What is data and what is ethics?

Today was a busy teaching day. This morning I wrote my lesson plan for the older group of kids and the ethics topic on Confession. Then I dropped Scully off at my wife’s work and took the train into the city and the university for the second lecture of Data Engineering. Today the lecture was about different types of data: nominal, ordinal, numeric, qualitative, quantitative, subjective, objective, and so on. Th first coding tutorial took place during the lecture and as usual someone asked me a question that basically came down to debugging Matlab syntax, which is always a pain since I don’t use Matlab regularly and always have to relearn the syntax every semester.

The students spent some time during the first tutorial break moving around to find their assignment groups. The lecturer splits the class into random groups of 6 students to work on their final projects. It’s always a bit chaotic since few of the students know each other and they’re assigned to these groups with strangers, and have to work out who they are and find them. It doesn’t help when one student can’t find Group 10 and I go around shouting “Group 10! Group 10! Put your hand up if you’re in Group 10!” and nobody reacts, and then 5 minutes later it turns out Group 10 is right there but they were too busy introducing themselves to have heard me earlier.

After coming home I finished off the Confession lesson, in time to start making some lentils and chick peas with rice for dinner, before the three in a row classes on the “What is Ethics?” topic. This is a pretty deep topic and I can really see the kids are thinking hard about some of the questions. Which means it’s a good one!

New content today:

Last ethics classes for a week

I had my final ethics classes for the next week today. I’m taking a break for a week because next week is the ISO Photography Standards meeting in Tokyo. I’m staying home and attending virtually. It’s going to be a long one, because there’s a lot of technical discussion sessions on high dynamic range format specifications. The sessions begin 08:30 Tokyo time and run to 18:00, which corresponds to 10:30 to 20:00 in my time zone. At least I don’t have to get up early!

For dinner we went to our local pizza place. We chat with the owners and they know us as regular customers, but ever since COVID they’ve been a bit down about their business falling off, and it seems it hasn’t yet returned to prior levels. We noticed last time and confirmed it this time that they’ve shrinkflationed their pizzas. They’re a little bit, but noticeably, smaller than they used to be, for the same price. It’s not actually a big problem for us, because we used to g home stuffed full, but now we’re a little less so. It’s still enough for dinner.

This morning I finished my presentation on Astronomy/Photography/Human Vision and sent it off to Loreto school, so the teacher there can load it up on their presentation system for my talk next week.

And tonight is online board games night with my friends. I just joined in after dinner and we’re playing Just One.

New content today:

Starting to sleep

I began the “Sleep” topic with the kids in my online classes today. This is a nice straightforward topic and I found my lesson plan to be smooth and just a matter of following the script I wrote. Last week’s class on “Why?” was much more convoluted and I often had to go off-script and ad-lib connections between the questions, which takes a lot more concentration.

This morning I worked on another Darths & Droids comic, and then I began working on a slide presentation for my visit to Loreto school next week. The teacher there suggested using old photos of myself at school, and a photo of my dog or something, which the kids usually like seeing. The audience will be younger kids, ages 8-10 or so. So I gathered some old photos and put them in. Now I still need to add some actual science content, on astronomy and photography, without making it too complicated.

Scully got to meet next door’s new dog, Sophie, three times today! When I took her out for her morning walk, Sophie was coming in with the man neighbour. When I took her out for lunch walk, his wife was coming in with Sophie. And when my wife took Scully for an evening walk they ran into Sophie and the husband again. Seems like they might be taking her for walks at roughly the same times as us.

Today’s sourdough loaf is a mix of all the different sorts of flours I have in the pantry: rye, wholemeal, and semolina, rounded out with baker’s flour. I’ve just put it in the oven after letting it rise all afternoon.

And for dinner I made coleslaw with wombok, or Chinese cabbage, and served it with vegetarian sausages. I wanted to do okonomiyaki, but the supermarket didn’t have any regular cabbage for the past two weeks, so I decided to get the wombok. And it’s much bigger than the usual quarter of a cabbage that I buy, so we’re having to find other uses for it. I didn’t have any coleslaw dressing, but I improvised with some mayonnaise, lemons juice, vinegar, pepper, and a bit of sesame dressing. It turned out pretty good, with the wombok and shredded carrot.

New content today:

Asking Why?

I did the first three classes on the new “Why?” topic this evening. They went well, but I think it’s a bit of a brain-bender for some of the kids. It’s clear some of these concepts are things they’ve really never thought about or considered before. I had mostly kids on the high end of my age range tonight. I may need to simplify things a bit when I have classes with kids on the low age end.

Today I played another solo game of Root, with the same three factions as yesterday. This time I made sure to harry the Eyrie a bit more, with both the Cats and the Woodland Alliance, and that prevented the birds from winning, allowing the Cats to claim victory. The Alliance did a bit worse than yesterday, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of their tactics.

Root game

Not much else today. I took Scully on a long walk past the harbour shore in the morning. I made red curry broccoli and carrot with rice for dinner. Oh, I got some rye flour for sourdough – I ran out ages ago and haven’t done a rye loaf for a long time. I’m baking one right now as I type.

New content today:

Planning ahead for classes and meetings

Today I did some calendar planning for February. I needed to get a couple of topics ahead on my advance planning for ethics classes. I chose to do brief planning write-ups for topics on “Sleep” and “What is Ethics?” for the younger kids, and “Sleep” (same material but framed for more mature kids) and “Confession” for the older kids. BY Confession I mean mostly just confessing to misdeeds or crimes, but I’ll also touch on the religious rite of Confession as a thing and ask some questions about that.

Planning ahead into late February, I also decided to skip a week or ethics classes to accommodate my next ISO Photography Standards meeting, which is on 19-22 February. It’s in Tokyo, but I’m not travelling to this one, and will participate in the whole meeting by Webex (a remote meeting app kinda like Zoom). It’s only two hours later than my own time zone, which is good for sleep cycles, but it means it clashes with enough ethics class times that it makes sense to cancel a full week of them.

I took Scully on a couple of long walks this morning. At lunch it was warm, but not too hot to go for a long walk, and we went to the bakery down by the harbour for a yummy lunch, then walking back along the shore, which is always nice, with the yachts and the waterbirds. I spotted an unusually high number of kookaburras today, eight of them. One young one was making a horrible noise like a crying baby.

After lunch I did some comic work on Darths & Droids. I’m pretty pleased with what we came up with for the script of this one. I made a new sourdough loaf (currently baking in the oven as I write this), and for dinner lentils with pumpkin and coconut, served over brown rice. I need to make dinners to eat before my three-in-a-row classes start at 6pm, but it has to be something that will last for my wife to eat a bit later. Lentils or vegetable curries with rice work pretty well.

New content today:

Writing about hoaxes

Wow, it was horrible during the night. The temperature barely got below 25°C – the minimum was 24.2°C at 2:30 am, and then it started warming up again. And it was nudging 100% humidity. Even though we had the air conditioner on all evening and turned it off just before bedtime, by 3 am it was so warm that my wife couldn’t sleep and we had to turn it on again.

The day barely got any hotter, reaching only 27°C, but the humidity was oppressive all day, with showers adding to the steamy moisture in the air. It should be a little cooler tonight but it’s ramping up to be a sticky, uncomfortable week ahead, with overnight minimums of 26°C to look forward to.

In other great climate news, the Bureau of Meteorology tells us that the current El Niño conditions are likely to end by June and head back towards another La Niña, the 4th in 5 years. Which means yet another cool, wet summer in store next summer. I was really hoping this summer would dry things out with some nice dry weather, but El Niño hasn’t even delivered that. Apparently the ocean temperatures are at record highs, resulting in a lot more evaporation, and humid air being blown over eastern Australia. I suppose this is probably the pattern as we move into the climate change future.

Today I wrote the coming week’s ethics class, on the topic of Hoaxes. I’m using a few well-known historical hoaxes to prompt questions: the Cottingley Fairies, Cardiff Giant, Great Blue Hill eruption prank, and Helicopter Shark. These run a nice gamut of reasons why people create hoaxes, why people fall for them, how they propagate, consequences of them, and how modern technology enables hoaxes, which we can discuss during the class. Should be a fun topic, starting tomorrow.

Finally, in a slight administrative issue, I did write a post last night, but when I scheduled it to publish just after my comics updated a bit later in the evening, I somehow accidentally changed the scheduled publish date from January to December, so it never auto-published! I’ve pushed it out manually now, which is why you may be seeing two updates at once today.

New content today:

Repotting chillis and a new game expansion

This morning I took Scully on a long walk, around down by the harbour shore. The forecast was hot, so I didn’t want to take her out for long at lunch time, and got her walk in early before the roads heated up too much in the sun for her paws. I did a bird count on the walk and recorded 13 species. None of the slightly more interesting water birds like cormorants, herons, or ducks today. A lot of sulphur-crested cockatoos though, screeching loudly – those ones can really make a racket.

When I got home I photographed the remainder of the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I started working on last week. Then I turned to making a new Darths & Droids strip.

I also repotted the new chilli plant we bought a few days ago. I had a terracotta pot from the previous good chilli plant – not the scrawny recent one that never produced any chillis. I put the new plant in there to give it more room to grow. Of course this meant spilt soil al over the balcony, so I had to clean that up. I also gave the lime tree a thorough cleaning – the leaves get dirty with dust and grime so I wiped them off with a wet cloth.

This evening I did the first three ethics classes on the topic of Gift Giving. One of the most controversial questions was on regifting. Some kids thought it was fine if you didn’t like a gift to give it away to someone else, or even just throw it away, while others said you had to keep it, but maybe stick it in the back of a cupboard or something.

New content today:

Finishing off minor laws

Monday is the last day of the ethics class week, and I finished off the topic on “Minor laws” today. It’s been a very interesting topic, with a lot of diverse opinions and observations by the children in the various class groups.

The main thing we discussed was jaywalking, but we also touched on other laws that many people break such as littering, speeding, gambling, and one that came up with a few of the kids who live in Singapore—chewing gum. Some of the kids are very averse to law breaking of any type, and said people should absolutely not jaywalk, even if you’re running late and it’s perfectly safe, while other kids were very gung-ho and said it was fine to jaywalk as long as you can see the traffic and have enough time to cross. Among the latter group there were many differing opinions on what makes it okay to jaywalk illegally: that it’s safe, that you’re not hurting anyone, that it’s inconvenient to wait for the light to change if you’re in a hurry, that you’ll get away with it without being punished, and that everyone does it. These were all given as justifications. Overall, a fascinating topic, and I think the kids really enjoyed it too.

There wasn’t much unusual to report about today. The weather cooled off dramatically overnight and today was temperate and mostly cloudy, reaching only 24.9°C. It’s going to stay this way for a couple of days before becoming very hot again at the end of the week.

My twisted ankle feels a lot better – basically back to normal with no discomfort. I might try a gentle run tomorrow evening to test it out.

Oh, I bought a new chilli plant to replace the one that I got back in September. That one has failed to produce any chillis, or even flowers, and is a decrepit wreck after being savaged by insects. It’s in stark contrast to the first chilli plant I bought years ago which was robust and strong and producing chillis within a few weeks of purchase. The small supermarket up the street had a selection of plants with chillis already forming on them, and I decided to grab one and throw the old one out. They were listed at $12, and even if I just cut the existing chillis off and it never grows any more that will be well worth it. And then the cashier rang it up for just $6, so that’s even better!

New content today:

Patatas bravas

I tried making something new for dinner tonight: patatas bravas!

Patatas bravas

Excuse the messy presentation. I mixed the potatoes and sauce in the bowl and didn’t tidy it up afterwards. I basically used this recipe from the BBC. It turned out pretty good! But potatoes really do take a long time to crisp up in the oven, gosh. I got a bit impatient, and could probably have left them for another 10-15 minutes.

I took Scully for a long walk this morning, since I had time and the weather was cloudy and cool.

At home I spent time writing a new class for this week’s online ethics lessons. The topic for this week is “Minor Laws”. Some example discussion points for the kids:

One important difference between serious laws and minor laws is that a lot more people break minor laws. People who commit murder are quite rare, but there are many thousands or millions of people who drive too fast, or litter.

• Why do so many people break such laws?

One thing about minor laws like these is that most of the people who break them never get caught or punished in any way. They get away with it.

• If it’s safe to cross the road when the light is red, and you’re not going to get punished for it, does that make it okay?
• Is it okay to break a law that lots of people break and never get punished for?

(some stuff about enforcement and why minor laws are poorly enforced here, which I’ve cut for brevity)

Unenforced minor laws are sometimes used as a way to punish people for something else. For example, in a city where nobody usually gets punished for jaywalking, the police could set up an operation where they monitor street corners and give jaywalking fines to people they don’t like the look of: immigrants, or homeless people, or people of certain skin colours.

• Could this be a serious problem if we start enforcing minor laws more?
• Is there any way we can ensure that the enforcement of minor laws is fair and unbiased?

This evening I had free so I went for a 5k run after my wife got home from work. It wasn’t hot, but it was very humid (97% according to the Bureau of Meteorology) and that meant a slowish time, although better than the runs I did on the weekend, which were similar humidity but hotter.

Last night I watched The Running Man (1987), which was new on Netflix here recently. I thought I might have seen it before, since I watched many of Arnie’s films in the ’80s, but I found to my delight that it was unfamiliar. I had to laugh at the fact that it was set in the dystopian future of 2017, and that 2017 apparently still had a very ’80s aesthetic, with dancing women in high-cut aerobics leotards and big hairdos, and computers that were no smaller or more advanced than what could be found in the 1980s. It wasn’t especially profound, being an Arnie action flick, but it was a lot of fun. Bonus points for featuring Mick Fleetwood as a freedom fighter. I was really not expecting that!

New content today:

Thinking about the future of sports (and D&D)

I spent most of my time today writing a class plan for this week’s new ethics/critical thinking topic: The Future of Sports. Some example text:

People have been playing sports for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks held the first Olympic Games, which were originally competitions to see who could run fastest. Over time more events were added, such as discus throwing, wrestling, and chariot races. Chariot racing is an example of an ancient sport where technology is used. In modern times, sports have evolved into many different forms.

• What are some examples of how technology changed the way sports are played?
• How has technology changed the way sports are watched and managed?
• Has technology made sports better or worse? How?

Robotic technology is advancing rapidly. Soon we might have robots capable of playing sports as well as or better than humans.

• Would it make sense to have robots play sports against each other? Would humans watch it?

If robots could play sports as well as humans, we could have robot teams playing against human teams. Or teams with some human and some robot players.

• Could it be good if a human sports league has some robot players?
• What problems might robot athletes cause?

There’s more in between, about tech such as video replays, and modern equipment made of high-tech materials that may give athletes advantages, and so on. This is really much more a critical thinking topic than an ethics topic.

I spent a lot of the day writing this because I didn’t concentrate solidly on it, with a lot of interruptions for minor things. Lunch, walking Scully, goofing off browsing the Internet, pausing to read an Asterix book for the library, etc.

Something I realised today too: remember the new active defence combat system I was working on for D&D? I was thinking that it’d be easier to use the Armour Class as a score to roll under in order to successfully defend. But I realised today that if we use this system, then Armour Class has no other uses… it’s not necessary to record a character’s Armour Class at all. It can be completely replaced with defence scores for Block, Parry, and Evade. So why not turn them into a target to roll equal to or higher than? Then every roll in the game is the same – roll equal to or higher than a target number. So I think I’ll just do that.

(Bob P. commented on my original post that there might also be rolling low for saves, but no, I’m using the old fashioned Basic Rules saving throws, which are equal or beat a target number. So it’s all consistent.)

And switching topics again, for dinner tonight I did a “clear out the fridge of old ingredients”. Half a left-over pack of potato gnocchi, fried up with onion, celery, a chopped zucchini, some mushrooms, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Add a bit of salt and pepper and garlic, and it turned out to be a delicious meal.

New content today: