Random Sunday events

I did a longer run today. I am in a small online group where we share running updates. The group purpose is described as: “For those who enjoy running. And for those who don’t enjoy it but do it anyway.” I’m definitely in the latter set!

Anyway, someone yesterday posted that they’d completed their 5k for September. Which reminded me that I’ve been thinking of doing another 5k for a while, and getting one done before the end of the month seemed like a good goal, so I got out and did it today. That’s twice my normal distance. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I at least feel familiar and somewhat comfortable running 2.5k, but 5k feels like a serious effort. I managed it in 27:00 flat, which is my third best time over the distance. And Strava also told me that my 2-mile split was my fastest 2 miles, at 16:49. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

So good that I probably ruined the health gains by having two sweets at lunch. My wife and I walked with Scully to the Italian bakery (which is nearly 3km away, so almost 6km return walking trip). I got a chicken and leek pie, but (1) they didn’t have my favourite banoffee croissant, (2) the pies there are on the smallish side, (3) a pie and a banoffee croissant are filling enough, but the croissant is quite large, (4) I was tempted instead by a chocolate/pistachio scroll, (5) which is notably smaller in size, (6) I was really hungry after my run, (7) they had a tray full of bomboloni, which I’ve wanted to try before but they’ve always been sold out when I’ve looked for them. So I got the chocolate/pistachio scroll and a Nutella bombolone.

At last I asked for a Nutella one. The woman behind the counter confirmed, “A custard one?” I repeated, No, a Nutella one.” She gave me a box, and I walked out with my other purchases to find a seat to sit on with My wife and eat our lunches. After eating the pie, I opened the box. It was a custard bombolone. My wife took the hint that I was mildly incensed and took it back to the bakery for me and exchanged it for a Nutella one.

It was pretty nice, although I missed my favourite banoffee croissant.

This afternoon I tried to estimate my ELO chess rating. One of my friends is into chess, and has been relaying to our group news about the current feud between Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann (yes, it has its own Wikipedia article), which we’re all metaphorically munching popcorn over it as new developments occur. We saw the report of the tweet by Grandmaster Maurice Ashley:

This is shocking and disturbing. No one can be happy that this is happening in the chess world. Unbelievable!

One of my friends pointed out that we’re all currently much more excited and happy about chess news than normal.

Anyway, I’ve never played chess seriously in any sense, but I was curious if there was some quick online test I could do to estimate my rating. I Googled and found a few quizzes, but they involved analysing some 80 boards and submitting moves, and they said don’t spend more than 5 minutes on each board… And there’s no way I was going to invest that much time into this. But I managed to find a ten board quiz, and spent a total of maybe 5 minutes with it. It estimated my rating at 1335, which I originally thought sounded ridiculously high, given my amateurish experience with the game. But a bit of research shows this is the realm of the “hobby player”, one step below the level of anyone who plays in a local chess club. Which sounds more reasonable than what I thought it meant. A few of my friends tried the same quiz and got 1400, 1435, and 1590.

Okay, so remind me never to play chess with them. 😀

New content today:

Welcome to the Moon

Friday night was board games night at a friend’s place. A few of the regulars couldn’t make it, so it was the four of us. We had a barbecue for dinner, with sausage sandwiches, with plenty of onions of course.

First game off the rank was Welcome to the Moon, a sequel/variant of Welcome to…, which we’ve played a lot both in person and online during our virtual games nights. In this new version, it’s themed along establishing a moon colony in the retro-future of the 1970s (compared to the original game, which was building a 1950s style housing estate). There are actually 8 separate boards to play, which are effectively 8 different games. In all of these games, you flip up a set of 3 communal cards, and each player selects one of the three to score – writing it down in various different scoring zones on their personal board. It diverges very quickly, as each person chooses different things and ends up with their scoring board filling up in different ways, which begins to add constraints on further scoring.

We played the first Moon board, which is a rocket blasting off, and then skipped a few and played one about building residential towers under a dome on the moon. They were very different and indeed like two different games. I lost the first one, but scored an equal victory in the second one.

After this we played Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. All players start out as fantasy adventurers, exploring a part of the city, until events lead to one of the players being revealed to be a traitor/monster. At that point, the traitor gets a special rules scenario to read, while the other players get the matching hero scenario to read. These establish different winning goals for each side. In the game we played, I ended up being the traitor, and my goal was to kill at least 2 of the other three players before they could escape. Unfortunately this proved far too difficult, and the heroes escaped from my evil clutches. So they all won and I lost.

To round out the night we played several rounds of Apples to Apples. This is a good light game to end the night on as we were starting to get tired and thinking about heading home.

Other things on Friday: grocery shopping, and a couple of ethics classes.

Saturday: I spent much of the day struggling with writer’s block, trying to complete one new Darths & Droids strip. And avoiding going outside during the rain. Except for attempting to take Scully for a walk during a dry period, and ending up getting rained on halfway.

New content today:

Games night and comicking day

Friday was games night at one of my friends’ place. First up we had a quick game of Draftosaurus. I actually managed to win this one, with a big collection of diverse dinosaurs in one pen that got me a lot of points.

After that we played a new game: Awkward Guests. It’s a bit like Cluedo, only done right, without the superfluous dice rolling and moving around a game board. And there are hundreds of clue cards, which can be combined in multiple ways to construct many different crimes to solve. The piecing together of clues is clever and fun, and it really requires some thought to play effectively and hopefully pin down the murderer correctly and first.

After that we played a game of 7 Wonders, an old favourite online, but with physical cards, which is something we haven’t done for many years. And then we split into two groups of 3 players each and I played Quacks of Quedlinburg – I don’t remember what the other group of 3 played.

I didn’t win any of the other games, but had fun, so that’s all that matters!

Today (Saturday) I did my 2.5k run early, and then spent much of the day writing and making new Darths & Droids comics. I need to get a few queued up before the trip to Orange that I’m taking with my wife and Scully from Tuesday.

I’m also trying to use up all our vegetables before we leave. I was talking with my wife about how to divide them up into dinners, and we decided tonight to make mushroom and zucchini risotto. Tomorrow will be mushroom and spinach pizza, and Monday will be spinach and potato dhal.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

1980s roleplaying night redux, and a wet Saturday

Friday night I ran my 1980s kids adventure roleplaying adventure again, for my second subgroup of friends. It was the same adventure, but it proceeded very differently! Here’s a summary, courtesy of one of my friends who described what the second group (made of five players) did, for the benefit of those in the first group (to compare notes):

The B team went to gawk at whatever was happening at the lighthouse. We saw the dead body of the lighthouse keeper, who appeared to have been drowned for some time and then partially eaten. Mutterings in the crowd talked about this being similar to events 25 years ago. The lighthouse keeper’s dog came and befriended one of us.

We went to the back of the lighthouse, observing that it appeared to have been struck by lightning. We opened a window and took a look around inside. We didn’t see much at that time, but later when the police had left and closed the door we re-entered through the window and looked around the house itself. We read the logbooks and discovered that bad things happened to the lighthouse keepers every 25 years after a storm on June 1.

Back in town, we found out (I forget how, might have been from the fortune teller) that there was a shipwreck 100 years ago. We held a seance with the fortune teller and found out that the captain of that ship blamed the lighthouse keeper for the wreck and deaths of everyone, and somehow this translated into killing the lighthouse keeper every 25 years.

We were then transported to the past (one possible explanation, anyway), and managed to keep the light lit and avert the shipwreck. We were returned back to the present and found that the lighthouse keeper was alive and well after all. We returned his dog to him and got ice cream.

After he posted this on our group chat I mentioned that the first team’s adventure started the same way, but diverged at the word “opened”. Instead, the first group smashed the window with a slingshot(!), and then proceeded to climb through the broken window.

Both groups found a wet patch on the floor of the lighthouse tower (presumably where the lighthouse keeper’s body was found), but no clues as to how he died or who did it. The A team left and decided to check out the library to find out what happened 25 years ago. They found news stories from 1957 (25 years before the current date in 1982) saying the lighthouse keeper then was found dead under mysterious circumstances after a storm on the same date – and that 2 days later his dog was found dead. They continued looking back every 25 years, finding similar occurrences in 1932 and 1907. But in 1882, on the same date, was a storm that resulted in the wreck of the Warona, a cargo clipper. All hands were lost, except the cabin boy, one James Winchester. They used a phone book to look up any Winchesters in town, and discovered only one, living in the local nursing home.

The A team went to visit Mr Thomas Winchester, and discovered that he was the son of James Winchester. He told them the story of the wreck of the Warona, and that his father had told him how the lighthouse light had gone out as the ship was trying to reach safe harbour during the storm. They expected it to be relit, but it wasn’t, and without guidance the ship was wrecked on the headland. James suspected the lighthouse keeper was cowardly and didn’t bother to relight the lamp, thus causing the wreck.

The A team decided the logical thing to do was to go to Shipwreck Cove and try diving to take a look at the wreck. There they encountered a creepy ghost/kelp/thing that scared them. As they fled the scene, a storm whipped up and in a flash of lightning they were transported to the lighthouse in 1882.

From here the stories converged again. Both teams found the light out – and also that the lighthouse keeper had fallen down the stairs and was lying with a broken leg, unable to climb up to relight the lamp. (So it wasn’t his fault after all!) They relit the light and saved the ship.

The A team concluded their version of the adventure by going back to the nursing home to tell Thomas Winchester what happened, only to find that they had no records of a Winchester ever having lived there.

So, it was very interesting running this adventure twice with two different groups, and seeing the different choices they took through it!

Today, Saturday, the weather closed in. We have rain forecast every day for the next week again. Not too much here in Sydney, but further north parts of the state are getting hammered with hundreds of millimetres of rain again. These are the regions that have already suffered three major flooding events this year, and the ground there is still saturated, so even moderate rainfall is likely to trigger flooding again.

My wife and I took Scully for a lunchtime walk during a break in the rain, but it started up again halfway home and we got pretty wet, even with umbrellas. Scully was soaking, so we gave her a bath straight away.

We’ve also been planning a short trip. We’re going to take a drive out to Orange to stay for a few days in a couple of weeks. We found a hotel that has dog-friendly rooms so we can take Scully. We’re really looking forward to it! But today I spent some time going through all my Outschool classes and notifying parents and students that I’ll be taking a week off from teaching the classes.

New content today:

1980s games night and Saturday

Last night I ran the 1980s kids adventure roleplaying game that I’ve been working on. I had four players, playing 11-year-old kids in 1982. I don’t want to reveal any details of the adventure yet, because I have a second subgroup of friends who will be playing the same adventure next Friday during virtual games night. We all want to see if they handle the adventure differently, and compare notes afterwards. So suffice to say that the evening and the game went really well!

Today I went on a long walk with my wife and Scully to the distant Italian bakery. It rained a bit while we were out, and Scully got pretty wet, but fortunately it wasn’t too cold. They had the banoffee croissant special again, which is just so amazingly good that I can’t pass it up any time I see it there.

I spent most of my at-home time today working on new Darths & Droids comic scripts. I had a bit of writer’s block, alas, and broke it up with that long walk, and a 2.5k run. The run was a bit slow, since I was full of banoffee croissant! Tonight for dinner I made okonomiyaki.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

A late storm

The weather forecast for today was ominous: heavy rain beginning from around 8 am, totalling 10-25 mm. But it didn’t turn out that way. There was not a cloud in the sky when I took Scully out for a morning walk. And it remained bright and sunny all morning.

I took her out again for a walk and to get some lunch at midday, and it was still very sunny, and warm. Although it’s still winter, we got up to 22°C. But as we walked home, I could see dark clouds building up on the horizon. The cold front came through after 1 pm, and the temperature dropped rapidly to 12°C. But the rain was localised, and it didn’t start where I am until a couple of hours later, while other parts of the city were getting hammered. Now it’s raining steadily, and the temperature has dropped further to just 7°C, which is really cold for Sydney.

Besides watching the weather, today I worked on material for Friday’s roleplaying game. I used DALL-E to make an invitation image to advertise the game to my friends.

Agate Beach banner

I shared this with them. I also made a map of Agate Beach, the tiny west coast US town where the adventure is set. It’s a real town in Oregon, and I’m basing the game map on the real map, but with some modifications. I’ve also got some new ideas for how the adventure will flow.

And this evening I began the first three classes on this week’s new ethics topic: Friendship. One question I ask: Is it important that friends be of a similar age to each other? It’s interesting hearing kids discuss this. They’re 10-12 years old, and they can’t even imagine having a friend as old as 14 or 15!

New content today:

What did I do today?

Let’s see. I picked up the groceries this morning. I went for a run. I drove out to pick up my wife and Scully when they got caught in the rain on the way home from the dog groomer.

Oh, I prepared character sheets for the players in the roleplaying game that I’m going to run next week. I made a sheet template and then filled it in with stats, skills, advantages, flows, equipment, and character sketches that the players had chosen. They got to adjust some skill scores, which just took a few minutes. So they’re all ready to play.

And tonight we’re in the middle of online games. (I’m typing as we play 7 Wonders.) We played some Jump Drive to start, and I won a couple of games. I came second in a game of Bärenpark. And I’ve just lost badly in 7 Wonders.

New content today:

A day of assembling comics

Today I spent time making comics out of the photos I took yesterday. I only made five, and wrote annotations for them, as I had some other things to do. So there’s still a whole lot more to assemble, but that five will last for the coming week.

Last night at board games night, we played three games of Werewords, then a new game called Fantastic Factories.

This is a tableau building game where you roll dice, collect resources (energy and ingots), and use them to build various factories and industrial things that allow you to cascade into producing more resources and other stuff, and also collect points. In the building phase, everyone rolls their handful of dice simultaneously, and decides how to spend them – each die can be used to draw an extra card, or rolls form 1-3 can be used to gain energy, while rolls from 4-6 can be used to gain ingots. The thing is that you gain energy equal to the die roll (so 1-3 for each die), but for ingots you gain just 1, no matter what number is showing on the die.

Two of us got this wrong (since it was our first game). One friend of mine was taking 4-6 ingots for each die, and so gaining a huge advantage. My mistake was the exact opposite: taking only 1 energy for each die showing 1-3, rather than 1-3 energy. So I was handicapping myself. (It was possible to do this because everyone plays their dice rolls at the same time, so nobody is really watching what anyone else is doing to check on them.) Another player made a different rules error. In the end we joked that the winner would be the only person who didn’t realise they’d been playing illegally the whole time. But you kind of expect this thing on a first learning game. It was fun, and will be worth another play, now that we all know the rules!

After that we played an old favourite: Ra. We played this a lot back in the day, when we all used to work at the same company. Unfortunately, I had an utterly shambolic game. It’s an auction game played over 3 rounds, scoring points for collecting sets of various tiles that you win in the auctions. You start with 10 points (since it’s possible, though unlikely, to score negative points in a round), and then normally you’d expect to score around 5-15 additional points per round. In the first round I scored 2. In the second round I scored -2. That’s right: minus two. In the last round I scored 9 points, but I finished squarely in last place with a total of 19, behind people with total scores ranging from the 30s to 50s. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bad game of that! Lucky I play for the social interaction!

New content today:

A day of writing comics

My break from producing new Irregular Webcomic! strips is almost over… so I got stuck into writing a new batch of comics today. I just finished, in the middle of the evening – phew! That’s actually faster than a lot of other times, when it can take two or three days to write a batch of scripts. Tomorrow I’ll try to photograph them all and then have the weekend to assemble them.

Apart from that I didn’t do much else. I took Scully for a walk at lunch time and got some fish & chips to eat. We went down to the ferry wharf to enjoy the waterfront a bit while I ate.

Oh, I’m finally organising a date to play the 1980s “kids with bikes” roleplaying game adventure that I’ve written. I’ve recruited several of my friends, and we’ve decided to do it twice, in two separate sessions with different players. One group will play face-to-face at a games night which I’ll be hosting at my place, and then a week later the other group will play online using Zoom. After both groups have played the adventure, they can compare notes and see how they fared compared to each other. I’ve been sitting on this adventure for a long time, so I’m very keen to finally run it.

New content today:

Games night and walky day

Friday night was online games night, so I didn’t have time for a blog entry. We played a bunch of the usual suspects. I tried a very different strategy in Splendor this time, after losing badly last time. Last time I concentrated on buying as many cheap cards as possible to build up my power to purchase things without having to collect lots of gems – but by the time I was ready to get rolling and buy lots of point-scoring cards, the game had ended. Someone told me that that wasn’t a great strategy – you have to start buying more expensive cards earlier. So this time I started buying some of the second-tier cards as soon as I could, saving up lots of games to do so. Only at one point I ran into the rule (that I’d never noticed before) that you have to discard down to 10 gems at the end of your turn. So I wasted a whole turn grabbing extra gems that I then just had to throw away! Anyway, the result was just as bad as last time I played. I was just getting into a groove and planned to purchase some valuable point-scoring cards in my next two turns… and the game ended! I never got those turns, and came last, again.

The other main thing I did on Friday was attend the Standards Australia meeting on photography, which is a follow-up to the ISO meeting I attended in Cologne back in June. I had to present a report on that meeting, which is really the main part of the local meeting, bringing all the Australian experts up to date. It was the first face-to-face meeting we’ve had since COVID began, so it was good to catch up with people again. And we have a new project manager at Standards Australia (who ran our last meeting via Zoom), so it was nice to meet her for the first time.

I slept in a bit this morning. I needed some catching up on sleep, as a neighbour has a baby which has been crying a lot at night recently. I worked mostly on comics today, but took a break early in the afternoon to go on a long walk with my wife and Scully, over to the good bakery. We just had some small pastries for afternoon tea – I had a cheese danish.

New content yesterday:

New content today: