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.

New content today:

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.

New content today:

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.

New content today:

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.

New content today:

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.

New content today:

Warm and sunny!

The sun came out today! It was warm! It ain’t going to last though… the forecast for Thursday has been raised to up to 100 mm of rain, with 25 on Wednesday and 30 on Friday. But tomorrow should be hopefully warm and dry.

I worked today on another weekly batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. And… gosh, I’m not sure what else I did. I made some sourdough bread, and made cauliflower rice with fried chilli eggs for dinner.

Sometimes I just don’t know how a whole day flies by so quickly.

Last night I started watching The Exorcist. Despite being a classic, I’ve never seen it before. I’m half way through and might try to finish it tonight. It’s definitely a product of the 1970s, and it’s got a slow burn beginning that takes maybe half an hour just setting up the characters before anything really happens. But it’s getting interesting now and I’m curious to see how it ends.

New content today:

Attempted eggplant tarts

Today was Labour Day Monday, a public holiday. Not that it was much different to any other day in COVID lockdown.

I went on another exploratory walk with my wife and Scully, to new places we hadn’t been before within our 5 km radius from home. I have some photos, but it’s too late now to prepare them, since we’ve spent this evening watching The Adventures of Tintin on Netflix. I’m a big Tintin fan – of the books – but I’ve never seen this movie until tonight. I got bad vibes from all the publicity and avoided it until now. It’s a bit uncanny valley in the character animation, and it plays very fast and loose with the story material from the books, but it’s not as terrible as I feared, and there were a lot of nice references to the greater Tintin canon sprinkled throughout, which someone like me could pick up on. I feel like it would have been nice if they played the canonical story straighter and didn’t include so many gratuitous action sequences, but it was okay.

For dinner tonight I planned to make eggplant and haloumi tarts. I grilled the eggplant first to make it soft…

Burnt eggplant

… but I forgot about it while doing something else, and came back too late to find this. So yeah, I completely ruined dinner. I was so put out that I ended up just making fried eggs on toast for dinner instead.

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:

Photography standards prep work

Today I did some administrative prep work for my next ISO photography standards meeting, which is coming up in early February. I had to fill out some forms for Standards Australia, and distribute agendas and stuff, informing fellow Australian experts about the meeting and asking those interested to join the online meeting to let me know. And I downloaded a bunch of documents and got up to speed with the latest info from ISO and the Digital Photography committee. So all this took a while.

Apart from that I didn’t do much else apart from woth on my ongoing Secret Project, which I can’t talk about. So there’s not much more to say today.

Oh, I watched Pet Sematary (2019) on Netflix last night. I was discussing movies made from Stephen King novels with a friend a few days ago, and discovered that Pet Sematary had been remade, following the 1989 version. I actually hadn’t seen either version, nor read the book, but found that the remake was on Netflix, so I decided to give it a watch. I thought it was reasonably good. Reviews of the two versions interestingly have the 1989 version as superior, according to the general public, but the 2019 version as superior according to film critics – although not much difference either way. I’d be interested to see the 1989 version, but it’s not on Netflix, so I don’t have an easy way to do so.

Oh, I remembered what I else I did today that ate up all my time! It was the final day of the 3rd Test match between Australia and India, being played here in Sydney. Australia had set India 407 runs to win in the final innings yesterday, and they ended yesterday at 2 wickets for 98 runs, so requiring another 309 runs to win today. This is a ridiculous target, especially at Sydney, which is one of the most difficult cricket grounds to score runs on in the final innings in the world, and certainly the most difficult in Australia.

The highest score ever made in Sydney in the final innings to win a Test was 280, by Australia against South Africa in 2006, followed by 266 by Australia against England in 1907. So expectation was that Australia would get all the Indian batsmen out and win handily. But India put up a huge fight, and for a while looked like they might chase down the required runs. It was only halfway through the day that a couple of batsmen got out, at which point India looked to be in trouble, since one of their best batsmen had a broken thumb and wasn’t going to bat unless absolutely required. And then when Hanuma Vihari came out to bat he soon pulled a hamstring and was unable to run. But he batted on with the pulled hamstring for three more hours and they simply didn’t bother running any more. So they abandoned the 407 run target and simply focused on not getting out.

Well, three hours later, the Australians still had not got a single further batsman out, and so the game ran out of time, and ended in a draw (the result when the game is not completed in the allotted time). India had saved the game from almost certain defeat, and go into the final match of the series in Brisbane, with the series still level at 1-1. The final match starts on Friday, and is going to be absolutely riveting.

New content today: