Observations on energy ethics

I’ve run this week’s lesson on critical/ethical thinking about “Energy” a few times now, and I’ve noticed two interesting things.

Firstly, I ask if there are any problems with all of the electrical wiring that we use to carry electricity from power stations to our homes. Several kids have pointed out potential dangers if they fall in storms, and the possibility of animals being injured by them. Apart from that, they’re mostly of the opinion that they’re fine. I’m very surprised nobody so far has said they are ugly! They get in the way of scenery, they make cities look grimy, etc.

Secondly, I present several alternatives to burning fossil fuels for generating electricity, and we go through the advantages and disadvantages of each of them. Then I ask which they think we should prefer switching to. Nearly all of them have said solar power. I point out the disadvantage that it’s very expensive, and the kids are all dismissive of this is a problem. They say things like, “The cost doesn’t matter”, or “Well, we can just make it cheaper”. It’s very hard to convince them that cost does matter, and we can’t just magically make things cheaper.

This evening I was supposed to be running Dungeons & Dragons for my friends, but a couple of them called in sick, not wanting to spread cold symptoms. So that put us below threshold and we called it off for tonight. Hopefully we’ll get to it in a couple of weeks. So tonight we’re doing online games instead, which means our sick friends can still participate.

Weather was cold today! A nice change after the record heat of earlier this week. We had overnight rain and a chilly southerly wind. I made use of it with a 5k run.

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Trying a new sandwich

This morning I worked on finishing off my lesson plans for the new week of ethics classes. I’m doing two related topics for the different age groups: Brain Uploading for the younger kids, and the broader topic of Transhumanism for the older kids.

For lunch I went for a walk with my wife and Scully to Botanica Garden Cafe, which does some really good food. I wrote about the first time I went there back in March. I’ve tried a few things off their menu and today I thought I’d try something I hadn’t had: the poached chicken and brie sandwich.

Chicken and brie sandwich

It was good, and very filling. There’s a lot of chicken stuffed in there. I barely wanted to eat dinner by the time evening rolled around. But did make some fried rice and had a smaller serving than I usually would have.

In the early afternoon I worked on version 2 of the Haunted House game for the game design class. I went for a 2.5k run after that, but still felt so full from lunch that I had to take it pretty easy and didn’t run a very fast time. On the way up the hill for my pre-run warm-up to the starting point, I passed more of the demolition work that is going on near here for redevelopment into loads of new apartments.

Demolition for redevelopment

This is another whole street of houses that have just been torn down, a couple of blocks over from the photo in this entry. It’s a huge area that is being worked on.

Tonight I started with three ethics classes on the “Brain Uploading” topic. In the first class I started with the premise that you could scan your brain and run a copy in a computer, and it would be an exact emulation of you, with your memories and personality. All three kids that it sounded awesome and wanted one. The second class, in contrast, had one kid who was keen on it, one who wasn’t so sure, and one who was totally freaked out by the idea and said it would be the scariest and most horrible thing ever. Should be fun running this over the next week!

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Five-class Thursday

Having moved all my Tuesday ethics classes to Thursday to make room for the university image processing course, I now have five classes to teach on Thursdays, beginning from today. Two in the morning first thing, and three in the evening, ending late. This gives me some time in the middle of the day to do a few other things, which I filled by taking Scully for a couple of walks, getting sushi rolls for lunch, making a sourdough loaf, and doing a bit of comics stuff.

Time to relax before bed….

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A Scully haircut day

It was another busy day for me. I needed to go to a pathology centre this morning for a routine blood test, so that ate up an hour or more walking up there, waiting in the queue, and then coming home again.

Then I worked on writing a lesson plan for my older students, on The Singularity. It takes a bit of explaining to get up to speed on what exactly this means and how it works before we can start discussing the ethical implications of it, so it was a complex write-up. I also needed to make a couple of diagrams, showing technology timelines. And then tonight I had three classes in a row.

I managed to squeeze in a 2.5k run in the afternoon. It was cold today, much colder than it has been for the past couple of weeks, but fine and sunny. And yes, Scully went in for a wash and groom today. She always looks so nice with her fur neatly trimmed, before it starts growing again and becomes unruly!

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Today I wrote my new lesson plan for the older kids’ ethics class, on the topic of “Fame”.

What else? Oh yes, Scully had her annual vet checkup and vaccination today. The vet said she’s in excellent health, but she needs a teeth clean some time soonish. We look after her teeth with special food and in fact I brush her teeth with a doggie toothbrush and doggie toothpaste… well, most nights although I skip it occasionally. Anyway, her first teeth clean after over 5 years is better than some dogs who need a teeth clean annually. If you don’t know about dog dental care, it’s not like a human dentist clean – they have to put the dog under general anaesthetic, so it’s a fairly big deal. We’ll have to book it in some time in the next month or two.

Also today I baked more bread, using some rye flour that my wife picked up on the weekend. And made pumpkin and lentil soup for dinner. It went well with the bread, still warm from the oven.

Oh, and I did a 2.5k run. A little faster than the ones I did on Friday and Saturday, but still a way to go to get back to my pre-trip form.

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And right into the working week

I had another good, solid sleep and feel pretty much over any travel weariness now. My wife even got up super early to go to the gym before work! I got up just after 07:00 and took Scully out, then had breakfast and prepped fro a morning of ethics class, beginning at 08:00. This is the end of the “Natural resources” topic.

Which means a new topic tomorrow, for which I began writing the lesson plan this afternoon (but will need to finish tomorrow). The new topic is “Heroes and Villains”. I also just now got a message saying that some parent has enrolled a 7-year-old in my class designed for 10-12 year olds! I’ve had a few 9s and an 8 before, but this is the first time someone has tried to enrol a kid that young. I’ve sent the parent a message saying the class is too advanced for most 7-year-olds. Let’s see what response I get.

The other thing I had to do today was compete tomorrow’s Darths & Droids strip and send it off to our guest commentator so they can get their comments in before publication time. I’m going to be a bit hard pressed to keep up with comic production this week, as I barely managed to buffer enough strips to cover my trip, and now the buffers are empty. We’ll see how I manage…

In food news, recall that when I dropped off my sourdough starter with my friend to mind while I was away, he gave me a bottle of home-made Carolina Reaper chilli sauce. I tried it today, putting a couple of drops on my lunch wrap, which also had cheese, some zucchini fritter things from the supermarket, sliced tomato, and a lot of sour cream, just in case. Well… turns out the sauce wasn’t nearly as hot as I’d feared. It was actually perfectly fine at that concentration. So I might be a little more bold with it next time.

I’m still getting used to the cold weather again after being in hot Japan for two weeks. Today wasn’t too bad, with a top of 18.0°C, but tomorrow will be challenging, with a forecast maximum of only 15°C – which is about as cold as a winter day gets here in Sydney. And it’ll be rainy too.

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Ethics of documentaries

The new topic this week for my 10-12 year old classes is Documentary Films. I spent the morning writing up my lesson plan, with questions about the ethics of staging scenes for documentaries, dramatising re-enactments, and whether it’s okay and/or educational to film and present scenes of wild animals hunting and killing each other.

After eating lunch, I took Scully for a longish walk, stopping at a bakery to sit and refresh with a glass of water and an orange-almond cake. The sky was a weird mix of patchy blue on the eastern half, and very dark grey cumulus clouds on the west. It looked like it might storm, but it held off.

And tonight I had the first three classes with the Documentary topic. I think it’s an interesting one. We discuss Nanook of the North, which provides an example of the first really successful documentary film, but also examples of staging scenes. I considered talking about White Wilderness too, with its famously faked scene of lemmings leaping off a cliff, but decided I had enough examples to talk about.

For dinner I made pumpkin soup, with a touch of Thai red curry and coconut cream. It turned out delicious, and we had it with freshly baked sourdough, still hot from the oven. Mmmm…

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Ending advertising

This morning I got up early to be ready for my first ethics class at 8am. I could have used more of a sleep-in to continue recovering from this illness, but maybe I can get that tomorrow. I’ve been sleeping much better the past three nights, after nearly a week of just a couple of hours sleep a night. My infected eye is improving thanks to the eye drops.

The classes were the last three of the advertising topic. I found it interesting in the interrupted week’s worth of classes that virtually all of the kids expressed the opinion that yes, ads often stretch the truth, or do things that are deceptive, to try to convince people to buy their products. And that’s okay. I asked them if they thought it was bad that ads were deceptive, and almost every kid said it was okay, because that’s what companies have to do to sell stuff and do business. And people know ads are exaggerated, so it’s not really fooling anyone.

I pushed a little, and asked: “Just because lots of companies do it, and people are used to it, does that really make it okay for them to be deceptive in ads?” And all of them said yes, it was okay. I asked if their should be laws against deceptive ads, and none of agreed that there should be. A couple even suggested there should be no laws against even outright lying in ads.

Honestly I’m kind of flabbergasted. I would have thought that a large number, maybe half or more, of the sample size would have expressed the opinion that deceptive ads were bad, and should be cracked down on in some way. Maybe kids these days are more cynical, and figure nobody should be gullible enough to actually believe ads, so it doesn’t matter if they lie to us.

Today I finally managed to get access to the video presentation of the last university team, and mark that, which completes the marking work. Although I still need to upload the marks and comments into the university system, which is about an hour’s work copying and pasting into the clunky web UI.

Not much else to report. I cooked vegetable fajitas for dinner.

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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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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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