Another blast of winter

It was definitely one of the coldest feeling days of winter so far today. The actual temperature barely reached 16°C, but the “feels like” temperature maxed out at 8°C due to a stiff wind that was blowing all day.

My morning was spent inside doing ethics classes, but my hands were frozen. At 1pm I was glad yo take Scully for a walk, even in the cold, simply to get my blood circulating and warm up a bit from the physical movement.

We went up to the shops and I got some sushi for lunch, which I ate at the small park there while Scully sniffed around on the grassy area. On the way back I pondered grabbing some gelato (it’s never too cold for gelato). But when I went into the place I took a good look at some of the baked things they also have there. Iv’e never tried any of them before, but I noticed they had a crème brûlée cronut which looked very attractive with a very brûlée-like glaze on top. So on an impulse I got one of those instead. It turned out to be really delicious, with a custard filling inside the pastry. I might have to try some more of their pastries.

This afternoon I did some more work on new Irregular Webcomic! strips. I didn’t finish writing a whole batch, so I only ended up photographing one strip for tonight. I’ll try to get more done tomorrow, at least to last the rest of this week.

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A weird weather record

Australia set a new weather record today. The highest barometric pressure ever recorded in the country, at 1044.6 hectopascals. Here’s a news story about it. Clearly this is an unusual weather event. The high pressure system is enormous and basically stalled over the country, meaning the cold and rainy weather we’re having isn’t going anywhere for several more days.

Besides the usual ethics classes, I did online grocery shopping for pickup tomorrow morning, and I submitted that standards proposal I mentioned yesterday. I ran out of time to do it yesterday because it needed to be done via an online portal, and I had to ask my contact there where to find that. I got the information this morning, so sent it in.

I also sold another Magic: the Gathering card online, and had to dash up to the post office to send it off. And took Scully for a longish walk, down to the wharf and back. Thankfully the rain seems to be concentrated in the evening and overnight, and the day was actually pleasant around lunchtime.

And I did stage 21 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set. This completes the exterior rustic staircase and adds a roof over the first floor, with a cool little balcony at the top.

Lego D&D set, stage 21

Lego D&D set, stage 21

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The cold and wet continues

Sometimes I think the weather is all I talk about here. I suppose it’s something that can be different every day, whereas some days what I actually do is just routine, without anything especially unusual or interesting. Anyway, yeah, the predicted cold and wet spell has well and truly begun. it wasn’t actually raining all day and we had a few bursts of sunshine, but it was pretty cold.

I walked Scully up to the pie shop for lunch. Normally I sit in the nearby park and eat Scully roam around a bit while I eat, but today she headed off towards the path home and wouldn’t come back. Clearly she’d had enough of the cold weather! So we walked back and I ate while we walked.

I have 6 ethics classes today, but several of them were low in numbers, because a lot of the kids are taking summer breaks in the northern hemisphere. And the morning classes are mostly US kids, and several of those have things going on this week with the 4th of July coming up. So some classes where I normally have 3 or 4 kids were down to one student.

Stage 20 of the Lego D&D set! his adds a rear wall to the first floor, and a rustic staircase that leads up to another floor above.

Lego D&D set, stage 20

Hidden under the stairs is a spider!

Lego D&D set, stage 20

And a rear view, showing an upper level door. I’m not sure yet why it makes sense to have a door here. Maybe it connects with the upper level of the castle section previously built.

Lego D&D set, stage 20

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Return of the cold and rain

Today was really cold. The temperature barely reached 14°C, after yesterday’s 20°C. And it rained a fair bit overnight, and then sprinkled fitfully throughout the day. The Bureau of Meteorology tells us that this is a strong cold front, running into a blocking high pressure system that will stall it over the continent again, producing nearly identical conditions to when we had 13 straight days of rain back in May. The published forecast for the next week is heavy rain every day, and colder temperatures after the past week of slightly more mild conditions. So it’s going to be pretty awful.

I basically stayed in and tried to stay warm today. Except for taking Scully for a short walk around lunch time. (My wife took her for another just before dinner time.)

My legs stiffened up a bit after yesterday’s 5k run, following two weeks of not running. I need to try to get back into a routine of running at least once or twice a week, but it may be difficult in the coming week with the weather. It was really too cold and miserable today to even consider going for a run.

Here’s stage 19 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set that I’m still building. This is the first floor of the tower that I built the ground floor of over the past few updates.

Lego D&D set, stage 19

The hole in the floor is where the staircase from the ground floor rises up and leads to this floor, when the two floors are assembled together. There’s also a… trap door!

Lego D&D set, stage 19

You can see the trap door open on the left of that weird orb thing on the altar.

And in other news I booked our hotel in Tokyo for our trip to Japan in February. We passed the info on to my wife’s mother and sister, and they’ve booked into the same hotel.

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Cold AND rain

Saturday was not only bitterly cold but also very wet, with almost constant heavy rain all day. We took Scully for a walk after lunch when the rain stopped briefly, but by the time we got home we were wet enough to have to change our clothes, despite having ventured out with raincoats and umbrellas. We had to give Scully a towelling off and blow dry.

Yesterday was online games night, so I didn’t write up an entry for Friday. I did ethics classes, adding a new class at 10am, which had two students in it. For dinner we went out to a newish restaurant near us, on the ground floor of one of the new apartment towers that went up over the past few years, a place called Organica. We sat outside because Scully was with us, and it was pretty cold. I was rugged up in my warmest winter coat.

I had the crispy skinned porchetta, with maple beetroot mash, pearl couscous, and a raisin salsa. Not usually the sort of thing I go for, but it was marked as a specialty on the menu, and I thought why not? It was really delicious!


My wife had some gnocchi in a tomato sauce, which was richly spiced when I tried a bit. We were pretty happy with the meals and the venue, and plan to go back in the future. They are also a patisserie, and we got a chocolate cannoli to take home for my dessert. And that was delicious too.

There was one drawback to this dinner. Around 1am I woke up, feeling nauseated. I started feeling hot and sweaty, and waves of nausea rolled over my head. I felt close to throwing up, and had to get up and get dressed and go sit on the lounge with a bucket just in case. I’m pretty sure it was because of the fattiness of the meal, plus all the cream in the cannoli. I had my gall bladder removed many years ago, and I get spells of nausea like this a few hours after eating fatty meals as my body tries to digest it without the help of enough bile. But this one was the worst I’ve felt for a long time. I managed to avoid vomiting, but it took about half an hour for my stomach to settle enough for me to go back to bed. By this morning I felt fine.

Except for the cold weather. Yesterday was the solstice, and the end of the first three weeks of winter (by the Australian system). New reported that the first 21 days have been the coldest start to winter Sydney has experienced since 1989. And then today we had almost 60 mm of rain. Pretty miserable stuff.

I spent some time today working on new Darths & Droids comics. Also discussing story planning with my co-writers for Episode IX, which will be ramping up as we approach the end of Episode VIII.

For dinner I made a lentil dhal with rice and broccoli. I added some coconut powder to the dhal this time for a bit of a change of flavours, and it was really nice.

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Sydney cold spell

The weather has been very cold here for the past several days. We have an unusually long cold spell hitting us right now; there have been stories in the news about it and how it’s caused by some unusual winter weather pattern that is stalled over the continent rather than moving on with the prevailing winds. It got down to 5.7°C last night, the coldest temperature recorded this year so far. And the maximum in the middle of the day barely topped 17°C.

I know this doesn’t sound much to people who live in colder climates, but trust me, this is ridiculously cold for people who live in Sydney. It’s certainly not helped by the fact that our housing has basically no insulation at all—because we live in a warm climate, why would we need it?—and inside our home is not that much warmer than outside. I’ve been sitting at my desk with track pants, fleecy Ugg boots, a heavy jumper (sweater), a blanket wrapped around me, drinking hot tea, and still feeling too cold. My hands on the keyboard and mouse are like ice. And this cold spell is expected to last another 3 or 4 days before warming up to more sensible temperatures.

The best thing to do is get out, rug up in a heavy jacket on top of all that, and walk around in the sunshine. I took Scully for a walk in the middle of the day and I tried lunch at a newish food place that opened up not long ago, near the brand new park above the rail line at St Leonards. It’s a char-grilled chicken place, and I had a chicken wrap with couscous salad and hot potato chips. It was decent, but I think next time I’ll try something with a bit more spice to it.

This afternoon I made stage 18 of the Lego D&D set, which was this beholder:

Lego D&D set, stage 18: beholder

I’m not a huge fan of beholders as monsters within the game, and I don’t really agree that their “iconic” status is well-earned. I think it has more to do with the fact that they’re so recognisable, and a trademarked monster, so they can be used as company promotion material. And I certainly dislike the direction they’ve taken beholders in the modern 5th edition game. If I’m going to have beholders I want them to be evil monsters, not hilarious comic-book villains, or misunderstood or upstanding citizens. But this model is still pretty cool.

Lego D&D set, stage 18: beholder

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Virtual New York meeting: day 1

I went to bed a little early last night, in an attempt to get a bit more sleep before my alarm woke me just before 3am. It didn’t work, because I wasn’t tired enough to sleep, and then my mind started thinking about having to get up early, and I had trouble getting to sleep.

When the awful hour struck I got up, made myself a cup of Bengal Spice tea to warm myself up, and connected to the meeting videoconference. The first session was administrative stuff as usual. I had to talk about the logistics for the next meeting, which I’m hosting in Sydney in October. We decided to set that meeting from Tuesday to Friday, 15-18 October, dropping the tentative Monday from the schedule. There were some questions from the meeting which I had to action and liaise with Standards Australia to get answers about. In particular, the meeting in Sydney is only authorised for two working groups of the ISO Photography committee, but it’s highly likely that by October a new working group will be initiated, and it would be sensible to have it meet jointly, as many of the experts overlap. So I had to check that we can add an extra working group to the meeting or if that would cause administrative issues.

The meeting wrapped early for the day, so instead of going until 7am, I ended a bit after 5am. I went back to bed and tried to get some sleep, but again couldn’t really fall asleep properly. I was so cold that despite two hours huddled under the quilt, I still felt cold when I got up again after 7. So as far as I can tell I basically got no sleep at all last night.

Tonight’s session is all technical discussion of high dynamic range image formats, which is outside my expertise, and frankly I find a bit tedious. So I’m going to skip the whole day and get some decent sleep tonight (hopefully). And hopefully that’ll be enough to mean I can struggle through full nights awake on Thursday and Friday.

The daylight hours today were cold, and it got extremely windy in the middle of the day. We recorded gusts up to 100 km/h. I had to venture out because I made a sale of piles of old Netrunner cards via my eBay listings yesterday. A buyer actually contacted me looking for specific rare cards and I said I had opened cards and could look through them. I confirmed I had 7 of the 8 cards he was looking for to complete his collection. I hadn’t listed the loose cards on eBay, so I created a buy-it-now listing for local pickup only and told him to buy it. Then we could exchange contact information through eBay (without violating the terms of service), and I drove over to his place to deliver them, only 5 minutes drive away.

While out there, I took Scully for a walk down to the harbour shore before driving home. It was so windy by the water that we had to retreat quickly back into the shelter of the house-lined streets. It really was horribly windy, with whole trees swaying, and big whitecaps on the usually placid harbour.

This afternoon I listed more old gaming items on eBay: a bunch of Blood Bowl miniatures that I bought back in 1996 for the (excellent) 3rd edition of the game, but never got around to painting. I had two whole teams, plus 8 blister packs of star players, all in the original packaging.

For dinner I made okonomiyaki again, using up the other half of the cabbage quarter I’d bought last week. I tried adding a bit of sriracha sauce to mine for some spicy kick. Probably horrifying many Japanese cooks, but it tasted good!

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More record rainfall?

It’s pouring down outside as I type this tonight. There are flash flood warnings in place for parts of the state and regular flood warnings for some of the rivers around Sydney. I’ve heard some pretty loud thunder too, as I was teaching my ethics classes a little earlier. With this current rain system, we have a good chance of passing Sydney’s annual average rainfall figure, less than 6 months into the year. This is already the second wettest year on record up to today’s date, beaten only by 2022, which was the overall wettest year on record.

In the classes tonight, talking about dilemmas, I asked the kids who they could ask for help to make a tough decision. I was expecting answers like friends and family, maybe teachers, and hoping for broader answers including professionals (e.g. doctors, scientists, lawyers), or even potentially asking people on the Internet (e.g. StackExchange or even reddit). I was surprised though when one kid answered: ChatGPT. And then in the next class another kid suggested ChatGPT as well!

I did manage to get to the post office this morning before the rain closed in around lunchtime. I found a new place to get croissants, not too far away, and bought a plain butter croissant for a snack, and a chocolate hazelnut one for dessert tonight. I never would have found this place without accidentally stumbling on a recommendation online, and it was well worth the visit. I’ll have to take my wife there one day soon to show her my discovery.

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A missed classic

I discovered yesterday the greatest missed cover song opportunity ever. In 2003 No Doubt released a greatest hits compilation and wanted a new song to feature on it, and decided to record a cover. They considered hundreds of songs and narrowed it down to “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk and “Don’t Change” by INXS.

They chose “It’s My Life”.

I really like No Doubt’s “It’s My Life”, but hot damn…. I want to hear them do “Don’t Change”.

Friday was games night with my friends. It should have been in-person at someone’s place, but there were a couple of illnesses and we decided to convert it to online so more of us could participate. We played a new game for me, Cat in the Box, which is a quantum trick-taking game. The deck is simply 5 copies of each card, numbered 1 through to 9. Each copy is identical and has no suit.

You play tricks as normal, except that when you play a card, you declare its suit: red, blue, yellow, or green. There’s a board where you mark when you play each card. So if you lead with a 9 and say it’s blue, you put one of your pawns on the blue 9 on the board, to show that that card has been played. Other people have to either (a) follow suit by playing a card and declaring it to be blue—making sure it’s a card that hasn’t already been played by marking an empty space on the board with their pawns—or (b) play a card and declare it to be another suit. If you don’t follow the led suit then you have to mark on your personal player card (for everyone to see) that you have no more cards of the led suit (blue in this case); then in future tricks of the current hand you are not allowed to declare any card to be blue. Red is always trumps, so you can trump another led colour by declaring you have no more of that colour and playing a card and declaring it to be red (if you legally can do so).

Note that there are 5 cards of each number, but only 4 of them can ever be played, because there are only 4 suits. Also, it’s possible for you to get into a situation where you have several cards in your hand, but are unable to play any of them. For example, you have a 3, a 5, and a 6. But you’ve declared yourself out of blue cards, and the only available 3, 5, and 6 on the board are all blue. If this happens, you can’t play a card without causing a quantum paradox, and the round ends, with you scoring zero.

On top of this, after the cards are dealt you can discard any one card (to help avoid having unplayable cards), and then you have to bid a number of tricks that you expect win before the hand begins. You get one point per trick won. If you make your bid exactly, you get bonus points equal to the size of the largest cluster of your pawns on the board, connected vertically or horizontally (not diagonally). So there’s incentive to play cards of adjacent values or suits rather than more freely.

It’s a very different trick-taking game, and requires some very different strategies. I throughly enjoyed it.

Today, Saturday, I went for a 5k run in the morning and then spent the rest of the morning doing some overdue housecleaning – a thorough vacuum cleaning and cleaning the bathroom. And then the rain came in. It’s been raining heavily all afternoon and into the evening, sometimes very heavily. There’s also some heavy thunder and lightning this evening too. We’re just a tick shy of 100 mm of rain in the past 12 hours, and will likely reach that value before the 12 hours are up, with more heavy rain throughout the night and into tomorrow.

This evening our new neighbours across the hall invited us over for pre-dinner drinks and appetisers. We made some small pizza bites to take over – bite sized blobs of pizza dough topped with either tomato paste or pesto, and then a little bit of cheese, either mozzarella or feta. We sat and shared some wine and they also provided cheese, crackers, chips, nuts, dips, carrot sticks, and some dried fruit. We had a nice discussion of various things, getting to know each other better. They’re South African, having moved here from Johannesburg (which we knew), so they had some interesting stories to tell about that and various travels they’ve done. Scully got to play with their dog Sophie.

We came home after a couple of hours, and have eaten so much that just a bit of extra snacking will do us for dinner!

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Science mentoring meeting

Today I visited Loreto Kirribilli school to meet with four Year 9 students who the teachers there have selected for mentoring in science. They are advanced students with a strong interest in science. I introduced myself and briefly described my career from university degrees to industrial research, then asked the students what areas of science they were interested in and what they hoped to learn in our mentoring sessions.

They have a diverse range of interests in terms of topic: physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, computer science. But one thing I found out was they have a common desire to obtain a more rounded and deeper understanding of science than they are taught in classwork. Actually understanding what the science is, rather than just learning ways to solve problems that will be on their exams. They were a little reserved but hopefully will get more enthusiastic as they get used to the mentoring sessions.

We finished up our time (we had 50 minutes) with a discussion of atomic theory, going a bit deeper into quantum physics than they get at a Year 9 level. It ended up a bit rambly, because there are so many interesting digressions I can make along the way! Hopefully the next session (in a fortnight) will be a bit more focused. Th girls have been given some homework to come up with some specific questions they are interested in, either about science topics or careers.

In other news, there was a strange meteorological phenomenon today. Th sky was a weird blue colour and there was a strange ball of light in it. Yes, the rain has finally ended, after beginning on 30 April. It was so nice to be out and about without getting wet.

The dampness left behind a nasty legacy though. I mentioned the mould spots in the house yesterday. Today I went around with some mould killer and treated all the areas I could see. It’s horrible, but hopefully stopped before it gets too serious.

All of this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to write my ethics class for the new week. I dashed it off quickly after dinner. The topic is “Arguments”, as in heated disagreements, not logical arguments. What causes arguments? How can an argument get out of control? How does it feel to be in an argument? What strategies can you use to stay more calm and reasonable in an argument? What’s the difference between healthy debate and harmful argument? And so on.

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