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:

Dentist redux, and giant kangaroos

I had my return visit with the dentist first thing this morning. He fixed up the chipped filling that he’d noticed on Tuesday. The past few times I’ve had work done, the anaesthetic took a long time to work and he ended up putting a second needle in, but today thankfully it worked pretty quickly and I didn’t need a second needle. Which meant it wore off after only about 4 hours, compared to last time where my mouth was still numb for something like 6 or 7 hours afterwards.

In conversation, I mentioned to my dentist that I was selling photographic prints, and I could get one made for his waiting room if he wanted. He said he was actually thinking of renovating the waiting room, and looked at my photography website on the computer screen, and said he liked Australian landscapes. So if I don’t hear from him soon I’ll follow up and see if I can get one of my prints in his waiting room, with some of my business cards on the desk.

In other photography news, a few days ago the producer of PBS Eons contacted me to ask for permission to use one of my photos in their latest episode. Since these episodes get 0.5 to 2 million views on YouTube, I gave them permission, and the episode came out today. You can watch it on YouTube here, or with the embedded version below:

My photo is the one used to show the drawing of the giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah, from about 4:42 onwards.

And while on videos, in other news a friend of mine is working on designing original games that will be included in the new VR board game platform Hands on Deck, currently under development. His original game Neapolitan is planned for inclusion in the first release, and can be seen in this video (the first game shown).

New content today:

Warm winter Sunday

Although it’s still winter for another day, it was very warm in Sydney today. The forecast was 25°C and we achieved a fraction above that, with a couple of degrees higher in the inland suburbs. My wife and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day to go for a bit of a drive and get some lunch out.

I chose a bakery that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. It keeps showing up in my Google searches for bakeries in Sydney, with an average star rating of 4.9 out of 5. Now normally I’d assume it was an excellent establishment, but the photos of the place made me rather suspicious, as it looked very much like a run-of-the-mill suburban bakery, with nothing special about it.

Golden Bakehouse, South Turramurra

Indeed… it turned out to be fairly average. The food we got was decent, good even, but certainly no better than that. It’s not even a fancy bakery that makes cakes or anything – it just did fresh bread, a very standard range of small sweet treats, tarts, biscuits, slices, etc., and some hot meat pies. I can only conclude that the only people who ever come here are locals, and they think it’s pretty decent. It was fine, but it was no 4.9 stars. It was busy though, with customers arriving every minute or two. It was probably just the best bakery in the suburb. You can read my detailed review in Snot Block & Roll.

Back home, my wife and I played some games in our Codenames Duet campaign. We played the London and Cairo games, and won both of them. London was easy, but Cairo was a real challenge, with the grid of words very tricky for both of us, with several pairs of associated words split between spies and assassins, thus making giving clues difficult. We managed to scrape a victory together with some tricky clues and a couple of lucky guesses. Of course the campaign mode is just going to get more difficult as we play more…

New content today:

Golf and games

This morning I got up a little early and headed out to the local golf course. I played two balls again, like I did a couple of weeks ago, keeping separate scores, so essentially two rounds simultaneously – totalling 18 holes since it’s only a 9-hole course.

I started really badly, and thought I was in for a dreadful day, but fortunately my hitting improved as I went on. I ended up recording my second best round with one of the balls, and scored a par for the first time on the par-4 ninth hole. The course was a lot nicer to play today than a fortnight ago, because the mud had mostly dried out after some fine weather.

I was home a bit after 9:30, and then went to the supermarket to get the weekly groceries. And then just kind of puttered around for the middle of the day – doing some photo work, some comic planning notes, some random web browsing, and some Italian practice.

Tonight is fortnightly virtual games night with my friends. I’ve been compiling a huge list of custom words for skribbl.io with contributions from everyone and it’s now about 1.5 times as big as it was last fortnight. Before games I’m going out with my wife and Scully to a local Turkish place for Friday night dinner. I thought I’d write this blog entry before we leave, so it won’t get forgotten during the gaming fun later this evening.

Oh… which means the following links won’t work for a few hours, until the comics get updated.

New content today:

Late Friday post on Saturday morning

Friday was busy and I neglected to make my daily post, so I’m dong it on Saturday morning.

I began Friday with writing a last few Irregular Webcomic! scripts over breakfast. Then it was off to the supermarket for the weekly grocery shopping. It was a smaller load this week, with not much running out since last week. I got some fresh fruit and vegetables and a few bits and pieces like a bag of lentils and a block of cheese – and some toothpaste since it was on sale for $2 off. There are some products I only ever buy when they are on sale, and just keep enough of a stockpile so that I can wait until next time they are on sale. Ice cream I never buy at full price either, although it often runs out before the next sale and I have to make do with no ice cream for a week or two!

Back home I got stuck into photographing Lego and miniatures sets for the batch of comics that I’d just finished writing. I started at 10:00, after unpacking the groceries, and finished after midday, just in time for lunch.

In the afternoon I took a bit of a break from comicking and processed and posted some old photos from a trip to Thailand back in 2005. Then I got stuck into assembling the comics from the photos taken in the morning, and finished off half a dozen or so before my wife came home from work with Scully. We all went out for dinner, to a nice French creperie. Since it was very cold and we had to sit outside with Scully, I had some mulled cider to wash down my galettes and crepes. Mmmm.

Back home, my friends began an impromptu games night, interstitial to our scheduled fortnightly games nights. We’ve been working on a custom word list for skribbl.io (an online implementation of a Pictionary-like drawing game), since the default word list skews very American. We got everyone to submit a few hundred words and came up with a list of over 1300 custom words to draw. We have things like “lamington”, “echidna”, “Mister Squiggle”, “Circular Quay”, and so on, as well as more generic things. It was loads of fun, and actually a bit more challenging as some of the words we listed were quite difficult to draw.

New content today: