A day for fish & chips

It was cool and cloudy and drizzly this morning. I spent time working up one of my next classes for this week’s ethic lessons. It’s a simpler version of the “Philosophy of Ethics” lesson I did last year for the older age group, so I could adapt a lot of the material. For the older kids I’m doing a topic this week on “Confession”, which I still need to write up. As in confessing for any bad acts, but we’ll also touch on Catholic confession too.

For lunch I took Scully for a walk through the drizzle to the fish & chip shop and then we went down to the water by the ferry wharf to eat.

Cloudy day at Greenwich wharf

The rain stopped while I was waiting for the food to be cooked, and the bench in the park had dried out a bit by the time we got there, so I had somewhere to sit. And while sitting by the water, eating fish & chips, I could hear lots of birds.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos, noisy miners, and kookaburras. I think there was also a galah. Yes there was a gull or two as well, but it was interesting that the most obvious birds in the area here by the harbour shore were cockatoos.

Not much else to say about the day, really.

New content today:

First day off, hot and smoky

Today was the first free day of my Christmas break. I took Scully for a long walk early in the morning before it got too hot, because the forecast was 35°C. it didn’t get that high, however, because of a combination of overcast that made the day very steamy, and the distinct smell of bushfire smoke that drifted in late morning. The smoke made the air very hazy (news story here), but it wasn’t local. It had drifted on the wind from a large bushfire near Narrabri, some 500 km north-west (news story here).

But the walk was before the smoke. It was cooler, but still hot and humid enough to mean I was drenched in sweat by the time we got home, at 9 o’clock. Along the way though I was excited to spot a striated heron! These birds are not common in the area. According to my eBird stats, this is only the third time I’ve seen a striated heron around here since late 2020. I tried to get a photo, but I couldn’t get very close and my phone wasn’t up to zooming in that far with decent quality. But still, this is my first photo of a striated heron! It’s the 127th Australian species I’ve photographed.

Striated heron

For lunch I took Scully for a drive instead of a walk. We went to the Allambie Heights pie shop, which I’ve been craving for a few weeks now, but it’s a bit of a drive so not something I can do any old day. And when we got there, they had special Christmas pies!

Christmas pies!

These are more expensive than the usual menu, and contained roast turkey, brie, and cranberry sauce. Of course I had to try one! I also got a Thai chicken curry pie to round out lunch. Both the flavours were excellent – this is a pretty good pie shop.

The temperature continued to climb and reached a maximum about 6pm. It’s cooling down slowly now, but there’s a cold southerly change coming through about 11pm tonight, which should bring thunderstorms and cooler temperatures. The next few days are forecast to be much cooler, thankfully.

New content today:

Early morning birding

I forgot to mention yesterday: In the morning I usually take Scully on a walk and yesterday I took her on a longer one to avoid doing a big walk in the heat of the middle of the day. We went by the harbour shore, and for the first time in a while I did a bird count using eBird. Normally when I do this around this area, I can accumulate about 10 species observed. But yesterday I managed to find 18 different species, which is notably high. Sometimes I get 14 or 15, but 18 is close to a record for a single observation near my home. I won’t reproduce the list, because you can see it on eBird here. Looking for birds early in the morning definitely helps, as they are harder to find in the heat of the day. And summer means the Pacific koels are around (they migrate north for the winter). There are also channel-billed cuckoos, which have been around lately, but I didn’t happen to see any yesterday.

Today I dropped Scully at doggie daycare in the morning, and then I went to my dentist for a regular cleaning and dental hygiene appointment. The hygienist was pretty happy with my teeth and there were no concerns, so that’s good. Afterwards I celebrated with a roasted vegetable pie for lunch from the nearby pie shop.

Being out without walking Scully, I took the chance to drop into the brand new library that opened up not long ago in a new development nearby. It’s a branch of another library that I’m a member of, but when I showed them my card they said it had expired. I wasn’t on their system at all! I guess this goes to show what the Internet has done. I used to borrow books frequently, but of course that dropped off some years back. And… this isn’t the first time that my card has expired through lack of use! Some years ago I went into the library and tried to borrow some books only to be told my card had expired. I feel kind of embarrassed that this has happened to me twice now!

I’m also getting ready for the next Dungeons & Dragons game, which I’ll be running for my friends on Friday evening. It should be the climax of the current adventure (which started with rumours of the return of a dragon and continued with the party recovering a legendary dragon-slaying sword…), so hopefully lots of drama and fun!

New content today:

Turkeys, turkeys, everywhere

Around where we live it’s easy to find Australian brushturkeys. Here’s a photo I took of one a while back:

Australian brushturkey

They’re big birds, and have become more and more common in this area over the years. They scrape for food in leaf litter, and this time of year they build large mounds of litter and mulch to incubate their eggs, using the warmth of the decaying mulch rather than sitting on the eggs. So they move around a lot of leaf litter. And this year in particular I’ve been noticing that a lot of the footpaths we walk on around the neighbourhood are constantly being covered in a layer of leaf litter, sometimes so thick that you almost have to wade through it. While the adjacent garden beds are scraped clear of mulch and have large patches of bare soil.

There’s been a bit of this in previous years but this year it’s particularly bad. I’m guessing a lot of residents are constantly scraping or sweeping mulch back into the gardens and off the footpaths, or maybe their are council workers going around and doing it. I’m starting to wonder how much of this the gardens can take before the birds become real pests and start having an adverse effect on plants. Being native birds they’re a protected species, so there’s nothing anyone can do about them, legally.

In other news today, I received my Kickstarter copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics #100: The Music of the Spheres is Chaos. This is a wacky dungeon adventure with some cool bonus stuff because it’s the 100th adventure in Goodman Games’s series. Should be fun!

And tonight was another project tutorial session at the university for the image processing course. For dinner beforehand I tried a new burger and wings place. I had the chicken burger with peri-peri sauce, which came with a side of chips. It was pretty good! I’d go back here again some other time. Though not this semester since I’m still trying to eat somewhere different and new every week.

And after the project session with the students, the professor, who’s an old colleague from the previous jobs we did together at Canon, asked me if I wanted to fill in for him in teaching the next 18 months worth of his courses, as he has an offer to do some outsourced research work which will take up all his teaching time. This means I’d be organising the courses and giving the lectures for the courses – which involves some time commitment, but also extra income. And it’s a great opportunity to do some more university level teaching. So I’m very interested! I just need to see how many hours a week of work will be required, and fit that into my current Outschool schedule.

So this is pretty big news, and I’m a bit excited!

New content today:

Monday/Tuesday combined again

It’s tricky doing a Monday evening post now that I have an extra ethics class scheduled, and the current Creative Thinking class has moved an hour later due to daylight saving time. By the time I’m finished my classes it’s 10pm and I don’t feel like blogging anything. So, yesterday I didn’t do much of interest anyway, with three classes taught in the morning, taking Scully for a couple of walks, and failing to get much else done.

I was a bit distracted by a noisy miner chick, which is inhabiting a nest just outside my kitchen window. It was cheeping at a rate of about twice per second, non-stop, for hours. And it’s doing it again today. Ah, spring…

There are also channel-billed cuckoos around again, having returned from their winter migration north. They’re very loud, with a grating raucous call, but thankfully I haven’t heard them too much yet. And the brushturkeys are busy building nesting mounds, scraping huge piles of leaf litter and mulch together, and scattering material all over footpaths and other adjacent areas as well. There are several places where I walk that are covered in layers of leaf litter because of the messiness of these birds.

Today, Tuesday, I have tutoring for image processing at the university in the evening. Before then, I’m making some comics and revising the crystal ball game for the Creative Thinking class after workshopping it last night with the students.

Oh, there’s a weird thing happening at a place that I walk past regularly. It’s an old house which has looked abandoned and run-down for years, with no windows and small trees growing in the copious leaf litter on the roof. It looks like it should be torn down, and has looked that way for the past decade or so. But now there are workers there, and they seem to be building additional alls and rooms directly onto the old building without removing anything. They’re even leaving the mess on the roof. It almost defies belief that they are adding to the existing building rather than tearing it down. I guess we’ll see what happens to it.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Monday/Tuesday combo two-in-one post

Monday I was busy in the evening so didn’t have time for posting. And tonight I’ll be out at the university for the student project kick-off lecture for the image processing course I’m tutoring. So I thought I’d make a combined post for both days. Yesterday (Monday) was a lot cooler than Sunday, but today (Tuesday) is already warming up dramatically again as of 10am. Monday was actually a public holiday here, Labour Day.

I spent some time knocking ideas into shape for my current game design class on outschool, in which I’m working with three students on ideas for a game about crystal balls. I came up with three different possible modes of game play:

  1. Cards list random events that could happen to a person: e.g. “win the lottery”, “get married”, “lose your job”. You lay out a series of cards face down so nobody can see them – this represents future events, which are now fixed by the layout. Players are fortune tellers and can use their crystal balls to peek at a card, thus learning what is going to happen to a client in the future. Here it gets a bit vague – somehow you do this to earn money and/or reputation.
  2. You use your crystal ball to make free-form predictions of what other players will do on future turns. On the given future turn, the player who has had a prediction made can choose to either (a) follow the prediction, gaining some benefit, and also giving the predictor positive reputation for being accurate, or (b) defy the prediction, losing the benefit, but also giving the predictor loss of reputation.
  3. Players are fortune tellers competing for business in the same town. You have a hand of cards with events on them, and “use your crystal ball” to foresee those events happening to your rivals. Some are positive, some are negative, and you choose an opponent and place the card in front of them. The card has countdown numbers on the edges, and each turn you rotate the cards played in front of you to count down the turns, and when they reach 0 the event happens. Your shop might burn down 3 turns from now, losing you a lot of money. But! If you take out fire insurance (using another card) before your shop burns down, you collect a huge payout! So you can use your knowledge of future events to change good/bad events.

The last one is the one I like the most, and the kids in the class all agreed. So that’s what I’ll be developing into a full-blown game over the next few days, in time for the next class next Monday.

When my wife and I went to take Scully for a walk after lunch, we found a film crew filming something right outside our place. A dozen or so people, vans, lighting gear. They were filming something on the walkway from the footpath going around the side of our apartment block property to the rear entrances of some of the units. I stopped and asked what they were doing and one of them told me it was an “independent film project”. It wasn’t huge like a fully professional set-up; more like a film school student project or something. They were still here when we came back about an hour later, filming someone driving a car up our street – we saw it reverse and drive back a couple of times as they filmed it.

In the afternoon I did another 5k run. My times on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were very consistent: 27:20, 27:21, and 27:20. While walking back home through the park from the end of the run, I spotted a king parrot feeding on a tree near the path.

Australian king parrot

I approached as close as I could and it was tame enough that I got within about 30cm with my phone to get these photos.

Australian king parrot

In the evening I had that game design class, and also a new ethics class time for older kids. A parent had signed up a girl for a younger kids class last Friday, and she had enjoyed it so much that the parent wanted to enrol and older sister into a class too, but there were no suitable vacancies. So I made a new class on Mondays. At the moment there’s just the one student, but the class went well because she’s clever and talkative. The parent wrote back soon afterwards to say what a great class it was and how excited the kid was to talk about it. So that’s good!

Today I’ll be working on producing that crystal ball game, and maybe writing some comics, before heading into the university tonight.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Ethics of sports fans

It’s new ethics topic day, and this week the younger kids are doing the topic of Sports Fans. There are questions about how sports fans should behave, and whether it’s okay to follow teams just because they win more, or if you should be loyal to your home team, and about athletes being role models, and other stuff like that.

The weather is still chilly like winter, though should warm up a bit as the week goes by. I took Scully for a walk up to the local shops and had sushi for lunch for the first time in ages.

On the way back, I dropped in on a furniture store nearby, one that specialises in ergonomic furniture for back posture. My current desk stool is breaking and I ned a replacement. I got it at this same shop many years ago, and it’s been brilliant. The base is convex, so it doesn’t sit still on the floor – it constantly wobbles and you need to use your core muscles to sit steadily. And there’s no backrest, so it’s impossible to slouch. It’s been great for my posture and I wanted a similar replacement. I tried looking on their website on the weekend, but all the wobble stools that I found were too tall – the lowest adjusted height was significantly higher than my current stool. So I wanted to ask in the showroom if they had anything else that might suit me.

And when I went in I found one of these, a Leo Perching Stool. I tried it out and adjusted the height, and it was perfect. And feels really good. Maybe even better than my current old stool. The guy there told me it came in a wide range of colours and I could select them from the website and order it to be picked up from the store, to avoid delivery fees. So I came home and found it on their website and ordered one.

It came with a range of fabric types and colours. One of the types was a premium fabric, and it said it would add the premium charge at the shipping stage. I selected a premium fabric and went to the checkout to see what the extra cost would be… and it didn’t add anything! I liked the colour I’d selected, so I purchased it with that. Hopefully I’ll get it with the premium fabric at no extra cost! 😀

OOPS! I saved a draft of this post on Tuesday night, and then neglected to actually post it. But that gives me time on Wednesday morning to add this photo I took yesterday of a kookaburra.

Kookaburra by phone

Yes, that’s with my phone. Sometimes kookaburras are tame enough to get within a metre or so.

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A new ethics class for older kids

I mentioned the other day that I was thinking of starting a new ethics and critical thinking class on Outschool for older kids. Today I put together a class description and submitted the class to Outschool for approval. I expect it should be approved pretty quickly.

With the class description I included topics for the first four planned classes:

  • Crime and Punishment
  • Free Will and Determinism
  • How to Rig an Election
  • The Meaning of Life

Pretty ambitious, but I think I can pull it off! Assuming it’s approved, I’ll start scheduling classes to begin after Christmas, and leave them until then so new students can find the classes and enrol.

Here’s a photo of an Australian brushturkey that I managed to get extremely close to with my phone the other day.

Brushturkey close up

There’s one of these (a different one to the photo) currently guarding a nest mound near my place. Whenever I walk past, it chases me, trying to drive me away, until about 25 metres from the nest. It’s very protective and chases everyone away, although it’s not aggressive and backs off if you approach it. Soon the chicks will hatch and it will abandon them to their fates. They’re really curious birds.

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Relaxing Sunday back home

After our short trip away, today was a day of resting at home to recover! We slept in a bit and got up leisurely.

After breakfast, my first task of the day was to wash the car, to remove all the road grime from the trip to the country, and also vacuum out the interior to get rid of all the grass and stones and other debris that had accumulated. I did a comprehensive clean, detailing, wash, and wax, which took a good couple of hours.

THat led right up to lunch time, and I was hungry after my morning of work. We took a walk with Scully to our favourite bakery at Naremburn, and when we got there we were reminded that today was a special street fair day at the small set of shops there. There was a small market set up with about a dozen stalls, and live music, and all the food places had several tables out for people to sit and eat. There were a lot more people around than normal, obviously, and there was a nice buzz of activity. But it wasn’t too big – there were really only probably under 100 people there at any time.

Back home I worked on some Irregular Webcomic! strips for the coming week, and uploaded some bird photos from the trip to Orange. These are the ones from the Coogal Parklands walk that we did on Wednesday.

Pacific black duck:

Pacific black duck

Superb fairywren, juvenile male:

Superb fairywren, juvenile male

Sulphur-crested cockatoos:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Australian king parrot, male:

Australian king-parrot, male

Crimson rosella:

Crimson rosella

Grey fantail (really hard to catch in a photo, since it’s always moving around):

Grey fantail

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Trekking north for a day

Today my wife had a day off work, and my only ethics class was from 9am, so I was done by 10 o’clock. We decided to take advantage by going out for the day. We took Scully and we drove up to the northern beaches suburbs, as far as Avalon Beach, almost an hour’s drive.

There we stopped at Oliver’s Pies to get some lunch. We took them across the road to the large park there to let Scully run around while we ate, and after finishing I tossed a ball for her to chase for a while. Then we went for a walk. I wanted to do a path through Bangalley Headland Reserve, and we walked a few blocks to where the track started, but we discovered that dogs were prohibited on the track. So unfortunately we had to return to the car.

Instead, we decided to go to the shopping centre at Avalon and sit at a cafe for a bit so my wife could get some coffee. I got a nutty chocolate treat as well while there, and we discussed what else to do. We decided to stop off at Warriewood Wetlands on the way home, which is a great spot to walk around and spot birds. I had my camera with me, and managed to get a few shots, although we were walking rather than waiting patiently for opportunities.

Willie wagtail:

Willie wagtail

Australasian grebe:

Australasian grebe

Dusky moorhen:

Dusky moorhen

We also saw Eurasian coots, superb fairywrens, silvereyes, Pacific black ducks, and we heard plenty of bell miners, but those guys are almost impossible to spot.

In other news, I got a minor scrape on my left hand while cooking dinner and put a band-aid on it. Then later while washing up, I didn’t want to get my left hand wet, so I swapped hands and held the pots in my left hand while scrubbing them with the dishcloth in my right hand. This felt so weird and uncoordinated! I was curious and asked my friends on our group chat what hands they use to wash dishes, and they all said that they normally hold the item in their left hand and scrub it with the right. My wife said the same thing.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve discovered that I do something the opposite way to other right-handed people. I use my left hand to eat finger food (I just confirmed my friends use their right hands). I know I ride push scooters and skateboards the same way as left-handed people. I tie my shoelaces using a mirror image sequence of moves to right-handed people I’ve watched. But I consider myself right-handed. I write with my right hand, I throw right-handed, I play sports like tennis, cricket, golf right handed.

I was just now searching casually on Google for if this is a known thing – right-handed people doing a whole bunch of things in a left-handed way. And it turns out there’s a term for it! Cross-dominance! I’d never heard of this before, but yes, that’s me. Huh. So I just learnt a thing about myself.

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