Double busy double day update

I completely missed writing a post yesterday due to my day being full of work, and wanting to get to bed not too late. Today was also very busy, but I thought I should not miss two days in a row!

I spent a lot of time yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) marking and finalising my comments on the UTS image processing course student assignments. I really wanted to get them done today, so I can move on to other tasks tomorrow.

Yesterday I also did a 5k run. I’m trying to fit in a 5k distance once a week and figured it was a good day to do it. Last time I did my street route, with hills, and it was exhausting, so this time I went back to running laps on the oval.

After completing the run, I walked home via the Gore Hill Cemetery, where spring wildflowers are blooming. This is an old cemetery—no burials have taken place here for many decades—and it has been allowed to become overgrown with plants. And this time of year it’s incredibly beautiful with all of the flowers.

Gore Hill Cemetery in spring

Gore Hill Cemetery in spring

Because I spent the rest of the day working on marking, I didn’t have time to prepare new slides and material for my one-on-one science lesson on Outschool. So I repurposed an old presentation I made years ago for a primary school talk on stars and stellar evolution, and used that.

Today, this morning I did another 2.5k run. I write my lesson plan for the next week of ethics classes, this time on the topic of cancel culture. Then I got stuck back into marking to finish off that task. I managed to complete it, and posted all of my marks and comments for the lecturer to collate.

I made vegetable soup for dinner, because I needed something I could eat early before my ethics classes began at 6pm, and that my wife could heat up easily later when she got home from gym to eat. I gobbled down some soup quickly and then got stuck into three classes in a row, ending at 9pm…. when I had an ISO Photography standards meeting! This is an “in between” ad-hoc technical group meeting for the topic of visual imaging noise, one of the technical topics in which I have more of an interest. It was scheduled to go until 10:30, but ended up running late and not finishing until 11pm. So now it’s getting close to midnight while I type this up.

Oh, I almost forgot! On my run this morning, towards the end, I cross a footbridge over a creek. While running across, I saw two tawny frogmouths sitting on a branch, at eye level and only about 4-5 metres away from the bridge. I completed my run and went home, and came back out with my camera, hoping they’d still be there. It was a good bet, as frogmouths are nocturnal and tend to find a roost for the day and then not move during daylight hours. And indeed, they were still there when I got back:

Tawny frogmouth with chick

It’s a chick and a parent, nestling together. A really great opportunity to get some close up photos, even if they were fast asleep.

Tawny frogmouth with chick

And with that… time for bed…

New content, yesterday and today:

Marking, walking, and fancy dinner

Today I spent time going through more student image processing reports and videos. I’m reading all the reports and watching all the videos and making notes on them as I go, before thinking about assigning marks. It’s mentally taxing work! I have one more to go, so hopefully I can complete the whole lot tomorrow.

I did another 2.5k run this morning, then went out to pick up Scully at lunch time. And then because my wife wanted to go to the gym after work and then get stuck into some sewing tonight, she asked me to take Scully for a big walk late in the afternoon before she got home. I took Scully for a walk out along Greenwich peninsula all the way to the point and back, which is a bit over 5 km.

For dinner tonight I ended up making quite a complex meal. I started with the idea of using pomegranate arils which we had left over from using a pomegranate on the weekend for the miso cauliflower bomb. What could I do with pomegranate? Make a salad, I figured, with pumpkin, spinach, walnuts, and feta.

So then I thought we can’t just have a salad – we need something to go with it. Normally it’d be some form of protein, but we don’t cook meat, so… I realised I had some felafels in the fridge. I could heat those up. But felafels need hummus! So this morning I soaked some chick peas, and this afternoon boiled them up a bit. And then after returning home with Scully I processed them with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and spices to make hummus.

And then…. I was thinking you can’t just have felafels without bread! So just before serving everything up, I made some quick flatbread using self-raising flour and yoghurt, mixed into a quick dough and fried in a pan. So, salad, felafels, hummus, and flatbread. It was quite a spread, and my wife thought it was wonderful.

New content today:

Getting stuck into assignment marking

I spent most of Sunday (today) going through the end of course assignments for the university image processing course that I need to mark. I’ve read through four of the reports and watched three of the videos, making notes on them so I can compare then and assign marks uniformly across all the groups. I’m a bit burnt out on image processing and machine learning, but I’ll try to finish them off tomorrow, if I have enough time.

This evening I had two more ethics classes on the topic of extraterrestrial intelligence. Over the week of teaching this topic I’ve added some material about how far away stars are and how it would take any aliens thousands of years to travel to Earth, if they could even do it at all. Because nearly all of the kids’ answers to the various questions are coloured by their intense belief that if aliens knew we were here, they’d immediately come over and destroy us. I mention that it’s kind of illogical to do that, and many people say that advanced civilisations will probably be friendly, and repeat that it’d take them thousands of years to get here… but most of the kids basically respond with, “Yeah… but no, it’s still a terrible idea to let them know we’re here.”

They’re also strongly of the opinion that if/when news of receiving an alien radio signal is made public, the overwhelming reaction of humanity will be panic. I’m guessing their thoughts on this topic are strongly affected by exposure to TV and movies, and that they haven’t matured enough in this area to form more thoughtful opinions yet, because it’s not a topic that’s as commonly discussed in serious conversation as a lot of the other topics we cover.

New content today:

A class for kids on playing & running tabletop RPGs

My new group class has been approved and is now public on Outschool:

Tabletop Roleplaying Games – Playing, Game Mastering & Writing Adventures

You can read all about it by following the link – but in brief it’s a forum-like community moderated by me, where kids aged 12-16 can discuss roleplaying games, ask me questions, and I will be posting tips and challenge activities for the kids to do. The kids enrol for access on a monthly basis, and it’s only US$5 a month. Also, since you’re reading my blog, if you sign a child up you use the code MORGANMAR5 at checkout to get the first month free.

I began this morning with another run, extending to 3.3 km this time. I’m trying to stretch to eventually being able to do 5 km regularly.

After getting home and cooling down, I checked out the assignments submitted by students in the university image processing course. I was enjoying not having to teach the tutorial on Monday night, but now I have six 50-page-ish reports and six 20-minute video presentations to mark! I’ll get stuck into that later this week.

I took Scully to the dog park for some exercise this afternoon. Last night she was a bit stir crazy, having just slept all afternoon, so today I made sure to get her running around, chasing a ball, and doing a walk down by the water to tire her out. It seems to have worked, as she’s now lying in her dog bed, fast asleep.

New content today:

Completely rewritten plans for Saturday

My Saturday was planned to be completely about writing Irregular Webcomic! strips in order to photograph a new batch of comics on Monday. But that all changed when I checked my email in the morning.

There was a newsletter from Outschool for teachers, and it announced a new type of class that we can start teaching: Groups. These are essentially social groups with the teacher as leader and moderator, guiding enrolled students by providing tasks, answers, comments, and feedback to students who are sharing their work. It’s done in a forum style, with no live Zoom sessions. Students enrol on a monthly basis, giving them access to the forum and teacher for that time.

I realised this is the perfect format for a group all about running roleplaying games and writing adventures for them, with learning goals based on social skills, problem solving, and exercising creativity. So in order to get in as early as possible and hopefully get a big share of students interested in this, I spent all day today writing a class outline for the group. And to submit it for listing, I also had to create header and banner images, and three videos – one for parents, one for students, and one as a welcome when students sign up. This was a lot of work, and pretty much took me the whole day up to when we had to depart for dinner.

We had a booking for dinner at a slightly fancy pizza/Italian place about 20 minutes drive away. It’s a nice place that we’ve been to a few times, and we thought it would make a good ending to our wedding anniversary week, since we didn’t manage to have a nice dinner on the actual day.

New content today:

Friday evening games night report

My Friday evening was busy with gaming night with my friends – still meeting online, though we may do a live gathering soon now that COVID restrictions have been lifted. We played games of So Clover, Azul, Coloretto, Incan Gold, and Sketchful.

Earlier in the day I did another 2.5k run, trying to keep up this strange idea of exercising not just once a week but more frequently. And I worked more on the course outlining for the university data engineering course. And ran a couple more Outschool classes on the topic of online product reviews for kids. I think I’ve found a better groove with this topic, and it’s working out better than the first day on Wednesday. The kids are generally pretty savvy about online stuff, and they have a sense of when to be suspicious. Several of them have mentioned that people could fake reviews, and there may be bots posting fake reviews. Most have said that they feel that deliberately posting false reviews is serious enough to be considered a crime.

Oh, and I wrote up a new review for Snot Block & Roll! I haven’t been travelling far enough in recent months to visit any new bakeries, but I spotted a new one opened within walking distance last week, and tried it out this week.

New content today:

Engineering some data

It was rainy today. I planned to take Scully to the dog park in the afternoon, but I know she doesn’t enjoy it when it’s cold and wet. If the temperature had been a bit warmer, I would still have taken her, but I don’t want her shivering in the cold.

I did another run this morning, 2.5k. I figure if I can try to do at least that much every weekday, then that’s probably a good start to getting some exercise and fitness.

The main thing I did today was work on the curriculum outlining for the university data engineering course that will be held in first semester of 2022. We’re at the stage of breaking each week’s lecture down into individual slides related to the subtopics within that week. The lecturer and I have taken about half the weeks each to break down like this, so I have about 4 or 5 to do. I completed two of them today, and wrote a brief note on one of the other.

For dinner I made a special treat: pasta with tomato sauce and burrata.

Pasta with tomato sauce and burrata

I actually split the burrata in two and shared it with my wife. Very decadent!

New content today:

Students, not comics

I planned today to work on a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! writing, since I don’t even have a new strip ready for Monday at this point. I ended up doing very little of that, because I had two ethics classes, plus spent a few hours helping university students with their image processing assignments for the final course assessment tasks.

I also went on a long walk with my wife and Scully, taking one of our usual long routes – a loop along streets and through parks, and then back along the shore of the harbour. I did a couple of bird counting lists using eBird, and on the second half of the walk I got up to 15 different species, which is a good high number – more than usual.

A couple of photos, from Friday, when walking Scully at the dog park I spotted this Australian brushturkey:

Australian brushturkey

And yesterday near the pie shop where I got lunch is this extremely modest fish and chip shop:

Such modesty

I’ve never eaten there, so I can’t attest to whether the claim is true or not. Although I’ve seen some reviews which definitely imply that the claim is overblown.

New content today:

And a busy Friday to finish the week

Today I had to deal with questions from university students that I didn’t have time to handle last night. They stretched my knowledge a bit so it took a lot of time to handle them. I’d wanted to dedicate the day to writing comics and other such activities, but I only got a little of that done.

The other thing about today is that it was very hot. 33°C in the city, up to 34°C in some suburbs. It was the first real blast of heat as summer closes in. And windy – the sort of day with a strong hot wind blowing trees and leaves and pollen all over the place. That made it rather unpleasant being outside.

Tonight my wife is having a night out with her friends. I am looking after Scully, so I took her up the street to a burger place where we could sit outside while I ate. And while waiting for my food, my wife walked past with one of her friends! So Scully became super excited, because she loves that friend (having stayed with her for a couple of weeks while my wife and I were travelling). And then when I came home, Scully didn’t want to come with me – she wanted to go back to the restaurant where my wife always goes with her friends!

New content today:

Very quick Thursday update

I’ve been super busy this evening.

My day got off to a terrible start when 2 minutes before an online ethics class my Internet went out. I used 4G on my iPad to post an apology and that I had to cancel the class. I wasn’t set up to run Zoom on 4G, and I don’t know how long it would have taken me to download the client and get everything running. This was the class I had to cancel last week as well due to the ISO meeting I was in at the time, so the 4 students in this timeslot have now missed out 2 weeks in a row. It’s the first time since I started that I’ve had Internet issues during a class.

The outage was a scheduled maintenance window, as I discovered by looking it up. It could have occurred at any time between 7am and 3pm, though of course it happened right before my lesson was due to begin at 10am. After the net came back on half an hour later, I contacted the students to offer a make-up class at the same time tomorrow. Three of the four said they could make it, so I’ll be doing it then.

I mostly worked on Darths & Droids writing today. I’m very short on buffer and need to get more strips written for the next week.

This evening I had two more ethics classes, and in between I made sourdough and cooked dinner, and dealt with some student feedback on the image processing assessment task that I marked last week. That was quite a job, which I won’t go into further here. Let me just say that I thought I got off lightly during Monday’s tutorial session, when most of the students logged out after about an hour, so I didn’t have much to do for the next 2 hours – but now I’ve definitely earned my pay from the university this week. I also have a couple of outstanding requests for assistance in coding up some of the project work for the next assessment task, from two different teams.. I didn’t have time to get to that tonight, so will have to do it tomorrow morning as well.

New content today: