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:

Double golf

I got up early and went to the golf course this morning just after 6:30. The sun is rising earlier as spring meanders onward and even though overcast this morning it was plenty light enough to start that early. I finished 9 holes, playing two different balls per hole, by 8:30, and then had the whole day ahead of me!

Which I spent mostly working on Darths & Droids scripts, although I ticked off a few other tasks as well.

I applied to become a stallholder at the Kirribilli Markets, another suburban market not too far from where I live, and a bit bigger and more popular than the ones I’ve been doing up to now. Hopefully if I get approved, I can get some more productive market days happening, and really make some sales of my photos.

Also, our wedding anniversary is coming up, so my wife asked if I could find somewhere to stay a few hours drive away, for a long weekend (she’s taking a couple of days off work). I called a couple of places near Kangaroo Valley. The first was booked out until the end of the year, and they said I’d be lucky to find anywhere with vacancies, as people are all booking local holidays at the moment since nobody can travel overseas. The next place had two of the three nights we wanted free, so I booked those. We also have the additional constraint of needing a pet-friendly place, so we can take Scully.

And I looked into various types of weed killer, because some of the small parks and areas of grass in the neighbourhood that we take Scully to have patches of bindii in them, and right now in the early spring is when they start growing thorns. Scully dislikes walking on them, for obvious reasons, and starts to avoid those areas, so I want to try and get rid of it. I thought I might be able to buy some weed killer and spray some areas, but a bit of research reveals that the available solutions have two different problems:

  1. There’s selective weed killer that kills bindii and a few other common weeds, but doesn’t harm grasses or other plants. The trouble is, it’s harmful to dogs, and it’s recommended to keep dogs off it for a few days after spraying. Which is no good since I want to spray public places, so obviously I can’t keep all dogs off them.
  2. There’s glycophosphate (often sold under the trademark “Roundup”), which is safer for animals, but it kills any plant it touches, so would need to be applied with a paintbrush otherwise it’d kill all the grass too. It’s also bad if it gets into waterways, and given the main area I want to remove bindii from is right next to a creek… this is a no-go as well.

I concluded that the only way to do this is to buy a garden fork and get down on my knees, and pull the bindii out by hand. Stay tuned for updates…

New content today:

Thinking about Star Wars

It’s Monday, and my wife spent most of the day at work, with Scully in the office for the morning, and then in doggie daycare for the afternoon. The doggie daycare really wears her out because it’s full on playing with other dogs for a few hours, and she comes home and just falls to sleep for the whole night, which is good. (Scully that is, not my wife.)

I used the time to concentrate on writing Darths & Droids, both comic scripts and story planning notes for the future. I had a long chat with co-authors about some plot elements, and added about 800 words of stuff to our accumulated story notes. I haven’t added up how many words of planning notes we have for the entire comic series for a while, but it’s a lot. Hopefully we’ll publish it all in some form some day – once the comic is done, since there are a lot future plot secrets hidden in there.

We had a bit of leftover challah from a loaf I bought last week, and I used it today to make myself some French toast for lunch. Normally I do French toast with salt and pepper, as that’s what I’m used to. I only ever had it as a savoury dish growing up, and in fact had no idea that some people like to have it as a sweet dish until I was maybe in my 20s. And when I found out I was disgusted… it was a bit like finding out that some people put honey on scrambled eggs or something like that. I think in my whole life I’ve only had sweet French toast maybe 2 or 3 times.

Anyway, I made myself French toast using challah, which seems to be a nice type of bread to use for it. I had the first piece with salt and pepper as is my usual habit, but then I decided to be bold and try a piece with honey. (It was the only sweet syrupy thing I had handy – we don’t have maple syrup.) And it was actually okay, I admit, particularly with the slight sweetness of the challah. Still not entirely convinced though, and I definitely preferred it with salt and pepper.

New content today: