A pleasant last day of autumn

The morning news greeted me with weather records – over 100 weather stations across Australia recorded their coldest ever May day yesterday. Sydney wasn’t one of them, though, as we had a nice late autumn day. And today was even nicer, pleasantly warm in the middle of the day, when I went for a walk with my wife and Scully and sat outside having a snack at a bakery.

I’m starting to feel mostly better from my illness, except for the lingering cough, which is still hanging on. My wife seems to have avoided the bacterial throat infection I had. She had a PCR test done, which came back negative for both COVID and influenza, so who knows what on Earth this thing is that we managed to catch.

I wrote my lesson plan for tomorrow’s first older kids’ class on Cybercrime. It was a little tricky coming up with enough questions, so I expanded the scope a little to include things like hacktivism, which has some obvious questions associated with it.

Oh and I spent a half hour or so making a new static web page to replace the old mezzacotta home page WordPress site. At some point I should revisit the CSS and make the page style a bit more legible. That font is just way too small.

New content today:

This lingering cough again

Tuesday, start of a new ethics class topic. This week we’re discussing Curiosity. One of the things I get the kids to think about is the strange dual-sided nature of curiosity. Sometimes we’re told it’s a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. What’s the difference and how can we know which is which? Is indulging in curiosity inherently linked to risk?

The other main news is still the tail end of this illness. I’m feeling mostly better, and am sleeping a lot better, without the clogged sinuses and runny nose and phlegmy throat. The main issue is a lingering cough, which is exacerbated by speaking, so it manifests mostly towards the end of a series of teaching classes, which is annoying as I need to keep muting myself to cough, and then occasionally forget to unmute when talking to the kids.

The eye infection is about 80% better and not really bothering me much any more. So that’s good.

The other main thing I did today was enter all the marks for the Data Engineering course into the university system via their web interface. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s a long and tedious amount of copy/pasting. I think it ended up taking longer than the hour I estimated yesterday.

For dinner tonight I made tomato soup. Mainly because in the grocery delivery order last week I asked for three tomatoes, but they gave me five. And even three was more than we strictly needed for my sandwiches during the week. I ended up putting five tomatoes into the soup, and just keeping one left over for other uses until the next shop (we had other tomatoes also left over from the week before). But five tomatoes doesn’t actually make a lot of soup, so I ate mine with a grilled cheese sandwich, dunking it into the soup.

New content today:

Ending advertising

This morning I got up early to be ready for my first ethics class at 8am. I could have used more of a sleep-in to continue recovering from this illness, but maybe I can get that tomorrow. I’ve been sleeping much better the past three nights, after nearly a week of just a couple of hours sleep a night. My infected eye is improving thanks to the eye drops.

The classes were the last three of the advertising topic. I found it interesting in the interrupted week’s worth of classes that virtually all of the kids expressed the opinion that yes, ads often stretch the truth, or do things that are deceptive, to try to convince people to buy their products. And that’s okay. I asked them if they thought it was bad that ads were deceptive, and almost every kid said it was okay, because that’s what companies have to do to sell stuff and do business. And people know ads are exaggerated, so it’s not really fooling anyone.

I pushed a little, and asked: “Just because lots of companies do it, and people are used to it, does that really make it okay for them to be deceptive in ads?” And all of them said yes, it was okay. I asked if their should be laws against deceptive ads, and none of agreed that there should be. A couple even suggested there should be no laws against even outright lying in ads.

Honestly I’m kind of flabbergasted. I would have thought that a large number, maybe half or more, of the sample size would have expressed the opinion that deceptive ads were bad, and should be cracked down on in some way. Maybe kids these days are more cynical, and figure nobody should be gullible enough to actually believe ads, so it doesn’t matter if they lie to us.

Today I finally managed to get access to the video presentation of the last university team, and mark that, which completes the marking work. Although I still need to upload the marks and comments into the university system, which is about an hour’s work copying and pasting into the clunky web UI.

Not much else to report. I cooked vegetable fajitas for dinner.

New content today:

A fun new symptom

I got a much better night’s sleep last night, with the throat being a lot less sore, and more nose being less clogged. But I woke up a few times with coughing fits still.

But there’s a new problem. Yesterday I noticed my right eye was feeling a bit sore, and looking a bit bloodshot, which I figured was just tiredness. But this morning it was obvious that it was some sort of eye infection, a lot worse, with puffiness around the eye, and the left eye was starting to show the same thing.

My normal GP isn’t open on Sundays. I didn’t want to wait any longer than absolutely necessary, so I searched around for other options, and found a medical centre not far away that was open on Sundays. They had walk-in appointments without needing to book ahead, so I went over there as soon as I’d finished breakfast and my wife returned home after walking Scully. They said it would be about an hour wait to see a doctor, but it was more like 90 minutes. The doctor I saw confirmed my suspicions of an eye infection and prescribed me antibiotic eye drops, which I picked up from a nearby pharmacy on the way back home.

Apart from that, my throat and sinuses are improving, and I felt like I could return to teaching ethics classes online. I had three this afternoon/evening, picking up the Advertising topic for younger kids and The End of The World for the older ones. I managed the first two okay, but was starting to cough considerably during the third one, and had to mute myself and cough it out a few times during the class.

Oh, another entry in the things that broke when my webhost upgraded from PHP 7.4 to 8.1: mezzacotta. The auto-generated comic code was already broken by a previous webhost upgrade, and despite spending days trying to debug it I could never get it working again. But now this upgrade has messed up the underlying WordPress installation as well. I think it’s time to throw in the towel and declare that the old mezzacotta auto-generated comic is dead, and won’t be resurrected. When I have time, I’ll probably just uninstall the WordPress and replace it with a static page linking to the mezzacotta subsites.

This shows an important difference between making traditional style static comic images, versus being clever and making programmatic comics. It was fun while it lasted.

That was pretty much my day, really.

New content today:

Double sick Saturday

I’m slowly getting better form my week of illness, but today my wife started getting similar symptoms to how mine started. I really hope her case isn’t as serious or long as mine.

We went out at lunch time to take Scully for a walk, and I just felt like some hot chips, not even with any fish, and my wife agreed. So we just got a large serve of chips from the fish & chips shop and took them to the lookout over the harbour to eat them. Mmm… hot and oily and salty…

It was a beautiful sunny day, but very cold. The overnight temperature was the lowest recorded in May for 24 years, at 7.0°C, and the maximum in mid-afternoon didn’t even reach 19°C.

I postponed the final lesson in my game design class again, for the second Sunday morning in a row. At the moment I’ve decided to keep my Sunday evening ethics classes scheduled, but if I’m not feeling any better by this time tomorrow I’m going to have to do a last-minute cancellation for those.

Oh, if my wife isn’t back to full health by Friday, I’m going to have to postpone my next Dungeons & Dragons game session too. And I’ll have to postpone it at least 6 weeks, because of my upcoming trip to Japan.

New content today:

Two grocery shopping milestones

This morning I saw my doctor, who diagnosed a secondary bacterial infection and prescribed me some antibiotics and also a nasal spray to help relieve the sinus symptoms.

As usual, when I left I walked out and didn’t stop at the reception desk. But when I got home I got as phone call from them, saying that I’d forgotten to pay! This was unexpected, because previously this practice had bulk-billed, meaning they bill the Australian Government directly for the services they render to patients, and the patients pay nothing. But doctors are also entitled to charge higher fees and claim the set fee as a rebate for the patient, and more doctors are doing this these days with the current inflationary pressures on the cost of living. So apparently my GP had switched to this method of charging in April, without my knowledge. (Well, maybe they sent me an email, which I mentally filed and forgot.) So I had to pay the account, and will get the rebate from the government, but I’ll be a bit out of pocket for this visit.

Since I still feel sick, I decided to have our groceries delivered this week instead of picking the order up at the supermarket. We’ve never done this before, so it was something new.

And the second grocery milestone: My wife and I have been married for 26 years, and today we purchased our third packet of salt. Just to be clear, these are 1 kilogram packets. We use virtually no salt in cooking and don’t add it at the table, so we don’t go through it very fast. Our usage has only really accelerated in the last 3 years as I’ve started baking bread, since as I discovered you need to add salt otherwise it tastes pretty awful. I think the first packet of salt probably lasted 15 or more years, and the second 10 or so.

Third piece of news for the day: I took Scully for a walk this afternoon and noticed a sign stuck on a large liquidambar tree that I regularly walk past. I went to have a look, and it said that the council had determined the tree was within its last 5 years of life, and would be removing it within the next 4 weeks. This is the tree that dropped a huge branch onto power lines in November last year, so I guess it’s a fair evaluation. They sign said the council will replace it with a native Australian tree, so it’ll be interesting to see what that is.

New content today:

Have I turned the corner?

Last night was awful. I managed to fall asleep soon after going to bed, but I was awake around 3am and the rest of the night was spent coughing horribly, blowing my nose, and racing out to the bathroom to spit out horrible chunky phlegm that the coughing brought up. At one point I felt like I was going to vomit, but I managed not to (maintaining my vomit-free streak since 2001).

By a bit after 5:30 I couldn’t handle it any more and just got up. It actually helped to be up and puttering around the house rather then lying in bed and trying to rest. As the morning progressed I felt better, and for the first time since I got this last Friday I can say that I felt like today was better than yesterday. So hopefully I’ve turned the corner and things will only get better from here.

I was fine during the day, and I took Scully on a long walk to the Italian bakery where I got a slice of pizza for lunch. I also got a pistachio and chocolate snail, but felt full enough that I decided to bring it home for dessert this evening.

I spent time at home marking more university assignments. I’ve dne them all now, except for one final video, which the students had placed on Google Docs as a slide show, with small individual videos embedded in the slides. I can see a few of them, but most I don’t have permission to view, so I’ve contacted the professor to get him to see if he can get the students to grant me viewing permission.

This evening my condition is deteriorating again, as it has every night. Fortunately I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I suspect the throat thing might be a secondary bacterial infection, so some antibiotics will hopefully help it clear up faster.

In other fun news, my webhost attempted an automated update from PHP 7.4 to 8.1 overnight. Most of the stuff worked okay, but there was a small issue with a custom WordPress theme on this blog. That was easy to fix. But now I’ve discovered the new version of PHP breaks my private MediaWiki installation, which I use for note taking and sharing stuff with my circle of friends.

Checking, I found out I’m running MedaWiki 1.24, which was deprecated in 2015. The latest version is 1.39. So… I have to brace myself to try to upgrade MediaWiki from an 18-year-old version. And it has custom mods for security – I’ve set it so that nobody can see anything but the front landing page unless they’re logged in. So I’ll have to upgrade, hope it works, and hope I can redo the custom mod successfully. Otherwise I’ll have to run PHP 7.4 until I can… migrate everything off the wiki to some other solution. Yuk.

I’m gonna save this load of fun for a day when I’m not dying of flu.

New content today:

OMG this flu

I checked and apparently my symptoms are consistent with a particularly nasty strain of flu going around Sydney at the moment. It is utterly miserable. Today was the worst day yet – it just seems to get worse every passing day. A few days ago I’d been feeling relatively okay in the mornings and deteriorating later in the day. But today I’ve been feeling messed up all day. barely got any sleep again last night, up with constantly blocked and dripping nose and coughing.

I was thinking it would be bad if I cancelled a whole week of Outschool classes and was feeling better by Tuesday or Wednesday – I could be teaching kids later in the week. But now I’m starting to feel like I won’t even be in fit shape to teach a class on Sunday.

I marked another couple of university assessment reports and videos. It turns out the Beatles break-up team did in fact submit two separate reports. I had to ask the professor to send me the other one. The two halves of the team seem to have worked almost completely independently, because even though they started with the same project idea, they went completely different directions with it and used different datasets.

But in good news, I got some new roleplaying games! I was thinking about the store credit I still have at the game shop, and what to spend it on, and decided to look at some recent games that have been well received, and also browse through what else they had available that struck my fancy. I ordered them by email, and my wife was in the city so I messaged her and she dropped in to the game shop to pick them up on her way home.

I decided to get:

  • The One Ring RPG – the third of the four roleplaying games based on the works of Tolkien.
  • Blades in the Dark – a heist-based game set in a fantastic Victorian era city, acclaimed because of its innovative mechanics.
  • Monster of the Week – a game using the other recent acclaimed “Powered by the Apocalypse” mechanics, reproducing an X-Files/Buffy style monster hunt in the modern day.
  • Mörk Borg – a real outlier; an award-winning dark, gritty, fantasy game inspired by heavy metal.

The last one, Mörk Borg, has made a real name for itself recently, so it was the first one I cracked open. It’s a short book, and… flipping through it is an experience. The graphic design is all over the place – it feels like your brain is being ripped out as you read it. But it works. The text is dark and disgusting and strangely compelling. The PCs in this game are not heroes. They’re doomed to die, as is everyone in this bleak world, and soon! When starting a campaign the GM basically sets up a world-destroying apocalypse that will end the game at some random time in the future. And unlike heroic games, the PCs can’t do anything about it – the world will end. Their only job is to make their short lives more comfortable for themselves at the expense of everyone else. It sounds awful, but you can’t take your eyes off it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever run this game, but it’s definitely one for aficionados of RPGs to absorb and mine for dark ideas.

How dark? Let me just say that I think what I have is the Mörk Borg of flus.

New content today:

Flu or bad cold? Who knows

I’m no longer sure this is a flu I’m suffering. It feels now more like the worst cold ever. It’s a sore throat, painful swallowing, blocked sinuses, coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. There’s no fever or muscle soreness which is what I usually associate with flu. I’ve booked to see my GP on Friday if I’m still unwell (and will cancel if I’m recovered by then). Although apparently there are some weird and nasty flu strains going around here at the moment. I’m seeing stories on Reddit about people in Sydney having similar symptom smörgåsbords that last 2-3 weeks! I really hope it doesn’t go as far as the weekend. I don’t want to have to cancel another week of Outschool classes.

Today I started the chore of marking the final assessments of the university Data Engineering students. I have 5 reports to read, and 6 videos to watch, because one of the teams apparently had a Beatles-esque break-up and the two halves refused to work together on a video, so each sub-team made a video of their own.

Not much else to report. I only took Scully on a couple of short walks, because I didn’t feel up to walking very far.

New content today:

24 hours of flu

The past 24 hours have been mostly about me being sick. I went to bed before 11pm, but was still awake at 3am, not having managed to fall asleep due to the sore throat, dripping nose, and sore sinuses. I decided to get up and have some sinus medication, with a glass of milk. I also liberally rubbed Vicks VapoRub on my chest, hoping that would help clear the nose. It all worked a bit, because I got maybe 2-3 hours of sleep before my wife got up at the alarm to get ready for work.

Symptoms were less during the morning, but have progressively got worse again as the day wore on, as has been the pattern so far. This evening I think I feel even worse than last night.

I cancelled all my Outschool classes for the remainder of the week to Friday. That means a full week skipped, so I can push the topics up a week and no students will miss a topic due to their class being cancelled while I do others in the same week. It’ll also give me time to rest.

And mark university assessment reports… I have a bunch of reports and video presentations to mark.

New content today: