Patatas bravas

I tried making something new for dinner tonight: patatas bravas!

Patatas bravas

Excuse the messy presentation. I mixed the potatoes and sauce in the bowl and didn’t tidy it up afterwards. I basically used this recipe from the BBC. It turned out pretty good! But potatoes really do take a long time to crisp up in the oven, gosh. I got a bit impatient, and could probably have left them for another 10-15 minutes.

I took Scully for a long walk this morning, since I had time and the weather was cloudy and cool.

At home I spent time writing a new class for this week’s online ethics lessons. The topic for this week is “Minor Laws”. Some example discussion points for the kids:

One important difference between serious laws and minor laws is that a lot more people break minor laws. People who commit murder are quite rare, but there are many thousands or millions of people who drive too fast, or litter.

• Why do so many people break such laws?

One thing about minor laws like these is that most of the people who break them never get caught or punished in any way. They get away with it.

• If it’s safe to cross the road when the light is red, and you’re not going to get punished for it, does that make it okay?
• Is it okay to break a law that lots of people break and never get punished for?

(some stuff about enforcement and why minor laws are poorly enforced here, which I’ve cut for brevity)

Unenforced minor laws are sometimes used as a way to punish people for something else. For example, in a city where nobody usually gets punished for jaywalking, the police could set up an operation where they monitor street corners and give jaywalking fines to people they don’t like the look of: immigrants, or homeless people, or people of certain skin colours.

• Could this be a serious problem if we start enforcing minor laws more?
• Is there any way we can ensure that the enforcement of minor laws is fair and unbiased?

This evening I had free so I went for a 5k run after my wife got home from work. It wasn’t hot, but it was very humid (97% according to the Bureau of Meteorology) and that meant a slowish time, although better than the runs I did on the weekend, which were similar humidity but hotter.

Last night I watched The Running Man (1987), which was new on Netflix here recently. I thought I might have seen it before, since I watched many of Arnie’s films in the ’80s, but I found to my delight that it was unfamiliar. I had to laugh at the fact that it was set in the dystopian future of 2017, and that 2017 apparently still had a very ’80s aesthetic, with dancing women in high-cut aerobics leotards and big hairdos, and computers that were no smaller or more advanced than what could be found in the 1980s. It wasn’t especially profound, being an Arnie action flick, but it was a lot of fun. Bonus points for featuring Mick Fleetwood as a freedom fighter. I was really not expecting that!

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Here’s a nice photo of Scully

Scully in bow tie

I took this in the park on Saturday evening, before we went to the chai place for dinner. She has a bow tie on because she had a wash and brush at the dog groomer earlier in the day, and they give the dogs a decoration before you pick them up.

Today there’s not a lot to talk about: 4 ethics classes. Making a sourdough loaf. Making pizza for dinner. It rained a bit, so I had to dodge the incoming rain on the weather radar while taking Scully for a walk after lunch.

Last night I started rewatching IT, the 2017 horror film. Because IT Chapter Two was released recently on Netflix here, and I need a refresher of the first film before I watch the second part.

Today I also started playing with Microsoft’s Bing Image Creator, which uses DALL-E 3. I’d been using the public version of DALL-E 2, but getting frustrated at its limitations, while a friend of mine keeps sharing images he’s made with Bing, which look much better. So for some reason it turns out that you can’t access DALL-E 3 directly from the creator without paying a subscription, but if you just have a Microsoft login you can access it via Bing Image Creator. I’m not sure how that works as a pricing model, but who am I to argue? Anyway, I started playing around with it, and it’s a lot better than DALL-E 2. I’m just using the image generation for fun, to do stuff like illustrate scenes from our Dungeons & Dragons games.

Here’s one, for example. You’ll notice it’s not perfect – I specified “wingless”, but the dragon in the picture has wings.

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Photoshop version upgrade wrangling

The other day I upgraded my Photoshop installation from version 24 to 25. For some reason, my Creative Cloud subscription didn’t offer me an automatic upgrade, which it usually does. It did list the new version as one that I could install, but there was no option to “update” the version over the top of my existing installation like it usually does. So I tried hitting the “install” button and let it install the new version in parallel.

Normally when updating, the new version imports all of my settings and customisations – and for Photoshop there are a lot of these, including things like graphic styles, palette colours, macro actions, keyboard shortcut assignments, new document defaults, tool defaults and styles, and so on. But the new version didn’t have any of these, and I had to spend some time copying them all across from the older version.

When I was finally happy, I tried making a new Darths & Droids comic using the new version. It mostly worked okay, until I got to adding a drop shadow to some of the comic panels. The way I do this is: (a) select the panel layer, (b) hit the custom drop shadow style that I have defined on the styles palette. Done. But even though I’d imported my custom style palette into the new version, the drop shadow style was defined differently! The shading angle and sizes were different! It took me some time to actually notice this – the difference was fairly subtle, but I definitely noticed something was wrong. It took some time to figure out exactly what was wrong, as I had to open comics in the old Photoshop version and examine the style details and compare the numbers, to find they didn’t match.

So even though I imported the styles across version, the details of the styles were different! This was a pain. I had to redefine the drop shadow style from scratch in the new version. And then… well, there must be some larger bug with the styles, because it worked for the document I had open, but when I started a new document and applied the same style that I’d just defined, it produced the wrong result! I don’t see how this could happen, unless the styles are actually buggy. I’m now hoping they’ll fix them in the next point release, because until they do I’m going to basically have to define all the drop shadow panels manually, rather than use a one-click style.

Phew.

In other events today… well, I didn’t do all that much else. Drove my wife and Scully to a lunch that she’d organised with some of her friends. I had some lunch nearby by myself and drove back home, while my wife walked Scully home from there. We played a couple of games of Kingdomino this afternoon, winning one game each. I suggested best of three, but she had other things to do by that time. And this evening three more ethics classes.

Last night I watched Renfield on Netflix. I saw this movie advertised when it was released a few weeks ago, but avoided it because it looked a bit cheesy. But last night I felt like something lighter and watched it, and I’m glad I did. It’s a sort of genre-defying Dracula/gangster/rom-com. Nicolas Cage was excellent as Dracula – a real scenery chewing performance that was hilarious and fun. Honestly, the only thing I can think that would improve this movie is if the young-Hugh-Grant-wannabe lead was actually somehow played by a young Hugh Grant.

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Fass Bent

I just watched Alien: Covenant for the first time, since it appeared on Netflix while I was away overseas. I generally like the Alien movies – the first two were masterpieces of course, in very different yet consistent ways. The rest I’ve enjoyed in different ways, though I thought Prometheus wasn’t that great, and then I never saw Covenent at the cinemas. Having watched it now, I think it was an improvement over Prometheus, but felt like a straightforward story, with none of the real tension or horror of the first two films..

But I had a rather strange reaction to one aspect Covenant:


Spoilers hidden, click to reveal

I thought the two androids, David and Walter, looked vaguely similar to each other, but I totally did not realise they were both played by Michael Fassbender, and were intended to look identical. Which kind of spoiled the twist ending, when David pretended to be Walter, as I didn’t even realise they were meant to look similar enough for that to happen. Like, I thought David was played by Fassbender, but Walter was being played by some other actor who just happened to look a bit like him.


Today I was busy with more ethics classes. I had 5 classes, having added an extra class on Mondays to cater to a parent who wanted to try something for a bit as a 1-on-1 class for her son, to try to develop his critical thinking skills. He turned out to be very bright and articulate and I’m not really sure why his mother thinks he needs to work on those skills! But we had a great discussion about the American and French Revolutions and revolutions in general, digging deep into motivations and circumstances behind them and the role that human nature and our prejudices and emotions play in such events.

In the hour break I had for lunch in between, I took Scully for a bit of a walk. It was a nice day today, though a touch warm and very humid, though no threat of rain. That’s saving itself up for the next two days.

My jet lag is almost gone, but I’m still waking up a little earlier than I’d like. Another day or two should set things right now.

New content today:

Just writing more lessons

Today I mostly spent writing up new lessons for the coming week of ethics classes. One on “Stealing” for the younger kids, and on “Literature” for the older ones.

In between I took Scully for a long walk over to the Italian bakery a few suburbs away, to have a slice of pizza for lunch. Today they had a special maple/pecan danish, which I had to try as I think this is a great combination of flavours.

The weather was nice and sunny, and we’re in for a warm few days coming up, with temperatures hovering around 23°C. If that sounds warm for midwinter, yes, it’s unseasonally warm and it really has been most of winter. We’re not complaining yet, but who knows what this summer is going to bring?

Last night I started watching Bird Box: Barcelona on Netflix. I liked the first Bird Box, and was curious to see this sequel. There’s something a bit different going on and it’s not clear yet. I watched half the film and will finish it off tonight. I do this a lot with movies nowadays – I just don’t have enough time in the evenings after my classes to watch a full movie, so I always stretch them out over two nights.

All my friends are talking about Barbie and Oppenheimer at the cinemas. I think Oppenheimer would be interesting, especially given my background in physics, though I don’t know if I’ll manage to get to a cinema to see it.

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Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

It should be obvious by the post title what I did today.

In the morning I worked on some comics, and also my lesson plan for the older kids’ ethics class on Privacy. But at midday I went out with my wife and we dropped Scully off at doggie daycare and went to watch a movie at the cinema for the first time since before COVID.

I’m a big Indiana Jones fan (as evidenced by Irregular Webcomic!), and I couldn’t miss seeing the new film on the big screen. Usually a Wednesday at lunchtime would be a great time to see a film, with the cinemas not full. But it’s currently school holidays here, so there are lots of kids around and parents desperate to find something to occupy them. So rather than turn up and risk the movie being sold out, I decided to buy tickets online. Simple enough.

I went to the cinema site, selected the session time, got to choose what seats we wanted (middle of the second back row). And then it gave me options to pay by card or PayPal. Since I have some cash in PayPal, I chose that. Okay, good. The cinema sent me an email with a barcode, which I could add into Apple Wallet on my phone, so it could be scanned at the cinema. The instructions in the email said to scan the barcode at the ticket office to collect my tickets. It also said I had to bring with me the credit card I’d used to pay for the tickets, and photo ID. The implication was that if I didn’t bring the credit card, I wouldn’t be able to collect the tickets. But… I’d paid by PayPal…

Well, I didn’t actually think this was a serious problem, but it was slightly annoying that their user interface had given such a useless instruction. As it turned out, I didn’t even have to collect tickets. I went to the ticket office, expecting an automated scanning station that issued the tickets, but I couldn’t find one, and had to ask a staff member, who said that I didn’t need tickets at all. Just show the barcode to the attendant at the door and they’d scan it and let us in. So that’s a second instruction in the email that was completely incorrect.

Anyway, it wasn’t a drama getting in to see the movie – just annoying that the email info was so wrong. We had good seats and saw the movie and had a great time.

Look, I even liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, despite the obvious flaws, just because it was Indy, so of course I was going to like this. But it was definitely a better film than that one. I’m very happy I saw it on the big screen.

Tonight: three more ethics classes, and finishing off that lesson on Privacy, ready for 08:00 tomorrow morning.

New content today:

Trying Obsidian

Today was fairly mundane: did a 2.5k run, wrote and assembled a Darths & Droids comic strip, worked on brief outlines for future ethics classes (one on Movies for the younger group, and one Colonisation for the older kids), taught three classes.

Last night I started watching Dune (2021). I seldom have time to watch a full movie in one sitting, instead splitting them in half over two nights. And given Dune is a long running time at 2.5 hours, it’s been sitting in my to-watch list for some time now, but I finally decided to tackle it. I’ve never read Dune, or seen the prior movie version, and the only things I knew about it were the name of Paul Atreides, and that there’s a planet with a desert, giant worms, and Spice. So there was a lot of exposition covering stuff that was new to me. In fact, the first half of the movie seemed to be almost entirely exposition and teaching me background stuff that I may need to know when the action actually starts. And then I only found out today when I told my friends that apparently this Dune movie is only the first half of the novel, and a sequel is being made which will cover the second half! Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far.

The other interesting thing I did today was decide to try using Obsidian and see if it’s a good solution for keeping my notes in. I’m currently using Microsoft’s OneNote, which I quite like and have extensive notes in, but Obsidian’s use of plain text files and independence of Microsoft’s cloud sync are appealing, and I understand it also has hyperlinking and some other features that I will find useful.

I’m using OneNote for two very different sorts of notes:

  1. long term notes that I add to and edit occasionally, that I want organised in hierarchies and links, and that I want to have saved safely without necessarily needing the ability to access from mobile;
  2. short term notes such as shopping lists, or lists of things for travel such as hotel addresses, or scripts for comics that I’m working on, which get edited and erased a lot, and which I want to be able to sync and access from mobile (and even by my wife from her phone too, for the case of shopping and travel lists).

I’m thinking I’ll try migrating the former to Obsidian and using Github as a change tracking repository, while leaving the latter in OneNote, which it seems better suited for. I haven’t started doing this yet – I need to play around in Obsidian a bit first and learn how to use it.

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Planning a lesson on UFOs

Today I wrote my lesson plan for an upcoming class (starting next week) on the topic of UFOs. This was a special request from one of my students. It’s definitely more a critical thinking topic than an ethics one, although I did manage to think of some ethical questions to ask, such as: Is it ethical of media to publish stories of UFO sightings? If they know most of them have mundane explanations?

I found some very interesting graphs to show to the kids, such as the ones in this article indicating UFO sightings peak in the northern hemisphere summer, and have been growing year by year since the 1960s (after an initial peak in the 1940s and 50s). And ones in this article indicating the global distribution of UFO sightings (hint: over 80% of all sightings are in the USA; less than 20% in the entire rest of the world). And then I’ll ask them what could explain these trends. it should be a very interesting class!

But today I started the topic on Lying. This is a retread of one of the first topics I did two years ago when I started the class. Since none of the same kids are still enrolled I’m able to rerun the topic. That saves me some time writing a new lesson plan (which I can spend writing classes for the older students…)

Last night I finished watching the movie Viking Wolf on Netflix. As the second Norwegian creature film I’ve watched recently, I rate it higher than Troll (2022), which was very formulaic. It’s not the best werewolf film I’ve seen, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend it.

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A double Conjuring

This week I’ve watched two movies: The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2. The first one seemed familiar about halfway through, and the more I watched the more I got the feeling I’d seen it before. One problem I’ve found with Netflix is that there’s no indication if you’ve watched a movie before or not. So it’s possible to find something and think it looks interesting, and start watching it, and only realise partway through that you’ve seen it before.

Anyway, it was still enjoyable, and I was inspired to watch the (first) sequel, curious if I’d recognise it too. But no, it felt completely new to me. One thing that stood out to me was the early scene inside the famous Amityville Horror house. It was instantly recognisable from those quarter-circle windows.

The Amityville Horror was a transformational part of my childhood. It’s actually one of the first movie experiences I remember. I was definitely too young to see it by any reasonable measure, but my mother took me and my brother into the city and the huge cinema complex there for a full day, in which we saw three movies. The other two were The Muppet Movie and Meteor. Amityville was obviously my mother’s choice – she’s always been into horror. And she was never shy about exposing us kids to it. I remember seeing a whole bunch of classic Hammer horror movies as a kid.

Anyway, I was instantly reminded of it by the house’s appearance in The Conjuring 2. That got me on a nostalgic Wikipedia dive to read up on it and remind myself. I was a little surprised to find that the Amityville house still exists. Curious, I checked it out on Google Streetview, but was disappointed to see that it’s been blurred out beyond any visibility. Presumably precisely because so many people want to gawk at it.

Today I took Scully out for a total of three walks, because my wife had a day off work but used the opportunity to go into the city and check out some shops and have a leisurely morning tea and so on. And otherwise I finished off writing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I’ll photograph them tomorrow.

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AI-generated horror

I’ve been playing a bit with all of the cool AI-powered art generation tools that have been unleashed in recent times. I mentioned the other day that I got an invite to DALL-E. Rather than burn through my free credits trying stuff, I’ve been trying random things with Craiyon, a free site that uses DALL-E Mini.

Unrelatedly, I’ve been watching a bunch of horror movies that Netflix has been recommending to me. At some point I veered off into Asian horror films, and there seems to be plenty of them for it to keep recommending to me. I seem to have hit a local maximum in its “you might like this” algorithm, such that nearly everything it recommends to me these days is an Asian horror film.

Making the connection between horror films and AI, I decided to try hitting Craiyon with the prompt: Scene from a Japanese horror film. Here’s what it came back with:

AI generated scene from Japanese horror film

Yep. That’s pretty close to what I expected. A creepy long-haired ghost girl, trading on the Yotsuya Kaidan story and the indelible influence it has had on Japanese horror, via The Ring. Notice also the typically Japanese shoji walls, most noticeable in the bottom left frame.

All right. I’ve also been watching some Chinese horror, so let’s try: Scene from a Chinese horror film:

AI generated scene from Chinese horror film

Interesting! It’s mostly similar long-haired ghost girls, but with a vividly different colour palette. The delicate shoji walls have been replaced by brutalist concrete walls. There are also several apparent victims, lying on the floor in shrouds. And some interestingly creepy pictures on some of the walls.

Next up: Scene from a Korean horror film:

AI generated scene from Korean horror film

More long-haired ghost girls, but with a much greater emphasis on the faces and their blood-curdling expressions. We also have a few boys or young men who might be victims, or perhaps relatives of the ghost girl. The colour palette is a bit more blue/yellow and less green than the Chinese examples.

Okay, let’s try moving away from Asia, to Europe, beginning with: Scene from a French horror film:

AI generated scene from French horror film

Now our walls have curtains and doors. We’ve gone back to a mostly black and white palette. And the long-haired ghost girl is replaced by a range of spooky figures with recent haircuts, or horrified victims – particularly that anguished looking close-up of the woman’s face at centre right. In the bottom left we have what might be a witch hovering by someone’s bedside, waiting to bestow a curse. Definitely a more European classic cinema vibe here.

I’ve also seen a couple of German films recently, which have been fairly modern and based around teenagers getting into spooky situations. Honestly they felt more like Scooby Doo than a serious horror film. So lets try: Scene from a German horror film:

AI generated scene from German horror film

Oooh. Getting some Max Schreck Nosferatu vibes here, although not too explicitly. The exterior farmhouse at top middle is interesting – the first identifiably exterior scene generated so far. Good choice though because, as we all know, farmhouses are 90% more spooky than most other buildings. Definitely more of a vampire feel than ghosts here. And a couple of frames of Nazis, which I suppose is fair enough for the horror genre.

Now let’s try some English-speaking origins. We’ll start with: Scene from a British horror film:

AI generated scene from British horror film

Interesting. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. There seems to be a few people in masks, another creepy outdoor farmhouse, and in the bottom left what looks like a shadowy mob. Intriguing candlelight and shadows.

Contrast with: Scene from an American horror film:

AI generated scene from American horror film

There are definitely a lot more interior rooms here, with doors. I guess American horror hinges a lot more on people lurking through doorways.

And finally: Scene from an Australian horror film:

AI generated scene from Australian horror film

I’m not sure that anything here particularly implies Australia. It just seems to be some more semi-generic ghosty building stuff. I don’t know what that claw-like shadow is in the upper left panel, but it’s nice and spooky.

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