Ouch

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.

Recipe:

  • 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:

A possible lockdown Christmas

Today: 30 new COVID-19 cases in Sydney. All confined to the Northern Beaches area, so no sign of it spreading into the rest of the city yet. All of Sydney has gone back into restrictions on gatherings of people, but no enforced stay-at-home order yet. Home gatherings are banned in the Northern Beaches, and restricted to 10 people in the rest of Sydney – but all these still expire by Christmas Eve. I suspect they’re avoiding announcing restrictions extending into Christmas Day in the hope that they won’t be necessary, but I expect they will most likely be extended.

Another complication for us is that I was tagged to make a glazed ham for Christmas, and that ham is sitting in our fridge awaiting the cooking. But if we can’t see our family over Christmas, I’m going to end up with 4 kilos of ham to consume by myself (since my wife is vegetarian, and Scully won’t get any because it’s too salty for dogs). I’m already starting to think about what I can cook that I can easily add some ham to…

In other news, I threw together a quick technobabble generator, using the mezzacotta generator codebase. The good thing about this code is if you have an idea, you can execute a basic proof-of-concept in about 5 minutes. Adding all the vocabulary goodies is what takes most of the subsequent development time.

I also did some lockdown baking, rather than go out to the shops for a loaf of bread. I made damper:

Damper

I forgot that I used to make a double sized batch, and it turned out rather small – most of it’s gone already after my wife and I had lunch.

Oh, and to end on a sunny note, some sunflowers I noticed while out walking Scully this afternoon:

Sunflowery day

New content today:

Sydney lockdown

Following yesterday’s COVID news, Sydney had 13 new cases of COVID-19 reported today, taking the total in the current outbreak from 28 to 41. The NSW Government announced an enforced stay-at-home order for the Northern Beaches area, from 5pm today until midnight on Wednesday 23 December, and flagged that it may be extended to all of Sydney tomorrow, depending on case growth in the next 24 hours. As it is, we’re under stay-at-home advice – which is basically a strong recommendation to follow the same rules, but not enforced.

The lockdown area includes my wife’s family, so we’re forbidden from seeing them until at least the day before Christmas. At the moment it’s just wait and see whether we’ll be able to have our planned Christmas lunch or not.

Before all of this was announced, we dropped Scully off for a pre-Christmas groom at the dog groomer. So now she’s all clean and has short velvety fur. Luna, the poodle next door, also got a haircut today, and her owners had her done with a Dutch poodle cut, with shaved face and paws (but without the puffy lion balls of hair). She looks very different from the puppy cut that both Scully and Luna have had for the past couple of years.

Apart from that I mostly stayed in, since it’s been a rainy day on and off, as it has been all week. The humidity is ridiculous – I’ve been holed up at home with the windows shut and the dehumidifier on. But I’m getting a good amount of comic writing done!

New content today:

Screaming COVID halt

The only news in Sydney today is the resurgence of COVID-19. After several weeks of zero or close to zero new cases(*) in Australia, yesterday we had 18 new cases suddenly appear in Sydney, and today they’ve announced another 10 cases. DNA testing indicates the cases are related to a USA strain of COVID, so it’s most likely that someone working in the airport/quarantine area has acquired the virus from an incoming traveller from the US and then spread it into the community.

(*) Locally acquired cases. There are cases who have arrived from overseas and are in quarantine from arrival.

The cases are clustered in the Northern Beaches region of Sydney, in the north-east of the city. That whole region – home to over 250,000 people – has been ordered to stay at home for the next three days, leaving only for essential business such as buying groceries or medical issues, and the rest of Sydney has been advised to avoid travel into the region. All contacts of the known cases and people who attended the same public venues as them have been ordered to get tested for COVID and self-isolate. Other states of Australia have already announced travel restrictions and quarantines or complete border closures to NSW residents.

Several people I know have told me that their families have cancelled their planned Christmas gatherings and travel plans. My wife’s family all live in the Northern Beaches region, so it’s not clear at this time if we’ll be able to have our planned Christmas lunch with them or not.

The next day or two will be crucial to knowing if we have this outbreak under control or not. 28 cases doesn’t sound like a lot to non-Australians, I’m sure, but after weeks of essentially zero new cases, this has got everybody edgy again.

[Written later] In further news today, I received notice that the market where I was to have a stall on Sunday has been cancelled. It’s not in the Northern Beaches region, but it is close, and several of the stallholders would have been travelling from there so couldn’t make it. The market organisers have cancelled both because stallholder turnout would be well down, and of course to avoid potentially spreading the virus further.

Not only was I expecting to make a good profit from Christmas shoppers, which will now be zero, I’d booked a hire car again to carry my stock and equipment to the market. So now I have to cancel that, and since it’s within 48 hours I only get 50% of the fee refunded. So instead of making a nice profit, I’ve made a loss.

And also in response to the news, my friends and I decided that we should convert tonight’s planned face-to-face board games night into another virtual online game session.

So, it’s been a bad day collectively for the city, and individually for me.

New content today:

Dentist redux, and giant kangaroos

I had my return visit with the dentist first thing this morning. He fixed up the chipped filling that he’d noticed on Tuesday. The past few times I’ve had work done, the anaesthetic took a long time to work and he ended up putting a second needle in, but today thankfully it worked pretty quickly and I didn’t need a second needle. Which meant it wore off after only about 4 hours, compared to last time where my mouth was still numb for something like 6 or 7 hours afterwards.

In conversation, I mentioned to my dentist that I was selling photographic prints, and I could get one made for his waiting room if he wanted. He said he was actually thinking of renovating the waiting room, and looked at my photography website on the computer screen, and said he liked Australian landscapes. So if I don’t hear from him soon I’ll follow up and see if I can get one of my prints in his waiting room, with some of my business cards on the desk.

In other photography news, a few days ago the producer of PBS Eons contacted me to ask for permission to use one of my photos in their latest episode. Since these episodes get 0.5 to 2 million views on YouTube, I gave them permission, and the episode came out today. You can watch it on YouTube here, or with the embedded version below:

My photo is the one used to show the drawing of the giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah, from about 4:42 onwards.

And while on videos, in other news a friend of mine is working on designing original games that will be included in the new VR board game platform Hands on Deck, currently under development. His original game Neapolitan is planned for inclusion in the first release, and can be seen in this video (the first game shown).

New content today:

Dental day

I had a dentist appointment today, for a routine clean and checkup. My previous appointment was just before COVID really hit Australia, so this was my first time going back under the new circumstances. I was struck by the spartan look in the waiting room, and realised it was because all of the magazines that are usually there had been removed, as well as the water pitcher and glasses, the box of tissues and waste bin, and the display stand of brochures about various dental health issues. All that was left were the chairs and an empty coffee table.

I had to answer a short COVID questionnaire, but other than that it was all pretty normal once things got started. There was a new hygienist there today, and I was happy because the previous one, while very nice to talk to, was rather rough with the cleaning tools and always used to hurt my teeth and gums more than any other. The new woman was a lot gentler and the whole cleaning was much less unpleasant than last time. Then the dentist examined my teeth and I mentioned an annoying thing with food getting stuck between two particular teeth lately. He said yes, he could see a hole there, where a prior filling had chipped and part of it had fallen out. He recommended I get it refilled, so on the way out I made another appointment for the filling, this Thursday.

I walked to the dentist via the hardware store first. I needed to pick up a few things, and it’s in the same direction, so it was a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. One thing I got is some silicone lubricant, which I’m going to use on our sliding window tracks later this week, when I do the window washing for spring cleaning. I’m sure that’ll be a highlight of this blog… so stay tuned for that one. 🤣

New content today: