Another exhausting Wednesday

Wednesday starts early with getting up in time to have breakfast and be ready to head to the school for my Primary Ethics lesson. There was heavier than normal traffic today getting there, because of combined train and bus strikes – but fortunately I was going against most of the traffic. The road going the other direction was chockablock with cars.

Today we discussed various rules in sports and whether changing some of them would be fair or unfair, or make the sport unsafe. This leads into next week when we start talking about cheating in sports. Then this evening I had three more online classes about bionics.

On the way home from the school I popped into a bulk foods shop to get some more rye flour, for use in baking sourdough. The woman at the checkout actually asked me if I was making sourdough with it, and I said, “Yes!”

Much of the rest of the day I struggled with writer’s block while trying to write a new Darths & Droids comic. And that… yeah… that consumed several hours. I got there in the end, thankfully.

New content today:

Six Million Dollar ethics lesson

Today I worked on the lesson for my new week’s ethics topic: Bionics. I decided to open by telling the kids about this “old” TV show from the 1970s: The Six Million Dollar Man. After all these years, and the fact that I only ever watched the show as a young kid, I still remember the words of that opening sequence. Hopefully I can pass some knowledge of it on to another generation!

We talk about the idea of giving people artificial limbs if they lose their natural ones in an accident or to disease. I mention that historically prosthetic limbs were fairly crude replacements, but now we can make some that are potentially better than natural limbs. I give the example of Oscar Pistorius who, after a legal battle to be allowed to compete, qualified for the 2012 London Olympics, and ran on his prosthetic legs against able-bodied athletes in the 400 metres. In the first three classes this evening, the students have been split on whether he should have been allowed or not, worried that his carbon fibre running legs might give him an unfair advantage.

Pistorius of course later became notorious for murdering his wife, but I don’t mention that. One of the kids in my last class was South African, and when I showed a photo of Pistorius he said, “Oh, he’s from my country!” I asked him if he knew about Oscar Pistorius, but he said no, he just recognised the athletics uniform. So I presume he didn’t know about the murder part.

We conclude by discussing whether it would be okay to give people prosthetic limbs or other parts that are better, stronger than natural human body parts. And if so, would it be okay for people to have healthy body parts removed in order to have stronger prosthetics attached? This question really split the kids! In my final class tonight two of them were adamant that this should not be allowed, while two thought it was fine if that’s what the person wanted.

In other news today, I took Scully for a lunchtime walk down to a waterside park, picking up some fish & chips on the way. I didn’t go to my normal lookout spot, because it was rather warm today – 24°C – and there’s little shade there. This other park has a lovely shaded bench looking out over the water.

New content today:

Monday the long workday

I start work at 8am on Monday, teaching two online classes in a row, an hour break, and then another one. Then I can relax and have some lunch. I took Scully for a walk, a longish one today, around the loop that takes us past the harbour shore.

While doing this, I did a bird count on eBird. Normally on this sort of walk I can spot about 11 or 12 different species, but today was especially bird-laden. There were two little black cormorants sitting on the marina, next to an Australian wood duck. These are two of the less common species that I spot around the area, so they helped bulk up the species count. They were too far away to get decent photos using my phone. But a bit further along there was a white-faced heron standing on a rock in the water below the footbridge:

White-faced heron

Further along I spotted two tawny frogmouths!

Tawny frogmouths

These guys are quite rare to spot, as they are very well camouflaged and tricky to see during the day. I know they’re around in the area, but I’ve only seen them a few times before. Since I now had my phone ready to photograph birds, I caught a pied currawong as well.

Pied currawong

These are common and easily spotted in the area, but I managed to get fairly close. And then a bit further on I spotted a laughing kookaburra within range of photos too:

Laughing kookaburra

Anyway, I managed to tally 16 different species on this walk, which is a very high number.

Tonight I had tutoring work at the university for image processing. Tonight’s lecture was about the fundamentals of machine learning and probability theory in that context. It was a pretty easy one, relative to the others in the course.

And now I’m home and watching the live NASA TV feed of what will hopefully be the Artermis I launch, which was originally scheduled for 10:33 pm my time. Currently holding and trying to resolve an engine issue…

New content today:

An expedition for pies

Today mostly I worked on assembling the remainder of that last batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I photographed a couple of weeks back. Other than that I had two ethics classes online; I went for another 2.5k run; and for lunch I went out for a drive with my wife and Scully to Newtown (a suburb over on the south side of the harbour.

We want to The Pie Tin, one of my favourite pie shops. I had a Nepali curry lamb pie, and a Mexican chicken pie. Both really good. We took the food and walked a few blocks to a nearby park to sit and eat in the late winter sunshine. It had rained overnight, but was a lovely warm day today. It really feels like winter has ended and we’re moving into spring.

After eating, I ran around with Scully a bit to get her some exercise. And then headed home to pick up the rest of the stuff I had to do. Gosh the days fly past quickly sometimes…

New content today:

1980s games night and Saturday

Last night I ran the 1980s kids adventure roleplaying game that I’ve been working on. I had four players, playing 11-year-old kids in 1982. I don’t want to reveal any details of the adventure yet, because I have a second subgroup of friends who will be playing the same adventure next Friday during virtual games night. We all want to see if they handle the adventure differently, and compare notes afterwards. So suffice to say that the evening and the game went really well!

Today I went on a long walk with my wife and Scully to the distant Italian bakery. It rained a bit while we were out, and Scully got pretty wet, but fortunately it wasn’t too cold. They had the banoffee croissant special again, which is just so amazingly good that I can’t pass it up any time I see it there.

I spent most of my at-home time today working on new Darths & Droids comic scripts. I had a bit of writer’s block, alas, and broke it up with that long walk, and a 2.5k run. The run was a bit slow, since I was full of banoffee croissant! Tonight for dinner I made okonomiyaki.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Toilet training

Today I tried to fix our toilet cistern, which has been dribbling water into the bowl while refilling after flushing. It’s been doing this for a while, but has started to dribble longer and longer before the water flow stops. I don’t fancy paying a plumber $150 to fix something that I could probably do myself in 5 minutes… if I just knew how.

So I did some searching and found a few YouTube videos showing how to replace the outlet valve sealing washer. It seemed simple enough, so I removed the outlet valve portion and inspected the old washer. It actually looked fine – no wear evident at all. But I headed off to the hardware store to buy a replacement washer and installed that, turned the water back on, and tested it.

And it’s still dribbling the same way as before. But now with the lid off and observing what’s happening as I flush the toilet, I can see that the outlet valve wasn’t the problem in the first place. The problem is the inlet valve doesn’t turn off in a timely manner once the cistern is full. The water overflows into the pipe that drains into the bowl for several seconds, before the valve finally shuts off. So now I reckon what I need to do is replace the inlet valve.

I’ll try doing that tomorrow, if I have enough time.

I also worked a bit on fine tuning parts of my game scenario for tomorrow night’s roleplaying game that I’m running. And did a 2.5k run. And went out for lunch time walk with my wife and Scully. I tried fish & chips from a different shop near our favourite bakery this time, rather than get a pie. And it was really good – possibly better than the fish & chips I get from the nearer shop. Now whenever I want fish & chips I’m going to have to decide whether to get the good one from the nearby shop, or walk all the way over to the slightly better one…

New content today:

Drugs in sport Wednesday

This morning was Primary Ethics at the school. I started a new topic this week: Drugs in Sport. This is one of my favourite topics, because it really gets the kids thinking. They all start with the simple idea that performance-enhancing drugs in sport are bad, but then we very carefully pick that apart and examine where that opinion comes from, and why, and how well supported it is by rational thought in the context of all the other things that athletes do and the technology they use to gain advantages. By the end of it (the topic is 4 weeks long!), the kids have a much better appreciation for the nuances around the whole area of fair play and cheating in sport.

I dragged myself out for some sport myself, doing a 2.5k run after lunch. It was tough because it was very cold today. The storm and cold front that hit yesterday brought a real Antarctic blast from the south. We had snow on the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney. Even a dusting is a rare event, but this was heavy enough to close both of the roads across the mountains.

Here in Sydney the temperature sank to 7°C and stayed there until a couple of hours after sunrise, with the wind chill bringing the apparent temperature as low as -0.3°C.

Tonight I made soup for dinner: pumpkin, potato, and bunya nut.

Pumpkin, potato, bunya nut soup

Nice and warming! (Served with a blob of sour cream.)

New content today:

A late storm

The weather forecast for today was ominous: heavy rain beginning from around 8 am, totalling 10-25 mm. But it didn’t turn out that way. There was not a cloud in the sky when I took Scully out for a morning walk. And it remained bright and sunny all morning.

I took her out again for a walk and to get some lunch at midday, and it was still very sunny, and warm. Although it’s still winter, we got up to 22°C. But as we walked home, I could see dark clouds building up on the horizon. The cold front came through after 1 pm, and the temperature dropped rapidly to 12°C. But the rain was localised, and it didn’t start where I am until a couple of hours later, while other parts of the city were getting hammered. Now it’s raining steadily, and the temperature has dropped further to just 7°C, which is really cold for Sydney.

Besides watching the weather, today I worked on material for Friday’s roleplaying game. I used DALL-E to make an invitation image to advertise the game to my friends.

Agate Beach banner

I shared this with them. I also made a map of Agate Beach, the tiny west coast US town where the adventure is set. It’s a real town in Oregon, and I’m basing the game map on the real map, but with some modifications. I’ve also got some new ideas for how the adventure will flow.

And this evening I began the first three classes on this week’s new ethics topic: Friendship. One question I ask: Is it important that friends be of a similar age to each other? It’s interesting hearing kids discuss this. They’re 10-12 years old, and they can’t even imagine having a friend as old as 14 or 15!

New content today:

Image processing Monday

Monday is my busy day as usual. Three online ethics classes in the morning, then taking Scully for a long walk at lunchtime. This afternoon I worked on the next week’s ethics class, which is about friendship. I managed to finish it off, which was good progress. Normally I don’t even start it until Tuesday morning, and then it ends up eating most of my Tuesday. So tomorrow I can concentrate on some other things.

Tonight was lecture 4 of the image processing course at the university. I stopped off before hand at a Vietnamese place for dinner, trying the crispy fried pork with Chinese broccoli, which was very good. The lecture tonight was about corner detectors and feature descriptors, and is a real step up in complexity from the previous three lectures on more basic image processing methods. Next week we get stuck into the machine learning stuff.

New content today:

Full weekend update

I neglected to write an entry yesterday as I clocked offline early to spend the evening enjoying some TV entertainment with my wife. We watched a couple of things and then got stuck into classic music videos on YouTube, which wiled away the evening.

On Saturday I did a 5k run, double my usual distance. I felt like I should extend myself a little more. I took it relatively easy, to make sure I could complete the distance, and managed about 27 minutes, which isn’t much more than twice my normal time for 2.5k (around 12:30), so that was good. I also went on a big walk with Scully.

Today I didn’t have time for a run, as we had a lunch with my wife’s family. We got home in time for my afternoon ethics class, and then it was busy after that, taking some time to cook some dinner in between classes.

I spent some time making new Darths & Droids comics to get a little bit ahead again. And made and queued up more form the Irregular Webcomic! batch I photographed a week ago. And that’s a weekend!

New content today:

New content today: