Risk And Danger In Play? In Learning?

Should play always be safe?  Does risky/dangerous play offer opportunities that our helicopter-parent/granny society play doesn’t?

Mathias Poulsen got me thinking about this on Twitter.  The related educational question is: does safe learning lead to limited chances to improve your knowledge and skill?  Are there advantages to risky and dangerous learning?

In most circumstances learning is a risky proposition.  A friend of ours, Heather Durnin, said how her farmer husband was a sink or swim kind of teacher when he said he wasn’t a teacher at all.  He expected your attention and then threw you into the work directly, expecting you to get a handle on it.  Most jobs I’ve had are the same way.  For that matter teaching itself is pretty much a sink or swim proposition.  Most of the world makes hard demands on learners.  Ironically, it’s only in education that learner engagement is so tenuous, dare I say optional?

I was struck a couple of years ago with how rigorous and unapologetic my introduction to motorcycle training was.  Students who could not manage the physical, mental or emotional requirements were failed, students who slept in on Sunday morning were cut.  It seemed a stark contrast to the fifty-is-a-pass/attendance optional approach that drives learning in school classrooms.  You can’t have stringent, risky experiential learning when you’re more focused on anything other than that learning.

The implication of risk is failure.  If we remove failure from learning we end up with what we have in Ontario education today: students lacking in resiliency with a poor metacognitive idea of what they are capable of.  The grades they earn reflect the political will of the current government rather than what the student is capable of.

Risk taking shows us where the edges of our skills are.  We risk failure when we overreach, but this isn’t a bad thing.  Fear of failure creates a false sense of our limitations which is why overly coddled students have no idea of what they are capable of.  Students who never have the opportunity to take real risks turn into self-oblivious narcissists who think they know everything but can do nothing.  One of the reasons I enjoy teaching tech is because my subject matter doesn’t coddle students.  If it doesn’t work you need to buck up and figure it out; opinions matter little to reality.

The only time in life you’ll find the padded learning/guaranteed success formula is in today’s classroom.  The rest of the world isn’t geared to make you feel good about whether you feel like trying or not.  Fortunately, for those of us who want to learn in a more realistic way, the world is full of risk and danger, and reward.


A Possible Computer Technology Project?

It’s basically a how-to guide for online hacking

At the moment Anonymous is counter trolling some of the biggest trolls on the internet.  This feels like an opportunity for students to exercise their skills and take action based on real world issues.  But I’ve always had doubts about directing student political action, it feels a bit too much like indoctrination when someone in a position of institutionalized power tells the people beholden to them what they should believe and do about it.

Internet activism aside, the Noob Guide offers insight into the various tools needed to hack online.  From a purely technical point of view this offers students a chance to comprehend the nature of online communication by looking at the frailties of its architecture.

It’s happening right now in the real world.  It’s potentially risky.  Sounds like a real world learning opportunity.

Fireblade Petcock

I think I’ve finally gotten the fuel system on the scuppered Fireblade sorted.  The last problem (and probably what caused all the other carb and engine issues) was a leaking petcock.  I tried to take apart the existing one, but I should have listened to the Chilton manual and just replaced it in the first place.  The new one (40 bucks on Amazon) seems a quality thing.

The petcock in the tank was pretty mucky, and was leaking even when turned off.  If it was pouring gas into the carbs all the time, even when parked for long periods, it must have filled up the carb bowls and spilled over into the intake manifold and eventually found its way into the engine oil, which would explain the seven litres of what looked like muddy water that came out of the oil drain plug.

The new petcock looks like a more finished thing than what was on it.  Based on the questionable mechanics on the rest of the bike, I’m guessing this was just something that fit rather than the right spec part.  The one on the top is the new one and the bottom one was what was on the bike.  It seems odd that Honda wouldn’t actually tell you what the petcock is doing by writing the position on the thing.  

The old one also was also lacking the fuel filter, and the new one with the filter on it wouldn’t fit throught a tube stuck up in the tank hole.  I removed the old o-ring and managed to free up the tube with some WD40 and slide it out.  Like everything else I’ve found in the fuel system, it was a pretty mucky thing.  With those weird bits now out and the tank cleaned, that’s the whole fuel system sorted, so hopefully it’ll run like it should when I finally get the tank back on.

The goal now is to wait for a break in the weather (we’ve been in the double digital negative temperatures with a fair bit of snow), and see if I can put the tank back on and fire it all up.  It’s supposed to be 6°C and raining on Monday, so that’ll clear it up and maybe give me a chance to test the tank/petcock on the bike.

As it is, the new petcock is leak free on the tank (I just held it up and tipped it over a basin, but no fuel leaked), so that’s a result!  The problems with this non-runner when I got it had me focusing on the fuel system to the exclusion of all else.  I’m hoping that after a carb rebuild and the various other fuel system nick nacks I’ve sorted, that’s all that’s needed, but you never know.

With any luck I’ll actually get to ride the thing up and down the driveway later this week and find out what else it might need.  If it’s sorted, I can focus on winter maintenance on the Tiger and do the LED turn signals I’ve got for both bikes next.  Come spring time I’ll ride it over to my local motorbike shop, Mostly Ironheads, and have them do a safety on it and then get it sorted for the road.

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Motorbike Wants

I’ve been re-watching Jo Sinnott’s Wild Camping.  That Roof Helmet she wears looks fantastic.  It’s a French designed, multiple function helmet with a fighter pilot vibe.  The Desmo Flash in Orange and black gets itself on my want list.

ROOF Desmo Flash from Canada’s Motorcycle:  $550

I’ve heard a lot about Aerostich.  It started when I read Melissa Holbrook Pierson‘s The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing.  For serious long distance riders, the Aerostich is pretty much the only choice.  Armoured, weatherproof and virtually bullet proof, it’d be nice to have the last word in motorbiking overalls, but they don’t come cheap.

Aerostich Roadcrafter Classic:  $1014 

(Black Friday deal! usually $1127!)

I’m hanging in for a fix on the oil cooler on my new-to-me, found-in-a-field Kawasaki Concours, but what I’d really like is a new one.  They aren’t cheap, I’m looking at about $500 with shipping and customs costs – which is only a couple of hundred less than I bought the bike for.  I could pick one up from ebay used for about sixty bucks delivered, but it might not be much better than the one I have.

$500 new – not going to happen. Han would never by a new part for the ‘Falcon.  I’m going to aim for the $70 delivered used bit and see how it goes.

Rumour & Innuendo In The Age of Information

TVO’s Agenda did a diligent job this week of fact checking following the round table discussion they had with teachers.  In retrospect, what this discussion did was bypass the political spin of teacher unions and the government and give Ontarians an insight into how teachers themselves are seeing this on-going mess.  What I found unnerving was how insular and, in some cases, inaccurate our thinking is.

In post-show fact checking it was shown that some of the commonly held beliefs by teachers were not exactly true.  The bankruptcy lawyer story had been circulated out of the union all year.  Paikin seemed surprised that all the teachers there knew of it, but it was loudly repeated by our unions as a way of framing this disagreement prior to 115 coming in.  In fairness, these lawyers do deal with bankruptcies and they were unfamiliar with education negotiations and were aggressive in their demands, but to call them bankruptcy lawyers shows a use of absolutist language aimed at polarizing union members in order to make them feel victimized.  It’s this kind of manipulation that makes me uneasy.

That the KW bi-election was a reason for the ridiculous piece of legislation called Bill 115 appears  to be a matter of record.  That Kathleen Wynn can say it was a cynical, Machiavellian move to win a bi-election while having voted for it still makes me question her credibility and these ‘social justice’ values she seems to have branded herself with.  In the meantime our unions are still funding the OLP, even as they encourage us to demonstrate in front of their leadership convention.  I’m not sure who is on what side any more.  With four parties involved in this (the provincial government, grassroots union members, union provincial executive who seem out of touch with the members they’ve tried to direct, and school boards), it’s murky at best.

The followup research on the sick days/leave issue indicates just how deeply the political spin of this has cut teachers.  

“…it’s strange that they would seem to think the province would just leave them in the lurch in terms of short-term disability. It either shows a colossal failure of communication on behalf of the government or on behalf of the union to its members. It certainly illustrates that the level of distrust of teachers with the government is extremely high, which is just very, very sad.”

The negativity itself around 115 created such momentum that the provincial executives who were pushing it suddenly found their members turning down contracts they wanted passed.  Executive was building up this fervor as a bargaining tool, but the anger was genuine, and now the rifts between teachers, the government and internally in their unions are deeper than ever.  There hasn’t been a lot of honesty with how this has been managed.  How a teacher couldn’t feel manipulated in this by all the parties involved is beyond me.  Trying to get a clear eye on the issues is almost impossible with all of these giants hurling boulders at each other.

I was ardently against Bill 115, I’m still astonished that it got passed – it is one of the most offensive pieces of ‘law’ ever put into the books.  I was more than willing to go to the wall over fighting it, I still believe we should have walked immediately when it was passed.  As one of the wiser heads in my school said in a staff meeting, “it’s a bad law, you fight bad laws or we lose everything.”  

Watching those teachers on the Agenda line up behind the vitriolic rhetoric of our unions when I find union interests focused on the political self interest of certain (older) members makes me question much of what I’m hearing.  I certainly no longer feel represented by the people who lead us, and while I don’t agree with all of the fact checking done, it does make me question the accuracy of what I’m being told.

I find myself a teacher who is very uncomfortable with how this has been handled, the mess in my own district aside.  The Agenda’s round table only emphasized for me how insulated and groomed our thinking around the turbulence in Ontario education is.

’98 Fireblade Winter Project: Wiring & Petcocks

With the carbs sorted I’m chasing down anything else that could have caused the fuel leak into the engine on the Fireblade.  Yesterday I had the petcock out of the gas tank again and tested it over a catch basin.  Fuel flows fine when it’s on, but it continues to drip when it’s supposed to be closed, so a new petcock is in order.  Fortunately they seem to be a regularly replaced maintenance item because you can buy them on Amazon for not much money.

The neutral light wasn’t working, so I got some LED replacements – they’re super bright.  The wiring to the neutral sensor was stripped down by the drive sprocket, so I cleaned it up, reattached it and taped it up.  Voila, working neutral light again.

There were also a set of wires coming out of the drive sprocket housing that look like they go to a speed sensor which were resting on the exhaust pipe and had melted.  These too got sorted and re-wrapped.  I’m also going to fasten that loom so that it can’t touch the exhaust again.

There are still lots of little details to sort, but the Honda is coming together nicely.  I’ll aim to have it safetied in the spring and then run it for a few months and see if having a second bike in the garage is worth hanging on to, or it might just be sold on to fund the next project.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to running my first true sport bike.

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Riding the Dufferin Highlands & Beating Up a 360 Camera

A colleague‘s retirement party at the far end of our school board meant an excuse to ride over an hour each way to the Dufferin County Museum, scenically perched atop the highest point in Southern Ontario.  It also happens to be within ten minutes of two of my favourite semi-local rides (there is nothing closer with any twisties).

I rode over to Orangeville and then down Hockley Valley Road.  We’re getting over a flood, and the Hockley River was eating its own banks where ever I saw it.  The ride up Airport Road into the highlands was very green and equally floody.  The retirement party was unique in that more than 50% of the speeches weren’t tedious and so filled with inside jokes that only the speaker thinks them funny – with a few exceptions I wasn’t bored with the speeches, which never happens.

I didn’t take any photos on the way out, but I met my wife at the party and then we thought we might go over to the Terra Nova Public House for dinner, but they had nearly an hour wait on a Friday Night, so we aimed elsewhere.  The Mono Cliff’s Inn was both immediately welcoming and only ten minutes away over the glacial moraines of the Niagara Escarpment.

This time I kept the Ricoh Theta handy and took photos as we went into the setting sun:

After a great appetizer smorgasbord in the unique atmosphere of the bar downstairs at the MCI we headed home in the twilight.  I wasn’t expecting much out of the Theta camera in the dying light, but as it has before, it exceeded my expectations:

By this point the light is all but gone and I’m beating up on the Theta.  A fixed lens fully automatic camera, 360° or not, struggles to manage low light, so this isn’t where the Theta was designed to work, but it still does a credible job.  It’s all but dark out when I take the last photo while travelling under the power lines.  I had to beat it up in photoshop a bit to restore some sharpness, but sometimes going with the blur gives you a painted feel to a photo which can give it an abstract feel.  Photography doesn’t have to be all about focus.

You can do quite a lot with the desktop software that comes with the Theta,but there are some special formatting options in the online version that are cool.  The Tiny Planet view in the online viewer is probably my favourite.  The embedded image at the bottom lets you see the whole photo in the raw.

The original

Some Photoshop on the original
Alternative photoshop a bit closer to the natural light

This is the original image in the online software.  If you click on the mirror ball icon and then tiny planet you’ll see where I got the still images above.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

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2020 Moto Wishlist

Next season is a long, cold winter away, but I’m already daydreaming about what might be…

TomTom Rider 550 Moto-GPS:  I’ve always made do with my phone, but Google Maps is kinda crap when it comes to navigating on a bike.  Whenever you reach a way point it wants input, which isn’t easy when you’re flying through the air at 60mph with gloves on.  The TomTom not only is glove friendly, but the software is moto-specific, so no pointless inputs.  It even has a twisty-roads function!  $370CAN

A New Roof: I’m partial to Roof Helmets. To date I’ve owned a first generation Desmo and a Boxxer. The Boxxer is a simple thing and I miss the plush, quieter and more substantial Desmo I had before. Roof has actually come out with a new Desmo, the RO32, and I’m partial to the new flat dark blue lid they’ve just done. Roofs are hard to find in North America, but Chromeburner has the new lid on for about $500CAN.

Racing Kit!  A one piece racing suit for the other thing below.  Now that I’m with sports bike, perhaps I could take it out to track days.  To do that I’d need the proper racing kit.  To get the right spec helmet, boots, gloves and racing suit, I’m at about $2200.  Fortnine has the bits I’d need.
A long time ago I did a car performance driving school at Shannonville Race Track and really enjoyed it.  Taking the Fireblade out on track would be a brilliant way to get to know this athletic machine.  Riderschoice.ca has track days.  I just need to get the bike sorted and have the kit necessary to do the business.
Starting at about $170.
Of course, if you’re doing track days and need to prep a bike for the track, you need to drain coolant and all sorts of other stuff.  What you really need is a way to get it there.  The new Transit Connect is super fuel efficient for a van and would carry my stuff and people when needed.  About $37k.

Van’s got a tow hitch, so trailer, obviously…  $1600 at Canadian tire for this one.  Maybe trailers don’t matter, but I’d like to colour match this one to the van.  With that and a fitted cover, it could take one or two bikes to wherever the snow ends in the winter and trackdays in the summer.


A next level off-roader.  I’ve done a few rounds of off-road training and dig the experience.  I’d like to race enduro and need something dependable and big enough to carry me.  There was a Suzuki DR650 I looked at in the summer for a very reasonable $4000.  It was five years old but basically brand new due to some back luck by its owner.  I wish I could go back in time, get that bike, sort it out for enduro racing and then do it!

Track-day bike:  I’ve already got this one underway with the Fireblade project.  Sorting out the CBR900rr in the garage and then making it track-day ready would be brilliant.  The real block to entry is the cost of racing kit and the ability to transport the bike to the track.  I think I’m some finishing up and detail work away from putting the Honda back on the road in the spring.

Top Speed Machine: 
I’ve always been partial to the Suzuki Hayabusa, and it would let me do a bucket list thing (200mph on a motorcycle) with only a few modifications.  To stretch the bucket list wish, I’d take it out to speed week in Bonneville and do 200mph on the salt.  If I wanted a leg up on this, someone has a modified turbo Hayabusa in Windsor.

A 2-up Touring specialist:  The Tiger will do 2-up work, but it isn’t ideal for it.  A bike that’s a 2-up specialist would be the ideal tool for the job.  Out of all the big cruiser/touring bikes out there, I think the Goldwing is the best.  I’ve ridden a friend’s.  It’s surprisingly athletic, even with 2 people on it.  Touring bikes don’t come cheap – the ‘Wing is a $30k thing.

Anime Dream Machine:  The Kawasaki Z1000 has long been a favourite and its Sugomi designed look is pure anime awesomeness.  I’ve got to admit that the Fireblade project sitting in my garage scratches many of the same itches though.  There’s an orange Z1000 in Quebec going for about $10k.  I think the Fireblade might have scratched this itch…

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A Week After New Years

Norman makes the PCH look pretty magical.
At nearly a thousand bucks a day for this Canadian,
it would have to be.

Strange timing means I’ve got the week off after New Year’s Day this year.  That means flying is a less expensive possibility, so what motorcycling trip might I do with that time?  Norman Reedus did the PCH last year, that’d be nice.  If my son and I were to go what would that cost?

1)  Drive to Detroit would be a bit of gas, border & hotel money, pack only bike gear and a single change of clothes.  Parking in Detroit would cost about $170 for the week including a night in a hotel (the flight leaves at 6am).

$250 for the first day and night (trip, hotel & parking).  And that’s just to stay in Detroit!

2) Flights from Detroit to LAX are going for about $675.  Throw in another $50 to eat bad airport food.

Land in LAX, cab over to EagleRider (10 miles) $30.  EagleRider renting a BMW sport tourer for a week costs over $1400US ($1900 Canadian) if you want decent insurance coverage in the liability driven US.

Figure $300US a day in food, gas and hotels (travelling fairly minimally), and our eight days and nine nights on ground should run us about $2400US ($3250 Canadian).

The flight back is another $574 plus expenses…

Once back it’s another four hour slog over the bridge and back into Ontario through potentially lousy winter weather.  Figure in an extra $100 for gas, tolls and eating to get home.

A thousand miles up and down the Pacific Coast Highway
would be a nice way to end the holiday break, but
at seven grand it’s a salty trip.

I might have the time free, but this cheap-as-I’ll-go trip to California for just seven days (plus one in Detroit) would run to almost seven grand.  It’s a nice bike, but the price difference between that and a smaller, less able bike to carry us and our stuff around isn’t that much (maybe thirty bucks a day less).  This is assuming $100 a night-ish hotels, so nothing special and nothing near anything good.  Other than the riding there isn’t much left to visit anything with either.

Renting a bike is expensive.  Flying is expensive even if it isn’t a peak times and even if you drive to Detroit first.  Hotels aren’t cheap, and the whole thing jumps up by 32% when I pay for it with the Canadian money I earn.

I guess I won’t be doing that the week after New Years.

Last Light of the Sun

Tuesday, November 26:  I got outside after work and noted that the weather didn’t hurt.  Could this be a chance for a final ride before the icy grip of old man winter chokes the life out of my riding season?

On our way home I saw a determined rider on a Harley with scarves tied around his face and that tipped it.  It took me about 10 minutes to thermal up (this opportunity was still only a 5°C one) and wheel the Tiger out from under its blanket.

The 16 year old Triumph started at the touch of the button, though the battery didn’t sound happy after sitting in freezing temperatures for a month.  As the bike warmed up I made sure no skin was showing and off I went.

I just did a 30km run down to the Westmontrose Covered Bridge and then back to Elora, but the chance to fly again before the winter closes in was priceless.  There is nothing better than an unexpected ride when you think you’re months away from being out in the wind again.

A brief stop at the church in Westmontrose for some thematically relevent early November sunset shots in the graveyard before riding back upstream.  I pulled into the gas station in Elora and was surprised to see four other bikers filling up before the long cold resumes.

The Tiger is now parked up with a full tank of gas, ready to slumber once again under its blanket until the distant spring approaches…

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From August, 2012 courtesy of Dusty World:

I just finished reading Matthew Crawford’s “Shop Class for Soulcraft”, a philosophical look at the value of skilled, physical labour.  Having come from a mechanical background into an academic one, a philosopher-mechanic’s critical examination of the ‘creative economy’ we’re all dying to jump into was refreshing.


I’ve often missed the clarity and satisfaction I found in repairing machines, and now I have a philosophical explanation of that sense of loss. Crawford delineates meaningful work in terms of objective standards, a sense of community and individual agency.  He then goes on to disembowel the MBA speak found in the otherworldly knowledge economy that can only exist in an entirely abstract sense of work, one I fear that has been applied to the skilled trade of teaching courtesy of lawyers and politicians.

It’s been a few weeks now since I finished the book.  I’m finding that the lasting impression is one of embracing my smart hands again.  The idea that mind work is somehow superior to hand work is nonsense, though our school is streamed according to that logic (academic/applied, university/college).  The argument that we discover the truest aspect of human intelligence when we work our minds through our hands continues to ring true for me.

The other, unintentional side effect has been a re-awakening of my love of motorcycles.  I’d originally gone after one when I was 16, but my parents offered to up what I’d saved to get me into a car.  It’s probably one of the reasons I’m here today, it was a smart move.  At 43 I’m not interested in wrapping myself around a pole.  Riding is a way to be alone with your thoughts, no obtrusive media, and the development of a constant awareness; you can’t let your mind wander on a bike, they are ruthlessly observant of incompetence. Riding also offers an intimate familiarity with a machine in a very minimalist way that is appealing.

I come by my urges honestly.  Here is a picture of my Grand-dad Bill in the late nineteen forties… I need to get myself some white riding shoes!  I later learned from my Aunt that Bill was a stunt rider in the R.A.F. motorcycle tatoo (they would do gymnastics and stunts while doing drill on the motorbikes).  Wild!

I hope to be licensed and riding in the spring.