Pondering about teleportation

It’s Monday, the day of the week when I finish off a week’s topic in my Outschool ethics classes. I finished off the Golden Rule topic with four classes, and in between I worked on the new topic starting tomorrow: Teleportation. This is one of the speculative topics, in which I get the kids to imagine that some science fiction or magical thing is real, and then use their brains to imagine what effects it would have on the world. I also wrote some scenarios such as what if a teleporter malfunctions and we end up with two people – one at the departure point and one at the destination. And then we get into the whole thing about whether teleportation would be acceptable if it involved making an exact copy and disintegrating the original. Should be fun!

That used up most of my day. I found a bit of time to work on editing some photos from my road trip to Orange back in September and uploading them to Flickr, then including them in my diary that I posted on my website the other day. I did the first three days and have two days to go.

Here’s a view of a winery that we visited on a rainy, foggy day:

Brangayne driveway

I also realised that some of my older travel diaries involved road trips and could use maps added to show the routes, so I added those to my to-do list.

And this evening we had a power outage! The power went off at about 6:15pm. Checking the power company website on my iPad indicated that it was a suburb-wide outage, and they estimated about two hours to fix it. So I was a bit glad that I haven’t yet converted from gas cooking to induction, because it meant I could still cook Thai curry and rice for dinner. I had to light the burners with matches, but otherwise it was fine, and we ate sitting out on the balcony in the dying evening light.

The power came back on a bit before 8pm, fortunately before we had to get the candles out.

New content today:

Tuesdays are definitely my busy days

I had a full plate today. Because of other deadlines yesterday I needed to write my ethics lesson for the new eeek of classes this morning, in time for three classes tonight. The topic for this week is The Golden Rule: the principle that you should treat other people the way that you would like to be treated. I introduce the lesson with the Allegory of the Long Spoons, and then go on to explain what the Golden Rule is, and ask the kids if they think it’s sensible, and what might possibly go wrong with it. Then we go on to discuss cooperation and explore the snowdrift dilemma, a variant of the Prisoner’s dilemma. We talk about how this applies to real world situations such as driving on roads, or politicians running a country, and whether cooperation might lead to better results for everyone than being competitive.

After having run it three times, it seems like a solid lesson, and hopefully gets the kids thinking!

I found some time to write and make a Darths & Droids comic as well, and to walk Scully a couple of times. And that was basically my day.

Oh, I saw this news article, with the headline: Spell of nice, boring weather coming for eastern Aus. Yes, the fact that we aren’t expecting more flooding rain, or Antarctic blast cold spells, or gale force winds for the next few days is unusual enough that it merits a headline.

New content today:

A new ethics class for older kids

I mentioned the other day that I was thinking of starting a new ethics and critical thinking class on Outschool for older kids. Today I put together a class description and submitted the class to Outschool for approval. I expect it should be approved pretty quickly.

With the class description I included topics for the first four planned classes:

  • Crime and Punishment
  • Free Will and Determinism
  • How to Rig an Election
  • The Meaning of Life

Pretty ambitious, but I think I can pull it off! Assuming it’s approved, I’ll start scheduling classes to begin after Christmas, and leave them until then so new students can find the classes and enrol.

Here’s a photo of an Australian brushturkey that I managed to get extremely close to with my phone the other day.

Brushturkey close up

There’s one of these (a different one to the photo) currently guarding a nest mound near my place. Whenever I walk past, it chases me, trying to drive me away, until about 25 metres from the nest. It’s very protective and chases everyone away, although it’s not aggressive and backs off if you approach it. Soon the chicks will hatch and it will abandon them to their fates. They’re really curious birds.

New content today:

And another quick late night post

I think I still need to catch up a little on sleep after that ISO meeting a few days ago where I was waking up before 4am each morning. But I’m getting there.

This morning I had my weekly face to face ethics class at the local school with my Year 6 group. Half of them were away today, doing an orientation day at a nearby high school, since they’ll all be moving on to high school next year, after the Christmas holidays. (This is different in some countries, but here in Australia primary school is Years K-6 and high school is years 7-12.) Anyway, the remaining kids suggested that because half the class were away we should do something different and just have a general conversation about some topic of their choice. Not wanting half the class to miss the conclusion of the Determinism topic, I indulged them, and we actually talked about high school for most of the lesson. I made sure to steer the discussion to thought-provoking questions, like asking the kids if they thought they’d keep contact with friends who were not going to the same high school, or if they thought that expectations of behaviour and maturity would be different there, and so on. It was actually really interesting.

I asked the kids what they wanted to do after school as a career. One girl wanted to be a lawyer. Another girl said, “Three things. Number one: an artist.” Now, before the kids arrive, I get their early and set up the classroom by moving desks and making a circle of chairs so we can sit around it and talk with no distractions. I often have a few minutes to wait for them, and I’ve looked at the artwork they have pinned up all around the classroom, and I had noticed that this particular girl’s work is good, possibly the best artwork in the class. So I mentioned that I’d seen her artwork on the walls and thought it was good.

She continued, “Number two: A YouTuber.” So then we had a discussion about the realities of being a YouTuber, and how likely it was that you’d actually make any money out of it. Most of the kids were fairly realistic about it, saying you have to be really lucky to get subscribers and then the pay rate is pretty low per view, so you need millions of views. They actually seemed to know more about the details than I do! And then one of the boys said that he is currently making about $300 a month doing Twitch streaming of games! Wow.

Anyway, after this diversion I asked the girl what her third career choice was, expecting something else along similar lines, and she said, “Number three: a neuroscientist.”

After getting home from the class, I took a train into town to pick up a game I’d ordered: Azul: Queen’s Garden. My wife and I enjoy the first three Azul games, so I wanted to get this fourth one in the series. I browsed around a bit looking for any other suitable games to buy for the fortnightly games nights with my friends, but didn’t find anything that struck my fancy.

I got home just before midday and then went for a long walk with my wife and Scully, over to the Italian bakery at Cammeray (this is different to the other, closer bakery at Naremburn that we go to more frequently), where I had a slice of pizza and a small pastry with custard and raisins in it. This place makes the best pastry.

This afternoon I tuned into the live NASA feed of the Artemis 1 launch. I was a little worried that the countdown delay would push the launch into my online ethics classes for the evening, but they managed to launch it just before 6pm my time, so I got to see it take off just before beginning my classes.

New content today:

A quick late night post

This morning I finished writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, and then got stuck into photographing them. I had to do this today as my current batch ran out tonight. SO I also had to assemble some new comics to queue up for the remainder of the week.

I finished photographing by lunchtime, when I went out to drive over to my wife’s work and pick up Scully, who she’d taken in to work this morning (it’s nice to have a dog-friendly office!). I took Scully a couple of suburbs away to a French patisserie to get some lunch, before coming home.

This afternoon I assembled some comics and started working on some new Darths & Droids stuff as well. I took Scully for a walk and popped into the supermarket to grab some salad leave and falafels for a quick and easy dinner, before my three ethics classes tonight. These were on the new topic of generalisation, which is actually a retread of the second topic I did, a couple of years ago when I began running these classes. None of the same students are still doing the class, so it’s a good chance to reuse some material.

New content today:

Count my ethics classes… 1… 2… 3… 4… ah ah ah!

I’ve had three online ethics classes for kids on Monday morning for ages. (Well, morning-ish. Because of daylight saving changes I shift these classes two hours later in my summer, so that they are the same time for students in the USA and Canada, who form the majority of the kids in classes that are early for me, since that corresponds with afternoon/evening in America. Anyway, in winter I had the classes at 8, 9, and 11am. Now that we’re on summer time and the US has gone off daylight saving time, the same classes are now at 10, 11am, and 1pm for me.)

But one (Australian) student’s parent asked if they could move from a Friday class to Monday to better suit their schedule. Last week I had the kid in the 1pm class, but the parent was hoping for one later than that. So I created a new class at 4pm, which I ran for this student for the first time today. It’s the first time I’ve had four online classes in one day. Hopefully I don’t find it too busy!

I’ve also had the thought to start up a new class, for kids aged 13-15, rather than the current 10-12 age range. I have a few kids who are 13 and noticeably more mature than many of the others, and it might be good to move them to a more advanced class. I have some topics in my ideas list that I’ve avoided so far as they’re probably a bit too complex for 10-12 year olds, but might work well with a slightly older group.

On the weather front, we had 37 mm of rain overnight, almost all of it between 1 and 3am. The noise of it woke me up and it was really heavy for a while. It had stopped by sunrise though, and the day was warm and sunny… and humid.

The flood emergency in central New South Wales continues to get worse. The floods began 62 days ago now, and the Commonwealth Government declared it a natural disaster today. State Emergency Services has requested help from New Zealand, and emergency personnel from there will be arriving tomorrow to assist. This is the first time in history that international assistance has been requested for any emergency other than bushfires, and we’ve also requested assistance from Singapore and the USA. Here’s a news article if you want to see some photos or read more.

New content today:

Final image processing tutorial

Two teaching endings today:

It was the last on-site tutorial for the university image processing course. I went into the city for an early dinner at a Thai place near the uni and had some pad Thai, before showing up for the tutorial at 6pm. There were only a dozen or so students on site at the university – the rest of the 200 or so in the class electing to work from home and collaborate with their teams online. I answered a few questions from some teams on MS Teams, but there wasn’t much to do, so the lecturer and other tutors had a bit of a chat while waiting for the on-site students. They had a few questions, but eventually departed, adn we could head home a bit early.

This is the last official tutorial for the course. The students submit their final report on Friday, and then a video presentation early next week, and I have to mark them. Then that’s it until next year, when I’ll likely be doing the data engineering course again in semester 1 and image processing again in semester 2.

The other ending was the last three Outschool classes on Monsters. I completed the survey of the kids on that crucial question: Is a mummy a type of zombie or a different thing? The results:

A type of zombie: 17
A different thing: 17
A zombie is a type of mummy: 1

An exactly even split between the two answers I was hoping to disambiguate! And one kid went for the original answer of reversing the relationship.

I also have this screencap to share of how I appeared in Zoom while teaching this week’s lesson on monsters:

Halloween Zoom

Some kids, when they arrived in the Zoom session, flinched back when they saw me! But nobody was too scared, and some of the kids thought it was hilarious. I didn’t actually keep the mask on for the whole lesson, as it was hot and a bit difficult to talk through the mask. In one case when I took it off, a couple of the kids said I was scarier without it! 🤣

The other thing of course is that today is Halloween. This never used to be a thing here in Australia. When I was a kid, Halloween was just “a thing Americans did” that had no impact whatsoever here. It started slowly taking off in Australia maybe around 2000, and now it’s fairly common for people to decorate their houses to indicate that they are willing to accept trick-or-treating kids. It hasn’t reached full penetration – around where I live, maybe only one in ten houses are decorated. But heading to the station to catch my train into town I saw a couple of kids dressed up, including a girl in a bright red witch outfit. And there were a handful of people I saw in the city dressed up in costumes.

New content today:

New Thai food

This morning I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school. We moved on from the last topic about Fatalism, and now we’re discussing Determinism – the idea that everything is cause and effect, and that our decisions are caused by events including our upbringing, our emotional state, and other circumstances, such that we don’t really have a choice. It’s a tricky topic to discuss, particularly with kids. But they were engrossed in it! For the first half of the lesson they were all listening rapt to the dialogue and discussion, and I could see they were thinking about the issues in ways they’d never considered before. It devolved a little when we got to the point of demonstrating reflex actions (that we have no control over), by tapping under our kneecaps, when of course all the kids tried to do it and chaos ensued. They didn’t fully calm back down after that, but it was still a really good lesson.

For lunch today I went on a walk with my wife (her day off) and Scully to our favourite bakery. Except I decided to try a new place – there’s a Thai restaurant there that I’ve never tried before. I got a green curry chicken, and it was pretty good, but very filling as they didn’t offer any sort of lunch special, so I got a big serve of curry, and rice in a separate container, rather than what was designed as a single meal of curry and rice together in one container. So while good, I don’t know if I’ll get lunch there again.

Tonight it was three more Monster classes. One kid arrived on Zoom while I was wearing my skull mask, and he looked at me and immediately disconnected! It turned out he was having Internet issues, as he later sent me a message saying so, but for a few minutes I thought I’d scared him off.

The other news is that the weather has turned hot. Monday felt like winter still, but today it got up to 28.3°C, and I heard cicadas singing in the trees. Full on summer. I don’t think we had a proper spring at all.

New content today:

Critical thinking about monsters

This morning I wrote my lesson for the ethics and critical thinking class on Monsters. It’s much more of a critical thinking class than ethics, this one. We discuss why people make monster stories and the inspirations for various types of monsters.

One thing I’m also doing is a survey of all the kids. I’ve been having an ongoing argument with friends about whether a mummy is a type of zombie, or a different type of monster. I thought this would be a good opportunity to survey a bunch of diverse people. So far, after the first three lessons this evening, the score stands at:

Mummies are a type of zombie: 4
Mummies are a different type of monster: 5

I’ll keep you updated on the end result after a week of classes. The other thing I did for this class was to go to a shop today to purchase a cheap Halloween mask, which I’ve been wearing while doing these classes. It’s kind of a skull thing with a black hood. Fortunately it doesn’t interfere with my Zoom headset, but it is very hot wearing the mask.

It’s hot because today was warm – the warmest day since the 4th of May. Sydney reached 26.6°C. And it was rainy, with heavy rain in the morning and a thunderstorm this afternoon, so it was again ridiculously humid. Within the next week we should break 30°C. The warm, wet, and very humid third La Niña summer has kicked off.

Storm passing

I took this photo after the storm, while taking Scully for a walk.

New content today:

Ethics of Greed

Tuesday is the start of the next ethics topic for my online classes, and for the first time I’m recycling a class I taught before – the very first one from when I began these classes early in 2021 – Greed. So I had a lesson pan already written, but I updated it and rearranged it a bit, with the experience I’ve gathered from teaching this class for over a year now. I streamlined the material and added some more in-depth questions to get the kids thinking. For instance, in the original lesson I never asked the kids “What is greed? How would you define it?” So I added that in.

The first three classes tonight went pretty well, but I do notice that the sort of questions I wrote back when I began were fairly simple and didn’t lead quite so much into extended answers from the kids. So I’m glad I did that restructuring.

Having a bit more time that I didn’t have to spend writing an entirely new lesson, I assembled some Irregular Webcomic! strips and a new Darths & Droids strip today as well. I took Scully for a long walk at lunch and had a seafood pie before getting her some running around exercise, doing sit and wait, followed by calling her to run to me. And for dinner I made pizza: pumpkin, asparagus, and walnut.

New content today: