Double games days

Friday was online games night with friends and I didn’t have time to write a blog post because it was a busy day.

First thing in the morning was grocery pickup and shopping. I order online, but always select my own fruit and vegetables right before picking up all the other ordered stuff. Back home, I’d moved my first ethics class of the day 10 minutes earlier because I had another Zoom meeting starting at the exact finish time, and I needed some slop time in between because the classes always go a little bit over.

Friday: STEM Professionals in Schools teaching

The Zoom meeting was with a teacher at Loreto Kirribilli, a girls’ school not too far from where I live. This is a new school that I’m setting up a partnership with to replace Brookvale Public, where I’d been doing the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program since 2012. It was good there, but (a) it was a long drive to get there, (b) I had to stop visiting the school during COVID, and (c) the contact teacher there since moved to a new school, so I basically lost tough with them. CSIRO contacted me last year to ask my status and I told them that, so they organised a new school for me.

I spoke to the school’s gifted & talented program organiser, who told me about the various programs they have there for out-of-curriculum enrichment and learning. She suggested the best introduction would be to give one of the Learning@Lunchtime talks – these are weekly talks on Fridays at school lunchtime, given by external visitors, on a wide range of topics. They advertise the speaker and topic, and any interested students can turn up and listen to the talk while eating lunch. She said they get any number from 5 to 50 students, depending on the topic (and the weather!). She sent me free dates afterwards and I said I could do one of these talks on 23 February.

After the talk, she said we could have a chat, and introduce me to the school’s science coordinator, to organise an ongoing mentorship of some students. They have external mentors come to the school at intervals convenient for the visitor—anything from weekly to once a year—and meet with a small group of students with an interest in whatever the mentor is an expert in. She said they don’t do it just for STEM topics; they had an executive from Qantas who came in and had “business lunches” with students and they all talked about business stuff. Anyway, she asked what sort of ages I’d like to work with, since they cover the gamut from Kindergarten to Year 12, and I said I’d spent my tie at Brookvale working with K-6 kids, and would like to work with older students so we could do more advanced stuff. She said she might have a small group of Year 10 students who might be suitable. But that will be sorted when we chat after the initial lunchtime talk.

Following this meeting I had lunch and took Scully for a quick walk before getting into three ethics classes in a row in the afternoon. After that my wife and I relaxed by going up to our favourite pizza place for dinner. And then back home afterwards I played online board games with friends.

Friday: Online board games

We played a game of Wingspan, and discovered that it seemed to drag a bit in the online version, because the UI enforced us taking turns sequentially, whereas when we play in person we often start our moves, and say we’re doing stuff that doesn’t interact with anyone else, and the next person can start their move. And manipulating the physical cards and components seems to flow faster than clicking a screen UI. So we were a bit tired of it by the end. But despite thinking I was doing poorly throughout the game, I somehow ended up winning, so it wasn’t a total loss!

After that we played a game of Just One. We use a bot implementation that one of my friends wrote for our Discord server. It has a much wider selection of words to guess than the official version. There was an amusing incident with two of the words.

Briefly, the game involves rounds where one person has to guess a mystery word. The word is revealed to all the other players, and they have to submit a one-word clue – e.g. if the mystery word is “banana” the clues might be “fruit”, “yellow”, “lounge”, etc. Ideally all the clues are different and the guesser has a lot to work with to get the right answer. But if multiple people give the same clue, they are eliminated and the guesser gets fewer clues. it’s cooperative, so we’re all trying to be helpful and give the guesser as many good clues as possible – but the elimination thing means it’s risky to give the most obvious clues in case someone else does the same.

Anyway, one word was “celery”. One person clued “stick” and two of us gave “waldorf”, which was eliminated. So the poor guesser had to guess based on the single clue “stick”, and ended up guessing “carrot”.

Then the next mystery word, chosen at random from a list of hundreds, was “carrot”!! Three of us suppressed laughter and gave clues, while the guesser had no idea what was happening. It turned out two of us clued “stick” (referencing the previous round!) and one clued “root”. So the guesser only got to see the clue “root”. And said, “Haha, wouldn’t it be funny if it was carrot?” And not having anything better to guess, he guessed carrot, and we all burst into laughter as he got it right!

Saturday morning

I slept in a bit, got up, had breakfast, and went for a 5k run. This was my first since Australia Day, eight days ago, as I felt my sore ankle needed a bit more time off. It felt a lot better today, and I clocked 28:14, exactly the same time as that last run. The conditions were a bit warm and humid.

After a shower I had to drive down to the local farmer’s market to pick up a home-made chocolate cake that my wife had bought there at one of the stalls. She’d walked down with Scully and wanted to walk back, but not carrying a cake. The cake was for afternoon tea with some of our friends, the ones who minded Scully the last few times we’ve been overseas. Last time they were in a temporary house while their own one was being renovated, but they moved back in at the end of November, and this was the first time we’ve visited since.

After lunch, we took Scully on a walk, and then drove over to our friends’ place for afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea games

Their updated house looked good! No structural work, but they had a complete kitchen renovation, new carpets, the wooden floorboards in the kitchen and dining rooms had been sanded and polished and looked brand new, new paint throughout, and a bunch of new fittings like built-in wardrobes, insect screens, a new back door with doggy door for their dog, and so on.

We chatted for a bit and had some crackers and cheese, and then we played a couple of games. We started with Taluva, which I don’t think I’ve seen before. It’s a really clever tile-laying game, with tiles consisting of three adjoined hexes in a triangular shape. Each hex contains a volcano or one of a few different types of terrain. One your turn you draw a random tile, lay it on the expanding map, and then place one or more buildings according to some simple rules. The goal is to place more buildings than your opponents, and there’s priority for more difficult buildings, with temples outranking towers, outranking huts. The rules are very simple, but it has a lot of strategy to it and we really enjoyed it. My wife enjoyed it maybe more because she won!

Then we played Love Letter, which I’ve played before but my wife hadn’t. This is a simple game, but unpredictable and sometimes hilarious in the situations that can come up. My friend one this one.

We got back home about 6:30 pm and I made omelettes for dinner with the fresh zucchini flowers that my wife had also bought at this morning’s market. A busy but fun couple of days!

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