Pirates!

My wife surprised me with a new board game today! Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates! This is a game we saw being demoed at the Spiel game fair in Essen last October, and at the time we thought it looked cool and interesting.

We played it this afternoon, and it worked pretty well with 2 players, although I expect it’ll have a bit more strategic depth with more players.

Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!

This is the board at the end of the game. I also took some photos mid-game which had more interesting board states, but the shafts of sunlight made the photos way too contrasty.

I also spent more time trying t compile the code I was struggling with yesterday. I seem to have made some progress, managing to compile versions of the required libraries and run a test program, but I still haven’t integrated them into the program I want to compile.

This afternoon my wife and I also had a FaceTime chat with her nephew, who is currently working in Paris, and of course dealing with the COVID lockdown restrictions there – which began just a couple of weeks after he started his new job there! He seems to be going okay though, having lots of Zoom meetings with his new co-workers.

New content today:

Virtual games Friday

I’m trying to go grocery shopping less often, so we’ve run out of bread at home… the perfect opportunity to bake some home made bread! General flour has been sold out at the supermarket the past few times I’ve gone (and I’ve heard from my friends that yeast is impossible to find too), but last time they had a boxed kit for making sourdough light rye, with all the ingredients included, including yeast. So I bought that. And today was the day to try it out!

Baking bread: kneading

Kneading bread dough is hard work! All I had to do was open a pre-mixed flour sachet and add a couple of spoons of yeast from another sachet, add water, and start mixing. Then you have to knead the dough for “at least 10 minutes”. The pack says the more you knead it the better the bread will be. So I did it for a little longer, but honestly I was tired of kneading so I stopped and let the dough rise.

Baking bread: first rising

It said to put the dough in a “warm place”. The weather was cool and I was wondering how to do this, so I searched online and found lots of advice, such as “on top of the fridge” (impossible as there’s only a few centimetres of clearance above mine). But one that worked was “in the oven”. It turns out my oven thermostat goes as low as 30°C, so I put it on for a minute to warm up and then turned it off and put the dough in, with a cup of hot water to provide moisture. It rose nicely.

Baking bread: second rising

After rising once for 40 minutes, you knead the dough again, shape it into your loaf, and then it rise again. This is after the second rising, and the dough has increased massively in size. It’s now ready to go into the oven for baking.

Baking bread: out of the oven

The baking time is surprisingly short (at least it was to me). 25 minutes and it looks like this. I was a bit concerned if it was baked all the way through.

Baking bread: slicing

But yep! It slices nicely and tastes delicious! And the first slice while it was still warm out of the oven, with melted butter… mmmm…

Well, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought to make fresh bread! I think I’ll be doing this a bit from now on.

Besides making bread, I worked a bit on writing new Darths & Droids comics. And in the evening was fortnightly board games night, held virtually for the second time due to COVID restrictions. Last time we used Board Game Arena, but this time we had planned to do a Magic: the Gathering draft tournament, as mentioned the past couple of days. We drafted our decks asynchronously using a tool my friend wrote, and then built decks in Tabletop Simulator, which is an amazing virtual gaming tool that I only recently learnt about.

Dominaria draft deck

This is a screenshot from Tabletop Simulator showing my deck laid out. I actually drafted really badly. I played 5 games of the tournament during the virtual games night, and lost every single game. I’m pretty sure I’ll be coming dead last in this tournament. Ah well, at least it’s fun!

New content today:

Long walk in non-rain

I wanted to see if could play a round of golf this morning as part of my social distancing exercise, but the weather forecast was for up to 30mm of rain, with heavy falls at times. So I decided not to go to the golf course, and instead set out on a longish walk, with an umbrella.

As it turned out, it didn’t rain at all today… so I could have easily played a round of golf without weather problems. Oh well. I did put together this virtual photo tour of the parts of Sydney that I walked through today.

Also, here’s a photo of Scully helping me the other day to get my Lego photos done for Irregular Webcomic.

Scully helping with Lego

This afternoon I worked on finishing off writing annotations for the batch of comics.

Also, me and my gaming friends organised a Magic: the Gathering draft tournament, which we drafted today using a custom online web tool built by one of my friends. We’ll be building our decks and playing games remotely using Tabletop Simulator, as a replacement for face-to-face gaming. We drafted the Dominaria set from 2018, which we never managed to do at the time in cardboard format. I think I drafted a terrible deck, but I’m looking forward to playing it!

New content today:

More walking and baking

For today’s exercise, my wife and I took Scully on a walk down to the local golf course, and then through a bushwalk along Gore Creek.

Scully at Gore Creek

It leads to Bob Campbell Oval, a cricket/soccer field near the water.

Scully at Bob Campbell Oval

From here you have to climb The Stairs of Cirith Ungol to get back to my place.

Scully on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol

At home, we were out of bread. Rather than go shopping, I made some damper! This is beer damper, made with 3 cups of self raising flour, a bottle of beer, a pinch of salt… and that’s it! Mix and bake for 30 minutes at 190°C. It turned out really nice.

Beer Damper

This afternoon I played some games with my wife. We played Azul.

Azul

And then Walking in Burano.

Walking in Burano.

New content today:

Virtual walking

Today was the end of the working from home week for my wife. She said the week had gone quickly, being hectic with plenty to do.

This morning I finished off the work on the new 100 Proofs That the Earth is a Globe entry, and posted it. Then I went for another long walk to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise.

Berry Island lookout

I went down to Berry Island, which is a tied island in Sydney Harbour. I took a lot of photos on this walk, and rather than upload everything to Flickr and format them here into this entry, I’m just going to link to this Imgur album, which has plenty of photos with detailed commentary.

Tonight we were supposed to have our fortnightly games night gathering, but with the coronavirus social distancing we’ve converted to a virtual games night, using the Board Game Arena online platform for playing board games. I’m actually in the middle of playing games with my friends as I type, in combination with a Discord voice chat, and it’s working really well. So far we’ve played 6 Nimmt, Perudo, Colt Express, and Niagara.

New content today:

Adventure creation

I dedicated today to writing more of a Dungeons & Dragons adventure for my gaming group. We’re partway through the adventure, and I need to write more of it before we play the next session.

I also went out to buy some groceries. The supermarket had no toilet paper at all, but there were stocks of everything else. Although apparently some people have no idea how to cook at home, since half the shelves of instant cup noodles were empty. And apparently people want to stock up on no added salt/sugar peanut butter. That’s the sort I buy. There was heaps of the regular peanut butter that most people normally buy, but virtually none of the no-added salt/sugar type. I have no idea, because normally the no added variety doesn’t sell as much.

New content today:

Sunrise at the beach

On Friday I set an alarm for 5:45, but I woke up just before 5:30. I got up, had a quick breakfast, and set out for the beach!

Sydney has a lot of beaches, and choosing the right one for a sunrise photo shoot is a matter of weather conditions, tide, time of year, angle of sunrise, personal preference, travel times, and other factors. I used an app – The Photographer’s Ephemeris – to map the direction of the sunrise from a few beaches. One constraint I had was that I had a booking for golf at 8:00 with a friend, at Cammeray Golf Club, so wherever I went I had to have enough time to drive back there, in peak hour traffic, to make tee-off.

The closest beach I could think of was Balmoral Beach, which is not an ocean beach, but a harbour beach, facing the protected waters of Sydney Harbour. I knew that Balmoral has a very small view of the open ocean, threading in between the two sandstone promontories of Middle Head to the south and North Head to the north. I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris for the direction of the sunrise:

Photographer's Ephemeris for Balmoral sunrise

It was almost perfect! The yellow line to the right shows the direction of sunrise on Friday, and it threads the needle right between the two headlands. Because of the motion of the sun with the seasons, this coincidence probably only happens on a few days of the year. So with a perfect combination of convenience and opportunity, I selected Balmoral as my target. (I did this calculation the night before.)

As I drove to Balmoral before 6 am, I could see stars in the sky. At least it wasn’t raining like last week. I got to the beach and headed down to a small exposed sandstone rock platform, jutting from the sand into the water. The tide was low – at high tide these rocks would be covered with water. The sky was just beginning to lighten, but unfortunately the cloud cover was highly sub-optimal for sunrise photos:

Edwards dawn

There was a dark, thick band of cloud right on the horizon, and barely any cloud in the nearby sky above. This is exactly the opposite of what you want for shooting a sunrise: a clear horizon for the sun to shine through, and lots of cloud above for the golden and red light to bounce off and set the sky ablaze with colour. Oh well, I was here, so I shot what was available.

First light at Edwards Beach

Early morning swimmers and joggers appeared on the scene, providing small points of interest for photos. After a while the tide started coming in, so to avoid being stuck on the rocks and having to wade back, I moved back across the sand and took photos from the path behind the beach. You can see the rocks I had been standing on in the middle of this next photo:

Dawn fisheye

This was also taken with a different lens, a fisheye, for a super wide view. As the sun continued rising, it became light very quickly. I ditched my tripod (I’d been taking exposures up to 30 seconds long), and walked around, taking handheld shots.

Morning kayakers

I packed up about 7:15 and headed to the golf course to meet my friend. We played one round of the 9 hole course, having a lot of fun. It was the first time he’d been to this course, and it has a few interesting holes, which I showed off last time I wrote about it. It had rained – a lot – since that visit, and this time the water feature at hole 6 was full (compare to the third photo on the previously linked entry):

Cammeray Hole 6

Unfortunately this meant we both landed our tee shots in the water! But I had a great tee shot at the par 3 9th hole. My ball landed on the green, pitching just 1 metre from the hole! Although it rolled a fair distance from there and I had a long putt, ending up with 4 strokes. But wow that was a great tee shot.

After golf I went home and worked on those sunrise photos, as well as some comics stuff, before preparing to head out to fortnightly Games Night with friends. We agreed to “socially distance” ourselves to minimise any disease transmission by touching as little as possible and using hand sanitisers, but of course playing board games means some interaction. Still, coronavirus isn’t very widespread here yet and it’s unlikely any of us has been exposed yet, so we felt okay with our level of precautions.

We played some games of the Throne of Eldraine Magic: the Gathering draft that we started a few weeks ago. I had two long games that both stalled with tough creatures on both sides. I ended up losing one, and winning the other, both by narrow margins. After that we split into two groups, one playing Spirit Island with 4 players, while I played Everdell with 3 players. It was a fun game, and I managed to pull together enough constructions and critters to score a lucrative 9 point bonus card, but it wasn’t quite enough – I ended up coming second with 51 points, to the winner’s 54.

New content today:

Friday Games Night – Throne of Eldraine

Last night was fortnightly Games Night, so this is Friday’s post a bit late.

My contact from the USA who I played golf with last week suggested we try a different course: Cammeray Golf Club. We arrived at 10:00, and the day was already very warm and sunny, so I made sure to put lots of sunscreen on, and wear a large-brimmed hat, and carry a bottle of water.

The Cammeray course is a shortish 9-hole course, no par 5 holes. There were lots of trees down the edges of the fairways, and I took advantage by “playing in the shade” on some holes – i.e. mis-hitting my ball so that I had to hack my way under the trees instead of along the fairway.

Hole 3, Cammeray Golf Club

Above: a view down to the hole 3 green, but this is from about halfway up the hill that leads to the tee position (another group were teeing off as I took the photo). From the tee this is quite a drop down to the green.

Hole 5, Cammeray Golf Club

Hole 5, a longish par 4. We played the course twice through, for a total of 18 holes. My first time on this hole I hacked my way slowly up the fairway, but my second time around I managed a good solid drive, and followed up with a long second shot that landed tantalisingly close to the green – just a few centimetres off it. Essentially I made the “green in regulation” (i.e. reached the green in 2 shots under par – giving me two putts to make par). Alas the putt was very long and I didn’t hit it well, so ended up with 6 strokes.

Hole 6, Cammeray Golf Club

Hole 6 is the water hole. You have to hit directly over this little lake. The lake is unfortunately low because of the current drought conditions – the water level should be a metres or so higher as you can see from the edges. Nevertheless, on this day it sported a nice variety of birdlife: I spotted a white-faced heron (the prominent upright grey bird on the near shore), little black cormorants and little pied cormorants (on the small rocky island), Australian wood ducks (two near the signpost in the bend on the prominent path at left, anther at the base of the large dark tree behind the lake), and masked lapwings (none that I can spot in this photo).

We finished close to 2 pm, and I rested for a while in the clubhouse air conditioning before heading home for a long, cold shower. It was very hot and humid, but good to get some exercise!

In the evening I headed to Games Night, where we began a Magic: the Gathering draft tournament with 8 players, using the recentish Throne of Eldraine set. This set has a fairy tale theme, and I really wanted to give it a try.

During the draft, I mostly picked green cards, and settled on white as a support colour. I considered grabbing a couple of giant spiders, with their ability to block flying creatures, but I realised I was seeing very few flying creatures go past, so I de-prioritised flying defence in favour of other things. I won my first game fairly easily as my opponent struggled to get much on the board. But in my second game, I saw where all the flying creatures had gone! My opponent played four flyers one after the other, and I had no way to stop them, and lost that game quickly.

We played a few more games before it got too late to continue. We’ll finish off the round-robin games in later Games Nights. But everyone agreed that the set was fun and interesting, so it was a big hit!

New content today:

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 voilà, 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: