Training and practice

Saturday… I had to complete the pre-job training I started yesterday. I was wrestling with trying to get the online training module loaded in Firefox, which was stated to be necessary because it didn’t work on Safari or Chrome. But My Firefox was refusing to let me log in, for a couple of frustrating hours until I realised I had JavaScript disabled. šŸ™„

Then I did the training which was supposed to take an hour, but ended up taking maybe 90 minutes.

And I’ve spent some time working on the Galactic Puzzle Hunt with friends. A bit too much time, perhaps…

New content today:

Administrivia day

170 new COVID cases in New South Wales in the last 24 hours, which is a welcome drop from yesterday’s high. Fingers crossed that this is the start of a downward trend, although to be honest I’m not very confident about that.

I spent much of today doing administrative tasks for the new casual tutoring job that I applied for a few weeks ago. I’m now on the University of Technology Sydney’s staff list as a casual academic. I needed to sign a contract, submit a passport quality photo for a staff ID card/access pass, activate my staff email account, do an online training module on occupational health and safety, do another online training module on sexual harassment, update my academic qualifications in the human resources database, add emergency contact person details in the HR database, check my banking details were correct, and then check out the course outline and presentation materials for the course I’m going to be tutoring. At some point I should also download MatLab and try out some of the exercises. (Being a staff member gives me a MatLab licence!)

It’s a course on Image Processing and Pattern Recognition. The lecturer is an associate of mine from my previous job. My role is as one of the course tutors, giving advice and assistance on the subject to individual students during the practical work portions and the end of semester project. The course begins on Monday, running in the evening from 6-9pm. Normally it would be face-to-face at the university, but because of the current COVID lockdown in Sydney, it will be all online for the first few weeks at least.

Tonight is another virtual games night with my friends. We’re doing an Olympic themed night. Each one of us has picked a country and we’re recording firsts, seconds, and thirds in each game we play.

New content today:

Double century day

It was really all about the COVID here in Sydney today. NSW recorded 239 new cases, which is now the highest number of cases reported in the state in a single day, beating the previous record of 212 which was set during the worst outbreak last year.

Today’s daily press conference was very raucous, with a lot of reporters asking why Sydney wasn’t locked down faster and harder, and if the government had failed. Victoria got up to a high of 723 cases in one day during Melbourne’s horror outbreak last year – exactly one year ago to the day. The Victorian government enacted the strongest lockdown measures Australia has seen, closing down basically every retail shop except supermarkets and pharmacies. We’re nowhere near that here in Sydney yet – cafes and restaurants are still open, albeit for take-away food only. The NSW Government is facing increasing criticism that it’s not doing as much as Victoria did last year.

Where we go from here, who knows? They’re saying they hope to be able to lift the lockdown restrictions by October. Hopefully, yes. But maybe we’ll have another Christmas where we can’t see our families.

More personally, my wife and I have a big significant wedding anniversary coming up before then. Originally our plan was to celebrate it with a trip to Europe. A month or so ago, I was looking into booking a fancy restaurant so we could at least have a nice dinner out. Now I think we may end up celebrating this anniversary sitting at home.

In other anniversaries, this sign has been in the lift of my apartment building for a year today:

COVID anniversary

In some final good news, it’s taken her over three years, but Scully has finally learnt the pleasure of snoozing in a winter sunbeam:

Scully in a sunbeam

I’m very surprised she’s never done this before. I figured dogs would be like cats and be all over this, but I guess not.

New content today:

Warm winter day

The temperature reached 25.4Ā°C here in Sydney today, up to 26.6Ā°C in inland suburbs. Which is lovely and warm for winter. It almost feels like winter is over and spring is on the way, but I suspect there’ll be some more cold weather in the next week or two still.

I went out for a walk at lunchtime with my wife. I’d dropped Scully at doggie daycare for some fun time with other dogs. We walked down to the harbour swimming baths at the end of a nearby headland, which is a substantial walk, and ate up her full lunch hour by the time we returned home. It was beautiful being out in the warm sunshine, and I didn’t take a jumper or jacket, just wearing short sleeves for the first time in a couple of months.

COVID news: 177 new cases in NSW, topping yesterday’s 172. I also received email from the market organisers of the Lindfield Market where I’m selling my photography – they’ve cancelled both the August and September markets, and are currently hopeful that October can go ahead. I’m not so sure if it will, but we’ll wait and see.

Speaking of extended lockdown and cancelling stuff… my wife and I have a significant round number wedding anniversary coming up soon. We’d planned a couple of years ago to schedule a trip to Europe around it, but obviously thats not happening. A while back I tried to find a nice restaurant so we could at least have a night out and enjoy some fine food. But now I’m thinking we’re most probably going to have to spend this anniversary sitting at home.

In good news, I ran my first ethics class today on the peer pressure topic. It went really well – I could see the wheels spinning in the kids’ minds as they thought about some of the questions I was asking them. And after the class one of the parents left my first written review on Outschool. I’ve had some 5 star reviews, but nobody has written a text review until now. And it was really good, saying how much her daughter loved the class and how they discussed the topics together afterwards, and she said she highly recommended it. So that was good!

Last night I started watching a new movie on Netflix: Blood Red Sky. (I only watched an hour of it before bedtime – I’ll try and finish it tonight.) It’s a horror movie, and it has an interesting premise, that I was getting into.

New content today:

Sourdough spƤtzle!

First the bad news: 172 new COVID cases in New South Wales, beating the record high for this outbreak set two days ago. Worse is that most of those were infectious and still going about their business in the community, rather than having been isolated as known contacts. The state government announced the lockdown will be extended for another 4 weeks, meaning until 27 August. Let’s hope that’s enough to get the cases back close to zero.

In other news, I started working on this week’s ethics lesson, which will be on the topic of peer pressure. Like prejudice last week, it may be eye opening to the kids to consider that peer pressure isn’t automatically a bad thing. I’m partway through writing the lesson, and will have to finish it tomorrow.

I took a very long walk with Scully today, while my wife was out getting her second COVID vaccination. I used the K9 Sport-Sack to carry Scully on my back outbound. She really seems to enjoy being in the backpack, getting a nice high view of everything. I took a route to a nearby suburb that I usually don’t walk to, after noticing on Google Maps that it’s about the same distance as some of the other places I walk to, just in a slightly less appealing direction as it’s along a major road. But I walked along some back streets more or less parallel to the road, and passing through a large park, which made it more pleasant.

I had lunch out, and then let Scully walk all the way home. And one the way we took a detour to the Italian cake shop to pick up some treats for my wife to celebrate her full vaccination, so the way home was significantly longer than the trip out. The total was 8.2 km, so Scully walked probably at least 4.5 km, and bot was she worn out when we got home! She’s been asleep for most of the afternoon. šŸ™‚

For dinner tonight I tried an experiment:

Sourdough spƤtzle

That’s sourdough starter and an egg.

Sourdough spƤtzle

I added a bit of milk, and then flour until I had a runny dough, or a very stiff pancake batter consistency.

Sourdough spƤtzle

I put a big scoop of the dough onto a small cutting board, and used a knife to scrape off lumps into boiling water. Meanwhile I made a mushroom sauce in a frying pan.

Sourdough spƤtzle

The dough blobs sink initially, but float to the surface as they cook. I scooped them out and into a colander to drain while I continued adding more batches of dough to cook.

Sourdough spƤtzle

I finished the mushroom sauce with some crĆØme fraĆ®che.

Sourdough spƤtzle

And served! Sourdough spƤtzle with creamy mushroom sauce and broccolini. It turned out really good! I’ve been thinking about trying spƤtzle with sourdough starter for a while, and I’m glad I tried it.

New content today:

Catch-up puzzling Sunday/Monday entry

I neglected to write a blog entry yesterday due to being preoccupied solving puzzles in the Galactic Puzzle Hunt. My team is doing reasonably well, but there are several huge teams of dedicated puzzle solvers who have completed all the puzzles already. I was up until after midnight last night folding bizarre origami shapes and … well, I shouldn’t say much more about what I was doing with them because that might spoil the puzzle, and the competition is still ongoing.

I’ve also been doing some comics writing and assembling, and going on walks with Scully, and avoiding going outside for any other reason due to the COVID restrictions. On Sunday we had 163 new cases, and today 145. They still haven’t announced a lockdown extension past Friday, but I’m sure that will be coming tomorrow or Wednesday. We had local council elections due on 4 September, but it’s been announced that they will be postponed until 4 December. They’ve already been postponed a full year, having been supposed to be held in September last year. So that’s an indicator of what some people in government are thinking in terms of when we might actually get out of this lockdown.

The other thing happening is the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I was really looking forward to being able to watch the swimming finals while relaxing in the evening, since Tokyo is very close to my own time zone. But I discovered that, in contravention of all championship swimming event protocol, for this Games they’re having the heats in the evenings and the finals in the mornings, due to greedy American TV networks wanting to show them live in USA prime time. This is made more annoying by the fact my wife is confined to working from home, in the lounge room as our only available makeshift workspace, so I can’t really have the TV on during work hours. So I’m somewhat fuming that Americans are spoiling things for people in other countries, again.

Just for fun, a panorama I took of the harbour from the dog park this afternoon. It was a lovely day today.


We had cold weather on the weekend, but we’re warming up this week. The forecast for Sunday is 26Ā°C, which is indeed warm for winter.

New content today:

The COVID, it hurts

New South Wales recorded 163 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24-hour reporting period, well up from yesterday’s record of 136. It takes a week or two before the effects of increased lockdown restrictions make themselves felt in lowering case numbers, but this is starting to look depressingly like they’re not working. The state and federal governments are scrambling trying to get this under control before it spirals into a complete disaster, ruining the year and a half of good work we’ve done in keeping the virus at bay in Australia. This is the scariest and most dangerous period in this country so far. And the mood of people is really starting to reflect it.

There was a fairly large protest in the heart of Sydney today, by people unhappy with the current lockdown restrictions. I knew about it from looking at some news reports during the day, but it wasn’t until I saw video coverage on the evening news on TV that I realised just how terrible it was. It turned into close to a full-on riot, with people throwing dangerous objects at police. There was an image of a man striking a police horse in the face. 57 people have been arrested and charged, and police are analysing video and interviewing people trying to track down more offenders so they can be charged as well. Story here.

And this in the middle of a time when people should be staying away from other people. It’s feared this event may end up spreading the Delta COVID variant to hundreds, if not thousands more people. I’m just absolutely sickened by what has happened here in my city today.

Trying to not think about it too much, I spent much of today collaborating with friends solving puzzles in the Galactic Puzzle Hunt, which began this morning our time. We’ve solved four of the puzzles so far, and have made substantial progress on a few others. They’re good puzzles, well constructed, but gosh some of them are difficult.

I’m about to go offline for the evening and just switch off, watching a movie…

New content today:

Piratey games night

What did I do today?

I went to the supermarket to pick up my big weekly grocery shop, that I’d ordered online for fast pickup. This time I said I was “in my way” a good ten minutes before I left home, and when I arrived it was ready for me to grab and go, which was better than the waiting around I had to do last week.

I did discover a slightly annoying thing. The minimum order of green beans from the fresh vege section was 0.25 kg, so that’s what I ordered. It turned out to be about 5 times as many beans as I normally buy! We’ll be eating beans with a lot of meals over the next week. And… the same thing with mushrooms.

From 11 am I had a photography standards meeting. This is the Standards Australia meeting to follow-up from the international ISO meeting I attended last month. As the chair of the Australian committee, I presented a report on the international meeting for the benefit of the Australian experts. Our committee is doing really well, having grown in membership recently, so this is really satisfying work.

Then at 4 pm I had another ethics class, with the prejudice topic.

And now in the evening it’s virtual board games night with my friends. We started with a game of Nidavellir, which is one of our current favourites. And I actually won the game, although I’m not sure I have a good grip on the strategy yet. We’re now into our ongoing game of Forgotten Waters, that we started a few weeks ago.

In COVID news, NSW recorded 136 new cases, which sets another new record for the year. Case numbers have gone up alarmingly in the past two days, and the number of people infectious without being in isolation is going up too. It feels like the outbreak is slipping out of control, despite the current lockdown regulations. The lockdown was scheduled to end on 30 June, but I can’t see any way that it won’t be extended, and in fact tightened even further. I feel like the only thing we can do now is hunker down, avoid people, and wait for our second vaccinations.

New content today:

Double ethics!

Today I had a first – I scheduled a second online ethics class at 6pm immediately after my established Thursday class at 5pm. The evening timeslots in my time zone seem popular, and by the time the class started I had three new students signed up. These later slots are picking up more students in Europe and the UK. So today I had a total of 6 students – it would have been 7 but one of the ones in the first slot couldn’t make it this week.

This morning, despite trying not to spend time going to the supermarket because of the current COVID outbreak here in Sydney, I had to go to a different supermarket to buy a few things that I couldn’t order from my own local one. Specifically, I couldn’t order a large 5 kilo bag of bread-making flour online – it just says it’s only available in-store. And also my local supermarket doesn’t stock the bran that we use when making our own muesli, so I have to travel a couple of suburbs over to another supermarket that does stock it. And we needed an extra carton of milk, before I pick up the online order tomorrow morning. So I combined all this into one very quick shopping trip, and spent as little time as possible int the supermarket, at 7am when it’s at its emptiest.

The COVID stats here today were bad. NSW had 124 new cases, which is the highest number of cases recorded in Australia for the whole of this year so far. The government is hinting at further lockdown restrictions if the numbers don’t start turning down soon.

New content today:

New week of ethics

I start my new topic for the week of ethics classes on Wednesday (for historical reasons). The first thing I needed to do today was write the lesson plan! I’d advertised in advance that this week we’d be looking at “Prejudice”. But when I sat down to start writing a lesson, I realised it was going to be slightly tricky not to just give examples and questions that resulted in all the kids simply agreeing that prejudice was a bad thing.

So I looked for examples of positive prejudice as well, where people assume good things about people based on their appearance or other initial impressions. So I had a couple of examples of that, with some questions. Then I asked my friends what I could do with this subject, and one suggested a real world case where prejudicial thinking is actually used by a common industry: insurance.

Specifically, I used the example of car insurance. Statistically, drivers under the age of 25 are in around three times as many accidents causing injury or death than drivers aged 30 or more. And insurance companies (at least in Australia, whose figures I looked up) charge drivers under 25 roughly twice the premiums of drivers aged 30.

So I gave the kids the statistical fact about accidents first. Then I asked if they met someone aged 20 and someone aged 30, and didn’t know anything else about them, would it be reasonable to assume the older person was less likely to have a dangerous car accident? There was a 50/50 split among the 4 students in today’s class – two said yes, that’d be reasonable, the other two said no, you can’t make a judgement like that because for all you know the younger person might be a better driver. Then I asked them if they were an experienced 30-year-old driver, and they saw an 18-year-old driving nearby, would they drive more carefully around them, or not? The first two kids plus one of the others said yes they would, while the fourth doubled down and said no, they’d drive just as carefully around anyone.

Then I asked them about the insurance – was it fair to charge younger drivers more? Back to 50/50 split, the first two kids saying yes, the other two no. So this was good! There was a lot of good discussion, and I asked them all to give their reasons for their answers, so they heard a good deal about the opposing points of view.

Then came the crunch question. Imagine you run a delivery service and you’re hiring a new driver. You have two applicants, a 20 year old and a 30 year old. Their resumĆ©s are identical, except for their ages, and they agree to the same salary. Which one do you give the job to?

Well, almost predictably they split down the middle again. Two saying obviously the older one, because they’re a safer driver. The other two kids chose the younger one, saying you can’t just assume they’re not a good driver, and they probably have more energy and enthusiasm since they’re younger! I ended the lesson saying they should all go and think about everything we did today, and maybe talk with their parents about it and ask them the same questions.

So it ended up a fun class for everyone, and I enjoyed it too.

New content today: