with the salt. I feel like I’m labouring and doing a slow time.

Gore Hill Oval

Lap 6.

The Oval is an interesting place. There are always people here, either running laps like myself, or simply walking laps, or using the field for soccer practice like the guy who is kicking goals, bouncing the ball off the picket fence so it returns to him. There are people walking dogs. There are mothers and babies in prams and strollers. There are personal trainers and clients, the former pushing the latter to exert themselves and not give in.

After six laps I feel like giving in.

Lap 7.

They say there’s a “runner’s high” that you feel when running – a feeling of euphoria that drives people to keep going because it feels so good. All I feel is exhaustion and an overwhelming desire to stop.

I stumbled onto a thread on reddit yesterday where someone was saying that running feels surprisingly good. A bunch of people commented that yes, it does, they love that feeling they get while doing a run. One person commented (paraphrased):

“I wish you could show me how to get that feeling. I run, but only because I force myself to because I know it’s good for me. I hate every single step and when I’m doing it all I want to do is stop and never run again.”

That’s me. I’m running and I hate it. I just want it to stop.

Lap 8.

The first few laps are okay, because my body is fresh. But it gets harder and harder as the laps pile up. This is where sheer bloody-minded stubbornness takes over. I’ve done more than half the distance. If I give up now, I lose. I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to be a loser.

I keep going.

Lap 9.

Younger guys, bare chested, impressive six-packs, are doing laps of the oval too, overtaking me every few laps. Yeah, if you were my age you wouldn’t be running so fast!

Maybe you would, but I can dream. There are other people, old and young, just walking around the oval for exercise. I’m lapping a few of them. Eat my dust!

Lap 10.

The end is close now. Light at the end of the tunnel. If I can just complete this lap, there’s only one more to go, and then – blessed relief – I can stop.

I start counting steps, in a 4-beat rhythm. Like counting bars when drumming. ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four. It takes a lot of bars to progress a quarter of the way around the oval. One lap is like a whole song.

I sing lyrics in my head to stop myself thinking about how much I want to stop running.

Lap 11.

This is it! The last lap! I know 11 laps is a bit over 5 kilometres.

Halfway around I pull out my phone and open Strava to check the distance. 4.84 km. I pick up the pace and start a sprint to the finish. My breathing, heavy but regular, shifts to double time as my legs pump the ground for the last hundred and a bit metres.


At 5k I turn off the tracker and slow to a walk as I catch my breath. My time is 27:42. Not as bad as I thought with this humid air, but I’ve done better.

I wander over to the open-air gym equipment next to the oval, and go through a stretching routine and some sit-ups and push-ups.

Other people are still using the oval. A mums & bubs fitness class begins.

Gore Hill Oval

I stretch my legs out. I head off for the downhill walk home.

It’s done. Until next week.

New content today:

Bit of a lazy Sunday

It was almost a lazy Sunday. Except for my wife rousing me to go with her and Scully for a walk this morning. We did our usual weekend circuit, around to our favourite local bakery and back via the marina and Berry Island. It’s about 4.5 km, a good solid walk. Scully was still a bit tired after yesterday’s big day out, so she slept a lot of this afternoon.

I made a comic, but mostly I worked on processing some old photos from our trip to Tasmania in 2000. I have a bunch of photos taken in King Solomon’s Cave in Mole Creek Karst National Park.

King Solomon's Cave

Oh, and I wrote up a new Snot Block & Roll review from yesterday, plus an older one that I’d had waiting for a few months.

And… that’s about it.

New content today:

A nice day for a ferry trip

Today I went on a Saturday outing with my wife and Scully. We walked down to Greenwich Point wharf, which is a decent walk in itself from our place.

Greenwich Point

From here we caught a ferry across the harbour to Balmain, home of many Victorian era terrace houses.

Keyhole doorway duplex

We walked up and down the main street, checking out food places and shops, and grabbing a few little bites to eat here and there to make up an overall lunch. The Balmain Post Office is an interesting structure, built in 1886-7. The writing on it still proclaims it to be the “Post and Telegraph Office”.

Balmain Post Office

There are also old sandstone churches. The St Andrew’s Congregational Church, 1854 (with Scully):

Scully at St Andrew's Congregational Church, Balmain

And the Campbell Street Presbyterian Church, 1867:

Campbell Street Presbyterian Church

After a few hours of enjoying the warm spring sunshine and visiting a suburb we don’t go to very much, we headed back home on the ferry.

Ferry wake, heading home

This afternoon my wife and I played a few games of Codenames Duet, and finally completed the 11th city in our campaign. Sydney, as it happened. 😀

New content today:

Parallax and gardening

The plan for today was to write a new proof for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe. I managed to get one completed: 45: Parallax of the Moon. This proof includes a practical experiment that I can do, with the help of readers in different places around the world. So if you’d like to help, please give it a look!

After finishing that, I walked up to the hardware store to get some hex keys. I have a hand towel holder in the bathroom that’s been loose for ages. It’s held onto a wall bracket by a grub screw with a hex key head. In the past few days I searched for the original hex key, but couldn’t find it in the likely places, such as either the mini toolbox under the kitchen sink, or the big toolbox in the garage. So I had to go buy some hex keys. Measuring the size of the needed hex key was pretty much impossible, so I figured I’d just buy a set with various sizes.

Of course I got to the hardware stores and they have sets in both metric and imperial sizes, and of course I have no idea which one I need, so I end up having to buy both. Fortunately it was only $5 for a set of 8 keys in each type, so I paid $10 for 16 keys. I got home and picked a likely looking size – 2.5 mm from the metric set – and it fit perfectly. I tightened the grub screw… but the towel holder was still wobbly. So I unscrewed it completely and took it off the bracket, and discovered that the bracket itself was loose on the wall. So I got a screwdriver and tightened that up, then reattached the hook and tightened up the grub screw, et voilà! The hook is now firmly attached and not wobbly any more.

And I have 16 new hex keys, 15 of which I’ll probably never use. And one of which I might never use again.

This afternoon I went out to the park across the street to use my new weeding tool (bought the other day) to remove some bindii from the grass. I’ve never done weeding in a garden/lawn before, but it was pretty easy to figure it out. I used gardening gloves, but even so, the thorns from the bindii sometimes poked through the gloves and into my fingers. It was some work squatting on the grass and pulling weeds, but I collected half a bucket full in about an hour, clearing an area of a few square metres of bindii. This will make it much more comfortable for Scully to walk around, although I’ll need to clear quite a bit more space to get the little park fully clear.

Tonight is our fortnightly games night, still virtual because of COVID. I’ve managed to win a game of 7 Wonders and 6 Nimmt so far.

New content today:

Haircuts and barberism

This morning I did the weekly grocery shop, and before heading into the supermarket I went to my regular barber to get a haircut. The owner wasn’t there, and a new guy was doing cuts. I got into the chair, he asked me how I wanted it cut, I described it, and he started work.

And as he started cutting, he launched into conversation with, “So, what do you think is the best German sports car?”

I was a bit dumbfounded, not being a car person. I was thinking, “Audi is German… what sports cars are German?”

And then he starts talking about the various Porsche 911 models… and I’m left just nodding my head, while trying not to nod my head while he’s cutting my hair… So yeah. It was a bit like that.

In good news, I made my first Etsy sale today! Just a single greeting card, but it’s off to a start. I realised I need to find a cheaper way to post them. I’ll have to buy some envelopes in bulk and figure out the cheapest postage rate.

And I made some comics and processed some photos… and the day just flew by.

New content today: