Heat and Smoke

Today was an awful day, weather-wise. It was hot, and the wind blew in a lot of smoke from the bushfires west of Sydney. And it just got worse as the day wore on.

It didn’t begin too badly. I was up early and decided to go to the local golf course to play 9 holes.I was there not long after 7am, and finished well before 9 o’clock. Last time I scored 64, and today I managed 59, improving by 5 strokes. I still lost a few balls, hitting wild shots into the bush surrounding the course. Unfortunately one of those shots was on the par-3 6th hole, and since the ball only went about 10 metres before disappearing into thick undergrowth, I decided to tee off again with another ball. That shot landed on the green, and I sank it in two putts. If only I hadn’t skewed the first tee shot into the bush I would have got a par! Oh well, maybe next time.

Most of the day I spent indoors, writing annotations for the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! I finished all of those off (I started yesterday). And then I started work on preparing for a Standards Australia meeting on photography standards tomorrow, which I’m chairing. This meeting is primarily for me to report to the Australian experts on what transpired at the international meeting I attended in Cologne back in October. So I need to be up to speed on everything that happened there and all of the reports submitted at that meeting.

This afternoon I took Scully out for a play at the dog park and a walk along the harbour shore with the other owners and their dogs. We left at 3:30pm, and as we drove down to the park I could see the smoke smeared across the sky. And once we got there and out of the car… wow, it was really bad. Here’s the park, with a view to the office buildings of North Sydney in the background:

Bushfire smoke

The walk goes down by the Harbour shore, where there’s a view across to the Harbour Bridge and the city central business district:

Bushfire smoke

We walk along this path which leads through an old oil terminal site on the shore, where tankers used to unload petroleum. The site has now been cleaned up and turned into this park. Today the afternoon sun burned down redly through the smoke haze:

Bushfire smoke

Here’s Scully (the black dog at centre) and some of our fellow dog walkers, approaching the far end of the walk along the shore:

Bushfire smoke

Coming back, the view of the city looked like this:

Bushfire smoke

The air was very unpleasant to breathe, and my throat is now scratchy and irritated. Unfortunately, the forecast with the fires and the winds is that this sort of smoke will linger over Sydney for several more days before we get a wind change that blows it away. But alas it will most likely return after that, and it’s possible – even likely – that we’ll be having to deal with this on and off throughout the whole summer.

New content today:

Comic photos and walking

This morning I spent taking photos for the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! This involved cleaning my desk off for setting up the Lego sets, which prompted me to do a proper dusting and cleaning… and then of course I had to clean a bunch of other dusty surfaces around the place. Oh, and I also had to clean up the balcony after yesterday’s super windy conditions and the toppled plant mess that I hadn’t cleaned up yesterday.

My right thumb is a bit swollen and red from the bee sting, but it doesn’t hurt, unless I put pressure on it. Hopefully it’ll be fine in a few days.

I went for a walk to get lunch, and then took a long way home, going along three bushwalk tracks which skirted the edge of the harbour, in and out of the coves along the way.

Red gums

It’s nice being able to walk along paths that look like you’re in the middle of nowhere, even though you’re really in the middle of a big city. Occasionally you get glimpses of the city through the trees.

City from the bush

This area was home to a tribe of Aborigines at the time the English settlers arrived in Sydney, and there’s still evidence of their inhabitation, in the form of shell middens and carvings in some of the rocks.

In the afternoon I started assembling the photos from this morning into new comics. I still have most of them to do, which will take another day or so of work.

New content today:

More comic writing Sunday

Much of today was dedicated to finishing off writing that new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips I started yesterday. I managed to finish the writing, so the next step is taking photos, which I’ll probably do on Tuesday morning, since I have another school Science Club visit tomorrow.

This morning I did some grocery shopping. My wife wanted a lift to Milsons Point, on the north side of the Harbour Bridge, so she could walk across the Bridge with Scully to The Rocks and check out the markets there, before walking from there all the way home. Rather than drive home and then walk to the nearest supermarket like I usually do, I decided to park near the Aldi at North Sydney and try that. I’ve only bought things from Aldi a few times, and never done a full grocery shopping there before, so it was a bit of a new experience.

Later in the morning I walked to a nearby park to practice hitting a few golf balls with a pitching wedge. Also in the park was a large picnic birthday party for a boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, and they’d hired a guy to run a Nerf gun battle thingy, complete with a marked combat zone with cloth barriers set up as cover This guy was herding 20 or so rowdy boys in the game, enforcing rules and keeping things running smoothly. At one point he told them that if anyone got out of line he’d get me to whack them with my golf club. I obliged by turning to face them and raised my club menacingly.

New content today:

Comic writing Saturday

I managed a bit of a sleep-in this morning, since my wife didn’t have to get up early to go to work. Then there was Saturday housecleaning, which today included vacuuming and washing the bathroom and kitchen and balcony floors.

But I spent most of the day writing comics, both for Darths & Droids and a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! that I want to get completed in the coming week.

And for dinner we went out to a newish place nearby for fish & chips. We hadn’t been there yet, and they had some outdoor tables where we could bring Scully to sit, but when we got there they had them all inside – possibly because the evening was cool. But we said we wanted to sit and eat with our dog, and they set up a table outdoors for us, so that was good. And the food was pretty good. I think we’ll go back there again.

New content today:

Good news and bad news

Good news first:

Scully had her behaviour and obedience test today to qualify as a Delta therapy dog (see part 1 from last Thursday). I drove Scully and my wife out to the testing site, where there were dozens of other dogs trying out. This is my wife’s initiative, and she wants to be the human companion when Scully is on duty, so it was up to her to accompany Scully for the test. She didn’t want me around to be a possible distraction, so, I went over to a nearby shopping centre to pass the time.

When I got back, my wife reported that Scully had passed! Now they have to do a day of training, and then I’m not sure what the next step is. But we could have Scully visiting local hospitals to cheer people up pretty soon!

Bad news:

My webhost has been reminding me repeatedly to upgrade my servers to PHP 7.2 (from version 5.6), with a deadline of some time in November before they just do it for me. Well, the upgrade happened today. Most of my sites are fine… except for the Irregular Webcomic! forums. The upgrade has utterly broken them, and the forums are now inaccessible.

The problem is that I installed phpBB forum software ages ago, and upgrading it was always a pain in the neck due to my UI customisations, so in 2005 I gave up upgrading phpBB. Up until today the forums were still running code from 2005. Unfortunately, that code relied on PHP 5.6, and is incompatible with PHP 7.2. Thus the brokenness.

I’m still pondering what to do about this. The database is still there, with all of the users and posts. It’s just the web page code that can’t run any more. Theoretically, it should be possible to install a current version of phpBB and import the data from the old database into the latest database format. But in practice I don’t know how easy this will be. If I can’t find someone with a convenient script to do all the work, the odds that I can do it myself are extremely low. I may have the necessary coding skills, but I certainly don’t have a spare month to do the work.

At this point I have to estimate that it’s probably 95% likely that the old forums are completely gone forever. It’s my own fault, really, for running such outdated software – it was bound to break eventually.

If anyone reading this knows phpBB and would like to help me, please let me know!

New content today:

Finishing comics

Most of today was spent writing annotations for the batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I photographed on Monday and assembled yesterday.

This morning I had my Year 6 Ethics class, and we continued last week’s discussion of homelessness. The goal this week was to educate the kids on some of the facts about homelessness, including statistics on how many Australians are homeless, and in what age and demographic groups. Most of the kids were shocked that at the last census over 8000 children of primary school age (that is their age or younger) were classed as homeless. And that the largest age group of homeless people is under 18s, not older people like they had thought. They heard the story of a homeless boy, who had been living on the street since he was 8. One student said that she had a 7-year-old brother, which is not much short of 8, and she couldn’t imagine him being out on the streets and surviving like that.

The rest of the lesson concerned stereotypes about homeless people. I asked the kids what ideas they had about what homeless people were like. Then we went through an exercise about jumping to conclusions from a small sample or hearsay, ending up with the question that if someone says homeless people are just lazy, does that mean all homeless people really are lazy? And would it be harmful to conclude that? Since last week there were a few of the kids who expressed the view that homeless people should “just get jobs”, I hope that today’s lesson made them think again about that assumption, and realise that 8 year old kids on the street can’t just get a job, and older homeless people might want to work but have trouble finding a job because potential employers turn them away.

I’ll miss next week’s lesson with my kids since I’ll be travelling in Germany. I’m not sure if they’ll get a substitute teacher or have a non-lesson time.

New content today:

Comic assembling

I spent most of today assembling the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips from the photos I took yesterday. For one comic I had to take two photos of each panel, because I wanted to composite them to create a semi-transparent figure. I also added a blue glow using some Photoshop tricks, and I think the result worked quite well:

Ghost Obi-Wan

So that’s a sneak preview of a future comic.

I didn’t really do much else today – assembling the batch of comics pretty much ate up a full day of work. Oh, I watched the new Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker trailer that was released. Pretty cool!

New content today:

Comic photos and walking

This morning I photographed the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I wrote over the weekend. I finished just in time for lunch, so went for a nice long walk to stretch my legs and get some food. I ended up doing a loop to the Italian bakery and back via a different route, completing 6.6 kilometres according to my tracking app. Phew!

Ad then when I got home I realised I should have got some groceries – we needed milk and bread, and probably something to cook for dinner. So later in the afternoon I took another walk up to the supermarket.

While at home I got a delivery – a copy of the original cover printing of the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual. I’ve had a Monster Manual since 1983 or so, but it was the updated cover art, while I had the original cover art of the Dungeon Masters Guide, so they never matched. I decided a while back to try to get an original cover Monster Manual, and have been watching eBay for several months now. I bid on a few but lost the auction, and there was one “buy it now” that looked good from a seller in the UK, except it was a large bookseller and they had a disclaimer that the cover photo was a stock photo and not the actual product, and they couldn’t guarantee that the cover art was the same as the photo. I contacted them and said I was after a specific cover art, and could they verify it for me, and they wrote back and basically said no… so I declined to purchase that one. But last week I found an inexpensive copy in good condition from an Australian seller, and snapped it up. When it arrived today, I was very pleased, as it’s in great condition for the age. And now I finally, after 36 years, have a complete collection of the original artwork AD&D rulebooks.

Monster Manual

New content today:

Comic writing slog part 2

Another day of writing comics. I managed to get some momentum today and finished off the batch, ready to start photographing them tomorrow.

In some spare time I worked on another mezzacotta random generator, this time a random bird name generator. This was inspired by me discussing some actual birds with friends, and someone suggesting that since so many birds are named after colours and markings, it’d be easy to randomly generate new names. And yes, it was very quick and easy, using our generator framework.

Tonight I cooked soup for dinner, and used my new Bamix stick blender for the first time. It works really well – I can tell immediately that it’s better quality than our previous one. The old one got noticeably hot very quickly from the motor, and had to be mashed up and down to access all the vegetable chunks in the soup. The Bamix stayed nice and cool, and it creates a vortex in the soup that sucks the chunks into the blades, so there’s a lot less manual motion required. Really nice. The soup was chick pea, cauliflower, and carrot.

New content today:

Comic writing slog

I need to get another batch of Irregular Webcomic! made before I leave for a week in Germany on Friday, so I spent most of today struggling to write scripts. It’s bad when you need to write and you can’t think of anything. To distract myself and shift mental gears hoping that that would kickstart things, I did various housework and took Scully for a big long walk.

The weather was hot and sunny when we left, but as we walked the dark grey clouds rolled in, and it started raining by the time we got home.

Scully before the storm

Fortunately we got in with just the first few drops beginning to fall.

This evening I watched the Rugby World Cup quarter final game from Japan: Australia v England. What a debacle. 🙁

New content today: