This is a cold winter

I had another busy day, working on buffering up enough comics for my upcoming trip, as well as teaching face-to-face ethics with kids at the school this morning, and three online classes this evening.

There was time to take a break at lunch and walk with my wife and Scully up to the shops to get some lunchtime treats. I got some gelato just because I felt like it. Even in cold weather gelato is good.

It has been very cold for several days now. I commented to my wife that I thought the past week or two have been colder than anything we had in winter for the past two years, and she agreed. The good part though is that it’s been blissfully dry. We’ve had only 1.2 mm of rain since the start of June. It’s been bright and sunny… and things are actually starting to dry out! The huge mud puddles in all the parks are slowly getting noticeably less soggy. It’s still got a way to go, but it’s a definite improvement. Honestly, if it doesn’t rain for another month, I’d be very happy.

New content today:

Report marking

I got stuck into marking final reports for the university data engineering course today. I’ve been putting these off because I’ve been busy with other things, but the deadline is Friday, so I really need to work on these now.

And it was really cold today. The forecast temperature would have made today the 4th coldest June day in the last decade, though it got a fraction of a degree higher at 14.8°C, so I’m not sure where we ended up in those terms. But it wasn’t only cold, it was very windy, with gusts over 70 km/h for much of the day.

I went out with my wife and Scully at lunch time for a quick trip to the post office, and it was pretty miserable out there, despite the sunny sky. Leaves were swirling everywhere and small branches were scattered around having snapped off trees all over the place. Scully didn’t like it much either and raced home.

New content today:

Ethics of human rights

It’s Tuesday, which means a new topic in my online ethics classes. This week we started on human rights. I spent this morning writing the lesson. I’m using a summarised version of Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas as the introductory story to set up the discussion. (You kind of need to know the story to understand the following, so if you don’t know it, either go spoil yourself at the linked Wikipedia article, or ignore the next paragraph.)

After summarising the story, I asked: Is the city of Omelas fair to everyone? Most of the kids this evening gave the predictable, expected answer (“No”), after which I ask them to explain why they think so. But one kid said: “Well, it depends how they pick the kid. If someone just walks down the street and picks a kid they see, then that’s not fair. But if it’s done by spinning a wheel or something, then that’s fair.” I pursued this further by asking if it was fair in the sense that everyone is treated the same? The kid said, “Well… you could make it fair if the kid was released after a month or so, and they used a different kid. So everyone would have a turn being the one who has to suffer.”

The weather here has taken a very wintry turn. Yesterday evening we had a storm front come through with 110 km/h winds, causing some minor damage across the city. Today has been very windy and bone-chillingly cold. Tomorrow is expected to be even colder and with stronger winds. Across parts of south-east Australia we’ve had snow down to altitudes as low as 600 metres, which is unusual. The good news is that there hasn’t been much rain.

In other news, our electric kettle seems to have broken. That’ll be annoying until we can get a new one. We’ll have to boil water to make tea on the stove, like savages…

New content today:

Election results and more rain

Yesterday’s election has resulted in a change of government here in Australia. The conservative Liberal Party government has been replaced by a progressive Labor Party government. It’s not fully clear yet if they’ll have a majority of seats in Parliament or will need to rely on support from the crossbench, but it’s pretty much settled that Labor will form either a majority or minority government and Anthony Albanese will be the incoming Prime Minister.

The result in my own electorate of North Sydney is very interesting, and reflects a sea change of voter opinion across many inner city electorates across the country. North Sydney has been a very safe Liberal seat, but the sitting member was ousted by an independent candidate. This is a pattern repeated in several other electorates in Sydney and other cities – female independents running on a platform of addressing climate change, unseating sitting members of a government that has been lagging badly behind the rest of the world on climate change policies. We will have a record number of independents in the new Parliament, with at least five newly elected ones joining the six who were previously there. Labor plans to address climate change, but if they need the support of these new independents to pass legislation, then they will be able to hold out for stronger action.

This is a significant change in the direction Australia has been heading. We’ve been a global laggard for the past decade due to the entrenched conservative government. Hopefully this turns a corner and we’ll start to see more responsible climate policies in the near future.

Speaking of climate, today was again miserably wet. The rainfall is forecast to last all week, in yet another bout of depressing wet weather. You can see the effects of this prolonged rainy weather in various minor news stories that keep popping up. There are so many stories about people battling mould in their homes, simply unable to to get the humidity low enough to prevent it. And today on the evening news there was a story about sports clubs facing pressure to change their membership fee rules, because of so many repeated cancellations of sporting events due to bad weather. Normally you pay a fee and there’s no refund if an event is cancelled due to weather. But many players and parents are getting increasingly annoyed at having paid fees while getting no sport at all for weeks and weeks on end.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued another mid-range forecast today, stating that we can expect higher than average rainfall to continue throughout winter (i.e. the next three months). Everyone you talk to here is is just sick of the rain and will tell you repeatedly how awful it is. There are ridiculous numbers of slugs crawling all over everything – you need to pay careful attention whenever you go out for a walk, to avoid stepping on the slugs that litter all of the footpaths.

Today I spent time doing another academic paper proofreading job. I wanted to try and finish it today, because I have lots of other work to go on with this week. Fortunately it was a conference paper and not a journal paper, so it was shorter than the previous ones I’ve done, and I managed to complete it today. I had time to take Scully for a walk, and to cook a miso-glazed baked cauliflower for dinner – one of our favourite recipes, though it takes a bit of effort.

New content today:

Gaming and Voting

Friday was wet and cold and miserable, weather-wise. After enjoying a huge 4 days without rain, we’re now in for a solid week of forecast rain. I’m pretty sure we’ve now reached the point where there’s been more rainfall in 2022 (so far!) than in any (full) year since 1996. And we’re still less than 5 months into the year. I know I keep going on about it, but it’s truly a ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had in the past few months.

And it was also freezing cold all day. The temperature never reached as high as 15°C, making it the coldest day of the year so far. Definitely an early taste of winter.

Friday evening I went to a friend’s place for board games night. My wife took Scully and the car to go visit her mother for the evening, so I took a train over.

We played a case from MicroMacro: Crime City while waiting for the sixth person to arrive. This is a very cool game that plays like a Where’s Wally? crime investigation. There’s a huge poster with an isometric drawing of dozens of city blocks, populated with thousands of tiny people. You take a set of clue cards and have to spot various things in the drawing to advance the investigation, eventually building up a sequence of events that explains a crime, implicates a suspect, and provides motive and means. It took us about 20 minutes working together peering across the map, and was a lot of fun.

After this we played a six-player round of Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest. Then we split into two groups of three, to play Dune Imperium and Azul: Queen’s Garden (the one I played). This is somewhat like its three predecessor games in the Azul series, but more different than any of the previous iterations, and considerably more complex. It’s the game I tried to buy last week. Now I’ve played it, I definitely want to get a copy. Following this, our subgroup of three played a game of Draftosaurus while the others finished Dune. To finish up we played a six-player game of Skull.

One of the guys gave me a lift home, so that was good – I didn’t have to catch a train around 11pm.

Today was election day, with Australia voting for the next federal government. We got up early and went to the nearest polling station, arriving soon after it opened at 8am. There was hardly any queue, maybe ten people ahead of us when we arrived.

As we waited, a guy in the queue right in front of us was hassling the staff about masks. They were handing out masks and asking everyone to wear one, but not forcing them to. And this guy was putting on a rant about how if it wasn’t compulsory he wasn’t going to do it, how he was here to “exercise his democratic right” and if the democratically elected government didn’t have a law requiring him to wear a mask then he wouldn’t.

He asked the polling booth volunteer if he had to and she started saying, “I’ve been told…” and he interrupted her with, “So you just do whatever someone tells you? Is that what you think democracy is?” I got so annoyed that I actually told him to shut up and stop hassling the staff. There should have been a security bouncer there to back her up, but this poor woman was all alone. And it probably didn’t help that she looked Indian/Sri Lankan. I bet the guy wouldn’t have been so vocal if it was a white male.

Voting done, we returned home to huddle inside out of the cold and rain all day. We only ventured out again at dinner time to go get some French galettes and crepes for dinner from a French restaurant. It’s a good place to go in cold and rainy weather, because their “outdoor” tables where we can sit with Scully are actually inside an arcade, so very well sheltered.

And now it’s time to settle in for the vote counting and watch the unfolding of how we’ll be governed fr the next three years…

New content today:

Rain and assignment marking

It continues to rain. The Sydney reddit group is just full of people complaining about the rain, being sick of the rain, dealing with rain-related problems like mould, asking when it’s finally going to stop raining, and so on.

I spent much of today huddled inside marking assignments for the data engineering course. This is the project plan for their final project, so it lays out what they propose to do, where they’re going to get their data from, what analysis techniques they will use, and the motivation for the topic they chose.

The topics are diverse, including: predicting favoured movie genres from demographic data; predicting favoured cuisine type from survey data on more general food-related behaviours; modelling performance of wind and solar power generation dependent on weather conditions; analysing traffic accident statistics in conjunction with weather data to search for correlations; modelling relationships between house prices, inflation, and interest rates over time. It’ll be interesting to see what the students come up with as conclusions for all of these projects!

New content today:

Heavy rain and heavy lunch

Aldi advertised a special item available today – a dog bed. We’ve got two of the dog beds from there and Scully loves them, but she’s also chewed them a bit so they have some holes, so we wanted to get another. I drove over to the nearest Aldi store to pick one up this morning, but they didn’t have any.

For lunch, I caught a train to Newtown, where I met my brother. We had lunch together at The Pie Tin. He’d never been there before, so I recommended some of the best pies for him to try – he chose the barbecue brisket and a sausage roll. I had a Nepali curry lamb and a Mexican chicken. We were both really full, but it’s worth it since the pies there are so good.

ON the way home, I stopped off at Town hall to check out the game shop and see if they had a copy of Azul: Queen’s Garden. They didn’t. I then stopped again at North Sydney to pop into the Aldi there and see if they had the dog bed. They didn’t.

Oh, and it’s been raining almost all day. Heavy rain. We had a lot of rain overnight. There was a break in the early afternoon, but it’s now raining heavily again this evening. Everyone in Sydney is so sick of this endless rain.

The rain on the train

New content today:

Here comes the rain again

It’s cold and it’s rainy. We had a good run of 7 days in a row without rain, but it’s back, and the forecast is rain for at least the next 7 days in a row.

It stopped late in the afternoon and I took Scully to the dog park to say hi to everyone, since we haven’t been there for a few weeks. But when time came to do the traditional walk at 4pm, drops began falling, and there was heavy rain incoming on the radar – and I’d neglected to bring an umbrella – so we beat a hasty retreat back to the car to head home.

I finished off the ethics of farming topic today. And I worked on some secret project stuff.

Tonight I have a Zoom meeting to discuss the agenda and dates of the upcoming ISO Photography standards meeting in Cologne. That begins at 11pm, so I need to stay up late. This will finalise the dates for the Cologne meeting, so I can then book hotels in Cologne and onward into the Netherlands following the meeting. It’s also to decide if we will actually have a face-to-face meeting or will convert it into an online virtual meeting, but I expect we’ll stay with the face-to-face.

New content today:

More rain, more running

I’ve been slacking a little with my exercise, so I made sure to do a 2.5k run today. The last couple I’ve done have been slow, getting up to 12:30, so today I pushed myself hard trying to get a better time and was happy with the result of 11:52.

I did it in between some heavy showers of rain, which have been sweeping across the city all day. We’re in yet another rainy spell – it’s rained every day for the past week now. Although the falls haven’t been as heavy as we had a month or so ago, just a few millimetres every day.

I was back at the school this morning for my face-to-face ethics class. The class was… astonishingly well behaved today. It was quite eerie really. I think I only had to ask some kids to stop having a private chat and pay attention once, which is amazing. They were almost spookily quiet. Which was nice, but on the negative side, it seemed like not as many of them were actually keen to raise their hands and discuss the questions we were talking about. Most of the answering was being done by just two of the girls, while everyone else was just sitting there silently.

Next week’s class is cancelled due to a teacher’s strike that has been called for next Wednesday. Even if that hadn’t happened (or is called off at the last minute), the school had planned to have its cross country carnival that day, so there’d be no class anyway. So I have next week off from that.

New content today:

Evolutionary Sunday

Today I had another science lesson online with the girl who has been taking those intermittently. Last time we began talking about evolution, and today was the second half of that topic. I prepared some slides showing the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin, finch beaks, hybridisation (lions and tigers crossbreeding to produce ligers), induced speciation in fruit flies, evolution of apes, and whales, and horses, and something about the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. It was a fun class and the student seemed to really enjoy it.

The weather here has turned slightly chilly as we get deep into autumn and start thinking about winter. We’ve had nice sunny days, although with some overnight rain just to keep things damp, but the maximum temperatures have been in the low 20s Celsius, which is noticeably cooler than the past months. And the nights have been getting quite chilly, down around 14°C, which feels like a big change from the overnight lows of 18°C we were getting a few weeks ago. 18°C is comfortable – I was taking Scully out around 10pm for her final toilet in just shorts and a T-shirt, but now I’m having to wear long pants and a jacket to do it.

We took Scully for another walk and ball chasing episode just after lunch, this time down to the nearest ferry wharf and the secluded adjacent park. The park is in a bowl-shaped hollow leading down to the water, so it took some care throwing the tennis ball so that it wouldn’t roll down into the harbour.

Um. I guess it wasn’t an especially interesting day, apart from thinking about evolution a bit.

New content today: