Super busy week: Monday

Dawn broke on what is going to be a very busy week for me. First up today was teaching the last class of the “Disgust” topic in my online ethics classes. After that I took Scully out for a walk, and dropped by the post office to pick up some prepaid envelopes and stamps for my wife to use for sending orders of her dog bandanas out. I stopped off on the way back to grab some sushi rolls for lunch.

Back home I had to hustle to put together the rules and game pieces for the board game that the kids and I had designed together in the Creative Thinking class that I taught last night. The class ended with a rough outline of how the game works, which I had to whip into a playable shape, document, and then create a board and a bunch of game components that the kids can print out and playtest before next Sunday’s class. I mentioned before that the theme we’d come up with was ruining someone’s wedding. Here’s the first draft of the game board:

Ruin the Wedding game board

The idea is that the bride, groom, and various other people all have to move around following the blue arrows – hopefully to end on “happily ever after”. At least that’s their goal. The goal of the players in the game is to make the people upset, ruin the wedding, and make as many people as possible go home in disgust. Each turn, one wedding participant moves along a blue arrow, while the players try to do things to upset them or delay them (using a hand of cards). I came up with a clever way to encapsulate the idea that “a bride is never late to her wedding” – as you can see on the board, she can’t arrive at the ceremony until everyone else is either there, or running late. If she arrives and some guests are still late, then they miss the ceremony (and get upset and go home). And nobody can leave the ceremony to head to the reception until after the bride arrives and the ceremony happens.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the general idea. After we do a few iterations and refine the gameplay, I’ll share the final result.

I had to get the game draft ready and uploaded to my class before 6pm, as this evening I had a tutorial session, helping university students with their image processing projects in the course I’m tutoring. That just finished.

The rest of the week is going to be even busier, as I have an online meeting for ISO Photography standards from 7-11am, every day from Tuesday to Saturday. So my mornings are accounted for. Tomorrow afternoon I need to prepare a science lesson for a kid that evening, and Wednesday I need to prepare my ethics class for the next week (on Democracy). And somehow I need to make another week’s worth of comics for my webcomic sites during this week too. Oh, and I also have to squeeze in time to mark the first project assignment for the university image processing course, which was submitted last Friday. It’s going to be exhausting, and I’m going to need the weekend to recover. Or possibly catch up…

New content today:

Post-lockdown family lunch

This being the first weekend after COVID lockdown restrictions have eased in Sydney, it was the first time since June that we’ve been able to visit family. My mother-in-law put on a small lunch for us, plus my wife’s sister and brother, and a nephew (the sister’s son). We drove over there, and it seemed everybody in Sydney had pretty much the same idea, to finally get out of the house and visit family, or possibly to go to the beach since it was a nice sunny day. Either way, everyone was on the road, and the traffic was the worst I have experienced, not just since lockdown began, but for many a year. It was really horrible.

But we had a nice lunch, with my mother-in-law preparing some grilled chicken, roast vegetables, and salad ingredients, which we had with bread rolls for an informal sort of meal – assembling sandwiches on our bread rolls. My sister-in-law brought a range of delicious tarts from a local bakery, which we shared by cutting them into bite sized pieces. And we all caught up on what we were all doing – I told them about the recent work I’ve been doing with Outschool classes and also the university teaching work. Oh, and Scully was super excited to see the other family members too for the first time in months.

We had to leave early, because now I have classes to teach from 5pm (normally we hang out later after lunch and end up getting home around 6pm or so). I had 2 ethics classes tonight, plus week 4 of the Creative Thinking and board game design class. We’ve converged and assembled some ideas for how the game works in a bit of detail. Now I have to put together a file with some game pieces and a board that the students can print out, plus a first draft of the game rules. I’ll upload it so they can download and print it, and try playing some games with their friends and family before the next class, in which we’ll refine the design.

New content today:

Game design theme decided!

Tonight I ran the third lesson of my 6-week course in Creative Thinking and Game Design. If you recall last week we had some intriguing suggested themes for the game that we’re working on. I’m happy to say that after going through and rating all of the theme ideas, we came up with three ideas that we all agreed were good for a game:

  • Visiting different countries
  • Causing trouble in school
  • Ruining someone’s wedding

And by consensus we agreed that the one we liked best was the last one: ruining someone’s wedding. So that’s what we’re now officially doing – designing a board game about ruining a wedding! We also came up with the goal of the game – how you win: By making as many people as possible upset. And we listed some tentative game mechanics – we might use a board to represent the wedding venue (although I’m not convinced we need to do this); and we might have cards with various objects that will make people upset, for example an embarrassing photo of the bride. (We’ll keep it clean and G-rated! So let’s say no more about that.)

The kids have homework to play with mechanics and come up with any new ideas during the week. Next lesson we’ll put them together into a game that we can start playing!

Other than that, today I worked on the current batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, assembling them from the photos I took a couple of weeks ago. I’ve now completed that batch, so I can start thinking about writing the next batch…. it never ends.

I also did some baking today. I made sourdough bread, and because my wife is keen on fruit and nut loaf I made one of those, with dried apricots and walnut chunks in it. And I made some chocolate chip cookies, which I’ve been craving for weeks. I finally got around to buying some choc chips in the last grocery shop, so today I made a batch. I dotted two baking trays with dough and put them in the oven, heated to 180°C, and set the oven timer for a couple of minutes less than the minimum baking time specified in the recipe.

When the timer went off, I opened the oven to check the cookies… and black smoke poured out! I didn’t know what had happened until I noticed the oven mode selector knob wasn’t pointing at “Bake”, but rather at the adjacent setting, “Pizza”. I know I set it to “Bake” and the temperature to 180°C, but I must have bumped the knob when putting the baking trays in or something, and when the knob is turned to “Pizza” it also automatically resets the temperature to 220°C! The “Pizza” setting also applies base heat, to crisp the bottom of the pizza dough and uses the fan to force hot air throughout the oven. So the cookies were WAY overdone.

Burnt cookies

The ones on the bottom baking tray were basically charcoal on the lower half, and unsalvageable. The upper baking tray fared a little better – they are a bit well done, but just edible. I normally like them a bit gooey in the middle, but these are baked hard through.

It hasn’t been a good week for me in the kitchen.

New content today:

Creative game design part 2

This evening I had the second lesson of my 6-week course on Creative Thinking & Problem Solving, with game design as a practical exercise. We did brainstorming, and came up with a bunch of wacky ideas for games. Some examples of the ideas for game themes that the stidents and I came up with:

  • A cooking competition
  • A doctor examining patients
  • Causing trouble in school
  • Ruining someone’s wedding

I really like the last one, and kind of hope we end up developing that one into a game, but I’m planning to be guided by what the students think when we come back to the ideas next week.

Today daylight saving began here in New South Wales, by the way, so all my classes are now an hour later – because I’ve kept them the same time for all the students in other countries. I need to go through every class and decide if I want to move it another hour later when the northern hemisphere goes off daylight saving at the end of October. That will be to keep them at the same time for European and American countries that have DST. I think a lot of Asian countries don’t have DST at all, so classes with Asian students won’t need to move. It’s a bit of juggling, and I’m going to have to end up telling some of the students that their classes will be shifting in time, so they might have to move to another class or possibly unenrol if they cant find a suitable timeslot. And then in 6 months I have to go through this all in the other direction.

But I’m happy that sunset is now an hour later (by the clock). I love the long light summer evenings. Speaking of which, it was very warm and summery today, with a temperature of 26°C. I went on another walk with my wife and Scully, just around our local area from home today. There were a lot of people out enjoying the warmth, with dozens of people having picnics in various parks that we walked past. Picnics were only authorised a week or two ago as COVID lockdown restrictions slowly ease here, and plenty of people are taking advantage of it.

I want to make use of the warm weather and evening sunlight to have a picnic dinner with my wife for our wedding anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks. Not on the exact day, but some time during that week. It’ll be nice to sit in a park, with a view over the harbour, and have a pleasant dinner.

New content today:

A serious game suggestion

Saturday, and it’s a long weekend, with Monday being Labour Day. This October long weekend is traditionally considered the start of the summery half of the year, with swimming pools opening and stuff. Although it’s already been warm enough to swim for the past month or so, with warmer weather arriving earlier and earlier every year.

The other thing is that channel-billed cuckoos are back. I saw two of them today. These birds migrate north in the winter, and head back to our southerly climes around this tie of year. They’re big, noisy, loud birds, and other birds like to harass them noisily as well, so it’s usually pretty obvious when they’re in the area.

I went for another walk around more new places in our 5 km radius today, with my wife and Scully. This is Folly Point:

Folly Point

Scully by the water:

Folly Point

A panorama with Scully and my wife:

Folly Point

Willoughby Waterfall:

Primrose Park Track

And back home I worked on Darths & Droids comics for a bit. And I also did our tax returns, finally. I normally do them in July, but we’ve been putting them off for ages now, and it was finally time to get them out of the way. I did my wife’s and my tax returns, and it took about 20 minutes in total.

I forgot to mention an idea that we had last night during games night with my friends: A social deduction game played over text chat, where every player has a secret role which tells you to be either sincere or sarcastic. You have to enter text (without emojis) in your given mode, while trying to convince other players that you’re playing the other mode. The tentative title of this game: “Yeah, Right”.

New content today:

Splendid meals

Today I made the slides for the second lesson in my creative thinking course, based on the lesson plan I wrote up yesterday.

This evening I had two more ethics classes, on animal hunting. I’ve been ending the classes with a question for the kids to think about, without answering it: Experts say one of the biggest dangers facing the world is overpopulation of humans. What if an advanced alien species came by Earth and saw our population problems. Would it be okay for them to hunt humans?

In the second class today we’d previously discussed whether it’s okay to hunt overpopulated animals, and all the kids had been very affirmative that not only was it okay, but it was necessary to protect the greater environment. So… I got to the end of the class and left them with the above question to ponder, and one of the girls who I could see on the Zoom video silently did The Scream pose, and then slid her hands up to cover the top of her head as she continued the look of horror. It was really amusing to see!

This evening for dinner my wife and I ordered a special treat from a local Greek restaurant that we like to visit now and then. It’s a nice change from ordering pizzas. I went up to pick up the meal and we had spanakopita and roasted lamb shanks, with Greek salad. And there’s sticky date pudding for afters.

Tonight is online games night with my friends. We started with the game Splendor, which I haven’t played for a long time, and have always been really bad at. I thought I was winning, but then all of a sudden someone else took a huge lead and won the game, and I ended up third.

New content today:

Picking up pot

I have a couple of small plants growing on our balcony:

  • a chilli plant which has been very productive for a few years, and
  • a lime tree which has not yet produced any usable fruit, but which currently has some tiny limes that I hope will continue to mature rather than dropping off.

The chilli is in a suitably sized terracotta pot, but the lime tree is still in the plastic pot we bought it in. I decided it was time to repot it in a larger pot, so I went online and ordered a terracotta pot and saucer from the local hardware store. I had to guess the size of saucer because it was impossible to tell what the correct size was from the website information. (And I couldn’t just go into the hardware store to buy them because it’s closed by COVID restrictions – you can only order online, for contactless pickup.)

Anyway, my pickup was scheduled for this morning, so I drove over to the store, stopped in one of the marked “pick up” berths, and a guy came over and asked me my name, and then brought the pot and saucer over for me. It was impressively chunky. I brought it home, but I’ve put of repotting the lime tree to tomorrow.

Next up was picking up the online-ordered groceries from the supermarket. While there I grabbed three more punnets of super cheap strawberries as well.

Today mostly I worked on more of my creative thinking course. And tonight is games night with my friends, playing online via Board Game Arena. So far I think I’ve lost 5 games already…

New content today:

Forbidden Waters ending

It’s virtual games night with my friends, and we’ve just completed our ongoing game of Forbidden Waters, which has taken us three session to finish. We cooperated enough to win the scenario as a group, but several of us ended up with individual bad story endings. In particular I was a seasick pirate, and I ended up sentenced to life in a floating prison, where I was sick every day.

The COVID news here was dire again, with 291 new cases, a new record high for the state.

New content today:

Piratey games night

What did I do today?

I went to the supermarket to pick up my big weekly grocery shop, that I’d ordered online for fast pickup. This time I said I was “in my way” a good ten minutes before I left home, and when I arrived it was ready for me to grab and go, which was better than the waiting around I had to do last week.

I did discover a slightly annoying thing. The minimum order of green beans from the fresh vege section was 0.25 kg, so that’s what I ordered. It turned out to be about 5 times as many beans as I normally buy! We’ll be eating beans with a lot of meals over the next week. And… the same thing with mushrooms.

From 11 am I had a photography standards meeting. This is the Standards Australia meeting to follow-up from the international ISO meeting I attended last month. As the chair of the Australian committee, I presented a report on the international meeting for the benefit of the Australian experts. Our committee is doing really well, having grown in membership recently, so this is really satisfying work.

Then at 4 pm I had another ethics class, with the prejudice topic.

And now in the evening it’s virtual board games night with my friends. We started with a game of Nidavellir, which is one of our current favourites. And I actually won the game, although I’m not sure I have a good grip on the strategy yet. We’re now into our ongoing game of Forgotten Waters, that we started a few weeks ago.

In COVID news, NSW recorded 136 new cases, which sets another new record for the year. Case numbers have gone up alarmingly in the past two days, and the number of people infectious without being in isolation is going up too. It feels like the outbreak is slipping out of control, despite the current lockdown regulations. The lockdown was scheduled to end on 30 June, but I can’t see any way that it won’t be extended, and in fact tightened even further. I feel like the only thing we can do now is hunker down, avoid people, and wait for our second vaccinations.

New content today:

COVID-Virtual games night Friday

Tonight would have been face-to-face games night with the guys, but under the current COVID lockdown we’ve converted it to virtual once again. The COVID numbers rose again today, with 97 new cases in NSW. Nothing particularly new in terms of lockdown restrictions, just more urging people to do the right thing and stay home.

I did mostly. It was time for the weekly grocery shopping, but rather than go through the supermarket myself, I signed up for online shopping. Unfortunately the delivery fee scale is such that for people like me who do small weekly shops, the fee is high, whereas it gets lower if you buy more, until if you buy over $300 of groceries delivery is free. I kind of get it, but as someone who usually spends $80-$120 a week, I don’t want to have to add another $15 on top for delivery.

So instead I chose the free “pick up from store” option. At least it saves me from walking around the aisles, and I could spend only a couple of minutes in the supermarket picking up my stuff instead of half an hour. As it turned out, when I got there they didn’t have my order quite ready, so I had to wait a little while they ran around grabbing bags from storage lockers and fridges and stuff. But it was quicker than doing the shopping myself, so that was worthwhile.

The other reason to go out today was that Scully was booked in for her grooming day. She was getting very shaggy, but now after picking her up she’s velvety smooth.

For games night, the first game we played was Nidavellir, which is a game I enjoy, but I haven’t really got to grips with the strategy yet. Yet, somehow, I managed to win! By a single point. But a win is a win! Now we’re playing some games of 7 Wonders, which is a virtual games night staple. I came second in the first game, and… just won my second game! With an unconventional science + military strategy.

New content today: