Virtual New York meeting: day 2

Well, I skipped day 2 of the ISO meeting, as explained yesterday, and got a good sleep instead. That meant I was reasonably fresh and recharged for the day.

For lunch I took Scully for a walk over to Maggio’s Italian bakery at Cammeray. I could see there was only one slice of salami pizza left in the window, which is my usual choice. And when I looked at the sweets for the daily specials I saw one remaining apple pie (individual serve size). I’ve never seen apple pies there before, and the little sign said “Award Winning Apple Pie”. Okay, I knew what I wanted.

But the woman being served immediately before me ordered the last salami pizza slice. Another staff member served me and I said, “Oh, I see the last salami slice has gone.” She said to me there was more out the back and dashed off into the kitchen area. But now I was worried that someone else would get served while I was waiting and order the last apple pie too! The woman came back after a minute and said sorry, there was no salami pizza ready. So I selected the capricciosa instead with mushrooms, ham, and olives – and quickly said I’d have the last apple pie too before it went. Phew! She packed that for me while the pizza heated up.

OMG, I can see why it won an award. Pastry was rich and crumbly, just solid enough to hold together. Filled with delicious stewed apple chunks with cinnamon, a hint of coconut, and custard! I think it’s the best apple pie I’ve ever had. Really worth the hike.

In the afternoon I did some comics stuff. My wife had a watercolour painting class this evening, so we ate dinner early. Pasta with spinach and tomato sauce, around 6pm. After she left for the class, I slid into bed to try to get some sleep for an hour or so before tonight’s all-night ISO meeting. I didn’t succeed very well, but at least I closed my eyes for a bit.

And tonight I have to last through the full New York day of meetings, from 11pm to 7am in my time zone. Let’s see how I go!

Finally, two photos I took yesterday down by the harbour. You can see the wind by how stiff the flags on the Bridge are, and the choppiness of the water.

Windy day in Sydney

Windy day in Sydney

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King’s birthday classes

Today was the King’s Birthday public holiday. Which still feels weird after it having been the Queen’s Birthday for my entire life before Charles took over from Elizabeth. So my wife was home from work, while I had to do my usual 6 ethics classes, since they don’t respect Australian holidays (unless I want them to).

But today was the last classes for a full week, since I am taking a week’s break from them to give me room and time for the ISO Photography Standards meeting happening from Wednesday to Saturday – in my time zone – it’s Tuesday to Friday in New York where it’s physically being held. It starts lunchtime Tuesday in New York, which means for me getting up at 3am on Wednesday morning for the first session, which I’ll be attending via Webex videoconference.

After my first four classes in the morning, we went for a walk with Scully, around Waverton and the harbour shore. We went past Botanica Garden Cafe to see what was up with the closure and if there was any indication that it might just be temporary or if it looked permanent. The tables and chairs in the courtyard had been removed and there was no sign indicating anything in particular, so it looks like it might be permanent.

And then to make things even worse, we continued down the street and walked past another favourite place, the Waterview, only to find that it had closed too, and the shop had been gutted of all the furniture and counters! It was a cafe by day and an Italian restaurant in the evenings and had great food.

I’m not sure I can take any more closures of good food places nearby!

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Better fish and chips?

Today I worked on writing some more Irregular Webcomic! strips. I did half a batch last week, and this week it’s time to do the other half of the themes in the batch, for photographing tomorrow.

For lunch we went on a walk to Naremburn. Normally I get something from Cornucopia bakery, but today I felt like trying the fish and chips from one of the other shops. I’ve had them before and remembered they were good. Indeed it was. The chips are crispier than the nearer place I normally go to, and the fish is certainly no worse. Also it’s significantly cheaper, by a couple of dollars. If it wasn’t about twice the distance, I suspect I’d get fish & chips from this place more often than my usual place.

My wife got a green quinoa dish with falafel. It looked like a salad thing and I assumed it was cold, but she said it was piping hot.

This afternoon I photographed a bunch of Magic: the Gathering sealed product which I’ve been hanging onto for a while. I bought a bunch of booster boxes back when my friends and I were still doing regular draft tournaments, and we never got around to opening the boxes and sharing out the booster packs. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to using them, so I’m going to sell them on eBay. I’ll see if I have enough time to list them tomorrow.

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When one door opens another closes

Friday was online games night with my friends. We played Applejack, Just One, 7 Wonders. I actually won the game of Applejack and the first game of 7 Wonders! Much better than my usual record.

The only other event of note on Friday was going out for dinner to our usual favourite pizza place. We both tried new dishes! My wife got the ravioli, filled with spinach and ricotta, in a tomato sauce. I tried a pizza combination I hadn’t had before, with pepperoni, capsicum, mushrooms, olives, and anchovies.

The weather was a bit unsettled, but not raining when we walked up. Fortunately we took our umbrellas though, because it began raining just before we left to come home. I checked the rain radar on my phone and thought it would pass in a few minutes, so we sat and waited for a while. It seemed to be getting lighter, so we set out…

And during the 10 minute walk home the rain began pelting down. Even with umbrellas we were so wet by the time we got home that we had to do complete changes of clothes and hang up what we’d been wearing in the bathroom to dry.

Today my wife was keen to go to the new croissant place that I’d found on Thursday. She’d seen the chocolate hazelnut one that I saved for dessert and wanted to know where it was from. So this morning I took her there. It’s a place called Moon Phase, and it’s a Korean bakery making French pastries, and Korean variants. There are some savoury pastries with kimchee or bulgogi beef, for example.

It was busy there this morning. My wife got the plain butter croissant, while I tried an almond croissant. Really good. Scully got to meet a couple of other small dogs while we were sitting outside at one of the two tiny tables they had. (There was more seating inside.)

My wife looked it up and found that this place had only opened in March this year. But on the topic of food places, she also had bad news. She’d heard that Botanica Garden Cafe at Waverton had closed! You may recall that just over a week ago I started working my way through their all-day breakfast menu. And now they’ve shut down!!

It’s always awful when a good food place closes down. And we recently lost our favourite Turkish restaurant as well, just a few weeks ago.

This afternoon we gave Scully a bath, since she’d been getting wet a lot in the rainy weather and starting to be a little “wet dog” smell.

Oh, and I finally did stage 13 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set. It has an owlbear!

Lego D&D set, stage 13

And myconids!

Lego D&D set, stage 13

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More record rainfall?

It’s pouring down outside as I type this tonight. There are flash flood warnings in place for parts of the state and regular flood warnings for some of the rivers around Sydney. I’ve heard some pretty loud thunder too, as I was teaching my ethics classes a little earlier. With this current rain system, we have a good chance of passing Sydney’s annual average rainfall figure, less than 6 months into the year. This is already the second wettest year on record up to today’s date, beaten only by 2022, which was the overall wettest year on record.

In the classes tonight, talking about dilemmas, I asked the kids who they could ask for help to make a tough decision. I was expecting answers like friends and family, maybe teachers, and hoping for broader answers including professionals (e.g. doctors, scientists, lawyers), or even potentially asking people on the Internet (e.g. StackExchange or even reddit). I was surprised though when one kid answered: ChatGPT. And then in the next class another kid suggested ChatGPT as well!

I did manage to get to the post office this morning before the rain closed in around lunchtime. I found a new place to get croissants, not too far away, and bought a plain butter croissant for a snack, and a chocolate hazelnut one for dessert tonight. I never would have found this place without accidentally stumbling on a recommendation online, and it was well worth the visit. I’ll have to take my wife there one day soon to show her my discovery.

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Special calzones with caramelised fennel

Today was cold. I took Scully for a morning walk and it was pretty chilly.

This morning I sold some more old Magic cards online. I had to make a couple of packages and take them to the post office after lunch. I spent some time working on Darths & Droids comics, scripts and producing the actual strips.

And I started cooing early for a special dinner. I chopped up a whole fennel bulb and fried it up to caramelise it and make it soft, adding a bit of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the saucepan and add flavour. I let that sit for the afternoon. Then this evening I made pizza dough, chopped up some spinach leaves and blanched them quickly. I assembled them into calzones, with ricotta cheese, and baked them in the oven. I’d also made a tomato sauce with chopped onions, garlic, basil, and oregano, to spoon over the top of the baked calzones.

I’ve made calzones before, with either just spinach and ricotta, or mushrooms inside. This was the first time I tried fennel and it was delicious, adding another dimension to the flavours.

I’m also starting to organise our next Dungeons & Dragons session, which is planned for 28 June. I thought we could use another payer, and remembered an old friend who I haven’t seen for a while. She used to play with me and one of the other current players in different games many years ago. If you read Irregular Webcomic!, you’ll know her as the player of Alvissa the elf in the Fantasy theme and Paris in the Space theme. So I sent her an email to invite her to join our current game.

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Okonomiyaki day

I had my usual four classes this morning, taking me right up until 1pm. I had the leftover rice and vegetables from last night for lunch, fried up with an egg.

Then I took Scully for a walk. It was cloudy and cold, but not rainy. Winter feels really cold this year. I think it must be me getting older and disliking the cold more. I considered going for a run in the afternoon after my wife got home from work, but it was so cold and I felt too lazy, so gave that a miss.

During the afternoon I photographed a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, then made the new strips for this week and uploaded them for queuing in the buffer.

For dinner I made okonomiyaki, with the spring onions and cabbage, also grating a carrot into the batter before frying it up in thick pancakes. We ran out of okonomi sauce, so I’ve added that to my shopping list for next time I got to an Asian grocery store.

More classes tonight, not ending until 10pm…

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A brief meeting with visiting relatives

This morning we all slept in. It rained a lot overnight, and we had almost 150 mm in 24 hours, but it had cleared by this morning and it was sunny but cold.

My wife’s nephew and his partner are visiting Sydney from their new home in Auckland, having recently moved there from Oslo. So they’re now a lot closer to home, but still in another country. It was the first chance we had to see them for over a year. There was a morning tea at a cafe with some of the rest of the family. Because it was so cold, they wanted to sit inside, rather than at an outdoor table, so after saying hello I had to look after Scully.

I drove with her to Collaroy where I got pies for an early lunch. We walked over to the beach and sat on the bench looking out over the murky ocean and grey sky. The swell was large and a lot of surfers were out there braving the freezing conditions. After that I drove back to pick up my wife.

We got home at lunch time. I spent the afternoon writing up a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! scripts, which I’ll photograph tomorrow.

And then some evening ethics classes to round out the day. For dinner I made a stir fry with 5 green vegetables: cabbage, broccolini, spring onions, celery, and fennel, flavoured with garlic, ginger, chilli, miso, mirin, and soy sauce, served over brown rice. It turned out pretty good.

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Finished marking, oh my

I had a full day today, five ethics classes. And in between during the afternoon I finished marking all of my university Data Engineering student project reports and presentations.

It was a bit of a slog, because most of the reports were not particularly high quality, with some fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings of how to apply statistical tests and present graphical data. The last report I had to mark was a final breath of fresh air though, as they had actually done the statistics correctly and achieved a decent result for their experiment.

They wanted to determine if brand awareness had an influence on people’s judgement of photo quality. They got a series of photos of the same scenes taken by an Apple and a Samsung phone camera, and made surveys where they showed them side by side and asked people to pick which photo they preferred. In one survey they showed the photos labelled simply as “option 1” and “option 2”. In a second survey with different people they labelled the photos as “Apple” or “Samsung” respectively. And then in a third survey they switched the labels so that the Apple photos were labelled “Samsung” and vice versa. I thought this was a really clever bit of experiment design.

The results showed that out of 200 responses to survey 1 (20 people judging 10 photo pairs each), 96 favoured the Apple photos, and 104 favoured the Samsung. This established a baseline for comparison, which was pretty even. In the second survey, they found 111 favoured the “Apple” labelled photos (which actually were Apple), while 89 chose “Samsung”. And in survey 3, 112 favoured “Apple” labelled photos (which were actually Samsung), while 88 chose “Samsung” (actually Apple). This is a pretty cool result! It really suggests that some people are swayed towards photos that they think were taken with an Apple phone, even if they weren’t. They did a chi-squared test on the numbers, but the p-value was 0.12, meaning there was a 12% chance of this discrepancy happening by random chance. We usually expect a value of 5% or less before we say that it was likely not random, but 12% is pretty close. The problem for this analysis is they didn’t quite have enough data – if they’d received the same proportions with more data it would have been more significant. Anyway, it was a really nice experiment and project and write-up.

The other thing I did today was take Scully for a long walk to Botanica Cafe for lunch. I started working my way down their all-day breakfast menu, from the first item, a “breakfast bowl” of tapioca and chia seeds with preserved mangoes, coconut, and fresh figs and berries. It’s delicious and cinnamony, but a large sweet meal for lunch really filled me up for the afternoon and I was craving something savoury afterwards. I waited for the minestrone that my wife made for dinner, using yesterday’s leftover vegetable soup.

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A potato-ey lunch treat

My Monday morning was full of ethics classes. I squeezed in an early lunch of a falafel wrap because I was getting hungry after an early breakfast. Then after my last class finished at 1pm I took Scully for a walk and we went past the fish & chip shop, and I felt like a bit of a treat. So I went in and ordered just three potato scallops – New South Wales terminology for slices of potato, battered and deep fried. Delicious and hot and oily and salty, just what I felt like to spoil myself.

We’re getting some nice days at the moment. Sunny, not too cold. If winter is more of this, I’ll be happy.

Last night I started watching World War Z, which I’ve never seen before. It really kicks off with a bang! I’m half way through and will finish it off tonight.

Tomorrow I visit Loreto at Kiribilli again to mentor my Year 9 students. The teacher has collected some questions from them and sent them to me. Very interesting! Two of them are asking specific questions about details of the atomic theory stuff I was going over two weeks ago, and the third asked a question about observing objects at cosmological distances. I’ve been thinking about how to approach discussing these and think I have a good plan for tomorrow.

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