A record humid weather day

The main talking point today was how ridiculously humid the weather was. The temperature here in Sydney only got up to 30.8°C, but the humidity was so high all day that it was a major topic of discussion with both my friends and also people in the community. We recorded a dew point temperature of 25.9°C, which set a new record for the highest dew point ever recorded in Sydney. The Bureau of Meteorology tells us that dew points above 24°C are considered “oppressive”.

It sure felt that way. I took Scully out for a leisurely 15 minute walk around the block at 8am, not strenuous in any way – we were in fact dawdling along as you do when your dog is sniffing everything. But by the time we got home I was dripping with sweat and my shirt was saturated. It was similar taking her out for a short walk at lunch time. So I’ve been sitting indoors the rest of the day with the air conditioning on, mainly to take the humidity out of the air, not so much to cool it down.

The cicadas have also been going bananas all day, because apparently they love this sort of hot and sticky tropical weather. This is the loudest summer of cicadas I can remember for several years. We don’t have the Magicicada type of periodical cicadas that North America has, so there isn’t a regular cycle of them. I don’t know what controls the numbers but it varies from year to year in an unpredictable way.

I had five ethics classes today. In between I worked a bit on making a new adventure for Professor Plums, the science shop where I’ve been running Dungeons & Dragons occasionally on Saturday nights. But for something different I’m going to run a science fiction game set in the Star Wars universe. But I’m not going to use any of the Star Wars roleplaying games (I have both the WEG d6 one and Genesys system one) – I’m going to use the rules from Scum & Villainy, a Forged in the Dark game system based on Blades in the Dark. The idea is to give the players, who have pretty much done exclusively D&D 5th Edition, a taste of a different genre and a different game system.

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Things are heating up

It was another hot day today, as we progress towards summer. The channel-billed cuckoos are laying eggs, and there’s a chick in a next outside y kitchen window, screaming raucously for food from its adoptive parents. The Pacific koels are also back from their winter migration, with their loud calls too. And there are starting to be cicadas droning during the day and crickets chirping in the evenings.

We are also, unfortunately, having a noticeable increase in the number of rats around the area. Every night for the past week or two when I take Scully out for a toilet just before bed time, she is growling and barking at rats as they scamper off the footpaths for cover. My wife said she saw a cat the other day catch a rat. When we met Luna’s owners on Saturday, the man said that the rats probably migrated over from the new building site a block away, where a couple of dozen houses were demolished recently to make new apartments. I don’t know, but I guess that it makes sense that old houses might have sheltered rats, and now they’ve had to move somewhere else.

I finished off the Candy topic with my ethics classes today. Next up we’ll be tackling the science fiction idea of shrinking and enlarging people, which I’ll need to write a lesson for tomorrow. This topic will be interrupted my my trip to Europe and resumed when I get back home.

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These flies!

One thing about the early hot spring weather is that flies have multiplied and are already being a menace. Walking around outside, it has that summer feeling of constantly having to brush flies off your face. I don’t remember having this problem in the last few years with the La Niña weather, but now it’s an El Niño summer, here they are again.

I made a small batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips today, just 5 new ones to cover next week, because I won’t have time to make and buffer up a large batch in the next few days.

For dinner we went out to the local pizza place. I tried a pizza on their menu that I’ve never had before. I usually stick to a few of the options that I like, but today I tried to “Sydney” pizza. Several of the pizza menu options are named after places: Italian ones like Roma, Lipari, Salina, Filicudi. But then there are others such as Java (satay chicken, snow peas, cashews), Phuket (chicken, feta, cashews, mint yoghurt), and Sydney (chicken, bacon, mushroom, onion). I always choose to add a touch of chilli as well, to spice things up.

And after the pizzas my wife suggested we have some dessert. They do a Nutella pizza, topped with vanilla gelato. It’s normally a dessert serving for four people, but the owners do a special small version for two just for us.

Tonight is online games night. We’ve been playing a new game which a friend implemented on his Discord bot, a variant of a new word game on Board Game Arena called Perfect Words. And we’re doing more Heat: Pedal to the Metal, which is our new favourite.

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Early nesting lorikeets

According to my iPhone Health app I walked almost 13,000 steps today – the highest daily amount since I got back from Japan 3 weeks ago. It began with a 5k run this morning, when I decided to double my more usual distance. I took it easy so I wouldn’t get too worn out in the second half, and it wasn’t too bad.

Then at lunchtime I took Scully on a longish walk, doing a circuit around through a park, past cafes, down to the harbour shore, then back up through a bushwalk. It’s a circuit we do often, but it’s been made longer in the past few months by some work to upgrade a series of old sandstone steps that lead down from a street into a deep gully. There are steps up the other side leading to the park, but the steps down have been closed for a while due to the construction work.

While the work was in progress we had to take a detour of about 300 metres up the street to another set of steps and then back along the bottom of the gully. But today for the first time the new steps were open!

New stairs

We stopped at a bakery-cafe for lunch. Normally at this place I just buy a pie or a sausage roll. But today I actually looked at the menu and selected the chicken schnitzel burger. It was okay, but not great. I think the pies are better.

While eating, I was sitting at a table outside on the footpath, facing an elderly lady who was also sitting alone at the next table over. Feral pigeons lurk around this place, looking for crumbs, and they’re bold in attempting to steal food. Twice one jumped onto the old lady’s table, surprising her so much that each time she actually screamed in shock. The first time she shooed the birds away and commented to me how much she hated pigeons, even though she was a bird lover. The second time she gave up and moved inside the cafe to finish her meal. I didn’t have that option since I was sitting outside with Scully, so I waved the pigeons off with my hat a few times. I too love birds, but pigeons really don’t fall under the umbrella, and I’d happily see them all eliminated from Australia if it were possible.

After eating we continued to the harbour shore where I threw a ball for Scully to chase a few times. She was a bit distracted by another dog she could see on the grass in the distance though.

On the way home through the bushwalk section, I spotted a rainbow lorikeet sitting on a tree. It didn’t move as I approached, so I began to suspect it might be guarding a nest. And as I got closer, it moved and a second lorikeet emerged from the tree hollow!

Nesting rainbow lorikeets

This is definitely a mated pair, either choosing a nesting site, or perhaps already guarding eggs. I managed to get even closer for another photo.

Nesting rainbow lorikeets

Now this is quite weird, because normally lorikeets don’t start nesting until spring, or perhaps August at the earliest. It really has been a strangely warm winter this year. Many flowers are already appearing: magnolias (which are normally early), camellias, azaleas, lavender, cherry blossoms – I’ve seen all of these the past few weeks. We’re supposed to get 23°C for the next few days (which I noted today was the same maximum temperature as London).

Then this afternoon I went for another walk with my wife and Scully, before my ethics classes for the evening. Phew, I feel like I’ve had plenty of running/walking today!

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An old possum

There’s an old brushtail possum near our place, which must be near the end of its life. There are plenty of these marsupials around where we live, but we don’t see them very much. They are nocturnal, and hide during the day. Occasionally we see one crawling along a fence or in the branches of a tree at night when walking home from dinner out or something. And you can hear them at night when they fight over territory or mates.

But there’s an old one that for the past week or so has been visible every day, in daylight, sitting on a fence. It’s pretty battle scarred around the face, and looks like it might have lost an eye. I assume it must be too old and injured to behave normally and seek out a hiding place in the daytime.

Old brushtail

It’s just been sitting there lethargically for over a week, and I fear walking past one day soon and seeing it lying dead on the ground. Wild animals die all the time, of course, but it’s still a bit disturbing to see the process happening.

There’s another injured animal which has been a fixture for around here for well over a year now. A magpie with an obviously broken wing that has somehow managed to heal enough to let it fly a bit, though it stick out at a funny angle. This bird has been instantly recognisable every time I see it, and I’ve named it “Wings Malone”.

This morning I had to go up to the supermarket and buy some milk. The online pick-up order I made yesterday was missing the milk! Thankfully the supermarket has a quick resolution system for missing items in orders, so now I have a credit for the value of two cartons of milk. But it was still a pain to have to walk up there just to get replacements.

I took Scully for a long walk with my wife just after lunch. It was a beautiful winter day, 22°C and sunny after a morning which was thick with fog. When I walked to the supermarket at 9am the visibility was at most 200-300 metres. There were apartment towers just a block or two away from where I walked, and I couldn’t see them at all. We get fog a few times a year in winter, and it’s always interesting.

Today I mostly worked on writing Darths & Droids comics, trying to build up that buffer before I head to Japan in two weeks. Healthwise I think I feel a bit better today. I felt well enough to go on the first 2.5k run for two weeks. I decided to try a completely new route, and took it a bit easy. That and the hills on this new route meant my time was pretty slow, over 13 minutes, which it hasn’t been for a long time.

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A serious game suggestion

Saturday, and it’s a long weekend, with Monday being Labour Day. This October long weekend is traditionally considered the start of the summery half of the year, with swimming pools opening and stuff. Although it’s already been warm enough to swim for the past month or so, with warmer weather arriving earlier and earlier every year.

The other thing is that channel-billed cuckoos are back. I saw two of them today. These birds migrate north in the winter, and head back to our southerly climes around this tie of year. They’re big, noisy, loud birds, and other birds like to harass them noisily as well, so it’s usually pretty obvious when they’re in the area.

I went for another walk around more new places in our 5 km radius today, with my wife and Scully. This is Folly Point:

Folly Point

Scully by the water:

Folly Point

A panorama with Scully and my wife:

Folly Point

Willoughby Waterfall:

Primrose Park Track

And back home I worked on Darths & Droids comics for a bit. And I also did our tax returns, finally. I normally do them in July, but we’ve been putting them off for ages now, and it was finally time to get them out of the way. I did my wife’s and my tax returns, and it took about 20 minutes in total.

I forgot to mention an idea that we had last night during games night with my friends: A social deduction game played over text chat, where every player has a secret role which tells you to be either sincere or sarcastic. You have to enter text (without emojis) in your given mode, while trying to convince other players that you’re playing the other mode. The tentative title of this game: “Yeah, Right”.

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A night off teaching, but on cooking

It’s the mid-semester break week for the University, so I don’t have image processing tutoring work on tonight. We get stuck into the student project work next week, which will be interesting, because it’s a big change from the lecture structure we’ve had so far.

Instead I’ve spent this evening cooking! I wanted to try a recipe I saw on TV a few weeks ago: baked brie in sourdough. I walked up to the bakery with Scully earlier in the day to get a sourdough cob loaf, but unfortunately they didn’t have any sourdough in that shape, so I had to just get a plain white cob.

Baked brie in bread

That’s what it looked like before cooking. But before I reveal the after photos, let me change the subject completely!

A few days ago I noticed that there was a small nest in the jacaranda tree across the street, and it was being tended by noisy miners, feeding some baby birds. I considered getting some photos, but from ground level you wouldn’t be able to see much but the underside of the nest. Then I realised that I could probably climb partway up the tree and get a photo from higher up, and reasonably close. It might be a good opportunity to get a close shot of baby birds in the nest.

So this afternoon I went out with my camera. I ran into my wife out there, who was coming back from walking Scully during her lunch break. I got her to help me by passing my camera up to me once I’d climbed into the tree. In hindsight, I’m not sure I could have got up there carrying the camera by myself at all. While up there, she took this photo of me:

Photographing a nest

You can see the nest roughly where I’m aiming my camera. I was sitting about 2.5 metres off the ground. I’d originally intended to climb further up the limb of the tree in front of me, but being that high off the ground made me realise I really didn’t want to risk falling that far. So I didn’t get as high as I would have liked, and my best photo only turned out like this:

Noisy miner nest

You can barely see two birds in the nest. Oh well. At least I didn’t break my leg or something.

Back to dinner… After half an hour of baking I took the loaf out and topped the cheese with hazelnuts and honey:

Baked brie in bread

The recipe suggests serving with fresh figs, but we didn’t have any, so we had it for dinner with some fresh strawberries on the side, to provide something to break up the glut of cheesy goodness. Here’s what it looked like sliced open:

Baked brie in bread

Wow. It was really rich, as you can imagine. But we can pretend we’re French for a night and have a dinner of baked cheese and bread!

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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.

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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.

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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

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