Back to Ethics

The final term of the school year started this week, and so I had my Ethics class today for the first time since 4 weeks ago (I missed the last week before the holidays due to the ISO Photography meeting). Fortunately I remembered all the kids’ names! We’re on a new topic, which they actually started non the week I was away, with a substitute teacher. This one builds on the destiny and fate stuff we did a while back, and poses the question of whether people are morally responsible for all of their actions, or whether their actions are caused by their circumstances.

Today’s lesson concentrated on whether everything has a cause, or if some things just happen for no reason whatsoever. An example: when you feel angry, is it because something happened that made you angry, or do you just get angry for no reason? And similarly for feeling happy. I asked the kids to think of some time when they were angry, and if there was something that made them feel that way. The ones who I called on had clear examples of events that made them angry.

I then asked if you can change how you feel just by thinking about your feelings. Can you make yourself feel happy? They said yes, if you think happy thoughts, or about something you like. Then I asked if something caused you to be happy. They identified that, in this case, the fact that you were thinking about something nice was the cause that made you happy. It’s not an external event, but it’s still a cause.

By now the kids were going along with the idea that pretty much everything that happens has a cause. So we moved onto whether the decisions you make have a cause. If you’re choosing between a ham sandwich and a salad sandwich, and you kind of want the ham, but you remember a lesson on healthy eating and that the salad will be healthier, so you choose that – was your decision caused by something? Or did you just decide without any sort of cause?

The path through the questioning leads the kids to the answer that your decision is caused by the health lesson you had. They then expanded on this in a very insightful way: one of them said that this means any decision you make is probably caused by things that have happened to you, either recently, or while you were growing up. Maybe if you grew up really liking ham, you would have ignored the healthy salad and chosen the ham sandwich, but that decision too has a cause.

That was the end of the lesson, but it’s approaching the question we’ll be looking at next week. If all our decisions are caused by events in our lives, should we be held responsible for those decisions? It should be interesting.

In other news, I got my first Etsy shop order from overseas! I thought I’d go to the local office supply place to get a bulk pack of envelopes large enough to mail my greeting cards in, to save money on those, but the website said they were out of stock, and I couldn’t get them before about 5 November!! So I ordered a box, but it’ll take 3-4 weeks to arrive. In the meantime I’ll have to keep buying expensive envelopes to mail orders out.

New content today:

Last Ethics for the term

This morning I had my last Ethics class for the current school term. There is a class next week, but I will be attending an ISO Photography standards meeting at the time, so will be unable to take my class. Then there’s two weeks holiday, and classes resume for Term 4. Today the class were better behaved again, which was nice. We had a good discussion and got through a lot of material, which was nice.

At lunch today I had an impromptu game of Scattergories with friends in our Discord chat, using the game bot my friend coded up. Our letter today was a difficult one: U. Now, if you don’t know the game, you need to think of words for each category, and you get 2 points if you were the only person to come up with your answer, but only 1 point if more than one person got your answer.

Here’s how the scoring went for the category “girls’ names”:

Friend 1: Ursula
Friend 2: Ursula
Me: Uma
Friend 3: Ursula
Friend 4: Ursula
Me: You’ve been Thurmanated!!

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday: a magpie swooped me while I was out walking up the street. So the swooping season has definitely started. Fortunately the bird didn’t make contact with me, but I was startled by the whoosh of wings as it flew low over my shoulder. I’ll need to keep an eye out for the next couple of months.

New content today:

Ethical behaviour

I had my Ethics class again this morning. It became clear very quickly that the kids had had a talking to by their regular class teachers after last week’s behavioural debacle. They were all very quiet at the start. After a few minutes I realised that the boys in the class seemed to have made some sort of pact to not make any sound at all today. None of them were talking at all, or answering any of the questions I asked. Eventually one boy raised a hand, and I called on him, and all he did was give a thumbs-up signal. I said, “Are you saying you agree with Emma?” and he nodded.

Well… this was kind of subversive, but at least the class was quiet and I was able to get through the material and have a decent discussion with the girls in the class. The pact broke down as the class continued though, and a couple of the better behaved boys actually started answering questions and contributing to the discussion. Overall it was a better experience than last week, but we’ll see what happens next week.

After the class I went home and huddled in against the cold rainy day outside, and worked on some secret project stuff, so not much to say about that.

New content today:

Spring Cleaning, part 1

Today was a very busy day.

I started with Ethics class. Normally I walk to the school – it’s a good solid walk and takes over half an hour to get there. And then on the way home I usually take a different route for variety, and end up walking a longer distance and so taking a longer time to get home. But today I knew I wanted to get a lot done, so I chose to drive there and back.

The class was… mixed. We were discussing beliefs, and whether people should be entitled to believe what they want, even if it’s harmful, either to themselves or to others. The main story was about some kids discussing smoking, and one of them says they don’t see anything wrong with it, because their grandmother has smoked all her life and is fine, and that she might try it herself when she gets older. We discussed if this girl is entitled to believe this, if her belief should be respected, or tolerated, and if she should be allowed to write an article in the school newsletter promoting her belief. The discussion was interesting, but… it was disrupted a lot by two unruly kids today. These two have been behaving poorly in every class, sometimes better sometimes worse. But today they topped everything.

I don’t mind much if kids are keen to participate and end up talking all at once about the topic. But these two kids today were just downright ignoring the class and deliberately talking when I was talking. I spoke to a teacher afterwards about them, and he said he’d follow up on it. I’ve also sent an email to the school Ethics coordinator to see what the discipline options are. If it were up to me, I’d kick these kids out of the class and then they could explain to their parents why they got kicked out of a class that the parents wanted them to do.

When I got home, I decided to decompress by going for a quick run, just a 1k today. This is only the second timed 1k I’ve done, and I clocked 4:27 today, compared to 4:33 two weeks ago. I’m still getting used to pacing the distance – I took off fast and was almost exhausted halfway through so had to slow down a lot.

I walked home from the oval, and then thought I’d quickly take the rubbish out while I had my shoes on. I went inside, put my keys down, grabbed the rubbish, went outside… and realised I’d locked myself out. So after putting the rubbish in the bin, I had to walk to my wife’s work to get her keys – without a hat or sunglasses, which I normally wear outdoors. So that killed an extra 40 minutes.

After all that, I began spring cleaning the house. Since we’re in September and that marks the beginning of spring here. A full spring clean of the house takes at least a couple of days. I started with cleaning the windows today – something I don’t do very often because we’re in a second floor apartment, so it’s a little tricky to clean the outsides. For each window I:

  1. Remove the sliding pane, and wash it in the bathroom with soapy water and a squeegee.
  2. Do any gross cleaning, such as scrubbing the frame to remove dirt and specks of mould. This bit can take some time.
  3. Clean the inside of the fixed pane with Windex. (Not soapy water, since the water would run down onto the windowsill.)
  4. Remove the fly screen and wash it in the bathroom.
  5. Brush spiderwebs off the exterior of the window and surrounds, by leaning through to the exterior.
  6. Squeegee the exterior of the fixed pane, leaning out through the open window. For some windows this is tricky, as I need to do some climbing and stretching, and being careful not to fall out the window.
  7. Replace the flyscreen and sliding pane.

For six windows, this takes maybe 2-3 hours on a good day. Today was not a good day. The bedroom window had been getting progressively tougher to slide open and closed for the past few months, and the kitchen window was starting to feel the same. I did some Googling and found that a thing to do to loosen tough windows is to spray the window track with silicone lubricant. So yesterday when I went to the hardware store I’d bought a can.

I started on the bedroom window. After taking the sliding pane out and washing it clean, I figured I should first clean out the sliding track before applying the lubricant. It was filthy. First I vacuumed it to remove any loose material, and there was quite a lot of it: sand and dirt and gunk. Then I took to it with a cloth and soapy water, pushing the cloth into all the nooks and crannies and scrubbing hard to remove the dirt. The cloth came out absolutely filthy. After ten minutes or so of this cleaning, the track was looking pretty good. I dried it with paper towel and then sprayed the lubricant on.

Then I decided to turn the sliding pane (waiting in the bathroom after washing) upside down to have a look at the bottom side. And this is when I discovered that it has wheels. And that what had caused the sliding difficulties was that the wheel bearings had seized up with dirt, so the wheels no longer turned. And the friction of sliding the window on non-turning wheels for months had worn down the wheels so much that they were no longer even close to circular. So even if I could loosen the bearings and lubricate them so that they would turn, the wheels were ruined and wouldn’t rotate anyway.

I had a brief moment of thinking the window pane was ruined and I’d have to order another whole pane manufactured to fix this problem. And then I inspected the wheel area carefully. I found a screw that looked like it held in a removable section containing the wheel. So maybe the wheels were replaceable! I searched online and found that this is indeed a thing! Then I searched my local hardware store, and found they had replacement window roller wheels in stock, in various sizes.

Now, I didn’t want to put the window back and then have to remove it later after getting the replacement wheels. So I unscrewed the wheels, knocked them out with a hammer (they were wedged in really hard), and took them to the hardware store to make sure I could get identical replacements. Here’s what the old wheels looked like:

Worn window rollers

You can see the flat areas (arrowed) where the wheels had been worn down by sliding. I did manage to get them to rotate a little bit before taking this photo, which is why the flat part is at an odd angle. Anyway, I found the replacements I needed at the hardware store, and also bought some extra Windex while I was there. I inserted the replacement wheels, in both the bedroom and kitchen windows, and replaced them in their tracks after cleaning. Et voilà! The windows slide beautifully now!

During rest breaks in between cleaning all the other windows, I mentioned my labours to my friends in our Discord chat. One guy was all, “Oh yeah, I replace the roller wheels in my windows every few years.” Well, thanks for telling me that this is a thing you need to do! When I bought this place, nobody gave me an owner’s manual saying that you had to do stuff like replace the window wheels. How many people even know that this is a thing you can do or have to do? What other home maintenance things do some people know about that I’m blithely ignorant of?

Anyway, I’m happy that I’ve solved the problem and done some home handyman stuff that fixed a problem, for just the cost of some spare parts. Now we have nice clean and beautifully sliding windows again.

But now that the windows are clean, I’m counting down the hours until a moth leaves a big ugly print on them again. They inevitably do it within 48 hours of the windows being cleaned. And then oddly no new prints appear for the next several months until I clean them again.

New content today:

Fate and the office

My Ethics class this morning was the second half of the topic on Fate. It’s really getting the kids to think about taking responsibility for their actions, rather than blaming Fate. But one of the boys was adamant in his belief that people’s fates are predetermined and there’s nothing you can do to change them.

One of the stories was about a kid who has a test tomorrow, and reasons that he’s fated to either pass or fail the test, so there’s no point studying and he may as well watch TV rather than study. After reading this story, and asking the kids their thoughts about it, they were all agreed that it’s silly to watch TV and not study for the test – even the boy who thought that our fates definitely are predetermined. I asked him why he would study if his test result is predetermined, and he said because he’s fated to study for the test! Which is kind of okay – if he’s not letting his belief in fate actually make decisions for him and he doesn’t just take the lazy road at every opportunity. But it was a little odd.

I took a long walking route home, ending up covering nearly 10 km by the time I got home just before lunch. The weather was a bit nicer today, though still on the chilly side. I’m looking forward to the warmer weather we’re expected to get over the next few days.

This afternoon I worked on some comics, and I also helped my wife return her office chair to the office. She’d been using it at home while she was working here due to COVID-19, but now she’s returned to the office since the situation is more or less under control around here. The office chair is really heavy – much heavier than it looks. I guess much of it must be made of metal rather than plastic. I’m very glad to have it out of the house, as we had to make room for it at the dining table by moving one of the dining chairs, and it was sort of blocking part of the living room. (We don’t live in a big house.)

New content today:

Tempting the Fates

I slept poorly last night, with the muscle strain in my side bothering my whenever I lay on either side, so I had to sleep on my back. My normal sleeping position is lying on my side, so it was a bit uncomfortable and interrupted. However during the day today the strain has eased off again. It seems better than yesterday, so hopefully tonight will be easier and it’s well on the way to healing.

This morning was Ethics class at Lane Cove school again. The NSW government has introduced further restrictions on school activities to control COVID-19, but I received an email from my school’s Ethics coordinator to advise us that we were continuing with classes for now, since we can operate within the guidelines. I started a new topic today: Fate. The lesson was mostly telling a story about the Oracle at Delphi and asking the kids what they thought of fate, predestination, and predicting the future. It as a good discussion, and they mostly had fairly sensible points to make and mature views about it. So that was pretty good.

Oh, I found on my phone a photo of the queue at the pie shop that I went to before golf on Sunday:

Pie queue

It was a pretty long queue. The camera compresses the perspective a bit – people were socially distancing 1.5 metres apart in the queue. This is a very popular pie shop, as you can see!

This afternoon I started work on a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I got a bunch of strips written, but need to write some more before I can move on to the photography. That will be the goal for the next few days. If I write fast hopefully I can take photos on Friday, otherwise it’ll be Monday.

New content today:

Train to Busan

Last night my wife went to read in bed early and left me with the TV, so I picked a movie from Netflix. I’d heard good things about Train to Busan. It’s a Korean horror movie, in which a guy and his young daughter are riding a train to escape… well, I won’t say any more. But yeah, I really enjoyed it, and recommend it. There’s one scene in particular which is just amazing and freaky. If you enjoy horror films, then you should like this one.

This morning I had my weekly Ethics class. We were finishing up the topic on animal rights, after four weeks. That’s too long for a topic, in my opinion… talking with the kids about the same topic for that long gets a bit repetitive. I wish all the topics were a maximum of three weeks long. The kids were a lot better behaved than last week – I guess the teacher had a chat with the worst offenders after my report last week. Most of the class went pretty well, although it descended into a bit of chatter towards the end, but still it was much better than last week.

On the way home I walked past the hardware store and picked up a big pack of microfibre cloths for cleaning various things, as well as some strong spring clamps, which I’m going to use to clamp one of my shoes when I glue the sole that is starting to lift on one side.

Back home, my friend who organises our fortnightly games nights posted an invitation to this Friday’s virtual online event. Actually, to set it up, I should show you the image he posted two weeks ago:

Games night invitation 1

It was an invitation in a very 1980s style. Well, today he went a little bit further back into the past:

Games night invitation 2

He said now he was going to look for more historical periods to use for future invitations, which prompted me to make this:

Aztec gaming meme

Looking forward to the games on Friday night! 😄

New content today:

Clear fluids and human rights

Today I’m fasting on clear fluids only, in preparation for tomorrow’s colonoscopy. I’ve been drinking lots of water, as well as some vegetable stock in hot water, and eating lime jelly (i.e. gelatine dessert). From midnight it’s not even water, until after the procedure tomorrow. Fortunately I’m booked in first thing in the morning, so should be able to eat by lunch time.

This morning I had my Ethics class. I managed to go around the students and name them all correctly as I marked off the roll, so that was a good achievement for me. Although truthfully a couple I only got by a process of elimination rather than remembering them explicitly.

We talked today about various human rights, and what life would be like if we didn’t have them, such as the right to medical care, or the right to vote. Generally the kids had good things to say, but the class was a bit disruptive today with lots of kids talking over the top of one another (and me). It was more difficult to get them back under control than it has been, and after the class I had a word with the teacher who normally has that room, and he said he’d chat to the offenders who I named. Hopefully next week will be a bit more smooth.

New content today:

Human rights in ethics

This morning I had my second Ethics class since resuming last week. I was planning to use name tags for the kids again, since I haven’t quite learnt all their names yet, but I discovered that I didn’t have enough left for all the class. Rather than give some of them tags and some not, I decided to just not use them and see how I went. I went around the class and marked the roll, managing to name most of the kids correctly, and I paid attention to the ones I couldn’t to try and remember them for next week.

When I arrived before the class, there were a few teachers sitting in my classroom. Normally they have a staff meeting on Wednesday morning, in the staffroom. But today they were doing it in a socially distanced manner, with a few teachers spread out in some classrooms, talking via Zoom or some such conferencing system. While this is good, it meant I couldn’t get into the room to set up the chairs for my class until the bell rang and the teachers left. So it was a bit of a rush getting set up and started.

We continued talking about animal rights from last week, although today the focus was on human rights, as a comparison. We discussed whether people should have rights to food and shelter, being able to go out without fear of being attacked, education, to socialise with friends, and other things. We brought it back to animals with the question of whether people have a right to be able to swim in the ocean safely, versus whether sharks have a right to live without being killed by people. This sets up the conflict between human and animals rights that we’ll be discussing next week. The kids were better behaved today and we had a good discussion, so that was really good.

This afternoon I dedicated to writing a new Proof the Earth is a Globe. I’m almost finished, but it will take a bit more work tomorrow to polish it off and post it.

New content today:

Back to Ethics

The new school term started this week here in New South Wales, and schools are pretty much open for business as usual. Ethics classes also begin this week, for the first time since they stopped for COVID-19 back in March, and my first class was today. There was no screening of any sort at the school gate – it was wide open and I just walked in. But I walked past another primary school on the way, and they had staff at the gate meeting kids with hand sanitiser and making them use it before coming in, and not letting parents in. I guess each school is doing things differently.

I only had these kids for 3 weeks at the start of the year, and I’d just about learnt all their names, but with the intervening months, I’ve forgotten most of them again, so I had to resort to name tags again. The discussion today was about animal rights. We began with a story about a chimpanzee who was taken from his parents as a baby and raised in a succession of human families, trying to teach him sign language. This chimp became violent and ended up in a cage in a research lab, and died at 20 (about half the age of chimps in the wild).

So we talked about whether chimps and other great apes deserve to have rights to freedom like humans, and experiments on them being banned. The kids were generally in favour of that. Then I asked about rats and mice that were used to test drugs that save human lives. That split the responses a bit. One boy said they shouldn’t test things like that on animals at all anyway, they should test on humans(!). Eventually we converged a bit and the kids were generally agreeing that animals deserved to have the right to live wild and free. Then I asked about dogs and cats – should they all be free, and having them as pets banned? And wow… that got interesting responses. One girl said, “Now you’re asking really hard questions!” And I answered, “Yes, that’s the point of Ethics class.”

So it was a good robust discussion, with plenty of the kids interested and contributing good comments. The behaviour could still improve, with things breaking out into spontaneous chatter more often than ideal, but it might have been a little better than the first classes in March.

I walked home a longer way, and then when I got home my wife was out with Scully and asked me to take her for a walk so she could go back in to work, so I extended it an extra couple of kilometres. I ended up walking over 11 km – before 11am!

We’re also planning our weekend away. We leave on Friday afternoon to drive out to Mudgee, a country town about 3.5 hours drive away (non-stop – we’ll have a rest break along the way). We arrive Friday evening, and have dinner and accommodation booked, at a place where Scully can stay with us. We spend all day Saturday there, and have a really nice dinner booked for Saturday, at a lovely place we’ve been to before. I think they said they have a private room where we can dine with Scully, rather than having to sit outside in the cold. And then we drive back on Sunday.

Speaking of the cold, the forecast for the weekend isn’t great, alas. Mudgee on Saturday is forecast to be -1°C overnight, to a maximum of just 14°C, and around 15mm of rain with possible thunderstorms! So it’s going to be wet and very cold. We’ll just have to make do and enjoy as best we can – we’ve been looking forward to this trip since we had to cancel it back in April.

New content today: