The feel of autumn

I really noticed today that autumn is in the air. The weather has turned crisp and cool – the maximum temperature today was only 24.6°C, although it was cooler this morning when I was out and about. After my Ethics class I drove out to the Pitch-and-Putt golf course where I met a friend and we played 18 holes. The trees around the city are looking autumny – at least the ones that actually change colour. Liquidambars are going red, and the plane trees are going that dull brown colour and starting to drop their leaves.

It was the last Ethics class of the school term, with the students getting two weeks of holidays for the Easter break, so I have two weeks off now before the second term begins in mid-April. Today we talked about what constitutes punishment: is it punishment if it’s accidental, or unintended, or if the recipient enjoys it, or if it’s imposed by someone with no authority. (The last one was illustrated with the example of a boy who teases his younger sister, and she gets back at him by hiding his cricket bat. Is losing his cricket bat punishment, or is it only punishment if one of his parents takes it away?)

We had a good discussion. At the end of the class, one of the boys said he would be moving to a new school, so he wouldn’t be in the class next term. This reduces my class size down to 12 students. Which is much more manageable than the 21 I had last year.

At golf, I did poorly for the first 9 holes, but got my eye in and scored really well on the last 9.

Back home this afternoon I worked on photos and writing up my trip from a couple of weeks ago as a full travel diary – expanding the entries I posted here to add more details and photos.

Oh, I should mention that Comments on a Postcard is running low on submissions. This is the easiest webcomic in the world to submit material for! If you’re reading this, you probably have what it takes to submit some stuff – so please take a look.

New content today:

Hitting the golf course again

I haven’t played golf on a full sized course for several weeks, but today was the morning. I got out soon after sunrise, with the morning dew still on the grass. The season is changing as we move into autumn, with sunrise coming later, and the mornings (and days) getting cooler.

My driving today was pretty good – I’m very pleased with the improvement in consistency since I had that lesson before Christmas. But putting let me down. On one hole I landed a tee shot on the green, but then proceeded to take 4 putts to sink it, scoring a 5 on the par 3 hole.

Here’s hole 4, with ball tracks through the dew showing my putts. The tracks coming from the bottom are both short chips onto the green, so the left ball needed just one putt, but I needed two putts for the right ball. The tee for this hole is visible in the background across the creek gully.

Hole 4 Lane Cove

Back home I worked on new Darths & Droids strips, setting up a buffer to last through next week when I’ll be away on that short holiday.

Not much else to report.

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 1

Today was the first day of the latest ISO Photography Standards meeting. I was scheduled to host this meeting here in Sydney, with 30+ delegates form around the world travelling here to meet and discuss digital photography standards in progress. Of course, with COVID being what it is, travel to Australia is impossible, so we’re having the meeting entirely online.

With delegates in Australia, Japan, three European time zones, and all four US time zones, it’s impossible to organise a time when everyone would normally be awake. So instead of meeting full time for 3 days, we’re doing 5 days of 3.5 hours – so the people awake in the middle of the night don’t have to stay awake for too long. Fortunately for me this meeting starts at 8 am and ends at 11:30 am, and the Europeans have the worst of it.

We always start with administrative stuff, which took most of today’s time. There was a lot of discussion of planning for future meetings. Normally we plan up to two years ahead, setting venues for each of the three meetings a year. The next meeting after this one was scheduled for Okayama in Japan in June, but that’s been converted to virtual because of COVID. The one after, around October, is scheduled for Apple HQ in Cupertino, California. I don’t know if that will go ahead in Cupertino or be converted to virtual – but either way I won’t be going because I’m pretty sure travel out of and back into Australia will be either still impossible or difficult. I really don’t want to travel to a country where COVID may still be rampant, and then have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks when I get back home.

We’ve put off talking about 2022 in the last couple of meetings, but we have to think about it now. The February meeting is normally in Yokohama, to coincide with the CP+ camera show. It wasn’t this year, because it was Japan’s turn to host the ISO Photography plenary meeting – the Okayama meeting – which involves all of the various photography committees getting together in one place. (I’m on the digital committee, there are also committees for image permanence/archiving, and imaging material dimensions. Standards for chemical photography processes are maintained by these existing committees – there is no longer a separate committee on chemical photography.) Anyway, the plan is to go back to Yokohama in February 2022. But given the virtualisation of the Okoyama plenary, there is some discussion of having Japan host a face-to-face plenary in 2022, which would be mid-year again to align with the other committees. So the proposal is for Japan to host in Yokohama in Feb 2022, and again in a place to be determined (perhaps Okayama) in mid-2022. The Japanese sponsoring bodies need to decide if they want to host twice in one year or not, and report back. Finally, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has offered to host in New York City for the October 2022 meeting. All assuming physical meetings can go ahead in 2022, of course.

They asked me if I wanted to host in Sydney in 2022, given I was supposed to be hosting the current meeting. But I said I couldn’t be sure travel to Australia would even be allowed even in 2022, so I didn’t want to start organising a meeting here.

Following the admin, there was the first technical session of the meeting, which happened to be the one about which I know the least, and have the most trouble following the technical discussion. So I didn’t really participate in that. We finished for the day a bit early, just after 11:00.

I’d organised to play golf with my friend at the short pitch-and-putt course, meeting after lunch at 1 pm. I drove via my favourite pie shop and got lunch there. I had a really good game today, and after 15 holes my experienced friend and I were exactly even on total strokes. Previously I’d been playing against him with relative handicaps in the teens, but now here I was holding my own without a handicap. I even got a birdie on one hole! Unfortunately, I had a huge blow out on hole 16, needing 7 strokes. That ruined my chance of beating my friend, alas. But next time… maybe I can do a bit better again.

Back home, I was pondering an idea I’d had in discussion with another friend, about making a database of Magic: the Gathering cards, to use to automatically construct cubes of cards for use with our Goldfish Draft format. I was thinking how much work it was going to be, creating and populating a database with our lists of cards suitable for Goldfish Draft… and then I wondered if anyone had downloadable data files of Magic cards.

A quick search later and I found MTGJSON, a maintained database of every Magic card ever printed, downloadable in JSON format. Not only that, they also have an SQL export! So I grabbed the SQL file, created a new database, imported it…. and voilà! I had a fully populated database of Magic cards within about half an hour. It’s pretty cool when you think a task will take a long time, and you find a way to get it done much more quickly.

I still need to add fields for Goldfish-relevant data for each card, and then populate those, but it will be a much easier task with the core database already done. So: feeling very accomplished today!

New content today:

New golf club test

This morning I played golf with my golfing friend at my local course, and I tried using the full set of clubs gifted to me by my neighbour (mentioned previously here). It turns out they’re a very nice set of clubs, newer and with more modern design than mine. They’re not the latest and greatest, but definitely a lot better than the clubs I was using.

Unfortunately, I failed to make the best use of them today. I messed up the first few holes and very quickly assured that I wouldn’t be producing any personal best total score today. However my luck changed on the par-4 7th hole, when I sank a chip from off the green, for a par. That was good – the first time I’ve ever scored par on that hole. I bogeyed the next two holes, which was good because I’m still at the stage where a bogey is a good personal score. So overall it wasn’t great but at least I ended the round of 9 on a high note.

I also baked a sourdough loaf today. But I forgot to put any salt in the dough, and it turned out… different. Definitely a different taste to normal and what you expect from bread. It was strange, but not actually bad. Although next time I’ll definitely try to remember the salt.

Most of the rest of the day I spent writing Darths & Droids strips. It’s amazing how you churn through them publishing three per week.

New content today:

Learning to drive

I didn’t mention yesterday when talking about my neighbour’s offer to give me some of her late husband’s golf gear, that she told me to take whatever I wanted to test it out first. I took the driver (the biggest, long distance club, for use in teeing off) on a test run today, playing a round at my local course.

The first hit I tried flew an impressively long way, but sliced badly, ending up in some trees. I corrected my grip for the next hole, and was blown away by how far and how straight the ball flew off the tee. I had a couple more marginal drives, but by the time I reached the 7th hole I was hitting the ball much cleaner and further than I’d ever managed with my own driver. I hit the tee shot on the 7th and it was without a doubt the best distance shot I’ve yet played. The hole curves slightly to the left around heavy forest, and my drive skimmed the inside of the curve within spitting distance of the trees, flying straight and true. I made a map of today’s drive compared to where I’d previously managed to hit the tee shot on this hole:

Hole 7

And then for good measure on the next hole I hit an even sweeter drive:

Hole 8

Wow. I’m just blown away by the difference this new, modern driver makes. The lesson I had a while ago also helped a lot, as I now have the basic knowledge of how to use this club effectively. So I’ll be happy to accept this gift from my neighbour. I started making dough today for a batch of sourdough which I’ll bake tomorrow, and take a loaf down for her.

I played early in the morning, and was home by 9:30. I had a shower, since it was already hot. The weather has turned from the cool and rainy of the last month to hot and sunny more typical of summer in the past few days. I thought my excursions were done for the day and planned to relax at home in the cool of the air conditioning.

Until my wife called at lunchtime and reminded me that I had agreed yesterday to go to her office and pick up Scully… So I had to venture out for a hot and sweaty walk to bring Scully home. And then I figured I may as well take her to the dog park later in the afternoon. The walk that the regulars do there along the waterfront has a final section which we call “The Gobi Desert”, because it so exposed and hot in hot weather. Normally we brave the heat of the Gobi Desert, but today everyone stopped short and turned back early.

So yeah, I’ve had another shower tonight.

New content today:

Understanding sections

This morning I did the required online training modules to learn about how to use Outschool as a teacher (as I mentioned yesterday). One module was about child protection and safety, and what to do if I see/hear anything questionable while conducting the Zoom classes with students. I’m familiar with this sort of stuff through my training to teach Primary Ethics. Obviously, if I notice anything untoward or suspicious, I have to inform Outschool as soon as possible, so they can investigate and deal with it through their protocols. But interestingly, even though Outschool is based in the US, the training module said that teachers based in Australia or Canada have local legal requirements to report suspected child abuse to local authorities, and they linked to an Australian Government website (and presumably a Canadian one, but I didn’t look at that) with more info. So it looks like if I’m doing a Zoom class, and I notice signs of what I suspect is child abuse, I am legally required to report it directly to Australian child protection services, even if the child is not in Australia.

The second interesting point was trying to figure out the meaning of the word “section” in the module about how to create, schedule, and run classes. There was material on things like “how to schedule a section”, and “how to transfer learners to a different section of the same class”. I couldn’t really follow the explanations because I had no idea what the word “section” meant in this context. I’ve occasionally heard Americans mention “sections” in the context of university courses, but I didn’t know what they meant and never bothered trying to find out. But suddenly I kind of had to figure it out.

Google was astonishingly little help. The word “section” has so many different meanings that no search string I tried came up with any helpful hits. I tried “section academic jargon”, and I got a list of pages from Australian universities that happened to have the word “section” in some unrelated context (because of course Google knows I’m in Australia). I tried “section american english” – but that was equally useless. I tried “section academic american english”, but again it was all pages about unrelated stuff.

Eventually I turned to reddit and posted the question in a smallish group that I know has some Americans. The first couple who responded said they didn’t know – which was not very encouraging! I got suggestions that it might refer to a section/part of the coursework, or of the syllabus, or textbook. But eventually someone answered:

Say a university is offering a course. It’s being offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30, taught by Professor A.

It’s also offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM, by Professor B.

Or you could take it at night time on Wednesdays for 2 hours, once a week, with Professor C.

Each of those is a section. Same course, same material, different instructors and meeting times. You choose to register for a specific section that’s available and meets your schedule.

Aha!!! This is what I’d call streams. All of a sudden it all fell into place. I’m really unclear why American English chooses to use the word “section” for this concept of parallel class streams. Whatever the reason is, it’s extremely confusing for Australian English (and I expect UK English) users, because of the many potential meanings of the word “section” – none of which seem to make sense. I don’t think I’d ever have been able to work out that meaning without having an American explain it in detail.

Anyway, that linguistic detail aside, I’m now ready to start thinking about class topics and structure, and put together lesson plans for offering on Outschool. It’ll take me a few weeks probably to get ready for the first class, but I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Between doing the modules, I made another loaf of sourdough bread today. I think I’m really getting the hang of it, as it turned out pretty well.

The other thing of note today was I ran into my downstairs neighbour whose husband Col died on Christmas Day (mentioned on 29 Dec when I learnt the news). I mentioned that Col and I talked about golf after he learnt I’d started playing. His wife now told me that he had asked her to see if I wanted any of his golf gear (he’d known his time was limited due to cancer). I said that was very generous and I’d have a look, and she let me into her garage to do so. Most of his clubs are pretty old – older even than my second hand set – but he had a nice new driver, exactly the sort of thing I was looking at buying for myself soon.

So next time I see her I’ll suggest that I’d be honoured to accept the driver, and maybe I could take the rest of the clubs to a pro shop and see if I can get a bit of cash for them to give back to her. I also mentioned to here that I’ve started baking sourdough, and she said she loves sourdough, so next time I bake I’ll do an extra loaf and take it downstairs for her.

New content today:

Not being bored

On reddit today I came across a very interesting explanation of why we get bored (versus why lizards can sit there all day doing nothing, apparently without getting bored):

Most organisms are in a constant struggle for energy. Obtaining energy is dangerous, you have to leave your safe burrow or go risk injury in a hunt. That’s why many organisms develop strategies for minimising the risks they need to take. And one of the most popular strategies is simply having simple, low demand physiologies, slow metabolisms and generally low energy needs.

Warm blooded animals are fairly unique. We’re like a car with the engine constantly running. That means we’re ready to go from zero to 100 right away but we’re also guzzling gas constantly, even if we’re standing still. That’s why warm blooded animals need to constantly eat.

[Boredom is] really just another evolutionary adaption. There’s no advantage to boredom if your survival strategy relies on doing nothing. Boredom is essentially the inability to articulate what is a meaningful activity for you right now. It motivates you to change whatever it is you’re doing and find something meaningful or productive to do.

That lizard isn’t questioning what it should be doing. It’s surviving by doing nothing and not wasting energy. Humans on the other hand have so many needs that doing nothing is nearly always the wrong thing to do, so you get bored.

(My emphasis.) Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool.

I got up early this morning and went to the nearest golf course at 6:30, playing my now usual two simultaneous balls on each hole. I scored a par on the very first hole, and thought it might be a good day, but things went a bit downhill after that. My totals were 50 and 58 – the 50 is good, but 58 is not as good as I’ve been scoring lately.

When I got home, before 9 am, I was so hot and sweaty that I had to have a cold shower. The weather has been warm this week, but mostly ridiculously humid. It’s not actually too hot – but once you do anything you start sweating and it just doesn’t evaporate. I guess the “cooler, wetter” La Niña conditions for the summer are here.

I continued today working on Darths & Droids writing. I’ve been doing a lot of story planning this week, and it’s starting to pay off with the next few strips I’m having to write, because I know exactly what plot elements they need to touch on.

New content today:

Boomerang Golf

My golfing friend invited me today to join him for a round at Boomerang Golf Course. This a shortish 18-hole course about 60 km south of the city centre. It’s situated on top of the Illawarra Escarpment, a plateau that drops off in a cliff to a narrow strip of land along the coast. So in some places on the course we had views of the ocean, and also back north along the coast to the city. It’s not a particularly fancy course, but was nice enough. It has three holes where you have to hit over water hazards.

Hole 5: Boomerang Golf Course

This is the 5th hole. You have to hit over the water and towards the yellow flag in the distance (between the two golfers). This was scary, because I’m still getting the hang of hitting my driver with the new techniques I picked up during the lesson I had a couple of weeks ago. On the first four holes I’d hit poorly with the driver, sending the ball skimming low across the grass. So I really needed to hit this one well to clear that water. Fortunately I managed to connect cleanly and made it over easily with a nice drive.

A couple of holes later is another water hazard, this course’s signature hole:

Hole 7: Boomerang Golf Course

Hole 7 is a short par 3 across this small pond. This photo actually shows my ball after I hit my tee shot. It landed on the green, about 40 centimetres from the hole (I saw the pitch mark where it had bounced), and rolled a couple of metres further behind. I had a chance at a birdie if I’d sunk the putt, but I needed two putts, so scored par.

I did however manage a birdie on a later hole, the par 4 13th:

Hole 13, Boomerang Golf Course

The tee shot here is blind, with the green behind a clump of trees. I hit around the left of the trees and ended up here as shown in the photo. I did a pitch over the sand and landed on the green, about 2.5 metres from the hole. And then I putted it in for the birdie! That was the highlight of the day.

My friend had invited me for this round as it was his birthday. He said he hoped to score under 100 as a birthday treat. Totalling up our scores after 18 holes, he had scored exactly 100 strokes. I scored 103. I was very pleased with that. Previously on 18 hole courses I’d been scoring totals around 130-140 strokes.

We finished at lunch time, so stopped on the drive back to have lunch at a place not far from the golf course. Then it was the drive back home to his place, where I’d left my car, and I drive home from there. I got home around 3pm. Exhausted, but having had a really fun day out.

New content today:

Cooler weather, and golf at Cammeray

It’s Monday, and the weather is much, much cooler after the weekend’s heatwave conditions. It’s been mid-20s and overcast – the maximum in Sydney today was 27.3°C.

I wanted to practise my new golf swing a bit, so I played Cammeray Golf Course this morning, also 9 holes, but longer than Lane Cove, where I usually play (such as last Friday).

Again, I played solo, hitting two balls in parallel on each hole. I got some really nice drives in – much better than I’d ever done before – but also a few mediocre ones that skewed off into the trees. I also felt like I was struggling to make the distance on the longer holes, taking 2 or 3 shots to hack my way up the fairway when I really should only need one shot if I hit, say, a 3 iron cleanly. And my putting was a bit off as the greens were slowish and I left a lot of putts short. So I felt like I was doing poorly.

However, I got home and entered my scores into my spreadsheet… The best round of 9 I’ve ever done at Cammeray before is 57. And today I scored 54 and 51 with the two balls! So I’ve definitely improved, even though I felt like I was hacking my way around a bit today. If I had a good day I’m sure I could do even better.

Best hole was the par 4 8th hole, which is the longest on the course at 394 metres from the ladies’ tee (casual players must use the front tees at Cammeray), and uphill all the way. I got to within 110 metres after 2 strokes. I hit a 4 iron, and landed on the green, about 3 metres from the hole, and then sank the putt for par! That was pretty cool. My first par on a par 4 on that course, and definitely the longest hole I’ve scored par on.

My muscles are a bit sore after the golf, but in a good, tired sort of way, not strained or anything. Still, I think it’ll be good to relax for a few days. My golfing friend has invited me to play with him at Boomerang Golf Course on Tuesday next week, on a special excursion for his birthday. So that’ll probably be the next time I play.

Oh, the same friend today asked me if I could Photoshop up something like… this:

(That’s what I came up with.)

New content today:

Golf lesson

This morning I had a golf lesson – my first lesson ever, even though I began playing a bit over a year ago. The lesson was great. The pro loosened up my swing a lot, got me to do a bigger backswing and bigger follow through. It felt a bit out of control, but the greater momentum meant the club path was actually more smooth, and I connected more cleanly more often. And hit the ball way further than I’ve ever hit it before.

We started with a 9 iron, which I could hit maybe 80 metres on a good day. Within 10 minutes he had me hitting it 100… 110… 120… metres or so. I was quite literally hitting the ball and just going, “Oh my god… look at it go…”

Then we moved onto the driver, which was the main reason I booked a lesson. I’ve been unable to hit the ball at all with any consistency with the driver. More often than not I was mis-hitting and skewing the ball sideways, or dribbling it about 20 metres along the grass. I could only hit it cleanly maybe one stroke in 4 or 5, and then it would only go maybe 120 metres.

With my newly modified swing, I was hitting it cleanly 9 times out of 10. And it was flying. We were practising on practice tees directly adjacent to the first tee. The hole is 193 metres long. Two of my practice drives landed on the green. (I wanted to run up and putt them for birdies, but had my lesson to finish!) I did slice a few off to the right, but I know how to correct a slice, and usually my next drive was straight.

After such a good lesson, I wanted to practise a bit more and consolidate what I’d learnt, so I paid for a round of 9 holes and started right away, playing by myself and hitting two golf balls (counting strokes for each ball separately, so it’s effectively two simultaneous rounds). My driving was a lot better than it’s ever been, but I still hit a few stray tee shots. Unfortunately my short game was a bit off today, which held my score back a bit. My previous best two scores on this course were 49 and 53. Today I scored 52 and 53 with my two separate balls. Both could easily have been lower than 50 if I hadn’t had a couple of blowout holes with badly missed chip shots and bunker shots. (I did look for the practice drives I hit earlier onto the first green, but other players had removed the yellow practice balls already.)

There was one incident of note. I teed off on the 4th hole, a shortish par 3 hitting over a creek gully. Both my balls landed just off the left edge of the green, about 5-10 metres from the hole, which was placed near the left edge of the green. But by the time I walked over to putt, a greenkeeper had moved the hole about 15 metres further away to the right, and was plugging up the hole I’d aimed at!! I took this photo as soon as I’d walked over and around the back of the green (so it’s looking back towards the tee, where the guy in the white shirt is standing in the background). You can see my two golf balls in the foreground, and where the hole was when I teed off:

Hole 4, Lane Cove

My friend who started me in golf tells me that moving the hole while you’re playing it is outrageous and the greenkeeper should have waited for me to finish putting before starting work on it. But this is a cheap and very casual suburban course, not a fancy expensive one, so I guess the staff are much more relaxed about everything. Oh well. It maybe cost me an extra stroke on each ball having to putt that greater distance, but who knows.

I’m still pleased that my lesson was so productive, and am looking forward to playing again soon!

Tonight (as I write this) is an impromptu online games night, but before that I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully. We went to our favourite seafood restaurant. They had a dessert special…

Orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse

It’s an orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse, and some almond praline. This is not the fanciest dessert I’ve ever had, but I’m a huge fan of cherries and chocolate together, and this was definitely one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had. It was ridiculously good.

New content today: