This is a sort of screaming into my pillow kind of post. A sort of You have got to be fucking kidding sort of thing. This year is going to take the cake for the kick in the guts from fuckwits who don't know better episodes. I am not sure whether my students sensed something today or whether they were in Friday mode and responding to something in me but they were freaking awesome, relaxed and easy to work with. I even saw some effort put into things I care about which is always nice.
...but here is the scenario, which I record to look back on later to evaluate and make a decision on. Friday, in general for me is a suck day. I start with Y10s, who are great, playful and often a joy to teach but fucking hard work; duty (of care? ... or guard?) in the library computer room with much the same students and then an afternoon of Year 11s (Fifth formers - 14, 15, 16 year olds) for two hours. Today, fifteen minutes before my Y11 class I was "called" into a meeting to discuss the school web site.
When I first started teaching, 3 years ago, the web site had just been redesigned. It had a Flash splash screen, was a static web site, built in Dreamweaver and we were unable to upload anything due to a useless host. Courses were mashed into single huge HTML pages and the visual style was, quite frankly amateur and pathetic. In short they had been ripped off. Over the last year I have worked to place us into Drupal, hosted with our NZ Open Source in Business award winner, updated the style to match the rest of the brand, XHTML/CSS'd the fucker, set up departments as groups, allowed staff to login and edit content within those departments, provided mechanisms for promoting specific courses and even started working on a way to post daily notices automatically. Google Analytics is showing increased traffic to Courses and About Us and we have a clear path forward. I did all of this in consultation with senior management, marketing, and students (as any good designer would - documenting the lot) and in my ultimate stupidity I did it on a volunteer basis. I should know better. As I am seeing with Open Source in this country, if it doesn't cost anything it isn't of value. Man, I should have learned that one by now. I've been shafted by fucking NZers before on this ... I should know better. Nice guys finish last and all that.
Now, I don't claim to be Mr Wonderful on much but if there is one thing I just "get" it's working with the Web. I don't know why, maybe it's the structure, the communication, the freedom ... who knows, who cares. I just get it. I love it, I want to use it with students. I like the people who work with it. I like the way different age groups, especially kids use it. The olds who are blocking it, jamming it, stopping freedom, restricting the use of social networking etc have got it wrong. I know it, I feel it ... they are just plain wrong. Flash splash screens are a known issue - Hell, Jakob Neilsen has been wanking on about it for years (and he's freaking right). Designing for your target audience is well understood - fuck, schools have a Technology Curriculum dedicated to this, we've had Web2.0 as an idea for long enough it should have filtered through to even the most draconian systems by now ...
I have said nothing specific and probably won't. Between the lines is where it's at here but the frustration is real. Our education system is mostly fiucked - and I work in one of the really flexible schools. Mediocrity is our aim and we very rarely even hit that. What a fucked way to end the week. So much for my detox.
Tough few weeks with a lot of effort required. On the positive side I have seen another year out and while I'm not quite in my mid-thirties it's further than I honestly expected to get to so it's all a bonus. I have stopped watching the 6 o'clock news after it became all about the psuedo-political bollocks we call national management, "sex offenders strike again" reporting and those evil terrorists seem have made a come back. Actually I quite like that - Terrorism, back together, live. They can join the other old fart bands inflicting their crap on a whole new generation. Sorry kids, apparently the World isn't nice, friendly and here's some crap music to dance to.
Actually I lied ... yes, LIED! I did watch the news tonight .. on TV and everything. I had mute on and punk music playing the background and something interesting struck me. They all have grey hair and the same suit ... the SAME suit. It's really freaking weird. I'll never know if they all sound the same ... mute.
I like the fact we are finally entering a "recession"... yes, a RECESSION (I'm really into gentle allcaps sarcasm tonight...sorry). I'd say what we're about to enter is a recession in the same way cliff diving is a gentle descent. I wonder when it will upgrade to a "depression" and then to "hang onto your ankles folks and start kissing".
Term 3 is about to end. What does that mean for me: reports and more delicate manipulation of the school system known as PC School (by the developers) or "that piece of useless arse-wiping shit" by frontline teachers, students who drift off, pretending to care with discipline, "catch-up assessment" where I soften enough to let a student wuss through 3 credits worth of work, a mortgage refinance (oooh yay), the countdown to the holidays, more grey hair, low tolerance for dickheads (myself included .. which just gets weird) and alcohol for breakfast (just kidding ... I don't need THAT Campbell Live interview).
My Computing College at school is a finalist in the NZ Open Source awards again this year. For me that really just means I get out of teaching a couple of classes, get to talk to some crazy OSS folks and have a good night away from Christchurch. I am looking forward to it. I hold no illusions but if I win I will probably explode on the spot.
I can not express how tired I am ... if you've ever been drunk and wandering around a strange town at 3pm in the morning wearing gumboots and boxer shorts then you'll get the idea. In some ways I wish that is what had happened. It'd be a lot more interesting than saying "Teacher ... ZZZZZZZZ". Make no mistake, I love teaching, it's just our education system that blows the big hairy goat. The number of people who love complexity for complexity's sake is getting a bit silly. I can't get money for a trip to Auckland to give a presentation but someone in "management" can get the equivalent amount for an 'ergonomic assessment' of office space. That goes into the "you have got to be shitting me" box. On a positive note as all the oldies try to retire we will be left with about 200 teacher nationwide and the system will collapse under the weight. It'll be great ... unless you want kids educated or something and then it might suck a little ... shine your shoes guv'?
Time to disconnect.
Arrived home this afternoon just in time to watch a young man grab our mail. After a somewhat "tired teacher" confrontation he put it back although the adult (and I use that word loosely these days) with him gave me a bit of self-righteous lip ... also resulting in a "tired teacher" response. I am not one to be eternally grateful when a thief puts things back after being caught. My theory is that they shouldn't have taken the stuff in the first place. My feeling is that particular adult is not very stable or sane. A fine country we have here ... presumably we will get what's coming to us. If nothing else, it made a pretty good video.
We have daffodils out now, the fruit trees are all putting on blossom and I turn 34 in a few days. I'm thinking I might take this weekend off to celebrate.
I am taking a few days out. To be more precise my body has let me know in no uncertain terms that it is taking a few days out and I had better follow suit. Never one to argue with my body I am at home sick.
The upsides of being sick so far are: 1) getting to be in bed and resting, 2) having some time to walk around the garden looking at it progress without feeling the need to do something. I got to thinking about all the things I supposedly need to do in life at the moment and very little of it seems important. Maybe that is what my body was trying to tell me. I have got to a point of so many things rolling around in my head it just sounds like a big room full of people all talking at once - white noise. Is there really any hurry on any of this? I have also been struggling with the fact that very little seems to be exciting me anymore. Life has become one big troubleshoot and the things that should get me smiling, aren't. That seems like a bad sign and needs addressing.
After a little foray into watching the Olympic games I have stopped. Something feels wrong about it all now and I'm not sure what, which just makes it even creepier. It does not feel like a peaceful celebration of competition between nations. It is too hysterical, too ... much. Maybe that reflection of our World in general is simply too close to home to be enjoyable.
My poor bike has had a bit of a hard time lately. I got a puncture last week that I repaired and pulled a large shard of glass from the tire. Discovered at the end of the next day that it was flat again (walked home again) and got a new tube. The next day the gear cable snapped on the way home so replaced it with a new one. Happy with all the repairs I biked to work again and once more at the end of the day had a puncture. At this point my nerves were getting a bit frayed (and my body was demanding a break). Finally found the little bit of wire that was poking through into the tire and removed it. I think we're finally there but it's been a bit rough.
Time to lie down again.
Modern technology simply doesn't work ... no, I'll qualify that, modern advertising of modern technology is so far beyond the practical application of modern technology that it appears to not work. I say this after testing a set of ICT courses with a range of young people aged between 13 and 18 years of age on medium level machines in Windows and Linux environments. I also say this after trying to get our super-efficient, clean burning fire to light, using the driest of wood, the most flammable of newspaper and most efficient tripod stacking of kindling. I say this after trying to copy music to a solid state portable player, after trying to take photos with a digital camera and after trying to plan a bus trip using a web site, all without much success. Funnily enough, growing vegetables, fruit trees and walking home worked out pretty much as I expected ... job done, without fuss. I'm thinking the modern World is mostly full of crap.
Teaching seems to have lost its shine for me. Might be the time of year, might be the school I'm in, might be me but it's all feeling a bit futile and an exercise in paying the mortgage. I'm thinking all new course ideas need to go on hold in favour of getting through the basics and moving on. Will have to wait this one out a bit and see where it leads.
I bought some mud guards for my bike today. Good times.
While watching the Discovery channel this week we saw the I Love the World advertisement they have running. I like it. Made me smile. Have also found joy watching the online videos Discovery have on their web site.
It's the little things in life that make it worthwhile.
Good holiday. The week in Auckland was excellent, if a bit full on a times. Caught up with friends and family, was offered a job, bought some clothes, ate too much food, almost got an Illicit tattoo and covered a lot of ground in the process.
Tried out the bikes that are kicking around central Auckland and booked using a mobile phone. Was pretty cool and reminded us of biking around Japan - same sort of bikes. There's something pretty cool about ripping around, ringing the little bell. We took the cycleway out to Mission Bay so it was all pretty gentle. Had a chance to get out to NextSpace and Right Hemisphere for a look around. Pretty cool stuff and was nice to be offered work there. The cost of moving to and living in Auckland was our biggest block on that one. Saw a really cool tattoo at Illicit. One of the SwitchBlade images drawn by Martin Emonds but had a day of eating too much and was feeling pretty crook when I went in with the eye to getting it. The thought of needles was a bit much so aiming for next time (without the buffalo wings).
Back in Christchurch and getting ready for school again. Had a good few days in the garden between rain and got a few things sorted out. Illicit are closing down here so they are having a mean sale. I guess I'll have to get my clothing started soon with them gone. Got some good clothing though.
Last day of term 2 and as always it was really weird. If you're not up with the play, teaching is a tough job. I have never worked in an environment so prone to such random experience and mental exhaustion. Imagine a day that consists of teenage logic and bush-law, colleagues freaking out under the pressure (sometimes it's you so deal with it), parents who are generally understanding but occasionally freak out when they realise their child is "not where they should be" and school management who are generally freaking out because... well they have to manage all of the above.
Today: First period, non-contact. I worked on assessing one of my Year 11's work (ICT - 3D modelling, he's blind. Yes sir. I fucking rock as a teacher). I also videoed one of my Year 10s, while she waited for her first class, playing an amazing instrument. This girl is quiet, shy and absolutely blew me away with her skill. Second period: 10ICT - "can we play games, it's last day of term", "can we take this class again next term?", "Why doe smy computer hate me?" etc etc. I love this class. They are all mad...and one of them plays an amazing instrument. Third period: non-contact. Talking to colleagues about bullying (from other colleagues), having ideas shot down, exhaustion and all sorts of other brilliant things. Each of us was told we were great somewhere along the line. Duty at lunchtime - I learned all about an online tarot reader thing and back in my classroom talked to a student I have put into work/internship with a web development colleague. Fourth/Fifth period: 11ICT - these guys are mad. Key success with a young woman working on a web site about Sid Vicious, students who suddenly got it and produced something resembling a website, I was told I was "a crap teacher", I responded with "yeah, and you're a crap student, we sort of balance each other out", I let them go slightly early. After school: Year 13 student and parent meeting. He's been sick and needs to catch up. My job, get them both up to speed so he can work over the holidays. My illusions...none.
Multiply that by 4 terms and god knows how many years ... we call it public secondary school teaching. Tell me my salary is not worth it and I don't deserve my holidays. I'll invite you, with all courtesy, into my classroom.
... and now I am going to relax for a few weeks and do it all again.
Two days to go before the holidays and exhaustion finally turned into sickness. I've been wandering around school like a zombie the last few weeks and not even staffroom coffee could kick me into gear. It's been a tough term and if it had ended last week all would be well.
Still, having a day to sit in the sun is a pretty good compromise all things considered and a few weeks of holiday sweeten the deal.
I noticed yesterday, as I passed the local petrol station that the cost of petrol is now around the $2.12 mark. Last time I looked it was around $1.98. Seems to have crept up without much fanfare or maybe people have just been creeped out and gone quiet. I wonder what people are going to do when it hits $3. When will the tipping point occur? Those wheelspins I'm hearing outside our house right now must cost those guys a fortune ... I wonder when people will realise those petrol tanks are filled with a valuable resource worth stealing.
Okay, now the sun is just shining in my eyes and getting all winter low on me. Must be time for a little lie down before facing tomorrow.
This morning has been one of reflection and evaluation following a couple of sleepless nights and a week that could be described as "full on". It is a strange winter morning with a warm wind and sun following a week of hard frosts, all of which I'm sure have a reasonable explanation but from my little spot in the universe feels strange.
The morning has started with a wander around the garden. I tend to do this to take stock of both the garden and my mind and it is nice to see the garden is moving into winter mode without to much damage. Following this was a read of the latest post on Kunstler.com and a visit to Robert Fulghum's site. I enjoy reading both of these people's work for varying reasons but both seem to help stabilise my mind which at the moment is an important focus. I'm not ready to try and express the school side of this week as the things that happened and the things I heard from people who should know better were quite shocking. It concerns me how stagnant and conservative our institutionalised education has become. The infrastructure drives and restricts the educationand people who protect this infrastructure are starting to do so with quite high levels of anger.
It was not a good time to cut back on all caffeine and alcohol. I almost made it through the week but ended up with one coffee and a single whisky.
For now I am going to make a nice breakfast, enjoy the winter sun and work towards a relaxed and positive day in all its strangeness.
Haven't had much to say lately. I think this is the year I have well and truly bitten off more than I can chew and it's starting to choke a bit. The frustration is that all of it is great fun and I can see everything working out. Just taking a lot of energy to get there. So, in the interests of taking stock of my life:
Secondary Teaching: what can I say. Small classes and a smaller number of students who actually want to be there. Might be the time of year but I am getting the feeling that the majority of my students are biding their time until they can get out of school... and who can blame them.
Design School: not alone on this one and, moreso, part of a great team but trying to get across the vision for teaching students a range of skills across a range of contexts without the limitation of a timetable in an institute that is driven by numbers, timetables and separated skills sets is not proving easy. We are making good progress but what it's taking out of us is absolutely ridiculous.
ZYPE: the web projects continue. Good customers and interesting projects. This is proving to be a great balance to school and gives me people to talk to who aren't teachers or students (in the institutionalised sense at least).
The Trouser Project: this sucker has raised its head once more and is giving me the most excitment at the moment. I am learning about clothing production and am about to put my first small run through a local factory. I like this project as it is likely to be the merger between school and business for me. I am working with another teacher on it and have the opportunity to bring interested (and interesting) students in on it over time.In my mind this is how education should work - practical, focused and meaningful.
So those are the bits that are making life very full at the moment and taking all my energy. It is proving hard to manage the little things in life and maintain a balance but hopefully it will be worth it. Certainly it would be easier if I hadn't hurt my foot last weekend ... that just makes me feel old.
It's been a lot of web design this holiday. I think I'm trying to avoid the World completely by hiding online. Sad as shit and it's a bit depressing. I made a foray to a local mall to bank a cheque yesterday and it was thoroughly depressing. What is with that fucking waddle NZ'ers put on when shopping? My god, we look like a bunch of fat ducks getting all consumer on the World. Lame. Cheque banked and back to a worse unreality embedded in virtual reality.
I did get out in the garden between showers (the weather kind, not the personal hygiene) to beat the hell out of the ground. I've added edging to the ... well, edges and it looks damn fine. Broke up the old compost heap, more a pile than heap but who's counting. Some of the compost must have been 20 years old. It was excellent and is now forming a new garden area. Also found a shitload of chop bones and some plastic sheets (nice one previous owner dickheads). It was excellent breaking up the old compost...I hardly ever get to destroy things these days.
On a political note, China hosting the Olympic games. What a fucking joke. If that doesn't highlight the complete insanity we are currently racing through nothing does. Let's stop screwing around and get rid of these games completely. Democracy is quickly dying so why try to keep up the charade....unless someone actually wants to fight for it. We seem to have a large number of govt funded ads on TV telling us we drink too much, smoke too much, play too much, are too fat, are too stupid, are too uneducated, are not buying enough kiwi made, are not American enough, use too much electricity, are not-LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE.
I live my life the way I do because it suits me, not because it is great for the environment or lets some idiot drive to work another day. I change as circumstance require not before, not after. If you can't do the same I will either take what you are giving up or watch you disappear.
Yahooo. It is definitely all about life. School is bonkers, life is bonkers and everythng else is bonkers. In the space of four months I am facing starting a design school, releasing a clothing line and revamping ZYPE to be a more generic design company. All good but, bugger me if it isn't full on hard work. Over the last month I have met some absolutely amazing people who have kept life sane and exciting. It is truly brilliant how many interesting people there are out there. Ignore the boring and focus on the people who actually make a difference I say. Afte a hard day of Year 11s and 10s I am watching a Punkorama DVD and trying to ignore the stupid bits of the current education system. I am also glad I distill my own.
What a week. Since Christmas I have been recording my bike trips with a little handlebar mounted camera (ATC2k Action Cam) and last week I finished a compilation and uploaded to YouTube. It was pretty funky as I cut together the more interesting near misses where drivers had simply cocked up in a big way. I emailed my friends who also cycle and it sort of spread a bit. The Press got in touch on Sunday to do a story about it after the journalist saw the video. It was quite fun and fairly low key. It was published on Monday and by 9:30am I had emails coming in for interviews with TV etc. Lunchtime was a TV3 interview which was okay but went on a bit long and I ended up scoffing a plum before back into two hours of teaching. Folks from CloseUp came to school and asked me to come to the studio for a live interview. Some lame excuses later they offered to send a taxi to pick me up and drop me off (must be some money in TV then). A few more lame excuses from me and I ended up going in. I am happy to say I was scared shitless. The preparation was okay (the makeup woman didn't need to do much for me and said so ... something I take as a
good sign) and the people were friendly...obviously used to dealing with flight-risk interviewees. The actual interview was pretty lame and I got the feeling Mark Sainsbury wasn't a particularly interesting person. I hope I'm wrong for his sake. Following that the YouTube views went nuts as did the comments. I went into hiding.
I am absolutely knackered now as teaching AND that whole media butt-slamming has been full on. Still, I counted myself lucky that despite it all I came through okay, with style and grace and haven't been knocked off my bike in years despite the best efforts of others... until today.
I have had a weird feeling something was going to happen the last few days and today it did. A mother and small child ran out in front of me leaving me with the choice of munching the wee boy in my spokes (he was small enough I'm confident he would have been killed) or braking hard and taking the fall. Being the wonderful teacher and role model I am I took the later and ate asphalt. Continuing the teacher theme I (rather calmly all things considered) explained why we have lights and crossing systems and that the young boy was very lucky to be alive and how the mother would feel if I or her son had been badly injured. The only insult is that my camera came off the bike and shut off losing the footage in the process. It would have been great footage and given me an outlet for the frustrated anger I am currently feeling. How can people be so stupid and have such a distinct lack of survival skills. It's become ridiculous how nonchalent we have become about life and living.
Thankfully the YouTube thing has faded and the media have moved on to other things. People are still driving like idiots and oil just broke the US$110 mark. We are in a shitload of trouble very soon and we are not ready for it by any stretch of the imagination.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a technical guy with an innate ability to open up complicated gizmos, see what's wrong and fix things. I like to think I understand what's happening under-the-hood and can confidently explain to others what's going on and how it could be improved. In reality I don't know shit.
We have a video player we bought back in 2000-ish which like all good consumer electronics failed miserably after the warranty expired. We had it repaired once which almost cost more than a new player. It has power going to it (I know because the little LCD screen lights up ocassionally) but the thing is spastic. It flashes on every few seconds making all the little mechanisms hum and do their thing for about half a second. It can eject but it takes a few minutes of flashing to do it. I took the lid off, took one look and headed to TradeMe to look for a new one...then had second thoughts etc etc. We have a DVD player and most of our movies are on DVD. Unfortunately a few good ones are on video and because of wonderful and righteous copyright laws can't be transferred [easily or legally] to DVD. I don't know enough to fix the video player, can't justify getting a new one, the expense of repairing this one or buying the movies again on DVD, won't get much money from selling the old videos (certainly not what I paid for them) but can't transfer them to DVD and I am beginning to feel like a chump.
I solve Linux problems by cutting and pasting commandlines from forums.
I have also taken my little helicopter apart to make some repairs. Actually I understand what's going on in there but to be honest she ain't a complex beastie. I'm sure the little 4-in-1 controller thing is highly complex but I can't figure out how to open it for a look so it's safe. After a few days practice I can also hover and fly the little thing around quite happily now. I have gone from snapping rotor blades in half to breaking the tips off one or two every couple of days (usually when I try something complex like landing on the coffee table and miss). Both landing gear have been broken (to be fair they were made with the same competence the video player was) and have repaired with a design of my own. The helicopter now sports two little wire skids that have been engineered for strength and flexibility under hard landings. Much more in line with my style.
Yesterday four spokes on the back wheel of my bike gave up. I'm assuming their warrantly is expired. They went with a ping and broke off the little heads that hold them in. The wheel buckled and the local bike store, the one within walking distance, has just gone out of business. My bike is my transport and a joy in my life. The handlebars are adorned with clips for a computer, light and camera. It is set up for my comfort and has done the miles with me. I don't like it when it needs to go in for repairs.
I saw a little girl riding a bike with spinners in the wheels. It looked very cool, although hurt my head a bit when she stopped but the wheels didn't. Kids have got it right.