A big losing games night

Friday: Grocery shopping pickup, more work on my photography engineering lecture presentation, lunch with my wife while Scully was getting a haircut/groom, and then online games night with my friends tonight.

We played games of Boomerang Australia, Boomerang Europe, Codenames, Ticket to Ride (a new release of this classic game on Board Game Arena), Gartic Phone, 7 Wonders (twice), 6 Nimmt. I don’t think I won a single game, but that’s okay – we have fun chatting while playing.

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Science and engineering of photography

Today I spent most of the afternoon working on a presentation for the university Image Processing course, to be delivered to the students on 10 October, during the first of their project work face-to-face sessions. The lecturer asked me if I wanted to give a guest lecture as part of the session, and I agreed, thinking I could do one on the Science and Engineering of Photography.

I did an outline of the presentation, then started working on slides. This is the part that takes time, as I have to source images that can be used without violating copyright, or make my own. I got through the camera obscura, pinhole camera, what a lens does, how a camera focuses, circle of confusion, and point spread function. I still need to do slides on convolution, the Fourier convolution theorem, pupil function, optical transfer function, depth-dependent blur, aberrations, camera sensor construction, imaging noise, colour filter arrays, image demosaicing, and other post-capture image processing operations. There’s heaps more that I could go into, but I need to keep it down to about 45 minutes.

The slightly annoying thing is that I had a good presentation on exactly this stuff at work, when I used to work for Canon, which I presented a few times to other staff and to visiting interns and students. But since I made that presentation at work, it was on work machines, and I couldn’t bring it home with me. But at least after I do this, I’ll have one handy for future use. I could even adapt it for use to teach kids about how cameras work on Outschool.

This evening I made a special dinner. I’ve always liked fried cauliflower, but it’s a bit of a mess to make. But today we had most of a cauliflower left over as the remaining vegetable before grocery shopping tomorrow, so I decided to go for it. I cut it into florets, coated them in flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs, and shallow fried them in a pan until golden brown. I served them with a mix-it-yourself set of sauce ingredients: yoghurt, tahini, sriracha, chutney, and mayonnaise. It turned out great! (Except I left a couple of pieces a bit too long before turning them and produced a bit of smoke, but fortunately it dissipated without setting the alarm off.)

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Spanish lunch and a long walk

This morning I did another 2.5k run. After that I was ready for a nice lunch, and my wife (who is off work this week) suggested we go for a long walk down to Blues Point to get a nice lunch at a Spanish restaurant there. We took Scully with us and enjoyed the fine sunshine.

It was sunny despite a forecast of rain, basically all day. I checked the hourly forecast, and it said rain at every hour of the day. But as I type this, it’s almost 9pm, and we still haven’t had any more than a few scant drops which we felt on the walk home. There are some storms hovering around Sydney on the weather radar, and severe storm and hail warnings in place, but where we are it’s basically been fine all day. Maybe we’ll get some overnight? It’s supposed to rain more tomorrow, but I’m a bit sceptical by this point.

Anyway, at lunch we had some tapas dishes: patatas bravas, grilled halloumi, empanadas, and fried gnocchi in a blue cheese sauce. The gnocchi were a bit weird – it looked like they were mashed potatoes put through the churros making machine and cut into small lengths, then deep fried. The servings were generous and we were very full afterwards. I haven’t had dinner yet – all I’ve eaten so far tonight is a few strawberries.

I also had three more online classes tonight about the scientific method. One was a bit of a struggle, with one kid’s connection constantly dropping in and out and me having to repeat a lot of questions. It’s always a pain when that happens.

New content today:

The scientific method

I started my new weekly ethics topic with three classes today, on the scientific method. I’m a lot happier with this topic than the last one on digital assets, which I felt was a bit too technical for some of the kids, and they didn’t really enjoy it as much. This one feels better. It’s really more about critical thinking, but since my class is advertised as “Critical and Ethical Thinking”, that’s not a bad thing.

It was supposed to rain here today, being stormy, but there was barely a sprinkle. We may have more move in overnight. The next few days are supposed to be very rainy. We’ll see.

Mostly otherwise I worked on comics, and did my 2.5k run, and took Scully for a walk.

Oh, and I got the agenda and schedule for the next ISO Photography Standards meeting, which is being held at Apple headquarters in Cupertino in November. I’ve decided not to fly over to California this time, but to attend via web conference. That means starting at 4am (9am in California), for three days in a row. It won’t be pleasant, but at this point I prefer that to flying to the United States, given COVID and the political situation over there.

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Stu-vac Monday

Today is mid-semester stu-vac (short for study vacation – I have no idea if this term is used outside Australia or not) at the University of Technology, so I don’t have my regular Monday evening tutoring class there today. And next week is the Labour Day public holiday, so there are no classes then either. I also have two weeks of school holidays off from teaching my Wednesday morning face-to-face ethics classes.

I used the extra time this evening to finish writing my class for online ethics. It was a tough one to write this week, taking me a lot longer than usual. The topic is the scientific method. Which I know how to explain, but I had to find ways to insert questions for student thought and interactivity throughout, which was tougher than I expected.

The morning was full of the final classes on digital assets. One was interesting, because it had a kid who for many weeks now has occasionally been bringing up NFTs as examples in his answers, and it’s clear that he has a very poor opinion of the concept. But he listened and contributed in a positive manner to the discussion, so that was good.

My wife and I took Scully on a long walk for lunch, and then this afternoon we took her to the dog park, for the first time in months. The old regulars there had missed us and wanted to know why we had been away so long. Much of the reason is busy-ness because of my teaching. I have some classes that start at 5pm, which doesn’t give me much time to get home from the regular meet-ups there. But that will change next week when Australia goes onto daylight saving time, and those classes move to 6pm (so they can stay at the same time for Asian/European/American students), giving me an extra hour buffer to get home from the dog park. So hopefully over the summer I can take Scully there a lot more again.

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Random Sunday events

I did a longer run today. I am in a small online group where we share running updates. The group purpose is described as: “For those who enjoy running. And for those who don’t enjoy it but do it anyway.” I’m definitely in the latter set!

Anyway, someone yesterday posted that they’d completed their 5k for September. Which reminded me that I’ve been thinking of doing another 5k for a while, and getting one done before the end of the month seemed like a good goal, so I got out and did it today. That’s twice my normal distance. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I at least feel familiar and somewhat comfortable running 2.5k, but 5k feels like a serious effort. I managed it in 27:00 flat, which is my third best time over the distance. And Strava also told me that my 2-mile split was my fastest 2 miles, at 16:49. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

So good that I probably ruined the health gains by having two sweets at lunch. My wife and I walked with Scully to the Italian bakery (which is nearly 3km away, so almost 6km return walking trip). I got a chicken and leek pie, but (1) they didn’t have my favourite banoffee croissant, (2) the pies there are on the smallish side, (3) a pie and a banoffee croissant are filling enough, but the croissant is quite large, (4) I was tempted instead by a chocolate/pistachio scroll, (5) which is notably smaller in size, (6) I was really hungry after my run, (7) they had a tray full of bomboloni, which I’ve wanted to try before but they’ve always been sold out when I’ve looked for them. So I got the chocolate/pistachio scroll and a Nutella bombolone.

At last I asked for a Nutella one. The woman behind the counter confirmed, “A custard one?” I repeated, No, a Nutella one.” She gave me a box, and I walked out with my other purchases to find a seat to sit on with My wife and eat our lunches. After eating the pie, I opened the box. It was a custard bombolone. My wife took the hint that I was mildly incensed and took it back to the bakery for me and exchanged it for a Nutella one.

It was pretty nice, although I missed my favourite banoffee croissant.

This afternoon I tried to estimate my ELO chess rating. One of my friends is into chess, and has been relaying to our group news about the current feud between Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann (yes, it has its own Wikipedia article), which we’re all metaphorically munching popcorn over it as new developments occur. We saw the report of the tweet by Grandmaster Maurice Ashley:

This is shocking and disturbing. No one can be happy that this is happening in the chess world. Unbelievable!

One of my friends pointed out that we’re all currently much more excited and happy about chess news than normal.

Anyway, I’ve never played chess seriously in any sense, but I was curious if there was some quick online test I could do to estimate my rating. I Googled and found a few quizzes, but they involved analysing some 80 boards and submitting moves, and they said don’t spend more than 5 minutes on each board… And there’s no way I was going to invest that much time into this. But I managed to find a ten board quiz, and spent a total of maybe 5 minutes with it. It estimated my rating at 1335, which I originally thought sounded ridiculously high, given my amateurish experience with the game. But a bit of research shows this is the realm of the “hobby player”, one step below the level of anyone who plays in a local chess club. Which sounds more reasonable than what I thought it meant. A few of my friends tried the same quiz and got 1400, 1435, and 1590.

Okay, so remind me never to play chess with them. 😀

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Welcome to the Moon

Friday night was board games night at a friend’s place. A few of the regulars couldn’t make it, so it was the four of us. We had a barbecue for dinner, with sausage sandwiches, with plenty of onions of course.

First game off the rank was Welcome to the Moon, a sequel/variant of Welcome to…, which we’ve played a lot both in person and online during our virtual games nights. In this new version, it’s themed along establishing a moon colony in the retro-future of the 1970s (compared to the original game, which was building a 1950s style housing estate). There are actually 8 separate boards to play, which are effectively 8 different games. In all of these games, you flip up a set of 3 communal cards, and each player selects one of the three to score – writing it down in various different scoring zones on their personal board. It diverges very quickly, as each person chooses different things and ends up with their scoring board filling up in different ways, which begins to add constraints on further scoring.

We played the first Moon board, which is a rocket blasting off, and then skipped a few and played one about building residential towers under a dome on the moon. They were very different and indeed like two different games. I lost the first one, but scored an equal victory in the second one.

After this we played Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. All players start out as fantasy adventurers, exploring a part of the city, until events lead to one of the players being revealed to be a traitor/monster. At that point, the traitor gets a special rules scenario to read, while the other players get the matching hero scenario to read. These establish different winning goals for each side. In the game we played, I ended up being the traitor, and my goal was to kill at least 2 of the other three players before they could escape. Unfortunately this proved far too difficult, and the heroes escaped from my evil clutches. So they all won and I lost.

To round out the night we played several rounds of Apples to Apples. This is a good light game to end the night on as we were starting to get tired and thinking about heading home.

Other things on Friday: grocery shopping, and a couple of ethics classes.

Saturday: I spent much of the day struggling with writer’s block, trying to complete one new Darths & Droids strip. And avoiding going outside during the rain. Except for attempting to take Scully for a walk during a dry period, and ending up getting rained on halfway.

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A special public holiday

Today was a special one-off public holiday in Australia, a national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. The reason it’s today is because we had to wait for the Prime Minister to return from her funeral in London to lead the national memorial service for the Queen.

For most people though it just meant a day off work. Not for me though, as I had another online class this morning. But after that I could relax a bit. I did a 2.5k run, and took Scully out for a walk at lunch and got some fish & chips (from the shop that my wife called up to check if it was open for the holiday or not – it was).

I did some baking today: a loaf of sourdough rye bread, and for dinner I made pastry for a quiche, which I haven’t done in a while.

And I uploaded some more photos from my trip to Orange last week. This is the view from Towac Pinnacle, a lookout spot south of the town, looking north back towards Orange. I posted a view from here last week, but that was just taken with my phone. This one is with my SLR:

Towac Pinnacle view

These photos are from the day we went to Gosling Creek Reserve and Lake Canobolas Reserve, where there were plenty of birds to spot. Noisy miner:

Noisy miner

Willie wagtail:

Willie wagtail

Little pied cormorant:

Little pied cormorant

Little black cormorants:

Little black cormorants in flight

Eastern rosella:

Eastern rosella

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And a busy Tuesday and Wednesday

I was so busy on Tuesday that I neglected to update this blog. I wrote my new class material for this week’s online ethics classes on digital assets. I talk about Bitcoin, then things like music downloads and piracy, and finish talking about NFTs. It’s a bit more technical than most of my classes and it took a bit of concentration and explaining of some of the concepts before the kids could answer questions about them. In particular, I go through an explanation of what NFTs are, using a few analogies, and then ask the kids if it seems like a sensible idea to have some sort of method of specifying who owns a digital asset, that can be sold and transferred. So far, after 6 classes, about half the kids think that’s a reasonable goal, while the other half think it sounds a bit weird or nonsensical. One kid said, “This is really hard, I have to think about this.” I’ve glossed over the implementation of NFTs using blockchain, and concentrated on the concept of transferable digital ownership, because the implementation is a whole can of worms I didn’t want to open.

Today, my wife was home and we decided to drop Scully off for some doggie daycare while we took the opportunity on a weekday to go to a nice restaurant for lunch – a place that is normally booked solid on weekends. We had a very pleasant lunch, overlooking a beach, and got to sit indoors for once!

Before that I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school, and we finished off the topic of drugs in sports. That was a good discussion too. At one point as I was going through the syllabus material, posing trickier questions, one of the kids said, “You’re trying to make us all change our minds, aren’t you?” Heh… no, at least not deliberately. I’m just following the course material and raising the tricky questions that it specifies!

And I also worked on some new comics again today… it never ends!

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Back to work Monday!

Today was another day off from my online ethics classes, since I wanted to skip a full week to keep the various classes on different days in synch. I’ll be back into that tomorrow with a new topic (which I’ll talk about tomorrow).

Instead, this morning I scheduled a one-off science lesson on human vision and colour perception, and one of my regular ethics students signed up for it. So I did that class in the morning. And this evening I am back at the university for the next lecture in the image processing course. Today we get the students started on their assessment projects, in which they choose their own image processing task and attempt to do it, then report on what they discover.

During the day I had some work to do on comics to get back up to date with new strips to be published this week (after my time off last week). I also baked some sourdough rye bread, and started work on the lesson notes for tomorrow’s new ethics topic.

And that was about it, before I got ready to head into the city for the image processing lecture. I had some cheap Malaysian food from a stall in Spice Alley. And then it was off to help students figure out what sort of project they want to do!

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