The scientific method

I started my new weekly ethics topic with three classes today, on the scientific method. I’m a lot happier with this topic than the last one on digital assets, which I felt was a bit too technical for some of the kids, and they didn’t really enjoy it as much. This one feels better. It’s really more about critical thinking, but since my class is advertised as “Critical and Ethical Thinking”, that’s not a bad thing.

It was supposed to rain here today, being stormy, but there was barely a sprinkle. We may have more move in overnight. The next few days are supposed to be very rainy. We’ll see.

Mostly otherwise I worked on comics, and did my 2.5k run, and took Scully for a walk.

Oh, and I got the agenda and schedule for the next ISO Photography Standards meeting, which is being held at Apple headquarters in Cupertino in November. I’ve decided not to fly over to California this time, but to attend via web conference. That means starting at 4am (9am in California), for three days in a row. It won’t be pleasant, but at this point I prefer that to flying to the United States, given COVID and the political situation over there.

New content today:

Stu-vac Monday

Today is mid-semester stu-vac (short for study vacation – I have no idea if this term is used outside Australia or not) at the University of Technology, so I don’t have my regular Monday evening tutoring class there today. And next week is the Labour Day public holiday, so there are no classes then either. I also have two weeks of school holidays off from teaching my Wednesday morning face-to-face ethics classes.

I used the extra time this evening to finish writing my class for online ethics. It was a tough one to write this week, taking me a lot longer than usual. The topic is the scientific method. Which I know how to explain, but I had to find ways to insert questions for student thought and interactivity throughout, which was tougher than I expected.

The morning was full of the final classes on digital assets. One was interesting, because it had a kid who for many weeks now has occasionally been bringing up NFTs as examples in his answers, and it’s clear that he has a very poor opinion of the concept. But he listened and contributed in a positive manner to the discussion, so that was good.

My wife and I took Scully on a long walk for lunch, and then this afternoon we took her to the dog park, for the first time in months. The old regulars there had missed us and wanted to know why we had been away so long. Much of the reason is busy-ness because of my teaching. I have some classes that start at 5pm, which doesn’t give me much time to get home from the regular meet-ups there. But that will change next week when Australia goes onto daylight saving time, and those classes move to 6pm (so they can stay at the same time for Asian/European/American students), giving me an extra hour buffer to get home from the dog park. So hopefully over the summer I can take Scully there a lot more again.

New content today:

Random Sunday events

I did a longer run today. I am in a small online group where we share running updates. The group purpose is described as: “For those who enjoy running. And for those who don’t enjoy it but do it anyway.” I’m definitely in the latter set!

Anyway, someone yesterday posted that they’d completed their 5k for September. Which reminded me that I’ve been thinking of doing another 5k for a while, and getting one done before the end of the month seemed like a good goal, so I got out and did it today. That’s twice my normal distance. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I at least feel familiar and somewhat comfortable running 2.5k, but 5k feels like a serious effort. I managed it in 27:00 flat, which is my third best time over the distance. And Strava also told me that my 2-mile split was my fastest 2 miles, at 16:49. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

So good that I probably ruined the health gains by having two sweets at lunch. My wife and I walked with Scully to the Italian bakery (which is nearly 3km away, so almost 6km return walking trip). I got a chicken and leek pie, but (1) they didn’t have my favourite banoffee croissant, (2) the pies there are on the smallish side, (3) a pie and a banoffee croissant are filling enough, but the croissant is quite large, (4) I was tempted instead by a chocolate/pistachio scroll, (5) which is notably smaller in size, (6) I was really hungry after my run, (7) they had a tray full of bomboloni, which I’ve wanted to try before but they’ve always been sold out when I’ve looked for them. So I got the chocolate/pistachio scroll and a Nutella bombolone.

At last I asked for a Nutella one. The woman behind the counter confirmed, “A custard one?” I repeated, No, a Nutella one.” She gave me a box, and I walked out with my other purchases to find a seat to sit on with My wife and eat our lunches. After eating the pie, I opened the box. It was a custard bombolone. My wife took the hint that I was mildly incensed and took it back to the bakery for me and exchanged it for a Nutella one.

It was pretty nice, although I missed my favourite banoffee croissant.

This afternoon I tried to estimate my ELO chess rating. One of my friends is into chess, and has been relaying to our group news about the current feud between Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann (yes, it has its own Wikipedia article), which we’re all metaphorically munching popcorn over it as new developments occur. We saw the report of the tweet by Grandmaster Maurice Ashley:

This is shocking and disturbing. No one can be happy that this is happening in the chess world. Unbelievable!

One of my friends pointed out that we’re all currently much more excited and happy about chess news than normal.

Anyway, I’ve never played chess seriously in any sense, but I was curious if there was some quick online test I could do to estimate my rating. I Googled and found a few quizzes, but they involved analysing some 80 boards and submitting moves, and they said don’t spend more than 5 minutes on each board… And there’s no way I was going to invest that much time into this. But I managed to find a ten board quiz, and spent a total of maybe 5 minutes with it. It estimated my rating at 1335, which I originally thought sounded ridiculously high, given my amateurish experience with the game. But a bit of research shows this is the realm of the “hobby player”, one step below the level of anyone who plays in a local chess club. Which sounds more reasonable than what I thought it meant. A few of my friends tried the same quiz and got 1400, 1435, and 1590.

Okay, so remind me never to play chess with them. 😀

New content today:

Welcome to the Moon

Friday night was board games night at a friend’s place. A few of the regulars couldn’t make it, so it was the four of us. We had a barbecue for dinner, with sausage sandwiches, with plenty of onions of course.

First game off the rank was Welcome to the Moon, a sequel/variant of Welcome to…, which we’ve played a lot both in person and online during our virtual games nights. In this new version, it’s themed along establishing a moon colony in the retro-future of the 1970s (compared to the original game, which was building a 1950s style housing estate). There are actually 8 separate boards to play, which are effectively 8 different games. In all of these games, you flip up a set of 3 communal cards, and each player selects one of the three to score – writing it down in various different scoring zones on their personal board. It diverges very quickly, as each person chooses different things and ends up with their scoring board filling up in different ways, which begins to add constraints on further scoring.

We played the first Moon board, which is a rocket blasting off, and then skipped a few and played one about building residential towers under a dome on the moon. They were very different and indeed like two different games. I lost the first one, but scored an equal victory in the second one.

After this we played Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. All players start out as fantasy adventurers, exploring a part of the city, until events lead to one of the players being revealed to be a traitor/monster. At that point, the traitor gets a special rules scenario to read, while the other players get the matching hero scenario to read. These establish different winning goals for each side. In the game we played, I ended up being the traitor, and my goal was to kill at least 2 of the other three players before they could escape. Unfortunately this proved far too difficult, and the heroes escaped from my evil clutches. So they all won and I lost.

To round out the night we played several rounds of Apples to Apples. This is a good light game to end the night on as we were starting to get tired and thinking about heading home.

Other things on Friday: grocery shopping, and a couple of ethics classes.

Saturday: I spent much of the day struggling with writer’s block, trying to complete one new Darths & Droids strip. And avoiding going outside during the rain. Except for attempting to take Scully for a walk during a dry period, and ending up getting rained on halfway.

New content today:

A special public holiday

Today was a special one-off public holiday in Australia, a national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. The reason it’s today is because we had to wait for the Prime Minister to return from her funeral in London to lead the national memorial service for the Queen.

For most people though it just meant a day off work. Not for me though, as I had another online class this morning. But after that I could relax a bit. I did a 2.5k run, and took Scully out for a walk at lunch and got some fish & chips (from the shop that my wife called up to check if it was open for the holiday or not – it was).

I did some baking today: a loaf of sourdough rye bread, and for dinner I made pastry for a quiche, which I haven’t done in a while.

And I uploaded some more photos from my trip to Orange last week. This is the view from Towac Pinnacle, a lookout spot south of the town, looking north back towards Orange. I posted a view from here last week, but that was just taken with my phone. This one is with my SLR:

Towac Pinnacle view

These photos are from the day we went to Gosling Creek Reserve and Lake Canobolas Reserve, where there were plenty of birds to spot. Noisy miner:

Noisy miner

Willie wagtail:

Willie wagtail

Little pied cormorant:

Little pied cormorant

Little black cormorants:

Little black cormorants in flight

Eastern rosella:

Eastern rosella

New content today:

And a busy Tuesday and Wednesday

I was so busy on Tuesday that I neglected to update this blog. I wrote my new class material for this week’s online ethics classes on digital assets. I talk about Bitcoin, then things like music downloads and piracy, and finish talking about NFTs. It’s a bit more technical than most of my classes and it took a bit of concentration and explaining of some of the concepts before the kids could answer questions about them. In particular, I go through an explanation of what NFTs are, using a few analogies, and then ask the kids if it seems like a sensible idea to have some sort of method of specifying who owns a digital asset, that can be sold and transferred. So far, after 6 classes, about half the kids think that’s a reasonable goal, while the other half think it sounds a bit weird or nonsensical. One kid said, “This is really hard, I have to think about this.” I’ve glossed over the implementation of NFTs using blockchain, and concentrated on the concept of transferable digital ownership, because the implementation is a whole can of worms I didn’t want to open.

Today, my wife was home and we decided to drop Scully off for some doggie daycare while we took the opportunity on a weekday to go to a nice restaurant for lunch – a place that is normally booked solid on weekends. We had a very pleasant lunch, overlooking a beach, and got to sit indoors for once!

Before that I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school, and we finished off the topic of drugs in sports. That was a good discussion too. At one point as I was going through the syllabus material, posing trickier questions, one of the kids said, “You’re trying to make us all change our minds, aren’t you?” Heh… no, at least not deliberately. I’m just following the course material and raising the tricky questions that it specifies!

And I also worked on some new comics again today… it never ends!

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Back to work Monday!

Today was another day off from my online ethics classes, since I wanted to skip a full week to keep the various classes on different days in synch. I’ll be back into that tomorrow with a new topic (which I’ll talk about tomorrow).

Instead, this morning I scheduled a one-off science lesson on human vision and colour perception, and one of my regular ethics students signed up for it. So I did that class in the morning. And this evening I am back at the university for the next lecture in the image processing course. Today we get the students started on their assessment projects, in which they choose their own image processing task and attempt to do it, then report on what they discover.

During the day I had some work to do on comics to get back up to date with new strips to be published this week (after my time off last week). I also baked some sourdough rye bread, and started work on the lesson notes for tomorrow’s new ethics topic.

And that was about it, before I got ready to head into the city for the image processing lecture. I had some cheap Malaysian food from a stall in Spice Alley. And then it was off to help students figure out what sort of project they want to do!

New content today:

Relaxing Sunday back home

After our short trip away, today was a day of resting at home to recover! We slept in a bit and got up leisurely.

After breakfast, my first task of the day was to wash the car, to remove all the road grime from the trip to the country, and also vacuum out the interior to get rid of all the grass and stones and other debris that had accumulated. I did a comprehensive clean, detailing, wash, and wax, which took a good couple of hours.

THat led right up to lunch time, and I was hungry after my morning of work. We took a walk with Scully to our favourite bakery at Naremburn, and when we got there we were reminded that today was a special street fair day at the small set of shops there. There was a small market set up with about a dozen stalls, and live music, and all the food places had several tables out for people to sit and eat. There were a lot more people around than normal, obviously, and there was a nice buzz of activity. But it wasn’t too big – there were really only probably under 100 people there at any time.

Back home I worked on some Irregular Webcomic! strips for the coming week, and uploaded some bird photos from the trip to Orange. These are the ones from the Coogal Parklands walk that we did on Wednesday.

Pacific black duck:

Pacific black duck

Superb fairywren, juvenile male:

Superb fairywren, juvenile male

Sulphur-crested cockatoos:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Australian king parrot, male:

Australian king-parrot, male

Crimson rosella:

Crimson rosella

Grey fantail (really hard to catch in a photo, since it’s always moving around):

Grey fantail

New content today:

Orange Trip, Day 5

There’s not too much to say about today, as it was a driving day, heading home from our short trip to Orange.

We got up in the morning, had breakfast and showers, and took Scully for a walk over to the cafe where my wife got her morning coffee again. The forecast for today was showers, but the day looked bright and sunny… except as we left for the walk it started raining, out of an almost clear blue sky! It didn’t last long though.

Back at the hotel we packed our bags and the car, and then headed off for the drive home. We headed east straight through Bathurst and to Lithgow, where we stopped to have a light lunch, at a cafe where we’ve eaten a few times on previous trips.

From there, we drove straight through to home, crossing the Blue Mountains via Bell’s Line of Road this time, rather than the Great Western Highway which we’d taken west on Tuesday. This road is more scenic, but a bit slower. We passed through large areas of burnt-out forest, from the huge fires in 2019-2020, which threatened Lithgow.

We got home around 3pm, and unpacked the car. We took Scully for a bit of a walk, up to the supermarket so I could get some vegetables and fruit, and also some eggs, to last us a few days until I can do a full grocery shop.

At home I went through my SLR photos, mostly of birds from the wetlands and reservoirs we visited in the past few days. I haven’t uploaded them all yet, but here are a teaser of introduced species before I do all the native birds: Common starling:

Common starling

And a spotted dove:

Spotted dove

New content today:

Orange Trip, Day 4

I woke up about 6:30 this morning and got up to use the bathroom, which prompted Scully to get up and want to go outside. So I got dressed and took her out. Fortunately the rain had stopped overnight and the morning was clear and sunny. Then I had some muesli for breakfast while Scully crept back to bed and my wife slept in a bit more.

This morning we decided to go and explore a park where we could take Scully for a walk. We headed out of town to Gosling Creek Reserve, which is a large park next to Gosling Creek Reservoir. It has a network of walking paths which are used for the Orange Parkrun, going around the edge of the reservoir and then back through a mix of scrub, eucalyptus trees, and lawn areas with picnic tables and playground equipment. I took my camera and got a few shots of birds, including some eastern rosellas, which were very cool. We spent a good hour or more walking around and enjoying the scenery and bird life.

After this we headed back into town briefly to pick up a couple of apples that we’d got from the hotel reception desk earlier. The plan was to use these to supplement the cheese platter that we were going to get with our wine tasting at Word of Mouth Wines, which my wife had booked before our trip. We chose them because they were dog-friendly, but they said they didn’t serve lunch – only a bit of cheese and crackers as a snack.

At Word of Mouth we were greeted by a friendly man and his large labradoodle Artemis. He showed us to a sunny room out the back, looking over a field with a couple of alpacas in it. We did the wine tasting, which was a series if white wines, a rosé, and just one red. My wife liked it better than yesterday’s at Brangayne, and we bought a couple of bottles – resisting more because we don’t have a lot of room in the car. A problem was that what we expected was an optional cheese platter which we could buy, and which would be at least moderately substantial. But what we got was a complementary plate with just a couple of crackers with cheese on them and a couple with slices of sausage, which the man said was to clear our palates between the wines.

Here’s Scully at the winery:

Scully at Word of Mouth Winery

So we had our apples and then when we left the winery we drove further along the road to Lake Conobolas, where there was a cafe at which we hoped to get something else to eat. Lake Conobolas is a reservoir in Lake Conobolas Reserve, another large park with picnic areas. The cafe had indoor seating, but it was attached to a kiosk doing take-away food and there were plenty of picnic tables around. We grabbed a table and got some wraps to eat, pumpkin for my wife and Moroccan chicken for me.

After eating we walked around a bit, crossing the dam wall, which was spilling water down into Molong Creek below. This was the result of all the rain we’ve had this year, plus the 40 mm extra added just yesterday. News today was reporting more flooding in parts of regional New South Wales, including roads cut at Bathurst, which we need to drive through tomorrow to get back home to Sydney. And although today was dry, more rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Canobolas Dam spilling

Leaving Lake Conobolas, we drove back a little along the same road to the Pinnacle Lookout, which the guy at Word of Mouth Winery had told us was a beautiful place with amazing views. We climbed a steep set of wooden steps from the car park up to the lookout, which was perched atop some granite boulders at the top of the hill. It gave us a panoramic view of the landscape below, sweeping from the west through north to the east. It was very windy and cold on the exposed lookout, so we didn’t stay too long.

View from Pinnacle Lookout

From here we drove back to Orange, taking a loop around further west and north than we’d been before, so we got to see some new roads and scenery. The connecting cross-roads were nice and slow, especially because there were a lot of nasty potholes full of rainwater which I had to slow down and dodge to avoid damaging the car. It was really a case of veering all over the road and taking it slowly. Some of the potholes looked very deep and nasty indeed, but we managed to avoid anything like that.

We relaxed a bit in the hotel before heading out for dinner in the evening. We walked over to Lolli Redini, which had told me that we could walk-in for a table outdoors, depending on the weather. However when we got there the waiter seemed surprised that we wanted to sit outside and said they hadn’t got any tables set up. He kind of said he could set up a table for us, but he clearly sounded reluctant to actually do so and was trying to talk us out of it. He recommended we go down the block to Birdie, a more casual restaurant and bar operated by the same owners. So we did that.

It turned out to be really nice there, with several tables outside under the wide awning – all empty until we grabbed one. My wife wanted to know if they could make the seafood spaghetti into a vegetarian version, so I asked when ordering at the bar, and the woman there went to check with the kitchen, coming back to confirm that it could be done. I ordered the grilled salmon, and we also got some bar nuts to snack on. My wife had a glass of Pinot Noir while I had a cocktail called a Budgie Smuggler, which was sparkling wine, absinthe, apple juice, and something else that I forget. It was very nice, and the food was really good. The chef had added mushrooms, zucchini, and pumpkin to the pasta sauce, which was very nice rather than just making it without the seafood.

Summer Street night

The dessert special sounded good, being a citrus chocolate mousse with churros, but just next door was an amazing looking gelato place called Spilt Milk. It was clearly popular, with hordes of people there getting scoops to eat, at times queueing out the door. I walked over there and got two scoops: salted caramel, and ricotta with honey. I ate it sitting back at our table at Birdie, and it was really good.

Then we waked back to the hotel for our last night here in Orange before heading home tomorrow.