Too much nutmeg

I’m really not sure about nutmeg. I cook a fair bit, and I have some nutmeg in the spice rack, but I never use it much. Because honestly I don’t think I like the flavour. It’s kind of earthy and woody and camphorous and resiny. Looking at some online information, nutmeg is described as a “warm and sweet” spice. “Warm and sweet” sounds like cinnamon, which I love. But nutmeg is nothing like cinnamon. It’s like the promise of something delightful, which then gets cruelly ripped away, leaving exposed the sham that is nutmeg.

I just made a simple semolina porridge as an after-dinner dessert. Normally I have this with cinnamon and brown sugar, and it’s delicious. Today I thought I’d expand my spice usage and add a dash of nutmeg…

Big mistake. Big. Huge.

It’s like what I imagine eating sandalwood, or mothballs, would be like. Bitter and nasty. I dunno… maybe the nutmeg has been sitting in a jar so long it’s gone off? But honestly the taste is pretty much what I remember nutmeg to taste like from past experience. Just stronger… maybe I just added too much? Anyway…. nutmeg is definitely no cinnamon.

Apart from poisoning myself, mostly today I did housework and little cleaning tasks, with a bit of comics work in between, but not much to speak of.

New content today:

Fragmented day

So, today I did grocery shopping, and took down the Christmas decorations, and baked two loaves of sourdough – one for us and one for the downstairs neighbour – and then I had a Zoom meeting to go through some of the teaching procedures on Outschool as part of my preparation for beginning teaching on the site. In between this, I managed to make one new Darths & Droids strip… and that’s about it.

I went out with my wife and Scully for a nice dinner at our favourite seafood restaurant. That was very nice as usual. And now it’s fortnightly Games Night with my friends. I’ve just played 7 Wonders, and Marrakech, and waiting for another game to finish with half the group so we can start something else…

New content today:

Learning to drive

I didn’t mention yesterday when talking about my neighbour’s offer to give me some of her late husband’s golf gear, that she told me to take whatever I wanted to test it out first. I took the driver (the biggest, long distance club, for use in teeing off) on a test run today, playing a round at my local course.

The first hit I tried flew an impressively long way, but sliced badly, ending up in some trees. I corrected my grip for the next hole, and was blown away by how far and how straight the ball flew off the tee. I had a couple more marginal drives, but by the time I reached the 7th hole I was hitting the ball much cleaner and further than I’d ever managed with my own driver. I hit the tee shot on the 7th and it was without a doubt the best distance shot I’ve yet played. The hole curves slightly to the left around heavy forest, and my drive skimmed the inside of the curve within spitting distance of the trees, flying straight and true. I made a map of today’s drive compared to where I’d previously managed to hit the tee shot on this hole:

Hole 7

And then for good measure on the next hole I hit an even sweeter drive:

Hole 8

Wow. I’m just blown away by the difference this new, modern driver makes. The lesson I had a while ago also helped a lot, as I now have the basic knowledge of how to use this club effectively. So I’ll be happy to accept this gift from my neighbour. I started making dough today for a batch of sourdough which I’ll bake tomorrow, and take a loaf down for her.

I played early in the morning, and was home by 9:30. I had a shower, since it was already hot. The weather has turned from the cool and rainy of the last month to hot and sunny more typical of summer in the past few days. I thought my excursions were done for the day and planned to relax at home in the cool of the air conditioning.

Until my wife called at lunchtime and reminded me that I had agreed yesterday to go to her office and pick up Scully… So I had to venture out for a hot and sweaty walk to bring Scully home. And then I figured I may as well take her to the dog park later in the afternoon. The walk that the regulars do there along the waterfront has a final section which we call “The Gobi Desert”, because it so exposed and hot in hot weather. Normally we brave the heat of the Gobi Desert, but today everyone stopped short and turned back early.

So yeah, I’ve had another shower tonight.

New content today:

Understanding sections

This morning I did the required online training modules to learn about how to use Outschool as a teacher (as I mentioned yesterday). One module was about child protection and safety, and what to do if I see/hear anything questionable while conducting the Zoom classes with students. I’m familiar with this sort of stuff through my training to teach Primary Ethics. Obviously, if I notice anything untoward or suspicious, I have to inform Outschool as soon as possible, so they can investigate and deal with it through their protocols. But interestingly, even though Outschool is based in the US, the training module said that teachers based in Australia or Canada have local legal requirements to report suspected child abuse to local authorities, and they linked to an Australian Government website (and presumably a Canadian one, but I didn’t look at that) with more info. So it looks like if I’m doing a Zoom class, and I notice signs of what I suspect is child abuse, I am legally required to report it directly to Australian child protection services, even if the child is not in Australia.

The second interesting point was trying to figure out the meaning of the word “section” in the module about how to create, schedule, and run classes. There was material on things like “how to schedule a section”, and “how to transfer learners to a different section of the same class”. I couldn’t really follow the explanations because I had no idea what the word “section” meant in this context. I’ve occasionally heard Americans mention “sections” in the context of university courses, but I didn’t know what they meant and never bothered trying to find out. But suddenly I kind of had to figure it out.

Google was astonishingly little help. The word “section” has so many different meanings that no search string I tried came up with any helpful hits. I tried “section academic jargon”, and I got a list of pages from Australian universities that happened to have the word “section” in some unrelated context (because of course Google knows I’m in Australia). I tried “section american english” – but that was equally useless. I tried “section academic american english”, but again it was all pages about unrelated stuff.

Eventually I turned to reddit and posted the question in a smallish group that I know has some Americans. The first couple who responded said they didn’t know – which was not very encouraging! I got suggestions that it might refer to a section/part of the coursework, or of the syllabus, or textbook. But eventually someone answered:

Say a university is offering a course. It’s being offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30, taught by Professor A.

It’s also offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM, by Professor B.

Or you could take it at night time on Wednesdays for 2 hours, once a week, with Professor C.

Each of those is a section. Same course, same material, different instructors and meeting times. You choose to register for a specific section that’s available and meets your schedule.

Aha!!! This is what I’d call streams. All of a sudden it all fell into place. I’m really unclear why American English chooses to use the word “section” for this concept of parallel class streams. Whatever the reason is, it’s extremely confusing for Australian English (and I expect UK English) users, because of the many potential meanings of the word “section” – none of which seem to make sense. I don’t think I’d ever have been able to work out that meaning without having an American explain it in detail.

Anyway, that linguistic detail aside, I’m now ready to start thinking about class topics and structure, and put together lesson plans for offering on Outschool. It’ll take me a few weeks probably to get ready for the first class, but I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Between doing the modules, I made another loaf of sourdough bread today. I think I’m really getting the hang of it, as it turned out pretty well.

The other thing of note today was I ran into my downstairs neighbour whose husband Col died on Christmas Day (mentioned on 29 Dec when I learnt the news). I mentioned that Col and I talked about golf after he learnt I’d started playing. His wife now told me that he had asked her to see if I wanted any of his golf gear (he’d known his time was limited due to cancer). I said that was very generous and I’d have a look, and she let me into her garage to do so. Most of his clubs are pretty old – older even than my second hand set – but he had a nice new driver, exactly the sort of thing I was looking at buying for myself soon.

So next time I see her I’ll suggest that I’d be honoured to accept the driver, and maybe I could take the rest of the clubs to a pro shop and see if I can get a bit of cash for them to give back to her. I also mentioned to here that I’ve started baking sourdough, and she said she loves sourdough, so next time I bake I’ll do an extra loaf and take it downstairs for her.

New content today:

Outschool approved

Good news today! I got notification that I’ve been approved to teach classes online on Outschool. This was a long process, because they run background checks to ensure you’re eligible to teach children (i.e. have no relevant criminal convictions), and since Outschool is based in the US, they use a third party company to run checks with the Australian Federal Police. Which means that all the paperwork shuffling takes a long time. Anyway, my checks have all come through clean, and I can now start the process of listing classes that I want to teach on Outschool. I have to complete a couple of training modules first, and then come up with lesson plans.

This is all great because it’s going to be a way that I can bring in some more income to supplement the relatively small amounts I’ve managed to make so far selling my photography. Hopefully that will go up as well when markets start up in earnest after COVID, but I think Outschool will be more reliable.

Earlier this morning I restarted my exercise routine, by going for a jog around the neighbourhood. Rather than get straight into a 5k run on a flat track, I decided to do a run around a couple of large street blocks for more interesting scenery. The disadvantage is that it’s up and down hills, although the route I chose is mostly fairly gentle, especially compared to some other routes I could take around here. I used to run this route a few years ago, and at that time found it a bit of a struggle to keep going all the way home on the final long uphill stretch. But today I found it fairly easy going, so I think the running I did a few months ago has improved things and not worn off completely yet. Phew! The route today was 2.2 km, so I’ll work back up to 5k runs again over the next week or two.

After the run, I walked up to the supermarket to buy some flour, for baking sourdough. I started with feeding my starter yesterday (with wholemeal flour), then realised I didn’t have any plain flour left to make up a loaf. So I had to get it today before making the dough. I decided to get a large 5 kg bag, and a plastic storage tub to put it in. This is baker’s flour, which should have more gluten in it for making bread, compared to plain flour. So we’ll see how much difference that makes in the final loaf, which I’ll bake tomorrow morning.

New content today:

Photography standards prep work

Today I did some administrative prep work for my next ISO photography standards meeting, which is coming up in early February. I had to fill out some forms for Standards Australia, and distribute agendas and stuff, informing fellow Australian experts about the meeting and asking those interested to join the online meeting to let me know. And I downloaded a bunch of documents and got up to speed with the latest info from ISO and the Digital Photography committee. So all this took a while.

Apart from that I didn’t do much else apart from woth on my ongoing Secret Project, which I can’t talk about. So there’s not much more to say today.

Oh, I watched Pet Sematary (2019) on Netflix last night. I was discussing movies made from Stephen King novels with a friend a few days ago, and discovered that Pet Sematary had been remade, following the 1989 version. I actually hadn’t seen either version, nor read the book, but found that the remake was on Netflix, so I decided to give it a watch. I thought it was reasonably good. Reviews of the two versions interestingly have the 1989 version as superior, according to the general public, but the 2019 version as superior according to film critics – although not much difference either way. I’d be interested to see the 1989 version, but it’s not on Netflix, so I don’t have an easy way to do so.

Oh, I remembered what I else I did today that ate up all my time! It was the final day of the 3rd Test match between Australia and India, being played here in Sydney. Australia had set India 407 runs to win in the final innings yesterday, and they ended yesterday at 2 wickets for 98 runs, so requiring another 309 runs to win today. This is a ridiculous target, especially at Sydney, which is one of the most difficult cricket grounds to score runs on in the final innings in the world, and certainly the most difficult in Australia.

The highest score ever made in Sydney in the final innings to win a Test was 280, by Australia against South Africa in 2006, followed by 266 by Australia against England in 1907. So expectation was that Australia would get all the Indian batsmen out and win handily. But India put up a huge fight, and for a while looked like they might chase down the required runs. It was only halfway through the day that a couple of batsmen got out, at which point India looked to be in trouble, since one of their best batsmen had a broken thumb and wasn’t going to bat unless absolutely required. And then when Hanuma Vihari came out to bat he soon pulled a hamstring and was unable to run. But he batted on with the pulled hamstring for three more hours and they simply didn’t bother running any more. So they abandoned the 407 run target and simply focused on not getting out.

Well, three hours later, the Australians still had not got a single further batsman out, and so the game ran out of time, and ended in a draw (the result when the game is not completed in the allotted time). India had saved the game from almost certain defeat, and go into the final match of the series in Brisbane, with the series still level at 1-1. The final match starts on Friday, and is going to be absolutely riveting.

New content today:

Sourdough #4

Following on from yesterday’s sourdough dough making, this morning I formed the chilled dough into a loaf, let it rise a couple more hours and come to room temperature, then scored the top ready for baking:

Sourdough before baking

35 minutes later it looked like this:

Sourdough bread!

It turned out really good, and the best of the four sourdough loaves I’ve made so far since getting the starter just before Christmas. So kneading the dough was a good idea, and I’ll definitely be doing that from now on.

In other news, yesterday (Saturday 9 January) was the first day with no rainfall recorded in Sydney since 28 December, and only the 5th dry day since 12 December. So basically we’ve had four whole weeks with only 5 days with no rain. It really has been a cool, wet summer so far, as predicted from the current La Niña phase in the Pacific.

Apart form baking bread, and cooking soup for dinner, and helping with the laundry and stuff, it was a pretty relaxing day. It’s good to have a bit of a break sometimes.

New content today:

Pies are squared (away)

This morning I prepared some sourdough, to rise in the afternoon, then sit in the fridge overnight before baking in the morning. I’ve been using a simple “no knead” recipe that my sourdough friend pointed me to on YouTube. But after I’d prepared the dough he shared some photos of his latest dough, and it looked a lot nicer than mine. Smooth and clean, whereas mine looked… well, like this:

Sourdough before kneading

So I mentioned that I’m not kneading the dough, like the recipe he showed me, and asked if sourdough should not be kneaded. He said no, kneading it is fine and in fact good – he only showed me a “no knead” recipe because it was the simplest thing. I’ve been making bread from pre-mixed packets for months, so I’m familiar with kneading and how it changes the texture of the dough, so I was excited and went back and gave it a good 10 minutes of kneading. And then it looked and felt much, much better:

Sourdough after kneading

So this will be another experiment in my sourdough journey. But I’m confident and excited, hoping this will again be better than the previous one, in a steadily improving series of loaves.

In other food news, I went out for lunch with my wife and Scully, driving over to my favourite pie shop. It’s in the Northern Beaches region which has been under COVID travel restrictions for the past couple of weeks, but they’ve been relaxed now, so it was a good chance to go and get some pies. I had a butter chicken pie and a Mexican vegetable pie, both of which were delicious.

While there I added some masked lapwings to my eBird sighting list. That takes my eBird tally to 29 species spotted since 24 December. You can also add species you identify from their calls, but unfortunately I don’t know all of the bird calls that I hear around the region. I can identify several, but there are a few that I have no idea what bird they are, so unfortunately I can’t add them. Today I listened to 40 different Sydney bird call recordings from Birds in Backyards, but they didn’t include two of the most frequent ones I hear around here. I’ll have to find another site with more bird call recordings to learn what they are. One in particular is a distinct series of three descending whistling notes, which the repeats after a few seconds. I haven’t been successful in searching for that specific one.

To complete the food listing, this evening I made a spicy lentil dhal with potato chunks for dinner, served over rice. Very quick and easy, and delicious!

New content today:

Secret Projectifying

Not too much to talk about today. I did grocery shopping in the morning, then spent much of the day working on a secret project. I watched a bit of the cricket match being played in Sydney, but the seemingly never-ending rain here interrupted play a bit. Took Scully for a walk. Went out for dinner with my wife to a Turkish restaurant – a place we go to a bit which is one of our favourites.

I’m just relaxing now playing an impromptu games night with friends. We’re playing an implementation of Decrypto. It’s the first time we’ve tried this game, and it seems like a lot of fun, and just the sort of game we’ll enjoy playing.

New content today:

Bird photo walk

Today I wanted to get out of the house and get some exercise, but I didn’t just want to walk around the local neighbourhood, because it’s so familiar and I see it all the time. So I decided to hop in the car and drive a few suburbs away to Cremorne Point.

The point is a peninsula jutting south into Sydney Harbour. There is a walking path all the way around the shore of the point, and it has both beautiful scenery and amazing fancy houses. The shore is covered with trees and so there are also many birds in the area. I took both my phone and my dSLR with bird lens.

A rainbow lorikeet:

Rainbow lorikeet

Sulphur-crested cockatoos:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Silver gull, with an interesting Sydney background:

Gull and Opera House

A panorama of the lighthouse at the end of the point, and the city:

Cremorne Point walk

The MacCallum Seawater pool. This is a completely free public swimming pool, with an amazing view:

Cremorne Point walk

New content today: