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.

New content today:

Standards meeting and ethics course

Today I chaired a Standards Australia meeting on photography, following up on the ISO Photography standards meeting held a few weeks ago. This is where I report back to the Australian expert committee on events and discussions from that ISO meeting. We also discuss the standards currently up for ballots and decide what Australia’s vote will be. COVID is still keeping our local meetings virtual, so it was all via Zoom. We had a good attendance today, so that was good.

The other main thing I did today was complete work on my Critical Thinking and Ethics course for Outschool. I’ve submitted the completed course description, but they need to go over it and approve it before it becomes public, which can take a day or two. When it’s ready for students, I’ll let you know.

New content today:


I’m feeling really exhausted today. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the hectic week away last week finally catching up to me. But I woke up this morning and had to struggle to drag myself out of bed. I needed to get up to have breakfast and get ready to go teach my Ethics class. And as I was sitting in the room at the school waiting for the kids to arrive, I just felt drained of energy.

The class went mostly well. I think I have all the kids’ names more or less memorised and matched to faces. I made a couple of mistakes, but correcting those in my mind gives me a full set of matches now, I think. We’ll see next week if I can get them all right. The replacement teacher last week while I was away finished the voting topic with them, so today we started a new topic: Punishment.

This is a long one, we have four weeks on this. It covers the concepts of understanding what punishment is, and whether it’s needed in a society. Today we started with imagining if you had a magic ring of invisibility, and thinking about what you would do, and what other people might do. The kids were all pretty much into the idea that if they had an invisibility ring they would rob banks, and steal stuff, and play pranks on people. So we moved onto the idea that if you can get away with something bad without being punished, would you do it? Or would you still do the “right” thing? Do you think other people would do the right thing if there was no punishment?

And that was basically lesson one of the discussion. Next week we move on to other aspects of the topic. It was a good and lively discussion, but this meant that there was a certain amount of spontaneous chatter that I had to calm down to get attention and focus back on me. We’ll see how it goes next week.

Today I worked more on my planned Ethics course for Outschool. I’m almost at the point of uploading the info and opening the course. Maybe tomorrow.

New content today:

More voting ethics

This morning was the second lesson on the voting topic in my Ethics class. We discussed the idea of a public plebiscite to decide if fossil fuels should be banned to address climate change. The questions asked the children to think about how people might vote if they were an owner of a coal mining company, or if they had family members who worked in a coal mine and could lose their jobs, or if they were concerned about the environment. The idea was to get them thinking from different people’s points of view, to understand why someone might vote either yes or no. And then we talked about whether a decision like this should be made by a public vote, or if it should be made by government officials without a public vote.

It was an interesting discussion. Also, I think I have almost all the kids’ names learnt. We’ll see in a couple of weeks when I have them next. I’ll miss next week’s class because of my planned holiday trip.

I worked more on getting comics buffered for the week away, and took Scully to the park for a bit of ball chasing and running around.

For dinner I made quiche with potato and cauliflower in the filling. We’re moving into the pre-vacation phase of using up all the vegetables and other perishable food, which always results in some interesting hodge-podge dinners.

New content today:

Voting and baking

Today was the second Ethics class of the year, and the first proper topic after last week’s introductory lesson. The topic is voting, and we started with a discussion of two students who wanted to be elected to the Student Representative Council at their school. One wants to tackle several thought-out issues, while the other just wants some cricket nets installed in the playground so he and his friends can play cricket – probably to the detriment of everyone else who will have less playground space. The first fears the second is more popular and so might win the election.

The discussion tackled the questions of whether it’s okay to vote for someone just because you like them, rather than thinking about their policies, and whether everybody should be allowed to vote, even if they don’t care about the issues. We had a lively discussion, with the kids bringing up various points, such as criminals being allowed to vote. It was really good, and again after last week I was pleased to see that this group is so much better behaved than a few of the kids I had last year.

At the end of the class, as they were leaving, I overhead one of the girls say to another, “That was the best Ethics class ever! Usually they’re really boring.” So that was pretty satisfying! I’m really looking forward to this year of classes with this group.

For dinner tonight I made a special fun dish: miso baked cauliflower.

Miso cauliflower bomb

The basic baked cauliflower is pretty straightforward. The real pizzazz comes form the garnish. Cashew honey cream and pomegranate:

Miso cauliflower bomb

Toasted sesame and sunflower seeds:

Miso cauliflower bomb

Chopped green chili and mint leaves:

Miso cauliflower bomb

The cauliflower cost I think $1.69. The garnish ingredients were over $10. But delicious!

New content today:

New Ethics year

Today was my first Primary Ethics class of the new school year. I expected to have the Year 6 class again this year, but when I got to the school and picked up my class roll, I saw that it was the combined Year 5/6 class. There are about 26-27 students from each of Years 5 and 6 doing Ethics, which is too much for one class. Rather than split each Year into two small classes, there’s a Year 6 class, a Year 5 class, and a combined Year 5/6 class. The two years do the same material at the same time, so this works out fine.

I was a bit confused and waited around for the teacher who had the Year 6 class. She said that she’d been given that class because her own daughter was in it, and she’d requested to be able to take her daughter’s class. So I’m not in the same classroom as last year either, but instead in a smaller room inside the library. This room has just one chair (for me) so the kids are sitting on the floor. But my class is only 15 kids this year, compared to 21-22 in previous years, so it feels a lot more compact.

And we had a really good introductory lesson! I was pleased not to see any warning signs of behavioural issues, and we all had a really good discussion of the introductory question (about whether lying is always wrong). I have a good feeling that this is going to be a more enjoyable experience with these kids than the class I had last year.

And one of the girls turned out to be the sister of a boy I had last year. When I read her name on the roll and saw the surname, I said, “Do I know your brother Tom?” (name changed for anonymity)

She answered, “I don’t know. I do have a brother named Tom, but I don’t know if that’s who you mean.” Nice – a little bit cheeky, but in a friendly way.

I said, “I think it is your brother. I had him in my Ethics class last year.”

She asked, “Did he behave badly?”

I said, “… He wasn’t the worst behaved in that class.”

When I got home and told my wife about my new class, I said I had Tom’s younger sister. She knows Tom because his mother used to work with my wife. And it turns out my wife has actually met Tom’s sister, when her mother brought her into work a few times, and she (Tom’s sister) liked playing with Scully. So… I’ve met a new student who already knows my wife and my dog.

On the way home I drove by the kitchen supply place and ducked in to get a rolling pin, a bread tin for baking loaves, and some silicone baking mats as long lasting replacements for all the baking paper sheets I’ve been using, and also to use as a kneading surface instead of a cutting board, which is what I’ve been using up to now. While there I also spotted a small wok. My wife and I had been discussing getting rid of our large electric wok, which we hardly use because it’s packed in a cupboard behind a bunch of more regularly used items, so it’s annoying to get in and out. I figured replacing the electric one with a smaller stovetop wok would free up some kitchen space for us, and mean I can use a wok more often in cooking.

Then at home I worked on my slides for my Outschool class on Human Vision. I have most of them done now, but still need to finish it off, hopefully tomorrow.

New content today:

Final ethics

Today was my final Primary Ethics class for the school year. We finished off the topic on questioning authority. Most of the last lesson goes through the story of Rosa Parks, and how she defied segregation laws by refusing to stand up for a white person on a bus. After reading this to the class, the question was: Did Rosa Parks do anything wrong?

Most of the kids said no, because the law was wrong and unfair, while one kid said she did do something wrong because she broke the law. We had a good discussion about it, and I managed to keep the behaviour mostly under control, so lots of kids got to contribute. There were several other questions, and the continuation of the story with the bus boycotts organised by Martin Luther King Jr, leading ultimately to the Supreme Court decision that struck down the segregation laws.

After the discussion, I had to say my goodbye to the class. I wished them a fun Christmas holiday and good luck with high school, which they’ll be starting next year. It’s unlikely I’ll see any of these kids again. I had some very tough kids to control in the class, and honestly I’m glad I won’t have to teach them again, but I also had some very good kids, well behaved, with thoughtful contributions, and it’s sad to see them go.

I don’t think kids that age have the same reaction to seeing someone—someone they’ve known for a full year—for the last time. The bell went, I dismissed them, and they just ran out of the classroom. I don’t know if any of them felt any sadness or other feeling about never seeing me again – they certainly didn’t give any indication of it.

After the class I had a bit of a celebratory piece of cake from a nearby cafe, then returned home to work on assembling that batch of comics I photographed yesterday.

New content today:

Gumming up the work

I had my second last Ethics class for the year today. About half the students were missing as they were attending an orientation day at a local high school, where they’ll be starting in Year 7 next year at the end of the summer holidays around the end of January. So it was a more manageable number of kids, but unfortunately the two main disruptors were still there, and I needed to assert control very firmly a few times.

And then near the end of the lesson, I noticed one of them was chewing gum! This was a serious offence when I was in school, and I assumed it’s still so now. I made him wrap it in paper so it wouldn’t stick to anything and then discard it. And I told him I’d be reporting this to his regular classroom teacher, which I did right after the lesson finished. The teacher assured me he’d take action to deal with this infraction.

It’s sad when the end of a school year comes and I know I’ll never see that class of kids again, but honestly this year has contained the worst couple of students I’ve seen in four years of teaching this course, and I won’t miss those ones. I look forward to having a new class next year, and from reports from the Year 5 teachers I think it should be a much better behaved group.

The rest of the day I worked on comics, which is kind of boring to report because I don’t want to reveal anything ahead of publication, and I spend quite a few days doing this.

In the afternoon I took Scully for a walk down to Berry Island, which isn’t really an island any more – it’s joined to the harbour shore by a low isthmus of grass that is a nice park to let dogs run around on. It’s a nice spot, by the water, with views of the city across the harbour, and a short enough but decent walk from home. Walking uphill back home is a good stretch of the legs, both for me and Scully. And the good thing is we don’t need to cross any streets, and the traffic is very light, so I can let Scully walk off-lead almost all the way home.

Looks like the Irregular Webcomic! cron job worked fine tonight, on a Wednesday. Let’s see if it fails again on Tuesday next week.

New content today:

US election fatigue

“Politics” is not a tag I expected to use here, but there it is for the first time. Obviously the biggest news of the day across the globe is the US election, and like many people I’ve been trying to keep up with the results and all of the other stuff that’s going on with it. Enough said.

In between I’ve been working on that Irregular Webcomic! batch. I completed assembling the comics and am now in the middle of writing annotations. I won’t finish that until tomorrow, or possible even later, as I’ve done enough to last for at least the rest of this week already, and I have other priorities for the next couple of days.

This morning I had my Primary Ethics class, and we started a new topic on “Appeal to authority”, which is a bit of a misleading title, as the topic is really more about when, if ever, does it make sense to challenge or break rules or laws. The first story was about a girl in wheelchair who moves to a new school and wants to play basketball like she did at her old school. A teacher says she can’t play basketball because she might get hurt, and rules that she’s not allowed to.

The kids were pretty on side with the idea that the teacher was just making up a rule on the spot, and it was a bad rule – although it was understandable why the teacher did it, probably to avoid potential danger and not get into trouble. They said the rule should be challenged, possibly by finding out how the girl played basketball at her old school and talking to the teachers there about it. We’ll develop this topic over the next couple of weeks, and it should be interesting.

And tonight there’s a football game on. I’m going to relax and decompress while I watch the COVID-delayed State of Origin opening game for this year.

New content today:

Ethical behaviour

My morning was taken up with my Primary Ethics class first thing, followed by a morning tea with the Ethics coordinator and other Ethics teachers at the school. The coordinator tries to have one of these every school term, so we can catch up and have a chat and swap war stories about our classes. We have a new volunteer teacher starting next week, and he was there, so we were all giving him lots of advice on how to handle the kids.

My class this morning was a lot better behaved than they have been. I’ve let it be known to the kids that I will send them to the front office – after a couple of warnings – for misbehaviour. This has tempered a lot of the most disruptive behaviour, and they’ve started settling down a lot faster after spontaneous discussion breaks out (as it often does). Last week was better than the week before, and today was better still, and we got a lot of good discussion in.

This afternoon I mostly worked on writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic!, as I’ll need to photograph a batch early next week to keep the buffer full.

The weather is still cold and rainy here. Fortunately the forecast for Sunday is okay, as we have a special lunch planned… but more about that later.

New content today: