No Harry Potter for you!

Outschool got back to me about the Harry Potter themed ethics classes I submitted for approval. They were not approved.

They said that due to a request from Warner Brothers, they did not allow any classes that mention Harry Potter in either the title or description, other than literary analysis classes. A friend of mine pointed out that Warner Brothers don’t own the copyright on the Harry Potter novels, and I’m not making a movie out of the material, so how is it even any of their business? The answer was actually in Outschool’s email, reading more carefully.

Warner Brothers has a trademark on the name “Harry Potter” and several other terms from the movies. And it looks like they are ruthless in enforcing it. Outschool, quite sensibly, doesn’t want to anger the dragon, so they have a strict policy of not allowing any Harry Potter content at all, other than literature analysis classes.

So… that’s the end of that. I’d hoped that theming an ethics class using Harry Potter would attract a lot of students. My approved, unthemed class has had no enrolments yet. I’m sure a lot of kids would actually enjoy it, but it’s going to be hard for them to notice it and decide to pursue it.

Beyond feeling bad about this, I spent the day writing Darths & Droids comics. And made pizza for dinner, with hand-made dough for the base. I don’t think I’ll go back to store-bought pre-made bases again!

Oh, here’s a photo I took yesterday while out walking Scully. This kookaburra was sitting on a branch about head height, right near the path I was walking on. I approached slowly with my phone held out at arm’s length, and managed to get close enough to take this photo before it flew away. This is not cropped either – it’s the entire image from my phone camera.

Laughing kookaburra

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Another day ticking off tasks

I feel like I achieved a lot today. There were a lot of small tasks I needed to get done, most of which are not particularly interesting or fun. I just sat down and did them one after the other.

The most interesting one was creating a new Outschool course, based on my Ethical and Critical Thinking course that I created a week or two ago. I wanted to make a variant version in which all of the stories I use to set up the ethical questions and dilemmas come from the Harry Potter books. There seems to be a big demand for themed classes on Outschool, and of course lots of Harry Potter ones. So I spent some time going through the first four books and choosing plot points that raise ethical questions, then formulating a brief outline of each of the first four lessons based on these. I also had to draw a new course image – I adapted the “Thinker and Sherlock Holmes” artwork I did for the previous ethics course, replacing Holmes with a sketch I drew of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Other stuff I did was less interesting: Spreadsheeting receipts for tax purposes. Filling out some online forms with the tax office. Dusting off an old Lego set I’d had sitting out gathering dust, before putting it away inside a glass-doored cabinet which is now empty because of all the space I’ve freed up by throwing out DVD cases. Some bathroom and kitchen cleaning chores. Baking a sourdough loaf. Setting up my GitHub account access with token authentication instead of password (since they’re deprecating password access in August, and I’ve been putting off switching for months now). Some other stuff I can’t even remember now.

I didn’t get much fun done today, but I feel like I’ve achieved a lot.

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Easter Sunday lunch

Today was a family day, being Easter Sunday. My wife’s immediate family always has a gathering for lunch. My mother-in-law made roast chicken and vegetables, followed by butterscotch pudding. I brought my sourdough challah (see yesterday) and also made a salad of rocket, pear, walnuts, and blue cheese. My wife’s brother brought chocolate Easter eggs and little bunnies from a fancy chocolate shop near where he lives. We have these every year and they’re really delicious, filled with ganache of various flavours. There’s even a “hot cross bun” chocolate, filled with apple and cinnamon ganache.

Given this big lunch, we’re only having a light and non-complicated dinner back at home tonight. My wife is having leftover lentils from yesterday, while I’m making some grilled cheese sandwiches.

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A very busy Saturday

I did a lot today… all of it basically household chores, rather than much fun or productive. I went shopping to buy another DVD wallet to store the remainder of our DVDs in, and then spent a few hours sorting through discs, putting them in the wallet, and then making multiple trips to the garbage room to throw the old cases and paper liners into the recycling bins. It’s astonishing the sheer volume of stuff I’m actually throwing out. Hopefully once the job is complete (i’m still in the middle of it), we’ll have reclaimed a significant amount of storage space.

I baked sourdough challah for tomorrow’s family Easter lunch.

Sourdough challah

I decided to make challah for Easter a while ago, thinking it would be a cool thing for us to have at the family lunch, and it was only later that I realised that challah is one of the foods that is definitively not eaten by observant Jews during Passover (which usually includes the Western Easter – although it’s complicated by the schism between different ways of calculating the holy days between the Eastern and Western religions). So apologies to any Jewish readers for the faux pas, but hopefully you can forgive this gentile weirdness.

But anyway, it looks to have turned out okay!

Sourdough challah

In the afternoon I went shopping again with my wife (and Scully), to the home-maker centre where we got some storage boxes and a table lamp. And then we went for a long walk to get Scully some exercise. A park by the water that we go to was very busy with picnicking families, making the most of the long weekend and the warm autumn weather. Then it was back home and more spring cleaning style activity, until I had to cook dinner.

Now it’s late and time to relax a bit…

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Good Friday… was good

Good Friday is a public holiday in Australia, second only to Christmas Day in everything being closed for business. A few cafes and restaurants are open, but basically all retail stores and other businesses are closed. So my wife had a day off work, and we slept in very late this morning. She spent much of the day sewing her dog bandanas. I did some catching up on various small tasks that I needed to get done – tax accounting and answering emails and so on.

I also worked on a travel diary for my recent road trip to Port Macquarie a couple of weeks ago. I expanded the posts I made here and inserted many more photos. I haven’t done a proper travel diary for a couple of years due to COVID restrictions on travel, so it was good to do one. It’s now complete and viewable here.

Tonight was the inter-fortnightly virtual games night between face-to-face games nights. Normally we have a turnout of 6 or 7 people, but tonight most people were either doing family things or were away on vacation with their families for the Easter weekend. So I played a couple of games with one friend, and we called it a night to go do our own things. We played Parks on Tabletop Simulator, followed by CuBirds on Board Game Arena. I won both games, which was good!

New content today:

Reclaiming shelf space

Today was chore day. I did the weekly grocery shopping, on a Thursday instead of the usual Friday since tomorrow is Good Friday and thus a public holiday (and the supermarket will likely be more crowded with everyone off work and shopping for the Easter weekend).

And I decided to clear up some space by reducing our DVD collection by putting the discs into a compact wallet and throwing away all the plastic cases and paper liners and inserts. This sounds easy, but it was a lot of grunt work. First I had to order the wallet online and then go collect it from the store (since I didn’t want to wait for a delivery). I got a large one that holds 288 discs. I didn’t really have a good idea of how much of our collection that would account for. As it turned out, and with many of the movies having bonus discs of special features (most never watched!), it ended up – after about two hours of sorting, moving discs, pulling paper sleeves out, and piling up empty plastic cases for recycling – housing close to half of the DVDs we have. So I might buy another wallet and go through the whole process again.

But the good news is that it’s cleared a significant amount of shelf space, which can now be used for storing other things. And then I had to cart all the discarded stuff down to the garbage room, which took three trips! I never understood why when DVDs started being produced, they didn’t come up with a more space efficient way of storing them. Even CD jewel cases would have been vastly preferable to what they ended up with.

We went for dinner tonight at our favourite Italian place. And we’ve just received our NSW Dine & Discover vouchers – these are $100 of vouchers usable for dining and entertainment in participating retailers, supplied by the NSW State Government to all adults as a stimulus to get people out and spending money post-COVID to support local businesses. They’re split into 4 vouchers of $25, two usable on meals, and two on entertainment (such as cinemas, arts, museums, live music, sports, etc.). And they’re very sensibly restricted to not being usable for alcohol, tobacco, or gambling. Anyway, we had pizza tonight, mostly paid for by the government. Thanks!

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The feel of autumn

I really noticed today that autumn is in the air. The weather has turned crisp and cool – the maximum temperature today was only 24.6°C, although it was cooler this morning when I was out and about. After my Ethics class I drove out to the Pitch-and-Putt golf course where I met a friend and we played 18 holes. The trees around the city are looking autumny – at least the ones that actually change colour. Liquidambars are going red, and the plane trees are going that dull brown colour and starting to drop their leaves.

It was the last Ethics class of the school term, with the students getting two weeks of holidays for the Easter break, so I have two weeks off now before the second term begins in mid-April. Today we talked about what constitutes punishment: is it punishment if it’s accidental, or unintended, or if the recipient enjoys it, or if it’s imposed by someone with no authority. (The last one was illustrated with the example of a boy who teases his younger sister, and she gets back at him by hiding his cricket bat. Is losing his cricket bat punishment, or is it only punishment if one of his parents takes it away?)

We had a good discussion. At the end of the class, one of the boys said he would be moving to a new school, so he wouldn’t be in the class next term. This reduces my class size down to 12 students. Which is much more manageable than the 21 I had last year.

At golf, I did poorly for the first 9 holes, but got my eye in and scored really well on the last 9.

Back home this afternoon I worked on photos and writing up my trip from a couple of weeks ago as a full travel diary – expanding the entries I posted here to add more details and photos.

Oh, I should mention that Comments on a Postcard is running low on submissions. This is the easiest webcomic in the world to submit material for! If you’re reading this, you probably have what it takes to submit some stuff – so please take a look.

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Back into running, and dog bandanas

Today I felt like I needed to get back into running, after a long break due to my trip away, followed by a week of heavy rain. My last 5k run was 3 March, so it’s been almost 4 weeks. I decided to take it a bit easy rather than strive for a good time. And I was forced to stop at the half-way mark to remove a painful stone from my shoe, which affected my time anyway. But I managed to keep the time under 30 minutes at 29:28, which I was reasonably happy with.

Apart from that I mostly worked on Darths & Droids writing and making new strips today. I still have to rebuild the buffer a bit more after my week away.

I also baked some sourdough this morning, and I’m glad to say the starter seems to have survived a week of neglect while I was away.

Oh, and I drew up a sizing chart for my wife’s hand-sewn dog bandanas (as in drew by hand) – which you can see on all of the listings on her brand new Etsy shop! If you have a pet and would like a cool bandana, check it out!

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Improving home lighting

For a long time I’ve been searching for another Philips SceneSwitch light bulb, the sort with three different brightness and colour temperature settings that you can control simply by flicking the normal light switch. We have them in the living room, dining area, and hallway, and they’re incredibly good. I wanted another for the bedroom, but have been unable to find one in stock anywhere. It turns out they’ve stopped making them.

I finally got fed up enough to decide to get a Philips Hue bulb, for it’s brightness and colour changing properties. It’s more expensive than the SceneSwitch, but also more configurable. So today I walked up to the hardware store and bought one. I’ve put it into the living room, where we’re most likely to desire different coloured lighting, and moved a SceneSwitch to the bedroom. I’ve been playing with it using the Bluetooth app on my phone, and it’s really cool.

And now all my friends have been asking about it and my opinions on it. One mentioned he was interested in setting up some bias lighting and maybe a Hue bulb would be useful. I did a bit of searching and discovered that Philips also makes light strips as part fo the Hue range! So now my friend is seriously considering getting one of those. I also told my wife, and she was instantly keen on getting one, saying she loves coloured lights and it’d feel like Christmas all year round!

I wonder what I’ve got myself in for now…

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More birthday events

Today we had a Sunday lunch with my wife’s family – a larger event than the usual family gathering as it was for her grandmother’s 98th birthday, and various uncles and cousins who we don’t see very often were there too. It was at a restaurant in a park by one of the beaches on Sydney Harbour, and it was a lovely autumn day, warm without being too hot. Lots of people were having picnics on the grass, and kids were running around playing and dogs were having fun and the sun was sparkling off the water and the yachts in the nearby marina were basking in the light.

And the food was really nice too. It was one of those extended lazy lunches – the sort of thing that happens when a large group goes to a restaurant, and everyone chats and nobody actually gets around to ordering food for nearly an hour. I was glad my wife suggested we have a snack before before leaving home to drive over there.

That really ate up most of the day. I did some housecleaning work in the morning, and that was about it.

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