Getting a new chilli plant

Today was forecast to be hotter than yesterday, but it didn’t quite make it there. The other big change from the past three years is how noticeably dry it’s been lately. Almost no rain in the past month or so, and the humidity has been low. Grass in the park across the street was lush and green a week or two ago, but is now already showing signs of dying off and turning brown.

On the other hand, spring flowers are out in full force. Cherry blossoms are dropping and the trees turning to foliage. There are tons of clivias blooming bright orange all over the neighbourhood. And huge bushy displays of azaleas in pink, white, and red.

Speaking of plants, I went to the hardware store today to pick up a new chilli plant. I’d bought one a few years ago and it produced an abundance of chillis, but it died at the beginning of winter. With spring blooming now, I thought it was a good time to get a new plant. Only $4, and it should produce a lot more value than that in fresh chillis for our meals.

Tonight I started the new ethics topic: Energy. I wrote the lesson plan during part of the image processing lecture last night (while the lecturer was speaking and I was sitting waiting for interactive tie with the students), and I think I rushed it a bit. A lot of the questions are a bit too prescriptive and not the open-ended ethical dilemmas that lead to interesting discussion. So I had to improvise a bit to keep things interesting. I’ll try to revamp the outline a bit tomorrow.

New content today:

New Mexican food

Today was the hottest September day on record in Sydney, 34.6°C. Tomorrow is forecast to be even hotter. That’s not really a terrible temperature for the middle of summer, but in September it’s obviously weird. We also had a total fire ban today, the first one declared in three years, and no doubt the first of many for this coming summer.

The Bureau of Meteorology also officially declared an El Niño today. The Australian Bureau was the last major meteorological department in the world to declare that this El Niño had begun. Most others declared it several weeks ago, but the Aus Bureau has stricter criteria and were holding off until the surface trade winds showed consistent reversal lasting at least 7 days, which finally happened today.

Rather than walk Scully to my wife’s work before hopping on the train to the university for tonight’s image processing lecture, my wife left a bit early and I picked her up in the car and brought her home, before I walked the much shorter distance to the nearest station. I would have been very hot and sweaty if I’d walked all the way like usual.

Continuing my mission to try a new place for dinner every week this semester, I found a Latin American place. I tried the jalapeño peppers stuffed with goat cheese, and a couple of tacos, one with shredded chicken and one with pulled pork.

Cartel Mexican

They were pretty good, but this was a bit more expensive a place than the numerous Asian eateries around this area of town.

The lecture tonight was the last of the actual lectures, on deep learning. Next week is the introduction to the student project. Many of the students have already been talking with me about their plans for project topics, which is good!

New content today:

A warning blast of summer

The talking point today was all about the weather. We reached 32.8°C in the city, and a degree or two higher in the suburbs. This heat will continue to intensify for the next three days, with a forecast of 34°C on Wednesday, before dropping back to 18°C (a much more normal temperature of this time of year) on Friday.

Despite the morning heat I went for a run, though decided to do just 2.5k today. Then I spent some time writing and producing Darths & Droids comics. I took Scully for a walk after lunch. It really felt like summer out there.

Not much else to report today. I was a bit tired due to getting home late from last night’s D&D game, and then tossing a bit during the night. I had a weird dream: Sigourney Weaver came over for dinner. During dinner she revealed that some years ago she’d secretly impregnated us with Aliens and then removed them just before they chestbursted. I don’t know what she was trying to achieve by telling us this now.

New content today:

Smoke before the fire

There was more smoke blanketing the city this morning, produced by controlled burning of bushland around the outskirts. I saw an article on a news site yesterday explaining why the best days for controlled burns are also more likely to result in the smoke being trapped under an inversion layer over the city, rather than being blown away.

I took this photo while taking Scully for a walk at lunch time. By this time the smoke had actually cleared a bit – it was worse earlier in the day.

Smoky sky over Sydney

The forecast continues to stretch the period of hot days. We’re now expecting 6 days in a row of temperatures over 30°C in much of the city, getting up to 35°C in places, beginning tomorrow. Today was warm, but not hot, only reaching the mid 20s. It would have been very pleasant except for the smoke.

On the way back home with Scully, we ran across an eastern water dragon:

Eastern water dragon

These guys are usually inconspicuous in the winter and only visible in the summery months. So another indicator that the weather is unusually warm for this time of year.

New content today:

An ominous early spring

It’s officially spring here, and though we’re less than two weeks out of winter it’s already feeling like late spring. Smoke has been hanging in the air over the city for the past few days, the result of controlled burning operations to reduce fuel load in the bush areas on the fringes of the city. Gentle winds have been blowing it across the city and most suburbs have been feeling the effects.

I went into the city a bit early today to pick up a copy of Cyberpunk Red that I’d ordered from the game store. While there I also grabbed copies of Scum & Villainy, and Root: The Roleplaying Game. Then I walked over to the university for this evening’s image processing lecture. I went via Darling Harbour, and caught this photo of the sun in the afternoon sky:

Backburning smoke over the city

I’d seen earlier in a Sydney forum online someone saying they’d moved here since 2019 and the current smoke was awful, and they were asking if it was anything like the smoke we had during the bushfires in 2019. And everyone was saying this is nothing compared to what it was like in 2019, when we pretty much couldn’t see the sun for days on end and ash was falling from the sky. It was a horrendous, apocalyptic time. What we have now really is nothing compared to that. (My posts from 19 December 2019, 21 Dec, 31 Dec, 12 Jan 2020)

Looking back at the city from the other side of Darling Harbour:

Late afternoon, Darling Harbour

I found another new place for dinner before the lecture. A Thai place, where I had pad Thai with soft-shelled crab:

Pad Thai with soft-shelled crab

In other weather news, the ginkgo trees here are starting to show new leaves, later than most of the other trees which are developing new foliage. Lots of flowers are out. And the forecast for the next week is looking ominous. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are all forecast to have temperatures around 34-35°C in parts of Sydney, though the coast will be a few degrees cooler. This is serious summer weather, before the spring equinox. You can feel everyone here holding their breaths for this impending El Niño summer.

New content today:

First day of spring and… it’s cold

As one of my friends commented, it’s just like Sydney to have 27°C days in winter, and then the first day of spring arrives and it’s cold. We had a strong cold southerly wind blowing all day; it barely reached 18°C and it felt even colder than it really was. It won’t last though, we have a forecast for 25° days again in the next week.

It was another pretty bog-standard Friday. I picked up groceries in the morning before my first ethics class. Then I had a break in which I did a 5k run. I’m doing these more often now, mixing them up with the 2.5k ones.

My wife actually came home at lunch time to work from home for the afternoon. And then we went for a walk with Scully over to Naremburn, and the Flat Rock Brew Cafe for dinner. It was busy with a lot of people having Friday drinks, and many of them had brought dogs as well, so Scully got a bit excited and barky for a while until she settled down. The food is pretty nice pub food, and now I’m really full after a chicken schnitzel topped with bacon, fried egg, tomato sauce, and cheese.

Tonight is board games night online with my friends. I’ve just joined and am waiting for them to finish a game in progress so I can join in. It’s been a pretty full week, with not too much out of the ordinary to report.

New content today:

Hot and bothered

The weather, that is. Today the temperature reached 27.3°C here in Sydney, which made it the hottest winter day for 8 years. It didn’t last though. A cold front came through mid-afternoon and dropped the temperature, bringing with it violent thunderstorms. Most of the storms passed south of us, so we didn’t see a lot of rain, but we certainly heard some loud thunder. Parts of Sydney got hail, and over 50mm of rain.

I spent most of today writing lesson plans for the next week of ethics classes. The younger kids are getting a class on “Rules”, and the older kids a class on “Cancel Culture”. Here’s the opening for the Rules one:

Some time in the future, a country named Florin has citizens who value freedom very highly. They have a system where people can propose ideas, and then everyone votes on them. One day someone suggests that to be truly free, there should be no rules. The people vote to try this out for a single day.

The Rule-Free Day is announced a month in advance. The rules are: there will be no rules! Parents will not be able to tell their children what to do, or what not to do. You won’t need to go to school if you don’t want. There are no rules of politeness. There will be no laws, so you can do anything you want and the police won’t stop you.

Saskia and her friends are excited by the Rule-Free Day. They’re planning to go out first thing in the morning and do exactly what they want all day! They’ll eat chocolate for breakfast and then go to the amusement park and climb over the fence and go on all the rides without paying. They’ll go into the kitchen of their favourite fast food place and make themselves hamburgers and huge bowls of ice cream. It’ll be such a great day!

Questions for the class:
What could go wrong?
Does a society of people need to have rules? Why?

There’s a lot more, but I won’t paste the entire lot here. I’ve run this class three times already tonight, and it’s generated some very fun and thoughtful discussion from the kids.

I also chased up an order I made a while back for some roleplaying game books from a local game store. They said they could get them in stock, but I hadn’t heard from them. I sent an email and they said they still didn’t have them, but the guy found one of them with a different distributor and said he could order that one and it should arrive in a week or so. So I said please do that, and we’ll just have to see about the others.

Finally, a photo, which I took last night, just before doing my lecture at the University of Technology Sydney:

UTS old and new

I did the lecture in a room on the 5th floor of the new building on the right.

New content today:

Fancy lunch with free dessert

During my three classes this morning, my wife messaged and asked if I wanted to meet her at a local restaurant for lunch, during her work break. So I took Scully up and we sat at a table outside. The weather was nice. And the restaurant turned out to be having a “23rd birthday” special for the month of August, offering either a free glass of wine or dessert with any lunch menu item. They’re actually open for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. They used to be open for dinner years ago, and we enjoyed going there a few times, but since they decided not to open for dinner any more we’ve rarely been back, so it was nice to try it again.

I chose a barbecue pulled pork burger, and the dessert, which was a sticky date pudding. The burger was good, and the dessert was too, although not very big. I wonder if it was a special smaller serving for the free offer.

This afternoon I assembled another few Irregular Webcomic! strips from the last batch of photos I took, which will last for this week. For next week it’s time to write new strips and take more photos again.

In weather news, I ran across this mid-range outlook forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, showing October-December this year.

2023 Oct-Dec forecast map

Yeah, it’s gonna be a hot summer.

New content today:

Winter chill back in the air

Monday morning is full of ethics classes, finishing off the topic of “What If?” about alternate history.

After those and eating some lunch, I took Scully for a walk. I was thinking of a longish walk, but a look at the weather outside and a consultation with the rain radar changed that plan quickly, as there were heavy rain showers incoming. So instead I took her on a shorter walk around past the corner store supermarket, where I stopped in quickly to get a Portuguese tart for a treat (for myself). It was fairly large, so I had half and am saving the other half for tonight. Besides threatening grey clouds, it was chilly today, much colder than the balmy days we’ve been having the past couple of weeks.

I finished up another Darths & Droids comic this afternoon, which puts me a week ahead on the buffer now, so that’s good. And then I took it relatively easy for a few hours, just relaxing. Scully got another walk in the evening before my 6pm Game Design class, the second of 6 lessons. This one’s going well, and the student came up with some really intriguing ideas for potential game themes, including: writing a diary; being a pessimist; managing a hotel; and reading biographies or speeches of famous people and quoting them. I have no idea how that last one would work as a game, but it’s very interesting.

Tonight my wife and I are going to watch the Matildas’ round-of-16 match against Denmark in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Hopefully it’ll be as exciting and in favour of Australia as last week’s game against Canada!

New content today:

Hot winter day

The most notable thing today was the weather. It was warm. The temperature reached 25.2°C in central Sydney, and up to 26.4°C in some suburbs. That’s pretty warm for the middle of winter. It could have qualified as a summer day. It was nice, but a bit worrying.

This morning I went to the supermarket to do a manual grocery shopping. I missed the window for my usual order to pick up on Friday morning, and didn’t manage to organise anything yesterday so today I just decided to go in and do the old fashioned thing of walking down the aisles myself to grab stuff. I didn’t get a lot, because I wanted to be quick. Just the few things on the shopping list, some staples like milk, and some fresh fruit. I didn’t get any vegetables because with my wife’s haul fro the community garden yesterday we have plenty to last the week.

I did a 2.5k run, in the balmy warmth. A week ago I was running in 11°C, today it was 22°C. Made a comic, did 3 ethics classes this evening, and that was pretty much a day.

New content today: