Shopping chores

I went out this morning to pick up some new prescription lenses for my reading glasses (after having an eye test a couple of weeks ago, which concluded that I need to up my prescription a notch). They had made the lenses, but needed to install them in my existing frames, which they said they could do in about an hour if I dropped the old glasses in first thing in the morning. So I planned to get there when they opened at 9 o’clock, and do my weekly grocery shopping while they switched the lenses.

But when I got there, the lady told me that it would take about two hours to change the lenses. I didn’t want to hang out around the shops for two hours. So I decided to leave the car in the car park, which was free parking for up to three hours, and catch a bus a couple of suburbs over to a much larger shopping area, where I could get some new underwear from a department store, and also some replacement water filters for our water jug.

I got there, and was still doing this shopping, when the optometrist messaged me to say my new glasses were ready -just an hour after I’d dropped them off! So I could have done my original plan and just done my grocery shopping, picked up the glasses, and then gone straight home. Instead I was now two suburbs over and had to finish shopping then catch the bus back. And then after picking up my glasses I decided I may as well do the grocery shopping now anyway, as I was there at the supermarket.

Anyway, I ended up not getting home until 11:30. I did a bunch of little chores: getting the mini Christmas tree from the garage, and the lights. I added another new greeting card design to my Etsy store. I made a couple of comic strips. Did a bit of cleaning up. Made fried rice for dinner.

It was a real bits and pieces day.

New content today:

The weirdness that is Aldi

I had occasion to go into North Sydney today, which is a commercial centre on the north side of Sydney Harbour, across from the main city centre of Sydney. It happens to be a walkable distance from home for me, taking about half an hour to get there, including up and down some healthy hills.

In North Sydney is an Aldi store – the closest one to me. I never do any large grocery shopping here, since parking in the area is impossible, but I like to pop in when I’m walking around to see if they have anything interesting. I find being inside and Aldi store like being in a strange parallel universe. They have similar looking products to the brands in the regular Australian supermarkets, but they’re all unfamiliar Aldi custom brands. But the weirdest thing is the packaging, which is designed to look almost exactly like the packaging of the brands in other supermarkets. Honestly, I don’t know how they get away with it without facing multiple lawsuits over trademark/trade dress infringement. Because some of the packaging looks almost identical in design to the regular brands, just with a slightly changed brand name.

(EDIT: I mentioned this to my friends in our online chat tonight and they pointed me at this article about this very issue, which goes some way to explaining it. Quote from one friend: “Oh, sure, it’s bollocks. But it’s legally acceptable bollocks.”)

Anyway, being a German chain, Aldi is the one reliable place that I know will have stollen around Christmas time. Having a German mother, stollen was always a major part of Christmas when I was growing up, so I like to have some if I can. I bought a large one, and also some Christmasy biscuits, and a few other things. But not too much, because I had to carry it all home.

Apart from dropping into the alternate Aldi universe, I write some Darths & Droids comics today, and took Scully to the dog park… and that’s about it. Oh, I made mushroom and green bean risotto for dinner, which I mention mostly because it’s so labour intensive, so it took a significant time to make…

New content today:

Day in the city

My wife and I took a trip into the city today. Normally we’d go by train, but dogs aren’t allowed on trains. But they are allowed on ferries! So we went down to the nearest ferry wharf to our place and caught a ferry across the harbour into the city.

Scully on the ferry

It was a very nice trip. In all the years I’ve lived here, I don’t recall ever taking the ferry into the city before.

Circular Quay panorama

The goal of this trip was to buy a new hat for my wife, in preparation for the summer. While in the women’s department of the department store, I happened to mention that menswear had moved from the adjacent building where it used to be located, to an upstairs floor of the current building. My wife took this as an invitation to go up there and start looking for a new lightweight jacket for me! So we ended up browsing the whole floor and getting me a new jacket.

Afterwards, we went to Hyde Park briefly so Scully could have a play on the grass.

Scully at Hyde Park

We stopped off in The Rocks for lunch at a patisserie before catching the ferry back home. It was a good day out! The city was sparsely populated, because of COVID. It was weird being there with no tourists around at all the usual spots. But nice in way, without the usual crowds.

New content today:

Late Friday post on Saturday morning

Friday was busy and I neglected to make my daily post, so I’m dong it on Saturday morning.

I began Friday with writing a last few Irregular Webcomic! scripts over breakfast. Then it was off to the supermarket for the weekly grocery shopping. It was a smaller load this week, with not much running out since last week. I got some fresh fruit and vegetables and a few bits and pieces like a bag of lentils and a block of cheese – and some toothpaste since it was on sale for $2 off. There are some products I only ever buy when they are on sale, and just keep enough of a stockpile so that I can wait until next time they are on sale. Ice cream I never buy at full price either, although it often runs out before the next sale and I have to make do with no ice cream for a week or two!

Back home I got stuck into photographing Lego and miniatures sets for the batch of comics that I’d just finished writing. I started at 10:00, after unpacking the groceries, and finished after midday, just in time for lunch.

In the afternoon I took a bit of a break from comicking and processed and posted some old photos from a trip to Thailand back in 2005. Then I got stuck into assembling the comics from the photos taken in the morning, and finished off half a dozen or so before my wife came home from work with Scully. We all went out for dinner, to a nice French creperie. Since it was very cold and we had to sit outside with Scully, I had some mulled cider to wash down my galettes and crepes. Mmmm.

Back home, my friends began an impromptu games night, interstitial to our scheduled fortnightly games nights. We’ve been working on a custom word list for (an online implementation of a Pictionary-like drawing game), since the default word list skews very American. We got everyone to submit a few hundred words and came up with a list of over 1300 custom words to draw. We have things like “lamington”, “echidna”, “Mister Squiggle”, “Circular Quay”, and so on, as well as more generic things. It was loads of fun, and actually a bit more challenging as some of the words we listed were quite difficult to draw.

New content today:

Trip into the city

I needed to go into the city today to buy some hard acrylic storage boxes for Magic: the Gathering cards. Not for storing cards, but for packing them up for shipping by post. I’m selling off part of my collection of cards, dating back to 1995, both to raise a bit of money while I’m unable to sell my photography prints at markets due to COVID closures, and to free up some storage space at home.

It was the first time I’ve taken the train into the city centre for months – probably since March or February – although I did walk across the Harbour Bridge into the city on one occasion for a brief bit of exercise and to take some photos. The trains were eerily empty for a weekday, and the city was too. There were a few people around, but maybe around 10% of the normal number I’d expect. I went to the game shop to buy the boxes, and I saw they also had copies of Mythic Odysseys of Theros, the new D&D sourcebook. The alternative cover is amazingly beautiful, so I got that version. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

For lunch I stopped in a Japanese restaurant in the city and had a tempura prawn don bowl. It’s so nice being able to do something relatively normal like have lunch out in the city.

Back home I worked on some Darths & Droids writing and comic assembly, as well as packing those cards for posting tomorrow. Dinner was a fridge/pantry clean-up, eating the last of the fresh food and vegetables, before a big grocery shop tomorrow. Vegetarian sausages and baked potatoes.

New content today:

Chore Monday

My weekly grocery shopping seems to have migrated to Monday. I did an expedition this morning, and fir the first time I wore a facemask, after the supermarket issued a notice saying that they encouraged customers to wear masks while shopping. The COVID situation here in Sydney is not too bad at the moment, and masks have not really been common up to now, but with infections rampant in Melbourne and a stubborn few cases in Sydney, people have just been starting to take up wearing them in the last week or so.

After bringing the shopping home, I needed to get a package ready and then go up to the post office to mail it.

Then this afternoon I took Scully to the dog park. I believe I’ve mentioned before that other people who bring their dogs to the local park include Trent Zimmerman, federal MP for North Sydney, and former NSW Supreme Court Justice James Wood. Today I learnt that one of the women who frequently attends is the previous North Sydney Mayor (1995-2012) Genia McCaffery. Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned it, but another person who attends is TV journalist Ray Martin. I wonder if all dog parks attract so many people who are in the public eye.

New content today:

Recovery day

My sore legs were recovering from yesterday’s 5k run, so I didn’t end up doing very much particularly active today.

I did go out for the weekly grocery shop, but even that was low key, as our shopping list literally had only 4 items on it (crackers, Weet Bix breakfast cereal, arborio rice, and eggs) – although we never list staples that we buy every week, such as milk, bread, yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, and some prepared vegetarian foods. I basically browse the fruit and vegetable section and decide what strikes my fancy to cook/eat during the week and just grab some things. Today I got: kipfler potatoes, a red onion (those two to make potato salad), cherry tomatoes, a cauliflower, half a butternut pumpkin, a bunch of broccolini, several apples, an orange, a pomegranate, and three bananas. I also got some chick pea burger patties, and falafels.

I took Scully out briefly before lunch, but otherwise spent the day goofing off and making a couple of new Darths & Droids comics. Oh, and I processed a bunch of old photos from a trip to Thailand in 2005 that I took on 35mm film and scanned a while ago. This is Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai:

Wat Phra Singh

Tonight for dinner, my wife and I went out to one of our favourite restaurants, a local seafood place that does really nice fish dishes. It’s the first time we’ve been there since the restaurants closed for COVID restrictions a few months ago. Being winter, I had my favourite winter warmer dish – the snapper pie. Mmmm…

New content today:

Getting back to normal

Yesterday I tested my hand with driving by taking Scully to the dog park, with my wife in the passenger seat in case I decided I couldn’t continue with my injured hand and she had to take over. But it was okay, just a tiny bit sore.

So today I drove out by myself to the supermarket to do a weekly shopping. My wife’s been doing small grocery shops a few times a week while I’ve been incapacitated, and we figure with COVID still possibly out there it’s good to restrict it back down to one big weekly shop. I managed fine, although I tried not to carry the heaviest bags of stuff in my recovering hand.

Also today I modified the bicycle light that I’d bought to attach to Scully during night time walks. I put about 5 layers of masking tape over it, but the lights still shone through pretty brightly. So I peeled that off and used two layers of grey electrical insulation tape. Even through two layers of that, you could see the lights, but they were suitably dimmed. So we tried it out tonight went we walked up the street for dinner at a local Greek restaurant. It worked really well! You could see Scully nicely, even in the darkest shadows on dark streets.

And I completed the second last conversion of Imgur album to web page for another of my Sydney walking photo essays: The Coal Loader and Balls Head.

New content today:

Plumbing emergency

My plan today was to write some Darths & Droids strips – preferably at least three. I ended up writing zero.

I had some shopping to do – first the weekly groceries. Then I also had to go pick up a game for the current redditgifts board games exchange, which I signed up for. Being such a game player, I couldn’t resist signing up for this one. The nearest game store is a few minutes drive away. I got there a bit before 1:30, but there was a sign on the door saying “back at 2pm”! I guess they’re not getting much business with the COVID restrictions, and decided to actually close up shop for the lunch break. Since I was there, I decided to wander around for half an hour, rather than drive all the way home and have to come back again. So that ate up more time than I expected.

The other thing I wanted to do today was attend to a leaky tap on the bathroom sink. The cold water tap there has been annoying me for years. I have to replace the valve far too frequently, because after just a few weeks the tap starts dripping and needs to be turned off ever harder, until it gets to the point where I can’t turn it off hard enough to prevent it dripping.

I recently bought a tap reseating tool to see if grinding the tap seat down a bit would help, but that didn’t seem to make much difference. And again, just a few weeks after the last time I replaced the valve, it’s been dripping incessantly again. So today I pulled it apart and had a good hard look at it after grinding it a bit with the tap reseating tool.

After a bit of manual grinding, the tool makes the tap seat nice and flat with a shiny new brass surface. This should be ideal for a valve to sit on and cut off the water flow when screwed down by the tap handle. But shining a torch into the tap seat well I could see an odd dark mark on the shiny brass. It was hard to make out, and trying to wipe it away didn’t remove it. I ground the seat a bit more, but the mark was still there. Then it clicked and I realised what it must be. I got a blade and ran it around the flat brass seat… and yes, I could feel what was a crack in the seat.

Cracked tap seat

I took this photo with the help of the torch light. You can see the crack pretty clearly near the top of the shiny brass ring. (And also a lot of the glittering brass flakes that I’d ground away.) Well. This was how the water leak was getting out, even when the tap was screwed down tight with a nice new valve. I’d never noticed it before using the reseating tool because the brass surface was old and dark. It took grinding down to shiny new metal to provide enough contrast to see the crack.

I consulted with a friend who is more of a handyman than I am, and he said I could try grinding further to see if I could remove the crack, otherwise I’d probably need to call in a plumber to replace the whole tap seating assembly – in a job which might require removing the entire bathroom sink and vanity unit. That sounded pretty drastic and expensive, so I gave the grinding a bit more of a go…

It took me some time, and several intermediate checks on progress, but I managed to grind away enough of the brass that the crack is basically gone. I hope. I fitted a new valve and reassembled the tap, and it seems to be working nicely now – shutting off the water completely with relatively little effort. Hopefully it will stay that way and require less maintenance, with the crack not reappearing. If it does, I suppose it will have to be a plumber job next time.

New content today:

Food and food

It was time to stock up with some groceries today, so I made the trek to the supermarket. Things are almost back to normal there, however they are still completely sold out of liquid soap refills, and I’m starting to think we might have to get some bars of soap soon.

I also realised that I’ve been overestimating the amount of food my wife and I can eat in one week, as we still have quite a bit of stuff in the house, and so today I bought less than I’ve been buying in the past few weeks.

Most of the work I did today was making more Darths & Droids comics. We’re building up a nice buffer now, which is good, as we weren’t sure if we could keep up a three-a-week production schedule with the current situation.

And since it’s Friday, end of the working week, we ordered dinner delivered tonight, from a local Indian restaurant. We had a lovely meal of: (take-away containers of lentil dhal, rice, and chunks of lamb, plus foil bags of onion bhajis and naan) in a plastic bag of rogan josh sauce. Despite the mess, it was delicious.

New content today: