Variations on a Theme

I’ve been playing with the idea of branding the garage.  Cafe Racer TV plays this card all the time, so why not?  I could totally pull off KingMoto, or Timoto, or I could name it after my son and go with MaxMoto!

In launching a school motorcycle club I put together some basic graphics for it and it got me creating variations (who said that time in art college was wasted?).  Here are some of them (made in photoshop):

The one for school (Centre Wellington DHS): a fairly nondescript naked bike,
I liked the idea of integrating the wheels into moto…
Dug up a pic of my grand-dad’s bike for this one… 

Just swapped out text for this one, easy to do in layers on photoshop

A bit more graphics work on the Royal Enfield used in this one
With Ninja – nice to have my current bike in there.

Variation on the Ninja theme

All the fonts I used are freely available online.  The CW fonts are New Motor (the modernist font used in moto) and Rugged Ride (the tire font in the background CW). The jagged looking font in Tim Moto is My Underwood, modelled after the classic typewriter.

A tire track’s a tire track, I couldn’t find any bike specific ones, but this one is a nice piece of work.
Nice modernist font with a bit of motoriness in it!

Another motorbike related font I found was Yamamoto

Nice font, couldn’t find a place for it but I’m keeping it on file

Even if you only have a word processor (Openoffice is a great free one), you can throw together a decent looking logo using these fonts.  If you want to get fancier with the graphics it wouldn’t take you long to get handy with a graphics editor and layer in something interesting.  Finding clean side shots of motorcycles is easy on Google.  If you’ve never used one before, The Gimp is free and quite intuitive to use.

If any moto-inspired types are interested in messing around with logos contact me through Twitter or Google+.  I’d be happy to cobble something together for you.

Suffering And Sacrifice in Eastern Thinking

A student used this as a graphic
text in an English Elearning course

I had an English student hand this in yesterday as an example of a graphics text.  The assignment was to create three questions with answers based on the graphic text.  This is a surprisingly quick way to assess a student’s understanding of a graphic text (well done Elearning Ontario).

But ya gotta be careful with the manga, it can get deep quickly, especially when you throw cultural differences into the mix.  The student’s understanding of this snippet fell into a number of problems, not the least of which was the yawning gap between how a Christian middle-class, white teen in rural Ontario and the Buddhist, Japanese writer of the manga interpret suffering.

The student took “a painless lesson is one without any meaning” and focused on the lack of meaning.  He suggested when random, pointless things happen to you, you should just roll with it; suffering just happens arbitrarily.  I like how student’s analysis of a text often tells you more about them than it does about the text.

Incompetence: when students suddenly decide to try they
think instant success will follow because the only thing
preventing it before was their lack of effort.  It turns out
that mastery requires  a bit more than showing up once.

I wrote back suggesting that without fully committing to what you’re doing and suffering loss and sacrifice in the process, you never really learn anything.  Only by being fully committed to your lesson, and possibly losing something valuable to you in the process, can you hope to truly learn.  A painless, safe lesson is meaningless because you’ll never learn (keep) anything from it.  It’s also useless because you’re not working at the ragged edge of your abilities, so you’re not doing anything you haven’t done before.  Put another way, no risk, no reward.

The student didn’t seem interested in my interpretation.  It fits a Western 21st Century teen’s world view to frame learning in terms of pointless suffering and minimal personal investment.  By being an intentionally ineffective agent in an arbitrary world, you can blame everything except yourself for your circumstances.  Your abilities are never in question because you are never the architect of any failure.

Eastern thinking is an ongoing fascination for me.  I did my first two years as a teacher in Japan. This student’s graphic text was especially resonant because I’d just read this the week before:

The nail that stands highest gets hammered down.
What looks like cruelty takes on a different tone
when you consider how stress and suffering
are integrated into Eastern Culture.

Struggle for Smarts: How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning
From a Western perspective, struggle is “a sign of low ability — people who are smart don’t struggle, they just naturally get it, that’s our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity.”

Like the author of that article, I saw Japanese students almost revelling in the difficulty of what they were failing at.  That difficulty and failure is what made it all the more satisfying when they eventually found success.  The Japanese don’t toss out suffering because it’s difficult, they use it to leverage learning and they do it in a culturally immersive way.  What looks like cruelty to foreign eyes is actually a sign of respect from a Japanese perspective.  If everyone is focused on doing their best then the rest will happen.  We’re much more focused on the end result in the West.

They don’t say good luck in Japan,
they say gambate: do your best.

I studied Kendo while I was in Japan.  In the thousand year old temple that was our dojo I was the only gaijin.  For the first six months I couldn’t get anyone to teach me defence.  My Sensei (a principal at the local high school) said I should be focused entirely on attack, if you think defensively you’ll never succeed.  I liked the boo-ya Bushido samurai thinking behind this, but suspected it was really because the other students loved beating the hell out of me with a stick.  I used to come home cross eyed from getting hit on the head, but I wouldn’t give up, I’m stupid like that, but it turns out that this stubbornness was what the Japanese enjoyed most about me.

I also played hockey while in Japan.  I had all sorts of trouble getting comfortable with my team mates until we had a wedding party that never ended followed by a morning hockey game.  We were a wreck, but seeing me in that kind of misery seemed to break down all the barriers.  Did the Japanese like to see me suffer, or did they like to see me gambatte?  It’s all about the effort, not the result in Japan.  It took me a long time to see it from an Eastern point of view.

Resiliency and genuine, deeply personal learning are born of failure, Eastern thought embraces this.  Western students, by contrast, preempt failure by refusing to fully commit to learning in the first place.  When they fail they shrug because they know it isn’t their failure;  you can’t lose if you don’t play.  Our glorious sense of Western individualism is remarkably fragile.  Isn’t this all about protecting egg-shell egos?  Western education systems encourage this approach by presenting learning in the most impersonal, abstract way possible and hiding any failures.  Safety nets abound ensuring that students can disengage from learning the moment it becomes difficult.

You’d never expect a Western school to take the weakest kid in the class and have them display their lack of skill in front of everyone as happens in that article, but then you’d not expect Western students to earnestly cheer the student when they overcome repeated frustration and see success either.  I suspect Stigler is right, we frame struggle in terms of a lack of intelligence rather than recognizing it as the foundation of resilience and genuine learning.

That English student stepped in a surprisingly deep puddle with that graphic text.

2019’s First Ride

I’ve been able to steal a ride from winter the past couple of years, but not this one.  It’s been dangerously cold and snowy throughout.  I was finally able to steal one at the end of March Break for half an hour up and down next to the Grand River (which was full of ice chunks and very swollen).

The Tiger was resplendent with its new engine guard and fired up at the touch of the button after its long winter hibernation.  The last time it was out was mid-November, so this year was actually a 4+ month hibernation.  Newly lubed cables and well sorted details meant it felt smooth and responsive after so long in the garage.  Do I ever miss the power to weight ratio of a bike when I can’t ride.  Slicing through air barely above freezing was bracing, and as I crossed to the north side of the river I came upon a bison farm.

Any exposed skin would have been feeling double digit frostbite, and even mummified it cut like a knife.  I didn’t complete my usual loop over the covered bridge, but even half an hour out on two wheels cleared away a lot of cobwebs.

It’s still snowing as much as it is anything else, but temperatures are climbing over zero with more regularity.  With any luck rides will soon become commonplace.


360° on-bike photos are back!

Frostbite has never made me so happy – the look on my face after the first ride of the year, no matter what the temperature.

Crazy like a fox!

Spring riding in Canada… next to a six foot tall snowbank.

Wait a minute, those aren’t cows!

I turned around and went back for some closer shots.   Bisons!  In Ontario!

from Blogger

Why bring a prototype technology to an #edtech conference?

I’m just wrapping up this conference in Toronto and it’s another week before we’re back at it in class.  This is a small conference where you get to meet and talk to many of the participants.  By the end of the three days you’re familiar with a lot of faces, which doesn’t happen at the bigger events.

I was invited to demonstrate virtual reality research my students and I have done in class over the past year.  Bringing all the kit involved in setting up multiple VR sets is like bringing all you’d need to project a movie… in 1930.  These are the heaviest, most awkward VR sets people will ever experience and it took a car load of tech to set up two headsets.

This ‘state of the art’ technology that is a pain to set up and far from perfect might seem like an odd choice to bring to a teacher technology focused conference.  Where everyone else is showing off cloud based software tools or simple electronics, I’m here with this astonishingly complex and expensive technology that clearly isn’t for everyone, but that’s why I brought it.

If you’d have shown up at an education technology conference in 2008 with a touch screen tablet that could run apps, create digital media and replace 80% of the work you do on a desktop computer, you’d have looked a bit mad.  Everyone there would wonder why you’re showing off this stuff from Star Trek since it’ll never be used in a classroom.  Eighteen months later Apple would produce the first ipad and everyone’s mind would change.

When I first tried the latest evolution in virtual reality last spring I was surprised at how accessible it had become.  From bespoke systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars we suddenly saw Oculus and then HTC Vive appear with thousand dollar headsets that would run on a decent desktop computer.  It’s not often you see an evolutionary leap that drastic and effective in computer technology (think ipad levels of advancement over a PDA).  The prices have since dropped again to under $600.

Bringing VR as it is now (big, awkward, complex) to an educational conference on technology was an opportunity to show people where we’ll be in the next five years.  Heavy, hot, wired and expensive VR sets with lots of setup and complication won’t be how many people first experience VR, but it’s important for educators to be ahead of mass adoption and think about how media is evolving so that we’re able to effectively harness it when that ipad moment happens.

VR is evolving so rapidly that it has reached a kind of critical mass with research and development support.  Money that used to go elsewhere is being focused on VR development which is further accelerating an already hot technology sector.  This means you’ll be using VR in your classroom a lot sooner than you think.  Wouldn’t it be something if teachers knew something about it before that happens?

I had a lot of people walk up to the station and ask me what company I’m with, even though this was a Minds on Media event and that means it’s run by teachers for teachers.  There is a lot of subtext in the question.  The assumption that I had to be some kind of engineer with a VR company comes from a place where teachers assume they aren’t experts on tech, but many are and we should make a point of recognizing those skills as they are a key to improving technical fluency in Ontario education.  The other assumption became apparent when people asked me how I could possibly have put this together in an Ontario classroom.

I’m lucky there.  My school board makes a point of exploring emerging technologies with the Specialist High Skills Major program.  Without that support my expertise as a former IT technician is wasted, but with that support we have an example of an Ontario classroom exploring the leading edge of emerging technologies.  The first thing we did after figuring out how to get VR working (and this was a team effort with myself, our board IT department and my senior computer engineering students) was to begin building and setting up VR sets for other schools.  This capacity building led to one of my students returning to his elementary school as a coop student and assisting them with their VR research which in turn led us to becoming an ICT SHSM program for the first time.  There is a virtuous circle when we enable the technical skills of Ontario teachers and use it to actively engage with evolving educational technology rather than waiting for it to surprise us.

I tend to shy away from turn-key digital substitutions of existing class work.  If it is relying on computers and networks you’ve introduced so much complication into something that achieves the same learning goal more simply that I don’t bother.  If a poster making session in class would do it, why bother going digital?  But there are moments with technology where it offers you something so profoundly different from what you could do in an analog classroom that it begs you to use it.  VR did that for us with an opportunity to build digital 3d models and design software for VRspace.

Running Tiltbrush for art teachers from elementary to senior high school always prompted the same result.  Artists get excited by a new medium and this is that.  If you’ve never sculpted with light before, you can in VR.  Using something as immersive and tactile as VR is much better than explaining it.  After explaining VR many asked me what the point of it was.  After trying VR most of them were lit up by it, suddenly imagining all the possibilities, and that’s what I was there for.  I’m not selling you on a platform, or a company, or a carefully designed analog replacement, I’m offering you a glimpse into the future.  If you left full of excitement at the possibilities, and pretty much everyone did, then my job was done.

VR offers 3d, immersive interaction with a digital world we’ve only been able to peer through a 2d monitor at before.  This will change everything, again.

Dozens of links and lots of information on how to get started in VR in your classroom, check it out!

from Blogger

2018 Tundra Swan Migrations

A dull and snowy day, lots of white on white, and using the Nikon p610, which isn’t the most low light friendly camera in the world (though it does have ungodly reach).

Then two of these flew by and the flock launched…

We came back through a couple of hours later and the big flock was gone, but this couple and an odd duck were enjoying the winter-runoff pond in the middle of the farmer’s field.

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Motorcycle Purchases on Kijiji

A Good Kijiji Week

Last week a pair of Alpinestar boots popped up on Kijiji that happened to be just my size.  The Alpinestars I have are totally next level, so the chance to own a second pair for the price of tax on a new pair was impossible to ignore.

A ride over to Kitchener on an idyllic Sunday morning and I’m the proud owner of my second pair of Alpinestars, this time for twenty five bucks.  Only used for a season, and in fantastic shape, they’re waterproof and much better for wet/cold weather than the summer boots I currently have.

***  Kijiji Part 2

I love riding with a purpose.  Today I went to Guelph and then Orangeville to check out two dual sport bikes.  I’m looking for something as different as possible from the Concours, so a light-weight off-road focused enduro machine fits the bill.

The first bike is a 2007 Kawasaki KLX-250.  250ccs is on the small side, but this is a very light bike.  At 298lbs, it’s 374(!)lbs lighter than the Concours.  It barely makes any noise, felt spritely and has a radically different riding position.  No windscreens, very open and a tall riding stance.  It’s been immaculately cared for by the original owner and comes with all the right farkles.  You couldn’t ask for a nicer machine and it’s much newer than I thought I could afford.  If I’m worried about the power, there are always options to buff up the bike.

It’s a bonus when you hit it off with the owner and end up having a good chat.  He is an experienced trails rider who offered up all sorts of good advice about where and how to do it.  As he said, this is the ideal bike to learn on.  I may eventually want a more powerful bike, but as a starter this one is as good as it gets.

After a ride over to the Forks of the Credit, and a quality coffee atHigher Ground, I rode the Forks for the first time on the Concours (which always feels lighter than it is in a Millennium Falcon kind of way), and then headed up to Orangeville.

The XT350 looked like the ideal bike.  Air cooled, super light weight, with a medium displacement, but this one was a poor example.  It looked like it had led a life that alternated between abuse and neglect.  Not only was it filthy, but it looked like it was going to rust through in some expensive places.  It didn’t start and after a dozen or so kicks, when it finally did fire up it sounded like a tractor.  It couldn’t have been more different to the only marginally more expensive, lower kilometer, six year newer, much loved, whisper quiet KLX.  I’ll trade a few cc’s for a bike that won’t strand me deep in the woods any day.I emailed the owner of the KLX standing on the street as the XT owner tried to get it started again and told him I’m all in.  It’s nice when the right thing falls into your lap just when you need it, and in my case that always seems to be a Kawasaki.  The KLX will be my third Kawi (though my first green one).  I can’t wait to get to know it.

2018 Thoughts from The Road: I Just Don’t Get It

I’m in the middle of a cross Canada drive (alas, no bike).  It looks something like this:

Over the past couple of weeks on the road I’ve come across some strange choices that people make that I just don’t get.

On the Trans Canada towards Sault Ste Marie early in the trip we came across a CanAM Spyder towing a trailer.  This five wheeled conveyance (which was holding up traffic) manages to combine awkwardness, discomfort and a lack of efficiency all in one baffling package.

I’m a big fan of biking, but there comes a point where, if you’re unable to leave your shit behind and travel light, a bike isn’t what you should be taking.  Any convertible on the market probably gets equivalent or better mileage, carries more and takes you further in more comfort.  With two front wheels it’s not like you’re missing leaning into any corners anyway, which is why so many of us hang it out there in the first place.

It looks like Spyders get low thirty miles per gallon on average.  Towing a trailer probably knocks that well down into the twenties, similar to a Mustang Convertible!

If you wanted to be more efficient, a Miata gets far better mileage than the Sypder, and the roof goes up, and it carries more.  Amazingly they are pretty much priced the same (not counting the trailer which you wouldn’t need anyway).  You wouldn’t be holding up traffic in a convertible either, or having to wear all the gear…

There comes a time when riding a motorcycle doesn’t make sense.  It’s when you’re riding an awkward three wheeler with a trailer attached with half a mile of traffic behind you.

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Dream Apps

Over the last couple of days I’ve been wishing for a couple of Apps…

Idea #1:

Don’t you wish you were a fly on the wall?

FLY ON THE WALL:  an app that lets you share live video from webcams at a conference you couldn’t attend in person.  You get a flavour of a conference by following the twitter feed, and you can even interact with it, but you miss the moment to moment ideas, and you’re ultimately limited to what other people consider important.

Fly on the wall creates a live stream that people can watch, similar to the Edupunk spreecast we did the other day.  This doesn’t need to be a huge bandwidth deal, and multiple streams from the same location can be upvoted if they are better situated.  If people wanted to see the conference through the eyes of a friend, then their choice to stay with them would keep the feed active.  People could even offer voice overs or supporting commentary as part of their feeds.

The benefits to conferences would be obvious, they could even tier attendance and offer a discount rate through an official fly on the wall feed to conference presentations.  Virtual presence in conferences would become a regular part of the process.

Anyone want to have a go at this with me?

Idea #2:

I’m the sun!

Gravity: a web3.0 app that shows me as the centre of the system and social networking comments in orbits that are closer if they are more important to me.

Tweets that mention me are closer than general tweets, tweets that refer to demonstrated interests orbit in closer.  Over time this app would get a sense of what my interests are and float in ‘interest comets’, making suggestions on items that should suit me.  Facebook, twitter, Linkedin and Google+ (as well as other social networks) would be synced though Gravity to push objects of interest into your orbit.

A well trained Gravity system would feed you the must see and keep out the flotsam of your social networking feeds.

Idea #3:

Deep Reader: A web app that blocks distractions while you adopt a deep, meditative reading pose with online material.  The interwebs are a distraction engine.  Trying to read online is a difficult process with constant interruptions.  Deep Reader holds off the onslaught while giving you the time and mental space to really grok an author’s thoughts as you used to on paper.

The problem with deep reading isn’t reading a screen, as any Kindle or Nook will show you, it’s trying to read while being in a medium that encourages a shallow surfing of information.

Deep Reader gives you a space to read as you are meant to.

I’d love to see those three.  Got any more you’d love to see?

Light Cycles & Super Models

I had a beautiful ride home last week in a late June evening.  With the sun backlighting

the western horizon and dusk upon me, I had to stop and take a few pictures of the Ninja at night…

There is something magical about riding at night, the way the light bends with you around corners,
the night smells, the cooling air and long shadows…

… an anime looking bike on a cool June evening.  Whoever did the racing scenes in Akira has ridden motorbikes at night:

Sunday at sunset I was cleaning the bugs off the Ninja…

What a pretty machine, I guess I’m still in love after a year…

… and then Google auto-awesomed this up for me:

That’s almost pornographic!