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:

Boxing Day relaxation

It’s Boxing Day, and that means sport. Unfortunately the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has been cancelled this year due to COVID, but the Boxing Day Test Match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground began on schedule. India are here this year, and this game is the 100th Test match between Australia and India. It’s the second game of the series, and Australia won the first easily, but today India looked well on top, so it might turn into an interesting series.

Other than watch the game on TV, I didn’t do much else. My wife and I took Scully on a walk during the lunch break, and we waked along the creek near our place all the way down to the harbour. It’s an amazing urban bushwalk, through fairly dense wet sclerophyll forest, tall eucalypts overhead and ferns at ground level. Although it’s surrounded by houses, it’s difficult to see them, and you can in many places easily believe you’re in a wilderness.

At one point we saw a couple of kookaburras on a tree limb, and they stayed there as we moved closer. I managed to get remarkably close and took the following photo, with my phone! – not even an SLR with a long lens:

Laughing kookaburra

I think they were young ones, waiting for their parents to come back with food. Pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that close to a wild kookaburra before.

New content today:

Fish & chips & magpie

This morning I did the weekly grocery shop. There wasn’t much on the shopping list today, so it was a fairly light one. But the supermarket has started one of its periodic things where they move everything around for no reason, so it took me longer than normal to find things. The cheese is now where the eggs used to be, the eggs are where the yoghurt used to be, the yoghurt’s where the juice used to be, and so on and so forth. I’m sure they only do this to confuse shoppers and make them spend more time in the store. And I guarantee in a year they’ll do it all again.

Workwise I mostly spent the day doing comics stuff.

For lunch I went for a walk to the fish & chip shop and then down to my favourite eating spot.

Fish box lunch

That’s actually a “lunch box” special, with the chips replaced by potato scallops. And this guy tried to get close enough to steal some of my lunch:

Hungry magpie

I actually got several closer photos, but he was so close that the phone-camera didn’t focus properly. It’s an Australian magpie, by the way. They can be extremely bold, and even aggressive, although not as aggressive as silver gulls. Except when swooping during nesting season, when magpies are significantly dangerous. (Which is right now, but this one wasn’t protecting a nest, thankfully.)

Hungry magpie

I had to keep shooing him away, and managed to retain all of my lunch for myself.

New content today:

Full metal golf x2

My golfing friend invited me to play today at a new course: North Ryde Golf Club. We planned to play the first 9 holes and then decide if we wanted to continue with the second 9.

Hole 2, North Ryde Golf Club

It’s a nice course, with a few lakes. Being a large green area with water in the middle of urban Sydney, it seems to attract a lot of birds. In this photo (above), which is from the 2nd hole tee, you can see a group of Australian wood ducks.

Hole 3, North Ryde Golf Club

Hole 3 (above) is a nice short one. The course was busy, and we often had to wait for groups in front of us to move on before we played our shots. After completing the front 9, we decided to continue on and play the back 9. As soon as we teed off on hole 10, it started raining. Steady but not too heavy. We pressed on.

But after a few holes, my friend said his back was starting to ache, so he pulled the plug and left, but I decided to continue and finish the complete round. I was playing behind a group of four who were pretty slow, but there was no point playing through them as they were being held up by at least two other groups ahead of them. So I went into zen mode and just relaxed and enjoyed being outdoors on this chilly, rainy winter’s day.

Hole 17, North Ryde Golf Club

The rain eventually eased off and I approached the end of the round (hole 17 above). I actually joined up with the group of four for the last hole, and it turned out they were middle-aged beginners as well. They all teed off on the short par 3, hitting their balls in various skewy places. Then I stepped up and cracked my ball straight onto the green! My first putt almost went in too – it was a good 5 metres long, and it curled around the lip of the hole but didn’t fall in, instead continuing another metre or two (requiring another two putts for a bogey, alas).

Overall, I had a good time, getting some exercise, and also spotting all the birds on the course. I saw: Australian magpie, Australian raven, Australian white ibis, Australian wood duck, Dusky moorhen, Magpie-lark, Rainbow lorikeet, Sulphur-crested cockatoo, Welcome swallow, White-faced heron.

With travel time, I was out of the house over five hours. Throw in cooking dinner and walking Scully and that was pretty much the day.

New content today: