Winter Is Coming

My first season in the saddle is rapidly coming to an end.  I’m sad.  I’ve been OD’ing on magazines and media in the past couple of weeks but I’m also doing more concrete things to keep the dream alive over a cold, dark Canadian winter.

This weekend I’m finishing the garage (insulation & ply-board) which should make it more inhabitable for stage 2 of Tim’s cunning winter motorbike plans.

With the garage organized (a tire rack for the car’s off season tires, new workbench, shelving, etc), there should be a lot more room!  The Ninja will find a nice corner to spend the winter (while I strip the fairings off and refinish the frame).  In all that empty space I feel a strong urge to project bike!

One of my earliest motorbike urges was driving by an old Honda on the side of the road over and over again.  That bike was selling for $450.  If I can find an old bike that needs some TLC I’m going to get it home and give it a place in the garage.  I’ll spend the winter stripping carbs and breaking it down to nuts and bolts.  The best way to understand is to lay hands on.  Having a rebuild project would be the perfect way to keep myself immersed in two wheel thinking.

Come spring I might be kick starting an old beasty that hasn’t rolled on roads in years.  My recent infatuation with Cafe Racer culture might inform this process a bit.

Good Will: it’s what holds the education system together

As thousands of young teachers are handed pink slips and those left behind are looking towards a system intent on cramming as many students into a classroom as possible, good will is drying up in Ontario education.  You might not think that this matters, but it does.  Good will is what has teachers doing hundreds of hours of volunteer work each year to maximize student experience in school.  All of the teacher coaches and club leaders spend time enriching their schools with these efforts.  I’m hard pressed to think of a single teacher I work with who doesn’t do some kind of volunteer work in addition to their paid work.

Beyond the volunteerism, there is a general misunderstanding in the public about how well teachers are paid.  From reflective edu-blogging and sharing best practices on a Saturday to marking on a Sunday morning, most teachers aren’t work free when they aren’t at work.  You might think this extra effort is well funded, but it isn’t.  With five years of university and the massive debt that accompanied it, ten years of industry apprenticeship and experience, five summers of additional qualification training and fifteen years of teaching in Ontario classrooms, I take home about $58k a year.  I don’t work all year round, true, but on the weeks I do work I typically average about 10 hours of work a day on teaching related activity and about five hours per weekend.  I typically put in at least 6-8 hours of work a week during holidays as well, just to keep up on marking and planning.  Out of my fifteen teacher summers off I taught summer school on five of them and took additional qualification courses that I had to pay for myself in another four.  On other years I’ve presented at conferences and learning fairs.  I don’t think I’ve had an actual summer off yet, so don’t get too carried away with those ‘summers off’.  The vast majority of my summers have been work related, and often at my expense.

Some Teacher Math:
2000 hours of work while teaching daily (40 weeks per year, 5 days a week, 10 hours a  day)
+160 hours over weekends (40 weekends per school year, 4 hours per weekend)
+25 hours over stat holidays (Xmas and March Break, Easter, etc)
=2185 hours of work.   That’s not counting the week before school starts when I’m usually in pretty much every day until things are ready to go, or extended field trips when I’m essentially at work 24 hours a day, or the times in the summer when I’m training, or presenting at educational conferences.  Nor is counting any of the hundreds of hours I spend working on Skills Ontario, CyberTitan or other extracurricular student enrichment.  Sure, not all teachers hit it this hard, but you’d be surprised at how many do.

At my $58,000 take home a year that’s about twenty six bucks an hour – and I had to spend huge amounts of money and years of my life to get myself trained to the point where I could even begin to do this job – a job that I still have to do even when I’m sick (teachers plan their own absence when away ill).  I then had to spend fifteen years teaching at lower salaries and paying for additional qualifications to get to where I am at the top of the pay scale.  If you factor in all the extracurriculars that many people believe should be a requirement of my job, my take home pay for the amount of time I put into this gig is about twenty bucks an hour.  If you think teaching is about the money, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

When I left millwrighting in the early 1990s I was taking home $918 a week for a forty hour week.  If I took an extra half shift, which I often did, my take home was more than I make now as a teacher some thirty years later.  Of course, when I did overtime in the private sector I got paid for doing overtime.  When I do overtime as a teacher, I get attacked by my employer.

I think teachers get paid sufficiently, but you’d have to be nuts to say it’s extravagant.  Unlike provincial politicians, Ontario teachers haven’t seen cost of living increases that keep up with inflation in the past decade, and we’ve had all sorts of contractual obligations illegally stripped in the same period.   So, if it isn’t the money and safe working conditions that keeps people at this, what does?  It’s good will.  Teachers go above and beyond for their students.  All they ask in return is to work in a system that honours that effort with equal bonhomie.

When we get into a situation like we do now, where a government uses our profession as a scapegoat for all of society’s ills, that good will evaporates at a startling rate.  A difficult but satisfying job becomes just difficult.  Young teachers who have been battling for years to find permanent work are shaken out of the system and the best senior teachers start thinking about all the other ways they could make a living with less hassle elsewhere.

Good will is a fickle thing and it seldom beds well with politics.  As our populist regime with a mere 23% of Ontarian’s votes steamrolls our public support systems while paying off friends and family, the feeling that this is about balancing a budget feels less and less true.  If Ontario were to attack its financial imbalance in all areas, I think education would be more than willing to do its part, but when MPPs are voting themselves cost of living increases while removing many teachers’ ability to make a living at all, it’s hard to feel like we’re all pulling together.  As things tip further and further out of balance, there will be a brain drain from Ontario, which is a loss that is already hurting our classrooms and one that will cost the province for years to come.

from Blogger

The Mood I’m in When I Return from a Ride

BIKE magazine had a travel piece where the writer paraphrased a French pilot talking about how flying takes him away from the minutia of life.  I’ve flown planes but I find riding a motorcycle much more what I thought flying would be like.  The check listed and tedious process of operating an aircraft along with the strictly regulated flight paths don’t lend themselves to a sense of freedom.  You’re much more likely to slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of god on a Hayabusa than you ever are in a Cessna.

I was reflecting on my mood when I returned from a ride with my son Max on the weekend.  It wasn’t a big trip but I came home relaxed, as I always do from a ride.  Riding a bike involves you.  You can get lost in the complexity of operating it.  Even once you get familiar with the controls the subtlety of working them all together harmoniously becomes a never ending aspiration.  You can always ride better.

I started writing this in October when we went for our ride, but it’s the beginning of the new year now and it’s been weeks since I’ve ridden.  At this point I’m reduced to driving a damned car which offers nothing like the sensory thrill you get from riding a bike.  While everyone else wrings their hands about how dangerous being out in the wind is, I’m addicted to it.  Riding a bike makes even the most tedious commute an adventure.

Coming back from that ride all those weeks ago, I was blown clean by the wind.  I’d been in the world in a way that seems foreign to me now, encapsulated in winter.  About the only redeeming feature of having a long off season is the growing anticipation of getting back out there again.


I sometimes wonder how my son Max feels about riding.  I’m always worried that with his autism he finds the sensory overload overwhelming, but he loves going for rides.  Even on very long trips he’s a trooper who is always ready to hop back on the bike.  He isn’t generally interested in being cool, but I don’t think the cool factor is lost on him.  I don’t get many images of him on the bike behind me, but I love seeing him doing his wings in these images.

It’s been snowing for days.  We’re buried in the stuff.  The thought of jumping on the bike and going for a ride is still months away.  Sigh.

via Blogger

A Lighting Storm For The Ages

This spectacular light show passed over us in Elora, Ontario, Canada last night (Tuesday, June 2nd) at about 10pm.  All photos taken with my Canon T6i DSLR with the kit 18-55mm lens.  All shots taken on full manual with shutters ranging from 30 to 10 seconds (I actually had to segment the shots to shorter shutters because there was too much lightning in each shot).  F stops ranged from F29 while the sunset was still bright and and I was looking for long shutter shots to catch the approaching storm down to F6.3 as the sunset faded and the storm rolled over us.  I tried to keep ISOs as low as possible, usually 100 or 200, to keep noise down.  Photos were touched up in Adobe Lightroom, usually just turning down any noise.

Of interest, not a drop of rain fell and we didn’t see any ground strikes, this was all cloud to cloud lightning.  My son and I felt like it was trying to tell us something.  My three favourites are the lightning dragon, the pinwheel and the electric jellyfish – you’ll probably guess which ones those are as you look at them.  You can always click on one to see it in more detail full screen.

from Blogger

A Lighting Storm For The Ages

This spectacular light show passed over us in Elora, Ontario, Canada last night (Tuesday, June 2nd) at about 10pm.  All photos taken with my Canon T6i DSLR with the kit 18-55mm lens.  All shots taken on full manual with shutters ranging from 30 to 10 seconds (I actually had to segment the shots to shorter shutters because there was too much lightning in each shot).  F stops ranged from F29 while the sunset was still bright and and I was looking for long shutter shots to catch the approaching storm down to F6.3 as the sunset faded and the storm rolled over us.  I tried to keep ISOs as low as possible, usually 100 or 200, to keep noise down.  Photos were touched up in Adobe Lightroom, usually just turning down any noise.

Of interest, not a drop of rain fell and we didn’t see any ground strikes, this was all cloud to cloud lightning.  My son and I felt like it was trying to tell us something.  My three favourites are the lightning dragon, the pinwheel and the electric jellyfish – you’ll probably guess which ones those are as you look at them.  You can always click on one to see it in more detail full screen.

from Blogger

Throttle Control Sensor System on 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i

The issue:  The Tiger stalls occasionally on idle.  Sometimes it seems to hold regular idle around 1000rpm, other times it drops down to 3-400 RPM on the verge of stalling and if I give it gas it cuts out.  It always restarts.

What I’ve done so far:  replaced the fuel filter and spark plugs.

Next target:  The idle stepper motor:

MOTOR, STEPPER, ISCV T1240888              $123.61
O-RING T3600037                                            $1.37
HOUSING,ISCV,3 CYL T1241064                  $42.79
GROMMET, ISCV T1241063                           $3.84
2000MM                                                            $18.45
145MM LONG                                                  $18.45

$208.51US = $281.34CAD
From Bikebandit’s online parts diagrams:

Visual inspection: Gasket (#4 on diagram) is partially squashed, may not be sealing.  One of the pipes was loose going into the back of the unit.

Next step:  remove the gas tank (again) and remove the entire throttle control/idling system, including pipes, and inspect for breaks.  Replace pipes if damaged.  If no pipe damage evident, look into getting a new stepper motor from Inglis Cycle.

from Blogger

Refining Motorbike Fashion

Getting the Ninja had me going all in on the sport bike look.  The full helmet and ballistic nylon riding gear makes me look like I came out of the future.  When I’m all out on the Ninja it suits.  But a sport bike was never the goal.  I like the vintage look and as the bike evolves so will the gear.

I’ve watched It’s Better in the Wind a couple of times now and dig the vibe.  Cafe racers, old Triumphs, all customized.

A couple of other things are making me rethink the gear.  At the training course they talked about how the helmet doesn’t seriously mitigate the chance of injury.  If you think that a helmet will make riding safe you’re not understanding the physics.  Helmets help to minimize one kind of injury.  If you can’t handle this truth then you shouldn’t be riding, helmets don’t make riding safe.

The fighter style open face helmet
is a modern take on the old open
faced helmet

They also said, during the same training session, that you should wear a full face helmet and full armored everything all the time.  I get being as safe as you can be, but if the safety equipment gets in the way of the experience, or worse, makes you uncomfortable, it prevents you from doing the deed in the first place.

The Bell is a classic, though it made
me head look HUGE!  It’d be nice
to get my Mondo Enduro on though

In Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Persig says he doesn’t like to wear a full face helmet because he finds it claustrophobic.  If the point of riding is to experience that expansive sense of speed and openness then I think I want to try out an open faced helmet.  This isn’t an expensive proposition, though the helmet might lead to a classic bike, which might be.

A variation on the classic by Bell,
the Pit Boss is a bit less

Open faced helmets are popular and tend to focus on a specific style.  The fighter jet style half helmet is a modern take on the classic open faced helmet, but you can still get vintage styled helmets.  I’m partial to the Bell classic but it did make my head look huge.

The Bell pitboss had a nice look to it, but they didn’t have one in my size to try on, though I think I’d go with the over the ears cover for protection and wind reduction.

I’m helmet inspired by a couple of things.  The family history sure plays a part in it, but so do movies.  Picking up something that I can plaster a rebel alliance sticker on would be cool.

Here are a couple of other eye catching open face helmets I’ve been thinking about:

Bell Hurricane ~$100

ZR1 Royale Air Ace ~$127

Nolan Outlaw N20 ~$205

Thanks to and for letting me window shop.

The other day someone parked their original Thruxton next to the Ninja and I got the itch for that old bike once again.

What a lovely old machine, beautifully cared for…

Motorcycle Photography & Art

I usually toss anything graphically motorbike related that I find onto pinterest.  Here is some motorbike bike art recently found mostly as is (but some photoshopped):
The photography in Performance Bike Magazine’s recent article on the Kawasaki H2 on the Isle of Mann was fantastic.  After a bit of photoshop it became my current background wallpaper.
The new Triumph Bonneville with a Scrambler kit
The bonkers new Honda RC213R – the $140k Motogp 1%er collector bike
Riding in South East Asia with Adventure Bike Rider Magazine


H2 on the Isle of Mann


H2 wheelies in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th…
Adventure riding in Oman with ABR
Adventure Riding into the Himalayas with ABR


Do you teach computer studies or computer studies?

Stay with me now, we’re going down the rabbit hole that is Ontario curriculum for computer studies, or as it’s also known, computer studies.

What was once computer science is now called computer studies.  Shortly thereafter computer studies (same name) was created in the technology section of curriculum.  These computer studies are so different that qualification in one doesn’t qualify you to teach the other (unless you happened to be already qualified in computer science ten years ago).  The descriptions of each have so many similarities that you may be forgiven for wondering why a teacher of one isn’t a teacher of the other (computer studies).

Computer Studies (aka: computer science) defines itself as:
Computer studies is about how computers compute. It is not about learning how to use the computer, and it is much more than computer programming. Computer studies is the study of ways of representing objects and processes. It involves defining problems; analysing problems; designing solutions; and developing, testing, and maintaining programsFor the purposes of this document, the term computer studies refers to the study of computer science, meaning computer and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society. The major focus of these courses is the development of programming skills, which are important for success in future postsecondary studies.

When you compare the computer studies curriculum outline with the computer studies curriculum outline you may notice many similarities.  Both begin with an emphasis on how they aren’t about teaching users to use computers, and neither are limited to programming.  Both go on to emphasize a course of study focused on how computers operate, including how computers are able to create and manipulate objects and run processes.  The computer studies (comp-sci) document then goes on to state that computer studies actually means computer science, which doesn’t really help clear anything up since computer studies (tech) calls it computer and information science, which may or may not be the same thing.

The computer studies (tech) curriculum is pretty much interchangeable with the computers studies (comp-sci) curriculum, but it also offers engineering focuses on electronics and computer hardware, so it might be argued that this is a more complete ‘computer studies’.

The ‘other’ computer studies found in technology studies defines itself as:
Computer and information science is more than running application programs and programming Rather, it relates to the ways in which computers represent conceptual objects and how computer systems allow those objects to interact. Computer and information science is the study of ways of representing objects and processes. It involves defining problems, analysing and designing solutions, and developing, testing, and maintaining programs. Computer and information science education is relevant for all students because it incorporates a broad range of transferable problem-solving skills and techniques. It combines logical thinking, creative design, synthesis, and evaluation, and also teaches generically useful skills in such areas as communication, time management, organization, and teamwork. Computer and information science will prepare students for an increasingly technological world. A foundation in this discipline will introduce students to the excitement and opportunities afforded by this dynamic field and will begin to prepare them for careers in information technology.
As you can see, not only is the language used similar, but even the explanation of the scope of the subject seems the same.  I suppose computer and information science are so completely different from computer science as to make this a no-brainer.

If this wasn’t muddy enough for you, there is also the issue of computer science teachers (because they were here first) getting grand-fathered in as computer studies-tech teachers, even though they may have no engineering background at all and may be as familiar with the inside of a computer as your grandmother.  This results in computer science teachers (theoretical mathematics majors) attempting to teach how to solder a circuit or build a functioning network.  More often than not, in my experience, they simply ignore this part of the subject.

If you want to be computer studies (tech) certified now-a-days you have to produce years of industry experience and professional certifications in order to even be considered qualified to begin the certification.  If you were hanging out in a math class ten years ago it landed on you.  I’m having trouble doing the pedagogical calculus with that one.

Between the confusion in subject area titles, almost identical descriptions and the right-time-in-the-right-place-with-no previous-experience history of computer studies qualifications, it’s little wonder that Ontario Education in this area is, at best, confusing, and not particularly effective.  When you meet a computer studies teacher that doesn’t know how to open up a computer, you have to wonder where we went wrong.

I just threw together a quick venn diagram of computer studies to try and straighten out my thinking around this.  Now, I’m not a curriculum expert at the ministry or anything, but it seems to me that arbitrarily dividing a subject into two camps isn’t very pedagogically helpful, let alone logical.

I’m just spit-balling here, but wouldn’t a coherent course of computer studies
that recognizes how all these parts integrate into a whole make some kind of sense?

If you consider the basics, computers run code on hardware.  If you’re going to teach computer studies, I would suggest that it makes sense to recognize this and form your curriculum around this simple truth.  Rather than grand-father in one extreme end of the computer studies curriculum (computer science), why not form a coherent, single department that studies the subject in all its glory?

If you’ve got previously computer science focused teachers, make it easy for them to expand their knowledge of the subject into the more practical side of computing, but don’t expect it to magically be there.  If you have people coming at it from the more practical side (as I did from information technology), make it easier for them to bone up on coding and the theoretical side of things.  You’d end up with a curriculum of computer studies that not only addresses the extreme ends of the spectrum (computer science up one end, electronics up the other), but also creates a sensible, interconnected and relevant understanding of computers in both staff and students.  Best of all, you’d never run into a computer studies teacher who says things like, “Oh, I don’t touch computers, I have no idea how to fix one.”

Until we recognize computer studies as a single, coherent course of study and integrate curriculum to support this truth, we’re going to continue to limp along producing radically undertrained graduates who aren’t remotely ready for what faces them.  I often meet teachers in other schools who are surprised to learn that we teach computer engineering – or that it exists at all.  When I was in high school we ran two full teachers worth of computer studies (12 sections).  The school I work at now is about the same size and runs 7.  Are computers really about half as relevant now as they were in 1986?  Students numbers would suggest this is the case.  Instead of creating a modern, adaptive, complete curriculum, Ontario has created a divisive, broken one that students ignore.

I’d like to think we’ll stop the bizarre divisions currently going on in Ontario computer studies curriculum, but I get the sense that there is some history in this that won’t go away.  We need a clean sheet on Ontario’s approach to computer studies (starting with just one computer studies that incorporates the entire field of study), or we won’t be doing this emergent and vital 21st Century subject justice.


Follow-up:  Doug Peterson pointed out what each curriculum document is supposed to be replacing on G+, so I’ve been trying to trace the process.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

There are three curriculum documents that come up for computer studies.

  • The year 2000 Technology Studies document that contains computer studies as a complete field of study, from engineering to computer science.
  • The 2008 Computer Studies document (revised) that looks like it is separating computer science from computer studies but took the computer studies name with it (implying, I think a complete study of computers, not just computer science)
  • and the 2009 Technology Studies document (revised) that contains “Computer Tecnhology” and has stripped any computer or information science material out.
The 2008 Computer Studies (science) revised document states:
This document replaces the Computer and Information Science component of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: technological Education, 1999, and of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Technological Education, 2000. Beginning in September 2009, all computer studies courses for Grades 10 to 12 will be based on the expectations outlined in this document.

The 2009 Tech-studies document (revised) states:

This document replaces all but the Computer and Information Science component of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Technological Education, 2000. Beginning in September 2009, all technological education courses for Grades 11 and 12 will be based on the expectations outlined in this document.

From the original 2000 Tech-Studies document:
This document replaces the sections of the following
curriculum guidelines that relate to the senior grades:
–  Broad-based Technological Education, Grades 10, 11, and 12, 1995
– Computer Studies, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, 1983
– Computer Studies, Ontario Academic Course, 1987
– Technological Studies, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, Part C: Ontario Academic Courses, 1987

I still can’t help but think that the ‘computer studies’ title is at best confusing and at worst misleading.  I wonder at the politics that played around that course of study being created with such an expansive (and previously used) title but such a specific focus.  It would be like renaming the “biology” department “science”, taking one part of a larger course of study and implying that it is the whole subject.  Computer Studies (the study of computers?) is not just computer science, or just engineering, or just information technology.  Trying to understand it in such a fractured way leads to confusion in the general public and students who then aren’t taking the course.

Just to throw a wrench in things, if you’re curious and look up
Ontario’s technology curriculum you get the old curriculum
document first every time.  If you’re not up on the secret
war between comp-sci and comp-tech in Ontario, you’ll
remain ignorant looking at the old document.

If you were teaching computer studies prior to September 2009, that meant computer studies (from end to end).  If you were teaching computer studies after September 2009. it  means only computer science.  I’m beginning to see why computer science is atrophying in modern high schools.  At a time when computer studies should be offering population wide access to digital literacy, one of the foundational areas of  computer studies in it has taken its toys and gone home.

Another question (that Doug probably knows the answer to) is those early computer studies courses, were they computer science based on more general in their approach to all aspects of computing.  My own memory of taking computer courses in the 1980s was very comp-sci/math based, and the teachers who were qualified to teach computer studies were computer scientists in university.  Yet in 2000 it looks like technology education took over computer studies (including computer science), yet the amalgamation doesn’t appear to have worked (hence the 2008/9 revisions).  I wonder why not.

The division seems to have happened over the past fourteen years, starting in 2000 with a failed attempt to place computer studies in technology education.  It’s no better today, and I get the sense that the attempted fixes have caused more problems than they solved.

XS1100: Steps Toward Resuscitation

Snow last night, the XS got some mechanical
attention today as a result.

After looking over some internet advice (sic) on how to start a long dormant motorcycle engine (and ignoring never ending discussions on it), I got the XS1100 to the point where it would crank over (with spark plugs removed).  The plugs look brand new, but sooty.  Cleaning them up and regapping should be all that’s needed.  It’s nice to know it isn’t seized, the electrics aren’t pooched and the starter motor sounded solid.

I also have the airbox off and the carbs cleaned (though they look pretty clean before I did them).

The gas tank is a rusty mess, it was left outside and empty for a length of time.  I’m thinking about doing some instructables chemistry on it, just to try it.  Failing that, I think I’m going to try Evapo-Rust.

Here’s what it looked like today:

Makes you wonder how many motorcycle tires don’t get worn out before they need a change.

With the airbox removed, the wall-o-carbs is easy to get at.

Carb internals look to be in good shape.  Only the throttle cable is suspect.

The air box has cleaned up nicely