Dog party!

Today was the Christmas party organised by the regulars at Scully’s dog park.

Dog Christmas party

Here’s Scully with Scout, and the table of goodies in the background. Surprisingly, almost none of the dogs tried to jump on the table and eat all the food!

Dog Christmas party

Here are just some of the dogs at the park. There were maybe 25 all together.

Apart from that it was mostly another comic production day, and then dinner out with my wife at a local Indian restaurant, before joining my friends online for a virtual games night, playing some things on Board Game Arena.

New content today:

First heatwave of … spring

Today was all about the weather. Specifically, the heat. The forecast for Sydney today was 36°C.

Actual top temperature was 40.8°C in the city, up to 43°C in some suburbs. (There is a reading fo 47.2°C in one location, but that seems odd and I’m not sure I believe it’s correct.) A handful of towns in western New South Wales broke their hottest November day records.

Tomorrow is expected to be even hotter, and tonight’s minimum temperature isn’t expected to go below 24°C in the city, and 27°C in some suburbs, which are expected to set their highest November minimum temperatures. And t’s still November, not even summer yet. And it’s been declared a full strength La Niña year – which is supposed to mean cooler and wetter conditions in eastern Australia. I’m not sure what to expect from the next El Niño, when we get hotter and drier climate conditions.

The one saving grace today was that it was low humidity. This heat is caused by a huge hot air mass over the central Australian deserts, being brought to the east coast by westerly winds, so it’s very dry. Parts of central Australia were getting temperatures around 47°C yesterday and today. These temperatures also bring dry lightning, which is a danger for setting bushfires. This time last year those immense bushfires were already going, and Sydney was already choking on thick smoke for several days in a row. We haven’t had any big fires yet this season.

There is a cool change on the way, expected to blow up from the south tomorrow around 5pm. They’re saying at that time temperatures will drop 20 degrees or more in less than an hour, from about 40°C to 20°C. I’ll be looking forward to it.

I spent most of the day holed up inside with the air conditioning on. I had to brave the heat a few times to take Scully out.

About 11 o’clock my wife decided she wanted to walk up to the shops to pick up something from the tailor. A few minutes after she left, Scully indicated she wanted to go out. I grabbed the little pile of stuff we have by the door, consisting of a small pouch with doggie poop bags and some dried chicken treats, a leash, and a small ring with just the minimal two basic keys needed to enter our apartment. I shut the door behind me, went to put the pouch and the keys into my pocket… and I noticed the keys weren’t there. My wife had taken the small set of keys to the shops with her, instead of her normal keys!

I had to take Scully out, into the daytime heat. Then after she toileted we came back and stopped at the front door for a minute. I figured my wife would only be about 20 minutes, so we’d just have to wait. I hadn’t even brought my phone or wallet – I had nothing but the poop bags.

After a few minutes I decided it was too hot and at least I could buzz a neighbour on the intercom to let us into the building. The first one I tried – immediately next door where Scully’s friend Luna lives – they weren’t home. I was going to try another neighbour when some people approached. They were visiting another neighbour on our floor, so when they buzzed to get in, I followed. I sat in the relatively cool foyer with Scully. She was a bit mystified as to why we weren’t going home, and I gave her a few of the chicken treats while we waited.

Fortunately my wife had not decided to stop at a cafe and have a coffee and a slice of cake or whatever, but returned home pretty quickly. She arrived after we’d been waiting in the lobby maybe 10 minutes.

This afternoon we watched the final episode of The Queen’s Gambit. Excellent show, we really enjoyed it, and it was a fitting ending. It’s weird to think of a fictional universe in which Dudley Dursley grows up and sleeps with Beth Harmon. (I didn’t realise the same actor appeared in both roles until a friend mentioned it yesterday.)

New content today:

Gumming up the work

I had my second last Ethics class for the year today. About half the students were missing as they were attending an orientation day at a local high school, where they’ll be starting in Year 7 next year at the end of the summer holidays around the end of January. So it was a more manageable number of kids, but unfortunately the two main disruptors were still there, and I needed to assert control very firmly a few times.

And then near the end of the lesson, I noticed one of them was chewing gum! This was a serious offence when I was in school, and I assumed it’s still so now. I made him wrap it in paper so it wouldn’t stick to anything and then discard it. And I told him I’d be reporting this to his regular classroom teacher, which I did right after the lesson finished. The teacher assured me he’d take action to deal with this infraction.

It’s sad when the end of a school year comes and I know I’ll never see that class of kids again, but honestly this year has contained the worst couple of students I’ve seen in four years of teaching this course, and I won’t miss those ones. I look forward to having a new class next year, and from reports from the Year 5 teachers I think it should be a much better behaved group.

The rest of the day I worked on comics, which is kind of boring to report because I don’t want to reveal anything ahead of publication, and I spend quite a few days doing this.

In the afternoon I took Scully for a walk down to Berry Island, which isn’t really an island any more – it’s joined to the harbour shore by a low isthmus of grass that is a nice park to let dogs run around on. It’s a nice spot, by the water, with views of the city across the harbour, and a short enough but decent walk from home. Walking uphill back home is a good stretch of the legs, both for me and Scully. And the good thing is we don’t need to cross any streets, and the traffic is very light, so I can let Scully walk off-lead almost all the way home.

Looks like the Irregular Webcomic! cron job worked fine tonight, on a Wednesday. Let’s see if it fails again on Tuesday next week.

New content today:

Market day and more Scully photos

Today was my first market day since June, and only the third day this year, following multiple COVID cancellations. I got up at 6:30 and went to collect my hire car after a quick breakfast, then drove it home to pick up all my stock and gear. I was at the market by about 7:30, and setting up my stall, ready to go by 8:30.

My market stall

Customers were starting to drift in already even though the market didn’t officially open until 9:00, so I thought it would be a good day – certainly better than June which was almost completely dead and I didn’t even recoup the cost of renting the stall space. I was hopeful people would be out and about and doing Christmas shopping, with our local COVID cases now reduced to zero for the past week. There were a good number of people, but honestly not as many as I’d been expecting or hoping for.

That Great Market

That photo was during a quiet period when I could wander from my stall for a few seconds. I made several sales, recouped all my expenses, and made a small profit, although honestly it didn’t work out to a great hourly rate. Nevertheless, it was good to make some money! And a couple of people asked me if I gave photography lessons, which I answered by saying I haven’t done so, but I would certainly consider doing it, and gave the inquirers a business card to contact me. So maybe that will lead to something.

I got home after unpacking the hire car and returning it about 15:30. It was a hot day, and I was exhausted, but my wife said Scully needed some exercise! So we went straight out to the park. And since she’d been groomed yesterday, I wanted to try to get some more photos of her running across the grass. So I took my camera and we encouraged her to run straight at me while I took photos.

Scully on the run

This one is the best pose I captured, but unfortunately she was still a bit far away from me and doesn’t fill the frame of the camera.

Scully on the run

This one’s much better at filling the frame, but the pose isn’t as good. And these are the best shots of about 60 or 70 that I took. It’s hard taking photos of animals in motion!

I am exhausted…

New content today:

Market eve

Tomorrow is market day – I have a stall again at The Great Market at East Lindfield. Last month’s market was cancelled because of forecast stormy weather, but tomorrow’s is definitely on.

I spent time today going through my checklist and collating all the gear I need to take, getting it set up in the garage, ready for loading into the hire car in the morning. I have to hire a care to take my stuff to the market because my own car isn’t big enough (which means another expense that I need to recoup). I also bagged some newly printed greeting cards in cellophane bags with envelopes, ready for sale. I’m hoping the cards sell really well with this market being the first one in a long time, and in the lead up to Christmas. I’d really like to sell some of the mated prints too, and I’d be ecstatic if I sold one of the large mounted prints.

We’ll see, and I’ll report tomorrow. I have to be up at 06:30 to have a quick breakfast (and make some sandwiches for lunch), pick up the hire care, then pack it, and drive to the market, then unpack and set up my stall, by 9 o’clock.

The other thing that happened today was Scully had an appointment with the dog groomer. It’s been six weeks since her last groom, and we’ve usually been doing it every five weeks, so she was getting a bit shaggier than we were used to.

I took photos immediately before and after the grooming:

Scully, before and after grooming

She’s almost two different dogs!

New content today:

Puppaween!

Scully’s doggie daycare place had a special Halloween party today. (I guess they didn’t want to do it on Saturday – probably because they get a lot fewer customers on weekends.) We haven’t used them for a while, but given this special event, we decided to book her in for the full day experience.

They take photos of the dogs in day care and the activities they do and post them on Instagram. Here are a couple of dogs enjoying pumpkin bobbing!

Pumpkin bobbing dogs

And here’s Scully with a couple of friends:

Scully and friends

She came home at the end of the day dog-tired!

In other events, I had a Standards Australia meeting today, to discuss photography standards with the Australian committee. Mainly in these meetings I report on events and technical discussions from the most recent international meeting – in this case the virtual meeting in September that was supposed to be in Finland. In these meetings we also decide how Australia will vote on various standards drafts that have come up for international ballot for approval.

Finally, my wife and I (and Scully) are leaving Sydney tomorrow on a short road trip, to spend a long weekend away to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I’ll try to do diary entries each day, but if I’m too busy or run out of time, then I’ll report when I get back home.

New content today:

Sneaking out for high tea

Scully was due for a groom at the dog groomer’s place today. We dropped her off at 10am, and my wife and I decided to use the time to sneak off into the city and get a high tea at The Palace, a fancy tea room in the Queen Victoria Building.

We took a train into the city, which felt a bit weird because we haven’t used public transport much at all since COVID-19 began. Normally on a Saturday morning the trains would be fairly full, especially getting close to Christmas like this. But today they were fairly empty, with only a handful of people spread out at sensible distances inside the carriages. And the city itself felt really empty, rather than the usual bustle of people.

But we had a good tea. I have to admit that when the servings came out, I was a little underwhelmed at the portions, having expected a bit more. But the food was very rich, and by the time we finished it, we were both very full and didn’t need anything else.

High tea at The Palace

Indeed, although we began at 11am, it pretty much did us for lunch and we didn’t need anything until dinner time. Although I had an early dinner, around 5pm, because my friend organised a game of golf with another friend of ours, at the par-3 pitch-and-putt course where we’ve gone several times. And for something different, we played a twilight/evening game today, under the floodlights that they have at the course.

Night golf

It was interesting and fun, although occasionally it was difficult to see where a ball went. I played moderately well, scoring 81, 2 strokes off my best on the course of 79. I would have done better except for a terrible blow-out 7 on one hole where I tried to pitch the ball up a slope to the green three times, falling just centimetres short each time and having the ball roll back down the hill to roughly where it had started.

Night golf

The sunset was nice, but the moon rising in the east was amazing, a deep red colour due to smoke in the air from controlled burning operations taking place at the moment, to forestall another bad fire season over the summer.

Oh, an I also baked a batch of brownies today, both to take to golf and share with the guys, and also for a family lunch gathering that we’re having tomorrow.

New content today:

Housework (and running poodle)

Yeah, the title pretty much sums it up. Vacuum cleaning, washing up, laundry (my wife did that), changing bedsheets, cleaning the bath, cleaning Scully (haha – we gave her a bath). And for dinner I made risotto, which is 15 minutes of prep followed by a solid half hour slaving over the stove, constantly stirring.

It was pumpkin risotto, with toasted pine nuts and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pumpkin risotto

I make risotto a bit – it’s not hard, but it is time and effort intensive. Today’s one turned out very nice. We had a bottle of white wine open, so I added a splash, which you should do, but it’s rare that we have a bottle open, so I usually don’t. The real Reggiano cheese from Italy makes a difference too. I bought that recently to replace the Australian brand of parmesan that we usually buy.

Oh! One other thing I did today. I’ve been meaning for a while to try to take some photos of Scully running towards the camera, using my DSLR in AI Servo focus mode, so it tracks moving objects. So today I went out with my wife and Scully, and we found some grass where I could lie down and aim my camera at Scully while my wife tells her to sit and stay, and then walks over to where I was lying, and then calls Scully to come over. We used our special “cheese command word”. This is an emergency recall command, which we always reward with cheese, and it’s pretty much the only time she ever gets cheese, which she loves. So when she hears this word – “Schnell!” – we picked a German word so we never say it accidentally when talking – she comes absolutely running flat out towards us.

We repeated this exercise 4 times, and I took a bunch of photos rapid-fire. About half of them turned out blurry, but… we got a couple of very nice shots.

Scully running

Definitely going to try this again another day.

New content today:

5.4k run

It was about time for another 5k run today, and the weather was fine, so I set out early, leaving home before 9 am. Unfortunately I miscounted my laps again today, although this time instead of thinking I’d finished when I still had a lap to go, I accidentally ran an extra lap. Since I sprint for the last half lap or so, I didn’t have the advantage of having that faster half lap included in my 5k split time, so my time was a bit slower today, at 27:16, my fourth fastest.

After that I walked up to my dentist’s office and gave the receptionist a pack of photo prints for the dentist to look through – hoping to keep it in his mind to select one of my photos to redecorate his waiting room (as mentioned last week).

This afternoon I did some comic writing stuff, and then took Scully to the dog park for a walk and playing time with other dogs. The park we got to is 5 minutes drive away. Usually on the way there Scully just lies down in the passenger seat of the car, but on the way back she’s worked up and stands up, putting her paws on the centre console to get a view out the windows. Today she learnt a new trick… she stood on the radio button, turning it on and…

Well, let’s just say that Scully has learnt how to Rickroll me.

New content today:

Greenwich Baths and a new bakery

Scully and I went for a long walk together this morning, while my wife had some things to do. We walked all the way out to Greenwich Baths, which is about 3 km from home, and then back again. ON the way I took this photo of the harbour from Manns Point Park:

Sydney Harbour from Manns Point Park

As it happened, this is my 13,000th photo uploaded to Flickr. I’ve been a member for about 13 years, so that’s pretty close to 1000 photos a year.

This afternoon we all went for a drive, and we passed a nice looking bakery, which we decided to stop at and see what they had, on the way to my mother-in-law’s place for afternoon tea. It turned out to be a patisserie type bakery, as opposed to a boulangerie type bakery. The French have the right idea with two different words for these two things. Unfortunately here in English they’re both labelled as “bakeries”, and there’s no way to tell if a random bakery that you go to will sell bread, or cakes, or both, or one and not the other, or what.

Anyway, they had some lovely looking lemon meringue tarts and salted caramel tarts, and we got some to take over for the afternoon tea. We ended up spending most of the afternoon there. It was a lovely afternoon, sunny and warm in the sunshine, although slightly cool in the shade.

New content today: