Busy busy Monday

The start of a new working week! I had a lot of chores and tasks I wanted to get done today. First cab off the rank was a 5k run. The weather was a lot cooler than last week, which I think helped, and I felt a bit more at ease through the last few laps than last week, and ran a better time of 27:32, so that’s good. Although I’m beginning to think the 26:32 I ran a few weeks ago might have been a GPS glitch that credited me with more distance in a shorter time somehow, as I haven’t been able to break 27 minutes since.

I had some errands to run, visiting the post office to mail some things that somebody bought from me, and then a tailor to drop off a jacket for alteration. I got a new lightweight cotton jacket on the trip to the city a week or so ago, and it’s good, but the breast pocket is weirdly sideways – it opens on the side rather than the top, and I feel that as soon as I put anything in there it will just fall out unless I button the flap over it, which is just annoying and not normally something I do with pockets. So I put it in to be altered by removing the flap, stitching up the side, and unstitching the top, to turn it into a normal pocket. I don’t quite understand how any clothing designer could thing a pocket that opens on the side and not the top is a good idea. I had to wait about 15 minutes in the tailor’s shop because there was a woman in there ahead of me, having a dress altered, and she was wearing it and making lots of little adjustments and the tailor was putting pins in all over the place, and it honestly took about 15 minutes until they were done and I was served.

I spent the afternoon writing Irregular Webcomic! annotations to fully finish off that batch I started working on last week. And picked up Scully from my wife’s work and took her to a nearby park (not our usual dog park, which is a short drive away) for some ball chasing. There was a woman there with a boy about 6 or 7 years old, and he was keen to throw the ball and have Scully chase it, so I let him do that a bit.

The conversation with my friends about the definition of a game slopped over into today, with someone suggesting the following:

I’m imagining a pastime in which people take turns drawing cards with activities named on each card, such as Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, or Snakes and Ladders [or maybe even soccer, or crossword puzzles], and then attempt to refine an evolving definition of “game” such that there are more cards in front of that person meeting that definition than anyone else. This proceeds until someone draws a card named “This Pastime” at which point the pastime ends, and either the current definition of “game” encompasses the pastime itself, in which case someone may win, or else the definition does not encompass the pastime, in which case the people were not playing a game after all, it was merely a pastime.

New content today:

What is a game?

We had a little bit of a Sunday sleep-in, but not much. My wife and I took Scully for a long walk around the neighbourhood on our favourite route, and she got lots of running and ball chasing in. Later this afternoon we invited Luna, the poodle who lives next door, over for a play date, and she and Scully went bananas for half an hour. This is good, because it means they get tired and sleep well.

Besides doing some comic annotations I spent some time chatting with friends about matters arising from virtual games night on Friday. We played a custom implementation of Scattergories, and one of the categories was “Games played outdoors”, with the starting letter of “S”. Someone answered “Sports”, which caused much discussion over whether it was a valid answer or not.

The player argued that sports are indeed games played outdoors, and thus his answer should be valid. Others of us argued that the category was meant to encompass things like soccer and tennis, not an all-encompassing class of things like “sports”. This led today to a discussion of how to clarify rules of the game so as to define more clearly what sort of answers are acceptable.

In another example, someone had answered “Seven Dwarves” for “Movie characters”. Most of us thought this was perfectly fine, but the guy whose “Sports” was disqualified on a vote argued that this was the same sort of answer and should also be disqualified. This led to us today trying to reason out what about “Seven Dwarves” made it seem like a correct answer while “Sports” seemed like a wrong answer. An analogy was made: If the category was “Birds”, would “avians” be acceptable? Some of us thought yes, some thought no.

We eventually came down to a clarification that the answer should be “An example of the category”. Our feeling was that “(The) Seven Dwarves” is an example of “Movie characters” because the seven dwarves are a specific well-known, named set of characters (“six dwarves” would not be acceptable). “Avians” was not “an example of birds”, but rather a synonym of the entire category of birds. And “Sports” was not “an example of games played outdoors” – it was more like “avians” although not exactly synonymous with the category. (Also, some sports are played indoors, so the answer actually also includes some things not in the category.)

We were more or less happy with this. But then there was a flow-on discussion of what is a valid game anyway, as someone contended that soccer was in fact not a game – in his view sports and games were mutually exclusive; something could be one or the other, but not both. This discussion continued for several hours over the course of the day, and turned to asking questions such as whether a crossword puzzle is a game, or whether a Choose Your Own Adventure book is a game. Mark Rosewater’s definition of a game (which I think is pretty good, but not perfect) was cited and argued over.

This was all good natured, and not an angry argument in any way. It petered out eventually, and I think the basic conclusion was that “game” means different things to different people, and we’d never come up with a definition that everyone agreed with. And if it came up with Scattergories again, we’d just have to argue about it and make a case-by-case call.

New content today:

Finland ISO meeting, day 5

Today was the last day of my virtual standards meeting. So although it was Saturday I had to get up at 6:30 and have breakfast before starting the meeting at 7. It was all closing administrative stuff today, like going over action items and deciding stuff about the next meeting. Since we’ve only been doing these virtual meetings for a short time, the process is still being refined, and we decided to have a short pre-meeting a week before the next meeting to finalise the agenda, so we don’t end up with what happened this time, having an hour gap in the middle of a session due to someone’s presentations being short, and being unable to move the following session up because people were planning to dial in at a specific time for it. Hopefully that will make things easier for everyone next time.

It was really cold today, with a strong cold front system moving through the region, bringing bone-chilling winds. The front arrived yesterday evening, with a bit of rain. The leading edge of it hit while I was at the dog park with Scully, causing this:

Rainbow storm over Sydney

Rather than go for a big walk with Scully today in the wintry conditions, we were lazy and just did a short walk up to a nearby railway station to get some pies for lunch.

When I got home, I was going through the pantry and I found a leftover packet of bread mix, from when I was doing baking a few months ago during the COVID lockdown. So I decided to bake some fresh bread this afternoon.

Lockdown baking

And now that we’re out of mix, I might buy some more, actually. It’s pretty easy to make, and really delicious.

Also this afternoon, I played some Codenames Duet with my wife, and we won the Madrid campaign game. That’s 9 out of 26 missions completed! Oh, and I also completed making that latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I’ve bene working on for the past week while not doing ISO standards meetings.

New content today:

Finland ISO meeting, day 3

Day 3 of my ISO meeting went well. We had technical discussions on two topics: measurement of visual noise in images, and measurement of camera autofocus reliability and speed. The first is a revision of an existing standard to update the empirical formulation of how the human visual system perceives noise levels in an image. There’s a lot of very interesting experimental work being done on that across several labs all around the world to get this revision done.

The camera autofocus work is new, and is having to deal with a lot of technical difficulties in triggering and timing of autofocus – mainly because cameras are engineered to be useful in real world situations, not in standardised testing labs.

Most of the rest of the day I spent making comics, both Darths & Droids and Irregular Webcomic!. Yesterday, when I was too busy to write much here… well, it was similar, actually.

Oh! Today I got a package in the mail, a reward for a Kickstarter I backed a year or two ago. The project was delayed by various things, but they came through. Behold!

New dice

Gaming dice. Specifically, that’s a d21, a d21 with consonant labelling, a d5 with vowel labelling, and a d36 that doubles as a single die roll to generate 2d6 using the pips.

New content today:

Virtual Finland

I should be in Finland right now. If not for COVID-19, I would be. My next ISO Photography Standards meeting was scheduled for Tampere in Finland, beginning Monday. But of course it’s been converted to an online meeting, so I’m still at home. I was really looking forward to this one too, because I’ve never visited Finland.

Normally for these meetings I travel to arrive a couple of days early, to give myself time to do some sightseeing. Sightseeing helps with the jetlag, because I stay awake all day despite any tiredness and crash into bed in the evening. I use this method whenever I travel and it works reasonably well for me.

So, today I should have been sightseeing in Tampere. Instead, my wife and I went over to her sister’s new place. She recently moved house, so we went over to have a look at the new place. It was raining moderately heavily this morning, and we got a bit wet, but it was good to visit and see the place.

We got home, had lunch, took Scully for a run in the park, and played some Codenames Duet campaign games – winning Paris, but losing twice at the more difficult Madrid.

This week I have the virtual meeting. After last time, when it was at a time that meant I had to stay up late, they’ve shifted the time zone for this meeting. This time it’s on from 07:00 to 10:30 in my time zone, so it’s much more convenient. But because Australia is so far east, it’s actually on from Tuesday-Saturday in my time zone.

New content today:

Last Ethics for the term

This morning I had my last Ethics class for the current school term. There is a class next week, but I will be attending an ISO Photography standards meeting at the time, so will be unable to take my class. Then there’s two weeks holiday, and classes resume for Term 4. Today the class were better behaved again, which was nice. We had a good discussion and got through a lot of material, which was nice.

At lunch today I had an impromptu game of Scattergories with friends in our Discord chat, using the game bot my friend coded up. Our letter today was a difficult one: U. Now, if you don’t know the game, you need to think of words for each category, and you get 2 points if you were the only person to come up with your answer, but only 1 point if more than one person got your answer.

Here’s how the scoring went for the category “girls’ names”:

Friend 1: Ursula
Friend 2: Ursula
Me: Uma
Friend 3: Ursula
Friend 4: Ursula
Me: You’ve been Thurmanated!!

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday: a magpie swooped me while I was out walking up the street. So the swooping season has definitely started. Fortunately the bird didn’t make contact with me, but I was startled by the whoosh of wings as it flew low over my shoulder. I’ll need to keep an eye out for the next couple of months.

New content today:

Bread and Codenames

This morning my wife and I took Scully for a long walk, over to our favourite bakery. I bought a loaf of kibble rye sourdough for regular sandwiches and toast, and also a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, for a sweet treat. The bread from this place is really nice. I also got a mixed berry scroll, which I assumed would have a light flaky pastry like a croissant, but it turned out to be denser and more chewy – I guess something like a cross between flaky butter pastry and sourdough. It was really nice, and not too sweet – sweetened just by the mix of blueberries and I think raspberries.

A bit further along the walk we met another couple out with a poodle, a 7 month old puppy about Scully’s size. The two dogs raced around like crazy, playing with each other, which we all enjoyed because it would mean they slept for the rest of the day!

At home we played Codenames Duet, taking two attempts to win the Casablanca campaign game. The first game came down to a sudden death guess by me. I knew there was a word associated with the clue “reaction” left in the grid, and I narrowed it down to either “fever” (a reaction to infection) or “smell” (a thing you would have a reaction to). In the end I chose “smell”, but the correct word was “fever”, alas.

The second game was a lot easier, since I began with a 4-word clue, and we whittled down the spies rapidly. We won the game with a full turn to spare.

Apart from these things, it’s been a relaxing sort of day. We just started watching Series 10 of the new Doctor Who this evening (Peter Capaldi’s last season). We haven’t watched this series yet, so it’s going to be exciting over the next few weeks. We kind of lost track a couple of years ago after we first got Scully, and we’re just catching up now!

New content today:

Late Friday: Games night

Yes, I’m late for the my Friday entry again, because of fortnightly Games Night with my friends.

On Friday morning I did the weekly grocery shopping, then I went for a run, a short 1 km this time. I set out at a rapid pace, but tired and slowed down, although I felt like I was really pushing myself hard, I ended up clocking 4:38, which is the slowest of the three times that I’ve timed myself over this distance. Hmmm. 🤔 I guess I need more training.

I spent some time during the afternoon helping a friend to test a new Discord bot game for Games Night – he’s implemented Scattergories. So we were testing for bugs and UI improvements, and coming up with interesting categories to add to the list.

During Games Night, we played some games of 7 Wonders, and then moved on to the new Scattergories implementation. Most of the fun was in arguing over which words were valid during the scoring phase. One particular argument was for the category “Words that begin and end with the same letter”. The letter was A and the contentious “word” was “Amanda”. Some players were absolutely fine that it was a “word”, but others insisted it be disqualified because it was a proper noun and hence was not a “word”.

  • For: It’s a collection of letters, it’s readily pronounceable, it’s commonly used in English sentences, how could it possibly not be a word??
  • Against: It’s just a name, a label, it has no intrinsic semantic meaning in modern English, it’s never used to refer to anything except a person who happens to have that as a name, it can’t be used lower-case, it’s illegal in Scrabble, how could it possibly be a word??

We didn’t come to any agreement, except to reword the categories so that they’re unambiguous as to whether proper nouns are allowed or not.

New content today:

More spring cleaning

Today was a lovely sunny Sunday, but I spent most of it inside doing more spring cleaning. It’s the first time since winter that I’ve felt warm enough to wear shorts and T-shirts all weekend. Although I suppose manual labour helps you keep warm!

I cleaned the balcony, sweeping up all the dried leaves and dead bugs and stuff that accumulated over the winter, and brushing away spider webs. Then I washed the tiles and cleaned the outdoor table and chairs. It’s nice to sit out there and have dinner on a balmy evening, but it’s too chilly over winter. Our balcony faces west so we get evening sunlight in the summer. I also cleaned the kitchen, scrubbing the cooktop, emptying crumbs out of the toaster, and cleaning crumbs off and polishing the benchtop.

This afternoon I spent some time writing Darths & Droids material, and my wife and I played a couple of games of Codenames Duet. We’ve begun work on the campaign format, where you play a series of games with increasingly difficult restrictions on numbers of turns, and try to win with all of the listed combinations. Each combination is represented by a city on a world map. Today we played Moscow, and then Cape Town, winning both games.

New content today:

Late Friday catch-up

I missed Friday’s entry last night, because my wife and I went out for a nice dinner, and then when I got home my friends were keen to play skribbl.io and I spent the rest of the evening doing that. Our custom word list is working well – we’re getting more interesting and tricky things to draw, and the results are even more hilarious than the default word list.

I forgot to mention yesterday that on Wednesday night when I took Scully out for her pre-bedtime toilet, I was standing with her out on the grass and looking up at the stars, and I saw a meteor streak across the sky. Almost directly overhead, and heading south-west. Not particularly bright or noticeable – I was just lucky to be looking in the right spot at the right second. It’s not the first meteor I’ve seen when out with Scully at night either – this is about the third in a couple of years. As an astronomer I know that meteors are actually very common, and if you sit outside for half an hour or so just looking up at the night sky, you’re likely to see some – it’s just that most people never do this. But I have a habit now of looking up whenever I take Scully out (and the sky is clear), so I’ve been spending a significant amount of time doing this added up over the year.

Another thing I accomplished this week is finishing off reading book 6 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series in Italian: Si Salvi Chi Può (“everyone for themselves”, which is how they titled the Italian version of Cabin Fever). So that’s six complete books I’ve read in Italian now. They’re definitely getting easier and faster to get through as my vocabulary and grammar skills are improving. When I began, every page I’d have to stop and look up several words. Now I can often get through a page without needing to look up anything, except perhaps to confirm the meaning of a word which I can figure out by context. On to book 7!

New content today: