Cold market day

Today was the Kirribilli Arts & Crafts Market, and I had my stall there selling my photography prints and greeting cards. My wife had a small part of the stall for her dog bandanas. I went in with optimistic thoughts about the number of customers.

The weather was fine and sunny, but windy. And it was cold – winter cold. The maximum temperature in Sydney was only 19.7°C. I had a jacket on, but after standing at the stall in the morning for a while and not walking around, I was shivering from the cold. My wife had to go buy me a hot chocolate to try to warm up.

There were a lot more customers going through the market than any of the previous days I’ve been at this one. However, the demographic in this area is younger than at Lindfield, the other market that I go to. And it seems that the strongest buyers of my products are older women buying greeting cards, and middle-aged parents with children around the pre-teen years, who buy matted prints for the kids. There were a few of this demographic today, but mostly it was young couples, singles, and groups of teenagers – very very few of whom are particularly interested in greeting cards or fine art photography prints.

The upshot is I didn’t make enough sales to cover the cost of the stall rental, even with a busy market. I’m going to have to rethink whether Kirribilli is a good market for me to be attending. I’m a lot more optimistic about Lindfield Market next week, which is a suburban area with a lot of empty nesters and families with older children.

It was a long and tiring day still. We got up at 05:30, to head to the market by 06:00, and we only got home with all of our stuff after 4:30 pm (the market having closed at 3 pm).

Then it was a simple dinner and relaxing before an early night, because my wife has to get up before 6 again tomorrow for a week of work in the office.

New content today:

Comic writing and market prep

Tomorrow (Sunday) is Kirribilli Markets, where I’m attempting once more to sell prints of my photography. The last few markets have been pretty dismal, for various reasons, but the forecast for tomorrow is good and I’m hoping to actually make a profit above the market stall rental fee. We shall see.

So I had some prep work to get ready for that today, going over my checklist and making sure everything is in order, before the 5:30 start tomorrow morning, to load the car and get down to the market soon after 6am and start setting up.

The other thing I tried to do today was write the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I got a decent few written, but I’ll have to knuckle down on Monday (after the market Sunday) to finish the batch off ready to photograph, hopefully on Tuesday at the latest.

New content today:

Wet and wild market day

The alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, so my wife and I could head to the market by 6:00 to start setting up. It was still like night when we left… and it wasn’t helped by the heavy rain.

To take all of our stuff to the market, we need to make two trips in our car. I left the first load there with her and Scully to mine while I drove home for the second load. This load includes two large easels which I use to display large photo prints. The trouble is they don’t fit in the car with the roof up (it’s a convertible). The rain had eased off to almost nothing, so I risked it and put the easels in with the roof open. It was actually fine driving back to the market, although the rain started falling again lightly. But when I got there I expected to be able to drive into the tunnel to start unloading under shelter… but there was a queue of other stallholders waiting to drive into the parking area, and the parking marshal was being very slow in letting people in. As I sat there, not moving, the rain got heavier… and heavier…

Eventually I got in, and unloaded the gear. I had to use a towel to dry stuff, including the interior of the car. My wife parked the car and returned while I set up the stall. I made some space on one side for her dog bandanas. We were excited and hopeful.

But the weather was dreadful. It rained heavily and with strong winds. Although we were inside the road tunnel, we were given a stall right near one end, and spray from the rain came in and got all over our stuff. And there was a drain grate right in front of the stall, and it was overflowing from all the water, meaning that anyone who wanted to browse our stall basically had to stand in a puddle.

Some stallholders had obviously elected not to come today, as there were a few vacant stalls. I asked the market admin if I could move our stall, and they said yes, so we moved to a more central location, further from the rain spray. But that didn’t help with the number of customers, which was painfully low. Mostly we chatted with other stall-holders, lamenting how nobody was out browsing the market today.

Then at one point a really strong gust of wind blew through the tunnel, and scattered stuff all over the place. Other stalls had to deal with racks of clothes falling over, or artwork falling off tables. One of my greeting card display stands fell over, and all the cards fell out…. into the gutter where there was a stream of rainwater.

It was a horrible day. There were eventually a few customers – maybe 5 or 6 people stopped to browse through my photos. I made exactly one sale… of 3 greeting cards. It wasn’t even enough to cover the cost of my lunch.

The market officially ends at 3:00pm, but most stallholders were packing up by 2:00, with a shrug and a sigh and a “maybe next month”.

We got home and crashed, just watching comedy TV until bed time.

Tomorrow we head off on our 5-day holiday road trip up the coast. I think we need it.

New content today:

Vision and market prep

Today was hectic. I had another class to teach my Human Vision course on Outschool. Then it was time to prepare for tomorrow’s market at Kirribilli.

I’m helping my wife to start selling some of her dog bandanas as well, and we had a checklist of stuff to run through: doing a sign with prices, setting her up to process payments using Square, taking some photos of Scully with sample bandanas so she can post on Instagram – she’s calling her brand Scully xo. Check it out!

Labels for dog bandanas

Scully xo bandana modelling

Scully xo bandana modelling

And I really needed to wash the car. The park where I take Scully every week has nearby parking, but it’s all under fig trees, and the rainbow lorikeets hang out and chew on figs and drop sticky bits of half chewed figs all over the place. So it gets peppered with this sticky residue and needs to be cleaned regularly, but I haven’t done it for a long time.

And… gosh… that actually ate up the whole day. Tonight it’s an early night, so we can get up at 5:30 to haul stuff to the market and set up…

New content today:

Sunday Market day

I had my market day today. Got up at 6, went to pick up the car I’d hired to take all my gear and stock to the market, drove over there, unpacked, set up the stall. The forecast was for rain today, but it turned out sunny and warm. Unfortunately, this probably encouraged people to go to the beach rather than to the market, as attendance was very low today. I chatted with other stallholders and they agreed business was very slow. But they reckon that things will pick up in the next few months as autumn brings cooler weather, and maybe people will continue to get more adventurous after COVID.

It’s interesting the observations you make of people while you’re tending a market stall. I’m selling photographic prints. The images are beautiful, if I do say so myself. But it’s amazing how many people wander past the stalls, taking some time to look closely at the stall next to mine, but then approach mine, take a single glance that must genuinely be less than a second long, and their eyes immediately move on to the next stall and they walk right past mine without a second look.

Obviously some people are not particularly interested in buying photographic prints, but I’m amazed at just how quickly they can apparently dismiss the idea of even taking a slightly longer look. I’m a very visual person and I love looking at artwork and photography. Even if I have zero intention of buying anything, I always pause and look closely at any market stall that has visual art. It’s interesting and intriguing to me that there are so many people who apparently have no interest whatsoever in stopping to look at some beautiful pictures.

This is mostly adults I’m talking about. Children usually seem a lot more interested. I watch families walk past, and the parents do the split-second glance and their eyes move on to continue around the array of stalls, but the children tend to gaze a lot longer at my photos. It makes me ponder if children are naturally drawn to visual art and imagery, but somewhere along the path to adulthood this natural fascination with images somehow gets beaten out of people.

My best customers are often lone parents escorting one or more children. The children get excited by the photos, and the parent agrees to buy some greeting cards, or in some cases a matted print. But when both parents are present with kids, I seldom make the sale.

The exceptions are the handful of adults who are genuinely interested in photography. They come over and look through every single image in the boxes of matted prints, and praise me on the photography, and ask questions about specific photos. These people are a delight to talk to, and I’m very gratified that there are indeed other people out there who love visual art as much as I do.

By the end of the day, I was fearing I’d make a loss after the stall and car hire. But one final customer came by about 15 minutes before closing time, and bought a matted print, which pushed me over the line into profit for the day. Not a lot of profit, but definitely better than being in the red. So thank you to that woman.

New content today:

Sewing supplies

Tomorrow is my next market stall – back to the smaller suburban market in Lindfield this week. Last week at Kirribilli, although I was in the road tunnel and sheltered from any rain (if there’d been any), I realised I was vulnerable to wind blowing through the tunnel. It got a bit breezy, and at one point it blew some of my greeting cards over, off the stand, and onto the ground.

I realised I need a way to make my display stands more robust to wind. So today I went with my wife (and Scully) on a trek to a large sewing and handicrafts store. She actually wanted to go to buy a sewing machine and some material, for a project she wants to work on. But I needed to go to get some elastic cord, which I plan to string across the front of the display stand to form a bit of a barrier to hold the cards in place. I’ve also been wanting to get some sturdy cloth ribbon to use to replace a drawstring on some old shorts that I just wear around the house, but whose drawstring has frayed and broken.

So it was a good confluence of needs that saw us spend an hour or so picking up various sewing supplies. That store is actually really amazing for arts and crafts stuff. Besides strictly sewing supplies, they also have large sections of materials for other crafts.

Apart from that expedition I didn’t do much today. I was up late last night playing games with friends online, and I want to rest a bit before the market tomorrow.

New content today:

Kirribilli Markets!

Today was the big market day! I had my first stall at the big Kirribilli Markets, selling my photography. It was a long, tiring day!

I got up at 5:45, took Scully out for toilet, had a quick breakfast, and then jumped in the car with my wife and Scully. We dropped off one load of equipment and stock at the market, then she watched it while I drove home and picked up the second load. I unpacked everything, and then she drove home with Scully. I wanted to be really early, because there’s limited parking for cars and vans to unload, and they said the earlier the better.

Kirribilli Market stall

I was basically set up and ready to go by about 7:30, with the market officially opening at 8:30. I was hoping for large numbers of shoppers, but the numbers were really down on what I’ve seen at this market before. I’ve been here as a shopper before and it’s always very crowded, to the point of being difficult to walk sometimes, but today there was maybe… a quarter of the people, I estimate, if that. It’s a combination of the complete lack of tourists in Sydney at the moment, plus maybe a bit of COVID-shyness still.

Kirribilli Market stall

I managed to make enough sales to cover my costs, and make a modest profit. So it was worthwhile, but I expected and certainly would have liked to make a bit more profit. The market closed at 3pm, so it officially lasts 6.5 hours, but with the setup and then packing up and getting back home afterwards, it was a 10-hour working day for me.

Kirribilli Market stall

I’m exhausted, but at least feeling good that I’ve made some money, even if the hourly rate is pretty poor. I have Kirribilli booked again for next month, and hopefully there’ll be more customers, or even returning ones who decide that this time they’ll buy something rather than just looking.

Phew!

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 5

This morning was the last day of the ISO standards meeting. It was all just administrative stuff to finish off, going over summary reports of all the technical discussions, listing action items, and so on. One important thing was to decide the timing for the next meeting, which is on 7-11 June. I’ve been fortunate to have this meeting and the previous on at a favourable time in the morning, but the European delegates have been up in the middle of the night. The June meeting is going to allow the Europeans to have a comfortable afternoon, while I will be stuck beginning the meeting at 11pm here in Sydney.

At this stage the plan is for a physical meeting at Apple in Cupertino in October, but realistically I expect that will probably be virtual as well. Even if it isn’t, there’s no way I’ll be going.

Meeting done, I spent the rest of the day preparing for tomorrow’s market. I have a stall at Kirribilli Markets, which will hopefully be busy and full of people wanting to buy my stuff. I had to collate a pile of greeting cards and envelopes and stuff them into cellophane baggies, ready for people to buy, and then print out some more price signs and stuff. Then I collected all my stuff and did a test pack of the car, to make sure I can transport it all to the market in two trips. I’m not hiring a large car this time, as the market is not far away, and I worked out that I can get everything there in two trips (with the first taking my wife so she can mind the gear while I return for the second load). It was a bit like working out how to cross a river with a lettuce, a goose, and a fox.

With that, it’s an early night, because we have to get up before 6am to start moving stuff to the market nice and early.

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 4

There were only two technical sessions in the ISO meeting today, as a spot opened up during the agenda planning meeting, and it was decided to put it at the end of today, so we could finish early. The day that is – we have one more day of meeting tomorrow.

Today’s first session was on autofocus, measuring the speed and the accuracy of camera autofocus mechanisms. The project leader has been experimenting with methods to measure these things. It’s not as straightforward as you might think. We care about digital SLR cameras, where you have manual control over things like triggering the autofocus, but most cameras these days are also phones, and we have to be able to measure those too. When was the last time you manually triggered autofocus on your phone?

Right… you don’t need to, because it’s continuously refocusing. So you can’t just place a phone camera in front of a test calibration chart, defocus it and then time how long it takes to focus and repeat 100 times to get good statistics, because there’s no way to force it to defocus. The only way to change the focus is to point the camera at something a different distance away. So the project leader was running experiments where the camera would be pointed at a distance wall, and a mechanical arm would swing in a test chart at a near distance, thus forcing the camera to refocus, and then take a photo, and then measure the photo image of the test chart to see how good the focus is – and repeat hundreds of times.

He reported that while this method seemed like it should work, there was a problem. The camera typically refocuses in a fraction of a second and then takes the photo, which we should be able to analyse for any defocus blur to see how good the autofocus is. The problem is that by the time the camera takes the photo, the test chart is still vibrating from the sudden movement into the field of view… so the photo has significant (several pixels) of motion blur in it! This makes it very hard to figure out the defocus blur. So he wasn’t sure what to do about this. I suggested changing the experimental setup to have the nearby chart fixed, but to put an angled mirror between it and the camera, which would reflect the image of a distant wall into the camera. So now the camera can focus on the wall, and the mirror can be removed quickly, forcing the camera to refocus on the near chart, which hasn’t moved – no vibration! He said that was a good idea, and he’ll try it out. There were a bunch of other technical details reported as well, which I won’t go into further.

The second session was about measuring the accuracy of depth cameras – which produce images telling you the distance to points in the scene. This is a preliminary exploratory stage of what will be a new standard. The main difficulty here is that there are several very different technical approaches to making a depth camera, and a test method that will work for one of them won’t work for another. So we’re compiling a survey of what we want to measure and how we can do it for all the different types of camera. We seem to have put together an agreed list of things, and the project leader is planning to write up a first draft in time for comments and discussion at the next meeting.

This afternoon I started planning for my market stall on Sunday. I’ve done three markets at a small local suburban market last year, but this one is a bigger market in the inner city, with many more stalls, and hopefully many more customers. It’s going to be a jump up in complexity and experience level, and I have to figure out how to get all my stock and gear there in our car with my wife’s help, without hiring a larger car to put it all in. This market is much closer to home, so we can make two trips, which after test packing of the car today I’m pretty sure we can manage. I was a bit worried about one of the items being too big to fit, but turning it a certain way I managed to get it into the car boot and close the door.

I’m going to be having early mornings both Saturday and Sunday this weekend… for the final day of the ISO meeting, and then getting up super early on Sunday to haul gear to the market and be set up and ready to go before 8:30!

New content today:

Listing things to write

Several times in the past weeks I’ve sat down to write my daily blog entry and thought, “There was a thing I wanted to write about today, but what was it?” And I’ve been unable to remember what it was. So I’ve started writing down brief notes to remind myself. Let’s see how we go today…

I’m overdue for a haircut. I’ve avoided going for the past few weeks because of the current COVID outbreak here in Sydney, but now it’s getting long enough that I think I really need to get a haircut soon. The NSW Government has ordered mandatory wearing of masks in places specifically including hairdressers and beauty salons. At first I thought okay, I can just go to the barber and wear a mask… but then today I realised that there’s no way they can cut my hair normally with a mask on, as the barber trims sideburns and around the ears and stuff where the mask straps are. So I don’t know how that works. (Some searching now reveals on the NSW Government site that “You may also remove your mask for the proper provision of goods or services, for example, if you are having a facial or beard trim.” So I suppose that applies.)

Secondly, I had my first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. In the USA food package that I received the other day was a jar of Smucker’s Goober Grape PB&J. Peanut butter and jelly is a very American food. We don’t really have “jelly” like in the US here in Australia, so it’s actually not easy to replicate the effect, except by using jam, which usually has at least small chunks of fruit in it. Indeed, to most Australians, the very idea of mixing peanut butter with jam/jelly sounds disgusting, so it’s not something that most of us would try to experiment with, either. So yeah, I’ve never had it before. I do enjoy making a sandwich with peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon, so I’m not averse to mixing PB with something sweet. And I like jam. But I still approached this PB&J with a bit of trepidation.

PB&J prep

I took some photos of the preparation. I’m guessing that traditionally in the US PB&J is probably made with plain white bread, but I never buy plain white bread – I always get wholemeal or something with lots of seeds in it. But today the only bread I had was my home-made sourdough. So I spread the PB&J on a slice of sourdough.

The verdict: Well, it was mostly PB since the top of the jar seems to have a lower proportion of jelly in it than further down. It tasted fine, PB with a bit of sweetness mixed in, not disgusting at all. I’m interested to see how it goes when I get further down the jar, where the jelly ratio looks higher. I expect it’ll be perfectly fine, even yummy.

In market news today, I received an email from Kirribilli Markets, where I’m supposed to have a stall this Sunday. I thought it might be notice of cancellation due to COVID, but no. It said that they’d been informed that the current railway sleeper replacement work being done on the Harbour Bridge was behind schedule, so instead of finishing this Friday, it would extend over the weekend. Which means no trains running to the station where the markets are located. They figured this would reduce shopper turnout enough that they felt the need to postpone the market for a week, moving it to Sunday 17 January. At first I thought this would conflict with my other market, which is on the third Sunday of each month, but then I realised that that market had already cancelled for January. So there’s no conflict – it just means this weekend’s market is moved to a week later.

Workwise today I had planned to complete all of the Irregular Webcomic! annotation writing by lunchtime, and then move on to writing new Darths & Droids strips. As it turns out, I had so many distractions that I still haven’t completed the IWC annotations, and probably won’t until tomorrow. I try to schedule a certain amount of “worklike” stuff each day, but it’s often amazing how long it ends up taking.

And I reached a milestone in my Italian practice today. I’ve been using Duolingo every day for a practice session for 183 days, more than half a year as of today. I’ve had longer streaks before, but I was interrupted by travel towards the end of 2019 and took a while to get restarted. But I’m pleased to have made it six full months of practice again.

Oh, and finally I got a photo of some rainbow lorikeets while taking Scully for a walk today.

Rainbow lorikeets

New content today: