Killing grass

I live near a small park, where I take Scully to toilet and to play in the grass a bit, nearly every day. The local council posted notices several months ago that they were planning landscaping work in the park. A couple of weeks ago they fenced off part of the park to start work. The park is on a slope, and Scully likes to lie on the top of the small hill so she has a good view of the surrounding area. The place she likes to lie is just outside the fenced off area, so I assumed it was fine for us to be there.

Then about a week ago the grass started going brown. Subtly at first, but then very noticeably, over a few days. Yesterday it was very clear that the grass was dying. Which was very weird, because there was a pretty stark line between the dying grass outside the fenced off area, and the still green grass inside the fence.


I started wondering if the grass had been sprayed with herbicide, as I couldn’t think of any other reason why it would suddenly die like this. I found the contact details of the local council project manager on the information sign posted on the temporary fencing, and phoned her up. I said I was a local resident, and I noticed the grass was dying in the area next to the fenced off works area, and asked if herbicide had been applied. She confirmed that the area had been sprayed with a glyphosate-based herbicide.

I pointed out that the area sprayed was outside the fenced off works area, and that people and dogs walked across the area every day, and that no notice of any sort was given that herbicide would be used on the area, nor any sort of warning that people might want to stay off the grass.

Then I realised that about a week ago Scully had been sick for two days, vomiting, and avoiding food. That would have been around when they must have sprayed that grass. I’m no expert – I don’t know if glyphosate can cause that in dogs, but it’s a little worrying. So I’m a bit upset about this.

To add to the stupidity, the project manager told me that the slope had been sprayed to kill the grass in preparation for removal and relandscaping the slope with sandstone and concrete, but they’d since decided they weren’t going to do that, and it will now be left the way it was! So they actually killed all that grass for no reason! Ugh.

In other news, today was very warm. We recorded 29.3°C, the warmest day since 13 March. It’s definitely an early, hot spring. We’re supposed to get similar temperatures tomorrow. My wife and I took Scully for a long walk early, before the heat of the day. There were a lot of people out and about, walking around, enjoying the warm weather. We’re wondering if this is a harbinger of a very hot summer coming up.

New content today:

Warm spring weather

It was beautiful and warm day today. I ditched the long pants of winter and went out in shorts today. First chore was picking up the groceries that I’d pre-ordered online. Then made some comics. Went for a walk over lunchtime with my wife and Scully. Taught a couple of ethics classes online.

For dinner tonight we ordered some take-away from a local Turkish restaurant for a change. It’s a place we eat at occasionally for a special treat, so we treated ourselves at home tonight.

And tonight is virtual games with my friends. We have a new implementation of the game Spyfall, which one of my friends coded up as a Discord bot.

Oh, and in another context, I wrote a series of haiku, as part of a contest to describe where I live using haiku, without saying it explicitly:

Lazy bee buzzes
Stars of white lay their fragrance
Frangipani summer

Drifts of leaves and seeds
Pale brown mountains in the streets
Plane trees in autumn

Yellow balls of fuzz
The bush is punctuated
Gold wattle winter

Purple blossoms crowd
Islands across the city
Jacaranda spring

New content today:

Winter storm incoming

Any story of today has to be about the weather. After yesterday’s 27°C winter heat, the cold front moved in overnight, bringing rain and cold. Today’s maximum temperature was recorded at 6:02 am, at just 11.4°C, making today the second coldest day of the year (10 June was just 10.3°C). It’s now 8 pm and Sydney has recorded 37 mm of rain in the city, up to just under 50 mm at the airport. The rain is expected to get heavier tonight, with accompanying gale force up to storm force winds. Wind gusts are already up to 70 km/h on Sydney Harbour. There are fears of beach erosion with the high seas that may threaten some coastal properties.

While this was unfolding today, I had a bunch of stuff to deal with. When we moved in here, there was an in-sink garbage disposal unit, for mulching food scraps into the drain system. I’d never lived with one before, but we started using it and got used to it. But last week it gave up the ghost, the motor seizing up. I called a plumber to see if we could just get it removed and replaced with a regular drainage pipe. No problem! And home repairs are one thing that is allowed to continue under our current COVID lockdown rules, so this morning the plumbers arrived to do the job. Rather than just replace the disposal unit, they redid all of the pipes leading from the double kitchen sink to the drainage port in the floor, replacing the semi-clogged trap and the old pipes that would threaten to start leaking a some point with brand new ones. The sink drain holes also have shiny new grilles in them. And there’s more space inside the cupboard under the sink where we store all the cleaning stuff and other things (watering can, toolbox, light bulbs, candles, matches, etc), so we used that to clear away some stuff off the kitchen bench. Overall a big win!

Then at lunch time I had to go pic up the car from some minor repairs. The repair place is about 20 minutes walk away. In the pouring rain and freezing cold. They had to pick the one day of the week when it was the absolute most miserable to be outside. Well, I took advantage of having to walk over there to stop in at a pie shop on the way for some lunch. As well as repairing the car they’d washed and detailed it nicely. Which didn’t last long…

Back home, I used the newly repaired car to take Scully to doggie daycare. And brave the rain again. In the afternoon I actually did some productive stuff, writing my class notes for this week’s new ethics topic: Fairness in Sport.

Then in the early evening I went to pick up Scully. When the rain and wind had intensified. When she goes to daycare, apparently she has so much fun playing with the other dogs that she completely forgets any need to pee or poo, with the result that as soon as I pick her up she has to rush to the nearest grass and relieve herself. With the rain coming horizontally and my umbrella threatening to turn inside out. And then once both of us were thoroughly wet we climbed inside the car to head home.

Here’s Scully on a sunnier day, last Saturday (bandana by Scully xo, my wife’s Etsy shop):

Scully at Oyster Cove

For dinner tonight I tried something new: sourdough pizza dough. I’ve been making pizza dough for a while now – it’s incredibly easy and I don’t know why I didn’t try it earlier. This time I tried adding some leftover sourdough starter to the mix to see how it works, and it turned out really good!

New content today:

Not so warm, expecting rain

Monday… it was supposed to be warm today, but it didn’t quite reach the heat forecast yesterday. It clouded over early, and has been threatening rain most of the day, but with very little actual rain. That should change later this evening and into tomorrow, because the forecast for tomorrow is 45-90 mm of rain! There’s also supposed to be some moderately strong winds. So it should be interesting…

I spent time today working on some comics stuff. And then this evening was the 4th lecture in the image processing course which I am tutoring. It was good that I worked through the exercises on Sunday, because this week a lot of students needed help. It was a tough one fo them to transfer the theory from the lecture into the practical understanding and code needed to answer the exercise questions. So I had to bounce around in a lot of different teams on MS Teams, answering a lot of questions, and giving the students pointers to how to get started. I really earned my pay tonight!

New content today:

Corners and features

COVID update: 830 new cases in NSW, another new record. Australia has never had case numbers this high. This right now is the worst part of the whole pandemic for Australia, and it’s only going to get worse for the next few weeks. But enough on that for today.

Yesterday morning for breakfast I made sourdough pancakes:

Sourdough pancakes with macerated strawberries

I’ve been making sourdough bread every few days as needed, and in between keeping the starter in the fridge. But my friend who got me started on sourdough says he keeps his starter out at room temperature, and feeds it every 2 days, and so generates some excess starter, which he then keeps in the fridge until he uses it for some other thing… such as sourdough pancakes! The other thing to know is that his bread constantly turns out very airy, with large air bubbles, while mine is always very dense, with only tiny air bubbles. So I wanted to try to emulate what he’s doing a bit more to see if I can get my bread to rise more. The result was I ended up with leftover starter at the end of the week, so I tried sourdough pancakes for the first time. And they turned out really good!

The other feature here is the strawberries. There is currently a huge oversupply of strawberries in Sydney, apparently caused by the COVID lockdown. Everybody is buying groceries online (either for delivery or “click & collect” pickup), rather than browsing around in the supermarkets. And apparently strawberries are primarily an impulse buy – not something that people add to their baskets when doing grocery shopping online. So nobody’s buying strawberries. And so the price has crashed… I picked up three punnets for what I would normally pay for just one. I might get more this week if the price is still low.

Today I worked on getting up to speed with the next lecture in the image processing course I’m tutoring on Monday evenings. Lecture 4 is on feature detection in images, primarily Harris corners and SIFT features. While I know about these things and had a basic understanding of them in my time at my previous job, I’d never fully internalised exactly how they work, at least not to the point where I could remember the details. So I had to do some reading up and make sure I understand the basic principles and how to implement them. And then I tackled the tutorial questions for the week, writing some Matlab code so that I have a ready-made solution which I can explain as necessary to students who need guidance at various stages. It took me well more than the hour that the students have assigned to this task!

After finishing that, I worked on assembling comics in time for Monday. I’m cutting this batch pretty close to the bone – I’ve been so busy with stuff lately that I couldn’t get to it earlier to ensure a comfortable buffer.

The other thing of note today was the weather. It was warm. Sydney recorded 25.4°C, up to 28.6°C in some suburbs. It was also very smoky, with hazard reduction burns being carried out in several forest areas around the city outskirts. The northerly wind blew this into the city, and where I live it varied between barely noticeable to strong smoke smell and dull orange sunlight throughout the day. The forecast for tomorrow is even warmer, up to 27°C in the city.

And it’s still winter. We’re starting to wonder what this summer is going to be like.

New content today:

Spring in the air

We’ve had a few days of warm weather for winter, and it really feels like spring is in the air. Not only is it warm, but new season flowers and even foliage are appearing on the trees.

Cherry blossoms:

Early spring cherry blossoms

Magnolias, with new season foliage:

Early spring magnolia

This does feel ridiculously early for spring-like weather. I wonder if it forebodes anything for the coming summer.

Today I did some more email inbox tidying, going through a bunch of messages related to photography standards work and dealing with those – which involves reading reports, making notes, voting on ballots, and emailing committee members with information.

Tonight is board games night, and we’re doing our now usual online version. I was pleased with one game of 7 Wonders, in which I was the runaway winner with a whopping 77 points. (Normally a score in the 50s or 60s will win a game.)

New content today:

Warm August Day

It’s the 1st of August, the last month of winter here, and today it really felt like spring already. Sydney reached 25.6°C, and it was fine and sunny when I went out for a long walk around the neighbourhood with my wife and Scully. We chose a different direction today to our normal route, ending up out on the next peninsula along the harbour, where we did a short bushwalk along the water, on a narrow earth path through the trees, between the waterline and the rears of the houses up on the hill. We’re very fortunate in this area to have some beautiful walking tracks, among trees and away from roads, and often with great views of the water.

On our way home it clouded over dramatically and cooled down as a cold, windy change came through. It should cool down overnight and the next few days are going to be a lot colder.

Today I worked on some more of the Galactic Puzzle Competition puzzles with friends, and in between I wrote and made some Darths & Droids comics.

In COVID news, NSW recorded another 239 cases, the same as the record high set 3 days ago. (Yesterday we had 210 cases.) I’m really hoping this is a plateau and will start dropping soon, but we need to wait a few more days to see what the trend is.

It’s been a busy few days, with getting through all the stuff I need to do before starting my tutoring job tomorrow. It’s going to be interesting to see what it’s like in a Zoom class with 200 students! But the first class should be an easy introduction. The lecturer said it’ll just be him going over examples, and the students won’t start any independent work until next week, which is when I’ll really start doing things.

New content today:

Warm winter day

The temperature reached 25.4°C here in Sydney today, up to 26.6°C in inland suburbs. Which is lovely and warm for winter. It almost feels like winter is over and spring is on the way, but I suspect there’ll be some more cold weather in the next week or two still.

I went out for a walk at lunchtime with my wife. I’d dropped Scully at doggie daycare for some fun time with other dogs. We walked down to the harbour swimming baths at the end of a nearby headland, which is a substantial walk, and ate up her full lunch hour by the time we returned home. It was beautiful being out in the warm sunshine, and I didn’t take a jumper or jacket, just wearing short sleeves for the first time in a couple of months.

COVID news: 177 new cases in NSW, topping yesterday’s 172. I also received email from the market organisers of the Lindfield Market where I’m selling my photography – they’ve cancelled both the August and September markets, and are currently hopeful that October can go ahead. I’m not so sure if it will, but we’ll wait and see.

Speaking of extended lockdown and cancelling stuff… my wife and I have a significant round number wedding anniversary coming up soon. We’d planned a couple of years ago to schedule a trip to Europe around it, but obviously thats not happening. A while back I tried to find a nice restaurant so we could at least have a night out and enjoy some fine food. But now I’m thinking we’re most probably going to have to spend this anniversary sitting at home.

In good news, I ran my first ethics class today on the peer pressure topic. It went really well – I could see the wheels spinning in the kids’ minds as they thought about some of the questions I was asking them. And after the class one of the parents left my first written review on Outschool. I’ve had some 5 star reviews, but nobody has written a text review until now. And it was really good, saying how much her daughter loved the class and how they discussed the topics together afterwards, and she said she highly recommended it. So that was good!

Last night I started watching a new movie on Netflix: Blood Red Sky. (I only watched an hour of it before bedtime – I’ll try and finish it tonight.) It’s a horror movie, and it has an interesting premise, that I was getting into.

New content today:

COVID lockdown – super extended edition

COVID case numbers for New South Wales – 65 new cases in the past 24 hours, plus 97 yesterday (Wednesday) and 89 on Tuesday which I didn’t report. Down on the peak of 112 cases we had on Monday, but still too much, and too early to know if it’s a downward trend or just day to day statistical variation. With that, the Government announced that the current Sydney lockdown will continue for (at least) another two weeks, until the end of 30 July.

There’s been a lot of criticism of the Government for making this lockdown too weak and wishy-washy. Although the rules say that you can’t leave home except for “essential work that can’t be done from home” the Government refuses to define what is “essential work” or what “can’t be done from home”. Which means effectively that any boss who thinks their workers need to be in the office instead of working from home can just say “you have to come into the office”. Also a lot of retailers are staying open, and calling their staff in, because the Government refuses to define what is an essential business. So, for example, you can go shopping for jewellery, because the Government refuses to say that jewellery shops aren’t essential, so jewellers are all staying open, because if they close, then their competition will get all the business.

So there’s incentive for businesses to stay open, and neither incentive nor direct order for them to shut down and keep their workers at home. In the previous Sydney lockdown last year, we had Federal support with payments for people whose work was impacted, which meant businesses could shut down – but not this time.

Epidemiologists are saying that with the current restrictions and behaviour, they can’t see infection numbers going down before the end of August. Australia had been doing so well up until three weeks ago, but now we’re being undone by politics. It’s very annoying.

Fortunately I’m in an area of Sydney that hasn’t yet had any COVID exposure site alerts. But my brother lives in a region which is pretty much the epicentre of the current outbreak. In that local area there are additional restrictions, including that anyone who travels to work must get a mandatory COVID test every 3 days. Fortunately he’s been staying home from work and basically not going out or seeing anyone at all.

One valid reason to leave home is still to take exercise, so my wife and I took the chance to go out at lunch together today to walk Scully. It was actually a gorgeous day, with the temperature reaching 23.4°C, making it the warmest day so far this winter. We went to a park by the harbour and let Scully run around and chase a ball. My wife asked me if I could take a photo of Scully running towards the camera. I’ve done this a couple of times with my DSLR, but I said that it wouldn’t really work with a phone camera.

Scully on the run

I think I may have been wrong…

Scully on the run

The focus isn’t quite where I’d like on the second one, but still not bad for a phone!

New content today:

Tonsil recovery day 5

The recovery from tonsil surgery proceeds slowly. The pain may have been even worse early in the day as it was really hard to eat breakfast and lunch, but this evening I feel like it’s slightly better again. Let’s see what it’s like tomorrow. I have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon tomorrow morning to check on progress of the healing, so he’ll let me know what’s normal at this stage.

It rained today more than yesterday, which meant Scully was cooped up at home again. Except I took her out to the dog park this afternoon in what I hoped would be a break in the rain. It held off for a few minutes, but by the time we’d completed a short walk it started up again. Here’s a photo of the sky during the brief non-rainy period:

Rain clouds over Sydney

I did some work today on ISO standards, following up from the recent meeting. I have a bunch of ballots to go through, voting and recommending options to others on the Australian committee. And I did some comic stuff as well.

I cancelled my online ethics classes last Friday and yesterday (Monday) so I could recover from the tonsil surgery. My next class is on Thursday, but I’m wondering if I’ll be able to do it, as today my voice started going thin and croaky, and it was hurting a bit to talk. If I can’t talk properly by Thursday I’ll have to cancel more classes.

New content today: