Starting marking, restarting parking

Today I downloaded the student final assignments for Data Engineering, which I need to mark over the next few days. One team submitted their video in MKV format, which is not supported by MacOS. But fortunately I have some third party video playing software which can handle it – otherwise I would have had to download something just for this. I sent a message to the professor saying maybe we should specify acceptable video formats next time.

At lunch I took Scully for a walk. I decided to mix things up a bit and walk down to Bob Campbell Oval and the “Stairs of Cirith Ungol”, which I’ve mentioned a couple of times before (with photos each time).

When we reached the top of the steep street leading down to the Oval, I saw a large sign indicating the oval was closed for redevelopment work. I believe the council has a plan to replace the natural grass with artificial turf, so presumably this is that work now underway. When we got to the bottom of the hill, the entire area around the oval was fenced off. It looks like they’re demolishing and rebuilding the amenities there as well and redoing the car park and other works.

Bob Campbell Oval construction

Fortunately the Stairs of Cirith Ungol depart from the road just before the temporary fence, so we could climb up them to the street above and continue our circuit home.

A total of five ethics classes today took e late into the evening. Now it looks like Irregular Webcomic! and Darths & Droids have not updated to new comics for today, but oddly Square Root of Minus Garfield and Comments on a Postcard and iToons have. But I can’t log in to the server to fix things – it’s rejecting my attempts to use SSH for some reason, and I can’t connect using SFTP either. I don’t know what’s wrong, so I’ve submitted a support ticket to the webhost. Hopefully things will be running properly again by morning.

New content today:


Not here, but I was starting one of my ethics classes online this evening, when one of the students got disconnected from Zoom briefly. She came back a few seconds later, and said, “Sorry, we just had an earthquake here.” And another student said, “I felt it too.”

I checked and they were both in Taiwan. And sure enough, right at the time when they said it, there was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake just off the coast of Taiwan. Both of the students seemed fine and were okay to continue the class. I guess living in Taiwan they’re used to minor tremors occasionally. They didn’t really seem concerned at all.

We started the new topic on “Cost Cutting” today. I wrote the lesson plan this morning. It seems okay, but as usual I’ve been adjusting the questions on the fly based on student responses. It always takes a few classes to get the hang of the new lesson.

That was really the most notable thing about today. A very standard day of the usual tasks, waking Scully at lunch time, and so on.

Oh! No, I also put together stage 12 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set! This adds a lot of vegetation to the castle exterior.

Lego D&D set, stage 12

One of which is this cool removable treant!

Lego D&D set, stage 12

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Heading south for lunch out

Today I caught up with my old schoolfriend Lisa again. We last met for lunch back in February, near my place. It was a hot day, and we said we should get together again in a few months when it’s cooler. Well, unfortunately the 5 nice days in April passed too quickly and now it’s chilly! But she arranged lunch at Blackfish Cafe in Como, in Sydney’s southern suburbs. This was near her place (in fact she walked there), and her husband wanted to meet me so he came along as well and the three of us had a very nice lunch.

Four of us… Scully was there too!

Scully and fish & chips

She’s got her eyes on my fried flathead & chips. She did get a small piece of fish once I’d finished.

Anyway, I’ve seen Lisa’s husband many times in her Instagram feed, but I was surprised when he spoke with an English/Welsh accent. They’d met over in London while Lisa was spending a few years living over there. We all had a good chat over a nice lunch, but it really was a bit too chilly when the wind blew across the river. Otherwise it was a nice day, sunny with scattered clouds, and a nice setting on the water for lunch.

The drive there took close to an hour. On the way home I stopped in at Bunnings to buy a new kitchen mixer tap to replace our dodgy one, and also a light bulb to replace a burnt out one in the bathroom. I suspect there might be something wrong with the light fitting in there, as it’s burnt through two LED bulbs in the past year or so. I got a nice mixer tap, and I’ll have a look to see if I can possibly replace the old one myself without having to pay a plumber to do it. Assuming I have the right tools, I suspect I probably can.

At home I made sourdough, and pizza for dinner, and worked on some comics. And going to relax a bit tonight!

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Late night trip to the vet

After I posted last night’s blog post, I was planning to relax, watch some TV, and go to bed. But Scully was behaving oddly, refusing to eat dinner, and her hind legs were shaking. Normally she starts sleeping soon after dinner, but she was lying down with her head up, alert and awake. And she looked very wobbly on her legs whenever she moved, and struggling to stand or sit.

We were worried enough that we decided to take her to the vet, which has a 24-hour emergency service. We were there until almost midnight while the vet examined her, manipulated her legs and torso, took her temperature, and did a blood test. The vet said that she reacted when he manipulated her lower spine and that maybe she had a muscle strain or sprain. He asked of Scully had done any unusual jumping or other activity that could have caused it, but there was nothing as far as we knew. Scully never jumps up or down on anything – we trained her from a puppy never to jump. The vet also noticed her anal glands were quite full, and he expressed them to relieve pressure. He said it might be possible that the two things combined were causing more pain so that might relieve things. He gave us a painkiller tablet for Scully so she could sleep. But after her glands had been expressed, she was already a lot more sprightly and walking around easier. Her legs had stopped shaking. We took her home and gave her the tablet and she had a good sleep.

Today Scully seems to be almost back to normal. So it seems it wasn’t anything serious. The blood test was all normal. So I think we basically just have to monitor her over the next day or so and make sure she’s back to normal.

This meant I didn’t get a lot of sleep as I had to be up for Zoom classes starting from 8am today. So I’ve been a bit tired today.

After four classes in the morning, I too Scully for a walk to Botanica Cafe for lunch. I tried the last thing on the lunch menu that I hadn’t tried before (except the chicken and avocado sandwich which I’ll never have because of the avocado), the roast beef and onion sandwich. It was pretty good, though there are other things on the menu that I prefer. Starting next time I go there I’m going to work my way through everything on the all-day breakfast menu!

I went there because I had a meeting arranged with someone who wanted to meet up to buy a Magic: the Gathering card from me. It was a valuable card (several hundred dollars), and the guy is in Sydney so decided a meeting would be better than sending it through the post. He arrived after I’d finished eating, inspected the card, and was happy with the condition, so transferred the cash to me electronically and could take the card immediately.

We got back home as grey clouds rolled in and threatened rain, and it became very cold again with the southerly wind. I don’t think it actually rained, but there might still be showers later tonight.

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Time to replace the kitchen tap

The aerator has fallen out of my kitchen tap. I can push it back in, but it falls out whenever I turn the water on. I can’t see any way to make it stay in there. There’s nothing resembling a screw thread or a locking mechanism that might be engaged by twisting. This is a problem because the water now splatters all over the place if turned on any harder than a trickle.

As it happens, I’d been thinking of replacing the tap for a while anyway, as it’s been dripping a bit. So I guess it’s time to buy a replacement tap and get a plumber in to install it.

It was another very cold day today, but the sun was out and it didn’t rain, so that was nice at least. We went on a long walk with Scully to Maggio’s Italian bakery after breakfast and I tried a special of the day – a pastry a bit like a pain au chocolat, but with lemon custard also inside and lemon cream on top. We always joke about the combination of chocolate and lemon since on a trip to Rome many yers ago we bought two packs of biscotti—lemon and chocolate—and the old lady who sold them to us muttered to herself in Italian (which I understood just enough of to work out) that it was a bad sign that we liked two flavours that didn’t go together. But this pastry was delicious, and honestly I don’t think there’s any issue with lemon and chocolate together.

I did my 5k run this afternoon, since it was too cold in the morning. It was barely warm enough at 2pm in the sunshine.

I worked on some Darths & Droids strips today, completing one and getting a completed script written for another, which is actually really good progress for a day.

New content today:

Games and next Lego construction

Friday was face-to-face board games night at a friend’s place. I took Scully with me and there were six of us altogether for games. We played No Thanks, then Heat: Pedal to the Metal, and then a new game for me, Dungeon Academy.

In this game there is a dungeon map made of sixteen dice which are dumped at random into a 4×4 square tray, like in Boggle. Each player has a character card with different amounts of health (red) and mana (blue). Each player needs to plot a path through the dungeon grid on their own sheet of paper, at the same time, entering from any side, traversing adjoining squares (maximum once each), and then exiting from any side. Each die in the grid shows either a monster (red or blue, small or large) or a potion (red or blue). A small monster drain one health/mana (matching the colour), large ones drain two. As long as your health/mana don’t go negative you kill the monster and gain 1 gold. Potions add to the corresponding health/mana. Your character also has a special ability (mine was gain 1 extra gold per large blue monster slain).

It’s a race to see who can plot their course fastest, without messing up. If you mess up and drop below 0 health or mana you score zero gold for that round, but heal back to full in both for the next round. When finished, you grab a numbered card from a pile in the middle, first player finished gets 1, last gets the largest number (6 for our six-player game). Then you draw a treasure card for each player and choose in order, from 1 to the last player, excluding anyone who died in that round. So being faster gets you a better choice of treasure. Treasures can do things like give you extra gold, or give you abilities such as a helmet which can be discarded to avoid a monster hitting you, or invisibility cloak which means you can ignore a monster. Some are curses, which are negative, so you don’t want to be picking last!

You play over 4 rounds. In round 2 and 4 one of the regular dice is swapped out for a special die that has different faces that do other things. The last die is the “boss die” which has, for example, a dragon that drains 3 health and 3 mana, but is worth 3 gold.

I scored a final total of 30 gold, which was equalled by one other player, but we lost to someone who managed 31.

During the day I had 4 ethics classes. One of the parents contacted me early on and said that her daughter had been sent home from school with a fever, and might not join the class. But she really liked it and might want to join anyway even though she was feeling sick. It turned out she did indeed show up. Such dedication!

Friday was also warmish, reaching 23.7°C, in fact the warmest day of May so far. But Saturday dawned cold and didn’t heat up much at all. We only reached a maximum of 14.6°C at 10am, and then it just got colder again. A strong cold southerly wind has been blowing drifting showers across the city and it really feels like winter now. But I dragged myself out for a 5k run, and actually did a decent time. Probably because I was cold and wanting to get back inside as quickly as possible!

Today I finally got back into the construction of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set. Stage 11 adds details to the exterior part of the castle/dungeon. There are spiders and plants and trees. If you look closely you can see a third spider lurking in the shadows behind the top of the left tree:

Lego D&D stage 11

The door has also been covered with a removable rock face, making it a secret door!

Lego D&D stage 11

And there’s a secret cache of gold and a key:

Lego D&D stage 11

And part of the dungeon wall is removable too!

Lego D&D stage 11

Inside this part, seen from the other side, has been added a skeletal torso guardian and a spellbook (behind the shield):

Lego D&D stage 11

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Serial dog names

I learnt something interesting the other day. Our newish neighbours downstairs have a kelpie, but we haven’t met her (the dog) until just a few days ago. I was bringing Scully in from a walk through the garage and we bumped into one of the neighbours getting out of her car, and the dog was in the back. So we had a chat and let the dogs meet each other for the first time.

The dog’s name is Chilli. Not sure if she’s named after Bluey’s mother or not. But anyway, I suddenly realised today that the previous dog downstairs belonging to the previous neighbours was Billie. I hope the next two dogs that live down there are Fili and Kili. (My friends asked me if the dog before Billie was named Allie or Ali, but alas it was Spike.)

Today was busy with ethics classes on the “Arguments” topic. It’s an interesting topic and I think is getting the kids thinking about stuff they’ve never thought about before. One girl’s mother today sent me a message saying that she’d been sent home from school sick and might miss this evening’s class. But she liked the class and wanted to attend, so might show up after sleeping all afternoon. And indeed she turned up.

I spent some time dealing with household finances, downloading about six months worth of bills for various things and saving them, and updating a tax spreadsheet with stuff. Pretty dull, but necessary.

And I started work on a special feature for Darths & Droids. I’m planning at some point soonish to release a bunch of our behind-the-scenes planning notes and director’s commentaries on individual strips, so interested readers can trawl through them and perhaps find interesting details they didn’t know, and get some insights into the creative process behind it all. it’s going to be a lot of work formatting it into HTML, so it’ll be a background task for several months probably.

And no rain for the third day in a row!

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Engineering the taste of beer

It was another busy day. I worked on a Darths & Droids comic for tomorrow, which I had to get done today so it will be ready for publication in time. Then a bit before 11am I had to leave to head into the university on the train for today’s last Data Engineering tutorial session.

The students’ final projects are due on Friday, so today was the last time they got to sit in class and work on it, and ask us any questions about their projects. One team is doing an experiment to try to determine relationships between amount of hops, boiling time, and perception of bitterness in pre-brewing beer solutions. And today they brought in their samples and were getting people in the class to taste them and answer a survey.

I did the survey. The first survey question was “How much do you like bitter drinks?” (1-10 scale). I said 8, since I like beer and stuff like Campari and herbal bitters. Then I tasted the four samples and rated them as bitterness levels 2, 5, 4, and I think 6 (out of 10). Then the professor did the same test, saying 5 for how much he liked bitter drinks. His ratings of the bitterness levels of the samples was about 3 or 4 points higher than mine.

And then I saw them have a woman in the class do the survey. She said she didn’t like bitter drinks. She tasted the first sample, and said “Oh my god! That’s horrible… yuk!!!” And she ended up rating them all in the 8-10 range for bitterness. And immediately ran out to get some water as soon as she was done.

The students said one of the things they were trying to determine was if a taster’s preference for bitter drinks affected how bitter they perceived the solutions to be. Looks like that’s a positive correlation!

On the way home I went via the game shop where I still had some store credit to spend. I found a copy of Kids on Bikes, which I snapped up, as I’ve been trying to get my hands on it for some time. That left me only about $30 credit left, which I used to buy some card sleeves and hard plastic top loaders for safely sending Magic cards through the mail. I’ve been using quite a few selling my cards, so a few extra boxes won’t go astray.

Tonight I started the new ethics class topic on Arguments. Had a couple of new students, and things went smoothly.

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Science mentoring meeting

Today I visited Loreto Kirribilli school to meet with four Year 9 students who the teachers there have selected for mentoring in science. They are advanced students with a strong interest in science. I introduced myself and briefly described my career from university degrees to industrial research, then asked the students what areas of science they were interested in and what they hoped to learn in our mentoring sessions.

They have a diverse range of interests in terms of topic: physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, computer science. But one thing I found out was they have a common desire to obtain a more rounded and deeper understanding of science than they are taught in classwork. Actually understanding what the science is, rather than just learning ways to solve problems that will be on their exams. They were a little reserved but hopefully will get more enthusiastic as they get used to the mentoring sessions.

We finished up our time (we had 50 minutes) with a discussion of atomic theory, going a bit deeper into quantum physics than they get at a Year 9 level. It ended up a bit rambly, because there are so many interesting digressions I can make along the way! Hopefully the next session (in a fortnight) will be a bit more focused. Th girls have been given some homework to come up with some specific questions they are interested in, either about science topics or careers.

In other news, there was a strange meteorological phenomenon today. Th sky was a weird blue colour and there was a strange ball of light in it. Yes, the rain has finally ended, after beginning on 30 April. It was so nice to be out and about without getting wet.

The dampness left behind a nasty legacy though. I mentioned the mould spots in the house yesterday. Today I went around with some mould killer and treated all the areas I could see. It’s horrible, but hopefully stopped before it gets too serious.

All of this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to write my ethics class for the new week. I dashed it off quickly after dinner. The topic is “Arguments”, as in heated disagreements, not logical arguments. What causes arguments? How can an argument get out of control? How does it feel to be in an argument? What strategies can you use to stay more calm and reasonable in an argument? What’s the difference between healthy debate and harmful argument? And so on.

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Is the rain finally at an end?

Today was the 13th straight day of rain in Sydney. but… things cleared up a little in the afternoon and there was even a weird glowing thing in the sky for a bit. The forecast for tomorrow is sunny!!

But I noticed spots of mould starting to appear on the walls inside the house. Tomorrow I’m going to have to do a thorough go around everywhere with the mould killer spray. And hopefully air the place out with some lower humidity air.

Six classes today to finish off the topic on Mysterious Beasts. I still have the last one to go beginning at 9pm as I type this. That’s the latest class I have and it makes for a very long day.

Scully managed to get a long walk at lunch without getting wet, although the bush path we walk along on the loop route down to the harbour was a bit muddy. I carried her through there though, because the council has laid poison fox baits to kill feral foxes in the bushland, and I don’t want her to accidentally find one and eat it.

Not much else to report today.

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