Archive for November, 2018

When it rains, it pours

Wednesday, 28 November, 2018

Well, that was fun. I decided to stay home from work because of the huge “once in a hundred years” storm and the flooding and the transport delays and the bad drivers. I thought I’d get a lot of hobby stuff done. Instead I spent the whole day in the emergency ward.

I had some sudden and fairly severe visual flashes and obscuration around 9am. Phoned an ophthalmologist for advice and they said get to emergency right away. The hospital decided it was either (a) an ocular migraine without associated headache, (b) a detached retina, or (c) a stroke.

Two ophthalmologists (and a trainee) all studied my eyes, concluded the retina was fine. So neurology sent me for a CT scan and did some neuro tests on me. No sign of a stroke at all. So the diagnosis was a migraine.

After all this and several hours of waiting in an emergency bed, they discharged me just after 5pm. A whole day gone! But on the bright side, among all the people who called in “sick” today because of the weather, I actually have a genuine doctor’s certificate for taking the day as sick leave.

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 1 “The Wars to Come”

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

And here we are into Season 5!

King’s Landing: We start with an unfamiliar scene, with two girls I don’t recognise walking through a forest. They come across a hut and go inside, the blonde one urging the reluctant brunette girl on. Inside is a woman – and at first I think it’s Osha, who we haven’t seen for a long time after she took Rickon and parted ways with Bran Stark. So I’m a little confused for a minute, because it turns out this isn’t Osha at all, it’s some witch. Blonde girl accuses her of being able to foretell the future, and asks what it holds for her – specifically will she marry “the prince”? Not-Osha says no, but she will marry a king.

At this point I have an inkling who this blonde girl is. Blonde-girl asks about children, and the not-Osha witch says the king will have 20 children, but she will only have three. Yep, that clinches it. It’s young Cersei. Blonde-girl says that children thing makes no sense. Not-Osha tells blonde-girl she will be queen, but a more beautiful queen will rise to take her place…

And Cersei snaps out of a flashback dream. She’s riding in a litter to the Sept, where her father Tywin lies in state (after Tyrion shot him last episode). Someone tells her that the visiting dignitaries are waiting to pay their respects, but Cersei snaps that they can keep waiting and goes in alone, to find Jaime inside. They argue, she accusing him of letting Tyrion go.

Later Cersei runs into a Lannister cousin, who seems to have taken some sort of monkish vows. He tries to preach his new faith to her, but she is grumpy and dismissive. He asks for forgiveness for “their adulterous affair” (Cersei and this guy? Really??) and for giving Robert Baratheon wine before his fatal encounter with a wild boar on his last hunting trip. Cersei seems disinclined to chat further and storms off.

Loras is enjoying the company of another young male in his bedroom, when his sister Margaery walks in. She dismisses the paramour, telling him that the King is expecting to see Loras and he doesn’t want to keep the King waiting. Margaery admonishes Loras for being so indiscreet. he says it doesn’t matter because (a) everyone in King’s Landing knows everyone else’s secrets anyway, and (b) he doesn’t need to worry about Cersei because now that Tywin’s dead she’ll cancel their engagement, so he has nothing to worry about. He reckons this is bad news for Margaery though, since now he won’t be taking Cersei away to Highgarden, so Cersei can stay in King’s Landing and mess up Margaery’s plans to manipulate King Tommen. Margaery ominously says she’s got a plan to handle that…

So. The witch’s prophecy about Cersei has come true so far… all except being deposed by another queen. Who could that be… Margaery or Daenerys? Well, I guess we’ll see. This new Lannister cousin is a bit odd. I presume he’ll have something to do with the story coming up, otherwise why introduce him here? Maybe he’ll convince Cersei to adopt his religion and become a nun? Ha ha! Good one. And finally Margaery. What Loras tells her is true, but what devious plan does Margaery have to deal with Cersei? This all looks good for palace intrigue in the near future.


One hundredth bird photo

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018

I’ve been photographing birds for a few years now. The title may be a bit misleading, I haven’t photographed my one hundredth bird… I’ve photographed my one hundredth bird within a single country. And oddly enough, it’s not Australia.

Despite living here, I’ve so far only managed to photograph 94 different Australian bird species. But on my recent trip to Tanzania, I spent about five days looking at wildlife, and I took a lot of photos of birds. I still haven’t inspected all of the photos to identify the species, but last night I identified the one hundredth species from the photos I took on that trip. So I now have 100 species of birds photographed in on country: Tanzania.

Here’s the lucky 100th: a male Abyssinian wheatear:

Abyssian wheatear

Easier Ethics Education

Saturday, 24 November, 2018

Good news for Ethics education in New South Wales! I’m nearing the end of my second school year doing volunteer teaching of Primary Ethics, as an alternative to religious education in NSW primary schools. Up to now, the enrolment procedure for ethics has been complicated:

  1. At the start of each year, parents were sent a form asking them to write down their child’s religion among other enrolment details.
  2. If the parent wrote down a specific religion, the child was automatically enrolled in scripture classes for that religion (if available at the school). If the religion is not available or the parent wrote “no religion”, a letter is sent back explaining the religious education options or the fact that the parent may elect to not enrol their child in any religious class.
  3. If the parent at this stage chooses to enrol their child in a religious class, that happens. If they choose no religious class then they are sent another letter explaining that there are two options: “non-scripture” or ethics.
  4. If the parent chooses “non-scripture” or does not reply, the child is enrolled as “non-scripture” (which is merely a supervised free time in which no teaching instruction of any sort is given). Only if the parent chooses ethics at this time is the child enrolled in Ethics classes.

But from 2019, thanks to pressure from support groups and supporters on both sides of politics, the procedure has been revised and simplified. From now on, at the start of the school year, parents will be sent a letter with check boxes for all of the available religious options, non-scripture, and Ethics. They will see all of the options up front and be able to choose Ethics immediately, even if they are raising their child in a religion but prefer to have Ethics education instead of religious education.

New of this change has been reported on the NSW Department of Education website and by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Oh! And in other news, I received this for my work in Ethics teaching this year!

NSW Volunteer of the Year Award 2018

I’m not The Volunteer of the Year – this was just a nomination for the award in my region. But very nice to receive some recognition!

Germany diary, day 6

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Wednesday, 3 October, 2018

We woke up a bit early and prepared for the day, having showers and getting dressed for the chilly weather. M. had bought a puffy down jacket and vest and wanted to cut the tags off so she could wear then, so I went to reception and asked to borrow a pair of scissors.

After preparing for the day, we set out, intending to visit some of the museums, as they would be just about the only things open on the German Reunification Day public holiday. But some bakeries and cafes were open, fortunately, so we were able to get food and drink throughout the day.

Our first stop was a place that M. had found on her wanderings the past two days: Cafe Rico, out past the western side of the Neumarkt plaza. We entered to find nearly all the tables reserved, presumably for people wanting to book a nice breakfast out on the holiday. A waiter showed us to one of only two small bar-style tables with tall stool that were available. M. had a slice of apfelstreusel cake and a latte macchiato. I had some Florentiner-kirsch, which was an almondy cake with lots of cherries in it. I asked for apfelstreusel, but they brought a slice of apple strudel. When I said no, streusel, it took the waiter a second, and then he went, “Oh, strOYsel!” So now I know how to pronounce that properly and avoid confusion in the future.

Florentiner-kirsch at Cafe Rico

While we were there, a photographer and an assistant were setting up food and drink items that were being brought out from the kitchen on one of the tables, illuminating them with an LED light panel, and taking photos of them. Presumably they were shooting new photos for the web site or something.

Read more: On my free day we visit museums, eat lots of cake, check out the cathedral again, and end with an amazing meal at a swish restaurant

Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 10 “The Children”

Monday, 19 November, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

It’s the end of season 4, and hopefully that means exciting things for this episode!

The Wall: Jon walks north out of the tunnel, picking up directly where the previous episode left off. He passes the scattered bodies of dozens of wildlings who fell in their assault on The Wall. Jon approaches the camp of Mance Rayder, and surrenders himself. He speaks with Mance, telling him that he’s here to talk terms. Mance is interested to chat a bit, and say that all he wants is for his people to get south of the Wall before winter sets in. If Jon will open the tunnel and let them through, Mance promises not to kill anyone on the way. Jon doesn’t seem to think this is an option. And fair enough, because I suspect that even if Mance kept his word and didn’t kill anyone at Castle Black, I doubt he’s just going to have his thousands of followers find some nice empty farmland and settle down peacefully. They’d almost certainly have to raid or conquer existing settlements to find enough food, so Jon’s reluctance makes sense.

Mance asks Jon about Ygritte, and he replies that she’s dead. Mance pours a drink and they toast her memory. Jon is a bit wary, but Mance says that of all the ways he would kill Jon, poison is the very last of them. Mance asks about the giant who entered the tunnel and didn’t come out. Jon tells him he’s dead, and he killed his friend Grenn in the battle. Mance toasts Grenn and the giant.

It almost looks like they’re getting chummy, but Mance suddenly spots a gleam in Jon’s eye as Jon contemplates taking his chance to grab a knife and kill Mance. Mance says oh, so that’s why you came here. There is a moment of tension as we wonder what Mance will do with Jon now…

And suddenly there is the sound of horns and horses! In a wide overhead shot we see hundreds of horsemen pincering Mance’s camp, and battle is joined. It’s confusing and I don’t know who is attacking. I suppose if I recognised the banners I could have worked it out, but I don’t know this one. In a brief battle the mystery attackers win and capture Mance. The leader appears… It’s Stannis! And Davos with him. Wow. I didn’t expect them to show up here of all places. I mean, north of the Wall? What are they even thinking coming here?


Is this irony?

Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Two weeks ago I was researching Monopoly for my Scientists in Schools talk to kids about game design, so I could present its history and explain why it’s such a crap game.

Last night I was at my regional Primary Ethics end of year dinner and trivia night. (We didn’t know it at the time, but) going into the last question my team was 21 points and another team was 21.5 points. Last question: “Elizabeth Magie–”

I immediately wrote down “Monopoly”.

“–invented which popular board game?”

We won by half a point.

Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 9 “The Watchers on the Wall”

Monday, 12 November, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Well, I’d been hoping to see whether Tyrion is executed or manages to escape this fate. But that will have to wait for next time, because this episode takes place entirely at…

The Wall: We open with Jon and Sam standing atop the wall, on watch for attacks from Mance Rayder’s wildling army. Sam asks Jon what it was like, being with Ygritte in an intimate fashion. Jon stammers out some lame metaphors for how it felt, then exclaims, “I’m no poet!” Sam sagely nods in agreement, “No, you’re not.” Jon asks Sam if he didn’t … have experience with Gilly. Sam says of course not, but implies he might be interested. When Jon mentions the vows of the Night’s Watch, Sam points out that they forbid marrying, and fathering children, but not any other sort of activity with females.

Sam leaves Jon and heads down the Wall to Castle Black. He goes to the library and meets Maester Aemon, lamenting that his actions led Gilly and her baby to their deaths. Aemon comments that Sam is obviously in love with her, which Sam denies, but Aemon knows from the way he spoke about her earlier. Aemon says he too was once a young man, Aemon Targaryen, and he could have had a very different life to the one he ended up with.

There is a cut scene to the party of wildlings who attacked Moles Town, with the leader talking to Ygritte. He questions her loyalty, but she says all she wants to do is kill Crows (Night’s Watch men). She thinks Jon is probably dead, but if she met him she wouldn’t hesitate to put an arrow through him. Uh huh.

There’s a knock on the gate of Castle Black. It’s Gilly! The guard doesn’t want to let anyone in, but Sam pulls out some swear words, which astonishes the guard so much that he opens the gate to let Gilly and her baby in. Sam leads them into safety and they have a moment of reunion, in which he kisses her. Horns sound – the Wall is under attack from Mance’s army to the north! Sam says he has to go defend the Castle; Gilly doesn’t want him to leave her. He promises he won’t get killed and will return. That’s a pretty bold promise in Westeros!


Scully toilet training

Saturday, 10 November, 2018

It’s now been a month since Scully had a toilet accident in the house. I reported back on 25 October that we’d steam cleaned the carpet and declared her officially house trained.

We kept a log of her toilet accidents in the house. Here’s a plot:

Scully toilet log

The Science of Fun

Tuesday, 6 November, 2018

On Monday I visited Brookvale Public School again to talk to the kids about science. This time, inspired by a Facebook conversation with two ex-workmates of mine, I talked about the Science of Fun, specifically what makes some games fun and what makes other games not fun. I showed the kids why Monopoly is such an awful game, and gave them plenty of examples of games which are much better and more fun. And judging by comments from the kids afterwards, I think I’ve inspired a lot of Christmas wish lists. :-)

Actual dialogue:
Me: Why do we play games? Is it to have fun?
Kids: Yes!
Me: Is it so we get bored and upset?
Kids: No!
Me: Who here has played Monopoly?
(All kids put their hands up.)
Me: Now, who here has ever played a game of Monopoly, and you started losing, and your brother or sister or mum or dad or friend was winning and taking money off you, and you felt upset and bored and wanted the game to end?
(Nearly every kid put their hand up again.)
Me: So… if Monopoly makes you upset, is it a good game?
Kids: No!!!
Me: Interesting! Now let me show you some games that are fun to play…