Tech Girlz

Girl Power

On a cold, snow squalling Saturday morning I had another PLN twitter moment courtesy of Shadi Yazdan on Twitter.  Her link to this New York Times blog has a fantastic video with re-written Beastie Boy lyrics – talk about reclaiming media.  That the author takes a very misogynistic song and uses it to empower girls is ironically compelling.  This spin only amplifies the message in the video:  that girls are groomed to be objects, but they don’t have to listen.

I’ve long agonized at the complete lack of *any* girls in *any* of the senior computer engineering or computer science classes at my high school.  We’re in a small town/rural community so the interest in high-technology is pretty limited anyway.  If we have high-skills specialist majors it’s in heavy industry or arts.  Of course, once they leave our small town high-tech is one of the most in-demand industries to work in, but without the culture to support it I’m finding this a continuing struggle, and one that if I lose does a disservice to our graduates who enter the working world missing imperative digital skills the rest of the world is expecting them to have.

After looking over this article it appears that the number of women in high technology is declining across the sector.  Is this because as consumerism becomes our main form of socialized identity we become stereotypes of our gender, age and income?  Girls become consumerized princesses, boys become consumerized soldiers?  Not so long ago we learned our social roles through complex traditional influences like nationalism and religion.  In our brave new border-less world where money is the main defining feature of our social character we become shadowy stereotypes of the consumer data that pours out of us.

Women in Technology by the numbers.
From 37% to 14% in the past 25 years?

Boys and girls both suffer a limited existence in this environment, though the female stereotype carries with it a submissive objectivity that ensures that girls are mainly valued in terms of their appearance, whereas boys are stereotypically the doers, girls are passive.

Of course, this is ridiculous.  Your ability to think is your magic power in engineering or coding, your gender doesn’t enter into it.  It is only because girls are convinced that boys are ‘tough enough’ to handle the maths or the complexity of engineering and programming that they get shaken out of the field; stereotypes forcing inequality.

It appears my struggle to convince small town/rural high school girls to give computer studies a try goes well beyond the limiting geography and toward a societal trend.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, but it does make me consider this from media influence rather than as a primarily local influence.

Riding in the land of ice and snow

 Frosts in the morning.  It was -3°C when the Kawasaki first coughed to life.

There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.  With big gloves and a lined leather jacket, the five mile ride to work is still quite doable.

I might get off the bike with cold fingers, but there is still no better way to commute in the morning.

Soon enough the snows will come and salt will make the roads a caged misery.  In the meantime…

Big black S&M gloves!  That’s alotta leather!

Indianapolis MotoGP: There & Back in 5 Days

Indianapolis MotoGP:  August 07, 08 09

THE GOALa taste of motogp on a road trip with minimal freeway miles and a five day timeline.

TARGET:  Friday, August 07: practice day

Practice day runs from 9am to 3:50pm

August 7, 2015
PRICE: $20.00

Not good for gate admission. Good for August 7, 2015. Limited to one (1) per Reserved Seat.
PRICE: $125.00


Motorcycles Only. One Lap. Controlled Speed. Limited to one (1) per Reserved Seat.
PRICE: $40.00

But the Paddock Pass or track lap don’t seem to be available if you only buy Friday tickets.  I’ll have to dig in further.

In any case, twenty bucks US to get into Friday’s practice is pretty accessible, and we might be able to find our way into paddock passes once we’re there.
Other events (bike shows and many other satellite events going on in Indianapolis that weekend):


Wednesday, August 5:  head toward Michigan and strike south.
Thursday, August 6th:  we’re in the hotel outside of Indianapolis
Friday, August 7th:  a day at Indy, an evening in town at MotoGP related events
Saturday, August 8th: begin the ride home
Sunday, August 9th:  return home

The MAP shows about 850kms and a 10 hour travel time (trying to stay off interstates – it can be much faster but more tedious on them).

Broken into two days each way, the trip should offer plenty of time for stops.

Overnight on the way down somewhere on the southern end of the Detroit/Ann Arbour area.

Find a hotel in the north end of Indianapolis for the overnight on Thursday night and Friday night, then strike back north again Saturday morning.

Hampton Inn Indianapolis Northwest – Park 100

5860 West 73rd Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46278, USA +1-317-290-6000 

~ $300 for two nights – north of the Speedway (better)

This isn’t that hard to arrange – practice and qualifying are super cheap if cost is an issue, and the whole thing happens over the weekend, minimizing time off work.  If you’re in Southern Ontario it’s a straight shot down to Indy to see a legend like Valentino Rossi fight for a championship in his 36th year (!)

You should go.

Big Digital Magic

I’m really enjoying teaching English again, especially the university bound group I’ve got.  I don’t have to worry about explaining why they are there as I do in many computer-tech classes.  The students come complete with their own resilience and competitive nature.  When you’re not reduced to hand holding all the time you can get into concepts deeply and quickly.

An opening unit from the text is “Fire of the Human Spirit”.  In it we look over Mandela’s inauguration Speech, a Susan Aglukark song and a June Callwood essay amongst other media, all of it pointing at the concept of FotHS.

After a few examples and some discussion we set up a wikispace where students each found a song that they believe described FotHS.  They each made a wikipage on which they provided a link to the song, the lyrics, and a personal analysis of why this song exemplifies FotHS.

Because this class comes ready to play I tend to approach it as though I’m a participant in a hot group; I like to bring gifts to the group.  In this case I knew that I could export the content out of the wikispace relatively easily.  Since that text consisted only of the lyrics and student written analysis I thought it might be interesting to look at what we’d created from a group vocabulary usage point of view.  What words found in the lyrics of 28 songs and accompanying student analysis point to our concept of Fire of the Human Spirit?

Exporting the wiki is a one click process.  Once I had the text I had to do some magic to combine all the HTML pages into a single document.  Wikispaces also exports to text but it takes the html coding with it, which made a mess.  Google-docs didn’t seem to have the mojo I needed to combine multiple documents into a single one, but the Phantom Foxit PDF creator I had did.  Once I had a pdf with all the text from twenty eight wikipages imported together I dumped it into the text window in Wordle and voila:

Katy Perry single-handedly got ‘oh’ in there!  Looking at verb usage is interesting.  Fire of the Human Spirit seems to demand action!  The nouns are also enlightening when creating constellations of meaning around this concept.  We’re going to use this class produced conglomeration of ideas to develop thesis around the concept next week.

As an aside, several English teachers turned their noses up at what we were doing.  Apparently it’s widely believed that you can’t learn English in a digital context.  I beg to differ.  If we’re going to turn to media to teach English, I’d much rather it be personalized, self created media like this.  The students themselves were surprised at how much depth something this simple offered.  That they created it as a class seemed to produce a sense of satisfaction.

Here is a FotHS 2.0 with some common words removed to emphasize specific vocabulary:

Stolen November Days

I’m stealing a lot of extra scenes in a November that doesn’t usually encourage riding up here in the frozen north…

Last year the bike was hibernating by the end of October.  This year we’re getting a run of warm weather that has me still out on two wheels more than halfway through November.  We’re supposed to get snow accumulation this weekend, which means sand and salt on the roads.  When that happens I’ll hang up my helmet.  I’d end up spending as much time cleaning the bike as I did riding it once the salt goes down.

This season started in mid-March once the roads were dry and the salt and sand cleaned off by a couple of rains.  The snow as still thick on the shoulders though.  This late finish to the year means only about four months of down time before I can get out there again.

Today I’m down to Guelph for periodontal work.  I figured I’d be stuck in a car, but it’s a dozen degrees and partially sunny out there!  One last ride then!

In the meantime, we’ve been commuting on two wheels every change we get…

Track Days & Dirt Days

Two goals over the summer as far as biking goes:  go to a track day and get in some off road experience.  Fortunately I’ve got choices for both nearby:

That’s not too far!

1… Track Days:  Grand Bend Motorplex does beginner track days at various times throughout the summer.  I’m going to make a day where I can go down there and give the Ninja a workout in a track environment.  It’ll be an early start, but if I can time the weather right it’ll be a great opportunity to develop more fluid riding and gently get a feel for how the bike handles in more extreme conditions.  A hundred bucks doesn’t seem bad for a full day of track time.

If not Grand Bend then there are other options.  Cayuga is $125 for a day and an hour and forty five minutes south through Hamilton.  Mosport and Shannonville are both venues for, who offer track days there.  I haven’t been to Shannonville since I did the Nissan advanced driving school in the 1990s, it’d be nice to go back.  Shannonville does their own track days, for $145 a day.  Calabogie is way out Ottawa way, but it ain’t cheap, though the track is supposed to be fantastic.

2… Off Road Training:  Yamaha Adventures is a lovely hour and a bit ride north of where I am.  The full day package on their bike isn’t cheap ($329), but it would give me a chance to get a feel for off-road riding without the equipment overhead.  

Trailtour also offers trials and dual-sport courses, both of which are cheaper alternatives, and they happen to be under an hour south of the family cottage.  Trials riding is very technique intensive and would do a lot to improve my balance on any bike.

As many different experiences in as many different circumstances as I can manage, that’s the goal this year.

Two Wheel’s Mega-Edifice

Two Wheel always had a Bartertown/Beyond the Thunderdome/
post-apocalyptic kind of feel to it, but it’s all gone now!

My son Max and I went for one of those perfect rides today.  We headed down to Guelph in sunny, room temperature air with no wind.  It was glorious.

After a few stops and lunch we headed back north and swung into Two Wheel Motorsport’s new digs.  The building looks impressive from the outside but the insides are something else!  Two Wheel used to have a kind of organic, bigger than where it was situated/post apocalyptic vibe to it, the new place is enormous, modern and shows off their stock like a bike show.

With walls of glass and an open concept, if you’ve never been to Two Wheel before, it’s worth a trip north of Guelph on 6 – you can’t miss riding past this motorcycle Mecca now.

Shock & Awe when you walk in the front door of the new building!
Not only can you actually sit on the bikes now (they used to be piled on top of each other so you couldn’t get a leg over),
but there is so much space the stock on hand feels more like a bike show than a dealer!

They even had examples of modern art on display!

I could happily walk in to Two Wheel Motorsport and drop fifty grand.  My local dealer has gone pro.  I can’t wait to see how they evolve into their new space.

The only downside was having to dual sport my way across the unpaved parking lot on a Concours with a passenger.  Hopefully the drive will be paved soon and then this place will become a beacon for bikers all over the area.  It’s worth a ride over to see what they’ve done.

One More Bike Is Never Enough

My cousin-in-law posted this on Facebook.  Funny how the proliferation of bikes is a common theme.  Few people are happy with just one, probably because one bike can’t do it all and if you love to ride you probably want to ride in as many different circumstances as possible.

I’ve posted several times on bikes that have caught my eye and after realizing that there is math to support this I’m going to do it again!

Based on the bikes I’ve sat on at various shows over the winter these are the ones that felt special or stood out for me.  Given a chance I’d love to test ride them.

A big, naked Kawasaki Z1000

I wanted to love the Triumph Street Triple, or the Suzuki Gladius, but they felt on the small side.  I was also keen to try the Yamaha FZ-09, and while it fit ok it didn’t offer much in the way of an emotional charge.  

As far as naked bikes go there was only one that felt special, and that was the Kawasaki Z1000.  The big, newly re-engineered Kawasaki has a kind of bonkers ode-to-Japanese-anime look that really gets to me.  That it also fit me nicely and offered an astounding openness (the dash all but disappears into the fairing), made it a love at first sight experience.  I’m still a few years away from a litre bike, but when I’m ready, this one is on the short list.

A need for speed

I went to shows this winter thinking I’m all about the adventure bike, but they aren’t what got me going.  Sure, sitting on the big Ewan McGregor adventure BMW felt grand, but it didn’t really get me excited.  I’ve always been a sports car goof, I guess I’m the same way about bikes.

What surprised me was sitting on the Suzuki Hayabusa.  This was another big bike that felt like it was proportioned right for me (6’3″ 230lbs).  The mystical reputation of this speed machine as well as its visual presence surprised me.  It isn’t a rational response (the BMW was much more sensible, which is saying something), but sitting on the ‘Busa felt special.

That sport bike appeal rocked me again when I sat on the Kawasaki ZX-14R.  With Testarosa strakes over the air intakes and the way you fall into the bike, it quickened my pulse.  Once again, not a rational decision, but the emotion couldn’t be denied.

I still want to expand my riding repertoire beyond sports bikes, but as the weather starts to warm up and the Ninja looks at me from the garage, I find myself not wanting to give it up for some blatting adventure bike that feels like it’s on stilts.  I intend to find my way to a day or two of off-road training because it’s a good way to better understand the physics of riding, but that feels like a rational choice, what I want to do is get some track time in.

In the future I may have a couple of three bikes in the garage.  I hope I’ll love each one in a different way, but it looks like the sport bike may have a special place in my heart.  I guess I’m going to have to come to terms with being a big guy with a sports bike addiction.

Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist

Reading Keith Code‘s Twist of the Wrist 2 on Kindle last night and came across this!  The part I’m in right now goes over how motorcycles tend to be self correcting (unlike cars).

When I bike starts to slide at the back it pushes the front wheel in the direction you want to go (unlike a car that pivots on the front wheels and requires you to counter steer into a slide).

The worst thing you can do on a bike is attempt to force a counter steer into the handlebars.  When you do this you’re creating huge torsional pressure between the front and back of the bike.  The bike resolves this by snapping back violently, launching the rider over the high side of the bike leaned into a corner.

Code keeps drilling in the point that the bike wants to self correct.  If you’re loose, relaxed and gentle with the controls the bike will bring itself back into alignment, even if the back wheel is sliding.

Even backing off the throttle suddenly on a rear wheel slide can cause a high side (you suddenly dump all the bike’s weight onto the front wheel causing it to snap back).  It might seem counter-intuitive, but in a slide maintaining throttle and letting the bike sort itself out will resolve most slides.  It’s a rider’s involuntary reaction due to fear and a lack of understanding of how motorcycle dynamics work that result in most corner related crashes.

I’ve been making a point of practicing throttle control in corners, using lower approach speeds but rolling the throttle on with a light hand as early as possible to balance the weight of the bike 60/40 over the back wheel.  I’m amazed at how settled in a corner the Ninja is now.

Motorcycle dynamics are a completely different beast from car dynamics.