The Incinerator Cafe

This morning I worked on annotating the slides for one of the science classes I did with the individual student a while back – the one on weather. I planned to do that and the recent one on photography by 10am, but by 10:30 I’d only finished the first one! It takes a lot longer than I realise. After that I had to work on some comics to keep them ticking over.

For lunch I took Scully for a short drive to a new place. I searched for dog-friendly cafes in the area and found one I hadn’t heard of before, The Incinerator Cafe. It’s in an old heritage-listed garbage incinerator building. It was fairly nice, and I had the beef burger.

Beef burger, Incinerator Cafe

It was okay sitting outside, as it was cool and very overcast today, though it didn’t rain at all. We’re supposed to get some rain over the next few days, but the temperature will warm up again to around 30°C.

Tonight I’m starting the new week of ethics classes, on the topic of photography. I’m using a lot of my own photos as examples, to discuss the ethics of taking photos of strangers, editing photos in different contexts, photojournalism, and photos as art. I think this will be an easy week, compared to some topics that take a lot more work to get the kids talking about.

New content today:

A new cafe for lunch

After my two morning classes this morning I took Scully for a walk and I decided to try a new place for lunch. There’s a cafe just a block off one of our usual walking route, so we took a short detour to the Botanica Garden Cafe at Waverton. We walked down the hill from this overlook spot, where theres a view of Waverton Station, looking towards the city:

Station with a view

The cafe has an open garden area outside, with shady roofing and umbrellas and trees. The menu seems southeast-Asian-inspired, and I ordered some chicken, pork, and calamari spring rolls with a Vietnamese salad.

Spring rolls and Scully

It was delicious! There were some other nice looking things on the menu as well. So I’ll have to add this to the list of places within walking distance where I can take Scully for lunch.

This afternoon I worked on comics, as well as some planning for tomorrow’s Dungeons & Dragons game.

I don’t think I mentioned it before, but I’ve also started work on learning Japanese on Duolingo. I figured with a trip to Japan coming up in June, it was a good time to start, even though I’ve also fairly recently started on German. I wondered if Duolingo would concentrate on teaching spoken Japanese, but the very first lesson throws Hiragana characters at you! So it looks like I’m learning those.

New content today:

Fruit classification

Well, the weather forecast for Monday has been increased in temperature to 38°C for Sydney. Which is going to be the hottest day here for over 2 years (because of the unusually cool weather we’ve been having due to the La Niña for the past few years). Good news: our new air conditioner has been delivered. Bad news: it still won’t be installed until Wednesday. So, we’re stuck without a functional air conditioner on the hottest day for over 2 years. It’s not going to be fun here tomorrow.

Today I assembled a week’s worth of Irregular Webcomic! strips, and wrote and made a new Darths & Droids strip. I also planned some new future lessons for my ethics classes, which in a few weeks will tackled the topics of Photography (for ages 10-12) and Death (ages 13-15).

And for a bit of fun today I drew up a diagram of fruits by botanical definition. This is a long-standing humorous topic between me and my friends, when we point out that various things are or aren’t fruits by various definitions. I was prompted to actually make a list and then a diagram by my current reading of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, which contains technical information about many foods.

So here’s the diagram:

Diagram of fruits

The groupings are by botanical definitions. The green line encircles what people generally refer to as “fruit” in culinary terms. I showed this to some friends and got the comment that they didn’t consider avocados to be culinarily a fruit. I was a bit surprised. I don’t eat avocados myself – they’re one of my least liked foods – but I did have the impression that most people considered them to be fruits. (I consider them to be horrible slimy things.)

They also questioned rhubarb. Now I don’t mind rhubarb, but I’ve never bought it or prepared it myself. I personally don’t consider it a “fruit” in a culinary sense (because it’s so obviously a stalk), but I’ve read that a lot of people do, which is why I included it in the green curve.

New content today:

Galettes for lunch

Today we had a family lunch at another branch of the French crepe place that we go to for dinner sometimes. We drove over and sat at an outdoor table that we’d booked. Fortunately the weather was cooler than yesterday and overcast, so we weren’t exposed to the sunshine. The savoury galettes and sweet crepes at this place are great, and we all had a galette, followed by most of us enjoying a sweet crepe for dessert.

After this my wife and I went to a nearby shoe store to get some new sports shoes. My running shoes are starting to get a bit worn out, so I plan to use the new shoes for that, and keep the old ones for a while just for walking around in. My wife also got new shoes for similar reasons, though she does aerobics and not running.

Most of the time at home today I worked on my next class lesson for ethics, on the topic of Exploration. I wanted to get this done today, because I’ll be busy with ISO Photography meetings Monday to Wednesday, and will have less time to do other things like this. And since it starts at 7am tomorrow, I’m going to get an early night tonight…

New content today:

Tiny cafe, good food

Most of today I spent working on new lessons for my ethics classes. I wrote a lesson on “The Future” for the age 10-12 group, and started work on “Sport and Politics” for ages 13-15.

For lunch I walked with Scully up to the railway station, where there’s a tiny cafe. It’s been there for ages, but I’ve only ever popped in to buy a sweet treat like a brownie of a caramel slice or a florentine. Some time back I noticed they have a fairy decent looking food menu, and thought I should try it some day. But for a long time I’ve neglected it, my mind automatically turning to other options when I think about going to get some lunch out.

But I noticed the menu again recently, and today I decided to make the effort to go there and try it out. It’s an Asian menu with a mix of Thai, Korean, and Malaysian dishes. I chose the satay chicken skewers and rice today. (That’s Scully in the background of this photo.)

Satay chicken at station cafe

It was really good. Now I definitely want to go back and try the spicy chicken curry, the bulgogi beef, and also the beef rendang. And maybe one or two other things. They also do burgers. And crepes for dessert!

The really amazing thing is this cafe is super tiny. The whole building is only about 3 by 4 metres in size, with three dining tables crammed in the space in front of a small counter. Behind the counter is a tiny bench with a toaster oven on it. And the whole thing is run by a little old lady. How on Earth she can turn out a dozen different Asian dishes, burgers, and crepes from that tiny space is beyond me. I presume she has a rice cooker under the bench, and … maybe a portable hotplate or something. I dunno, maybe she’s just working genuine kitchen miracles in there.

Anyway, it was delicious and I’ll be going back.

New content today:

Big lunch trip

This morning I photographed my latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I was very efficient and done by 11:30, so I decided to reward myself by taking Scully on a drive out to the beach, so I could get some nice pies at my favourite pie shop, and then take Scully for a bit of a walk by the beach.

Scully at Fisherman's Beach

I bought a Thai vegetable pie, a satay chicken pie, and a vanilla slice (the Aussie version of the classic French mille-feuille) for dessert. We sat and ate in a shady spot on the grass right by the beach, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. But as we walked out there from the pie shop, we passed a new gelato shop that has sprung since the last time I was here. I like gelato, so I wanted to try some. So, on the way back after letting Scully run around a bit on a nearby playing field, we popped into the gelato shop.

It was being operated by two girls, about 12 years old, with no adults in sight. It was a small place and there was no door to a back area where anyone else might have been lurking, so I can only assume the girls had been left to run the place completely alone. I don’t know about other countries, but this is not entirely unusual here—to go into some sort of shop and be served by a child—especially given the fact that we’re currently in summer school holidays.

Phoenix gelato

I’d like to report that the gelato was excellent, but in fact it was decidedly average. Not bad, but not great. At least I tried it, and gave the girls some business. Oh, they were very generous with the serving size, I must say – I got way more than I expected.

Back home tonight I started the new week of ethics classes with a new topic: Buying and Selling part 3. This one is mostly about supermarket tactics to get shoppers to buy more stuff, and opportunistic pricing. I had a couple of new students in the three classes tonight, and they seem good. I hope they enjoyed the class and return next week.

New content today:

Electric power to houses

A thing I forgot to mention yesterday: At the start of one of my online ethics classes, I was expecting two prior students, plus one new enrolment, who I’ll call Barb (not her real name). One of the prior students arrived, and then a minute or so later Barb connected to Zoom. I could only see the thumbnail video until she spoke, and it looked very dark. I waved and said “Hello Barb, welcome to the class”.

The video went from thumbnail to the main window and I could see an adult woman in a dark room. She looked sleepily at the camera and said, “What’s happening? I got a message on my phone saying there was a Zoom on now…”

I said, “You’re Barb’s mother?”

And she said, “There must be some mistake. It’s 1 am here. She’s asleep.”

I said, “Oh… there must have been some time zone mix-up!” I told her to check, in the morning, the time on the class and I’d contact her through Outschool to help work it out. I deduce from the time she said it was that she must have been in the US Eastern time zone. Outschool is supposed to show users all times in their own time zone, so I can only guess that she must have had her time zone set incorrectly in her user profile. So that was pretty strange. I just hope she got back to sleep okay!

Today I finished off the week of classes on the current topics, with four of the age 10-12 classes. In between I started work on writing a new class for this group, for the week after the next one. I’m trying to stay a full week ahead in my prep (as I think I mentioned before). I had a one hour break from 12 to 1, and took Scully for a walk to the fish & chip chop, intending to get some fish & chips for lunch to eat on the way back. But the shop was closed for summer holidays! Some businesses do this here, close for a few weeks in December/January so the staff can have some vacation time over the summer. So I had to walk Scully back home quickly and make myself a quick lunch at home to be done and ready for my class at 1pm.

I took her for another walk again around 5. While I was walking, I did a bird count using eBird, so I was looking around at things, and I noticed an interesting thing with some of the houses I was walking past, and their connections to the overhead electricity wires. The area around here has a lot of older houses, and they generally have the wires supplying electricity strung from the street poles directly to a terminal on the top of the house. Like this:

Wires to house

There are also several properties where the old house has been demolished and a more modern house has been built. And in almost all of these, the wires are not strung to the house itself, but rather to a pole erected just inside the property boundary. Like this:

Wires to pole

Presumably the wires go down the pole and then into the house underground. I’m wondering why this is such a popular choice for new houses. Do the owners make this choice to route the wires this way via a pole on their property, or is it some sort of new requirement by the council? I have no idea. And why string the wires to a pole??

In another interesting piece of trivia, I got talking with some of my friends in our Discord about how many different animals we’ve eaten. We did a survey by emojis, and I thought I’d copy the results here. The number indicates how many of us have eaten meat from the animal in question. This number includes me, except where indicated.

🐂 – 7
🐖 – 7
🐑 – 7
🐓 – 7
🦃 – 7
🐟 – 7 (generic “fish”)
🦘 – 6
🦀 – 6
🦞 – 6
🦑 – 6
👠 – 6 (’eel)
🐐 – 5
🦆 – 5
💪 – 5 (“mussel”)
🦪 – 5
🦌 – 4
🐗 – 4
🐊 – 4
🦈 – 4
🐙 – 4
🦐 – 4
⭐️ – 4 (sea urchin)
🐇 – 3
🐪 – 3
🦢 – 3 (goose)
🐥 – 3 (quail)
🐎 – 2
🦬 – 2
🐌 – 2 not including me
🦙 – 1
🐕 – 1 not including me
🦤 – 1 (pigeon)
🦩 – 1 (emu)
🐢 – 1 not including me
🐸 – 1 not including me
🦗 – 1
🐜 – 1
🐛 – 1 not including me (witchetty grub)

New content today:

A nice lunch out

Today was my wife’s last day off before returning to work after the Christmas/New Year break. We decided to have a special lunch out, and we walked with Scully down to Blues Point, where there’s a small area of a few shops and restaurants on the main street running down to the harbour. It’s a little over a half hour’s walk away, but we go there sometimes and have tried an Indian and a Spanish restaurant there.

We wanted to try what I thought was an Italian place, but it turned out to be more generically “Mediterranean”, meaning a mixture of Greek and Italian food.* It turned out to be a little rustic – the sort of restaurant that’s probably been there unchanged for 30 or 40 years. The building looked like it hadn’t been renovated in that long, and the menus were simple folded thin cardboard sheets that looked like they’d been handled by thousands of people, with the edges worn and the ink fading.

We had some pita bread with dips (hummus, tzatziki, and taramasalata), and I had fettuccine with prawns and chorizo, while my wife had the haloumi and watermelon salad. The dips were very generous and the pasta was delicious. It was all really good.

We walked a longer way home by a different route for variety, and to tire Scully out for the afternoon. We made it home not long before the overcast turned to rain and thunderstorms. This is a cool change that’s forecast to turn our 28°C days into 23-25°C for the next few days. Pretty chilly for the middle of summer.

* It’s an interesting thing that “Mediterranean” food means different things in different countries. Here in Australia, if you say “Mediterranean food” people will assume you mean Greek/Italian. Whereas I noticed when visiting England a few years ago that all the restaurants that advertised “Mediterranean” food were serving what we would call Middle Eastern food – Turkish/Lebanese dishes.

New content today:

Day out in Berrima

Today we went out for a driving day trip, my wife, Scully, and myself. We’d booked a lunch at the restaurant Eschalot in Berrima, which is about 90 minutes drive from home, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

It rained overnight here in Sydney, and cleared up around breakfast time. I checked the rain radar and saw a few showers lingering around the Southern Highlands area, so I suggested we should take umbrellas just in case. We took the M5 motorway out of Sydney, heading south-west and then on to the Hume Highway. Where it started to rain. Heavily.

Really heavily. It got so hard that all the traffic on the freeway slowed down to about 50 km/h for a while, with visibility down to maybe 50 metres or so. The temperature also plummeted. I was expecting warm weather, since it’s summer and it’s been warm in Sydney. But by the time we got to Berrima, it was only 15°C. And pouring rain.

We were there just after 11:00, and so had an hour to kill before our lunch reservation. Normally we’d walk around the small town, but with rain pelting down we used our umbrellas and dashed into a shop to browse around indoors a bit. Then, because the town is spread out, we raced back to the car and drove down the street to find a parking spot closer to the restaurant, where we could dash inside a few other shops. We also tried to get Scully to do a toilet on some grass, but given the rain and wetness and unfamiliarity if the surroundings with people walking by, she was reluctant.

We went into the restaurant and they had a table set up for us outdoors (so we could sit with Scully), under a marquee which was very well protected from the weather by clear plastic sheeting. It was a really nice set up.

Rainy day table at Eschalot

They had a few tables out there, but we were the only ones eating outside.


We had a selection of dishes, including pork belly, fresh curd, charred onion & rosemary consomme, garden peas:

Pork belly, fresh curd, charred onion & rosemary consomme, garden peas

And dry aged sweet potato, almond, labneh & pomegranate:

Dry aged sweet potato, almond, labneh & pomegranate

For dessert I had lemon tart, macadamia crumble, white chocolate mousse, frozen curd:

My loves lemon tart, macadamia crumble, white chocolate mousse, frozen curd

The rain eased a bit as we ate, but didn’t stop. I did manage to take Scully out to the grass and get her to toilet though. We scrambled back into the car, trying not to get too wet, and headed off. We stopped at the nearby town of Bowral to check the Gumnut Patisserie and grab some sweets to take home. I really wanted a vanilla slice, as this bakery has won prizes for theirs and it really is amazingly good. But unfortunately they were sold out, so we left empty handed.

We drove back to Sydney via a different route, crossing the mountains to the coast via Appin, and then north from there. This was an interesting drive, on a road I’ve never been on before. We arrived home about 5:30pm.

Total distance driven: 282 km. Here’s a map of our driving route:

Map of route

New content today:

Reuben lunch

Today was my wife’s regular scheduled Wednesday off work. We dropped Scully in for a wash and groom at the dog groomer and then we drove out to a suburb I’d never heard of before, Wheeler Heights. I’d suggested yesterday that we grab some lunch somewhere and my wife said she didn’t want anything fancy, just a sandwich or something. So I searched for the best sandwiches in Sydney, and found a place called Tothy Brothers Deli, which boasted a delicious sounding menu. Most of the other places on the list I found were either in the heart of the city, or in less convenient suburbs, so I chose this one.

We drove there and I chose the Reuben sandwich. Now, any Americans reading this will no doubt know what a Reuben is, but it’s not very well known or popular in Australia, and so it’s difficult to find anywhere that makes them. In fact, this is the first place I’ve ever been to in Australia that has offered a Reuben on the menu.

I remember the first time I ever had a Reuben. It was in Baltimore in 1991, when I was doing my Ph.D. and spending some time studying at Johns Hopkins University. The day I arrived, I checked into my accommodation and went wandering in search of dinner. There was a deli right near where I was staying, so I walked in and looked at the menu. I saw “Reuben” and I’d never heard of it before, so I ordered it, and it felt at that time like the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted.

I’ve since tried Reubens again in Salem, Massachusetts, and Burlingame, California, and neither were as good. Today I had my fourth Reuben sandwich, and the first one in Australia.


It was really good. I will have to go back to this sandwich place again some time.

Also, they had muffins. It looked like they baked a batch of just the one flavour, which I assume they change each day. I ordered one without even asking what it was, because they looked so good. It turned out to be mango and passionfruit and oh my goodness, it may have been the best muffin I’ve ever eaten. So moist, and laden with fresh fruit. I had to stuff it in after the Reuben, but it was worth it.

We ended up not cooking anything for dinner just eating a few toasted crumpets and a mango. Lunch was definitely the big meal of the day!

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