Sneaking out for high tea

Scully was due for a groom at the dog groomer’s place today. We dropped her off at 10am, and my wife and I decided to use the time to sneak off into the city and get a high tea at The Palace, a fancy tea room in the Queen Victoria Building.

We took a train into the city, which felt a bit weird because we haven’t used public transport much at all since COVID-19 began. Normally on a Saturday morning the trains would be fairly full, especially getting close to Christmas like this. But today they were fairly empty, with only a handful of people spread out at sensible distances inside the carriages. And the city itself felt really empty, rather than the usual bustle of people.

But we had a good tea. I have to admit that when the servings came out, I was a little underwhelmed at the portions, having expected a bit more. But the food was very rich, and by the time we finished it, we were both very full and didn’t need anything else.

High tea at The Palace

Indeed, although we began at 11am, it pretty much did us for lunch and we didn’t need anything until dinner time. Although I had an early dinner, around 5pm, because my friend organised a game of golf with another friend of ours, at the par-3 pitch-and-putt course where we’ve gone several times. And for something different, we played a twilight/evening game today, under the floodlights that they have at the course.

Night golf

It was interesting and fun, although occasionally it was difficult to see where a ball went. I played moderately well, scoring 81, 2 strokes off my best on the course of 79. I would have done better except for a terrible blow-out 7 on one hole where I tried to pitch the ball up a slope to the green three times, falling just centimetres short each time and having the ball roll back down the hill to roughly where it had started.

Night golf

The sunset was nice, but the moon rising in the east was amazing, a deep red colour due to smoke in the air from controlled burning operations taking place at the moment, to forestall another bad fire season over the summer.

Oh, an I also baked a batch of brownies today, both to take to golf and share with the guys, and also for a family lunch gathering that we’re having tomorrow.

New content today:

Double golf

I got up early and went to the golf course this morning just after 6:30. The sun is rising earlier as spring meanders onward and even though overcast this morning it was plenty light enough to start that early. I finished 9 holes, playing two different balls per hole, by 8:30, and then had the whole day ahead of me!

Which I spent mostly working on Darths & Droids scripts, although I ticked off a few other tasks as well.

I applied to become a stallholder at the Kirribilli Markets, another suburban market not too far from where I live, and a bit bigger and more popular than the ones I’ve been doing up to now. Hopefully if I get approved, I can get some more productive market days happening, and really make some sales of my photos.

Also, our wedding anniversary is coming up, so my wife asked if I could find somewhere to stay a few hours drive away, for a long weekend (she’s taking a couple of days off work). I called a couple of places near Kangaroo Valley. The first was booked out until the end of the year, and they said I’d be lucky to find anywhere with vacancies, as people are all booking local holidays at the moment since nobody can travel overseas. The next place had two of the three nights we wanted free, so I booked those. We also have the additional constraint of needing a pet-friendly place, so we can take Scully.

And I looked into various types of weed killer, because some of the small parks and areas of grass in the neighbourhood that we take Scully to have patches of bindii in them, and right now in the early spring is when they start growing thorns. Scully dislikes walking on them, for obvious reasons, and starts to avoid those areas, so I want to try and get rid of it. I thought I might be able to buy some weed killer and spray some areas, but a bit of research reveals that the available solutions have two different problems:

  1. There’s selective weed killer that kills bindii and a few other common weeds, but doesn’t harm grasses or other plants. The trouble is, it’s harmful to dogs, and it’s recommended to keep dogs off it for a few days after spraying. Which is no good since I want to spray public places, so obviously I can’t keep all dogs off them.
  2. There’s glycophosphate (often sold under the trademark “Roundup”), which is safer for animals, but it kills any plant it touches, so would need to be applied with a paintbrush otherwise it’d kill all the grass too. It’s also bad if it gets into waterways, and given the main area I want to remove bindii from is right next to a creek… this is a no-go as well.

I concluded that the only way to do this is to buy a garden fork and get down on my knees, and pull the bindii out by hand. Stay tuned for updates…

New content today:

Golf with a dentist

I booked a round at Cammeray Golf Course this morning – not my usual course at Lane Cove. I’ve been getting a bit tired of Lane Cove and wanted to play a different course, and Cammeray is the next nearest and a nice short 9-hole course suitable for my skill level.

I was preparing to tee off, when another solo player approached and asked if we could play together. I agreed and we walked around the course playing together. It turned out he’s a dentist – and he’s friends with my dentist, who did my filling just last week! I told him that my dentist was looking at some of my photography prints to redecorate his waiting room and gave him a business card… so maybe there’s the chance of another sale somewhere down the line.

He was a better player than I am (I’m still learning and pretty bad), although he messed up a few shots as well. My round was pretty much similar in total to previous rounds I’ve played at Cammeray, but I had an excellent result at hole 6, which involves hitting a tee shot over a small lake. I’ve dropped several balls into that lake, but today my tee shot carried just over the lake, and ended up on the green.

Cammeray Hole 6 tee shot

That’s my ball foreground left. The dentist is in the background searching for his original ball – the other ball on the green near his golf cart is a provisional second ball that he hit off the tee in case he couldn’t find the first – which had landed on the rocks ringing the lake and bounced wildly in some random direction that we couldn’t follow. He didn’t find that ball. Anyway, from here I took two putts to sink my ball for a par. I’m still at the point where getting a par on a hole is a real achievement, so I was pretty happy.

At home afterwards I worked on some secret writing stuff… which I’m not ready to reveal just yet.

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:

Pies and golf

My golfing friend let me know that he was planning to play at the Pitch & Putt par 3 course today, with another friend of ours, and asked if I wanted to join in. I didn’t have any other plans for the day so I decided to accept.

The plan was to meet at 1:30, so I decided to go via my favourite pie shop and get lunch on the way. I left with plenty of time, fully expecting to have lunch and get to the golf course early so I could practice some putting before we started. But as I approached the pie shop, the traffic got really heavy and I heard on the radio that there was a serious accident a few suburbs ahead, which had backed traffic up all the way to where I was.

I stopped and got pies: a Singapore curry beef pie and a chicken, avocado, and brie pie. The first I got really because I decided to try something that I normally wouldn’t get. I don’t know if I’d had the Singapore curry before, but I probably won’t get it again (unless I forget some time in the future and decide I want to try something I don’t normally get again). The chicken pie was just what I wanted though, so that was fine.

Back on the road, the traffic continued to be slow, and I arrived at the golf course ten minutes late. But that was okay, and we started playing straight away. Our friend, the new player, claimed not to have played golf much and to be very bad. Indeed, his hitting off the tee was not very skilful, usually hitting the ball low along the grass instead of properly flighted into the air… but somehow he managed to whack the ball hard enough to reach close to the green most of the time. And his putting was pretty good (he said he’s played a lot of mini golf). He ended up beating my total by 4 strokes, scoring 2 better than even my best score on this course! It was clearly a hustle of some sort, spoiled only by the fact that we didn’t agree to play for money beforehand.

Before golf this morning, my wife and I took Scully on a long walk. We passed our favourite bakery and I got a loaf of potato and rosemary bread, and a challah.

Challah is very rare here in Sydney – we don’t have much of a Jewish population. I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere else that I can recall. I also had no idea how to pronounce it, again because we have virtually zero exposure to Hebrew speakers in Sydney. I guessed it might have a similar guttural “ch” sound like “chutzpah” but wasn’t really sure. So I looked it up, and yes, it looks like it does. The problem is I don’t know if the bakery staff know how to pronounce it either! It’s weird asking for something when you’re not sure if either yourself or the person you’re asking knows how to pronounce it!

New content today:

Sports and games

This morning dawned bright and clear and I took the opportunity to go play a round of golf at my local course. It’s only 9 holes, but since I was by myself I hit two separate balls on each hole and kept the scores independently. It was interesting how often the two balls ended up near each other. Hole 4 is a par 3, in which the tee off is over a creek gully dense with trees. It’s the most intimidating hole on the course for a beginner, but I’ve managed to reach a level where I can hit confidently over the creek and land near the green. Here’s where my two tee shots landed today (highlighted with arrows, because the balls are a little tricky to see, with Apple’s image processing rendering them very un-ball-like):

Hole 3 tee shots

I managed to get one ball in with just two more strokes for a par, but the other took 5. The next hole, number 5, is a par 4, and one tee shot was good, but the other skewed badly into the rough among some trees. By the time I recovered, I’d hit one ball twice and the other 4 times, and they ended up almost on top of one another:

Hole 5 twin balls

Each ball had some good holes and some bad ones. They ended up with totals of 64 and 59, both within my best-worst range of 66-55. By the end of it, my shoes and socks were thoroughly soaked, since the course was very muddy after the recent rain, and I’ve learnt from experience that it’s not a good draining course by any measure.

After golf, I had to go do the weekly grocery shopping, and it was a big one this week, with a lot of things having run out during the week that needed to be replaced. And then after shopping I had to go up to the post office. By this time most of the day had gone. For dinner my wife and I went out to our favourite local pizza place, which was really nice – I felt like some of their pizza tonight.

And tonight is virtual fortnightly games night with my friends. I’ve already played some 7 Wonders, and 6 Nimmt, and now we’re into skribbl.io, which is always hilarious.

New content today:

Fitness day!

Today I met my friend to play golf at the Par 3 Pitch and Putt course. My relative handicap was reduced down to 15 after I won last time with 16. (We play match play with jackpotting of halved holes.) But today I was really on fire, and my friend was struggling a bit, and I ended up trouncing him 14 points to 4. Without the handicap, my total score for 18 holes was only 3 strokes higher than his. So next time we play, my handicap will go down again.

I also managed the only birdie of the day, with a monster putt – it was in the range 15-20 metres long, and curved a good metre and a half to the right as it rolled along the green. So I’m pretty happy with that.

On the way home I stopped off at my favourite pie shops for lunch, having a pepper steak pie and a chicken/asparagus/corn one. Normally I go for more exotic flavours – they do a really nice butter chicken and a good Thai curry chicken pie – but I decided to try things I wouldn’t normally get today, and they were good.

I rested a bit at home, and then took off for this week’s 5k run! My goal was to beat last week’s 28:05, and today I managed 27:52. Let me tell you, it’s a real struggle in those middle laps to keep going. Fortunately I didn’t miscount laps like last week, so didn’t have to pick up and run another lap when I thought I’d finished!

Back at home I made potato salad for dinner, to go with some vegetarian sausages. I do love a good potato salad.

New content today:

Full metal golf x2

My golfing friend invited me to play today at a new course: North Ryde Golf Club. We planned to play the first 9 holes and then decide if we wanted to continue with the second 9.

Hole 2, North Ryde Golf Club

It’s a nice course, with a few lakes. Being a large green area with water in the middle of urban Sydney, it seems to attract a lot of birds. In this photo (above), which is from the 2nd hole tee, you can see a group of Australian wood ducks.

Hole 3, North Ryde Golf Club

Hole 3 (above) is a nice short one. The course was busy, and we often had to wait for groups in front of us to move on before we played our shots. After completing the front 9, we decided to continue on and play the back 9. As soon as we teed off on hole 10, it started raining. Steady but not too heavy. We pressed on.

But after a few holes, my friend said his back was starting to ache, so he pulled the plug and left, but I decided to continue and finish the complete round. I was playing behind a group of four who were pretty slow, but there was no point playing through them as they were being held up by at least two other groups ahead of them. So I went into zen mode and just relaxed and enjoyed being outdoors on this chilly, rainy winter’s day.

Hole 17, North Ryde Golf Club

The rain eventually eased off and I approached the end of the round (hole 17 above). I actually joined up with the group of four for the last hole, and it turned out they were middle-aged beginners as well. They all teed off on the short par 3, hitting their balls in various skewy places. Then I stepped up and cracked my ball straight onto the green! My first putt almost went in too – it was a good 5 metres long, and it curled around the lip of the hole but didn’t fall in, instead continuing another metre or two (requiring another two putts for a bogey, alas).

Overall, I had a good time, getting some exercise, and also spotting all the birds on the course. I saw: Australian magpie, Australian raven, Australian white ibis, Australian wood duck, Dusky moorhen, Magpie-lark, Rainbow lorikeet, Sulphur-crested cockatoo, Welcome swallow, White-faced heron.

With travel time, I was out of the house over five hours. Throw in cooking dinner and walking Scully and that was pretty much the day.

New content today:

Full metal golf

I returned to the local 9-hole golf course today for my first game on a normal length course since cutting my hand. (After playing the par-3 pitch and putt course last week.) And I actually went really well. The hand was fine, and I took a bit more care hitting with the driver off the tee, and I ended up scoring my best ever round on that course: 55 strokes for the 9 holes. So that was good!

I spent most of the rest of the day writing annotations for the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I spent a good four hours on one of them, ending up with 2300 words, 5 footnotes, 6 equations, a graph, and a diagram. Hopefully it’s both informative and amusing!

I also made some banana “ice cream”, by blending a couple of overripe bananas and a big spoon of peanut butter, and sticking the resulting mush into the freezer. I’m about to try some to see how it turned out…

Mmm, it’s good. And Scully likes it too!

New content today:

Improving my handicap

This morning I played golf for the first time since injuring my hand. I met a friend for a round at the “par 3 pitch and putt” course we’ve played several times. Last time we played match play with me having a relative handicap of 17, and I won, so this time we reduced my handicap to 16. It was a tight contest, and my friend could have tied the round and forced us into a play-off hole by winning the 18th, but we halved the hole, and so I ended up on slightly more points, winning again. Next time we’ll reduce my handicap another stroke to 15.

My putting wasn’t great, but I made up for it with some good tee shots. One tee shot landed on the green and rolled gently past the hole, maybe 10 centimetres away, although it didn’t stop until a couple of metres past the hole – but it had been darn close to going in.

And the good news is that my left hand held up well. I was able to play all the strokes with as much strength as I wanted, without any problem or pain.

Tonight I have to stay up until 2am, because I have an online meeting for ISO photography standards. This meeting was scheduled for New York City this week, but obviously with the COVID-19 situation I’m not able to travel there, nor are most of the other delegates. ISO is holding all meetings virtually at the moment, currently until at least the end of September. Which means it affects our next meeting as well, which was scheduled for Tampere in Finland in September. The meeting after that I am actually supposed to be hosting right here in Sydney, in February, but it remains to be seen whether that will go ahead face-to-face or virtually.

Anyway, because this week’s meeting is notionally hosted in New York City, the agenda schedule is on New York time. Normally it would be 9-5, which corresponds to 11pm to 7am for me – just about maximally awful. Especially given I am not in any way a night owl – I work best in the morning and start getting too tired to do much of anything by about 9pm. But fortunately the organiser decided that the meetings could be compressed into 9-12 New York time, meaning 11pm to 2am for me. Which is better (both for me and the numerous Japanese delegates), but it means we have to extend into an extra day, so I have these hours Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, and Friday night (normally the meeting would go over just three days).

So… honestly I’m not looking forward to having to concentrate on highly technical content in an online meeting lasting until 2am, four nights in a row. But I’m just going to have to knuckle down and power through it, and hopefully catch up on sleep on the weekend.

New content today: