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:

New running bests

On my 2.5k run today I recorded a new best time, 12:01. My current goal is to break 12 minutes, so that’s now tantalisingly close. (My previous best was 12:03.) Strava also informs me that the first mile of the run was my best time for a mile as well, 7:36 (previous best 7:38).

It was another hot day today, after the rainy weather cleared away for yesterday. We got over 30°C both day. But now in the late evening we’re sitting under a big thunderstorm, which is cooling things down again and bringing more rain. And the forecast is for more rain over the next few days. It’s been a very wet summer.

And it was another busy day of ethics classes, with 4 classes on Thursdays. The good thing about Wednesday ands Thursday being so busy is that a full half of the classes I teach are done on just those two days, and the rest of the week is a bit less intense. I had a bunch of administrative things to take care of today, with parents requesting transfers to different timeslots and sending me messages asking questions about things. I was telling my wife all the things I had to do to keep on top of it and she said, “You really have a lot of admin stuff to do with that, don’t you?”

New content today:

Golf aftermath

My forearms are sore, and also my glutes. They were a bit sore yesterday, following from golf on Tuesday, and have become a bit worse today. I expect they’ll start feeling better tomorrow – I hope so! It wouldn’t have been the round I played, which involved fairly gentle swings. It would have been the driving range afterwards, where I was smacking balls as hard as I could, and using muscles I don’t strain so often.

Today I have four ethics classes. Three down and one to go later this evening as I type. It’s interesting, in the six classes on this topic of “wealth” so far, almost all of the kids think it’s fine (both legally, and ethically) for wealthy people to keep all of their money to themselves – “because they earned it, because they had to work hard for it”. They all reiterate the story that anyone can become wealthy if they just work hard. It seems they don’t know that most wealthy people inherit their wealth, and don’t actually build it up from scratch with hard work. I guess their parents want to encourage them to work hard so they succeed, so they tell them that hard work and diligence lead to wealth.

Today I received the scientific paper from the university that I’m being asked to proofread and edit. It’s very technical, about image processing for text recognition, and it’s going to take some serious concentration to read understand, and then edit. My plan is to tackle it on the weekend when I have some time.

Doing a bit of tidying up, I ran across some old boxes of Wizards of the Coast Netrunner, vintage 1996. I have a bunch of sealed English starter decks, French starter decks, English v1.0 booster packs, French v2.0 booster packs, and English v2.1 Proteus booster packs.

Netrunner sealed packs

I’m thinking I’ll sell these on eBay… unless I find a buyer sooner. Let me know if that’s you.

New content today:

Some best times

The biggest news today was that the rain stopped, and… the sun came out! I’m honestly not sure if we’ve had any sunshine for the past week. But we had some today. And the humidity percentage actually dropped down as low as the 50s. So despite having a busy morning with two ethics classes, meaning I couldn’t do my daily run until lunch time, the weather was actually more pleasant than it has been for a while.

And my body seemed to take advantage of it. I ran a new best time for the 2.5k, of 12:12. Strava also told me that I clocked my best 1 km and best 1 mile efforts, at 4:22 and 7:38 respectively. So I felt pretty good about that!

That was really the most interesting thing today. Otherwise it was work on comics, cooking dinner, walking Scully, routine sort of stuff. I did start work on a little something which I want to keep secret for now, but which should hopefully be ready in the next day or two, at which point I’ll definitely let you know.

New content today:

A running surprise

Today dawned cold and grey. I went for my 2.5k run, thinking how nice it was not to have to run in warm, humid conditions. I thought maybe if I pushed myself a bit I could do under 13 minutes again. I was surprised when I finished and clocked 12:28! That’s crazy! That’s a whole minute faster than I was running the same distance just last week. I guess the cooler conditions really do help.

I made a bunch of Irregular Webcomic! strips today, and wrote annotations for them, to cover the next week. I need to start planning out another batch of photography again soon too – the work never ends. And in between all this comic making I need to get stuck into university course planning – you know, work I’m actually going to be paid for. I’ve actually been pondering if I need to stop making new comics for a while so I can do all the work I need to do for actual paying jobs.

In excellent news, I finally got the result of the COVID test I did on Thursday. It took three and a half days to come through, but came back negative, which was a relief. Testing systems here in New South Wales are collapsing under the strain of so many people getting tested. One of the driving factors is that if you want to travel interstate or overseas, you must get a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel. But with the waiting times for test results now stretching to over 72 hours, this means it’s close to impossible to get your result back in time for you to board a flight, so many people are having to cancel their travel plans. It’s a mess and something will have to change soon.

My wife and I went on a long walk with Scully after lunch. We did a route that we’ve done a lot, but haven’t done recently, around various parks, past a nice bakery, and down by the harbour shore where there’s a nice grassy area where Scully can run and chase a ball. It was nice being out, but it was very windy down by the water, and a bit chilly.

This afternoon it began raining, and it looks like being intermittent heavy showers for much of the night. But it’s nice to have cooler weather after the heat and humidity of the past couple of weeks.

New content today:

A mixed bag Christmas treats day

I got up early this morning. The sun is rising early these days – in fact I just realised today is the summer solstice. I went for a 2.5k run before the day got too hot. I’m still improving in my times, despite the weather recently getting warmer and more humid. I’ve been hovering around 13:20-13:30 for the past week or so. I thought today’s time would be slow because of the heat, but somehow I managed to clock 13:03, my best time so far.

Remember the council renovation work on the nearby park, which I posted about a few months back? They finished the work a month or so ago, but I was very disappointed by a set of sandstone stepping stones which the workers laid between the path and a section of grass up a steepish slope. The posted landscaping plans showed a proper stairway installed there, but for some reason they didn’t go ahead with that, and instead simply laid a set of three stepping stones on the hillside – at the angle of the slope. So each stone was at maybe a 20° angle or so to the horizontal. This made them tricky to walk on – not especially so for me, but we have a lot of elderly people in the neighbourhood who use that park, and I could see that they would be difficult to negotiate for anyone of less than sprightly mobility.

So I contacted the council. I phoned up and spoke to the councillor in charge of the landscaping work, and explained why I thought the stepping stones were dangerous, and suggested that – even if the full staircase had been abandoned – the stones could be relaid so they are horizontal, thus forming a set of horizontal steps ascending the slope. The woman I spoke to took my suggestion seriously and said it sounded like a good improvement, and that she would look into it.

And a few days ago, this happened!

New steps in the park

The stepping stone slabs that were sloping have been relaid with concrete under them so that they now lie level, and form steps, exactly as I’d asked for. Nice! You really can get government to do some things if you ask nicely for them.

This morning I had an Outschool ethics class scheduled… Even though I stopped all my classes for a few weeks over Christmas, Outschool has a teacher tool where you can set up time slots in which parents can schedule classes if you have no class already on at that time. I’d set this up early on, when I was trying to expand my enrolments – and forgotten about it. So, of course, a parent scheduled a class for today. I tried to contact them to ask them to choose a different time slot, because I really wanted to keep Tuesdays free, but they never got back to me. So when the time came, I started Zoom and waited for the student…

And they never showed up. Oh well, I get paid for it anyway, so at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time. After 10 minutes waiting, you can cancel the class, which I did. And then a minute later the parent contacted me! But they didn’t complain about the cancelled class as I feared. They requested a transfer into one of the existing Monday classes (which start up again in January). So that’s actually good.

After I picked up Scully from my wife’s work, we went on a drive. My wife had got an order for some dog bandanas from a woman who had met her at the market on Sunday, shed offered to make them and deliver before Christmas. To ensure that, I drove over and popped them in the mailbox, rather than entrust them to Australia Post. It was only about 20 minutes drive, so not too far.

On the way back I stopped at a liquor store to pick up some bottles of wine, since we were completely out of red wine. They allow dogs there, so I could take Scully in with me. And then we stopped again on the way home, at the new bakery in Naremburn that I’ve mentioned a few times. I’d been feeling like some cake for the past few days, and decided to satiate my craving. They had slices of carrot cake there – they seem to have a rotating menu of sweet treats that they go through, as there’s a different selection every time I go. They also had some amazing looking mince tarts for Christmas, so I got half a dozen of those too, which we’ll work through over the next few days.

In between all this, I worked on Darths & Droids comics. Phew! A busy day!

Addendum: And I just fed my sourdough starter, in preparation for baking tomorrow. It’s a significant day, because today my starter is a year old! It was spawned off a friend’s starter one year ago today.

New content today:

More running, more storms, more ethics of time travel

It’s a bit repetitive, but today was somewhat similar to yesterday. I did a 2.5k run. I had online ethics classes at 11am, 6pm, and one to come shortly at 9pm.

I’m really loving this time travel topic in my classes. At one point I go through a series of scenarios for how you might make money if you invented a time machine.

  • You could send the winning lottery numbers to yourself last week, so that you win. Most kids think this is unethical. Many describe it as “cheating”.
  • You could send your past self instructions to buy Bitcoin, or Apple shares, or whatever when they were cheap, so you make a lot of money on Bitcoin/the stock market. A few kids considered this “cheating” as well, but about half were okay with it.
  • You could go to the future and bring back some tech that hasn’t been invented yet, and claim to have invented it. Most kids thought this was unethical because it involved lying, and a few called it stealing as well, as in stealing someone else’s invention.
  • You could get some furniture made in an old fashioned style, go back a thousand years and hide it, then retrieve it in the present. It’s now genuinely a thousand years old, so you could sell it as an expensive antique. Nearly everyone thinks this is perfectly okay.
  • If you invented the time machine, you could go into business producing and selling time machines. This one is so far universally considered the absolute worst idea of all! The kids all said if they invented time travel they’d do everything they could to keep it secret, because they’d be afraid of other people messing up history. The idea of time machines being widely available horrified them.

And the weather… yes, it’s been thunderstorming again this afternoon. The morning however was fine and sunny. A very rare occurrence lately – I don’t know exactly but it feels like we’ve only had two or three days where the sun has broken through the overcast in the last 3 weeks or so. We’re supposed to get more rain and storms tomorrow, but then the weekend might actually be rain-free. Let’s wait and see.

The annoying thing is everything is just so humid, all the time. I hate it when you dry off after a shower, and then when you have another shower 24 hours later, your towel is still damp. Ugh.

New content today: