Another cold Monday

We seem to be in a pattern of spring weather where the weekends are hot and then Monday dawns cold and wet. It’s been raining on and off all day and it’s really quite chilly.

I went out early with Scully for a short walk, because I had an ethics class at 10:00, followed immediately by a Zoom meeting at 11:00 with the lecturer of the University data engineering course that I’m helping him to redesign for next year. We’re both pretty happy with where it’s going and agreed to drill down to the next level of detail – roughly describing what will be included per slide in the lecture material. We split up the weeks so that we can work on different ones according to our preferences and experience and it divided pretty neatly.

While out in the rain, I took a couple of photos:

Golden elm

Wet bottlebrush

New spring foliage of golden elm, and a bottlebrush (or Callistemon species) flower. I think this makes a nicely contrasting pair of photos: green with green background, and red with red background. (Apologies to anyone with red/green colour blindness – my colour blind proofing tool shows the bottlebrush in particular doesn’t appear anywhere near as dramatic for you.)

The other big thing about today is that COVID lockdown restrictions have eased in Sydney today. After 107 days of being unable to travel more than 5 kilometres from home, we can now travel within the entire Sydney region. But we’re still not allowed to travel outside the city. Also a lot of businesses such as gyms and hairdressers are now allowed to open again. There were huge queues at barber shops and hair stylists starting from midnight – I heard reports that walk-in appointments had waiting lists of over 5 hours. Also pubs are open again, and cafes and restaurants can have seated customers. There are restrictions on numbers of patrons per floor area, which will remain for some more weeks until they are eventually rolled back.

I didn’t take advantage of any of this but I did drive over to the nearest state government service centre (which is within 5 km anyway) to do an eye test for my driver’s licence renewal. I think I was in there for less than a minute – I went in, took a number, and it was the next number they called. I showed the lady the letter that said I needed to do an eye test. She asked me for my licence, got me to read a line off a chart, hit a button on her computer, and told me it was done.

Tonight it’s project work for the students in the image processing course. Several of the student teams have had questions about their assessment tasks and the reports they are writing, but it seems mostly they are on track and doing good work. I’m actually excited to see how they go on the image processing tasks they’ve chosen to work on.

New content today:

Game design theme decided!

Tonight I ran the third lesson of my 6-week course in Creative Thinking and Game Design. If you recall last week we had some intriguing suggested themes for the game that we’re working on. I’m happy to say that after going through and rating all of the theme ideas, we came up with three ideas that we all agreed were good for a game:

  • Visiting different countries
  • Causing trouble in school
  • Ruining someone’s wedding

And by consensus we agreed that the one we liked best was the last one: ruining someone’s wedding. So that’s what we’re now officially doing – designing a board game about ruining a wedding! We also came up with the goal of the game – how you win: By making as many people as possible upset. And we listed some tentative game mechanics – we might use a board to represent the wedding venue (although I’m not convinced we need to do this); and we might have cards with various objects that will make people upset, for example an embarrassing photo of the bride. (We’ll keep it clean and G-rated! So let’s say no more about that.)

The kids have homework to play with mechanics and come up with any new ideas during the week. Next lesson we’ll put them together into a game that we can start playing!

Other than that, today I worked on the current batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, assembling them from the photos I took a couple of weeks ago. I’ve now completed that batch, so I can start thinking about writing the next batch…. it never ends.

I also did some baking today. I made sourdough bread, and because my wife is keen on fruit and nut loaf I made one of those, with dried apricots and walnut chunks in it. And I made some chocolate chip cookies, which I’ve been craving for weeks. I finally got around to buying some choc chips in the last grocery shop, so today I made a batch. I dotted two baking trays with dough and put them in the oven, heated to 180°C, and set the oven timer for a couple of minutes less than the minimum baking time specified in the recipe.

When the timer went off, I opened the oven to check the cookies… and black smoke poured out! I didn’t know what had happened until I noticed the oven mode selector knob wasn’t pointing at “Bake”, but rather at the adjacent setting, “Pizza”. I know I set it to “Bake” and the temperature to 180°C, but I must have bumped the knob when putting the baking trays in or something, and when the knob is turned to “Pizza” it also automatically resets the temperature to 220°C! The “Pizza” setting also applies base heat, to crisp the bottom of the pizza dough and uses the fan to force hot air throughout the oven. So the cookies were WAY overdone.

Burnt cookies

The ones on the bottom baking tray were basically charcoal on the lower half, and unsalvageable. The upper baking tray fared a little better – they are a bit well done, but just edible. I normally like them a bit gooey in the middle, but these are baked hard through.

It hasn’t been a good week for me in the kitchen.

New content today:

Another busy Saturday

The main thing I did today was work on completing the lesson plan and slides for tomorrow’s third lesson in my Creative Thinking & Problem Solving course on Outschool. There was less prep work needed for this one, but it will be more on-the-fly discussion with the kids about the various game theme and mechanics ideas that we’re working on, mixed with some thinking techniques to help settle on a single theme and then choose a few appropriate mechanics. I hope it goes well in practice!

I also did some housework, cleaning various rooms and finally going through the pile of old paperwork on my desk to sort out what needs filing and what could be thrown away. There’s still a bit of clutter around. I really think at some point I need to declare a week off doing other things and just spend it doing a proper spring clean and getting the whole house in order again. I’ve got three new books that I have no room for on my bookshelves, until I rearrange things and potentially get rid of some old stuff I don’t want any more. The pains of living in a small place.

For dinner I tried the eggplant and haloumi tarts that I tried unsuccessfully a few days ago. I didn’t burn the eggplant this time, but it reduced in volume quite a bit, and I ended up with less filling than I expected. So they ended up with a higher crust/filling ratio, but tasted good. Next time I might try adding some more filling ingredients.

New content today:

Last pizza pickup?

Today I worked on lesson 3 of my Creative Thinking game design course. I also took Scully for a short walk in the morning, and then with my wife for a longer walk at lunch.

For dinner we ordered pizza from our favourite local pizza place, and I went up to the restaurant to pick them up. This might be the last time we pick up pizza for a while, as restaurants will be back open next week after the COVID lockdown restrictions ease. The owner of the pizza place said he was looking forward to having customers dining in again, and said they were doing a few renovations to change the place around a bit.

Tonight is online games night with my friends again. I’m losing all the games as usual…

New content today:

French lentils

Today was a day for more ethics classes, plus working on some Darths & Droids comics.

I also tried something new for dinner tonight. I cook with red lentils a fair bit, usually making some variant of dhal, to have with rice. But after reading some recipes I decided to try getting some French Puy lentils, which take longer to cook and hold their shape. I cooked them tonight, boiling them first and draining them. Then I fried up some chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, potato, then added the lentils and a chopped tomato, with a splash of red wine and seasoning.

I forgot to take a photo before eating, which is a shame as the resulting dish looked marvellous. It tasted pretty good too and my wife declared it a positive.

New content today:

My days are full of teaching stuff

I’d completed my lesson notes for the new week of online ethics classes yesterday, so I had today free to work on … other teaching notes!

I spent time doing the next level of detail in outlining the university Data Engineering course that I’ve been tasked with helping to sort out for early next year. I did a week-by-week lesson plan, indicating what should be taught during a lecture component and a practical lab/tutorial component for each week. Each week contains a few bullet points of material, including the course assessment tasks where appropriate. I started work on organising material from the previously existing course into the weekly components, and editing some of the old introductory material to fit the new course structure, but I realised I should get the lecturer to take a look at it first and sign off before I get stuck in too much further, lest it need any changes. So I’ve left that there for today, but it was a good solid chunk of work.

This evening I had the first three lessons on the new ethics topic of buying and selling. I start by asking them to think about what makes things valuable, and tell me their thoughts. I’m getting an interesting cross section of ideas so far, with qualities like rarity, age, sentimental value, usefulness, investment of labour time, and production costs all coming into it. Some kids even said nothing really has value other than people agreeing that it does – which is either insightful or they’ve heard that somewhere before.

Then I’m telling them the story of De Beers and their global monopoly on the supply of diamonds and how they artificially created the idea that diamonds are incredibly valuable. And I ask a bunch of questions around the ethics of them doing that. A few kids were shocked and said their price manipulations should be illegal, while others said if they owned the diamonds they could market them however they wanted, and it was good for their own business to do what they do, so no problem. So that’s a nice controversial one for starters!

New content today:

Yesterday’s walk, and more walking

I have photos from yesterday’s walk, which was along a creek known as Tannery Creek, in a suburb out towards our 5 km COVID restriction limit. I’m guessing the creek was named for historical tanneries that used to be in the area, though if so they are long gone.

Tannery Creek Walk

This walk started in a park by the harbour shore, where there was a boat ramp, and thus lots of cars with boat trailers taking up all the parking spots. We had to park out on the street and up a bit from where we panned to start walking. Being a public holiday, there were a lot of people out for picnics and boating outings. Hopefully in COVID-compliant groups of five or less.

Tannery Creek Walk

The walk started as a broad flat path of firm packed leaves, but quickly narrowed to a dirt and rock track through close trees and bushes.

Tannery Creek Walk

We chose a branching loop that took us up the hill away from the creek for a while, into drier terrain. This looped back around on another path before rejoining the path that ran along near the creek bed.

Tannery Creek Walk

Down by the creek it was a lot wetter and cooler and shadier, with large ferns and mossy sandstone rocks.

Tannery Creek Walk

We walked upstream, having realised from doing several of these walks lately that it’s nicer to walk upstream in the bush, and then downhill back to the car, rather than going down the creek and having to slog uphill back to the car along hot streets.

Tannery Creek Walk

It was another very nice walk, and we spotted plenty of birds, including a white-faced heron towards the top end of the creek. I didn’t expect to see one in dense forest – they usually stick to coastal areas or open grass in my experience.

Today I did a couple of walks with Scully while my wife worked at home, and later went out for a practice walk to her dance fitness class venue, which is starting up again next week when our COVID restrictions ease and they can start running the classes again. At lunch time I took Scully past the bakery and picked up a pie for lunch, while this evening I did a loop around some of the local shops.

And most of the rest of the day I worked on the next ethics lesson plan, about buying and selling, and the science lesson that I just had this evening with the girl whose mother wanted her to do some one-on-one classes.

Dinner tonight was a bit more of a success than last night’s. I made pizza dough and topped it with pesto, ricotta, cheese, potato, and fresh rosemary. That turned out pretty good.

New content today:

Attempted eggplant tarts

Today was Labour Day Monday, a public holiday. Not that it was much different to any other day in COVID lockdown.

I went on another exploratory walk with my wife and Scully, to new places we hadn’t been before within our 5 km radius from home. I have some photos, but it’s too late now to prepare them, since we’ve spent this evening watching The Adventures of Tintin on Netflix. I’m a big Tintin fan – of the books – but I’ve never seen this movie until tonight. I got bad vibes from all the publicity and avoided it until now. It’s a bit uncanny valley in the character animation, and it plays very fast and loose with the story material from the books, but it’s not as terrible as I feared, and there were a lot of nice references to the greater Tintin canon sprinkled throughout, which someone like me could pick up on. I feel like it would have been nice if they played the canonical story straighter and didn’t include so many gratuitous action sequences, but it was okay.

For dinner tonight I planned to make eggplant and haloumi tarts. I grilled the eggplant first to make it soft…

Burnt eggplant

… but I forgot about it while doing something else, and came back too late to find this. So yeah, I completely ruined dinner. I was so put out that I ended up just making fried eggs on toast for dinner instead.

New content today:

Creative game design part 2

This evening I had the second lesson of my 6-week course on Creative Thinking & Problem Solving, with game design as a practical exercise. We did brainstorming, and came up with a bunch of wacky ideas for games. Some examples of the ideas for game themes that the stidents and I came up with:

  • A cooking competition
  • A doctor examining patients
  • Causing trouble in school
  • Ruining someone’s wedding

I really like the last one, and kind of hope we end up developing that one into a game, but I’m planning to be guided by what the students think when we come back to the ideas next week.

Today daylight saving began here in New South Wales, by the way, so all my classes are now an hour later – because I’ve kept them the same time for all the students in other countries. I need to go through every class and decide if I want to move it another hour later when the northern hemisphere goes off daylight saving at the end of October. That will be to keep them at the same time for European and American countries that have DST. I think a lot of Asian countries don’t have DST at all, so classes with Asian students won’t need to move. It’s a bit of juggling, and I’m going to have to end up telling some of the students that their classes will be shifting in time, so they might have to move to another class or possibly unenrol if they cant find a suitable timeslot. And then in 6 months I have to go through this all in the other direction.

But I’m happy that sunset is now an hour later (by the clock). I love the long light summer evenings. Speaking of which, it was very warm and summery today, with a temperature of 26°C. I went on another walk with my wife and Scully, just around our local area from home today. There were a lot of people out enjoying the warmth, with dozens of people having picnics in various parks that we walked past. Picnics were only authorised a week or two ago as COVID lockdown restrictions slowly ease here, and plenty of people are taking advantage of it.

I want to make use of the warm weather and evening sunlight to have a picnic dinner with my wife for our wedding anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks. Not on the exact day, but some time during that week. It’ll be nice to sit in a park, with a view over the harbour, and have a pleasant dinner.

New content today:

A serious game suggestion

Saturday, and it’s a long weekend, with Monday being Labour Day. This October long weekend is traditionally considered the start of the summery half of the year, with swimming pools opening and stuff. Although it’s already been warm enough to swim for the past month or so, with warmer weather arriving earlier and earlier every year.

The other thing is that channel-billed cuckoos are back. I saw two of them today. These birds migrate north in the winter, and head back to our southerly climes around this tie of year. They’re big, noisy, loud birds, and other birds like to harass them noisily as well, so it’s usually pretty obvious when they’re in the area.

I went for another walk around more new places in our 5 km radius today, with my wife and Scully. This is Folly Point:

Folly Point

Scully by the water:

Folly Point

A panorama with Scully and my wife:

Folly Point

Willoughby Waterfall:

Primrose Park Track

And back home I worked on Darths & Droids comics for a bit. And I also did our tax returns, finally. I normally do them in July, but we’ve been putting them off for ages now, and it was finally time to get them out of the way. I did my wife’s and my tax returns, and it took about 20 minutes in total.

I forgot to mention an idea that we had last night during games night with my friends: A social deduction game played over text chat, where every player has a secret role which tells you to be either sincere or sarcastic. You have to enter text (without emojis) in your given mode, while trying to convince other players that you’re playing the other mode. The tentative title of this game: “Yeah, Right”.

New content today: