Collecting bunya nuts

This morning I did the usual grocery pick-up run, collecting my pre-ordered groceries form the supermarket. Then my run. And then right after that I took Scully for a short walk while my wife left for a day out in the city. She was taking a day off work and going to meet her mother for a morning tea in the city.

While she was there, I’d asked her to pick up a book for me at the gaming shop in town: Dungeons & Dragons: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos.

And speaking of gaming, tonight we’re playing Tapestry in our weekly online board game night. We’d decided we wanted to play a longer game and settled on this in advance, so we could all learn the rules before we start playing.

But an interesting thing I did today was collect some bunya nuts! Bunya pines are large native Australian trees that produce large seed cones every 3-4 years or so. There’s one not far from my place, which has been dropping cones for a couple of weeks. It’s the tall dark green tree in the centre of this photo:

Collecting bunya pine nuts

Here’s a piece of one of the cones. The cones are about the size of a soccer ball, but they slowly break open after falling, and all the ones I could find had broken up into segments.

Collecting bunya pine nuts

I spent time opening the segments and extracting the nuts, which are about the size of brazil nuts.

Collecting bunya pine nuts

I collected 3.2 kilograms of nuts!

Collecting bunya pine nuts

Banana for scale:

Collecting bunya pine nuts

To eat them, I’ll have to boil them for about 20 minutes and then peel off the shells, a bit like chestnuts. The flesh inside is also rather like chestnuts – at least that’s what the web says. I haven’t actually tried eating these before. I’ll try to report here when I try them.

New content today:

Working on data visualisation

Besides running my 4 ethics classes today, I worked on slides for the lecture on data visualisation that I’m preparing for the university course. It starts one week from tonight – this time next week I’ll be at the university helping out with the introductory lecture for the course.

I kind of also had a lot of housekeeping chores to do today, some literal housekeeping, but some other things like renewing my child safety training for Primary Ethics, which I’ll be starting to teach again face-to-face next week at the school.

Oh, and I’m now in the middle of contacting all the parents for tonight’s two online ethics classes and arranging different timeslots for all the kids for next week, since I can’t teach classes at the same time as I’m at the university… teaching classes.

New content today:

New ethics: Patriotism

Actually I had two new ethics things today. In my online classes I started a new topic, on patriotism. I wrote the lesson today, and then ran it three times in a row this evening. I need to add some more material, as I ran out in two of the classes. Some topics seem to generate lots of discussion and rambling answers from the kids, while others… don’t. This seems to be one of the latter sort. I’ll have to spend some time tomorrow morning adding a few more questions.

But first thing this morning I travelled over to the public school where I’ve been teaching ethics face to face with students since 2017. 2021 was a write-off, given COVID restrictions and school closures, but this year we are kicking off a new year of ethics lessons, hopefully to cover the full year as normal. Today we had a meeting from 08:15 with the new deputy principal of the school, so she could go through various admin details with us before we started – this meeting was with all of the ethics and scripture teachers (which teach simultaneously, depending on parental preferences).

Previously, we’d never had anything like this. We just showed up on our first day and bumbled around to find out which classes we had and where the rooms were, and there was no briefing on school discipline or anything. But this new deputy principal was super organised. She showed us the roll folders, and said there’d be info sheets on any students with special needs, and she gave us a step-by-step plan for dealing with any students who might misbehave in class, indicating a warning followed by sending the student to her office. This was all way more organised than anything I’ve seen at this school in the past five years. So that’s good!

As it turned out, the other years all had their first ethics class following this meeting, but the year 6 class that I’ve been assigned were away on a school camp, so I actually start teaching next week. I looked through the roll and it looks like I have 17 students, though the number may change before next week as parents shuffle their kids around. According to the rules I need to wear a surgical quality mask while on the school grounds, including during the lesson, for COVID protection reasons. So it’ll be interesting giving a whole lesson that way. Let’s see how it goes next week.

New content today:

Engineering data presentation

Today I dedicated time to working on student exercises for the topic of data visualisation and presentation for the Data Engineering course. I wrote a couple of exercises using some public datasets to show off some data visualisation features, and also to explore how presentation of the data can be used to push an agenda and deceive the viewer. Simultaneously I wrote sample Matlab code to carry out the exercises. I’ve just uploaded the exercises, datasets, and sample code to the university Canvas site (a web app that lets students access course data) – it sits there unpublished until the relevant week of the course, but the lecturer can view and edit it.

Next step will be to work on slides and diagrams for use during the same week’s lecture, which I’ll do later this week – hopefully to complete by Friday.

Besides this work, I did my usual 2.5k run, baked some sourdough, and at lunch I went for a long walk with my wife and Scully to get some lunch and some outdoor time. I also took Scully to the dog park late in the afternoon, to get a bit more exercise in and socialising with other dogs.

New content today:

Too busy for comics again

I have a very busy couple of weeks coming up, and unfortunately I’ve run out of buffered strips for Irregular Webcomic! Rather than try to squeeze in production of a new batch, I’ve declared this week another hiatus week, and am doing reruns instead. I hope to be able to make more comics in time for next week, but I’m not convinced that will happen, so we’ll have to see.

This week I have to concentrate on getting some more work done on the Data Engineering course for the University of Technology. The course starts next week on 24 February. The lecturer and I have weeks 1-4 mostly sorted, and I need to work on slides and exercises for week 5, while he works on week 6. I’m planning to work solidly on that tomorrow.

Today I finished off the ethics topic on Tourism with two more classes, plus an extension class for one student. I’ll also need to write the new topic on Patriotism for classes starting on Wednesday. And the other thing I had to do was sort out my schedule, because of clashes with the upcoming Data Engineering course.

Unlike last year when I did the tutoring work entirely from home, the university is opening up to face-to-face teaching again, and I’ll need to travel in to do the tutoring work. The class runs from 6-9pm every Thursday. The university is a 20 minute train ride and about 10 minutes walk away, so I’ll need to factor an hour to take care of contingencies and arrive on time, and I won’t get home until close to 10pm. So it clashes with my current two ethics classes on Thursday evening, which I’ve decided to move to Tuesday at the same times (currently my “day off”). So I had to write a note to inform the parents of all the students about the shift, and ask them to either confirm that their kids can continue on the new day, or look to transfer them to some other class time.

The other thing that will occupy much of next week is the next ISO Photography Standards meeting. It should have been in Yokohama, but we are still doing virtual meetings due to COVID travel restrictions. It’s on from Tuesday 22 to Friday 25 February. The good news is that it’s at a very reasonable time for my time zone this time, with sessions beginning at 2:15 pm and ending at 5:45 pm. And, incredibly fortunately, that only clashes with one Outschool class, which hopefully I can move to a different time. However the Thursday ending clashes with the time I need to leave home to be at the university for the first lecture of Data Engineering, so I’ve told the chairperson that I can’t attend the final technical session on Thursday, and he’s scheduled the session that I am least interested in for that timeslot. So it won’t be too bad. It’s definitely better than doing a Zoom meeting for four days after midnight! (Which will probably happen for the next meeting in June…)

Oh, and as if I didn’t have enough to do, I had an idea for a new class I could teach on Outschool: Philosophy of Science. Although I think I wouldn’t call it that – it needs a snappy name that won’t scare kids away. But the basic idea is a one-off class that teaches them about the scientific method, Occam’s razor, the fact that science builds models to explain observations, etc. Basically a primer on what science really is, and what it isn’t, to correct/forestall many of the popular misconceptions of how science works. I’ve recorded the idea for now… hopefully I’ll get to work on it some time in the not too distant future.

New content today:

Groupthink in ethics classes

In my current ethics topic of Tourism, I’ve been asking classes of kids the question: Is it okay for locals to have restaurants charging high prices in tourist areas (compared to low prices elsewhere, where tourists seldom go)?

In most classes the kids have been pretty negative, saying that’s scammy and unfair. But tonight I had a class where all four of the kids thought it was fine, in fact it was smart business.

I followed up with: Would it be okay for a shop to charge locals a low price for a bottle of water, but when a tourist comes in they say the price is much higher? One kid thought that was not right, but three of them thought it was perfectly fine, especially if the locals were relatively poor and the tourists wealthy.

This shows the phenomenon I’ve noticed where the kids in a given class tend to follow one another in their opinions, rather than going out on a limb and disagreeing. I do get kids within a class disagreeing sometimes, but other times there’s a surprising run of agreement on what I feel is an atypical response. I don’t really have anything else to say about this, other than it’s interesting.

I also taught the second lesson in my current 6-week course on creative thinking. The student I have for that is keen and I think will get a lot out of the course, because he’s paying attention and doing the exercises with gusto.

In between I made some more Darths & Droids strips to get a buffer up and running again. And for dinner tonight I cooked calzones, with pumpkin/ricotta/feta filling.

I should mention a new project my wife is working on. She’s been making bangles, to go with the dog bandanas that she’s been selling. She’s using leftover scraps of fabric from the bandanas and wrapping them around wooden bangles using decoupage glue and varnish. They take a few weeks to make as the glue and varnish need time to cure, but she’s almost got a batch ready to start selling. We’re going to do some glamour photography to show them off soon, so she can add them to her Etsy shop. I’ll share some photos when we get that done.

New content today:

Breaking 12 minutes

This morning was cool, cloudy, and importantly not very humid. I decided I’d launch into my 2.5k run hard and try to press for breaking 12 minutes for the first time. My best so far was 12:01 two days ago.

I set off hard down the initial section, slightly downhill. So I was starting to puff at the first turn, after about 400 metres. I wondered if I’d gone too hard too early. But I kept up a fast pace as best I could, into the first uphill section, and didn’t let up to catch my breath in the long downhill after that. By halfway I felt as thought I was setting a good pace, but now came the hardest part, a sustained uphill section, followed by a short respite and then another uphill. (I should mention that the slopes are not very steep, but definitely noticeable.)

Those uphill sections were really tough. I was breathing hard and wanting to stop, but I pushed myself through. Approaching the finish, I felt moderately confident that I’d done the job and set a good time, but I had no idea until I pulled out my phone, checked the distance, ran the final 30 metres or so, and then stopped the clock…

Astonishingly, it stopped at 11:38. A full 23 seconds better than two days ago! I was amazed. And exhausted. That was a serious effort of running. I think I won’t push myself that hard again for a while, so it’ll be some time before I beat that time.

I did more housecleaning chores today, and worked on writing and making some Darths & Droids strips.

New content today:

Good intentions, but interruptions

I wanted to do some work today on comics and university teaching material. But my day ended up a bit fractured by various chores and errands, and I never really got a solid couple of hours together to start work and get things done.

There was grocery shopping, then my run and stretching exercises. I had to write some extension exercises for the current ethics topic of tourism and send them to one of the students doing those.

After lunch I drove with my wife and Scully a few suburbs over as she had an appointment. I walked Scully around while we waited and stopped at a patisserie for a sweet treat – a sour cherry tart. Well, it wasn’t that sweet – the cherries were indeed fairly sour.

This afternoon I cleaned the bathroom and shower stall. Oh, and baked some sourdough.

This evening we went out for dinner at the local pizza place. And tonight is virtual games night with my friends. I’ve just managed to come third and win a bronze medal in our Winter Olympics themed night. I’m representing Switzerland, for some reason.

New content today:

New running bests

On my 2.5k run today I recorded a new best time, 12:01. My current goal is to break 12 minutes, so that’s now tantalisingly close. (My previous best was 12:03.) Strava also informs me that the first mile of the run was my best time for a mile as well, 7:36 (previous best 7:38).

It was another hot day today, after the rainy weather cleared away for yesterday. We got over 30°C both day. But now in the late evening we’re sitting under a big thunderstorm, which is cooling things down again and bringing more rain. And the forecast is for more rain over the next few days. It’s been a very wet summer.

And it was another busy day of ethics classes, with 4 classes on Thursdays. The good thing about Wednesday ands Thursday being so busy is that a full half of the classes I teach are done on just those two days, and the rest of the week is a bit less intense. I had a bunch of administrative things to take care of today, with parents requesting transfers to different timeslots and sending me messages asking questions about things. I was telling my wife all the things I had to do to keep on top of it and she said, “You really have a lot of admin stuff to do with that, don’t you?”

New content today:

Ethics of tourism

Today was a busy day with my online ethics stuff. I had to write the new lesson for this week, on the topic of the ethics of tourism. Then I had two extension follow-up classes with students on last week’s topic of artificial intelligence, followed by three iterations of the new class.

In between, I managed to do some work on the university data engineering course. Mostly going through slides prepared by the lecturer and providing feedback on those.

Speaking of tourism, Australia closed its borders to non-citizens on 20 March, 2020, due to COVID. The Government recently announced that from 21 February Australia will once again allow tourists to enter the country. 703 days, almost two years the ban has been in place. Life has been very different here without tourists, since I live in the most heavily visited city in the country. In one sense it’s been nice – you can walk around tourist sites like the Opera House and The Rocks without the usual crowds of foreigners. In another sense it’s been eerie, since some parts of the city that are usually bustling are virtually dead.

I saw a suggestion in a Sydney discussion group that now is a good time for us residents to go visit tourist areas, before they start filling up with tourists again. Honestly, that sounds really appealing. Maybe in the next week or so I’ll take a trip into the city and walk around the Opera House, while I can before the crowds return.

New content today: