Cinnamon rolls!

My wife and I made cinnamon rolls today! Before rising and baking:

Cinnamon rolls

And after:

Cinnamon rolls

She got me a “bake at home” box with all the dry ingredients and instructions. We aded milk, butter, and an egg and produced 20 rolls. Most of them will be taken to Mother’s Day lunch at her mother’s place tomorrow.

This morning I did a 5k run, managing to time it almost perfectly in between the rain, which has hung around all day. (It’s pouring as I type this.) There was a news article this morning saying that we might potentially break the record of 16 rainy days (≥ 1 mm) in a row for Sydney. It’s been 12 so far, and the forecast is about 50/50 for it lasting at least another four days.

It’s pretty horrible. We have a drying rack in the bathtub, festooned with wet clothes from whenever we go outside, and they take forever to dry because the air is so humid. There are umbrellas constantly drying off, and wet shoes everywhere. I don’t mind 3 or 4 days of rain, but when it gets up near two weeks without respite, it’s pretty miserable.

We gave Scully a bath this afternoon because she’s been getting a bit “wet dog” smelly. We might need to do it again in another few days.

Oh, apparently there have been sightings of the aurorae caused by the current geomagnetic storm as far north as Sydney’s latitude. Just not in Sydney, of course, because we’ve been under a blanket of cloud and rain. Pretty sure we missed the last lunar eclipse or two because of rain too.

And oh yeah… I didn’t post anything yesterday because it was online board games night with my friends. It was… a rainy Friday. I did some online classes, took Scully out briefly, but spent most of the day inside sorting through more Magic: the Gathering cards to get them into sellable lots. For dinner we had pizza at the local pizza place, which is always good. They have a nice cosy “al fresco” area out the back where we can sit with Scully, which is covered and sheltered from the rain.

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… And wintry weather has arrived

Tuesday, time to write my lesson plan for the new week of ethics classes. This week the topic is “Taking Advantage”. As in people who do things like cut in to queues, or park in disabled spots (when they’re not disabled), or generally otherwise take advantage of other people by bending rules, ignoring social conventions, or generally being insufferable. I said yesterday this week’s topic would be “Mysterious Beasts”, but I was getting ahead of myself – that’s for next week.

The weather turned cold and dismal today. A cold rainy front came in mid morning and cooled things down from a top of 19°C, so that by lunchtime it was just 16°C. There was also intermittent rain all day. The forecast is pretty dismal too: cold and rainy like this for at least the next ten days. We are expecting heavy falls on the weekend, close to 100 mm.

I took Scully for a walk in a brief non-rainy period. And this evening I cooked a recipe that we call “cauliflower bomb”. The recipe is online here, although with a less evocative name. It’s one of the more complex recipes I make, with several steps of preparation, cooking, and lots of pots and dishes and utensils to wash up afterwards. I also roasted the cut off cauliflower leaves, which are delicious when roasted with oil, salt, and garlic until crispy. We had those as an appetiser before the main cauliflower itself. I mentioned this recipe back in 2020 when I discovered it, and that blog post has a photo from then.

I also did some comic stuff today, both Darths & Droids and Irregular Webcomic! I’m cutting really close to publication time on both at the moment, and in fact missed the update time for the latter by an hour or so. Hopefully I’ll catch up this weekend.

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Attempting cacio e pepe again…

This morning I did another 5k run. I did the slightly harder route, all the way down to the ferry wharf and back, which has more and steeper hills than my more usual route. But I managed 12 seconds faster, so that was good!

My wife went to the North Sydney Community Centre for a four-hour introductory class on watercolour painting. She took Scully for a bit and then I walked down to pick her up half way through. My wife really enjoyed the class and came home with a decent looking landscape as a first effort.

At home, I finished writing that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, and then photographed the panels for them. I’ll have to assemble some on Monday for the week coming.

In between my three ethics classes this evening I tried cooking cacio e pepe spaghetti for dinner. The first time I tried cooking this dish, it worked beautifully. But every time since that I’ve tried it, the cheese has ended up lumpy and awful, rather than a smooth creamy melted sauce. It’s so frustratingly difficult. I looked up some tips afterwards – there are about a zillion web pages for “lumpy cacio e pepe”. It seems my problem is one or more of: too much heat when mixing in the cheese, too much starchy pasta water, or not enough starch in the pasta water.

No time for Lego construction today!

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My wife did the most interesting thing today. I stayed a home and made some comics, while she went to an all-day course for beginners in felting – making things out of wool felt. She came home with a simple sheet which could be used as a table placemat, and also a very cool felt bowl. The bowl is shaped like a rough sphere about the size of a rockmelon, with an opening large enough to put a hand in. She said I could use it for putting things in during Dungeons & Dragons games. Like lollies or maybe game tokens. Or slips of paper with rumours on them – yeah, that’s a cool idea.

Scully was again off her food today and wanting to go outside several times to eat grass. This is the third time in three weeks. I was wondering if it might be the peanut butter we’ve been giving to her as a treat on Fridays – but she’s always had that and has never been sick from it before. My wife thinks it might be psychosomatic, caused by her going away to do these courses on Sundays and not being at home. Which might possibly have some truth to it, because Scully wolfed down her neglected breakfast once my wife arrived back home.

The weather continues to be nice, not too hot, and pleasantly cool in the evening and mornings. I went for another 5k run this morning, but deliberately took it easy after my exertion and fast time yesterday.

For dinner I made vegetable fajitas. It’s tough predicting exactly how much vegetables to chop and cook. Sometimes we end up with not quite enough and sometimes there’s cooked vegetables left over after we’ve finished off all the tortillas. Today we had a generous serving. I used onions, garlic, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Sometimes I use zucchini in place of one of the other vegetables. And I just make a simple “Mexican” spice mix using individual herbs and spices: dried oregano, sweet paprika, chilli, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon. And a bit of lemon juice at the end. I found this mix somewhere online ages ago and it works pretty well. Just fry it all up and serve in a bowl with implements for people to fill their own tortillas.

Last night I started watching Oppenheimer on Netflix. I got 2 hours into it, but had to go to sleep, so I have the final hour to watch tonight. I’m enjoying it, but it takes a lot of concentration to follow the frequent flashback/forward time jumps as the story unfolds. The really cool thing is that being a physicist I recognise the names of all the scientist characters.

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More thinking about cooking

It was hot again today. This autumn heatwave didn’t let up, but it’s predicted to break tonight, with some rain and a cool change, and tomorrow should be a much more tolerable 24°C. But when I took Scully for a walk this morning there was a distinct smell of smoke in the air. Authorities were doing controlled burns of bushland around Sydney to reduce fuel load and the overnight wind direction brought it into the heart of the city. I closed up the windows soon after opening as I noticed the smell permeating the house.

My ethics topic on Cooking continues to be entertaining. Kids love talking about food, so it’s a good one. One question I ask is: Is cooking an important skill that everyone should learn?

One girl answered:

Yes, because if you become a refugee, and you see a dead deer by the side of the road, then if you don’t know how to cook you’ll either die by starvation or die by parasites. I’d choose the first one, myself.

I did the week’s grocery shopping online as I usually do, for pickup tomorrow morning. I added everything on the shopping list, and looked through the regular items to see if I needed to add any of those. When I was done, the total was barely over $30, which was really unusual, because usually it’s closer to $100. It must have just been a weird confluence of not running out of things that need replenishing this week. But when I tried to check out I discovered that the minimum online order for a pick-up (also for home delivery, incidentally) is $50. So I had to go back and choose things to add to bring the total up to that much! I added a few things that we don’t specifically need this week, but probably will next week, such as dried cranberries (which go in our home made muesli) and sesame seeds… and then I decided to add some things to make a dessert: cream, mascarpone, and chocolate biscuits.

Last night I started watching The Cabin in the Woods on Netflix. I’m halfway through and will finish watching it tonight after my last ethics class. I was expecting a standard sort of horror movie, but it’s clear that there is something very different going on in this film, though I’m still somewhat baffled as to what exactly. I’m eagerly looking forward to the second half. It feels like this is some sort of deconstruction of horror movie tropes and—I’m not sure if this will still apply after I finish it, but—I feel like it’s a significant film that anyone who thinks they know the horror genre must watch. Sort of like Scream (an absolute classic), only in a very, very different way. Anyway, I may give my final impressions after I finish it. (I’m avoiding spoilers, but I’ll have finished watching it by the time I read any comments on this post, so feel free to comment.)

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Thinking about cooking

Tonight I had the first three classes of the new ethics/critical thinking topic on the topic of “Cooking”. As an icebreaker I asked the kids if they did any cooking, were learning to cook, or whatever. Some of the kids said they never cook – their parents just cook for them. Some said they were learning and could cook a few things and weren’t very good yet.

And then there was one kid who said, “Yes, I’m good at it. I cook chicken and pasta, and crème brûlée, and croissants.” 😯

Earlier in the afternoon I had today’s university lecture, today on summary statistics for data. This is a long lecture and tutorial exercises, which occupied nearly the full 3-hour timeslot, so I got home a bit later than usual. Usually the classes only go about 2 hours. I had some sushi rolls for lunch, from a new place that I haven’t tried before. They were pretty good, and they have an interesting variety of fillings that is different to other places I go. One of them was a soft-shelled crab roll!

I picked up Scully from my wife’s work on the way home. Scully didn’t have breakfast again this morning, but she ate it when she got home, and then had a dinner as well. So hopefully her stomach is settled back down again.

Despite all the focus on food today, I didn’t have time to cook a proper dinner before my evening classes, so my wife and I just made ourselves eggs on toast at different times.

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Starting to sleep

I began the “Sleep” topic with the kids in my online classes today. This is a nice straightforward topic and I found my lesson plan to be smooth and just a matter of following the script I wrote. Last week’s class on “Why?” was much more convoluted and I often had to go off-script and ad-lib connections between the questions, which takes a lot more concentration.

This morning I worked on another Darths & Droids comic, and then I began working on a slide presentation for my visit to Loreto school next week. The teacher there suggested using old photos of myself at school, and a photo of my dog or something, which the kids usually like seeing. The audience will be younger kids, ages 8-10 or so. So I gathered some old photos and put them in. Now I still need to add some actual science content, on astronomy and photography, without making it too complicated.

Scully got to meet next door’s new dog, Sophie, three times today! When I took her out for her morning walk, Sophie was coming in with the man neighbour. When I took her out for lunch walk, his wife was coming in with Sophie. And when my wife took Scully for an evening walk they ran into Sophie and the husband again. Seems like they might be taking her for walks at roughly the same times as us.

Today’s sourdough loaf is a mix of all the different sorts of flours I have in the pantry: rye, wholemeal, and semolina, rounded out with baker’s flour. I’ve just put it in the oven after letting it rise all afternoon.

And for dinner I made coleslaw with wombok, or Chinese cabbage, and served it with vegetarian sausages. I wanted to do okonomiyaki, but the supermarket didn’t have any regular cabbage for the past two weeks, so I decided to get the wombok. And it’s much bigger than the usual quarter of a cabbage that I buy, so we’re having to find other uses for it. I didn’t have any coleslaw dressing, but I improvised with some mayonnaise, lemons juice, vinegar, pepper, and a bit of sesame dressing. It turned out pretty good, with the wombok and shredded carrot.

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Patatas bravas

I tried making something new for dinner tonight: patatas bravas!

Patatas bravas

Excuse the messy presentation. I mixed the potatoes and sauce in the bowl and didn’t tidy it up afterwards. I basically used this recipe from the BBC. It turned out pretty good! But potatoes really do take a long time to crisp up in the oven, gosh. I got a bit impatient, and could probably have left them for another 10-15 minutes.

I took Scully for a long walk this morning, since I had time and the weather was cloudy and cool.

At home I spent time writing a new class for this week’s online ethics lessons. The topic for this week is “Minor Laws”. Some example discussion points for the kids:

One important difference between serious laws and minor laws is that a lot more people break minor laws. People who commit murder are quite rare, but there are many thousands or millions of people who drive too fast, or litter.

• Why do so many people break such laws?

One thing about minor laws like these is that most of the people who break them never get caught or punished in any way. They get away with it.

• If it’s safe to cross the road when the light is red, and you’re not going to get punished for it, does that make it okay?
• Is it okay to break a law that lots of people break and never get punished for?

(some stuff about enforcement and why minor laws are poorly enforced here, which I’ve cut for brevity)

Unenforced minor laws are sometimes used as a way to punish people for something else. For example, in a city where nobody usually gets punished for jaywalking, the police could set up an operation where they monitor street corners and give jaywalking fines to people they don’t like the look of: immigrants, or homeless people, or people of certain skin colours.

• Could this be a serious problem if we start enforcing minor laws more?
• Is there any way we can ensure that the enforcement of minor laws is fair and unbiased?

This evening I had free so I went for a 5k run after my wife got home from work. It wasn’t hot, but it was very humid (97% according to the Bureau of Meteorology) and that meant a slowish time, although better than the runs I did on the weekend, which were similar humidity but hotter.

Last night I watched The Running Man (1987), which was new on Netflix here recently. I thought I might have seen it before, since I watched many of Arnie’s films in the ’80s, but I found to my delight that it was unfamiliar. I had to laugh at the fact that it was set in the dystopian future of 2017, and that 2017 apparently still had a very ’80s aesthetic, with dancing women in high-cut aerobics leotards and big hairdos, and computers that were no smaller or more advanced than what could be found in the 1980s. It wasn’t especially profound, being an Arnie action flick, but it was a lot of fun. Bonus points for featuring Mick Fleetwood as a freedom fighter. I was really not expecting that!

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New Year’s Day relaxation

There wasn’t much on today. I slept in again and then just did some comic writing, worked on a lesson plan for my next ethics class for the older kids on the topic of “Learning”, and took Scully for a couple of walks. In the afternoon I played a few more games of Kingdomino with my wife.

For dinner tonight I tried another new recipe: beetroot curry (from this site), and I made home made flatbread to go with it.

Beetroot curry with home made flatbread

It was good, but I think I chopped the beetroot a bit coarsely and it was a little on the firm side. Next time I’ll cut it more finely and hopefully it will cook a bit softer.

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Cyclone Jasper

The main news today in Australia is the approach of Tropical Cyclone Jasper to the north Queensland coast. This is a long way from me so there’s no direct concern. But the forecast track looks like making an almost direct hit on the town of Port Douglas tomorrow around lunch time, with the much bigger city of Cairns also within the zone of destructive winds. Hopefully people in the region will be prepared and nobody will be hurt.

Here it was warm again, but felt a bit less humid. I assembled comics in the morning and then took Scully for a drive over to the Italian bakery for lunch. I had a slice of mushroom pizza, and the special pastry today was a panettone snail. It was a scroll of flaky pastry filled with candied fruit and almonds and was delicious. This bakery is always creative and coming up with new things. I just wish they’d do the banoffee croissant again!

This afternoon I wrote my next ethics lesson for this week, on the topic of Restarting Civilisation. We’re going to start by imagining that some disaster such as an asteroid strike kills a few billion people, and then consider what life would be like for the survivors. How would people get food and water? Would they be likely to cooperate for survival, or become hostile? Do survivors have an ethical responsibility to help other survivors, or to maximise their own chances of survival? Once groups of people have stable food supplies, what aspects of modern civilisation should they prioritise in rebuilding first? (laws, education, electricity, transport, etc.?) Should we take some effort (and expense!) now to provide usable information and resources to future survivors in the event of a global disaster?

Tonight for dinner I tried a new thing. I like fennel whenever I go to a restaurant and have a dish that includes it, but I think I’ve only ever tried cooking with it once, doing it as a roast vegetable with other vegetables. On a whim last grocery day I grabbed a fennel bulb, determined to try something else with it. This afternoon I decided to make caramelised fennel and eggplant calzones with a tomato sauce. I caramelised the finely sliced fennel with some balsamic vinegar, then let it cook slowly with diced eggplant. I made pizza dough, and stuffed it with the fennel and eggplant, plus some mozzarella cheese and baked it. And made a separate sauce with onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes, and oregano, to spoon over the top of the baked calzones. It turned out really good!

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