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:

One of those days

I had a mostly awful day. It started promisingly, with a trip to the golf course, and went as far as the first hole, where my tee shot went sweetly down the fairway and I scored 4 strokes on the par 3 – my best score so far on that particular hole.

But then things went downhill, as I made my worst ever scores on all of the next five holes. I did manage a nice bogey on a par 4, which would have been an amazing par if my chip shot had just rolled another 3 centimetres. It’s the closest I’ve come so far to holing a chip from off the green.

After completing my round (just 9 holes), I dropped the clubs at home and set out to buy a tablecloth for my market stall, and a couple of easels to display large prints, and to pick up a DVD I’d ordered online. I chose pickup because I was planning to drive to a large hardware store a couple of suburbs away to get the easels (not my local one, which didn’t stock them), and to park there while I walked over to the shops to get the DVD and tablecloth.

The first problem occurred when I reached the hardware store. It wasn’t there. Apparently it had moved several years ago, after the last time I’d been there. Right across to the far side of the suburb – too far to walk. So I turned the car around and and started heading over there… then realised I had to get the DVD and tablecloth first, because the easels wouldn’t fit in the car and I’d have to leave the roof down, and I didn’t want to do leave the easels unguarded in the car while I got the other stuff. So I turned around again and headed back… running smack into some roadwork that slowed traffic to a dead stop. I spent 20 minutes driving what should have taken less than 5 minutes.

I went to the DVD shop to pick up my order. I told the guy at the checkout counter that I was there to pick up an online order, and he told me to go to the end of the counter and he’d call someone to assist me. I waited there at least 5 minutes, while three staff members nearby did some stuff on their terminals and completely ignored me. Eventually I said, “Excuse me, I was told to wait here for service, but nobody is serving me.” That got them jumping and one of them got my order right away.

I scouted 7 different homeware, kitchenware, and department stores for tablecloths, but it seems that tablecloths must be out of fashion, because a few of them didn’t even have any, while the others had a very restricted range. I wanted a simple black one. The only black one I found was in the department store… for $120. So I made do with a grey one for $12 from another shop.

Then I went to the art supply shop to get some stiff cardboard to make a greeting card display stand. Up the front was a sale display with cutting mats, which would come in handy, so I grabbed one of those. Then I spent some time at the cardboard sheet racks deciding which sort to get. They had solid black cardboard, marked down from $15.95 to $14.35 a sheet. I grabbed two.

At the checkout there was a new guy, who had trouble entering the prices. He kept saying that he couldn’t get the sale price of the cardboard to come up. We went to the back of the store and he grabbed the actual price display off the shelf and brought it to the front. After some fiddling he managed to do something and got the correct price. Then he scanned the cutting mat, which came up as $15 instead of the $9.50 advertised sale price. I told him it was on sale for $9.50, but he couldn’t get the register to accept that price.

Eventually as customers started piling up behind me, he said he could charge me $15 and give me a gift voucher for $5.50. I didn’t really want to do that, so he said the only thing he could suggest was waiting for his manager to return from her break. So I waited…. must have been ten minutes or more. Eventually the manager returned and took over. She started fresh and entered the cardboard, saying it was $18 or something a sheet. I said no, it was on sale for $14.35. She said, no, it’s not. I said look, there’s the sale tag the other guy got. She looked at it and said no, that’s for a different product.

I took her to the back of the store and showed here where the tag had come from – the same spot I’d gotten the cardboard sheets. She said, “Oh, someone’s put it in the wrong place. Look, it says white core board, not black display board. It should have been down here on this shelf. The white core board is normally $15.95, on sale for $14.35. The black display board is $18, and not on sale.”

I’d had about enough of this and just wanted something cheap that I could use so I said I’d take the white core board then. Okay, so we swapped the black board for white core (which is black on one side, not both sides). She rang it up, $14.35. Good. Then she scanned the cutting mat. $15. I said it’s on sale for $9.50. She said no, it’s not supposed to be on sale. I was getting a bit exasperated now, and showed her the sale sign on the front display, and this time it was marked with the name of the right product. She said okay, she’d give it to me for $9.50, but she made out like she was doing me a big favour.

So finally I had my cardboard. Then I had to drive over to the hardware store. I’d expected to be home well before 11 am, but now it was already midday. So I stopped to have a quick salad for lunch, and then set off. I pulled into a side street and stopped the car partway there to check my navigation, and I saw that the side street I happened to pull into led straight to the new hardware store location. So I continued down that street another few blocks… almost reaching the store, except for the fact that the street dead-ended, with a building in between me and the hardware store that I could see behind it. So I had to go back and around a longer way.

Once there, buying the easels was actually okay, and I headed home, getting in after 1pm, over 2 hours later than I expected when I set out.

After all that I just collapsed and watched TV all afternoon, rather than doing anything productive. And then during dinner I bit my lip painfully. Twice.

New content today:

Friday Games Night – Throne of Eldraine

Last night was fortnightly Games Night, so this is Friday’s post a bit late.

My contact from the USA who I played golf with last week suggested we try a different course: Cammeray Golf Club. We arrived at 10:00, and the day was already very warm and sunny, so I made sure to put lots of sunscreen on, and wear a large-brimmed hat, and carry a bottle of water.

The Cammeray course is a shortish 9-hole course, no par 5 holes. There were lots of trees down the edges of the fairways, and I took advantage by “playing in the shade” on some holes – i.e. mis-hitting my ball so that I had to hack my way under the trees instead of along the fairway.

Hole 3, Cammeray Golf Club

Above: a view down to the hole 3 green, but this is from about halfway up the hill that leads to the tee position (another group were teeing off as I took the photo). From the tee this is quite a drop down to the green.

Hole 5, Cammeray Golf Club

Hole 5, a longish par 4. We played the course twice through, for a total of 18 holes. My first time on this hole I hacked my way slowly up the fairway, but my second time around I managed a good solid drive, and followed up with a long second shot that landed tantalisingly close to the green – just a few centimetres off it. Essentially I made the “green in regulation” (i.e. reached the green in 2 shots under par – giving me two putts to make par). Alas the putt was very long and I didn’t hit it well, so ended up with 6 strokes.

Hole 6, Cammeray Golf Club

Hole 6 is the water hole. You have to hit directly over this little lake. The lake is unfortunately low because of the current drought conditions – the water level should be a metres or so higher as you can see from the edges. Nevertheless, on this day it sported a nice variety of birdlife: I spotted a white-faced heron (the prominent upright grey bird on the near shore), little black cormorants and little pied cormorants (on the small rocky island), Australian wood ducks (two near the signpost in the bend on the prominent path at left, anther at the base of the large dark tree behind the lake), and masked lapwings (none that I can spot in this photo).

We finished close to 2 pm, and I rested for a while in the clubhouse air conditioning before heading home for a long, cold shower. It was very hot and humid, but good to get some exercise!

In the evening I headed to Games Night, where we began a Magic: the Gathering draft tournament with 8 players, using the recentish Throne of Eldraine set. This set has a fairy tale theme, and I really wanted to give it a try.

During the draft, I mostly picked green cards, and settled on white as a support colour. I considered grabbing a couple of giant spiders, with their ability to block flying creatures, but I realised I was seeing very few flying creatures go past, so I de-prioritised flying defence in favour of other things. I won my first game fairly easily as my opponent struggled to get much on the board. But in my second game, I saw where all the flying creatures had gone! My opponent played four flyers one after the other, and I had no way to stop them, and lost that game quickly.

We played a few more games before it got too late to continue. We’ll finish off the round-robin games in later Games Nights. But everyone agreed that the set was fun and interesting, so it was a big hit!

New content today:

Unexpected golf

When I got up this morning, I opened some windows… and immediately closed them again. Smoke had descended on Sydney again, from the ongoing bushfires. It wasn’t as bad as it has been, but certainly bad enough to avoid opening any windows and avoid going outdoors if possible.

But then I got a message… A guy from Houston who had posted on a forum asking about golf in Sydney a few weeks ago – and I had responded with some info – had just touched down here at 06:30 , and wanted to hook up for a game. This morning.

I told him I needed to be home by 2:30 pm, so we’d have to tee off no later than about 10 am to give me us time to play and me to get home. A few frantic messages later, we had a 09:44 tee off time booked at Moore Park Golf Club… and I had to leave almost right away to get there in time. Fortunately by the time I got there a storm had moved in and some rain had cleared the sky out a bit, so it wasn’t so smoky by the time we started playing. It rained on us a bit during the first few holes, but then cleared to a muggy overcast.

Moore Park is a longer course than I’ve ever played – it has four par 5 holes, and I’d never played a par 5 hole before. Our visitor was much more at home, and played the course a lot more competently than I did. However, I did manage to par the par 3 fifth hole:

Hole 5, Moore Park

And I scored two single bogeys, on par 3 and 4 holes. So I was happy with that, although my score on several other holes really blew out. Here’s the 17th hole, a par 4 on which I scored 8.

Hole 17, Moore Park

We finished the round in good time, and I made it home a bit before 2pm, so that was good. My wife had an appointment at a nearby hospital and I had to look after Scully. The appointment was a positive one – it was her orientation as a Delta therapy dog owner, prior to her first patient visit with Scully, which is on next Tuesday! While my wife was out, I took Scully to the dog park for a run around and a walk along the shore.

And then this evening we all went for dinner at a Thai restaurant that we like, a short drive away. They have outdoor tables, so we can take Scully. I was really hungry after the golf, and not having time for a proper lunch!

New content today:

Golf and Ramen

Missed last night’s update, so I’m writing this on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday my friend Andrew suggested we play a short round of golf at my local course (where we’ve played before). We assembled there at 07:30, and teed off at the first hole. We both hit our first drives handsomely down the fairway, drifting a bit to the right near a clump of trees maybe 120-130 metres away. We chatted as we walked off to locate our balls. We found them:

Tee shot balls, hole 1

Over 100 metres from the tee, and the golf balls were within half a metre of each other! I hit first because I was about 5 cm further from the hole.

As our round continued, it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a good day, for either of us. We both struggled to hit later tee shots, with several dribbling just a few metres and necessitating trying to smash the ball 100 metres or more out of thick grass, or worse, leaf litter and sticks in close proximity to trees. I scored my worst score on this course for 9 holes: 66, my previous worst being 64. Oh well, at least we got out and had some exercise!

We returned to my place and played a few games: Fluttering Souls, Claim 2, and Codenames Duet. Then we headed up the street to get some lunch somewhere.

We didn’t have anywhere in mind, and walked past a tiny Japanese place that I’d seen before, but never gone inside. It had a hand-written sign outside advertising $12 ramen for lunch. That’s cheap for Sydney, so we poked our noses under the hanging cotton banners to have a look and the man behind the counter said, “Would you like some ramen?”

We said, “Sure!” and went in to grab a seat at the small bench.

Ramen Shimizu

The menu was simple. The hand-written sign stuck to the array of roughly a thousand different types of Japanese whisky read: “Lunch Menu: Mon-Wed. Tonkotsu Ramen $12 (this is the only option)”. So we had the tonkotsu ramen.

Tonkotsu Ramen

It was thick and rich and absolutely delicious. This is an absolute steal for $12.

Andrew headed off and I returned home. In the afternoon I dealt with some administrative stuff for ISO Photography standards, as well as trawling AirBnB for accommodation for a short Easter road trip that My wife and I are planning. We’re taking Scully with us, so we needed to find places that allow dogs to stay, which cuts down on the options a bit. We couldn’t even find affordable accommodation in Orange, where we’d planned to spend a couple of nights, so had to reconfigure our itinerary and instead decided to visit Singleton, where I found a suitable place to stay.

New content today:

Losing my sunglasses

Scully woke up early this morning, around 5:30, and wanted to go outside, so I had to take her downstairs. I got to see the pre-dawn light suffuse the sky. It’s amazing seeing actual clouds and sky – we’ve been under a smoky haze for so long that it really felt unusual.

Being up so early, I decided to head out early for some golf at the local course. I started well today, but dropped off in the last few holes, scoring 58, one shot worse than my best so far for the 9 hole course. My first tee shot was awesome though – so much so that I took a photo of where my ball landed:

Tee shot landing position, hole 1

When I got back to the car, I realised I’d lost my sunglasses somewhere along the course. I phoned up later and the clubhouse said they had my glasses, so I’ll have to go back and pick them up tomorrow.

At home, I spent some time researching e-commerce solutions for my new photography website. I’m planning to sell framed prints, canvas prints, and other things with some of my photos on them. So having an online shop seems like a good move! I’m thinking of going with WooCommerce, since it’s open source and free to use, as opposed to something like Shopify, which charges a monthly fee plus a percentage of your sales. I don’t expect my volume to be very big, so I want to avoid monthly fees if I can!

This afternoon I got a message from my wife that Scully had been sick at work, vomiting a couple of times, the first being a weird red-brown colour, and had been lethargic all day. We were concerned enough that we booked a visit to the vet this evening. By then Scully had perked up considerably, and the vet was happy with the examination, deciding it most likely wasn’t anything serious, and Scully just had a reaction to something and would recover naturally. She does seem a lot more back to her normal self now, so that’s good.

New content today:

Unabridged writing

Early this morning I took to the local golf course to hit a ball around and get some exercise. I felt like I was doing poorly today, mis-hitting a lot of strokes, but I ended up scoring 60 (for 9 holes), which is only 3 worse than my best on that course, so I suppose that’s not too bad.

Back home I dedicated the day to doing some writing. I’m working on starting a series of tabletop roleplaying game supplements, which I hope to offer for sale through DriveThruRPG, to try and turn this time away from a job into some sort of income. I started jotting down ideas about bridges as significant structures in an adventure campaign, and I’ve got a few thousand words of stuff. I think I need a few more days of work to polish it up and format it, and then see about setting up a seller account.

So hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll start seeing RPG titles from me available. I have a whole bunch of other ideas for PDF gaming books as well. The ideas are actually the easy part – the hard part is spending the time to write them up as coherent and useful text!

New content today: