New comic batching

I had a final five classes today on the current ethics topics. But my main achievement was finishing off scripts and then photographing a new large batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I put together the first one for tonight, but I’ll have to start assembling the rest tomorrow.

The weather continues to be warm and humid. We reached 29°C today, and the humidity never dropped below 70%. The next week is looking like being uncomfortably warm, with overnight minimums never dropping below 21°C. In fact we haven’t had any temperature below 20°C since Thursday last week, so it’ll be 10 or 11 days in a row at least. That’s too warm to sleep comfortably, but fortunately we have air conditioning to cool things down a bit further so we can sleep.

I’ve also been organising a Christmas event with my family. My family traditionally does gatherings on Christmas Eve, which is kind of nice because it means everyone can do things with their spousal families on Christmas Day without any clashing. Last year we went to a gathering of extended family, but my mother lives up the coast and doesn’t travel much these days, so she missed out. This year instead my wife and I, and my brother, have made plans to go visit my mother on Christmas Eve. I’ve booked a place where we can go out for a nice lunch, with outdoor seating so we can take Scully as well.

New content today:

Humidity and comic writing

The heading kind of sums up today. It wasn’t nearly as hot as yesterday, only reaching 28°C, but it was very humid, with a cloudy overcast locking in the moisture. I went for a 5k run at 7:30 and it was 20.6°C with 100% humidity. I did manage a faster time than yesterday though, so that was good, but boy was I dripping with sweat by the end of it.

After having a cold shower I spent much of the day writing new Irregular Webcomic! strips. I’m planning to photograph a big batch tomorrow, just in time for the new week of strips. Hopefully.

Another thing I forgot to mention yesterday: I played another game of Root (the board game) with my wife. We’ve only been playing the cats and the birds factions so far as we’re both still learning the game, but this time I tried the Woodland Alliance for the first time. My wife played cats and absolutely destroyed me. Final score was 31-14. I can see the Alliance strategy will take some time to learn.

New content today:

Storm fronts and Lego

Late last night, after I’d written my blog post, we had a severe storm hit Sydney. It didn’t last very long, but was incredibly intense, with lots of lightning and loud thunder. My friends and I were tracking the storm radar across the city, and reporting when the rain hit at our various home locations. It hit me about 10pm, and the rain was absolutely torrential, and there was also hail. The hail wasn’t too large, only about pea sized.

And tonight there’s another storm tracking across Sydney as I type this. We just had some heavy rain, but overall it looks less intense than last night.

Today I worked on getting some new Irregular Webcomic! strips written, photographed, and assembled, in time for the coming week. Ideally I’d do a large batch, but I only had time for a week’s worth, which will hopefully give me breathing room to write a full batch for next week. I’m actually planing to wind down production of new comics some time in the not too distant future, as I’m finding it difficult to keep up and it’s providing me with a bit less fun than it used to. But I want to finish off the stories in some sort of way and not leave things hanging. It may take another year or so to do that!

Today there were two nearby Christmas markets on, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. My wife wanted to go check out both of them and do some Christmas gift shopping, so I drove her out to each market, and she walked home with Scully from each of them. She says she’s completed her Christmas shopping now, so that’s good.

And tonight I had three more ethics classes, on the topic of Exercise. Some of the questions I’ve been asking the kids:

  • Can exercise make you feel better mentally as well as physically? How?
  • Do you think people are less fit today than in the past? (given changes in lifestyle from manual labour societies to modern technology)
  • Is it ethical to pressure someone to exercise for their own well-being? If they don’t enjoy it?
  • Is it appropriate for a government to run a campaign to encourage citizens to exercise, as a general benefit to health care?

I’m still a bit exhausted by the end of an evening of teaching, as I still haven’t caught up on my sleep routine after my trip. The past couple of nights I’ve gotten close to sleeping through to a reasonable wake-up time though, so hopefully it won’t take much longer.

New content today:

Seeing into the future: Crystal balls!

Monday morning is the regular end-of-ethics-week final classes in the morning. Morning classes are usually full of kids from North America, because it’s early evening over there. Honestly I was glad to be finished this week’s Energy topic, for reasons I touched on earlier. I tried to revise the plan on the fly to include more open-ended discussion questions, and it worked a bit, but was still not as open as I’d have liked. Never mind, on to the new topic! It’s on Pets, and I’ll write the plan tomorrow.

This afternoon I worked solidly on Irregular Webcomic! I made 10 new strips, using the photos I took a few weeks ago. I now have a full 3-week buffer, which will hopefully give me time to write new strips and take more photos before it runs out.

Tonight was lesson 3 in my current instance of the Creative Thinking/Board Game Design class. This is where the course gets really interesting and fun, as we converge down the brainstorming ideas we did last week and come up with a theme for the game we’ll be designing. After the three students voted, we had two theme ideas on equal footing: Colonising lands, and “a shiny crystal ball”. I did a tie-break and selected what I think is the more interesting option, the crystal ball. So… we’re designing a board game about crystal balls!

We’ve already thought of one possible rules mechanic. During the game set up, you lay out a series of cards face down, which represent things that happen on future turns of the game, and by using a crystal ball you get to look at a future card. So you know what will happen on that turn. Then you can use that knowledge to your advantage. Perhaps the rules require you to reveal or hint something about the future to the other players, or perhaps you can bluff about it. Next week we’ll work on more mechanics and refining the game rules into something workable.

New content today:

Big Lego comics day

After getting three ethics classes out of the way this morning, I worked hard on Irregular Webcomic! today. I had to finish off writing a batch of strips, quickly, so I had time to photograph the whole batch, and then assemble some of the comics for this week, since the buffer was empty. This meant some of the comics didn’t get punchlines as good as I would have liked, but thankfully when I got to assembling the comics I managed to rewrite one of those to my satisfaction. Actually, it’s the one that’s gone up this evening already!

Apart from that, I took Scully for a walk at lunch, and then again with my wife after she got home from work. And I cooked a quiche for dinner. And… about to relax and watch an episode of Question Team with my wife.

New content today:

The dreaded comics hiatus

I made a hard call today. I need to take a brief hiatus from making/publishing new Irregular Webcomic! strips. I managed to buffer enough to cover my trip to Japan, but at the moment I have an urgent need to upgrade my web server software, namely MediaWiki and PHP, to avoid either breaking my personal note-taking wiki or end up paying an extra maintenance fee to my webhost for keeping an old unsupported version of PHP around. I’ve been spending spare time all week preparing by porting some essential content from wiki to Obsidian as a backup. Once I’ve captured enough of that, I’ll backup the wiki to an XML export and try the upgrades. Some time this week hopefully. And hopefully it’ll all work and my porting/backing up won’t have been necessary. But in the worst case I’ll need it.

Anyway, that gives me no time this week to make new IWC comics. I’m keeping up with Darths & Droids though.

Another thing I mentioned a few days ago:

There’s a large house we walk past regularly, and since we got back from Japan I’ve seen that the brick wall around it has been partially destroyed. It looks like a car went out of control at the adjacent intersection, mounted the kerb, and smashed into the wall.

I walked past it again and took a photo today:

Broken fence

This house is on a Y-shaped intersection, so it could easily have been a car coming down the leg of the Y and not turning at all, and ploughing straight into the wall here. The wall has actually been cleaned up since I saw it the other day – then there were partly demolished sections of the brick wall remaining which made it look more like an accident than a deliberate removal.

Not much else to report today. Weather was fine and sunny and not too cold for winter, but windy, which was annoying. And for dinner I made a pizza with mushroom and eggplant topping. I don’t use eggplant that much, and it might be the first time I’ve put it on a pizza. I cubed it and fried it a little to make sure it cooked enough. It turned out good!

New content today:

An overdue chicken schnitzel

This morning I got stuck into photographing the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I took Scully for an early walk, and it was really chilly today. Then I got the Lego stuff out and spent the rest of the morning building and arranging the sets and taking photos. I finished the batch around 11am, then relaxed a bit before deciding what to do for lunch.

I decided to walk Scully up to the local shops and have lunch at one of the outside tables at one of the pubs. They have delicious chicken schnitzel, and it’s been a long while since Ive had one, so that’s what I ordered. Scully wanted to sit on my lap because it was still a bit chilly and windy, and she gave the schnitzel a good stare. But she’s pretty good and doesn’t try to grab food off plates. And it was as delicious as I remembered, so that was good!

This afternoon I finished up class notes for this week’s new ethics topic: Getting Even. This is a topic I did a couple of years ago, and I had plenty of good questions from then, so it wasn’t much work revising it. I had three classes this evening.

For one question I asked what the kids would do if another kid deliberately stepped on their foot, causing some pain. One girl said she’d feel angry an give them her “angry look”. She said she wouldn’t do it now (over the Zoom video) because it would scare me too much. I laughed and said I really wanted to see it now. So she did it, and yes it looked pretty angry, but in the current context it was really quite funny. I love it when the kids do interesting things and we can have a fun class.

New content today:

Intro to Intro to Machine Learning

Today I worked on a presentation for the university Data Engineering course I’ve been tutoring this semester. I felt there was a bit of a gap in the course material. The first few lectures talk about types of data, experimental collection of data, basic statistics (such as mean, standard deviation, etc), plotting and presenting data, and fitting data (linear regression), and hypothesis testing.

And then the next lecture is a guest lecturer from MathWorks who comes in and talks about using MATLAB to do machine learning. It’s a large jump in complexity and depth of material, and I feel like many of the students are left a bit floundering like they’ve suddenly been thrown in the deep end. There’s no set up of the context or motivation for machine learning, or what it’s actually trying to do with the data.

Last lecture I spoke with the professor about this and he agreed with my idea of adding a bit of introductory context material to set up the machine learning content. We actually have an opportunity to deliver this because for the next three weeks we just have project sessions where the students show up to work in their teams and ask us questions if they need any guidance. We do the same thing in the Image Processing course in semester two, and there we’ve had a “bonus material” lecture at the start of one of those session. (Last year I did this, talking about the science and engineering of photography.)

So today I made a short presentation (just 9 slides), that we can give to the students on Monday. I set up the problem that we want to solve – classifying things by examining measurements—data—about them. I give examples to show how general this problem is and the wide range of important applications. Then explain why it can be difficult and how we can approach it in a data analytical way. And then how we can apply automated algorithms to do it in various different ways. Which leads into the machine learning examples that they did in the aforementioned previous lecture.

I tested it on my wife and it only took about 15 minutes. (And she now has a better understanding of the context of machine learning than most people!)

Also today I started work on writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I hope to get that done in time to photograph Lego on Tuesday morning.

The forecast rain hit today – it was much cooler than yesterday. But still we managed to set a new record for number of consecutive days in Sydney with maximum temperature 20°C or more. Looking at the Bureau of Meteorology records, it looks like 193 consecutive days – the last day we had a maximum below 20°C was 17 October, 2022. The forecast for every day in the coming week is at least 22°C, so the streak will probably extend past 200 days.

New content today:

Back into teaching and comics

Friday night was online board games night with friends, so I skipped my daily update. After missing last week’s face-to-face games due to COVID, it was nice to get together online and play some games.

My Friday was very busy. I had my first ethics classes since cancelling a week’s worth while I got over COVID. I had one at 9am, which I’d moved an hour earlier because at 10am I had a Standards Australia meeting (also via Zoom), to follow-up from the ISO Photography Standards meeting I attended in February. We had the usual administrative business, and I went through the technical report I wrote summarising the discussions and events of the international meeting. It went okay, although I had to pause a few times for coughing, which is still an issue as I recover from the illness.

At lunch I went to pick up a weekly grocery shop from the supermarket. And then in the afternoon I had three ethics classes in a row. I managed okay, but again, needing to pause to cough a few times. The cough is really quite annoying. It comes and goes throughout the day – sometimes I have a long period of coughing and feel awful, and then I it settles down a bit and doesn’t bother me for a while.

Today was similar, with the coughing fading in and out during the day. I went for a walk with my wife and Scully to the Naremburn bakery and had a cinnamon scroll for morning tea, which was really delicious. On the way home it rained, and became fairly heavy. We’d taken umbrellas, but forgotten Scully’s raincoat, so she got soaked, and when we got home we had to towel her off and give her a blow dry.

I spent much of today writing new comics for Irregular Webcomic! I’ve had two weeks of no new strips after the buffer rain out a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m planning to photograph this new batch tomorrow morning and have them ready for Monday.

I made Thai red curry vegetables and rice for dinner tonight – which is the first proper dinner for both of us that we’ve had for some time, as my wife hasn’t felt up to eating much since she got COVID as well, but she’s feeling better now.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

Data presentation for beginners

Monday, and the weather was a lot cooler, with a few showers. I had three ethics classes, and then had to head off to the university for this weeks’s Data Engineering lecture. This is one of my favourites in the course, as it’s a lecture I designed about data presentation. It goes into formatting tables, and producing graphs, in ways that are clear and informative, without being confusing or deceptive. It sounds simple, but there’s quite a lot of subtlety to the topic, and the presentation plus the illustrative tutorial exercises for the students to complete fills up over 2.5 hours.

Afterwards I headed home and had to decide to either quickly make a new Irregular Webcomic! strip for tonight, or to abandon the week and just do reruns this week. I ran out of buffer last week and haven’t had time to make a new batch of comics. I decided not to stress myself out, and to give myself a break and hopefully I’ll have time to make a full batch by next Monday.

I made sure I didn’t repeat last week’s mistake and end up not having lunch until 2pm, but having my lunch during a break at at 11:30, before my final ethics class at midday. This meant I wanted a snack during the university lecture, so I grabbed a pack of choc-mint biscuits from the supermarket before I went in. Mmmm….

New content today: