Fish & chips & birds

My wife was a bit under the weather this morning and called in sick to work. She stayed in bed all morning, so I looked after taking Scully out for a morning jaunt (normally her job). And then at lunch time I felt like going out for fish & chips, so I took Scully on a longer walk.

We got the food and walked out to sit at my usual fish & chips lunch spot.

Holloway view

I let Scully off the lead to run around a bit on the grass while I ate.

Scully at Holloway Reserve

There were magpies there eyeing my lunch, and Scully chased and scattered them a few times before settling down and just letting them be. One magpie lurked in the tree above me.

Australian magpie

I stood up to get this photo and it didn’t retreat. This was shot with my phone, and the image is not cropped at all. I was maybe only 30 cm away when I took it.

Back home, I mostly worked on writing Irregular Webcomic! scripts. I’m hoping I have enough time tomorrow to shoot photos for this batch. But I also need to prepare my lesson for tomorrow afternoon’s ethics lesson. What’s the topic…. Natural Resources. Hmm. I guess that shouldn’t be too difficult.

New content today:

Standard sort of Sunday

I did the same walk as yesterday with Scully, but today my wife came along as well. She didn’t recall ever having done the new route which Scully chose yesterday, and Scully picked it again today, so that was good. I stopped at the bakery along the way for a piece of chocolate babka, which is really delicious, and a good Sunday morning tea treat.

At the Oyster Cove marina, I spotted this white-faced heron, which I managed ot get close enough to to take a half-decent photo with my phone.

White-faced heron

At home, I worked on more Darths & Droids strips, getting the buffer back into something resembling good health after running it down to the bone recently.

During the afternoon I got into a chat with some friends on Discord, and we talked about TV shows we’ve been watching. It was interesting because every time anyone said anything about a show they’d watched, they put it in spoiler tags to avoid spoiling anyone else who was interested in watching but wasn’t up to that bit yet. I’ve been watching The Irregulars, and am up to episode 6 of 8. Two of my friends are also watching it and are up to different episodes. So although we’re all watching the same TV show, we can’t really have a proper conversation about it without being super careful.

Remember back in the days before streaming, when TV shows aired on television at a specific time, and everyone you knew would be watching the same episode at the same time? So you could all talk about the latest episode and speculate what would happen next week? I miss those days. I watched The X-Files in its initial run, and one of my friends and I would get together every week and compare our impressions of the last episode and theorise wildly about what was going to happen in the next mythology episode. This is a joy that young people these days will never know.

New content today:

No Harry Potter for you!

Outschool got back to me about the Harry Potter themed ethics classes I submitted for approval. They were not approved.

They said that due to a request from Warner Brothers, they did not allow any classes that mention Harry Potter in either the title or description, other than literary analysis classes. A friend of mine pointed out that Warner Brothers don’t own the copyright on the Harry Potter novels, and I’m not making a movie out of the material, so how is it even any of their business? The answer was actually in Outschool’s email, reading more carefully.

Warner Brothers has a trademark on the name “Harry Potter” and several other terms from the movies. And it looks like they are ruthless in enforcing it. Outschool, quite sensibly, doesn’t want to anger the dragon, so they have a strict policy of not allowing any Harry Potter content at all, other than literature analysis classes.

So… that’s the end of that. I’d hoped that theming an ethics class using Harry Potter would attract a lot of students. My approved, unthemed class has had no enrolments yet. I’m sure a lot of kids would actually enjoy it, but it’s going to be hard for them to notice it and decide to pursue it.

Beyond feeling bad about this, I spent the day writing Darths & Droids comics. And made pizza for dinner, with hand-made dough for the base. I don’t think I’ll go back to store-bought pre-made bases again!

Oh, here’s a photo I took yesterday while out walking Scully. This kookaburra was sitting on a branch about head height, right near the path I was walking on. I approached slowly with my phone held out at arm’s length, and managed to get close enough to take this photo before it flew away. This is not cropped either – it’s the entire image from my phone camera.

Laughing kookaburra

New content today:

Catching up on things

My wife set an alarm for 6:30 this morning, intending to start getting up early again this week in preparation for returning to work next week. I heard the alarm go off and assumed she got up. I woke up properly around 7:30, and she was still asleep! So, catching up on sleep, after our road trip and a fairly hectic weekend after we got back home.

After breakfast I went to buy some groceries so we’d have fresh milk and dinners this week. Catching up on food stocks.

I spent some time writing annotations for that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I made in the week before we went away. So catching up on that.

And then I sorted through my bird photos from the holiday and entered them into my bird photo database. I photographed 5 species for the first time on last week’s trip, taking my total to 295 species. (There are 296 entries in the database, as I have one for “Unidentified”.) The new ones are: bar-tailed godwit, Far Eastern curlew, Pacific golden plover, scaly-breasted lorikeet, and little egret.

(I should probably point out that the list of photos in the database is incomplete – I have yet to go back through my older photos and add links to them all. The number of species is correct, I just haven’t indexed all of the photos into it yet.)

I’m pretty excited about the Far Eastern curlew, as this is an endangered species. Wikipedia says it’s estimated to number 38,000 individuals as of 2006, but I found another site that with a more recent estimate from 2015 which is even lower, at 32,000 individuals. Here’s the photo I got:

Far Eastern curlew

Unfortunately it was across the mudflats and I couldn’t get any closer. So, anyway, catching up on bird photo cataloguing.

And a bunch of houseworky stuff – catching up on folding laundry.

New content today:

Alchemy and kookaburras

I’ve been working into the late evening on some Darths & Droids strips… the time got away from me! So I don’t want to write too much before I head to bed. What else did I do today?

I cobbled together a quick random alchemical ingredient generator. At the moment it’s generating only herb names, but I plan to expand it.

I baked sourdough, this time with 20% semolina/80% flour. It turned out fine. I think next time I’m going to go wild and try 50% semolina and see what happens.

Oh, and I created a Twitter account for Square Root of Minus Garfield. Since all the cool Garfield remix comics are doing it.

At the dog park with Scully this afternoon, there was a kookaburra hanging around, hunting worms and stuff in the bark chips near where all the dog owners sit on the park benches. It landed right on the bench I was sitting on! I managed to get this photo… with my phone!

Sharing a park bench with a kookaburra

New content today:

Virtual Sydney meeting day 2

Day 2 of my ISO Standards meeting, and we got stuck into the technical sessions. Today we had a session on measuring camera resolution, another on high dynamic range and wide colour gamut (HDR/WCG) still image formats, and a final one on vocabulary and DNG (digital negative format).

The resolution one was the most technical, involving revisionary work on the existing standard to update the mathematical methods used. We had presentations of experimental results of various calculation methods, and discussion of what changes to adopt to the previously published version of the standard.

The HDR/WCG one was more administrative details of how we define these things for still images by borrowing existing details from various video standards. We had a large discussion of drafting liaison letters to other standardisation bodies. Because there are other bodies working on image and video formats, we communicate with them when we think they may be interested in what ISO is doing. This is to make sure we don’t end up with incompatible standards for things, or don’t duplicate work, and can share comments and suggestions.

Vocabulary is just listing the technical terms defined in various photography standards. The DNG project is finally getting officially kicked off, with Adobe’s imminent publication of DNG v1.6, which will be the initial basis for an ISO standardised version of this photo file format.

With the meeting done, I turned to working on some Darths & Droids writing for the afternoon. I also took Scully to the park to socialise with her doggy friends and get a walk in.

While walking, I was using eBird on my phone to record birds I spotted. Normally in this area I typically see noisy miners, rainbow lorikeets, silver gulls, pied currawongs, welcome swallows, and Australian magpies. Today I also spotted an Australian raven, an Australian white ibis, and a little black cormorant, which are not everyday birds but not uncommon. But I also spotted a crested tern, which is less common. And then when walking back from the far end of the walk I noticed a smaller brown bird, standing on a floating boom in the harbour. I had no idea what it was, but it looked a bit like a night heron in shape. A bit of searching online revealed it to be a striated heron! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of these birds at all before. So that was pretty cool – although it was a shame I didn’t have my SLR camera and long lens with me.

New content today:

Frogmouth surprise

This morning my wife got up before me, and then came running back into the bedroom and said, “There’s a huge owl outside!”

I expected it might be a powerful owl, as I’ve seen a few of them around this area before. I jumped out of bed and went to look… but it wasn’t an owl. It was a tawny frogmouth, which admittedly looks a bit like an owl. I quickly grabbed my camera and took some photos.

Tawny frogmouth

I needn’t have been so quick. Being nocturnal, it had settled onto that branch for the day, and it was still there approaching sunset, around 8pm, when it finally stretched out its wings and flew off. I was very pleased to get some good photos of this guy, because I hadn’t photographed a tawny frogmouth in the wild before.

The rest of the day was not quite so exciting. It was a bit rainy, so I only went out once for a walk with Scully, and spent time writing comic annotations, doing housecleaning, and playing some Codenames Duet with my wife.

New content today:

Pies are squared (away)

This morning I prepared some sourdough, to rise in the afternoon, then sit in the fridge overnight before baking in the morning. I’ve been using a simple “no knead” recipe that my sourdough friend pointed me to on YouTube. But after I’d prepared the dough he shared some photos of his latest dough, and it looked a lot nicer than mine. Smooth and clean, whereas mine looked… well, like this:

Sourdough before kneading

So I mentioned that I’m not kneading the dough, like the recipe he showed me, and asked if sourdough should not be kneaded. He said no, kneading it is fine and in fact good – he only showed me a “no knead” recipe because it was the simplest thing. I’ve been making bread from pre-mixed packets for months, so I’m familiar with kneading and how it changes the texture of the dough, so I was excited and went back and gave it a good 10 minutes of kneading. And then it looked and felt much, much better:

Sourdough after kneading

So this will be another experiment in my sourdough journey. But I’m confident and excited, hoping this will again be better than the previous one, in a steadily improving series of loaves.

In other food news, I went out for lunch with my wife and Scully, driving over to my favourite pie shop. It’s in the Northern Beaches region which has been under COVID travel restrictions for the past couple of weeks, but they’ve been relaxed now, so it was a good chance to go and get some pies. I had a butter chicken pie and a Mexican vegetable pie, both of which were delicious.

While there I added some masked lapwings to my eBird sighting list. That takes my eBird tally to 29 species spotted since 24 December. You can also add species you identify from their calls, but unfortunately I don’t know all of the bird calls that I hear around the region. I can identify several, but there are a few that I have no idea what bird they are, so unfortunately I can’t add them. Today I listened to 40 different Sydney bird call recordings from Birds in Backyards, but they didn’t include two of the most frequent ones I hear around here. I’ll have to find another site with more bird call recordings to learn what they are. One in particular is a distinct series of three descending whistling notes, which the repeats after a few seconds. I haven’t been successful in searching for that specific one.

To complete the food listing, this evening I made a spicy lentil dhal with potato chunks for dinner, served over rice. Very quick and easy, and delicious!

New content today:

Looking for birds

So as mentioned on 27 December, I’ve been getting into using eBird to record my bird sightings as I walk around the neighbourhood. I’ve been recording lists of sightings every day, which is training me to keep an eye and ear out for birds as I walk around.

Up to today, I’d recorded a total of 25 different species of birds. But today as I was out walking Scully I spotted the 26th, and a rather surprising one it was – an Australian pelican! They’re common along various Sydney ocean beaches and coastal strips, but I’m inland on the harbour shore, where they don’t often come. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one on the ground in this area – and in fact today’s was flying overhead. But as soon as I saw it I recognised it and was astonished that a pelican was flying so far from the sea. I watched it circle on a thermal over the harbour shore for a few minutes, wishing it would come closer so I could get a definite ID. After a while it did come close enough that yes, I can confirm with surety that it was a pelican. Cool!

Today I assembled the comics from the photos I took yesterday. It was a marathon effort, taking about six hours of solid work. The next step is writing the annotations, which I’ve made a start on, but will have to finish off another day.

The other thing I wanted to mention today is that I’ve been noticing a few discussion threads on reddit lately about colourblindness or other aspects of colour science. And I’m dismayed by how much misinformation there is and downright incorrect assertions that people make. I would be happy to provide correct explanations of things about colour and human vision, since this is part of my professional expertise, but it feels futile fighting against such a tsunami of misleadingly incorrect text. So it’s a bit depressing. I guess I should just stop reading anything about colour on reddit.

In COVID news, the Sydney outbreak seems to be being held under control, although there are still thousands of people under self-isolation orders. The number of actual new detected infections has been low the past few days, with testing numbers high. So if this continues, it looks like we have avoided an exponential spreading event. Fingers crossed!

New content today:

Back to COVID restrictions

Sydney moved back to the pre-Christmas COVID restrictions today, which means we can no longer visit my wife’s family. This lasts until 30 December, and what happens on New Year’s Eve and beyond is still to be determined. Sydney had 7 new COVID cases today. The outbreak seems to be mostly contained, but of course it’ll be another week or two before we really know for sure. And in the meantime the less people move around, the better.

My wife and I took Scully on a long walk this morning before it started getting hot. I’ve started using eBird regularly on my walks in the past few days, and it’s interesting to see just how many bird sightings I rack up in a simple walk around the neighbourhood. I don’t carry a camera, and a phone is usually not close enough to take a decent photos of birds, but I managed to get a welcome swallow this morning:

Welcome swallow

Here’s today’s list:

  • 1 Australian brushturkey
  • 19 Feral pigeons
  • 1 Little pied cormorant
  • 2 Little black cormorant
  • 1 White-faced heron
  • 3 Laughing kookaburra
  • 2 Australian king parrot
  • 41 Rainbow lorikeet
  • 20 Noisy miner
  • 1 Grey butcherbird
  • 3 Australian magpie
  • 5 Pied currawong
  • 14 Welcome swallow

I didn’t do much else today. Watched the cricket match, cleaned up a pile of old papers and things that I’d been meaning to get to for ages. Fed the sourdough starter in preparation for making dough tomorrow, for baking on Tuesday. Played some Codenames Duet with my wife… we’re really struggling to win the Bangkok campaign game. We’ve attempted and failed 12 times now. It’s going to feel really good when we finally beat it…

New content today: