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 Niña 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!

New content today:

Face to face gaming

At last night’s games night we had an attendance of five, plus the two daughters of the host (ages about 8 and 10). They joined us for a game of Sushi Go Party!, followed by Mysterium.

After they went to bed, we continued with a game of Tournament at Avalon, which is described as a “chaotic trick-taking game” – which is about right. It’s fairly complex and took us a lot longer to play than I’d expected at the beginning.

It was good meeting friends again for the first time in eight months or so, having some pizza, and playing some games while we chatted about what we’ve all been up to.

Today I dedicated to housework and writing a few comics. Not really much to report there.

Oh, I had a weird dream: that shopping centres everywhere were advertising this revolutionary new change to make it easier to navigate large complexes. They said they recognised how difficult it was for new customers to find their way around in shopping centres, and this change would make it incredibly easy. The entire change was: Instead of calling them “levels” or “floors”, they would now be called “stacks”. So instead of needing to go to Level 3 to find a shop, you would now got to Stack 3. All the signs saying “Ground Level” or Level 1″ were changed to read “Ground Stack” or “Stack 1”, and so on.

Yeah, amazing, I know.

New content today:

Cyberpunking

Further to yesterday’s mention of Cyberpunk 2020, I had an idea for a game. Use the world setting as given in Cyberpunk 2020, but have technologies that exist in the real world but which don’t exist in CP2020 appear as newly emerging tech within the game.

For example, CP2020 basically has virtually no concept of wireless networking. To access a network you have to physically plug into a connected system. So imagine some megacorp within the game has just invented WiFi. How will this shake up the world? The PCs might be hired to steal the technology, or prevent it from being monopolised, or something.

Also further on gaming, tonight is the first face-to-face meeting of my fortnightly gaming group since March. We decided that with COVID apparently well under control here in New South Wales, we would start up meeting in person again. (We just reached the milestone of 14 days in a row with zero new cases, apart from residents newly arrived from overseas and already in quarantine.) So I’m writing and scheduling this post early before I head over. Should be fun!

New content today:

Secret project day

I spent most of today working on a secret project, which I won’t be revealing until some time next year. So there’s not much I can go into about that.

Um. I didn’t do much else, except go out for a pie for lunch, and take Scully to the dog park. It was warm today, but not too hot. Tomorrow is forecast to be hot again. I think we’re really past the chilly weather and into a summer pattern now.

Oh! I also grabbed a bunch of roleplaying books off Humble Bundle today – PDFs of the old Cyberpunk 2020 game by R. Talsorian Games. Published in 1990 (second edition of a 1988 game named just Cyberpunk), it was amusing going through the PDFs and seeing what they predicted that life would be like in the year 2020. Here’s a piece of art showing a guy buying some pirated software off a street hustler with a trench coat full of hot CDs:

I sure know I’d be out on the streets doing this if I wasn’t such an upstanding citizen.

New content today:

Games night experiments

It’s fortnightly games night with my friends and we’re playtesting a new game online that a friend of mine has coded up. It’s MasterWord, which is a brand new board game that hasn’t even been released yet, but my friend saw a sneak preview of the rules and implemented a Discord bot version, so we’re playing it right now.

Earlier today I mostly did comics work, creating new Darths & Droids strips. Oh, and the weekly grocery shopping. That’s about it for today.

New content today:

Cancellations and Codenames

Saturday dawned cool and grey, although a bit of sun poked through on occasion. The forecast was for late showers, leading into a rainy Sunday.

Late morning I went for a walk with my wife and Scully, doing our usual bakery/marina/park loop. Although cool, it was humid and quite sticky by the time we got home.

There was an email waiting for me. From the organisers of tomorrow’s market, where I planned to have a stall to sell my photography prints. They said they’d received many concerned emails about the weather forecast, and consulting multiple weather sites they noted that the forecast for Sydney tomorrow is heavy rain and thunderstorms during the day. My stall is indoors (I chose is specifically to avoid inclement weather), but most of the market is outdoors. So the organisers were writing to say they had decided to cancel the market, to avoid damage to stallholders’ products, and to avoid wasting time with a low buyer turnout.

I understand why they did it, but it’s disappointing to have yet another delay, with all the COVID cancellations. And it’s also annoying because I had to book a hire car via a car share company, because my car isn’t large enough to transport all of my stock and equipment. Because the cancellation is less than 24 hours before pickup, there’s no refund. 😕 At least it’s tax deductible. Assuming I ever make enough money form this caper to pay tax in the first place.

This afternoon my wife and I played a couple of games of Codenames Duet campaign mode. We tackled Monte Carlo, which for those who know the game means 9 turns with zero bystanders allowed. The campaign games are starting to get tough – the previous city, Sydney, was 9-1 and it took us four attempts to win it. But we managed to knock of Monte Carlo in just two games today!

The first was a bit of a debacle, with some really tough clue combos. I had to clue the words TRUNK and BARK, but without cluing the word MAPLE, so that kind of ruled out any wood/tree based clues. And I had to clue GERMANY, while ALPS was an assassin (instant loss if guessed). There were other issues as well which I forget – let it suffice to say we lost badly.

The second game started terribly. I clued LAWN to indicate GRASS and BERMUDA, but my wife’s first guess was YARD, which was a bystander, so we instantly lost a turn. But we pulled it back together with consistent strong 2-cluing, and in the end it came down to my wife having to clue two words to me with the final clue for victory. She gave the clue HARD 2. Which was truly inspired, and straight away I realised the answers had to be YARD (as in “hard yards”) and NUT (“hard nut to crack”). I guessed them and we won!

That completes all of the 9-turn games in the campaign. Now we shift to the 8-turn games, which ratchets up the difficulty again. It’s getting challenging, but is a lot of fun.

New content today:

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: