Final image processing tutorial

Two teaching endings today:

It was the last on-site tutorial for the university image processing course. I went into the city for an early dinner at a Thai place near the uni and had some pad Thai, before showing up for the tutorial at 6pm. There were only a dozen or so students on site at the university – the rest of the 200 or so in the class electing to work from home and collaborate with their teams online. I answered a few questions from some teams on MS Teams, but there wasn’t much to do, so the lecturer and other tutors had a bit of a chat while waiting for the on-site students. They had a few questions, but eventually departed, adn we could head home a bit early.

This is the last official tutorial for the course. The students submit their final report on Friday, and then a video presentation early next week, and I have to mark them. Then that’s it until next year, when I’ll likely be doing the data engineering course again in semester 1 and image processing again in semester 2.

The other ending was the last three Outschool classes on Monsters. I completed the survey of the kids on that crucial question: Is a mummy a type of zombie or a different thing? The results:

A type of zombie: 17
A different thing: 17
A zombie is a type of mummy: 1

An exactly even split between the two answers I was hoping to disambiguate! And one kid went for the original answer of reversing the relationship.

I also have this screencap to share of how I appeared in Zoom while teaching this week’s lesson on monsters:

Halloween Zoom

Some kids, when they arrived in the Zoom session, flinched back when they saw me! But nobody was too scared, and some of the kids thought it was hilarious. I didn’t actually keep the mask on for the whole lesson, as it was hot and a bit difficult to talk through the mask. In one case when I took it off, a couple of the kids said I was scarier without it! 🤣

The other thing of course is that today is Halloween. This never used to be a thing here in Australia. When I was a kid, Halloween was just “a thing Americans did” that had no impact whatsoever here. It started slowly taking off in Australia maybe around 2000, and now it’s fairly common for people to decorate their houses to indicate that they are willing to accept trick-or-treating kids. It hasn’t reached full penetration – around where I live, maybe only one in ten houses are decorated. But heading to the station to catch my train into town I saw a couple of kids dressed up, including a girl in a bright red witch outfit. And there were a handful of people I saw in the city dressed up in costumes.

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Approaching The Last Jedi

The mornings are getting warmer, so I did a 2.5k run first thing, right after breakfast, before the day got too hot. Also, the jacaranda trees are coming into flower. Right on cue, as we slide into November, the peak flowering season for these beautiful trees.

Most of today I spent working on Darths & Droids comics. We’re almost at the end of The Force Awakens, and we’ve started planning ahead into The Last Jedi in the past week. I wrote all of the strips up to the end of the first sequel movie, and made a couple of them. In the coming week I’ll start thinking about how we kick off the next movie. After the usual three-strip intermission, of course.

Instead of going on a big walk for lunch, my wife wanted to work on her sewing until mid-afternoon, so we went out then for afternoon tea, to the nice bakery. I tried a Paris-Brest, which honestly I was not familiar with as a type of pastry. It appears it’s a traditional French pastry, but it must not be very popular/common here in Australia, because I’ve never encountered one before. It was pretty nice, though I think I prefer the banoffee tart. (I’m also reminded of the first time I encountered “banoffee” as a thing – it was in England in 2009. I saw a “banoffee pie” on the dessert menu at a restaurant and had to ask what that meant, as I’d never seen it before. It’s since made it over to Australia and is one of my favourite things.)

This evening I had two more of my Monster topic ethics classes. In the second class, the four kids were very interested in the idea that monster stories are created to reflect fears that people have about the real world, and were having some really deep discussion about the idea.

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Games night, and a very special lunch

Friday was online board games night with my friends, so I didn’t have time to write a blog entry. I took Scully for the usual couple of walks, had two ethics classes, and completed another week of Irregular Webcomic! strips assembled from the photos I took a couple of weeks ago.

For games we played Fruit Picking, Can’t Stop Express, Point Salad, CuBirds, Kingdomino, Just One, Stella: Dixit Universe, 7 Wonders. I managed to win the games of Fruit Picking and Kingdomino. Which is better than I usually do!

Today we dropped off Scully at doggie daycare and my wife and I went into the city for a super special lunch, to celebrate a major wedding anniversary. We went to Nel, a very fancy restaurant. It’s a fixed degustation menu – you just show up and they serve you – there’s no choice of different dishes, though they do cater to dietary requirements, so we forewarned them that my wife is vegetarian, and I don’t eat anything with coffee or tea in it.

The current menu is “A Night on Broadway”, inspired by Broadway musicals. Each dish was named after a song or feature from a stage musical. Here’s what we had:

The Book of Jesus Christ

The Book of Jesus Christ. A sweet potato tuille wth smoked eel cream. (My wife had a vegetarian cream.)

Is This Your Wand?

Is This Your Wand? Cheese and onion eclair with mushroom tapenade.

Frosty's Diner

Frosty’s Diner. Beef brisket croquette with burger sauce, tomato water and basil oil shots. (Wife had a cheese croquette.) This was really good. The croquette was tender and juicy, and chasing it down with the tomato/basil shot was amazing – very flavourful.

Hakuna Matata

Hakuna Matata. Pineapple glazed brioche with beef fat butter. (Wife had plain butter.)


Masquerade. Kingfish tartare with native plum jam, macadamia cream, apple and cucumber sauce, freeze dried rose petals. (Wife had smoked tofu tartare with the same toppings.)

French Revolution

French Revolution. Cheese soufflé with cauliflower soup.

Please Sir, I Want Some More

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More? Pan fried salmon on tomato pearl barley porridge, pecorino, chives, black onion. This was really good. (Wife had marinated eggplant replacing the fish.)

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina. Seared Murray cod, charred onion, mushroom, beef au jus, coriander parsley mojo verde. Reading the menu, I assumed this course would be beef, as it came in the right place, and that’s what Argentine is famous for, so I was surprised to get fish again. It was delicious. When I got home, I saw on the restaurant’s Instagram that this dish is indeed supposed to be beef, but it is cooked with coffee – so my dietary requirement kicked in and they replaced the beef with fish. (Wife had confit carrot instead of the beef/fish.)

Wicked Witch's Hat

Wicked Witch’s Hat. Pistachio daquoise, lime sorbet, passionfruit mousse, apple tuille. This was a really amazing dessert. It looks just like a witch’s hat! lots of good flavours and different textures.

Milk and Kibble

Milk and Kibble. Toasted barley gelato, milk and dark chocolate pearls, sugar crisp, warm chocolate milk.


L’Amour: Petit-fours of chocolate, raspberry sauce, vanilla cream.

It was an amazing lunch. We spent 2.5 hours there, and had a really lovely time. On the way home we popped into a few shops to look at some things we wanted to check out. I bought the 6th and final volume of Peter Ackroyd’s History of England, finishing of this history series that I started reading several years ago.

Back home, I spent the rest of the afternoon working hard at housecleaning. I vacuumed, and then I did a task I’ve been putting off for months – sweeping and washing the balcony. It still had autumn leaves on it! And lots of spider webs and dust. I swept it all up and then washed the tiles down with soapy water before rinsing it off. Much better now. I really should clean it every week, but it gets nasty during winter.

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A drenching

One more online class on Monsters this morning.

The morning was warm and sunny. I had some lunch and then went to take Scully out for a walk. I looked outside… yep, very sunny. I smothered myself in sunscreen to ward off the ultraviolet rays. Took Scully and we set off on one of our loop walks that takes about an hour, with time for some ball chasing at the park down by the water.

We got about a quarter of the way and the clouds closed in thick and very very fast. It started raining. It looked like it could be a serious storm. And I’d left most of the windows at home wide open. If the wind blew from the wrong direction, we could have arrived home to a sodden bedroom or living room. The rain got heavier and the wind picked up.

I aborted the walk and we took a shortcut home as fast as practicable. Which wasn’t all that fast, as part of it was up a steep slope. Scully got soaked. I got soaked. I dreaded getting home and finding the bed and the carpet soaking wet.

By the time we made it home… the sun was out again! We got in and I rushed to check the windows. We were very lucky. Open windows facing two different directions had not a drop on them. I’d left a window facing a third direction closed, and that window was soaked on the outside. I dried Scully off with a towel. I did a complete change of clothes, drying myself with a towel as well, and hanging up the wet clothes to dry.

And then the entire afternoon was hot and sunny again. We’d somehow chosen the exact 10 minutes that the weather turned into a stormy downpour to be out walking around, not expecting it.

Speaking of weather, our Bureau of Meteorology a short time back changed the way they format rain forecasts, to make them “simpler and easier to understand”. We used to get rain forecasts that looked like “1 to 3 mm of rain”. They thought this was “confusing” because it was a probability band corresponding to 1st and 9th deciles or something, so you could in fact possibly get more than 3 mm of rain. To avoid this “misleading” information, now we get a set of explicit probabilities, and today’s included this:

50% chance of at least 0 mm of rain.

Seriously. Much more useful. 🙄

Tonight for dinner I wanted to use up some mushrooms that I’d bought, but wasn’t feeling inspired. I didn’t want to make risotto, which would be the usual thing to make to use up mushrooms. So I searched for mushroom recipes, and I found this one for mushroom and caramelised onion quesadillas. I had everything except the rocket leaves, so I took Scully out for her evening walk past the nearest supermarket and grabbed some, and then cooked it up when I got home. Turned out good!

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New Thai food

This morning I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school. We moved on from the last topic about Fatalism, and now we’re discussing Determinism – the idea that everything is cause and effect, and that our decisions are caused by events including our upbringing, our emotional state, and other circumstances, such that we don’t really have a choice. It’s a tricky topic to discuss, particularly with kids. But they were engrossed in it! For the first half of the lesson they were all listening rapt to the dialogue and discussion, and I could see they were thinking about the issues in ways they’d never considered before. It devolved a little when we got to the point of demonstrating reflex actions (that we have no control over), by tapping under our kneecaps, when of course all the kids tried to do it and chaos ensued. They didn’t fully calm back down after that, but it was still a really good lesson.

For lunch today I went on a walk with my wife (her day off) and Scully to our favourite bakery. Except I decided to try a new place – there’s a Thai restaurant there that I’ve never tried before. I got a green curry chicken, and it was pretty good, but very filling as they didn’t offer any sort of lunch special, so I got a big serve of curry, and rice in a separate container, rather than what was designed as a single meal of curry and rice together in one container. So while good, I don’t know if I’ll get lunch there again.

Tonight it was three more Monster classes. One kid arrived on Zoom while I was wearing my skull mask, and he looked at me and immediately disconnected! It turned out he was having Internet issues, as he later sent me a message saying so, but for a few minutes I thought I’d scared him off.

The other news is that the weather has turned hot. Monday felt like winter still, but today it got up to 28.3°C, and I heard cicadas singing in the trees. Full on summer. I don’t think we had a proper spring at all.

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Critical thinking about monsters

This morning I wrote my lesson for the ethics and critical thinking class on Monsters. It’s much more of a critical thinking class than ethics, this one. We discuss why people make monster stories and the inspirations for various types of monsters.

One thing I’m also doing is a survey of all the kids. I’ve been having an ongoing argument with friends about whether a mummy is a type of zombie, or a different type of monster. I thought this would be a good opportunity to survey a bunch of diverse people. So far, after the first three lessons this evening, the score stands at:

Mummies are a type of zombie: 4
Mummies are a different type of monster: 5

I’ll keep you updated on the end result after a week of classes. The other thing I did for this class was to go to a shop today to purchase a cheap Halloween mask, which I’ve been wearing while doing these classes. It’s kind of a skull thing with a black hood. Fortunately it doesn’t interfere with my Zoom headset, but it is very hot wearing the mask.

It’s hot because today was warm – the warmest day since the 4th of May. Sydney reached 26.6°C. And it was rainy, with heavy rain in the morning and a thunderstorm this afternoon, so it was again ridiculously humid. Within the next week we should break 30°C. The warm, wet, and very humid third La Niña summer has kicked off.

Storm passing

I took this photo after the storm, while taking Scully for a walk.

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It’s not the rain, it’s the humidity

We had another 25 mm of rain today. But the worst thing is that the humidity hasn’t dropped below 90% all day (since 7pm last night), and was hovering around 99-100% for much of it. It’s not particularly warm (only 20°C maximum), but it feels stifling.

Before heading into the university for tonight’s tutorial session, I walked with Scully up to my wife’s work to drop Scully there, and by the time I arrived I was dripping with sweat, all my clothes clinging to my skin.

The tutorial session was a little short, as not many students showed up, and after answering a few questions from some of them, they drifted off early. So I could head home before it was too late. Earlier in the day I was mostly handling the morning ethics classes, the final ones on the Greed topic. Tomorrow I need to write the new lesson plan for Monsters!

In entertainment news, I’ve been watching the Fear Street trilogy on Netflix. It’s been in my “to watch” list for ages, and I finally decided I was in the mood for a slasher flick, so I watched the first one last week. There are a few slightly corny things (to be expected from a slasher film), but mostly I’m finding it to be fairly smart and well made. I’ve finished the second film in the trilogy and plan to start the final one tonight.

And I recently spoiled myself by getting the special 40th anniversary Call of Cthulhu Classic 2″ Deluxe Boxed Set (available here, scroll down). This is a reprint of the original boxed set rules from 1981, with five of the original adventures. A classic piece of roleplaying history – I couldn’t go past it. I’m looking forward to reading through all of this!

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7 Bridges and an excuse not to run

Today the 7 Bridges Walk was on. This is a charity fundraising walk for the Cancer Council, where participants walk a circuit around Sydney harbour, crossing seven bridges along the way, The circuit is 28 km long, and takes most of the day to complete. It’s a very popular event, but has been cancelled the past two years because of COVID, so today’s was the first one in three years. Despite the showery weather, there was a big turnout.

I know because the route passes very close to my home, and I saw many people walking. The route actually coincides with my normal running route for part of the way… so I took this as a good excuse to be lazy today and not do my run, as I didn’t want to be competing with hundreds of walkers.

I worked on comics, getting a good lead on Darths & Droids, and completing a batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips for the upcoming week.

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Games night Friday, and humid Saturday

Last night was board games night with friends, so I didn’t have time to write a blog entry. Most of the guys happened to have other things on, so only three of us attended. But this gave us a chance to play a long game, without worrying about people showing up late or leaving early.

We played Arkham Horror. Three turned out to be a good number for this cooperative game, where we’re pitted together against the Cthulhoid forces of darkness.

I took an investigator role, while the others played the muscle, and the mystical. My main task was moving around the map board and working to ward off Doom as it slowly accumulated in various places, while the muscle guy intercepted the various Cthulhu mythos monsters that kept spawning and trying to hunt us down. The mystic was searching for clues and artefacts to help us. The scenario we played was protecting Innsmouth from an incursion of Deep Ones, manipulated by Dagon and Hydra behind the scenes. We had to uncover enough clues to work out how to summon the malign entities and then trust that we could defeat them with a combination of muscle and occult knowledge.

After 3.5 hours of play which became increasingly tense, we confronted the main horrors and beat them, only to discover that we couldn’t figure out what the winning condition of the game was. The owner of the game later told us that he’d missed a single card in the setup stages of the scenario – and that card happened to be the one informing us of the winning condition! But we’d satisfied its requirements and won the game, even if we were confused about it at the time. It was a tight-run thing – there were several decisions that could have led us to disaster along the way, so it felt like a sweet, hard-earned victory.

Besides the usual online classes, I spent time yesterday and today doing Darths & Droids writing and comic making. Oh, and I did some major housecleaning today, doing a long overdue thorough dusting of everything in the living room, polishing up the wooden furniture, and vacuuming floors.

The other main thing to talk about is, of course, the weather. We’ve had more intermittent rain, and the humidity this week has shot through the roof, hovering around 80-100% at different times of the day. Sydney has had 170 rainy days so far this year, today being the 295th day of the year. The annual mean is 99 rainy days. Since we broke the annual rainfall record back on 6 October, we’ve had more than 200 mm more rain. The forecast is for rain every day for at least the next week, with some really heavy rain tomorrow. There continue to be severe floods in rural areas.

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More marking…

Most of today I spent hunkered down, reading through student assignments and assigning marks for them. I had seven teams’ reports to read, on various image processing project proposals. They have to describe the problem area they’ve chosen to look at, describe suitable datasets they’ve found or collected, describe suitable image processing methods and techniques that they plan to implement, and describe what performance evaluation metrics they will use and why they are appropriate.

There was an interesting range of proposed projects, but I won’t mention them here (as it’s possible some students may find this blog). I completed the marking after a full day of work, just before dinner. Phew! It’s good to have that job completed.

That didn’t leave much time for anything else, other than my one ethics class this morning, and taking Scully out for a couple of walks.

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