I keep thinking I’m at the end of the riding season but opportunities are continually arising. After a fairly miserable trip to the doctor I found myself free on an unseasonably warm late November day. My usual M.O. is to head into the country and find twisty roads. Less people+twisty roads = happiness! This time I did the opposite. I was curious where my local Triumph dealer was now that I own one. It turns out it’s 136kms away, so not exactly local. Getting there involved a blast down the highway, something else I don’t frequent. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been on a major highway since the Lobo Loco Rally in August. I live in the country and avoid population centres and the highways that connect them. People are tedious. People in traffic are doubly so.
The Tiger almost ended up here last March
until I made a desperate plea to the previous
owner on the eve of him trading it in. It
finally showed up at the dealership it was
almost sold to for a quick visit.
Inglis Cycle is located in the east end of London, Ontario. I hadn’t been around there since attending the air show in the late 1980s; it’s much more developed now. After a blast down the 401 at warp speeds I worked my way through an awful lot of traffic lights before finding the dealership behind an abandoned factory. With their parking lot cut up and the neighborhood looking like a demilitarized zone I cautiously went inside.
I was met by one of the Inglis brothers and he gave me a quick, low pressure introduction. Walking into a dealer you sometimes get the sense that they’re only interested in you if you’ve got money to spend that day. Inglis Cycle was welcoming and relaxed. I felt like I could wander around and look at the bikes on display without any tension, so I did but I was only really there for one particular brand, the one I can’t find at home…
The Street Triple is a pretty thing, but I still think I’d go Z1000 if I were to get a naked bike.
I really like Triumph. I consider them an example of what Britain is capable of when it doesn’t get all bound up in socialist nonsense or historical classism. Freed from all that cultural weight the new Triumph is a competitive global manufacturer.
After a wander around the Triumphs on display I came back to the Triumph Tiger Explorer which is a nice piece of kit. As an all purpose machine it’ll do everything from swallowing highway miles to light off road work. I’ve thrown my leg over enough bikes to be aware of how silly I look on typically sized machines; the big Tiger fits.
The Street Triple is a lovely looking thing but too small. Were I to do the naked bike thing it’d be on the more substantial Kawasaki Z1000. The other classically styled Triumphs are also things of beauty but I don’t think I’d fit on any of them.
I wrapped up the visit with a trip to the accessories department where they had your typical assortment of dealer-type motorcycle gear and a sad lack of the lovely gear Triumph sells online. I ended up picking up an Inglis Cycle Triumph t-shirt, but it was a pretty low rent printed t-shirt compared to the bling on Triumph Canada. It’s a shame as I was ready to drop a bit of coin on a nice bit of Triumph wear.
I headed north through heavy lunch-time traffic out of London getting stopped twice by people wanting to know what kind of bike I was riding (it says Triumph Tiger on it). Score another one for the increasingly unique old Tiger 955i with its Lucifer Orange paint and stripes.
Once clear of the flotsam I was able to burn down some country roads in June-like temperatures, though all the trees were bare. I’d seen a comely sign for St Mary’s when we were riding back from the Lake Huron navigation so that was my lunch destination.
I’d looked up Little Red’s Pub the day before (highest rated place to eat in town) and was aiming there for lunch. As luck would have it there was a parking spot right out front and a front window table waiting for me. I had a lovely fish and chip lunch (hand made fries, a good bit of halibut) and a good stretch before getting back on the Tiger for the long ride home.
Since that day the temperature has plunged (below freezing as a high every day) and it has snowed multiple times. This time the end really has come. The batteries are out of the bikes and down in the warm basement on trickle charge. This time of year with its increasing gloom and lousy weather makes that first ride of the spring feel so very far away.
The perils of presenting last; you’ve got other things on
your mind instead of what you planned to present, but it helped!
By the time I got to my presentation in the last slot on Friday I was brain full, exhausted and not entirely sure I would be coherent. After a rambling review of what got me to the DIY lab concept I finally got rolling on the building and operation of your own classroom computer lab. I hadn’t intended to, but a moment from my time as a high school dropout was on my mind as I began the presentation. Vocalizing the story helped connect several ideas that explained where the DIY technology idea came from.
Being handy I ended up working at a Canadian Tire for a couple of months as the tire change guy before I started apprenticing as a millwright. One day early on I was watching one of the mechanics diagnosing a Renault Fuego. As he moved around under this unfamiliar car he burned his arm on the exhaust pipe. In a fit of rage he threw his spanner across the shop and then stormed off, shouting that he was going to make the customer buy a new exhaust system (the car was in with carburetor issues). The customer, having no idea what happens under the hood of her car, reluctantly accepted the ‘fact’ that she needed a very expensive exhaust system replacement. This moment stayed with me because it not only taught me what ignorance can cost you, but also made me question the veracity of ‘professionals’.
My father is an industrial heavy machinery mechanic and told me, even as my technology got increasingly complicated (bicycle to car, Meccano to early computers), that if something was built by people he could figure out how it worked. I’d internalized that idea from an early age. My second bicycle was home made, after buying early software I started writing my own. We spent cold hours on the driveway replacing head gaskets and tuning carburetors. I came to the point where I’d never shrug off the complexity of technology and trust it to someone else.
This doesn’t mean I’m an expert at everything, but I always have a look under the hood and grasp the basics before I use a technology, whether it’s smartphones, the internet or a motorcycle. Since cars became dependable enough the vast majority of the public have lost any interest in their inner workings, but that wasn’t always the case. Early adopters of automobiles were their own mechanics. The maker movement is a step back towards that kind of technical familiarity, but it takes a special breed to maintain that level of curiosity and ownership of knowledge.
The difference between digital technology and automotive technology is that the digital stuff insinuates itself into your relationships and becomes a 24/7 part of your life. It affects your thinking rather than your muscles. Not knowing how a car works might occasionally inconvenience you and cost some money, but not understanding digital technology when you spend hours a day socializing through it or (worse) teaching with it, is a disaster waiting to happen. It isn’t a disaster for tech driven multinationals who live off your data though. They will happily convert your and your students’ ignorance into profit.
This growing ignorance is what prompted the do-it-yourself classroom computer lab. Handing students turnkey digital tools like Chromebooks might suit Google’s market penetration strategy, but it doesn’t teach students about the tools they are using. Some teachers have said that they are teaching their curriculum and not technology but if you’re going to use it you should, as a teacher, understand it, otherwise it will make decisions for you. That is neither professional nor desirable. If you can’t be bothered to understand it, don’t use it – but you risk quickly becoming irrelevant.
I’m in the strange situation of teaching the technology that the vast majority of Canadians use but no one wants to understand. A general understanding of how digital technology works is vital if you’re going to have it participating in your life all day every day, and especially if you’re going to teach and learn with it. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to have some conception of how this potentially invasive thing works.
ICTC posts Canadian statistics in digital technology
jobs each month. Yet Geography is a mandatory course
while computer technology is an afterthought.
I look at Ontario curriculum and fail to understand how digital technological literacy isn’t a fundamental requirement. The vast majority of Canada’s population uses personal, digital technology and in many cases that use is almost continuous, yet very few people understand how it works.
We’re graduating students into a millennial unemployment rate of over 14%, but it drops to 6% if they are information-communication technology focused. Even if they aren’t specializing in technology, every graduate we produce is going to use ICT/computers in their job in some capacity or another.
The DIY lab I presented might be a bridge too far for many teachers, but for digital technology teachers or anyone whose curriculum depends implicitly on digital technologies (business tech, media arts) I think it should be a requirement. The teachers presenting this technology to their students owe it to them to develop a deeper understanding of the tools they are using. For everyone else (teachers and students), an understanding of what’s under the hood should be an essential requirement otherwise they are teaching and learning in ignorance, which isn’t helping anyone.
It turns out that walking in to the presentation unfocused allowed me to laterally connect a lot of the foundational ideas around this do-it-yourself philosophy of educational technology use.
When I think back to the late ’80s (the last time I had to involve myself in driver testing), I recall reasonable wait times, full time employees invested in what they were doing and a general sense of competence. I left with my driver’s license feeling like my time wasn’t wasted and the people there knew what they were doing.
The lost souls trapped in the beige, fluorescent lit hell that
is Ontario’s Drivetest Centre. I got in trouble for taking
this picture, I hope you like it.
Since going back for my motorcycle license in 2013 I’ve had to attend Drivetest Centres several times and each one has been worse than the last. The stone eyed ‘funployees’ of Drivetest struggle to handle massive wait times and angry citizens whose time doesn’t seem to matter at all. While waiting for more than ninety minutes yesterday in an overcrowded holding area I looked up Drivetest and discovered a poster child for why Ontario is failing like it is. Up until 2003 Driver training was handled by MoT employees. These would have been unionized, government workers who make enough money to pay a mortgage and tended to stick around, meaning they have a vested interest in what they’re doing. In 2003 Mike Harris (aka: ass-clown of the century) decided to privatize driver training in Ontario (because the mess they made giving away the 407 wasn’t enough). In a matter of months hundreds of full time employees were laid off in the name of efficiency. At the time the six week waiting list to get a license was considered proof of government incompetence and the private sector would come to our rescue! The current backlog is over sixteen weeks. Feeling that private efficiency yet? At the Drivecentre yesterday I heard one of the employees say that they have a lot of people away on vacation so they are short handed at the busiest time of the year. Another came back after taking only 10 minutes for lunch. While reveling in this Kafkaesque corporate efficiency I thought I’d look up who we pay millions to now for driver testing. Privatization seems to feed into globalization. Just as he sold off the 407 for a fraction of what it’s worth to a Spanish company, so Harris sold off driver training to another overseas firm, in this case Serco, a billion dollar a year multi-national out of the UK. Their spiel on the Drivetest website is exactly the sort of MBA drivel that makes me sick in my mouth:
Ah, the countless possibilities. Fortunately, thanks to Serco’s crap-tastic personnel management I had a lot of time to consider countless possibilities. The Ontario Government is supposed to oversee the efficiency of this subcontract, but like most privatization they simply turn away from what IS the role of government and takes no responsibility for what has been and continues to be an out and out disaster. You’d think it would be fairly easy to make licensing a zero-sum game. You charge for licenses whatever it takes to cover the cost of licensing and you keep that money in Ontario instead of shipping off millions of dollars overseas. You then offer bonuses based on accident rates of new drivers and the wait times in Drivetest Centres. The lower the rates and better the wait times, the better the bonus. Or… you could just give it all away to an off-shore concern that couldn’t give a damn about Ontario citizens, their safety, or their time, but sure knows a lot about business. Meanwhile, we’re all sitting here wondering why Ontario is in the biggest financial mess in its history. Efficiency doesn’t mean off-loading responsibility and doing things cheaply unless you’re in the private sector, then that can be your reason for being. Efficiency and cheapness are not the same thing, though the private sector and conservatives often confuse the two. Get your finger out Ontario. Stop off-loading important government services to incompetent multi-nationals and keep our money in-province! Fix this!