I Know It’s Just a Number: 30K

I just turned forty four; that’s just a number.  A day later Dusty World is going to cross the thirty thousand page view mark.  That’s just a number too, but I like it a lot more than forty four.

Blogging started as a bit of catharsis; a chance to reflect on my profession.  I picked up the idea from ECOO a few years ago and hit 5000 page views in February 2012, just over two years after I started posting.  I was overjoyed then.
In June of 2012, just four months later, Dusty World passed ten thousand page views.  Once a backlog of posts builds, people wander in off the internet looking at old posts as well as new.  This is my 168th post.  I tend to stay away from the picture and/or short comment posts.  When I write it tends to be about me trying to develop an idea, usually with graphics and a lot of hypertext to support it.  
I love how blogging has sharpened my voice and I love talking to people about ideas reading a post has sparked in them.  I even love listening to the disagreements; most times I agree with them.  When I write a post, I have to follow the idea all the way down the rabbit hole, it’s why I do it.  Blogging has let me shake the dust of my English and philosophy degrees and exercise them.
Posting has become a natural part of my reflective process.  I sometimes don’t even necessarily agree with what I end up working out in Dusty World posts, but they always offer me some perspective on what I’m wrestling with.
During the worst of the job action in Ontario this past year Dusty World occasionally wandered into politics. After being bitten by all sides of that dissonance I’m thinking that nothing is to be gained from trying to untangle the nasty politics around education in Ontario.  The interests are so deeply ingrained and self involved that coming out on one side or the other is essentially meaningless if you’re interested in supporting education itself.  My energy is better spend focusing on the unnerving, exciting and revolutionary technological change we’re going through.  It not only frightens and excites me, but it also makes for a rich source of reflection, especially when I see students being experimented on with it every day.  How technology is changing our society is always a source of interest and something I’d never want to stop looking at.
The bizarre future we’re making for ourselves is going to make existing political structures around education increasingly tenuous and inconsequential.  If I have to take a side it would be the side that doesn’t exist yet, but it will.  I’m OK with being the villain for thinking in a way that is only just beginning to exist.
Dusty World is going to keep its eye on the prize and speak to the radical changes we’re all going to have to adapt to in the coming years.  Meanwhile, thirty thousand is a nice number to think about.

Noon on May 18th!!!

Stop and take in the moment…

Last year I was stuck behind a large group of cruisers and wondered out loud on the Concours Owners Group what the etiquette is for passing them.  It’s hard to pass a big group because of their shear size, and breaking up their formation by having to pull back in during a pass seems rude.  In addition to upsetting several bikers (a word I don’t use to describe myself), I got some good advice from motorcyclists who have been doing it for a long time.  The best advice came from a fellow who said that if he comes across a mobile chicane like that he just pulls over has a smoke and ponders things.  He then gets back onto an empty road in a contemplative state of mind.  Why so be in such a rush?

I liked his Zen approach though it isn’t in my nature to do it.  The other day on my short commute into work I was riding behind an ancient Muppet in an SUV who was barely doing 40 in a 60 zone.  He wasn’t going to work, but he’d elected to hop into his mobile castle and putter down the road in front of as many people as he could.  With a bike your power to weight ratio is stratospheric.  It’s (very) easy to make a pass, but rather than feed the speed monster I tried pulling over.  It helped that it was an absolutely stunning October morning with golden sun streaming through ground fog…

I stopped, turned off the bike, and sat on the side of the road for a few minutes soaking it up.  Once you drop the gotta-pass thing the urge quickly fades away.  In the stillness of that sunrise I became aware of what was pushing me.  Part of me was already thinking through all the things I had to do when I got to work and anxiety to get it all done was taking root without me noticing it, hence the urge to blow off traffic.  Your subconscious can be a pain in the ass that way, infecting what was otherwise a beautiful morning ride in to work with an unnecessary sense of urgency.  It’s nothing that a moment of reflection can’t beat back though.  How often have you reacted to stress or pressure by passing it on to something else?  I transfer moods like this all the time.

I took a couple of more minutes and photographed the sunrise…

Back on the bike I continued in to work, getting there five minutes later than I otherwise would have but in a mellow state of mind.  I actually caught up with the Muppet and his train of frustrated commuters in the next town over, so my five minute sojourn with the rising sun didn’t make me any later than I would have been anyway.

This Zen break was easy because nature was putting on a show, but it’s a habit I’d like to try and get into.  Nurturing a calmer mindset results in deeper thoughts, and time to ruminate is one of the reasons I love riding a motorcycle so much.  The time to reflect doesn’t hurt either.  If I can sense when worldly pressures are infecting my mindset on the bike I’ll become a better rider.

13 days

July 2-18th I was commuting on the bike every day from Elora to Milton.  The ride took me on country highways, country backroads, down the escarpment, on a 13 km blast down the 401 to James Snow Parkway, then 5 kms of urban riding in Milton.

At 70 kms a day each way of riding, I piled up over 1820 kms on the bike in three weeks.  I’d fill it up every 3rd day, costing about $16 and change and it would take me 190 or so miles (305kms) before the fuel warning light came on (it’s a 15 litre tank).  I never tested the reserve too much, I think, conservatively, I can get 220 miles to a tank before things get frantic.  Based on the amount I was putting in and the miles on the odometer, I was getting about 58mpg, which is impressive because it’s hard not to wind this bike up, it likes to go.  58mpg when I’m spending an inordinate amount of time in the top half of the rev range is impressive.
The coldest morning had the air temperature at 12° Celsius (53°F), the hotest ride home had me at 37°C (99°F).  On those cold, rainy mornings I had the long gloves on and ended up stopping to put the rain jacket on just to warm up.  On the hottest day (today), I road home in shorts and the jacket open.
Daily riding has made my shifting smoother, and I don’t think twice about riding in urban or highway settings.  My first couple of goes on the 401 were tentative, by the end of the week I was getting on the highway the same way I do in a car – looking for the left hand lane.  The Ninja goes from almost nothing to two miles a minute in an astonishingly short time.
This morning I rode out into ground fog, with the tops of trees and old, stone farmhouses peaking out of the mist.  You can smell a river and you cross it.   You can smell hot brakes on the 401 from trucks before you see brake lights.  Riding is such a sensual experience.  I think the quiet time without radio or music, just the sound of the wind and the distant thrum of the Kawasaki twin was centering.  I got to class (computer engineering) every day oxygenated and ready to go.  I came home tired but clear minded.
1820 kms, 1131 miles… after doing this I think a couple of tanks a day would be a good way to measure a long trip.  At just over 300 kms each tank, 600 kms a day and I’d be ready to put my boots up and relax, having been through the places instead of driving through them.
The daily commute demystified the experience of riding for me.  I found ways to stretch (stretching my legs out on the frame sliders is a nice way to get a breeze up your pant leg), and standing up on the footpegs every once in a while cools off your seat and thighs.
With familiarity I’ve found that the Ninja is a very forgiving, but very capable bike.  I’ve no regrets that it’s my first bike.  A more relaxed (ie: upright, proper, not cruiser) riding position would be nice, but I found that I fit the Ninja better and better as the commute went on.  I always looked forward to throwing a leg over it, and when the weather was bad (almost zero visibility rain one morning), I had no regrets from riding it down.  Every day was an adventure.