Thinking about the future of sports (and D&D)

I spent most of my time today writing a class plan for this week’s new ethics/critical thinking topic: The Future of Sports. Some example text:

People have been playing sports for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks held the first Olympic Games, which were originally competitions to see who could run fastest. Over time more events were added, such as discus throwing, wrestling, and chariot races. Chariot racing is an example of an ancient sport where technology is used. In modern times, sports have evolved into many different forms.

• What are some examples of how technology changed the way sports are played?
• How has technology changed the way sports are watched and managed?
• Has technology made sports better or worse? How?

Robotic technology is advancing rapidly. Soon we might have robots capable of playing sports as well as or better than humans.

• Would it make sense to have robots play sports against each other? Would humans watch it?

If robots could play sports as well as humans, we could have robot teams playing against human teams. Or teams with some human and some robot players.

• Could it be good if a human sports league has some robot players?
• What problems might robot athletes cause?

There’s more in between, about tech such as video replays, and modern equipment made of high-tech materials that may give athletes advantages, and so on. This is really much more a critical thinking topic than an ethics topic.

I spent a lot of the day writing this because I didn’t concentrate solidly on it, with a lot of interruptions for minor things. Lunch, walking Scully, goofing off browsing the Internet, pausing to read an Asterix book for the library, etc.

Something I realised today too: remember the new active defence combat system I was working on for D&D? I was thinking that it’d be easier to use the Armour Class as a score to roll under in order to successfully defend. But I realised today that if we use this system, then Armour Class has no other uses… it’s not necessary to record a character’s Armour Class at all. It can be completely replaced with defence scores for Block, Parry, and Evade. So why not turn them into a target to roll equal to or higher than? Then every roll in the game is the same – roll equal to or higher than a target number. So I think I’ll just do that.

(Bob P. commented on my original post that there might also be rolling low for saves, but no, I’m using the old fashioned Basic Rules saving throws, which are equal or beat a target number. So it’s all consistent.)

And switching topics again, for dinner tonight I did a “clear out the fridge of old ingredients”. Half a left-over pack of potato gnocchi, fried up with onion, celery, a chopped zucchini, some mushrooms, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Add a bit of salt and pepper and garlic, and it turned out to be a delicious meal.

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Tuesday teaching and Wednesday football

I missed my update yesterday because I was busy at the University of Technology Sydney at my first class for the semester on this year’s course on Image Processing. I missed the first class last week due to thinking it was on Thursday, but after moving my ethics classes from Tuesday to Thursday I made sure to make it this week. The class is packed, with about 200 students in the lecture room, definitely more than last year. Which I’ll take as a god sign that it’s a popular class.

Today I worked on my lesson plans for this week’s new ethics topics: Colonising Space for the 10-12 year olds, and Government for the 13-15 year olds. I competed those, and also went out for a nice lunch with my wife at a local Greek restaurant. Then tonight it was the first three space colony classes.

A question I asked during the class: Can colonising space benefit all of humanity and not just the wealthy who get to travel to new worlds, leaving poor people behind on an Earth troubled by wars or environmental disasters? I was surprised by a few students saying that it’d actually be good for the poor people to get rid of the wealthy elite! Anyway, it seems to be a good topic and we had a lot of fun discussing it.

And now straight after those classes we’re into the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final, Australia v England. I’m typing this at half time, with England up 1-0. It’s going to be a very tense second half, needing to come equalise and then try to find a lead somehow.

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A tale of two nights, two games

Friday was Dungeons & Dragons night! We started a new adventure, beginning with news from a small town to the north near the mountains that mark the edge of civilised lands and the beginning of the wilds. Something had been taking and killing sheep, and the town reeve offered a reward for anyone brave enough to find out what and deal with it.

The group was a little depleted (due to some player absences), but set forth and scoped out the town of Brandonstead. They met many of the local residents, including a reclusive “witch” who lived in the woods. After gathering information they determined that the heroic Sir Brandon had slain a dragon nearby 200 years ago, and that somehow perhaps the dragon may have returned, or at least something like it. Sir Brandon’s dragon-slaying sword was buried with him in a barrow near the foot of the mountains, so they set out to retrieve it. They found a group of goblins inside the tomb, and some dismembered goblin bodies…

And there we paused for the night, to pick up next time.

Today I worked on some more comics stuff. After lunch my wife and I went for a walk with Scully, to the homewares complex where I got the quote from for installation of an induction cooktop. We decided to go ahead and buy one and book a date for installation. It’s set for Wednesday 23 August, so we’re into our last fortnight of cooking with gas.

Tonight was the quarter-final match between Australia and France in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. We knew this was going to be the toughest match so far. The game started at 5pm. I asked my wife if I should start cooking dinner during the half time break (when the score was 0-0) or wait until the end of the game. She asked when it would end, and I said before 7pm, so she said wait until it’s over.

I didn’t start cooking until after 8pm. So we had a very late dinner. But it felt good after playing out a 0-0 draw and then going to a long and tense, see-sawing penalty shootout that lasted 10 shots each team. But Australia held out for the win and we now go through to a semi-final against the winner of England v Colombia (currently in progress).

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Winter chill back in the air

Monday morning is full of ethics classes, finishing off the topic of “What If?” about alternate history.

After those and eating some lunch, I took Scully for a walk. I was thinking of a longish walk, but a look at the weather outside and a consultation with the rain radar changed that plan quickly, as there were heavy rain showers incoming. So instead I took her on a shorter walk around past the corner store supermarket, where I stopped in quickly to get a Portuguese tart for a treat (for myself). It was fairly large, so I had half and am saving the other half for tonight. Besides threatening grey clouds, it was chilly today, much colder than the balmy days we’ve been having the past couple of weeks.

I finished up another Darths & Droids comic this afternoon, which puts me a week ahead on the buffer now, so that’s good. And then I took it relatively easy for a few hours, just relaxing. Scully got another walk in the evening before my 6pm Game Design class, the second of 6 lessons. This one’s going well, and the student came up with some really intriguing ideas for potential game themes, including: writing a diary; being a pessimist; managing a hotel; and reading biographies or speeches of famous people and quoting them. I have no idea how that last one would work as a game, but it’s very interesting.

Tonight my wife and I are going to watch the Matildas’ round-of-16 match against Denmark in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Hopefully it’ll be as exciting and in favour of Australia as last week’s game against Canada!

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Well that was a game

So, that was a brilliant game of football last night. Australia beat Canada 4-0 and proceed to the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup in top position in their group. This means we most likely avoid the strong England team in the first knockout game.

It was an amazing game, against one of the strongest teams in world football, as Canada are the reigning Olympic champions. It could have been 5-0 too, with another goal being overturned by one of the silliest applications of the offside rule ever seen.

The next game, probably against Denmark, is on Monday next week. That should be one to watch too.

Today, I finished off my class plan for the new ethics week, on alternate history.

And I ticked off a major thing: booking flights to Rome in November. My wife and I have looked at the options to visit Helsinki for the ISO Photography standards meeting there. We want to extend the trip to have a vacation too, and thought Rome would be suitable, as we like Italy, and it won’t be as cold as northern Europe in November. I checked flight costs for trips:

  • Sydney-Singapore-Helsinki; Helsinki-Rome; Rome-Singapore-Sydney
  • Sydney-Singapore-Rome; Rome-Helsinki; Helsinki-Singapore-Sydney
  • Sydney-Singapore-Rome; Rome-Helsinki; Helsinki-Rome; Rome-Singapore-Sydney

The first two are triangular options, while the last one we basically just get a return ticket to Rome, and then book a return flight from Rome to Helsinki. The way the dates work out we could have two nights in Rome before going on to Helsinki, and then a week in Rome after leaving Finland. It turns out that although this is more flights, it’s actually about 20% cheaper, because of the way that return tickets are costed cheaper than two one-way fares. So that’s what we went with, and I booked the Sydney-Rome and return legs tonight. Tomorrow I’ll look at booking the Finland flights.

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World Cup do or die

As I write this it’s half time in the crucial Group B match between Australia and Canada in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Winner goes through to the knockout stage, loser is eliminated. And after a thrilling first half Australia is ahead 2-0. We’ll see how it turns out…

Today I had the last three ethics classes of the Stealing topic before starting a new topic tomorrow. I started writing that lesson plan today, but need to finish it off. It’s on “What If?” – and exploring the idea of alternate history. What if the Ancient Greeks had discovered electricity? How would the world be different? Would it actually have made much difference? And exploring other things like that.

And this evening I started another round of my 6-week Creative Thinking and Game Design course. I was hoping for more students, but I have one in the class. He’s very smart and keen though, so it should be good overall.

Oh! And while walking Scully at lunch time I passed a tree with another nesting pair of rainbow lorikeets. This one was lower down than the nest I saw the other day, about eye level, so I managed to get up close and take some nice photos of the pair.

Nesting rainbow lorikeets

Nesting rainbow lorikeets

Nesting rainbow lorikeets

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Sports night

Tonight the Australian women’s soccer team play their second game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Following their opening game defeat of Ireland, they take on Nigeria tonight. The game starts soon so I’m going to go watch it.

And at the same time the last Ashes cricket Test match begins at The Oval in London, so I’ll be able to switch over to that once the football is done.

Today was mostly routine, so not much else to talk about.

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Labour Day

Today was the Labour Day public holiday here in New South Wales. But I didn’t get a day off – I had three online classes to teach, winding up the topic on the Scientific Method. I also did more work on my photography presentation for the university next Monday. And some work on Darths & Droids comics.

My last class ended at 1pm and I went for a walk with my wife and Scully, intending to drop in at a nearby grocery store to get some flatbread wraps (because my pick-up order from the supermarket on Friday was supposed to have a pack of wraps in it, but that item was missing, so I now had a bag of falafels to stuff inside wraps, but now wraps to put them in) and then go by the fish & chip shop for lunch. But partway there my wife reminded me that it was a public holiday and the fish & chips shop and grocery store would be closed. So we rerouted towards the railway station, where there’s a supermarket which would be open, and some food places that would be too. I got the wraps, but most of the food places at the station were closed, including the pie shop. So instead we went to a vegetarian cafe and got a… ahem… falafel wrap for lunch.

I went for a 2.5k run this afternoon… and that’s about the highlights of the day. It was a nice day, and tomorrow should be too, but heavy rain is predicted for Wednesday onwards, into next weekend. The top end forecasts for each day total 105 mm, and we’re within 100 mm of setting a new record for highest rainfall total in a calendar year, so it’s possible that record will be broken within the week.

Oh, and in sports news, the Penrith Panthers won the 2022 National Rugby League competition Grand Final last night. This is my team – I’ve been a lifelong supporter ever since I was probably too young to even remember any more, as I was raised in an extended family where we all supported Penrith. I attended many of their home games in my childhood, and at the time they were not a great team, losing more often than winning. But this is the second year i a row they’ve won the premiership, and although I’m not going wild, I am celebrating a bit on the inside.

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Farewell Shane Warne

Yesterday, Rod Marsh died. That was a shock. He was the wicket-keeper for the Australian cricket team from 1970 to 1984 – basically I never knew any other wicket-keeper for almost my entire childhood. He was part of the legendary trio with Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee who cemented my love for the sport from as soon as I watched it. Losing Marsh was a shock.

But I woke up this morning to the news that Shane Warne had also died of a heart attack, late yesterday. Marsh was a legend in the sport of cricket. Shane Warne was an absolute, unrestrained Force of Nature.

Shane Warne came along in the next generation of cricketers after Marsh. Cricket was a sport dominated by batsmen and by fast bowlers. Suddenly, here was this fresh-faced blond kid who seemed to eschew any sort of fitness routine that a professional sports player should maintain. He bowled leg spin – a style of bowling that had gone out of fashion before I was born. I’d never seen it before. It was new and it was weird, and oddly captivating.

In his first game against the Old Enemy, England, Warne awaited his chance to prove himself. The very first ball he bowled was to Mike Gatting. That one delivery changed everything. Warne worked a miracle, spinning the ball off the pitch with such ferocity that Gatting could do nothing but watch it and be amazed when it hit his wicket. It was the Ball of the Century – a single delivery so significant that it has its very own Wikipedia page.

Shane Warne was on his way to a record-breaking 708 Test wickets, revitalising a bowling style that most people considered dead. Soon kids on the streets of London, Sydney, and Mumbai were copying Warne’s style, and a new generation of leg spin bowlers was born. Warne single-handedly revolutionised the game of cricket more than any other player since World War II.

He was astonishing to watch. I feel privileged to have grown up watching cricket in the era that Shane Warne played. He was a flawed personality off the field, not a great role model. But on the field… Every time he came up to bowl in a game, it was electrifying, like lightning about to strike.

Heart attack at age 52. Far too young for a legend.

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And relax into Boxing Day…

Boxing Day is the traditional day for consuming Christmas leftovers, and tuning in to watch the opening day of the Melbourne Test match. England are here and have lost the opening two games of the Ashes series in dismal displays, so it’s really just a matter of seeing if Australia can manage a 5-0 whitewash at this stage. And given England’s batting performance today, I’d say that’s a strong chance.

It was also the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which was cancelled last year for this first time in its history due to COVID. So it’s an exciting event with everyone having missed last year. It’s going to be a very tough first night for the boats sailing down the coast, as they’re heading into the teeth of storms sweeping up from the south.

Those storms have turned yesterday’s hot and sunny Christmas Day into a cool, cloudy, and soon to be rainy Boxing Day.

I didn’t do a whole lot today – walked Scully, did some exercising, reviewed some of the Darths & Droids story planning notes.

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