Archive for August, 2020

Show Starts Wednesday

August 21, 2020

We start school next Wednesday.  We have done everything economically feasible to have a safe environment for the students and staff.  Masks are required.  Spread the kids out as much as possible in the classrooms.  Hallways and stairs are one-way.  Four lunch times to reduce numbers in the lunchroom.  Teachers are going to wipe down desks between classes.  Hand sanitizer stations everywhere.  The computer lab is no more and the only classroom computers are for specialty software.  It is BYOD.  Very few shared computers.  I have some loaners if there is an economic issue with a family.  The building is old (1922) so there is not a lot we can do ventilation-wise.  We were going to get fans for every room but a consultant said all that would do is ensure that any air droplets got spread all over the room.  We have some staff and parents that are nervous about starting up.  Understandable.  I am a bit nervous myself but I have a bit of a different perspective on the danger involved.

In 2005 I spent a year deployed in Iraq with the Montana Army National Guard.  We were not in a quiet area.  Lots of bad people and lots of bad things happened.  We were involved with helping the Iraqi Army keep their schools safe.  Their schools had armed guards.  Their teachers had armed escorts and guards at their homes.  Many of the students were escorted to and from school by armed guards.  Their schools were subject to random mortar attacks.  Girls were regularly  threatened with death.  Did their teachers sign up for this?  No.  Many did find different jobs but many decided to teach anyway.  There was no threat of a strike for safer conditions.  There were no safer conditions.

I completely understand teachers wanting a safe teaching environment and willing to go on strike if everything that can feasibly be done is not being done.  But there is a limit.  It is impossible to make schools completely safe.  It is impossible to put high volume HVAC systems with UV sterilizing systems in most schools.  Remote teaching may be safer but it is a faint shadow to face-to-face teaching.  Students need social interaction.  They need to feed off of each other for ideas and opinions.  Can remote teaching be brought to face-to-face standards?  Maybe, but my experience with it this spring says no.  I know of teachers from the local public school that just saw remote as an added three month paid vacation.  I had students of my own that just decided they were done and went out and found jobs.  My math classes lost their flavor, their spontaneity, their excitement.  Does that mean remote is totally a bust?  No, it does work for some kids and some courses but I see remote teaching for most as a last ditch effort.

In the last year teaching has become much more risky.  It never was totally safe if you look at the school shootings.  Now we have a deadly disease to worry about.  Some teachers say they did not sign up for this.  Nope, they did not but things change.  My school has done everything we possibly can do given the budget we have available.  It is still risky.  Maybe even very risky.  So be it.  If I want to be totally safe I would quit teaching and get a job with a phone tech support company and work out of my basement.

But nobody is shooting at me on the way to school in the morning nor is my school going to suffer a mortar attack during the day.  I am good to go.

Retro Biking Fun, Sort Of

August 3, 2020

Today was an exciting day.  Nothing to do with CS, nothing to do with schools but it was very educational.  Yesterday I got my 1995 Cannondale hard-tail mountain bike down from the garage hook and got it running again.  Today I took it for a ride on the local trails I ride all the time.  I ride mountain bikes, a lot.  It is my main means of recreation.  I ride 3 – 4 times a week weather permitting.  For an old fart I am pretty good.  Going up I am not as fast as 10 year ago.  Going down I am still dumb as a box of rocks.  My present bike is a Scott Genius I bought this spring.  Very trick.  For five grand it better be.  The Scott has the latest brakes, suspension and geometry.  Very stable at speed.  Great bike but pretty standard stuff for a modern mountain bike.  I help coach a mountain biking team, National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), made up of kids 6 – 12 grades.  Fun stuff.  So I got thinking (bad thing, “Danger, Will Robinson”) that I need to show up with the Cannondale to do a little history and ride the bike during training.  Now I am not a total idiot so I figured I better do a test ride, after all there have been a few changes in mountain bike design in the last 25 years.  Now when I built up the Cannondale it had only the best components available at the time.  I was working at a bike shop at the time so I knew how to build a trick bike.  The best in brakes, drive train, trick custom wheels built by me and the best front suspension.  The bike was very light and for the time there was nothing better.  Things have changed in 25 years.  

I was semi-terrified almost the whole ride today.  Going up was not so bad.  Pedaling a 22 lb hard-tail bike up a hill compared to a 29 lb full suspension bike is a dream.  Of course the 21 in wide handlebars (my Scott has 30 in and those are considered narrow these days) did make the Cannondale a bit twitchy and the 45 lb tire pressure (the Scott runs 22 lbs) needed to be sure the narrow old-school tires did not get a pinch flat also made the climb a bit bumpy.  Oh, and I was using toe-clips, the things with straps over your feet.  (If I was going to go retro I was going all the way.)  

If you pedal to the top there is only one thing left to do after that, go down.  Let the pucker factor begin.  In 1995 body weight was wayyy forward.  Steering head angles were much steeper and there was a whopping 2 inches of front fork travel.  The Scott is very relaxed geometry and has 6 inches of travel front and rear.  No wonder I destroyed one or two helmets a year.  And then there are the brakes.  The Scott has Hope 4-pot hydraulic discs, maybe the best brakes money can buy.  They stop you in a hurry.  The Cannondale has Avid side pull rim brakes.  They slow you down after a while.  Pucker.  With the Scott when it gets rocky I shift my weight back and down (the bike has a dropper seat post that lowers when I press a button) and just fly across the rocks.  With the Cannondale rocks are bad things, hitting them is very bad.  Little to no suspension, rock hard tires, high seat height, narrow handlebars and twitchy handling.  Lots of pucker.  After 200 yards my shoulders were used and forearms were getting pumped.  OMG.  How did I ride this thing in the ‘90s?

I lived.  I did not crash.  Well, OK, I did fall over onto a bush when I forgot I was using toe straps at a stop but no blood was lost so it does not count.  I have decided because I am not a stone cold idiot I will not be riding this at a NICA practice.  Those kids are fast and I would be risking my life to hang on to them and riding this bike is terrifying at speed.  Now not being a stone cold idiot does not mean I am particularly smart.  I happen to have a 1996 Trek Y-bike (Google it.) that I got for free and have never ridden.  It is ready to ride.  Maybe full suspension will reduce the pucker factor?  Maybe I need to rethink the stone cold idiot assumption?