A new course idea

After yesterday’s disappointment with Outschool’s rejection of my idea for a Harry Potter themed ethics class, I started work on a new idea for a class. This time it’ll be science.

The idea is a six-week course, with one session a week about the six biggest ideas in science, one from each of chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy… and physics gets two because it’s impossible to choose. Respectively, the topics are: atomic theory, evolution, plate tectonics, the Big Bang, and the two physics ones are relativity and quantum mechanics. And I’ll do them from a historical perspective, showing the development of the ideas and why they were needed to resolve problems in each of their respective fields.

It’ll take some time to assemble the material. I’ll need to make class notes and slides for each lesson, and probably draw a lot of diagrams from scratch since I can’t use anything downloaded from the net that might be copyright. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

New content today:

No Harry Potter for you!

Outschool got back to me about the Harry Potter themed ethics classes I submitted for approval. They were not approved.

They said that due to a request from Warner Brothers, they did not allow any classes that mention Harry Potter in either the title or description, other than literary analysis classes. A friend of mine pointed out that Warner Brothers don’t own the copyright on the Harry Potter novels, and I’m not making a movie out of the material, so how is it even any of their business? The answer was actually in Outschool’s email, reading more carefully.

Warner Brothers has a trademark on the name “Harry Potter” and several other terms from the movies. And it looks like they are ruthless in enforcing it. Outschool, quite sensibly, doesn’t want to anger the dragon, so they have a strict policy of not allowing any Harry Potter content at all, other than literature analysis classes.

So… that’s the end of that. I’d hoped that theming an ethics class using Harry Potter would attract a lot of students. My approved, unthemed class has had no enrolments yet. I’m sure a lot of kids would actually enjoy it, but it’s going to be hard for them to notice it and decide to pursue it.

Beyond feeling bad about this, I spent the day writing Darths & Droids comics. And made pizza for dinner, with hand-made dough for the base. I don’t think I’ll go back to store-bought pre-made bases again!

Oh, here’s a photo I took yesterday while out walking Scully. This kookaburra was sitting on a branch about head height, right near the path I was walking on. I approached slowly with my phone held out at arm’s length, and managed to get close enough to take this photo before it flew away. This is not cropped either – it’s the entire image from my phone camera.

Laughing kookaburra

New content today:

A new Outschool course

Today I worked on preparing a new course that I’ll be teaching on Outschool. One on Critical and Ethical Thinking. I have a good idea what material will be involved and how to teach it, and I don’t need to prepare any slides for it. But to put a class on Outschool you need a cover image. And again I couldn’t use anything under any sort of copyright or accreditation license. I either need public domain images or to make my own.

So I spent a fair bit of time firstly thinking about how to represent the topic in an image with no words, and then drawing this:

Critical thinking

I think that should work!

I also made pizza for dinner tonight – and for the first time I made the dough from scratch myself.

Home made pizza

I topped it with tomato paste, mozzarella cheese, pumpkin, walnuts, feta, and chilli flakes.

Home made pizza

And after a quick bake in the oven it looked like this!

Home made pizza


Oh! And the rain finally stopped today! There was no rain for much of the afternoon. Although the clouds were still thick and grey. I haven’t seen blue sky for a week now.

New content today:

Vision and market prep

Today was hectic. I had another class to teach my Human Vision course on Outschool. Then it was time to prepare for tomorrow’s market at Kirribilli.

I’m helping my wife to start selling some of her dog bandanas as well, and we had a checklist of stuff to run through: doing a sign with prices, setting her up to process payments using Square, taking some photos of Scully with sample bandanas so she can post on Instagram – she’s calling her brand Scully xo. Check it out!

Labels for dog bandanas

Scully xo bandana modelling

Scully xo bandana modelling

And I really needed to wash the car. The park where I take Scully every week has nearby parking, but it’s all under fig trees, and the rainbow lorikeets hang out and chew on figs and drop sticky bits of half chewed figs all over the place. So it gets peppered with this sticky residue and needs to be cleaned regularly, but I haven’t done it for a long time.

And… gosh… that actually ate up the whole day. Tonight it’s an early night, so we can get up at 5:30 to haul stuff to the market and set up…

New content today:

Outschool class 2

This morning I taught my second class on Outschool. It was another session of the class on Human Vision. Again I had only one student, but I don’t mind that as it’s good to get comfortable with small numbers of students before having to handle multiple all at the same time. This time it was a boy, and he seemed to to enjoy the class.

I spent much of the rest of the day assembling the batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I photographed yesterday. I’ve also been helping my friend with his Bisecting History Twitter project, by finding interesting events for different dates. We’re putting in quite a bit of research for this thing. And I’m incidentally learning the relative timing sequence of various events that you don’t normally think of as related to one another, such as certain books being published in the same year as certain wars or scientific discoveries, and so on.

Not much more to report. I’m pretty much racing to get everything done that I need to before heading out on a road trip holiday with my wife next week.

New content today:

First Outschool class

This morning I had my first class on Outschool! Two students had signed up for the class in Human Vision and Colour Perception, but when I woke up this morning there was a request from one of the parents to move their child to a class next week instead. I transferred the student, which left me with just one attending today’s class.

As it turned out that was actually good, because it was a good chance to practise using Zoom to show the slides I’d made and talk through them, without too many students to keep an eye on as I went. I paused a few times to make sure she was keeping up, and she sounded genuinely interested and engaged. I got through the material pretty much right on time, and the girl seemed very happy with what she’d learnt. So it was definitely a success! And for the class next week I already have the other student already signed up. Hopefully a couple more will join in over the next week.

The rest of the day I concentrated on writing Darths & Droids comics, since we’re a bit behind in our buffer at the moment – because I spent to much time last week working on my class material.

New content today:

Human vision slides

It was another day of working on my diagrams and slides for the Human Vision course I’ll be teaching on Monday. Writing up the actual content of the course made me realise more diagrams I needed, so I had to draw some of those. And I needed photo examples for a few things too, so dug through my own photos for suitable scenes to illustrate some of the concepts.

That was pretty much my day. Last night I watched The End of Evangelion, the movie made as a wrap-up of the 26-episode series of Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I completed watching last week. If you know the show, then you probably have a good idea of my initial reactions. If not, I’m not going to spoil it for you. It was definitely interesting, and I’m glad I finally got around to seeing this series.

New content today:

Running and sliding

It was time for another 5k run this morning. Nice cool weather, after the past few days of late summer heat. I clocked 28:15, over 40 seconds faster than the last two efforts. Strava also told me that I ran the first mile in my best ever time over that distance, a flat 8:00 minutes. I suppose I could probably do a mile faster than that, but I’ve never specifically run that distance and then stopped.

Back home I baked sourdough. I’ve tried increasing the semolina content again, this time to a full third of the total mass of flour. The dough was noticeably softer than usual, but seemed okay. The baked bread tastes fine, with a slight nutty flavour, and there’s a noticeable slight granularity from the semolina, but it’s not bad at all. I’d say it worked just fine.

I spent most of today working on slides and class notes for my Outschool class on Human Vision. I only got a few slides in when I realised I need more diagrams, so I switched to drawing diagrams for a bit. This is the way it goes… I hope to have the slides ready by Friday at the latest.

This evening I helped my wife go through the instructions for using her new sewing machine. She’s done sewing before, but not for a long time, and she needed to get familiar with the machine and remember how to do all the various things. She did some practice runs on scrap cloth, and it all seems to be going well.

New content today:

More vision, and a class listing!

I’ve listed my first class on Outschool! Human Vision and Colour Perception. The first date I’ll be offering this class is Monday 1 March (Sydney time – it corresponds to Sunday 28 Feb afternoon in the US).

I’ve aimed this class at students from 12-14 years old. If you have (or know) kids this age who might be interested in learning about how we see and how colour perception works, please feel free to sign up for the class! It’s available to anyone in the world.

I spent this afternoon drawing some more diagrams for the course. I’m very proud of this eyeball:


And here’s the human visual pathway, showing left and right visual fields:

Visual fields

After making these diagrams, I had enough material to finally put together my class promotion image, which is necessary before you can publicly list the class. This was the last step I needed to complete, and so that’s why I got the class up and running today.

This morning I had to go see my doctor again about my tonsils. The course of antibiotics I’ve just completed hasn’t made the swelling go down. He wants to give some stronger antibiotics a chance, so I’m on those for a couple more weeks, then will have to go back for another appointment if the tonsil is still swollen.

After the appointment I took a roundabout long walk home, stopping off to get a snack on the way, and sit by the water while I ate. It’s nice to spend some time out in the fresh air.

New content today:

Drawing vision diagrams

Today I relaxed a bit after yesterday’s manic work at the market. By “relaxed”, I mean I went for a 5k run first thing in the morning. I tried running the loop at the halfway mark in the opposite direction today, which meant uphill sections on either side of a downhill, rather than vice versa. I don’t know if it made much difference overall, but my time today was 20 seconds slower than last week.

After the run, I got stuck into drawing some diagrams for my planned class on human vision and colour perception for Outschool. I need to draw my own diagrams to avoid using copyrighted images. Here’s my take on the layers of the human retina:

Retinal structure

I got most of the diagrams I need done, but still have a couple of tackle tomorrow. But now I can at least make a title image for my class to upload to Outschool, and start signing up students!

New content today: