Students, not comics

I planned today to work on a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! writing, since I don’t even have a new strip ready for Monday at this point. I ended up doing very little of that, because I had two ethics classes, plus spent a few hours helping university students with their image processing assignments for the final course assessment tasks.

I also went on a long walk with my wife and Scully, taking one of our usual long routes – a loop along streets and through parks, and then back along the shore of the harbour. I did a couple of bird counting lists using eBird, and on the second half of the walk I got up to 15 different species, which is a good high number – more than usual.

A couple of photos, from Friday, when walking Scully at the dog park I spotted this Australian brushturkey:

Australian brushturkey

And yesterday near the pie shop where I got lunch is this extremely modest fish and chip shop:

Such modesty

I’ve never eaten there, so I can’t attest to whether the claim is true or not. Although I’ve seen some reviews which definitely imply that the claim is overblown.

New content today:

An expedition for cotton

It was a lot colder today than yesterday. After the 33°C of yesterday, a cold front came through overnight, and today’s maximum was only 20°C, which felt really nice and cool after that heat.

My wife wanted to get some more cotton thread for her sewing, so we took a drive over to Birkenhead Point, where there is a large shopping centre with a branch of the fabric crafts store that she likes to go to. I dropped her off there and took Scully with me to a nearby bakery to get some lunch. We walked down to a park to sit while I ate, and she got to explore a new neighbourhood.

This afternoon I prepared the last lesson of my Creative Thinking and game design class for the students. It was really going over any comments and ideas they had on the second iteration of the Ruin the Wedding game that we’ve developed, giving them another creative thinking technique, and wrapping up with tips on how to use everything they’ve learnt in the future. The class went really well, and I think they really enjoyed the whole course.

Shakshuka with spinach

This evening for dinner I made shakshuka. I searched for some recipes and just figured out the common ingredients and threw it together, adding some spinach for greenery. Rather than bake it, I just let it sit in the frying pan on the stove top with a metal backing sheet over the top to keep the heat in and cook the eggs on top. It turned out pretty good!

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And a busy Friday to finish the week

Today I had to deal with questions from university students that I didn’t have time to handle last night. They stretched my knowledge a bit so it took a lot of time to handle them. I’d wanted to dedicate the day to writing comics and other such activities, but I only got a little of that done.

The other thing about today is that it was very hot. 33°C in the city, up to 34°C in some suburbs. It was the first real blast of heat as summer closes in. And windy – the sort of day with a strong hot wind blowing trees and leaves and pollen all over the place. That made it rather unpleasant being outside.

Tonight my wife is having a night out with her friends. I am looking after Scully, so I took her up the street to a burger place where we could sit outside while I ate. And while waiting for my food, my wife walked past with one of her friends! So Scully became super excited, because she loves that friend (having stayed with her for a couple of weeks while my wife and I were travelling). And then when I came home, Scully didn’t want to come with me – she wanted to go back to the restaurant where my wife always goes with her friends!

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Very quick Thursday update

I’ve been super busy this evening.

My day got off to a terrible start when 2 minutes before an online ethics class my Internet went out. I used 4G on my iPad to post an apology and that I had to cancel the class. I wasn’t set up to run Zoom on 4G, and I don’t know how long it would have taken me to download the client and get everything running. This was the class I had to cancel last week as well due to the ISO meeting I was in at the time, so the 4 students in this timeslot have now missed out 2 weeks in a row. It’s the first time since I started that I’ve had Internet issues during a class.

The outage was a scheduled maintenance window, as I discovered by looking it up. It could have occurred at any time between 7am and 3pm, though of course it happened right before my lesson was due to begin at 10am. After the net came back on half an hour later, I contacted the students to offer a make-up class at the same time tomorrow. Three of the four said they could make it, so I’ll be doing it then.

I mostly worked on Darths & Droids writing today. I’m very short on buffer and need to get more strips written for the next week.

This evening I had two more ethics classes, and in between I made sourdough and cooked dinner, and dealt with some student feedback on the image processing assessment task that I marked last week. That was quite a job, which I won’t go into further here. Let me just say that I thought I got off lightly during Monday’s tutorial session, when most of the students logged out after about an hour, so I didn’t have much to do for the next 2 hours – but now I’ve definitely earned my pay from the university this week. I also have a couple of outstanding requests for assistance in coding up some of the project work for the next assessment task, from two different teams.. I didn’t have time to get to that tonight, so will have to do it tomorrow morning as well.

New content today:

A long haul day

It was a busy day today. After the last week of ISO meetings and having deadlines for other things, I had two things I needed to get done today.

Firstly I started by making some Irregular Webcomic! strips, since without new ones the buffer would have run out today. I didn’t have time to write and photograph my usual batch of over 20 strips in one go, so I had to just write three strips to last until the end of this week, photograph them, assemble them, and write annotations for them. Fortunately I didn’t suffer any writers block and managed to get the whole lot done within a couple of hours. But that will only last until the weekend, and I’ll need to get another batch going in time for Monday.

After picking up Scully from my wife’s work at lunchtime, I brought her home via the slopey park again, where we did some ball fetching and lying in the grass for a bit. She was very good for me this afternoon when we finally got home, just sleeping in her dog bed until my wife arrived home from work.

This gave me time to work on the next thing – my ethics lesson for the new week of classes this evening. This week we’re talking about enhancing sports performance, in particular the ethics of performance enhancing drugs. We get there via a route starting with high altitude training – in which athletes live in mountains for several weeks while training, to increase their red blood cell count, which gives them an advantage when they return to lower altitudes. It’s a common (and legal) method that athletes have been using for many years. Then we go to low-oxygen tents, which simulate altitude training by let the athlete sleep in a low oxygen environment – it’s cheaper and easier and produces the same effect: higher red blood cell count. And it’s also legal in sports training.

Then we go onto blood doping – removing blood from an athlete, then a few weeks later transfusing the red cells back into the same athlete. This produces the same effect—increased blood cell count—just without the low-oxygen training. The result is exactly the same, but I ask the kids if it’s still acceptable.

And then we hit erythropoietin, or EPO. An artificial copy of a protein secreted by human kidneys, that regulates red blood cell production. If you inject it, you end up with more red blood cells. Again, the same result as altitude training, but by a different method. And the kids need to decide if this is okay or not. All the way along this path they need to justify their answers with explanations.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, where I don’t have any hard deadlines for things I need to get done. I might even relax a little…

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A long walk and a lie in the grass

This morning I took the opportunity to go for a run. I haven’t done any for a while, so I started easy and went at a slower pace. I started thinking I’d do 2.5 km, but I decided to extend it a bit further, and ended up doing 3.2 km. It felt okay but I was starting to wane near the end. I want to build back up to 5k again if I can.

I did some comics stuff in the morning, then went for a long walk over to the new bakery I discovered yesterday, to try it out for lunch. On the way I took a photo of St Leonard’s Catholic Church, which is a landmark visible across much of the surrounding area with its tall copper spire.

St Leonard's Church, Naremburn

When I got there and went inside, it was very weird – they had several of exactly the same things as the Grumpy Baker over at Waverton. The pie selection was identical, and they had Nutella babka – the only place I’ve ever seen that before is at Grumpy Baker. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe that they were going over to Grumpy Baker first thing in the morning and buying a bunch of stuff to resell under the guise of a different bakery. Anyway, I tried a pie and a sausage roll. And they did have some things that Grumpy Baker doesn’t make, including vanilla slices, so I had one of those too. I’ll add the review to Snot Block & Roll in a day or two when I get time.

On the way home I picked up Scully from my wife’s work, and took her home via the slopey park where she does ball chasing and fetching. We had a bit of a play with the ball before she got tired and decided to have a rest. I joined her for a lie down in the grass too, and we both just laid there for a while. Nice and peaceful.

Scully with ball

But on the way there we passed the brand new pedestrian island in the middle of the road. It’s not a main road, but it does get a lot of traffic. The council recently widened the pedestrian refuge in the middle and installed safety barriers. But today…

Someone didn't

Someone had ploughed right through the “Keep Left” sign, the first pedestrian safety barrier, and half-removed the second barrier on the far side. I really hope nobody was standing there when it happened, or they would have been severely injured, if not killed. I think it might have happened while I was out getting lunch too, because I didn’t see it messed up like this when I passed it on my way out, and neither did my wife on her way to work this morning, though she did see it on the way home.

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Back to the office!

My wife that is, not me. Her office is opening up again after the long COVID lockdown here in Sydney, and she went in to work this morning for a full day (she did a single afternoon last week in preparation). And she took Scully back into the office for the first time in months. So I had the entire morning to myself!

I had the last class of the week on the ethics topic of Democracy. It was a bit tough because three of the students in this class are a bit slow to collect their thoughts and express them, while one of the kids is a fast thinker, so he gets a bit impatient. Fortunately though, the USA goes off daylight saving in a couple of weeks, which will split this class into two, with the US students moving an hour later, while the ones in Asia stay at the same time.

At lunch time I went to my wife’s office (a short walk away, which is good because she doesn’t need to use public transport while COVID is still going around) to pick up Scully and take her home for the afternoon. Scully likes being in the office with my wife, but she gets a bit stir crazy being in there all day, so I took her for a long walk before heading home.

We walked past Naremburn, a suburb about 2.5 km away that I walk to sometimes. There used to be a small bakery here, which made some okay meat pies and some good sweet treats, but it closed down maybe a year or so ago, leaving nothing much of interest in the small cluster of shops for me. (There’s a couple of cafes, but I don’t drink coffee. There’s a brewpub, but it’s not exactly the sort of place you can grab a bite to eat while walking home – though it is nice to sit in for a long lunch. And there’s a hairdresser and a dog groomer and a clothing shop.) Well, I was pleasantly surprised to discover today that a brand new bakery has opened in the same place as the old bakery! I peeked through the door and it looks like they have some nice things, so maybe later this week I’ll walk over here again before I eat lunch and I’ll have the chance to try some things.

This afternoon I tried to write some comics, but had a bad case of writer’s block, so didn’t get much done. And tonight was the second last tutorial session for the UTS image processing course. I had to help a few groups of students with their project work – several of them are discovering that the grand ambitions they had with their project specification reports are not so easy to turn into practice. I reassured them that the important thing was to adapt and learn, and report on the fact that they had to try something else because their initial plans didn’t work out. I think all the students I’m working with are pretty competent and doing decent work, so I hope that’s reflected in their final reports.

New content today:

Sleep in Sunday

After my busy week of morning ISO meetings, I finally got to sleep in a bit this morning. It was very nice not having to get up at 6:30. I had a weird dream while I dozed in the morning, that I was in Japan and ordering food but I’d completely forgotten how to say “thank you” in Japanese, so everybody thought I was being rude.

First task for today was revising the game rules and pieces for the Ruin the Wedding game that we worked on during yesterday’s Creative Thinking class. The kids decided that because some of the event cards were themed as things happening at the ceremony or reception, that should only be playable when people are tat the correct location. I realised this myself in the first version, but didn’t bother implementing any sort of fix, because I was hoping the kids would come up with something. And they did! We’re now separating the events into different locations and making separate draw piles for each, and players can choose which pile to draw from. It wasn’t actually my preferred solution, but the kids liked it so that’s what we’re going with.

I tried to write a few comics this afternoon, but found it hard to concentrate, so didn’t get much done. And tonight I had two ethics classes. It’s amusing – I’ve been asking kids if prisoners should be allowed to vote. So far three different kids have independently said no, and given the reason that if prisoners went out to vote then they could just run away from prison!

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Super busy week: Saturday

Today was the final day of the ISO Photography standards meeting, so I had to be up and ready to start by 7am again. The last day is easier as it’s administrative stuff and usually not technical discussion. In other business I suggested that we should establish formal liaison relationship with the W3C consortium, since they are doing work on defining a HTML canvas for display of HDR images, which is potentially overlaps with work we are doing on defining a format for HDR and wide colour gamut still images. We don’t want to be duplicating work, or worse, coming up with competing standards.

Once the meeting was over, I had to prepare for the 5th lesson of my course on Creative Thinking and game design. Because of student schedule changes it’s moved form Sunday to Saturday fo the final two weeks. I printed and cut out the Ruin the Wedding game, and played it a couple of times with my wife.

Ruin the Wedding, version 1

We discovered that it was far too easy to ruin the wedding, sending the bride home in disgust both times before most people even made it to the reception. There were also flavour issues with events written on the card that should really only happen at either the ceremony or the reception being playable when people were pretty much anywhere. So we brainstormed ways to fix these issues and the kids came up with some ideas that should work. I’ll make a new version of the game and we’ll do another round of playtesting and refining next week – and that’ll be the course done!

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Super busy week: Friday

It was another full-on morning of technical discussions in my ISO Photography standards meeting this morning, beginning at 7am and going a bit over time.

At lunch I went for a long walk with my wife and Scully, over to the Italian bakery a couple of suburbs over. I bought a small box of biscuits for dessert and snacks. This afternoon I had to go pick up our weekly groceries, as I couldn’t do it in the morning. And then we all went to the dog park to see the people and dogs there. My wife came with me as she’d taken the day off work, so she got to see some of the regulars and their dogs for the first time in a long time.

Silver gull and harbour

I saw this gull on the walk.

For dinner we went out to our favourite local pizza place, keen to give them some patronage after the long lockdown when restaurants were closed. The staff were happy to see us (and Sully) again.

Coming home I spotted this ringtail possum on a fence, though unfortunately it moved as the flash went off:

Ringtail possum

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