Understanding sections

This morning I did the required online training modules to learn about how to use Outschool as a teacher (as I mentioned yesterday). One module was about child protection and safety, and what to do if I see/hear anything questionable while conducting the Zoom classes with students. I’m familiar with this sort of stuff through my training to teach Primary Ethics. Obviously, if I notice anything untoward or suspicious, I have to inform Outschool as soon as possible, so they can investigate and deal with it through their protocols. But interestingly, even though Outschool is based in the US, the training module said that teachers based in Australia or Canada have local legal requirements to report suspected child abuse to local authorities, and they linked to an Australian Government website (and presumably a Canadian one, but I didn’t look at that) with more info. So it looks like if I’m doing a Zoom class, and I notice signs of what I suspect is child abuse, I am legally required to report it directly to Australian child protection services, even if the child is not in Australia.

The second interesting point was trying to figure out the meaning of the word “section” in the module about how to create, schedule, and run classes. There was material on things like “how to schedule a section”, and “how to transfer learners to a different section of the same class”. I couldn’t really follow the explanations because I had no idea what the word “section” meant in this context. I’ve occasionally heard Americans mention “sections” in the context of university courses, but I didn’t know what they meant and never bothered trying to find out. But suddenly I kind of had to figure it out.

Google was astonishingly little help. The word “section” has so many different meanings that no search string I tried came up with any helpful hits. I tried “section academic jargon”, and I got a list of pages from Australian universities that happened to have the word “section” in some unrelated context (because of course Google knows I’m in Australia). I tried “section american english” – but that was equally useless. I tried “section academic american english”, but again it was all pages about unrelated stuff.

Eventually I turned to reddit and posted the question in a smallish group that I know has some Americans. The first couple who responded said they didn’t know – which was not very encouraging! I got suggestions that it might refer to a section/part of the coursework, or of the syllabus, or textbook. But eventually someone answered:

Say a university is offering a course. It’s being offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30, taught by Professor A.

It’s also offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM, by Professor B.

Or you could take it at night time on Wednesdays for 2 hours, once a week, with Professor C.

Each of those is a section. Same course, same material, different instructors and meeting times. You choose to register for a specific section that’s available and meets your schedule.

Aha!!! This is what I’d call streams. All of a sudden it all fell into place. I’m really unclear why American English chooses to use the word “section” for this concept of parallel class streams. Whatever the reason is, it’s extremely confusing for Australian English (and I expect UK English) users, because of the many potential meanings of the word “section” – none of which seem to make sense. I don’t think I’d ever have been able to work out that meaning without having an American explain it in detail.

Anyway, that linguistic detail aside, I’m now ready to start thinking about class topics and structure, and put together lesson plans for offering on Outschool. It’ll take me a few weeks probably to get ready for the first class, but I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Between doing the modules, I made another loaf of sourdough bread today. I think I’m really getting the hang of it, as it turned out pretty well.

The other thing of note today was I ran into my downstairs neighbour whose husband Col died on Christmas Day (mentioned on 29 Dec when I learnt the news). I mentioned that Col and I talked about golf after he learnt I’d started playing. His wife now told me that he had asked her to see if I wanted any of his golf gear (he’d known his time was limited due to cancer). I said that was very generous and I’d have a look, and she let me into her garage to do so. Most of his clubs are pretty old – older even than my second hand set – but he had a nice new driver, exactly the sort of thing I was looking at buying for myself soon.

So next time I see her I’ll suggest that I’d be honoured to accept the driver, and maybe I could take the rest of the clubs to a pro shop and see if I can get a bit of cash for them to give back to her. I also mentioned to here that I’ve started baking sourdough, and she said she loves sourdough, so next time I bake I’ll do an extra loaf and take it downstairs for her.

New content today:

Not being bored

On reddit today I came across a very interesting explanation of why we get bored (versus why lizards can sit there all day doing nothing, apparently without getting bored):

Most organisms are in a constant struggle for energy. Obtaining energy is dangerous, you have to leave your safe burrow or go risk injury in a hunt. That’s why many organisms develop strategies for minimising the risks they need to take. And one of the most popular strategies is simply having simple, low demand physiologies, slow metabolisms and generally low energy needs.

Warm blooded animals are fairly unique. We’re like a car with the engine constantly running. That means we’re ready to go from zero to 100 right away but we’re also guzzling gas constantly, even if we’re standing still. That’s why warm blooded animals need to constantly eat.

[Boredom is] really just another evolutionary adaption. There’s no advantage to boredom if your survival strategy relies on doing nothing. Boredom is essentially the inability to articulate what is a meaningful activity for you right now. It motivates you to change whatever it is you’re doing and find something meaningful or productive to do.

That lizard isn’t questioning what it should be doing. It’s surviving by doing nothing and not wasting energy. Humans on the other hand have so many needs that doing nothing is nearly always the wrong thing to do, so you get bored.

(My emphasis.) Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool.

I got up early this morning and went to the nearest golf course at 6:30, playing my now usual two simultaneous balls on each hole. I scored a par on the very first hole, and thought it might be a good day, but things went a bit downhill after that. My totals were 50 and 58 – the 50 is good, but 58 is not as good as I’ve been scoring lately.

When I got home, before 9 am, I was so hot and sweaty that I had to have a cold shower. The weather has been warm this week, but mostly ridiculously humid. It’s not actually too hot – but once you do anything you start sweating and it just doesn’t evaporate. I guess the “cooler, wetter” La Niña conditions for the summer are here.

I continued today working on Darths & Droids writing. I’ve been doing a lot of story planning this week, and it’s starting to pay off with the next few strips I’m having to write, because I know exactly what plot elements they need to touch on.

New content today:

Boomerang Golf

My golfing friend invited me today to join him for a round at Boomerang Golf Course. This a shortish 18-hole course about 60 km south of the city centre. It’s situated on top of the Illawarra Escarpment, a plateau that drops off in a cliff to a narrow strip of land along the coast. So in some places on the course we had views of the ocean, and also back north along the coast to the city. It’s not a particularly fancy course, but was nice enough. It has three holes where you have to hit over water hazards.

Hole 5: Boomerang Golf Course

This is the 5th hole. You have to hit over the water and towards the yellow flag in the distance (between the two golfers). This was scary, because I’m still getting the hang of hitting my driver with the new techniques I picked up during the lesson I had a couple of weeks ago. On the first four holes I’d hit poorly with the driver, sending the ball skimming low across the grass. So I really needed to hit this one well to clear that water. Fortunately I managed to connect cleanly and made it over easily with a nice drive.

A couple of holes later is another water hazard, this course’s signature hole:

Hole 7: Boomerang Golf Course

Hole 7 is a short par 3 across this small pond. This photo actually shows my ball after I hit my tee shot. It landed on the green, about 40 centimetres from the hole (I saw the pitch mark where it had bounced), and rolled a couple of metres further behind. I had a chance at a birdie if I’d sunk the putt, but I needed two putts, so scored par.

I did however manage a birdie on a later hole, the par 4 13th:

Hole 13, Boomerang Golf Course

The tee shot here is blind, with the green behind a clump of trees. I hit around the left of the trees and ended up here as shown in the photo. I did a pitch over the sand and landed on the green, about 2.5 metres from the hole. And then I putted it in for the birdie! That was the highlight of the day.

My friend had invited me for this round as it was his birthday. He said he hoped to score under 100 as a birthday treat. Totalling up our scores after 18 holes, he had scored exactly 100 strokes. I scored 103. I was very pleased with that. Previously on 18 hole courses I’d been scoring totals around 130-140 strokes.

We finished at lunch time, so stopped on the drive back to have lunch at a place not far from the golf course. Then it was the drive back home to his place, where I’d left my car, and I drive home from there. I got home around 3pm. Exhausted, but having had a really fun day out.

New content today:

Cooler weather, and golf at Cammeray

It’s Monday, and the weather is much, much cooler after the weekend’s heatwave conditions. It’s been mid-20s and overcast – the maximum in Sydney today was 27.3°C.

I wanted to practise my new golf swing a bit, so I played Cammeray Golf Course this morning, also 9 holes, but longer than Lane Cove, where I usually play (such as last Friday).

Again, I played solo, hitting two balls in parallel on each hole. I got some really nice drives in – much better than I’d ever done before – but also a few mediocre ones that skewed off into the trees. I also felt like I was struggling to make the distance on the longer holes, taking 2 or 3 shots to hack my way up the fairway when I really should only need one shot if I hit, say, a 3 iron cleanly. And my putting was a bit off as the greens were slowish and I left a lot of putts short. So I felt like I was doing poorly.

However, I got home and entered my scores into my spreadsheet… The best round of 9 I’ve ever done at Cammeray before is 57. And today I scored 54 and 51 with the two balls! So I’ve definitely improved, even though I felt like I was hacking my way around a bit today. If I had a good day I’m sure I could do even better.

Best hole was the par 4 8th hole, which is the longest on the course at 394 metres from the ladies’ tee (casual players must use the front tees at Cammeray), and uphill all the way. I got to within 110 metres after 2 strokes. I hit a 4 iron, and landed on the green, about 3 metres from the hole, and then sank the putt for par! That was pretty cool. My first par on a par 4 on that course, and definitely the longest hole I’ve scored par on.

My muscles are a bit sore after the golf, but in a good, tired sort of way, not strained or anything. Still, I think it’ll be good to relax for a few days. My golfing friend has invited me to play with him at Boomerang Golf Course on Tuesday next week, on a special excursion for his birthday. So that’ll probably be the next time I play.

Oh, the same friend today asked me if I could Photoshop up something like… this:

(That’s what I came up with.)

New content today:

Golf lesson

This morning I had a golf lesson – my first lesson ever, even though I began playing a bit over a year ago. The lesson was great. The pro loosened up my swing a lot, got me to do a bigger backswing and bigger follow through. It felt a bit out of control, but the greater momentum meant the club path was actually more smooth, and I connected more cleanly more often. And hit the ball way further than I’ve ever hit it before.

We started with a 9 iron, which I could hit maybe 80 metres on a good day. Within 10 minutes he had me hitting it 100… 110… 120… metres or so. I was quite literally hitting the ball and just going, “Oh my god… look at it go…”

Then we moved onto the driver, which was the main reason I booked a lesson. I’ve been unable to hit the ball at all with any consistency with the driver. More often than not I was mis-hitting and skewing the ball sideways, or dribbling it about 20 metres along the grass. I could only hit it cleanly maybe one stroke in 4 or 5, and then it would only go maybe 120 metres.

With my newly modified swing, I was hitting it cleanly 9 times out of 10. And it was flying. We were practising on practice tees directly adjacent to the first tee. The hole is 193 metres long. Two of my practice drives landed on the green. (I wanted to run up and putt them for birdies, but had my lesson to finish!) I did slice a few off to the right, but I know how to correct a slice, and usually my next drive was straight.

After such a good lesson, I wanted to practise a bit more and consolidate what I’d learnt, so I paid for a round of 9 holes and started right away, playing by myself and hitting two golf balls (counting strokes for each ball separately, so it’s effectively two simultaneous rounds). My driving was a lot better than it’s ever been, but I still hit a few stray tee shots. Unfortunately my short game was a bit off today, which held my score back a bit. My previous best two scores on this course were 49 and 53. Today I scored 52 and 53 with my two separate balls. Both could easily have been lower than 50 if I hadn’t had a couple of blowout holes with badly missed chip shots and bunker shots. (I did look for the practice drives I hit earlier onto the first green, but other players had removed the yellow practice balls already.)

There was one incident of note. I teed off on the 4th hole, a shortish par 3 hitting over a creek gully. Both my balls landed just off the left edge of the green, about 5-10 metres from the hole, which was placed near the left edge of the green. But by the time I walked over to putt, a greenkeeper had moved the hole about 15 metres further away to the right, and was plugging up the hole I’d aimed at!! I took this photo as soon as I’d walked over and around the back of the green (so it’s looking back towards the tee, where the guy in the white shirt is standing in the background). You can see my two golf balls in the foreground, and where the hole was when I teed off:

Hole 4, Lane Cove

My friend who started me in golf tells me that moving the hole while you’re playing it is outrageous and the greenkeeper should have waited for me to finish putting before starting work on it. But this is a cheap and very casual suburban course, not a fancy expensive one, so I guess the staff are much more relaxed about everything. Oh well. It maybe cost me an extra stroke on each ball having to putt that greater distance, but who knows.

I’m still pleased that my lesson was so productive, and am looking forward to playing again soon!

Tonight (as I write this) is an impromptu online games night, but before that I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully. We went to our favourite seafood restaurant. They had a dessert special…

Orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse

It’s an orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse, and some almond praline. This is not the fanciest dessert I’ve ever had, but I’m a huge fan of cherries and chocolate together, and this was definitely one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had. It was ridiculously good.

New content today:

Steeling myself

Remember back in May when I bought myself a new set of kitchen knives? Well, since then I’ve learnt a bit about sharpening and honing knives, which I previously didn’t know. Sharpening is when you grind metal off the knife blade to produce a sharp edge. But honing is a completely different thing.

When a knife is used, the sharp edge tends to bend and fold over sideways, due to pressure on things you’re cutting and on the cutting board. This doesn’t make the edge blunt exactly, but it does make it harder to cut, because the sharp edge is no longer pointing straight down as you cut with downwards force. Honing is the process of straightening the bent edge, so making it easier to cut again. Proper knife care is to hone the edge frequently—every week, or even every time you use the knife—but only sharpen it a few times a year. To hone a knife, you need a honing steel. (And I note that Wikipedia article says that “honing” is a misnomer, borrowed from some other industrial process that does remove material from an edge – yeesh, this terminology is even more pedantic than I thought two minutes ago.)

Hmmm… Further reading of the Wikipedia article tells me that perhaps I’ve wasted my money, as modern kitchen knives tend to be harder and not respond to honing steels, but rather need an abrasive “steel” that actually does grind the edge down a little. Grrr.

I wish the Internet would make up its mind and not provide conflicting/outdated/overly-pedantic-but-incorrect advice.

Anyway, in other news I booked myself a golf lesson today, for Friday morning. I’ve never had a lesson up to now, but I feel like I’m really not making any progress with hitting a driver, and need some help. So we’ll see if a golf pro can straighten out my technique in half an hour enough that I can go practise on my own and see some improvement.

In other other news, for some reason Irregular Webcomic! failed to update automatically again today, after also failing last Tuesday. I have it set up as a cron job and I know when it should run, and it failed two Tuesdays in a row. But it worked every other day of the week—at the expected time (so no daylight saving issue)—and all my other comics updated at the same time as normal. So cron seems to have done its thing correctly. I can’t imagine why cron would fail to run one specific job only on a Tuesday. And in fact I ran the script manually as soon as I realised the automatic cron job had failed, and it ran fine. So the script itself shouldn’t have failed.

Unfortunately I don’t have a way to distinguish the cases [cron failed to run the script] and [cron ran the script but the script failed]. I might have to add some logging calls to the script to see if it runs properly on Tuesday next week. This is very mysterious.

New content today:

Super Fun Hyper Golf Day!

I got up at 6:30 this morning, when my wife took Scully out for her morning walk, and I headed to the local golf course. I haven’t played at a full sized course for a couple of months, and I was keen to try out my driving after hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range last week.

Unfortunately, my driving was awful. I played two balls, hitting them one after another and keeping the scores separate. Both my drives off the first tee skewed off short and far to the right. From the second tee they both went straightish, but dribbled along the grass only about 20 metres. And so it went… another two terrible drives on hole 5, hole 7, and hole 8. I did hit one on hole 7 cleanly, but managed to hit a tree about 40 metres away, which stopped it dead. (Holes 3, 4, and 6 are short and I use various irons for those instead of a driver.)

And so I got to hole 9, not having hit a good drive all morning. The first again skewed right and short. But the second connected cleanly and soared off into the distance, straight down the fairway. It was beautiful to see! I really think I need to take some lessons or something to improve my driving.

However.

Everything other than the driver I was hitting nicely and fairly consistently, with only 2 or 3 bad shots. I made a lot of second shots with the 3 iron, smashing them down the fairway from the awful position after a bad drive. Once I got within 100 metres or so of the hole, I was hitting approach shots and pitches nicely.

Here’s where my two approach shots for hole 5 landed:

Lane Cove hole 5 approach shots

The more distant ball I chipped from off the green, about 20 metres away. The closer ball… I hit with an 8 iron from 90 metres away. I was watching it fly through the air, land just before the green, bounce onto the green and roll… towards the hole… I was willing it to go in, but you can see where it stopped. Let’s just have a closer look!

Lane Cove hole 5 approach shots

Wow. Clearly one of the best shots I’ve ever played.

And… my putting was probably the best day I’ve ever had. I was sinking nearly everything from distances up to about 1.5 metres. All in all, this more than made up for the horrendous driving. My previous best score for this 9 hole course was 55 strokes. Today with my two balls I scored 53, and 49. I am stoked with this performance, and if only I can get the driving under control I might actually start getting even lower scores.

I was done by 8:30, and headed home. I mostly worked on comics, but also spent some time exploring music on YouTube and iTunes, finding weird cover versions of songs I like and trying them to see how good they were.

For lunch I walked up to the fish & chip shop. But rather than get fish & chips, today I decided to try something different, and went for the barbecued fish burger. I’d like to say it was good, but I was a bit disappointed, and I don’t think I’ll get that again.

New content today:

Let’s get physical

Today was a day of physical activity. I wanted to get back into my running, having had a couple of weeks off due to bad weather. I decided to start easy and only do a 1k “sprint” rather than a full 5k run.

That also meant I could finish that, plus a stretching routine, early enough to head out to the pitch and putt golf course for a game. I contacted my friend and he met me there, so we played together. In our initial game he granted me a handicap of 18 for matchplay, and suggested we decrease it by 1 every time I beat him. I’d gotten it down to 14, bouncing around that area. But today I blitzed him and won 14-3 (with the last hole halved). I scored a total of 75 strokes, which is my best ever on that course, beating my previous best of 79 by 4 strokes. And I recalculated what our matchplay scores would have been with different handicaps… all the way down to a handicap of 2, at which point we would have scored 9 holes each today.

So I’m pretty chuffed. But this does suggest my true handicap relative to my friend is probably something closer to 8, rather than 14. I don’t think it’s as good as 2 – today I felt freakishly good compared to normal.

After playing 18 holes, my friend left and I went next door to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. I’m reasonably happy with short strokes, chipping, putting, and hitting irons up to about the 5 or 6. But I wanted to get some solid practice hitting a 3 iron and a driver. These clubs are my bane – and it’s hard to get practice during an actual round of golf because you hit them so infrequently. I flubbed several hits, but did manage to get some sort of groove with hitting them eventually, so that felt pretty good.

After that I went to my favourite pie shop by the beach for lunch. I planned to get a butter chicken pie, but they had sold out, so I settled for chicken in white wine sauce. It’s actually a sort of cheesy béchamel, and really delicious. Then I drove home just in time to meet my wife who is currently working mornings in the office and coming home at lunch time to work from home each afternoon.

I went for a walk with Scully up to the post office to mail an Etsy order (from my shop), and do some other shopping. Scully is now pooped and sleeping all evening, and I am tired and have that sort of muscle stiffness that comes after a day of physical exertion. No pains, but just good honest exhaustion.

New content today:

Sneaking out for high tea

Scully was due for a groom at the dog groomer’s place today. We dropped her off at 10am, and my wife and I decided to use the time to sneak off into the city and get a high tea at The Palace, a fancy tea room in the Queen Victoria Building.

We took a train into the city, which felt a bit weird because we haven’t used public transport much at all since COVID-19 began. Normally on a Saturday morning the trains would be fairly full, especially getting close to Christmas like this. But today they were fairly empty, with only a handful of people spread out at sensible distances inside the carriages. And the city itself felt really empty, rather than the usual bustle of people.

But we had a good tea. I have to admit that when the servings came out, I was a little underwhelmed at the portions, having expected a bit more. But the food was very rich, and by the time we finished it, we were both very full and didn’t need anything else.

High tea at The Palace

Indeed, although we began at 11am, it pretty much did us for lunch and we didn’t need anything until dinner time. Although I had an early dinner, around 5pm, because my friend organised a game of golf with another friend of ours, at the par-3 pitch-and-putt course where we’ve gone several times. And for something different, we played a twilight/evening game today, under the floodlights that they have at the course.

Night golf

It was interesting and fun, although occasionally it was difficult to see where a ball went. I played moderately well, scoring 81, 2 strokes off my best on the course of 79. I would have done better except for a terrible blow-out 7 on one hole where I tried to pitch the ball up a slope to the green three times, falling just centimetres short each time and having the ball roll back down the hill to roughly where it had started.

Night golf

The sunset was nice, but the moon rising in the east was amazing, a deep red colour due to smoke in the air from controlled burning operations taking place at the moment, to forestall another bad fire season over the summer.

Oh, an I also baked a batch of brownies today, both to take to golf and share with the guys, and also for a family lunch gathering that we’re having tomorrow.

New content today:

Double golf

I got up early and went to the golf course this morning just after 6:30. The sun is rising earlier as spring meanders onward and even though overcast this morning it was plenty light enough to start that early. I finished 9 holes, playing two different balls per hole, by 8:30, and then had the whole day ahead of me!

Which I spent mostly working on Darths & Droids scripts, although I ticked off a few other tasks as well.

I applied to become a stallholder at the Kirribilli Markets, another suburban market not too far from where I live, and a bit bigger and more popular than the ones I’ve been doing up to now. Hopefully if I get approved, I can get some more productive market days happening, and really make some sales of my photos.

Also, our wedding anniversary is coming up, so my wife asked if I could find somewhere to stay a few hours drive away, for a long weekend (she’s taking a couple of days off work). I called a couple of places near Kangaroo Valley. The first was booked out until the end of the year, and they said I’d be lucky to find anywhere with vacancies, as people are all booking local holidays at the moment since nobody can travel overseas. The next place had two of the three nights we wanted free, so I booked those. We also have the additional constraint of needing a pet-friendly place, so we can take Scully.

And I looked into various types of weed killer, because some of the small parks and areas of grass in the neighbourhood that we take Scully to have patches of bindii in them, and right now in the early spring is when they start growing thorns. Scully dislikes walking on them, for obvious reasons, and starts to avoid those areas, so I want to try and get rid of it. I thought I might be able to buy some weed killer and spray some areas, but a bit of research reveals that the available solutions have two different problems:

  1. There’s selective weed killer that kills bindii and a few other common weeds, but doesn’t harm grasses or other plants. The trouble is, it’s harmful to dogs, and it’s recommended to keep dogs off it for a few days after spraying. Which is no good since I want to spray public places, so obviously I can’t keep all dogs off them.
  2. There’s glycophosphate (often sold under the trademark “Roundup”), which is safer for animals, but it kills any plant it touches, so would need to be applied with a paintbrush otherwise it’d kill all the grass too. It’s also bad if it gets into waterways, and given the main area I want to remove bindii from is right next to a creek… this is a no-go as well.

I concluded that the only way to do this is to buy a garden fork and get down on my knees, and pull the bindii out by hand. Stay tuned for updates…

New content today: