A Ride To Watch a Blue Horizon

 

270km round trip up to Georgian Bay to meditate on the big water.

Flesherton to Highland Grounds for a locally owned (and one of the best) Americano you can get in South Western Ontario.

Beaver Valley has some beautiful views and winding roads.

Graham Hill is worth going off pavement for, as long as the bike’s up to it.

After a winding ride down Beaver Valley to Thornbury Harbour I found the Bay growling in the wind.  It was 10 degrees cooler on the water.

After a sit by the water I headed back into the inland heat and tackled the Grey Bruce Highlands around Glen Huron.

After a rehydration stop on the Noisy River near Creemore I tracked back through the flat, straight, tedious farming desert back home to Elora.

270kms in intense heat – the 18 year old Tiger was flawless.

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Kawartha Highlands Circumnavigation

A July ride in the Haliburton Highlands:  the plan is to take a few days in mid-July and head up to the in-law’s cottage.  It’s just outside Bobcaygeon, Ontario and makes a great base for riding into the Canadian Shield in Haliburton.

The way into the lake is a fire road. all gravel and twisty like a rally stage.  I’m actually looking forward to it now that I’ve done the SMART training; time to see if I can apply some of those off road skills so that the whole way in isn’t a nervous ride on a loose surface.

The next day I’ll take the Tiger out for a lap around the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.  I did the Haliburton Highlands last spring on a birthday ride.  Weaving through Canadian Shield lakes, woods and massive rock outcroppings is never a bad thing.  Because of all those geographical features, Haliburton is one of the few places in Ontario where the roads have some character; you spend very little time on the crown of your tire.

If I’m finding the ride going by quickly there are a lot of alternative routes built in.  The 504 looks like it would be fun to ride both ways.

10 North off the 648 up by Tory Hill also looks like it would be a good two way ride.  It’d be easy to add some additional pieces on the day if time permits.





One thing’s for sure, that night around the campfire at the cottage is going to feel good…



The short route – 261kms. The longer route (318kms below) also covers the twisty 10 north of Highland Grove…

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Project Management as a Fundamental Skillset

Unbeknownst to many in the education sector, project management has grown into a complex academic and applied discipline of study with clearly defined best practices and standards.  As technology continues to evolve and offer efficiencies in productivity, it has also prompted a revolution in project management that is becoming a foundational aspect of modern work life, but we don’t teach it.

Last week Alanna and I presented on this foundational collaborative standard from two angles at the well attended ECOOCamp 2021 online Ontario educator’s conference.  Alanna’s recent post-graduate course covered project management from an academic/industry angle and my grade 11-12 software engineering class has basically become a project management course as a result of many students having had no contact with it in any other courses.  From those two angles we asked the big question, “why aren’t project management best practices taught and used in public education?”


Like many aspects of modern work evolution, project management (PM) best practices aren’t a focus of study in public education.  This is a disservice both to students and educators alike.  Following project management best practices means you’re not wasting time in meetings that aren’t meetings.  If a meeting isn’t predicated on necessary two-way communication in order to reach a consensus, it’s a bad meeting.  When was your last staff meeting about two-way/consensus building?  Teacher contempt for the the institution of the staff meeting would quickly fade if PM best practices were applied to them.

There are other obvious benefits to public education engaging with PM best practices.  If everyone on your staff has a clear idea of what they are responsible for, the timeframes and resources they have to work with, and access to support in order to meet expectations, your in-school projects will be more than an empty checklist and will actually engage and motivate your staff.
From the student angle, applying PM best practices allows for consistent, meaningful assessment of process while also ensuring better outcomes for student led projects.  When students graduate they’re able to immediately understand and engage with post-secondary and workplace expectations around collaboration without being surprised by this world-wide literacy they’ve never been exposed to in class.  Why project management best practices haven’t been integrated into curriculum across all disciplines is a very good question.

Modern PM leverages digital tools to achieve credible levels of clarity and shared purpose in group work.  In our presentation, Alanna leveraged the PM industry awareness she had just developed from her Instructional Design post-graduate course from Royal Roads University.  In our presentation Alanna explained Kanban and covered how it grew out of Japanese manufacturing management from the mid-twentieth century.  From there we introduced Trello, a virtual Kanban inspired online tool that helps remote groups organize, clarify and assign responsibility though an intuitive and remarkably high-fidelity online interface.

This all came about because, as Alanna was taking her project management course, she was listening to me behind her in our shared office applying PM best practices with my software engineering class.  The combination of my applied project management and the academic research Alanna was doing for the course produced the grist for our presentation:

Vague and inconsistent group project expectations
in student collaborative projects result in headaches
for both teachers and students.  You owe it to
yourself and your students to engage
 with PM best practices!

Teachers and students both struggle with collaboration.  From the assessment side, group work, especially without clearly defined guidelines and expectations, can quickly devolve into chaos where work is not even distributed and projects do not reflect collaboration so much as the efforts of one or two key people.  That happens to students in classrooms but it also happens in staff management.  One of the main benefits of following PM best practices is that group work isn’t an excuse for doing less.  Individual accountability is obvious to everyone involved and this leads not only to satisfyingly successful collaborative work but also to an appreciation of your individual best efforts.  The students who struggle most in my class with project managements are the ones who have learned that they can Jedi Mind Trick their way through group work and do very little.  The leads quickly realize how important it is to clearly communicate consistent expectations and many quieter students in the class thrive because group activity isn’t equated with having a big mouth.  There are real benefits to adopting these standards of project management excellence beyond just productivity.

Using PM best practices allows us to tackle complex
technology in groups and produce a rich, engaging
and ultimately successful student directed project
for a wider variety of students.

In our software engineering course students begin grade 11 by training in Unity game development and Blender 3d modelling.  These challenging technical skills were (I thought) the biggest hurdles, but it turns out they weren’t at all.  We’re at the point now where the grade 12s teach the technical training in only a couple of weeks and then support junior students in a live software development environment.  Students are able to produce complex, genuine software engineering and digital creativity with our process.  For the students committed to developing these high-demand skills, our technical training gets them there efficiently and supportively.

The big struggle turned out to be getting high school students to recognize why their project management strategies weren’t working and providing guidance and tools that would support best project management practices which most were unaware of.  When we looked at how group projects are developed in other classes, we found a wide range of approaches ranging from almost completely lacking in any organization or credibility to rote, restrictive, step-by-step strategies that offered no genuine management control by students and stifled creativity and self direction.  We couldn’t find any other courses following industry standard project management and I struggled to find any on the staff side of the equation either.

Engaging with PM best practices and then giving your students the guidance and tools needed to successfully work together on collaborative projects is an individually empowering step that will help students not only in school, but when they graduate too.  I’ve had university students return and say that my open level technology course did more to prepare them for challenging university project work than any ‘U’ level class they took.  I’ve had college and apprenticeship students return with the same insight.  In case you think this doesn’t apply to workplace students, I’ve had them return saying that this experience has gotten them jobs and helped them find promotion once employed.  This really is a 21st Century fluency we’ve missed.

If PM best practices started in classrooms, I’d hope at some point that they would begin to infect educational management as well.  I had a former department head tell me that she diligently kept receipts for the first couple of years of managing her department budget but eventually let it slide because the budgets they were operating under were frequently adjusted in the murky world of public sector accounting.  I’ve frequently been asked to do project work within the system where we are given no clear budget, timeline or even specific outcomes.  This kind of vagary produces frustration and disengagement in staff and students alike.  PM best practices not only result in greater individual engagement and positive morale, they also let you get stuff done fairly and effectively.

We had a great crowd at ECOOcamp and now we’re going to aim the presentation at the Ontario Library Association super-conference.  If we can engage teachers to adopt PM best practices, their students will benefit in many ways.  If we can reach a critical mass in aligning public education with PM best practices, we could revolutionize the bureaucratically obscure system we’re all living under and produce happier, more engaged staff who produce more efficient and effective projects.  I don’t enjoy the disengaged, sardonic staff thing that happens in education.  If we could all believe in the system it would make for a more pedagogically meaningful working environment for all.  It just takes some transparency and clarity to achieve.

The benefits of digital tools aligned with PM best practices also promises to raise the engagement and effectiveness of your online classroom.  With everyone on the same page in terms of expectations, and with rich online tools like Trello to intuitively interface with what’s happening in group work, rich, meaningful learning can happen collaboratively, even in a remote setting.  In a digitally powered face to face classroom tools like Trello can keep students organized and focused on their specific tasks and responsibilities, leading to greater student project success.  Because the collaboration is transparent and meaningful it is also a genuine learning opportunity because each student’s actions have a credible impact on the outcome.
Here’s hoping project management best practices and professional understandings can find their way into our public education system sooner than later.

ONLINE PROJECT MANAGEMENT RESOURCES


The presentation slide deck:


The Project Management Institute

https://www.pmi.org/

“Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world’s leading professional association for a growing community of millions of project professionals and changemakers worldwide.”


Trello, a (free!) online project management tool:

https://trello.com/


Project Management 2nd Edition freely available text:

https://opentextbc.ca/projectmanagement/


Online Resources for Project Managers:

https://www.proofhub.com/articles/project-management-resources


Resource Management 101:  Guide for Project Managers:

https://teamdeck.io/project-management/resource-management-guide/

Ontario Colleges Project Management Courses:

https://www.ontariocolleges.ca/en/programs/business-finance-and-administration/project-management

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Fireblade Petcock

I think I’ve finally gotten the fuel system on the scuppered Fireblade sorted.  The last problem (and probably what caused all the other carb and engine issues) was a leaking petcock.  I tried to take apart the existing one, but I should have listened to the Chilton manual and just replaced it in the first place.  The new one (40 bucks on Amazon) seems a quality thing.


The petcock in the tank was pretty mucky, and was leaking even when turned off.  If it was pouring gas into the carbs all the time, even when parked for long periods, it must have filled up the carb bowls and spilled over into the intake manifold and eventually found its way into the engine oil, which would explain the seven litres of what looked like muddy water that came out of the oil drain plug.

The new petcock looks like a more finished thing than what was on it.  Based on the questionable mechanics on the rest of the bike, I’m guessing this was just something that fit rather than the right spec part.  The one on the top is the new one and the bottom one was what was on the bike.  It seems odd that Honda wouldn’t actually tell you what the petcock is doing by writing the position on the thing.  


The old one also was also lacking the fuel filter, and the new one with the filter on it wouldn’t fit throught a tube stuck up in the tank hole.  I removed the old o-ring and managed to free up the tube with some WD40 and slide it out.  Like everything else I’ve found in the fuel system, it was a pretty mucky thing.  With those weird bits now out and the tank cleaned, that’s the whole fuel system sorted, so hopefully it’ll run like it should when I finally get the tank back on.


The goal now is to wait for a break in the weather (we’ve been in the double digital negative temperatures with a fair bit of snow), and see if I can put the tank back on and fire it all up.  It’s supposed to be 6°C and raining on Monday, so that’ll clear it up and maybe give me a chance to test the tank/petcock on the bike.

As it is, the new petcock is leak free on the tank (I just held it up and tipped it over a basin, but no fuel leaked), so that’s a result!  The problems with this non-runner when I got it had me focusing on the fuel system to the exclusion of all else.  I’m hoping that after a carb rebuild and the various other fuel system nick nacks I’ve sorted, that’s all that’s needed, but you never know.


With any luck I’ll actually get to ride the thing up and down the driveway later this week and find out what else it might need.  If it’s sorted, I can focus on winter maintenance on the Tiger and do the LED turn signals I’ve got for both bikes next.  Come spring time I’ll ride it over to my local motorbike shop, Mostly Ironheads, and have them do a safety on it and then get it sorted for the road.

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Kawasaki Concours14/GTR1400 Kawasaki Foot Peg Ergonomics

Taking bend out of the bike: the
changes pegs and bar risers
have made so far.
The Concours 14 is an excellent long distance weapon, but it’s built for someone much smaller than me.  When you’re tackling motorcycle ergonomics you can’t just slide a seat back, you’ve got to physically change parts, and the Concours parts aren’t fit for my intentions with it.  I sold a Honda Fireblade to get this bike and it wasn’t a like for like replacement.  If I’d wanted (or been able to use) a full on sports bike I’d have kept the ‘Blade, so I’m not trying to pretend the Kawasaki is anything like the Honda.  The side of the C14 I’m interested in is the long distance/two up riding bit.
With that in mind this otherwise stock, low mileage 2010 Kawasaki Concours felt like it was trying too hard to be a sports bike when it simply isn’t one.  The Honda only gave up 15 horsepower to the Kwak but was over 100kgs lighter!  After one 2+ hour ride the steering, while quite touring in appearance with long bars sweeping back from the headstock, are way too far forward and low for what I want to use the bike for.  At 6’3″ and 250lbs I’m also clearly not the average rider Kawasaki was aiming at with the rider ergonomics.  To solve the lean I put in Murph’s Kits bar risers which bring the grips 3/4 of an inch back and 1-3/8 inch up toward the rider.  This resulted in a 3% less lean and they installed very neatly, looking stock.

I could live with the pegs but my knees were feeling it on longer rides and my big feet meant I was sitting pigeon toed while trying to keep my feet off the rear brake and shifter.  What sold me on Murph’s Kits rider pegs was the promise of no more awkward, pigeon toed foot positioning thanks to the angle in them.  They were straightforward and quick to install (10 mins?) and reduced knee angle a couple of degrees while also allowing me to rest my big wamps on the pegs instead of having to hold my feet off them awkwardly.  A nice bonus is if I hook my boot heels on the new pegs they drop into the windflow under the bike and feel great in vented boots on a hot day; no regrets with that choice either.

But none of this has helped my passenger feel comfortable on the bike, which was a major reason I pitched the Fireblade for a sports tourer.  WIth the panniers on the Connie leaves no room for passengers with big western feet.  The passenger pegs are also set very high, so high you’d have to be seriously into yoga to look comfortable on them.

Unfortunately, Murph ran out of gas after the rider pegs and doesn’t offer any passenger peg alternatives.  A bit of lurking on message boards uncovered VicRay Custom Performance who machine a set of passenger pegs for the Concours 14.  Vic sends these kits out himself and it took a few weeks longer than Murph’s deliveries (don’t sweat Canadian deliveries if you’re dealing with Murph, he’s got them down!).  Vic’s passenger pegs finally arrived this week and I installed them this afternoon.
The instructions were hand written but the installation was well explained and straightforward.  The quality of the machining is excellent and the extension of the pegs means we should have no more passenger ergonomic headaches while riding with panniers.  The rubber isolation and width of the alternate passenger peg also promises greater comfort.  We’ve been busy with work (contrary to popular belief, teachers work in the summer), but I’m optimistic about this choice too.  The new passenger pegs fold up neatly and suit the look of the bike.  If you didn’t know they weren’t stock you’d just assume they are.
The last piece of the puzzle is the seat.  The C14 seat is narrow and gets to be quite miserable on longer rides with an awful lot of pressure on your, um, parts.  Alanna described it as, ‘hard on the vagina.”, so it’s uncomfortable for both rider and passenger.
The last time a poor OEM seat made me sad a Corbin saddle solved the puzzle.  I’d have gone for a used one but they retain their value and the used ones I could find were within a hundred bucks of getting my own custom designed seat.
Pre-pandemic my Tiger seat showed up in a surprisingly quick four weeks.  I’m five weeks into having ordered this time but I fear COVIDtime will strike again and the saddle won’t show up for some weeks yet.
The pegs relax the legs and the bar risers ease the crouch.  Big Blue is more comfortable than it has ever been and is starting to show the promise of the touring/sports/muscle bike I was aiming for.  Once that Corbin lands it’ll be ready to ironbutt on.

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A Canadian Student Bill of Rights

2020 was an unprecedented year in Ontario public education.  After two years of a hostileincompetent government hacking away at the system in order to replace it with inferior, for-profit options conveniently supplied by their party donors, we rolled into a world wide pandemic that only amplified the lack of competence in our political leadership.

Education is too important to be derailed by political demagogues intent on dismantling public services for their friends’ profit.  If the past three years have shown us anything, it’s that Canada needs a student charter of rights in order to prevent corrosive political interests from abusing this vulnerable population.

With Canada’s history of systemic abuse in education you’d think protecting students from misguided political interests would be an obvious step forward, but no politician likes to enact laws that limit them from doing whatever they like while grasping for another election win.

I’m not sure how to pry education out of the hands of self-serving and manipulative provincial politicians, but something needs to be done federally to ensure that Canadians who are members of vulnerable communities (like k-12 students who have no vote or say in how our society operates) have protections enshrined in law.
You’d hope their parents would act in their children’s best interests but that clearly hasn’t been the case in Ontario or other Canadian jurisdictions.  It’ll take someone with principles and fortitude at the federal level to see this through.  A Canadian Student Charter of Rights would mean Machiavellian interests can’t run roughshod over the rights of every child in Canada to access a safe and rationally administered learning environment focused on enabling them to become their best selves.

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Summer/Fall 2020 Imaging

 A wide range of imaging from the summer of 2020 into the autumn stretches out beneath you.  On-bike photos usually taken with a Ricoh ThetaV firing automatically and attached to the bike with a tripod.  Close-up/macros usually done with a Canon T6i DSLR with a macro lens.  Drone shots taken with a DJI Phantom4Pro drone.  Other shots taken with a OnePlus5 smartphone when I had no other choice (the best camera is the one you have with you).  Most are touched up in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom depending on where I am and how much time I’ve go for post processing.  Some of them are very post processing heavy verging on digital illustration rather than photography.

 The stop motion video was hundreds of photos taken with the 360 camera on bike and then composited into a stop-motion film in Premier Pro.  It’s a tricky process you can learn more about here if curious.  The SMART Adventures videos are using a waterproof/shockproof action camera from Ricoh.

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An Ode to Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury

 

Just watched Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury anime on Netflix again the other day – it really is something else.  If you’re into anime, or smart music, or avenging motorcycle riding samurai with robot ghosts in machines (along with a wild mashup of other experimental anime storylines and styles), you’ll dig this.

I’d done some digital art around samurai on motorbikes previously so I mashed up some of the samurai details from Sound & Fury with it and threw it together with the blog logo:

Disco!

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Thrifty Motorcycle Gear

Think it’s too hi-vis for riding
in the rain?  Really?  You
want hi-vis in the rain… and
the hundred bucks you save!

I got into alternative motorcycle gear when I came across a $400 rain suit that didn’t do as good a job as the rain gear they sold at a fraction of the cost at our local farm store.  If you have access to an industrial clothing outlet used by tradespeople, you’ve got an angle on quality gear at a fraction of the cost of name brand, ‘moto-specific’ clobber.

For the people who have to work all day in rain, you know the stuff they use will be tough and properly waterproofed, and it is!  Instead of dropping hundreds on ‘moto’ rain pants I was happier with the $40 construction rain pants from the farm shop.

A construction rain jacket with a removable hood comes with fully seam sealed and very waterproof specs, even in the wind of riding it does the trick and compared to a $200+ moto-rain jacket, it’s a fraction of the cost (<$50).  Both the Forcefield pants and jacket have lasted for years and are still super-waterproof.  The bib on the pants also stops water ingress at the waist while riding in the wind and does a good job of keeping me dry even in torrential rain.

I still depend on moto-specific gear for certain things, like boots which have ergonomic design features specific to riding or jackets and trousers that are properly armoured for riding, but there are a lot of thrifty and effective alternatives for the peripherals if you’re not a brand model who wants to look like they fell out of a dealership catalogue.

Today I saw a pair of mechanic ‘impact pro’ gloves that are armoured leather, impact and abrasion resistant and look tough as nails.  For someone who rides bikes he’s proud of fettling and maintaining himself, the branding is spoton too.  I’d be curious to see how these compare in moto-specific durability tests (not that any magazines that play consumer reports for moto-gear do any of that kind of crash testing).

These gloves promise to be flexible, well ventilated and tough, and they look disco too.  A pair of moto-specific leather mits will set you back $80-100 or more and probably wouldn’t protect your hands as well.  Next time I’m in Canadian Tire I’ll give this a look.
If you’re a celebrity/brand hound then these suggestions won’t do much for you, but if you’re more interested in putting your money towards riding rather than looking like a catalogue model, this’ll help you not get skunked by overpriced moto-branded gear.  Motorbiking doesn’t have to be as expensive as moto-gear manufacturers suggest.

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Photos from the Winter Road

These are some video screen grabs from the long way home commute from work last week.  Windy and cool, but still up near ten degrees Celsius with bright, winter sunshine.  The roads were relatively sand and salt free thanks to days of rain and floods.  The Ricoh Theta 360 camera is wrapped around the mirror with a Gorilla Pod.  A 360 video clip to start off followed by some photoshop post production…


 


All the screen grabs with various modifications can be found in this album.


If you’re looking for a motorcycle friendly camera, the Theta 360 has push button controls that are easy to use (most others have finicky wireless connections through a smartphone).  You don’t have to aim it or focus it, it just grabs everything in an instant.  The screen grabs on here are from the 1080 video the Theta made while attached to the rear view mirror.

My last ride was November 28th, so this was a soul destroying thirteen weeks between rides.  I really need to find somewhere twelve months a year motorcycle friendly.  There’s another bucket list goal:  live somewhere where I can ride for an entire year without having to take three miserable months off.


On the upside, it won’t be 13 weeks until I’m riding again…

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