Tim’s bike-hole, once a storage place for unused furniture,
now an insulated work space with two Kawis in it.
Season 1 ended with me getting my license, my first bike and getting over 5000kms of riding in, including a full month of long commutes. The original bike bucket list included getting the license and first bike. As season two began I was looking to expand. Bike bucket list 2.0:
Some of these are well beyond what I can pull off at the moment, but you never know when circumstances might change. Besides, if you’re gonna dream, might as well dream big! If I’m going to do that, retiring into my own little shop would be awesome! Custom mechanical, digital parts fabrication and finishing!
Our little town has a nice yoga studio right down by the Grand River, a 15 minute walk away. Awareness Yoga happens in a large basement studio with old stone walls and the sound of the Elora Gorge thundering away outside. I’m a firm believer in ley lines, and there is definitely a lot of energy coming out of the ground in the middle of Elora. It’s a nice spot to do yoga. I went in thinking it was some deep breathing and stretching. It is that but it’s also a lot of core strength building and I found myself sweating buckets simply following the workout. I’ve had three classes so far and find the combination of stretching and strength training intense, but combined with the mindset you’re encouraged to follow, it’s also remarkably relaxing. I don’t come out of it all worked up like I do after a hockey game. I come out of it calm and loose (though it tends to be sore the next day). Yoga looks to flexibility, core strength and mental focus, all things that should be in frequent use while riding, I can see why professional riders do it. I was lucky that my local studio does stiff guy yoga, it’s a men’s only class and I’ve got to say, it’s a really nice change from your typical guy-sports workout, and something uniquely suited to motorbike riders.
Via NBCnews: the glory of the hardcore video gamer. Not the kind of thing that’s ever going to challenge the Olympics for public attention I think.
I’ve had a lot of trouble playing video games lately. My problem seems to be around that idea of scripted experience. If I’m playing a video game I’m working through a narrative someone else created. I enjoy narratives but what irks me about video games is they pretend to have an element of choice in them when in fact they don’t. They suggest that they are the next evolution in entertainment but the interactivity they offer is so limited that it’s really just a hidden script that you follow under the illusion of choice. Gamification in general seeks to use this illusion to hook people into otherwise tedious situations.
The first step away from video gaming occurred when I found I couldn’t get into single player games anymore. Even the good ones with epic narratives felt banal. I went to multi-player games for several years hoping that the human element would create choice, but I find that these too are scripted, and worse, they force players into scripted responses to the point where you can’t tell the players from the bots. When a game is so restrictive that it makes the people in it act like machines it’s not a game I care to play.
There is a particular situation in which we’re happy to turn people into bots if the illusion of engagement is preserved. That situation also happens to be seen as quite tedious by many of its participants. Education is eager to digitize if it ensures engagement, even if that engagement mimics the dimensionless engagement found in online activity. Standardized testing feeds this thinking, producing learning outcomes that are easily quantifiable as data even as they fail to demonstrate learning. Deep contextual human activities (like learning) are lost in simplistic digital data.
Doubt is cast on an individual teachers’ ability to teach a subject. Consistency is demanded in modern education as a result of this doubt and the slippery nature of digital information encourages this by eroding the space between classrooms and lessons. This is shown as some kind of great step forward in terms of fairness, but what it really does is reduce teaching (as it has done with many other human activities) to a vapid exchange of information, incidentally what digital machines do best.
We fill in templates, teach centralized material and are encouraged to sync how we teach it. Proof of success is found in standardized test scores. There is little interest in assessing teaching or learning in any other way.
This digital infection also carries the parasitic idea of gamification, usually championed by video game evangelists who believe that the structure of gaming can overcome every obstacle. Teachers are encouraged to design student success through scripted outcomes pretty much like a video game does. If the game you’re playing is designed to have you eventually win it isn’t much of a challenge and certainly isn’t something you can be proud of, but then modern learning isn’t about challenge, it’s about engagement. The idea of gamification makes me uneasy for this very reason. When we gamify situations that aren’t games I’m afraid that we pollute complex situations with the implied success found in most gaming outcomes. If education is supposed to prepare students for the world beyond school this isn’t going to do it.
If you offer open ended, ‘real’ experience many digital natives shy away from a situation where the rules can’t be gamed for advantage. The hacking mindset implies that the system is more important than the content. Perhaps that’s why I can’t play video games anymore. It’s hard to get lost in a narrative when you’re constantly looking at ways to subvert the delivery method.
Wilful suspension of disbelief is lost in the digital age. This is the root of the pessimism and disengagement you see in many students. When education becomes another process you hack to guaranty your own success it becomes increasingly impossible to do anything useful with it.
This grew out of Scripted Lives which itself grew out of Unscripted Moments. I’m pulling at a lot of threads here. I’ve been a fan of RPGs since I got into D&D when I was 10. I love sports and would describe myself as a serious gamer. I’ve spent most of my life learning digital technology so I’d hardly call myself a tech-hater either, but watching digital technology and gamification aiming for society wide acceptance has made me very uneasy.
Steve Hoffarth has a good editorial piece in the August/September 2014 edition of Inside Motorcycles that got me thinking about scripted experience. Steve was lamenting his inability to go racing this year. He compared going on rides at a theme park and found them lacking. A scripted experience like being a passive rider on a roller coaster has nothing on the complex, non-linear and entirely participatory experience of racing. I was sitting in the garage last night working on the Concours when my wife stuck her head in the door and asked how I was doing. “I’m in my happy place,” I replied. What made it happy was that I was fixing a problem that had no instruction manual. Success wasn’t guaranteed and I had to approach it from several different angles before I could finally come up with a solution. Real satisfaction followed a resolution to a situation that could easily have ended in failure. It was an entirely unscripted situation, the kind I long for after your typically scripted day in the life of a 21st Century human. So much of our lives are scripted nowadays, from phones telling us when to be where to GPS units telling us how to get there. Brakes script themselves for us because we can’t be bothered to learn how to use them effectively, traction control leaps in at a moment’s notice to script your acceleration, vehicles will park themselves, warn you when something is behind you because you couldn’t be bothered to turn your head, and even avoid obstacles you couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to. I used to enjoy driving, now, at its best, it feels more like sitting on a roller coaster. All this scripting is a result of software. It may sound funny coming from a computer technology teacher, but that software kills it for me. If I wanted to watch machines race I wouldn’t put people in the cars at all, it’s safer that way. It’s been a long time since a driver could take a car by the scruff of its neck and drag it around a circuit. We do all this in the name of safety, but ultimately I think it’s lowest common denominator thinking; software engineers design life for the least capable people, they can sell more of it that way. There are places in mechanics where it just makes sense to incorporate computer control, especially when it amplifies an operator’s nuanced control of a vehicle rather than overwriting it. Thank goodness for fuel injection. It allows us to create responsive, linear fuelling and use less of a diminishing resource, it’s all good, as are disc brakes and other technological advances that improve rider feel. I’m certainly not anti-technology, I make my living teaching it, but I am anti-technology when it takes over human inputs instead of improving them. That kind of thinking breeds sheeple.
Traction control (many settings!), antilock brakes (many settings!), hill start control and more electronics than a moon shot – perhaps bikes aren’t the last bastion after all.
Unscripted moments are increasingly hard to come by. Perhaps that freedom we feel on a motorcycle is one of the last bastions of unscripted moments when a software engineer isn’t deciding how you’ll spend your time, or worse, spending it for you. Except they increasingly are. After I started riding last year I was astonished that this is legal. In a granny state-world where safety is all that matters, where SUVs are considered better because they’re bigger and collision avoidance systems are desirable because you shouldn’t have to pay attention while operating a vehicle, motorcycles too are succumbing to our vapid, software scripted lives.
Riding a motorcycle feels special every time I do it, but I had a couple of perfect zen moments on Wednesday that approached nirvana. After dropping off my son at day care I was trundling down an empty country road in a golden, early morning fog on my way to work.
You feel more connected to the world around you on a motorcycle because you’re vulnerable and exposed to it, and in that moment the beauty of creation came flooding in. Unimpeded by windshields or closed off in a box, the sights, smells and sounds of the world filled me with happiness. The machine and I were a single thing, gliding through the golden morning mist.
I got to work with a smile on my face that wouldn’t go away.
Later the same day I was riding home from a meeting after dark. The half moon was so bright it lit the few scudding clouds in the sky, the rest was a dome of stars. Riding through the dark countryside I would drop down into pools of ground fog, my head just above the silver mist. If you’re on two wheels you feel like you’re flying most of the time, but as I tore through that ground fog I felt like I was was truly learning to fly. From the golden fog of sunrise to the moonlit night, it was a beautiful day to be out in the world, and my motorbike delivered it to me as only two wheels can.
Night Ninja beneath a darkened sky skimming through the dark under a dome of stars