I’m feeling really exhausted today. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the hectic week away last week finally catching up to me. But I woke up this morning and had to struggle to drag myself out of bed. I needed to get up to have breakfast and get ready to go teach my Ethics class. And as I was sitting in the room at the school waiting for the kids to arrive, I just felt drained of energy.

The class went mostly well. I think I have all the kids’ names more or less memorised and matched to faces. I made a couple of mistakes, but correcting those in my mind gives me a full set of matches now, I think. We’ll see next week if I can get them all right. The replacement teacher last week while I was away finished the voting topic with them, so today we started a new topic: Punishment.

This is a long one, we have four weeks on this. It covers the concepts of understanding what punishment is, and whether it’s needed in a society. Today we started with imagining if you had a magic ring of invisibility, and thinking about what you would do, and what other people might do. The kids were all pretty much into the idea that if they had an invisibility ring they would rob banks, and steal stuff, and play pranks on people. So we moved onto the idea that if you can get away with something bad without being punished, would you do it? Or would you still do the “right” thing? Do you think other people would do the right thing if there was no punishment?

And that was basically lesson one of the discussion. Next week we move on to other aspects of the topic. It was a good and lively discussion, but this meant that there was a certain amount of spontaneous chatter that I had to calm down to get attention and focus back on me. We’ll see how it goes next week.

Today I worked more on my planned Ethics course for Outschool. I’m almost at the point of uploading the info and opening the course. Maybe tomorrow.

New content today:

More vision, and a class listing!

I’ve listed my first class on Outschool! Human Vision and Colour Perception. The first date I’ll be offering this class is Monday 1 March (Sydney time – it corresponds to Sunday 28 Feb afternoon in the US).

I’ve aimed this class at students from 12-14 years old. If you have (or know) kids this age who might be interested in learning about how we see and how colour perception works, please feel free to sign up for the class! It’s available to anyone in the world.

I spent this afternoon drawing some more diagrams for the course. I’m very proud of this eyeball:


And here’s the human visual pathway, showing left and right visual fields:

Visual fields

After making these diagrams, I had enough material to finally put together my class promotion image, which is necessary before you can publicly list the class. This was the last step I needed to complete, and so that’s why I got the class up and running today.

This morning I had to go see my doctor again about my tonsils. The course of antibiotics I’ve just completed hasn’t made the swelling go down. He wants to give some stronger antibiotics a chance, so I’m on those for a couple more weeks, then will have to go back for another appointment if the tonsil is still swollen.

After the appointment I took a roundabout long walk home, stopping off to get a snack on the way, and sit by the water while I ate. It’s nice to spend some time out in the fresh air.

New content today:

Tonsil treatment

This morning I saw my doctor about my tonsils. He’s prescribed me a course of antibiotics, which will hopefully get rid of any infection, and reduce the swelling. So we’ll see how that goes over the next week and a bit.

Apart from that, I spent most of the day writing and making Darths & Droids comics.

In my Italian practice I’ve started working on subjunctives again. I did some of this a year or two ago, but didn’t really get on top of it, and I’ve been putting off for ages, but I finally bit the bullet and have started work on them again. I’m finding it easier this time around, I think. Possibly because I’ve absorbed and internalised more of the other grammar, so I don’t have to spend so much mental space thinking about that, and can devote more of the conscious thought to learning the subjunctive cases. Hopefully this time it will start to stick!

New content today:

COVID negative

Good news up front: My COVID result came through overnight, and I’m negative. So… it’s just tonsillitis. The soonest GP appointment I could get after cancelling yesterday’s is on Thursday. I’m going to see how the tonsils go until Thursday and then decide if it’s getting better naturally, or I should actually go in to see the doctor.

After I got the result, I was able to leave home isolation, and I caught a train into the city to hand in my Working With Children Check paperwork. That was pretty quick, and I hopped back into a train to come home right away. I spent only maybe 15 minutes in the city.

I had some errands to run – sending a package at the post office, and picking up my reading glasses with lenses for a new prescription (after an eye test I did back in December). I took Scully with me, to get her out of the house while my wife was working from home this afternoon. I’d never really thought about it before getting a dog, but post offices are perfectly fine with you bringing your dog in, which is still somewhat amazing to me.

Oh, I baked sourdough this morning too! I tried an experiment this time, substituting 10% semolina for some of the bread flour. It turned out nice, with a subtly different flavour and texture. My wife described it as a little bit “nutty”.

Semolina sourdough loaf

New content today:

COVID testing

So, I had an appointment to see my doctor today about my suspected tonsillitis. When I made the appointment online, there was a message on the website saying that if I have any of {fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste or smell} you need to phone beforehand to discuss with the practise. Well, given I have s sore throat, probably from tonsillitis, I phoned up. They told me I can’t come in to see the doctor until after I get a COVID test and have a negative result.

So… I had to cancel my appointment and go get a COVID test. We haven’t had any cases in all of Australia for 15 days, except for that one case detected in Western Australia yesterday. The odds of me having COVID are microscopically small, but I went and got tested – my first test of the whole pandemic, since I’ve never had any symptoms before. It’s amazing how much constantly washing your hands and not seeing people can prevent you from getting coughs and colds and that sort of thing.

I walked up to the nearest hospital and went to the COVID clinic. Testing numbers have really dropped off here in recent weeks because of the low number of actual cases. When I got there, there was no queue at all, and I got tested immediately. The nurse asked me questions about symptoms and I said I had a sore throat, which I actually suspected was tonsillitis, but my GP advised me to get COVID tested first. She did the swab, and while looking in my throat said, “Yep, you definitely have tonsillitis.”

I should get my result back in 24 hours. The other thing I was going to do today was go into a Service NSW office to submit my Working With Children application. But the COVID test nixed that, since I’m supposed to self-isolate at home until I get the result. Assuming it’s negative, I’ll have to go do that tomorrow now.

At home I put together some dough for sourdough baking tomorrow. I’m trying substituting 10% semolina for the flour to see what kind of texture that gives to the bread. I’ll let you know.

New content today:


Welp. 99.9% sure I have tonsillitis. All the right symptoms, including one alarmingly swollen tonsil. I’ll go to my doctor in the morning to confirm, and maybe get some antibiotics if he thinks it’s bacterial. I’ve never had this before, so it’s a learning experience. I’m confident it’s not anything COVID related, since Australia reached 14 days with no new local cases today (there are always a few cases newly arrived from overseas, automatically in quarantine). But unfortunately Western Australia later reported a new case, in a quarantine hotel worker, so almost certainly caught from one of those quarantined people. Hopefully that person won’t cause any further infection spread and we can start counting zero-case days again.

In other news, this morning I cooked sourdough crumpets!

Home made sourdough crumpets

My sourdough-starter-gifting friend has been making these and shared the recipe with me. It’s pretty easy, but they take a long time to cook, because you need to fry them over a really low heat to avoid burning the bottom. You pour the batter into egg rings to make them nice and circular. The first few I didn’t cook long enough and they were doughy in the middle, so I cooked the rest a lot longer, until the bottom and top were golden brown.

Home made sourdough crumpets

I had a couple with butter, and then one with honey, and that was enough for a filling breakfast. Not bad, but a lot more labour intensive than baking a sourdough loaf. I’ll make them again, but not every week.


  • 150 g sourdough starter
  • 300 g water
  • 300 g flour

Leave overnight. In the morning add:

  • 8 g sugar
  • 6 g salt
  • 4 g baking powder

Fry in rings over low heat to avoid burning bottom.

New content today:

D&D neighbours

I ran into a neighbour from our apartment complex today while we were out walking our respective dogs. His dog is Tex, a chihuahua, and Tex and Scully get along really well. They love playing together, and running rapid circles around the park across the street. It’s always good when they play together, because it wears them both out, and we know they’re going to be exhausted and quiescent during the evening.

Anyway, a few days ago my wife ran into the same guy and he was wearing a Dungeons & Dragons T-shirt. She asked him about it, and told him that I play D&D as well. Today was the first time I’ve seen him since then, so we chatted about it a bit. He said he played when he was a kid, but stopped for many years, only picking it up again recently when 4th Edition was current. And now he organises tournaments and uses them to raise money for charity. So that’s pretty cool.

I’ve noticed for a few years prior to this that another neighbour must be (or have been) into D&D as well. In one of the garages in the basement, a neighbour has a huge pile of D&D books, as well as piles of boxes of gaming miniatures and other stuff. The books there are mostly 2nd Edition, I think, so it’s possible this neighbour hasn’t played for a while. Unless they have more recent editions upstairs in the apartment. So in my building I know there are at least three people (including me) into D&D.

Weatherwise, we had more rain again today. Although it was confined to the morning, and the overcast broke up enough for a touch of sunshine around mid-afternoon, before closing in again. Now as I write, it’s sunset, and I can see some patches of blue sky. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get heavy rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon, so perhaps the morning will be dry.

What I really hate about this type of weather is the oppressive, unending humidity. It’s not hot, but it’s always just so sticky. Towels don’t dry – you can have a shower, and 24 hours later your bath towel that’s been hanging up all day is still damp. And hand towels stay damp all day from all the hand washing and drying. The pages of books go all crinkly from the humidity, and I worry about mould growing on stuff around the house. We have calcium chloride damp removers in the wardrobes and linen closet, and they fill up with water from the atmosphere in a few days, so I’m constantly having to change them. But at least you can see they’re removing moisture from the air. I should stick some more in some other storage places, maybe.

I finished writing that batch of Irregular Webcomic! today, ready for photography tomorrow. My wife returns to work tomorrow, so that will give me uninterrupted time to get it done. We were both concerned that she’d be ordered to work from home, given the current COVID situation here, but her work has told her to come into the office.

The news on COVID in Sydney is not good today. It’s been revealed that two staff at a liquor shop were infected and contagious while working several shifts over Christmas. Over 2000 people have been contacted directly from the customer COVID contact tracing register at the store, and they and all their subsequent close contacts (family and friends) have been ordered to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. That adds up to probably well over 10,000 people. Not all will have caught the virus, and hopefully the number will be low, but it’s concerning that the potential number is so high, and that it could easily spread further if some people are not diligent in isolating. We’ll see how this plays out in the next few days.

New content today:

Rain analysis

I’ve been talking about the rainy weather a lot lately, and I decided to have a look at just how rainy it’s been here lately. Firstly, yes, it rained again today. Not heavily, but for several hours.

Looking back over the records, since 12 December, three weeks ago, Sydney has had only four days with no rain, out of 22 (counting today). Furthermore, the forecast for the next seven days indicates it’s most likely to rain every single day.

Last summer was ridiculously hot, and sparked all those horrible fires all over the place. This summer is not only very wet, but also very cool. Maximum temperatures have been mostly in the low 20s (°C), which is cool enough that it plausibly feels almost like winter.

The other news today is the Sydney COVID outbreak continues to grow, although we had only 7 new cases today. The state government announced increased restrictions today, including for the first time a legal requirement to wear masks in most public places, which will be enforced with fines from Monday. All other states and territories of Australia have re-closed their borders to people coming New South Wales. Sydney is currently partitioned into three zones, two of which we’re not allowed to enter. In the most restrictive zone, people are not allowed to have any visitors in their homes.

With all this, I’m not optimistic about my market stall happening on 10 January. But who knows… wait and see, I guess.

In work stuff, I wrote a good amount of Irregular Webcomic! scripts today. Just a few more to polish off tomorrow, and I can do photography on Monday. I mostly stayed inside today, because of the rain, but I did go out for a brief walk just after lunch, during a break. I saw several kookaburras – it looked like a group of young ones hanging out and learning to hunt for food, under the eyes of parents. I got another photo with my phone – not great, but definitely closer than I would normally expect to get to one of these birds.

Young kookaburra

New content today:

Codenames progress

I forgot to say yesterday that my wife and I finally conquered the Bangkok city challenge in our ongoing Codenames Duet campaign game. It took us 13 attempts and was getting to be very frustrating, sometimes losing in a sudden death final guess that could easily have gone either way. We were so close to winning many times, but never managed to make it until finally yesterday we cracked it.

Today we moved on to try Los Alamos, and we won it handily on the second attempt. Hopefully this is a sign of more progress towards completing the campaign after getting stuck for so long.

Today is also New Year’s Eve. It’s a weird one, both weather wise with another in the seemingly endless series of cool, overcast, rainy days that Sydney is having, and also with the COVID restrictions essentially putting the kybosh on any sort of outdoor celebrations. All of the harbour foreshore areas that would normally be packed with a million or more people waiting to view the fireworks are completely off-limits and you can be fined for going there. The midnight fireworks display is still happening, but almost nobody is going to be able to watch it in person, and it’s been reduced from the normal 15 minutes or so to a compact 7 minutes. And the 9 pm family preview fireworks have been cancelled completely.

The Sydney COVID outbreak continues to grow in a worrying fashion. The locally acquired cases are up to 144, with 10 new cases added today. The numbers are hovering unsteadily and it’s still not clear what sort of trend we’re currently in. I think there’s a good chance that my next market date, on Sunday 10 January, will be cancelled. Which will be annoying, but better than risking public health.

I took a long walk today with Scully and my wife. We went down to the local golf course, which is a fair walk, and up and down a lot of steep hills. I drive there when I play golf, because it’s too far to go with a full set of clubs, but it’s close enough to walk to otherwise. And I took single club and a few balls, so I could randomly hit a few shots in between players on the course. Scully enjoyed being leash-free on the course. It’s a very casual course and many people walk through it with their dogs all the time, so there was no issue there.

And for New Year’s Eve tonight we’re having a simple night at home. We always do wine and cheese and crackers on NYE, and tonight we decided to skip dinner completely and add fresh fruit—mangos and strawberries and grapes—to make it basically a full meal. Pretty decadent, but it’s fun!

New content today:

Back to COVID restrictions

Sydney moved back to the pre-Christmas COVID restrictions today, which means we can no longer visit my wife’s family. This lasts until 30 December, and what happens on New Year’s Eve and beyond is still to be determined. Sydney had 7 new COVID cases today. The outbreak seems to be mostly contained, but of course it’ll be another week or two before we really know for sure. And in the meantime the less people move around, the better.

My wife and I took Scully on a long walk this morning before it started getting hot. I’ve started using eBird regularly on my walks in the past few days, and it’s interesting to see just how many bird sightings I rack up in a simple walk around the neighbourhood. I don’t carry a camera, and a phone is usually not close enough to take a decent photos of birds, but I managed to get a welcome swallow this morning:

Welcome swallow

Here’s today’s list:

  • 1 Australian brushturkey
  • 19 Feral pigeons
  • 1 Little pied cormorant
  • 2 Little black cormorant
  • 1 White-faced heron
  • 3 Laughing kookaburra
  • 2 Australian king parrot
  • 41 Rainbow lorikeet
  • 20 Noisy miner
  • 1 Grey butcherbird
  • 3 Australian magpie
  • 5 Pied currawong
  • 14 Welcome swallow

I didn’t do much else today. Watched the cricket match, cleaned up a pile of old papers and things that I’d been meaning to get to for ages. Fed the sourdough starter in preparation for making dough tomorrow, for baking on Tuesday. Played some Codenames Duet with my wife… we’re really struggling to win the Bangkok campaign game. We’ve attempted and failed 12 times now. It’s going to feel really good when we finally beat it…

New content today: