Chilly Monday

It was a grey and chilly day here, with some mist. I didn’t go out much, except to take Scully out for some brief exercise.

I worked more on some Darths & Droids story plotting, examining some situations later in the trilogy for how they inform what happens soon in the story. And I worked on some web pages, converting my Imgur albums of the Sydney walks I’ve been doing into web pages hosted on my own server. I’ve converted three so far it’s going to take a fair bit of work doing the rest, especially the really long ones.

For dinner tonight I cooked vegetable fajitas, using a basic spice mix recipe I’ve used many times before. It gets a bit pungent cooking up the spices and chilli, and sometimes I have a bit of a coughing fit over the stove. Today it wasn’t so bad, and I didn’t have any issues… but Scully was a bit disturbed and ended up moving by degrees from the lounge room, to the hall, to the front door, and into the bedroom, where we found her cowering between a chest of drawers and the blanket box, basically as far as she could get away from the kitchen.

We had to open all the windows wide (in the cold weather) to air the place out, and take her outside a bit for comfort while we did that. Poor girl. I wonder what made her rect that like this time, and never previously.

New content today:

Pseudo-Mother’s Day

Today was not Mother’s Day in Australia, tomorrow is. But my wife and I visited her mother today, since under the current COVID restrictions household visits are limited to two people at a time, and her other daughter (my wife’s sister) and her son are visiting tomorrow – so we can’t be there at the same time. Rather than juggle times, we just went over today. We had a morning tea and then went for a walk.

It turned out to be a good day to go out, because it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, with a few clouds in the bright blue sky. The temperature was 27°C. And I think this may well be the last warm day of autumn, as we are forecast for a cold change tonight, and tomorrow will be a frigid 19°C, leading into a week that barely gets above 20°. Winter is definitely just around the corner.

Clontarf panorama view

I took some photos on the walk, including a few panoramas to capture the views.

Clontarf Beach

We walked down to the nearby small beach on the harbour. This is very sheltered beach, with wide shallow water over sandflats, so ideal for families with young kids.

Sandy Bay walk

There were a few people out enjoying the last fine weather of the summer, but no huge crowds. A few joggers, and people out walking their dogs. (Like us!)

Sandy Bay dog park

And this wide exposed sandflat is one of the very few places in Sydney where it’s legal to take your dog onto the beach (there’s only one other place I know of). So of course it’s insanely popular with people and their dogs.

Back home, I wrote some Darths & Droids scripts, did some housecleaning and some cooking, and watched some TV. I was going to watch a DVD, but the remote control failed to work, and I didn’t have the right batteries handy to replace them, and I couldn’t access the navigation menus from the player console, so I had to give up and watch Netflix instead…

New content today:

Goldfish updates

This morning I took Scully for a walk and along the way passed a banksia tree which had a couple of rainbow lorikeets feeding on the flowers. I was pretty close, and wondered if I could get close enough to take a decent photo with my phone (which like all phones doesn’t have much telephoto capability). I was within a step or two of the tree and aiming the phone, but I scared the birds away. But I was reasonably quick on the shutter button, and managed to get this.

Taking flight

Not too bad for an opportunistic shot.

I spent some time updating the Magic: the Gathering Goldfish Draft website that I maintain, adding/updating results from tournaments and adding a bunch of the card lists we used. You can now see the evolution of the card list as we gained experience with various combinations and the potential for ludicrous scores. The recent tournament we did (mentioned here when I was actively playing it out) now has the scores in.

My score was 10148.9 points, or 7.775×10148 in standard scientific notation. You might think this is a pretty high score, but that only managed to place me sixth out of eight players. The winning score was about 10↑↑↑4 (using Knuth’s up-arrow notation for large numbers). Suffice to say this number is so large that it’s impossible to write it down in the form 10101010… because the number of 10s you’d need to add to that continued exponentiation itself is too large to write down.

Yeah, this is pretty nerdy stuff.

New content today:

Industrial grunge walk

I needed to buy a couple of things from the hardware store today, so I took a walk over there, and then proceeded to walk home via a roundabout route, so I could document another Sydney walk with photos. The previous walk was very touristy and beautiful, so I thought I’d explore a grungier side of the city today. It’s not the grungiest, because I’m limited to suburbs within walking distance, but hopefully there’s a bit there!

Photos and commentary are in this Imgur album.

I also worked some more on Darths & Droids today – made another comic, wrote some annotations.

New content today:

Virtual Sydney walk

Today was Anzac Day, Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) most solemn day of remembrance. Normally it’s marked by massed gatherings of people at ceremonies held in pre-dawn light in all cities and towns. But it couldn’t happen this year, because of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead there was a movement for people to play The Last Post on any instrument they had, in their driveways, on balconies, out windows, wherever they were at home.

It was also kind of weird and surreal because normally Anzac Day has a big and obvious build up, but this year news was dominated by COVID stuff instead, so Anzac Day kind of crept up until suddenly yesterday we found ourselves thinking, “Wait a second, tomorrow is Anzac Day! Where did that come from??” All in all, it was a very strange version of the day.

Today I went through all the photos I took yesterday and write them up as a virtual walk through Sydney. I put it into an Imgur album here.

I also made some Darths & Droids comics. Now that we’re back up to publishing three strips a week, it means I have to make three strips a week, so it’s a never-ending task.

And there was housework and the usual sort of Saturday stuff. Nothing especially interesting.

New content today:

Golf and birdies

My golfing friend contacted me this morning and suggested we engage in a friendly COVID-isolation-compliant round of golf this week. (Golf alone or in groups of 2 is allowed under current rules here.) He suggested the pitch-and-putt course where I first learnt to play, and I suggested why not this morning? So we met up there and played 18 holes.

He granted me a handicap of 18, one for each hole, and we played match-play style, to see who could win each hole. And then we decided to jackpot the halved holes, in the style of golf “skins”. As it turned out, my game seems to have progressed to the point where this handicap was a little too generous, as I won 12 1/2 points to his 5 1/2. (And if we’d played standard match play, I won 6 holes to 4.)

On the way home I stopped at my favourite pie shop to get some pies for lunch, and took the opportunity to do some walking around that area for exercise. I also took my camera.

Australian magpie

This is an Australian magpie. Check out the claw on the rear of the right foot.

Australian raven

An Australian raven.

Silver gull

My walk took me past a beach, where there were plenty of silver gulls around.

Australian pelican

And some Australian pelicans.

I didn’t get home until mid-afternoon, and spent most of the rest of it sorting through the photos I’d taken and cataloguing them into my database.

New content today:

Up for the sunrise

Scully woke us up early again, this time at 04:00. Normally she just sleeps through the night until we get up, but not the past few nights. She didn’t sneeze, but was a bit congested. I took her outside for a toilet, which took ages, and got in a bit after 04:30. Scully and my wife went back to sleep, but now I was wide awake again.

I decided to make the most of it and do another sunrise photography session.

Poodle rock

This time I went to North Curl Curl, where there is an ocean pool on a rock shelf, just east of the surf life saving club.

North Curl Curl pool, dawn

I got there well before sunrise, and there was a thin crescent moon in the sky, above where the sun would appear. And yes, as the above photo shows, there is a large rock in the middle of the swimming pool.

Division of water

The pool is separated from the ocean by a concrete wall. The tide was approaching high for the day, and at this time occasional waves crash over the wall and into the pool. The above photo is a long exposure, and the dark patch in the pool on the left is a swimmer.

Heron breakfast time

A white-faced heron flew onto the rock shelf next to the pool, and as I watched it fished a small crab out of the water to eat. I wasn’t quick enough to a get a photo of it eating the crab.

Three worlds

A few minutes later the sun appeared on the horizon and climbed up into the sky. It goes from dark to light really quickly in Sydney.

Dawn laps

Just a few minutes later I had the camera off the tripod and was taking hand-held shots of swimmers in the pool.

Morning swim class

And not long after that about 50 kids arrived for some sort of swimming class. They all did a few laps of the pool and then ran off again.

With the sunrise done, I headed home to process the photos. This was interrupted only by taking Scully to the vet to have her congestion looked at. We have some medication to give her to get her feeling 100% again. Hopefully tonight she’ll sleep through… and I can get a decent night’s sleep.

New content today:

A day out to the north

With my market day cancelled (as mentioned yesterday), I took the opportunity to go on a short day trip with my wife and Scully. We drove north to the outskirts of Sydney, stopping first at the suburb of Berowra, which is secluded in a pocket surrounded by undeveloped bushland. We stopped first at a place named Barnett’s Playground, at the end of a street. Leading from the playground was a short walking track that proceeded to the edge of a steep drop from the ridge down to Berowra Creek far below. Here was Barnetts Lookout (no apostrophe, since designated place names in Australia are decreed to never have apostrophes – the playground, not being a designated place, is allowed to have an apostrophe).

Berowra Creek

After admiring the view for a while we took Berowra Waters Road down the hill to Berowra Waters, a tiny village on the creek. There is no bridge, and the only way to cross the creek is by boat.

Berowra Waters wharf

Scully enjoyed the view too.

Scully checking out Berowra Waters

From here we drove back up the hill and further north to Pie in the Sky at Cowan, a popular roadside establishment that sells meat pies, mostly frequented by motorbike riders taking the narrow, winding old highway north rather than the newer and faster but boring freeway. Here we had lunch (I had one of the chicken, honey, and mustard pies and a Moroccan lamb pie), and also enjoyed the sky-high view east towards the Hawkesbury River and across Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.

Hawkesbury from Pie in the Sky

Tummies full, we headed back towards home, but stopped one more time, taking an unsealed road into the Muogamarra Nature Reserve. At the end of the road we left the car and took a short walk into the bush. It was peaceful and remote, and we could hear numerous birds flitting around in the vegetation. However Australian scrubland birds tend to be very active and never sit still for very long. But I waited patiently and got a few photos.

Variegated fairywren, male

Variegated fairywren, female

These are male and female variegated fairywrens.

We headed home, and as we drove south the weather closed in and rain fell, fortunately after we were done exploring for the day.

New content today:

Sunrise at the beach

On Friday I set an alarm for 5:45, but I woke up just before 5:30. I got up, had a quick breakfast, and set out for the beach!

Sydney has a lot of beaches, and choosing the right one for a sunrise photo shoot is a matter of weather conditions, tide, time of year, angle of sunrise, personal preference, travel times, and other factors. I used an app – The Photographer’s Ephemeris – to map the direction of the sunrise from a few beaches. One constraint I had was that I had a booking for golf at 8:00 with a friend, at Cammeray Golf Club, so wherever I went I had to have enough time to drive back there, in peak hour traffic, to make tee-off.

The closest beach I could think of was Balmoral Beach, which is not an ocean beach, but a harbour beach, facing the protected waters of Sydney Harbour. I knew that Balmoral has a very small view of the open ocean, threading in between the two sandstone promontories of Middle Head to the south and North Head to the north. I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris for the direction of the sunrise:

Photographer's Ephemeris for Balmoral sunrise

It was almost perfect! The yellow line to the right shows the direction of sunrise on Friday, and it threads the needle right between the two headlands. Because of the motion of the sun with the seasons, this coincidence probably only happens on a few days of the year. So with a perfect combination of convenience and opportunity, I selected Balmoral as my target. (I did this calculation the night before.)

As I drove to Balmoral before 6 am, I could see stars in the sky. At least it wasn’t raining like last week. I got to the beach and headed down to a small exposed sandstone rock platform, jutting from the sand into the water. The tide was low – at high tide these rocks would be covered with water. The sky was just beginning to lighten, but unfortunately the cloud cover was highly sub-optimal for sunrise photos:

Edwards dawn

There was a dark, thick band of cloud right on the horizon, and barely any cloud in the nearby sky above. This is exactly the opposite of what you want for shooting a sunrise: a clear horizon for the sun to shine through, and lots of cloud above for the golden and red light to bounce off and set the sky ablaze with colour. Oh well, I was here, so I shot what was available.

First light at Edwards Beach

Early morning swimmers and joggers appeared on the scene, providing small points of interest for photos. After a while the tide started coming in, so to avoid being stuck on the rocks and having to wade back, I moved back across the sand and took photos from the path behind the beach. You can see the rocks I had been standing on in the middle of this next photo:

Dawn fisheye

This was also taken with a different lens, a fisheye, for a super wide view. As the sun continued rising, it became light very quickly. I ditched my tripod (I’d been taking exposures up to 30 seconds long), and walked around, taking handheld shots.

Morning kayakers

I packed up about 7:15 and headed to the golf course to meet my friend. We played one round of the 9 hole course, having a lot of fun. It was the first time he’d been to this course, and it has a few interesting holes, which I showed off last time I wrote about it. It had rained – a lot – since that visit, and this time the water feature at hole 6 was full (compare to the third photo on the previously linked entry):

Cammeray Hole 6

Unfortunately this meant we both landed our tee shots in the water! But I had a great tee shot at the par 3 9th hole. My ball landed on the green, pitching just 1 metre from the hole! Although it rolled a fair distance from there and I had a long putt, ending up with 4 strokes. But wow that was a great tee shot.

After golf I went home and worked on those sunrise photos, as well as some comics stuff, before preparing to head out to fortnightly Games Night with friends. We agreed to “socially distance” ourselves to minimise any disease transmission by touching as little as possible and using hand sanitisers, but of course playing board games means some interaction. Still, coronavirus isn’t very widespread here yet and it’s unlikely any of us has been exposed yet, so we felt okay with our level of precautions.

We played some games of the Throne of Eldraine Magic: the Gathering draft that we started a few weeks ago. I had two long games that both stalled with tough creatures on both sides. I ended up losing one, and winning the other, both by narrow margins. After that we split into two groups, one playing Spirit Island with 4 players, while I played Everdell with 3 players. It was a fun game, and I managed to pull together enough constructions and critters to score a lucrative 9 point bonus card, but it wasn’t quite enough – I ended up coming second with 51 points, to the winner’s 54.

New content today:

Housework Saturday

Yeah, not that much exciting today. I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the house, changed the bedsheets, all that sort of boring but necessary stuff.

I also spent the afternoon writing and making new Darths & Droids strips, for the start of Episode VII. Which I can’t show you because that’d be giving stuff away early.

Tomorrow morning I’m planning to get up early and head out to the beach to do some sunrise photography. I’ve packed my gear into the car already. I’ll get up at 5:30, grab a quick breakfast, and head out. I haven’t done a sunrise session for a while, and have been itching to go do one. This is a good time of year because it’s still warm, and the sunrise is getting later as autumn progresses, but daylight saving hasn’t ended yet, pushing sunrise back an extra hour. So sunrise tomorrow is a relatively late 6:49. With no traffic, I should be at the beach soon after 6 am, in plenty of time.

The only wildcard is the weather. Tomorrow is forecast to be “partly cloudy”, which is the ideal weather for sunrises, but of course it could be overcast, or rainy, or clear at that time, none of which is good. And there’s no way to tell at 5:30 when it’s still pitch black. You just have to go and hope for the best.

New content today: