Steeling myself

Remember back in May when I bought myself a new set of kitchen knives? Well, since then I’ve learnt a bit about sharpening and honing knives, which I previously didn’t know. Sharpening is when you grind metal off the knife blade to produce a sharp edge. But honing is a completely different thing.

When a knife is used, the sharp edge tends to bend and fold over sideways, due to pressure on things you’re cutting and on the cutting board. This doesn’t make the edge blunt exactly, but it does make it harder to cut, because the sharp edge is no longer pointing straight down as you cut with downwards force. Honing is the process of straightening the bent edge, so making it easier to cut again. Proper knife care is to hone the edge frequently—every week, or even every time you use the knife—but only sharpen it a few times a year. To hone a knife, you need a honing steel. (And I note that Wikipedia article says that “honing” is a misnomer, borrowed from some other industrial process that does remove material from an edge – yeesh, this terminology is even more pedantic than I thought two minutes ago.)

Hmmm… Further reading of the Wikipedia article tells me that perhaps I’ve wasted my money, as modern kitchen knives tend to be harder and not respond to honing steels, but rather need an abrasive “steel” that actually does grind the edge down a little. Grrr.

I wish the Internet would make up its mind and not provide conflicting/outdated/overly-pedantic-but-incorrect advice.

Anyway, in other news I booked myself a golf lesson today, for Friday morning. I’ve never had a lesson up to now, but I feel like I’m really not making any progress with hitting a driver, and need some help. So we’ll see if a golf pro can straighten out my technique in half an hour enough that I can go practise on my own and see some improvement.

In other other news, for some reason Irregular Webcomic! failed to update automatically again today, after also failing last Tuesday. I have it set up as a cron job and I know when it should run, and it failed two Tuesdays in a row. But it worked every other day of the week—at the expected time (so no daylight saving issue)—and all my other comics updated at the same time as normal. So cron seems to have done its thing correctly. I can’t imagine why cron would fail to run one specific job only on a Tuesday. And in fact I ran the script manually as soon as I realised the automatic cron job had failed, and it ran fine. So the script itself shouldn’t have failed.

Unfortunately I don’t have a way to distinguish the cases [cron failed to run the script] and [cron ran the script but the script failed]. I might have to add some logging calls to the script to see if it runs properly on Tuesday next week. This is very mysterious.

New content today:

Super Fun Hyper Golf Day!

I got up at 6:30 this morning, when my wife took Scully out for her morning walk, and I headed to the local golf course. I haven’t played at a full sized course for a couple of months, and I was keen to try out my driving after hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range last week.

Unfortunately, my driving was awful. I played two balls, hitting them one after another and keeping the scores separate. Both my drives off the first tee skewed off short and far to the right. From the second tee they both went straightish, but dribbled along the grass only about 20 metres. And so it went… another two terrible drives on hole 5, hole 7, and hole 8. I did hit one on hole 7 cleanly, but managed to hit a tree about 40 metres away, which stopped it dead. (Holes 3, 4, and 6 are short and I use various irons for those instead of a driver.)

And so I got to hole 9, not having hit a good drive all morning. The first again skewed right and short. But the second connected cleanly and soared off into the distance, straight down the fairway. It was beautiful to see! I really think I need to take some lessons or something to improve my driving.


Everything other than the driver I was hitting nicely and fairly consistently, with only 2 or 3 bad shots. I made a lot of second shots with the 3 iron, smashing them down the fairway from the awful position after a bad drive. Once I got within 100 metres or so of the hole, I was hitting approach shots and pitches nicely.

Here’s where my two approach shots for hole 5 landed:

Lane Cove hole 5 approach shots

The more distant ball I chipped from off the green, about 20 metres away. The closer ball… I hit with an 8 iron from 90 metres away. I was watching it fly through the air, land just before the green, bounce onto the green and roll… towards the hole… I was willing it to go in, but you can see where it stopped. Let’s just have a closer look!

Lane Cove hole 5 approach shots

Wow. Clearly one of the best shots I’ve ever played.

And… my putting was probably the best day I’ve ever had. I was sinking nearly everything from distances up to about 1.5 metres. All in all, this more than made up for the horrendous driving. My previous best score for this 9 hole course was 55 strokes. Today with my two balls I scored 53, and 49. I am stoked with this performance, and if only I can get the driving under control I might actually start getting even lower scores.

I was done by 8:30, and headed home. I mostly worked on comics, but also spent some time exploring music on YouTube and iTunes, finding weird cover versions of songs I like and trying them to see how good they were.

For lunch I walked up to the fish & chip shop. But rather than get fish & chips, today I decided to try something different, and went for the barbecued fish burger. I’d like to say it was good, but I was a bit disappointed, and I don’t think I’ll get that again.

New content today:

Let’s get physical

Today was a day of physical activity. I wanted to get back into my running, having had a couple of weeks off due to bad weather. I decided to start easy and only do a 1k “sprint” rather than a full 5k run.

That also meant I could finish that, plus a stretching routine, early enough to head out to the pitch and putt golf course for a game. I contacted my friend and he met me there, so we played together. In our initial game he granted me a handicap of 18 for matchplay, and suggested we decrease it by 1 every time I beat him. I’d gotten it down to 14, bouncing around that area. But today I blitzed him and won 14-3 (with the last hole halved). I scored a total of 75 strokes, which is my best ever on that course, beating my previous best of 79 by 4 strokes. And I recalculated what our matchplay scores would have been with different handicaps… all the way down to a handicap of 2, at which point we would have scored 9 holes each today.

So I’m pretty chuffed. But this does suggest my true handicap relative to my friend is probably something closer to 8, rather than 14. I don’t think it’s as good as 2 – today I felt freakishly good compared to normal.

After playing 18 holes, my friend left and I went next door to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. I’m reasonably happy with short strokes, chipping, putting, and hitting irons up to about the 5 or 6. But I wanted to get some solid practice hitting a 3 iron and a driver. These clubs are my bane – and it’s hard to get practice during an actual round of golf because you hit them so infrequently. I flubbed several hits, but did manage to get some sort of groove with hitting them eventually, so that felt pretty good.

After that I went to my favourite pie shop by the beach for lunch. I planned to get a butter chicken pie, but they had sold out, so I settled for chicken in white wine sauce. It’s actually a sort of cheesy béchamel, and really delicious. Then I drove home just in time to meet my wife who is currently working mornings in the office and coming home at lunch time to work from home each afternoon.

I went for a walk with Scully up to the post office to mail an Etsy order (from my shop), and do some other shopping. Scully is now pooped and sleeping all evening, and I am tired and have that sort of muscle stiffness that comes after a day of physical exertion. No pains, but just good honest exhaustion.

New content today:

Sneaking out for high tea

Scully was due for a groom at the dog groomer’s place today. We dropped her off at 10am, and my wife and I decided to use the time to sneak off into the city and get a high tea at The Palace, a fancy tea room in the Queen Victoria Building.

We took a train into the city, which felt a bit weird because we haven’t used public transport much at all since COVID-19 began. Normally on a Saturday morning the trains would be fairly full, especially getting close to Christmas like this. But today they were fairly empty, with only a handful of people spread out at sensible distances inside the carriages. And the city itself felt really empty, rather than the usual bustle of people.

But we had a good tea. I have to admit that when the servings came out, I was a little underwhelmed at the portions, having expected a bit more. But the food was very rich, and by the time we finished it, we were both very full and didn’t need anything else.

High tea at The Palace

Indeed, although we began at 11am, it pretty much did us for lunch and we didn’t need anything until dinner time. Although I had an early dinner, around 5pm, because my friend organised a game of golf with another friend of ours, at the par-3 pitch-and-putt course where we’ve gone several times. And for something different, we played a twilight/evening game today, under the floodlights that they have at the course.

Night golf

It was interesting and fun, although occasionally it was difficult to see where a ball went. I played moderately well, scoring 81, 2 strokes off my best on the course of 79. I would have done better except for a terrible blow-out 7 on one hole where I tried to pitch the ball up a slope to the green three times, falling just centimetres short each time and having the ball roll back down the hill to roughly where it had started.

Night golf

The sunset was nice, but the moon rising in the east was amazing, a deep red colour due to smoke in the air from controlled burning operations taking place at the moment, to forestall another bad fire season over the summer.

Oh, an I also baked a batch of brownies today, both to take to golf and share with the guys, and also for a family lunch gathering that we’re having tomorrow.

New content today:

Double golf

I got up early and went to the golf course this morning just after 6:30. The sun is rising earlier as spring meanders onward and even though overcast this morning it was plenty light enough to start that early. I finished 9 holes, playing two different balls per hole, by 8:30, and then had the whole day ahead of me!

Which I spent mostly working on Darths & Droids scripts, although I ticked off a few other tasks as well.

I applied to become a stallholder at the Kirribilli Markets, another suburban market not too far from where I live, and a bit bigger and more popular than the ones I’ve been doing up to now. Hopefully if I get approved, I can get some more productive market days happening, and really make some sales of my photos.

Also, our wedding anniversary is coming up, so my wife asked if I could find somewhere to stay a few hours drive away, for a long weekend (she’s taking a couple of days off work). I called a couple of places near Kangaroo Valley. The first was booked out until the end of the year, and they said I’d be lucky to find anywhere with vacancies, as people are all booking local holidays at the moment since nobody can travel overseas. The next place had two of the three nights we wanted free, so I booked those. We also have the additional constraint of needing a pet-friendly place, so we can take Scully.

And I looked into various types of weed killer, because some of the small parks and areas of grass in the neighbourhood that we take Scully to have patches of bindii in them, and right now in the early spring is when they start growing thorns. Scully dislikes walking on them, for obvious reasons, and starts to avoid those areas, so I want to try and get rid of it. I thought I might be able to buy some weed killer and spray some areas, but a bit of research reveals that the available solutions have two different problems:

  1. There’s selective weed killer that kills bindii and a few other common weeds, but doesn’t harm grasses or other plants. The trouble is, it’s harmful to dogs, and it’s recommended to keep dogs off it for a few days after spraying. Which is no good since I want to spray public places, so obviously I can’t keep all dogs off them.
  2. There’s glycophosphate (often sold under the trademark “Roundup”), which is safer for animals, but it kills any plant it touches, so would need to be applied with a paintbrush otherwise it’d kill all the grass too. It’s also bad if it gets into waterways, and given the main area I want to remove bindii from is right next to a creek… this is a no-go as well.

I concluded that the only way to do this is to buy a garden fork and get down on my knees, and pull the bindii out by hand. Stay tuned for updates…

New content today:

Golf with a dentist

I booked a round at Cammeray Golf Course this morning – not my usual course at Lane Cove. I’ve been getting a bit tired of Lane Cove and wanted to play a different course, and Cammeray is the next nearest and a nice short 9-hole course suitable for my skill level.

I was preparing to tee off, when another solo player approached and asked if we could play together. I agreed and we walked around the course playing together. It turned out he’s a dentist – and he’s friends with my dentist, who did my filling just last week! I told him that my dentist was looking at some of my photography prints to redecorate his waiting room and gave him a business card… so maybe there’s the chance of another sale somewhere down the line.

He was a better player than I am (I’m still learning and pretty bad), although he messed up a few shots as well. My round was pretty much similar in total to previous rounds I’ve played at Cammeray, but I had an excellent result at hole 6, which involves hitting a tee shot over a small lake. I’ve dropped several balls into that lake, but today my tee shot carried just over the lake, and ended up on the green.

Cammeray Hole 6 tee shot

That’s my ball foreground left. The dentist is in the background searching for his original ball – the other ball on the green near his golf cart is a provisional second ball that he hit off the tee in case he couldn’t find the first – which had landed on the rocks ringing the lake and bounced wildly in some random direction that we couldn’t follow. He didn’t find that ball. Anyway, from here I took two putts to sink my ball for a par. I’m still at the point where getting a par on a hole is a real achievement, so I was pretty happy.

At home afterwards I worked on some secret writing stuff… which I’m not ready to reveal just yet.

New content today:

Golf and games

This morning I got up a little early and headed out to the local golf course. I played two balls again, like I did a couple of weeks ago, keeping separate scores, so essentially two rounds simultaneously – totalling 18 holes since it’s only a 9-hole course.

I started really badly, and thought I was in for a dreadful day, but fortunately my hitting improved as I went on. I ended up recording my second best round with one of the balls, and scored a par for the first time on the par-4 ninth hole. The course was a lot nicer to play today than a fortnight ago, because the mud had mostly dried out after some fine weather.

I was home a bit after 9:30, and then went to the supermarket to get the weekly groceries. And then just kind of puttered around for the middle of the day – doing some photo work, some comic planning notes, some random web browsing, and some Italian practice.

Tonight is fortnightly virtual games night with my friends. I’ve been compiling a huge list of custom words for with contributions from everyone and it’s now about 1.5 times as big as it was last fortnight. Before games I’m going out with my wife and Scully to a local Turkish place for Friday night dinner. I thought I’d write this blog entry before we leave, so it won’t get forgotten during the gaming fun later this evening.

Oh… which means the following links won’t work for a few hours, until the comics get updated.

New content today:

Pies and golf

My golfing friend let me know that he was planning to play at the Pitch & Putt par 3 course today, with another friend of ours, and asked if I wanted to join in. I didn’t have any other plans for the day so I decided to accept.

The plan was to meet at 1:30, so I decided to go via my favourite pie shop and get lunch on the way. I left with plenty of time, fully expecting to have lunch and get to the golf course early so I could practice some putting before we started. But as I approached the pie shop, the traffic got really heavy and I heard on the radio that there was a serious accident a few suburbs ahead, which had backed traffic up all the way to where I was.

I stopped and got pies: a Singapore curry beef pie and a chicken, avocado, and brie pie. The first I got really because I decided to try something that I normally wouldn’t get. I don’t know if I’d had the Singapore curry before, but I probably won’t get it again (unless I forget some time in the future and decide I want to try something I don’t normally get again). The chicken pie was just what I wanted though, so that was fine.

Back on the road, the traffic continued to be slow, and I arrived at the golf course ten minutes late. But that was okay, and we started playing straight away. Our friend, the new player, claimed not to have played golf much and to be very bad. Indeed, his hitting off the tee was not very skilful, usually hitting the ball low along the grass instead of properly flighted into the air… but somehow he managed to whack the ball hard enough to reach close to the green most of the time. And his putting was pretty good (he said he’s played a lot of mini golf). He ended up beating my total by 4 strokes, scoring 2 better than even my best score on this course! It was clearly a hustle of some sort, spoiled only by the fact that we didn’t agree to play for money beforehand.

Before golf this morning, my wife and I took Scully on a long walk. We passed our favourite bakery and I got a loaf of potato and rosemary bread, and a challah.

Challah is very rare here in Sydney – we don’t have much of a Jewish population. I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere else that I can recall. I also had no idea how to pronounce it, again because we have virtually zero exposure to Hebrew speakers in Sydney. I guessed it might have a similar guttural “ch” sound like “chutzpah” but wasn’t really sure. So I looked it up, and yes, it looks like it does. The problem is I don’t know if the bakery staff know how to pronounce it either! It’s weird asking for something when you’re not sure if either yourself or the person you’re asking knows how to pronounce it!

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Sports and games

This morning dawned bright and clear and I took the opportunity to go play a round of golf at my local course. It’s only 9 holes, but since I was by myself I hit two separate balls on each hole and kept the scores independently. It was interesting how often the two balls ended up near each other. Hole 4 is a par 3, in which the tee off is over a creek gully dense with trees. It’s the most intimidating hole on the course for a beginner, but I’ve managed to reach a level where I can hit confidently over the creek and land near the green. Here’s where my two tee shots landed today (highlighted with arrows, because the balls are a little tricky to see, with Apple’s image processing rendering them very un-ball-like):

Hole 3 tee shots

I managed to get one ball in with just two more strokes for a par, but the other took 5. The next hole, number 5, is a par 4, and one tee shot was good, but the other skewed badly into the rough among some trees. By the time I recovered, I’d hit one ball twice and the other 4 times, and they ended up almost on top of one another:

Hole 5 twin balls

Each ball had some good holes and some bad ones. They ended up with totals of 64 and 59, both within my best-worst range of 66-55. By the end of it, my shoes and socks were thoroughly soaked, since the course was very muddy after the recent rain, and I’ve learnt from experience that it’s not a good draining course by any measure.

After golf, I had to go do the weekly grocery shopping, and it was a big one this week, with a lot of things having run out during the week that needed to be replaced. And then after shopping I had to go up to the post office. By this time most of the day had gone. For dinner my wife and I went out to our favourite local pizza place, which was really nice – I felt like some of their pizza tonight.

And tonight is virtual fortnightly games night with my friends. I’ve already played some 7 Wonders, and 6 Nimmt, and now we’re into, which is always hilarious.

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Fitness day!

Today I met my friend to play golf at the Par 3 Pitch and Putt course. My relative handicap was reduced down to 15 after I won last time with 16. (We play match play with jackpotting of halved holes.) But today I was really on fire, and my friend was struggling a bit, and I ended up trouncing him 14 points to 4. Without the handicap, my total score for 18 holes was only 3 strokes higher than his. So next time we play, my handicap will go down again.

I also managed the only birdie of the day, with a monster putt – it was in the range 15-20 metres long, and curved a good metre and a half to the right as it rolled along the green. So I’m pretty happy with that.

On the way home I stopped off at my favourite pie shops for lunch, having a pepper steak pie and a chicken/asparagus/corn one. Normally I go for more exotic flavours – they do a really nice butter chicken and a good Thai curry chicken pie – but I decided to try things I wouldn’t normally get today, and they were good.

I rested a bit at home, and then took off for this week’s 5k run! My goal was to beat last week’s 28:05, and today I managed 27:52. Let me tell you, it’s a real struggle in those middle laps to keep going. Fortunately I didn’t miscount laps like last week, so didn’t have to pick up and run another lap when I thought I’d finished!

Back at home I made potato salad for dinner, to go with some vegetarian sausages. I do love a good potato salad.

New content today: