Jigsaw puzzle done!

After neglecting it during the week. we put in a concerted effort today and finished off the 1000-piece Renoir jigsaw puzzle.

Jigsaw complete!

We woke up to a sunny morning, after a night of very heavy rain. The rain gauge at Sydney’s main weather station broke overnight, so we don’t have a reading for the 24 hour period, but nearby gauges registered 145 mm at Sydney Airport and 160 mm at the suburb of Canterbury. I heard the rain hammering down in the middle of the night, but it had stopped by the time I got up and the sun had come out. But there was evidence in the garage basement where much of the floor was still wet, and there were water-transported trails of sand everywhere. Part of it must have flooded like it has on other heavy rain occasions (though I don’t think as bad as those ones).

Heading out for a 5k run after breakfast, I passed a couple of small toppled trees and fallen branches. The streets looked the worse for wear, with lots of twigs and leaf litter, and torrents of water still rushing in all the gutters.

Another consequence of the weather was to completely change my plans for the week ahead. I mentioned yesterday that I was planning to take my American visitor friend up to the Blue Mountains on Tuesday. The plan was to do the Grand Canyon Track walk near Blackheath, and then go see some of the other sights depending how much time we had. But because of the weather, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has closed all of the Blue Mountains valley walking tracks until Thursday morning. They need time to check them for landslides, rockfalls, tree falls, and general safety.

This means we can’t do that walk on Tuesday. I was really looking forward to it, and my visitor is a keen hiker, and this may be his only chance in a lifetime to do these Blue Mountains walking tracks. So I shuffled my ethics classes from Thursday, moving some to Tuesday and some to Wednesday, and so I can have Thursday free to take him up to the mountains then instead of Tuesday. The other good thing about this is that the weather forecast for Thursday is dry, whereas Tuesday may have a few showers, so it should be a better day for it anyway. Now we just have to hope they don’t find anything dangerous that causes the track to be closed for longer.

For dinner tonight I made vegetable fajitas. Onions, garlic, carrot, zucchini, broccolini, cauliflower. And I tried a new ingredient, frying up strips of haloumi to add to the fajitas. The added salty crunch was good!

New content today:

Easter lunch and more puzzling

Jigsaw puzzle update:

Jigsaw progress

I don’t think we’ll get this finished by the end of the long weekend on Monday night!

Today being Easter Sunday, we had a lunch with my wife’s family. Just six of us, since one nephew and girlfriend had gone down the coast for the long weekend, while the other nephew and girlfriend were actually departing Norway today for their move to New Zealand.

Lunch is a traditional roast: lamb, vegetables, with gravy. I’m not a big fan of gravy though, and my wife’s mother has learnt to bring out things like mustard and pickles for me, which I much prefer. Afterwards of course there was plenty of chocolate, plus a delicious cannoli cake that my brother-in-law had made.

Easter dessert

The cake was so good that I asked where the recipe was from, and he said it was from the Smitten Kitchen website. I’m going to try making this some time to share with my friends on a games night. (And I just noticed you can see Scully in the background, top left corner of that photo.)

Now it’s well after dinner time and I haven’t eaten anything because I’m still full from the lunch…

New content today:

Puzzling times

It’s the Easter long weekend, which began yesterday on Good Friday. My wife cracked a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle that she’s been meaning to work on, hoping to get it done over the 4-day weekend. I’m not sure we’ll make it.

Renoir jigsaw

We basically just relaxed on Friday, and took Scully for a long walk down by the harbour. I baked a damper since we needed bread and I forgot to feed the sourdough starter early enough. Since damper uses baking powder to rise instead of yeast, it’s much faster.

The evening was online games night with my friends. We had six people and played games of Just One, 7 Wonders, and some other things when different people stepped out for a bit to have dinner and other stuff, including Can’t Stop, Stella: Dixit Universe, and one of the word games that my friend invented and implemented.

Today was another somewhat lazy day. We spent more time working on that jigsaw puzzle. It’s definitely going to take more than this weekend to finish! Scully got a long walk, and then at home we gave her a bath.

Oh, I did do 5k runs yesterday and this morning, so that accounts for some of the time too. And cleaned the shower today. Life is so interesting sometimes…

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Sending kilos of Magic cards

I did something today that I haven’t done in a very long time.

I licked a postage stamp.

I filled out forms to get a refund for the credit on my and my wife’s Opal cards, the stored value cards used on Sydney’s public transport system. We no longer need them because they’ve updated the scanners to work with any debit/credit card, and it’s more convenient to do that (in fact using Apple Pay) rather than carry an extra card around all the time. To get our stored value back, we need to physically mail the cards in, which means using an actual envelope and postage stamps. I dug out our antique postage stamps that we last used maybe 10 years ago, and looked up the current cost to mail a standard letter, which turned out to be $1.20. And lo! We had a few $1 stamps and some 20 cent stamps still sitting in our drawer. The $1 stamps were self-adhesive, but the 20 cent ones were old fashioned lick-em-and-stick-em.

Today I also spent time packing almost 3 kilos of Magic: the Gathering cards to send overseas to people who bought them from me. Here’s one kilogram of cards (minus enough to add packaging and keep the total just under 1kg):

1kg of Magic cards

And here’s two kilograms of cards:

2kg of Magic cards

And I learnt a thing. If you’re sending Magic cards from Australia to the USA, you can streamline things by filling out an online customs form. There’s a field asking you to enter the type of item so it can determine the HS Tariff Code. You can start typing “card game”, and it pops up a drop-down list and you can select from:

  • card game
  • collectible card game
  • game cards
  • and a few other less relevant things

Whatever you do, you should NOT select “collectible card game”. Because it gets flagged as some sort of restricted item, and the Post Office refuses to send it. I redid the form on my phone while the staff member was on the phone to the head office (fruitlessly), and all I changed was my selection on that drop down, and I asked them to reprocess it, and it went through without a hitch. I mentioned this to my friends when I got home, and one found that “Collectibles” is one of the restricted categories in Australia Post’s list of Bad Stuff You Can’t Mail. We surmised probably because of money laundering or something. Anyway, lesson learnt!

Finally, the solution to yesterday’s puzzle! I can proudly announce that nobody—none of the commenters here in the blog, nor any of my friends who I also quizzed on our Discord chat—managed to guess the correct word. Incorrect guesses include:

  • Beuer
  • Fever
  • Leven
  • Gwen
  • Zeuen
  • Leuen
  • Tavern
  • Eleven
  • Forever
  • Tower
  • 7even

The correct answer is … “Even”.


New content today:

Enjoying the cooler weather

Oh, it’s so nice after the summer. It rained heavily overnight and was nice and cool today, with a few light showers. Also I noticed for the first time the ginkgo trees outside are just starting to turn yellow in a few of the leaves, the first real sign of autumn. They’re beautiful in mid-autumn when all the leaves are bright butter yellow. (Before they fall off and make a mess everywhere.)

I spent some time photographing piles of Magic: the Gathering cards before packing them for mailing this week. But mostly I worked on writing new Darths & Droids comics and making them up, trying to get a bit ahead of the publishing schedule. I also did some housework – getting the quilt out of storage and putting it back on the bed, since the nights are cooling down enough that a single sheet might not be warm enough soon. And I cleaned the bathroom and shower, and made some sourdough bread.

My wife spent some time today doing a one-day indigo dyeing course. She came home with about ten bits of cloth all died in different interesting patterns. She’s going to hem some and turn them into scarves. She said it as really fun to do. Next weekend she’s doing another class, on felt making.

Finally, if you want a puzzle challenge, try to work out the name of this restaurant this recently opened near me, from this logo.

Mystery restaurant name logo

Mystery restaurant name logo

I walked past it the other day and couldn’t figure it out until I went up and looked at one of the menus, which had the name written in a normal font. I’ll post the answer tomorrow.

New content today:

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!