Super busy week: Friday

It was another full-on morning of technical discussions in my ISO Photography standards meeting this morning, beginning at 7am and going a bit over time.

At lunch I went for a long walk with my wife and Scully, over to the Italian bakery a couple of suburbs over. I bought a small box of biscuits for dessert and snacks. This afternoon I had to go pick up our weekly groceries, as I couldn’t do it in the morning. And then we all went to the dog park to see the people and dogs there. My wife came with me as she’d taken the day off work, so she got to see some of the regulars and their dogs for the first time in a long time.

Silver gull and harbour

I saw this gull on the walk.

For dinner we went out to our favourite local pizza place, keen to give them some patronage after the long lockdown when restaurants were closed. The staff were happy to see us (and Sully) again.

Coming home I spotted this ringtail possum on a fence, though unfortunately it moved as the flash went off:

Ringtail possum

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Super busy week: Thursday

The early starts are starting to wear on me. The ISO Photography standards meeting this morning from 7am went the full scheduled time, to 10:30. However, I had an unfortunate Internet outage at a critical time near the end – I was in fact in the middle of making some technical comments on someone’s presentation when my Internet connection died. It didn’t come back for about 20 minutes, by which time the entire meeting was over for the day. I quickly emailed the chair and the presenter to explain what happened and give my comments. It was about experiments to work out a method for measuring image flare in cameras caused by light sources outside the camera’s field of view. The experimental data being presented were really interesting.

After that I took Scully for a walk, and then at lunch time I took her to doggie daycare for the afternoon. She hasn’t been in over two weeks, and we like her to go at least every week or two to get some fun playtime and socialisation with other dogs. She really loves going there, and is always keen to run inside. And she comes home exhausted!

This afternoon I did more marking for the university image processing course student assignments. And this evening it was more ethics classes. Thursdays I have my latest class, starting at 9pm. Given my week or early starts, I’m very tired and it was a bit of a struggle getting through it. I’m really more a morning person – I don’t work or concentrate well late in the evening.

Two more early starts to go…

Oh, a photo of storm clouds gathering over Sydney from yesterday:

Storm line

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Super busy week: Wednesday

I’ll keep it quick again because it’s late and I want to relax and go to bed soon.

I got up early for the Photography standards meeting beginning from 7am. It finished a bit before lunch, and I took Scully for a walk to the fish & chips shop. They’ve changed their menu, updating to electronic screens displaying the items and prices, rather than the old printed boards they had. And all the prices went up! At least for take-away items. They used to have one price for take-away food, and a slightly higher price for dine in, sitting on the al fresco tables outside. (I don’t know how common this is overseas, but it’s not unusual in Australia to have two different prices for this.) Well, now they just have the single price, and all the take-away prices have gone up to match the previous dine-in price. Since I always opt for the take-away, a basic fish & chips went up from $12.95 to $14.95.

After returning home from eating my more expensive lunch, I worked on writing thew new ethics lesson for this week, on democracy. I start with some history about the development of political systems, from simple strong-man ruler, through the evolution of royalty, and then Athenian democracy as practised in Ancient Greece. I ask a bunch of questions about who should have the right to vote, and explore flaws in democratic systems, such as people voting against things that are beneficial to society.

And this evening I ran the first 3 classes. The responses were widely different, from kids who thought everyone over the age of 10(!) should be allowed to vote, to one who had a plan to restrict voting to people who can demonstrate competence and knowledge on the specific issues in question for any given vote by passing a test beforehand. A few kids independently said people over a certain age (varying from 80 to 85) shouldn’t be allowed to vote, because they’re either senile or “too old fashioned”. So yeah…. some very intriguing ideas among this group!

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Super busy week: Tuesday

Today was the first day of my photography standards meeting, meaning I had to get up early. After that finished, I prepared some slides for tonight’s science lesson for my online student.

I made some pizza for dinner, and made a sourdough loaf for proofing overnight and baking in the morning.

And I’m trying to get to bed early, so I don’t have time to write much now…

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Super busy week: Monday

Dawn broke on what is going to be a very busy week for me. First up today was teaching the last class of the “Disgust” topic in my online ethics classes. After that I took Scully out for a walk, and dropped by the post office to pick up some prepaid envelopes and stamps for my wife to use for sending orders of her dog bandanas out. I stopped off on the way back to grab some sushi rolls for lunch.

Back home I had to hustle to put together the rules and game pieces for the board game that the kids and I had designed together in the Creative Thinking class that I taught last night. The class ended with a rough outline of how the game works, which I had to whip into a playable shape, document, and then create a board and a bunch of game components that the kids can print out and playtest before next Sunday’s class. I mentioned before that the theme we’d come up with was ruining someone’s wedding. Here’s the first draft of the game board:

Ruin the Wedding game board

The idea is that the bride, groom, and various other people all have to move around following the blue arrows – hopefully to end on “happily ever after”. At least that’s their goal. The goal of the players in the game is to make the people upset, ruin the wedding, and make as many people as possible go home in disgust. Each turn, one wedding participant moves along a blue arrow, while the players try to do things to upset them or delay them (using a hand of cards). I came up with a clever way to encapsulate the idea that “a bride is never late to her wedding” – as you can see on the board, she can’t arrive at the ceremony until everyone else is either there, or running late. If she arrives and some guests are still late, then they miss the ceremony (and get upset and go home). And nobody can leave the ceremony to head to the reception until after the bride arrives and the ceremony happens.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the general idea. After we do a few iterations and refine the gameplay, I’ll share the final result.

I had to get the game draft ready and uploaded to my class before 6pm, as this evening I had a tutorial session, helping university students with their image processing projects in the course I’m tutoring. That just finished.

The rest of the week is going to be even busier, as I have an online meeting for ISO Photography standards from 7-11am, every day from Tuesday to Saturday. So my mornings are accounted for. Tomorrow afternoon I need to prepare a science lesson for a kid that evening, and Wednesday I need to prepare my ethics class for the next week (on Democracy). And somehow I need to make another week’s worth of comics for my webcomic sites during this week too. Oh, and I also have to squeeze in time to mark the first project assignment for the university image processing course, which was submitted last Friday. It’s going to be exhausting, and I’m going to need the weekend to recover. Or possibly catch up…

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Post-lockdown family lunch

This being the first weekend after COVID lockdown restrictions have eased in Sydney, it was the first time since June that we’ve been able to visit family. My mother-in-law put on a small lunch for us, plus my wife’s sister and brother, and a nephew (the sister’s son). We drove over there, and it seemed everybody in Sydney had pretty much the same idea, to finally get out of the house and visit family, or possibly to go to the beach since it was a nice sunny day. Either way, everyone was on the road, and the traffic was the worst I have experienced, not just since lockdown began, but for many a year. It was really horrible.

But we had a nice lunch, with my mother-in-law preparing some grilled chicken, roast vegetables, and salad ingredients, which we had with bread rolls for an informal sort of meal – assembling sandwiches on our bread rolls. My sister-in-law brought a range of delicious tarts from a local bakery, which we shared by cutting them into bite sized pieces. And we all caught up on what we were all doing – I told them about the recent work I’ve been doing with Outschool classes and also the university teaching work. Oh, and Scully was super excited to see the other family members too for the first time in months.

We had to leave early, because now I have classes to teach from 5pm (normally we hang out later after lunch and end up getting home around 6pm or so). I had 2 ethics classes tonight, plus week 4 of the Creative Thinking and board game design class. We’ve converged and assembled some ideas for how the game works in a bit of detail. Now I have to put together a file with some game pieces and a board that the students can print out, plus a first draft of the game rules. I’ll upload it so they can download and print it, and try playing some games with their friends and family before the next class, in which we’ll refine the design.

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The big drive!

With the COVID lockdown in Sydney having eased the most severe restrictions this week, it means retail shops are open again. My wife was itching to get to a fabric shop to buy some more material for her doggie bandanas, so we took a drive out to one of the big fabric crafts shops. I dropped her there and took Scully with me over to the coast and my favourite pie shop, which I haven’t been able to go to for 4 months. It was also the first time I’ve seen the ocean in 4 months!!

Fisherman's Beach

I enjoyed some lunch and walked Scully around the park and beach for a bit.

Pigface, Fisherman's Beach

It was very nice to be out and about! After lunch, we returned to pick up my wife. She’d bought a bunch of fabric which was on sale, and is now feverishly sewing…

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Saturday morning Friday catchup

On Friday night I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully – the first time we’ve been able to do this since June when Sydney’s COVID lockdown began. We drove out to a Thai restaurant in a small suburban cluster of about 5 shops – nice and isolated from any crowds. This restaurant is only about 100 metres outside the 5 kilometre radius from our home that we’ve been restricted to since June, making it the furthest we’ve travelled from home in that time.

The weather yesterday was spectacular. We had scudding thunderstorm cells crossing the city all day. We got intense bursts of heavy rain and lightning, separated by bright sunny skies.

Greenwich Wharf wet and windy

During my wife’s work-from-home lunch break we took Scully for a walk It was raining heavily when we left, but within minutes it had brightened up as the storm passed, leaving blue sky overhead. This shot (above) is from Greenwich Wharf, where the wind was making the water choppy and it was a bit unpleasant exposed like this.

Greenwich stormy city view

This is from a vantage point on a street along the walk back home. More clouds were rolling in already over the city.

Greenwich stormy city view

And a wide shot from the same spot. It’s a great view from here in a clear day, but with stormclouds it becomes amazing.

After getting home from our delicious Thai dinner, I played some online games with friends. I actually won a game of 7 Wonders, which is an unusual but welcome occurrence. It was weird because I felt like I was doing better in the first game, which I came second last in (out of 5 players), while the next game I was sure I wouldn’t win, but I did.

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Storms and banana bread

The morning here was fine. I walked with Scully up to the local shops to get some sushi for lunch. There’s a small square with some grass which is a nice place to sit and eat lunch, so I went there. It’s good having Scully with me, because this is the turf of some very aggressive magpies who hang out and try to steal people’s lunches. At first they gave me a wide berth because of Scully, but they got bolder and bolder…

Sushi thief posse

They didn’t quite get close enough to steal any of my sushi, but I’m sure they would have tried if not for Scully.

Back home I made some banana bread. This time I decided to add some choc chips, and leave out the yoghurt. And I made extra certain to bake it long enough, after the one I made a couple of weeks ago turned out a little soggy in the middle.

Normally to test cakes, I use a metal skewer to probe the middle and see if it comes out clean. I’ve done it that way for as long as I can remember. But I read recently that you should use a wooden skewer, because metal is too smooth and the texture of the wood holds the undercooked batter better, so it’s a better indicator. Curious, I did a bit of Internet searching… and I was astonished to find the most common question asked about testing cakes was:

How can I test if a cake is done if I don’t have a toothpick?

Toothpick??? Who tests cakes with toothpicks??

Apparently everyone according to the Internet. But I’d honestly never heard of using a toothpick for this before. It’s weird the stuff you discover sometimes. Anyway, the banana bread turned out brilliantly this time.

Choc chip banana bread

As I type, there was just a huge flash of lightning and a loud peal of thunder. It’s been storming on and off all afternoon, with really heavy and violent storm cells sweeping across Sydney. Early this afternoon the weather bureau even issued a tornado warning:

THIS INCLUDES A TORNADO WARNING. […] Tornadoes, destructive winds, large, possibly giant hailstones and heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding are likely.

I’ve never seen one of these before. Tornadoes have historically been extremely rare to non-existent in Australia – we just don’t have the geography for them. But they’ve been becoming increasingly common in recent years. There was a very destructive one reported a couple hundred kilometres west of Sydney a week or two ago, which destroyed some properties. But this is the first time I’ve seen a specific tornado warning for the Sydney area. I strongly suspect that with climate change this is going to become more common in this region.

There was destructive hail and wind and flash flooding in parts of Sydney, but mostly west and south of where I live. We got some heavy rain and spectacular lightning here, but nothing destructive.

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Ethics of Disgust

Today is the start of a new week of online ethics classes, and this week we’re talking about the ethics of disgust. I wrote the class material this morning, and have just run the first three lessons tonight, and it went really well. This is a really interesting subject to explore from an ethics viewpoint. Disgust is an instinctive reaction we feel at certain things and situations, but it translates into actions that can affect people in illogical ways.

I go into the reasons why we feel disgust – it being an evolutionary instinct to protect us from potentially dangerous things like disease. Most of the things we feel disgust towards tend to be things with a high risk of carrying pathogens. The problem is when that instinct is transferred by association to things that don’t pose such risks, and when that influences how we behave.

I have examples including why people are advised to dress and groom well for a court appearance. Research shows that juries and judges are less sympathetic to more scruffy appearing people – and lawyers know this. There’s also differences in the way people react to other people in need of help – they’re more likely to help clean looking people than dirty looking ones. And then there’s disgust in the area of medical research – a lot of things done to further medical knowledge and save lives are things that people consider disgusting, both in modern times and centuries ago. I tell the story of how doctors used to have people go and dig up freshly buried bodies so they could dissect them to learn about how the body works – and how the dissection of bodies was deemed so disgusting by society at large that they made it illegal, thus forcing the doctors to these extreme measures.

It felt like the kids really enjoyed this lesson, and there was a lot of good discussion about the topic as we went through the examples.

In other news, it was very rainy again today. Apparently it’s going to rain until Friday, then be sunny on the weekend, and then the rain will return from Monday again! The Australian Bureau of Meteorology released a long-term forecast for the summer, indicating we’re likely to be in for a cooler, wetter summer this year, with above average rainfall and likely a lot of storms, due to ongoing marginal La NiƱa conditions. When the pendulum finally swings and we got a hotter, dryer summer it’s going to be one to watch.

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