Into February

It’s the 1st of February, last month of summer. This doesn’t mark anything particularly important, except maybe the monthly flea and tick treatment we give to Scully.

Thursday is always my busy day, with 5 ethics classes. I’ve realised my structure for this topic on hoaxes is a bit all over the place, and I’ve been experimenting with jumping back and forth in the narrative and asking questions in different orders. It’s a fun topic though and I think the kids enjoy hearing the various historical hoaxes that we discuss.

Another thing I worked on today was preparing a photo for printing as a large wall hanging for a friend of mine. He was musing recently that he likes images of doors and corridors and hidden spaces in buildings, and was considering getting something like this hang on his wall. I said that I have plenty of photos of things like that and pointed him at my Flickr account. He went through it and decided he liked this photo, of a door I took in Sintra, Portugal:

Door of Sintra

And then he realised that I’ve been selling prints of my photos, and asked me about printing and framing options and prices. After some discussion he decided to order a large print on a stretched canvas frame, around 80 cm tall. The version I uploaded to Flickr is a downscaled JPEG file in sRGB colour space. So I went back to my original 14-bit RAW camera image and reprocessed it at full resolution, and in Adobe RGB colour space for a wider gamut. I also cropped it a little tighter on the bottom and looser on the top, which I felt was nicer.

Then I had to get a quote from the professional print lab that I use and let my friend know. So he’s going to pay me for the print and in a week or so he should have it hanging up at his home. I should probably also mention that I’m happy to do this for anyone reading this who happens to like any of my photos on Flickr and would like a print.

New content today:

Inter-seasonal treat time

It’s that in-between period after Christmas and before Easter, when both fruit mince tarts and hot cross buns are on sale. So it’s time to make one of my favourite seasonal treats!

Fruit mince tart hot cross bun

Yep, that’s a fruit mince tart, on a hot cross bun, topped with ice cream. I warmed up the tart+bun in the microwave before placing the ice cream scoop on. And then closed the top of the bun on it before eating. It’s delicious, but very filling!

I’ve also taken a couple of flower photos today and yesterday. Some crepe myrtle flowers that had fallen on the ground:

Crepe myrtle colours

And some gum flowers and nuts:

Gum flowers and nuts

During the day I had 4 more ethics classes, rounding off my busy few days. Took Scully for a walk. For dinner I made another new recipe from a TV show: spanakopita toasties. They turned out pretty good, a nice easy dinner for Friday night.

And it’s online board games night now. Last time I won three games of Jump Drive in a row, but tonight I had awful luck with the cards and lost horribly. We’re now deep into a game of Castles of Burgundy.

New content today:

December 5k, cake, and photos

Despite getting to bed late last night after the board games night, I was awake again early, although I managed to sleep until almost 6am. I got up and had breakfast, then after taking Scully out for a toilet I embarked on a 5k run. The weather was warm and very humid, as it has been for the past week and a bit. But it seems I’ve mostly recovered my form after the Europe trip, and clocked 27:21, below my standard goal time of 27:30.

I worked a bit on Darths & Droids comic script writing with co-authors. I got two strips completed and planned out details of the story for the next few scenes, which will make it quicker and easier to write the next few strips.

After lunch, my wife and I went out for a short drive with Scully to a place called The Little French Patisserie, a few suburbs away. I felt like a piece of cake for afternoon tea, to make up for all that exercise this morning! I had a slice of chocolate mousse cake and my wife tried a Christmas mince tart. It’s nice to sit and watch the world pass by on a busy street while eating yummy cake.

Back home I worked on some more photos from my trip. The Arch of Constantine, which is near the Colosseum (actually you can see part of the Colosseum on the right edge of this photo):

Arch of Constantine

Back streets of the Trastevere neighbourhood of Rome:

Trastevere street

And Castel Sant’Angelo and Ponte Sant’Angelo on the Tiber River:

Castel Sant'Angelo

But that’s about it. I’m getting pretty tired every evening because I’m not getting enough sleep yet. I’ve never had jet lag drag on this long before. Hopefully I’ll get longer sleeps soon.

New content today:

Tidying up travel writing

Today I knocked off a couple of travel-related chores. Firstly, I wrote up my report on the ISO Photography Standards meeting that I attended in Tampere a couple of weeks ago. I need to summarise the entire meeting and any significant outcomes for Standards Australia, and submit the report to them, within 4 weeks of the meeting.

That took up until lunch time. The weather was a bit rainy and miserable again, so I couldn’t be bothered going for a run today.

In the afternoon I decided to tackle a less urgent travel issue. I still hadn’t finished processing photos and adding them to my travel diary for our trip to Germany and the Netherlands last year! I was partway through the last day in Amsterdam, so there wasn’t a lot to do, but I figured I better get it done, now that I have another whole trip backed up, along with the trip to Japan in June this year. I didn’t want to have three old trips that I hadn’t completed photo diaries for!

For dinner tonight, my wife and I went out for the first time since getting home from Italy. We didn’t want Italian food, so we went to a French crêpe place. Almost every time I go there I don’t have anything off the regular menu, because they always have a couple of specials, and they always look really good. Today was no exception – they had a chilli prawn galette and a butter chicken one! I would have liked to try both, but I decided on the chilli prawn. Normally I’d follow with a sweet crêpe for dessert, but I had that salted caramel tart I bought yesterday still, so I saved my dessert for later.

New content today:

Late night Zoom meeting for photography standards

I’m up late tonight because I have a Zoom meeting for ISO Photography Standards, beginning at 11pm. I’m on a special ad-hoc committee to consider the issue of skin tone colours on photographic test charts. We specify various International Standard printed test charts that people can use to test camera colour reproduction. And of course skin tones are of crucial importance because of how sensitive we are to when they don’t look quite right, so many of the charts include patches of colours meant to represent skin tones. But the issue is that many of these were designed decades ago, and the representation is mostly based on European, light skin tones, with few or no darker tones.

So we’ve assembled a group of experts from around the world to consider how we specify these going forward, in a more inclusive way. We need to think about and discuss what range of colours to specify, how they should be reproduced and displayed, and how their reproduction should be quantified and measured. It’s complicated by the fact that our visual system is very finely attuned to skin tones, not just as flat colours that might be printed on a chart, but also by spectral reflectance, lighting and metamerism effects, subsurface scattering, angular effects, and salience effects caused by our brain’s innate ability to recognise the difference between an actual person and a patch of colour.

Some of the group members have been discussing in email the potential need to specify test charts with fully three-dimensional models of human faces with synthetic skin that includes translucent layers, which is a far cry from the traditional methods of testing camera colour reproduction with a printed flat chart with square patches of solid colour. So… I expect this Zoom meeting is going to be concentrating on what exactly the scope of our problem is, and how complicated we should go in addressing the fundamental problem of expanding the range of skin tones in our standards.

In other happenings, I basically spent all day today writing my lesson plans for this week’s new Outschool ethics classes, on the topics of Candy for the younger kids, and Fossil Fuels for the older ones. I also made quiche for dinner, using cauliflower leaves as the vegetable in the filling, which turned out pretty good. I’m pretty stoked to discover that the leaves on cauliflowers are not only edible, but yummy.

New content today:

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: