Last pizza pickup?

Today I worked on lesson 3 of my Creative Thinking game design course. I also took Scully for a short walk in the morning, and then with my wife for a longer walk at lunch.

For dinner we ordered pizza from our favourite local pizza place, and I went up to the restaurant to pick them up. This might be the last time we pick up pizza for a while, as restaurants will be back open next week after the COVID lockdown restrictions ease. The owner of the pizza place said he was looking forward to having customers dining in again, and said they were doing a few renovations to change the place around a bit.

Tonight is online games night with my friends again. I’m losing all the games as usual…

New content today:

Splendid meals

Today I made the slides for the second lesson in my creative thinking course, based on the lesson plan I wrote up yesterday.

This evening I had two more ethics classes, on animal hunting. I’ve been ending the classes with a question for the kids to think about, without answering it: Experts say one of the biggest dangers facing the world is overpopulation of humans. What if an advanced alien species came by Earth and saw our population problems. Would it be okay for them to hunt humans?

In the second class today we’d previously discussed whether it’s okay to hunt overpopulated animals, and all the kids had been very affirmative that not only was it okay, but it was necessary to protect the greater environment. So… I got to the end of the class and left them with the above question to ponder, and one of the girls who I could see on the Zoom video silently did The Scream pose, and then slid her hands up to cover the top of her head as she continued the look of horror. It was really amusing to see!

This evening for dinner my wife and I ordered a special treat from a local Greek restaurant that we like to visit now and then. It’s a nice change from ordering pizzas. I went up to pick up the meal and we had spanakopita and roasted lamb shanks, with Greek salad. And there’s sticky date pudding for afters.

Tonight is online games night with my friends. We started with the game Splendor, which I haven’t played for a long time, and have always been really bad at. I thought I was winning, but then all of a sudden someone else took a huge lead and won the game, and I ended up third.

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Start me up

This morning I decided to kickstart some exercise routines again, and I went out for a jog around the streets. I didn’t want to start with a full 5k run, so I cut a large loop off my normal circuit, and also took the pace a little easier than when I was running regularly earlier this year. I did 2.25 km, and was feeling good at the end, like I could have kept going at least a bit longer. It probably helped that I skipped the hilliest parts of my normal route. Afterwards I did a stretching routine that I haven’t done for ages as well… my flexibility has decayed quite a bit.

I spent most of today working on new Darths & Droids strips. I also took Scully out to the dog park for the first time in weeks, now that the COVID lockdown restrictions have been eased back to allow you to meet with a friend or two in an outdoor setting, so long as everyone is vaccinated.

For dinner tonight, I made a pesto, pumpkin, and pistachio pizza. It also had chunks of fried haloumi on it, which added a nice saltiness.

Pesto, pumpkin, pistachio pizza

A friend pointed out that the haiku I wrote a few days ago had an error, with “frangipani summer” being 6 syllables. I completely missed that at the time! And there isn’t an easy fix either. Oh well. I claim the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi on that one!

But inspired by another prompt: “The Secret Lives of Vegetables”:

Soft dewy morning
Refreshingly crisp and green
Cucumber dreaming

Flowers of passion
Fecund seeds swell in their beds
Conceiving pumpkins

Furtive green hairdos
Possessors shyly hiding
Carrot introverts

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More experimental baking

I had more leftover sourdough starter today, so I decided to try making some sourdough focaccia using it, plus a bit of yeast to get it to rise. (Sourdough rises when the starter is fresh, but not if the starter has been left over and sitting for a few days.)

It turned out pretty well!

Sourdough focaccia

I think I baked it a little too long, and next time I won’t use the base heat setting in the oven, as it made the base very crisp and close to burnt. But otherwise it was really good. For dinner I made a simple tomato and chilli sauce with pasta, and we have that with the focaccia and some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in. A very simple and rustic Italian meal, but delicious.

In other news, Scully had her groom today, and now she’s all fuzzy and velvety with short hair again. I didn’t get a photo to compare with yesterday, but maybe I will tomorrow.

I spent the afternoon working through the exercises for Monday’s next lecture in the image processing course I’m tutoring. We’ve finished the basic image processing stuff and are moving on to machine learning for pattern recognition. I have a very high level knowledge of machine learning, but have never dealt with the nitty gritty aspects of it in detail before, so this part of the course will be more challenging for me. This first lecture is really an introduction to machine learning, and most of the actual work is on probability distributions, which I have more familiarity with. So the work wasn’t too difficult, although I had to struggle with Matlab’s weird syntax issues for a while before getting something to work.

I’ve also started work on a new course for Outschool, to complement the ongoing classes on critical and ethical thinking. This new one will be a fixed length course of about 6 weeks, on creative thinking and problem solving. I plan to teach the kids how to think about problems and come up with creative solutions to them. And as an example context, I thought that over the six-week course we could work on a specific creative problem: designing a simple board game! The goal would be to have a completed, playable game at the end, invented by the kids, with my guidance. I think this should work well as a course, and I have ideas for all the stages. Just need to write it up and then submit the course for approval.

New content today:

Comics and Standards reporting

I did two main things today: Finished writing that batch of new Irregular Webcomic! strips, and wrote a report on the ISO Standards meeting I attended a few weeks ago. There’s not too much to say about the first, except that finished the batch, so I’m ready to do the photography first thing tomorrow.

The second: I have to write a report on each international standards meeting I attend, to deliver to Standards Australia, and then go through with Australian experts during a follow-up meeting. We have that meeting next week, so it was time I wrote up the report. It’s a little tricky because the template I have to use is a Microsoft Word template, but I don’t have Word on my Mac. Apple’s Pages will open the document, but it gets the formatting badly wrong – so badly that it’s impossible for me to edit the document in Pages. So I have to edit it in Word. My wife has Word on her laptop since she needed it for work purposes – so I’m not about to pay for another license to put it on my desktop. So… I have to set up file sharing between the two machines, transfer my docs to the laptop, edit in Word there, then export to PDF and then transfer the lot back to my desktop. Which is why I tend to put off the task until I can’t any longer.

Anyway, it’s done now, so I can breathe easy again for a while.

For dinner tonight I tried a new recipe, from a TV show I saw a few weeks ago. They have the recipe online, so I can just link to it for you: Forever-roasted pumpkin with lemon pepper butter. I tried to find curry leaves in my supermarket, but they didn’t have them, so I settled for sage instead. It turned out delicious, although an entire half butternut pumpkin was very filling as a meal for me and my wife. Next time I’ll do half as much, and serve it with a light side dish.

We both separately tried taking Scully out in her new doggie-carry backpack today. She’s a little tricky to get in, being a bit squirmy, but once tucked into the pack she settles down nicely and really seems to enjoy the ride. We want to keep using the backpack regularly so she gets used to it and sees it as something totally normal.

New content today:

Organising recipes

First the COVID news: 112 new cases in New South Wales in the last 24-hour reporting period. The Government expects the numbers to keep going up for a few more days until the effects of the lockdown start being felt and, hopefully, bring them back down towards zero.

And in personal health news, my throat is feeling a lot better after the tonsillectomy. There’s just a little residual pain when I yawn widely, or move my tongue around to extreme positions in my mouth. But it’s still improving day by day and feels pretty close to back to normal. I think the coughing and phlegminess is reducing each day as well.

I worked on writing Irregular Webcomic! strips today, hoping to have a batch done in time to photograph tomorrow morning, but I don’t think I’m going to make it. It’ll probably have to be photography on Wednesday.

Something else I did was look into recipe organiser apps for my desktop machine. I’ve been collecting recipes using OneNote, which I use as a general note-keeping app for many types of information. It’s been okay so far, but it’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to find recipes, and I’m wishing for features such as search by ingredient and better categorisation using tags. So I’ve looked around and am currently trying the free version of Recipe Keeper.

I’m impressed with it so far. It’s not overly complicated or feature-bloated, but it has just the right set of features for organising recipes. There are three different groups of customisable tag sets. It imports recipes automatically from URLs from many popular recipe sites – and worked flawlessly for one I use a bit, the Australian site SBS Food. And it does automatic unit conversions from American units! No longer will I have to wonder what an “oz.” is. It also has a meal planner and automatic shopping list generator, although at this stage I’m not sure how much I’ll be using those features. I’m going to give it a few days, but I’m already thinking I’ll pay for the “pro” version, which gives you unlimited recipe storage and ability to synch to phones and iPads.

Oh, I was out walking Scully this afternoon when we met Billy, a 14-week-old toy poodle, black like her! He reminded me exactly what Scully looked like when she was a puppy!

Scully and Billy

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Baking and waking in the rain

First, today’s COVID news. NSW recorded 77 new cases in the last 24-hour reporting period, up 27 from yesterday. 33 of those cases were not isolating, so potentially infection in the community. And in very bad news, Australia recorded its first COVID-19 death of 2021. The screws continue to tighten with new restrictions and stern recommendations. It’s now strongly recommended not to go into supermarkets or food stores at all – if you possibly can you should arrange home delivery of groceries. On the current trajectory, officials are expecting over 100 new cases tomorrow, with numbers continuing to rise due to the delay between implementing stronger lockdown measures and reduction in case numbers.

My wife and I took Scully for another big walk today. We also tested out a new accessory, a K9 Sport Sack carrying backpack for Scully. The reason for this is that we’ve been using ferries to travel around the city with Scully, since you could take dogs onto ferries as long as they’re on a lead. Well, it turns out that the law doesn’t actually say that – it says you can take dogs on ferries if they are confined within a carrying container. The ferry crews have long turned a blind eye to this and not enforced the rule. But that changed from 1 July – the State Government has ordered ferry crews to begin enforcing the rule, and not to allow dogs on board if only restrained by a leash. Apparently this change of policy was precipitated by a complaint from a ferry passenger after being bitten by a dog.

M. and Scully

We were a bit concerned if Scully would like getting into the backpack, or if she’d struggle and try to wriggle out. We tempted her with peanut butter (one of her favourite treats) and did things slowly and gently, and she never protested once. And once clipped onto my wife’s back and we went outside, Scully positively seemed to enjoy being up there, looking around as we walked. So I think it was a positive experience for her and we’ll be able to carry her around in this backpack whenever we need to use some transport that demands dogs be confined. (Someone online checked specifically if these sort of backpacks would be acceptable on ferries and was told they are.)

At home I had a bit of a baking afternoon. I’ve been making my own pastry for quiches recently, but previously I’ve been neglecting to chill the pastry in the fridge before rolling it out. So today I made the pastry at lunchtime and stuck it into the fridge until dinner time. I honestly haven’t been very pleased with my home made pastry – it’s turned out to be very friable and sort of powdery/floury when baked. It handles well when rolling not too sticky or too crumbly, so I think the consistency there is good. I was hoping that the refrigeration before rolling and baking would fix the post-bake consistency, but no, it turned out almost the same as before. So I’m not sure what to do to make it hold together better after baking. Google suggests it might need a bit more water when mixing, but I really don’t want to make it any stickier during the rolling phase. I guess I’ll try it next time and see what happens.

I also put together another sourdough loaf, to be let rise overnight for baking in the morning. It’s amazing how much flour you go through when you’re baking stuff all the time! I’ve also been making an apple crumble about every 5 days for a warming fruity dessert for me and my wife. Normally she eats raw apples, but she’s decided that a nice warm crumble is more acceptable for winter night…

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Cooking leftovers, a new Ethics class, and one less Ethics class

Today I did some housework, vacuuming and then refreshing all of the damp absorbers in the wardrobes and storage chests. Sydney is a humid place to live, and we use damp absorbers with calcium chloride crystals to avoid problems with mould.

I had my first lesson in a new timeslot for online ethics classes, at 5pm today. My other three classes are all either full or close to full, so I listed a new timeslot just last week, and by the time it started today I had two new students signed up. Unfortunately one had connection problems and dropped out after a few minutes, but I had a very good class with the remaining student.

We discussed stealing, and I presented a range of scenarios. One began with imagining a lemon tree inside someone’s property, but close enough to the fence that you could reach through and pick a lemon. Is doing so stealing? (The girl said yes.) What if everyone in the neighbourhood knows the people who own the house never use the lemons, they just let them fall off the tree and rot – would it still be stealing? (Yes.) What if one fell off and was sitting on the ground – would it be stealing to reach through the fence and take it? (Yes.) What if it fell off and rolled through the fence, onto the footpath – would it be stealing to take that lemon? (She said no.) I was also asking her to explain her answers, and at this one she said that the difference was that the lemon was in a public place now, so it was fair game to take it.

I switched and said what if someone dropped their wallet in a public place? Would it be okay to take it and not give it back, or would that be stealing? (She said it would be stealing.) So what’s the difference between the wallet and the lemon, if they’re both in a public place? She said the wallet was valuable, and could cause a lot of problems if they didn’t get it back.

I said what if someone is buying groceries and while loading their car a lemon – something not very valuable – falls out onto the car park, a public place. Is it stealing if someone else takes that lemon? She said yes. So I asked what’s the difference between that lemon and the one that fell off the tree and rolled through the fence?

By this point she was grinning and almost laughing each time I ramped up with a new question – she clearly realised what I was doing in making things trickier and trickier for her to answer consistently. I told her that I was trying to make her think really hard about her answers and try to come up with clear reasons why one thing is stealing but some similar thing is not.

By the end we’d gone through 5 or 6 similar scenarios, and given her brain a good workout. She said she really enjoyed the class. So hopefully she’ll be back next week, and the other student will get his connection problem sorted. And maybe we’ll even have another new enrolee.

In other news, school was supposed to start again after the winter holidays next week. But today the NSW Government extended our current COVID lockdown another week, and said all schools in Sydney would be doing home learning rather than face-to-face classes. This means my face-to-face Ethics class on Wednesday morning is cancelled, for next week at least. Given the current state of spread of the COVID Delta variant here in Sydney, I have trouble seeing that just one more week of lockdown will get it under control. They’ll play it by ear as the days go by, and I guess we’ll see.

For dinner tonight I used the leftover sweet potato, beans, and corn from Monday’s dinner, added some chopped onion and tomato and chilli and spices, and made enchiladas!

Sweet potato, beans, corn enchiladas

It was a nice change from the usual Mexican-spiced pinto beans we normally use. Really good – definitely a recipe to add to our list of semi-regulars.

New content today:

Ad-libbing dinner

It’s Monday, and the start of another week in COVID lockdown. My wife is working from home, while I had an online ethics class at 9:00 this morning. The issue was that she is set up on the dining table, which is behind me when I’m doing my Zoom lessons, so the kids would have been able to see her. So I used a background replacement to hide her and the room. This was the last lesson of media bubbles – I start a new topic with the next lesson, which will be on stealing.

Today I mostly worked on Darths & Droids, writing and producing a full 3 strips, a week’s worth. Which is pretty productive – that takes several hours of work.

For dinner tonight I tried ad-libbing a recipe, based in a quick glance of something on a cooking show I saw on TV. I basically just saw sweet potatoes, cut in half, with the inside scooped out, and stuffed with… something, I couldn’t’ tell what. I decided to go for a stuffing of mixed beans (kidney, lima, chick peas, and something else – it was a can of “4 bean mix“), fresh corn cut off the cob, and chopped cashews. I made up the recipe basically from scratch.

Sweet potato stuffed with beans, corn, and cashews

It turned out really good! My wife loved it and asked if we could have it again another day. Here’s my recipe:


  • 1 large sweet potato
  • half a can of “4 bean mix” or similar, kidney beans, pinto beans, etc
  • half a cob of corn kernels
  • about 1/3 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
  • cumin
  • sweet paprika
  • cinnamon
  • a small chilli


  1. Wash the sweet potato and slice in half lengthwise. Bake at 240°C for… I thought it would take maybe 20 minutes, but it was more like 40-45. Until soft enough that you can scoop the middle out, leaving boats.
  2. Meanwhile mix the beans, corn, and chopped cashews. Season with ground cumin, paprika, and a little cinnamon and salt. I also added a small chopped chilli.
  3. Save the scooped out sweet potato for another day. Spoon the bean mix into the boats, drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 180°C for 10 minutes.

I just served it with some steamed broccoli, but you could do it as a side for a meat dish if you wanted, or make it a vegetarian main with something else on the side.

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Tonsil recovery day 9

My throat continues to improve. There’s little pain eating and swallowing now, but it is still pretty sore when I move my tongue around too much, and I have developed a hacking cough and it seems impossible to clear all the phlegm from the back of my throat. Well, at least it seems to be improving overall.

Today I dealt with some bathroom cleaning, and also some cleaning up of my wife’s phone. She’s been collecting thousands of photos and video clips that she’s taken over the years, and her phone was just about out of memory, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet and copy it all to our desktop computer, and delete it from her phone. There was stuff on there dating back several years.

I am in the habit of copying across photos from my phone to the computer every day, and keeping the camera roll on my phone empty, but my wife has never developed this habit, despite me reminding er that if she lost her phone she’d lose all of those photos, whereas once they’re on the computer they get backed up regularly so the chances of losing them are virtually zero. Anyway, I spent a few hours going through all the photos and videos and sorting them into suitable folders on the computer. And suddenly she has nearly 100 GB of empty space back on her phone!

The other thing I did was recopy all our music and ebooks back to her phone – it seems at some point the phone rebelled and decided to start deleting music and books. For some reason the books got lost from both our iPads as well. I dunno what it is with Apple’s management of ebooks – it’s just terrible. I’m exploring some alternative ebook reader apps now, thanks to recommendations from friends.

One Friday while shopping I saw that our local supermarket now stocks a wider range of non-alcoholic drinks. (Unlike the USA, supermarkets here do not sell alcohol – you have to go to a specialist liquor store to buy alcohol. It always freaks me out a little when I visit the US and go into a supermarket and see beer and wine on the shelves.) Anyway, along with the small range of alcohol-free wines, they also had some Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits. I’ve been meaning to try these for a while, since I like gin, but you can’t exactly drink it with wild abandon. I’ve heard that Seedlip provides the same sort of herbal/spicy flavour experience of gin, just without the alcohol. But I’ve also been reluctant to try it because it’s so damned expensive. A bottle of Seedlip costs pretty much the same as a nice bottle of gin, even though there’s no alcohol in it (and hence it doesn’t attract the alcohol excise, so they’re actually grossing more of the sale price).

But now the supermarket had it right there, and I figured this is probably about the cheapest place to buy it, so I grabbed a bottle of Seedlip Spice 94. And now I’ve tried it and can make some comments…

Well. I opened the bottle and had a sniff. It’s very subtle. You obviously don’t get that whiff of alcohol carrying the other aromas like when sniffing gin, whisky, wine, or any other alcoholic drink. So it was difficult to smell much of anything, honestly – just a vague spiciness, a bit like a cold cup of herbal tea. I poured some and had a sip neat. Yeah, totally underwhelming. It tasted like someone had put a chai-spice herbal tea bag in cold water for a while. I normally have gin with soda (I like tonic, but I find it too sweet for regular use), so I added some soda and had a swig. Yeah…. okay. I was kind of prepared to be underwhelmed, but I was amazed at how underwhelming this was as a drink.

I’m not passing final judgement yet – I’ll give it a few more chances – since I have a full bottle fo the stuff now that I paid $50 for. I might actually try it in a martini style drink, with some actual vermouth, and see what that’s like.

And in another topic, yesterday while chopping salad ingredients for lunch, I inflicted a small accidental cut on my thumb. I swear, I really like these new knives I bought a while back, but I’ve been cutting myself with them semi-regularly. I’m sure I never cut myself anywhere near this much with my old kitchen knives that had trouble maintaining a sharp edge.

I see it said often that “a sharp knife is safer than a dull one”, but honestly it seems in my experience that’s simply not true. I’m positive I’ve cut myself significantly more frequently with these lovely sharp knives. It’s not like I’m a knife novice either – I cook nearly every night and have been using knives almost daily for decades. I do get the the sharp knives are nicer to use – I really love them, but dang, they love nicking my fingers.

I’ve set up a new Irregular Webcomic! poll question to explore other people’s experience with sharp and dull knives…

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