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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A birthday brunch

This morning we dropped Scully with one of our neighbours to mind for a few hours. They also own a dog, named Spike, and the two of them get along pretty well. They haven’t minded Scully before, but we thought they were a good choice from people we knew. They took her and Spike to Centennial Park where they said they had a good time running around.

The reason was because my wife and I were going to a birthday brunch for her mother’s birthday. It was at Long Reef Golf Club, so we couldn’t take Scully. There were seven of us there. They were only serving the breakfast menu before switching to the lunch menu later on, so we had a limited choice of things. I chose the chilli scrambled eggs, which had chorizo and cherry tomatoes as well, on sourdough toast. It was pretty good. We had a nice view of the beach as we ate.

Long Reef Golf Club cafe

We were back home by 13:00. Our neighbours were still out with Scully and Spike, but brought her back over when they returned an hour or so later.

My wife and I played another game of Root this afternoon with the robotic Marquise faction. We upped the difficulty by adding a couple of the optional trait cards to the Marquise, which made it a lot more formidable. It was also lucky, drawing a lot of bird cards in a row, while I, playing the Eyrie, didn’t draw any birds for about the first half of the game, which really cramped my options a lot. I came a dismal last, behind my wife, who just edged out the Marquise.

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Here’s a nice photo of Scully

Scully in bow tie

I took this in the park on Saturday evening, before we went to the chai place for dinner. She has a bow tie on because she had a wash and brush at the dog groomer earlier in the day, and they give the dogs a decoration before you pick them up.

Today there’s not a lot to talk about: 4 ethics classes. Making a sourdough loaf. Making pizza for dinner. It rained a bit, so I had to dodge the incoming rain on the weather radar while taking Scully for a walk after lunch.

Last night I started rewatching IT, the 2017 horror film. Because IT Chapter Two was released recently on Netflix here, and I need a refresher of the first film before I watch the second part.

Today I also started playing with Microsoft’s Bing Image Creator, which uses DALL-E 3. I’d been using the public version of DALL-E 2, but getting frustrated at its limitations, while a friend of mine keeps sharing images he’s made with Bing, which look much better. So for some reason it turns out that you can’t access DALL-E 3 directly from the creator without paying a subscription, but if you just have a Microsoft login you can access it via Bing Image Creator. I’m not sure how that works as a pricing model, but who am I to argue? Anyway, I started playing around with it, and it’s a lot better than DALL-E 2. I’m just using the image generation for fun, to do stuff like illustrate scenes from our Dungeons & Dragons games.

Here’s one, for example. You’ll notice it’s not perfect – I specified “wingless”, but the dragon in the picture has wings.

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Last day of work for the year

Today I had four ethics classes, finishing off the “Rebuilding Civilisation” topic for the week, and my classes for the year. I’m taking two weeks off over Christmas and New Year, starting up again in January. It’s been a very interesting topic to discuss with the kids. One of the ethical questions I ask them: In a disaster situation, where your own life is in danger, do you have a responsibility to help other people survive, or look after your own survival first? Almost all of them have been pretty clear that in this situation it’s sensible and reasonable to ensure your own survival, not necessarily help other people. Some of them quoted the airline safety briefing, that when oxygen masks drop from the ceiling of the cabin, you should put your own mask on first before helping anyone else.

This evening, my wife and I agreed to do something very unusual, and go out for dinner on a Monday night. We normally only ever go out on Fridays (usually) or Saturdays if we have skipped the Friday. Well, we skipped Friday because of my D&D night, and then I just cooked something at home on Saturday. We both kind of felt like something special, so we walked up the street to the local shops and sat in the warm evening air outdoors with Scully at a bar. They do bar snacks type food, and we had arancini, haloumi sliders, and soft tacos with two different fillings: hoisin duck and pulled pork. To wash it down we had some nice cold cider. A bit decadent, but very delicious!

Tacos and sliders

Oh, and the other day I took a Christmas portrait of Scully, after her grooming appointment.

Scully's Christmas portrait

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Catching up with Scully’s old friend

Back in June, our neighbours in the apartment next door moved out, taking Scully’s fellow poodle and best friend Luna with them. We hadn’t seen them since – in fact for the past month or more they’ve been in Spain (with Luna being boarded at a dog stay farm here near Sydney). But they’re back, and my wife organised a casual meeting since they were in the area today to visit Luna’s vet for routine vaccinations.

We met up in the park across the street from our place. It was so funny because I saw them all walking down the hill towards the park and when they passed our place Luna turned to walk in, just as if she still lived there! But when she saw us and Scully, she got super excited and wanted to run across the street to say hello, and Scully was the same. We let them off their leads in the park and they ran around together for several minutes, playing and chasing each other. It was great to see. And we caught up with Luna’s owners, discussing their trip, and also our trip to Japan back in June, and how their new home is, and so on.

A few hours afterwards, late in the afternoon, my wife suggested we take a walk with Scully over to Naremburn, where one of our favourite bakeries is, but also the Flat Rock Brew Cafe, which brews its own beers. She said we could get a drink and a snack before dinner. I had a very nice milk stout, my wife some pinot noir, and we shared a bowl of beer-battered chips.

After walking home and allowing that to go down a bit, I made baked cauliflower and hummus for dinner – something simple and not too heavy after the chips. It turned out really nice.

Oh, and this morning I did a 7.5k run. I felt I could push past the 5ks I did last weekend, but not quite up to another 10k yet. And I spent a bit of time today looking at restaurants in Rome, where we’ll be in a couple of weeks. I thought I could do a bit of research and book a couple of nice ones in advance. I’ve booked one, but a couple of others had no free bookings when we’ll be there. I might look a bit more tomorrow.

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Beach trip, and Outschool training

Today at lunch I took Scully on a drive to the beach. I went to my favourite pie shop to get pies and we sat on the grass just above the beach to eat them. After the hot weather of the past few days, today was chilly, with a strong wind blowing cold off the ocean. While it was chilly, it was a welcome change from the record hot weather.

Fishermans Beach

Walking around the peninsula a bit, we stopped here to get a photo of some of the birds that always hang out here. Here’s an Australian pelican, a little black cormorant, and a bunch of silver gulls.

Big birds and little birds

I also stopped at the cricket field to let Scully off leash and have a bit of a run around.

Scully at Collaroy

I get her to “sit” and “stay”, while I walk away about 20 metres, then I call her to “come”, and she comes running.

Scully at Collaroy

She expects a treat for this!

This afternoon I did some educational training, which is being organised by Outschool. They’ve aded a teacher accreditation program and you can choose to get a badge on your teacher profile for completing a series of webinar training videos. I figured this would be a good thing to attract more parents, so I’ve started the course. Today I watched a 1-hour video about enabling inquiry-based learning for science subjects, and then did a quiz. I’ll get credit for it and then need to do a few more similar things. It was actually pretty interesting!

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The Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Today after lunch I took Scully on a slightly different walk. I checked a map to find something a bit new to do, since we’ve covered many of the same old walks so many times. I realised there was a place we could go about the same distance but that we haven’t done very much.

Valley near Bob Campbell Oval

This walk goes down a steep street down a valley towards a sports field nestled by a creek at the edge of the harbour. But up the hill a bit is this little fern-lined valley.

Valley near Bob Campbell Oval

That’s the street, which is narrow and doesn’t have much traffic, as it leads to a dead end at the sports field.

To go back uphill, we climbed the Stairs of Cirith Ungol:

Stairs of Cirith Ungol

I don’t know the real name (if any) of these stairs, but that’s what I call them. They’re cut into the sandstone and are pretty steep. Today they were covered with leaf litter as well, which made the footing a bit treacherous. (There’s another mention of them here.)

Stairs of Cirith Ungol

Scully handled it okay though. That’s her at the top, the little black blob. Although this isn’t the actual top of the stairs – there are several more beyond what you can see. Eventually it opens out into a street, and we can walk back home from there.

In other happenings today, I had a bunch more ethics classes on the brain uploading/transhumanism topics. Made a comic. And had enough time left over to finally format my Japan travel diary from June into HTML web pages. I haven’t embedded any photos yet, but if you’re curious you can read the diary here. Actually, I posted most of it to this blog back in June, from Japan. If you read it then, you probably don’t need to do it again now.

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Scully by the water, new Japanese food

At lunch today I took Scully for a walk down to the park by the water. The pigface plants were flowering:

Pigface flower

And here’s Scully by the water:

Scully at Bayview Park

After dropping her off at my wife’s work in the afternoon I went into the university in the city for tonight’s image processing lecture, for which I’m on tutor duty again after delivering last week’s lecture. Today we start three weeks of material on machine learning and its application to image processing, recognition, and classification. But first I had to have dinner!

I’ve decided to try a different restaurant every week for this semester, and not just go to the same old places repeatedly. There are plenty in the area, so I shouldn’t run out, and it’s a good chance to try new places. Tonight I found a Japanese place which Google described as “bustling”. Only when I got there it was completely empty.

Daruma Japanese restaurant

Probably because I had to eat at 5pm, to make sure I could get to the lecture by 6. I had agedashi eggplant and tempura udon.

Agedashi eggplant and tempura udon

It was pretty good! And now I know a good Japanese place near the university.

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Scully bath time

We had a big Sunday sleep-in today. Scully didn’t even get up until about 9:30 or so. We took her for a walk to the Naremburn bakery for lunch. It was a lovely day and I wore just shorts and a T-shirt for the first time since before winter. Spring is really in the air already.

After getting home we gave Scully a bath. She’d rolled in a few things the past few days, and we wanted to clean her up a bit. There was a bunch of other housework stuff to be done as well today. Not much really worth writing about.

Oh! I ran 2.5k today, and clocked 11:59. The first time I’ve run under 12 minutes since back in March. So that felt pretty good. (Afterwards, definitely not during!!)

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Scully’s dental

Friday was online board games night, so I didn’t write up a blog entry. We played a host of the usual suspects, plus a couple of new ones on Board Game Arena: Exit Strategy and Gang of Dice. We also played It’s a Wonderful World, which we’ve only played in person before. I much preferred the last one, and not just because I had a runaway victory.

Exit Strategy was basically just multiplayer kingmaker – it became clear at various stages that certain players couldn’t win, and then the only real choices they had were which other players to drag down. We all agreed after one game that we probably never want to play it again. Gang of Dice is a Yahtzee variant with some push-your-luck twists. It was amusing enough and may get another run but it wasn’t a super compelling game. It’s a Wonderful World is a proper game, with some depth and strategy, and mostly about building up your own position rather than tearing other players down.

Friday was also an important day for Scully, as she had her teeth cleaned by the vet. For dogs, this is a general anaesthetic procedure, so she was there most of the day so she could recover before coming home. She was fine afterwards and got spoiled with some boiled chicken for dinner after not having been able to eat all day. They did some x-rays because apparently some of her adult teeth haven’t erupted yet, which is unusual for her age (5 years), but they said there was nothing to be concerned about.

Today I spent much of the day writing new Darths & Droids comics. I need to try and get ahead because we’re running a bit close to zero buffer at the moment. It rained a bit, but we took Scully on a couple of walks around the showers. And my wife went to the community garden again and brought back some more random vegetables. We used some radishes and green leafy things for a salad tonight with our minestrone.

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