Busywork

I did a bunch of small odd jobs around the house today. One was drilling some holes to mount a kitchen gadget on the wall of the kitchen. I’ve been putting this off for a while because I hate drilling into brick – it’s really hard without a hammer drill, and I don’t want to buy a hammer drill for a couple of holes. I took my time, letting the drill bit cool down between roughly 30-second drilling sessions. It eventually made holes deep enough and I screwed the gadget to the wall, clearing off some benchtop space that’s been occupied for several weeks.

I did some ISO Standards work on a photography standard that requires reading and commenting on. I did a bunch of configuration for my photography web shop. I did some prep work for my school science visit on Monday.

I went for a walk and saw some more storm damaged trees. Over by the creek not far away from my place, two enormous trees, about 30-40 metres tall, had fallen over.

Storm damaged trees

These were huge trees, but fortunately they fell in the middle of a park, away from any houses or power lines.

Oh, a snippet of chat conversation I had with friends today:

SI: Can they get any genes from the bones or is that just Jurassic Park nonsense?

Me: No, DNA doesn’t survive that long.

SI: Oh even in the movie it was inside a mosquito in amber or something I think?

Me: Yeah. It’d still decay in there. Google says DNA base pair bonds have a half life of 520 years. So after 1000 years you only have a quarter of the genome left. After roughly a million years you only have a handful of intact bonds left – not enough to work with.

DMc: What if the DNA has been travelling at relativistic speeds though?

Me: Well yes, samples extracted from dinosaurs who travelled at 0.9999c to a distant star and back should be fine.

DMc: Cool, my startup idea is still feasible.

New content today:

Calmer weather

The storm petered out overnight, and today was a mostly fine day, with a bit of sun. We were supposed to get a little more rain, but it seemed to decide we’d had enough.

When I went out for a walk, it was clear that a lot of damage had been done. There were small branches down all over the places, the streets littered with twigs and leaves and water-swept debris around the drains.

I took Scully to the dog park this afternoon to stretch her legs after being copped up yesterday. And we were confronted by this:

Storm damaged fig tree

This giant Moreton Bay fig tree had dropped a branch. Moreton Bay figs are enormous trees, and this branch was the size of a small tree itself. It landed on that park bench, which is where I sometimes sit while Scully plays in the park. Fortunately nobody was there when it fell.

Storm damaged fig tree

You can see more benches here on the right – the bench in the first photo is under the leaves.

Storm damaged fig tree

Two large branches fell, plus a lot of smaller ones which you can see scattered around the park. In good news though, you can see that the grass is now lush and green after the rain. A couple of weeks ago it was all dead and brown.

Work-wise, today I mostly did more photo processing, to get an order ready for matted prints for the market stall on 1 March. I’ve now submitted that order, plus orders for the matts, and large cellophane bags to slip them into for sale.

Also, the school where I do my Science Club volunteering got in touch with me, with a timetable for my first visit – which is only a week away, on 17 February! I need to decide what experiment to do with the Science Club kids, and what topic to talk about to the kindergarten to Year 2 classes. I’ll be doing Years 3-6 on a later visit in March.

New content today:

Rain rain rain rain rain

Today was all about the weather. The Bureau of Meteorology forecast 150-200 mm of rain in Sydney. Since midnight we’ve had 193 mm, and it’s only 8:30pm, and it’s still pouring in absolute torrents outside. The total for the past 72 hours is 370 mm, and that will go up as the rain actually began less than 72 hours ago.

I spent some time processing more photos for printing for my market stall. But mostly just keeping an eye on the weather, and dealing with Scully wanting to go outside every half hour, only to realise it was pelting down once we get out there and wanting to come straight back in again.

On these expeditions outside, I go through the basement garage of our apartment block. This afternoon the rain turned it into an indoor swimming pool:

Flooded garage

Water was bubbling up out of the drain in the floor. There were streams of water running down the walls and across the floor of the garage. It ran through several car spaces owned by neighbours, but thankfully our car space stayed dry. Other residents were down there moving belongings out of the water, and discussing the weather.

When I got outside to the street, at some point the wind had done this:

Tree down

The water had weakened the soil around the roots and the wind blew this tree through the fence and on to the street. Here’s a view from the other side:

Tree down

The tree was still like this, completely unattended a couple of hours later. Emergency services are stretched today, with hundreds of calls for help across Sydney. A few cars have been crushed by falling trees, trapping occupants, which obviously take a higher priority. And some people have ignored warnings about driving through floodwater and had to be rescued. A lot of trees and power lines are down, and several suburbs are blacked out.

State Emergency Services have also issued flood evacuation orders for resident in four Sydney suburbs. Residents have been ordered to leave their homes and seek safer ground, with the warning that if they stay they will be trapped without water or power and it may be too dangerous to rescue them. Evacuation centres have been set up.

The bushfires that we had just weeks ago affected a lot of people, but nobody in Sydney was affected by anything but the smoke. This rain is welcome, as it’s put out a lot of the fires, and is refilling our severely depleted dams, but it’s also causing direct danger to city residents. Oh, yeah, I also braved the rain to do some grocery shopping today, and the traffic was awful. Better to stay at home on a day like this.

New content today:

Writing and bagging

Saturday, so there was a bit of housework today. And then I got stuck into packaging the greeting cards I’ve had printed, ready for selling at the market stall in March.

Greeting cards

This was the first batch of cards I had printed. The company I used had a website upload form for the images. It said it accepted image files and PDF files, and recommended PDF for anything with text. I used JPEGs for the front photos, and I made a PDF file for the back of the cards, showing my name and website info. But for some reason the back didn’t get printed! So I spent time today hand writing the photo subject, my name, and URL on the back of each card before bagging them with envelopes in sealable cellophane bags. It took a few hours, and I could tell I haven’t done that much handwriting in a long time by the way my wrist hurt by the end of it…

Bagging greeting cards

The other notable thing about today was the weather. We had a forecast of 150-200 mm of rain… but the morning was fine, and the sun even came out. The rain didn’t start until just a few minutes before midday. There were some heavy spurts, but generally it seems to have been less than expected – we’ve only had 26 mm so far (up to 9 pm). It may be heavy in the next few hours. Tomorrow we’re forecast to have another 150-200 mm. Wollongong, 100 km south of Sydney is forecast to have 200-300 mm of rain tomorrow.

I took Scully out for a walk mid-afternoon during a dry spell. The clouds were pretty dramatic.

Storm clouds over Sydney

We went down to Manns Point, which is a short drive from home. There’s a boat ramp here, and a guy was fishing nearby. Then there’s a short walk along the shore to Greenwich Baths. We managed to get a bit of a walk and play in before the rain returned.

Scully and the incoming storm

Unfortunately it returned sooner than I expected, and a lot heavier. We had to race back to the car and climb in, dripping wet, before heading home.

New content today:

Portfoliating

Not much to report today. I basically spent the whole day processing photos from the original camera RAW files into final images at several print resolutions, to build myself a portfolio of image files ready to print. This is in preparation to launch my photo print web shop.

Apart from that, it was very rainy today. Very rainy. It started at 10pm last night, and by 5pm this evening we’d had 140 mm. It’s since stopped, but tomorrow we are forecast to have even more than that.

It’s good, because we’re still technically in a severe drought, and it’s put out several of the bushfires that were still burning around the state. A lot of rain has fallen in Sydney’s dam catchment area too, which should hopefully see our water storage levels go up from around 42% to somewhere near 70%, according to the water authorities.

New content today:

Heat returns

Saturday, and the current heatwave has hit Sydney. It was a hot, humid, and lethargic day. Temperatures got up to 46.8°C in western Sydney, but thankfully only a maximum of 34.8°C near the coast, with the “cool” sea breeze. But this heatwave is different to the last few we’ve had over the past couple of months, in that the humidity is sky high, so it feels a lot more oppressive.

The bushfires have flared up again with this new round of high temperatures, and there’s significant danger that suburbs of Canberra will come under direct threat in the next day or so.

I spent the day writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic!, for photographing some time in the coming week. As well as some housework, shopping, and doing family stuff. Nothing too exciting.

New content today:

Cheese results

This morning I took the drained feta cheese that my wife and I had made yesterday and put it into the brine solution:

Home made feta

It definitely looks like feta cheese. And it was nice and firm. The recipe said it had to soak in brine for at least five hours, so I tried a tiny bit at lunch…

It was salty. Really salty. Too salty to eat. By itself anyway. So this evening for dinner I tried crumbling some onto a pizza:

Pizza with home made feta

This worked reasonably well, with the salt diluted amongst all the other ingredients, and the result was pretty good. (Also on there: tomato paste, home grown basil leaves, mozzarella/cheddar cheese mix, zucchini flowers, pine nuts, and chilli flakes.)

I looked up online what to do with overly salty feta, and apparently this is a common problem. Several sites suggested soaking it in milk for an hour or two before eating it, which will draw out some of the salt. So tomorrow I’ll try that. And next time we make this, I’m going to reduce the amount of salt from what the recipe said. But salt aside, it looks and crumbles and tastes like feta, so that’s pretty good! I’m happy with my first ever batch of home-made cheese.

It was stormy in Sydney today. A lot of very heavy thunderstorms with large hailstones passed over the city, but they were small and localised, and where I live we barely got any rain. Some of the weather stations in the city suburbs recorded over 20 mm of rain, but the nearest one to me recorded only 2.8 mm (and another suburb only got 0.2 mm).

I kept an eye on the rain radar and it seemed like a clear window during the late afternoon to take Scully to the dog park:

Scully and the storm

This band of cloud came over, but didn’t drop any rain where we were:

Storm over Waverton Park

I was keeping an eye on the radar for incoming storms, in case I had to hurry back home to get the car safe from hailstones. But it stayed dry for a good hour or so, giving us enough time to walk along the harbour shore, where we have a view towards the city:

Storm over Sydney

It was a pretty dramatic day. We got back to the car just before a few fat drops of rain fell, but it petered out as we drove home, and overall didn’t deliver much, apart from some loud thunder rolls.

Scully is good with thunder – she’s not frightened at all by it. Our puppy school dog trainer suggested teaching to the class that we teach our dogs to be calm during storms by getting them used to sudden loud noises – by doing things like dropping pots and pans into the kitchen sink, and them immediately giving them yummy treats, to get them habituated that a sudden loud noise is good, not bad. We did this with Scully from a very early age, and she’s adapted very well. She has no problem at all with thunder, or the loud fireworks that go off here in Sydney on New Year’s Eve (not very far from where we live, so they’re very loud).

Today I also worked on some more Darths & Droids stuff, getting comics prepared in advance and queued up, so we can set them aside and start working on Episode VII.

New content today:

A nice dinner out

Today it was supposed to rain heavily here in Sydney. The forecast said up to 50 mm of rain. Which would have been welcome as we need the rain. However it turned out to be nothing more than an intermittent sprinkle all day, and as I type this now the official rainfall figure recorded for Sydney so far today is only 2.2 mm – less than 1/20th of the forecast. That’s kind of been the story for the past few days – forecast of heavy rain, and while we’ve had some heavy showers, the totals have been nowhere near the forecast figures.

Today I worked on Darths & Droids, assembling a couple of comics from completed scripts, and doing some background planning tasks.

And then this evening I had a nice dinner out with my wife, at one of our favourite fancy restaurants. We dropped Scully off with our neighbour for dogsitting, and drove about 20 minutes to Balmoral Beach. We had a lovely dinner, and the walk back to the car along the beach after dinner was beautiful.

Balmoral Beach night

New content today:

Games night and comic discussion

Last night was fortnightly Games Night again, which is why this update is a few hours late. It’s really early on Saturday morning, and I’m up because Scully apparently really needed to go out in the rain at 5am to sniff the grass. The rain has been on and off, but that’s definitely better than off for the past 4 months. It’s now so wet that the trees are weeping with joy:

Blood rain

And there are frogs roaming the streets!

Fence frog

I spent much of yesterday sorting and collating a couple of boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards that my brother had lying around. I’m planning to sell a bunch to get some money for him, since I have experience at doing this.

Games Night started early, so we could go over scripts for upcoming Darths & Droids strips. We also had a discussion about the future of the strip, and moving into Star Wars: Episode 7-9 now that 9 has been released. The logistics are going to be very different because we no longer work together, so can’t dedicate lunch hours to writing strips together in the one room. We decided that we have plenty of ideas for Episodes 7-9 and would like to make a story out of it, so we’re going to start on it and see how it goes.

The plan is that I will outline plot action for several strips and try to write skeleton dialogues for each strip, perhaps without punchlines if I can’t think of any. And then we’ll have short discussions, either in person at Games Nights, or via voice chat on Discord or something, to go over the scripts, fill in gaps, write punchlines, and tweak them with suggested changes. Hopefully this will be enough to enable us to go back to publishing three strips a week as we did before. We’re not sure if this will work long term, so it’s going to be a bit of an experiment to start with. But the gist of it is that we’re now ready to start Episode 7 after we wrap up the Muppets episode.

We moved on to games. First up was Werewords, a bizarre cross between Werewolf and a twenty questions type of guessing game. Since each game takes only about 5 minutes, we played several times. The young daughters (ages 8 and about 10?) of our host watched the first few times, and then decided they wanted to play too. They did really well, each one being the critical component of a victory for their side.

After the girls’ bedtime, we moved on to try The Shipwreck Arcana with four players, while another two played Marvel Champions at the same time.

The Shipwreck Arcana

Shipwreck Arcana is a very interesting logical deduction game. You draw two numbered tiles, then play one on a tableau of pseudo-Tarot-like cards which have rules for which numbers you can play on them, and everyone else has to work out what your unplayed tile is, by examining what you chose to play (and what you chose not to play). Everyone’s working together to guess a certain number of tiles before time runs out. We managed to win the game without too much difficulty – I think we got a moderately lucky shuffle of the deck. I can see how it could be a lot trickier.

New content today: