A good and bad day

For me it was a good day, but tempered by some bad news from my friends. With the current wave of tech sector layoffs sweeping the world, I was saddened to hear today that two of my friends have lost their jobs. Fortunately we’re in Australia so they would have got reasonable redundancy payouts, but it means they’ll be looking for jobs in a shrinking market.

My own day started with a trip to the golf course. I haven’t played in over six months, due to a combination of the extremely wet weather we’ve had, and having limited opportunities due to ramping up my online teaching work. But it’s been drier lately and today I had a free morning, so I decided to trek out to the pitch and putt “par 3” course, to get my eye back in on a short course, and then go next door to the driving range to practice with my longer clubs a bit before attempting a full sized course.

Back 9

The course was not busy and I played two ball simultaneously, scoring 75 and 71 respectively. The round of 71 matched my previous best on this course, so that was pretty good! I got a birdie on hole 17 – tee shot onto the green, and a slightly longish putt to sink in 2. Achieving a birdie on this course is always something exciting.

I went next door to the driving range, most specifically to have some practice with my driver. But when I got in there were big signs everywhere saying “NO DRIVERS”. The net they have to catch the golf balls has apparently developed some problem, and people were hitting balls over it into the parkland beyond, so they had a temporary ban on drivers until they repaired it. I didn’t want to spend half an hour hitting a 5 iron (the only other club I grabbed from the car), so I skipped it and went to get some lunch.

I drove over to Collaroy for pies from the pie shop there. I walked down to the beach to sit on the grass in the shade and eat. There were two piles of towels and stuff nearby, and halfway through eating two woman emerged from the ocean to come and grab their things, followed by two medium-sized dogs, dripping with sea water. One of the dogs came right up to me – I thought it was going to go for the pie I was eating – but it stopped right next to me, touching distance away, and did the doggy shake to fling all the water off! The women were mortified and one yelled out, “Sorry!!” I said it was okay, I had a dog and I understand. We had a bit of a laugh and they wished me a good day as they walked off with the dogs.

While eating I was watching the various birds hanging out on the beach: mostly silver gulls, some pelicans, welcome swallows, little black cormorants, and… I saw what at first I assumed to be a cormorant dive into the surf, and then realised it had a very long neck for a cormorant. I thought it might be an Australasian darter, but I’ve never seen one in salt water before. I thought they usually lived inland on fresh waterways. After finishing my lunch I walked over to see if I could get a closer look and it was drying its wings off on a concrete boat ramp that leads down the beach to the water.

Australasian darter

At first I thought maybe I’d been mistaken and it was a pied cormorant, but when it stretched its neck out I knew it must really be a darter. I recorded it in eBird, and then tried to sneak closer to get some photos. I managed to creep to within about 2 metres and got a decent photo.

Australasian darter

Well, this was pretty exciting! I’ve seen darters before, but only inland, so this was a new experience seeing one in the surf.

I got home in time to teach the first lesson in my current Creative Thinking and Game Design class. There’s only one student, a girl, and I think she enjoyed the lesson. She certainly got some of the thinking techniques that I went through, and did the exercises well. So I’m looking forward to the rest of the classes with her.

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No work Tuesday

Tuesdays are the days when I don’t have any classes on Outschool to teach, so they’re good days for me to go do other things. My golf friend suggested we go play at the pitch and putt course this morning. I got up early (6:30) and went straight out for my run, to get it out of the way before heading off to play golf. It was nice and cool that early, but my muscles obviously hadn’t warmed up after a night asleep and I didn’t do a very good time.

After breakfast, I headed out to the golf course. It was an overcast day, and rained a little as I drove there, but the rain held off for the rest of the day.

Overcast golf day

I scored 75, which was okay, but not as good as my best 71 on this course last time. Afterwards I went to the driving range next door to hit a bucket of balls. I started with a 9 iron and I was hitting the ball to the 100 metre marker, which I’m pretty happy with. I’m still finding my strength with full swings. I don’t think I’ve ever hit a 9 iron that far on an actual course. Then I switched to the driver and practised that for a while. It was a bit more erratic, but more consistent than I’ve been before, and I hit a few into the netting which is at 180 metres, but most didn’t quite reach that far.

After that I drove over to the pie shop at Collaroy for lunch. I sat and ate on a bench looking out over the beach. It’s usually a nice view, but was a bit grey with the overcast, and the surf was a bit brown with all the recent rain.

Later in the afternoon I relaxed a bit at home. For dinner I made pizza with mixed mushrooms. I decided to try hand stretching the dough to make the base instead of rolling it out, to see what difference that would make. And it turned out amazing! The rolled bases are very even, but hand stretching it made it thinner in the middle and puffier around the crust. So the centre cooked thin and crispy, and bubbled up like a proper pizzeria pizza. The difference was amazing, and my wife agreed it was much better than the rolled versions we’ve been having. So I guess from now on I’ll be hand stretching our pizza bases.

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A day off!

For the first time since April I don’t need to start a new week of ethics classes this week! I have taken the next three weeks off to have a bit of a break over the Christmas and New Year period.

To celebrate, I went out to play golf this morning – for the first time in months. Rather than hit a full size course, I went to the pitch and putt par 3 course, to try and get my eye in a bit before tackling anything longer. It was a fine sunny day, and actually warm – finally it’s starting to feel like summer. The course wasn’t very full, so I hit two balls from each tee and played them in parallel, so that I ended up with two complete rounds of 18 holes.

My previous best total on this course was 72. It’s par 54 for 18 holes, so that equates to averaging a bogey on each hole. Today my two simultaneous rounds scored 72 and 71! So my best round, and averaging less than a bogey per hole. Maybe I’ll try to get onto a full course next week.

I went home via the pie shop at Collaroy, where I grabbed lunch to eat while sitting by the beach, watching the birds and the paragliders who were taking advantage of the winds off the headland.

And this afternoon I relaxed a bit. And did my now daily run, and made dinner.

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Golf on fire

This morning I left early (before breakfast) for the local golf course, for my first game in exactly two months. I haven’t played through the heart of the current COVID lockdown in Sydney – even though golf has always been an allowed exercise activity. But today I decided it was a good day to hit the course again. Normally I go there early and the course isn’t busy – I can just rock up whenever and pay and go tee off without waiting. But this morning the woman behind the counter asked what time I had booked – I’ve never been asked that before! She said that recently they’ve been very busy and requiring bookings, even this early. I said I hadn’t been for a couple of months, and usually just showed up. She gave me a wink and let me pay and said I could sneak into the roster.

So I went down to the first tee, and yeah, there was a queue of people waiting to tee off. I just sort of took a place in the queue, and sidestepped questions from other players on what my booked tee time was. It turned out to be a very slow round, taking almost an hour longer than I’d expected for nine holes, but I didn’t mind, as I take a relaxed approach to golf – unlike some people who get really frustrated when behind slow players. I enjoyed my time outdoors and I ended up having a really good game.

I started consistently, with scores of 6, 6, 5, 5, 5 on the first five holes (pars 3, 4, 3, 3, 4). This is not objectively great, but for me this was equal to my best start ever on this course. Normally I end up blowing out at least one hole, with a score of 8 or 9 strokes, so I was very happy, while hoping that I wouldn’t end up screwing up on one of the last four holes. Then on hole 6 I scored a par of 3. The last three holes are par 4s. I scored 6 on hole 7, not great, but no disaster. If I could just stay consistent on the last two holes, I could do a personal best round.

On hole 8, I hit a nice long drive, though a little of course. But I had a clear shot at the green from 9 iron distance. I hit the shot straight, but too long, I watched it fly over the green and disappear into the little gully behind the green. Disappointed, I turned back to my cart and started trudging towards the hole, expecting to have to hit another shot from the gully up onto the green, giving me a big opportunity to mess up and end up with a nasty score.

But then I got to the green and saw this:

Second shot, par 4 hole 8

Surely the previous players wouldn’t have left a ball on the green? Was that my ball? I checked… it was my ball! It must have bounced off the sandstone outcrop that you can see behind the flag, and bounced back on to the green! Nice! Unfortunately that putt was a little too long for me to sink, but I downed it in two, for a par.

One hole to go, and I hadn’t messed up yet. And my fortune would last onto the 9th and final hole of my round. I parred that too. My previous best total on this course was 49. Today I scored 44. I was really on fire! That was easily my best and most satisfying day on a golf course. The only thing is it’s going to be difficult to equal or better that performance any time soon, until I improve my game some more. But… wow… I felt really accomplished, and it really made my day.

When I got home I worked on today’s new ethics lesson, and this evening I taught three classes in a row. It was incredibly interesting, but I’ll go into that later in the week, as it’s quite late now after all of that.

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COVID Sydney update

Today the news about the current COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney got worse. New South Wales recorded 38 new cases in the last 24 hour reporting period, which is the highest number of new cases we’ve had in the past 14 months. This takes the total number of cases in the current outbreak (from 16 June) to 396. The Delta variant is spreading much more aggressively than previous variants, and in today’s daily press conference the authorities were very harsh on people flouting the lockdown rules.

I know from the context of some other countries that 396 cases may not sound like much, but here it’s horrifying. We’ve been living with close to zero cases for over a year. And Australia’s vaccination rate is the lowest of any country in the OECD – because for so long it wasn’t considered an emergency to get people vaccinated, so our acquisition of vaccine doses has been very delayed compared to most countries. At present just 8% of Australians are fully vaccinated, and 17% have had a first vaccine dose (me among those with one dose).

So we need to clamp down and stop the spread of this Delta variant lest all the good work to date go to waste and suddenly we have it running rampant through the largely unvaccinated population. This right now is one of the scariest phases of the whole pandemic for Australia.

Having said that, it feels a little odd to move onto my next topic for today, which is that I went to play golf (at a non “pitch & putt” course) for the first time in ages – since April I think. Even through the strictest lockdown here (a level we’re not quite back up to yet), golf was always available as an acceptable outdoor exercise activity, since it’s about the most socially distant sport one can play.

I went to my closest course. Normally I go first thing in the morning, when it isn’t busy, and go around the course alone. But a 7:30 am start in the middle of winter didn’t appeal to me, especially given the course is in a narrow valley and it’s very dewy in the mornings, even sometimes in summer, and I didn’t fancy playing in the wet in 8°C temperatures. So for the first time I booked a tee time later in the day, just after lunch. This meant the course was busy, and I was partnered with two strangers for the round. Fortunately, neither of them were especially good players either, so I didn’t feel too outmatched.

I played a middling sort of round, totalling 54, compared to a 55 last time I played that course back in April. So I’m moderately happy with that. And it felt really good to be outside and getting fresh air and exercise (apart form just walking) for the first time in many weeks.

In my online ethics class tonight I did the same stealing topic as yesterday. And I got some very interestingly different answers. In the lemon example I mentioned yesterday, all three students initially said that taking a lemon from the tree was stealing. But this time when I said that everyone that knew the owners of the lemon tree never used the lemons, the first kid immediately switched to, “Oh, well then it’s fine to take a lemon.” And the other two kids then followed suit in agreement. I suspect that once one kid gives an answer, others are more likely to go along with it, unless they really have a strong preconceived opinion otherwise. So that was interesting!

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Back to golf

I’ve been holding off from strenuous exercise—and also golf, haha—for a few weeks due to a strained muscle in my abdomen, but it’s been feeling better recently to I decided today was a good day to try it out on the golf course.

I invited my golfing buddy to play at the short “par 3 pitch & putt” course we go to often. It was a bit busy today, with several groups going around the course. I hit my ball into the way of people playing other holes a couple of times, and had to signal them to make sure it was safe for me to play my stroke before they continued. One tee shot I hit actually landed on the tee mat for another hole! I had to take a free drop from there.

Anyway, I played pretty poorly, dismally in fact, scoring 10 more strokes than last time I played there. I did however sink a birdie putt, which was the highlight of the morning.

I did my usual thing on the way home, going via a favourite pie shop by the beach at Collaroy for lunch. I bought a beef and burgundy pie and a butter chicken pie, and walked to the beach to sit and eat while watching the waves and the sea birds, and the odd surfer. It’s such a nice thing to eat lunch outside somewhere with a nice view.

Back home I met my wife and Scully for a late lunchtime break and play in the park, after which my wife took Scully back to the office for the afternoon, until I picked her up about 4pm and we walked home. It’s a big day in Scully’s life, as today is the third anniversary of the day we brought her home for the first time as a puppy.

Scully 3 years ago and now

The first photo is 1 July 2018. The second is, well, not today but a week or two ago.

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And a perfect half day…

After yesterday’s perfect autumn day, the forecast today predicted rain, although not until the afternoon. So I decided to take advantage of what may be the last fine morning of the week to go and play some golf. And I decided to take advantage of the New South Wales Government’s COVID stimulus voucher program by getting them to pay for my round, so it was a free day out.

It really was a nice morning, although cooler and cloudier than yesterday.

Nice day for golf

This is the “pitch and putt” course where every hole is a par 3. My local full-sized course doesn’t (AFAIK) accept the COVID vouchers, so I travelled out here to use one. The course was fairly empty today, and playing by myself I used two balls in parallel, playing each hole twice as I went around the course once. I kept score separately and managed my best ever total for one of the balls, so that was good.

On this hole, 13, I managed to hit both balls from the tee onto the green! I was playing one pink ball and one yellow ball. The pink one should be easy to see – the yellow one is way at the back of the large double green (left of the big light pole on the right)… but that still counts!

Two tee shots on the green

After golf, I drove over to my favourite pie shop for lunch, and ate pies by the beach. There were pelicans hanging out there.

Pelicans and gulls

This afternoon I spent time working on some ISO Photography standards stuff, in preparation for the next meeting we’re having, which is coming up in June. I had to write up some comments on a draft document and submit them, and do some admin stuff with the meeting agenda and so on. Nothing particularly exciting, but it consumed much of the afternoon.

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Aching after golfing

This morning I played a round of 9 holes at Cammeray Golf Course, the second closest course to where I live, and where I like to go for some variety. It has some nice holes, with the 6th in particular having a lake that you have to hit over from the tee.

Cammeray: Hole 6 tee

Normally I can hit over the water without a problem, but unfortunately today I hit two balls into the water.

I did better on Hole 3 though. Here’s the view from the tee:

Cammeray: Hole 3 tee

That’s after I hit my ball… and that white spot on the green, right of the flag, is the ball! Here’s a closer look:

Cammeray: Hole 3 green

If I’d sunk this putt it would have been a birdie. But alas I needed two putts, for a par. Birdies for me a very rare and worthy of a huge celebration. A par is good, but I really wanted that birdie. Ah well.

When I got home, I spent much of the rest of the day making Darths & Droids comics. And feeling the muscle aches in my legs and arms. I don’t normally feel this worn out after a round of golf. I suspect maybe it’s on top of the really hard work of the kayaking I did last week – maybe my muscles hadn’t fully recovered from that yet.

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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.

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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.

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