Ethics of offence

Tuesday means a new ethics topic for my online classes. I had to write my lesson this morning, since the past few days have been too busy to do it early. This week’s topic is “being offended”. I had plenty of questions to ask, and tied them together with some short scenarios, so managed to get the lesson written fairly quickly.

I took Scully for a few walks during the day. The weather is getting a little cooler, which is nice. This afternoon I assembled and uploaded the rest of this weeks Irregular Webcomic! strips. I’ve been working close to deadline on a number of things, after last week’s ISO meeting ate up so much time last week.

I’ve also started learning Japanese using Duolingo. I started German not long ago, but decided I should probably concentrate a bit more on Japanese, since I’ve also booked tickets to Japan in June, for the next ISO meeting, which will be held in Okayama. My wife and I will be flying into Haneda Airport in Tokyo and catching a Shinkansen down to Okayama for the meeting. Then we’re planning to spend a few days in Kyoto, and a couple in Tokyo before flying home. We also have time to stop off somewhere else along the way for a day or so, and I’m trying to find somewhere conveniently close to the Okayama-Kyoto-Tokyo Shinkansen line, that is not a big city, so we can see something a bit more rural and countryside-ish.

I wondered if Duolingo would just teach Japanese conversation and not bother with the written language, but no, the very first lesson throws hiragana at you! Which is good, because I could certainly do with learning those.

Tonight I had the first three classes on “being offended”. It’s very interesting seeing what examples of potentially offensive behaviour are in fact considered offensive or not by different students.

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Back to Monday classes

Not too much to say about today. With the ISO meeting of last week done, I was back to three ethics classes around midday. I had an hour break form 12 to 1 and took Scully for a walk to the fish & chip shop and grabbed lunch, which I ate while walking on the way back, so I was ready for the next class at 1. When that finished, I quickly grabbed my stuff and took Scully up to a nearby station where my wife played tag team and took her to work for the afternoon while I caught the train into the university for this afternoon’s Data Engineering lecture and tutorial.

I got home around 6pm and cooked okonomiyaki for dinner. And then we just finished watching the end of season 4 of Stranger Things, for the second run through all the seasons. It was good watching it all a second time – there were links between the seasons that I hadn’t picked up before because of the long intervals between watching them.

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Extra busy Sunday teaching

Today I had extra work to do for an additional class to my normal 3 Sunday evening classes. The girl who I’ve been doing sporadic one-on-one science lessons for the past couple of years had a final lesson tonight. Her mother contacted me to say this will be her last science lesson for a while as she is now busy attending school and various other activities. I asked if there was any particular topic in science or photography, and she said her daughter was very keen on photography. So I prepared a lesson explaining some of the science behind photography, as well as a bit of the art of it as well. And it went very well! I could tell she was absorbing the info about shutter speed, aperture, exposure, and so on. I said that SLRs had controls for these settings so you could choose them manually, but phone cameras by default don’t – though you can get apps that give you manual control. And immediately she asked me what apps, and was excited to download one and try it out after the class.

My day was busy preparing for this and then running all the classes. So I didn’t do much else.

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Games night and cake day

Friday was fortnightly games night with my friends. My wife took the car to visit her mother with Scully, so I caught the train to the venue at one of my friends’ place. I stopped off on the way to grab some Thai food from the place near where we used to work.

We played Viticulture first. This is a game where to win you need to be the first to score 20 points. To score points, you (1) acquire grape cards, (2) plant grapes in your fields, (3) harvest grapes and put them in your mash barrels, (4) create wines from the grape mash, (5) optional, mature your wines a bit, (6) fulfil orders by selling wines to buyers. It’s only when you reach step 6 and sell your wines that you gain victory points.

There are a handful of other ways to earn points. You can get a consolation point for choosing to go last or second last in a given round (during the phase where everyone chooses their ordering – going earlier gives you smaller consolation rewards). You can get a point by being the first in a given round to choose to sell some mashed grapes, before they get turned into wine. If you build the windmill, you get a point whenever you plant some grapes. And there are “visitor” cards which represent various people visiting your winery, and they have various effects, allowing you to do bonus actions (such as harvesting extra grapes, or making more wines, or whatever). A few of the visitors let you do things like sacrifice money or grapes for a point or two.

Anyway, the game start is partly randomised by each player being dealt a Mama and a Papa who own the winery together, and they each grant different initial resources. My Papa gave me an option of taking an extra 3 coins, or starting with the Cottage building (which normally costs 4 coins to build during the game). I elected to start with the Cottage, which gives you an extra visitor card draw each round. So I thought I’d go for a visitor-heavy strategy, and my first few turns were spent doing actions to collect more money, since I started with less than anyone else, while everyone else started planting grapes. The first two visitors I got were a great combo: A wedding party, where I got to give up to 3 players 2 coins each, and collect a victory point for each player I gave money to. Since I had a lot of money, I gave 6 coins away and collected 3 points. Then the other visitor I played on the same turn immediately after allowed me to ask for 2 coins from each player. For each player who chose not to give me coins, I would gain a victory point. Since they were all short of cash, they elected to keep the coins, and I gained another 4 points! I was now 7 points clear of everyone, and I still hadn’t even planted a grape!

I continued to play by collecting extra visitor cards and using visitors to gain points where possible, and choosing some of the actions that granted me points. I built the windmill and planted some grapes (gaining points). After I harvested the grapes, I chose the action to sell the mash and gain points, rather than turn them into wine. As the game progressed, it reached this stage:


I was green, and you can see on the scoring track at the bottom of the board, I was way ahead on 17 points, with the next nearest player on 10, and the others behind. But… by now they were all selling wines and gaining points quickly, while I had not produced a single wine in my winery! I wondered if my strategy would run out of steam and they would overtake me before I reached 20. But I drew into some more visitors who gave me points and managed to win the game, although it turned out to be closer in the end than shown in the photo. My nearest rival ended on 17 points, and he said he would have been able to reach 20 if he’d had just one more action on his last turn. So, I won with the unusual strategy of not bothering to make any wines!

Next we played Through the Desert, which is an older game we played many years ago. The simplest way to describe this is as a kind of multi-player version of Go. You play camels to create connected caravans and try to enclose areas to score points.

Through the Desert

This game I came second in, which felt like a good effort, because it’s a fairly intense game where it always feels like you don’t have enough camels to do what you want. These two games were long enough that we called it a night after that, and I got a lift home from a friend.

Today I tried my new running shoes which I bought last weekend. They feel good, and I ran my fastest 2.5k since the first half of last year, breaking the 12-minute barrier at 11:54. I’ve been trying to get below 12:00 again for months. I wonder if the new shoes really helped.

I did a big round of housecleaning: vacuuming, draining and refilling the damp absorbers, cleaning the bathroom and shower. Workshopped some new Darths & Droids strips with a co-writer. And this afternoon I baked a cake!

Orange almond cake

It’s an orange and almond cake, made with this recipe. Only 5 ingredients (and one is just a teaspoon of baking powder), and dead simple. It looks like it turned out beautifully, and I’m looking forward to trying a slice tonight for dessert.

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Scully’s naughty adventure

Today Scully had a bit of an adventure. I took her for a walk at lunch time, up to the shops so I could get some lunch. When we come home, I usually let her off the lead just before we come into the apartment building. I did this, went to open the door, turned around, and she wasn’t there!

Near the front door is one of the ground floor units with a garden, and it has a gate in the fence. I noticed it was ajar…

Scully had wandered in and explored their garden! I didn’t want to go into their property so I was trying to call her back from the gate. Then the lady who owns the unit came in from the street. I’d actually seen her walking out as we came in – she must have just popped out briefly to do something and left her gate ajar. I said I was sorry but my dog had wandered in the open gate. She went in o find Scully, and looked all around the garden, while I waited at the gate. And then she went inside, because she had also left the patio door open, so Scully had gone inside!

She found Scully and shooed her out, and then I called her over. Fortunately this lady knows Scully and likes her, so she wasn’t upset and said it was all fine. But oh dear.

The other interesting thing today was the third lesson of my six-week Creative Thinking and Game Design course with my current student. Last week she said she liked Werewolf and Mysterium, and we brainstormed some game theme ideas, which ended up including “solving a murder mystery” as one idea.

This week I suggested an alternative twist on the theme: getting away with murder. All the players are murderers and have to try to avoid being found out. She loved the idea, and after some discussion of other potential themes, she decided that’s the one she wants to go with. So we’re now designing a game about getting away with murder! You may remember the previous times I’ve run this course, we ended up designing a game about ruining a wedding, and a game about having a family argument. Kids really like selecting the slightly perverse themes!

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ISO meeting day 3, and more rain

The ISO meeting today was mostly administrative cleanup, going through action items and minutes, but there were two technical discussion on potential new standards that we may want to develop, based on submissions from the Italian and Spanish national standards bodies. The Italian one is the tripod strength one they proposed a couple of meetings ago, and which we need to figure out how to handle. The Spanish proposal is for a standard for machine vision cameras, and we decided that sounds like something we should be doing, so we’re encouraging that too. The side benefits of these are the hope that Italy and Spain will join out committee as full members, and hopefully host meetings in their countries some time in the future.

We had a lot of rain overnight. I mentioned last night that we’d had 20 mm of rain. By morning that total had increased to over 50 mm. And we had another 15 mm during the day today. I took Scully out for a brief walk during a break in the ISO meeting, when I thought the rain had eased off for a while, but we got caught in a heavy shower. There was news about flash flooding across Sydney and a lot of trees down, cutting roads and power lines.

But the good news is that today was much cooler than the run of very warm days we’ve been having. They haven’t been hot – it has most definitely not been a hot summer, but it’s been hovering around 30°C every day for weeks now. So today’s 22°C was a welcome respite.

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ISO meeting day 2, and a big storm

Day 2 of the ISO Photography standards meeting was all technical discussions. We talked about standards for measuring low light performance, specifying camera-related vocabulary definitions, defining transformation maps for converting between standard and high dynamic range images, updating definitions of camera technical specification to handle new technologies, measuring the information-theoretic capacity of camera images and systems, and measuring autofocus performance.

One of the interesting quotes from the discussion concerned the autofocus standard. The authors wanted to allow measurement of autofocus under conditions that simulate being held by hand – with the camera shaking and wobbling due to hand unsteadiness. In a formal testing situation, you need to simulate this with a robotic device that is programmed to shake the camera in the same manner as a human hand. Another expert said that it seemed weird to have this, rather than just using a tripod to hold the camera, since we already have a different standard for measuring imaging performance when hand-held. The author responded that (my paraphrasing): Almost 100% of photos taken are hand-held, so requiring a tripod for a performance test is somewhat perverse.

Another interesting concern that was raised came about because of the recent explosion in AI algorithms. Someone pointed out that we have standards for measuring image quality that work by having the camera take a photo of a standardised test chart, and then comparing the quality of the image to an ideal reproduction of the chart, noting where the image from the camera is degraded. This reflects the real world performance, since photos of scenes will be degraded in the same way. But someone pointed out that digital cameras are increasingly using image processing to improve image quality, and soon no doubt they’ll be using AI algorithms. And if an AI algorithm knows the standard test chart it can recognise when you try to take a photo of one… and output an image which is a perfect reproduction of the test chart. So when you take a photo of a test chart, the measured “camera performance” will be absolutely perfect, but this will not reflect the camera’s actual performance when photographing a scene.

This is something we actually have to think about, to try to design a performance test that can’t be cheated in this way. There are options, such as randomising the test charts or procedurally generating them, but this all requires very careful design and testing. So we have plenty of work ahead of us in the next few years!

Tonight while teaching my new ethics class on Exploration, there was a big thunderstorm. Lots of lightning and heavy rain and wind. We had 20 mm of rain in a couple of hours, and no doubt there’ll have been some flash flooding and probably some trees down across the city. No problem here, thankfully.

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ISO meeting day 1, and a new semester of Data Engineering

Last night when I wrote my blog entry, I thought I’d be getting up at 06:30 to start the day with the ISO Photography Standards meeting at 07:00. It’s in Tokyo, and that’s 2 hours different in time zone to Sydney… however just before bed I suddenly realised I’d done the time conversion wrong! The 9am start in Tokyo was actually 11am in Sydney not 7am!

This meant two things: (1) I didn’t have to get up so early and rush through breakfast. (2) With the finishing time also 4 hours later than I’d thought, the meeting now ended at 7pm, rather than 3pm. But the Data Engineering course I am teaching started at 3pm, in at the university. I’d planned to miss just the last hour of the ISO meeting and head in on the train at 2pm. But now that meant I’d be missing the last five hours of the ISO meeting!

Ugh… this was a bit of a mess, but there’s nothing I could do about it. I joined the ISO meeting at 11:00 and had to make apologies that I’d be leaving after just 3 hours. I was there for the opening administrative session, but missed most of the technical discussion sessions in the afternoon. It’s a shame, but couldn’t be helped.

Today was the very first day of the university semester. The class began at 3pm, and I noticed the students all sat clustered very close together in the large lecture room. And 5 minutes before the starting time, before the lecturer had even said anything, a deathly hush fell over the room as they all waited for the lecture to being. This is a first year course, so today was the first day of university for all of these students. And the lecturer said it was quite possibly the very first university lecture for many of them. Ah, that initial naiveté! It’ll wear off quickly, probably.

The lecture was good and the students were all listening and concentrating. It was introductory material for the course, the assessment methods, a demo of the Matlab software package which we’ll be using during the course, and the material I wrote on ethics of data science for last year’s course revamp. We finished a little early. One disadvantage of the course running 3-6pm is that it ends in peak hour, so the trains heading home are crowded. So I sat with the lecturer for a bit and we caught up on news since we’d last seen each other at the end of last year’s Image Processing course, before we headed for the trains.

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Galettes for lunch

Today we had a family lunch at another branch of the French crepe place that we go to for dinner sometimes. We drove over and sat at an outdoor table that we’d booked. Fortunately the weather was cooler than yesterday and overcast, so we weren’t exposed to the sunshine. The savoury galettes and sweet crepes at this place are great, and we all had a galette, followed by most of us enjoying a sweet crepe for dessert.

After this my wife and I went to a nearby shoe store to get some new sports shoes. My running shoes are starting to get a bit worn out, so I plan to use the new shoes for that, and keep the old ones for a while just for walking around in. My wife also got new shoes for similar reasons, though she does aerobics and not running.

Most of the time at home today I worked on my next class lesson for ethics, on the topic of Exploration. I wanted to get this done today, because I’ll be busy with ISO Photography meetings Monday to Wednesday, and will have less time to do other things like this. And since it starts at 7am tomorrow, I’m going to get an early night tonight…

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Summer heat and storms

Yesterday was online board games night with my friends. We played a bunch of the usual games, and I did very badly at 7 Wonders and 6 Nimmt, but was on the winning team for Codenames. Before games, I went out for dinner at the local pizza place with my wife and Scully. I ordered one particular pizza, but got served a different one – but it was actually the second option that I was tossing up between, so it was no big deal and I just ate it.

In the morning I picked up grocery shopping. I order online for in-store pickup, so I can choose my own fresh fruit and vegetables. When I got home, I discovered that they’d packed two dozen eggs for me, when I was sure I’d ordered only one. But I checked the order history, and yeah, there were two dozen eggs listed. So I must have mis-clicked when assembling the order. Oh well, at least eggs last a long time, so we’ll use them all before they go off.

And then I had four ethics classes, which ate up most of the day. After the first one I picked up Scully from my wife’s work and we went to the Italian bakery for lunch. I had a slice of mushroom pizza (so pizza for lunch and dinner!), and they had a special flaky pastry which was filled with pistachio custard, strawberry jam, and chocolate. It was delicious.

Yesterday was hot and humid, and so was today. But we had relief this evening when a big thunderstorm front came through. We’re still in the tail end of, it with a lot of lightning and thunder, but the rain wasn’t particularly heavy. We did have very strong winds for a while – the evening news said winds up to 90 km/h had been recorded in some suburbs. A lot of places have had power outages, over 50,000 residences. Probably from downed trees.

I did 2.5k runs yesterday and today, as early in the morning as I could manage, but it was still warm and humid and my times were slow. And I’ve been working on comics, trying to build up some buffer because of the ISO Photography Standards meeting which I will be attending Monday-Wednesday this coming week. I’m attending virtually; it’s in Japan so it’s not too far from my time zone, and it’ll be running 7am to 3pm, although Monday I need to miss the final session to travel to university for the start of the Data Engineering course I’m tutoring. It’s going to be a very busy week!

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