Reacquaintance with a physics professor

Today I had two ethics classes, including the first older kids on the topic of The End of The World, which was fun. I worked on some comic stuff and took Scully for walks. And I also had to send off a package of my photography greeting cards after getting an order for eight of them from the UK last night.

But the main thing I want to talk about is something I forgot to mention yesterday. Ever since I moved into this neighbourhood I have occasionally seen a man jogging—or more recently walking—around on various streets. After the first few times I recognised him, but I never stopped to say anything. Recently he’s started walking around with a walking stick, on ageing legs. A couple of weeks ago I passed him walking the other way while I was out walking Scully, and I smiled and nodded, and he smiled and nodded back. I knew who he was, but I had no idea if he would remember me.

Yesterday I was out walking Scully and I saw him ahead on the path through the park, walking the same direction, slowly with his walking stick. We caught up, and I finally took the opportunity to say hello.

“Professor Melrose, hello. I don’t know if you remember me…”

He said, “I do recognise you, but I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”

He is Professor Don Melrose (Wikipedia, Australian Academy of Science, ResearchGate), who was the head of Theoretical Physics at the University of Sydney when I was doing my undergraduate and Ph.D. studies there. My office was on the floor above his, and I didn’t interact with him directly too often, but we certainly knew each other. I checked his publications and we have only one degree of separation – we share a common co-author.

I reminded him who I was, and that I’d worked with Dick Hunstead. We had a bit of a catch up over the next few minutes as we walked together along the path. I gave him a very brief rundown of my career after leaving the university with my degrees, and learnt that he lives just on the other side of the park to me, in a block of apartments that I’ve walked past hundreds of times. I kind of regret not having spoken to him much earlier, but it was good to finally do so and catch up. I’m sure we’ll exchange a few words next time we see each other.

And a couple of photos: Autumn foliage on London plane trees:

Autumn dapples

And Venus setting over the railway station this evening:

Venus over the station

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A nice mid-week lunch

My wife is busy at work as we approach the end of financial year, but she had today off, so I treated her to a nice lunch out. We drove several suburbs away, about half an hour, and tried a wine bar which was open for lunch and has outdoor seating so we could take Scully. The weather was a bit chilly, but the forecast of showers didn’t eventuate and it was reasonably nice.

The food was very good! We had burrata with fennel jam for a starter, and then I had some fried barramundi fillet with an Asian style sauce and vegetables. And I had to try the sticky date pudding for dessert.

It was okay being so full afterwards, since I had three ethics classes tonight and didn’t get to dinner until after 8pm, which was just some minestrone made from yesterday’s leftover vegetable soup. But being out for much of the day I had to finish writing my new lesson for the older children, on this week’s topic of “The End of The World”. This should be a fun one to start tomorrow morning!

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Ninja revision and advertising ethics

First task today was writing the week’s new ethics lesson, on the topic of advertising. That was fairly easy since I did this topic a couple of years ago when I first started the classes, and none of those kids are still enrolled, so I mostly copied the old lesson, just revising a few of the questions.

Then I spent a fair bit of time revising the Ninja Grandma board game for the kids in the Creative Thinking class. I still have some work to do on that and hope to finish it tonight.

I took Scully for a big walk over to the bakery for lunch. I had her in her doggie backpack for the walk there (she walks all the way back by herself – it’s a fair distance for a little dog). We passed a woman on the street going the other way, and as she drew level and passed me, she must have noticed Scully. She said, “Hi Scully,” and kept walking, without saying a word to me! I didn’t recognise her, but presumably she’s another local dog owner and we may have interacted briefly at some point (or she knows my wife).

I’ll keep it brief because I want to get back to the game design and try to send it to the kids before bedtime.

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Last day of Data Engineering class

The university Data Engineering course ends this week. The students have until Friday night to submit their final reports and presentation videos, but today was the last tutorial session. I went in after my three morning ethics classes.

When I got into the city, I noticed everything was wet from rain, with puddles everywhere as though it had been very recent, although I hadn’t noticed any rain all morning, and the sky was mostly clear. There were a few dark clouds around the horizon, so they must have blown over and dumped rain on the city quickly.

The class went generally well, except for one annoying thing which I probably shouldn’t go into further here. Suffice to say I needed to call the professor to deal with queries from some of the students.

At home tonight I made satay sauce to go with steamed broccoli, green beans, and rice. And I threw a few cashews in for good measure. I use this recipe for satay sauce, tweaking the amounts slightly to taste – well, I never measure them exactly to start with, so I end up adjusting things a bit after tasting. I’ve found it’s the best of a few that I’ve tried. Oh, I also add a bit of turmeric as well.

Monday has been my busy day since the Data Engineering class started, but now I get a bit of a reprieve, before Image Processing starts on Thursday nights on second semester.

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Revising the ninja game

This morning I had lesson 5 in the Creative Thinking/Game Design course with the kids. We went over our playtesting notes for the Ninja Grandma game. The kids had some cool ideas, including changing the ninja castle from a fixed board to a variable layout using tiles for each room, and making the layout matter by having the ninjas move from room to room, rather than be placed anywhere. Now I need to revise the game and send it back to them for another round of playtesting before the final lesson next Sunday.

I did a bit more comics work, assembling Irregular Webcomic! strips for the coming week. And tonight was three more ethics classes. And … wow, where did the day go?

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A pleasant Saturday for… housecleaning

What it says on the tin. It was a reasonably nice day, not too chilly. There were storms hanging off the coast all day, quite intense looking, but they failed to track inland over us so we had fine conditions, until just a few minutes ago when rain began hitting – but it’s after dinner and we’re comfy inside.

I did a big round of housecleaning: vacuuming, dusting, getting into some areas that I don’t do very often. Changing the damp absorbers in the closets and storage cupboards. Cleaning the bathroom and shower. And giving Scully a bath too!

In between I worked on some new Darths & Droids comics. And I played a playtest game of Ninja Grandma with my wife – this is the game I’m working on developing with the kids in the current Creative Thinking/Game Design course. In this first version every player has a team of 4 ninjas: a dragon, a panda, a tiger, and a penguin. The penguin was the idea of one of the kids. They visit various areas of Grandma’s ninja training castle to level up in skills, make sneaky potions to affect enemy ninjas, and smear peanut butter on floors to make them slippery so enemy ninjas can’t perform as well. There was plenty happening in the test game, but no clear goal to work towards, as I haven’t decided yet how to win the game! Probably the most important part, but I’m going to let the kids come up with ideas for that as part of the class.

We felt like something a bit different for dinner tonight, so we took Scully for a walk and passed by the nearest supermarket to grab a pack of corn chips and make nachos. Yum!

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A new Italian place for dinner

It’s Friday online board games night, and I’m writing this in between games while waiting for players. I just got home from a lovely dinner at a restaurant we’ve never tried before, although only for lack of motivation. It’s a cafe by day, and I walk past it frequently on walks with Scully, and have known about it for years before we got Scully even. My wife and I have frequently said “We have to try dinner here one day”, but we’ve never managed to actually do it. It’s a good 25 minutes walk from our place, and in a different direction to our usual restaurant locations, with nothing else near it, so it’s a bit off the radar.

So today I thought I definitely have to book that place for dinner. I considered tomorrow night, but then checked the weather forecast and tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy, and since we have to sit outdoors with Scully it wouldn’t have been pleasant. But today was warm and fine, so I made the call to just do it and surprise my wife when she came home from work.

We walked over in the cool evening air. The place is called Waterview Cafe, and it has a very slight view of Sydney Harbour, through nearby residential areas. We could see the lights of boats moving across the water, which was pleasant. I had a pork and veal ragu pasta, while my wife had spinach and ricotta ravioloni. I couldn’t go past the dessert, which was pavlova with fresh berries. It was more berries than pavlova, and delicious. Overall, a good meal and we definitely want to go back again.

Pavlova with berries

Apart from that, not much else to report today, as I had 4 ethics classes to teach, which didn’t leave much time in between for other things after adding in lunch and taking Scully for a couple of walks.

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Data project marking – lots of work

Today I had two ethics classes first thing, one with the new Creativity topic for older kids. That was a really fun class. The older kids are good because the class progresses more like an organic conversation abut the topic, rather than me leading the class and asking questions so much, as with the younger kids.

The rest of the day I dedicated to marking the Data Engineering project planning reports. I had five reports to read through and mark on a bunch of specified criteria. As usual, some were better than others. I wrote comprehensive comments for all of them, to assist the students with the second half of their projects, now underway. And then I have to paste them all in one at a time into the university marking system, for each student in each team – so something like 30 students, with 6 separate fields for each student, and then enter the marks as well for each section… so it’s something like 180 copy/paste operations plus 180 instances of typing numbers into fields, being super careful not to make a typo anywhere, as that could result in a student getting the wrong grade.

I took a break for lunch, to take Scully for a walk. I managed to get a table at a cafe and had a seafood pie. This is a really nice pie, with chunks of salmon and white fish, prawns, and I think maybe scallops, in a creamy sauce.

The afternoon was finishing off the marking. Then I made some pasta for dinner, and after that tried to work on writing some Darths & Droids comics, since I’ve reduced the buffer to zero again thanks to being so busy this week. Phew!

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Eye check-up day

I did health stuff today! I got up, ate muesli with fruit and yoghurt, then went for a 2.5k run. I had to work on my ethics lesson for the older students (13-15) for the class tomorrow morning, but in between I did a couple of other things.

I went with my wife to our optometrist for an annual vision and eye health check-up. We both wear reading glasses these days, and we’re a bit competitive about the eyesight tests. I won the distance vision battle handily, blowing away the optometrist, who was impressed that I could read a certain line of the eye chart. And then she said, “Just see if you can try the next line”, and I amazed her by reading off the letters flawlessly. My reading prescription hadn’t changed since last time, so I don’t need to update my lenses, which is good. The optometrist did fundus camera shots, a glaucoma test, and also had me do a visual field test to check my peripheral vision, which she said was a precaution because of my family history (my mother has macular degeneration). I passed that with flying colours, which was good to know.

Later in the afternoon we went up to a local doctor to get flu shots, in preparation for the impending southern flu season. Indications are the the flu season here will be a bad one, so we wanted to make sure we got our shots.

After three ethics classes this evening (younger kids), I finished off the older kids’ topic on Creativity, ready for first thing tomorrow morning. Phew!

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Ethics of sports fans

It’s new ethics topic day, and this week the younger kids are doing the topic of Sports Fans. There are questions about how sports fans should behave, and whether it’s okay to follow teams just because they win more, or if you should be loyal to your home team, and about athletes being role models, and other stuff like that.

The weather is still chilly like winter, though should warm up a bit as the week goes by. I took Scully for a walk up to the local shops and had sushi for lunch for the first time in ages.

On the way back, I dropped in on a furniture store nearby, one that specialises in ergonomic furniture for back posture. My current desk stool is breaking and I ned a replacement. I got it at this same shop many years ago, and it’s been brilliant. The base is convex, so it doesn’t sit still on the floor – it constantly wobbles and you need to use your core muscles to sit steadily. And there’s no backrest, so it’s impossible to slouch. It’s been great for my posture and I wanted a similar replacement. I tried looking on their website on the weekend, but all the wobble stools that I found were too tall – the lowest adjusted height was significantly higher than my current stool. So I wanted to ask in the showroom if they had anything else that might suit me.

And when I went in I found one of these, a Leo Perching Stool. I tried it out and adjusted the height, and it was perfect. And feels really good. Maybe even better than my current old stool. The guy there told me it came in a wide range of colours and I could select them from the website and order it to be picked up from the store, to avoid delivery fees. So I came home and found it on their website and ordered one.

It came with a range of fabric types and colours. One of the types was a premium fabric, and it said it would add the premium charge at the shipping stage. I selected a premium fabric and went to the checkout to see what the extra cost would be… and it didn’t add anything! I liked the colour I’d selected, so I purchased it with that. Hopefully I’ll get it with the premium fabric at no extra cost! 😀

OOPS! I saved a draft of this post on Tuesday night, and then neglected to actually post it. But that gives me time on Wednesday morning to add this photo I took yesterday of a kookaburra.

Kookaburra by phone

Yes, that’s with my phone. Sometimes kookaburras are tame enough to get within a metre or so.

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