And Then There Was One

When I started riding I began to voraciously consume motorcycling magazines.  It took me a while to figure out which ones were good, but for a while there I just went all in.  Being Canadian I thought it prudent to get a sense of Canada’s motorcycling media, so I made a point of looking past the wall of American magazines to find a Canadian voice.

 The two I settled on were Cycle Canada and Motorcycle Mojo.  CC seemed to be edited by a writer with lots of motorcycle experience (rather than an expert motorcyclist with little writing experience).  Reading other magazines sometimes felt like reading a kid’s essay that they’d been made to write.  No one seemed to revel in writing like Neil Graham did.  He was consistently acerbic, challenging and opinionated, but he clearly enjoyed writing.  I really looked forward to reading him each month.

I found Mojo a short while later.  Its modern layout (many other Canadian magazines looked like they’d been designed on a photocopier), and crowd sourced travel pieces got me hooked.  Mojo feels like it’s put together by a community rather than a small group of motorcycle industry insiders who don’t know how to write very well.

A few months ago CC arrived at my door.  As I got into it I discovered that the two writers who do the majority of the heavy lifting in producing the magazine were leaving.  Many readers seemed relieved to see the back of the complicated and difficult Graham, but I missed that voice.  A magazine that was once a drop-everything-and-read-it proposition (and Canadian!) was now filled with news pieces that looked like they were written by an ESL writer in single, giant paragraphs; a computer could construct better grammar.  The new writer they brought in was an old writer they’d let go.  His MO seems to be to say something controversial at the beginning of each article even if what he’s saying is inconsistent from page to page.  The article on the new Harley Davidson is making fun of sport bike riders, the article on a sports bike makes fun of cruiser riders, and his recent piece on the new Honda Africa Twin allowed him to take pot-shots at adventure bike riders.  I get no sense of who he actually is or what he likes.  This approach seems disingenuous and makes me hesitate to trust him.

The newsletter modelled magazines that feel like they are driven by industry interests rather than independent editorial opinion have already been dropped.  Mojo & CC were my only Canadian subscriptions to renew, but now it’s down to a single Canadian mag.  The hole left in the Canadian motorcycling publication landscape by Graham leaving Cycle Canada has made a sure thing a has-been.

 In the meantime I’m looking world-wide for my motorcycle periodicals.  The three I’ve settled on are Motorcycle Mojo (Canada), Cycle World (US) and BIKE (UK).  The last two are driven by professional writers who know motorcycles and not only write well, but seem to enjoy doing it.  I’ve never read a complaint about having to fill up space with writing or meet deadlines in either, although this seems to be a common subject for editorial discussion in many Canadian magazines.

I’m not reading any more magazines, Canadian or not, that make me feel like I’m reading an essay a kid was forced to write for school.  If the writing is that difficult, don’t work for a magazine.  Writing is a skill unto itself, and it should be something you enjoy (it’s what will make you work to improve it instead of just trudging up to deadlines while complaining about them in print).  Just because you’re an expert in the subject area doesn’t mean you’re an expert at communicating it in writing.  Life’s too short to read things written badly by people who aren’t that good at it and couldn’t care less about their writer’s craft.

Flying: The Antithesis of Riding a Motorcycle

No Moncton Airport, you can’t cheer me up with a rainbow.

I’m in the middle of a five hour wait at Moncton Airport for a flight back to Toronto and then a shuttle up to Centre Wellington.  All told it’ll be a 2pm to midnight commute, all on public transit.  Ten hours of tedium, uncomfortable seats and no leg room… and constantly being reminded that you’re much bigger than most people.

To fend of the insanity of canned air, lousy, overpriced food and being herded like cattle at an abattoir, I’m dreaming of the best possible way to get home.

Riding from Moncton would offer a geographical opportunity as the Appalachian Mountains are in the way.  The best route I can manage on Google maps takes me through Maine, Vermont and New York to Niagara Falls, before a quick blast up the QEW home.

Anything out in the wind on two wheels would be better than this synthetic hell I find myself in.  At the moment I’d opt for a Honda VFR800 Interceptor and a good set of leathers, and nothing else.  My only goal:  to wind my way across some mountains to home.

If I left at 2pm from Moncton I’d have gotten to Augusta, Maine by about 8pm in the evening.  A good sleep on a real bed and I’d chew up the remaining eleven hundred kilometres home the next day, wind blown, engaged and full of feeling instead of slowly dying inside in a darkening airport terminal waiting to be herded onto a plane.

Skills Canada Nationals

I’ve never been on a provincial team before, it’s quite the experience. In addition to the unnatural process of leaving school, getting on an aeroplane and flying away from the classroom in early June, it also puts you together with all the other gold medalists, some of whom you lost against in other categories, except now you’re team mates.  

There are a lot of different students on Team Ontario, from the quietest introverts to the loudest extroverts you can imagine, yet they have all demonstrated advanced skills in their particular field of study and are proven craftspeople.  They range from cocky and arrogant to nervous and uncertain; there is no typical Skills Ontario gold medalist.  

There are a lot of different ways to coach a Skills competitor as well and the teachers here reflect that, but the one thing they all have in common is engagement – I’ve yet to see a shrug of indifference from anyone.  I’ve been accused of not always playing well with others, but when the others are this capable and willing, it’s hard not to get caught up in it all.

We did a solid day of sight seeing yesterday (photos below) and today we’ve had the day off before the opening ceremonies in a couple of hours.  I’m studiously taking notes so I can understand this new part of the process we haven’t done before.

I’ve brought the most experienced IT/Networking student I’ve had to date.  It occurred to me the other night that IT, like many other stochastic technology skills, depends largely on experience driven intuition to overcome unclear problems in complex systems.  A student who was willing to try and fail many times ended up developing into my best candidate because of that resiliency.  I’ve brought students more skilled in academics to Skills Ontario, but never seen them break through because everything had to be just so.  You can’t clarify a problem let alone solve it if you aren’t willing to flounder around in the dark trying things first.  If you read any modern text on how to teach, floundering around isn’t favourable to a transparent, linear process of problem resolution.  If everyone else keeps doing that, we’ve got an edge.

If you’re involved in Ontario education at all, the hashtags to follow on twitter are #teamON and #teamOntario, and the National Skill Competition hashtag #SCNC2016.  Re-tweets of Team Ontario are appreciated (there is a team spirit award based on social media participation).

Later today and tomorrow we’ll be knee deep in the competition, and then I’ll be able to assess how well we prepared for this unknown.  Until then, isn’t New Brunswick beautiful?
Team Ontario at Hopewell Rocks in The Bay of Fundy

Dinner at Catch 22 in Moncton

9lb lobster is watching you – 9lb lobster is unimpressed