Scully’s birthday!

More things held over from yesterday:

It was Scully’s 3rd birthday!

Scully's 3rd birthday

I spent some time with her running around on the grass and through bushwalking tracks on Georges Head, which overlooks Sydney Harbour.

Scully's 3rd birthday

She also had an evening play date with her poodle friend Luna next door (while I was at games night). And she got a new lizard soft toy to play with.

Oh, my wife made the bandana! She’s been getting into sewing dog bandanas, as I mentioned earlier to sell on my market stall, and has now just opened up an Etsy store. If you have a know a dog, check it out!

Changing topics, I remember an amusing moment from our game of Legacy of Dragonholt last night. At one point our adventuring party went into the bakery in the village of Dragonholt. The baker was described as a very muscular dwarf. One guy said, “How does a baker get muscles?” Both me and the other guy who got me into sourdough baking answered, “Kneading bread!!”

Today I didn’t do much other than writing new Darths & Droids comics. Oh, I fixed the door handle of our front door, which had become a bit loose. It just needed the cover plates taken off and some screws tightened. And, we went to dinner at a local place that specialises in salmon dishes, which was very nice.

New content today:

Parks and Recreation

A late daily update, because last night was fortnightly games night. We’re well and truly back to in-person board games with COVID restrictions pretty much entirely lifted here now due to the zero level of transmission.

We played Devil Bunny Needs a Ham as a light starter while waiting for everyone to arrive. Then we moved into a game of Parks, a new game which the owner was very keen to play. This was followed by the next chapter of Legacy of Dragonholt, the choose-your-own-adventure-ish roleplaying style game we started a fortnight ago. And after that we ended with a few rounds of No Thanks.

Parks was really interesting and fun. The theme is visiting the various National Parks of the USA, and each one is represented by a card with absolutely gorgeous artwork. I am seriously tempted to buy this game just because of the art. As the owner explained the rules to the rest of us:

We each have two hikers. They move along this randomly configured track – each turn you can move one of them as many spaces as you like, but they have to land on an unoccupied space. Unless you use your campfire, in which case you can land on an occupied space, but your campfire goes out and can’t be used again. Each space gives you one or more resources of various types: suns, water, forests, mountains, or animals (he shows us the little wooden tokens representing the resources). Notice the animals tokens are all different animals (he shows us: there’s a moose, a bison, a mountain lion, a bear, etc. The tokens are very nice). The animals are wild. On some of the spaces you get the opportunity to spend your resources to buy equipment, which provides various benefits, and on other spaces you can spend your resources to buy one of the displayed National Park cards, which are worth points. And at the ending space of the movement track you can choose to either buy equipment, a park, or to go first in the next round. We play four rounds and add up our points.

Parks board game

There are a few other details and ways to score points which I’ve omitted for brevity, but they’re not important to understanding the flavour of the game. The important thing is that although you can move your hikers as far as you want, you actually want to move as slowly as possible in order to pick up as many resources as you can, balanced with desiring certain types of resources and wanting to get to that space before anyone else, so you don’t need to spend your one and only campfire. This mechanic is very similar to the movement mechanic used in Tokaido, which is a glorious game.

Parks board game

Anyway, we started playing, and collecting various resources, and buying the National Parks. Three parks are displayed for purchase and replenished as people buy them. We noticed they required various amounts of sunshine, water, forests, or mountains to buy, but after a few more parks were revealed, I said, “Hmm, none of the parks so far require animals.”

The owner said, “No, the animals are wild.”

I said, “Yeah, we know they’re wild, you told us… but why aren’t there any on the parks cards?”

He said, “They’re wild. You can use them as any resource.”

And everybody else around the table simultaneously went, “Oohhhhhh!!! You meant they’re wild!!”

Followed by a hubbub of hilarity in which we all said things like, “Yeah, we remember you told us they were wild and we just thought sure, they’re wild animals, obviously, duh…”

After we’d all stopped laughing for five minutes we resumed playing. It was great.

New content today:

Standards meeting and ethics course

Today I chaired a Standards Australia meeting on photography, following up on the ISO Photography standards meeting held a few weeks ago. This is where I report back to the Australian expert committee on events and discussions from that ISO meeting. We also discuss the standards currently up for ballots and decide what Australia’s vote will be. COVID is still keeping our local meetings virtual, so it was all via Zoom. We had a good attendance today, so that was good.

The other main thing I did today was complete work on my Critical Thinking and Ethics course for Outschool. I’ve submitted the completed course description, but they need to go over it and approve it before it becomes public, which can take a day or two. When it’s ready for students, I’ll let you know.

New content today:


I’m feeling really exhausted today. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the hectic week away last week finally catching up to me. But I woke up this morning and had to struggle to drag myself out of bed. I needed to get up to have breakfast and get ready to go teach my Ethics class. And as I was sitting in the room at the school waiting for the kids to arrive, I just felt drained of energy.

The class went mostly well. I think I have all the kids’ names more or less memorised and matched to faces. I made a couple of mistakes, but correcting those in my mind gives me a full set of matches now, I think. We’ll see next week if I can get them all right. The replacement teacher last week while I was away finished the voting topic with them, so today we started a new topic: Punishment.

This is a long one, we have four weeks on this. It covers the concepts of understanding what punishment is, and whether it’s needed in a society. Today we started with imagining if you had a magic ring of invisibility, and thinking about what you would do, and what other people might do. The kids were all pretty much into the idea that if they had an invisibility ring they would rob banks, and steal stuff, and play pranks on people. So we moved onto the idea that if you can get away with something bad without being punished, would you do it? Or would you still do the “right” thing? Do you think other people would do the right thing if there was no punishment?

And that was basically lesson one of the discussion. Next week we move on to other aspects of the topic. It was a good and lively discussion, but this meant that there was a certain amount of spontaneous chatter that I had to calm down to get attention and focus back on me. We’ll see how it goes next week.

Today I worked more on my planned Ethics course for Outschool. I’m almost at the point of uploading the info and opening the course. Maybe tomorrow.

New content today:

A new Outschool course

Today I worked on preparing a new course that I’ll be teaching on Outschool. One on Critical and Ethical Thinking. I have a good idea what material will be involved and how to teach it, and I don’t need to prepare any slides for it. But to put a class on Outschool you need a cover image. And again I couldn’t use anything under any sort of copyright or accreditation license. I either need public domain images or to make my own.

So I spent a fair bit of time firstly thinking about how to represent the topic in an image with no words, and then drawing this:

Critical thinking

I think that should work!

I also made pizza for dinner tonight – and for the first time I made the dough from scratch myself.

Home made pizza

I topped it with tomato paste, mozzarella cheese, pumpkin, walnuts, feta, and chilli flakes.

Home made pizza

And after a quick bake in the oven it looked like this!

Home made pizza


Oh! And the rain finally stopped today! There was no rain for much of the afternoon. Although the clouds were still thick and grey. I haven’t seen blue sky for a week now.

New content today:

Catching up on things

My wife set an alarm for 6:30 this morning, intending to start getting up early again this week in preparation for returning to work next week. I heard the alarm go off and assumed she got up. I woke up properly around 7:30, and she was still asleep! So, catching up on sleep, after our road trip and a fairly hectic weekend after we got back home.

After breakfast I went to buy some groceries so we’d have fresh milk and dinners this week. Catching up on food stocks.

I spent some time writing annotations for that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I made in the week before we went away. So catching up on that.

And then I sorted through my bird photos from the holiday and entered them into my bird photo database. I photographed 5 species for the first time on last week’s trip, taking my total to 295 species. (There are 296 entries in the database, as I have one for “Unidentified”.) The new ones are: bar-tailed godwit, Far Eastern curlew, Pacific golden plover, scaly-breasted lorikeet, and little egret.

(I should probably point out that the list of photos in the database is incomplete – I have yet to go back through my older photos and add links to them all. The number of species is correct, I just haven’t indexed all of the photos into it yet.)

I’m pretty excited about the Far Eastern curlew, as this is an endangered species. Wikipedia says it’s estimated to number 38,000 individuals as of 2006, but I found another site that with a more recent estimate from 2015 which is even lower, at 32,000 individuals. Here’s the photo I got:

Far Eastern curlew

Unfortunately it was across the mudflats and I couldn’t get any closer. So, anyway, catching up on bird photo cataloguing.

And a bunch of houseworky stuff – catching up on folding laundry.

New content today:

Non-market rainy Sunday

The weather today wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, given yesterday’s dire forecasts. It was quite rainy, but there were a few dry spells, and the rain didn’t get really heavy until this evening. Monday and Tuesday are forecast to have heavier rain again though.

There is major flooding along much of the coast from Sydney north to Port Macquarie (where we were staying the last week). Some regions have been hit with what the emergency services are calling a “once in 100 years” flood. As of now, 137 schools will be closed on Monday due to flooding. Parts of western Sydney around the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers are expected to get floods roughly at the levels of a flood which occurred in 1961. Water levels there are expected to peak late Monday or on Tuesday. A “major flood” of the Hawkesbury River is defined as a water level of 12.2 metres above normal, and the predicted peak at the moment is 15.6 metres.

Oh, I just checked the latest news, and the Nepean River has now exceeded the flood level of 1961. This is crazy stuff.

I’m fine – we’re not in a flood-prone area. I spent most of today working on new Darths & Droids comics, catching up for the week spent away on holiday. And a bit of time building a new Lego set that I spoilt myself with recently. I also went out in a relatively light drizzle to take Scully for a walk, and get a few groceries for dinner and breakfast. I’m planning to do a big grocery shop tomorrow morning, when most people are back at work. Sunday shopping is always really busy, so it’s better to avoid it.

Oh, yesterday I also worked on some more photos from the trip. I have some birds to show off:

Bar-tailed godwit

This (above) is a bar-tailed godwit. These birds migrate to southern Australia from northern Siberia. This species in particular has the longest non-stop migration flight of any known bird. This guy will be heading back to Siberia some time in the next month or two.

Sooty oystercatcher

A sooty oystercatcher.

Pied oystercatcher

Two pied oystercatchers.

Little wattlebird

A little wattlebird.

Willie wagtail

A willie wagtail.

Superb fairywren

A superb fairywren.

Diamond python

Not a bird… I think this is a diamond python. It was very close to where we were walking I could probably have reached out and touched it.

New content today:

Extreme rainfall

It continues to be about the rain here in Sydney. We’ve had 150 mm of rain in the last 24 hours, and advice from the Bureau of Meteorology is that the rainfall will get heavier in the next 12 hours. They also say it won’t stop raining until at least Thursday. Also, when I woke up this morning, we had no power. It was out for over two hours.

Many towns up the coast north of Sydney are experiencing flooding and have evacuations ongoing to get people away from rising floodwater. Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water reservoir, is at 100% capacity and spilling over. The river downstream has a wide flood plain, covering dozens of Sydney suburbs, which are now anxiously watching and waiting for evacuation orders. The highway north is cut off at Taree, which we drove through yesterday. If we’d left Port Macquarie a day later, we may not have made it home at all.

Here’s what it looked like outside this morning:

Heavy rain

The rain has been heavy to extremely heavy almost all day, with just a few brief periods of light or no rain. The garage downstairs in our apartment block got flooded:

Flooded garage

Fortunately my car space is up the slope, and stayed dry, but some people’s spaces were ankle deep in water. The water was deepest near the garage entrance door – about calf-deep:

Flooded garage

There’s a lift here, and it was sandbagged to try to keep water out of the lift shaft:

Flooded garage

It couldn’t hold all day though, and water eventually got in and flooded the lift shaft. In a separate incident, some people got stuck in another one of the lifts, even though the shaft wasn’t flooded. It was a family with a baby. The lift guy arrived after about 45 minutes and I happened to be outside when he got here, and since I had keys I ended up helping him get to the floor above the lift so he could climb onto the roof of the lift car and release the doors to get the people out:

Rescuing someone stuck in the lift

Beyond staying indoors and avoiding the rain, I mostly spent the day working on photos from my trip. I have some to show off, but maybe tomorrow. It’s been a curiously exhausting day, following the news for weather alerts and flood warnings.

New content today:

Road trip day 5

If you thought yesterday was about rain, then you hadn’t seen today yet.

We woke to frequent showers of extremely heavy rain, with close to gale force winds. There was a break in the rain during which we went to get breakfast, but the rain returned and we got very wet just climbing back into the car to return to the hotel. After packing our bags and checking out, we had to return to the car, which again involved getting very wet. The inside of the car got very wet as we climbed in.

Our first stop was back near the brewery where we’d had lunch yesterday. Next door to the place where my wife got the free coffee was a place that made condiments, jams, preserves, and similar stuff. We’d planned to go have a look at the retail outlet and perhaps buy a few things, but exactly as we’d left the brewery to walk over, they’d closed up shop for the day. We arrived back there, and the rain was pelting down. We parked maybe 10 metres form the door, but again got very wet dashing over to look at the shop. It was worth it though, as they had a lot of really nice looking stuff. We bought six different jars of sauces, jams, and mustard.

From there we set out on the drive home. It was very wet. At times driving on the freeway visibility was reduced to maybe 50-100 metres due to the rain. It took more concentration than usual, so we had a welcome rest break about halfway home, stopping at the town of Bulahdelah. Leaving the freeway, we headed into the town… only to be stopped by floodwater across the road. Turning around, we saw another road cut by the floodwater as well, but were able to find another route to get into the centre of town.

We stopped at a cafe, but because of Scully we needed to sit outside, where all the tables were getting drenched by the rain. But the woman running the cafe offered to set us up at a table out the back, under an awning on the leeward side of the building, which was significantly drier. The cafe owner told us that part of the town was being evacuated because of the flooding.

After lunch, we continued the drive home, again through some ridiculously heavy rain, although as we got closer to Sydney it eased off and stopped. However, once we got home and caught up on news (we typically never see any news while travelling), we discovered just how bad this storm system is. Port Macquarie, our departure point this morning, is now under a flood evacuation warning for some areas.

And this rain system is moving south. It will hit Sydney tomorrow, and flood warnings have been issued. In fact, the State Emergency Service has issued a warning for all people in Sydney not to leave home tomorrow, if possible. Given the expected danger from the weather this weekend, I also received notification from the organisers of Sunday’s market that they were cancelling the market. So that’s another one where I was planning to sell my photography cancelled. It seems starting a market stall during COVID and leading into a la Nina event is not a great idea…

New content today:

Road trip day 4

The theme of the day was rain. Rain. And more rain.

The forecast for Port Macquarie was 80-120 mm of rain, with heavy bursts, developing into thunderstorms in the afternoon. But the morning had some dry spells, allowing us to get breakfast and then take Scully out for a run in the park near the hotel. Although by the time we got back from the park it had started raining.

Storm over Port Macquarie

We lined up a few wet weather activities. We started by driving out to the suburbs of town, where there is a small craft shop that my wife was keen to check out. After that we went to a large craft warehouse, where my wife bought a bunch of different material to use for her sewing.

Following these, it was my turn to choose a destination. So we ended up at the Wicked Elf Brewery… where I tried some of the beers and we had a lightish lunch. They did a tasting paddle of four small glasses of different beers, which I ordered, selecting four of the different ales. The woman who poured the beers completed the four glasses, but then said she’d accidentally done a glass of another beer that I hadn’t ordered, and she said rather than pour it down the sink, I could have it for no charge. So I got a free (small) glass of beer.

It was a very nice place to sit for a while out of the rain. My wife wanted a coffee, but they didn’t make coffees there. However, she saw across the street a place that had a coffee sign on it, and so walked over, while I waited with Scully. She returned with a cup of coffee and a story…

She said that the place across the road was actually a warehouse for espresso machines, but they also ran courses to train people to use them. So they had a row of machines set up. She had poked her head into the warehouse to see what was inside, and someone had asked her what she wanted. She said she thought it might be a place to get a coffee. The staff member said no and explained it was a warehouse and training facility… but then said he was just about the clean the machines and he could make her a cup first. So she ended up getting the coffee she wanted, and didn’t even have to pay for it! So we both ended up with a free drink.

We drove back to the hotel, and decided to go for a walk through the shopping area of town, to see what interesting shops were around. We looked at some crafts and homewares and my wife checked out some clothing. I found an old record and collectibles place, which had some cool comics and books and other stuff. We returned to the hotel, through increasingly heavy rain.

For dinner we had a reservation at a nice restaurant in town, a few blocks from our hotel. Because we had Scully, we needed an outdoor table, and we hoped they had one under cover well out of the rain. They did – there were tables against a wall under a large awning, so we were about two metres from the rain. We enjoyed a good meal, and watched the rain fall…

Until it got REALLY heavy. It absolutely pounded down for several minutes. Despite being well under cover, we both got soaking wet, our dining table got wet, we had to pick up Scully’s cloth mat from the ground as it was getting soaked.

Rainy dinner

Fortunately this downpour didn’t last very long, but the damage was done. I was soaked through my clothes to the skin on one side, and my wife as well. We finished our meal, and then had to walk back to the hotel in the heavy rain. Now we’re here, and we have entire sets of clothes including socks and underwear arrayed around the room to dry.

Tomorrow we drive home to Sydney. The forecast is for 120-200 mm of rain here in Port Macquarie, and up to 120 mm of rain in Sydney. I think it’s going to be a very wet drive.