Picking up pot

I have a couple of small plants growing on our balcony:

  • a chilli plant which has been very productive for a few years, and
  • a lime tree which has not yet produced any usable fruit, but which currently has some tiny limes that I hope will continue to mature rather than dropping off.

The chilli is in a suitably sized terracotta pot, but the lime tree is still in the plastic pot we bought it in. I decided it was time to repot it in a larger pot, so I went online and ordered a terracotta pot and saucer from the local hardware store. I had to guess the size of saucer because it was impossible to tell what the correct size was from the website information. (And I couldn’t just go into the hardware store to buy them because it’s closed by COVID restrictions – you can only order online, for contactless pickup.)

Anyway, my pickup was scheduled for this morning, so I drove over to the store, stopped in one of the marked “pick up” berths, and a guy came over and asked me my name, and then brought the pot and saucer over for me. It was impressively chunky. I brought it home, but I’ve put of repotting the lime tree to tomorrow.

Next up was picking up the online-ordered groceries from the supermarket. While there I grabbed three more punnets of super cheap strawberries as well.

Today mostly I worked on more of my creative thinking course. And tonight is games night with my friends, playing online via Board Game Arena. So far I think I’ve lost 5 games already…

New content today:

Winter storm incoming

Any story of today has to be about the weather. After yesterday’s 27°C winter heat, the cold front moved in overnight, bringing rain and cold. Today’s maximum temperature was recorded at 6:02 am, at just 11.4°C, making today the second coldest day of the year (10 June was just 10.3°C). It’s now 8 pm and Sydney has recorded 37 mm of rain in the city, up to just under 50 mm at the airport. The rain is expected to get heavier tonight, with accompanying gale force up to storm force winds. Wind gusts are already up to 70 km/h on Sydney Harbour. There are fears of beach erosion with the high seas that may threaten some coastal properties.

While this was unfolding today, I had a bunch of stuff to deal with. When we moved in here, there was an in-sink garbage disposal unit, for mulching food scraps into the drain system. I’d never lived with one before, but we started using it and got used to it. But last week it gave up the ghost, the motor seizing up. I called a plumber to see if we could just get it removed and replaced with a regular drainage pipe. No problem! And home repairs are one thing that is allowed to continue under our current COVID lockdown rules, so this morning the plumbers arrived to do the job. Rather than just replace the disposal unit, they redid all of the pipes leading from the double kitchen sink to the drainage port in the floor, replacing the semi-clogged trap and the old pipes that would threaten to start leaking a some point with brand new ones. The sink drain holes also have shiny new grilles in them. And there’s more space inside the cupboard under the sink where we store all the cleaning stuff and other things (watering can, toolbox, light bulbs, candles, matches, etc), so we used that to clear away some stuff off the kitchen bench. Overall a big win!

Then at lunch time I had to go pic up the car from some minor repairs. The repair place is about 20 minutes walk away. In the pouring rain and freezing cold. They had to pick the one day of the week when it was the absolute most miserable to be outside. Well, I took advantage of having to walk over there to stop in at a pie shop on the way for some lunch. As well as repairing the car they’d washed and detailed it nicely. Which didn’t last long…

Back home, I used the newly repaired car to take Scully to doggie daycare. And brave the rain again. In the afternoon I actually did some productive stuff, writing my class notes for this week’s new ethics topic: Fairness in Sport.

Then in the early evening I went to pick up Scully. When the rain and wind had intensified. When she goes to daycare, apparently she has so much fun playing with the other dogs that she completely forgets any need to pee or poo, with the result that as soon as I pick her up she has to rush to the nearest grass and relieve herself. With the rain coming horizontally and my umbrella threatening to turn inside out. And then once both of us were thoroughly wet we climbed inside the car to head home.

Here’s Scully on a sunnier day, last Saturday (bandana by Scully xo, my wife’s Etsy shop):

Scully at Oyster Cove

For dinner tonight I tried something new: sourdough pizza dough. I’ve been making pizza dough for a while now – it’s incredibly easy and I don’t know why I didn’t try it earlier. This time I tried adding some leftover sourdough starter to the mix to see how it works, and it turned out really good!

New content today:

Cleaning house, or mailbox at least

Today I didn’t have anything big that I needed to do, which meant I had some time to deal with various small tasks that have accumulated. One of which was cleaning out my email inbox of various things that needed attention in one way or another. Such as downloading statements for various accounts, filling stuff out on my tax spreadsheet, and filing things into folders so I know where they all are. I also had some paper receipts to go through for taxation stuff, and then file away.

My wife took this fine photo of a kookaburra while walking Scully this morning:

Kookaburra 1

At lunch I took Scully on another walk while I went to get a pie from a nearby bakery. And I took this:

Kookaburra 2

Both of the photos are uncropped full frames from our phone cameras. Yes, I did get ridiculously close to that bird – I was holding the phone maybe 30 centimetres away from it. It was clearly semi-tame, and perhaps waiting for me to offer it some food. So I was a little lucky (but don’t tell my wife that!).

New content today:

One of those interstitial Saturdays

After the late update for yesterday, I don’t really have a lot to report on today. It was a day of mixed housework and getting a few odd jobs done.

The major unusual thing I did was to update the Irregular Webcomic! forum software version. My webhost is deprecating PHP version 7.2, and doing an enforced upgrade to 7.4. Since my phpBB install was a few versions behind, moving to 7.4 broke it, so I had to update it to the latest version. And updating phpBB isn’t a job for the faint-hearted – it’s not press a button and it all happens automatically, like WordPress. You have to download a zip file, backup your database and installation files, then modify some configuration stuff, then copy a whole bunch of files over the top of the previous version on the webhost machine, then run a database update script, then check and possibly update all your plugin extensions, and make sure everything works, and then redo any customisations that you made by editing the source code.

So it was a solid couple of hours of work. But I’m happy to report that it all went well and the forums now seem to be working fine under the new PHP version 7.4. I should keep them more up to date… Last time I neglected to update the version for several years and a change to PHP completely broke things so badly that I had to spend a whole day or more doing a complete reinstallation and migration of the database using an upgrade tool that I fortunately managed to find. That was almost a disaster, and I don’t want to go through that again.

Apart from that it was mostly housework. But my wife and I took some time to relax this evening at a Turkish restaurant up the street. They do some really nice food there.

New content today:

Instant noodles

Today was mostly a chore day. I did the weekly grocery shopping. Most weeks recently I’ve been getting falafels and flatbread from the supermarket to make falafel wraps for lunch, and I put tahini, sliced tomato, and chilli sauce on them. But today I decided I’d try something different for the next week, and make falafel salads, with lettuce and cucumber and other fresh stuff instead of the flatbread. And also in the fruit & veg section I saw pomegranates and thought why not? So maybe I’ll throw some of that in too.

And I found some fresh mozzarella, packaged in whey. I got some to try making a Margherita pizza in a few days.

A bit later I went to a new Asian supermarket that opened nearby recently. It’s really good! It’s mostly Japanese products, but there was also stuff a mix of other things. I found the Singaporean brand of instant noodles that make an absolutely amazing laksa. I’d previously got these from my regular supermarket, but they’ve stopped stocking it. Not only did they have the laksa version, they had a couple of other flavours I hadn’t seen before!

La Mian noodles

Black pepper crab and chilli crab! And they’re labelled “New! Must try!” Wow, I had to try these, so I got one of each.

At home I did a spring clean of the bathroom, emptying out the cabinets and going through all the items, cleaning off dust, throwing out old stuff, cleaning the cabinet interiors, and putting useful stuff back in neatly. I discovered that the toothpaste we get stands upright on the big flat lid! We’ve always stored toothpaste tubes lying on their side, but I tried this to save space, and it works beautifully! Now I’m wondering if everyone else has been doing this for years and I’ve just never thought of it…

New content today:

Another day ticking off tasks

I feel like I achieved a lot today. There were a lot of small tasks I needed to get done, most of which are not particularly interesting or fun. I just sat down and did them one after the other.

The most interesting one was creating a new Outschool course, based on my Ethical and Critical Thinking course that I created a week or two ago. I wanted to make a variant version in which all of the stories I use to set up the ethical questions and dilemmas come from the Harry Potter books. There seems to be a big demand for themed classes on Outschool, and of course lots of Harry Potter ones. So I spent some time going through the first four books and choosing plot points that raise ethical questions, then formulating a brief outline of each of the first four lessons based on these. I also had to draw a new course image – I adapted the “Thinker and Sherlock Holmes” artwork I did for the previous ethics course, replacing Holmes with a sketch I drew of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Other stuff I did was less interesting: Spreadsheeting receipts for tax purposes. Filling out some online forms with the tax office. Dusting off an old Lego set I’d had sitting out gathering dust, before putting it away inside a glass-doored cabinet which is now empty because of all the space I’ve freed up by throwing out DVD cases. Some bathroom and kitchen cleaning chores. Baking a sourdough loaf. Setting up my GitHub account access with token authentication instead of password (since they’re deprecating password access in August, and I’ve been putting off switching for months now). Some other stuff I can’t even remember now.

I didn’t get much fun done today, but I feel like I’ve achieved a lot.

New content today:

A very busy Saturday

I did a lot today… all of it basically household chores, rather than much fun or productive. I went shopping to buy another DVD wallet to store the remainder of our DVDs in, and then spent a few hours sorting through discs, putting them in the wallet, and then making multiple trips to the garbage room to throw the old cases and paper liners into the recycling bins. It’s astonishing the sheer volume of stuff I’m actually throwing out. Hopefully once the job is complete (i’m still in the middle of it), we’ll have reclaimed a significant amount of storage space.

I baked sourdough challah for tomorrow’s family Easter lunch.

Sourdough challah

I decided to make challah for Easter a while ago, thinking it would be a cool thing for us to have at the family lunch, and it was only later that I realised that challah is one of the foods that is definitively not eaten by observant Jews during Passover (which usually includes the Western Easter – although it’s complicated by the schism between different ways of calculating the holy days between the Eastern and Western religions). So apologies to any Jewish readers for the faux pas, but hopefully you can forgive this gentile weirdness.

But anyway, it looks to have turned out okay!

Sourdough challah

In the afternoon I went shopping again with my wife (and Scully), to the home-maker centre where we got some storage boxes and a table lamp. And then we went for a long walk to get Scully some exercise. A park by the water that we go to was very busy with picnicking families, making the most of the long weekend and the warm autumn weather. Then it was back home and more spring cleaning style activity, until I had to cook dinner.

Now it’s late and time to relax a bit…

New content today:

Reclaiming shelf space

Today was chore day. I did the weekly grocery shopping, on a Thursday instead of the usual Friday since tomorrow is Good Friday and thus a public holiday (and the supermarket will likely be more crowded with everyone off work and shopping for the Easter weekend).

And I decided to clear up some space by reducing our DVD collection by putting the discs into a compact wallet and throwing away all the plastic cases and paper liners and inserts. This sounds easy, but it was a lot of grunt work. First I had to order the wallet online and then go collect it from the store (since I didn’t want to wait for a delivery). I got a large one that holds 288 discs. I didn’t really have a good idea of how much of our collection that would account for. As it turned out, and with many of the movies having bonus discs of special features (most never watched!), it ended up – after about two hours of sorting, moving discs, pulling paper sleeves out, and piling up empty plastic cases for recycling – housing close to half of the DVDs we have. So I might buy another wallet and go through the whole process again.

But the good news is that it’s cleared a significant amount of shelf space, which can now be used for storing other things. And then I had to cart all the discarded stuff down to the garbage room, which took three trips! I never understood why when DVDs started being produced, they didn’t come up with a more space efficient way of storing them. Even CD jewel cases would have been vastly preferable to what they ended up with.

We went for dinner tonight at our favourite Italian place. And we’ve just received our NSW Dine & Discover vouchers – these are $100 of vouchers usable for dining and entertainment in participating retailers, supplied by the NSW State Government to all adults as a stimulus to get people out and spending money post-COVID to support local businesses. They’re split into 4 vouchers of $25, two usable on meals, and two on entertainment (such as cinemas, arts, museums, live music, sports, etc.). And they’re very sensibly restricted to not being usable for alcohol, tobacco, or gambling. Anyway, we had pizza tonight, mostly paid for by the government. Thanks!

New content today:

Super busy day

  • Took Scully for a super early morning walk, because my wife was busy with an appointment this morning, so she couldn’t do their usual morning walk.
  • Took Scully in to my wife’s work to drop her off there for the day.
  • Mixed together ingredients to make sourdough challah and kneaded it into dough, which then had to rise for four hours.
  • Did the weekly grocery shopping.
  • Went out to drive my mother-in-law home from an errand she had to run.
  • Rolled out the challah dough and shaped the loaves by braiding, then left to rise another five hours.
  • Worked on some comics, once I had a few spare minutes.
  • Made minestrone for dinner
  • Baked the challah.
  • Played online board games with friends.

Here’s some photos of the challah being made.

1. Ingredients: water, flour+salt, egg+oil+honey, sourdough levain.

Making sourdough challah

2. Mixing the levain and water.

Making sourdough challah

3. Mixing wet ingredients.

Making sourdough challah

4. Ragged dough.

Making sourdough challah

5. Kneaded dough.

Making sourdough challah

6. Rolling the dough.

Making sourdough challah

7. Plaiting the dough.

Making sourdough challah

8. Plaited loaves ready to rise.

Making sourdough challah

9. Risen loaves ready to bake.

Making sourdough challah

10. Finished loaves! Yum!

Making sourdough challah

New content today:

Rainy chore Friday

It’s been raining non-stop all day today, and much cooler than average summer temperatures. Which is a nice change from the heatwave we began the week with.

I had a lot of errands to run and little tasks to do today. I started with an ISO Photography Standards meeting at 8am, via Zoom. This was a preliminary scheduling meeting to go over the proposed agenda for the week-long meeting coming up in February. Last time someone suggested doing this to lock the agenda for the week in, and avoid having timetabling changes during the meeting. Some people schedule specific times to dial into the meeting, and discover that the technical discussion they were interested in happened a couple of hours earlier, or is moved to another day. To avoid that, this time the plan is to discuss the agenda a few weeks before, and for people to raise any issues that might cause sessions to move around, so we can move them now, rather than during the main meeting. We ended up cancelling one session and shuffling a couple of others around to improve the knock-off time for people who will be dialling in from Europe late at night.

That meeting took a bit over half an hour. I sent around a few emails to Australian experts to update them on the schedule changes.

Then I went out to do the weekly grocery shopping. And I decided I really needed a haircut, since I’ve been avoiding the barber for several weeks with COVID going around over Christmas. So I went to the barber first and had to wait for a couple of customers before me. After that I did the shopping.

This evening is fortnightly board games night, and we’re doing it in person again since New South Wales has now had no reported cases of COVID for getting close to two weeks now. I wanted to go out to the local craft beer shop and buy a bunch of random unusual beers for people to try. I also wanted to visit the kitchen supply shop next door to get some crumpet rings, for making sourdough crumpets. I drove over, and discovered the beer place didn’t open until midday! But at least I could run across the road into the kitchen place and buy the crumpet rings. Then I drove home, had lunch, and drove back out again afterwards to get the beer.

When I got home, my wife rang me to ask if I’d mind taking Scully to the doggie daycare this afternoon. Scully’s been going a bit stir-crazy in the rainy weather the past two days, and my wife thought she might get uncontrollable this afternoon and constantly want to go outside while she’s trying to work from home. So I met them outside and drove Scully over to the daycare place.

Back home, I needed to fill out some paperwork (online) to renew my Working With Children Check. My current one expires in March, and I need this to continue my volunteer work teaching Ethics and science in schools. It’s basically providing a bunch of ID information, then they give you an application number and you need to take all the ID in to an office to have someone physically check and confirm it’s you, and then they start the process of checking you out for child-related criminal offences or whatever. Speaking of Ethics, I got news that this year’s classes will start on 17 February.

Now I’m going to queue this up to post later tonight when the new comics go live, and get ready for games night!

New content today: