Working from home means less work

My wife had a hard morning, with her work-from-home setup having technical issues for several hours, resulting in a lot of frustration and lost time, which spilled over to me not being able to concentrate on much. I worked on some more Darths & Droids comics, but didn’t get as much done as I would have hoped.

I took Scully for a walk. While letting her run up and down the grassy area across the street, one of our neighbours walked past, and we had a semi-shouted conversation from several metres apart. He said he’d gone down to the golf course this morning, only to find a big “closed” sign there. All golf courses across Australia have been closed from midnight last night, as part of the country’s coronavirus suppression strategy.

The restrictions put in place here are pretty limiting. It’s basically nobody is allowed to leave their home except for (1) buying essential supplies, (2) medical or safety reasons, (3) to go to work if unable to work from home, and (4) for exercise. And a few other sensible things like children visiting separated parents which don’t apply to me. And there are severe penalties for violators – fines up to $11,000 and up to 6 months in prison. Police have been patrolling areas such as beaches and have been handing out (lesser level) fines to several people today. So this is not an order to be messed with for frivolous reasons.

So I’ve been getting out for walks around the neighbourhood for exercise, both for me and Scully. But apart from that it’s been confinement, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

New content today:

A new week of work from home

The morning began with a dash to my wife’s work to retrieve her office chair. After last week working from home, she realised that using a dining table chair wasn’t good for her posture, so we had to go in and get the office chair. The rain complicated things slightly, as did the fact that we couldn’t fit the chair in the car without leaving a passenger out, so she had to walk home with Scully.

Once home, I dedicated the day to writing and making new Darths & Droids comic. And that was about it, really. I made pasta for dinner, wth pumpkin and walnuts… that was good.

New content today:

Darths & Droids: Episode VII

Today’s the big day! After a considerable delay, the first comic strip of Darths & Droids‘ treatment of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens begins! We’ve been working towards this for literally years now, so it’s good to get it underway.

But that comic strip was produced a couple of weeks ago. Today mostly I did two things: house cleaning, and keeping up with the multiple press conferences by the Australian Prime Minister and New South Wales Premier on updates regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. Firstly, though, I got a nice sleep in as Scully slept through the night without any sneezing waking us us. So that was good – I needed that sleep.

I cleaned the garage a bit, to make room for all of my market stall equipment: stock of greeting cards, large mounted prints, a couple of easels for displaying prints, and various miscellaneous gear such as receipt books, string, display stands, crates, and so on. I figured with no more market stalls for the foreseeable future, there’s no need to keep all this stuff handy, and I could pack it away for a while to clear up some room in the house. I cleared away a bunch of other clutter as well, and also washed down the balcony, allowing me and my wife to eat dinner outside tonight.

In news terms, it’s been a big day here in Australia, with the most drastic measures now being announced for shutting down businesses and movements of people to attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus. Basically all non-essential services are shut down from midday tomorrow, including: pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas, theatres, church services – and restaurants and cafes are restricted to take-away service only. Schools however remain open, which is attracting growing criticism from pretty much everywhere. It’s going to be a long and interesting week.

New content today:

COVID cancellations

A while ago I’d booked a trip away over Easter, planning to do a road trip with my wife and Scully. We found a motel with a pet-friendly room at Mudgee, one of our favourite country town destinations, and a suitable AirBnB in another town making a nice loop from Sydney, with a couple of nights in each place. I also booked a couple of our favourite restaurants in Mudgee. We’ve been looking forward to this trip for a while.

But with the coronavirus situation in Australia getting progressively more serious by the day, and the very real possibility of travel restrictions being imposed, as well as the thought of possibly spreading the disease even if travel is not restricted, we’re reconsidering our plans. We decided to cancel the AirBnB today, but leave the Mudgee accommodation for the time being. Realistically I think it’s unlikely we’ll be able to go, so at some point that will probably have to be cancelled too, as well as the restaurant reservations.

It’s a shame because besides having a trip ourselves, I really wanted to help the rural communities by visiting and spending some money there. The good news is that AirBnB announced just today that they’d be refunding all prepaid bookings, including the normally non-refundable fees, and they’d also not be charging the hosts for cancelled bookings (which normally they’d do, apparently). So at least both we and our cancelled host haven’t lost anything because of this cancellation.

Other than that, today I took a longish walk to a nearby suburb in search of some prebaked pizza bases, which we use to make pizzas for dinner at home. I tried to buy some the other day in my local supermarket, but they’d sold out, so I decided to try elsewhere today, and get a bit of extra exercise while at it. I found them, and enjoyed the time out in the warm autumn day.

At home today I mostly worked on writing some more Darths & Droids comics.

New content today:

Market prep, and Star Wars

My next market day is coming up on Sunday, so I’m preparing stuff. Last time a friend gave me and my gear a lift in his large car. My car is too small to pack it in, and my friend is busy this time, so I’m having to make alternative arrangements. It looks like I’m going to have to hire a car for the day – which will add another expense that eats into my profits. But if I make as much as last time, it should be okay.

This time it’s at a different venue. East Lindfield Community Hall, East Lindfield, which is a bit further from my place. But this is this market’s established venue, where it’s been held monthly for almost 5 years, so it has an established customer base and people in the area know about it. So hopefully we’ll see more shoppers than two weeks ago at the first-time venue.

Today I also worked on Darths & Droids comics, doing some writing and then assembling the comics from screencaps. I completed three strips (although I’d done most of one before starting today), which is a week’s worth of comics in the queue and ready to be published.

Oh, I’ve also been thinking about Monday, which is my next school science visit. The coordinator has told me that the older kids (who I’ll be talking to) are studying plants at the moment. I think I’ll do a slideshow on exotic plants from around the world and their various adaptations to their environments. And I still need to find another couple of experiments for the Science Club kids as well. I’ll need to do all this probably on Saturday, since Sunday will be taken up by the market.

Tomorrow morning I’m planning to try again on my abandoned sunrise photo expedition. The weather should be better than my last attempt. I’ll be getting up around 5:30 to head off before 6 am, for the sunrise at the beach. Hopefully it will be a good one!

New content today:

Housework Saturday

Yeah, not that much exciting today. I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the house, changed the bedsheets, all that sort of boring but necessary stuff.

I also spent the afternoon writing and making new Darths & Droids strips, for the start of Episode VII. Which I can’t show you because that’d be giving stuff away early.

Tomorrow morning I’m planning to get up early and head out to the beach to do some sunrise photography. I’ve packed my gear into the car already. I’ll get up at 5:30, grab a quick breakfast, and head out. I haven’t done a sunrise session for a while, and have been itching to go do one. This is a good time of year because it’s still warm, and the sunrise is getting later as autumn progresses, but daylight saving hasn’t ended yet, pushing sunrise back an extra hour. So sunrise tomorrow is a relatively late 6:49. With no traffic, I should be at the beach soon after 6 am, in plenty of time.

The only wildcard is the weather. Tomorrow is forecast to be “partly cloudy”, which is the ideal weather for sunrises, but of course it could be overcast, or rainy, or clear at that time, none of which is good. And there’s no way to tell at 5:30 when it’s still pitch black. You just have to go and hope for the best.

New content today:

Market readiness

Saturday! One day to the market! So of course I spent time doin last minute preparations. I realised I was planning to go to the bank yesterday to get some change to use as a cash float, and also I needed to get a receipt book, but I forgot. I thought I was in trouble, because banks don’t normally open on Saturdays, but I did some searching and found a few select branches were open, including one a short train ride away.

So I hopped a train a few suburbs over and went to the bank to get a bunch of coins and low denomination notes ready to make change if people buy stuff with cash. And from there it was a 15 minute walk to an office supply shop where I got a receipt book, before walking back and catching the train home again.

This afternoon I spent some more time working on Darths & Droids story planning. And this evening I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully. We drove to a beachside suburb and had a pleasant Spanish tapas dinner looking out at the beach as the sun went down. Very nice.

New content today:

Episode VII story plotting

With this week’s ISO meeting over, I had time today to do other things. This morning I went to the golf course to play 9 holes, hoping not to repeat last week’s disastrous round. And it began promisingly, with decent scores on the first few holes. I even saw an ibis on the greenkeeper’s driveway:

Golfing ibis

On the 6th hole, which is a short par 3 with a very elevated tee off dropping down to a green far below, I got my tee shot very close to the green. Then I did a “chip and roll” shot to get the ball onto the green, and it stopped about 1.5 metres form the hole. And then I sank the putt, for a par! The first time I’ve pared that hole. It felt really good.

I did well up to the 7th hole, where a tree had fallen over during the recent storms we’ve had.

Immovable obstacle

That’s actually the 9th green in the photo. The 7th green is behind me as I took the photo, and the tree must have fallen right onto the green before they cleared it away with a chainsaw.

Then I hit the 8th hole… Oh dear. It took me four strokes to even reach the beginning of the fairway. The ball kept landing in heavy, dewy grass, and whacking it as hard as I could just sent it 5 or 6 metres dribbling up the course to land in more thick grass. I eventually scored 13 on that hole. Oh well. Even with that, my total for 9 holes was still 2 strokes better than last week, which shows just how much better the rest of my round was.

Back home, I spent most of the day working on Darths & Droids. We need to get some sort of storyline planned for the next three Star Wars movies, and finalise which players are playing which characters, and what’s happening in their real lives. So I was busily thinking up plot points and making notes. It’s not quite at a point where I can start writing scripts for individual comics, but it’s a lot close now that it was yesterday.

Tonight, in lieu of our fortnightly Games Night, we had a birthday party event for Steven. It was at a local park, with a barbecue where we cooked sausages, and ate them with bread and salads. It was a nice park, with a lot of cool playground equipment, including a zipline. The kids all had a go, and then I tried it as well, and it was a lot of fun. I also had a climbing race with one of Steven’s daughters up the rope climbing thingy. And I managed to get my hand on the top post a second before she did, so I won!

New content today:

Switching chapters

I did some solid work on Darths & Droids today. Our joint writing group has agreed that we should start work on Star Wars: Episode VII, but because we no longer work together and aren’t able to spend lunchtimes doing the writing work, I am going to draft skeleton scripts that we can quickly go over at our fortnightly games nights. Hopefully we can manage to turn over 6 new strips a fortnight this way, to return to our long-standing 3-a-week schedule, rather than the one per week we’ve been doing since ending our treatment of Rogue One and doing the Muppet Show story as an intermediate story.

Today I wrote and assembled the traditional three intermission strips that we publish between each of our stories. That will give us three more weeks of space to start buffering up strips in preparation for the beginning of Episode VII, which will happen on 22 March.

I also did a few other small tasks related to ISO Photography Standards, and the STEM in Schools program which coordinates partnerships like my one with Brookvale School, where I run the Science Club. Tomorrow I’ll have to get stuck into preparations for my visit on Monday. This is going to be a busy week.

New content today:

Cheesemaking!

Today I made three more Darths & Droids strips, which builds us up a nice buffer in the run-up to beginning Star Wars: Episode VII. I also discussed some of the aspects with the fellow writers online.

One of my friends decided to start a Google Docs spreadsheet listing all of the games that we have in our group, so we can know what’s available for Friday Night Games, and for borrowing from one another. So I spent some time going through my collection and filling in spreadsheet rows.

And the other thing I did today was make some cheese! I got my wife a cheesemaking kit for Christmas, and we decided to give it a go today. The kit makes a few different types of cheese, and we selected feta as our first attempt. It’s pretty easy, but it takes several hours of waiting around for the milk to curdle and the bacterial culture to start working. At the end of the waiting we had curds that could be scooped into cheese moulds:

Curd scooping

The cheese is now draining for a few more hours before being flipped upside down to drain even more overnight. And then tomorrow it goes into a brine solution, and voilĂ , we’ll have feta!

Curds in moulds

At least I hope we will. I’ll tell you what it tastes like when we try it…

New content today: