Rainy rainy day

Today was very rainy and even colder than yesterday – max 20.4°C. I even had to wear a jacket when taking Scully out for a walk.

This morning I picked up my grocery order. Unfortunately there was a missing item when I got home. This has happened to me a few times since I started ordering groceries online. The supermarket has a nice website interface for reporting a missing item, and they simply refund you the price without needing any further verification. Which is nice, but I’ve now had to do it enough times that I’m starting to get worried that the supermarket will think I’m taking advantage of it and blackball me from claiming missing item refunds. Hopefully it’s something that happens enough to many people that they know my instances are within statistical likelihood bounds.

I had more ethics classes today, and tonight is online games night.

New content today:

Made my bed, now I have to lie in it

Today we went shopping for a new mattress. Our old one is showing age with some depressions forming in it, so it’s time to upgrade. Scully came along too and charmed the sales staff at the bedroom furniture place. My wife and I tried various mattresses and we joked that Scully should try them too to make sure she’ll be comfortable on the new one.

We selected a mattress and arranged delivery, which will take 2-4 weeks. They’ll also take away the old mattress, which is good, because otherwise we’d have no way to get rid of it.

In other news, the woman I met at the game shop yesterday with her daughter who wanted to start playing Magic: the Gathering e-mailed me. She said yesterday I met her and her son

Okay, wow, I could have sworn she was there yesterday with a girl not a boy. Honestly, the kid had a hoodie on and I didn’t get a good look at him – I just saw some long hair sticking out. So I guess I misidentified. Oh well, fortunately I didn’t actually say “daughter” to the woman at any point. And though I was excited to help a girl get started in the game, helping a boy isn’t bad either. So I’m still going to give them some cards.

New content today:

Through the university

This morning I picked up groceries, that I would usually have done yesterday, but was deferred due to my standards meeting. I’m in the habit of ordering most things online for pickup – something which I began doing during COVID lockdown. But after a few unsatisfactory experiences ordering fresh fruit and vegetables this way, I spend a few minutes grabbing fruit and vegetables myself before I pick up the pre-ordered bulk of the groceries.

This week I decided to get cabbage, to make okonomiyaki. And looking around at the other vegetables, I settled on Brussels sprouts, since we haven’t had them for a while. It was only when I got home and pout them in the fridge that I realised I’d selected cabbage and what are essentially mini-cabbages.

I also got some more mangoes, since they’re currently abundant and relatively cheap. I heard on the news that there’s a big mango glut at the moment, with large crops coming in from all over northern Australia. So that’s good! It’ll be cheap mangoes every week until the supply dries up.

For lunch we went on a short drive across the harbour to the suburb of Newtown, where we grabbed lunch at The Pie Tin. After that we walked through the University of Sydney because my wife wanted to go visit Glebe Markets. Last time we went there we were surprised that they had a strict “no dogs” policy, so I kept Scully and stayed in the university, intending to let her run around on one of the sports fields. Unfortunately she was a bit cheeky and tried running off after my wife, so I had to call her back and then keep her on the lead.

So instead of running around the field, I grabbed some carrot cake and we sat at a cafe for a bit, before starting to head down to Glebe to meet up with my wife. We met her halfway and walked back to the car to head home.

This afternoon I went for a 2.5k run, but I felt a bit off sorts and took it easy. I ended up recording 12:45, which is my slowest time since back in August, when I started up running again after my trip to Europe and the cold of winter in June/July. Let’s see if I can manage a bit faster tomorrow.

New content today:

Online grocery shopping shenanigans

This morning I was determined to do my online grocery shopping order for pickup on Friday, because for the past two weeks Ive been too busy and forgot to do it in time, and ended up having to go and do all of the shopping manually, walking around the entire supermarket to grab stuff, which takes significantly longer.

I normally like to pick up between 7-8am on Friday, but when I went to select a pick-up time, I saw that slot wasn’t available, and in fact they had nothing before 2pm. So I shrugged and selected 2-3pm.

Then at 2pm today I got a text message on my phone saying my order was ready to pick up! I’d accidentally selected today instead of Friday. I couldn’t go get it today, as I had things to do, and I was looking after Scully as well, so I couldn’t go into the supermarket with her. So I had to phone the supermarket and say I’d accidentally selected the wrong day, and could I please pick up my groceries tomorrow instead. They were very understanding and helpful and said that would be fine (I guess they get this problem a lot). The woman asked me what time tomorrow I’d like. I should have said 7am… but wanting to cause as little fuss as possible I just said “the same time, 2pm will be fine”.

Then on the way home from university this evening I suddenly realised I can’t pick it up at 2pm tomorrow either! I have an online ethics class at 2pm! Ugh. So now tomorrow morning I’m going to have to call them up again and change the pick-up time again.

Tonight was the last teaching night of the Data Engineering course at university, so from next week I’ll have my Thursday evenings free again. That should make my current time pressure a bit easier.

For lunch today I took Scully for a walk to the fish & chips place and we had a nice lunch overlooking the harbour, on what looks like being the final sunny day for a while. The weather forecast for the next week is back to rain every day. But the brief dry spell was glorious while it lasted. All… (checks Bureau of Meteorology website)… Good lord. We’ve had just three days without rain, and it feels like it’s been sunny forever.

For dinner tonight before the university class, I went to Chinatown, which is just a couple of blocks from the university. I found a place with outdoor tables and a bunch of noodle restaurants, where I got a cheap and huge bowl of fried hand-made noodles with chicken and vegetables.

Knife-cut noodles, Chinatown

Delicious and very filling!

The other issue that arose today was the database for Irregular Webcomic! got updated to a new MySQL version the other day. It seemed to be working fine, but people pointed out issues with UTF-8 encoded characters not rendering properly. It seems something in the upgrade changed the encoding of characters in the database fields. I need to have a close look and figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it, which is not something else I needed to add to my over-full to-do list. So it’ll have to wait a bit.

New content today:

Course planning x2

This morning I went out to pick up the weekly groceries, which I’d ordered online. Strawberries are still super cheap, so I picked up another couple of punnets while I was there. I suppose I should try remember to just order them as part of the online ordering.

One quirk of the supermarket online shopping system is that if you search for something like “strawberries” it displays a page of results full of strawberry yoghurt, strawberry ice cream, strawberry jam, and some other things, and actual strawberries don’t even appear until the second page of search results. It’s similar with most search terms – I tried to find basil or something and ended up with a page full of basil-oil-infused shampoos and similar stuff, again with actual basil on the second page of results. I wonder if this is deliberate, forcing you to scroll past unrelated products in the same way that they force you to walk past aisles of stuff in order to get the milk at the back of the store.

Back home I worked on making new Darths & Droids comics. I wanted to get that done before lunch, so I could work on course material for both the Data Engineering course that I’m revising for the university, and also the Creative Thinking course that I’ll be starting on Outschool on Sunday. I have two kids enrolled now, so I’ll be going ahead with it this week, after last week’s delay because I only had the one enrolment. So I have to make some more slides for that, and possibly even start thinking about the second week’s lesson.

I had a really interesting lesson with the ethics of superheroes this evening too. I had a class with two kids. I asked the question:

There was an online comic a few years ago that pointed out that Superman could do more good in the world not by fighting crime, but by turning a generator to make electricity. This could power the world, stop CO2 emissions, and save the environment and millions of people. Should Superman stop fighting crime and do this instead?

The first kid, a boy, said no, Superman’s whole point is to fight crime, so that’s what he should do. The second, a girl, started, “Well, If I was Superman and they asked me to do that…”

I expected her to say: “I’d say no, I want to fight crime, not turn a generator all day.”

But she said: “I’d definitely do it! I wouldn’t have to go out and catch criminals, and I could just set up a TV and watch shows all day while I turn the handle.”

So that was fun! And tonight is online board games night with the guys. We’ve tried a new game for me: Incan Gold, which is a quick press-your-luck game themed on raiding ancient temples for gems. Not gold, interestingly.

New content today:

Double ethics!

Today I had a first – I scheduled a second online ethics class at 6pm immediately after my established Thursday class at 5pm. The evening timeslots in my time zone seem popular, and by the time the class started I had three new students signed up. These later slots are picking up more students in Europe and the UK. So today I had a total of 6 students – it would have been 7 but one of the ones in the first slot couldn’t make it this week.

This morning, despite trying not to spend time going to the supermarket because of the current COVID outbreak here in Sydney, I had to go to a different supermarket to buy a few things that I couldn’t order from my own local one. Specifically, I couldn’t order a large 5 kilo bag of bread-making flour online – it just says it’s only available in-store. And also my local supermarket doesn’t stock the bran that we use when making our own muesli, so I have to travel a couple of suburbs over to another supermarket that does stock it. And we needed an extra carton of milk, before I pick up the online order tomorrow morning. So I combined all this into one very quick shopping trip, and spent as little time as possible int the supermarket, at 7am when it’s at its emptiest.

The COVID stats here today were bad. NSW had 124 new cases, which is the highest number of cases recorded in Australia for the whole of this year so far. The government is hinting at further lockdown restrictions if the numbers don’t start turning down soon.

New content today:

Expedition to the Hardware Store

98 new COVID cases in NSW today. The numbers are holding steady, which is not great, but not terrible. Hopefully in a few days we’ll start to see the numbers dropping as the current lockdown rules impact the spread.

We were a bit concerned that the dog groomer hadn’t shaved the hair inside Scully’s ears on Friday when they gave Scully her haircut. The vet on Saturday said that she had a lot of hair in there, which isn’t good because it traps moisture and can lead to infections. So my wife called the groomer to ask about the ear hair, and the groomer said to bring Scully in again today for a few minutes and they’d do her ears. (Some people pluck the hair out of their dog’s ears, but our groomer doesn’t do that and the vet doesn’t recommend it because it’s painful for the dog.)

So I had to venture out to drop Scully off and then wait outside for them to bring her back out. The dog groomer is now also doing contact-free drop-offs – no customers are allowed into the premises; you have to hand your dog over at the front door.

Earlier I’d looked at the hardware store website, intending to order some necessary items for pick-up collection, but I saw that it was still open for normal business. And now I was out with Scully just around the block form the hardware store, so I decided to pop in very quickly and grab the things I needed. It was spookily empty – I have never ever seen the hardware store car park, or the store itself that empty. Which was good, because the fewer people around the less chance of anyone infectious with COVID. I was in and out in about 2 minutes.

I ran into our neighbour outside with her poodle Luna, at the grassy patch across the street where we take the dogs for toilets. We’re all wearing masks for stuff like this now, because of the government rules about masks in shared spaces of apartment blocks. I asked how she and her partner were going, and she sounded a bit resigned, but managing okay. I asked if they’d be interested in some sourdough bread, since I’m baking it and I need to bake every couple of days to keep the starter in good condition. She said they’d love that, but just bought two loaves of bread yesterday, so maybe in a few days. So maybe at the end of the week I’ll bake a loaf to give to them.

For dinner tonight I made some red curry vegetables with rice, and I decided to add some protein in the form of hard boiled eggs. Unfortunately I simmered the eggs at too low a temperature, or maybe started the timer too early, and they were still very soft when I started peeling one. Fortunately it was just hard enough that I could pop them back into the hot water and the partly peeled one kept its shape. In the end I eventually had two hard boiled eggs to add to the curry, and that worked really well.

Finally, a couple of photos I took on the weekend and forgot to share:

View from Berry Island

The view looking towards the city from the park by the water where we took Scully for a run around.

Midwinter magnolia

And a magnolia tree in full flower! In the very middle of winter! I’ve been watching magnolias blooming earlier and earlier over the past several years, but I’ve never seen one so full of flowers this early.

New content today:

COVID-Virtual games night Friday

Tonight would have been face-to-face games night with the guys, but under the current COVID lockdown we’ve converted it to virtual once again. The COVID numbers rose again today, with 97 new cases in NSW. Nothing particularly new in terms of lockdown restrictions, just more urging people to do the right thing and stay home.

I did mostly. It was time for the weekly grocery shopping, but rather than go through the supermarket myself, I signed up for online shopping. Unfortunately the delivery fee scale is such that for people like me who do small weekly shops, the fee is high, whereas it gets lower if you buy more, until if you buy over $300 of groceries delivery is free. I kind of get it, but as someone who usually spends $80-$120 a week, I don’t want to have to add another $15 on top for delivery.

So instead I chose the free “pick up from store” option. At least it saves me from walking around the aisles, and I could spend only a couple of minutes in the supermarket picking up my stuff instead of half an hour. As it turned out, when I got there they didn’t have my order quite ready, so I had to wait a little while they ran around grabbing bags from storage lockers and fridges and stuff. But it was quicker than doing the shopping myself, so that was worthwhile.

The other reason to go out today was that Scully was booked in for her grooming day. She was getting very shaggy, but now after picking her up she’s velvety smooth.

For games night, the first game we played was Nidavellir, which is a game I enjoy, but I haven’t really got to grips with the strategy yet. Yet, somehow, I managed to win! By a single point. But a win is a win! Now we’re playing some games of 7 Wonders, which is a virtual games night staple. I came second in the first game, and… just won my second game! With an unconventional science + military strategy.

New content today:

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: