Full weekend in one post

I missed yesterday’s entry because I was out for dinner and didn’t come home until late. It was a dinner with the guys from Puzzling Old Man on Twitch. These were the guys who streamed live their solving of the mezzacotta Puzzle Competition a couple of years ago. At the time they did it, I offered to buy them dinner if they could solve all of the Group 4 puzzles (written by me) in one show before quitting for the night. Well, they pushed themselves to the limit, but they managed to scrape it in just before midnight and triumphed.

We were organising a meet-up at a restaurant for dinner with a couple of my other mezzacotta friends… and COVID hit. So we’ve delayed this dinner by a bit over two years now. But finally we managed to get everyone together, and last night we enjoyed a Thai meal at a nice restaurant, and spent the evening discussing puzzles and other nerdy stuff.

In the morning yesterday, I went for a drive with my wife and Scully to Geranium Cottage, a cafe out in the more rural suburbs of Sydney, the sort of place where there are lots of plant nurseries, dog & cat boarding kennels, and people with large properties with a few sheep on them. We went to get some Devonshire tea (a.k.a. cream tea, oddly enough, in Devon shire). The scones at this place are really nice, and it was good to have a drive in as close as we can get to “the country” within half an hour’s drive or so. We also took Scully to a nearby park to run around and chase a ball a bit.

Today I spent mostly at home working on some comics stuff. I also baked some sourdough bread, and went for a run, and taught a couple of online ethics classes. Nothing particularly exciting, but the good thing is it hasn’t rained for several days, and things are starting to dry out a bit.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Catch-up puzzling Sunday/Monday entry

I neglected to write a blog entry yesterday due to being preoccupied solving puzzles in the Galactic Puzzle Hunt. My team is doing reasonably well, but there are several huge teams of dedicated puzzle solvers who have completed all the puzzles already. I was up until after midnight last night folding bizarre origami shapes and … well, I shouldn’t say much more about what I was doing with them because that might spoil the puzzle, and the competition is still ongoing.

I’ve also been doing some comics writing and assembling, and going on walks with Scully, and avoiding going outside for any other reason due to the COVID restrictions. On Sunday we had 163 new cases, and today 145. They still haven’t announced a lockdown extension past Friday, but I’m sure that will be coming tomorrow or Wednesday. We had local council elections due on 4 September, but it’s been announced that they will be postponed until 4 December. They’ve already been postponed a full year, having been supposed to be held in September last year. So that’s an indicator of what some people in government are thinking in terms of when we might actually get out of this lockdown.

The other thing happening is the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I was really looking forward to being able to watch the swimming finals while relaxing in the evening, since Tokyo is very close to my own time zone. But I discovered that, in contravention of all championship swimming event protocol, for this Games they’re having the heats in the evenings and the finals in the mornings, due to greedy American TV networks wanting to show them live in USA prime time. This is made more annoying by the fact my wife is confined to working from home, in the lounge room as our only available makeshift workspace, so I can’t really have the TV on during work hours. So I’m somewhat fuming that Americans are spoiling things for people in other countries, again.

Just for fun, a panorama I took of the harbour from the dog park this afternoon. It was a lovely day today.


We had cold weather on the weekend, but we’re warming up this week. The forecast for Sunday is 26°C, which is indeed warm for winter.

New content today:

The COVID, it hurts

New South Wales recorded 163 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24-hour reporting period, well up from yesterday’s record of 136. It takes a week or two before the effects of increased lockdown restrictions make themselves felt in lowering case numbers, but this is starting to look depressingly like they’re not working. The state and federal governments are scrambling trying to get this under control before it spirals into a complete disaster, ruining the year and a half of good work we’ve done in keeping the virus at bay in Australia. This is the scariest and most dangerous period in this country so far. And the mood of people is really starting to reflect it.

There was a fairly large protest in the heart of Sydney today, by people unhappy with the current lockdown restrictions. I knew about it from looking at some news reports during the day, but it wasn’t until I saw video coverage on the evening news on TV that I realised just how terrible it was. It turned into close to a full-on riot, with people throwing dangerous objects at police. There was an image of a man striking a police horse in the face. 57 people have been arrested and charged, and police are analysing video and interviewing people trying to track down more offenders so they can be charged as well. Story here.

And this in the middle of a time when people should be staying away from other people. It’s feared this event may end up spreading the Delta COVID variant to hundreds, if not thousands more people. I’m just absolutely sickened by what has happened here in my city today.

Trying to not think about it too much, I spent much of today collaborating with friends solving puzzles in the Galactic Puzzle Hunt, which began this morning our time. We’ve solved four of the puzzles so far, and have made substantial progress on a few others. They’re good puzzles, well constructed, but gosh some of them are difficult.

I’m about to go offline for the evening and just switch off, watching a movie…

New content today:

Puzzle archives

Today I completed the work I began yesterday with those old computer files. It was to put on my website a mirrored archive of the old CiSRA Puzzle Competition that I ran with some friends of mine from 2007 to 2013 at our old employer. After the company shut down last year (and we all lost our jobs), the original website vanished. There’s a copy on archive.org, but nowhere else. I decided some time ago to host a mirror myself, but haven’t sat down to do the work to reformat the links and make an index page until now. But now it’s done! Another task I can tick off my long to-do list.

I’ve also been doing some administrative work related to ISO photography standards. I’ve probably mentioned that we have a planned meeting to be hosted in Sydney in February next year, and as the chair of the Australian photography standards committee, it’s my job to keep that on track. But of course with the COVID-19 restrictions on meetings and international travel, ISO is currently running all standards meetings virtually – currently until at least the end of August, but that could easily be extended. So it’s not clear at all if the Sydney meeting will go ahead as a physical meeting, or a virtual meeting, or perhaps a physical meeting with some delegates unable to attend due to travel restrictions in their countries. So today I had a bit of back and forth emailing to the international conveners and Standards Australia, to raise the issues and ensure that there are no problems that may arise that we need to deal with now. (It’d be nice if I got paid for any of this work…!)

Oh, and Scully got a wash and trim at the dog groomer today. She’s looking neat and tidy, but with her fur trimmed short and the nights getting colder here, she definitely needs the pyjamas I showed a few days ago.

New content today:

School science prep

Today I did further preparation for my school science visit on Monday. I’ve been trying to contact a nearby high school to borrow some of their lab equipment, but they kept not returning my calls. So this morning I decided to try Sydney University, where I studied for several years, and know some of the staff in the physics department. I called up and got onto the first year lab coordinator (who I hadn’t met before) and asked her if I could borrow some stuff. She put me onto the lab technician, but he wasn’t in yet, so I sent an email.

Then I was planning to go do some grocery shopping, but I didn’t want to be out driving the car when he phoned back, so instead i stayed home in that sort of anticipatory state that makes it hard to concentrate on anything. He emailed back at 11:00, saying to meet him in the physics labs at 11:45.

Now, I was at home, and the university is on the other side of the harbour… I mailed back saying I might be a few minutes late, and jumped in the car. Fortunately traffic wasn’t bad and I managed to find a parking spot right next to the university gate closest to the physics building, so I was actually on time. I borrowed a retort stand and clamps, and a brass mass carrier with a stack of brass weights. Pretty simple stuff, but it would have been tricky to improvise adequately for Monday.

And I spent some time trying (in vain mostly) to help solve puzzles for the MUMS Puzzle Hunt. I don’t know where the rest of the day went!

Oh! I queued up a bunch of new comic submissions for Lightning Made of Owls. We had a bit of a slump in submissions for a while, but now there are several comics in the queue. If you want to make a simple gag comic and have it published, send it in!

Announcing mezzacotta Café v2.0

It’s Wednesday, Ethics teaching day. I walked to the school, taught my class, and walked home – a total walk of 8 kilometres. Well, I took a slightly indirect route home because it’s a more pleasant walk than along the main road.

Back home, I did a bunch of work for the ISO Photography standards committee that I’m still on. I started on this committee back with my old job at Canon Information Systems Research Australia. When the company decided to close down, I decided to continue working on the committee, since it’s a good way to keep up with professional photographic technology research, and I wanted to make sure Australia maintained its role in the international committee. Anyway, I had a bunch of documents to go through, so that took some time.

Then I spent time solving puzzles from the 2019 MUMS Puzzle Hunt, which started today. I’m part of the team “mezzacotta” with some of my friends.

In between I worked on integrating HTML/CSS to make the new mezzacotta Café look nice. Here’s the old original version. And here’s the new updated version made with our new mezzacotta Random Generator technology. The new version began with the same vocabulary a few days ago, but has had a few new additions made to it already. And it looks nicer!