Markets and shops

Today was double market day! There was a local arts and crafts market at The Coal Loader, a historical industrial site on Sydney Harbour’s northern shore, converted into a community centre. My wife and I walked down there with Scully and checked it out. Besides looking at the things for sale, I had a good look at how the various stalls were set up and kitted out, to get ideas for how to set up my own. I noticed that many of the stalls had custom fitted tablecloths on their tables, although some were more free-form or rustic. One stall had a bedsheet as a tablecloth!

On the way home we stopped for lunch, before completing what is a rather long walk from our home and back. Scully was exhausted by the time we got home, and we weren’t far behind.

In the afternoon, I matted more prints, and then this evening I did some final work to complete my web shop. I added shipping costs and tested payments by making an order. Everything seems to be working, and it’s now in a state where I can start taking orders! The last step is to link the shop from my photography website, and to set up some information pages explaining stuff like how the photos are printed and mounted, and how long it takes to ship and stuff like that, but it’s late now and I’ll do that tomorrow.

But if you’re curious to have a look, or maybe even buy a print, you can go to the shop directly using this link. (If you live outside Australia, I can only ship unmounted prints – please don’t order a mounted print – I might need to figure out a way to restrict that option for overseas addresses.) I have eight photos set up as products now, and will be adding more over time.

New content today:

Matting photos…

Saturday began with a round of housework: cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, refilling the damp absorbers in the wardrobes, cleaning up the kitchen, etc, etc. Then I got stuck into matting photos for my market stall. It’s astonishing how much work is going in to preparing for this. With a few well-earned breaks, by the end of the day I’d matted 40 prints. Only 60 to go…

This evening was a family dinner, for my mother-in-law’s birthday. We went to my wife’s and my favourite pizza place, and had a good time. The owner came out to chat with us for a bit – it’s that sort of place. We noticed his wife wasn’t working tonight, and he said that she’d been laid up with a sore ankle. Hopefully she’ll be better soon.

New content today:

Craft day: greeting card display

I mentioned yesterday that I bought some cardboard to make greeting card displays for my market stall. Today I got crafty and made the displays.

First I had to design what they would look like and how to assemble them.

Greeting card display: part 0

Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you won’t use trigonometry after leaving school. I also had to do coordinate geometry and solve a pair of simultaneous equations, as you can see. My design consists of a rectangular sheet of cardboard, scored and bent into a step-like shape, with extending tabs to slot into triangular side supports on either side. The whole staircase is angled at an angle of θ = arctan(1/4), to provide gently angled steps where the cards can sit and lean back without falling over. The whole stand has four tiers, wide enough to display two landscape format cards side by side.

The step section was the easiest, although I discovered that I needed to score the card a lot deeper than I first thought to get it to fold comfortably.

Greeting card display: part 1

The triangular parts were trickier. I had to cut a triangle and then cut slots for the tabs at the angle θ. Fortunately the new cutting mat I bought yesterday made this easy, because I could place the triangle on it at the right angle, and then rule lines using the grid as a guide.

Greeting card display: part 3

And here’s the completed stand, with some of my cards:

Greeting card display: part 4

It worked really well! And it holds together without any tape or glue, which means I can disassemble it for easy transport as flat pieces. Making one of these took me all morning, and I took a break to go get some lunch up the street at a local fried chicken place.

After lunch… I made a second stand! And that was essentially an eight-hour work day, right there. I did have a bit of time at the end to start matting 30×20 cm prints of some of my photos.

Matting photos

You can’t see it in these photos, but these are really high quality prints on super fine museum quality art paper (Canson Rag Photographique, for those who know their art papers). And the matting really makes the photos look amazing (if I do say so myself). I’ve matted only ten or so prints – I have 90 or so to go. That’ll probably be another half day of work there.

It was a busy and exhausting day! I’ve put a lot of time, effort, and investment into getting ready for this market stall, and gearing up to launch my photography sales. Now I have to see first if I can recoup my investment, and hopefully make some sort of profit.

New content today:

One of those days

I had a mostly awful day. It started promisingly, with a trip to the golf course, and went as far as the first hole, where my tee shot went sweetly down the fairway and I scored 4 strokes on the par 3 – my best score so far on that particular hole.

But then things went downhill, as I made my worst ever scores on all of the next five holes. I did manage a nice bogey on a par 4, which would have been an amazing par if my chip shot had just rolled another 3 centimetres. It’s the closest I’ve come so far to holing a chip from off the green.

After completing my round (just 9 holes), I dropped the clubs at home and set out to buy a tablecloth for my market stall, and a couple of easels to display large prints, and to pick up a DVD I’d ordered online. I chose pickup because I was planning to drive to a large hardware store a couple of suburbs away to get the easels (not my local one, which didn’t stock them), and to park there while I walked over to the shops to get the DVD and tablecloth.

The first problem occurred when I reached the hardware store. It wasn’t there. Apparently it had moved several years ago, after the last time I’d been there. Right across to the far side of the suburb – too far to walk. So I turned the car around and and started heading over there… then realised I had to get the DVD and tablecloth first, because the easels wouldn’t fit in the car and I’d have to leave the roof down, and I didn’t want to do leave the easels unguarded in the car while I got the other stuff. So I turned around again and headed back… running smack into some roadwork that slowed traffic to a dead stop. I spent 20 minutes driving what should have taken less than 5 minutes.

I went to the DVD shop to pick up my order. I told the guy at the checkout counter that I was there to pick up an online order, and he told me to go to the end of the counter and he’d call someone to assist me. I waited there at least 5 minutes, while three staff members nearby did some stuff on their terminals and completely ignored me. Eventually I said, “Excuse me, I was told to wait here for service, but nobody is serving me.” That got them jumping and one of them got my order right away.

I scouted 7 different homeware, kitchenware, and department stores for tablecloths, but it seems that tablecloths must be out of fashion, because a few of them didn’t even have any, while the others had a very restricted range. I wanted a simple black one. The only black one I found was in the department store… for $120. So I made do with a grey one for $12 from another shop.

Then I went to the art supply shop to get some stiff cardboard to make a greeting card display stand. Up the front was a sale display with cutting mats, which would come in handy, so I grabbed one of those. Then I spent some time at the cardboard sheet racks deciding which sort to get. They had solid black cardboard, marked down from $15.95 to $14.35 a sheet. I grabbed two.

At the checkout there was a new guy, who had trouble entering the prices. He kept saying that he couldn’t get the sale price of the cardboard to come up. We went to the back of the store and he grabbed the actual price display off the shelf and brought it to the front. After some fiddling he managed to do something and got the correct price. Then he scanned the cutting mat, which came up as $15 instead of the $9.50 advertised sale price. I told him it was on sale for $9.50, but he couldn’t get the register to accept that price.

Eventually as customers started piling up behind me, he said he could charge me $15 and give me a gift voucher for $5.50. I didn’t really want to do that, so he said the only thing he could suggest was waiting for his manager to return from her break. So I waited…. must have been ten minutes or more. Eventually the manager returned and took over. She started fresh and entered the cardboard, saying it was $18 or something a sheet. I said no, it was on sale for $14.35. She said, no, it’s not. I said look, there’s the sale tag the other guy got. She looked at it and said no, that’s for a different product.

I took her to the back of the store and showed here where the tag had come from – the same spot I’d gotten the cardboard sheets. She said, “Oh, someone’s put it in the wrong place. Look, it says white core board, not black display board. It should have been down here on this shelf. The white core board is normally $15.95, on sale for $14.35. The black display board is $18, and not on sale.”

I’d had about enough of this and just wanted something cheap that I could use so I said I’d take the white core board then. Okay, so we swapped the black board for white core (which is black on one side, not both sides). She rang it up, $14.35. Good. Then she scanned the cutting mat. $15. I said it’s on sale for $9.50. She said no, it’s not supposed to be on sale. I was getting a bit exasperated now, and showed her the sale sign on the front display, and this time it was marked with the name of the right product. She said okay, she’d give it to me for $9.50, but she made out like she was doing me a big favour.

So finally I had my cardboard. Then I had to drive over to the hardware store. I’d expected to be home well before 11 am, but now it was already midday. So I stopped to have a quick salad for lunch, and then set off. I pulled into a side street and stopped the car partway there to check my navigation, and I saw that the side street I happened to pull into led straight to the new hardware store location. So I continued down that street another few blocks… almost reaching the store, except for the fact that the street dead-ended, with a building in between me and the hardware store that I could see behind it. So I had to go back and around a longer way.

Once there, buying the easels was actually okay, and I headed home, getting in after 1pm, over 2 hours later than I expected when I set out.

After all that I just collapsed and watched TV all afternoon, rather than doing anything productive. And then during dinner I bit my lip painfully. Twice.

New content today:

New Ethics year

This morning was my first Ethics class for the new year. I got to the school and collected the roll, which had the names of 21 new Year 6 students for me to meet and teach this year. I wrote out name stickers for them all to help me with learning all their names.

When the kids arrived in the classroom and I started getting them to tell me their names, I ended up with three students who weren’t on my roll! There was some mix-up, and a few minutes in the ethics coordinator for the school came and removed those kids to a different class where they were supposed to be.

Being the first lesson, it was introductory, and mostly – from my point of view – about establishing rules and boundaries, so the kids know what sort of behaviour I won’t tolerate. We discussed the introductory question: Can good people do bad things? I got several good responses from different kids, including a few who thought there was no such thing as a “good person”, saying that everyone does some good and some bad things.

After the lesson I walked home via a longer route, to pass by the kitchen supply shop. I wanted to get a black tablecloth for my market stall, but it turned out they barely had any tablecloths in stock. So I’ll go get one somewhere else tomorrow.

At home, I planned to mount all of the photo prints I’ve had made into matting boards, to make them look nice for sale and be ready to frame. I opened the parcel of matting boards I’d mail ordered… and discovered that it was only the matts with the holes cut out – there were no backing boards! I double checked my order – I definitely indicated I wanted backing boards included. So I contacted the company and told them about the error – they’ll ship the backing boards ASAP. I just hope they arrive in time for me to mount all the photos before market day on 1 March.

Instead I did some ISO standards work, since we have a meeting coming up next week. It was planned to be in Yokohama, but I was going to dial in remotely. However, the meeting has been converted to a fully virtual dial-in only meeting, with the original Yokohama venue cancelled, due to concerns about coronavirus. In a sense it’s fortunate that I didn’t have to cancel flights and hotel just a week out from the meeting.

New content today:

Falling bodies

After a day of science yesterday, I also spent most of today doing science – this time writing up my latest Proof that the Earth is a Globe. That took pretty much the whole working day.

After finishing that off, I starting making dinner while my wife and Scully were out at the hospital doing their Delta therapy dogs visit. I bought kipfler potatoes on the weekend, planning to make potato salad at some point, and I figured I had just about enough time to get it done in time for dinner tonight. I boiled them up, and also made a couple of hard boiled eggs while doing that. I’m glad I’ve found an effective way to make the eggs so they’re easy to peel. I used have trouble peeling eggs until I stumbled across the technique of plunging them in iced water immediately after removing them from the boiling water. It helps a lot.

I also chopped and fried some onion – I normally use raw red onion which is milder, but I only had brown onions so I cooked it a bit to soften the flavour. And chopped some gherkins. Mixed it all together with some mustard and prepared coleslaw dressing. I know they make potato salad dressing, but I find coleslaw dressing to be more to my taste, with a bit more tang and less creaminess to it.

To serve with the potato salad I cooked up some vegetarian sausages – spicy Italian flavour, which had tomatoes and herbs in them – and some asparagus. It all turned out really nice.

Tomorrow morning is my first Ethics class for the year, meeting a new group of students. To prepare I printed out the lesson plan and went over it. It’s a simple introductory lesson, mostly about meeting the students, going through the rules of the class, and giving them a taste of the sort of things we discuss during the rest of the year. My job for this lesson is mostly about learning the names of the kids as quickly as I can! It took me four weeks last year to be able to go without name tags. Let’s see if I can beat it this year.

New content today:

Science Club: water

Today was my first visit to Brookvale School for the new school year. I had a new contact teacher there, after the teacher I worked with last year moved to another school. The new teacher organised a timetable for me, giving talks to the kindergarten and Year 1 and 2 classes, and also a 1.5 hour session with the new Science Club, for which she chose the students.

With the K-2 classes I gave a talk about the many different sorts of things that scientists do, including medicine, studying animals and plants to learn how they live, looking at rocks to work out where to dig for useful minerals, measuring volcanoes, drilling in ice to study the atmosphere from hundreds of years ago, astronomy, building robots, and making computer models of things. They all seemed fascinated to see all these different things, and the talk went pretty well.

For Science Club, the teacher initially gave me a list a few weeks ago, of 12 students. Only three of them were in the Science Club last year, so she’d clearly decided to give some new children a chance to participate. Then late last week she emailed me and said there were six other kids who were super keen to be in Science Club; would it be okay with me if they joined in? I said that would be okay.

I got there today, with a print out of the initial timetable the teacher had sent me, with the names of the original 12 students, but not the new six. As the kids filed into the library after recess, I asked them all their names, wrote name tags for them to wear so I could learn them, and also wrote down the names on my list.

I told them what sorts of things we’d be doing in Science Club, and then we started on some experiments. Today we were looking at properties of water. First up was looking at surface tension. I used an eye dropper to put drops of water onto a 5 cent coin on the floor, producing a bulging bubble of water, held on by surface tension. We counted how many drops I put on, before the bubble spilled and wet the carpet.

I explained to them how water was made of molecules of hydrogen and oxygen, and how the H and O atoms like to stick together, making an elastic skin on the surface of the water. Then we repeated the experiment, but with soapy water. This time the bubble was smaller, and I added fewer drops to it before it spilled. I explained that the soap had large molecules with one end that liked to stick to the water, but the other end pushed the water away. This made the skin weaker, explaining why the drop couldn’t get as large.

Next we did another experiment to look at surface tension. I filled a plate with milk and added drops of food colouring to the middle of the milk puddle. Then I got a cotton tip and dipped it in liquid soap… and touched it to the middle of the plate. I took a video:


Next I got two glasses of water, one hot and one cold. I dropped some food colouring in each one, and we watched how it mixed into the water. In the cold water, the colour sank to the bottom and formed a layer below the clear water. In the hot water, however, it mixed evenly throughout. Then I explained to the kids that hot temperatures are caused by the molecules moving faster inside the water, and the faster moving molecules mix the colouring faster.

Finally we did an experiment in which I mixed iodine solution into water to make a brown liquid, and added some baby oil to form a clear layer on top. Then I shook the bottle to mix it all up, which encouraged the iodine to move from the water to the oil, in which it is more soluble. Doing so changes the colour to a bright purple, because the iodine colour depends on which liquid it’s in.

After a full day, I went home to relax. I typed out the names of the kids who I’d written down to send to the teacher, as a roll call. Then I noticed that the other timetable sheet she’d given my first thing this morning had the extra six kids’ names on it…

And the list of names I’d written down had three names not on that larger list. There were three extra kids in the Science Club who weren’t supposed to be there! I’m not sure if there was some sort of miscommunication, the kids thought they were in Science Club when they weren’t, or what happened. So I let the teacher know, and we’ll see what happens next time!

New content today:

A day at Coogee

Today was mostly a family day. My wife suggested we go to a market to check it out and to see if there was anything that I might realise I need for my own market stall coming up in a couple of weeks. I checked online and found that there was a handicrafts market on today at Coogee, a beach suburb south on the side of Sydney. It was on from midday to 5pm, so we headed out about 11.

We got there before 12 and decided to get some early lunch. I found a fish & chip shop operated by on ex-pat Irish family. Besides the usual Australian fish & chips fare, it also had a very solid line in Irish and British items. They offered large battered sausages, battered black pudding and white pudding, battered haggis, and actual cod, imported from the North Sea, as well as mushy peas on the side, and Irn-Bru in the drinks fridge. The cod and chips came in at an exorbitant $19.90, so I settled for the local fish & chips, for $10. It was pretty good, and I appreciated the fact that they actually added vinegar to the chips – something I grew up with, but which seems to be dying out in modern Aussie fish & chips places.

After eating, we sought out the market. And I say “sought”, because we got to the address and it wasn’t at all obvious where the market was. We asked a couple of people, and they said that sometimes there was a market over on the nearby grass, flanking the beach, but clearly there was no market there today. One man said that because of the storms and nasty things washing up on the beach in the past week or two, a lot of events on the beach have been cancelled, but he didn’t see any reason why a market on the grass should be cancelled.

After looking around a bit more, fruitlessly, we decided that indeed if there was a market scheduled for today, it must have been cancelled. And so we headed home again. Still, it was a pleasant fraction of the day to spend out and about, and we had a good lunch.

New content today:

More about yesterday

The other thing I did yesterday was take a trip into the city to pick up a bunch of things. My large photo prints for my market stall were ready, so I went to the printer to pick those up.

I took a walk from Redfern train station to the printer, then from there continued on towards the University of Technology, Sydney, where I was meeting with an old colleague to pick up some games. He started a small game shop business after departing our former employer, but alas competition from large retailers able to cut prices has driven him out of business, and he’s discounting all his remaining stock. So I helped out and picked up the Star Wars: The Edge of the Empire and Force and Destiny roleplaying game books. I would have grabbed Age of Rebellion as well, but he didn’t have that title.

Along the way I stopped to take photos of various things. Around UTS there’s a lovely string of old Art Deco pubs:

The Old Clare

From UTS I walked down Broadway into the centre of the city, passing more Art Deco:

The Great Southern Hotel

Sydney has a lot of Art Deco architecture if you know where to look for it, or if you just keep your eyes open as you walk around. It’s possibly my favourite architectural style, so I always have an eye open for it. There’s also this weird Googie sign at the Agincourt Hotel in Broadway:

Agincourt Hotel sign

Sydney really has an awesome mish-mash of architectural styles. My walk was towards a game shop in the heart of town, where I had a book on order to pick up. When almost there, I passed some more Art Deco:

The Civic

At the game shop I picked up my copy of Original Adventures Reincarnated #3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I have the first two books in this series, and they’re amazingly cool retrospectives on the original D&D adventures as well as modern updates and expansions. So I’m very keen to start reading this one.

With this huge haul of stuff, I returned home, where I had a quick lunch before leaving for Dick Hunstead’s remembrance function, which I described in my previous entry.

Today, Saturday, I haven’t done much! Some shopping, some housework, a little bit of doing more tasks to get ready for my market day. I took Scully for a run in the park, and then when we got home I gave her a bath, solo. Normally my wife and I cooperate to give Scully a bath, but today I did it for the first time as a solo job.

This evening we went out for dinner to Balmain, a suburb on the southern side of the Harbour, necessitating a drive over the Bridge. We had pizza at a place we hadn’t been to before, and it was amazingly good. We had to sit outside because of Scully, and initially chose a table close to the street, under the sky.

This seemed fine for a while, until the clouds grew very dark and lightning pierced the sky. I checked the weather radar and saw a huge storm front crossing the city, so we hurriedly moved to a table closer to the building, under the awning. As it turned out, the heaviest rain missed us, but we got a moderate burst lasting 20 minutes or so.

Rainy Darling

New content today:

In memoriam: Richard Hunstead

A couple of months ago I received an invitation from the University of Sydney to attend a celebration function for the career of my Ph.D. supervisor, Professor Richard Hunstead, as he retired. The date was to be Friday 14 February, with an afternoon of reflective talks by his colleagues, followed by an evening of drinks and canapés. I accepted the invitation.

Two weeks ago, I received another email from the University. Dick (as he was known) had suddenly fallen ill and passed away. The event would go on, now as a celebration of the life of this distinguished researcher. I felt less inclined to go to something where the mood would be so different, but yesterday afternoon I went.

I saw and spoke with many old university friends and teachers who I hadn’t seen in many years. The afternoon of talks consisted of reminiscences by several of Dick’s closest colleagues, a couple of whom had been fellow students with me back in the day. Many people who Dick had taught went on to very successful careers in astronomy – I felt a bit like the odd one out, having left astronomy and moved into a career in photographic research. But the crowd felt familiar, because during my years as an astronomy Ph.D. student I moved in the same circles as this distinguished group of people. The Australian astronomy crowd is a large family, and does some of the best astronomical research in the world.

Dick in particular had many achievements over his long career. Many I knew about, some mentioned by the speakers were new to me. In the early 1960s, radio astronomers discovered the strange radio source named CTA-102. Early observations indicated that the signal strength varied, and in 1965 Gennady Sholomitskii proposed that it might be a “beacon” set up by an advanced extraterrestrial civilisation. This was two years before Jocelyn Bell’s discovery of the first pulsar, which was also at first suspected to be an alien radio beacon – making it the first astronomical object seriously suggested as a potential sign of an alien civilisation. This caused a sensation in 1965, and The Byrds wrote a song about it, released on their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday. Mount Palomar Observatory found an optical counterpart to the radio source, identifying it as a quasar, which removed the idea that it was an artificial radio beacon.

Dick came into this story over the next few years, when he was the first to observe CTA-102 at relatively low radio frequencies, using Sydney University’s Molonglo radio telescope. The received wisdom of the time was that variable astronomical radio sources only varied at high radio frequencies, in the GHz range. Molonglo observed at 408 MHz, well below the range that anyone thought radio variability occurred. With three years of careful observation, Dick showed that CTA-102, and three other sources, varied with time at this low frequency as well. This transformed our understanding of quasars and radiogalaxies, and laid the foundations for physical models of the processes that power these objects.

Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope, east arm

[The Molonglo Telescope (my photo, during my honours year physics project, working with Dick).]

Dick was also a pioneer in the detailed study of the Lyman-alpha forest of absorption lines in the optical spectra of quasars. This is work that I know very well, as it was the subject of my Ph.D. thesis, working under Dick’s direct supervision.

AAT Dome

[The Anglo-Australian Telescope (my photo, where I did my observing during my Ph.D.).]

Besides his research, Dick was also passionate about education. He ran the second year undergraduate physics labs, and sometimes the first and third year labs as well, for many years, from when I was a student until fairly recently. He participated (as I learnt yesterday) in numerous education outreach programs, encouraging young people to pursue training in science, and collaborating with teachers and other groups to set up science education programs.

My last interaction with Dick was late last year, when I returned to the university for the first time in many years, to seek him out and request to borrow some lab equipment, for use in my own science education efforts with Brookvale Public School. I wanted some lasers and diffraction slits and other stuff to do experiments with my Science Club. Dick was keen to help and offered all the resources he had to give.

As I heard during yesterday’s event, this generosity of time and effort was repeated across the hundreds of students and colleagues who Dick mentored and worked with. The common theme to all the speakers was how Dick had boundless energy to share his enthusiasm for science with others and to actively encourage people, without prejudice, to develop their interest in astronomy. A good friend of mine told the story of how she, as a brand new first year undergraduate, ventured timidly into the astronomy department to ask if there was anything that she could do to participate in some sort of astronomy work. Normally only students in their fourth year are assigned research projects by the various physics departments, so a first year asking for additional work was very unusual. The first person she came across told her to go to biology because “that’s better suited to girls”. Undaunted she returned a few days later to try and find someone else. She met a professor in the corridor and asked the same question: was there some sort of astronomy project that she could possibly help out on? That professor was Dick, and he immediately gave her some real data, showed her how to book time on the computer system, and how to analyse it. That girl is now a professor in the same astronomy department.

Dick has left a huge legacy at the University of Sydney, in the Australian astronomical community, and in global research. Dozens, if not hundreds, of highly successful astronomers and scientists in other fields (e.g. me) owe their careers to Dick and his positive influence.

New content today: