Back to running

Wanting to get back into a regular exercise routine, this morning I took off for a 5k run. I jogged up to the local sports oval and then did the 9 laps that total to 5 km. Previously I’ve run partial laps and walked the remainder, but this time I jogged through the first 6 laps without dropping back to a walk. That was about all I could manage and I took some walking breaks during the next 3 laps. My time was about the same as previously – I think because the first 6 laps were at a slower jog than I would run partial laps, and it all evened out in the end.

Back home I finished off writing the annotations for the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! While doing that I found a bug in the database updating code I use to add the comics and annotations, so I had to spend some time debugging that and checking that it works okay, which chewed up a bit of time.

I wanted to start writing a new Proof the Earth is a Globe, but ran out of time, so I’ll get onto that tomorrow.

New content today:

Taking a breath, and it’s smoky

The weather was much cooler today, thankfully. The bushfire situation, while still bad, at least wasn’t terrible today. So it was a bit of a breather, before the next round of heatwave conditions hits. But cooler weather in Sydney is brought by a southerly wind, and south is where most of the fires are, so the air quality here deteriorated today, and reached well into the highest “hazardous” level this afternoon. It’s been a lot worse a few weeks ago, but it was noticeable and nasty, and my throat is sore this evening.

I spent most of the day making Irregular Webcomic! strips, in between monitoring the news and watching some cricket on TV. I should finish this batch tomorrow.

New content today:

Back to work

It’s the 2nd of January, and back to work for many people. My wife went back to her office, and I spent the whole morning taking photos for the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! that I’ve been writing over the past few days.

I didn’t finish until a bit after midday, by which time I was hungry for lunch. I didn’t want to eat the last of the bread in the house, since then my wife would have nothing to eat when she arrived home from work. So I went for a walk up to the local fish & chip shop… only to find it still closed for the holidays. And the cafe next door was closed too. It’s only a tiny cluster of shops, and there was nowhere else to get lunch, so I had to walk over to the next suburb. There’s a pie shop there that I like, and I figured I’d get a pie.

But when I got there, that too was closed! But nearby was a supermarket, so I went in there and bought some supplies: falafels and flatbread, and some milk. Then I walked back home – I did 4 km by the time I got back home, almost an hour after I’d left, and I still hadn’t eaten lunch!

This afternoon I assembled a few of the comics, while keeping an eye on news. My aunt is doing fine at Lake Conjola, she was able to send messages out today. But the road is still blocked by fires and she can’t leave. She says she has enough food and water. Hopefully some time tomorrow the roads will open and she can get out before Saturday, which is forecast to be another stupidly hot and windy day, with dangerous conditions basically all the way south down the coast from Sydney to Victoria. Everywhere along there has been advised to evacuate today, and thousands of people are streaming out of the area – except in the region around Lake Conjola, where there remains no open road.

New content today:

Comics and kitchen gadgets

Today was a designated comic writing day, as I started work on the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! Besides that, I jotted down some notes for ideas I had for D&D adventures, and did some ISO photography standards work.

My wife and I went out on an expedition to the hardware store to get a tap reseating tool, which I hope will fix some annoying dripping tap behaviour at home next time I change the washers. I also got some generic brand humidity absorbing crystals (calcium chloride) to keep the moisture absorbers in the closets topped up, especially as our summer turns from hot and dry to hot and humid.

Near the hardware store is a council recycling centre, which accepts waste such as batteries, cables, light bulbs, appliances, and so on. I have a small box which I fill with stuff and take there every so often. I decided to take it along today, knowing that the centre is open on Mondays. But when we got there it was closed, with a tiny piece of paper stuck to the door saying they’re closed over the Christmas/New Year period and won’t open again until 3 January. That was slightly annoying.

And near both is a kitchen supplies shop. I only went into this place recently, and was amazed at all the gadgets and stuff in there, so this time I took my wife and showed her how cool it was. We bought a jar opening thing for unscrewing stubborn jar lids, and some new chopping boards.

Tonight for dinner I made vege fajitas, with onions, carrot, zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms, and some of our home grown chilli. Turned out well!

New content today:

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: