First online ethics class

Today I did some grocery shopping, then spent some time working out my detailed lesson plan for this afternoon’s Outschool class.

It was my first class in the Critical and Ethical Thinking course, so I wanted to be prepared. Given I only had two students enrolled I wanted to have plenty of material ready, in case we got through it quickly. I needn’t have worried so much.

The students showed up in Zoom on time, two girls. They were both very articulate and engaged with the material. I asked both of them for their opinions on each of the questions I raised, after telling various stories starting with King Midas and the golden touch, and then going through some more real world examples of greed, or potential greed. They gave some good responses, and I had to skip over a few questions towards the end to finish on time.

I asked if they’d enjoyed the class and they both said yes, and indicated they’d be back next week. So that’s really good! Hopefully by then another student or two will have signed up.

Tonight is virtual board games night, and my wife is out with her friends having a dinner. I dashed out for some fish and chips for my own dinner. And now I’m losing at games of 7 Wonders

New content today:

Change of season

We’ve been experiencing a rather cool autumn. After last year when we had an extremely mild winter, it feels unusually chilly for this time of year. I’ve taken to wearing a jacket when going outside about a month earlier than last year.

The leaves on the deciduous trees are changing. Mostly in Sydney that means plane trees turning a dull shade of light brown. There are a few liquidambars scattered around that go a lovely deep red, but they’re not that common, and for the most part of course all the other trees are evergreen. So it’s not spectacular, but it is noticeable.

I took this photo of a path I walk down while collecting Scully from my wife’s office. The plane trees a mix of green and brown. This is basically what autumn looks like in Sydney.

Autumn path

The coolish weather makes it lovely to be outside. And after last month’s ridiculous amounts of rain, April has been extremely dry so far. We haven’t had any rain since the 8th, three weeks ago. And what we had in that first eight days was only about 10% of the April average rainfall. What we have had the past week or so is smoke – the bushfire control authorities are taking this cool weather as a chance to burn a lot of the undergrowth in forests around the edge of the city, and the prevailing wind conditions are wafting it across the city.

I took this photo at the dog park this afternoon while walking Scully. It’s normally a lovely view, but you can see the brown smoke across the lower level of the sky.

View while walking the dog

Tonight for dinner I tried a variant of one of my regular dishes. Pasta with butternut pumpkin, nuts, chilli, and feta. I normally use walnuts, but tonight I tried pistachios, which worked really well. And made it pretty colourful.

Pasta with butternut, pistachios, and feta

Oh, and in good news I have two students signed up for my first online Critical and Ethical Thinking class, tomorrow. Tomorrow’s class is in a time zone suitable for Australia/Asia, but I also have another parallel class on the same topic in a time zone better suited for the Americas (Sunday afternoons in US time zones).

New content today:

A final act of punishment

This morning was my Ethics class. It was the final lesson on the topic of punishment, which has been dragging on for four weeks. I don’t like the topics that go 4 weeks, as the kids (and myself) are really sick and tired of it after that long. I much prefer the shorter 2 or 3 week topics.

Anyway, today we went through a scenario in which a teacher/coach catches some girls on the netball team teasing another new girl who has a different accent. The coach decides some punishment is needed, but isn’t sure what, and so asks four of the other team coaches what they think. One says to give them a taste of their own medicine and have some other girls tease them. Another says to ban them from playing for 4 weeks. Another says they should have to do something to make it up to the teased girl. The fourth says they should have to think about what they did and the reasons why it’s wrong.

The exercise was to get the kids to discuss the merits and flaws of each suggestion. They pretty much agreed the first idea was bad, as it would lead to a cycle of teasing back and forth, escalating the situation. They had an insight that I didn’t with the second one, and said banning the girls from playing would punish the whole team, not just the ones who did the teasing, so it wasn’t really a fair punishment. They also agreed that this sort of punishment isn’t a big deterrent against teasing – it’s just more likely to make the girls be more careful not to get caught. They thought that the third idea, doing something to make up for it, was a good idea, suggesting things like helping the teased girl with a project or something. They liked the idea of having to do a good deed to make up for the bad one. They also liked the fourth idea, that the kids should have to think about why teasing is bad, but they couldn’t come up with any good ideas on how to make them do that.

They concluded (with appropriate prompting) with the concept that a punishment should be “fitting” to the crime, in that it should be proportionate and not too severe, it shouldn’t lead to escalation, it should in some way attempt to make up for the damage caused, and it should lead the committer to reconsider what they’ve done so that they’re less likely to do it again.

Overall it was a pretty good discussion! And I think they really had some good insights into the topic by the end of it. Next week we start a new topic: Vanity.

New content today:

Unexpected CT scan

I had an appointment this morning to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist about my swollen tonsil. I had a couple of courses of different antibiotics back in February, but they didn’t help, and it took until today to get an appointment with the specialist.

The doctor took a look, sprayed my throat with anaesthetic, and did some poking. Then he suggested I get a CT scan to check whether the swelling is a simple cyst or something more complicated. So he wrote me a referral to a radiology place. It was just two doors down the street, so rather than phone up I just walked in to make an appointment. The receptionist said, “We could do it now.”

So fifteen minutes later I was lying in a CT machine having a scan of my neck. They injected some iodine contrast solution, which is always a fun experience. (If you’ve never had this, it makes you feel a hot flush throughout your body. In particular around the bladder/groin region – so it feels a bit like you’ve wet yourself, even though you haven’t.)

I have a follow-up appointment with the ENT specialist in 3 weeks to see if he recommends a tonsillectomy. He did imply that that was going to be the most likely course of action.

After all that, I decided to treat myself to lunch from the nearby pie shop. And since it was then after lunch and I was near my wife’s office, I picked up Scully and took her home for the afternoon, so we could go to the dog park later.

I made fajitas for dinner. We have some pomegranate left over from the salads I made last week, so we added a spoonful of pomegranate arils when constructing the fajitas, which added a nice zing. Recommended!

New content today:

Aching after golfing

This morning I played a round of 9 holes at Cammeray Golf Course, the second closest course to where I live, and where I like to go for some variety. It has some nice holes, with the 6th in particular having a lake that you have to hit over from the tee.

Cammeray: Hole 6 tee

Normally I can hit over the water without a problem, but unfortunately today I hit two balls into the water.

I did better on Hole 3 though. Here’s the view from the tee:

Cammeray: Hole 3 tee

That’s after I hit my ball… and that white spot on the green, right of the flag, is the ball! Here’s a closer look:

Cammeray: Hole 3 green

If I’d sunk this putt it would have been a birdie. But alas I needed two putts, for a par. Birdies for me a very rare and worthy of a huge celebration. A par is good, but I really wanted that birdie. Ah well.

When I got home, I spent much of the rest of the day making Darths & Droids comics. And feeling the muscle aches in my legs and arms. I don’t normally feel this worn out after a round of golf. I suspect maybe it’s on top of the really hard work of the kayaking I did last week – maybe my muscles hadn’t fully recovered from that yet.

New content today:

Anzac Day Sunday

Today is Anzac Day, Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) day of remembrance for our war dead. Since it falls on a Sunday this year, we don’t get a public holiday, at least not in New South Wales – some states get a public holiday tomorrow.

We had a lunch with my wife’s family, at a Thai restaurant. They had massaman curry duck, which we ordered and it was really good.

New content today:

Lazy weekend Saturday

After the past two weekends of running market stalls, this weekend my wife and I have relatively little we have to do. She went to yoga this morning, with Scully. Scully enjoys the yoga class, and lies down quietly next to my wife while she does the exercises. Apparently when my wife does the bits where you lie down flat on the floor, Scully gets up and lies on top of her! The other people in the class like Scully being there, and afterwards they all go for a coffee in a nearby cafe.

This gives me time to work on a few things. Today it was more of the secret project I’ve been working on all week. I’m so close to finishing this stage of it I can almost smell it. I really want to see if I can get it completed in the next couple of days. Then it’ll be handing over it to a friend to go over and give feedback.

I built some more of the Lego set I’ve been working on for a few weeks now, the Medieval Blacksmith. It’s a huge set and the pieces come in 14 bags separated by building sequence. I’m now 8 bags into the sequence, doing roughly two per week. I’m really stretching it out to enjoy the building experience.

For dinner tonight we went out to a French crepe place. We go there a few times a year, and it’s really nice. They have savoury galettes for meals, and sweet crepes for dessert, washed down by imported French cider, as is the traditional liquid accompaniment.

New content today:

Wingspan night

Late Friday update, because last night was fortnightly board games night!

To warm up while waiting for latecomers to arrive, we played a new game: Abandon All Artichokes. It’s a quick and light deck-building game, like Dominion on whatever the opposite of steroids is. You start with a deck of 10 artichoke cards, and you draw from a choice of other vegetables which have various ways to modify your deck, either by adding more vegetables or composting artichokes (removing them from your deck). At the end of every turn you discard your hand and draw 5 new cards from your deck (shuffling your discard pile if you need more cards to draw). As soon as you draw 5 non-artichokes, you win! I was primed to win on my next turn, but the guy ahead of me in the turn order got there first, alas. So I wuz robbed!

After this, we launched into our ongoing game of Legacy of Dragonholt (described earlier here and a little bit here and here). Here’s a shot of the game in action:

Legacy of Dragonholt

There’s not actually a lot to show. The map of the village of Dragonholt is at the top. My character sheet is at the bottom. The only mechanically relevant things are the list of Skills, the Stamina score, and the Items. All of the character personality and background stuff I made up to give me some idea how to roleplay my character.

In this episode we explored the village a bit more, reconnected two old lovers, and explored a creepy crypt just outside the edge of town, where we encountered some scary monsters and prevailed by the skin of our teeth to retrieve what we hope is a significant item. We’re now back at the village and taking a break until next time we play.

Following this we broke into two groups and I joined the group playing Wingspan. This is early in the game, with my board on the bottom right:

Wingspan board game

Later on I’d assembled a good collection of birds (and we’d eaten more of the chocolate):

Wingspan board game

At the end of the game, I managed to win with a score of 93 points, over the second place of 87 points. So I was pretty happy with that!

Earlier in the day… I mostly spent it running errands and doing housework. I had a morning tea at a cafe near the school where I teach Ethics, to meet our new Ethics Coordinator who will be taking over from the outgoing one. After that I did the weekly grocery shop, and then when I got home I did a round of vacuum cleaning, folding laundry, cleaning the shower and bathroom, and then a long overdue washing of the car. There was pretty much no time for anything else.

New content today:


The New South Wales Government has given all adult residents $100 worth of vouchers as a COVID economic stimulus, to be spent at participating businesses. $50 is for dining, which is easy to spend, and I’ve already used mine. The other $50 is for “discovery”, which is activities such as museums, movies, cultural activities, and outdoor events. I was trying to think what I can use mine for and then I remembered I had the idea a while back to hire a kayak and paddle around Sydney Harbour. I checked, and the nearest kayak hire place to me accepts the vouchers.

So this morning I went over and hired a kayak for a couple of hours!

Kayaking on Middle Harbour

I started here near the Spit Bridge, which spans Middle Harbour, one of the large inlets within Sydney Harbour. This area s a bit more suburban than the city centre and its famous sights, so I didn’t see any of that from the water today. Instead I paddled around marinas full of expensive yachts and cruisers…

Kayaking on Middle Harbour

past fancy water view houses…

Kayaking on Middle Harbour

along bushland foreshore edged with sandstone and oysters…

Kayaking on Middle Harbour

and past some beautiful harbour beaches…

Kayaking on Middle Harbour

The photos are slightly fuzzy because I had my phone in a waterproof baggie, and was taking photos through the clear plastic. I was paddling around for two hours, under a beautiful blue sky (although it was tinged a bit brown around the horizon with smoke from hazard reduction burning in bushland near the edge of the city). The temperature was a pleasant 22°C today and just a very light breeze. It was a gorgeous day to be out and about on the water.

Here’s a map of where I paddled today:

Kayak Map

Afterwards I stopped off on the way home to get lunch at a French patisserie. I had a chicken pie, followed by a slice of their lemon meringue tart:

Lemon meringue

The calories don’t count because of all the paddling!

New content today:

More experimental cooking

This morning was the first Ethics class for the new school term. When I got to the school and picked up my class roll, I noticed that one of the students I had last term had been removed. And when the students arrived and I asked if a couple of other kids who hadn’t shown up yet were late or away, they responded that one of those had left the school. So my class is down two students compared to last term’s 15, making it a class of 13.

We continued the topic of punishment, which we got halfway through before the school holidays. Today was a discussion of the reason for punishment. Most of it was in the context of football, all three of soccer, Australian rules, and rugby. The questions basically led them through why penalties exist in these sports, whether penalties are a type of punishment, whether the penalties are needed, whether the penalties are fair, and why some penalties (e.g. for deliberate dangerous contact with another player) are more severe than others.

It was only towards the end that we switched back to punishment for crimes and why they might be needed in society. The connections were pretty straightforward, and there was no real disagreement from any of the class that punishment of some sort is needed. They said that if there were no punishments, people would just go around robbing banks all the time!

For dinner tonight I tried something new. I had some Brussels sprouts which I bought last time I got groceries, and wanted to use them up. Normally I’d fry them with garlic and chilli and miso, and serve on the side of some vegetarian burgers or sausages. But this time I thought I’d try roasting them. And since we have some butternut pumpkin to use too, I added that in. And also the leftover cherry tomatoes from last night’s pizza. I did add some garlic and a bit of chilli, and roasted in the oven for about 50 minutes. The mixture of the three different vegetables turned out very nice!

New content today: