stupid is as stupid does

Digital technology has gotten this reputation for curing all our ills as far as student engagement goes. The logic you hear often sounds like, “give the digital natives the technology and sit back! Prepare to be amazed!”

I happened to see “Chalkboard Jungle” on the weekend before my first year teaching in 2004. In the (1955) film the new English teacher is desperately trying to engage his angry and disenfranchised inner city students. He eventually finds that the ‘new’ film projectors catch their attention. He has a talk with one of the older teachers who asks hopefully if the new technology will cure their students’ lack of interest. The young teacher shrugs, but he’s not about to put down the one thing he’s found that takes the heat off.

The frantic grasping at technology hasn’t changed. This week someone kindly tweeted this:

… and she’s right, it’s not the technology. It won’t make the teaching work, it won’t make people wiser or smarter than they are. Our unwillingness to adapt to change is certainly causing chaos, but what might be worse is our belief that technology will somehow make better people.

In 2006 one of my students brought an Orwellian piece of media futurism into our media studies class:

The part that stuck with me was:

“At it’s best, edited for the most savvy readers, EPIC is a summary of the world, deeper, broader, and more nuanced than anything ever available before. But at it’s worst, and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow, and sensational.”

Pretty good description of modern media use, eh? This piece of speculation was originally written in 2004, and whether or not we end up in a Googlezon meganopoly or not, the simple truth that the internet and digital technology looks to empower its user with access to information remains true. Given great access to information, ignorant people will do ignorant things. Stupid people will enable their stupidity in new, interesting and more encompassing ways; digital media gives you what you ask for.

Believe it or not, technology will not magically cure idiocy, or make all students eager, insightful or, in some cases, even vaguely useful. Technology, be it cell phones, computers or even just internet access, has no inherent ability to improve character, or intelligence. While being morally ambiguous it also tends to hand over information with minimal effort, negating attempts to build self discipline and improve mental stamina around task completion. In the process academic skills, especially complex skills that require long developmental times (literacy, logic, etc), become a foreign concept to a mind that has trained itself around short term narcissistic social media navel gazing.

The brain is a very flexible organ. If we train it with asinine navel gazing, it will end up in a feedback loop that develops a very inaccurate sense of our abilities and self value; social media and technology focused around our wants and needs will kill humility stone dead.

The idea that teaching needs to change into facilitation only seems to feed this vacuum. The act of teaching involves a great deal more than making sure students know how to get to information and providing them with technology to do it. Teachers don’t just model learning, they also model civil behavior, intelligence in action, and many other traits you hope students will notice and eventually emulate. Left to their own devices (pun intended), many of the digital natives develop habits that make the digital tools we are developing look more like lobotomy instruments rather than tools to maximize human awareness and learning.

Burying your head in the sand at the onslaught of change doesn’t help; ignoring this will just make you irrelevant very quickly.

Adopting a pie in the sky belief in some kind of intuitive magic power children have over technology is ludicrous, actually quite akin to the burying your head in the sand (you’re really just transferring responsibility to the magic children).

As mentioned in Davidson’s article, we need to start recognizing that people are the prime movers and the technology just amplifies the activity, whatever it is. Until we start rationally looking at what is happening in our rapidly evolving mediascape and assigning responsibility to people’s choices, we are going to find ourselves creating fictions and blaming gadgets. In rough seas like these, we need to appreciate some hard truths.

May Garden Photography

May floral, macro photography using the Canon T6i Rebel SLR using the kit lens on the overcast shots and the macro lens on the sunny ones.:

from Blogger

Long Way Up & Valentino: Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

My escape is usually to find some motorcycle media to get lost in but a theme this week in it was ‘getting old’, which is a tricky one to navigate.  I’ve started watching Long Way Up and seeing two of my favourite adventure motorcyclists getting old is difficult.  I got into Long Way Round and Long Way Down early on in my motorcycling career and they’ve saved me from many a long Canadian winter.  I’m up to episode four now and they’ve hit their stride and are coming close to their earlier trips, but watching everyone looking for their reading glasses and groaning as they saddle up has been difficult to watch.

Many moons ago I read Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing.  In it she makes the startling observation that one day everyone realizes they’re probably having their last ever motorcycle ride.  It’s a terrifying thought that has come up in TMD before in For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Long Way Up happened because Charlie almost killed himself and it prompted Ewan to reconnect with him again after they’d drifted apart when Ewan moved to the US.  Maintaining friendships among men as they age seems to be exceptionally difficult these days.  I recently worked on a charity program for The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride that considered ways to keep men socially connected as they age.  Speaking from personal experience, getting older is a lonely experience.  Men seem uniquely suited to doing it poorly in the modern world.  As I watch the boys figure out their new fangled electric bikes and work their way out of deepest, darkest Patagonia it’s nice to see the power of travel and challenge bring back some sense of their former selves, we should all be so lucky.
Harley Davidson’s involvement in the program has been fascinating.  I can hand on heart say that I’ve never once had the remotest interest in owning one of their tractors.  I don’t like the brand or the image, but what they did with Long Way Up was daring in a way that KTM was incapable of being way back when they did the first one in the early naughties.  I admire that kind of bravery, especially when it’s with such untested technology.  Harley’s involvement in Long Way Up is even braver than BMW’s has been in previous trips where they provided the measure of long distance adventure travel that had been evolved and refined over decades.  Even with all that it sure did seem to break down a lot though.  That the bikes appear to be doing so well doing long distance adventure travel when our battery technology is so medieval makes me wonder why the brand clings so tightly to its conservative cruiser image, they could be so much more than big wheels for red necks.  If I had the means I’d drop thirty large on a Livewire tomorrow (I’m a school teacher, there ain’t no thirty grand bikes in my future).
While I was acclimatizing myself to the reading glasses and stiff joints of the Long Way Up I also watched the Barcelona MotoGP raceValentino Rossi is an astonishing 41 years old and still a regular top ten finisher in this young man’s sport.  He managed his 199th podium finish earlier this year and looked like he was on track to hit 200 podiums in the top class this weekend when his bike fell out from under him while in a safe second place.  It was tough to watch that opportunity fall away from him after he lined everything up so well, but old muscles don’t react as quickly, though Vale was hardly the only one to crash out of the race.  I’m hoping he can make that 200th podium happen, but it’s just a number and if he doesn’t, who really cares?  He’s still the GOAT and will be until someone else wins championships on multiple manufactures across multiple decades through radical evolutions in technology.  He managed wins on everything from insane 500cc two strokes through massive evolutionary changes to the latest digital four stroke machines.  Winning year after year on the top manufacturer on a similar bike just ain’t gonna cut it if you want to be GOAT.
He just signed a contract for another year with one of the top teams (Petronas) in the top class of MotoGP.  He has battled against generations of riders who have come up, peaked and been beaten to a pulp by this relentless sport, and he still seems able to summon the drive and discipline to compete at the highest level.  If that isn’t Greatest Of All Time inspirational I don’t know what is.  I suspect Charlie Boorman might empathize with him.  Charlie’s another one who doesn’t know when to stop, even when he probably should.  Watching him bend his broken body onto his bike in Long Way Up is also inspirational in a way.
It all reminds me of a poem…
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
                                                                  Dylan Thomas
Fucken ‘eh.

from Blogger

Tiger Winter Maintenance Notes

Rims:   Front: 36 spoke alloy rim 19 x 2.5″  Rear: 40 spoke alloy rim 17 x 4.25″
2005 Tiger:  14 spoke cast alloy: same size (is this findable?  Yes it is!  Not rears though)

Tires: Front: 110/80-19 Rear: 150/70-17

Coolant flush.  2.8l of coolant (50% distilled water 50% corrosion inhibited ethylene glycol)
– cool engine
– remove fuel tank
– remove pressure cap- 
– unscrew bleed hole bolt (thermostat housing)
– remove reservoir cap
– container under engine
– unscrew drain plug (left side of engine) & drain (keep the old washer for flushing)
– remove lower coolant hose and drain
– flush with tap water
– reinstall old washer & plug & lower coolant hose and fill with water & aluminum friendly rad flush
– reinstall drain plug (25Nm) rad cap and bleed hole bolt (7Nm)
– put fuel tank back on
– run engine to warm (10 mins) then let cool
– re-drain
– refill with plain water, repeat running, cool and redrain
– use a new drain plug washer and torque to 25Nm
– with everything but the bleed bolt installed slowly fill with coolant
– fill reservoir to MAX and cap everything and install bleed bolt (7Nm)
– run 3-4 mins, rev to 4-6k a few times to open it up, check rad and reservoir levels

Spark Plugs:  NGK DPR8EA-9   0.8 to 0.9 gap  20Nm  (under gas tank, like everything else)

Fork oil change:  Kayaba G10 or equivalent 107 mm from top of tube with fork spring removed and leg fully compressed.  Larger riders (like me!) might want 15 weight oil.
Tiger oil change intervals.  Tiger fork oil.
Fork oil viscosity  –  More Tiger fork oil info.
Capacity: 720cc/ml  oil level: 107mm (from top of tube with spring removed and compressed leg)
Removal of forks (with body work & front wheel removed)
– one at a time and with all gubbins removed from fork
– loosen fork clamp bolts
– loosen top fork bolt while it’s still on the bike (hard to do when it’s off)
– note alignment of fork before removing it
– loosen lower clamp bolts, it should slide loose out the bottom
top fork bolt:  30Nm
clamp bolts top yoke:  20Nm
Handlebar holder clamp bolts:  26Nm

Brake fluid flush   DOT 4

Chassis lubricant (swing arm, stearing head, levers & pedals): Mobile Grease HP 222 or lithium based multi purpose grease.

via Blogger

Unmasking The Truth

I’ve been teaching the engineering design process for the past two weeks to grade 9s in very difficult circumstances.  The engineering process underlies all the work we do in our stochastic, tactile technology/engineering program.  We aren’t rote learning to the same standardized answer, so blind obedience to processes won’t get us working results. We need to be organized, agile and able to step back and gain perspective in our non-linear problem solving circumstances like any good technician or engineer would when solving a complex, arbitrary problem.

I’m struggling with the half-baked safety plan we seem determined to follow at all costs.  Rather than get more frustrated with the optics, politics and bureaucracy that drive it, I thought, “why not apply the engineering process to my intolerable situation?”  



  •  ASK:how do we resolve physically untenable policies around masks?
  • IMAGINE: a Heath Unit/Canada COVID19 compliant masking system that is effective and comfortable (if it isn’t comfortable it isn’t effective)
  • PLAN: collect data, research how COVID actually works, find existing solutions to best mitigate its spread
  • CREATE: build a testing system, create a solution based process
  • EXPERIMENT:  try different mask types and materials
  • IMPROVE: deliver an improved masking policy that is constantly in review



It got up to 30°C/70% humidity in our it-has-never-worked-properly incorrectly ventilated classroom on Friday, which equates to a humidex temperature feeling like 41°C (that’s 106°F if you’re old school). I was rotating grade 9s outside to demask and breathe. It’s hard to learn when you’re seeing spots and can’t think straight… during a pandemic.

We were building circuits with Arduinos so I built a temperature/humidity sensor, which is how we captured data. Just for giggles I put the sensor on longer wires and put it up inside my mask while I was instructing. Curious about the results?

Inside the too small and tight, restrictive masks we’re required to wear all day every day at school the temperature is 4-5 degrees warmer than the outside air. I was getting readings of 33-35°C inside the mask depending on whether I was breathing in or out. But what gets you is the humidity. Inside the mask it was ranging between 92-97% humidity. Run that through the Canadian Humidex calculator and I’m stewing in what feels like 54°C all day, every day.

If I were in a climate controlled environment like the medical people who wear masks are this would probably be much more manageable, but I’m not.

CONCLUSION:  the small, restrictive medical grade ASTM Level 1 masks we’re required to wear might work in a well ventilated hospital, but they don’t work in schools where climate control is a distant dream.  When temperatures rise medical grade masks quickly become a liability more than a protection.

WHERE & WHY ASTM1 MASKS WORK:  If you’re a medical professional working in a dentist, doctor’s office or hospital you’re working in a climate controlled environment that must follow strict guidelines.  In that context ASTM1 masks work effectively because the environment is supporting mask use rather than fighting it.
In an uncontrolled environment medical masks are restrictive and can cause discomfort which makes them a liability because people start fidgeting with them.
Staff struggling in uncontrolled climates (ie: most classrooms) resolve their breathing difficulties by breaking many of the rules for safe mask use:
I regularly see staff having to move restrictive medical grade masks around or wearing them with gaps or incorrectly just to get a breath.  Wearing a medical grade mask incorrectly is less safe than wearing a properly fitted non-medical grade mask correctly.  Discomfort from an improperly mandated masking policy drives this misuse.


ASTM1 surgical masks, such as are being provided to teachers, are medical usage masks that work in concert with a variety of other PPE options that teachers haven’t been provided with.  This video gives you an example of how medically focused these masks are:

What do ASTM1 medical masks do that a more comfortable, properly fitted non-medical option doesn’t?  Not much in the context of a classroom.  In a medical environment where a professional is working with COVID19 positive patients, a medical mask would be used in conjunction with a face shield to keep the medical worker safe in a known high risk situation.

“Medical masks are designed to protect against large droplets, splashes or sprays
of bodily fluid or other type of fluid.”
(Health News  In a medical context these masks provide a valuable level of protection, but an ASTM1 mask by itself isn’t a better barrier to COVID transmission, especially when worn incorrectly.
“It’s unlikely you’ll be infected in public by airborne viral particles.
The real threat is touching an infected surface and then putting your
hand to your face: Frequent hand-washing is a sure way to avoid
  (Health News  A focus on cleaning surfaces and regular hand-washing would be far more effective than the false protection of a single layer of PPE/incorrectly applied medical mask.
Smaller class sizes, reduced bus loads and more frequent spot cleaning is a far more effective barrier to COVID19 transmission than stipulating a medical grade mask with no other PPE, but it does provide the appearance of greater diligence without the effectiveness and makes uneducated jumpy people think things are being handled diligently.

ASTM1 mask compliance in non-medical settings also puts Ontario’s public education systems at odds with the public health unit and Health Canada masking stipulations: “Due
to critical shortages during the COVID-19 response, we are implementing
and/or proposing a range of strategies to respond to the increased
demand for medical masks”
  Bins full of them outside every public school in Ontario every day isn’t helping to solve this world-wide shortage, especially when it’s done for optics rather than efficacy.

There are numerous well researched sources of information on mask usage this far into the COVID19 pandemic.  Its modes of transmission are known and technology is on hand to mitigate them, yet myths persist, like the idea that a medical mask is somehow a cure-all and significantly ‘safer’ than a correctly fitted cloth mask.  Every health agency in the world wouldn’t be advocating non-medical masks if they didn’t work.


“The coronavirus can spread through eyes, just as it can through nose and mouth” (American Academy of Ophthalmology) so demanding medical grade nose and throat protection while requiring no eye protection is wildly inconsistent and dangerously disingenuous.  The droplets that a properly sized and fitted cloth mask would stop and that an ATSM1 medical mask is designed to specifically stop 95% of would happen in a situation when a COVID19 positive person coughed or sneezed in your face without wearing a mask themselves, but with no eye protection you’re going to contract it anyway.  Rather than pretending to act from a sense of greater protection, more logical and consistent masking policies from the provincial government would not only make educational staff more comfortable but also less likely to contract the virus.

The appearance of medical safety, without the efficacy..

That educational staff are being required to wear poorly fitted and environmentally damaging ATSM1 medical masks at a time when they are vitally needed by people who would be wearing them with a complete set of PPE in an appropriately controlled environment is problematic.  The education system seems incapable of understanding or providing a masking solution that aligns with masking requirements everywhere else.  We need to stop acting like this is a marketing gimmick and start acting like it’s a medical emergency.

All medical mask directions stress a smooth seal with your face to ensure effectiveness, but another wildly inconsistent piece of Ontario education’s approach to mask adoption is demanding ATSM1 medically compliant masks with no direction around facial hair.  A beard or moustache that prevents a seal around the nose and mouth makes the mask all but useless, but there has been zero direction on the mandatory removal of facial hair.  The CDC as well as other health groups have made suggestions on facial hair that allows for a proper mask fit, which is a challenge.  CBC’s piece on it suggests a larger cloth mask would actually be more effective than smaller medical grade mask that won’t cover the beard. Another piece suggests COVID19 droplets spat onto your beard from a virus carrier can live for hours, but wear an ATSM1 mask incorrectly and the powers that be are happy.  The only conclusion that can be drawn is that ATSM1 mask usage by Ontario educators is a marketing move and not a medically viable choice.  That so many teachers seem to be buying into it is astonishing.

You’ll find a lot of panicky accusations saying this
is a conspiracy theory from early in COVID19, but it should be fairly
obvious that a beard would prevent a ‘tight seal’ as required in any
surgical mask directions.CDC has always recommended shaving for medical professionals wearing medical grade gear.

It appears Ontario public education is using ASTM1 level masks to produce a sense of false protection in the education system.  By ignoring the more difficult and expensive medically proven ways of preventing COVID19 spread, such as resolving decades long HVAC issues in schools and not providing the full range of PPE required to provide medical levels of protection, Ontario’s pick-and-choose safety approach with an emphasis on medical mask use without any other criteria is both ineffective and misleading.


For staff with breathing and size issues the Chinese manufactured disposable ATSM1 masks are all but ineffective.  A policy that allows for public health/Health Canada compliant masks would not only produce staff in less physical distress, but also provide greater safety for everyone at this difficult time.
  1.  Must fit the wearer’s face (current one size fits all masks do not fit all user faces)
  2. Masks must be comfortable enough for 150 minute continuous usage scenarios
  3. Masks must be breathable enough that users aren’t constantly pulling them away to breathe

Purchase a variety of mask types and sizes and experiment with them to find effective fit and duration results.  In a  medical situation professionals choose a mask from a selection of sizes and types.  They aren’t all handed the same sized and shaped mask as educators have been.  By experimenting with appropriate fit and breath-ability options a more effective masking solution would reveal itself.  None of this happened in preparing for the new school year.  This doesn’t appear to be happening now either.

With COVID19’s transmission still under review by major players like the CDC, the safest route would have been to provide remote learning for the majority of families so that social isolation bubbles could persist.  Schools should have only been opened up to students in need or for specific classes that require face to face instruction.

A more cautious and medically researched approach to this school year would have prevented the current increases in cases, but the provincial government picked what it liked in terms of medical advice and ignored the rest, while using medical mask usage to whitewash any questions of efficacy.

The latest data suggests that droplet transmission happens when people are in close proximity to one another.  In this scenario it is much more important that staff and students have properly fitted, comfortable masks than it is to have a splash ready ATSM1 medical grade mask.

Beyond a metre the droplets tend to fall out of the air, though this is in question too.  If airborne transmission can happen from infected droplets that hang in the air for hours, the only logical choice would be to shut down face to face schooling again as a single infected person in any school would be spreading COVID19 indiscriminately anywhere they travel whenever they remove or incorrectly wear their mask.  Even a properly fitted mask is up to 95% efficient so COVID19 transmission would occur anyway with enough exposure.

Following WHO’s current understanding that COVID19 is most easily spread in close quarters, it’s vitally important that staff and students have comfortable, properly fitted masks that they aren’t constantly touching and making ineffective.


By experimenting with a variety of sizes and types of masks Ontario education could create a more effective masking policy that better protects its staff and students.
By closely following medical research on transmission and management, Ontario education could provide timely updates to its masking and PPE policies that keep people safe.

Larger, systemic issues like poor classroom ventilation and class sizes will have far more efficacy than a simplistic and misleading one-size-doesn’t-fit-all masking policy.  Some boards (mine included) have taken steps to reduce class sizes but in some cases the Ministry intervened and prevented boards from creating smaller class sizes.  In our case the cohorted solution to class sizes has downloaded all of the effort in making it work on classroom teachers which is creating marathon sessions of face to face classes while teachers are simultaneously expected to manage the other half of the class online.  This is twice the preparation and work along with the impossible expectations of being in two places at once – all day, every day.  Doing this while wearing an ill-fitting mask with breath-ability issues in a poorly ventilated classroom is a combination that will hurt many employees.  Rather than enforcing a misleading, half-finished medical masking policy, a focus on these other urgent matters would produce better outcomes for all involved.


Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19: 

“Dr. Sten Vermund, infectious-disease epidemiologist and dean of the Yale
School of Public Health, he told us he trimmed his own facial hair down
“so that the mask could completely cover my beard.” The key, he added,
is to make sure there are no gaps and that the mask is hugging your
skin, not your facial hair.”

A well written article by a pile of doctors that explains how viral transmission happens.  An airborne virus is a terrible thing.  Whether or not COVID19 is airborne is still in contention, but the latest from CDC suggests it is

Currently, WHO guidance
considers surgical masks to be adequately protective for healthcare
staffers working with potential COVID-19 patients, and advises using N95
masks in limited situations, such as when intubating patients, which is
known to generate small particles from deep in the lungs. Healthcare
workers who follow these recommendations have been generally protected
against the virus, WHO notes.”

Medical masks for medical work…

“A dual-layered cloth mask is sufficient to protect people in public settings. It’s unlikely you’ll be infected in public by airborne viral particles. The real threat is touching an infected surface and then putting your hand to your face: Frequent hand-washing is a sure way to avoid COVID-19”

“medical masks protect people from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. But it’s designed to protect against large droplets, splashes or sprays of bodily fluid or other type of fluid.”

“The challenge before many healthcare workers in combatting the disease
would be a daunting task unless proper administrative, clinical, and
physical measures are taken within the healthcare settings”
– wouldn’t hurt if educational administration followed proper measures too…

from Blogger

Cultivate Your Intuition

It had been one hell of a morning.  I got to work only to get a frantic phone call telling me to turn around and come back home because a snow plow had backed up into my wife’s car.  An hour later we’d dropped off the car at the repair centre (while finding out it might get written off and/or take weeks to fix) and were on our way to work.  As we approached the last traffic light before work I must have seen something out of the corner of my eye and my foot was hard on the brakes.

I don’t consciously remember hitting the brakes.  In retrospect I must have seen something out of the corner of my eye and instead of ignoring that peripheral warning I instinctively acted on it.  At 50km/hr we were moving at over 3 metres a second.  Had I hesitated or waited for clarity, we would have driven right into a t-bone with the big, V6 American sedan that was running the light at twice the posted limit.

We were just outside of two school zones in a residential area with low speed limits, but that big sedan was easily doing 80km/hr when it blew threw a very red light.  I sat there stunned for a moment, as you do when something happens and you don’t know why.  There were a lot of questions popping into my head:  had I just run a red light because I wasn’t paying attention?  Why were the people in the other car were trying to kill us?  Did we really just come that close to getting clobbered after the morning we’d just had?

As we proceeded through the intersection I double checked the light just to make sure I hadn’t made a mess of this whole thing, but I was still facing a green light.  The guy next to us who was turning left had also stamped on the brakes to avoid the flying Dutchman.  He looked over and rolled his eyes at the situation.  I grinned back uncertainly.  I asked Alanna, “did that just happen?”  After the morning we’d already had this seemed beyond the pale.  As I pulled in to work the implications of what happened were starting to sink in.  In an alternate reality where I didn’t listen to that feeling my son was an orphan and the mouth breathers in that car, if they weren’t scattered down the road, were probably trying to explain to the police how it wasn’t their fault.  No one is responsible for anything any more.

This all got me thinking about what saved us.  Peak performance requires your rational mind to apply itself to practice in order to develop basic skills, but there comes a point where you have the basics in hand and spontaneous, complex action can arise seemingly without intent.  If you’ve ever become competent at a sport you know what this feels like; you don’t think about it when you backhand the puck into the net or make that diving catch.  I don’t think about vehicular control, I inhabit the vehicle.

Driving is one of those things I’ve worked on for years, taking advanced classes, racing carts in Japan and expanding my vehicular operation into new areas like riding a motorcycle, which is itself also an intensive exercise in situational awareness.  I have to wonder if the Tim who never took up bikes had the same developed peripheral attention and reacted on it as quickly; riding a bike makes you open your third eye or you tend to keep finding yourself in situations that make you want to quit doing it.

It’s important to cultivate an awareness of your intuition and trust in it.  Your subconscious mind is a much less cluttered and restricted part of your thinking process and can see things with a clarity that your reasoning mind is oblivious to because it keeps getting in the way.  If you have a bad feeling about something, listen to it.

Here is some philosophy to connect the link between intuition and performance:
“Intelligent spontaneity, then, is a fully embodied state of mind where one is perfectly calibrated to the environment. The environment essentially becomes an extension of your skill.”

This comes out in the summer, I’ll be looking it up:

from Blogger

Management Expertise


This is a WIRED story about tech software startups in the Denver area.  In it a man who has an idea about buying insurance online has become a ‘TECH CEO’ even though he has no idea of what it is he is actually building.  With no background in technology hardware or software development, this guy is trying to launch a tech-startup with an idea and little else.

The quotes below are from the article.  The bolding is mine…

ROSS DIEDRICH HAD gone pale and raw-boned. The CEO of a year-old startup in Denver, he’d stay at his office until the middle of the night, go home and sleep for about five hours, then chug a spinach smoothie and start again. He was just 27 years old, but he felt wrung out.

He still didn’t have even a basic version of the software that he could demo—an “MVP” in coder parlance, for minimum viable product. Chris was still holding down his full-time job; he didn’t want to quit until Covered had some funding in hand. The lead development engineer that Ross had brought on, a big, quiet nerd named Jonathan Baughn, was juggling a bunch of projects and wasn’t as available as Ross had expected. But Ross didn’t want to put too much pressure on Baughn. As a contractor, he was within his rights to work for others. A junior software engineer Baughn had brought to the project, Reyna DeLogé, tried to manage on her own, but they kept blowing past their self-imposed deadlines.

He navigated to the demo site, typed in his password, and tapped on the mousepad. Then he tapped again. Nothing happened. The demo was broken. “What the heck is going on here?” he murmured.

I’d feel wrung out too if I was building something that I had no idea of how it works and kept blowing through deadlines.  Demoing it and having it fail to launch and then having no idea why would be exhausting.
I would posit that you need at least a passing acquaintance with the technology you’re pedalling before you try to claim ownership over it.  An automotive executive who has no idea what is under the hood would be a poor manager.  A head chef who doesn’t know how to cook would be a poor manager.  A general who has never stepped foot on a battlefield would be a poor general.  A principal who was a disaster in the classroom would be a poor principal.
The film Steve Jobs does a good job of examining the contradiction of a manager who has no engineering skill:

Where Jobs diverges from the disaster described in the WIRED article above is that he surrounds himself with the most knowledgeable engineers – an orchestra of expertise, and then focuses on having them produce their best possible work.  An argument could be made for a manager like this, but not at the expense of engineering, never at the expense of engineering.

Your ideal manager must have some technical background if they are to work with skilled labour.  In the clip above Woz tells Jobs that he can’t do anything, which isn’t really true; they met and bonded over their shared knowledge of electronics.  Jobs may not have been able to engineer the devices he helped create, but he was very aware of the technology and how it worked.  With that knowledge he was able to gather experts because he could appreciate their expertise.

A manager who is only an expert in management is best when not managing people who perform skilled work, whether that be engineering or teaching or any other complex, skills based process.  Matt Crawford does a great job of examining this in The World Beyond Your Head.  In the book Crawford distinguishes between the skilled labourer who modifies or ‘jigs’ their environment to better perform their profession and the unskilled script follower who does what they’re told in a prefabricated production line.  Being free to manipulate the physical environment in order to perform your expertise is a foundation stone of professionalism in Crawford’s mind.  A lot of the downward pressure you see on worker valuation in education and employment in general is because of the Taylorism of workplaces into script following routines.  Making the end goal of education a result in a standardized test plays to this thinking perfectly.  In those prefabricated and abstracted workplaces skill isn’t a requirement, obedience is.

An effective manager of skilled labour acknowledges and cultivates expertise in their people.  You can’t do that without having some kind of handle on that skillset.  Being oblivious to how reality works and managing complex, skilled labourers who work in that demanding environment like they are a production line is the single greatest point of failure in management, unless your goal is to chase out skilled labour and turn your organization into a mechanical process where the people in it are little more that scripted robots.  There are financial arguments for that, but they aren’t very humane.  We might not perform as many repetitive job tasks in the future, but if we remove human expertise from the workplace it will damage us as a species, and any financial gain from it would be short lived.

Related Readings:

Shopclass as Soulcraft: IT Idiocy, Management Speak & Skills Abstraction
Taylorism in Edtech
Implications of a Situated Intelligence in Education
A Thin and Fragile Pretense
How We’ve Situated Ourselves

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Chasing Eclipses on a Tight Schedule

Things have tightened up around the total solar eclipse that crosses The States in August.  If I can make it back for the 23rd I’ve got a conference I can attend to demonstrate virtual reality, and who wouldn’t want to do that?  The conference would also pay for the trip, so that’s nice.  Timing and weather are the key factors in making this work.  This eclipse is also a two for one deal because it happens right over the Tail of the Dragon at about 2:30pm on August 21st.

 There are a lot of very detailed maps out there showing you where the path of totality is thundering across the Earth’s surface at over six hundred miles per hour.  From 1:05pm local time to about 4pm is the time it takes for the moon to go tip to tip over the sun.  Totality only lasts from 2:33:54pm to 2:36:25pm – a scant two and a half-ish minutes, then daylight returns.

Taken from the interactive Google eclipse map

I’ve seen partial eclipses before but I’ve never seen totality, so that’s the goal (that and riding the Dragon).  Fortunately Deal’s Gap and the road to the Fontana Dam are right in the path of this once in a life time (in North America) event.

I’ve got to boogie home after seeing totality.  If I’m on the road by 3pm local time, how much time can I make before stopping for the night?  Now for the iron-butt portion of the trip.

The conference kicks off late morning on Wednesday, August 23rd in Toronto.  As long as I’ve gotten my ass home by Tuesday night, all is good in the world.

It’s a 360 mile interstate blast to Dayton, Ohio (home of Les Nessman!).  Google Maps says just over six hours.  With a couple of stops call it seven.  If I’m on the way by 3pm, I should be stopping for the night between 9 and 10pm – just after a late summer sunset.

Day two is a long distance run up to the Canadian border and back home – just over four hundred miles.  If I were under way by 9am, with a few stops and some lunch, I’d be home by 6pm-ish; totally doable.

With the back end compressed, the front end of the trip becomes my only chance to ride the Appalachians on the way down…

South through Buffalo and into the mountains, then it’s three days of winding Appalachian roads and Blue Ridge Parkways south to Cherokee in the heart of the Smokey Mountains.  

If I left on the Thursday before, I could do Thursday and Friday nights on the road south, Saturday and Sunday nights in Cherokee near the Tail of the Dragon, Monday night near Cincinnati on the way back and then home again.  It’s a lot more interstate than I’d normally go looking for, but it’s still a once in this lifetime opportunity.

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Bun Burning MotoGP

A few years ago we rode down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP.  It was a great few days in Indiana and it was pretty close to us.  At a push the ride there could be done in a day (we took two because I had my ten year old son with me).

This year’s only North American MotoGP is in Texas and happens the weekend before Easter.  How few days could I do it in?  It just happens that Austin is a Bun Burner Gold away, just over 1500 miles south west of here.  I watched a couple of fellow motorcyclists from the Lobo Loco long distance rallies pull a Bun Burner Gold off in the fall.  If I could get to COTA in 24 hours I’d be a rockstar!

If I left on Thursday evening I’d be down there Friday evening or a bit later if I missed it (BBGs depend a lot on construction and delays to pull off).  Either way I’d be up Saturday morning with some kind of Iron Butt ride (if I missed the BBG there are half a dozen other, easier ones that I could still aim for) under my belt to catch qualifying.  Early to bed Saturday night and then another day at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday for the races.  After a good dinner I’d be back on the road again making tracks north to home.

If I missed the Bun Burner Gold on the way down, I could attempt it again on the way back!  Either doing a Sunday night to Monday night blitz to get the gold, or breaking it into two long days and going for a plain old Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles over 36 hours).

In a perfect world I’d do the BBG on the way down, enjoy the weekend and rest up again before getting a Bun Burner 1500 on the way back, riding Sunday night after the race as far as I can, having a sleep and then getting up and finishing the ride within 36 hours.  If I’m back Monday night I would have only missed two days of work while getting to watch a MotoGP live and picking up multiple iron butts!  That’d shake the rust off after a long, cold, Canadian winter.

Does two Iron Butt rides around a weekend of MotoGP sound extreme?  From the dark depths of February after weeks and weeks out of the saddle, it sounds like a brilliant idea!  When you’re trapped under a polar vortex and some truly grim, neverending Canadian winter, the thought of trying to cross much of North America twice in five days on two wheels scratches an itch.

Slow motion through the esses at Indianapolis…

COTA has all sorts of pretty views for video and photography…

The long way down… and back.

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