Ethics off the rails!

I did an online ethics class today that went completely off the rails. There was a new kid, from England, who was super talkative and kept bringing up extra points to every answer – often stuff that I’d planned to ask everyone later in the lesson. Rather than talk about farming, we ended up in a huge digression about whether we should force everyone to become vegetarians or not. Given the others were also keen to butt in on the topic and offer their own opinions, I just let it meander of its own accord for most of the lesson. It felt totally out of control and my lesson script went out the window, but it was fun, and we were still talking about interesting and ethical questions, so it was good in the end.

My sore back stiffened up again overnight, and it was painful turning over during the night. But again, it’s improved a lot during today. I got a better sleep, but hopefully tonight it won’t be as painful during the night.

I didn’t have my face-to-face ethics class at the school today, because New South Wales teachers held a strike today, seeking better pay and working conditions. They fully deserve it.

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And going to the physio

I had my physiotherapist appointment this morning for my sore back. It stiffened up again overnight, but wasn’t nearly as bad as the night before. I got a much better sleep and managed to get myself out of bed in the morning without too much pain.

The physio worked on my back for about 45 minutes and I felt significantly better after he’d loosened up the muscles and released tensions and whatever it is he actually does. I’ve been to this guy a few times over many years, and found him to be really good. Usually one visit is enough to make the movement freer and less painful, and then it improves rapidly over the next day or two. He also gave me a bunch of exercises to do some years ago, which I now do regularly to maintain my core strength and recover myself from minor strains.

Back home, I wrote my next week’s ethics lesson, on farming this time. I have a series of questions for the kids on the ethics of various types of crop agriculture, then we move on to farming animals, either for meat, or other products such as milk and eggs. In one of the classes there was a wide range of opinions from the kids, including “it’s fine to farm animals, because we need the meat”, “farming animals is cruel and we shouldn’t do it; we should hunt wild animals instead”, and “people should eat less meat so we don’t have to farm so many animals”. I suggested to the second kid we could eat less meat, but he said no, no, keep eating the same amount of meat, just hunt it all rather than farm it. I guess he hadn’t thought through the logistics of having to hunt for the amount of meat that we currently consume.

At lunch I took Scully for a walk up to the local shops and I had some Vietnamese fried rice from a “new” restaurant. I say “new” because I haven’t tried eating there before – it actually opened about 3 years ago, replacing a previous Cuban place that we quite liked.

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Back healing

The night was awful. I hardly slept, and my back was very painful every time I tried to move into a more comfortable position. It took some effort to get up out of bed, but once I was up and walking around things began to improve. By this afternoon I was walking mostly freely and feeling a lot better, able to sit and lie down briefly without problem.

Unfortunately I did some gentle stretches and I think I pulled something again, because it got worse. Not nearly as bad as yesterday, but it now feels like much of the progress during the day has been reversed.

I made an appointment at the physiotherapist, but they had no appointments today, so I’m going in at 9am tomorrow. At lunch I felt fairly good and went for a long walk with Scully and my wife to get some food, and to stretch out on a walk. It was good for my back as I felt pretty good after that.

Other than that, I pushed my way through teaching three online classes. And I guess not much else. A lot of pacing around and gently moving my back.

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Back pain

The bad news today is that I threw my back out. I’m limping around the house with a painful lower back strain, and hoping it will heal up over the next couple of days.

The stupidest things can set this sort of thing off. I decided today was a house cleaning day and started with vacuuming all the floors. Then I used to dust attachment to dust off the furniture and bookcases and stuff.

I found some more spots of mould that have been caused by the relentless high humidity here in Sydney, around some of the window frames and on some of the wooden furniture. So I attacked all those with mould killer. I checked out a closed cupboard area where I was storing some Magic: the Gathering cards to check if there was any mould in three. Thankfully it looked clean. But I decided to take a quick trip to the hardware store to buy some damp remover crystals to put in there to keep the humidity low.

I took Scully in the car for some time outside, and drove over to the hardware store. They let you take dogs inside, so it’s a good trip to do with her. Unfortunately, they were completely sold out of all the damp removal stuff – the basic tubs and the refills of the absorbent crystals. It seems everyone is Sydney is having damp/mould problems at the moment and they just can’t keep stock on shelves.

I walked with Scully back to the car park and thought we’d walk over next door to the home centre – a complex that has various furniture stores, bed and bathroom stuff, lighting, whitegoods, and so on. There’s a place there that sells storage containers, and I thought they might have some damp absorbers. But Scully was reluctant to walk that way and wanted to go back to the car, so I bent over to pick her up and carry her… and bam! My back tweaked and I knew I was in trouble.

It got sore so fast that I abandoned plans to go to the home centre and went straight back to the car with Scully. It took some effort to get into the car. I drove home, and tried to climb back out, and by now my back was really painful. I laid down on the floor to take pressure off it, and that helped a lot.

But when I tried to get back up again, I just couldn’t it hurt too much. Every way I tried to bend to get up from a prone position and stand up failed because I couldn’t bear the pain. I ended up lying on the floor for something over an hour while my wife fussed over me and asked if she could help. She got me some pain tablets, and ran to the pharmacy to get some topical gel for muscle strains.

Eventually I just had to grit my teeth and push myself up off the floor as suddenly as I could, to try to get into at least a kneeling position before the pain made me collapse back down again. I managed this, but boy did it hurt. Once kneeling, I managed to stand up and walk around, and that felt better. That was about 6 hours ago now, and I’m managing to stand and sit okay. It hurts, but it’s not excruciating like when I was on the floor.

I’ve had this happen a couple of times before, and seen a physiotherapist to fix it up. I know what stretches I need to do to help it get better, which help when I get milder back pain. It’ll probably stiffen up overnight, so I’ll see how it is tomorrow morning, and will try to get a physio appointment. It tends to stiffen up overnight, and then ease during the day as I move around.

Anyway. That was my day.

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Super busy week: Wednesday

First cab off the rank today was travelling to the public school for my first face-to-face ethics class of the year. I got to the school and checked in, using the QR code and New South Wales Government app. This is similar to how we’ve been checking in to public places like shops for the past year and a bit, but I was surprised to find that checking in here opened a new page I hadn’t seen before, specific to schools. I had to answer additional questions about if I was feeling well, and if I was wearing a mask, and what the purpose of my visit was, and so on.

I got my class roll, and found I had been assigned 17 students. I ran into one of the other ethics teachers, and she told me that a lot of the Year 6 kids were away… following the Year 6 camp last week, apparently several have tested positive for COVID and were isolating at home. When I got to my assigned classroom, I found the teacher was away as well, replaced by a casual substitute.

I ended up with only 7 kids turning up – and 3 of those weren’t even on the roll! They said their parents wanted them to do ethics, but they got their forms in late. So 13 kids were away sick. It was actually a bit scary realising that so many of the kids in the school were sick, and here I was teaching a class of the ones who had come in today. I had to wear a face mask, but the kids didn’t. Honestly, I’m feeling a bit in two minds about continuing to volunteer to do this, while COVID is still circulating in the child population.

The other thing was I forgot to print out the lesson plan! So I had to run the introductory lesson from memory.

Back home, I squeezed in my daily run and stretching exercises, making a new loaf of sourdough, eating lunch, and having a shower before the ISO standards meeting began at 2pm. It was a full technical session day, discussing standards related to autofocus, depth sensing, and image file formats. That led almost right up to my first online ethics class at 6pm, but I had some time before that began to start making quiche for dinner. My wife had to finish that off while I was doing my class, and then I quickly ate a slice between classes 1 and 2, and then a second slice between classes 2 and 3. I finished at 9pm… and could finally wind down and relax a bit before bed.

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Bad sleep update, day 4

The mystery noise continues to buzz throughout the night, and kept me awake again last night. I’ve tried knocking on the immediate neighbour’s door a few times, yesterday and today, but they never answer, despite me hearing people inside. Maybe they just don’t want to answer random knocks. (I don’t know these neighbours very well – they only moved in a few months ago, and have kept very much to themselves, although I have chatted to the man a couple of times when we bump into each other in the hallway.)

So today I’ve contacted the building strata executive committee to inform them of the noise and ask them to investigate. I’m not really sure it is the neighbours. It may be a common property pump or ventilation fan or something like that. This morning at 8am in a relatively quiet moment I could hear the noise again – so it may in fact be going 24 hours a day, and just not noticeable during the day.

Today I worked more on the science paper that I’m proofreading/copyediting. It’s seriously heavy going, but I’m making solid progress. It may take me until the end of this week to finish it off, given all the other things I need to do.

I think I’m a bit too tired to write much else this evening.

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Bad sleep part 2

The noise kept me awake again last night. I went to sleep very tired, but woke up in the middle of the night again as I usually do. I almost managed to drift off again, but the buzzing noise was insistent and eventually won out. I went and got some earplugs, which successfully blocked the noise, but then I was aware of my breathing and my ears felt funny so again I didn’t manage to fall asleep. I gave up and got up a bit before 7am.

I will have to go ask neighbours if they’ve got any machines running all night. It might be something like a fan, being used for cooling in the warm humid nights. I had a problem with that some years ago when a neighbour had a fan running all night and it kept me awake. Trouble is it might be a bit late tonight now that I’ve reminded myself of it again.

Today I worked some more on the paper that I’m proofreading/editing. I got through about 2.5 pages.

For dinner I planned to make some red Thai curry, but instead of grabbing the red curry paste form the fridge, I grabbed laksa paste instead, and didn’t notice until I’d spooned it into the vegetables. So I guess we had laksa vegetables and rice?

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It was a cooler, rainy day today. By cooler I mean 24°C. But still over 90% humidity, so it felt a bit stifling. This morning, after my daily run, I wrote the rest of this week’s Irregular Webcomic! annotations.

At lunchtime I had my appointment for my COVID booster third dose. It was at a medical centre I’d never been to before. It was very pleasant and I actually saw the doctor a few minutes early. After waiting the 15 minutes to ensure no reactions, I left and went to a nearby food place for some celebratory fried chicken for lunch. My wife met me with Scully, out on her lunch break walk, and we walked home together.

This afternoon I made a slide presentation for ethics of data engineering, for the university course I’m working on, and uploaded it to the share site for the lecturer. I also played a bit with Mentimeter, which is an app that the university uses for interactive lectures. I made a few slides asking questions about ethics of different data collection examples, which the students can vote on in real time during the lecture, and also post comments for everyone to see, and potentially the lecturer to read out and respond to. It seems to be a neat tool for getting interactive feedback from students during a lecture.

For dinner tonight I cooked some dhal from a kit that my wife got as a Christmas gift. By the time it was ready to eat, I was feeling a little bit nauseated – I think possibly a side effect of the COVID booster. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t eat, and the dhal tasted good.

Now I think I’ll relax and take it easy for the rest of the evening.

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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.

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No shipping for you!

I got an email from a kickstarter that I’d backed some time ago, saying that they’ve now shipped all of the backer rewards… except all of the rewards going to Australia. They said:

Great news! ALL of the Crazy Legs packages have been delivered to the Post Office and scanned in to the tracking system. Many of you have already received your Crazy Legs and the list of happy recipients if going to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming weeks. UNLESS you are from Australia… with current shipping restrictions we simply are not allowed to ship to your yet per current Postal regulations.

This was news to me! What postal regulations???

I asked the question, and it turns out that the United States Postal Service suspended deliveries to Australia on 3 September, 2021, and has not yet reinstated them. I had no idea! Apparently the reasoning was that mail handling facilities in Australia had been disrupted by COVID restrictions. It’s odd that (as far as I know) no other country has suspended mail to Australia, and although slightly slower than normal, our mail seems to be being delivered just fine.

Has anyone told the USPS that this doesn’t seem to be a real problem? Well, not much I can do about it except wait it out and hope the Kickstarter ships the goodies as soon as they are able.

In other news today, a friend of mine has tested positive for COVID. He informed me this morning. And, importantly, he pointed out that this means either he was infected when he visited me at the market on Sunday, or he caught the virus at the market. (My friend has mild symptoms, I should mention – he says it feels like a mild cold with a bit of a cough, nothing more.)

So I went up to the hospital to get a test swab taken. And my wife and I cancelled our outing to go see the new Bond film, No Time to Die, which we’d planned to do today. And we cancelled our plans to see my family on Christmas Eve tomorrow. I’m hoping the test results come back in time to decide if we really need to cancel seeing her family on Christmas Day for lunch, or not.

If you haven’t heard, the omicron variant is hitting Australia hard, and we’re setting new record numbers of cases daily, despite the over 16 population begin around 95% fully vaccinated. A few months ago we were freaking out over 200 cases a day. Today New South Wales recorded 5715 new cases, and it appears to be doubling roughly every two days.

And testing numbers are also through the roof. Previous records were about 80,000 tests per day in NSW, but we’re now recording numbers around 150,000 a day. This has meant huge queues at testing centres, with wait times in the multiple hours at many of them. I wasn’t really looking forward to that, but it seems I was lucky. I went to the hospital in intermittent rain and was in the queue for just 45 minutes. I saw on the news later this evening that at the same hospital the queue had grown to hours long.

Anyway, it seems COVID has messed up another Christmas.

In good news, Scully had her pre-Christmas groom today, and looks adorable.

Scully ready for Christmas

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