Random task ticking

For my face-to-face ethics class at the school this morning, I’d been informed that the Year 5 students would be away at their school camp this week. My class is a combined Year5 + Year 6 group, with mostly Year 5s. So today I ended up with a class with just 4 students in it.

This was not bad, as such a small number makes it practical to let them off the tether a bit more, and devolve into spontaneous discussion of the topics without needing me to quell the chatter so much. All I needed to do was keep the conversation on the topic. And because I didn’t want the Year 5s to miss out on the conclusion of the moral responsibility topic that we’ve been doing for the past two weeks, I skipped to a different topic and discussed arguments with the kids today. As in the structure of a logical argument, and how the conclusion depends on the premises and on the logical connection between them.

We did get a little sidetracked on one of the examples:

Premise: Downloading music without paying for it is illegal.

Conclusion: Downloading music without paying for it is morally wrong.

Validity of the logic aside, the kids actually got stuck complaining about the first premise, saying that there are plenty of sites now where you can download free music legally. I’m pretty sure the intention of the exercise was that the premise be true, but that times have changed since it was written. I’ll have to submit a note to the curriculum organiser that the example should probably be changed to avoid kids going off on a tangent.

Today I intended to write a bunch of new Irregular Webcomic! strips. But I had a bunch of other little tasks to get done, and I ended up spending much of the day ticking those off. Random boring stuff like banking, and contacting the hospital to make sure they have all my data for the tonsillectomy next week. I’m not looking forward to that!

On a different topic, here’s Scully wearing one of her winter outfits:

Scully's winter outfit

The bandana is one made by my wife, and available on her Etsy shop: Scully xo.

New content today:

Queen’s Birthday holiday unwind

Today is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday here in New South Wales. We’re a weird country – half our public holidays are observed on a state-by-state basis and can occur on different days of the year even when multiple states have the same named holiday.

Anyway, it was good for my wife to have the day off after we both laboured at the market all day Saturday and Sunday. We took Scully out on a long walk around lunchtime, when the day had warmed up a bit and the early grey cloud had parted to let the sun through.

Before that, I had another online ethics class in the morning. It was a repeat of last Friday’s one on advertising, with three new kids. This time it was very interesting, because there were some rather fundamental disagreements among them, which made for a lively discussion. One student was of the opinion that advertising was just annoying and should be banned altogether, or at the very least that any false advertising or exaggeration in advertising should be banned. Another student said that yes it was annoying sometimes, but advertising was important because otherwise people would have no idea what products were available, and companies would go out of business and people would lose jobs and so on. He also said that while outright lying was bad, it was okay if advertisers exaggerated, because everybody knew that ads didn’t really tell the whole truth anyway, so they should expect it. The third student was somewhere in the middle.

It was good because it stayed civil, and it was definitely more interesting than lessons where all the kids just agree with one another on everything.

This afternoon I worked on Darths & Droids writing and comic construction.

And this evening I tried an experiment and put some pomegranate arils onto pizza that I’d made for dinner (after it came out of the oven). It worked pretty well, and my wife put more on her subsequent slices.

New content today:

Surprisingly easy Friday

After yesterday’s horrible headlong crash into COVID-19 vaccination side effects, I managed to get a decent sleep and woke up this morning feeling a lot better. And also much more refreshed than I had any right to be after going to bed at 02:30. I presume the nap attempts I took yesterday helped. I was actually much more alert during last night’s standards meeting than I have been any previous night, as well. So I’m happy to report that the feverish/lethargic reaction to the vaccine has passed almost as quickly as it came on.

Last night’s standards meeting went through a few more technical sessions, on image stabilisation, depth metrology, and high dynamic range and wide colour gamut image encoding.

After I woke up this morning, I had the weekly grocery shop to do. I spent some time working on Darths & Droids, and then had my online ethics class in the afternoon, today with 5 students, which is a new record number. It does mean each student doesn’t get as much time to answer questions and I have to cycle through them, but hopefully they all enjoyed it and got something valuable out of it. The topic today was advertising, and pondering questions of why we have advertising, whether you can trust it, and whether it should be regulated in various ways.

After that, I drove out to Turramurra (a Sydney suburb) with the car full of stock for my market stall, as I am running the stall there on both days of this weekend. The venue is indoors and was available for setting up this evening to save time tomorrow morning. I was happy to take advantage of this since I won’t want to get up early tomorrow after another 02:30 finish for tonight’s ISO meeting!

Then I drove home again and watched the Twitch stream of a guy who was solving puzzles from the 2016 mezzacotta Puzzle Competition that I’d written. And that ended just before tonight’s ISO meeting session, which I’m now in…

New content today:

Double sized Ethics

Today I did the grocery shopping in the morning. Then spent most of the day working on slides for my planned Outschool class on atomic theory. First I did an outline for the last of the 6 linked classes, on the Big Bang, so I now have completed outlines for them all. I started writing slide descriptions – I’ll leave most of the images and artwork for later, as I’ll need to either find public domain images or draw my own diagrams for everything.

At 4pm I had my Friday afternoon ethics class on Outschool. Last week I had 2 students, but today I had 2 new enrolments, for 4 total. It made it a little more difficult, because I no longer had time to ask every student every single question individually. I had to ask a couple of them and then see if either of the others had any further points to add, or if they wanted to disagree. It worked reasonably well, but of course it was noticeable to me that each individual student didn’t get as much time to speak as before. But it was fine.

And this evening I had the opening session of the Plenary ISO Photography Standards meeting that I’ve been mentioning. It was only an hour long, and at 8pm, so not too much of an issue.

New content today:

The day passed too quickly…

Somehow today just got away from me. I woke up early, before my wife had to get up to get ready for work, and was up earlier than usual. But I think I didn’t sleep well because I felt a bit lethargic. I did the grocery shopping a bit later than usual, after realising I was wasting time doing nothing.

And then I’m not really sure what happened. The day just went and next thing I knew I was picking up Scully from my wife’s work. When I got home, I had my online ethics class.

As mentioned yesterday it was about “Trusting experts”. I started with a story about three kids discussing a movie with aliens in it. One wondered if aliens had actually visited Earth, one was sure they had because thousands of people say they’ve seen them, while the third said that scientists say there’s no evidence of aliens visiting Earth. Then we had a discussion over who people should believe – and why. We had a few other stories of people having to decide whether to trust experts or not, and raised more questions about the topic. It was a good discussion with the students, and they both said they enjoyed it at the end of the lesson.

This evening I went out for Thai food with my wife and Scully. I had some chilli basil crispy fried barramundi, which was very nice.

And tonight is virtual board games night. We’re playing online right now as I type. We just finished a couple of games of 7 Wonders, and are now starting Welcome To….

New content today:

Lunar eclipse night!

This morning was my weekly Ethics class at school. The kids were a bit boisterous last week, so at the start of today’s lesson I laid down the law a bit for them, and their behaviour today was a lot better. We finished off the topic on vanity, with the final question for discussion being (paraphrased): Should people think about how vain they are, and what the consequences of that might be? There were some good answers to this, so that was good!

Today… let’s see. I made sourdough bread, and finished off making that latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. And looked after Scully for a bit.

Tonight is the total lunar eclipse, which is visible in prime time here in Sydney. I’m about to head outside in a few minutes to take some photos…

… And the weather was perfect.

Lunar eclipse 2021-05-26

Lunar eclipse 2021-05-26

Lunar eclipse 2021-05-26

New content today:

Lying, shopping, and planning

I had a terrible sleep last night. I woke up in the middle of the night, which is not unusual, but for some reason I just could’t fall asleep again. Normally I drift off again easily enough, but this time was really weird. I ended up kind of half-asleep, and lying in later than normal because I was too tired to get up at the usual time.

But get up I had to, as I had an online ethics class today. Having missed last week, this was the second class on the topic of Lying, which I’d run with other students on Friday two weeks ago. That one had gone very well. Today went a little quickly as the students had a bit more trouble expanding on their answers to questions, giving reasons for what they were saying, and so on. But it was fine in the end, because I ran out of material right when the class ended – phew!

I planned to make vegetable soup tonight, but realised I’d used all the potatoes in last night’s dinner. So I went up the street to get some more potatoes, and grabbed a few other items form the supermarket too. I went to the slightly more distant supermarket, because it’s across the street from an Asian market where I get some other things – particular desirable brands of instant noodles, and puffy tofu, which aren’t in the supermarket.

After the shopping was done, I sat down to write an outline for the online ethics lesson in 4 weeks time. I want to follow Outschool’s guidelines and have outlines in the class description four weeks in advance, so parents can see what topics will be covered in the next few lessons. I wrote an outline for anew lesson about natural resources, how we should make use of them, and the various ethical issues that arise from sharing—or not sharing—resources, and using up non-renewable resources.

So for dinner I was planning a vegetable soup, the leftovers of which would get recycled into minestrone tomorrow. But my wife mentioned that she thought she’d enjoy the soup tonight more if it had a bit of chilli and tomato in it. So I added those, making a sort of spicy tomato vegetable soup. It’s kind of halfway to minestrone already, but that’s okay!

A couple of photos: Autumn leaves while walking up to my wife’s office to pick up Scully:

Late autumn path

The city from the dog park this afternoon. It was a partly rainy day, with dramatic clouds drifting across the sky much of the day:

Clouds over Sydney

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Getting stuck into big science

This morning I had my face-to-face ethics class, after skipping last week due to the students having tests. It was the second lesson of the Vanity topic, and in this one we had three scenarios and the kids had to discuss how vain the people in the scenarios were, and assign them on a scale of 1 to 10. One of the scenarios introduced the idea that vanity can be about things other than appearance, and posed the questions of whether that was any better or worse. And we discussed the big question: Is there anything wrong with being vain?

Back at home I spent much of the day working on outlines for my planned Big Science series of lessons for my online classes. I’ve completed outlines for atomic theory, evolution, relativity, and am mostly done on quantum mechanics. After I finish that and the next two, I’ll start work on detailed lesson plan and assembling slides to illustrate it. That’s the hard part, because as discussed before I can’t just grab pictures off the Internet. I have to make sure they’re public domain, or make them myself. So that will take a bit longer.

One good thing is that I came up with a common thread to tie all these topics together. Each will demonstrate the process of science, with different aspects covered: thought experiments, physical experiments, construction of models, making predictions, testing theories, assembling evidence, refining models, and so on. Basically the scientific method. So the overall uniting theme will be the development and use of the scientific method as a means of discovering how things work. So I’m pretty pleased with that as a concept!

On a completely different topic, I was just watching a cooking show on TV – while making and then eating dinner. It’s an Australian show, in which one of our celebrity chefs invites two guests to join him, and they all cook a dish while having a chat about food, their careers, their lives, whatever. Tonight’s guests were chefs from America. There’s a theme ingredient each show that they all have to use. Tonight’s ingredient was lemons, so the host chose to make lemon chicken.

Now, everyone knows and loves lemon chicken, right? Well… apparently only everyone in Australia knows and loves lemon chicken, because neither of the American chefs had ever even heard of it! I know certain dishes are regional, but I’m surprised to learn that lemon chicken is not widespread enough to even be known in the US. To chefs, no less.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised at Chinese-derived dishes in particular being a complete disjoint set between Australia and the USA. I’ve been in Chinese restaurants in the US and literally not recognised a single dish on the menu. And I know American friends who’ve visited here and had similar experiences not recognising any dishes on our Chinese menus.

But wow… lemon chicken. You Americans are really missing out!

New content today:

Late Friday games night update

On Friday I was very busy! I did the grocery shopping first thing, then I had a doctor’s appointment to get a flu shot before winter sets in. This was slightly complicated by the fact that my doctor is a couple of train stations away, and they’re doing some major construction work at my nearest station, necessitating a long pedestrian detour to reach the station from my place. On the way back I considered just walking all the way home, which takes about half an hour. But I decided it’d be quicker to get the train again—forgetting about the detour—and then I just missed a train and had a ten minute wait for the next one… basically it ended up taking just as long overall.

I had to work on my lesson plan for the second Outschool ethics class, which I had at 4pm. And in the middle of it I had to go pick up Scully from my wife’s work and bring her home. Then to ensure that Scully didn’t want to go out for a toilet or a walk during the ethics class Zoom meeting, I took her out to the park at 3pm and gave her a run around to tire her out. This was tiring work for me, because she’s a fairly reluctant ball chaser, and does it in a leisurely fashion. The best way to get her to run is to play chase with her, and run around after her myself. So I did a bunch of short sprints, wearing myself out in the process.

But it worked – I got her to do a toilet after the running and then we came back inside and Scully flopped into her dog bed and stayed there throughout the entire ethics class. The topic for the day was “generalisation”, including jumping to conclusions, and touching a little on prejudice. The main questions raised were when is generalising valid or invalid, and what caveats do we need to take when generalising from our own experiences? It was a really good discussion, and at the end the two students both said that they’d “loved” the class. So think both of them will continue with weekly lessons for a while, which is good.

In the evening it was games night. We had an attendance of only four due to people having various other engagements. We played Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates!, then Istanbul, and then had a big game of Apples to Apples, which caused several hilarious moments.

New content today:

Double ethics classes

This morning I had my normal Year 5/6 ethics class. We started a new subject: Vanity. The first lesson of the topic was really just about exploring the idea that people look different, and asking whether some people look better than others, and if it’s okay to want to look good, or specifically better than other people. We got through the material a bit quickly, as most of the answers were agreed to by the class, without a lot of discussion or differing opinions.

And then straight after my usual class, I took relief for another ethics teacher who was away this week. He has a Year 3 class, younger than I’m used to (although I have taken a Year 2 class a couple of times before to fill in). The kids can bit more excitable and uncontrollable at that age, but they’re also a bit more obedient when asked to do things. It was a large class and they had a tendency to blurt out answers over the top of each other without putting their hands up to wait their turn. I stopped that fairly quickly by saying I noticed the polite students with their hands up. It kind of bubbled along a bit, but never got out of hand, so that was good.

The topic was Persuading, and today’s lesson was about advertising in particular. I showed the kids a couple of (fictional) advertisements and we discussed how honest they were, and if they were trying to persuade you to buy something by being deliberately misleading. It was a really good discussion, and I think the kids really latched onto the idea that advertisers are trying to sell stuff, so they’re not motivated to be entirely honest.

After the double class, I hung out a bit in the shopping area near the school, and then grabbed some food for a slightly early lunch before heading home. I picked up Scully at lunch time, and it was rainy again today, so we got a bit wet coming home. Fortunately she behaved at home all afternoon, since I didn’t feel like heading outside in the rain again.

This evening I did my usual Italian practice on Duolingo. I’m now up to a 300-day streak of uninterrupted lessons every day. I did have a longer streak a few years ago, but it got interrupted by an overseas trip and reset my counter, and then it took me a while to get back into it. But I’m feeling a lot better now about some of the different tenses, particularly the subjunctive and the conditional. I’m still working on modal tenses.

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