Monday the long workday

I start work at 8am on Monday, teaching two online classes in a row, an hour break, and then another one. Then I can relax and have some lunch. I took Scully for a walk, a longish one today, around the loop that takes us past the harbour shore.

While doing this, I did a bird count on eBird. Normally on this sort of walk I can spot about 11 or 12 different species, but today was especially bird-laden. There were two little black cormorants sitting on the marina, next to an Australian wood duck. These are two of the less common species that I spot around the area, so they helped bulk up the species count. They were too far away to get decent photos using my phone. But a bit further along there was a white-faced heron standing on a rock in the water below the footbridge:

White-faced heron

Further along I spotted two tawny frogmouths!

Tawny frogmouths

These guys are quite rare to spot, as they are very well camouflaged and tricky to see during the day. I know they’re around in the area, but I’ve only seen them a few times before. Since I now had my phone ready to photograph birds, I caught a pied currawong as well.

Pied currawong

These are common and easily spotted in the area, but I managed to get fairly close. And then a bit further on I spotted a laughing kookaburra within range of photos too:

Laughing kookaburra

Anyway, I managed to tally 16 different species on this walk, which is a very high number.

Tonight I had tutoring work at the university for image processing. Tonight’s lecture was about the fundamentals of machine learning and probability theory in that context. It was a pretty easy one, relative to the others in the course.

And now I’m home and watching the live NASA TV feed of what will hopefully be the Artermis I launch, which was originally scheduled for 10:33 pm my time. Currently holding and trying to resolve an engine issue…

New content today:

More frogmouth

Today was much less busy than the past few days. However I still had a few things to do. A morning run, another 2.5k. An ethics lesson at 11am. I went out to get lunch from the fish & chips shop, which I haven’t done for a few weeks now, and eat it sitting at the lookout spot over the harbour.

The day was warm and sunny, and rather than walk home along the streets, I decided to take the bushwalk route down to the waterline and then up the creek, which is much shadier, being deep below the forest canopy. It’s a pleasant walk when dry, but gets muddy for several after days rain. With no rain for the past week or so, it was a good time to do it.

This afternoon I worked on some Darths & Droids story issues, which needed to be resolved before writing the next few strips. I hoped to get at least one new comic completed today, but I didn’t get that far.

I took Scully out for a short walk late in the afternoon, over to the bridge where I saw the tawny frogmouths yesterday, because the chick was still there today.

Tawny frogmouth chick

There was a small crowd of a few people there watching the chick and taking photos. One woman pointed out that the parents were on a branch high above. So they were definitely hanging around.

New content today:

Double busy double day update

I completely missed writing a post yesterday due to my day being full of work, and wanting to get to bed not too late. Today was also very busy, but I thought I should not miss two days in a row!

I spent a lot of time yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) marking and finalising my comments on the UTS image processing course student assignments. I really wanted to get them done today, so I can move on to other tasks tomorrow.

Yesterday I also did a 5k run. I’m trying to fit in a 5k distance once a week and figured it was a good day to do it. Last time I did my street route, with hills, and it was exhausting, so this time I went back to running laps on the oval.

After completing the run, I walked home via the Gore Hill Cemetery, where spring wildflowers are blooming. This is an old cemetery—no burials have taken place here for many decades—and it has been allowed to become overgrown with plants. And this time of year it’s incredibly beautiful with all of the flowers.

Gore Hill Cemetery in spring

Gore Hill Cemetery in spring

Because I spent the rest of the day working on marking, I didn’t have time to prepare new slides and material for my one-on-one science lesson on Outschool. So I repurposed an old presentation I made years ago for a primary school talk on stars and stellar evolution, and used that.

Today, this morning I did another 2.5k run. I write my lesson plan for the next week of ethics classes, this time on the topic of cancel culture. Then I got stuck back into marking to finish off that task. I managed to complete it, and posted all of my marks and comments for the lecturer to collate.

I made vegetable soup for dinner, because I needed something I could eat early before my ethics classes began at 6pm, and that my wife could heat up easily later when she got home from gym to eat. I gobbled down some soup quickly and then got stuck into three classes in a row, ending at 9pm…. when I had an ISO Photography standards meeting! This is an “in between” ad-hoc technical group meeting for the topic of visual imaging noise, one of the technical topics in which I have more of an interest. It was scheduled to go until 10:30, but ended up running late and not finishing until 11pm. So now it’s getting close to midnight while I type this up.

Oh, I almost forgot! On my run this morning, towards the end, I cross a footbridge over a creek. While running across, I saw two tawny frogmouths sitting on a branch, at eye level and only about 4-5 metres away from the bridge. I completed my run and went home, and came back out with my camera, hoping they’d still be there. It was a good bet, as frogmouths are nocturnal and tend to find a roost for the day and then not move during daylight hours. And indeed, they were still there when I got back:

Tawny frogmouth with chick

It’s a chick and a parent, nestling together. A really great opportunity to get some close up photos, even if they were fast asleep.

Tawny frogmouth with chick

And with that… time for bed…

New content, yesterday and today:

Saturday morning Friday catchup

On Friday night I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully – the first time we’ve been able to do this since June when Sydney’s COVID lockdown began. We drove out to a Thai restaurant in a small suburban cluster of about 5 shops – nice and isolated from any crowds. This restaurant is only about 100 metres outside the 5 kilometre radius from our home that we’ve been restricted to since June, making it the furthest we’ve travelled from home in that time.

The weather yesterday was spectacular. We had scudding thunderstorm cells crossing the city all day. We got intense bursts of heavy rain and lightning, separated by bright sunny skies.

Greenwich Wharf wet and windy

During my wife’s work-from-home lunch break we took Scully for a walk It was raining heavily when we left, but within minutes it had brightened up as the storm passed, leaving blue sky overhead. This shot (above) is from Greenwich Wharf, where the wind was making the water choppy and it was a bit unpleasant exposed like this.

Greenwich stormy city view

This is from a vantage point on a street along the walk back home. More clouds were rolling in already over the city.

Greenwich stormy city view

And a wide shot from the same spot. It’s a great view from here in a clear day, but with stormclouds it becomes amazing.

After getting home from our delicious Thai dinner, I played some online games with friends. I actually won a game of 7 Wonders, which is an unusual but welcome occurrence. It was weird because I felt like I was doing better in the first game, which I came second last in (out of 5 players), while the next game I was sure I wouldn’t win, but I did.

New content today:

Another cold Monday

We seem to be in a pattern of spring weather where the weekends are hot and then Monday dawns cold and wet. It’s been raining on and off all day and it’s really quite chilly.

I went out early with Scully for a short walk, because I had an ethics class at 10:00, followed immediately by a Zoom meeting at 11:00 with the lecturer of the University data engineering course that I’m helping him to redesign for next year. We’re both pretty happy with where it’s going and agreed to drill down to the next level of detail – roughly describing what will be included per slide in the lecture material. We split up the weeks so that we can work on different ones according to our preferences and experience and it divided pretty neatly.

While out in the rain, I took a couple of photos:

Golden elm

Wet bottlebrush

New spring foliage of golden elm, and a bottlebrush (or Callistemon species) flower. I think this makes a nicely contrasting pair of photos: green with green background, and red with red background. (Apologies to anyone with red/green colour blindness – my colour blind proofing tool shows the bottlebrush in particular doesn’t appear anywhere near as dramatic for you.)

The other big thing about today is that COVID lockdown restrictions have eased in Sydney today. After 107 days of being unable to travel more than 5 kilometres from home, we can now travel within the entire Sydney region. But we’re still not allowed to travel outside the city. Also a lot of businesses such as gyms and hairdressers are now allowed to open again. There were huge queues at barber shops and hair stylists starting from midnight – I heard reports that walk-in appointments had waiting lists of over 5 hours. Also pubs are open again, and cafes and restaurants can have seated customers. There are restrictions on numbers of patrons per floor area, which will remain for some more weeks until they are eventually rolled back.

I didn’t take advantage of any of this but I did drive over to the nearest state government service centre (which is within 5 km anyway) to do an eye test for my driver’s licence renewal. I think I was in there for less than a minute – I went in, took a number, and it was the next number they called. I showed the lady the letter that said I needed to do an eye test. She asked me for my licence, got me to read a line off a chart, hit a button on her computer, and told me it was done.

Tonight it’s project work for the students in the image processing course. Several of the student teams have had questions about their assessment tasks and the reports they are writing, but it seems mostly they are on track and doing good work. I’m actually excited to see how they go on the image processing tasks they’ve chosen to work on.

New content today:

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: