Referendum and D&D

A quick one tonight because I’m home late after running Dungeons & Dragons up at the local science toy shop this evening. I ran a one-shot adventure using a puzzle dungeon themed around eyesight, and had a total of four players, with a teenage brother and sister and their mother playing, along with the guy who was in the game last time I DMed there. They had a blast figuring out the clues and working out clever ways to defeat the monsters and avoid the dangers.

The other main thing today was gong to vote in the referendum on the proposal to amend the Australian Constitution to establish an indigenous committee to advise Parliament on matters of importance to indigenous Australians. Unfortunately the proposal has been soundly defeated. But at least voting was east – we walked up to the nearest polling station and there was literally no queue at all. We were in and out in about 3 minutes. But alas that polling station had no democracy sausage barbecue going, so I didn’t get my sausage for voting.

New content today:

Too busy to make comics, again

I had hoped to have time to make new Irregular Webcomic! strips for this week, but I’ve been so busy I just couldn’t squeeze it in. So I’ve declared this a hiatus week and will hopefully get back to making some more for next week.

I had a full raft of ethics classes today, three in the morning plus an individual extension class in the afternoon. That ends the Buying and Selling topic. Tomorrow I need to write the new topic on Language, in time for three classes in a row in the evening. (So tomorrow is going to pretty busy too.) Also today I did outlines for the next three weeks of classes after that. I’m supposed to have outlines ready 4 weeks in advance, but I’ve neglected to keep up to date for three weeks!

In interesting news following Saturday’s election, today Anthony Albanese was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Australia. This was despite the election results not being finalised and—technically—it not being certain yet that he will actually win. It seems highly likely that he will be able to form government and become Prime Minister, but it is not guaranteed at this point. With vote counting still underway, it’s possible that the Labor Party will not win enough seats to command a majority in Parliament. If so, they will need to negotiate with the minor parties and independent MPs in order to secure enough supportive votes to form government. It’s possible (although as I said unlikely) that they will withhold their votes and that Albanese will not have been elected Prime Minister.

So why was he sworn in today?? I’m glad you asked!

Normally, the new Prime Minister would indeed not be sworn in until the election results are final and, in the case of a minority government, they had succeeded in negotiating support from the minor parties/independents. The previous government goes into “caretaker” mode at the calling of the election, and the previous Prime Minister remains in office as “caretaker PM” until the newly elected one is sworn in—after the election results have been finalised. The caretaker government retains full powers, but by convention doesn’t actually do anything except in cases of emergency*.

However, in this election there was a special case. The Quad Summit is an international leaders’ meeting held between Australia, the USA, Japan, and India, and this year’s meeting was scheduled to begin on 24 May – tomorrow. With election counting still underway and the result not yet finalised, but a defeat of the previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison looking almost inevitable, it would have been very bad for Morrison to actually go to the meeting as a caretaker Prime Minister with potentially only hours left in office. By convention, he would have been unable to commit Australia to any decisions there.

So, on Sunday (yesterday, the day after the election), Morrison officially resigned as Prime Minister. This forced the Governor-General to—according to the Australian Constitution—either appoint a new government or call a new election. Calling a new election while the results of the one held on Saturday are still being counted is obviously ludicrous, so the Governor-General chose to appoint the likely winner, Anthony Albanese, as an interim Prime Minister, until the election result is finalised and it is known if he will actually be able to form government and claim the role of Prime Minister. And so Anthony Albanese is now Prime Minister and flew to Tokyo today to join the Quad Summit tomorrow and negotiate with Joe Biden, Fumio Kishida, and Narendra Modi.

* Such as in 1914, when Britain declared war on Germany in the middle of an Australian election campaign, thus forcing the caretaker government to immediately begin making war plans.

New content today:

Election results and more rain

Yesterday’s election has resulted in a change of government here in Australia. The conservative Liberal Party government has been replaced by a progressive Labor Party government. It’s not fully clear yet if they’ll have a majority of seats in Parliament or will need to rely on support from the crossbench, but it’s pretty much settled that Labor will form either a majority or minority government and Anthony Albanese will be the incoming Prime Minister.

The result in my own electorate of North Sydney is very interesting, and reflects a sea change of voter opinion across many inner city electorates across the country. North Sydney has been a very safe Liberal seat, but the sitting member was ousted by an independent candidate. This is a pattern repeated in several other electorates in Sydney and other cities – female independents running on a platform of addressing climate change, unseating sitting members of a government that has been lagging badly behind the rest of the world on climate change policies. We will have a record number of independents in the new Parliament, with at least five newly elected ones joining the six who were previously there. Labor plans to address climate change, but if they need the support of these new independents to pass legislation, then they will be able to hold out for stronger action.

This is a significant change in the direction Australia has been heading. We’ve been a global laggard for the past decade due to the entrenched conservative government. Hopefully this turns a corner and we’ll start to see more responsible climate policies in the near future.

Speaking of climate, today was again miserably wet. The rainfall is forecast to last all week, in yet another bout of depressing wet weather. You can see the effects of this prolonged rainy weather in various minor news stories that keep popping up. There are so many stories about people battling mould in their homes, simply unable to to get the humidity low enough to prevent it. And today on the evening news there was a story about sports clubs facing pressure to change their membership fee rules, because of so many repeated cancellations of sporting events due to bad weather. Normally you pay a fee and there’s no refund if an event is cancelled due to weather. But many players and parents are getting increasingly annoyed at having paid fees while getting no sport at all for weeks and weeks on end.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued another mid-range forecast today, stating that we can expect higher than average rainfall to continue throughout winter (i.e. the next three months). Everyone you talk to here is is just sick of the rain and will tell you repeatedly how awful it is. There are ridiculous numbers of slugs crawling all over everything – you need to pay careful attention whenever you go out for a walk, to avoid stepping on the slugs that litter all of the footpaths.

Today I spent time doing another academic paper proofreading job. I wanted to try and finish it today, because I have lots of other work to go on with this week. Fortunately it was a conference paper and not a journal paper, so it was shorter than the previous ones I’ve done, and I managed to complete it today. I had time to take Scully for a walk, and to cook a miso-glazed baked cauliflower for dinner – one of our favourite recipes, though it takes a bit of effort.

New content today:

Gaming and Voting

Friday was wet and cold and miserable, weather-wise. After enjoying a huge 4 days without rain, we’re now in for a solid week of forecast rain. I’m pretty sure we’ve now reached the point where there’s been more rainfall in 2022 (so far!) than in any (full) year since 1996. And we’re still less than 5 months into the year. I know I keep going on about it, but it’s truly a ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had in the past few months.

And it was also freezing cold all day. The temperature never reached as high as 15°C, making it the coldest day of the year so far. Definitely an early taste of winter.

Friday evening I went to a friend’s place for board games night. My wife took Scully and the car to go visit her mother for the evening, so I took a train over.

We played a case from MicroMacro: Crime City while waiting for the sixth person to arrive. This is a very cool game that plays like a Where’s Wally? crime investigation. There’s a huge poster with an isometric drawing of dozens of city blocks, populated with thousands of tiny people. You take a set of clue cards and have to spot various things in the drawing to advance the investigation, eventually building up a sequence of events that explains a crime, implicates a suspect, and provides motive and means. It took us about 20 minutes working together peering across the map, and was a lot of fun.

After this we played a six-player round of Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest. Then we split into two groups of three, to play Dune Imperium and Azul: Queen’s Garden (the one I played). This is somewhat like its three predecessor games in the Azul series, but more different than any of the previous iterations, and considerably more complex. It’s the game I tried to buy last week. Now I’ve played it, I definitely want to get a copy. Following this, our subgroup of three played a game of Draftosaurus while the others finished Dune. To finish up we played a six-player game of Skull.

One of the guys gave me a lift home, so that was good – I didn’t have to catch a train around 11pm.

Today was election day, with Australia voting for the next federal government. We got up early and went to the nearest polling station, arriving soon after it opened at 8am. There was hardly any queue, maybe ten people ahead of us when we arrived.

As we waited, a guy in the queue right in front of us was hassling the staff about masks. They were handing out masks and asking everyone to wear one, but not forcing them to. And this guy was putting on a rant about how if it wasn’t compulsory he wasn’t going to do it, how he was here to “exercise his democratic right” and if the democratically elected government didn’t have a law requiring him to wear a mask then he wouldn’t.

He asked the polling booth volunteer if he had to and she started saying, “I’ve been told…” and he interrupted her with, “So you just do whatever someone tells you? Is that what you think democracy is?” I got so annoyed that I actually told him to shut up and stop hassling the staff. There should have been a security bouncer there to back her up, but this poor woman was all alone. And it probably didn’t help that she looked Indian/Sri Lankan. I bet the guy wouldn’t have been so vocal if it was a white male.

Voting done, we returned home to huddle inside out of the cold and rain all day. We only ventured out again at dinner time to go get some French galettes and crepes for dinner from a French restaurant. It’s a good place to go in cold and rainy weather, because their “outdoor” tables where we can sit with Scully are actually inside an arcade, so very well sheltered.

And now it’s time to settle in for the vote counting and watch the unfolding of how we’ll be governed fr the next three years…

New content today:

Bath day for Scully

Scully got a bath today. It was a nice day for it, being mostly sunny, and only a brief sprinkle of rain in the morning. (I counted it up – we’ve only had 18 days without rain since the start of February.)

Before bath time, my wife took Scully down to the Kirribilli Markets to check them out and get some gifts for her sister. And for me – she got me some nice chocolates.

News-wise, the main thing today was the Prime Minister has called the federal election, which will take place on Saturday 21 May. This was pretty much expected, but not confirmed until today. The incumbent Liberal-National Coalition (a conservative alignment) is way behind in the polls, so maybe this time the Labor Party (a more progressive party) can take power, unlike the unexpected come-from-in-front loss they managed three years ago.

Besides two online ethics classes today, I mostly worked on my current secret project, so there’s not too much more I can say. For dinner I made pasta with the bunya nut pesto I made the other day. I also helped my wife by taking photos of a whole bunch of hand-made bangles so that she can put them up on her Etsy shop.

New content today:

Voting and pizza

The weather was a bit better today, at least after mid-morning when the rain cleared up. I went on a big walk with my wife and Scully, down to the local council chambers, where they had pre-poll voting open for the local council elections that will be held next Saturday. We decided that we’d take the opportunity to vote early, rather than on election day, to avoid the crowds.

Here in Australia we have three levels of government, and so three types of elections. Federal government (which will be coming up for election early next year), State government, and local government. This is a local election, to elect the mayor and councillors of local government areas, which are essentially either towns, or chunks of large cities – for example Sydney has 12 local government areas. So anyway, this was a local government election, which had been postponed last year due to COVID, and then again this year for a few more months, so it’s about 16 months overdue.

There were almost no other people there to vote, so we didn’t need to wait at all – it was just straight in and out. There were a few campaigners outside trying to talk to anyone going inside. I got to snub the mayor. I always just ignore all of the campaigners and walk straight past them.

I worked on some Irregular Webcomic! strips and annotation this afternoon. And for dinner we went out for pizza at the local place up the road. It was a good casual dinner, simple, with some cheap chunky glasses of red wine, and staff who know us and stop to have a chat while serving.

New content today:

Long weekend by proxy, day 3

It’s the Monday before Australia Day, and my wife has taken the day off work, so it’s kind of a 4-day weekend for us.

A new poll released this morning finds that 48% of Australians think that Australia Day (our official national day) should remain on the 26th of January, while 28% think that the date should be changed (with 24% not committed either way). This is a never-ending public debate, which, frankly, will continue to never end until the date is finally changed. The tide is slowly turning – those numbers in favour of changing the date have been increasing over the years, and they will continue to increase as younger generations of Australians replace older ones.

For anyone not aware, Australia Day is the 26th of January, which is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of English settlers (and convicts) to arrive in Australia, in 1788. Australia’s indigenous population, quite naturally, don’t view this is a particularly good date to be celebrating – seeing it instead as a date when their land was stolen and their culture upended. Older, conservative, white Australians tend to say it’s a day for all Australians to come together and celebrate being a united nation, blind to the fact that this is insulting to the indigenous population. Younger Australians are more sensitive to this sort of issue and are starting to get behind the calls to change the date of Australia’s national day to something less offensive and more actually unifying.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the date of Australia Day will be changed in the future. It’s just a question of how soon. It’ll take the order of a generation, for the older conservative population to die away and the younger population to replace them. Interestingly, Wikipedia’s article on Australia Day has half the entire content just on the campaign to change the date.

Australia has this weird relationship with so many of our national symbols. There’s also a strong movement to change the flag, to remove the Union Jack from the corner, as it’s an old symbol of allegiance to the United Kingdom, which feels inappropriate to growing numbers of Australians. The flag change movement was gaining in strength up until New Zealand had a referendum on changing their flag (for the same reason) in 2016. That failed to pass 57%-43%. If it had passed, the push to change Australia’s flag would have intensified, but the failure of NZ to change their flag (this time) has dampened our own flag change campaign for the past few years.

But again, I have no doubt Australia will change its flag in the future, because the younger generations now replacing the older ones will see it as more of a priority.

Another inevitable change is changing our form of government. We already had one referendum in 1999 on removing the Queen (Elizabeth II) as our head of state and becoming a republic. That quite possibly would have passed if only the government of the time hadn’t deliberately worded the referendum questions to cause maximal disruption to the republic movement and actively campaigned for a no vote. But it will come up again, and it will pass one day.

The fourth symbol is our national anthem – the lyrics of which were actually changed just weeks ago, on 1 January. One word of Advance Australia Fair was changed, from “Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free” to “Australians all let us rejoice, For we are one and free”. The original lyric was seen as being insensitive to the indigenous population and their 40,000+ year old culture, implying that Australian culture was “young” – in other words, implying that Australian culture began when Europeans arrived. This change had been proposed for a while but its adoption by the current government came out of the blue with an announcement just before the new year.

As it stands now, the Australian national anthem is the least reviled of our national symbols, but there is a small movement to change it – mostly because some people simply feel it is dirge-like and tedious as a song. I don’t think this change movement has legs, and I don’t believe the anthem will change any time in the foreseeable future.

But the others: Australia Day, the flag, and our system of government, they will all change. Probably within the next 20-30 years, if not sooner.

For Australians, this is the state of our existence, the mixed feelings many of us have for our national symbols, or the outright hostility we have for them and the desire to change them. We live with this constant public debate over each and every one of them. Australia Day does not unite Australians – it serves to remind us that we don’t agree on the basic symbols of our country, and that an ever growing proportion of our population want to change them.

I don’t know if this makes us unique in the world, or at least in first world democracies. Can you imagine 30% of Americans actively wanting to change the national day from the 4th of July to some other date, 40% of Americans wanting to change the American flag, 50% of Americans wanting to fundamentally change the American system of government, and maybe 10% of Americans wanting to change the national anthem from The Star Spangled Banner to something else? Imagine if this were the case – how would Americans feel every time the 4th of July rolled around and all of these things got splashed all over the media again and again and you were subjected to endless TV debate and discussion about how all of these things are offensive to large segments of the population? It’s hard to imagine, but that’s what it’s like to be Australian.

None of this is going to die down and go away, until these things, our national symbols, are changed. It’s only going to get more discussed, and more rehashed, and more protests and more public campaigns until it happens. It’s just so constantly tiring to hear it all again, every year, for as long as I can remember.


Today was as hot as yesterday, and tomorrow is going to be the peak of this current heatwave, with the hottest temperatures yet in the city. A cool change is forecast to hit tomorrow evening, and Wednesday should be cooler, thankfully. I basically spent the day indoors, using the air conditioning to stay cool – except when I had to take Scully out. But after dinner, we went for a walk with my wife up to the local shops to get some gelato for dessert. The breezy evening air after the sun had set was very nice, if still warm and humid. I had a very nice lamington gelato: chocolate gelato with chunks of chocolate, sponge cake, shredded coconut, and raspberry jam ripples. It was a special flavour for Australia Day, and it was delicious.

At least that’s something we can agree on.

New content today:

US election fatigue

“Politics” is not a tag I expected to use here, but there it is for the first time. Obviously the biggest news of the day across the globe is the US election, and like many people I’ve been trying to keep up with the results and all of the other stuff that’s going on with it. Enough said.

In between I’ve been working on that Irregular Webcomic! batch. I completed assembling the comics and am now in the middle of writing annotations. I won’t finish that until tomorrow, or possible even later, as I’ve done enough to last for at least the rest of this week already, and I have other priorities for the next couple of days.

This morning I had my Primary Ethics class, and we started a new topic on “Appeal to authority”, which is a bit of a misleading title, as the topic is really more about when, if ever, does it make sense to challenge or break rules or laws. The first story was about a girl in wheelchair who moves to a new school and wants to play basketball like she did at her old school. A teacher says she can’t play basketball because she might get hurt, and rules that she’s not allowed to.

The kids were pretty on side with the idea that the teacher was just making up a rule on the spot, and it was a bad rule – although it was understandable why the teacher did it, probably to avoid potential danger and not get into trouble. They said the rule should be challenged, possibly by finding out how the girl played basketball at her old school and talking to the teachers there about it. We’ll develop this topic over the next couple of weeks, and it should be interesting.

And tonight there’s a football game on. I’m going to relax and decompress while I watch the COVID-delayed State of Origin opening game for this year.

New content today:

Christmas cooking

Being two days before Christmas, it was time to get down to some preparatory cooking today. My family has a gathering on Christmas Eve, while my wife’s has the traditional Christmas Day lunch, so we manage to attend both events every year.

I began this morning with a trip to the supermarket to get some last minute supplies: celery, onions, milk, and some other stuff. Then we hit the kitchen and cooked up a big batch of spicy lentil balls using an old recipe we’ve made many times. These are good because you can make them ahead of time and keep them for a few days, they’re easy to reheat, and they’re nice bite-sized finger food. We’ll be taking half to Christmas Eve, and the rest for Christmas Day.

This afternoon we took Scully to the dog park. We know most of the regulars there, but today I saw someone I hadn’t seen there before: Trent Zimmerman, our local Member of Parliament for North Sydney. He’d brought his dog, Simba, to play in the park. The regulars said he often comes down to the park with his dog, so I must have missed him on every other occasion. One of the regulars went over and had a chat with him, and reported back that he’d asked him about the Government’s policies on climate change, given the recent bushfire emergency and the record breaking heatwave and drought we’ve been experiencing. Zimmerman is a relative moderate in the mostly conservative right-leaning Liberal Party, and he said he expects that there will be a shift towards policies that are more responsive to climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Well, we can wait and see – he’s only a backbencher.

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