Making cast pages

The weather today was cooler and overcast all day. Apparently we might even get some rain overnight.

I spent too much time today updating cast pages on Darths & Droids. I added a lot of characters to the page for Episode VII, and I created a new page for Episode VIII. You’d think that this wouldn’t take very long, but somehow it occupied pretty much my whole day.

It was broken up by going for a run this morning, then taking Scully out for a walk, and then having lunch, and then going for a longer walk with Scully and my wife, and then cooking pizza for dinner (mushroom tonight, and I added some fried leftover Christmas ham cubes to my slices after cooking).

My wife went out for lunch, meeting an old friend of hers, and Scully got to go and meet her dog Bella. This is the friend who sometimes minds Scully for us when we travel, so Scully and Bella know each other well. She said that she could mind Scully for us in June when we’re planning to go to Japan for the ISO Photography plenary meeting in Okayama. Our plan is for me to attend the meeting while my wife explore Okayama, and then we’ll move on to Kyoto for a week or so, maybe spending a day or two in some smaller town to spread our experience around a bit.

Tomorrow we’re planning to do a day trip, driving out to Berrima and Bowral. We booked a lunch in Berrima, which will hopefully be nice.

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Comics and critical thinking about holidays

This morning I concentrated on writing and making new Darths & Droids strips. At lunch I took Scully for a longish walk to the good bakery. Near it is a fish & chips shop, not the nearby one that I usually go to, and when I tried it a while back it was very good, so I got some fish & chips from there. Oddly, it didn’t seem as good as the other time.

This evening I had the first three classes of this week’s new ethics topic: Holidays. This is a special topic for the last class of the year, as I’m taking some time off over the Christmas period after this next week. It seems a pretty straightforward topic so far – I don’t think there were any particularly amusing comments form the kids so far.

And of course I’ve been playing with ChatGPT a bit more. Literally:

A ChatGPT conversation where I play rock-paper-scissors

🤔

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Approaching The Last Jedi

The mornings are getting warmer, so I did a 2.5k run first thing, right after breakfast, before the day got too hot. Also, the jacaranda trees are coming into flower. Right on cue, as we slide into November, the peak flowering season for these beautiful trees.

Most of today I spent working on Darths & Droids comics. We’re almost at the end of The Force Awakens, and we’ve started planning ahead into The Last Jedi in the past week. I wrote all of the strips up to the end of the first sequel movie, and made a couple of them. In the coming week I’ll start thinking about how we kick off the next movie. After the usual three-strip intermission, of course.

Instead of going on a big walk for lunch, my wife wanted to work on her sewing until mid-afternoon, so we went out then for afternoon tea, to the nice bakery. I tried a Paris-Brest, which honestly I was not familiar with as a type of pastry. It appears it’s a traditional French pastry, but it must not be very popular/common here in Australia, because I’ve never encountered one before. It was pretty nice, though I think I prefer the banoffee tart. (I’m also reminded of the first time I encountered “banoffee” as a thing – it was in England in 2009. I saw a “banoffee pie” on the dessert menu at a restaurant and had to ask what that meant, as I’d never seen it before. It’s since made it over to Australia and is one of my favourite things.)

This evening I had two more of my Monster topic ethics classes. In the second class, the four kids were very interested in the idea that monster stories are created to reflect fears that people have about the real world, and were having some really deep discussion about the idea.

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Games night and comicking day

Friday was games night at one of my friends’ place. First up we had a quick game of Draftosaurus. I actually managed to win this one, with a big collection of diverse dinosaurs in one pen that got me a lot of points.

After that we played a new game: Awkward Guests. It’s a bit like Cluedo, only done right, without the superfluous dice rolling and moving around a game board. And there are hundreds of clue cards, which can be combined in multiple ways to construct many different crimes to solve. The piecing together of clues is clever and fun, and it really requires some thought to play effectively and hopefully pin down the murderer correctly and first.

After that we played a game of 7 Wonders, an old favourite online, but with physical cards, which is something we haven’t done for many years. And then we split into two groups of 3 players each and I played Quacks of Quedlinburg – I don’t remember what the other group of 3 played.

I didn’t win any of the other games, but had fun, so that’s all that matters!

Today (Saturday) I did my 2.5k run early, and then spent much of the day writing and making new Darths & Droids comics. I need to get a few queued up before the trip to Orange that I’m taking with my wife and Scully from Tuesday.

I’m also trying to use up all our vegetables before we leave. I was talking with my wife about how to divide them up into dinners, and we decided tonight to make mushroom and zucchini risotto. Tomorrow will be mushroom and spinach pizza, and Monday will be spinach and potato dhal.

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Teacher shortages and secret project unveiling

Those two things in the title are unrelated.

First up, this morning I received a message through Outschool, from someone who said they were a parent, but also affiliated with a private school in Texas. They said they had an emergency situation and were looking for a teacher to take the school’s final year high school class in optics and astronomy. For 8 hours a week, for six weeks. They said face to face was preferable, but they could do it by Zoom if necessary given my location.

They must have checked my Outschool profile, and possibly also my LinkedIn and academic publications, because this is well within my capabilities and experience. And honestly if it had been a school where I live in Sydney, I would have considered it. But Texas school hours are roughly midnight-6am here…. so that would be pretty terrible. (And there’s no way I’m travelling to Texas for this.) So I declined. I’d heard that there’s a shortage of teachers in some parts of the US, but I didn’t expect schools there to approach me!

While on Outschool, besides two ethics classes on Art today, I had another science lesson with the girl who has been doing those with me sporadically for a while. Today we went over the science of cloning, and applications of the technology. I cheated a little and used some of the material and slides I made for the ethics topic on cloning a couple of weeks ago, but I added more scientific explanations.

I did another 2.5k run today, backing up from yesterday. I did a good time yesterday after pushing myself, but today I decided to take it easier, and ran almost a full minute slower.

The other thing that happened today is the secret project I’ve been hinting at over the past several weeks has finally gone live! It’s a Darths & Droids related project, and if you haven’t noticed it already, you can find it linked from today’s new strip. If you look carefully…

There’s been a lot of work put into this, and I’m very excited that it’s now live. I’m waiting for the reader reactions to start rolling in as people discover it and start commenting about it.

Oh, and here’s Scully at the pizza place where we went for dinner last night.

Scully at the pizza place

(No, she didn’t get any of the pizza. We don’t feed her from the table.)

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Comic crunching

Today I had a few chores to do: grocery shopping, tidying up some laundry.

And I spent some time working on writing Darths & Droids comics, to try to build up enough buffer to last through my upcoming trip to Europe in a couple of weeks. Two weeks from today I’ll be flying out to Germany for my next ISO Photography standards meeting. My wife is coming with me and we’ll be spending a few days sightseeing in the Netherlands afterwards before flying home.

That prior meeting online that I mentioned a few days ago turned out to be at 3 am in my time zone. I have no idea how the invitation managed to know that and convert the time zone. Anyway, the convener apologised for the inconvenient time for me and said it wasn’t essential that I attend, so I’ve sent my apologies.

Tonight is real life games night, but I’ve excused myself because I needed some time to relax and spend with my wife and do a few more tasks rather than spend the entire evening out. We went for pizza at our favourite local place. It was really cold, but nice to go out and have a walk.

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Game night and comics day

Friday was board games night with friends, and we had a face-to-face meet-up for the first time in ages, although only four of us could make it. Not having met for ages, there were brand new recently acquired games to try.

We played Libertalia first, a pirate themed game in which each player has a deck of cards numbered 1-40, each one representing a different crew member. A set of 6 of these are randomly selected and each player draws the same 6 cards in to their hands. Then each player selects a crew member simultaneously and reveals them all at once. The crew are ordered by number, and there is a Reputation track that acts as a tiebreaker – higher Reputation players sort higher.

The cards are the processed in increasing order, and each may have an ability that does something – such as modify the players Reputation, or modify the loot that each player will receive in the next step. The cards are then processed in decreasing order, with each player selecting an item of loot from a predetermined selection. Some cards also have abilities that trigger in this step, such providing a bonus for selecting a particular type of loot. Each player’s card then goes on their Ship (just an area of the table).

Libertalia

There is an in-between phase (“night”) when some cards have other abilities that do stuff. Then you repeat choosing a new crew member from your hand. This is done 4 times, leaving 2 unused crew in your hand.

Then it’s the next round, where more 6 more cards are selected and added to each players’ hand. So at this point each player has 6 of the same cards, plus 2 leftovers from the previous round, which may differ depending what they played. You play this round of 4 cards, and then you play a third round of another 4 cards.

Over the course of the game you accumulate various loot tokens, which are worth different amounts of points, and the most loot points wins!

The second game we played was a longer one: Ark Nova. This was a more complex game, in which each player manages a modern zoo, developing conservation programmes, and links to other zoos and to universities for research and stuff like that. It’s quite involved, with a lot of interlocking actions, resources, and scoring tracks.

Ark Nova

It took us about 3.5 hours to play the game, though being the first game it was slowed down by learning to play. The turns go by pretty quickly and smoothly once you get into it, so there isn’t much down time, and there’s plenty to do and plan out. By the end we were being pretty efficient.

Today I spent most of the day making Darths & Droids comics, and working some on the secret project.

Oh, and it was really cold today. Winter has definitely blown in.

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Comics catch-up Friday/Saturday

Friday night was online games night with my friends, so I didn’t have time to write a blog post. We played a new game: Heckin’ Hounds. It took a bit of grappling with the rules (which were not laid out very well – “a triumph of flavour over substance,” as one of my friends put it) to understand what was going on. It’s a very weird trick-taking card game, which feels like the designer basically took the idea of a trick-taking game and decided to do everything the opposite way for the heck of it (no pun intended). There’s no following suits, there’s a pseudo-trump suit mechanism which doesn’t actually affect the ranking of the suits, there’s a bidding mechanism which accumulates between hands (so if you bid high one one hand, you can make up for it by bidding low on the next hand), and you don’t even get to look at your own hand! Instead you get to see everyone else’s hand of cards, but when it comes time for you to play a card on a trick, you’re basically picking partially at random from your own hand with limited knowledge.

It sounds and is very strange, but somehow it comes together and was fairly playable, although I’m not sure how often we’ll want to return to it. We played a few of our regular games too.

On Friday and also today I worked mostly on getting ahead with comic production, both Irregular Webcomic! and Darths & Droids. I also did some more work on the secret project today. This is a project that will come to fruition some time in the next few months, so you will see it before too long.

My wife and I took Scully on a long walk today – the first one for a while. We walked down to the ferry wharf, via the coastal bushwalk track, which is a nice walk. The day was very pleasant, with fluffy white clouds and blue sky, not too warm, not too cool. This in-between seasons weather is really very nice, when it’s not raining. The track was a bit muddy from the recent rain though.

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Nothing important happened today

There’s really not a huge amount to say about today. I slept in a bit after a late night last night playing games online with friends. I had breakfast, went for my run, did stretching exercises, had a shower, then got stuck into writing and making some new Darths & Droids comics. I got stuck with writer’s block for a few hours.

I took Scully for a walk when my wife went to the gym. I cooked baked Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and carrots for dinner, with a chilli garlic miso glaze.

And that was kind of my day. I think I’m a bit tired still from the late night. My plan is to relax a bit this evening and just watch some TV – something I hardly ever do.

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A busy writing day

My morning was taken up with chores and doing my run and exercise routine. It filled up things quickly since I didn’t get up until quite late, as I’d had a poor sleep during the night.

This afternoon I worked on finishing off writing that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I’d tried to do last week. I now have the batch of 20 strips written, and I should be able to find time to photograph them tomorrow and put together at least one for Monday night’s update. So the brief hiatus should stay at just one week as new comics come online this week. I also worked on writing some new Darths & Droids strips.

And that was pretty much my day, really. I had another couple of classes tonight on the ethics of art, and I also had a little bit of Outschool admin work to do, dealing with various class changes and requests from parents.

And, um, I made some delicious fried rice for dinner.

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