Tough Ricoh Theta360 Photography on a Cold Spring Ride

Barely above freezing, but the sky is clear and winter blue.  The camera is a Ricoh Theta S on a Gorilla Pod wrapped around the rear view mirror, until it wasn’t.  Without a hint of a problem it suddenly let go at 80km/hr as we rode down a country road.  The tripod and camera slid down the pavement for 50 odd metres before coming to a stop.  We turned around and went back to find the camera case popped open and electronics hanging out, I figured it was dead.

Once home I put the guts back in and snapped it shut again and it powered right up.  All the photos on it were fine, only the plastic piece at the top shattered.  It’s now covered in tape and looks like the tough little camera that it is.  If you’re looking for a hardy 360 camera, the Ricoh Theta has survived thousands of miles on a motorcycle taking all sorts of photos and videos, and now it has hit the road at high speed, and it still keeps on ticking.

I’d kinda hoped that this nixed the Theta S so I could upgrade to the new Theta V.  At this rate I’m going to have to drop this thing into the sun to kill it!  #onetough360camera

I had the camera set to take a photo ever 10 seconds.  I hoped that it happened to be taking one as it came off the mirror, but no luck.  In the meantime, here are a selection of stills and 360 movable images from the Ricoh on the ride:

Dress warm for a cold ride. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA




Cold, easly spring #Triumph ride #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA





Westmount Rose Covered Bridge Image – RICOH THETA





from Blogger

A Commute Home from a Different Angle

Some variations on a theme.  Instead of attaching the 360 camera to the mirror, I’m trying some different locations.  This time it was attached to the wind deflector mounted above the windshield:

from Blogger

The Perils of Riding Someone Else’s Bike

It was a cold and windy ride through the Superstition Mountains yesterday.  The route we took after taking Gaylen’s advice at gets you out of the city and into the desert quickly and lets you bypass most of the urban sprawl east of Phoenix.

Our trusty mount was a Kawasaki Concours 14.  I thought it would be interesting to compare my 20 year old Concours to a younger one.

After I got myself turned around and rode ten minutes the wrong way into Phoenix, we got moving in the right direction and soon found ourselves on the Bush Highway, a twisty, bumpy highway that doesn’t go anywhere – I guess that’s why they named it that.

It took me some time to get used to this unfamiliar bike.  The gear shift was very close to and felt lower than the foot peg which made for awkward shifts, and the brakes felt very (dare I say over?) assisted unlike the old-school hydraulic brakes on my classic Concours.  When you applied the front brake you stopped in a hurry causing my pillion to plough into the back of me a number of times until I got really ginger with brake application.  The other off-putting part was that each time I used the front brake it was accompanied by a loud electrical whining noise like a cicada chirping.  Sometimes it would stop when I let go of the brake, sometimes it would keep whining afterwards.

I was unsure if this was a Concours 14 thing (doubtful) or an maintenance thing.  CoG didn’t suggest any known brake electrical noise problems so I suspect this is a maintenance issue.  The website didn’t mention what year the Concours was (unlike other rental sites which tell you it’s a 2015 but show you a five year old bike), but based on the body the bike we had was a pre-2011 model.  Maybe it’s starting to get cranky in its old age.

Taking a water break on the Bush Highway.  It was about 15°C, comfortable riding weather.
Up in the mountains it was 5°C when we stopped for lunch.

After owning three Kawasakis I have to say, man do they know engines.  Every one I’ve owned or ridden has had a jewel of an engine and this Concours was no different.  Passing through the tunnel leading out of Superior, the engine sounds echoing off the walls were spine tingling – it sounded like something straight out of MotoGP.

With that big wobbly wind screen up
high you’re in a big air bubble, but it
looks ungainly.  Fortunately you can
lower the screen in town to restore
a sportier look.

The engine didn’t disappoint in power either.  My Connie does the business with carburators and 300 less ccs, but what this bike does with the monsterous ZX14 1300cc lump is truly ominous.  I’ve ridden fast bikes before and this is one of the fastest.

On mountain roads this newer Concours felt smaller than my bike though they weigh the same.  The newer bike is much narrower and quite wasp wasted compared to the chunky older model.  That monumental engine that produces sixty more horsepower than my bike probably helps with that feeling of lightness too.

Wind-wise, I was able to ride in jeans all day into single digit Celsius temperatures without a problem.  The heat that pours off my Concours was absent on this one, though it was a cold day so it wasn’t something I’d notice anyway.

The windscreen is electrically adjustable and at the top it stopped all but the top of my head getting hit by wind (I’m 6’3″ and I had given up on windshields doing anything for me).  My bike gets me squarely in the shoulders and up all the time.  I didn’t like how much the windscreen wobbled at speed, it looked flimsy, not to mention goofy in its highest position.  Once I was back in town I lowered it back to a less Jurassic Park look.  Goofy or not though, it made a cold ride through the mountains much more bearable.  A transformable windshield is a piece of magic, though a more solid feeling one with manual adjustment would do the job better.  I’d rather not have the added weight and complexity of the electrical one.

You can see just how ridiculously high the risers
are in this view of the Concours back in the lot.
The big googly-eyed headlights don’t do
much for me either.

I’ve got a 32″ leg and find my bike a bit cramped.  The ZG1400 was a bit more relaxed in the legs.  After a couple of hours in the saddle I had no problems.

The ergonomic problems began where made changes.  The huge risers they installed on this Concours looked like comedy units off a 1970s banana seat bike – huge bull horn things that put the grips right under my nipples, or so it felt.  They pushed me so far back that I was riding more on my tailbone – cruiser style – than I otherwise would have.  The narrow Concours 14 seat wasn’t build for this contortion and it became quite uncomfortable.  It makes me wonder how the stock handle bars would have worked.  I have low risers on my old Concours and have a slight forward lean, which I prefer to a bolt upright or reclined stance.

No fancy paint, electrical wind screens or whining
electronics, but it’s a solid old thing that does the
business with gusto.  I’m still wishing for the
bike bag to magically whisk my bike along.

All of the electrical noise from the brakes and fuel injection made me cross.  I don’t mind electronics (I teach computer engineering), and my Ninja had EFI that was bullet proof, silent and efficient, but when the electronics are whirring away it is intrusive and just reminds you of another expensive thing that will break on you.  I don’t feel that this Concours 14 gave me a fair idea of what the breed is capable of.  I’d especially like to try a newer one to get a better sense of the machine.  Maybe Kawasaki will be doing a riding tour again next year and I can try a 2016 model.

That whacky old-guy handle bar riser (and accompanying sore ass) conspired to make me long for my own bike.  It might not have the heat management, or easier reach to the ground (which I don’t need anyway), or fancy moving windshield, but my old Concours feels solid, is usually the fastest thing on the road when you twist the throttle and offers a satisfying mechanical simplicity that I missed on this electronically whinny newer machine.

Final OISE Blog

The final blog entry from my OISE computer engineering program:

Name and describe the school, board and ministry standards you must follow.
Our school and board follow Ministry standards and our collective agreement based upon it.  One of the challenges we have is in following changing standards.  One of those specific problems is the adoption of skills based assessment (a holdover from the Harris years).  Many teachers have a great deal of trouble following this protocol (the learning to 18/student success plan works with it extensively).

I recently had to do a heads thing and sit on a committee that would create school level language around assessment.  The fights were pretty epic.  Many of the academic teachers believed that students should  be marked on their behavior, not what they know about their subject.  To them, school is about control and discipline, not subject matter (this dovetails nicely with a conversation I had with my wife last night – I think I’ll be blogging about it on Dusty World shortly).

In any case, our admin is determined to even out the radically different approaches to assessment that go on in our school (even within the same department).  I’m curious to see how much this affects teachers this coming year.  There is a great deal of professional latitude given to teachers whenever the door closes to the classroom.  Unlike the US system, our lessons aren’t mandated and while we have invasive standardized testing, we aren’t held too tightly to them.  US schools are required to force feed students lessons year round to feed standardized testing.  They then rank poorly world wide.

As much as a loose, teacher centred approach grates on the nerves of hard core curriculumists, it does produce broad based learners who score well in general testing (and adapt well in a changing work environment).

I personally have issues with student success and many of the shortcuts they take in getting students diplomas.  But even that process is one I can live with if it allows the majority of students to maximize their learning.

What would you see changed?

One of the few countries ahead of use in world rankings is Finland.  Finland does a couple of things that I think would fit well with Ontario’s approach to education.  Firstly, they expect teachers to be highly trained specialists in education.  In order to teach in Finland, a teacher must have a Masters in Education.  I think university focus on this isn’t a great idea, but I’d like to see teacher’s college be much more rigorous in producing teachers.  A two year program that offers easy outs into other programs (teaching assistant, educational support worker, business training, etc), or out of education entirely, would be helpful.  A greater stress on teacher’s college as an apprenticeship with many more weeks spent in-class with an associate teacher/mentor would also shake out the applicants.

I found a number of candidates in my program who wanted to drop out, but were given no option other than withdrawal with financial penalty.  I’d really like to see a first semester drop out option (available after the first in school, teaching COOP session), that offers escape with no financial penalty.  I’ve seen too many people teaching who aren’t particularly good at it, have no interest in changing that, and are doing it because they feel trapped into doing so.  A more stringent, apprenticeship based, exit enabled teacher training system establishes higher standards (like Finland’s) without the university bias, and with a firm focus on developing teachers actually interested in teaching well.

The other thing Finland did was abolish all standardized testing.  Standardized tests do not produce broad-based students who are able to adapt to new situations in creative ways.  Standardized testing produces myopic, specifically focused students who fail in open, changing environments (the kind most students will be facing when they enter the workforce).
I’d also like to see a huge push away from the walled garden/board run IT model.  The language around protecting students produces overly restrictive access to technology that reduces students’ ability to learn how to author, manage and effectively use current digital tools.  If we want to remain relevant, we need to be able to meet students where they live, and show them how to manage modern digital tools effectively.

Develop an action plan to push forward your idea(s).Process:

  • Figure out what my stance is on effective educational reform
  • Read other theory, review statistics (don’t be Ontario-centric, look at educational theory from around the world), establish an understanding of what you believe effective reform is
  • Metacognitively, reflect on your own experiences in the classroom.  What is a modern student like?  What is needed to reach them? What would an effective learning environment look like in 2012 and beyond?
  • Develop your own ideas
  • Collaborate with others to organize and present them
  • Publish your thinking and invite critical response
  • Build a following or establish connections with other people who share your vision
  • Continue to respond to conditions in education,

I’ve done this by starting a blog that continually looks at current digital learning.  I use it to reflect on my own experiences, think of ways to produce better results, publish my ideas and continue to evolve my own understandings of this very complicated (and very simple) profession.  The blog led to presentations at Edcamps, conferences and PD.  It’ll lead to a book at some point me-thinks.

The most important step in this action plan is to take action, and make other people aware of what you’re struggling with in education.  If you’re a teacher who doesn’t think twice about teaching, I’d suggest that you’re probably not a very good teacher.  If I had to mandate any Ministry requirement for teaching, it would be that teachers should be life long learners, who love the process of teaching and learning, and demonstrate how they are actively working to improve it, in themselves, their classroom, their board and their profession in general.   Some good (and funny, and sometimes nasty) comments on educational irrelevance