Motorbike Aesthetics


I can remember being about six or seven and playing in my grandparent’s yard in Sheringham.  Suddenly there was a rough, mechanical roar coming from the road.  I walked over to the fence, climbed up and watched in amazement as a stream of vintage vehicles rolled by, everything from Bentleys, Jaguars and old MGs to motorbikes with side cars.  When it’s 1976 in the UK, the vintage vehicles you’re seeing are all war-time or earlier – MG, Triumph and all those ‘old’ British manufacturers who have disappeared were still building cars when I was standing on that fence waving to the drivers in their goggles.

In the 1980s I got into Japanese animation. From Akira to Robotech to many other anime, motorbikes have taken the samurai’s horse into the modern era.  Anime definitely plays into my idea of what makes a cool bike – if it can transform into a robot then so much the better.

The ’80s anime also informed a lot of ’80s TV shows and movies, like Battlestar Galactica and Tron.



The idea of motorbiking has media romance all the way from Lawrence of Arabia to The Great Escape.

Between the sci-fi fixation I had as a kid and the romantic notion of motorcycles in media, I think it safe to say a classic/futuristic vibe drives my motorbike aesthetic.

If anyone ever invented a steam punk motorbike, I’d be all over it.

In the meantime I’m all about bikes that call back to a mechanical simplicity, or look like they come from another planet.

Royal Enfield

Some of my favorites gleaned from wandering about the interwebs:

Triumph and Suzuki to Royal Enfield and Honda; ranging from classic, naked bikes to modern naked bikes and sport/touring/adventure bikes.  I’ve got no interest in cruisers, choppers; they sacrifice way to much in the way of physics for looks.


A naked bike is a throwback to those classic bikes I grew up with, but they incorporate the latest technology: the best of the old and new!

I’m not completely anti-fairing, but it’s nice to see the mechanicals working, it speaks to a simple aesthetic that I find appealing in a motorbike.

Some other bike aesthetics that have caught my attention:


Old Vintage Cranks



Anime motorbikes
Robotech Cyclone


Kawasaki KLR

Long Way Round: gets me wishing for an epic trip with weeks on the road… like, say, A Pan American Motorbike Diary!

The KLR has been of interest, but my first bike ends up being a Ninja…  The go anywhere nature of the KLR makes it ideal for my Pan American trip, and lets me dream of following Ewan and Charlie on an epic, life changing adventure.

Once I’ve spent more time in the saddle, I’ll have a better idea of what a bike can do for me and what I look for in a bike, but in the meantime, my entirely academic aesthetic interest in motobiking is what I’ve been going on.

My first bike ends up being a Ninja… very anime it is!  It won’t be my last!

Bad Habits: these tools are not toys

The other week we had a PD on differentiated instruction. Before this long, undifferentiated lecture, I tried to get netbooks into as many interested teacher’s hands as possible. We set up a Google doc, opened up Twitter and began back channeling. It went well, most of the teachers trying it had never back channeled before. In a one way lecture with virtually no two way communication between the audience and the lecturer, we had ourselves a bracing and critical discussion about the material being covered.

That’s not how the vast majority of our colleagues saw it though. The cut-eye from people began the moment I opened my netbook; the assumption is that if you’re on a computer you’re wasting time, not paying attention, screwing around. Admittedly, the vast majority of the angry (embarrassed even) stares came from older teachers, but not exclusively. The passive, talked at audience thought we’d found a way out of the lecture using technology, rather than a way to make it engaging. The highlight came when the lecturer began standing next to one of the back channelers in an attempt to use proximity to get her back on task; even the instructor assumed technology use was time wasting.
One of the most powerful aspects of back channelling, even in the most non participatory lectures, is that it can create a responsive, audience involved activity that allows viewers to engage in learning actively. That many people in the room didn’t recognize what active learning looks like in a world of Twitter and shared documents tells you something about where they see their classes from.
The assumption I’m most interested in is that technology allows the user to screw around, not do what they are supposed to be doing. This makes me wonder what these teachers think their students are doing when they book them into a computer lab, is it a free period in their minds? Or does this have more to do with how people pay attention to a lesson or lecture? If that’s the case, do they assume students aren’t listening when they are taking notes? or not staring at the speaker?
There are some interesting questions around multi-tasking here, but I’ll leave them for another time. What I suspect is that this all comes back to a fear of technology in learning; it’s still assumed by many that internet access is a complete waste of time. They think that the web is Youtube, Farmville, Facebook and meaningless, puerile and unproductive navel gazing. For many students (and teachers I guess) it is, but then, isn’t it up to us as teachers to show students how to make productive use of what may be one of the pinnacles of human engineering?
As old fashioned as this sounds, this may all boil down to what we think about note taking, a skill that is all but ignored in education. Learning how to take notes is vital, and back channelling, shared documents and a plethora of online services (Google docs, Prezi, Twitter, Adobe Connect and other video sharing tools, wall wisher, Todaysmeet, Backnoise, and many others; this is constantly evolving) have created new opportunities for note taking and interactivity with learning interaction and recording that didn’t exist previously. These new skills need to be integrated into basic note taking. We need to stop ignoring technology competency in the learning process.
However you care to illustrate the process of learning, recording your learning in some way is a vital part of the process. It allows you to clarify ideas, isolate material, review it at a later date and summarize your knowledge. Note taking works as a fluid process that integrates the learner into what can be an alienating, passive situation, making them an active participant. I don’t think anyone would suggest that students shouldn’t take notes, but passive lectures (unless you’re at PD) have become a thing of the past. Differentiated instruction and student centered learning have tended to de-emphasize note taking (often replaced with handouts). This seems to cause students new to university a great deal of difficulty.
Perhaps the best thing technology can bring to this are new ways to collaborate, participate and communicate a learner’s response to new material, but not if we’re assuming that the tools used are really just toys.

Raging: how empowered learners respond to being outside the Zone

Getting a student into the zone of proximal development is a tricky business. If students don’t have sufficient background knowledge and skill in what they’re learning, they tend to switch off.  This often shows as distraction, disengagement and disinterest.  In extreme cases students become disruptive, knocking others who might be on the cusp of their ZPD out of a learning opportunity.  This seems to be happening more often in classrooms, I have an idea why…

That disruptive approach is common in online gaming.  It might be useful to look at how raging, trolling and ‘Umad‘ online interaction points to a foreign set of values that many students are familiar and comfortable with.  The vast majority of educators have no experience or knowledge of gaming culture.  When a student in the class room acts on values they’ve learned while gaming, shock ensues.

Teabaggging is one of many tactics designed to belittle an opponent

In a player versus player game, game balance and the opportunity for everyone to participate in a maximal way (in their ZPD) depends on the players all having sufficient skill to make a game of it.  In a randomly generated game, it’s common for a team of n00bs to get pwned by a more skilled team.  This is often accompanied by flaming with the intent to anger your opponents to such a degree that they quit (ideally vocally angry, allowing you to throw in a umad? before they storm off).  In gaming, ‘schooling‘ your opponents is a vital part of the learning process.  It’s the clearest way to state your superiority in skill over an opponent.  The goal is to make it so clear to a weaker player that they are out of their league (way outside their ZPD) that they give up in anger.  This is going to sound very foreign to the overly compassionate, no-bullying, we’re all to be treated as equals approach found in education, but this is where many students spend hours of their time when not in the manufactured environment of their school.

A gamer who is forced out of a game in this fashion is very angry in the moment, and quits the game, usually to pick up another game immediately.  In this game, if they are within their ZPD in terms of their gaming skills (which involves knowledge of the game environment, hand eye coordination, strategy and cooperative play, among others), they are immediately re-engaged.  Their recent failure does not hurt them or follow them in any way, and the adrenaline burst of anger has prompted them to intensively refocus on the game.  I suspect the stats for a player in a post-rage situation improve due to the residual anger and energy released.  They increase their skill with this hyper focus and rage less often.

When you meet a master player, they tend to shy away from the trash talk and simply demonstrate their skill, rather than yapping about it.  This kind of mastery is every player’s goal.  When they get there, they often adopt the degree of awesomeness Jane McGonigal talks about in her TEDtalk.  As nice as it is to see someone recognizing gaming awesomeness, it’s also important to recognize that gaming intensity requires accessing a full range of emotional response in players.  These responses can often seem cruel or unusual to non-gamers.

Gaming’s all-in philosophy is completely counter to the risk-averse, failure-follows you approach of education.  Rather than being allow to epically fail, suffer and re-engage, education does everything it can to ensure that epic failures (or failures of any kind) never occur.  Failure is increasingly impossible to achieve in the class room, and the result moves students further and further away from the culture of one of their richest learning environments.

If you want intense engagement then you need to offer access to a full spectrum of emotion, and a real and meaningful opportunity for failure, but you can’t be an ass about it and hang that failure around a learner’s neck forever.  Until we grasp this simple truth found in the forge of intense gaming, we’re going to appear increasingly foreign to our students, and they are going to keep learning more from World of Warcraft than they ever will from a teacher. (lies debunked about gaming) a great look at the positive power gaming can produce (I’m arguing here about how it’s negative aspects still offer useful truths too) an interesting summary of the gamer generation recognizing the power of gaming

Ninja in my Garage

The Ninja finally crept into my garage last night. She’s crouching there quietly as freezing rain falls all about, waiting for that first chance to ease out onto the open road and put some wind behind us.

She’s under used and poorly looked after.  Someone took her pretty electric blue and painted it an angry, flat black… now flaking.  As we get to know each other I’m going to see what she needs to feel better about herself; a paint job is in her future.

In the meantime, as the freezing rain falls outside I’m going to take off her fairings, clean her up and make sure everything is squeak free, topped up and ready to go.  A bit of time to become familiar with the bike isn’t a bad thing.

I was wandering around Canadian Tire the other day and saw a little, electric air compressor and started dreaming about a garage that’ll do it all for me.  A little compressor, a lift to get the bike off its feet for work, and a shopping list of synthetic super fluids.

I’ll be figuring out how to get into all the maintenance and starting to look the body work and what I can do to make my Ninja pretty again.


cob-webs and rust…

  The Kawasaki Concours was a rough looking old thing, but very mechanically sound.  It only has 56k on it and was tight, dry and sounded strong.  The owner was a long time rider who is being sidelined by arthritis, he knows how to look after a bike.  Mechanically this Connie is well cared for, it’s just a cosmetic mess.  I’m good at cosmetic messes.  I offered him $800 and he says OK.  Hopefully I’ll have it home next time I post.

I’m going to be spending some time stripping this old girl down and cleaning her up.

In the meantime I think I’m going to take a friend’s advice, get both bikes!  My current plan is to transition to the Connie from the Ninja at the end of this season, sell the Ninja and go looking for that Interceptor of my dreams.  Since the Ninja was a much newer bike, I think I’ll be able to diversify my two wheel portfolio without putting any more money into it.

A Cure for Double Doubling

The following is relevant to what’s happening in my board, but since there appears to be no central plan from a ‘ministry’ of education, every board is doing their own thing, so this might not apply to you.  In my world the double-double is now an overwhelming truth that combines all the difficulties of remote learning with the challenges of providing face to face instruction in a medical emergency simultaneously all day every day.  I have two classes like that so I’m prepping for two different lessons and instructing in two places at once (online and f2f) all day every day every week, no breaks.

I have some ideas on how to fix that:

I’m able to cover the basic hands on and theory learning in my face to face technology classes, but the more pedagogically complex work like developing an adaptive and agile engineering process by working out how to solve problems in non-linear, failure heavy learning situations simply isn’t happening in our drink-from-the-firehose quadmestered schedule.  There is no time or the space you need in order to iterate past problems and internalize this deeper learning, and there is no time as a teacher to generate this prodigious amount of material.  How could we make moves to fix that?

TIMETABLING SUGGESTION #1:  NO MORE QUADMESTERS!  A good old fashioned semester with one class each week has its own problems (like 3 weeks between each subject), but would also mean no more double/doubling because we’d never have an always on quadmester.

A weekend break between crossovers between subjects along with our current cleaning regimens (which seem to do a better job at stopping COVID19 than the general public) suggest that we could return to a semestered system safely.  Rather than waiting months to take a breath, teachers would have a rotating prep each month where they could plan for the next onslaught.  Senior students would have a breath too if they have a spare.

Double cohorts of simultaneous face to face and remote students mean teachers are producing learning content at high speed (a week of intensive class equals almost a month of regular class) while also having to produce online and face to face lessons.  The marking obviously comes at an accelerated rate too.  This is absurd.  I wish we had a union.  Breaking up the quadmester system back into semesters means everyone would cycle through all their classes every four weeks, and while there will be retention problems, there are anyway.  At the very least getting semesters back would mean that students with spares would get to experience them and teachers would actually be given time to prep what they’re teaching.  It also means that we’re not dragging kids through rapid fire quadmesters and they would have time to digest what’s coming at them.  Best of all it means we’d never have to use the term ‘quadmester’ again.


The remote part is happening simultaneously and I’m supposed to be designing and running that too… while I’m teaching f2f at the same time.  Parents are wondering why I’m not responding to questions online in a timely fashion while I’m teaching the other cohort in the classroom.   In the meantime I’ve given a ‘remote learning support teacher’ to help me with that, except they’ve yet to be able to provide anyone who has the faintest clue what we’re doing in computer engineering.

I’m seeing make-work for teachers instead of them focusing on teaching, let’s stop that.


Rather than inventing make-work that has people making teacher salaries to babysit students online (no marking or any other responsibilities), let’s let subject specialists remotely support their own classes.

The myth is that we’re providing 2.5 hours of face to face instruction and 2.5 hours of remote instruction each day adding up to enough instructional time to equal a credit, but if we can’t provide a qualified, knowledgeable teacher to manage the learning then we’re not providing the instruction time the Ministry of Education claims is required to earn a credit.  A split f2f/remote cohorted system does good things in reducing face to face class sizes (though when students are coming off buses with 38+ students on them you have to wonder how effective it is), but f2f/remote quadmesters are a shell game when it comes to actual instructional time.

I’ve got 15-20% of my grade 9s (the ones with IEPs who need support – but that’s been cancelled in school) not doing any remote learning at all.  Since the remote learning support teachers aren’t qualified to speak to the material and don’t have any clearly defined responsibilities anyway, these kids are falling through the cracks.  This academically driven rapid-fire quadmestered system is predicated on privilege and aimed at student success for the successful.  Kids who struggle in the system are being run over by it (as usual).

We’ve been given ‘remote support teachers’ who are supposed to oversee the elearning half, but they’ve yet to provide me with one who is qualified in my subject area and both have said that they have no idea what we’re doing in class.  I’m unable to put them as teachers in the Cisco Netacademy LMS because they aren’t qualified to teach it, which is kinda the point.  Guess who gets all the content question emails?  Except I’m kinda face to face all day too.

This could be fixed at next to no cost.  Tech classes have smaller caps anyway, so setting them to the cohort limit (or changing the cohort limit to tech caps)  wouldn’t change class sizes or displace students at all while ensuring that qualified teachers are teaching specialist subjects.  Tech numbers have remained strong because they are hands-on classes that don’t translate to a remote learning platform well.  In the spring we were told students can’t do any tech work at home even if they had the tools at home for liability reasons, so there is another reason to protect this specialized learning in face to face situations.  Any class that focuses on tactile hands on learning should be prioritized in face to face classes.  Those classes (tech, art, etc) shouldn’t be lumped in with academic classes that work online.

We’re frequently told this situation is flexing, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of flexibility in planning once it’s in place.  I only hope the people responsible for arranging the deck chairs on our ship aren’t nailing them into place, because they’re placed poorly.


I’m watching my grade 9s struggling to wrap up this overwhelming rapid fire quadmester now.  I’m crawling to the end of the damned thing wondering how things have gone so wrong.  In the first couple of weeks I didn’t know how I’d get to the end.  It turns out the answer is:  do less less well, which I’m not satisfied with.  I’m not sure that the people running things who haven’t been in a classroom in the 21st Century are as frustrated by that as I am though.

The nines struggle to adapt to a semestered system when they end in January in normal scheduling.  In this pandemic scheduled school year they are getting buried even while being overwhelmed emotionally by the limitations inflicted upon us by this virus.  There was a lot of talk about mental health and care before we launched this waterboarding schedule.  It’d be nice if that focus returned when people were thinking about how the second semester might go down in February.

If not a weekly/semestered schedule, how about a four day week with one day as a fully remote working day where teachers who are teaching their students rather than babysitting them could interact meaningfully with them in that online environment in real time (hard to do when face to face at the same time)?  Doing that instead of inventing make-work ‘remote support teachers’ would be a much more functional use of time.  If prep times were integrated into that remote learning day we’d also be able to cut the dozens of ‘teachers’ who are covering (or not if they aren’t qualified) teachers in order to provide them with prep time.  I haven’t had any prep time since this quadmester started because they’ve yet to be able to provide me with a tech qualified teacher to cover my class, and I’m not going to pull my students out of hands-on work even if I desperately need the prep time because the whole point of face to face classes it to restore tactile hands-on learning that was lost in remote teaching in the spring.

We could even vary classes based on what they are instead of lock-stepping everyone through the same always on quad-mestered system, but locking all classes to academically focused approaches is the education system’s knee jerk response to everything.  Wouldn’t it be something if this pandemic emergency actually produced better pedagogy through creative and differentiated scheduling rather than overwhelming everyone with the same, simplistic and unsustainable quadmestered plan?

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Perth County Moto

Last weekend I was in Stratford to see Mother’s Daughters – a modern feminist take on Mary and Elizabeth’s battle to become queen after their father (Henry VIII) kicked the bucket way back in 1550s England – it was brilliant!

Before the play we were about town having dinner when I stumbled upon Perth County MotoJeff O’Neill, the co-owner, was in there and we had a nice chat about vintage German police leathers and my Triumph Tiger.

Looking over PCM’s website, Jeff and his wife Lindsay seem to be focused on a side of motorcycling that you don’t often see:  vintage and DIY.  Everything motorcycle related near me is pretty much a box store or dealer (which is like a box store but with higher prices).  Looking into PCM’s approach makes me wish I lived closer to Stratford.  The Englander in me finds himself a stranger in a strange land when it comes to DIY; it’s not generally a North American mindset.

There is a younger side to motorcycling culture that embraces DIY and gets excited about customizing older machines.  Some turn their noses up at this new approach and call it hipster, but I dig it.  Perth County Moto seems to be all in on the custom DIY scene.  They even have a custom build going on on their blog and look like they support spannering nights.

PCM has a variety of Biltwell new gear, Bell Helmets and some other less common manufacturers for sale.  I tried on Biltwell gloves but wasn’t thrilled with the feel, but they’re a pretty budget item and I’m getting pickier with gloves (Speed & Strength aren’t cheap, but that’s the new standard).  I wish I’d had more time to look around, but I was on a dinner and show schedule.

One thing that did stand out was the used leathers on a rack at the back.  The green German Police leathers immediately jumped out at me, but alas, they were designed for a very small German police officer.

If you’re looking for out of the ordinary gear, Perth County Moto is worth a stop.  In my brief time in there I managed to find a nice Triumph patch (they have a big selection of classic badges along with a pile of sticker options).  I’m sure I’d have bought something else had I the time.  Fortunately, we’re back in Stratford for shows several more times this summer.

How best to get out to Perth County Moto?  Well, load up for a lovely ride through Southern Ontario countryside, get into Stratford early and have a look around PCM, then go out for dinner at one of the many nice pubs or eateries within walking distance.  Once you park up downtown, it’s all easily walkable.  I’d also suggest having a look at the Black Swan Brewery (they make a wonderful English Pale Ale) before you catch a show and then ride back home under the Milky Way while working in some funky new gear.  Perth County Moto gives any motorcyclist a reason to ride out to Stratford this summer.

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