No-photo Sunday

I woke up a bit before the 05:30 alarm this morning – I always wake up just before whenever I set an alarm, it’s a weird sense that I have. My plan was to head to the beach before sunrise and take some photos.

But I could hear heavy rain falling outside. I quickly checked the rain radar on my phone, and saw that multiple rain bands were blowing up from the south, and it was likely to be raining for a few more hours. So I decided to abandon photography plans, turned over, and went back to sleep.

We (me, my wife, and Scully) all slept until after 8 o’clock! We haven’t had a good lie-in for ages, and I think we all got good value out of the extra hours of sleep. And it was still raining when we got up, so it looks like abandoning the photo expedition was the right call.

My wife took Scully out for a couple of trips today – to the city to check out The Rocks Market, and then to her mother’s place to visit. This gave me some time to concentrate on writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic strips. The goal was to write four weeks worth (20+ strips) in one day, but that’s very ambitious given how long it takes to come up with each joke. I didn’t make it in the end, but I got close. Hopefully I can polish off the last few tomorrow morning and then get stuck into photographing them.

New content today:

Rain and more rain

It rained a lot today. I sent much of the day drawing comics at home, heading out at lunch to get some fish & chips. Although it’s only a 10 minute walk and I carried an umbrella, I was pretty wet by the time I got home.

The comic I was drawing is now complete, and I’ll be publishing it tomorrow – but for now it’s a surprise.

This afternoon I took Scully to the dog park, despite the rain. This time I wore a raincoat with hood, rather than use an umbrella. Scully had her doggy raincoat on. She doesn’t like the rain. She ran after the tennis ball a few times, but then decided she was wet enough and simply turned and walked back to the car. I had to coax her over to the park with some treats, but she really wasn’t into it.

Only a couple of the regulars at the dog park showed up in the rain, and they took a short walk before heading off, since the rain was moderately heavy. It was then that I realised that even though I was fairly dry under my raincoat, the coat itself was dripping wet… and I’d have to climb into the car to drive home. I decided to take it off and toss it into the boot before dashing into the car myself without the wet coat on. By which time Scully (in the passenger seat) had shaken the water off her and coated the interior of the car in spray…

New content today:

Ethics and rain

Rain came in overnight, and it was still heavy this morning. We’re still at a point where when the weather person on the nightly news says it’ll rain, the main newsreader replies, “Good news!” SO although it was pretty heavy, it was most welcome.

It meant I had to drive to my Ethics class though, instead of walking like I usually do. I mean, I could have walked, but I would have been pretty wet by the time I got there and that wouldn’t have been fun.

Because of last week’s Year 6 camp, this was only the second week of lessons I’ve had with this class, and I was still busy learning the names of the kids. I think after today I have about half of them memorised and matched to faces. I remember the distinctive individuals first, and end up struggling with the last few who look somewhat similar.

The syllabus repeats every two years, so I’m now teaching the same material I did in 2018 (to kids who haven’t done it yet). Years 5 and 6 get the same material, so Year 5 classes are also learning the same stuff this year, and both years get the odd-year syllabus next year. I think this class might be a little more challenging behaviour-wise than last year’s students. There are a few boys who are chatty when they should be listening.

One of the girls looked rather sick, with what looked like a pretty severe cold. I asked her a couple of times if she was okay, and she insisted she was. But honestly if I was a parent and my kid looked like that before school, there’s no way I’d send them in. After class I informed the front office and asked them to notify her regular class teacher and keep an eye on her for the rest of the day.

Before heading home I popped into the supermarket near the school to get milk and bread. I was amazed to see that several items had sold out or were close to – a result of the near-panic levels of buying that people here in Sydney are doing to stockpile supplies in case the COVID-19 coronavirus gets to a point where people need to start staying home for weeks at a time.

Panic buy: toilet paper

Toilet paper seems to be the number one item that people want, for some reason I can’t quite fathom. Paper towels and tissues were also completely sold out.

Panic buy: rice

Rice makes more sense at least – at least it’s edible.

Panic buy: long life milk

Long-life milk. There was a little bit of skim milk and goat’s milk left.

Panic buy: canned vegetables

Canned vegetables.

Panic buy: flour

Flour. There’s mostly just a bit of bread-making flour left. I guess most people don’t bake bread at home. Although maybe they should consider it.

Panic buy: bottled water

Bottled water I don’t understand. There isn’t going to be a disruption to the water supply. Some people seem to be preparing for nuclear war or something.

Panic buy: eggs

Most puzzling: eggs. Who’s coming in and buying 8 cartons of eggs today, thinking they’ll last for two or three months???

It’s interesting because there aren’t any actual shortages of any of these items. All these shelves will be restocked overnight, and will keep being restocked for the foreseeable future. At some point people will realise they have a spare room full of toilet paper and rice, and there’s still plenty of both on the supermarket shelves. They don’t need to hoard tons of the stuff – they just need enough supplies to last a couple of weeks of self-isolation if they get the virus.

Interesting times…

New content today:

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: