Sausage roll expedition

After writing yesterday’s entry in the early evening, I had the first night of my late night ISO Standards Zoom meeting, beginning at 11pm. The opening session is administrative stuff, and much of it was taken up with discussion of how to schedule the next meeting in October this year. Some people believe that they will be able to travel and are keen to begin starting face-to-face meetings again. Apple has offered to host a physical meeting at their offices in Cupertino. Normally I’d like to go, but there’s no way that Australians will be allowed to leave the country that soon. And there’s the prospect that ISO’s current ban on physical meetings (currently to the end of August) will be extended to October, forcing the meeting to be virtual again. But despite this, enough people were keen to try for a physical meeting that we ended up with a convoluted contingency plan that will try to encompass both options.

The next thing was to settle—if the meeting became fully virtual—what time slot it should occupy. The present meeting starts at 09:00 New York City time, which translates to 23:00 here in Sydney, and ends at 02:30 in the morning for me. Which is pretty bad…. but the chair proposed that to make things easier for the US west coast next time, who currently are beginning at 06:00, we begin the next meeting three hours later. Midday in NYC and 09:00 on the US west coast… and 03:00 here in Sydney (it’s 4 hours later since we go onto daylight saving at the start of October).

Yeah, you can bet I spoke up and pointed out that I’d have to start the meeting at 04:00, and also Japan would have to start at 02:00. After some discussion it was decided the time should be moved another 3 hours later, beginning at 07:00 Sydney, and 05:00 Japan, which was deemed acceptable by the Japanese delegates. So phew!

There was one technical session following the administrative stuff, but it was the one I personally have the least knowledge about, so I basically just listened silently and waited for the session to end so I could go to bed.

Today I slept in a little, but probably not enough. I decided instead of sitting at home all day I should go out and get some fresh air and exercise. I went on an expedition to a new cafe that was recommended to me for its sausage rolls. I’ve written up the review for Snot Block & Roll.

Back home I did a bit of work for my online ethics class planning. And made pumpkin soup for dinner. And now I need to stay up for another late night Standards Zoom meeting.

New content today:

Variant cauliflower bomb

This morning was another online ethics class, doing the “getting even” topic I mentioned on Friday. A new student signed up for the class about 15 minutes before it started, and was my first student from the USA. I’ve got students from at least 6 different countries now.

I had some things to do in the city today, so caught a train in. We no longer need to wear masks on public transport here, since there’s no COVID circulating, but it still feels a bit weird being in close quarters with so many people.

I spent a couple of hours in the city, and before coming home I visited one of my favourite bookshops. Browsing the gaming section, I found and decided to buy The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book, which looks like some good fun.

For dinner tonight I tried a variant on the cauliflower bomb which I’ve made a few times. I had half a tin of chick peas leftover from Sunday’s dinner, and decided to make hummus with them, and then realised baked cauliflower would go well with that. So I basically did the recipe replacing the honey cashew cream sauce with hummus, and it worked beautifully. Really delicious. I neglected to take any photos though, so I can’t share with you, alas.

New content today:

Triple baking

This morning I had my Monday Outschool ethics class – same subject as last Friday with different students. It was interesting because another part of the discussion was about the difference between trusting doctors versus people advocating traditional/herbal medicines. Last Friday, the students all said definitely trust the doctors more. Today they both said definitely give the herbal medicine a go first. Obviously these opinions come from their upbringing, and it’s interesting to see how that can vary across a range of children.

I took care of some odds and ends today. I had to finish writing comments on a photography standards document draft and send it off. The ISO meeting begins on Friday, with a plenary session from 8:00-9:30 pm in my time zone. That’s not so bad, but the technical sessions during the following week are all going to be 11:00 pm-02:30 am each night, for five nights in a row. That’s going to be a very tough week.

Last time we had a plenary meeting, it was in Lisbon in 2019, and I flew there with my wife. I had a week of meetings while she did sightseeing, and then we spent another week doing more sightseeing around Portugal together, so it was very pleasant. This meeting should have been in Okayama in Japan, which would have been lovely too. But COVID made sure that didn’t happen as planned.

I also made two batches of dough today – one sourdough for a loaf of bread, and one pizza dough for dinner. We just had dinner, and I baked the sourdough straight after while the oven was still hot.

The title above is “triple baking” – the other one refers to last night. My wife decided she felt like an apple for dessert, but didn’t want to just eat a raw apple because of how cold the weather was. She commented casually that I could make some apple crumble…

So I did! Peeled a couple of apples, made some oat crumble topping, and baked the result. We had it hot out of the oven, and it was delicious! Although normally I like to cook with Granny Smith apples, which are nice and tart, but all we had were my wife’s apples, which are pink ladies. I thought they’d soften more quickly than Grannies, but they really didn’t and were still a bit too firm when we ate it. Oh well. Maybe next time I’ll buy a lot of Grannies.

New content today:

Mushroom pie experiment

This morning I spent putting together my lesson for tomorrow’s online ethics class. The topic is “Trusting experts”, and raises various questions about why we trust experts and whether we should. It should be an interesting lesson tomorrow!

This evening my wife went out to an aerobic dance class, for the first time in ages – I think since we got Scully almost 3 years ago. So I was looking after Scully alone, while also cooking dinner. I had to turn off the stove in the middle of sautéing some mushrooms to take her outside for a toilet, but apart from that it was fine.

I was making a mushroom pie, the first time I’ve tried one of those. I was inspired by a mushroom and feta pie that my wife had had for lunch last week when she’d taken the week off work. I found a couple of recipes just to check what sort of seasonings or other stuff to put into it, and decided on onions and black pepper, but apart form that I just improvised the while thing myself. I used pre-made pastry that we had in the freezer, blind baked a base, filled it with sautéd mushrooms and onion, topped it with crumbled feta, and then a pastry lid.

It turned out pretty good, although the feta I got was the hard sort and didn’t melt at all as I’d hoped. Next time I’ll try some soft creamy feta and perhaps even mix it through the mushrooms to make a creamy sauce before putting it into the pie base. I didn’t take a photo to show you – we ate it so quickly since we were hungry due to eating late after my wife’s dance class.

New content today:

Big Lunch

My wife has taken this week off from work to use up some of her annual leave, and today we planned to go out for a nice lunch somewhere. We’d discussed a few options earlier in the week, but this morning she found a place that looked good and called up to book us a table for lunch, making sure we could bring Scully along.

We ended up at The Butcher’s Block in Wahroonga, a suburb about half an hour’s drive north of us. We got there a bit early so we took Scully for a walk around Wahroonga Park, which is a lovely bit of parkland with small rolling hills dotted with large trees, some of which were dropping autumn leaves, as well as gazebos, benches, statues, and plenty of birds. It felt a bit like a quintessentially English park.

At the restaurant we sat out the front on a padded bench facing the street, where we could see all the people walk by. Next door was a sushi place doing really good business with people popping in to grab a bento box or whatever to take away. But the place we’d chosen was excellent, with a fancy menu and attentive waiters. Although the pasta dishes looked amazing, I opted for something a bit more lunchy and chose the barbecue beef burger, with sweet potato chips.

Angus & Brisket burger

The burger had an Angus beef patty and pulled brisket, and it was very good. I also had a chocolate thick shake, and I’m happy to say it was a serious thick shake. I’ve had some disappointing ones elsewhere, where they really should have just been called milkshakes. But this one was a huge tall traditional steel milkshake cup, filled to the brim with what was basically ice cream barely on the verge of melting. And it was richly chocolatey. It was really really good.

It was so filling that it’s now after 8pm, and I haven’t eaten anything since lunch… and I really don’t feel like having dinner.

With the rest of the day I worked on a couple of things. I had to deal with insurance stuff for my market stall. Up to now I’ve been buying public liability insurance on an ad-hoc basis from the market operator each time I had a stall. But I’m planning to do another different market next month and they don’t offer this service, so I needed to get my own liability insurance if I wanted to do the market. I did some research and found a policy that will cover me for a year, meaning I can stop buying insurance individually for each market. It’s actually a bit more expensive overall, but, well, it’s a cost of doing business – so at least it’s tax deductible.

And in between I worked on more outlines for my Big Science course. Today I completed ones for quantum mechanics and plate tectonics. I also went back over the ones I did yesterday to add linkages to the other topics – there are surprisingly many. I should draw a mind map of the whole thing when I’m done with the outlines. It will be a good graphic to show during the course.

New content today:

Getting stuck into big science

This morning I had my face-to-face ethics class, after skipping last week due to the students having tests. It was the second lesson of the Vanity topic, and in this one we had three scenarios and the kids had to discuss how vain the people in the scenarios were, and assign them on a scale of 1 to 10. One of the scenarios introduced the idea that vanity can be about things other than appearance, and posed the questions of whether that was any better or worse. And we discussed the big question: Is there anything wrong with being vain?

Back at home I spent much of the day working on outlines for my planned Big Science series of lessons for my online classes. I’ve completed outlines for atomic theory, evolution, relativity, and am mostly done on quantum mechanics. After I finish that and the next two, I’ll start work on detailed lesson plan and assembling slides to illustrate it. That’s the hard part, because as discussed before I can’t just grab pictures off the Internet. I have to make sure they’re public domain, or make them myself. So that will take a bit longer.

One good thing is that I came up with a common thread to tie all these topics together. Each will demonstrate the process of science, with different aspects covered: thought experiments, physical experiments, construction of models, making predictions, testing theories, assembling evidence, refining models, and so on. Basically the scientific method. So the overall uniting theme will be the development and use of the scientific method as a means of discovering how things work. So I’m pretty pleased with that as a concept!

On a completely different topic, I was just watching a cooking show on TV – while making and then eating dinner. It’s an Australian show, in which one of our celebrity chefs invites two guests to join him, and they all cook a dish while having a chat about food, their careers, their lives, whatever. Tonight’s guests were chefs from America. There’s a theme ingredient each show that they all have to use. Tonight’s ingredient was lemons, so the host chose to make lemon chicken.

Now, everyone knows and loves lemon chicken, right? Well… apparently only everyone in Australia knows and loves lemon chicken, because neither of the American chefs had ever even heard of it! I know certain dishes are regional, but I’m surprised to learn that lemon chicken is not widespread enough to even be known in the US. To chefs, no less.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised at Chinese-derived dishes in particular being a complete disjoint set between Australia and the USA. I’ve been in Chinese restaurants in the US and literally not recognised a single dish on the menu. And I know American friends who’ve visited here and had similar experiences not recognising any dishes on our Chinese menus.

But wow… lemon chicken. You Americans are really missing out!

New content today:

Home baking with pastry

I was planning to make quiche for dinner tonight. Normally I use pre-made pastry sheets from the supermarket. But tonight I decided to have a go at making my own pastry – for the first time ever. I found a simple shortcrust pastry recipe, and made it up. It wasn’t difficult at all. However, after making the dough, I thought it looked like a lot, so I checked the total weight of ingredients, versus the weight of a pack of 5 pastry sheets… and found that I’d made close to twice as much pastry as I would normally use for one quiche.

So I used half the pastry to make the quiche for dinner.

Cauliflower quiche

And then after we ate I used the other half to make a couple of small apple pies. I’ve never made pies before, but I didn’t use a recipe. I just stewed some apple with cloves and cinnamon until it was soft, then rolled and baked the pie shells, then filled with the apple and topped with the remaining pastry.

Apple pies

They turned out pretty good! A little amateurish around the edges, but I had one still hot with a scoop of ice cream for dessert, and it was a fine apple pie. Now I’m really full…

New content today:

More Japanese food

I didn’t have anything particular that I needed to do today, nor any plans for anything. It would have been a good opportunity to go for a long walk and take photos or something, but unfortunately the weather decided today was a good day to break the four-week long dry spell we’ve been having. After yesterday’s lovely 25°C autumn day, today’s maximum was only 17°C, and there was steady rain from about 10:00 to mid-afternoon.

So I worked on some comic writing, until a friend messaged me and suggested going out to grab some lunch together. He suggested a new Japanese place near him. So I grabbed my umbrella ad caught the train over. The restaurant had a selection of bento box lunch specials, and I chose the panko prawn set, with the option of sashimi (there were other options including a salad, tofu, and something else).

Bento box - panko prawns

It was pretty good!

My wife messaged me to see if I could pick up Scully on the way home. Apparently Scully had been a bit barky this morning, and my wife wanted to get her out of the office early. So I picked her up and brought her home, where she then slept on my lap for a few hours until my wife also got home!

New content today:

Sushi and books

This morning I had another Outschool class, a second session of the ethics course, on the same topic of greed as last Friday, with a different student. I just had the one boy this time, so it was very one-on-one, and we had a pretty deep discussion of what greed is, and whether it’s wrong or not – or rather in what circumstances it’s wrong or not. I could tell he was really thinking hard about the questions I posed, and he said he enjoyed it at the end, so that’s good!

For lunch today I decided to walk up the street to the local shops and get something. I didn’t have anything in mind, but settled on sushi when I passed a sushi shop. I took my bento box of sushi to the nearby square, where there’s a grassy area and trees and some steps to sit on, and ate there with some other local workers who had come out for lunch. And a gaggle of magpies, who stalked everyone looking for handouts. But I never feed birds, no matter how persistent.

After eating I stopped in the bookshop to browse around for a while. I saw some mildly interesting things, but nothing inspiring enough to buy. I flipped through an Italian recipe book and found a simple ratio of ingredients for making pasta dough, which I committed to memory. I’ve been thinking now that I’m making my own bread and pizza bases, I should give hand made pasta try. I think dinners for this week are more or less covered already, so maybe I’ll try next week.

On books, I recently finished reading the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Curse of Strahd, which is a 5th edition conversion and expansion of the classic original 1st edition adventure Ravenloft. Ravenloft has long been a favourite of mine, and I’m very pleased with the expanded content in this version.

Sticking with the D&D theme, I’ve now started on another book in my list of unread books: Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection, Foil Hardcover edition. This is a classic old school series of books containing various dungeon traps originally published in the 1980s, collected together into a republished compendium. The book weighs a ton, and should take a while to get through. I like the nostalgic feel of reading old gaming material like this.

New content today:

Standard sort of Sunday

I did the same walk as yesterday with Scully, but today my wife came along as well. She didn’t recall ever having done the new route which Scully chose yesterday, and Scully picked it again today, so that was good. I stopped at the bakery along the way for a piece of chocolate babka, which is really delicious, and a good Sunday morning tea treat.

At the Oyster Cove marina, I spotted this white-faced heron, which I managed ot get close enough to to take a half-decent photo with my phone.

White-faced heron

At home, I worked on more Darths & Droids strips, getting the buffer back into something resembling good health after running it down to the bone recently.

During the afternoon I got into a chat with some friends on Discord, and we talked about TV shows we’ve been watching. It was interesting because every time anyone said anything about a show they’d watched, they put it in spoiler tags to avoid spoiling anyone else who was interested in watching but wasn’t up to that bit yet. I’ve been watching The Irregulars, and am up to episode 6 of 8. Two of my friends are also watching it and are up to different episodes. So although we’re all watching the same TV show, we can’t really have a proper conversation about it without being super careful.

Remember back in the days before streaming, when TV shows aired on television at a specific time, and everyone you knew would be watching the same episode at the same time? So you could all talk about the latest episode and speculate what would happen next week? I miss those days. I watched The X-Files in its initial run, and one of my friends and I would get together every week and compare our impressions of the last episode and theorise wildly about what was going to happen in the next mythology episode. This is a joy that young people these days will never know.

New content today: