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.

New content today:

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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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