A birthday brunch

This morning we dropped Scully with one of our neighbours to mind for a few hours. They also own a dog, named Spike, and the two of them get along pretty well. They haven’t minded Scully before, but we thought they were a good choice from people we knew. They took her and Spike to Centennial Park where they said they had a good time running around.

The reason was because my wife and I were going to a birthday brunch for her mother’s birthday. It was at Long Reef Golf Club, so we couldn’t take Scully. There were seven of us there. They were only serving the breakfast menu before switching to the lunch menu later on, so we had a limited choice of things. I chose the chilli scrambled eggs, which had chorizo and cherry tomatoes as well, on sourdough toast. It was pretty good. We had a nice view of the beach as we ate.

Long Reef Golf Club cafe

We were back home by 13:00. Our neighbours were still out with Scully and Spike, but brought her back over when they returned an hour or so later.

My wife and I played another game of Root this afternoon with the robotic Marquise faction. We upped the difficulty by adding a couple of the optional trait cards to the Marquise, which made it a lot more formidable. It was also lucky, drawing a lot of bird cards in a row, while I, playing the Eyrie, didn’t draw any birds for about the first half of the game, which really cramped my options a lot. I came a dismal last, behind my wife, who just edged out the Marquise.

New content today:

A new vanilla slice

My Snot Block & Roll food review blog has languished a bit since the COVID pandemic, but today I finally managed to find a new vanilla slice from a bakery I haven’t visited before. We felt like going out for a bit of a drive for afternoon tea today, since it was hot and humid and not good weather for taking Scully for a walk. I checked Google Maps and found a bakery not too far away and we headed over.

Biga Artisan Bakery

When we got there, they had vanilla slices and they looked decent, so I decided to get one. It was pretty good, though with one caveat. You can read the full review here.

After we got home, I played another game of Root with my wife. This time we used one of the automated “robot” factions to add a third opponent to the mix. We used the Mechanical Marquise, I played the Eyrie, and my wife played Woodland Alliance for the first time. The robot factions have variable difficulty levels, and we used the default, which is the second highest from (easy, default, difficult, nightmare). It didn’t pose much of a problem for us, though I suspect part of that was caused by some bad luck with the robot Marquise drawing three mouse cards in a row, which really limited its ability to attack and damage us. My wife won in the end, running away with spreading sympathy throughout the robot player’s territory without much opposition.

Root with Mechanical Marquise

I spent much of the morning doing house chores. I vacuumed and then emptied water from all the moisture absorbers in all the closets and storage areas, including the cabinets in the garage, and refilled them with dry calcium chloride crystals. It’s astonishing the amount of water these things have been sucking out of the air in the recent high humidity. Definitely better doing this than getting mould.

New content today:

Last ethics classes for a week

I had my final ethics classes for the next week today. I’m taking a break for a week because next week is the ISO Photography Standards meeting in Tokyo. I’m staying home and attending virtually. It’s going to be a long one, because there’s a lot of technical discussion sessions on high dynamic range format specifications. The sessions begin 08:30 Tokyo time and run to 18:00, which corresponds to 10:30 to 20:00 in my time zone. At least I don’t have to get up early!

For dinner we went to our local pizza place. We chat with the owners and they know us as regular customers, but ever since COVID they’ve been a bit down about their business falling off, and it seems it hasn’t yet returned to prior levels. We noticed last time and confirmed it this time that they’ve shrinkflationed their pizzas. They’re a little bit, but noticeably, smaller than they used to be, for the same price. It’s not actually a big problem for us, because we used to g home stuffed full, but now we’re a little less so. It’s still enough for dinner.

This morning I finished my presentation on Astronomy/Photography/Human Vision and sent it off to Loreto school, so the teacher there can load it up on their presentation system for my talk next week.

And tonight is online board games night with my friends. I just joined in after dinner and we’re playing Just One.

New content today:

Quick late night update

It’s 10pm, after my final Zoom ethics teaching class for the night, so I don’t want to spend too long on this before bed. There was the usual five classes today, and in between I worked on finishing off my slide presentation for next week’s school visit. I think I successfully managed to combine astronomy, photography, and human vision into one presentation short enough and pitched at the correct 8-10 year ago group. And it’s complete with a couple of photos of Scully, since the teacher said the kids loved seeing photos of people’s pets.

Dinner was a simple pasta with pesto and pumpkin chunks. Easy and quick. Oh, and the weather was rainy today. It cooled down a lot overnight and we’re forecast for a few days of showers coming up.

New content today:

Starting to sleep

I began the “Sleep” topic with the kids in my online classes today. This is a nice straightforward topic and I found my lesson plan to be smooth and just a matter of following the script I wrote. Last week’s class on “Why?” was much more convoluted and I often had to go off-script and ad-lib connections between the questions, which takes a lot more concentration.

This morning I worked on another Darths & Droids comic, and then I began working on a slide presentation for my visit to Loreto school next week. The teacher there suggested using old photos of myself at school, and a photo of my dog or something, which the kids usually like seeing. The audience will be younger kids, ages 8-10 or so. So I gathered some old photos and put them in. Now I still need to add some actual science content, on astronomy and photography, without making it too complicated.

Scully got to meet next door’s new dog, Sophie, three times today! When I took her out for her morning walk, Sophie was coming in with the man neighbour. When I took her out for lunch walk, his wife was coming in with Sophie. And when my wife took Scully for an evening walk they ran into Sophie and the husband again. Seems like they might be taking her for walks at roughly the same times as us.

Today’s sourdough loaf is a mix of all the different sorts of flours I have in the pantry: rye, wholemeal, and semolina, rounded out with baker’s flour. I’ve just put it in the oven after letting it rise all afternoon.

And for dinner I made coleslaw with wombok, or Chinese cabbage, and served it with vegetarian sausages. I wanted to do okonomiyaki, but the supermarket didn’t have any regular cabbage for the past two weeks, so I decided to get the wombok. And it’s much bigger than the usual quarter of a cabbage that I buy, so we’re having to find other uses for it. I didn’t have any coleslaw dressing, but I improvised with some mayonnaise, lemons juice, vinegar, pepper, and a bit of sesame dressing. It turned out pretty good, with the wombok and shredded carrot.

New content today:

Lunch with Lisa again

Today I spent the morning writing my class plan for the next week of ethics, on the topic of “Sleep”.

A bit after 11, I walked with Scully down to North Sydney to meet my old school-friend Lisa, who I’d reconnected with back in November. I met her at the station exit and we walked a few blocks up the hill to Soho on Miller Cafe. I chose this place because it has a good looking menu and it’s not far from my wife’s work. She tried a pasta dish while I had the chicken schnitzel with mushroom sauce, which was pretty good.

We chatted for a bit and then my wife joined us for a bit during her lunch break. It’s the first time the two of them have met and they chatted and swapped some stories. My wife took Scully back to her office for a little while I walked Lisa back to the station to catch her train home. Then I came back and picked up Scully and walked home with her.

When we got home, it was clear that our new neighbours across the hall, who we met yesterday when they locked themselves out, were having their furniture delivered today. This caused Scully to bark quite a bit with the noise, but it was good that they’ll finally have a sofa to sit on!

I made pizza for dinner tonight. I opened a new can of yeast powder, and the dough rose a lot more than the dough I’ve been making the past few months – probably because the old yeast was beginning to lose its potency.

New content today:

Meeting the new neighbours in a strange way

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d briefly met our new neighbours across the hall from our apartment. And that they had a dog and cat in quarantine after emigrating from South Africa.

Early this evening as I was bringing Scully in from a toilet break outside, I heard the sound of a dark barking from their apartment. I figured they must have their pets out of quarantine. Scully reacted to the barking by barking back, and my wife and I discussed and thought it would be a good idea to get the two dogs to meet each other and become familiar, so they won’t be barking through the door at each other all the time. We thought now was as good a time as any, and knocked on their door.

They answered, the woman coming out holding their dog – a west highland terrier which we learnt was named Sophie. Scully and Sophie had a bit of a sniff and started to get used to one another. The woman’s husband stepped out to say hello to us as well… and accidentally let the door slip closed behind him. He asked his wife if she had the key, but she didn’t. They’d locked themselves out of their apartment!

I asked if they had anyone with a spare key, and they said no, since they’d just moved to Australia recently. They didn’t have phones on them, so I got mine and found a 24-hour locksmith nearby and called to have them come over. They said they’d be about half an hour.

Rather than let them wait in the corridor, we invited them into our place. They turned out to be very nice people and we chatted about our dogs, their move from South Africa, and various other things while we waited. It turns out all their furniture is still sitting in a shipping container at Port Botany, after several weeks of delays in arriving, and then a port workers’ strike, and now customs inspection of everything they’ve brought over. The man said how nice it was to sit on our sofa – at the moment they only have some folding chairs in their place to sit on! We also learnt that their dog Sophie had only arrived at 4:30pm today, after having been flown from the quarantine facility in Melbourne, so they’d only had about an hour with her before we knocked and they got locked out!

Eventually the locksmith arrived and let them in. We felt terrible for having started this chain of events and apologised repeatedly and offered to pay for the locksmith, but they were very gracious about it and insisted on paying themselves. A bit of a misfortune, but at least we had the chance to sit and have a bit of an introductory chat. They said they’d invite us over for a drink when they get their furniture.

In other news today I received a mail order of some more board game expansions for Root. I decided to take the plunge and order some of them now in case they go out of print at some point. There are a few small ones already out of print and hard to find, but fortunately I managed to get those in the special Kickstarter edition of one of the other expansions I bought from the game store.

I had four classes to finish off the “Why?” topic for the week. And I put together a presentation to give at the next ISO Photography Standards meeting next week, on details for the meeting I’ll be hosting in Sydney in October. It was finally approved by Standards Australia, and now we can start giving delegates information on things like visa requirements, hotels, and so on. So it’s been a busy day.

New content today:

Double running early Sunday morning

My wife expressed a desire to begin running for her fitness. She already goes to the gym most days, but wanted to add some more aerobic activity. SO this morning she set an alarm and soon after 06:30 we walked up to the nearest sports oval. I’ve done some running around here, since it’s nice and flat with no hills, but I find it boring because running laps doesn’t take me past any interesting scenery. But my wife wanted to start easy.

She ran 2.5k, although she was a bit staggered when she asked how many laps that would be and I told her five and a half. I looked after Scully while she ran, and Scully wanted to run after her, but that probably wouldn’t have been great after a while, so I held on to her on the lead. My wife took it nice and slowly and managed to complete the laps with a little bit of walking in between longer spurts of jogging. After she was done I started my 5k run around the oval (11 and a bit laps), while she took Scully to a nearby cafe to get a drink.

We did some stretches afterwards and were back home before 08:00. It’s actually really nice to get up early and do something and have a feeling of achievement while the day is still young. Although given I went to bed late last night after running the D&D game, I could have used a bit more sleep!

Speaking of last night’s Dungeons & Dragons game, I wanted to mention a fun thing that happened. But I know some of my friends read my blog, and I want to possibly run the same adventure with them some time soon, so:

If you’re one of my D&D players, please don’t open the following spoiler text:


At one point in the adventure they found a vampire, impaled through the chest with a magic sword. This sword was one of the main goals of the adventure, so they wanted to retrieve it. The problem was if they removed it, the vampire would be released. It was currently pinned by the sword, and could talk, so it begged to be released. The party were understandably cautious, not wanting to release a vampire who might immediately attack them. The plan they came up with involved: moving the vampire still impaled by the sword onto a magical floating disc, covering the vampire with a tarpaulin, moving the disc outside the cave they found him in, which was hidden behind a waterfall, moving him to the opposite side of the river, then pulling the sword out. They figured the vampire would have to stay under the tarpaulin as long as the sun was up to avoid dying, and then would be unable to cross the running water back into the cave that they were still exploring. A very creative plan! – I thought, and let them carry it out.

It was one of several clever things they did. I also gave their pregenerated characters a mixture of odd magic items that did weird and non-obviously-useful things, and they used several of these to interesting effect. So overall it was a good session.

New content today:

Double gaming: Root and D&D

No update on Friday because it was face-to-face board gaming night with my friends. I had four ethics classes, leading into departing to drive over to my friend’s place for the gaming. I was keen to try Root with more players, and with one of the regulars sidelined due to potential whooping cough exposure, I surveyed the likely attendees and found we had 4, the perfect number of players.

Then, a few minutes before I left, another friend said he was going to come too. So now we had 5, which wouldn’t work (without adding one of the optional expansions that allow more players, which I didn’t want to do as I haven’t read any of the rules of those yet). And then when I arrived, that last guy was just getting out of his car too. It turned out he brought a copy of Root as well! He said he’d bought it a while ago and had also been looking for a chance to play it with others.

We toyed with the idea of splitting into groups of 3 and 2 and playing two games, but I was the only one who knew all the rules. The guy who brought his own copy of the game said he’d be happy to watch and learn while the other four of us played a game, so that’s what we ended up doing. Our host made home-made pizzas for dinner and then we played.

The Cats raced to an early lead, as it seems they are wont to do. I was playing the Vagabond for the first time, after just having read its rules the day before. So I didn’t have a good grasp on my strategy, and I was helping the others with their moves to remind them of things they could do. The Eyrie crept up on the Cats and got to a point where they would have won the very next turn, but the rest of us managed to get them to go into Turmoil and the Eyrie lost 5 points, keeping them short of victory. Still, they would almost certainly win next turn. And then the Woodland Alliance stepped up. The player made some moves, said he couldn’t do much else, and then questioned what he could possibly craft from the cards in his hand. It turned out he had Sympathy in three mouse clearings, and had a “Favour of the Mice” card, which requires three mice to craft… and it removes all enemy pieces from all mouse clearings! This destroyed some 6 buildings, giving him 6 points, and victory in the game!

We finished the night with a game of For Sale, so the observer could play a game of 5 with us.

In other news, we had some work done in our garage on Friday. It’s in the basement of the apartment block, which is lit in the common areas, but the inside of our car space was very dark. Every time I wanted to go in there and store stuff or find stuff, I had to use a torch to see anything. It was really annoying. But a while back I noticed one of the other car spaces seemed to have a nice new light inside, motion controlled. So I wrote to the strata administrator and asked if we could have one of those installed as well, and they said yes. We have to pay a small installation cost, but the power comes from the communal fund. I was happy to pay the installation, and the work was done on Friday. So now we have a wonderful new light in our car space, and it’s great!

Saturday, I got up early and went straight for a 5k run, because my wife was taking Scully for a walk before heading out to the gym for a new dance class a bit later in the morning. I had my run completed and done my stretches before 08:00.

I used the rest of the morning for housework, cleaning the bathroom and shower, and then got stuck into prep work for tonight’s Dungeons & Dragons game at the local science shop. I had a one-shot dungeon to run, and wanted to make a bunch of pregenerated 3rd level characters. Last time I had 2nd level, so I just boosted their level by 1. Last time I’d printed out blank character sheets and written everything by hand. Of course some sheets ended up with player notes and doodles all over the, so I couldn’t really reuse those.

I thought I’d save myself some time in the long term by making Photoshop files of character sheets, with different layers representing the same character at different levels, so I can just switch them on and off and print out a version at any of a number of different levels, ready for play. It took me a bit of time to do this.

And then when I printed them I ran into a weird and annoying quirk of Photoshop. It saves the “number of copies” to print as part of the document. You save a new copy of the file to work on, do stuff, print it…. and it remembered that last time I printed 6 copies of the blank character sheet, so now I’d accidentally queued up to print 6 copies of each character when I only wanted 1 copy of each. I had to go into the print queue and delete all the jobs when I noticed (after 18 sheets came out of the printer).

The game went fairly well, with 4 players. But some of them were young and had to leave early, so we finished well before the shop closing time of 10pm, and didn’t get through as much of the dungeon as I hoped. Nevertheless, I shortcutted to the climax and they got to meet the God of Swords and ended up getting a super cool magical sword… with a horrible curse. And that was a suitable end to the evening.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

7 hours of online meetings…

It was a busy day today. I had five ethics classes, plus in between a two-hour agenda planning meeting for the next upcoming ISO Photography Standards meeting, which is in a couple of weeks. This is a meeting to discuss the scheduling of the agenda items, to fit in with everyone’s requirements for time to speak about and discuss the various projects, and also any attendance issues such as people only being able to attend morning or afternoon sessions because they’re attending remotely from different time zones, and so on.

I had a constraint, which is that the first lecture of this semester’s new course on Data Engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney, clashes with the morning session of the second day of the meeting. I want to make sure I don’t miss the lecture and meeting the students, so I requested a couple of photography topics that I’m more interested in be moved to different sessions. This was accommodated, so that means I’ll only be missing some of the topics that are of lesser interest to me, technically speaking.

I only had half an hour between that meeting ending and the first of three ethics classes in the evening, so I had to squeeze dinner in there. I made some instant laksa and slurped it down hurriedly and was ready just in time.

New content today: