It’s hard thinking of a title…

… when I didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy today. Two ethics classes this morning, three tonight, and in between I worked on some comics, and had lunch and took Scully for a walk. And that’s pretty much the whole day.

I didn’t even cook dinner – my wife did that tonight because I was busy teaching my classes. She’s getting used to the new induction cooker as well, and says she really likes it compared to the old gas one. The heat setting 1 is low enough that you can just leave a pot of soup on at that setting for an hour and it stays at a nice edible temperature without simmering. She made minestrone, which I ate after my classes.

Exciting day, yeah?

New content today:

Hot and bothered

The weather, that is. Today the temperature reached 27.3°C here in Sydney, which made it the hottest winter day for 8 years. It didn’t last though. A cold front came through mid-afternoon and dropped the temperature, bringing with it violent thunderstorms. Most of the storms passed south of us, so we didn’t see a lot of rain, but we certainly heard some loud thunder. Parts of Sydney got hail, and over 50mm of rain.

I spent most of today writing lesson plans for the next week of ethics classes. The younger kids are getting a class on “Rules”, and the older kids a class on “Cancel Culture”. Here’s the opening for the Rules one:

Some time in the future, a country named Florin has citizens who value freedom very highly. They have a system where people can propose ideas, and then everyone votes on them. One day someone suggests that to be truly free, there should be no rules. The people vote to try this out for a single day.

The Rule-Free Day is announced a month in advance. The rules are: there will be no rules! Parents will not be able to tell their children what to do, or what not to do. You won’t need to go to school if you don’t want. There are no rules of politeness. There will be no laws, so you can do anything you want and the police won’t stop you.

Saskia and her friends are excited by the Rule-Free Day. They’re planning to go out first thing in the morning and do exactly what they want all day! They’ll eat chocolate for breakfast and then go to the amusement park and climb over the fence and go on all the rides without paying. They’ll go into the kitchen of their favourite fast food place and make themselves hamburgers and huge bowls of ice cream. It’ll be such a great day!

Questions for the class:
What could go wrong?
Does a society of people need to have rules? Why?

There’s a lot more, but I won’t paste the entire lot here. I’ve run this class three times already tonight, and it’s generated some very fun and thoughtful discussion from the kids.

I also chased up an order I made a while back for some roleplaying game books from a local game store. They said they could get them in stock, but I hadn’t heard from them. I sent an email and they said they still didn’t have them, but the guy found one of them with a different distributor and said he could order that one and it should arrive in a week or so. So I said please do that, and we’ll just have to see about the others.

Finally, a photo, which I took last night, just before doing my lecture at the University of Technology Sydney:

UTS old and new

I did the lecture in a room on the 5th floor of the new building on the right.

New content today:

My first university lecture!

This evening I had my first official university lecture! The professor for the Image Processing course I’m currently tutoring for was away this week, and he asked me to fill in and deliver the lecture. I did a guest lecture for this course last year, during the project phase, but that wasn’t assessable and I didn’t get paid for it. But this lecture tonight is an integral part of the coursework, and I get paid for it!

The lecture was about feature detection, including going through Moravec corner and Harris corner detection, the structure tensor, the scale-invariant feature transform (SIFT) algorithm, and Bag of Words model. This sets up the groundwork for the beginning of looking at machine learning for image recognition, classification, and object identification, in next week’s lecture.

I think it went really well! During the tutorial exercise section, where the students work on problems and we walk around answering questions, one group said to me that this lecture finally made the whole course come together for them – giving context to what the preliminary fundamentals in the previous three lectures were leading up to, in a way that now made sense for real world image processing applications. So that was good! They even gave me a cookie – the group had been sharing a big box of them during the lecture.

Before heading into the city for the lecture, I spent time making a Darths & Droids comic, and dealing with a bunch of OUtschool administration. I’m constantly getting emails and requests from parents for different class times and for moving their kids into different classes. I’ve also set up a new iteration of the Creative Thinking and Problem Solving (Board Game Design) class, starting on 11 September, for a parent who wanted it. That starts the week after the current course in progress ends. The good news is that this parent has enrolled two kids into the class! That’s great because running it with just one student is not so much fun.

New content today:

Fancy lunch with free dessert

During my three classes this morning, my wife messaged and asked if I wanted to meet her at a local restaurant for lunch, during her work break. So I took Scully up and we sat at a table outside. The weather was nice. And the restaurant turned out to be having a “23rd birthday” special for the month of August, offering either a free glass of wine or dessert with any lunch menu item. They’re actually open for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. They used to be open for dinner years ago, and we enjoyed going there a few times, but since they decided not to open for dinner any more we’ve rarely been back, so it was nice to try it again.

I chose a barbecue pulled pork burger, and the dessert, which was a sticky date pudding. The burger was good, and the dessert was too, although not very big. I wonder if it was a special smaller serving for the free offer.

This afternoon I assembled another few Irregular Webcomic! strips from the last batch of photos I took, which will last for this week. For next week it’s time to write new strips and take more photos again.

In weather news, I ran across this mid-range outlook forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, showing October-December this year.

2023 Oct-Dec forecast map

Yeah, it’s gonna be a hot summer.

New content today:

Scully bath time

We had a big Sunday sleep-in today. Scully didn’t even get up until about 9:30 or so. We took her for a walk to the Naremburn bakery for lunch. It was a lovely day and I wore just shorts and a T-shirt for the first time since before winter. Spring is really in the air already.

After getting home we gave Scully a bath. She’d rolled in a few things the past few days, and we wanted to clean her up a bit. There was a bunch of other housework stuff to be done as well today. Not much really worth writing about.

Oh! I ran 2.5k today, and clocked 11:59. The first time I’ve run under 12 minutes since back in March. So that felt pretty good. (Afterwards, definitely not during!!)

New content today:

Busy week, Saturday

Well, not as busy as during the work-week, but I still did a few things. After breakfast I did a 5k run. First run in 8 days.

After showering and also cleaning the bathroom, I went on a walk with my wife to a kitchen supplies shop to get a new saucepan and a couple of frying pans to replace old ones that didn’t work with our new induction cooker. I took some time going through the store to choose ones, because they have quite a range. We had a small frying pan, 16cm, diameter, the right size for making just a couple of fried eggs which we used a lot – but it was aluminium. So I wanted one that size that would work on our new cooker. They didn’t have one exactly that size, but there was a slightly smaller one at 14cm, so I got that.

When we got home we tested all the new cookware to make sure it worked… and the small frying pan didn’t, despite the labelling saying that it was suitable for induction cookers. It was quite a walk there and back, so I decided to drive over again to exchange the pan for another one. But that was the only small pan they had – the next size up was 20cm. But I got one of those instead, and it worked fine when I got home. I guess the fried eggs will spread out a bit more, but it should be fine.

This afternoon I finally got to finishing off that Darths & Droids strip that I really wanted to do on Thursday. I’ll need to do another one tomorrow to catch up a bit.

And this evening I went up to the science toy shop where they do Dungeons & Dragons events on Saturday nights, to meet up with the organiser and have a chat about the possibility of me hosting a game there some time. It was a youngish woman and she was setting up a table with a battle map when I arrived. I was a little worried that she would want to run strictly 5th Edition rules, which is not really what I want to do, so I mentioned early on that I preferred to run a more rules-light style of game, with more roleplaying and less dice rolling. She said she agreed that 5e was too rules-heavy, and sounded happy for me to run something a lot lighter. I said if I was running a game for new kids, I’d just hand them a character sheet each, say they’re at the entrance of a cave dungeon, and say, “What do you do?” – and she said that sounded great! So that was cool. She said they basically attracted enough people, mostly kids, to run one table, and it would be good if I could take over once every few weeks to give her a week off.

So it all sounds pretty good! I won’t have time to do it next Saturday, but maybe in two weeks.

Tonight I used the new large saucepan to cook pasta on the induction cooker, and made a tomato mushroom sauce in a smaller pot. It took a bit of juggling with the heat settings, but I found the right ones with a little trial and error, and overall it was pretty fun and easy. So yeah, it’s good so far!

New content today:

Busy week, Friday

The main job today was getting through another 4 ethics classes online. I had a parent enrol an 8-year-old into one of my classes designed for 10-12 year-olds. So I wrote to the parent and told them the kid could try one class, and I would get back to them with my thought on whether or not they could handle the class material. The kid actually did pretty well, and the parent told me afterwards that they enjoyed the class, so it looks like they’ll stay, at least for another week or two.

I picked up groceries this morning.

But most of the rest of the day I spent working on the game design for my current Creative Thinking/Board Game Design class. Last lesson we decided on the theme and some mechanics, and I had to put it together into a playable game in time for the student to try playing it a few times this weekend, before our next class on Monday. So I had a pretty firm deadline on this.

I came up with a design that uses modular rooms, a little bit like the Grandma’s Ninja Castle game last time I ran this course, but with a twist. It’s not just a static modular board. This time the rooms can slide around and move relative to one another, giving it a bit of a feel like the moving staircases in Hogwarts Castle (as I described it to the student, who thought the idea was awesome). The rooms are square and laid out like a 15-puzzle, but with 3 empty squares instead of one (making it a numerologically significant 13 rooms in the haunted house). On each player’s turn they have to move their ghost hunter from one room to an adjacent one (avoiding voids), move a ghost to an adjacent room or void, and roll to randomly decide which room slides into one of the voids. The rooms have doors on some walls, and the ghost hunters need to pass through a door, but the ghosts can walk through walls. And then if a hunter is in the same room with a ghost, they roll dice to see if the hunter banishes the ghost, or the ghost spooks the hunter (making them flee outside the house and have to re-enter next turn). There are some pieces of equipment in various rooms which give hunters bonuses to the dice roll. So it’s a game of navigating the shifting maze of the haunted house, finding equipment, and banishing ghosts. First hunter to banish three ghosts wins.

I’m interested to see how it plays in practice, and if the student can improve the design.

New content today:

Busy week, Thursday

Today I got to play with our new induction cooker. The first thing I wanted to do was test cooking rice, to work out what heat setting to use while leaving the rice to absorb. I knew it had to be fairly low, so I started with setting 1 of the 1-14 power range.

Half an hour later I had… raw rice in tepid water, no hotter than a warm bath. Okay, so setting 1 is not really for cooking as such, but it will be a handy setting for keeping food warm before serving. Next I tried going up a couple of settings to 3. And this turned out to be perfect – the rice was perfectly cooked.

So tonight I made our first meal using the new cooktop.

Induction cooking

This is rice in the right pot, cooking on level 3 as you can see on the LED display. On the left is Thai red curry, made with pumpkin, snow peas, and mushrooms, as well as a bit of celery and spring onions and lemongrass. When it was nearly done I added coconut milk, and it turned out really good.

I’m impressed with the control and the rapid response of the cooker. And the heat range is wider than the old gas cooker, on both ends. The top setting of 14 is significantly hotter and faster to heat up than the gas at maximum flame. And the setting of 1 is something I couldn’t possibly reproduce using the gas flame, even at the lowest possible setting and with a heat diffuser. So overall I’m very happy with it!

My other main thing today was 5 ethics classes, which I’ve just finished at 9pm. And taking Scully for a couple of walks. Phew, what a day!

New content today:

Busy week, Wednesday

Today was the installation of our new induction cooktop, replacing the old gas cooker. The tradesman appeared about 10am and got to work. It was quite a job.

He had to: pull out and disconnect the electric oven; disconnect the gas cooktop; cut the gas pipe close to the wall; cap the gas pipe and test it for leaks; cut the granite benchtop to fit the slightly larger induction cooktop into the hole where the gas one used to be; drill a hole through the wall near the fusebox; thread electrical cable through the hole to a power point in the kitchen wall; disconnect that power point and replace it with a new heavy duty one; thread cable through from that power point to another power point inside the kitchen cabinet next to the stove area (this used to be the power point for the kitchen sink garbage disposal, which was no longer in use after we removed the garbage disposal a while back – it was lucky we did this because it meant the now spare point could be repurposed for the induction cooker); lay new cable from there inside a protective duct to the induction cooktop; remove the entire fusebox; replace all the circuit breakers with new ones to bring the fusebox up to current safety standards; actually install the induction cooktop; wire it in; reconnect and replace the oven; then switch everything back on and test it all works.

Here’s the area in the middle of the job:

Induction cooktop installation

The two ends of yellow cable are the same cable, passing through the wall, and that’s the fusebox visible in the upper cupboard. From that wall socket another cable goes down into the lower cupboard and through the hole visible in the back corner of the cooktop area.

And here’s the new cooktop, fully installed!

Induction cooktop installation

Shiny! I’ve tested it out boiling a little water in some of our pots, and it’s amazingly fast. But although I’m keen to give it a go cooking a meal, tonight was not the night for it. I had ethics classes from 5-8pm, and my wife wanted her dinner about 6:30, so she ended up just making grilled cheese sandwiches in the sandwich press. And after my last class I made myself a falafel roll in the same sandwich press.

Tomorrow I’ll try cooking something on the new cooktop. I need to test out cooking rice – to see what setting to leave it to simmer so that it comes out right. I’m hoping it works first time, but perhaps I’ll need to try a few settings to tune it.

It took the guy until a bit after 2pm to finish the installation, so my day was a bit disrupted, with the noise and having the power turned off. But I managed to write my lesson plans for both ethics age groups: “Psychic Powers” for the younger and “Philosophy of Ethics” for the older. And I spent some time scribbling notes on paper for the haunted house board game that I need to put together by Friday for my game design course.

New content today:

Busy week, Tuesday

I needed to get a Darths & Droids strip written and assembled today – that was my first deadline. After knocking that off I had to work on my lesson plan for tomorrow night’s new ethics class topic, on “Psychic Powers”. Then I had to go through the lecture notes for next week’s image processing lecture which I’ll be giving at the university, because this afternoon before the class I met with the professor to go over them and make sure I cover the material fully.

Leaving early to do this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything else. I dropped Scully at my wife’s work on the way into the university. Then after the meeting I had a break to go grab some dinner before the evening lecture. I went across the road and grabbed some Thai fried rice.

And that was the day!

New content today: