Crossing the harbour for lunch

A dream I had last night: Someone gave me as a gift a guided climb to the top of Mt Everest. So I went, and eventually found myself at the summit with a bunch of mountain climbers and Sherpas. They’re all sitting there at the top enjoying the view, while I’m saying, “Whoa, no, this is way too high… I can feel the mountain swaying… I want to get down…”

Today my wife and I dropped Scully off at the dog groomer, and then we indulged ourselves by heading down to the ferry wharf:

Little pied cormorant at Greenwich Point

A little pied cormorant was sitting there, but this was as close as I could get before it flew off. We caught a ferry:

Ferry to Balmain

Across the harbour to Balmain, just two stops away:

Balmain wharf

We walked up the hill to the shopping strip and The Cottage restaurant:

The Cottage

Where we sat inside and had a lovely lunch. I had chicken schnitzel, with mash, fennel, and radicchio:

Cottage Schnitzel

And a sticky date pudding with pistachios and rose water for afters:

Sticky Date

After lunch we walked down streets full of historic houses:

Birchgrove houses

To Birchgrove Wharf, where we caught a ferry back home:

Birchgrove Wharf

Just in time to pick up Scully from the groomer!

New content today:

North Arm walk

Being my wife’s mid-week day off, we decided too take advantage today and go do a bushwalk. We took Scully and drove over to Castle Cove, a suburb about 10 km north of the city centre. Here we stopped first at a bakery to grab some lunch and cold water. Then we moved the car a few blocks to a spot where we could begin a walk that would take us on a loop down a long street, and then into the North Arm Walking Track, a bushwalk running along the shore of Middle Harbour back to where we’d left the car. There’s a better map of the walk here.

North Arm Walking Tack

The first part of the track has good views of Middle Harbour.

North Arm Walking Tack

Scully enjoyed it too.

North Arm Walking Tack

North Arm Walking Tack

That’s my wife walking ahead. The whole way along this track we only met one other person coming the other way. So it was nice and peaceful. Well, except for the loud drone of the cicadas!

North Arm Walking Tack

Scully having more fun along the way.

North Arm Walking Tack

North Arm Walking Tack

Towards the end the path went more inland, among fern forests with small creeks draining down to the harbour.

North Arm Walking Tack

North Arm Walking Tack

Scully didn’t appreciate having to walk al the way back uphill to the car.

North Arm Walking Tack

But there were more good views here.

North Arm Walking Tack

At times on bushwalks like this it feels a bit like you’re a hobbit trekking through Middle-earth.

North Arm Walking Tack

It took us a couple of hours and we were hot and sweaty by the end of it, but it was a good day out. Along the way I stopped at one point to get something scratchy out of my shoe and I noticed a leech on my shoe, so I flicked it off. Then I found one half in my sock, and pulled it out. I didn’t see any more… until I got home and took my shoes and socks off. There was a leech attached to my ankle. So I had to pull it off, sterilise the wound, and bandage it. I also carefully checked Scully for any leeches or ticks.

Add to that a 2.5k run which I did this morning, and three ethics classes in a row in the evening, and I’m pretty worn out!

New content today:

Shower repair, day 3

The ongoing battle with the shower continues. Today I applied another coat of the grout sealer first thing in the morning. Then I looked at the silicone sealant to check the instructions. It said to use mineral turpentine to clean the surfaces before application, and also for cleanup after application. Fortunately I have some turpentine stowed away in the garage, so I went down to get it.

The bottle was ancient. I must have bought it over 20 years ago. The price label (from back when everything had individual price labels) said $2.50. The same amount of turpentine from the hardware store website today costs $5.95. The bottle was a little over half full – I would have used the rest of it years ago for cleaning up painting work.

I wiped down the surfaces with turps (common Aussie abbreviation for “turpentine”). And I remembered just how powerful turps smells, and how much I can’t stand that smell. It pervaded the whole house. The rag I used to wipe the surfaces I put outside on the balcony to avoid having it in the house and emitting more smell.

I wiped the surfaces clean with a dry cloth and then applied masking tape to make sure the silicone sealant had nice clean edges. And then late in the afternoon I tackled the hardest part, the actual silicone sealant. I needed to bring in the turps-soaked cloth for wiping up excess. I made some plastic spatulas by cutting a thick plastic yoghurt lid into round-ended shapes, and I used those to smooth the silicone into the grooves. It got a bit messy and I got silicone all over my rubber gloves, so I ended up just using a gloved finger to do a lot of the smoothing.

As soon as all the crevices were sealed, I peeled off the masking tape. Hopefully I got it off fast enough, before the sealant skinned over. Now to let the silicone cure for… the instructions said 72 hours!! SO if we wait that ling until we can use the shower again, it will be Saturday evening (it’s Wednesday today). By then we’ll have been nearly six days without a shower. Lucky we have a bathtub!

I forgot to mention yesterday that the family of the boy who I was sorting out Magic: the Gathering cards for came by to pick them up. They were headed off for the day and driving past so dropped in yesterday morning. I met them out the front of my place and handed over the heavy shoebox full of cards. The mother and the boy got out to greet me (leaving a father and a slightly older girl in the car). The kid was super excited, and he gave me a hand drawn thank you card, on which he’d drawn a cool picture of a dragon:

MtG Dragon art

He’d written a thank you message inside. The mother gave me a paper bag which turned out to contain a bottle of port and a small Christmas cake. They were both very grateful, and I was happy to see the boy so excited to get the cards.

The other main thing I did today was go through photos from my first day in Amsterdam back in June. I edited selected photos and tried to figure out where exactly I’d taken them all. A lot were of random canals and bridges and I had no idea what they were when I took them. But I retraced our steps roughly on Google Maps, using identifiable landmarks to establish waypoints, and used Streetview to identify the intermediate locations. But doing this, I managed to locate the site of every photo. This was satisfying, as sometimes I’ve returned home from trips and have no way of figuring out exactly where some of the photos were taken.

Frans Hendriksz Oetgensbrug

I posted the photos to my Flickr album for the trip and incorporated several into my travel diary for that day, which I also updated with some of the now-identified locations.

New content today:

300 birds!

Today I did some work on my bird photos database, which is ever a work-in-progress. This was prompted by editing a bunch more photos from my trip to Germany and the Netherlands back in June. I got up to a day where I spent several hours walking around in parkland in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, and photographed several birds. I identified them and noticed a few weren’t in my current list of birds that I’ve photographed, so of course I had to spend some time updating the database. I also added a batch of bird photos that I took on my trip to Orange back in September.

I was sitting on 297 species photographed, but the additions bring me up to 301. The new additions were: common wood pigeon:

Common wood pigeon

Eurasian magpie:

Eurasian magpie

European herring gull:

European herring gull

and great crested grebe:

Great crested grebe

Checking the order in which I took the photos, I can declare that the Eurasian magpie is the 300th bird species that I have photographed! Although this is a common bird in Europe, it doesn’t exist in Australia, so I was unfamiliar with it and didn’t know what it was until I did a search. We have Australian magpies in Australia, but they don’t look much alike other than the black and white colouration, which is in such a different pattern that the Eurasian magpies actually don’t look like “magpies” to me. (The 301st was the common wood pigeon, if you were interested.)

Other events today: one more ethics class on holidays. I was in the middle of teaching it when suddenly the dog downstairs went berserk, barking at something rustling in the trees outside the fence (either a person or maybe a brushturkey). The next thing I knew there was a huge crash of the vertical blinds on the living room window, and I looked around and Scully had jumped up from the floor to the sofa and then the window sill to see what was happening, and she was barking like crazy too.

Now, Scully is trained not to jump up on the sofa, but this was obviously a special situation and demanded that she have a look out the window. After the ruckus was over, she sheepishly stood on the sofa and waited for me to put her back down on the floor (as she is trained to do – she’s allowed on the sofa, but not allowed to jump up or down). I had to interrupt my class and tell the kids I’d be a few seconds putting Scully down.

New content today:

Pondering about teleportation

It’s Monday, the day of the week when I finish off a week’s topic in my Outschool ethics classes. I finished off the Golden Rule topic with four classes, and in between I worked on the new topic starting tomorrow: Teleportation. This is one of the speculative topics, in which I get the kids to imagine that some science fiction or magical thing is real, and then use their brains to imagine what effects it would have on the world. I also wrote some scenarios such as what if a teleporter malfunctions and we end up with two people – one at the departure point and one at the destination. And then we get into the whole thing about whether teleportation would be acceptable if it involved making an exact copy and disintegrating the original. Should be fun!

That used up most of my day. I found a bit of time to work on editing some photos from my road trip to Orange back in September and uploading them to Flickr, then including them in my diary that I posted on my website the other day. I did the first three days and have two days to go.

Here’s a view of a winery that we visited on a rainy, foggy day:

Brangayne driveway

I also realised that some of my older travel diaries involved road trips and could use maps added to show the routes, so I added those to my to-do list.

And this evening we had a power outage! The power went off at about 6:15pm. Checking the power company website on my iPad indicated that it was a suburb-wide outage, and they estimated about two hours to fix it. So I was a bit glad that I haven’t yet converted from gas cooking to induction, because it meant I could still cook Thai curry and rice for dinner. I had to light the burners with matches, but otherwise it was fine, and we ate sitting out on the balcony in the dying evening light.

The power came back on a bit before 8pm, fortunately before we had to get the candles out.

New content today:

Photography Standards meeting day 2

I was up at 4am again this morning for the second day of my ISO Photography Standards meeting, dialling into Apple in Cupertino via Webex. Today we had technical sessions all day, including:

  • tripod safety strength;
  • autofocus repeatability;
  • a proposal from a guy related to some of the high dynamic range stuff we discussed yesterday, suggesting additional applications to office printer equipment;
  • image flare;
  • depth metrology;
  • and a proposal for a new work item on a standard relating to measuring the Shannon information theoretic information capacity of photographic images, for the context of determining usability of cameras for machine vision.

There was some very interesting discussion and I was diligently taking notes throughout, so I can report at the follow-up meeting for Australian experts.

After the meeting ended around 11am my time, I took Scully out for a long walk. We walked out to the long headland where the ferry wharf is and I had her chase and retrieve a tennis ball for a bit to run around, and then we walked home again.

Some photos I took on the way. A framed view of the city through an old sandstone house’s veranda:

House with a view

View over the local harbour swimming area (fenced off in the lower part of the photo):

Baths view

The local creek (view looking down from the bridge above):

Berrys Creek

This afternoon I had a couple more ethics classes on Secrets. And then for dinner my wife and I drove over to the Thai restaurant that we go to sometimes, a couple of suburbs over. Given I’ve been up at 4am two days in a row now, I was pretty tired. And given I had breakfast and lunch an hour or two early each (since I got up so early) I was really hungry by dinner time. So it was nice to have a tasty meal that I didn’t have to cook.

And here’s Scully, relaxing with some of her toys:

Scully and toys

New content today:

A quick update… feeling sick??

This morning I did my face-to-face ethics class at the school – the second lesson of cause & effect and determinism. The kids seem to be enjoying the topic and it’s making them think, but today they were a bit chatty and many times erupted into talking over one another, rather than a nice orderly one-at-a-time speaking. This sort of thing always seems to happen when the weather is windy, as it has been for the past two days. Very windy indeed. All the teachers say the same thing – the kids get rowdier when the weather is windy, I wonder if there’s any real connection there.

Back home I did a 5k run. I wanted to get that out of the way for November on a relatively cool day, before it gets too hot.

This evening I had three online classes on this new topic of ageing. I started to feel a bit off this afternoon, with my nose running like a tap and frequent sneezing I’ve blown my nose through almost a whole box of tissues. I really feel like I’m coming down with a bad head cold. I’m not fevery or coughing, so hopefully it’s not COVID. I’ll keep an eye on it tomorrow.

Before I go, a couple of photos of birds I took in the last few days with my phone. An Australia brushturkey, sitting in a tree:

Australian brushturkey

And an Australian king-parrot. This is a juvenile, without any of the orange-red plumage of the adults. And yes, I’m as close as this looks – I got the phone to within about 30 cm of the parrot. These guys are pretty tame around here.

Juvenile Australian king-parrot

New content today:

Science and Engineering of Photography

This evening I gave my lecture on the Science and Engineering of Photography to the students in the image processing course at the University of Technology Sydney. As I think I mentioned before, this is a special bonus lecture for the students, not part of their coursework, to give them something interesting in their project period during the last 4 weeks of the semester. So I used up most of the first hour of tonight’s three hour time slot with that. There weren’t a lot of students present, but some were listening in on Zoom as well, and several came up to me afterwards to say they liked it.

Earlier today I finished off the last three Outschool classes of the week’s topic on Risk. I assembled a couple of new Irregular Webcomic! strips for this week. And with other random daily stuff like eating lunch and taking Scully for a walk, that ate up the day before I headed into town, where I had some satay chicken and rice for dinner at Spice Alley before the lecture.

The other notable thing about today is that we had over 50 mm of rain, with almost all of it between 6:30 and 9:30 in the morning, so it was really pouring down then. The forecast was 1 to 5 mm! In the next week we’re looking at another 50 mm or so, with thunderstorms indicated almost every day. Yep… after setting a record for wettest year ever, we’re now heading into spring thunderstorm season.

New content today:

European travel diary and photo updating

Today I worked on finishing off that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips I started writing yesterday. I completed the writing by lunch time and then spent a few hours this afternoon photographing the strips. I still need to assemble the strips and write annotations, but I’ll do that over the next few days.

I also spent some time doing a task I should have done months ago: formatting my travel diary from my trip to Germany and the Netherlands in June and uploading it to my website. Ive added just a few photos to one of the days. I still have to go through all the photos from that trip and process and upload selected ones.

I did find a problem looking through them briefly today: I forgot to change the time on my SLR camera while overseas. So all the photos were timestamped with the incorrect time, saying I took daylight photos in the middle of the night (which it was back in Sydney). Fortunately I have exiftool! This is a neat little command line script that can edit image files, including camera RAW files, and update the EXIF tags which record things like the time the photos was taken. So I went through my folders of photos from the trip and adjusted all the “DateTimeOriginal” fields by the correct number of hours.

Now I just need to format my diary for the trip we took to Orange last month! Oh, and do all that photo processing stuff.

Also this weekend I fit in a couple of 2.5k runs. Oh, and the weather has been warming up the past few days. We broke 25°C on Friday, for the first time since back in May. It’s starting to feel like spring, finally – much later than usual. We know this summer is predicted to be very wet again, with the third La Niña in a row, so it’s likely to be cooler than normal too. Locals are thoroughly sick of it, but also in dread of when it’s over and El Niño returns, bringing scorching hot summers and fire weather.

New content today:

A new bird photo!

I was doing some stuff at home today and noticed a raucous squawking sound outside. Channel-billed cuckoos are back in town for the summer, having migrated down from Indonesia and New Guinea. While I’ve heard and seen these birds many times, I’ve never had my SLR camera handy to get a photo. But today I looked out the kitchen window, and it was sitting there in the tree. So I rushed to grab my camera and shot it through the window. It was tricky as it was at an awkward angle and partly obscured by leaves a lot of the time. This is the best photo I got:

Channel-billed cuckoo

I’m pleased with it though, because it adds another entry to my list of photographed birds. That brings my list up to 298 species. Just a hair away from 300!

While sharing photos, here’s the focaccia I made yesterday:

Home made focaccia

New content today: