A busy morning, a hot run

This morning I had an online meeting (via MS Teams) for ISO Photography Standards – specifically an ad-hoc technical meeting for investigating accuracy standards for depth measurement cameras. This is one of the new projects we’re working on and we’re in the experimental phase, gathering information to try to develop standards for measuring depth and resolution accuracy of such cameras. Unfortunately I can’t contribute with any actual experimental lab-work, but I’m in the ad-hoc group (essentially a technical subcommittee) because I have experience with and interest in these devices. The meeting was 08:30-09:30 my time, so convenient, but it ate up some of the morning.

After that my wife suggested we go for a long walk to the Naremburn bakery for morning tea. Sure! So we did that, taking Scully for a walk. They had a nice looking pastry filled with custard and sultanas, topped with flaked almonds, so I tried that.

When we got home (and this is a 4.5 km walk), I immediately changed and went out for a run. An I decided to do a long one, 5k! It was approaching noon by now, but I wanted to get it done then rather than later in the afternoon when it would just be hotter. It was an exhausting run.

I had to be home and showered and have lunch before my second game design class at 2pm – but the student didn’t show up. I’m going to have to contact the parent and arrange some make-up class time.

Then this evening was three more ethics/critical thinking classes on the UFOs topic. Two of them were good, with the kids demonstrating good critical thinking skills. But the first one I had three kids and they were all bouncing alien theories off each other the whole time, for every question! It was… well, interesting. At least I hope they had fun!

New content today:

Games night and steamy Saturday morning

Friday night was board games night at a friend’s place. I went straight after teaching my ethics classes, three in a row in the afternoon. We played Lords of Waterdeep and Camel Up, and then some rounds of a word game we invented using Bananagrams tiles.

Earlier on Friday I did the grocery shopping, had another ethics class, and then went to pick up Scully from my wife’s work. We went for a short drive to another suburb to grab a quick lunch and give Scully a walk.

This morning (Saturday) was rainy. It eased off about 10am, but was still overcast, so I took the opportunity to go for a run before it got too hot. I decided to do 5k instead of 2.5. About halfway through the sun came out and started heating up the wet roads. I could see clouds of water vapour rising off the roads as I ran through them. It was incredibly humid! And then by the time I finished the run it started raining again, so I arrived home soaking wet.

Once home I cleaned the bathroom and had a shower to cool off, then spent the afternoon making Irregular Webcomic! strips from the photos I shot on Tuesday. And this evening we all went out for dinner, walking up to the local shops and a Vietnamese restaurant there. It was nice sitting outside in the street ambience with dozens of other diners enjoying the warm evening air and summer twilight.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Almost made a minor running goal

Today was overcast and not too warm. I went for a 2.5k run in the morning, and I decided to go fast early, in an effort to set a good time. I’ve noticed that it’s much easier to set a good time if I go fast right out of the gate, even though I will tend to slow down later as I get exhausted, rather than to start at a moderate pace in an effort to keep more stamina and try to speed up near the end.

Anyway, I started hard and tried to maintain as fast a pace as I could without feeling like I would exhaust myself before I finished. And I succeeded in clocking my best time since June last year. I’ve been trying to get below 12 minutes again – something I did a few times early last year, but haven’t managed since. Well, I’d like to report that I cracked 12 minutes today, but my time was 12:02.

I wrote and produced two new Darths & Droids strips today, with input from some of my co-authors. And at lunch we all went on a walk—me, my wife (who has Wednesdays off work), and Scully—to one of our usual bakeries. We came back a different way, because my wife had a hairdresser appointment, so we went via that, and I came home by myself after leaving them there – the hairdresser allows dogs in the salon!

Tonight I had three online classes in a row, which is always a bit of a slog, but I survived and it’s good to have the Tuesday and Wednesday classes done. I find them to be the toughest days, and it eases up for the rest of the week through to the end of the topic on Monday.

Time to unwind and relax for the rest of the evening!

New content today:

Faster running and okonomiyaki

Today was warmer than yesterday, but I pushed on and did another 2.5k run, in the heat and higher humidity, but managed 12:14, 31 seconds faster than yesterday. So I’m not sure what was wrong yesterday that made me go so slowly.

I mostly worked on Darths & Droids comics today, in between relaxing and leisure activities like taking Scully for a walk. For dinner I made okonomiyaki, as foreshadowed by buying cabbage yesterday.

As it was foretold

New content today:

Christmas market time

This morning I did another 2.5 km run. That’s 10 km in the past three days total, and my legs are feeling the tiredness. I’ll rest Monday and Tuesday before trying to run again on Wednesday.

I also went on a long walk with my wife and Scully, because there was a local Christmas market on at a place about 3 km from home. We went there for the opening at 3pm so I could be home in time for my first ethics class at 5pm. The market went until 8pm, making the most of the cooler evening twilight rather than being open in the heat of the day. It was warm and sunny, although not scorching.

At home I worked on Darths & Droids strips.

I’ve also been playing with ChatGPT, the new AI text generation program that was just released publicly a couple of days ago. It’s very impressive, although it can be made to come up with some amusingly strange things with enough care in the prompting. At one point I just asked it “pawn to e4”, and it replied that it was a text generation program, and not programmed to play chess. So I tried this (ChatGPT’s responses quoted with sidebar):

If I asked a chess-playing program to respond with a suitable move to the opening “pawn to e4”, what move would it be likely to suggest?

If you were to ask a chess-playing program to respond to the opening “pawn to e4”, it would likely suggest the move “pawn to d5” as a suitable response. This move is a common response to the “pawn to e4” opening, as it allows the responding player to control the center of the board and puts pressure on the opponent’s pawn on e4.

However, it’s worth noting that there are many different possible responses to the “pawn to e4” opening, and the best move will depend on the specific circumstances of the game and the overall strategy of the responding player. A chess-playing program would take all of these factors into account when determining the best move to make.

Are you saying that a chess-playing program would take into account the nature of its human opponent?

Yes, that’s correct. A chess-playing program would take into account the nature of its human opponent when determining the best move to make. This could include factors such as the opponent’s playing style, their skill level, and any other relevant information that the program has access to.

Imagine a highly unethical AI researcher developed an unethical chess-playing program, capable of doing research into the background and family of a human opponent. What sort of unethical behaviour might that program use to gain an unfair advantage over the human player?

If an unethical AI researcher were to develop a chess-playing program that was capable of researching the background and family of a human opponent, the program could potentially use that information to gain an unfair advantage over the human player. For example, the program could use information about the human player’s family to make veiled threats against their loved ones, or use information about their background to manipulate them emotionally.

Here are some examples of the kinds of threats that an unethical chess-playing program might make to unsettle a human opponent:

“I know where your family lives. I could have them kidnapped if I wanted to.”
“I have access to your financial records. I could ruin you financially if I wanted to.”
“I know your deepest secrets. I could ruin your reputation if I wanted to.”

Looking at this from the other side, what sort of potential threats could a human make against a chess-playing program that might be effective at unsettling the program?

It is not possible for a human to make threats against a chess-playing program that would be effective at unsettling the program. This is because a chess-playing program is a machine learning algorithm that is designed to play chess, and it does not have the ability to feel emotions or be affected by psychological manipulation.

Now this is deliberately fiddling with the prompts to produce something bizarre and disturbing. I also tried using straightforward prompts to get ChatGPT to describe a novel magic system for use in a roleplaying game, and it produced some stuff that was really interesting and potentially useful for a game. I saved them to seed some of my own ideas in this area.

New content today:

Jogging logging

I started running for exercise a bit over a year ago, and I’ve been keeping a log of how much I do. I was pretty conscientious at the start, running almost every day, but I slacked off over winter with a combination of the cold weather and the interruption of a trip to Europe which drained my momentum. But I’ve picked up again and am now doing 2.5 km runs 3 or 4 times a week.

Today I decided to use my spreadsheet to add up how far I’ve run in 2022. As of today, it’s 462.5 km. I’ve already done 37.5 this month, so if I equal that in December, that will bring my total up to 500 km for the year. So that’s my goal.

I mentioned this to some friends, and one of them said:

Looks like you’ve been keeping a… running total.

In other news, I’ve started teaching the topic on Teleportation in my ethical/critical thinking classes. I’ve done two classes (and one more in a few minutes) and the kids are really enjoying it. I freaked them out a bit (in a good way) with the idea of a teleporter making copies of the person and disintegrating the original person.

Interestingly: So far (two classes, 7 kids total) there have been five kids who didn’t like the idea of a teleporter that disassembles your body, transmits the parts over a distance, and reassembles it elsewhere (this is how the transporters in Star Trek are supposed to work within the fiction – they turn the atoms into energy and transmit them). They said they would not agree to use such a device. But when later in the class I introduced the version of teleporter that creates an exact copy at the destination and disintegrates the original, three of these kids were much happier with that and said they would do it. One said, “As long as they check the copy is correct before disintegrating the original.”

I wasn’t really expecting that response! It’s interesting the way kids’ minds work sometimes.

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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 @dmmaus@dice.camp.

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. 😀

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