Gas bill shenanigans and visiting the old dog park gang

We got our quarterly gas bill this morning, and it’s way higher than normal. I checked the itemised details and discovered the anomaly began when we had our new hot water meter installed on 23 January.

The old meter was used for 34 days during the billing period, and recorded usage of 91 megajoules, for an average of 2.7 MJ/day. I checked and this has been roughly consistent for the past couple of years at least – going up a bit in winter when we take warmer/longer showers.

The new meter was used for 57 days during the billing period, and recorded usage of 1164 megajoules, for an average of 20.4 MJ/day. Over 7.5 times as much!

So I spent a half hour on the phone to the gas company to complain and request an investigation. Thankfully the guy I spoke to agreed that it looked fishy. He asked me to go have a look at the meter and tell him the reading on it. I went and looked. Unlike the old meter which had a physical dial showing digits, this one has an LCD screen It was blank. There was a red button and I asked the guy on the phone should I press the button to activate the display? He said no, don’t touch it – the display should be always on and it was very weird that it wasn’t.

Anyway, the upshot is we don’t need to pay our bill for a month while they investigate. He said someone may contact me to come inspect the meter.

After that fun, I took Scully to my wife’s work and headed into the city on the train for today’s Data Engineering lecture at the University of Technology. Today we did model fitting and hypothesis testing – least squares, residual analysis, goodness of fit, t-tests, and ANOVA. During the tutorial breaks I spoke to several of the student teams about their plans for their end-of-subject projects.

One team wants to try testing the idea that beer becomes more bitter the more hops you add. I suspect one of them is a keen home brewer. The plan was not to use actual beer, but to boil hops in water for different amounts of time, and get volunteers to blind taste the resulting solutions and rate them in bitterness, and then do a bunch of statistical tests on the results. It seems like a decent project – we like to see some creativity, and we love it when students do their own experiments rather than just downloading online datasets to trawl through.

Another group wants to test what factors influence educational outcomes in school children. They plan to look at things like socio-economic background, private vs public schools, and so on.

And another group is thinking of testing whether more healthy or less healthy foods cost more. I said this is interesting because it’s not entirely clear how “healthy” a food is – there may be differing opinions. But they could look for correlations of price versus fat content, sugar content, sodium content, fibre content, etc., and then make some conclusions based on those. This got them talking excitedly and planning more, so it was good to see they took that on board and were keen to explore the possibilities.

After the lecture, I picked up Scully on the way back home. We took a detour to the dog park that we used to visit a lot to meet the crowd there at 4pm. We haven’t done this for a long time, maybe a year or so, because I’ve been too busy with my classes. But since I’m currently on a week’s break for Easter I decided to take the opportunity. Most of the same old regulars and their dogs were there. It’s funny… today the other dogs there were: Basti, Bentley, Bertie, Betty, Beau,… and Ruffy.

From there we headed home via the waterfront by the harbour. It’s a nice walk, but made the overall walk home pretty long. I was a bit worn out, and Scully is exhausted for the evening!

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Pre-travel housekeeping

I had some tasks to do today before our trip on Saturday. We won’t be back until July, which is the start of a new financial year. So I need to get some tax stuff sorted out before we leave, to make sure it’s done in time.

Since I’m earning a significant amount of income teaching on Outschool, and they’re based in the USA, that income isn’t subject to pay-as-you-go tax being taken out by the Australian Tax Office. I need to keep my accounts straight and submit it on my tax return, and then pay a lump sum in tax at the end of the financial year. There’s also no automatic contribution to my superannuation fund, so I need to calculate a reasonable amount to pay into it myself, in order to optimise my income tax versus retirement investment and blah blah blah… it’s all really tedious and you probably don’t want to read the details.

Anyway, the result is that I did a bunch of calculations and I had to figure out how to transfer a sum of cash from my bank account into my retirement plan and then do that. The transfer takes a few days because of bank shenanigans, and then I have to submit a form to claim the transferred amount as a tax deduction, before the end of June.

The main reason I’m writing about this today is that there wasn’t much else to talk about – it was a pretty uneventful day. I had a final make-up class for the recently completed Creative Thinking and Game Design course, which one student had to miss because of unavailability, so today’s class was just for that one kid so he could have the final lesson. But both of the other kids showed up briefly in the Zoom call! They must have received an email notification that a class was starting, and they both showed up a bit confused until I explained that it was a make-up class for the one other kid, and they didn’t need to attend.

And this evening I started the next ethics topic with three classes, on Natural Resources. This is a repeat of a topic I did a couple of years ago when I started this course, and none of the students who did it then are still in the classes, so I get to recycle it.

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