Getting back into fitness

With spring warming up towards summer, it’s easier to get motivated to do some exercise. I’ve been doing my 2.5k runs a few times a week, but neglecting my core strength and stretching exercises. The thought of straining my back again made me start picking those up this weekend, so I’ve restarted doing daily sit-ups and push-ups and various stretching and strengthening routines.

The other thing I’ve been doing this weekend is getting set up on Mastodon, as an alternative to Twitter, now that Stuff seems to be Happening on that platform. I’m staying on Twitter for the time being, and will probably echo most posts on both platforms, but perhaps in the long run I’ll just be on Mastodon… who knows? Anyway, if you want to see my stuff there, I’m on Mastodon as

New content today:

7 Bridges and an excuse not to run

Today the 7 Bridges Walk was on. This is a charity fundraising walk for the Cancer Council, where participants walk a circuit around Sydney harbour, crossing seven bridges along the way, The circuit is 28 km long, and takes most of the day to complete. It’s a very popular event, but has been cancelled the past two years because of COVID, so today’s was the first one in three years. Despite the showery weather, there was a big turnout.

I know because the route passes very close to my home, and I saw many people walking. The route actually coincides with my normal running route for part of the way… so I took this as a good excuse to be lazy today and not do my run, as I didn’t want to be competing with hundreds of walkers.

I worked on comics, getting a good lead on Darths & Droids, and completing a batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips for the upcoming week.

New content today:

Marking, running, teaching

I had a few things on today. In the morning I went to the school for my volunteer face-to-face ethics class. We were finishing off a short two-week topic on Fatalism. Last week the kids were a bit rowdy, talking over each other a lot and requiring me to intervene to get them to speak one at a time. This week was better. But an amusing thing happened.

In my class there is a group of four girls who always sit together. Let’s call them April, May, June, and Julie (not their real names). April is the joker of the group, and tends to butt in and talk over other people a bit. She gives good answers, but is prone to just blurting out her thoughts rather than raising a hand to speak. May and June are more serious, but also get involved when April starts talking uncontrollably, and the three of them often devolve into discussing the topic amongst themselves, resulting in me having to quiet them down so that one student can speak at a time. Julie is super quiet. She never answers questions. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her speak at all. (This is perfectly fine, by the way. In our training we’re told that there are often students who never volunteer to speak during class, and we are not to call on them unless they express a want to speak. They can listen to the others and absorb the content and still get a lot out of the class.)

So anyway, today I asked a question and there were some answers by kids raising their hands and speaking in turn, and then April called out and started saying something, and May and June joined in, and soon the three of them were talking about the question among themselves. I had to get them to stop chatting so we could get on with the class. I called out their names individually: “April! May! June!” and while I was doing this I saw that Julie was saying something quietly to June, though I couldn’t hear it. So I also said, “Julie!”

The reaction was immediate. April said, accusingly, “What did Julie do?!?!” She clearly knows that Julie is quiet and inoffensive.

I said, “Well, she’s hanging out with you three.”

And April answered, “Oh, guilt by association. Fair enough.”

She genuinely got me laughing. These are actually pretty good kids – none of them are actively mischievous. They just get a bit carried away with the topic and discussion sometimes. Since the start of the year we’ve developed a bit of a rapport, and I think they enjoy the classes I teach, so this exchange was all done in a bit of a joking way. I suppose if I was their regular class teacher, I’d need to keep things a bit more formal, but I feel like since I’m only with them for 40 minutes every week, I’m allowed to be a bit more casual and friendly with them. Especially since the class is always done with us sitting in a small circle, on their classroom chairs, so I’m sitting at their level on the low children’s chairs, so it feels more intimate than a typical classroom setting.

So yeah, it was a fun class this morning.

Back at home I started work on marking the first assignment of the university image processing course. I have reports from 7 groups of students to read and mark. I read through and marked two of them, and will do more tomorrow.

I took a break to go for a run. Today I decided was the day for a longer one, so I ran 5k instead of 2.5. The weather was warmer, and humid, so it was a bit enervating. I took it a bit easier and ran slower than last month’s 5k, so my time was about 30 seconds slower. I’ve decided that I only really start to feel good about running after having a shower afterwards.

New content today:

Random Sunday events

I did a longer run today. I am in a small online group where we share running updates. The group purpose is described as: “For those who enjoy running. And for those who don’t enjoy it but do it anyway.” I’m definitely in the latter set!

Anyway, someone yesterday posted that they’d completed their 5k for September. Which reminded me that I’ve been thinking of doing another 5k for a while, and getting one done before the end of the month seemed like a good goal, so I got out and did it today. That’s twice my normal distance. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I at least feel familiar and somewhat comfortable running 2.5k, but 5k feels like a serious effort. I managed it in 27:00 flat, which is my third best time over the distance. And Strava also told me that my 2-mile split was my fastest 2 miles, at 16:49. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

So good that I probably ruined the health gains by having two sweets at lunch. My wife and I walked with Scully to the Italian bakery (which is nearly 3km away, so almost 6km return walking trip). I got a chicken and leek pie, but (1) they didn’t have my favourite banoffee croissant, (2) the pies there are on the smallish side, (3) a pie and a banoffee croissant are filling enough, but the croissant is quite large, (4) I was tempted instead by a chocolate/pistachio scroll, (5) which is notably smaller in size, (6) I was really hungry after my run, (7) they had a tray full of bomboloni, which I’ve wanted to try before but they’ve always been sold out when I’ve looked for them. So I got the chocolate/pistachio scroll and a Nutella bombolone.

At last I asked for a Nutella one. The woman behind the counter confirmed, “A custard one?” I repeated, No, a Nutella one.” She gave me a box, and I walked out with my other purchases to find a seat to sit on with My wife and eat our lunches. After eating the pie, I opened the box. It was a custard bombolone. My wife took the hint that I was mildly incensed and took it back to the bakery for me and exchanged it for a Nutella one.

It was pretty nice, although I missed my favourite banoffee croissant.

This afternoon I tried to estimate my ELO chess rating. One of my friends is into chess, and has been relaying to our group news about the current feud between Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann (yes, it has its own Wikipedia article), which we’re all metaphorically munching popcorn over it as new developments occur. We saw the report of the tweet by Grandmaster Maurice Ashley:

This is shocking and disturbing. No one can be happy that this is happening in the chess world. Unbelievable!

One of my friends pointed out that we’re all currently much more excited and happy about chess news than normal.

Anyway, I’ve never played chess seriously in any sense, but I was curious if there was some quick online test I could do to estimate my rating. I Googled and found a few quizzes, but they involved analysing some 80 boards and submitting moves, and they said don’t spend more than 5 minutes on each board… And there’s no way I was going to invest that much time into this. But I managed to find a ten board quiz, and spent a total of maybe 5 minutes with it. It estimated my rating at 1335, which I originally thought sounded ridiculously high, given my amateurish experience with the game. But a bit of research shows this is the realm of the “hobby player”, one step below the level of anyone who plays in a local chess club. Which sounds more reasonable than what I thought it meant. A few of my friends tried the same quiz and got 1400, 1435, and 1590.

Okay, so remind me never to play chess with them. 😀

New content today:

Full weekend update

I neglected to write an entry yesterday as I clocked offline early to spend the evening enjoying some TV entertainment with my wife. We watched a couple of things and then got stuck into classic music videos on YouTube, which wiled away the evening.

On Saturday I did a 5k run, double my usual distance. I felt like I should extend myself a little more. I took it relatively easy, to make sure I could complete the distance, and managed about 27 minutes, which isn’t much more than twice my normal time for 2.5k (around 12:30), so that was good. I also went on a big walk with Scully.

Today I didn’t have time for a run, as we had a lunch with my wife’s family. We got home in time for my afternoon ethics class, and then it was busy after that, taking some time to cook some dinner in between classes.

I spent some time making new Darths & Droids comics to get a little bit ahead again. And made and queued up more form the Irregular Webcomic! batch I photographed a week ago. And that’s a weekend!

New content today:

New content today:

Housework and running

Today was a day of housework. I vacuumed everywhere, cleaned the bathroom, washed the shower stall, baked some bread. And I took advantage of the sunny morning (no rain!!) to go for a 2.5k run for the first time since straining my back almost a week ago. It’s still a tiny bit sore, but 95% okay, and the physiotherapist said I should rest up for a few days but once it’s close to normal going for a run will be fine.

We all went for a big walk today, to the Italian bakery. This is the longest regular walk we do, almost 6 km round trip. A few other destinations are close to the 5 km mark. Today the bakery had the banana caramel croissants that I got once as a special item and really liked, so I grabbed another one. They are really really good.

And this evening I had two more ethics classes, and a science class with the girl who has been doing these long-term. Today I went through the immune system with her, explaining how our various blood cells fight diseases and produce immune reactions, and how vaccines work.

New content today:

More rain, more running

I’ve been slacking a little with my exercise, so I made sure to do a 2.5k run today. The last couple I’ve done have been slow, getting up to 12:30, so today I pushed myself hard trying to get a better time and was happy with the result of 11:52.

I did it in between some heavy showers of rain, which have been sweeping across the city all day. We’re in yet another rainy spell – it’s rained every day for the past week now. Although the falls haven’t been as heavy as we had a month or so ago, just a few millimetres every day.

I was back at the school this morning for my face-to-face ethics class. The class was… astonishingly well behaved today. It was quite eerie really. I think I only had to ask some kids to stop having a private chat and pay attention once, which is amazing. They were almost spookily quiet. Which was nice, but on the negative side, it seemed like not as many of them were actually keen to raise their hands and discuss the questions we were talking about. Most of the answering was being done by just two of the girls, while everyone else was just sitting there silently.

Next week’s class is cancelled due to a teacher’s strike that has been called for next Wednesday. Even if that hadn’t happened (or is called off at the last minute), the school had planned to have its cross country carnival that day, so there’d be no class anyway. So I have next week off from that.

New content today:

New ethics topic: Emotions

It’s Tuesday, which means the start of a new topic for the week of online ethics classes. This week we’re discussing emotions. I wrote the lesson this afternoon, and this evening I taught the first three classes. It seems this one is more of a critical thinking exercise than an ethical one, as there was barely any disagreement or alternative opinions among the students to most of the questions. Instead of exploring diverse opinions, we’re instead teasing out an understanding of various emotions and why we feel them, using critical thinking skills. Which is part of the class scope and description, so that’s all good.

I got up early this morning and went for my run first thing. This was after doing yesterday’s run in the evening after dark. It was the first time I’d done a run at night time, and it was a little disconcerting going at pace along streets and footpaths, with dark shadows everywhere and not having a clear view of the footing. So yesterday’s run was slow compared to times I’ve been doing recently. (Although still good compared to what I was doing a couple of months ago!)

I forgot to mention it here, but on Saturday Strava informed me that during that day’s 2.5k run I clocked my fastest 1k split ever. I ran the first kilometre in 3:53, which Strava told me was my fastest 1k ever. (At least, since I’ve been using Strava – although given I’ve never really been much for running, it may well be the fastest 1k I’ve ever run in my life.) I was pretty pleased with that, since I’ve been aiming at breaking 4 minutes for 1k for a while.

At lunch today I took Scully for a walk up to the shops and got some sushi rolls for lunch. I chose to walk a little further to another small park to eat, rather than the small square in the middle of the shops. The latter is convenient and a nice place to sit and watch people go by, but the grass there has all died, and it’s also haunted by posses of magpies who have become increasingly aggressive over the past few years. They will literally steal food from your hands while you’re trying to eat. This other park we went to is also very small, but nicely grassy, and blissfully empty of magpies, because it’s more out of the way and less trafficked. So I enjoyed my sushi rolls in peace, and then we walked home in the lovely warm sunshine.

This sunny weather won’t last. It’s supposed to close in tomorrow, and Thursday is going to be extremely wet, with 100 mm of rain and flash flood warnings. It remains to be seen how possible it will be to travel into the university for my lecture class on that night…

New content today:

The ethics of magic

Today I wrote the material for the next week of online ethics classes, on the topic of magic! I’m using several examples of things from the Harry Potter stories, and posing questions like:

  • Would it really be okay for children to use hexes to affect other kids, even if no serious harm was done?
  • Harry uses one of the Unforgivable Curses in his fight against Voldemort and his followers. Is that okay or should he be punished for it?
  • Is the Killing curse (Avada Kedavra) any worse than shooting someone with a gun, or is it similar?
  • Why would a small group of people who could do magic want to hide from everyone else?
  • What could happen if the rest of the world found out about wizards and magic?
  • Can you think of any legitimate, ethical uses for Polyjuice potion?

I’ve just run the class with three groups of kids this evening, and so far every student has been familiar with Harry Potter, so that’s good. I have enough explanation that if any student isn’t familiar with Harry Potter, they’ll still be able to get enough context to answer the questions.

That’s about half the class. The other half discusses how real world historical societies who believed in magic made laws regarding the use of magic, and if those laws would make sense in a world where magic is real.

In other news, Sydney had two consecutive days with no rain, yesterday and today! This is the first time this has happened in over a month. But it won’t last… we’re predicted to have another 100mm or more of rain over the next four days.

And today I decided to extend my usual 2.5k run to 5k. I haven’t done a 5k since just before Christmas. It felt tough, but I did my second best time over that distance, despite doing it on the street route with hills, rather than around a flat oval. So yeah, maybe my fitness level is still improving, which is nice.

New content today:

Breaking 12 minutes

This morning was cool, cloudy, and importantly not very humid. I decided I’d launch into my 2.5k run hard and try to press for breaking 12 minutes for the first time. My best so far was 12:01 two days ago.

I set off hard down the initial section, slightly downhill. So I was starting to puff at the first turn, after about 400 metres. I wondered if I’d gone too hard too early. But I kept up a fast pace as best I could, into the first uphill section, and didn’t let up to catch my breath in the long downhill after that. By halfway I felt as thought I was setting a good pace, but now came the hardest part, a sustained uphill section, followed by a short respite and then another uphill. (I should mention that the slopes are not very steep, but definitely noticeable.)

Those uphill sections were really tough. I was breathing hard and wanting to stop, but I pushed myself through. Approaching the finish, I felt moderately confident that I’d done the job and set a good time, but I had no idea until I pulled out my phone, checked the distance, ran the final 30 metres or so, and then stopped the clock…

Astonishingly, it stopped at 11:38. A full 23 seconds better than two days ago! I was amazed. And exhausted. That was a serious effort of running. I think I won’t push myself that hard again for a while, so it’ll be some time before I beat that time.

I did more housecleaning chores today, and worked on writing and making some Darths & Droids strips.

New content today: