Human rights in ethics

This morning I had my second Ethics class since resuming last week. I was planning to use name tags for the kids again, since I haven’t quite learnt all their names yet, but I discovered that I didn’t have enough left for all the class. Rather than give some of them tags and some not, I decided to just not use them and see how I went. I went around the class and marked the roll, managing to name most of the kids correctly, and I paid attention to the ones I couldn’t to try and remember them for next week.

When I arrived before the class, there were a few teachers sitting in my classroom. Normally they have a staff meeting on Wednesday morning, in the staffroom. But today they were doing it in a socially distanced manner, with a few teachers spread out in some classrooms, talking via Zoom or some such conferencing system. While this is good, it meant I couldn’t get into the room to set up the chairs for my class until the bell rang and the teachers left. So it was a bit of a rush getting set up and started.

We continued talking about animal rights from last week, although today the focus was on human rights, as a comparison. We discussed whether people should have rights to food and shelter, being able to go out without fear of being attacked, education, to socialise with friends, and other things. We brought it back to animals with the question of whether people have a right to be able to swim in the ocean safely, versus whether sharks have a right to live without being killed by people. This sets up the conflict between human and animals rights that we’ll be discussing next week. The kids were better behaved today and we had a good discussion, so that was really good.

This afternoon I dedicated to writing a new Proof the Earth is a Globe. I’m almost finished, but it will take a bit more work tomorrow to polish it off and post it.

New content today:

Some photos from my weekend trip

This morning I processed several of the photos I took on my weekend trip to Mudgee. Most of them are of birds.

Here’s a face-off between an Australian raven and a magpie-lark:

Australian raven vs Magpie-lark

A black swan:

Black swan

A red-browed finch:

Red-browed finch

And I think the shot of the trip, a crested pigeon:

Crested pigeon

This afternoon I worked on some Darths & Droids comics, both writing and assembling. I also took Scully out to the park to play with other dogs for a bit. Thankfully the rain eased off this morning – we got a lot of rain over the past three days, making this the wettest July in Sydney for the past eight years, according to tonight’s news.

New content today:

Back to work after the weekend away…

Scully was so exhausted after our weekend trip that she basically slept all evening and solidly all through the night – which was good because that meant my wife and I got a good night’s sleep too.

Monday dawned cold and wet. It’s been raining heavily here in Sydney, and there are several flooding incidents around the city and the surrounding region. The rain hasn’t let up all day, and we’re in for more overnight and tomorrow.

After doing some grocery shopping in the morning, I spent most of the day assembling Irregular Webcomic! strips and then writing annotations for them, to complete this latest batch of comics. After doing that I had a bit of time to go through photos I took on the weekend trip. I’ve identified all the birds I took photos of, and am quite amazed that I got photos of three new species I hadn’t photographed before, so that’s pretty good!

New content today:

Weekend away, day 3

Scully slept better last night in our motel room. I think the rain helped, as the sound drowned out a lot of the minor noises that kept distracting throughout her the previous night.

The rain held off for the evening, and my wife and I went out to a nice restaurant on one of the nearby winery estates. We’ve been here once before and really enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere, so made sure to rebook it for this trip. They said over the phone that us bringing Scully would be fine, but I wasn’t sure if we’d need to sit outdoors – I think they mentioned something about a private room. When we got there, it was sprinkling very lightly. I said we had a booking and had informed them we’d be bringing our dog. They showed us straight into the main dining room and gave us a table in the corner!

Now, I’m pretty sure that restaurants here aren’t allowed to have animals (other than assistance dogs) in indoor food serving areas, but we weren’t about to point that out, and nobody seemed to mind at all. The diners at the tables nearest us were delighted and waved at Scully and scratched her when she wandered over (on leash, but she had enough room to move around a little). So we were nice and warm inside, and enjoyed a most wonderful meal. This place does a five course fixed menu, which changes daily, using a lot of ingredients they grow on their own property, and sourcing other ingredients from local farms.

This morning we got up and went to a cafe for breakfast, before packing the car and checking out of the motel. It had rained very heavily overnight, but stopped while we were having breakfast. It started up again by the time we were packing the car, and then got heavier as we drove off, heading home.

We took a different route for the first part of the trip, through a couple of small towns along a longer road that we hadn’t driven along before. It was nice to see the towns, but it was raining fairly heavily when we were there, and it was also very cold, so we couldn’t fully appreciate the scenery and historic buildings. We stopped for lunch in Lithgow, just the western side of the Blue Mountains, and then drove straight through form there to home, through heavy rain.

It was a good trip, and the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as forecast for Saturday, but it did hamper us a bit today. Scully’s glad to be home, however. After two days of being on the road in unfamiliar places and being on edge, she’s crashed and been sleeping most of the afternoon and evening since we got home.

New content today:

Weekend away, day 2

As it turned out, the weather wasn’t nearly as bad as forecast. The morning was clear and dry today. It only started raining about 1pm, and then it was only light and intermittent, although as we approach evening now it’s starting to set in a little heavier. But nothing like the torrential rain all day I was expecting.

We had a nice breakfast at the place where we would normally stay in town, but can’t this time because of having Scully with us. Then went to the Mudgee Honey Haven to buy some local honey, then to Baker Williams distillery to get some of their delicious butterscotch schnapps (I always pick up a bottle when we visit town), and to de Lusso winery to buy some wines, which they make from a range of rarer Italian grapes that are not commonly grown in Australia.

After that we went back into town to have lunch, at the Mudgee Brewing Company. We sat outside and it started to rain, but we had a large umbrella over the table and so were fine. After eating we walked around the centre of town, checking some shops, letting Scully run in the park a bit, and then going to a ceramics gallery where a local potter makes various things: bowls, plates, vases, cups, mugs, etc. We bought a couple of really beautifully glazed noodled bowls.

Scully had fun exploring Mudgee with us. Here she is at the Catholic church and the historic clock tower in the centre of town.

And checking out a roll of hay at Baker Williams Distillery.

Tonight we have our fancy dinner of the trip, at a restaurant out of town at one of the wineries. I think they said that they have a private room inside where we can bring Scully, which I’m hoping is right because it’ll be pretty cold sitting outside tonight!

New content today: When the update happens there’ll be new Irregular Webcomic! rerun annotation, Square Root of Minus Garfield, iToons, and Comments on a Postcard.

Weekend away, day 1

Today is the first day of the weekend trip I’ve been planning with my wife and Scully… since we first booked it back in about February. We originally booked for April, but that got scuttled by COVID-19 travel restrictions that were introduced. We rebooked when travel opened up again, and managed to actually make it this time.

We left home at 1:30 this afternoon, after my wife finished her morning shift of working from home. The first hour of driving was basically crossing suburbs of Sydney, and we really only got outside the city after crossing the Hawkesbury River at Richmond, north-west of home. From there we crossed the Blue Mountains via Bells Line of Road, arriving in Lithgow about 3:30. This is the only real town we pass through on the way to Mudgee, and we stopped to get a snack and a hot drink for my wife. Many places on the main street had closed already – after 3pm in a country town not much is open.

Crossing the mountains we were amazed at how much of the countryside had been burnt in the recent bushfires of last summer, just six months ago. Remember that that was the huge disaster that everyone was talking about, before COVID got going. It was just endless driving through blackened trees, and then getting long views from ridge tops across an unbroken panorama of burnt landscape. It was really eerie.

We left Lithgow about 4 o’clock, and drove through to Mudgee, arriving just before 6. We checked into our motel on the edge of town, which seems like a nice clean place, fairly modern. Previously we’ve stayed here at another place in the centre of town that we like, but with Scully we had to find somewhere that allows pets.

We headed into town for our dinner booking at a place we’ve been to before, but which has changed name and presumably ownership since last time. It wasn’t quite as fancy as it used to be, but it was a very good meal.

No sign of the forecast relentless rain that is supposed to hit tomorrow. Even now, late in the evening, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars are twinkling brightly from the dark rural sky.

New content today: I can’t easily link to all these remotely, but check for new Irregular Webcomic!, Square Root of Minus Garfield, and Comments on a Postcard.

Fitness day!

Today I met my friend to play golf at the Par 3 Pitch and Putt course. My relative handicap was reduced down to 15 after I won last time with 16. (We play match play with jackpotting of halved holes.) But today I was really on fire, and my friend was struggling a bit, and I ended up trouncing him 14 points to 4. Without the handicap, my total score for 18 holes was only 3 strokes higher than his. So next time we play, my handicap will go down again.

I also managed the only birdie of the day, with a monster putt – it was in the range 15-20 metres long, and curved a good metre and a half to the right as it rolled along the green. So I’m pretty happy with that.

On the way home I stopped off at my favourite pie shops for lunch, having a pepper steak pie and a chicken/asparagus/corn one. Normally I go for more exotic flavours – they do a really nice butter chicken and a good Thai curry chicken pie – but I decided to try things I wouldn’t normally get today, and they were good.

I rested a bit at home, and then took off for this week’s 5k run! My goal was to beat last week’s 28:05, and today I managed 27:52. Let me tell you, it’s a real struggle in those middle laps to keep going. Fortunately I didn’t miscount laps like last week, so didn’t have to pick up and run another lap when I thought I’d finished!

Back at home I made potato salad for dinner, to go with some vegetarian sausages. I do love a good potato salad.

New content today:

Back to Ethics

The new school term started this week here in New South Wales, and schools are pretty much open for business as usual. Ethics classes also begin this week, for the first time since they stopped for COVID-19 back in March, and my first class was today. There was no screening of any sort at the school gate – it was wide open and I just walked in. But I walked past another primary school on the way, and they had staff at the gate meeting kids with hand sanitiser and making them use it before coming in, and not letting parents in. I guess each school is doing things differently.

I only had these kids for 3 weeks at the start of the year, and I’d just about learnt all their names, but with the intervening months, I’ve forgotten most of them again, so I had to resort to name tags again. The discussion today was about animal rights. We began with a story about a chimpanzee who was taken from his parents as a baby and raised in a succession of human families, trying to teach him sign language. This chimp became violent and ended up in a cage in a research lab, and died at 20 (about half the age of chimps in the wild).

So we talked about whether chimps and other great apes deserve to have rights to freedom like humans, and experiments on them being banned. The kids were generally in favour of that. Then I asked about rats and mice that were used to test drugs that save human lives. That split the responses a bit. One boy said they shouldn’t test things like that on animals at all anyway, they should test on humans(!). Eventually we converged a bit and the kids were generally agreeing that animals deserved to have the right to live wild and free. Then I asked about dogs and cats – should they all be free, and having them as pets banned? And wow… that got interesting responses. One girl said, “Now you’re asking really hard questions!” And I answered, “Yes, that’s the point of Ethics class.”

So it was a good robust discussion, with plenty of the kids interested and contributing good comments. The behaviour could still improve, with things breaking out into spontaneous chatter more often than ideal, but it might have been a little better than the first classes in March.

I walked home a longer way, and then when I got home my wife was out with Scully and asked me to take her for a walk so she could go back in to work, so I extended it an extra couple of kilometres. I ended up walking over 11 km – before 11am!

We’re also planning our weekend away. We leave on Friday afternoon to drive out to Mudgee, a country town about 3.5 hours drive away (non-stop – we’ll have a rest break along the way). We arrive Friday evening, and have dinner and accommodation booked, at a place where Scully can stay with us. We spend all day Saturday there, and have a really nice dinner booked for Saturday, at a lovely place we’ve been to before. I think they said they have a private room where we can dine with Scully, rather than having to sit outside in the cold. And then we drive back on Sunday.

Speaking of the cold, the forecast for the weekend isn’t great, alas. Mudgee on Saturday is forecast to be -1°C overnight, to a maximum of just 14°C, and around 15mm of rain with possible thunderstorms! So it’s going to be wet and very cold. We’ll just have to make do and enjoy as best we can – we’ve been looking forward to this trip since we had to cancel it back in April.

New content today:

Irregular photography

I finished writing the last few Irregular Webcomics in a batch and then spent this afternoon photographing the scenes. I’ll assemble them over the next few days.

Not much else to report. I’m just holding my breath with the COVID news here in Sydney every day, wondering if they’re going to announce new travel restrictions or not. Given we are planning to leave on Friday for a weekend away in the countryside, it’ll be disappointing if cases rise enough to disrupt that.

New content today:

A recovery day

I had a bit of an interrupted sleep last night, and woke up still quite tired. I ended up taking it pretty easy today, mostly working on writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! scripts.

I also took Scully out twice, for a morning walk, and then to to the park to meet other dogs and owners in the late afternoon. While there, I popped into the bakery that is a short walk away to get a loaf of sourdough and also some burger buns for dinner. They didn’t have any buns left, but they did have a challah loaf, which looked somewhat similar to the brioche-like buns they have. I don’t think I’ve ever had challah before, but it looked good, and I figured I could cut it into sections the right size for a burger and then split them horizontally.

When I got home, I realised the challah was much denser and heavier than the brioche buns, and trying it it was a little sweet, which I hadn’t expected at all. Nevertheless, I sliced it up and we used it as burger buns (for chick pea and lentil patty burgers, with cheese, tomato, and beetroot). It was actually really delicious. I think the rest of the challah will go quickly. It seems like it would be an ideal bread for French toast, too.

New content today: