Golf and Ramen

Missed last night’s update, so I’m writing this on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday my friend Andrew suggested we play a short round of golf at my local course (where we’ve played before). We assembled there at 07:30, and teed off at the first hole. We both hit our first drives handsomely down the fairway, drifting a bit to the right near a clump of trees maybe 120-130 metres away. We chatted as we walked off to locate our balls. We found them:

Tee shot balls, hole 1

Over 100 metres from the tee, and the golf balls were within half a metre of each other! I hit first because I was about 5 cm further from the hole.

As our round continued, it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a good day, for either of us. We both struggled to hit later tee shots, with several dribbling just a few metres and necessitating trying to smash the ball 100 metres or more out of thick grass, or worse, leaf litter and sticks in close proximity to trees. I scored my worst score on this course for 9 holes: 66, my previous worst being 64. Oh well, at least we got out and had some exercise!

We returned to my place and played a few games: Fluttering Souls, Claim 2, and Codenames Duet. Then we headed up the street to get some lunch somewhere.

We didn’t have anywhere in mind, and walked past a tiny Japanese place that I’d seen before, but never gone inside. It had a hand-written sign outside advertising $12 ramen for lunch. That’s cheap for Sydney, so we poked our noses under the hanging cotton banners to have a look and the man behind the counter said, “Would you like some ramen?”

We said, “Sure!” and went in to grab a seat at the small bench.

Ramen Shimizu

The menu was simple. The hand-written sign stuck to the array of roughly a thousand different types of Japanese whisky read: “Lunch Menu: Mon-Wed. Tonkotsu Ramen $12 (this is the only option)”. So we had the tonkotsu ramen.

Tonkotsu Ramen

It was thick and rich and absolutely delicious. This is an absolute steal for $12.

Andrew headed off and I returned home. In the afternoon I dealt with some administrative stuff for ISO Photography standards, as well as trawling AirBnB for accommodation for a short Easter road trip that My wife and I are planning. We’re taking Scully with us, so we needed to find places that allow dogs to stay, which cuts down on the options a bit. We couldn’t even find affordable accommodation in Orange, where we’d planned to spend a couple of nights, so had to reconfigure our itinerary and instead decided to visit Singleton, where I found a suitable place to stay.

New content today:

Cheesemaking!

Today I made three more Darths & Droids strips, which builds us up a nice buffer in the run-up to beginning Star Wars: Episode VII. I also discussed some of the aspects with the fellow writers online.

One of my friends decided to start a Google Docs spreadsheet listing all of the games that we have in our group, so we can know what’s available for Friday Night Games, and for borrowing from one another. So I spent some time going through my collection and filling in spreadsheet rows.

And the other thing I did today was make some cheese! I got my wife a cheesemaking kit for Christmas, and we decided to give it a go today. The kit makes a few different types of cheese, and we selected feta as our first attempt. It’s pretty easy, but it takes several hours of waiting around for the milk to curdle and the bacterial culture to start working. At the end of the waiting we had curds that could be scooped into cheese moulds:

Curd scooping

The cheese is now draining for a few more hours before being flipped upside down to drain even more overnight. And then tomorrow it goes into a brine solution, and voilĂ , we’ll have feta!

Curds in moulds

At least I hope we will. I’ll tell you what it tastes like when we try it…

New content today:

Games night and comic discussion

Last night was fortnightly Games Night again, which is why this update is a few hours late. It’s really early on Saturday morning, and I’m up because Scully apparently really needed to go out in the rain at 5am to sniff the grass. The rain has been on and off, but that’s definitely better than off for the past 4 months. It’s now so wet that the trees are weeping with joy:

Blood rain

And there are frogs roaming the streets!

Fence frog

I spent much of yesterday sorting and collating a couple of boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards that my brother had lying around. I’m planning to sell a bunch to get some money for him, since I have experience at doing this.

Games Night started early, so we could go over scripts for upcoming Darths & Droids strips. We also had a discussion about the future of the strip, and moving into Star Wars: Episode 7-9 now that 9 has been released. The logistics are going to be very different because we no longer work together, so can’t dedicate lunch hours to writing strips together in the one room. We decided that we have plenty of ideas for Episodes 7-9 and would like to make a story out of it, so we’re going to start on it and see how it goes.

The plan is that I will outline plot action for several strips and try to write skeleton dialogues for each strip, perhaps without punchlines if I can’t think of any. And then we’ll have short discussions, either in person at Games Nights, or via voice chat on Discord or something, to go over the scripts, fill in gaps, write punchlines, and tweak them with suggested changes. Hopefully this will be enough to enable us to go back to publishing three strips a week as we did before. We’re not sure if this will work long term, so it’s going to be a bit of an experiment to start with. But the gist of it is that we’re now ready to start Episode 7 after we wrap up the Muppets episode.

We moved on to games. First up was Werewords, a bizarre cross between Werewolf and a twenty questions type of guessing game. Since each game takes only about 5 minutes, we played several times. The young daughters (ages 8 and about 10?) of our host watched the first few times, and then decided they wanted to play too. They did really well, each one being the critical component of a victory for their side.

After the girls’ bedtime, we moved on to try The Shipwreck Arcana with four players, while another two played Marvel Champions at the same time.

The Shipwreck Arcana

Shipwreck Arcana is a very interesting logical deduction game. You draw two numbered tiles, then play one on a tableau of pseudo-Tarot-like cards which have rules for which numbers you can play on them, and everyone else has to work out what your unplayed tile is, by examining what you chose to play (and what you chose not to play). Everyone’s working together to guess a certain number of tiles before time runs out. We managed to win the game without too much difficulty – I think we got a moderately lucky shuffle of the deck. I can see how it could be a lot trickier.

New content today:

Visiting my brother

This morning I went to visit my brother and pick up a few old games from his place. I took over my game Azul, and taught him how to play, and he showed me a new game he’d got recently, Unspeakable Words, which was fun. Then he showed me his new PlayStation VR headset and after I looked at one of the VR demos I played a bit of the VR Golf game. The VR experience is pretty good, and it was fun. The golf swing mechanism was a bit artificial, but I adapted pretty quickly and I think enough experience form playing for real leaked across that I was able to hit the ball reasonably well after a few tries.

We had lunch at a pizza place near his place, and then I came home. I took Scully to the dog park this afternoon, and now this evening my wife and I have just watched most of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 – pausing it until tomorrow so we’re not up too late.

So… a fairly relaxing day.

New content today:

Unabridged writing

Early this morning I took to the local golf course to hit a ball around and get some exercise. I felt like I was doing poorly today, mis-hitting a lot of strokes, but I ended up scoring 60 (for 9 holes), which is only 3 worse than my best on that course, so I suppose that’s not too bad.

Back home I dedicated the day to doing some writing. I’m working on starting a series of tabletop roleplaying game supplements, which I hope to offer for sale through DriveThruRPG, to try and turn this time away from a job into some sort of income. I started jotting down ideas about bridges as significant structures in an adventure campaign, and I’ve got a few thousand words of stuff. I think I need a few more days of work to polish it up and format it, and then see about setting up a seller account.

So hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll start seeing RPG titles from me available. I have a whole bunch of other ideas for PDF gaming books as well. The ideas are actually the easy part – the hard part is spending the time to write them up as coherent and useful text!

New content today:

Safety and games

My aunt has made it out of the bushfire danger area, after four days stranded at her holiday home, cut off from all external access by the bushfires. The road reopened briefly and emergency services personnel escorted vehicles out to safety in small groups – in case damaged trees fell across the road and cut travellers off, they wanted to make sure they knew where everyone was. She’s now back with family and safe. Whether her holiday house survives today is another story which we have to wait and see.

To take some pressure off, last night I attended the fortnightly games night of my group of gaming buddies. I played a game of 7 Wonders: Duel with the host while waiting for others to arrive. I hadn’t played this game for several years and was trying to remember strategy on the fly, so was at a bit of a disadvantage, but I managed to only lose by 2 points: 64-62, so I was pretty pleased with that.

When others arrived we had dinner, and then launched into a game of Wingspan.

Wingspan game

Rather than collect birds with lots of activated powers, like most people do, I tried a very different strategy, going for birds that gave me extra Goal cards, and then trying to fulfil as many of the goals as possible. I ended up with 4 Goal cards, requiring me to collect: birds that only nest in wetlands, birds that only eat invertebrates, birds with wingspans under 30cm, and birds with anatomical body parts in their name (e.g. roseate spoonbill). I managed to maximally fulfil 3 of the 4 goals, and partly complete the fourth, for a total of 25 goal points, which was way more than anyone else got. The issue was I got zero egg points, and moderately low scores for the other point categories. I was worried that pursuing a radical strategy might not be viable, and I’d lose by a lot, but it turned out those 25 points helped me to third place out of 5 players, not far behind second place, so again I was fairly happy with that result.

New content today:

Christmas Day

My first task this morning was to bake the ham that we’d be taking to Christmas lunch at my wife’s family gathering. This is not a large gathering – there were only eight of us, plus a few drop-ins who showed up briefly. So I’d bought a very small ham to avoid ridiculous amounts of leftovers. Which meant it took only a bit over an hour to bake.

We packed that and the remaining lentil balls and drove over to my in-laws’ place, which is a small waterfront property on Sydney Harbour. It has easy access to a small secluded beach which is never very busy. Anchored offshore were several yachts and small cruising boats, with people having their Christmas lunches on the water, and spending time leaping into the harbour to cool off from the warmth of the day. The weather was warmish, but relatively mild for this time of the year, which was nice.

We had pre-lunch nibbles – cheese, crackers, dips, breadsticks. Then the gifts were handed out. Scully got a few, and enjoyed tearing the wrappings off:

Scully opening Christmas presents

Then was lunch: ham, turkey, lentil balls, roast potatoes and pumpkin and carrots and onions, salad, bread. And then dessert: traditional Christmas fruit pudding, ice cream, and a deconstructed pavlova platter which my nephew made, with custard, cream, and tons of fresh fruits: passionfruit, mango, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. This was a really great dessert, as everyone helped themselves to exactly the proportions of pavlova, custard, cream, and fruit they wanted. It was delicious!

Deconstructed pavlova grazing board

After the meal we lazed around for a while, too full to do anything else. Then my two nephews and I decided to go for a swim down at the beach. We took Scully as well, so she could run around and play on the sand. I didn’t swim for long, but did a couple hundred metres of freestyle stroke out from the beach into deep water amongst the boats and back. There are supposedly bull sharks in Sydney Harbour, but I’ve swum here many times and never seen any.

Following the swim, we pulled out some board games. We played a couple of games of Codenames and then Azul (which my wife won handily).

By now it was evening and the tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the TV had begun. My wife and I watched a bit of it with everyone, and then headed home for the remainder of the evening.

New content today:

Friday/Saturday Double

I missed yesterday’s post because I was out most of the day, so I’ll cover Friday and Saturday now to make up for it.

Friday morning I had a meeting at Standards Australia, chairing the committee on photography standards. I caught a train into the city, where Standards Australia has their offices in the Australian Stock Exchange building. So you have to check in and get a security pass, and the lifts have this weird operation where you swipe your visitor card and a lift comes and takes you to the floor you’re allowed access to, without you having to press any buttons – in fact the lifts have no buttons at all inside them.

We have committee members form various research and cultural institutions, as well as representatives form industry and professional photography associations. I reported on the work done at the international standards meeting in Cologne that I attended in October. One particularly interesting project is updating the formulation of visual noise measurement in photos, to revise the current international standard. Experimentally, the current definition doesn’t correlate very well with human observer opinion on how much noise is in an image. People from several countries have been doing experiments designed to derive and then verify a new formula based on image statistics – including an experiment that I ran in December 2018 (while I was still employed). The work is approaching the final stages and a revision of the standard should progress through the approval process in the next year.

After the meeting closed, I walked through the city to do some Christmas shopping. For someone I wanted to get some classic thriller movies, so I checked out a major retailer and their BluRay section. They had a bunch of Hitchcock films, and I thought I’d get Psycho and Vertigo. Both were available for $12.95, but Psycho had a discount sticker on it saying “2 for $20”, while Vertigo had a sticker “Buy 2, get 1 free”. I grabbed them and went to the counter and asked if they could treat the second sticker like the first and give me both titles for $20. The person said no, the stickered items were very strictly applied, and they couldn’t change the discounts. Feeling cheated of a bargain, I walked out empty handed.

A few blocks south, there was another shop of the same retailer, so I went in to see if their stick was any different. Again Psycho and Vertigo for $12.95, but here Vertigo had a “2 for $20” sticker, while Psycho had no discount sticker. If I’d managed somehow to get Psycho from the first shop and Vertigo from the second, I could have had them both for $20! But at this shop they again refused me the combo discount, so I stubbornly refused to buy either of them. If the stickers are “strictly applied”, how come the same titles are stickered differently at different shops??

Anyway, I progressed through a series of other shops, buying gifts along the way. The shopping areas were moderately crowded with Christmas shoppers, but not as bad as it’ll get in the next few weeks. Then I headed home on the train again. The sky was very grey and smoky still from the bushfires, but it seemed higher up, and not clogging the ground level with smoke like it had on Thursday.

After a brief stop at home, I set out for fortnightly Friday games night at a friend’s place. We started early, to give us an hour and a bit to write some Darths & Droids comics, at which we made good progress, writing four new strips. We’re still finishing off the Muppet storyline, and haven’t started work on The Force Awakens yet. We’re planning a group viewing of The Rise of Skywalker when it’s released in a couple of weeks, after which we’ll sit down and figure out our storyline through the final three films.

Then it was into games! We started with The Quacks of Quedlinburg, in which each player is a quack doctor, brewing magic potions in an attempt to sell them to suckers patients, in order to buy more ingredients to make more profitable potions:

The Quacks of Quedlinburg

This game was interrupted a bit by several of us veering off to play Magic: the Gathering games to complete the high-powered cube draft we started back in September. The final few games were completed, and Steven ended up winning, while I managed to come dead last, despite being the only person who knew in advance what cards we were going to be playing with! While this was going on, other players played hot seat in the Quacks game, taking over as other people subbed out to play Magic. I started the game in one seat, but returned later to take over another seat, from where I managed to come second in the game – while the seat I started in came last!

After this, we split into two groups to play two different games. I ended up playing Wingspan, which I’d never played before. It’s a game of collecting different birds, using food to gather them, and then they lay eggs, and various other things happen that score points.

Wingspan

This was two rounds in; I was playing the board at the bottom with the red cubes, and I thought I was going rather poorly. But by the end of the game:

Wingspan

I had a lot of birds, with a lot of eggs. My birds were not worth many points compared to the other players, but I had so many eggs that I won the game by 3 points! (89 on the score sheet in the photo.) It was a fun game, and I’m definitely keen to try it again.

The other guys were all ribbing me during the game, saying I’d find factual errors or stuff on the bird cards, since I’m interested in birds. I don’t recall the details, but I certainly made some erudite bird comments during the game, which only served to prove their point!

I got home late, so didn’t make a post last night. Today, Saturday, I spent the morning cleaning the bathroom and then making one of the new Darths & Droids strips that we write last night. And then after lunch my wife and I went out with Scully to a market, to meet her mum and sister there. Scully got to chase ducks and geese, which I don’t think she’s seen before. The geese were three times her size, but she was keen to chase them! The market ate up the afternoon, and then this evening we went out for dinner at a Greek place near us – that was established in 1969, so is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Today was warmer, and the sky a smoky grey all day. This smoke is really starting to get to people, me included. It feels like we haven’t seen blue sky for weeks. And the outlook isn’t good either, with forecasters saying it will most likely hang around Sydney for weeks, if not months. Blah.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Delta Dog training

Last night was fortnightly games night with the guys. We played Azul: Summer Pavilion, which I picked up last weekend:

Azul: Summer Pavilion

And Deep Blue, one of the games I got in Essen:

Deep Blue

I didn’t win either game, alas.

But on to today: After Scully passed her Delta therapy dogs exam last weekend, my wife had her training scheduled today. The training is for human handlers only, so I had to look after Scully for the day.

We dropped my wife off at the training place before 9am this morning, and then Scully and I drove back home. She was a bit distracted on the trip, and kept putting her front paws on the armrest console, thus activating various buttons. She does this occasionally when in the car with just a driver. She can turn the radio on and off, change the station, one time she set up a new favourite station. Today she managed to activate the satnav and store a new favourite address!

Back home, she relaxed in her dog bed while I made a new Darths & Droids strip. We went out for a bit of fresh air in the park across the street, and then it was time to go get some lunch. We drove back to a bakery near where my wife was training, and I got some pies for lunch. We walked over to a nearby park where Scully could run around and chase a tennis ball. The park is on a slope running down to Drummoyne Oval, where a grade cricket match was in progress.

Watching cricket at Drummoyne Oval

At one point I tossed the ball, and it rolled down the hill with Scully chasing it… but she’s not a terribly agile dog like some others, and generally has to wait for the ball to roll to a stop before she can pick it up. I could see what was going to happen and ran after her, but by the time we got to the bottom of the hill, the ball had rolled under the fence and into the cricket ground. I could see it, some 10 metres inside the fence. So we had to walk around the outer fence to find a gate that was open, and then go inside the spectator area, and walk around the edge of the playing field while the game was in progress, to retrieve her ball. Fortunately grade cricket matches don’t charge admission for spectators, so we could get in and out without any trouble.

After an hour of playing in the park, we went to pick up my wife. Her training went fine, and she’s selected some hospitals near us that she’d like to visit with Scully as part of the Delta program. They won’t start until early next year, but she’s pretty excited.

New content today:

Games night!

Late update, because last night was fortnightly games night with friends. I took my new games acquired at Spiel in Essen, and we played Walking in Burano:

Walking in Burano

And Deep Blue:

Deep Blue

Burano was a hit. Deep Blue I think we need to play a few more games of, and with more players. We had four players for Burano, which was great, but two more people arrived after that, and Deep Blue only supports up to five, so we split into two groups of three. The box says Deep Blue plays in 45 minutes, but we took almost 2 hours to play the first game. It’ll speed up as we become more familiar with the rules and strategies, but my feeling is that more interaction with more players will be better as well.

We also played a new game that AS brought, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, a magic potion brewing game which was a lot of fun:

Quacks of Quedlinburg

Earlier in the day I wrote a few scripts for Darths & Droids, hoping to be able to go through them with the guys before games started. But AS was hosting, and it’s difficult to do at his place since he doesn’t get home from work until later, and by then everyone just wants to get started on the games. So we’re going to review the strips over online chat this weekend – hopefully in time for Sunday’s new one to be published!

Doing that, and other stuff, meant i didn’t have time to complete that 100 Proofs entry I started on Thursday. Maybe today??

New content today: