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:

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: