5 Things To Do As You Die

1.  Enjoy the silence.  You don’t realize what a noisy contraption you’ve spent your life in.  Blood pressure, thumping heart, straining muscles, bones and meat.  When it all finally stops listen to the world, even if it’s just for a moment, without the factory noises you’ve been experiencing your whole life.

2.  Let it all go.  Unclench from all of those assumptions foisted on you by other people.  From the truly fictional like economics, religion and politics, to our trivially incomplete understanding of the universe, let it all go because none of it matters, none of it is real.  All the things you thought you were: your nationality, class, race, gender, religion, values, they’re all just constructions foisted on you by other semi-sentient hairless apes, usually for their benefit.  You’ve laboured your whole life to maintain those fictions.  Enjoy the freedom of realizing it’s all nonsense.  The debts you paid, the country you lived in, the church you attended, all of these fictions are just that.  There is no heaven or hell, there is no reckoning.  You are made of reality and back to reality you go, complete and unencumbered by fear, doubt or coercion.

3. Enjoy the thought of no thought.  Why on earth would you want to cling to this semi-sentient, broken way of existing?  Our minds are barely conscious.  Moments of lucidity are fleeting at best, then we’re back to habit and impulse driven by instinct.  Living forever in this limited mode would be agony!  Hopefully you spent your time as a bipedal ape on the third rock from the sun being a good animal, helping more than you hurt, but if you’re typical of your species you took as much as you could for yourself exploiting all those fictions in the process.  An eternity as an instinct driven, selfish, barely conscious monkey?  I’ll pass.  Enjoy the end of thought from that power hungry miracle brain you’ve spent your whole life feeding so that it could convince you you’re something more than the universe that created you.

4. Become other things.  You don’t really have a choice in this, and it’s been happening even while your gimpy conscious strings together enough moments to make you think you’re you.  We’re constantly becoming other things.  You aren’t made of the same stuff you were when you came into this world, and now all that you are will become a myriad of other things.  So it has always been.  Fall back into the scheme of things; enjoy going home.

5. Laugh at the inevitable.  Death isn’t something to fear, and it certainly isn’t something we should be trying to stamp out with religion or technology.  Death isn’t darkness, it isn’t a lack of light.  It isn’t peace, it isn’t a lack of conflict.  Death is the end of having to stand knee deep in the shit people believe in, it’s the end of having to stand at all.  Your oh so brief moment of sentience is at its end (thank goodness!).   As human being recedes and you cease to be you, laugh and enjoy the experience, you won’t have any more.  Why would you want your last moments peering through this shackled and misunderstood existence to be ones of panic or regret?  That’s such a human reaction.  Laughter is a way to embrace selflessness.

Surprisingly Tough, but not Invincible

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.  (check out the bottom of this post for an update – it looks like the Theta didn’t survive after all).

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 (kind of – see below).

I’d kinda hoped that this nixed the Theta S so I could upgrade to the new Theta V.  That might be what ends up happening now.


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 goo.gl/maps/sCEvFbtqgrC2 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA




FOLLOW UP:

I tried the Theta on the way into work today.  It has gone cross eyed!


It looks like the old film double exposure shots I used to take in college.  The speaker doesn’t make the byooup noise it used to when you press the shutter and it doesn’t fire on every touch.  When it does take a photo it’s a psychedelic experience…



On the downside, the tough little Theta didn’t manage a super-heroic save on the 80km/hr slide down the pavement.  On the upside it still fires up and the memory works fine, it’s just cock-eyed.  The other upside is a Theta V is on my short list for a replacement.  In spite of this understandable failure, the Theta is still by and far my favourite 360 camera for on-bike shots.  It’s small but easy in the hand, aerodynamic and has hardware buttons on it.  Many others only have software control through a smartphone which is fiddly and awkward.

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Signs of Spring 2018

The weather is fairly crap, but there are signs of spring as the sun returns more and more each day.  All done with the Canon T6i.  Macros are done with the 18-35mm kit lens, the birds are using the ‘kit’ 55-250mm long lens.

 

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When Assistive Technology Doesn’t

Recently, my son was undergoing his IPRC process to enter high school and I’m suddenly privy to how parents experience this aspect of the public education system.  The parties at this meeting seemed to genuinely have my son’s best interests at heart, but there are unseen forces in the education system more interested in saving money than promoting pedagogy.


One such area is technology support for IEPed students.  The goal here is to provide digital tools that allow students with special needs to keep up with their class work.  In many cases this can mean something like a Chromebook, which is essentially a web browsing laptop.  I’m not a fan of Chromebooks, they are a corporate means of collecting users into a closed ecosystem.  The intent of Chromebooks is to pass any online experience through Google’s corporate lens (Chrome) and to keep people within that singular view in order to benefit what is very much a for-profit business.  

Google struggles to treat education and students in particular as anything other than a commodity because people’s internet attention is why Google is one of the richest companies in the world.  Google is very aggressive about maintaining its monopoly which is why I’m reticent about things like GAFE, evangelizing groups like Google Certified Teachers and the Chromebooks.


Google is a powerful tool, no doubt, but if it’s the only way you ever interact with digital technology then you aren’t particularly digitally fluent, any more than you could call yourself truly literate and knowledgeable if you only ever read one publisher’s books.


The default response from the school board when we began talking about replacing my son’s very old (he takes good care of it) laptop was to give him a Chromebook.  Since we only pay lip service to developing digital fluency in Ontario and graduate a large majority of digital illiterates, this seems like a cheap and easy way to hand out tech, but in this case it is a kid who is already digitally skilled and who intends to make computer technology his life’s work.  He is already competing in robotics competitions and building computers.  The courses he has signed up for in high school focus on digital engineering.  Giving him a Chromebook is like giving a carpenter a toy hammer and expecting them to frame a house.  It’s neither individually appropriate nor particularly useful.

I have been pushing to get him the tools that he needs to pursue his interests, but I’m speaking for the trees here as well as for my own son.  I teach computer technology and have a high preponderance of ASD students who have a great interest in and a neuro-atypical approach to technology that allows them to tackle it in interesting, unique but usually never time efficient ways.  Handing any of those students a Chromebook is like giving a mechanic a twelve millimeter wrench and then telling them to disassemble an engine with it, in an hour.


When he is learning electronics next year in grade 9, he’ll need to install Arduino on his computer and then use it to code circuits.  It’s free on a ‘proper’ computer running Windows, Linux or OSx, but Arduino can only be done on a Chromebook with a monthly fee (not covered by the school board).   If he wants to run RobotC for his robotics classes, he can’t do it on a Chromebook.   If he wants to run 3d modelling software?  Code in the IDE of his choice?  Run the plasma cutter software?  Sorry, none of those happen on a web browser.  If all we’re aiming to do is teach kids how to browse the internet like the consumers we want them to be and through a single, corporate lens, then we’re doing a great job pitching Chromebooks at them.



A Chromebook isn’t cheaper than a basic Windows laptop.  It is only a browser whereas the Windows PC can install a massive ecosystem of programs for a wide variety of purposes.  The only advantage is that the Chromebook is easier to manage.  Because you can’t install anything that isn’t a simplistic Chrome extension on it, you have less headaches with software conflicts; it does less, is easier to manage and does a great job of performing it’s primary function:  feeding the Google data mining machine with much needed fuel.  Pedagogy designed to expand digital fluency in our students isn’t the reason why Chromebooks are now ubiquitous.  Management of educational technology is easier if you drink the koolaid and get on the magic Google bus where you don’t have to worry about all that messy digital diversity and the complications of actually teaching students (and teachers) how technology works.  Google (and Apple, and Microsoft) are happy to usher your classroom in to a closed system for your own ease of you, learning how technology works be damned.




In discussing this issue with the school board I was told that my son doesn’t need a full laptop because the specialty classes that require that software will supply it in class.  His IEP specifies that he be given extra time to complete work, but that is impossible if the technology needed to do his class work is only available in a particular classroom.  How does that help him finish his work after school, or on a weekend?  It doesn’t help him if he is trying to do work during his GLE support period either because other students are using the in-class equipment while he is elsewhere.  There is no guaranty that the technology would be available at lunch or before or after school either, so the ‘what he needs will be in the classroom’ answer seems to be intentionally ignoring the extra time his IEP clearly states he needs.


Differentiation of assistive technology with an eye on customizing it to specific student needs is exactly what the IEP (INDIVIDUAL education plan) is supposed to be doing.  If we were going to begin to take digital fluency seriously, assistive digital technology that encourages a diverse digital ecosystem and renders a wider understanding of how technology works would be a great place to start, especially with digitally interested students.  


A Chromebook should be the last thing suggested.  This, or course, begs the question:  if Chromebooks aren’t any cheaper and don’t improve digital fluency, why are we using them at all?  Well, it makes our monopolistic corporate overlord, um, partner, happy while not being any cheaper and doing less, but it sure is easier to manage.  


Whoever this is a win for, it isn’t providing my son with the technology he needs to succeed.  It also puts pedagogy of promoting an understanding of the technology we’ve made an intrinsic part of our classrooms on the back foot.  As near as I can tell, other than feeding a corporate partnership and rolling out something so simple it can’t really break (or do much), there is little to recommend the Chromebook, especially as an assistive device for a student who will need things it can’t do in his classes next year.

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