Proving the Earth is round again

Someone commented to me earlier this week about atmospheric scientists who had posted detection of the shockwave of the Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption in barometric pressure readings from weather stations. They suggested this would be a good opportunity to do a new article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe.

At first I thought it would take too much time, a resource I have little of these days with all my teaching commitments and trying to squeeze in making comics. But then I began to see more posts on Facebook and Twitter about the event, and they built up a compelling picture. The best thing was a video that a scientist had made showing the shockwave converging on the opposite side of the world. When I saw that I knew I had to write the article.

So yesterday I started work on it. But I really wanted to use that video, and so I wrote an email to the scientist and asked him for permission. And this morning he’d answered to say yes, so it was all systems go. So, here’s the article.

My wife and I went out for pizza tonight to our favourite pizza place. And tonight is virtual board games night with my friends.

New content today:

Some best times

The biggest news today was that the rain stopped, and… the sun came out! I’m honestly not sure if we’ve had any sunshine for the past week. But we had some today. And the humidity percentage actually dropped down as low as the 50s. So despite having a busy morning with two ethics classes, meaning I couldn’t do my daily run until lunch time, the weather was actually more pleasant than it has been for a while.

And my body seemed to take advantage of it. I ran a new best time for the 2.5k, of 12:12. Strava also told me that I clocked my best 1 km and best 1 mile efforts, at 4:22 and 7:38 respectively. So I felt pretty good about that!

That was really the most interesting thing today. Otherwise it was work on comics, cooking dinner, walking Scully, routine sort of stuff. I did start work on a little something which I want to keep secret for now, but which should hopefully be ready in the next day or two, at which point I’ll definitely let you know.

New content today:

Rain running, and ethics of extinction

Wednesday dawned cool, grey, and… wait for it… rainy. This has really been the “summer that never was”. I went for my 2.5k run in steady rain, because looking at the rain radar I didn’t have any confidence that the weather would be any better later on. I’ve been keeping track of the temperature and humidity when I do my runs. The temperature has mostly been around 25°C, give or take a few degrees, but check the humidity:

Humidity during my runs in January

Yes, it’s been 80% or above every day since 4 January, over two weeks. And into the 90s on several days. It’s not great weather for running!

I spent a few hours today writing the next week’s ethics lesson. The topic this week is extinction. I found a very cool film of the last known thylacine, which has been colourised recently by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. And it’s public domain, so I could use it during my classes.

This was taken in 1933, and the animal shown died in 1936. No living thylacine has been seen ever since.

The class asks questions about whether humans have a moral responsibility to try to save species form extinction. Even if it’s not our fault – say a species is dying off due to disease that has nothing to do with humanity. How can we balance the needs of humans against those of other species? We can’t save all species, so how do we prioritise which species to save? Should we save charismatic large species, or species that almost nobody knows about? Assuming we could do it successfully, should we reintroduce extinct species such as the thylacine by cloning?

Then this evening I had three classes in a row with this new material. Wednesday nights are always the most exhausting, as it’s three lessons without breathing space in between, and I’m having to adapt the class dynamically as I see how the kids react to the new questions.

New content today:


It was a cooler, rainy day today. By cooler I mean 24°C. But still over 90% humidity, so it felt a bit stifling. This morning, after my daily run, I wrote the rest of this week’s Irregular Webcomic! annotations.

At lunchtime I had my appointment for my COVID booster third dose. It was at a medical centre I’d never been to before. It was very pleasant and I actually saw the doctor a few minutes early. After waiting the 15 minutes to ensure no reactions, I left and went to a nearby food place for some celebratory fried chicken for lunch. My wife met me with Scully, out on her lunch break walk, and we walked home together.

This afternoon I made a slide presentation for ethics of data engineering, for the university course I’m working on, and uploaded it to the share site for the lecturer. I also played a bit with Mentimeter, which is an app that the university uses for interactive lectures. I made a few slides asking questions about ethics of different data collection examples, which the students can vote on in real time during the lecture, and also post comments for everyone to see, and potentially the lecturer to read out and respond to. It seems to be a neat tool for getting interactive feedback from students during a lecture.

For dinner tonight I cooked some dhal from a kit that my wife got as a Christmas gift. By the time it was ready to eat, I was feeling a little bit nauseated – I think possibly a side effect of the COVID booster. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t eat, and the dhal tasted good.

Now I think I’ll relax and take it easy for the rest of the evening.

New content today:

And a crazy busy Monday

I was flat out today. (For anyone who doesn’t know, this is an Australian expression meaning “extremely busy”.)

I got up early, gulped down a breakfast, then went out for my 2.5k run. I wanted to get it done, and recover and cool down before my 10am ethics class. I felt quite good today during the run, despite the humidity being 94% (and the temperature was 23°C), and I was astonished to see that I’d run my second best time, 12:19. So that was a good start to the day.

After stripping off sweat-soaked clothes and having a big cold drink, I cooled down for a bit and checked news and events online. Then I mixed up a sourdough loaf and kneaded it and got it ready for baking later in the day.

By the time I’d done all that, it was time for my ethics classes. The last two lessons on this topic about art took me up to midday, when I had lunch and baked the bread.

Straight after lunch I got stuck into making this new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I’d put off for a week. The photography involves clearing off my desk, getting out several boxes of Lego figures and parts, and then spending time building each of the sets, arranging figures, photographing each scene, moving things around, deconstructing sets and then repeating the whole thing with each new theme. While doing the photography, I refer to the dialogue scripts that I’ve written, and often also end up tweaking some of the dialogue as I get new ideas during the process.

Photography was done by late afternoon, and then I had to pack all the Lego away, and start assembling the comics from the photos using Photoshop. I did the new comics for this week, and then started writing annotations and uploading those, ready for updating on the website. I managed to get tonight’s comic done in time – but then I forgot to change the configuration to update to a new comic rather than the reruns that I’d done last week! So for about half an hour the “new” comic was another rerun, until I rewound that update and redid the update with the modified configuration file. Phew!!

I’ve also spent a bunch of in-between time today handling parent requests on Outschool. The extension class for my ethics class (mentioned a few days ago) is now live, which means parents can actually see that I’m offering private extensions for this class – and I got a request from one to set up a time for their kid to do it. So I messaged back and forth a bit, and found a timeslot and set it up, and then I had to modify my art class notes to make some explicit extension.homework questions, and send those off tot the new student.

And… haha… wow. While writing that paragraph, I got another request from a parent to add a new class. Gosh… it’s going bananas! And my calendar is getting very full of classes.

New content today:

A busy writing day

My morning was taken up with chores and doing my run and exercise routine. It filled up things quickly since I didn’t get up until quite late, as I’d had a poor sleep during the night.

This afternoon I worked on finishing off writing that batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I’d tried to do last week. I now have the batch of 20 strips written, and I should be able to find time to photograph them tomorrow and put together at least one for Monday night’s update. So the brief hiatus should stay at just one week as new comics come online this week. I also worked on writing some new Darths & Droids strips.

And that was pretty much my day, really. I had another couple of classes tonight on the ethics of art, and I also had a little bit of Outschool admin work to do, dealing with various class changes and requests from parents.

And, um, I made some delicious fried rice for dinner.

New content today:

Houseworky Saturday

After putting it off for a bit too long, I decided the house really needed a clean today. I vacuumed the floors and cleaned the bathroom and shower, and tidied up a few things generally.

My wife went for a walk to the fortnightly local growers’ market and brought home some zucchini flowers. So I planned a dinner to use them while they’re fresh from the grower. I made pasta with a sort of carbonara-inspired sauce, but using the zucchini flowers and no meat. It turned out very nice, but could have used some explosive hits of salt from something like bacon/pancetta. I think next time I’ll try adding some capers.

I worked a bit on Outschool stuff, liaising with parents to schedule new classes and to reschedule existing ones to fit new constraints. I also scheduled two new instances of my course on creative thinking and game design, to start in the week of 6 February. If anyone reading this has kids aged 11-14, check it out!

This afternoon I watched England turn the fifth Ashes Test into yet another debacle in Hobart. Dear oh dear… I hope they can rebuild the team and be a bit more competitive next time.

New content today:

Ticking off tasks

I did a bunch of things today:

Picked up the groceries that I’d ordered online. I had a couple of weird mistake with my order. I’d ordered a tub of ice cream, which was missing. I’d ordered one packet of medium sized garbage bin liners for the kitchen waste bin – these are the right size obviously. But they also included two packets of large size bin liners, for no apparent reason. I have no use for these, but okay.

Prepared class notes for my private science class, to share with the student for Tuesday’s class.

Prepared a new course description on Outschool for an extension class for my ethics class. A parent has requested additional work on each week’s material for her son. I suggested I could send them my class notes with all of the questions, usually including some that I don’t get time to ask during the class, and he could write responses to them, and then we could go through them in a private follow-up class. This sounded suitable to the parent, so I went ahead and wrote and submitted a new class description to Outschool today.

I went through all my backlogged ISO Photography Standards emails. I had to send a bunch of emails and organise some administrative stuff. The next meeting we have is in the last week of February, so it’s coming up relatively soon, and there are some tasks for me to do as the head of the Australian delegation.

Tonight is board games night online with my friends. We’re currently playing King of Tokyo, which I always lose for some reason.

New content today:

Wet, soggy, moist, damp

Today was all about the weather. Since my last blog entry, we’ve had almost 90 mm of rain here in Sydney. It mostly came in two large bursts, about midnight last night, and at lunchtime today. I heard the heavy rain in the night. The midday rain was amazing – it was absolutely torrential for about half an hour, with heavy rumbles of thunder.

I took a photo, but this was after the peak, when the rain had eased off a bit:

A bit of rain

By 2pm or so the rain had eased to a sprinkle, but the weather radar implied that we’d be getting more later, so I went out for my run, and just got wet. I didn’t have time to do it in the morning because I had two ethics classes, at 9am and then 11am. And this evening I have two as well, 6pm and 9pm. The 9am class is a new one, that a parent requested because none of the available time slots were suitable. This is the first time I’ve been doing 4 classes in one day, and it’s a bit exhausting, and doesn’t leave time for much else.

In between the morning classes, I took some time to go down to the garage and clean off some of the mould that I’d found growing down there the other day. Disgusting stuff, but alas inevitable in this sort of tropical humidity we’ve been having for over a month now. I installed the damp removers in the garage cupboards – hopefully that will keep things under control from now on.

This evening my wife found a leech in our living room! A leech! That’s how wet it is! I suspect what happened is that during the walk I took Scully on around 5pm, after all of the rain, she picked up the leech while walking through the wet grass. And then once we got inside it dropped off after getting a taste of her anti-parasite treatment. My wife caught the offending annelid in a tissue and we disposed of it before it could attach to a human.

New content today:

Thinking about art

Today I had a Zoom meeting with the university lecturer I’m working with on this data engineering course, to discuss our progress and plan the next week or two of work. We’re making progress on things and integrating stuff to keep the curriculum flowing from week to week. He also mentioned that a colleague was looking for some proofreading for journal paper submissions, to see if I was interested in a bit more casual work. So after the meeting he contacted her and put me in touch with her. So hopefully this will lead to a bit more paid work for me.

My wife decided it would be a good day to send Scully in for doggie daycare so that she can socialise with other dogs. Scully really enjoys it there. I took her in and she got super excited when she realised where we were going. After dropping her off I went to the hardware store to buy some humidity removing crystals and containers. I found a little mould in our garage storage cupboards yesterday, and given how ridiculously humid the weather has been for the past few weeks, I think it’s necessary to take steps to reduce the humidity in those cupboards.

From the hardware store I drove over to that new bakery at Naremburn that I’ve been enjoying occasionally, to get a pie for lunch. They also had chocolate custard tarts today, so I tried one of those for dessert, and it was really good.

This afternoon I had to work solidly on writing the new ethics class for this week. The topic is art, and it’s really more of a critical thinking topic than an ethics one, although I included a few ethical questions in there. The main thrust of the questions was to get the kids thinking about what art is, how it might be defined, what counts as art and what doesn’t, and why we make art. I just got it finished in time for tonight’s triple classes, which mostly went pretty well. Phew!

New content today: