A night off teaching, but on cooking

It’s the mid-semester break week for the University, so I don’t have image processing tutoring work on tonight. We get stuck into the student project work next week, which will be interesting, because it’s a big change from the lecture structure we’ve had so far.

Instead I’ve spent this evening cooking! I wanted to try a recipe I saw on TV a few weeks ago: baked brie in sourdough. I walked up to the bakery with Scully earlier in the day to get a sourdough cob loaf, but unfortunately they didn’t have any sourdough in that shape, so I had to just get a plain white cob.

Baked brie in bread

That’s what it looked like before cooking. But before I reveal the after photos, let me change the subject completely!

A few days ago I noticed that there was a small nest in the jacaranda tree across the street, and it was being tended by noisy miners, feeding some baby birds. I considered getting some photos, but from ground level you wouldn’t be able to see much but the underside of the nest. Then I realised that I could probably climb partway up the tree and get a photo from higher up, and reasonably close. It might be a good opportunity to get a close shot of baby birds in the nest.

So this afternoon I went out with my camera. I ran into my wife out there, who was coming back from walking Scully during her lunch break. I got her to help me by passing my camera up to me once I’d climbed into the tree. In hindsight, I’m not sure I could have got up there carrying the camera by myself at all. While up there, she took this photo of me:

Photographing a nest

You can see the nest roughly where I’m aiming my camera. I was sitting about 2.5 metres off the ground. I’d originally intended to climb further up the limb of the tree in front of me, but being that high off the ground made me realise I really didn’t want to risk falling that far. So I didn’t get as high as I would have liked, and my best photo only turned out like this:

Noisy miner nest

You can barely see two birds in the nest. Oh well. At least I didn’t break my leg or something.

Back to dinner… After half an hour of baking I took the loaf out and topped the cheese with hazelnuts and honey:

Baked brie in bread

The recipe suggests serving with fresh figs, but we didn’t have any, so we had it for dinner with some fresh strawberries on the side, to provide something to break up the glut of cheesy goodness. Here’s what it looked like sliced open:

Baked brie in bread

Wow. It was really rich, as you can imagine. But we can pretend we’re French for a night and have a dinner of baked cheese and bread!

New content today:

Cleaning house, or mailbox at least

Today I didn’t have anything big that I needed to do, which meant I had some time to deal with various small tasks that have accumulated. One of which was cleaning out my email inbox of various things that needed attention in one way or another. Such as downloading statements for various accounts, filling stuff out on my tax spreadsheet, and filing things into folders so I know where they all are. I also had some paper receipts to go through for taxation stuff, and then file away.

My wife took this fine photo of a kookaburra while walking Scully this morning:

Kookaburra 1

At lunch I took Scully on another walk while I went to get a pie from a nearby bakery. And I took this:

Kookaburra 2

Both of the photos are uncropped full frames from our phone cameras. Yes, I did get ridiculously close to that bird – I was holding the phone maybe 30 centimetres away from it. It was clearly semi-tame, and perhaps waiting for me to offer it some food. So I was a little lucky (but don’t tell my wife that!).

New content today:

Finding lost photos

Today I wanted to find a moody photo of a lighthouse for use in a small project. I like taking photos of lighthouses when I get the chance, so I knew I had several to choose from. While my computer has a neat text search facility to find files, it can’t locate photos of specific subjects. So I used Flickr’s search to go through the lighthouse photos I’ve uploaded there. Settled on this one:

Square and Round

This is a photo I took of Macquarie Lighthouse in Sydney, using black and white film and a Lensbaby lens. Flickr says I took it in November 2010. So then I looked through my photos on my computer for November 2010 (I have all my photos organised by year, month, and date). And I couldn’t find it.

Photos taken on digital cameras have the date encoded in the file, so you can be relatively sure of what date they were taken. But this one was taken on film and then developed, and then scanned at some later date. So I figured the Flickr date might be when it was uploaded, meaning it was taken some time earlier.

Now, I acquired a big batch of black and white film around the start of 2009, and I knew this was taken with some of that batch. So I had roughly a couple of years of folders to search through. I did so… and couldn’t find this photo anywhere.

Then I figured that maybe it was on the start of a roll that I hadn’t finished in 2010, and I searched forwards for the next time I took photos using black and white film. I found that that was actually 2016, when I took a trip to New York City, and took a film camera with me. And indeed, I found in my 2016 New York folder that the first few photos were obviously taken in Australia, not New York! And some were of a lighthouse! Aha! I thought I’d solved the mystery.

But as I looked through the photos, I noticed that the lighthouse wasn’t the same one. I’d found a different batch of misplaced black and white film photos. In fact, I didn’t recognise the lighthouse in these photos. Now I had two mysteries. Where were these photos from?

I searched through my photo folders, looking for any clues, but fruitlessly. Eventually I posted a photo to my friends’ Discord and asked if any of them recognised the lighthouse. It turned out that one did, because it was the lighthouse near his parents’ place up the coast in the town of Port Macquarie! With this lead, I looked through my folders for a trip to Port Macquarie, and found one in 2013. These photos belonged there. So I moved them there and wrote up some text notes to remind myself in future that they’d come from the same roll of film as some images from New York, 2016.

The second mystery was solved, but the first remained elusive. I went to my calendar in Flickr to see what else was uploaded around the same time… and I found several small batches of black and white film photos that I recalled taking. I looked for those on my computer, and found none of them!

Finally I realised what must have happened. I probably scanned the negatives myself at work, using the high-res film scanner they had there. And then uploaded a few of the shots to Flickr. But then I must have been stymied by the work policy of keeping computers relatively isolated. When working there, we essentially had no way to transfer files off a work computer to a personal one, other than asking a manager for permission to do so. You couldn’t email yourself an attachment without CCing a manager; you couldn’t plug in a USB stick without notifying IT; you couldn’t use Dropbox; and so on. But there was one hole – I could upload photos to Flickr. I must have done that from work, and then never figured out any way to get the original scan files home.

So I assume my original files are gone. I then spent an hour or so downloading the highest resolution copies from Flickr, and sorting them into suitable folders so I can find them again easily next time. All of this took a few hours, and pretty much killed my afternoon, during which I’d planned to do a bunch of other stuff.

Earlier in the day, I went on a walk with my wife and Scully. I took a couple of panoramas from the point, looking across Sydney Harbour. The first is from above Greenwich Baths, a small public swimming facility made by netting off a small cove of the harbour, looking across the water towards the centre of the city:

Greenwich Baths panorama

The second is a more expansive panorama, with the city at the left and the harbour stretching off to the right.

Mary Carlson Park panorama

COVID news: 319 new cases in the previous 24 hour period in New South Wales, up from yesterday’s record of 291. And 5 deaths, which is just horrible. I’m really beginning to think these numbers simply aren’t going to turn around with the current lockdown strategy, and we’ll just have to wait until 80% or more of the population is vaccinated, which is estimated to be around November or so. Media and a lot of the public are calling for the lockdown measures to be strengthened, but I really don’t think this government wants to do it.

Also, I used a mapping site today to determine that I haven’t been more than 2.8 km from home since 20 June, almost 7 weeks ago.

New content today:

Pre-tonsil prep

Today I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school. It was the last week before school holidays – two weeks off, then returning for term 3. The Year 5 students were back after last week’s camp. I asked them where they went and they said Canberra. I said it must have been very cold, and they agreed enthusiastically. Canberra is inland and nestled in mountains, so it gets very cold in winter – sometimes it even snows there. I’ve been to Canberra many times myself, and almost always in winter, oddly enough.

We finished off the topic on moral responsibility, with a couple of stories setting dilemmas of who to spend money on – local people/family, or foreign people (via charities) who need it more. There was some good discussion of this, with various different ideas on how to decide.

After class, I went into the city by train, because I had an appointment in there. (By this I mean the Central Business District, or “downtown” area, although we don’t use the term “downtown” here.) I picked up some Japanese food for lunch while in there, and also checked out a bookshop. And I took some photos!

George St COVID

This is George Street, the main street of Sydney. Normally around lunch time it would be absolutely crowded with people, but we’ve had a new COVID-19 outbreak here developing over the past few days. Today 16 new cases were announced, taking the total up to 37 cases. This was enough to make the government reintroduce some very strict mask requirements and movement restrictions. Facemasks are now mandatory (as from this afternoon) in every non-residential indoor setting, including office workplaces. They were made mandatory again on public transport and in shops a few days ago, but this workplace requirement is new – something we didn’t have at any time before. There are also travel restrictions now in place for subregions of Sydney, with people not being allowed to leave their local government area (essentially an area covering a few suburbs). The general feeling is that this is one step short of a full lockdown, which I think a lot of people are expecting within the next day or two if cases continues to rise.

GPO Sydney

Back to photos, this is the Sydney General Post Office, which is considered the building marking the central reference point for the city. Distances in Sydney are measured “from the GPO”.

QVB interior

This is the interior of the Queen Victoria Building, and old government office building dating from 1898, now converted to a shopping area. Many people in government in the 1950s and 60s wanted to demolish the building to make way for more modern development, but fortunately that ever happened and we now have this beautiful Victorian era building in the middle of the city.

QVB exterior

Here’s an exterior view, of the southern end of the building. It’s a long, thin building running north-south, so it’s a lot longer in the other direction than you can see here.

Back home this afternoon I had a Zoom call with a former work colleague, who is now a professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, teaching various image processing and engineering subjects. He’s offered me a casual job teaching tutorials for his image processing course for the second semester of this year, which I’m thinking I’ll probably take up. So we were discussing what would be involved and so on. It looks promising, and if approved I should be starting this job in August.

Finally today, I got information from the hospital for my tonsillectomy tomorrow. I need to fast from 4am and show up at the hospital at 10am. I don’t know yet what time I’ll be released, but I’m expecting I’ll be home for dinner. Assuming I feel okay to eat anything but ice cream…

So I suppose my next blog entry will be after the operation, and I can tell you how it went.

New content today:

Intensive comics

Not much to say about today. It was cold and a bit wet, and I worked on comics all day, getting those buffers filled before Thursday.

This evening I took Scully out for a walk while my wife was doing an aerobics class. We took a loop route through the adjoining suburb and back across a footbridge over the creek.

Footbridge at night

It was very dark and moody crossing the bridge, still slick with the earlier rain, so I tried a couple of quick photos with my phone. Above is looking east, below is looking west.

Footbridge at night

New content today:

Fish & chips & birds

My wife was a bit under the weather this morning and called in sick to work. She stayed in bed all morning, so I looked after taking Scully out for a morning jaunt (normally her job). And then at lunch time I felt like going out for fish & chips, so I took Scully on a longer walk.

We got the food and walked out to sit at my usual fish & chips lunch spot.

Holloway view

I let Scully off the lead to run around a bit on the grass while I ate.

Scully at Holloway Reserve

There were magpies there eyeing my lunch, and Scully chased and scattered them a few times before settling down and just letting them be. One magpie lurked in the tree above me.

Australian magpie

I stood up to get this photo and it didn’t retreat. This was shot with my phone, and the image is not cropped at all. I was maybe only 30 cm away when I took it.

Back home, I mostly worked on writing Irregular Webcomic! scripts. I’m hoping I have enough time tomorrow to shoot photos for this batch. But I also need to prepare my lesson for tomorrow afternoon’s ethics lesson. What’s the topic…. Natural Resources. Hmm. I guess that shouldn’t be too difficult.

New content today:

Cloud photography

Today I mostly worked on comics, but I went out for a walk to pick up Scully from my wife after lunch, and I was amazed by the sky.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

It was covered from horizon to horizon with these streaky, wispy cirrus clouds.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

The view was so amazing and beautiful that I just stood gaping in awe, looking up at the sky.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

I took a bunch of photos of just the sky, to get an abstract feeling with no sense of scale. Then I took some with a bit of foreground for contrast.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Sometimes it’s good to sit back and just bask in how beautiful our planet is.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

New content today:

Catching up on things

My wife set an alarm for 6:30 this morning, intending to start getting up early again this week in preparation for returning to work next week. I heard the alarm go off and assumed she got up. I woke up properly around 7:30, and she was still asleep! So, catching up on sleep, after our road trip and a fairly hectic weekend after we got back home.

After breakfast I went to buy some groceries so we’d have fresh milk and dinners this week. Catching up on food stocks.

I spent some time writing annotations for that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I made in the week before we went away. So catching up on that.

And then I sorted through my bird photos from the holiday and entered them into my bird photo database. I photographed 5 species for the first time on last week’s trip, taking my total to 295 species. (There are 296 entries in the database, as I have one for “Unidentified”.) The new ones are: bar-tailed godwit, Far Eastern curlew, Pacific golden plover, scaly-breasted lorikeet, and little egret.

(I should probably point out that the list of photos in the database is incomplete – I have yet to go back through my older photos and add links to them all. The number of species is correct, I just haven’t indexed all of the photos into it yet.)

I’m pretty excited about the Far Eastern curlew, as this is an endangered species. Wikipedia says it’s estimated to number 38,000 individuals as of 2006, but I found another site that with a more recent estimate from 2015 which is even lower, at 32,000 individuals. Here’s the photo I got:

Far Eastern curlew

Unfortunately it was across the mudflats and I couldn’t get any closer. So, anyway, catching up on bird photo cataloguing.

And a bunch of houseworky stuff – catching up on folding laundry.

New content today:

Alchemy and kookaburras

I’ve been working into the late evening on some Darths & Droids strips… the time got away from me! So I don’t want to write too much before I head to bed. What else did I do today?

I cobbled together a quick random alchemical ingredient generator. At the moment it’s generating only herb names, but I plan to expand it.

I baked sourdough, this time with 20% semolina/80% flour. It turned out fine. I think next time I’m going to go wild and try 50% semolina and see what happens.

Oh, and I created a Twitter account for Square Root of Minus Garfield. Since all the cool Garfield remix comics are doing it.

At the dog park with Scully this afternoon, there was a kookaburra hanging around, hunting worms and stuff in the bark chips near where all the dog owners sit on the park benches. It landed right on the bench I was sitting on! I managed to get this photo… with my phone!

Sharing a park bench with a kookaburra

New content today:

Bird photo walk

Today I wanted to get out of the house and get some exercise, but I didn’t just want to walk around the local neighbourhood, because it’s so familiar and I see it all the time. So I decided to hop in the car and drive a few suburbs away to Cremorne Point.

The point is a peninsula jutting south into Sydney Harbour. There is a walking path all the way around the shore of the point, and it has both beautiful scenery and amazing fancy houses. The shore is covered with trees and so there are also many birds in the area. I took both my phone and my dSLR with bird lens.

A rainbow lorikeet:

Rainbow lorikeet

Sulphur-crested cockatoos:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Silver gull, with an interesting Sydney background:

Gull and Opera House

A panorama of the lighthouse at the end of the point, and the city:

Cremorne Point walk

The MacCallum Seawater pool. This is a completely free public swimming pool, with an amazing view:

Cremorne Point walk

New content today: