Late night trip to the vet

After I posted last night’s blog post, I was planning to relax, watch some TV, and go to bed. But Scully was behaving oddly, refusing to eat dinner, and her hind legs were shaking. Normally she starts sleeping soon after dinner, but she was lying down with her head up, alert and awake. And she looked very wobbly on her legs whenever she moved, and struggling to stand or sit.

We were worried enough that we decided to take her to the vet, which has a 24-hour emergency service. We were there until almost midnight while the vet examined her, manipulated her legs and torso, took her temperature, and did a blood test. The vet said that she reacted when he manipulated her lower spine and that maybe she had a muscle strain or sprain. He asked of Scully had done any unusual jumping or other activity that could have caused it, but there was nothing as far as we knew. Scully never jumps up or down on anything – we trained her from a puppy never to jump. The vet also noticed her anal glands were quite full, and he expressed them to relieve pressure. He said it might be possible that the two things combined were causing more pain so that might relieve things. He gave us a painkiller tablet for Scully so she could sleep. But after her glands had been expressed, she was already a lot more sprightly and walking around easier. Her legs had stopped shaking. We took her home and gave her the tablet and she had a good sleep.

Today Scully seems to be almost back to normal. So it seems it wasn’t anything serious. The blood test was all normal. So I think we basically just have to monitor her over the next day or so and make sure she’s back to normal.

This meant I didn’t get a lot of sleep as I had to be up for Zoom classes starting from 8am today. So I’ve been a bit tired today.

After four classes in the morning, I too Scully for a walk to Botanica Cafe for lunch. I tried the last thing on the lunch menu that I hadn’t tried before (except the chicken and avocado sandwich which I’ll never have because of the avocado), the roast beef and onion sandwich. It was pretty good, though there are other things on the menu that I prefer. Starting next time I go there I’m going to work my way through everything on the all-day breakfast menu!

I went there because I had a meeting arranged with someone who wanted to meet up to buy a Magic: the Gathering card from me. It was a valuable card (several hundred dollars), and the guy is in Sydney so decided a meeting would be better than sending it through the post. He arrived after I’d finished eating, inspected the card, and was happy with the condition, so transferred the cash to me electronically and could take the card immediately.

We got back home as grey clouds rolled in and threatened rain, and it became very cold again with the southerly wind. I don’t think it actually rained, but there might still be showers later tonight.

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The last perfect day of autumn…

Some 5 billion years from now, there will be a last perfect day on Earth… then the sun will begin to die, life will be extinguished, the oceans will boil and evaporate away.

Carl Sagan said this in his TV series “Cosmos”. I’m reminded of it on a day like today, when it’s absolutely gorgeous autumn weather – warm, with a light breeze, and just a pleasure to be outside. Not too hot like summer, and not yet descending into the chill of winter. And with the forecast for tomorrow being rainy and much colder, it will probably feel like the start of winter.

So today felt like the last perfect day of autumn. I had four ethics classes before lunch, but then took the chance to take Scully on a nice long walk in the sunshine, filtered through high cirrus clouds so it wasn’t stinging. We stopped at The Grumpy Baker and I got a spicy vegetable roll for lunch – like a sausage roll but filled with a kind of Moroccan spiced vegetable mix. It’s really good.

Then Scully got to run around and chase a ball on the grass by the harbour for a bit before we walked back home. She rolled in the grass a bit, enjoying the scents, but it was okay because we had planned to give her a bath this evening. We meant to do it on the weekend but time got away from us.

Scully after rolling in the grass

I spent some time making stage 8 of the Lego D&D set. This adds a door and arches around the dungeon level, and adds a roof which looks like a floor of the storey above.

Lego D&D set, stage 8

I made pizza for dinner, but didn’t realise until the dough was ready that we’d run out of pizza cheese (a blend of mostly mozzarella with a little cheddar and parmesan for flavour)! So I had to make it with just cheddar and feta cheese. Cheddar’s not the best by itself as it gets oily when it melts, but spreading it sparely on the pizza works okay.

Then two more classes tonight to finish off the week’s topic on “Why don’t we?” questions. Tomorrow I write up the lesson plan for the next week, which will be on “Mysterious Beasts” – like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and so on. That should be fun!

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Writing an overdue report

This week is mid-semester break at the university, so I didn’t have to go in for a Data Engineering session. I used the extra time to tackle a task that I should have done a few weeks ago: writing up my report for Standards Australia on the ISO Photography Standards meeting that was held in Tokyo in February. They say I should have the report submitted within a month of the meeting, but I’ve been a bit late in the past and they haven’t said anything. So anyway, today I knuckled down and wrote the report and then submitted it.

That took a good few hours. I finished about the time I finished eating my lunch (I got hungry and made it and ate at my desk as I worked). After that I took Scully for a walk. We went to the post office, because I had another batch of Magic: the Gathering cards that I’d sold which I had to mail.

We got back, and my wife got home soon afterwards. She’d taken the afternoon off to take Scully in to the vet to get a vaccination for leptospirosis. We’d wanted to get her vaccinated for this some time ago, but they had a shortage of the vaccine and it only just became available again. So we had flu shots yesterday and Scully got her own shot today. She seems not to have suffered any strange effects from it, acting normally all evening.

And while they were at the vet I sold another Magic card (yes, one – I sold it for over $400) and went for another walk up to the post office to mail it.

This evening I had the first three classes of the new “Dreams” topic this week. It’s an interesting one. A couple of the kids had obviously read up about dreams and knew all about lucid dreaming and the conjectured biological purposes of dreams and so on, while others were just going off their own experiences and trying to think questions through from that perspective.

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Gas bill shenanigans and visiting the old dog park gang

We got our quarterly gas bill this morning, and it’s way higher than normal. I checked the itemised details and discovered the anomaly began when we had our new hot water meter installed on 23 January.

The old meter was used for 34 days during the billing period, and recorded usage of 91 megajoules, for an average of 2.7 MJ/day. I checked and this has been roughly consistent for the past couple of years at least – going up a bit in winter when we take warmer/longer showers.

The new meter was used for 57 days during the billing period, and recorded usage of 1164 megajoules, for an average of 20.4 MJ/day. Over 7.5 times as much!

So I spent a half hour on the phone to the gas company to complain and request an investigation. Thankfully the guy I spoke to agreed that it looked fishy. He asked me to go have a look at the meter and tell him the reading on it. I went and looked. Unlike the old meter which had a physical dial showing digits, this one has an LCD screen It was blank. There was a red button and I asked the guy on the phone should I press the button to activate the display? He said no, don’t touch it – the display should be always on and it was very weird that it wasn’t.

Anyway, the upshot is we don’t need to pay our bill for a month while they investigate. He said someone may contact me to come inspect the meter.

After that fun, I took Scully to my wife’s work and headed into the city on the train for today’s Data Engineering lecture at the University of Technology. Today we did model fitting and hypothesis testing – least squares, residual analysis, goodness of fit, t-tests, and ANOVA. During the tutorial breaks I spoke to several of the student teams about their plans for their end-of-subject projects.

One team wants to try testing the idea that beer becomes more bitter the more hops you add. I suspect one of them is a keen home brewer. The plan was not to use actual beer, but to boil hops in water for different amounts of time, and get volunteers to blind taste the resulting solutions and rate them in bitterness, and then do a bunch of statistical tests on the results. It seems like a decent project – we like to see some creativity, and we love it when students do their own experiments rather than just downloading online datasets to trawl through.

Another group wants to test what factors influence educational outcomes in school children. They plan to look at things like socio-economic background, private vs public schools, and so on.

And another group is thinking of testing whether more healthy or less healthy foods cost more. I said this is interesting because it’s not entirely clear how “healthy” a food is – there may be differing opinions. But they could look for correlations of price versus fat content, sugar content, sodium content, fibre content, etc., and then make some conclusions based on those. This got them talking excitedly and planning more, so it was good to see they took that on board and were keen to explore the possibilities.

After the lecture, I picked up Scully on the way back home. We took a detour to the dog park that we used to visit a lot to meet the crowd there at 4pm. We haven’t done this for a long time, maybe a year or so, because I’ve been too busy with my classes. But since I’m currently on a week’s break for Easter I decided to take the opportunity. Most of the same old regulars and their dogs were there. It’s funny… today the other dogs there were: Basti, Bentley, Bertie, Betty, Beau,… and Ruffy.

From there we headed home via the waterfront by the harbour. It’s a nice walk, but made the overall walk home pretty long. I was a bit worn out, and Scully is exhausted for the evening!

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Scully’s birthday lunch

Today is Scully’s 6th birthday! My wife took the day off work, and we had booked a lunch in a fancy restaurant in the Hunter Valley wine region, north of Sydney. We left home at 9am to drive up there and arrived just after 11 o’clock. This gave us some time to stop off in the Hunter Valley Gardens to look around some of the shops there. I tried some liqueurs and bought a few bottles: butterscotch liqueur, chocolate/hazelnut vodka, and passionfruit vodka.

Then we drove over to our lunch venue in one of the vineyards. Here’s Scully in the vineyard:

Scully's 6th birthday

We went to Leogate Estate winery and their restaurant, The Gates. Being a Tuesday, it wasn’t very busy and we had the only occupied table outside on the very shady veranda area. There were a few other diners inside, but we were enjoying the warm day and the solitude being outside, with a view of the vineyard and the nearby hills:

Leogate Winery

The lunch was excellent. My appetiser was seared scallops with textures of spring peas:

Seared scallops, textures of spring peas

Followed by confit duck with pancetta, bok choy, and sticky soy glaze:

Confit duck leg, sticky soy glaze

And the dessert was something special. Caramel bombe Alaska:

Caramel bombe Alaska

Both of the waitresses recommended this, and they were not wrong. It was amazing and absolutely delicious. Crispy meringue crust, soft meringue inside, encasing chocolate and vanilla ice cream, sitting on top of what was like a slice of sticky date pudding, and surrounded by delicious caramel sauce, all sprinkled with bits of raspberries. It was so good. After we’d finished, one of the waitresses asked how I’d liked it, and said that some people come to this restaurant just for that dessert. It was a really good lunch. And Scully enjoyed a tiny piece of the duck that I gave her for her birthday.

After eating, we went into the wine tasting and sales room to buy some bottles of the wines that we’d had during the lunch. Then we stopped at another winery nearby to get some of the sparkling wines that my wife likes (and I like them too, but they’re her favourites).

We left the Valley via a slower back road to head home, rather than take the freeway all the way back. It’s slower, but more scenic and enjoyable. We arrived home about 5:30pm. The total distance driven just to have lunch today was about 340 kilometres.

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My wife did the most interesting thing today. I stayed a home and made some comics, while she went to an all-day course for beginners in felting – making things out of wool felt. She came home with a simple sheet which could be used as a table placemat, and also a very cool felt bowl. The bowl is shaped like a rough sphere about the size of a rockmelon, with an opening large enough to put a hand in. She said I could use it for putting things in during Dungeons & Dragons games. Like lollies or maybe game tokens. Or slips of paper with rumours on them – yeah, that’s a cool idea.

Scully was again off her food today and wanting to go outside several times to eat grass. This is the third time in three weeks. I was wondering if it might be the peanut butter we’ve been giving to her as a treat on Fridays – but she’s always had that and has never been sick from it before. My wife thinks it might be psychosomatic, caused by her going away to do these courses on Sundays and not being at home. Which might possibly have some truth to it, because Scully wolfed down her neglected breakfast once my wife arrived back home.

The weather continues to be nice, not too hot, and pleasantly cool in the evening and mornings. I went for another 5k run this morning, but deliberately took it easy after my exertion and fast time yesterday.

For dinner I made vegetable fajitas. It’s tough predicting exactly how much vegetables to chop and cook. Sometimes we end up with not quite enough and sometimes there’s cooked vegetables left over after we’ve finished off all the tortillas. Today we had a generous serving. I used onions, garlic, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Sometimes I use zucchini in place of one of the other vegetables. And I just make a simple “Mexican” spice mix using individual herbs and spices: dried oregano, sweet paprika, chilli, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon. And a bit of lemon juice at the end. I found this mix somewhere online ages ago and it works pretty well. Just fry it all up and serve in a bowl with implements for people to fill their own tortillas.

Last night I started watching Oppenheimer on Netflix. I got 2 hours into it, but had to go to sleep, so I have the final hour to watch tonight. I’m enjoying it, but it takes a lot of concentration to follow the frequent flashback/forward time jumps as the story unfolds. The really cool thing is that being a physicist I recognise the names of all the scientist characters.

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Thinking about cooking

Tonight I had the first three classes of the new ethics/critical thinking topic on the topic of “Cooking”. As an icebreaker I asked the kids if they did any cooking, were learning to cook, or whatever. Some of the kids said they never cook – their parents just cook for them. Some said they were learning and could cook a few things and weren’t very good yet.

And then there was one kid who said, “Yes, I’m good at it. I cook chicken and pasta, and crème brûlée, and croissants.” 😯

Earlier in the afternoon I had today’s university lecture, today on summary statistics for data. This is a long lecture and tutorial exercises, which occupied nearly the full 3-hour timeslot, so I got home a bit later than usual. Usually the classes only go about 2 hours. I had some sushi rolls for lunch, from a new place that I haven’t tried before. They were pretty good, and they have an interesting variety of fillings that is different to other places I go. One of them was a soft-shelled crab roll!

I picked up Scully from my wife’s work on the way home. Scully didn’t have breakfast again this morning, but she ate it when she got home, and then had a dinner as well. So hopefully her stomach is settled back down again.

Despite all the focus on food today, I didn’t have time to cook a proper dinner before my evening classes, so my wife and I just made ourselves eggs on toast at different times.

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Scully off her food

We’ve been keeping an eye on Scully the past day or so, as she’s been off her food. She didn’t eat anything yesterday, and took some time today to get back into things, only really tucking in after lunch. But she seems fine now, having had a proper dinner. She must have had some little stomach upset or something. We’ve learnt that dogs just do weird things sometimes.

I wrote up my next ethics class for this week, on the topic of “Cooking”. We go into things like the relationship between food and culture, the importance of cooking in today’s high–speed, modern world of fast food and pre-prepared meals, and family secret recipes.

And I made some sourdough. And tried to stay out of the heat. We have another hot day forecast for Thursday before things cool down for a bit.

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Unusual pizza and Scully dinner habits

Monday, and it was a lot cooler today and not so humid, which was a nice change. It felt like a preview of autumn, although warmer weather is coming again later in the week.

I went to the post office to mail a Magic: the Gathering card which I’d sold to someone online. A fairly old and valuable one, a few hundred dollars. I’ve decided to start selling some more of my old cards again, so this is hopefully just the start of getting the ball rolling on that.

After getting back from the post office I photographed the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I did six weeks of strips in two hours! Then I had to make tonight’s strip and get it ready for publication. Cutting it close to the bone – but I managed it. Tomorrow I’ll probably get the rest of this week completed and uploaded, and then add the next five weeks over the next week or so.

For dinner tonight I made pizza, and decided we should try something different. So I made a spicy satay sauce and used that instead of a tomato sauce base. And then the topping was broccoli and cashews. I think satay sauce is ideal with chicken, but also great with broccoli, and since my wife doesn’t eat chicken we went with the latter. It turned out pretty good, I thought, though the peanut-based sauce is a bit richer than a tomato sauce, so probably not something we’d want to do too often.

But while I was cooking, Scully needed to go outside for a toilet again. She’s been getting into this habit lately. I think this is now four times in the last eight days (it was three in the past week yesterday). And since I’m cooking, my wife has to take Scully out, and comes back several minutes after dinner is hot on the table. So she’s been having to eat lukewarm dinner several times in the past week. Hopefully it’s just a coincidence and not a conspiracy by Scully!

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Last day of summer heat

29 February, leap year day! Also the last day of summer, and Sydney really turned it on for the occasion. We reached over 40°C in some suburbs, although nearer the coast it was thankfully a few degrees cooler. I took Scully for a walk in the morning before it got too hot, but it was hot and humid enough to be uncomfortable. At lunch I just took her out briefly and kept our short walk in the shade of the trees. We went out at the same time as our new neighbour with their dog Sophie, and the two dogs are getting along pretty well, keen to see each other and wagging tails in a friendly manner. They seem to want to play, but so far the neighbours have always kept Sophie on a lead. We let Scully off in the park across the street sometimes so she can play with other dogs, but the neighbours might not be confident enough to do that.

I had 5 ethics classes today, 4 with the younger groups and one on the new Confession topic with older kids. That went well, and generated some very interesting discussion.

For dinner I made fried rice. And I spent a bit of time in the afternoon trying to write new Irregular Webcomic! strips, but I was struggling to come up with ideas and it didn’t go very well. Also perhaps because it was such a warm day and even with the air conditioning on it made me feel a bit lethargic.

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