Long slog

So yesterday I intended to write at least three Darths & Droids strips, and got zero done. Rinse, repeat. I did however, get some story planning done, and discuss some plot points with fellow writers. So that wasn’t a total loss.

What did I get done today? Hmm. Oh that’s right, I played golf this morning with a friend, at the pitch ‘n’ putt course (all holes par 3). After last time I lost badly with a matchplay/skins handicap of 16, my friend granted me an increase to 17. But today I played a lot better, and ended up winning 12-6. So next time we play there I’ll go back down to a handicap of 16. My total round for 18 holes was 79 strokes, which was 2 better than my previous record of 81. So I was pretty pleased with that!

I didn’t get home until after lunch, so that’s where half my day went. I spent some time dealing with housework stuff – we had to buy a new vacuum cleaner because our old one broke the other day, and I had some unboxing and then discarding of packaging and the old vacuum cleaner to do.

And there was some Scully walking… in the rain, as the weather closed in a bit after lunch. Walking a dog in nice weather is fine, but having to do it in inclement, cold weather is a bit of a chore.

This evening I’m playing some Codenames online with some friends. My team-mate just clued “LINUS 2” and I guessed the words PUMPKIN and VAN (from the grid of 25 words), and got them correct. And both of our opponents were absolutely mystified as to how I managed to guess the correct words!

New content today:

Good and lousy

I went to play some golf this morning at nearest local 9-hole course. It was early and the grass was very dewy. I had a pretty good putting day, and even sank a short chip onto the green, but my driving really let me down on many holes. I did manage to score one par, with a tee shot landing just off the green, followed by a short chip, and then sinking a putt of a little under 2 metres, so that was satisfying.

At home I baked a loaf of bread, which turned out very nice. And while the oven was hot I thought I’d try an experiment and see if the old pre-made puff pastry we’ve had sitting in the freezer for ages would be able to be rolled up and baked into something resembling a croissant. Bakers out there are probably laughing at me already, but wait until you see this photo…

"Rustic" croissants

I generously call them “rustic” croissants. Actually they weren’t too bad, with either butter or strawberry jam, although it really was more like “puff pastry with butter/jam” than a croissant.

And my wife was laughing so hard at them, and asked if she could send the photo to her nephew, who is currently working overseas in Paris. She said that the first thing he sees when he wakes up this morning (in the Paris time zone) will be her message containing delicious looking croissants! It’ll make his mouth water and he’ll have to dash out to buy some freshly baked croissants from a Parisian boulangerie to try and satisfy his sudden craving!

Yeah…

Experimenting with cooking is fun!

New content today:

Bad parring

We have a good method of making cheap chew toys for Scully. I buy a bunch of 100% cotton rope from the hardware store, cut it into lengths, and tie knots to stop it fraying. Scully loves playing tug-o-war with these ropes, and chewing them.

Scully's old play rope

A couple of days ago when I went past the hardware store I bought a new batch of rope. When I got it home I took the wrapper off… and oops!

Scully's new play rope

We couldn’t get it off her for a while! And just for fun here’s another photo fo Scully, from yesterday.

Scully with flowers

This morning I went to play golf with my friend, at the “pitch and putt” course where I first learnt to play. We did a rematch of the golf “skins” game we did a couple of weeks ago. Since I won that one with a handicap of 18, he suggested reducing my handicap to 16 for today. This meant that for the hardest 16 holes I only had to equal his score to win the hole, but for the two easiest hole I actually had to beat his score to win the hole. I thought he was still being generous after last time, but today I played poorly, and he won easily, 12 points to 6.

Here’s my best tee shot of the day.

My tee shot

Unfortunately I took two putts to sink it from there. Contrast my friend’s best tee shot of the day:

Andrew's tee shot

That’s my ball at the bottom. His ball is less than a forearm’s length from the hole. But that wasn’t the best shot we saw today. Another guy playing a hole near us scored a hole in one! I saw part of this shot, and the ball rolling on the green, but didn’t see it fall in the hole. However there was no mistaking it when people nearby exclaimed loudly and the man himself celebrated, and took a photo of the ball in the hole. So that was pretty cool.

New content today:

Cauliflower Bomb!

This morning I went to play a round of golf at the local course. I enjoyed the time outside and getting some exercise, but my round was poor, scoring my equal worst total for the 9 holes. So let’s forget that and move on.

Speaking of high scores, I spent some time calculating my score in the Goldfish Draft Magic: the Gathering tournament that I mentioned yesterday. I needed a spreadsheet to keep track, and ended up with a score of 7.8×10144, as best I can estimate. That’s nowhere near the winning score, alas, as at least three of the other players have been mentioning that their scores require Knuth’s up-arrow notation to write down succinctly.

Tonight for dinner I cooked a thing taken from a TV recipe that my wife saw the other day. It’s a roast miso-seasoned cauliflower, with a bunch of toppings an garnishes. The recipe is here (although it doesn’t list the ingredients for the cashew cream, which is 2/3 cup cashews, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar).

Miso Cauliflower Bomb

It wasn’t hard to make, and it was delicious! I’ll definitely be cooking this again.

New content today:

Birdie Num Num

This morning I had a virtual meeting via Zoom for Standards Australia on photography standards. This is the follow-up to the international meeting I had in February, where I report back to the Australian experts on what happened and the progress of the various standards the international committee is working on. Normally we meet face-to-face, but this is the first online meeting of the Aus group under coronavirus restrictions. It went smoothly enough, except that my wife is also working from home at the same time, on the phone a lot, and our place isn’t large. I had to use the bedroom as my virtual office.

Unrelated good news: Scully is definitely on the mend from her illness. She’s eating more and is more active rather than lethargic.

And in other good news, I needed some exercise after my meeting this morning, so I played a round of golf after lunch. The course was busy, and I had a slow pair of what looked like a father and son, about 10 years old, ahead of me. So I had a bit of waiting at each tee for them to clear the fairway ahead of me. And then another pair came up behind me – a girl about 12 years old and (presumably) her brother, maybe 9 or 10 years. I saw their father drop them off at the car park, but COVID restrictions here limit golf groups to a maximum of two people, so the kids were playing by themselves. And they were good! Better golfers than me.

So anyway, they came up behind me as I was waiting to tee off at hole 3. I decided to let them go ahead of me, because I didn’t want the pressure of people coming up behind. I told them that they were better players than I was. After we all finished hole 3, the kids teed off on hole 4 (after a bit of a wait for the father/son pair ahead of them). This is the intimidating hole I’ve posted before:

Hole 4, par 3

You have to hit your tee shot over the creek. I’ve lost a fair few golf balls in there. Anyway, the kids hit immaculate tee shots, the boy landing just off the green and the girl landing on the green. I think they both two-putted for pars. The tee for the next hole was still occupied, so they sat to wait on a bench, facing back towards hole 3, and me at the tee. So they were watching me play.

I hit the tee shot sweetly and it sailed high in the air… bounced right on the green, and rolled to a stop about 2.5 metres from the hole. Not bad! I walked over to the green and lined up the putt… and sank it! I scored a birdie! Only my second one ever, after last week’s. As I walked off the green to my golf bag, the girl called out, “Well done!”

I could have played it cool and suave, but I actually replied excitedly that that was the first birdie I’d ever scored on this course.

But how cool is it to have a stranger watch something you’re doing and spontaneously burst out with a genuine, “Well done!”?

New content today:

Golf and birdies

My golfing friend contacted me this morning and suggested we engage in a friendly COVID-isolation-compliant round of golf this week. (Golf alone or in groups of 2 is allowed under current rules here.) He suggested the pitch-and-putt course where I first learnt to play, and I suggested why not this morning? So we met up there and played 18 holes.

He granted me a handicap of 18, one for each hole, and we played match-play style, to see who could win each hole. And then we decided to jackpot the halved holes, in the style of golf “skins”. As it turned out, my game seems to have progressed to the point where this handicap was a little too generous, as I won 12 1/2 points to his 5 1/2. (And if we’d played standard match play, I won 6 holes to 4.)

On the way home I stopped at my favourite pie shop to get some pies for lunch, and took the opportunity to do some walking around that area for exercise. I also took my camera.

Australian magpie

This is an Australian magpie. Check out the claw on the rear of the right foot.

Australian raven

An Australian raven.

Silver gull

My walk took me past a beach, where there were plenty of silver gulls around.

Australian pelican

And some Australian pelicans.

I didn’t get home until mid-afternoon, and spent most of the rest of it sorting through the photos I’d taken and cataloguing them into my database.

New content today:

Birdie

After missing out on golf yesterday due to being fooled by the Weather Bureau, I decided to ignore their forecast for more rain today and go to the golf course anyway. I went to Cammeray, which I think dries out better than Lane Cove (which was very muddy last time I was there), around 7am for an early start. My round was going fairly mediocre, until I got to the last hole (of 9).

Hole 9 birdie: pre-tee shot

This is the view from the tee, towards the green (and the clubhouse in the background right, behind the car park). It’s a shortish par 3, downhill and across a shallow valley. You can see the green is narrow, between bunkers left and right, and the ground is very undulating, so a ball in the wrong spot can bounce and roll all over the place.

Last time I played this hole I actually landed on the green, but then needed three putts to sink the ball, scoring a bogey. This time I wasn’t quite so accurate, the ball heading a little bit left. I feared it would land in the bunker on the left, but it hit the grass lip just on the green side of the bunker. I saw it bounce and roll, and thought for sure it would roll into the sand…

Hole 9 birdie: post-tee shot

But no, it didn’t! It stayed up on the grassy lip of the bunker, as you can see here.

The grass was too thick to putt from here, so I had to chip it on to the green. And being a right-hander, my normal stance would result in my right foot being impossibly down that sandy slope. I couldn’t stand like that. So I had to stand well forward of the ball and reach my club back at an awkward angle. Fortunately I didn’t need a full swing, as I only needed to chip the ball a few metres.

In this awkward stance, I chipped the ball… and watched as it bounced on the green and rolled straight into the hole! Two strokes! A birdie!

I’ve only been playing golf since August last year, and only tried a “full size” course (as opposed to a “pitch & putt”) for the first time in November. I’ve only made par on a hole a couple of times, and this was my first ever birdie. That set me up on a high for the rest of the day!

On the way home I did some quick grocery shopping, and then at home I wrote some Darths & Droids strips, and then started learning how to use Tabletop Simulator, which we’re going to use to play games of Magic: the Gathering on tomorrow’s virtual board games night. I built my deck from the Dominaria draft I mentioned yesterday, and am ready to play.

New content today:

A warm autumn Thursday

Firstly, I forgot to post this photo I took yesterday on my walk home from the shops:

Dream home

This is a house I walk past occasionally. If I had unlimited money, this would be high on my list of houses to buy. Tennis court, lovely old house itself, and look at that view!

It was warm today. Earlier in the week we had some cold weather – the first truly cold weather since before summer, as we now slide into autumn. The maximum temperature on Saturday in Sydney was only 17.9°C, which is really winter-like conditions. It’s slowly been climbing as the week progresses, and today we reached 32.1°C, with 35°C forecast for tomorrow. So summer hasn’t quite released its grip yet, but winter is definitely on the way.

This morning I made use of the fine day to play 9 holes of golf at my nearest local course. I went really well today, equalling my record best score at that course. I was very pleased with my tee shot at the 4th hole:

Tee shot, hole 4

That’s my ball there on the left, right on the green! The tee position is just below the wooden bench in the background, and you have to hit the shot over the wooded creek gully that you can see below. I’ve lost several balls in that gully, but not today! Putting was difficult though, because the course had done what I learnt later is called “aerating the greens” – they punch a grid of small holes in the surface and lay sand over the top. This is part of the course maintenance and my friend tells me it’s done twice a year, and the greens take a week or so to recover. But it meant that today they were very lumpy and inconsistent, so I had trouble putting, although I made up for it with decent long shots. I ended up 3-putting this hole for a bogey 4.

My wife’s work is adjusting to work-from-home conditions due to COVID-19, and her job-share partner has been told to not come in this week (as she has a very long commute on public transport), so my wife is working longer hours than normal this week (as she only has a short walk to the office). She normally takes Scully in to the office (the staff all love her), but Scully gets restless with the extra hours, so I’ve been going in to pick her up around lunch time. On the way home today we stopped to have a bit of a play in the park.

Scully in the park

Apart from all this, the main thing I did today was work on more Darths & Droids strips. I wrote a couple of new strips and assembled a couple that I’d written yesterday. We’re getting a pretty good buffer for the new movie now.

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:

Episode VII story plotting

With this week’s ISO meeting over, I had time today to do other things. This morning I went to the golf course to play 9 holes, hoping not to repeat last week’s disastrous round. And it began promisingly, with decent scores on the first few holes. I even saw an ibis on the greenkeeper’s driveway:

Golfing ibis

On the 6th hole, which is a short par 3 with a very elevated tee off dropping down to a green far below, I got my tee shot very close to the green. Then I did a “chip and roll” shot to get the ball onto the green, and it stopped about 1.5 metres form the hole. And then I sank the putt, for a par! The first time I’ve pared that hole. It felt really good.

I did well up to the 7th hole, where a tree had fallen over during the recent storms we’ve had.

Immovable obstacle

That’s actually the 9th green in the photo. The 7th green is behind me as I took the photo, and the tree must have fallen right onto the green before they cleared it away with a chainsaw.

Then I hit the 8th hole… Oh dear. It took me four strokes to even reach the beginning of the fairway. The ball kept landing in heavy, dewy grass, and whacking it as hard as I could just sent it 5 or 6 metres dribbling up the course to land in more thick grass. I eventually scored 13 on that hole. Oh well. Even with that, my total for 9 holes was still 2 strokes better than last week, which shows just how much better the rest of my round was.

Back home, I spent most of the day working on Darths & Droids. We need to get some sort of storyline planned for the next three Star Wars movies, and finalise which players are playing which characters, and what’s happening in their real lives. So I was busily thinking up plot points and making notes. It’s not quite at a point where I can start writing scripts for individual comics, but it’s a lot close now that it was yesterday.

Tonight, in lieu of our fortnightly Games Night, we had a birthday party event for Steven. It was at a local park, with a barbecue where we cooked sausages, and ate them with bread and salads. It was a nice park, with a lot of cool playground equipment, including a zipline. The kids all had a go, and then I tried it as well, and it was a lot of fun. I also had a climbing race with one of Steven’s daughters up the rope climbing thingy. And I managed to get my hand on the top post a second before she did, so I won!

New content today: