Busy comic Monday

I spent most of today knuckled down making a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I started photographing immediately after breakfast, then had a break of 2 hours while I taught a couple of online ethics classes, then picked it up again. I finished just before 1 pm, when I had to go pick up Scully from my wife’s office.

I took Scully for a walk to the new bakery at Naremburn, where I had a pie for lunch. They also had a very nice looking banoffee tart, which I tried for a dessert.

Banoffee tart

It was really good!

After my wife got home from work I went for a run in the cool of the evening, completing another 2.5 km. I’m definitely finding that doing it nearly every day means I’m less likely to to just be lazy and miss an entire week of exercise!

New content today:

A long haul day

It was a busy day today. After the last week of ISO meetings and having deadlines for other things, I had two things I needed to get done today.

Firstly I started by making some Irregular Webcomic! strips, since without new ones the buffer would have run out today. I didn’t have time to write and photograph my usual batch of over 20 strips in one go, so I had to just write three strips to last until the end of this week, photograph them, assemble them, and write annotations for them. Fortunately I didn’t suffer any writers block and managed to get the whole lot done within a couple of hours. But that will only last until the weekend, and I’ll need to get another batch going in time for Monday.

After picking up Scully from my wife’s work at lunchtime, I brought her home via the slopey park again, where we did some ball fetching and lying in the grass for a bit. She was very good for me this afternoon when we finally got home, just sleeping in her dog bed until my wife arrived home from work.

This gave me time to work on the next thing – my ethics lesson for the new week of classes this evening. This week we’re talking about enhancing sports performance, in particular the ethics of performance enhancing drugs. We get there via a route starting with high altitude training – in which athletes live in mountains for several weeks while training, to increase their red blood cell count, which gives them an advantage when they return to lower altitudes. It’s a common (and legal) method that athletes have been using for many years. Then we go to low-oxygen tents, which simulate altitude training by let the athlete sleep in a low oxygen environment – it’s cheaper and easier and produces the same effect: higher red blood cell count. And it’s also legal in sports training.

Then we go onto blood doping – removing blood from an athlete, then a few weeks later transfusing the red cells back into the same athlete. This produces the same effect—increased blood cell count—just without the low-oxygen training. The result is exactly the same, but I ask the kids if it’s still acceptable.

And then we hit erythropoietin, or EPO. An artificial copy of a protein secreted by human kidneys, that regulates red blood cell production. If you inject it, you end up with more red blood cells. Again, the same result as altitude training, but by a different method. And the kids need to decide if this is okay or not. All the way along this path they need to justify their answers with explanations.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, where I don’t have any hard deadlines for things I need to get done. I might even relax a little…

New content today:

Comics and superheroes

It was a very comic book day today. I worked on constructing Irregular Webcomic! strips from the batch I photographed yesterday. And then this evening I ran my ethics of superheroes topic with three classes of kids in a row. It’s turned out to be a really fun topic, even if some of the kids were a little unenthusiastic to start – a couple said they didn’t really like superhero stories/movies. But they got into it when we discussed the various problems and dilemmas that occur in a world where people have (or might have) superpowers.

Over the past two nights I watched the movie Tenet, which I hadn’t seen before. (No spoilers in the following discussion.) I’d heard that the dialogue is difficult to make out from the sound mix, and wow, people were not kidding about that. I had to really strain to hear it, and rewind a few times and still missed a big chunk of the dialogue. I managed to get most of the important plot stuff, so I followed the story okay. It was only after someone reminded me that Netflix has closed captioning that I turned it on for the second half of the movie and followed it a lot more easily.

I enjoyed the film, and the clever, intricate plot. But it feels like there’s a lot to unpack that would require two or three viewings to fully appreciate. I also got the vague feeling that like one of Christopher Nolan’s other movies, Memento, if you examine the plot too closely from a logical point of view that it would start to fall apart and feel less satisfying. But anyway, yeah, I’d recommend it. With subtitles on.

New content today:

The comics grind, part 2

First job this morning was to go pick up my grocery order. Because I don’t have the car this week, I restricted the order to things we absolutely needed for the next week, which helped cut down the size. I walked up to the supermarket and walked back home carrying three bags full of food. It wasn’t too bad – I’ve carried heavier loads home from there before, but not for some time.

At home, I got stuck into photographing the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, which I’d finished writing yesterday. There were some interruptions, which meant I didn’t finish until after midday.

I went for a walk with my wife and Scully on her lunch break. We went down to a park by the water in a location we’ve rarely been to, which was really nice.

Tonight is inter-fortnightly virtual games night. Before that we walked up to the fish & chip shop to get some take-away dinner. With restaurants all closed except for take-aways, it takes a bit of effort to have a dinner that we don’t have to cook ourselves.

New content today:

The comics grind

I had one task today: Finish writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I need to get new strips made for next week, and I initially had the goal of photographing on Tuesday, but I was busy with so many other things that the necessary writing fell by the wayside, until today. Friday is basically the last day I could feasibly photograph this next batch in order to have the comics produced and ready in time. So there was nothing for it today but to chain myself to my desk and churn out comic scripts until I had them finished. No time for writer’s block, or shilly-shallying.

As it turned out, I completed the task by about 3pm, and then had some time to turn to writing some Darths & Droids strips as well, which are also a bit under the pump. I’ve fallen behind a bit on these with all of the other stuff going on, adding more ethics classes and handling the university image processing course that I’m teaching as well.

Then from 5pm I had two ethics classes in a row. The topic this week is “morals and the law”. I start with some example stories where people suggest that (a) just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral, and (b) just because something is illegal doesn’t make it immoral. I ask the kids for their thoughts on these statements. The responses have been varied, with most saying that the law is not necessarily aligned with moral correctness, but often is. I have had a couple of kids state outright that breaking the law is always an immoral act.

Then I tell the story of Rosa Parks, and how she broke the law to protest against the segregation laws in Alabama in 1955. I ask if the kids if those laws were morally correct or not, and why (thankfully everyone has agreed they were not!). And then I point out that Rosa Parks broke the law deliberately – she knew she was breaking the law – and ask if what she did was wrong. Even the kids who had previously said that breaking the law is immoral said that in this case breaking the law was a morally right act. So I’m sure that stimulated some reflection and thought!

I go on to consider what happens when laws change. I ask the kids why we change laws all the time, and they give answers such as laws that are bad, or laws to cover changes in technology, such as driving laws when cars were invented. I say that there are lobby groups who get governments to try to change laws, either adding new ones, or getting rid of existing ones, and ask the kids why people want to change the law. Answers include that people think something is right or wrong, morally, and they want the law to reflect that by permitting or banning it, respectively. Then I ask them if it’s a good idea to base the law on people’s morals…

This question seems to stimulate a lot of thought and discussion. Some kids say yes, that’s what the law should be based on. Others say it sounds good, but they’re not really sure if it is a good idea. Others say no, because people disagree on what’s morally right and wrong, so how can you please everyone? And then I steer the discussion into how should we make laws? Who should decide what the law is? Some kids have said it should be the President/Prime Minister, others the Parliament, others said it should be judges, but the most common answer here is that people should decide, by voting, and the law should be what most people agree on.

Then comes the whammy. The segregation laws in Alabama in 1955 were supported by the government and most of the voters. What should we do if most people want a morally unjust law? In the classes tonight I’d run out of time by the time I got here, so I left that question hanging for the kids to think about, and to discuss with their parents.

New content today:

Photographing Lego and writing ethical dilemmas

My two big tasks for today were photographing the new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, and writing a new lesson outline for the next week of online ethics classes.

I got stuck into the comic photographing early, after I’d finished breakfast. Normally a batch takes me all morning, finishing around lunch time, but I raced through it today and finished a bit early. This gave me time to take Scully for a walk and buy some milk which we needed.

And then I did a bit of administrative work for ISO photography standards. I forgot yesterday that I had to write some comments documents for a group of five photographic chemical standards which are up for renewal this year. These standards failed to be renewed because not enough countries indicated they were still using them, so now we have a ballot to object to their withdrawals, which was something that was agreed we should do during the meeting in June, since obviously a lot of people still do chemical based photography. Anyway, I had to pull out my wife’s laptop again because I had to write comments in MS Word.

That done, I turned to writing my lesson plan for the upcoming week of ethics classes I’m teaching, starting this evening. So I had a hard deadline of a few hours. I wrote a class about ethical consumerism, and during this evening’s class we discussed the ethics of developed nations asking tropical communities to cut down forests in order to grow cash crops such as sugar, coffee, and palm oil. We went from there to product choices in supermarkets, and pondering whether ingredients should be labelled with source information, so consumers can choose products with awareness of such issues.

Last week in this timeslot I had only one girl in the class, but today there were two new students, and it was a nice variety of opinions. One was pretty adamant that companies should be forced by law to label products sourced from ethically questionable practices, and that people not buying those products would effectively stop the practices, while another kid was of the opinion that companies should not be forced to do anything, but rather provided incentives such as lower tax if they use ethical sourcing, and that consumers boycotting products was pointless because not enough would ever do so to have any effect. So it was a good class!

New content today:

Comics and Standards reporting

I did two main things today: Finished writing that batch of new Irregular Webcomic! strips, and wrote a report on the ISO Standards meeting I attended a few weeks ago. There’s not too much to say about the first, except that finished the batch, so I’m ready to do the photography first thing tomorrow.

The second: I have to write a report on each international standards meeting I attend, to deliver to Standards Australia, and then go through with Australian experts during a follow-up meeting. We have that meeting next week, so it was time I wrote up the report. It’s a little tricky because the template I have to use is a Microsoft Word template, but I don’t have Word on my Mac. Apple’s Pages will open the document, but it gets the formatting badly wrong – so badly that it’s impossible for me to edit the document in Pages. So I have to edit it in Word. My wife has Word on her laptop since she needed it for work purposes – so I’m not about to pay for another license to put it on my desktop. So… I have to set up file sharing between the two machines, transfer my docs to the laptop, edit in Word there, then export to PDF and then transfer the lot back to my desktop. Which is why I tend to put off the task until I can’t any longer.

Anyway, it’s done now, so I can breathe easy again for a while.

For dinner tonight I tried a new recipe, from a TV show I saw a few weeks ago. They have the recipe online, so I can just link to it for you: Forever-roasted pumpkin with lemon pepper butter. I tried to find curry leaves in my supermarket, but they didn’t have them, so I settled for sage instead. It turned out delicious, although an entire half butternut pumpkin was very filling as a meal for me and my wife. Next time I’ll do half as much, and serve it with a light side dish.

We both separately tried taking Scully out in her new doggie-carry backpack today. She’s a little tricky to get in, being a bit squirmy, but once tucked into the pack she settles down nicely and really seems to enjoy the ride. We want to keep using the backpack regularly so she gets used to it and sees it as something totally normal.

New content today:

Intensive comics

Not much to say about today. It was cold and a bit wet, and I worked on comics all day, getting those buffers filled before Thursday.

This evening I took Scully out for a walk while my wife was doing an aerobics class. We took a loop route through the adjoining suburb and back across a footbridge over the creek.

Footbridge at night

It was very dark and moody crossing the bridge, still slick with the earlier rain, so I tried a couple of quick photos with my phone. Above is looking east, below is looking west.

Footbridge at night

New content today:

Chilly Saturday

Last winter here in Sydney was notably mild. This time as we head towards the end of autumn, it’s already noticeably colder than last year. We just had the coldest week of overnight minimum temperatures for the month of May, in the last 54 years. We had six nights in a row with the temperature dropping below 9°C.

Okay, I know that’s peanuts compared to places that get freezing temperatures and snow and stuff, but it’s pretty darn cold for Sydney. Taking Scully out for her pre-bedtime toilet around 10pm every night I’ve really been feeling the cold. Daytime temps have not been too bad though, with maximums around 20°C, which honestly is fine, especially if you’re out standing or walking in the sunshine. I’m not looking forward to the winter though.

Mostly today I worked on Irregular Webcomic! strips form the recent batch I photographed. Normally I make all the strips in one big effort and write the annotations and upload the files in one go. But I needed to get some uploaded for last week in a hurry, so I only did a few of them. Which means I had to do more today for the coming week.

I also had some cleaning up to do after last night’s games night. And this evening my wife and I went out for a nice dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. It’s the place where we had dinner on the night before our wedding, yay many years ago, so it always feels kind of special going back there for dinner. I had a lovely Goan fish curry. Mmm…

New content today:

An errant tonsil

Most of today I spent working on taking photos for a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips.

But this afternoon I had an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. A while back I noticed a rounded lump on one tonsil. I’ve been through a sequence of antibiotics prescribed by my GP, which didn’t do anything, so he sent me to the specialist. He had a look and then sent me to a CT scan of the neck region. Today he concluded from the scan that the lump most most likely a benign cyst, but he recommended removal so they could biopsy it and to prevent any future complications.

So I’m now booked in for a tonsillectomy in late June. Surgery is never fun, but I was kind of looking forward to having an excuse to eat nothing but ice cream for a week. But the doctor said I could eat anything after the surgery, except spicy-hot foods. Well, dang. He did also say that it would be painful for about a week and I should take it easy and essentially not do work, what with being doped up on painkillers. So it looks like all the bad bits without the ice cream.

Maybe I’ll just eat a lot of ice cream anyway.

New content today: