Golf lesson

This morning I had a golf lesson – my first lesson ever, even though I began playing a bit over a year ago. The lesson was great. The pro loosened up my swing a lot, got me to do a bigger backswing and bigger follow through. It felt a bit out of control, but the greater momentum meant the club path was actually more smooth, and I connected more cleanly more often. And hit the ball way further than I’ve ever hit it before.

We started with a 9 iron, which I could hit maybe 80 metres on a good day. Within 10 minutes he had me hitting it 100… 110… 120… metres or so. I was quite literally hitting the ball and just going, “Oh my god… look at it go…”

Then we moved onto the driver, which was the main reason I booked a lesson. I’ve been unable to hit the ball at all with any consistency with the driver. More often than not I was mis-hitting and skewing the ball sideways, or dribbling it about 20 metres along the grass. I could only hit it cleanly maybe one stroke in 4 or 5, and then it would only go maybe 120 metres.

With my newly modified swing, I was hitting it cleanly 9 times out of 10. And it was flying. We were practising on practice tees directly adjacent to the first tee. The hole is 193 metres long. Two of my practice drives landed on the green. (I wanted to run up and putt them for birdies, but had my lesson to finish!) I did slice a few off to the right, but I know how to correct a slice, and usually my next drive was straight.

After such a good lesson, I wanted to practise a bit more and consolidate what I’d learnt, so I paid for a round of 9 holes and started right away, playing by myself and hitting two golf balls (counting strokes for each ball separately, so it’s effectively two simultaneous rounds). My driving was a lot better than it’s ever been, but I still hit a few stray tee shots. Unfortunately my short game was a bit off today, which held my score back a bit. My previous best two scores on this course were 49 and 53. Today I scored 52 and 53 with my two separate balls. Both could easily have been lower than 50 if I hadn’t had a couple of blowout holes with badly missed chip shots and bunker shots. (I did look for the practice drives I hit earlier onto the first green, but other players had removed the yellow practice balls already.)

There was one incident of note. I teed off on the 4th hole, a shortish par 3 hitting over a creek gully. Both my balls landed just off the left edge of the green, about 5-10 metres from the hole, which was placed near the left edge of the green. But by the time I walked over to putt, a greenkeeper had moved the hole about 15 metres further away to the right, and was plugging up the hole I’d aimed at!! I took this photo as soon as I’d walked over and around the back of the green (so it’s looking back towards the tee, where the guy in the white shirt is standing in the background). You can see my two golf balls in the foreground, and where the hole was when I teed off:

Hole 4, Lane Cove

My friend who started me in golf tells me that moving the hole while you’re playing it is outrageous and the greenkeeper should have waited for me to finish putting before starting work on it. But this is a cheap and very casual suburban course, not a fancy expensive one, so I guess the staff are much more relaxed about everything. Oh well. It maybe cost me an extra stroke on each ball having to putt that greater distance, but who knows.

I’m still pleased that my lesson was so productive, and am looking forward to playing again soon!

Tonight (as I write this) is an impromptu online games night, but before that I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully. We went to our favourite seafood restaurant. They had a dessert special…

Orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse

It’s an orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse, and some almond praline. This is not the fanciest dessert I’ve ever had, but I’m a huge fan of cherries and chocolate together, and this was definitely one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had. It was ridiculously good.

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Lots of vegetables

Because of my scheduled golf lesson tomorrow morning, I moved grocery shopping to from Friday to Thursday and did it this morning. I bought a bunch of different vegetables for the week ahead: cauliflower, zucchini, potatoes, red capsicum (or pepper to non-Australians), green beans, and mushrooms. That should be enough to mix and match for a week’s meals, when combined with pasta, rice, lentils, and other stuff from the pantry.

When I got home I discovered we still have broccoli that I bought last week, as well as the Brussels sprouts that I knew we had. I cooked the sprouts for dinner tonight with garlic and chilli and miso paste, and we had that as a side to some hemp burger patties. Basically, we’re loaded with vegetables.

Last night I started watching a new movie on Netflix, #Alive. I enjoyed Train to Busan, so another Korean zombie movie seemed like a good idea. I stopped halfway through to go to bed at a reasonable time and will watch the rest in a day or so. I’m enjoying it so far. It even seems like it could be set in same time/events as Train to Busan. I wonder if they’re meant to be part of the same continuity.

I’ve also just watched the second last episode of The Queen’s Gambit, which has been enthralling. I’m looking forward to the final episode.

In other news, the Australian Museum had a ceremony today before reopening on Saturday after a long closure for extensive renovations. This has always been my favourite museum in Sydney, and I’m very excited to go visit soon and see what it looks like now. I’ll have to make a trip some day before school ends for the year and it gets overrun with students every day.

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My personal summer

Today I began my usual summer ritual of switching to cold showers. Yesterday I had my last warm shower for the next few months, barring unusual circumstances. I do this every year, usually some time in November, switching to cold showers for the summer. I usually reach the end of March before going back to warm showers; sometimes a week or two into April, depending on the weather as it cools down into autumn.

The weather here has really started to warm up in the past week or so. More than that, it’s gotten humid. Last year it didn’t really get humid until about February – the early summer was very hot and very dry, which of course led to those awful fires we had. But the switch to a La NiƱa pattern in the Pacific has brought a cooler, moister trend to eastern Australia. So hopefully a lot milder fire season, although the problem this summer may be storms and flooding.

Today was a relaxing Sunday mostly. My wife and I took Scully on a long walk this morning before it got too hot. We stopped at the bakery to buy some bread, getting a white sourdough load, and also a fig and walnut sourdough loaf for a sweet treat. My wife wanted to get some challah, but I remembered when we arrived and didn’t see any that they only bake that late in the morning, so it’s only available after about 11 am. So I chose the fig and walnut loaf instead.

Both loaves were still hot from the oven, and even after walking all the way home (over 2 kilometres), the fig and walnut loaf was still deliciously warm as we cut it open and had some simply spread with melty butter.

My wife and I played a couple of games of Codenames Duet, continuing our campaign after a bit of a break. We successfully completed the Bogota city game, but failed with a first attempt at Dubai.

And finally this afternoon we had Luna from next door over to play with Scully for a while. It’s a bit weird having another dog around. Even though they look somewhat similar, I feel like Scully is very familiar and I know her personality very well, and she’s almost like a little person. Whereas Luna just feels like a dog and is somewhat unpredictable. She’s also very face-licky – you need to be on your guard unless you suddenly want Luna to run up and lick you all over the face. Scully doesn’t do that, thankfully!

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A tale of profiteroles

This morning I drove my wife and Scully down to a local market a few suburbs away, so she could browse around and then walk Scully home for some exercise. She bought a box of profiteroles from a bakery stall there…

… which we took to her mother’s place after lunch to share with the family. They were pretty good.

I didn’t do much else today – it was really kind of a relaxing day off.

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Sweet treats are made of this

On our weekend trip last weekend my wife and I found a hidden gem in the town of Berry, a place called The Treat Factory. In the grand tradition of little country towns, this was a place that manufactures all manner of chocolates and lollies, and as well they also do a line in jams, mustards, sauces, and similar things. While there, we browsed the stuff for sale, and I saw… liquorice rocky road. I had to buy some.

Liquorice rocky road

This is part of the chunk I brought home. It’s like rocky road, but it also has liquorice allsorts in it. Wow… what a brilliant idea! I’m halfway through eating it and it’s just as awesome as it sounds.

And while on sweet treats, I have a special dessert I made for myself today to have during fortnightly games night. I started with cream and Arnott’s Choc Ripple biscuits. And some rum:

Choc Ripple cake

I whipped the cream, and then folded in some mascarpone (not shown separately) and added a dash of the rum. Then made alternating layers of cream and biscuits.

Choc Ripple cake

The final result is covered and placed in the fridge for several hours, to allow the cream to soak into and soften the biscuits. Essentially it’s like a poor man’s tiramisu. I heard about this from a friend who was making it himself a few days ago, and he claimed it’s a classic Aussie dessert that everybody knows – although I’d never heard of it before. Other friends of mine said they knew it, but oh well..

Choc Ripple cake

The other main thing I did today was make Darths & Droids strips. Oh, and grocery shopping. Not much to report there really. Except blueberries have gone up from $2 a punnet to $2.50. They’ve been cheap recently and I’ve bought some every week to go on my muesli, but it looks like the price is starting to go up again.

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Stormy Saturday

Saturday began with a sleep-in, after last night’s games night ended quite late.

It rained during the night – nay stormed. I was woken by thunder around 2am. The rain had cleared by morning though, and the morning was intermittent light showers, but the forecast warned of heavy rain developing throughout the day, culminating in more storms tonight.

I took Scully out at lunch time while my wife had some appointments, but I didn’t want to walk too far in case we got heavy rain while we were out. So I drove over to a nearby suburb and the Italian bakery that we go to sometimes (it’s a longer walk than our other bakery), where I got some lunch. Italians are not known for meat pies, but being a bakery in Australia means you tend to adapt, and these guys have done a great job coming up with a chicken pie. Most places just chop up chicken meat and cook it in a sauce, but I believe this bakery must roast their chicken, before deboning and pulling it to pieces and then making a sauce around the already roasted chicken, with lots of vegetable chunks. It’s like a delicious chicken casserole in a pastry case.

And being an Italian bakery, they do a baked ricotta cheesecake, which is to die for. The ricotta filling is whipped and light and creamy. Truly excellent stuff.

After eating these treats on a bench nearby, Scully and I took to the car again and went over to the home centre where the pet shop is. I needed to buy her some more canine toothpaste. We try to brush her teeth every day, to protect them from decay.

This afternoon, with heavy rain falling outside, my wife and I played another Codenames Duet, finally conquering Baghdad in the campaign. We played a flawless game, and it was most satisfying.

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Fish & chips & magpie

This morning I did the weekly grocery shop. There wasn’t much on the shopping list today, so it was a fairly light one. But the supermarket has started one of its periodic things where they move everything around for no reason, so it took me longer than normal to find things. The cheese is now where the eggs used to be, the eggs are where the yoghurt used to be, the yoghurt’s where the juice used to be, and so on and so forth. I’m sure they only do this to confuse shoppers and make them spend more time in the store. And I guarantee in a year they’ll do it all again.

Workwise I mostly spent the day doing comics stuff.

For lunch I went for a walk to the fish & chip shop and then down to my favourite eating spot.

Fish box lunch

That’s actually a “lunch box” special, with the chips replaced by potato scallops. And this guy tried to get close enough to steal some of my lunch:

Hungry magpie

I actually got several closer photos, but he was so close that the phone-camera didn’t focus properly. It’s an Australian magpie, by the way. They can be extremely bold, and even aggressive, although not as aggressive as silver gulls. Except when swooping during nesting season, when magpies are significantly dangerous. (Which is right now, but this one wasn’t protecting a nest, thankfully.)

Hungry magpie

I had to keep shooing him away, and managed to retain all of my lunch for myself.

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Sneaking out for high tea

Scully was due for a groom at the dog groomer’s place today. We dropped her off at 10am, and my wife and I decided to use the time to sneak off into the city and get a high tea at The Palace, a fancy tea room in the Queen Victoria Building.

We took a train into the city, which felt a bit weird because we haven’t used public transport much at all since COVID-19 began. Normally on a Saturday morning the trains would be fairly full, especially getting close to Christmas like this. But today they were fairly empty, with only a handful of people spread out at sensible distances inside the carriages. And the city itself felt really empty, rather than the usual bustle of people.

But we had a good tea. I have to admit that when the servings came out, I was a little underwhelmed at the portions, having expected a bit more. But the food was very rich, and by the time we finished it, we were both very full and didn’t need anything else.

High tea at The Palace

Indeed, although we began at 11am, it pretty much did us for lunch and we didn’t need anything until dinner time. Although I had an early dinner, around 5pm, because my friend organised a game of golf with another friend of ours, at the par-3 pitch-and-putt course where we’ve gone several times. And for something different, we played a twilight/evening game today, under the floodlights that they have at the course.

Night golf

It was interesting and fun, although occasionally it was difficult to see where a ball went. I played moderately well, scoring 81, 2 strokes off my best on the course of 79. I would have done better except for a terrible blow-out 7 on one hole where I tried to pitch the ball up a slope to the green three times, falling just centimetres short each time and having the ball roll back down the hill to roughly where it had started.

Night golf

The sunset was nice, but the moon rising in the east was amazing, a deep red colour due to smoke in the air from controlled burning operations taking place at the moment, to forestall another bad fire season over the summer.

Oh, an I also baked a batch of brownies today, both to take to golf and share with the guys, and also for a family lunch gathering that we’re having tomorrow.

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Audio Proofs that the Earth is a Globe

Today I uploaded a bit of a project I’ve been working on. A week or so ago I was talking to my mother and I told her about my 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe project. She’s moderately interested in sciencey stuff and said it sounded fascinating. The problem is, her eyesight is deteriorating badly and she can no longer read. She used to be an avid reader, but has been forced to switch to audio books.

So I said I could record myself reading the articles, and send her audio files. I started with an introduction, and then launched into the first few proofs. She loves them! So I’m going to keep recording more. And today I uploaded what I have so far and linked the audio files from the Proofs index page. So far I have the Introduction and the first 6 proofs recorded. I’ll be adding more over time.

Today I also did the weekly grocery shopping, a day earlier than usual, because I had a plan for dinner and I needed an ingredient, so I decided not to make a separate trip to the supermarket. The plan was to cook cacio e pepe pasta, and I needed some Pecorino Romano cheese. I had a bit of trouble finding it, since there was none in the cheese cabinet where the fancy imported cheeses are. But I found some in the regular cheese section where the bog standard sliced cheddar and stuff was, so that was good.

I grated some of the Pecorino with some Parmigiano Reggiano, and then ground about a teaspoon of black pepper. I cooked the pasta, and also cut some asparagus into small lengths and microwaved it briefly to add a bit of vegetable into the dish. When the pasta was cooked, I mixed it all together, and – the unusual touch – added a splash of lemon juice. Just enough to give it a hint of lemon tang. It turned out really good! And my wife loved it too. I’ll definitely be cooking this again – especially as I have 2/3 of the Pecorino left.

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Take the cannoli

This morning, I intended to spend a quick few minutes cleaning up an old photo or two, scanned from prints that I’d taken on a camping trip back in 1993. Before I knew it, I’d spent most of the morning cleaning up and colour adjusting a dozen or so photos.

Newnes Hotel

This is the Newnes Hotel, built in 1907, as a pub and general store for the small mining settlement of Newnes, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. They mined oil shale there, but the mine was closed in 1932. Now the hotel operates as a general store and visitor information centre for bushwalkers and campers, since the area is remote and surrounded by the Wollemi National Park. There some abandoned runs of the town that you can visit.

Newnes ruins

For lunch today I took a long walk a couple of suburbs over to an Italian bakery – another one of our favourite bakeries in the area! I got a chicken pie for lunch, and a chocolate cannoli for a sweet treat. They also do vanilla cannolis and ricotta cannolis, and they’re all good.

I took a slightly roundabout route home to get some more walking done, and I stopped at an upmarket grocery store near the bakery to buy some fancy imported pasta from Italy. Local pasta is fine, but the imported Italian stuff has a different texture to it, and is really nice, so it’s worth an extra dollar or two now and then.

While in there, I noticed they had packets of sourdough crumpets reduced to sell as they were approaching their use-by date. Normally these crumpets are $7 for a pack of four(!), but they were reduced to $4.90. Still over a dollar a crumpet, but I decided I could splurge and try them to see how good they were. Regular crumpets from my usual supermarket cost $1.85 for a pack of six, or under 31 cents each. The normal price for these sourdough crumpets is $1.75 each, almost six times as much. That’s really quite insane. Even at the reduced price, they’re over four times as expensive as normal crumpets.

Anyway, I tried one when I got home, and they are actually very nice. But not over $1 a crumpet nice.

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