Here I am starting a blog with references to cycling, yet I haven’t ridden a bike in two weeks. Somehow I’ve come down with this nasty chest cold that feels like I have two giant rubber bands around my lungs while somebody holds a blowtorch behind both of my eyes. My head has ached for eight days straight. I missed a local race yesterday; that’s how much I want to get better.
So instead of supporting my local cyclocross race series, I stayed home with the dog and forced myself take it easy. When the sun and blue sky showed up, I walked to the grocery store along the Railroad Trail in Bellingham. I hate that I have to leave the dog at home on this errand, but I’m scared somebody will steal him if I tie up unattended. He’s such a lover of humans that he’d go home with Charles Manson and his new bride.
So I set out solo on the Railroad Trail. When I left Bellingham to live out the great experiment in Seattle in 2003, the civic-minded folks in this city put their taxes towards building a trail system that had once been a rail line from downtown Bellingham to Lake Whatcom. When I moved back in 2009, I couldn’t believe how much progress had been made in such a short time. Because I spend a great deal of time commuting by car, I try to walk or ride as much as I can during my time off, and these trails connect me to cool places.
I haven’t done this walk—it’s maybe four miles—in quite awhile. It’s also my first time walking since our epic wind storm last week. As I walked down the connector trail that I have nicknamed “The Schutes” (because it is wicked steep and hard to run or ride up), I noticed a ton of the downed trees. My peaceful walk was interrupted by the sounds of dueling chainsaws. At one point, I noticed this big gorgeous Douglas Fir had fallen and it was now a pile of logs in the driveway after what must have been a giant clean up job. It was a spectacular mess of branches, wood shavings, and bark. Most certainly these home owners are thankful this tree fell away from their home, but the view from their deck is altered.
Their view is no longer the same after one storm.
Once I returned from my journey to the grocery store, I spent some time reading. I forced myself not to write and just think. I’ve spent some time thumbing through The Art of Wheelbuilding: A Bench Reference For Neophytes, Pros and Wheelaholics by Gerd Schraner. For any self-taught wheel builder (which I am not), this book is a lovely summary of his life’s work.
In this introduction, he claims that “[m]any people call me a “wheel guru,” which honors and flatters me. But a guru is an all-knowing teacher, which I neither am nor wish to be” (viii).
He goes on the share his philosophy about why he wrote this book, and I’m going to return to those ideas on another post. For now, I want to share how much I love his conversational style of writing. Like any gifted teacher, he knows when to offer advice on what’s the right thing to do and when to give the students directions so they can learn for themselves. On the back of the book, he’s pictured in his shop smoking a pipe while wearing a bandana made into a scarf. How charmingly Euro!
I’ve been taking some notes to use his book so I can develop more of my bike-share metaphor for OER. It’s an idea that won’t let me go. Back in May, I wrote the following:
I see MOOC learning similar to a bike share program (only it’s free). You take one bike, ride it to another neighborhood, and leave it for another person. The infrastructure (the bike or the MOOC) supports the creativity (the learning or the riding) and it’s communal. It’s up to you to unlock the potential and pedal to new learning. I’m working on this metaphor, but that’s what ETMOOC taught me to do; share your learning.
Oh the cheesy places I can go with this idea! Bad ideas are like dropping your chain. Learning is like buying a bike: invest in a good frame and upgrade the parts later. Learning from other people is like riding in pack. Being an innovative teacher is like digging into your suitcase of courage. See? I can go on and on with this one.
Only now, I would substitute for MOOC for “connected learning” or “learning with OER.” MOOCs were all the rage when I was interviewing for my current position, and I promised great ideas for my institution. But shortly after I got the job, I told my boss that I wanted to focus on improving classes with 25 students. Setting up a class for 25,000 when we still don’t know what the hell we are doing in small classes seemed like a mistake. Mercifully, she agreed. (The “we” here is not my institution, but rather, everyone in OL learning).
Below is an excerpt from Gerd Schraner that I find hilarious, charming, and intriguing. As a writer, he’s clearly an older gentleman struggling to figure out a new generation of bike geeks in the 70s. He’s an older man trying to understand why the kiddies are digging a style of wheel building that he does not understand. In just a short few sentences, he blends practical advice for wheel builders who may be prone to diss on the young’uns.
Gerd, I know you are Swiss, but for some reason, I hear Werner Herzog’s accent when I read your words. I’m not sure if this book is written in your English or if this is some rough translation, nonetheless, I hear Werner. This is high praise from me, really, I promise.
In reference to the Hybrid-Spoking (Crow’s foot), a type of spoke design. I’ve added one hyperlink, but the rest is Gerd’s prose:
“Twisted spoking patterns are not only unaesthetic but are an additional mechanical disadvantage resulting from the extreme angle of the spoke directly to the nipple.
Every serious wheelbuilder who has ever practiced this kind of spoking pattern has sworn to refrain from repeating the error.
Yet, young bike freaks, apprentices and mechanics seem to like this kind of spoking pattern. My advice: Leave them at it and let them continue to show their enjoyment and enthusiasm this way. It’s better to see them rolling spokes than rolling joints” (p. 60).
You tell it, Gerd: Leave them kids alone.