Final Ethics of the year

This morning was my last Ethics class of the school year. I walked to the school (3.1 km away) because the weather was cool and winds had blown yesterday’s smoke away, thankfully.

In this class we didn’t discuss ethical questions, but instead reflected on the year gone past and what the students learnt. I asked them what topics they enjoyed most, which ones made them think when other students expressed different opinions, and which, if any, changed their minds. We had a really good discussion, and the kids’ behaviour was excellent. Towards the end of the lesson I handed out completion certificates to each child. I told them I wished them well as they begin high school next year, and said I would miss them, as this would probably be the last time we ever see each other.

I genuinely will miss (most of) them, and it makes me a bit sad to think that I really won’t ever see any of them again. However when the bell went, they basically just got up, waved bye, and filed out the door. I think at their age it doesn’t really hit them when they have to say goodbye to someone forever. Come February I’ll have a brand new class with new names to learn, and no doubt I’ll grow fond of the new kids as well.

I decided to walk home through the Lane Cove Bushland Park, which is more or less an alternate “shortest” route home. The track passes through some dense bush, and it would be very difficult to go cross-country off the established walking track. I should have emerged back into a street near my place, but when I was almost there I found a fence blocking the track, with signs indicating that it was undergoing repairs and was closed for safety due to heavy equipment being used. The idea of jumping a safety fence and incurring the wrath of construction workers didn’t appeal, so I had to backtrack through much of the park and emerge an extra kilometre of so away from home, adding maybe 2 km to my journey.

On the way though, I went down some streets I’ve never walked down before, and found a lovely old estate house on a big block of land:

Fancy house

Back home, I didn’t have much time before picking up my wife and Scully to take them to their very first job as a Delta Dogs therapy dog team! This was an event held at Macquarie University for international students who won’t be travelling home to see family over Christmas, with the dogs there to give them some good cheer. They had a team of seven dogs there today, with Scully among them. Normally she’ll be working solely with my wife on hospital visits, but occasionally they have other sorts of events like this as well. Here’s Scully in her Delta uniform:

Delta Dog

While I waited to pick them up I had lunch at a nearby friend’s place, and we played a game of Wingspan (the same game I played last Friday games night), which I won handily. Then I picked up Scully and my wife to head home.

I spent this afternoon and evening doing some coding work on the mezzacotta generators, adding some stuff to a new band name generator which we’ve been collaborating on.

Oh, and last night I made a batch of eggnog, using Jamie Oliver’s recipe. It had to refrigerate overnight, so I didn’t taste it until tonight. Actually, I had some commercially produced eggnog at my friend’s place at lunch today, to compare it against. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever had eggnog. The commercial stuff tasted okay, but honestly not something I’d buy.

But then I had my own home-made eggnog tonight… and it was delicious! A much nicer drink than what I’d had at lunchtime.

Home made eggnog

Yummo! I’ll definitely be making more of this some time.

New content today:

Puppy Party

This morning my wife and I took Scully to her groomer/doggy daycare’s Christmas party. They held it at a nearby dog park.

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

They had special treats for the dogs:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

Scully (centre) even got to meet our local federal Member of Parliament (centre, brown trousers, dark blue shirt), who was there with his own dog:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

I considered telling him how the Government is doing a terrible job, but given the occasion I settled for exchanging a few words about our dogs and what a nice party the grooming/daycare place had put on. They even had a Santa Claus:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

Scully asked for some special treats for Christmas:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

It was a really great event, and they also had human food, and personalised gift bags for each dog. The grooming/daycare place is a small business run by one woman and her husband, and everybody loves the place. They won a local small business award recently, and deservedly so.

After the fun, Scully was worn out, and we relaxed at home for the Sunday afternoon. My wife and I played some board games and I made lentil and potato dhal for dinner, using the very first mature chilli from our chilli plant! It was good – I just chopped it all up and threw it in, and it added the right amount of heat to the dish. There are lots more chillis on the plant, with a few more starting to turn from green to red. So it looks like we’ll have plenty to use in the near future.

New content today:

Comic writing slog part 2

Another day of writing comics. I managed to get some momentum today and finished off the batch, ready to start photographing them tomorrow.

In some spare time I worked on another mezzacotta random generator, this time a random bird name generator. This was inspired by me discussing some actual birds with friends, and someone suggesting that since so many birds are named after colours and markings, it’d be easy to randomly generate new names. And yes, it was very quick and easy, using our generator framework.

Tonight I cooked soup for dinner, and used my new Bamix stick blender for the first time. It works really well – I can tell immediately that it’s better quality than our previous one. The old one got noticeably hot very quickly from the motor, and had to be mashed up and down to access all the vegetable chunks in the soup. The Bamix stayed nice and cool, and it creates a vortex in the soup that sucks the chunks into the blades, so there’s a lot less manual motion required. Really nice. The soup was chick pea, cauliflower, and carrot.

New content today:

Some cooking

This morning I finished off that new article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe that I mentioned yesterday. I’m very pleased with this one, as it’s so surprising how the shape of the Earth becomes important to a topic where it initially seems completely irrelevant.

Around lunch time I went for a walk, since the rain finally decided to stop late this morning. We had almost twice the average September rainfall in three days, but nobody’s complaining because it’s the only significant rainfall we’ve had since May and we really need it. The one thing it did was really increase the humidity, and although it wasn’t hot it was a bit sticky after walking a few kilometres.

Besides taking Scully out to enjoy the weather and get some exercise too, I spent much of the afternoon cooking. I boiled up some chick peas I had soaking since the morning, and then fried them up with some chopped potato, carrot, broccoli, onion, garlic, and a bit of tikka masala paste. This became a stuffing to go into some puff pastry, which I then baked in the oven for dinner. I also made some sweet treats for dessert. Mashed up a carrot cake loaf (bought from the supermarket), mixed with cocoa powder, apricot jam, and rum, then rolled it into balls and coated them in chocolate sprinkles – et voila! Home made rum balls. Last time I made them I used a banana cake and they turned out really nice, so I thought I’d try carrot cake as the base this time. Recipes I’ve seen all say to use a plain vanilla butter cake, but I like the extra flavour.

Another small thing I did today was that I found an interesting photo while trawling through my old photo folders looking for photos to illustrate my Globe proof. It’s not a great photo, but it is a photo of some very interesting birds:

Little penguins

These are little penguins, which I photographed back in 2006 while on a trip along the south coast of Australia. They are the only penguin species to nest on mainland Australia – in fact there’s a colony in Sydney Harbour, not far from where I live. The reason I was excited to find this old photo, despite the long distance and somewhat blurred image, was that I hadn’t counted this species among my list of bird species that I’ve photographed. I keep a list, and try to add to it whenever I get the chance, and I’m now up to 276 species.

I maintain a manual list here, and a while ago I started work on a version with a database of all my photos behind it. The new version isn’t fully populated yet, so most of the links lead to empty pages, and the page design needs to be made a bit more fancy, but you can see where it’s going if you click on some of these species: Bell miner, Crimson rosella, Little wattlebird, New Holland honeyeater, Pied oystercatcher. It’s going to be a bit of work adding in all of my photos…

New content today:

Golf

Andrew C. invited me to play golf again this morning, at the same par 3 course we went to 4 weeks ago. We started early, before 9am.

Terrey Hills Par 3 Golf Club.

The weather was fine and warmer than it has been the past couple of weeks, so it was pleasant walking around in short sleeves and shorts. This was only my third time playing golf, and I was hoping to improve on my 92 from last time, but I had a couple of terrible holes, losing a ball, and getting stuck in a sand trap for several strokes. It was the first time I’d really had a serious attempt at extracting a ball from the sand, and it took me a while, but I eventually got the swing right and ejected the ball. I managed par on just one hole, compared to two last time, and my final score was 95, three strokes worse than last time.

However on what was ranked the most difficult hole of the course (I think because the green is very shallow, and overshooting it at all ends up with a ball lost out of bounds), both Andrew and I did very well – both our tee shots landed on the green, and I was actually closer to the hole:

Tee shots

Unfortunately my putting let me down and I ended up with a 4. I kept track of my walking using Strava while we were playing, and the map is fascinating. You can see the route I took through the 18 holes of the course, punctuated by a visit to the clubhouse toilets after the first 9. You can see the amount of back and forth across the greens on some of the holes, where I kept overhitting the ball! And the hole shown above is hole 12 – you can see the hole numbers if you click through to the larger image.

Par 3

After we’d finished, I drove home and picked up some pies for lunch on the way. I took them down to Collaroy Beach to eat while sitting on the grass and looking out over the beach.

Lunch lookout

So it was a very pleasant morning! The afternoon began with me getting home and walking up to the dentist, to have the crown fitted after last week’s preparation. Not so pleasant, but fortunately it seemed to go okay. It didn’t require any anaesthetic, which is good, because I avoided having my mouth numb for the next few hours.

Nevertheless, I’d planned to make soup for dinner tonight just in case. I made a curried potato and lentil soup. Unfortunately, when I went to blend it into a nice smooth puree, my stick blender refused to work. It’s been a bit dodgy for a while and it finally gave up the ghost. So I had to mash the soup by hand and it ended up a bit lumpy, but my wife said it still tasted good.

New content today:

Prep for Science Club

Today I did final preparations for Science Club at the school tomorrow. I checked all the lasers, got spare batteries, and copied the dimensions of the slits in the slides to a sheet of paper so I can read them easily during the experiment, rather than having to squint at tiny print. The blue laser is cool, but it’s difficult to see the diffraction patterns after passing through the slits – I suspect because our eyes aren’t nearly as sensitive to blue as they are to green and red. Hopefully it’ll work better in the dark library at the school.

This morning I did some grocery shopping. I do almost all the cooking at home and I like browsing around the vegetables looking for interesting things to cook with. Corn cobs were on special today, so I bought a couple. Not sure what I’ll make with them yet. Probably just boil them up and eat them on the cob, with something else on the side to fill out the meal. I also bought a chicken breast, but that’s for Scully. We don’t really cook meat at home, except on very rare occasions. (I don’t cook it very rare…)

My wife had her Rock School end-of-term concert this afternoon. Normally I attend in person, but today they were live streaming the concert and she was only singing lead on three songs, so I stayed home to get some other things done while watching the stream. I had to clean up a few messy piles of stuff that I’ve had eating up space on the dining table for a while.

For dinner tonight I made pasta with pumpkin, feta, walnuts, and chilli in burnt butter. It’s one of our favourite ways to have pasta – the nuts add a nice crunch which creates the range of textures with the soft pumpkin chunks, creamy feta, and al dente pasta. (Last night I made a frittata with potatoes, broccolini, caramelised leeks with balsamic vinegar and garlic, and of course eggs. It turned out pretty good, I thought. Taking a solid half hour to caramelise the leeks before doing anything else was worth it.)

The other thing I did today was process and upload a few more photos from my trip to Portugal back in May. Going through travel photos always takes a while, since I take a lot of photos! I started going through photos after our arrival in Porto. Porto is built on very hilly terrain:

Porto is on a hill

Here’s the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, a spectacular church with azulejo tiles on the front edifice.

Igreja de Santo Ildefonso

New content today:

Olive oil flavour

This morning I had a blood test, and had to go to the pathology place while fasting, so couldn’t eat breakfast beforehand. I like breakfast. I don’t really understand those people who skip breakfast or who don’t feel any urge to have food until lunchtime. I wake up ravenous every morning and am hoeing into a bowl of cereal within about 5 minutes of getting out of bed every day. So having to wait until I walk up the street and wait for half an hour at the pathology centre is torture. Immediately after I left I raced to the nearest bakery to get something to eat.

Back home, I worked on writing annotations for the batch of Irregular Webcomic!s that I’d made over the past few days. This is the final step before publication, and can take most of a day, depending how much research I do and how much I write for each comic. But it’s a good feeling having the batch completed. And now it’s time to start thinking about writing the next batch…

I stayed in for lunch today and made myself bruschetta. I’m trying to use up a bottle of extra virgin olive oil that I got as a gift, before it passes its “best before” date. And also some caramelised balsamic vinegar.

It got me thinking about olive oil. We have extra virgin olive oil, for stuff like bruschetta and salads and those things that everyone says you should use extra virgin olive oil for, because it has a strong “fruity” flavour. And we have the “light tasting” olive oil that everyone says you should use for cooking, because it has a less strong flavour that won’t dominate a dish.

Now, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can’t taste any difference whatsoever between “extra virgin” olive oil and “light tasting” olive oil. Not just the current brands we have either – I’ve never noticed any difference between any of the brands of either we’ve had over the years. I’m honestly beginning to think this whole “fruity” and “light” olive oil flavours are really just the Emperor’s New Clothes, and a way to make us all buy more olive oil because we “need” to have two different types. They all just taste equally bland and oily to me – none of them have anything that could remotely be called a “strong” flavour that might dominate anything else. Can anyone actually taste a difference between these olive oils?? Or even taste them at all??

And on another note, I took some photos of flowers. This winter in Sydney has been ridiculously warm. Besides flowers everywhere, there are new green shoots and leaves on many of the trees already as well. This is all at least a month early, possibly more. Take a look: magnolias, irises, lavender, azaleas.

Spring flowers in winter