Games night and housecleaning

Friday was games night with my friends, and this week I hosted at my place. A few of the guys couldn’t make it, so we only had four of us, but that was good because we got stuck into a nice four-player game of Viticulture (Essential Edition).

This is a board game in which each player operates a vineyard and competes to fulfil wine orders in order to gain victory points. To fulfil an order—which are given on cards that you draw from a deck—you have to have the correct wines of the required quality. To make wine, you have to have grapes. To get grapes, you need to harvest from fields that have grape vines planted. And so you need to plant grape vines in your fields as the first step. Turn sequences go in years – you plant grapes in summer, and harvest and make wine in winter. You also have access to decks of cards that provide special people who give you the ability to do extra things or combine actions in useful ways. Other things you can do include training extra workers, or building various structures to help your vineyard become more efficient in various different ways. So there are lots of options.

İt’s fairly intricate, but straightforward to learn and understand. We all had fun playing it, and it was a moderately tight finish, although I think I concentrated on the wrong thing early on and ended up coming last.

After this we played a game of Welcome to the Moon. This has multiple different boards, but we actually played the same tower building one I’ve played before. These two games pretty much filled the evening.

Today I got stuck into housecleaning work. I cleaned the shower and bathroom, vacuumed the house, washed the kitchen floor, changed the damp absorbers in the closets and storage chests, cleaned all the spider webs off the balcony, and swept and cleaned the balcony of leaves and dust.

This morning I did the grocery shopping, and saw that fresh basil was o special, so I got some and for dinner tonight made pesto from scratch for pasta.

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Games night, and a very special lunch

Friday was online board games night with my friends, so I didn’t have time to write a blog entry. I took Scully for the usual couple of walks, had two ethics classes, and completed another week of Irregular Webcomic! strips assembled from the photos I took a couple of weeks ago.

For games we played Fruit Picking, Can’t Stop Express, Point Salad, CuBirds, Kingdomino, Just One, Stella: Dixit Universe, 7 Wonders. I managed to win the games of Fruit Picking and Kingdomino. Which is better than I usually do!

Today we dropped off Scully at doggie daycare and my wife and I went into the city for a super special lunch, to celebrate a major wedding anniversary. We went to Nel, a very fancy restaurant. It’s a fixed degustation menu – you just show up and they serve you – there’s no choice of different dishes, though they do cater to dietary requirements, so we forewarned them that my wife is vegetarian, and I don’t eat anything with coffee or tea in it.

The current menu is “A Night on Broadway”, inspired by Broadway musicals. Each dish was named after a song or feature from a stage musical. Here’s what we had:

The Book of Jesus Christ

The Book of Jesus Christ. A sweet potato tuille wth smoked eel cream. (My wife had a vegetarian cream.)

Is This Your Wand?

Is This Your Wand? Cheese and onion eclair with mushroom tapenade.

Frosty's Diner

Frosty’s Diner. Beef brisket croquette with burger sauce, tomato water and basil oil shots. (Wife had a cheese croquette.) This was really good. The croquette was tender and juicy, and chasing it down with the tomato/basil shot was amazing – very flavourful.

Hakuna Matata

Hakuna Matata. Pineapple glazed brioche with beef fat butter. (Wife had plain butter.)

Masquerade

Masquerade. Kingfish tartare with native plum jam, macadamia cream, apple and cucumber sauce, freeze dried rose petals. (Wife had smoked tofu tartare with the same toppings.)

French Revolution

French Revolution. Cheese soufflé with cauliflower soup.

Please Sir, I Want Some More

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More? Pan fried salmon on tomato pearl barley porridge, pecorino, chives, black onion. This was really good. (Wife had marinated eggplant replacing the fish.)

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina. Seared Murray cod, charred onion, mushroom, beef au jus, coriander parsley mojo verde. Reading the menu, I assumed this course would be beef, as it came in the right place, and that’s what Argentine is famous for, so I was surprised to get fish again. It was delicious. When I got home, I saw on the restaurant’s Instagram that this dish is indeed supposed to be beef, but it is cooked with coffee – so my dietary requirement kicked in and they replaced the beef with fish. (Wife had confit carrot instead of the beef/fish.)

Wicked Witch's Hat

Wicked Witch’s Hat. Pistachio daquoise, lime sorbet, passionfruit mousse, apple tuille. This was a really amazing dessert. It looks just like a witch’s hat! lots of good flavours and different textures.

Milk and Kibble

Milk and Kibble. Toasted barley gelato, milk and dark chocolate pearls, sugar crisp, warm chocolate milk.

L'Amour

L’Amour: Petit-fours of chocolate, raspberry sauce, vanilla cream.

It was an amazing lunch. We spent 2.5 hours there, and had a really lovely time. On the way home we popped into a few shops to look at some things we wanted to check out. I bought the 6th and final volume of Peter Ackroyd’s History of England, finishing of this history series that I started reading several years ago.

Back home, I spent the rest of the afternoon working hard at housecleaning. I vacuumed, and then I did a task I’ve been putting off for months – sweeping and washing the balcony. It still had autumn leaves on it! And lots of spider webs and dust. I swept it all up and then washed the tiles down with soapy water before rinsing it off. Much better now. I really should clean it every week, but it gets nasty during winter.

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Games night Friday, and humid Saturday

Last night was board games night with friends, so I didn’t have time to write a blog entry. Most of the guys happened to have other things on, so only three of us attended. But this gave us a chance to play a long game, without worrying about people showing up late or leaving early.

We played Arkham Horror. Three turned out to be a good number for this cooperative game, where we’re pitted together against the Cthulhoid forces of darkness.

I took an investigator role, while the others played the muscle, and the mystical. My main task was moving around the map board and working to ward off Doom as it slowly accumulated in various places, while the muscle guy intercepted the various Cthulhu mythos monsters that kept spawning and trying to hunt us down. The mystic was searching for clues and artefacts to help us. The scenario we played was protecting Innsmouth from an incursion of Deep Ones, manipulated by Dagon and Hydra behind the scenes. We had to uncover enough clues to work out how to summon the malign entities and then trust that we could defeat them with a combination of muscle and occult knowledge.

After 3.5 hours of play which became increasingly tense, we confronted the main horrors and beat them, only to discover that we couldn’t figure out what the winning condition of the game was. The owner of the game later told us that he’d missed a single card in the setup stages of the scenario – and that card happened to be the one informing us of the winning condition! But we’d satisfied its requirements and won the game, even if we were confused about it at the time. It was a tight-run thing – there were several decisions that could have led us to disaster along the way, so it felt like a sweet, hard-earned victory.

Besides the usual online classes, I spent time yesterday and today doing Darths & Droids writing and comic making. Oh, and I did some major housecleaning today, doing a long overdue thorough dusting of everything in the living room, polishing up the wooden furniture, and vacuuming floors.

The other main thing to talk about is, of course, the weather. We’ve had more intermittent rain, and the humidity this week has shot through the roof, hovering around 80-100% at different times of the day. Sydney has had 170 rainy days so far this year, today being the 295th day of the year. The annual mean is 99 rainy days. Since we broke the annual rainfall record back on 6 October, we’ve had more than 200 mm more rain. The forecast is for rain every day for at least the next week, with some really heavy rain tomorrow. There continue to be severe floods in rural areas.

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Plumbing skill +2 level up

I had a lot of things to do today. I started with the last three classes of my ethics topic on waste, from 8am. These were done by midday, and then I made myself some lunch before getting stuck into trying to fix our leaky toilet cistern.

After yesterday’s examination, I felt like I knew exactly what I had to do. But first I needed some tools. A spanner of the right size to start with. I thought I had a set of spanners down in the garage, and went searching for them, but after a few minutes I had run out of sensible places to look. Fortunately at that moment my neighbour entered the garage with his dog Luna (Scully’s best friend). He was taking her out to the park, but I intercepted and asked if he happened to have any spanners that I could borrow. He said he did, but then he spent several minutes looking for them and failed to find them too! But he didn’t manage to find a couple fo adjustable wrenches, which I said would do the job.

I took those inside and began disassembling the toilet, taking off the cistern cover, turning off the inlet tap, flushing to empty the cistern of water. Then I removed the outlet valve to give me room to work. I put some towels on the floor to absorb any remaining water that might spill out when I loosened the pipes. I unscrewed the locking nuts on either end of the short pipe connecting the tap to the inlet valve, and when that pipe popped out the remaining bit of water in the cistern spilled out onto the towels. Then I could loosen the locking nut and pull out the old inlet valve.

So far, so good. Now I inserted the new inlet valve, configured with the extendable pipe to set the water level to the desired depth. The locking nut went on, and then I inserted the connecting pipe and tightened up the locking nuts. It looked good. But when I turned the water back on, it sprayed everywhere out of the connection between the pipe and the inlet valve! Ugh.

I turned the tap back off and undid the locking nuts, and then realised that there was a problem. There was a nylon plug around the pipe, clearly designed to fit into the valve pipe to form a watertight fit. But the inlet pipe on the new valve wasn’t quite as long as the pipe on the old valve, so the nylon plug wasn’t in the right place – it was too low, leaving a gap that water could leak out of. Being a metal pipe, I didn’t have any way to modify its size.

I was ready to give up and call a plumber. I reported my failure to friends on our Discord chat, showing them the photos I took of the problem. One friend suggested I get a new flexible connecting pipe, pasting a product link for me. Now that looked like it should solve the problem! I quickly dashed out to the hardware store and bought a 225 mm flexible connecting pipe, costing just $4.

Back home, I replaced the solid metal pipe with the flexible one, connecting both ends and tightening the locking nuts. I turned the water back on… and the cistern started filling up, without any leaking! Woohoo! And as a bonus, the water level exactly reached the fill level mark before the inlet valve cut out, which fixed the original leaky cistern problem that instigated this entire job.

So, I think I levelled up another two times in plumbing skill today.

That took up much of the afternoon, and I didn’t have much time to anything else before cleaning up, showering, and getting changed for tonight’s image processing lecture at the university. After all that handyman work, I felt like spoiling myself with a dinner at a Thai restaurant. I loaded Google Maps, centred it on the university, and searched for “Thai restaurant”. Then I chose the top rated one out of the dozen or so hits within 3 blocks of the university. I went there and had a red curry chicken with rice, which was really nice. Good recommendation, Google reviewers!

And finally, back at home after the university course, I need to pack my bag for our trip tomorrow. We’re hoping to leave by 9am, so we can make lunch in Bathurst on the way.

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Plumbing skill + 1 level-up

Today I finally tried to fix the leaky inlet valve on our toilet cistern. I had a replacement valve which has been sitting around waiting for me to get to it, and I finally decided to bite the bullet and attempt to install it today.

I learnt a few things. Firstly, replacing the valve was a bigger job than I realised. I’d assumed that I could unscrew the old one and screw the new one in. But no, it doesn’t rotate within the cistern because it hits the cistern walls. To remove/replace it you have to undo two nuts on the connecting pipe from the tap on the wall and remove that pipe, then undo a lock nut on the valve and lift it out, then reverse the procedure to install the new one, re-hooking up the pipe.

I think I could have achieved this – taking maybe an 30-60 minutes longer than I’d expected for the whole job. But while fiddling around and figuring all this out, I also learnt how to adjust the float lever on the existing valve to hopefully turn it off earlier in the fill cycle, so it would stop the leak. I experimented with that a bit and found a setting which seemed to work, so I abandoned the idea of replacing the entire valve, and returned the toilet to working order.

But after a couple of satisfactory flushes, it started dribbling again – even worse than before. I think the valve is simply cactus, and I’ll have to get stuck into the full replacement at some point when I have time. 🙄

Apart from that, I spent time writing and making comics again today, preparing for my week away this week.

Oh, and I also had a bit of time to finally go through some of the photos I took on my trip to Germany back in June. This is the Falkenhaus in Würzburg:

Falkenhaus

It’s adjacent to the Marienkapelle:

Marienkapelle

And the Alte Mainbrucke bridge with Festung Marienberg castle on the hill across the river:

Alte Brucke

All from our first day after arrival.

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Toilet training

Today I tried to fix our toilet cistern, which has been dribbling water into the bowl while refilling after flushing. It’s been doing this for a while, but has started to dribble longer and longer before the water flow stops. I don’t fancy paying a plumber $150 to fix something that I could probably do myself in 5 minutes… if I just knew how.

So I did some searching and found a few YouTube videos showing how to replace the outlet valve sealing washer. It seemed simple enough, so I removed the outlet valve portion and inspected the old washer. It actually looked fine – no wear evident at all. But I headed off to the hardware store to buy a replacement washer and installed that, turned the water back on, and tested it.

And it’s still dribbling the same way as before. But now with the lid off and observing what’s happening as I flush the toilet, I can see that the outlet valve wasn’t the problem in the first place. The problem is the inlet valve doesn’t turn off in a timely manner once the cistern is full. The water overflows into the pipe that drains into the bowl for several seconds, before the valve finally shuts off. So now I reckon what I need to do is replace the inlet valve.

I’ll try doing that tomorrow, if I have enough time.

I also worked a bit on fine tuning parts of my game scenario for tomorrow night’s roleplaying game that I’m running. And did a 2.5k run. And went out for lunch time walk with my wife and Scully. I tried fish & chips from a different shop near our favourite bakery this time, rather than get a pie. And it was really good – possibly better than the fish & chips I get from the nearer shop. Now whenever I want fish & chips I’m going to have to decide whether to get the good one from the nearby shop, or walk all the way over to the slightly better one…

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Housework and running

Today was a day of housework. I vacuumed everywhere, cleaned the bathroom, washed the shower stall, baked some bread. And I took advantage of the sunny morning (no rain!!) to go for a 2.5k run for the first time since straining my back almost a week ago. It’s still a tiny bit sore, but 95% okay, and the physiotherapist said I should rest up for a few days but once it’s close to normal going for a run will be fine.

We all went for a big walk today, to the Italian bakery. This is the longest regular walk we do, almost 6 km round trip. A few other destinations are close to the 5 km mark. Today the bakery had the banana caramel croissants that I got once as a special item and really liked, so I grabbed another one. They are really really good.

And this evening I had two more ethics classes, and a science class with the girl who has been doing these long-term. Today I went through the immune system with her, explaining how our various blood cells fight diseases and produce immune reactions, and how vaccines work.

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Back pain

The bad news today is that I threw my back out. I’m limping around the house with a painful lower back strain, and hoping it will heal up over the next couple of days.

The stupidest things can set this sort of thing off. I decided today was a house cleaning day and started with vacuuming all the floors. Then I used to dust attachment to dust off the furniture and bookcases and stuff.

I found some more spots of mould that have been caused by the relentless high humidity here in Sydney, around some of the window frames and on some of the wooden furniture. So I attacked all those with mould killer. I checked out a closed cupboard area where I was storing some Magic: the Gathering cards to check if there was any mould in three. Thankfully it looked clean. But I decided to take a quick trip to the hardware store to buy some damp remover crystals to put in there to keep the humidity low.

I took Scully in the car for some time outside, and drove over to the hardware store. They let you take dogs inside, so it’s a good trip to do with her. Unfortunately, they were completely sold out of all the damp removal stuff – the basic tubs and the refills of the absorbent crystals. It seems everyone is Sydney is having damp/mould problems at the moment and they just can’t keep stock on shelves.

I walked with Scully back to the car park and thought we’d walk over next door to the home centre – a complex that has various furniture stores, bed and bathroom stuff, lighting, whitegoods, and so on. There’s a place there that sells storage containers, and I thought they might have some damp absorbers. But Scully was reluctant to walk that way and wanted to go back to the car, so I bent over to pick her up and carry her… and bam! My back tweaked and I knew I was in trouble.

It got sore so fast that I abandoned plans to go to the home centre and went straight back to the car with Scully. It took some effort to get into the car. I drove home, and tried to climb back out, and by now my back was really painful. I laid down on the floor to take pressure off it, and that helped a lot.

But when I tried to get back up again, I just couldn’t it hurt too much. Every way I tried to bend to get up from a prone position and stand up failed because I couldn’t bear the pain. I ended up lying on the floor for something over an hour while my wife fussed over me and asked if she could help. She got me some pain tablets, and ran to the pharmacy to get some topical gel for muscle strains.

Eventually I just had to grit my teeth and push myself up off the floor as suddenly as I could, to try to get into at least a kneeling position before the pain made me collapse back down again. I managed this, but boy did it hurt. Once kneeling, I managed to stand up and walk around, and that felt better. That was about 6 hours ago now, and I’m managing to stand and sit okay. It hurts, but it’s not excruciating like when I was on the floor.

I’ve had this happen a couple of times before, and seen a physiotherapist to fix it up. I know what stretches I need to do to help it get better, which help when I get milder back pain. It’ll probably stiffen up overnight, so I’ll see how it is tomorrow morning, and will try to get a physio appointment. It tends to stiffen up overnight, and then ease during the day as I move around.

Anyway. That was my day.

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Kitchen cleaning

Today was a beautiful day – I think the last gasp of summer. We’ve had four days in a row with no rain. That hasn’t happened since mid-February, over two months ago. And the temperature got warmer over those days, reaching 29.2°C today.

However, I say it’s the last gasp, because a storm is closing in tonight and the next seven days are forecast to be cooler and rainy every day. EDIT: I realised with the storm about to hit here any second, today won’t be a rainless day, meaning we’ve only had three days in a row of no rain.

incoming storm radar image

More housework today. I cleaned off all the kitchen counters of all the clutter (breakfast cereal, chopping boards, pasta containers, knife block, toaster, kettle, bottle of wine, hand-held vacuum cleaner, microwave oven, placemats, water filter jug, box of chocolates, dog treat containers, phone chargers, paper recycling bag, etc, etc, etc…) and cleaned it all of crumbs and dust. I scrubbed the cooktop clean, wiped the splashback tiles, cleaned the rangehood, and wiped clean all the vertical surfaces – cupboard doors and the oven. And then cleaned the floor.

I’ve been meaning to do this job for too long, and am glad I finally got it done today.

I took Scully for a couple of walks, including one to the mailbox to post a greeting card to someone who bought one on my Etsy shop. And worked on some comics and some secret project.

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Wardrobe cleaning

Today I worked on some comics, and also did some housecleaning with my wife. We pulled everything out of the top shelf of the wardrobes in the bedroom and went through it all, dusting things off, checking there was no mould (there wasn’t), and deciding what could be thrown away and what needed to be kept. This freed up some space to put away some other things. So the wardrobe is just as stuffed, but now we’ve put away some of the other stuff that had been cluttering up other areas.

Unfortunately I pulled a muscle in my back, and it’s a bit sore now. Not terrible, and I’ve done some stretching exercises to hopefully alleviate anything bad, but we’ll see how it feels tomorrow after a night of sleep.

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