More record rainfall?

It’s pouring down outside as I type this tonight. There are flash flood warnings in place for parts of the state and regular flood warnings for some of the rivers around Sydney. I’ve heard some pretty loud thunder too, as I was teaching my ethics classes a little earlier. With this current rain system, we have a good chance of passing Sydney’s annual average rainfall figure, less than 6 months into the year. This is already the second wettest year on record up to today’s date, beaten only by 2022, which was the overall wettest year on record.

In the classes tonight, talking about dilemmas, I asked the kids who they could ask for help to make a tough decision. I was expecting answers like friends and family, maybe teachers, and hoping for broader answers including professionals (e.g. doctors, scientists, lawyers), or even potentially asking people on the Internet (e.g. StackExchange or even reddit). I was surprised though when one kid answered: ChatGPT. And then in the next class another kid suggested ChatGPT as well!

I did manage to get to the post office this morning before the rain closed in around lunchtime. I found a new place to get croissants, not too far away, and bought a plain butter croissant for a snack, and a chocolate hazelnut one for dessert tonight. I never would have found this place without accidentally stumbling on a recommendation online, and it was well worth the visit. I’ll have to take my wife there one day soon to show her my discovery.

New content today:

Talking about dilemmas

This morning I worked on my lesson plan for the new week’s ethics classes. The new topic is “Dilemmas”. I start by giving the kids some interesting dilemmas to think about and try to decide what they would do, and then go into questions such as:

  1. What are some reasons why a decision might be difficult to make?
  2. How do you feel when you have to make a difficult choice?
  3. What are some ways you can make it easier to decide when you’re faced with a tough dilemma?
  4. Who can you ask when you’re having trouble making a decision? How can they help you?
  5. Is it okay to ask strangers on the Internet for advice on making a difficult decision that is really about your own life?
  6. If you have to make a difficult decision, should you feel guilty about it?

I took Scully for a walk to the post office again, to mail some more Magic cards to buyers. And then this afternoon I planned ahead for a future ethics class, scheduling in a week for a discussion on the topic of “Tradition versus Innovation”, which will be in the first week of July.

The weather is cold and grey and miserable this week, but at least it isn’t raining.

For dinner tonight we just made our own things, since I had classes from 5-8pm. I made myself some grilled cheese toasties, with cheddar and mozzarella, and sweet zucchini pickles which my wife got from the local farmer’s market. I topped one with some mango chutney, and the second with sriracha sauce for extra flavours. With home made sourdough bread they were pretty good.

New content today:

Games class and marking

This morning I wrote my class for this week’s critical and ethical thinking topic on games. I have all new questions from the games topic I ran last year, asking the kids what actually is a game, and what aspects of games can make them fun for people to play. And what can be good or bad about games.

I also started marking the university Data Engineering course final reports and videos. I need to get this finished by Friday. Hopefully I’ll have it done tomorrow.

New content today:


Not here, but I was starting one of my ethics classes online this evening, when one of the students got disconnected from Zoom briefly. She came back a few seconds later, and said, “Sorry, we just had an earthquake here.” And another student said, “I felt it too.”

I checked and they were both in Taiwan. And sure enough, right at the time when they said it, there was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake just off the coast of Taiwan. Both of the students seemed fine and were okay to continue the class. I guess living in Taiwan they’re used to minor tremors occasionally. They didn’t really seem concerned at all.

We started the new topic on “Cost Cutting” today. I wrote the lesson plan this morning. It seems okay, but as usual I’ve been adjusting the questions on the fly based on student responses. It always takes a few classes to get the hang of the new lesson.

That was really the most notable thing about today. A very standard day of the usual tasks, waking Scully at lunch time, and so on.

Oh! No, I also put together stage 12 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set! This adds a lot of vegetation to the castle exterior.

Lego D&D set, stage 12

One of which is this cool removable treant!

Lego D&D set, stage 12

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Serial dog names

I learnt something interesting the other day. Our newish neighbours downstairs have a kelpie, but we haven’t met her (the dog) until just a few days ago. I was bringing Scully in from a walk through the garage and we bumped into one of the neighbours getting out of her car, and the dog was in the back. So we had a chat and let the dogs meet each other for the first time.

The dog’s name is Chilli. Not sure if she’s named after Bluey’s mother or not. But anyway, I suddenly realised today that the previous dog downstairs belonging to the previous neighbours was Billie. I hope the next two dogs that live down there are Fili and Kili. (My friends asked me if the dog before Billie was named Allie or Ali, but alas it was Spike.)

Today was busy with ethics classes on the “Arguments” topic. It’s an interesting topic and I think is getting the kids thinking about stuff they’ve never thought about before. One girl’s mother today sent me a message saying that she’d been sent home from school sick and might miss this evening’s class. But she liked the class and wanted to attend, so might show up after sleeping all afternoon. And indeed she turned up.

I spent some time dealing with household finances, downloading about six months worth of bills for various things and saving them, and updating a tax spreadsheet with stuff. Pretty dull, but necessary.

And I started work on a special feature for Darths & Droids. I’m planning at some point soonish to release a bunch of our behind-the-scenes planning notes and director’s commentaries on individual strips, so interested readers can trawl through them and perhaps find interesting details they didn’t know, and get some insights into the creative process behind it all. it’s going to be a lot of work formatting it into HTML, so it’ll be a background task for several months probably.

And no rain for the third day in a row!

New content today:

Science mentoring meeting

Today I visited Loreto Kirribilli school to meet with four Year 9 students who the teachers there have selected for mentoring in science. They are advanced students with a strong interest in science. I introduced myself and briefly described my career from university degrees to industrial research, then asked the students what areas of science they were interested in and what they hoped to learn in our mentoring sessions.

They have a diverse range of interests in terms of topic: physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, computer science. But one thing I found out was they have a common desire to obtain a more rounded and deeper understanding of science than they are taught in classwork. Actually understanding what the science is, rather than just learning ways to solve problems that will be on their exams. They were a little reserved but hopefully will get more enthusiastic as they get used to the mentoring sessions.

We finished up our time (we had 50 minutes) with a discussion of atomic theory, going a bit deeper into quantum physics than they get at a Year 9 level. It ended up a bit rambly, because there are so many interesting digressions I can make along the way! Hopefully the next session (in a fortnight) will be a bit more focused. Th girls have been given some homework to come up with some specific questions they are interested in, either about science topics or careers.

In other news, there was a strange meteorological phenomenon today. Th sky was a weird blue colour and there was a strange ball of light in it. Yes, the rain has finally ended, after beginning on 30 April. It was so nice to be out and about without getting wet.

The dampness left behind a nasty legacy though. I mentioned the mould spots in the house yesterday. Today I went around with some mould killer and treated all the areas I could see. It’s horrible, but hopefully stopped before it gets too serious.

All of this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to write my ethics class for the new week. I dashed it off quickly after dinner. The topic is “Arguments”, as in heated disagreements, not logical arguments. What causes arguments? How can an argument get out of control? How does it feel to be in an argument? What strategies can you use to stay more calm and reasonable in an argument? What’s the difference between healthy debate and harmful argument? And so on.

New content today:

Working on mysterious beasts

Lego D&D set, stage 10 of construction today, which adds castley bits to the top:

Lego D&D stage 10

Today I wrote the lesson for this week’s new ethics/critical thinking class topic on “Mysterious Beasts”. Stuff like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, chupacabras, and so on. Much more a critical thinking type class, although there are some ethical questions along the lines of “If such creatures were proven to exist, what should we do about it?” and “Should we take into account potential undiscovered creatures when doing environmental studies for proposed developments?” and “If Bigfoot is intelligent, should we leave them alone?”

I took Scully for a drive today to the Allambie pie shop, and to fill up on petrol on the way there. The cheapest petrol station by far in this area is on the way there, so it’s a good doubling up of reasons to go that way.

And I started work on marking the first student reports for the Data Engineering course. This is the experiment planning report, with the final report and video presentation due in two more weeks.

New content today:

No more problems with Instagram?

After yesterday’s trouble with Instagram, I tried searching today for what to do if Instagram stops working after you deactivate a linked Facebook account. I didn’t find anything specifically about this problem, so decided to explore a bit more in Instagram itself. And lo, when I opened the app, it was working properly again. So… I dunno… maybe yesterday was just some weird glitch that coincidentally happened after deactivating Facebook. Anyway, it all seems good now. I’m very happy that I didn’t have to troubleshoot or go through some ridiculous series of steps to fix it.

Today was pretty busy. Five ethics classes. There’s a girl in one of the classes, she’s really outgoing and funny. Today I gave a scenario and started asking questions as usual. She said, “You know, whenever we get these stories about someone acting ethically dubious, I think you’re always just writing stories about me.” That was pretty funny.

And in between I was busy making comics. I took Scully for a walk at lunch, and we were again lucky to dodge the intermittent rain that’s been floating around all day. And for dinner I made pan-fried potato gnocchi with pesto. That’s about it for today, really.

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Autumn feelings

It was a little warm today, 27°C, but pleasant and not humid. The weather has really cooled down and become drier since summer and the days are really nice now. The few imported deciduous trees in the area are starting to turn – plane trees going their drab shade of brown, while the liquidambars are turning a lovely red and the ginkgos are starting to turn their delicious shade of butter yellow.

I took Scully on a long walk to the Italian bakery at Cammeray for lunch. I had a pizza slice and I looked for any of their delicious pasties, but they seemed to have sold out of most of them. There were some croissants and a cherry danish, but I decided to look in the cake display and found a seasonal item: a “Monte Bianco”, I guess the Italian version of a Mont Blanc. Chestnuts are the classic autumnal treat. So I decided to try that.

To be honest, it wasn’t entirely to my taste, being a mass of soft creamy chestnut puree, with only a tiny strip of biscuit base at the bottom to give it any other sort of texture. The flavour was a bit bland too. I think I like chestnuts more in the abstract than as an ingredient in cooking. it’s the first sweet treat I’ve ever tried at this bakery that I wouldn’t have again – their hit rate is usually very good.

I spent the morning writing my class notes for this week’s new ethics topic, on the question of “Why don’t we?” This is really a more critical thinking exercise this week, getting the kids to think about the reasons—which must exist—why we don’t fix particular problems in the world. Some of the questions:

  1. Why don’t we prevent natural disasters?
  2. Why don’t we give everyone free food?
  3. Why don’t we switch to a better keyboard layout than QWERTY?
  4. Why don’t we ban all pesticides?
  5. Why don’t we keep criminals in prison forever so they can’t commit crime again?
  6. Why don’t we have more bins in public places to reduce littering?

The hope is that the kids will realise the wide variety of reasons behind the questions: some are physically impossible, some are socially unacceptable, some are economically infeasible, some are ethically questionable, some are politically intractable, some are environmentally irresponsible, and so on.

I built stage 5 of the Lego D&D set today. The first building is now complete! It’s the whole tavern, with the ground floor and the bedroom second storey now added, with completed roof.

Lego D&D set, stage 5

There’s another new figure, a human fighter/rogue/assassin kind of guy. The roof parts and windows are really well done on this model.

Lego D&D set, stage 5

And here’s the interior details seen from the back (there’s no back wall, so you can see inside).

Lego D&D set, stage 5

The Lego pieces are in numbered bags inside the box, and you open the bags in numerical order as you build through the instructions. So far I’ve opened the first 5 bags. As I was searching through them all to find bag number 6 (for tomorrow), I noticed bags with numbers as high as 32! SO with 5 bags done, I’ve completed building less than one sixth of this set!

New content today:

Non-games night

It’s Friday board games night at a friend’s place, but I’m staying home this evening.

I had more classes today on the “Dreams” topic. I’ve had some very diverse views in this topic. Some of the kids are very scientific and talk about dreams being products of our brain biology, based on memories, and that’s all they are. Others talk about possibilities that dreams are our brains trying to tell us something important. Or that they might possibly be glimpses into an alternate world or reality. And a few have said they believe dreams can be visions of the future.

I also did another trip to the post office today, to send two more packages of cards. I’ve sold quite a few this week. But still a long way to go to make a dent in my collection!

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