Queen’s Birthday holiday unwind

Today is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday here in New South Wales. We’re a weird country – half our public holidays are observed on a state-by-state basis and can occur on different days of the year even when multiple states have the same named holiday.

Anyway, it was good for my wife to have the day off after we both laboured at the market all day Saturday and Sunday. We took Scully out on a long walk around lunchtime, when the day had warmed up a bit and the early grey cloud had parted to let the sun through.

Before that, I had another online ethics class in the morning. It was a repeat of last Friday’s one on advertising, with three new kids. This time it was very interesting, because there were some rather fundamental disagreements among them, which made for a lively discussion. One student was of the opinion that advertising was just annoying and should be banned altogether, or at the very least that any false advertising or exaggeration in advertising should be banned. Another student said that yes it was annoying sometimes, but advertising was important because otherwise people would have no idea what products were available, and companies would go out of business and people would lose jobs and so on. He also said that while outright lying was bad, it was okay if advertisers exaggerated, because everybody knew that ads didn’t really tell the whole truth anyway, so they should expect it. The third student was somewhere in the middle.

It was good because it stayed civil, and it was definitely more interesting than lessons where all the kids just agree with one another on everything.

This afternoon I worked on Darths & Droids writing and comic construction.

And this evening I tried an experiment and put some pomegranate arils onto pizza that I’d made for dinner (after it came out of the oven). It worked pretty well, and my wife put more on her subsequent slices.

New content today:

A big lunch walk

Today was Darths & Droids writing day. We’re up to over 2000 strips written now! That’s a lot of comic strips.

My wife is spending this week off work, and we went out for a walk to the post office before lunch, planning to come home and then go out somewhere to a local cafe or something for lunch. But there was a queue at the post office and by the time I’d done what I needed to do there it was 11:30, so we decided to go for a bit more of a walk and go straight for lunch.

We ended up at The Grumpy Baker, where we had pies. I had a chicken harissa pie, while my wife tried the mushroom and feta. I’ve had that one a few times, and recommended it to her. The pies there are very big and filling, so it was a nice substantial lunch. We walked home via the waterfront with Scully, and overall we were out and about for over two hours.

It was a nice day too. Cool but not chilly, and perfectly nice in the sunshine. Looks like we have more similar days for the rest of the week.

This Friday night is games night, and this time for the first time I’m going to be hosting it at my place. I haven’t done it before because my place is a bit small, and most of my friends live clustered in an area where the usual hosts live, so most of them don’t have to travel very far. But my place is actually more central for a couple of other guys who have been attending regularly recently, so I put my hand up to give it a try. We’ll see how it goes!

New content today:

Writer’s block

This morning I did the weekly grocery shop. Normally it’s on Friday, but I moved it up a day because we were out of milk, and decided I may as well buy everything rather than just go to the supermarket for a carton of milk.

Much of the rest of the day I worked on Darths & Droids writing, but it wasn’t as productive as I hoped. I got completely stuck on coming up with a joke for one strip, and stared at it for a couple of hours without any progress. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

My wife is back to working in the office full time, which meant today I had to go in and pick up Scully at lunch time and bring her home for the afternoon. I took her out to the dog park later in the afternoon for a bit of a run around. It’s getting very pleasant in the late afternoon down by the waterside now, as the sun is going down earlier due to the end of daylight saving, and the progression of autumn. The “Gobi Desert” part of the regular walk we do with our dogs isn’t nearly as bad as in the middle of summer.

One productive thing I did was actually while reading reddit, I stumbled across this post about how to reward player creativity in a roleplaying game. The response mentioning Old School Hack (a free RPG game system) struck me as brilliant. Putting it into my own words:

Establish a pool of “Awesome points” (or some other cool name), initially with some number (1.5× the number of players if following Old School Hack’s suggestion). Allow the players to award points to other players for good/creative character roleplaying. Players who have been awarded points may spend them for some game benefit (a reroll or dice bonus, or whatever works in your game system). The GM should add an extra point to the pool whenever they (a) introduce a plot complication, (b) acknowledge that a character has done something disadvantageous due to a character flaw.

This encourages players to roleplay creatively and cleverly, and also to bring their character flaws into play. I’ve made a note of it in my general notes file for RPG game mechanic ideas.

New content today:

Non-market rainy Sunday

The weather today wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, given yesterday’s dire forecasts. It was quite rainy, but there were a few dry spells, and the rain didn’t get really heavy until this evening. Monday and Tuesday are forecast to have heavier rain again though.

There is major flooding along much of the coast from Sydney north to Port Macquarie (where we were staying the last week). Some regions have been hit with what the emergency services are calling a “once in 100 years” flood. As of now, 137 schools will be closed on Monday due to flooding. Parts of western Sydney around the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers are expected to get floods roughly at the levels of a flood which occurred in 1961. Water levels there are expected to peak late Monday or on Tuesday. A “major flood” of the Hawkesbury River is defined as a water level of 12.2 metres above normal, and the predicted peak at the moment is 15.6 metres.

Oh, I just checked the latest news, and the Nepean River has now exceeded the flood level of 1961. This is crazy stuff.

I’m fine – we’re not in a flood-prone area. I spent most of today working on new Darths & Droids comics, catching up for the week spent away on holiday. And a bit of time building a new Lego set that I spoilt myself with recently. I also went out in a relatively light drizzle to take Scully for a walk, and get a few groceries for dinner and breakfast. I’m planning to do a big grocery shop tomorrow morning, when most people are back at work. Sunday shopping is always really busy, so it’s better to avoid it.

Oh, yesterday I also worked on some more photos from the trip. I have some birds to show off:

Bar-tailed godwit

This (above) is a bar-tailed godwit. These birds migrate to southern Australia from northern Siberia. This species in particular has the longest non-stop migration flight of any known bird. This guy will be heading back to Siberia some time in the next month or two.

Sooty oystercatcher

A sooty oystercatcher.

Pied oystercatcher

Two pied oystercatchers.

Little wattlebird

A little wattlebird.

Willie wagtail

A willie wagtail.

Superb fairywren

A superb fairywren.

Diamond python

Not a bird… I think this is a diamond python. It was very close to where we were walking I could probably have reached out and touched it.

New content today:

Refilling the buffer

Today I dedicated to making new Darths & Droids comic. The buffer of completed strips got pretty empty over the past week as I spent a lot of time working on my Outschool class material for yesterday’s class. But now that’s done, I can get back into the comic production pipeline.

In other news, a friend and one of the the co-authors of Darths & Droids has launched a new Twitter account, called Bisecting History. The concept is to find pairs of historical events such that one is exactly twice as old as the other, to the day. For example, the launch fact, posted yesterday on 1 March:

Today, The Office (US) is as old as the Dilbert comic strip was on the day that The Office first aired. Down to the day, each span exactly 5821 days.

Here at BisectingHistory, we find all the crazy coincidences that arise from folding history back upon itself.

And today’s tweet for 2 March:

Today, one of the most influential video games of all time, Doom, is as old as colour TV was when Doom was first released. A span of 9944 days ago, and 9944 days before that – each just over 27 years. Who else feels old armed with this knowledge?

He has some really interesting ones lined up for the next month, so take a look!

New content today:

Secret planning diagram

Not much I can report today, as I spent most of the day working on a plotting diagram for Darths & Droids, setting out planned future story events in great detail. Obviously I can’t show the result without revealing major spoilers for the story, so there’s not really much more to be said about that.

Um. The weather is cool and a bit rainy. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get heavy rain. I have a trip into the city planned – to do some Christmas shopping, and also to check out the Australian Museum, which has recently reopened after a major renovation, before it fills up with schoolkids during the imminent summer holidays. So tomorrow I should have more to write about.

New content today:

Out with the old, in with the new

Today I threw out an old cotton jacket that was getting a bit threadbare. I had to cut off the dinosaur buttons that I’d sewn onto the cuffs to replace a missing button some years ago, as I want to keep the buttons.

I bought a new jacket a few weeks ago, but I don’t like throwing away old clothes, so the old one kept hanging around. But today I decided to bite the bullet and toss it. Farewell, old jacket.

I spent today writing and discussing Darths & Droids with friends via online chat. We expanded a lot on General Hux’s character backstory as part of this. We wrote four strips, which is good work for a day – tomorrow I’ll assemble them.

And I took Scully to doggie daycare and picked her up, as it was a very wet and miserable day, so difficult to let her get exercise outside. Instead she got to play with other dogs indoors, which always wears her out. Oh, and I did some boring financial/tax/accounting stuff.

New content today:

Cleaning and writing

I’m just trying to think what I did today. It was pretty much all taken up by cleaning the shower, writing comics, and taking Scully out to the dog park.

I scrubbed the shower tiles with baking soda to remove the built up soap scum. This is hard work, and took some time and elbow grease.

Mostly I wrote and produced some new Darths & Droids strips.

Oh! I also went out to check on the jacaranda trees and the flowering progress. Within the next week or two they’ll be blooming profusely and hopefully I’ll get some photos worthy of printing.

New content today:

How to write comedy

Today was a comic writing day. I set myself the goal of writing 3 strips for Darths & Droids, which is a week’s worth of updates.

I used to write these strips in a meeting room with a bunch of friends at work, over lunch. In a long lunch break of 2 hours, we could write 3 or 4, sometimes 5 strips. Sometimes we wouldn’t get that many done, because we were discussing story planning.

Now, because our company shut up shop and we all lost out jobs, we can’t get together and do that every week. We’ve shifted to a model where we discuss things online, but not being in person it’s harder to get everyone concentrating and talking at the same time. What this means in effect is that I write a skeleton of the action and story, and whatever jokes I can think of, and then paste the scripts into a group chat so my friends can make comments and suggestions. It’s less real-time than in person, and comments come in over several hours as people drift in and out of the chat. And sometimes I have to prod people to say anything.

With most of a day to myself at home, you might think I could write dozens of strips. But it’s not that easy. I need that feedback, and to craft the joke setups and punchlines into the narrative in a natural way, so I’m often held up writing later action while waiting for a joke to be moulded.

We ended up writing two strips today – less than a week’s worth. So I’ll have to do this again another day.

I did get some other stuff done in between. The work itself is more fragmented, with periods of downtime during the day. During which I run errands, do shopping, take Scully to the park, do some work on my photography business, and so on.

Writing material takes a lot longer than you might realise.

New content today:

No-holiday Monday

Today was the Labour Day public holiday here, but I actually did quite a bit of work-related stuff for my photography business. I worked on my portfolio a bit, booked a hire car for transporting goods to the market in a couple of weeks, and ordered some more stock of greeting cards to replace stock I’ve sold in the past markets. I also took care of some accounting and tax record-keeping stuff. Fun fun fun.

This afternoon I dedicated to writing more Darths & Droids comics, and got a good batch completed.

In between I went to the park with Scully, to do some ball throwing and get her some exercise. Otherwise we mostly spent the day inside, as it was pretty hot – today it got up to 34°C here where we are – yesterday’s sea breeze failed and we didn’t benefit from lower coastal temperatures.

New content today: