Repotting chillis and a new game expansion

This morning I took Scully on a long walk, around down by the harbour shore. The forecast was hot, so I didn’t want to take her out for long at lunch time, and got her walk in early before the roads heated up too much in the sun for her paws. I did a bird count on the walk and recorded 13 species. None of the slightly more interesting water birds like cormorants, herons, or ducks today. A lot of sulphur-crested cockatoos though, screeching loudly – those ones can really make a racket.

When I got home I photographed the remainder of the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I started working on last week. Then I turned to making a new Darths & Droids strip.

I also repotted the new chilli plant we bought a few days ago. I had a terracotta pot from the previous good chilli plant – not the scrawny recent one that never produced any chillis. I put the new plant in there to give it more room to grow. Of course this meant spilt soil al over the balcony, so I had to clean that up. I also gave the lime tree a thorough cleaning – the leaves get dirty with dust and grime so I wiped them off with a wet cloth.

This evening I did the first three ethics classes on the topic of Gift Giving. One of the most controversial questions was on regifting. Some kids thought it was fine if you didn’t like a gift to give it away to someone else, or even just throw it away, while others said you had to keep it, but maybe stick it in the back of a cupboard or something.

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Games night and plumbing day

Friday I had a bunch of classes, followed by going out to a friend’s place for in-person board games night. We played games of Sequoia, Modern Art, Istanbul, and Coup. Here’s Istanbul:


It’s the longest game we played and I think the one I enjoyed the most. It was very close, with one guy winning it just one turn before myself and another player would have also reached the winning condition (and it would have gone to the tiebreaker condition).


Today I tackled a chore that I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks. Our shower had begun to be a bit drippy, with it getting harder to turn the water off properly. I really dislike the job of replacing the valves in the taps because its fiddly and messy, and I have to get tools from the garage. So I tend to put it off as long as possible. But I decided I had to bite the bullet today and get it done. And last time I only bothered to replace the cold tap valves, so I thought I better do the hot ones as well this time.

I started at 11:30, thinking I’d be done by soon after midday so I could have lunch. In fact I didn’t finish until after 1pm. When I unscrewed the shower cold water tap I found the reason why it had been dripping lately:

Mangled valve

The old valve was completely mangled and worn out! Once I’d done the replacements and turned the hot and cold water mains back on, everything seemed to be working nicely. So hopefully I won’t need to do that again for a year or more.

This morning I did a 5k run, clocking 27:01 on my new route. I think this will be a faster route, without the steeper hills of the old route, nor the extended uphill slog over the last 2 kilometres or so.

This afternoon we all went on a walk up to the shops. I grabbed a gelato from the local gelato place. As I sat eating it, my wife noticed a sign at the specialist grocer next door advertising Doglato – an ice cream product for dogs. While I waited outside with Scully, she went in to take a look, and emerged with a small tub of peanut butter and honey Doglato. We gave Scully a bit, but it was frozen pretty solid so difficult to scoop out. We ended up taking the tub home and sticking it in the freezer, and will try giving Scully some more over the next few days, which will be easier with access to our kitchen utensils.

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Shower repair, day 3

The ongoing battle with the shower continues. Today I applied another coat of the grout sealer first thing in the morning. Then I looked at the silicone sealant to check the instructions. It said to use mineral turpentine to clean the surfaces before application, and also for cleanup after application. Fortunately I have some turpentine stowed away in the garage, so I went down to get it.

The bottle was ancient. I must have bought it over 20 years ago. The price label (from back when everything had individual price labels) said $2.50. The same amount of turpentine from the hardware store website today costs $5.95. The bottle was a little over half full – I would have used the rest of it years ago for cleaning up painting work.

I wiped down the surfaces with turps (common Aussie abbreviation for “turpentine”). And I remembered just how powerful turps smells, and how much I can’t stand that smell. It pervaded the whole house. The rag I used to wipe the surfaces I put outside on the balcony to avoid having it in the house and emitting more smell.

I wiped the surfaces clean with a dry cloth and then applied masking tape to make sure the silicone sealant had nice clean edges. And then late in the afternoon I tackled the hardest part, the actual silicone sealant. I needed to bring in the turps-soaked cloth for wiping up excess. I made some plastic spatulas by cutting a thick plastic yoghurt lid into round-ended shapes, and I used those to smooth the silicone into the grooves. It got a bit messy and I got silicone all over my rubber gloves, so I ended up just using a gloved finger to do a lot of the smoothing.

As soon as all the crevices were sealed, I peeled off the masking tape. Hopefully I got it off fast enough, before the sealant skinned over. Now to let the silicone cure for… the instructions said 72 hours!! SO if we wait that ling until we can use the shower again, it will be Saturday evening (it’s Wednesday today). By then we’ll have been nearly six days without a shower. Lucky we have a bathtub!

I forgot to mention yesterday that the family of the boy who I was sorting out Magic: the Gathering cards for came by to pick them up. They were headed off for the day and driving past so dropped in yesterday morning. I met them out the front of my place and handed over the heavy shoebox full of cards. The mother and the boy got out to greet me (leaving a father and a slightly older girl in the car). The kid was super excited, and he gave me a hand drawn thank you card, on which he’d drawn a cool picture of a dragon:

MtG Dragon art

He’d written a thank you message inside. The mother gave me a paper bag which turned out to contain a bottle of port and a small Christmas cake. They were both very grateful, and I was happy to see the boy so excited to get the cards.

The other main thing I did today was go through photos from my first day in Amsterdam back in June. I edited selected photos and tried to figure out where exactly I’d taken them all. A lot were of random canals and bridges and I had no idea what they were when I took them. But I retraced our steps roughly on Google Maps, using identifiable landmarks to establish waypoints, and used Streetview to identify the intermediate locations. But doing this, I managed to locate the site of every photo. This was satisfying, as sometimes I’ve returned home from trips and have no way of figuring out exactly where some of the photos were taken.

Frans Hendriksz Oetgensbrug

I posted the photos to my Flickr album for the trip and incorporated several into my travel diary for that day, which I also updated with some of the now-identified locations.

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Shower repair, day 2

First thing this morning I washed the surfaces of the shower that I’m planning to reseal with silicone sealant, using sugar soap to make sure they’re really clean. I want to make sure the sealant sticks to the surfaces, and doesn’t peel away quickly due to any dirt or residues. The bottle says not so use it on aluminium, but I checked online and the problem is it can cause discolouration, but the risk is low if it’s wiped off quickly. So I went ahead and used it.

I inspected the areas that I was considering patching up with grout. I poked a Stanley knife into the grout, and found to my horror that it was crumbly and easily scraped out. Well, here’s something that definitely needs fixing! I’m now very glad I bought a tube of grout yesterday. I scraped out the areas of loose grout everywhere I could find them and cleaned them up.

After wiping off the sugar soap and letting things dry, around lunchtime I applied grout to the newly formed cracks, filling them up to ensure a good seal. I’ve never done grouting before, but it wasn’t too difficult, and I wiped up the excess around the edges with a damp cloth so the result looks neat and tidy.

Then this evening I looked at the grout sealer product that I’d also bought. I want to let the new grout cure for 24 hours, but there was old grout in some places that I wanted to make sure was sealed against water penetration, so I applied the grout sealer to those areas. I’ll do the newly grouted areas tomorrow.

So we’re on day 2 of baths instead of showers, and we’ll be doing the same tomorrow.

The weather was warm again today, 28°C like yesterday. We’re still not used to the summery heat, since it was unusually cold up until just a few days ago, so we stayed out of the heat of the middle of the day and took Scully for walks early and then in the evening.

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Boxing Day labour

Boxing Day is Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race day, and the Boxing Day Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, this year between Australia and South Africa. I had the cricket on the TV for most of the day, but I was mostly occupied in the bathroom, cleaning up the shower stall.

I’d said to my wife that I wanted to reserve a few days after Christmas to redo the shower seals. We won’t be able to use the shower while this is in progress, and it will take a few days, so we’re stuck having baths for the next few days.

The problem is the clear silicone sealant between the shower hob and the aluminium frame of the glass shower screen was getting mouldy underneath, and nothing I did cleaned it up. So I spent a few hours today stripping off the sealant, scraping out the crevices, cleaning various nooks and crannies that haven’t been cleaned properly in years, so they were pretty gunky.

I mentioned what I was doing with my friends and a couple of them gave me tips and suggested specific products from the hardware store to do what I wanted to achieve. One suggested a grout sealer as well, to prevent water leaking through grouting, and I thought that was a good idea as we’ve had a very minor issue with that happening. And then he said I should actually grout the gaps rather than use silicone, but I checked and grout isn’t good for metal surfaces, so I’ll have to stick to silicone. But I did get a small tube of grout for a few minor cracks, so hopefully that will go okay because I’ve never done grouting before.

My wife and I walked up to the hardware store this evening to buy the supplies. We went late, after 6pm, because it was a very warm day and we only did a shorter walk with Scully at lunch time in the heat.

So, I spent much of the day on my knees, or kneeling down, hunched over, or sitting on the floor, and scraping and scrubbing tiles and metal fittings. I had to take several breaks to stretch my legs and back out, but got the first part of the job done. All the silicone I want to replace is removed, and the surfaces are cleaned. Tomorrow I’ll go to work with the grout, and then maybe Wednesday I’ll do the silicone sealing.

Dinner today was leftover turkey slices and potato gratin from Christmas lunch yesterday. Scully also got a bit of festive turkey!

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This morning I had my dental appointment to have a filling fixed. It was at 8am, so I grabbed some breakfast quickly before heading out. I had an anaesthetic, so my mouth was numb for a few hours and didn’t return to normal until almost 1pm. I avoided eating until then.

But at midday I took a drill and screwdrivers to my wife’s work to install a WiFi video doorbell on her office door. She’d requested one from her boss and it had been ordered and arrived, but for all this week my wife is working there alone as everyone else is working from home for the whole week. I said I could install it, but she asked her boss if he wanted to hire a handyman to do it, but he just said, “Doesn’t someone have a handy hubby who can do it?” So I got the job. it was pretty easy – only took a few minutes.

Then I too Scully and we drove over to the Italian bakery where I grabbed a slice of pizza and a cherry danish for lunch, now that my mouth had recovered from being numb.

This afternoon I worked on some Darths & Droids comics. And took Scully for a walk. Oh, and I made okonomiyaki for dinner.

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Navigating car navigation

I got up early this morning to take the car in for its annual service. I took Scully, and after dropping off the car we walked home. The goal was to get home after my wife left for work, so that Scully wouldn’t notice her leaving. We managed it, barely, as I spotted my wife leaving and walking down the street as we approached, but fortunately Scully didn’t see her and go running after her.

At home I had just enough time to eat breakfast before my ISO Photography Standards meeting. We discussed depth cameras and organising experiments for them to measure various performance statistics such as depth accuracy, resolution, noise, and so on.

After that I photographed the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. That took me until about 11:30, at which point the car service place rang up and told me the car was ready to pick up. I had lunch at home, and then took Scully for a walk back to the car place. We drove home via the bakery at Naremburn, where I picked up a half dozen fruit mince tarts. Last year we had tarts from this bakery and they were the best ones from all of the places around that we sampled.

On the drive home, I checked the GPS navigation in the car, for which I’d asked them to update the maps. The GPS location seemed to be working, but the maps layer was completely absent. I called them up when I got home, and they said to bring the car back in fr them to look at it. So I had to drive back to the service centre. I waited while they fiddled with it. They tried redownloading the maps into the SD card and reinstalling in the car, and that worked.

I came home again, and spent some time editing photos from my trip to Europe in June. I got to the ones where we did a boat tour along the canals of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. There’s a historical canal that runs through the city centre, and passes underneath several houses.

Binnendieze canal tour

One of the houses had a glass floor and we could look up into the house!

Binnendieze canal tour

Tonight is games night with my friends. It’s a face-to-face fortnight, but we all agreed to do online games this week, since one of the guys has COVID, and another has fears of exposure/symptoms. I just won a game of 7 Wonders, which is something quite rare, so I’m feeling good about the night so far.

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Scrambling with 2 weeks to go

I’m continuing to rush to get everything done that I need to do before we head overseas in 13 days. I worked on making several Darths & Droids strips today. I also had to wrap and package up some Planet of Hats original strips for a reader who bought them. I’ll be mailing those off on Monday.

I did some housecleaning. Went for a run to get some exercise for the first time in several days – it’s been way too cold and miserable to do it during the week past, but today was sunny and not so windy, and a touch warmer.

Tonight I boiled up another batch of my hoard of frozen bunya nuts and made pesto to have with pasta for dinner.

Oh, and here’s a photo of Scully I took last night at the Italian restaurant.

Scully at local Italian restaurant

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Housecleaning, but not my own

Today I had an unusual chore to do. My mother-in-law’s place needs freshening up and repainting to remove a mould problem caused by all the recent rain and humidity. So we went over today to help her pack fragile things like glassware and crockery out of the furniture so that the painters could move the furniture without breaking anything. We also took down all the paintings and pictures from the walls, and the curtains, and we helped her remove a whole bunch of books for donating to clear out some space.

This evening I had my two usual ethics classes, plus a science class for the girl who is doing those occasionally with me. Today we built on what we did about DNA and heredity last time, and moved on to evolution. As part of this I talked about the fossil record and the dating of fossils, which built on the knowledge she learnt back when we were talking about atoms and radioactivity – she already knows how we determine the ages of rocks and fossils.

So I spent most of the day when we weren’t out preparing that lesson.

Oh, and the weather was warm and sunny! No rain!! Although the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a warning that more rain is developing, and their models indicate we could get another 100-200 mm of rain starting from Wednesday, with some of the most flood-affected areas further north getting another 300-400 mm. Everyone you talk to here in Sydney is sick to death of this endless rain.

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Good intentions, but interruptions

I wanted to do some work today on comics and university teaching material. But my day ended up a bit fractured by various chores and errands, and I never really got a solid couple of hours together to start work and get things done.

There was grocery shopping, then my run and stretching exercises. I had to write some extension exercises for the current ethics topic of tourism and send them to one of the students doing those.

After lunch I drove with my wife and Scully a few suburbs over as she had an appointment. I walked Scully around while we waited and stopped at a patisserie for a sweet treat – a sour cherry tart. Well, it wasn’t that sweet – the cherries were indeed fairly sour.

This afternoon I cleaned the bathroom and shower stall. Oh, and baked some sourdough.

This evening we went out for dinner at the local pizza place. And tonight is virtual games night with my friends. I’ve just managed to come third and win a bronze medal in our Winter Olympics themed night. I’m representing Switzerland, for some reason.

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