Thursday, April 28, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
First pic- lower left hand corner. The GREEN (?) picture. Taken on Big Southern Butte oustide of Blackfoot, Idaho.
Second pic- lower left hand again. ITS POJ!
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Sunday, March 06, 2011
The students come first? Has anyone asked the students what they want? I did. At the end of last semester, I included this question in my final exam- “If you could change one thing about Mr. T’s class, what would it be and why?”
Since I teach Tech and Design, Metals, and Small Engine Repair, I expected the answers to be things like cooler projects, more time in the shop, less writing, nicer computers, or something along the lines of more variety of topics or more time spent on a topic the student enjoyed. I was amazed at their answers. My assumptions were totally false.
Most of the students said that if they could change something it would be: a Teachers Aide while working in the shop, more one-on-one time with the teacher, a longer class period to work on projects, more room in the classroom, more space in the shop, or less crowded lines around the tools. I did also have one student ask if we could convert the drinking fountain in my classroom to dispense chocolate milk. Still looking in to that one.
Obviously, for this question there was no wrong answer but I still felt bad going over the test with them. I had to explain to them what was being proposed at the time. The amount of teachers in Idaho was going to be reduced by 770. We did some simple math- if each of those teachers taught 20 students, how many students are now teacher-less? The answer is 15,400. Those students aren’t magically going to disappear, which means that class sizes are going to increase. I have been told that my classroom was designed to hold 18 students. Already my class has 4 extra chairs in it. Add to that the fact that I don’t teach just one class, but FOUR different classes, I have a lot of stuff crammed into a fairly small space. Where am I going to put extra students and how am I going to pay for the added tools and supplies needed so they have something to work on?
My wife is currently finishing her degree in Elementary Education. One of the classes she has this semester studies the history of education. If there is one thing that has been proven already- it is that larger classes don’t work. I believe that each student deserves one-on-one time with the teacher. Every one of them is unique, individual, and different. They learn in their own ways and have different problems with different things. If I can’t spend that one-on-one time with a student, they are going to struggle more. If I don’t understand something and have no one to ask for help, it is easy for me to get frustrated and just give up. Students shouldn’t have to experience that. Teachers should be able to reach everyone individually and meet their needs.
On-line classes? Talk about impersonal! Give each student a laptop, expect them to take care of it for 4 years (I’m not really sure how useful a 4 year old laptop will be to a new college student), and tell them to get to work. Even for the most motivated person, this is an extreme challenge. On-line classes are hard. To succeed in taking a class like this, you have to be very well organized. You have to have the time to do it. You have to be prepared to find answers on your own when something is unclear. You have to be prepared for problems with the equipment, misunderstandings because of poor communication, and you have to be prepared to do it all by yourself. That’s right. All by yourself. Occasionally, there is a teacher you will get to “talk” to. If you’re lucky, your teacher will respond to you within 24 hours. Not real helpful when you have a really simple question that has a really simple answer but puts you at a stand-still on an assignment. Students simply can’t get that one-on-one attention they need to succeed.
One last thing I really don’t understand about the on-line classes. Someone has to teach them, right? Where are these teachers coming from? If the State of Idaho cuts 770 teachers next year to fund laptop purchases and implement internet classes, who is going to teach them? Even if the program and curriculum is already developed, someone is going to have to direct, answer questions, give assignments, grade assignments, follow up with missing assignments, adjust schedules, the list goes on and on. An on-line class won’t run itself. So who’s going to run them? The money to pay these online teachers is generated by getting rid of teachers we already have, in the classroom, that give your student immediate guidance. We’re just shifting jobs from teachers to where, exactly?
The students know what they want. Research has shown what students need. Their wants and needs are aligned, yet those in charge continue to push their will. They feel they know what’s best- based on what experience? I don’t claim to have any answers, but I do know that eliminating teachers is going in the wrong direction. If the students come first, they should be getting the help that they need to succeed. They won’t find that help in a computer or from an over worked teacher. They will find that support as they work with and come to know their teachers. I am an Idaho Educator, and I want your student to succeed!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I did manage to score some parts from a motorcycle nut and get POJ on the road. This guy makes me look like an amateur. He had probably more than 100 bikes in various states of decompose. Waterbuffalos, Suzuki ram airs, Honda scramblers, dirt bikes, dual sports, street bikes, you name it, he had it! In his pile were two or three old Yamaha 100’s. Unfortunatley, most of them were Twinjets and built more for street. The twinjet is one sweet looking maching. Looks just like POJ but they had a TWO CLINDER 100cc oil injected engine sits under the tank! He “lent” me a back wheel that turned out to be too small but still worked and a few other little bits and pieces.
Armed now with the major missing piece and enough bicycle parts that I thought I could get it “on the road”, I set to work. The end result was a ratty old bike with a teeny back wheel, a rats nest of wiring hanging out from under the seat, a CAR BATTERY tied on to the rear rack with an old bicycle inner tube, bicycle cables cut / bent / tied on to get working throttle and brakes, and positively no silencer. Quite the opposite, in fact… It had a pipe in the shape of a megaphone, and when I say POJ was loud, POJ was LOUD.
The maiden voyage… I don’t recall exactly how well it went, but if my memory serves me correctly it was something like this: Dump just enough gas in for it to run for about 3 minutes. There was no fuel petcock, so we had just jammed a rubber stopper in the hole and ran a line from the special crossover bungs on the underside of the tank directly to the carb. The needle in the carb didn work worth a hoot so as soon as you put gas in it, it started spraying gas all over the place out the overflow. Once the gas was in and leaking (pre-mix, of course, cause the oil lines were long gone even though the tank was still there), hook the piece of extension cord we cut up over the positive terminal on the car battery tied to the back. Wiggle said connection until the dash lights came on, and then kick the starter! It started relatively well- usually first or second kick. Drat. Forgot earplugs. Shut bike off by removing extension cord from battery. Find helmet / ear plugs or roll the bike outside so the echo in the shed wouldn’t cause my head to implode. Re-attach cable. Kick. Kick. Kick. Kick. Dump in more gas cause it all leaked out. Kick. Hey, its running! Click it into first, slowly let out the clutch, annnnnnddddd we’re moving!!! Give it a little gas and shift into second. What?! Neutral? Where’s second? Oh. Who the heck does the shift pattern ALL DOWN!?
At this point, POJ’s story gets a little blurry. Life, as it is said, is what happens while you are busy making other plans. I had grand dreams for POJ. Like a dying fire, they cooled and eventually went out with the onset of winter. It was a running bike, true, but it was ancient, heavy, loud, and unreliable. Turns out a fellow student at school was looking for something ancient, heavy, and loud. Well, he was really just looking for something that ran and he could actually ride. We eventually struck a deal- I gave him POJ in return for a ’76 Kawasaki KE175 that someone had taken great time to polish, shine, and update, then promptly blew the motor. I do remember taking POJ for one last spin on a VERY cold February evening.
The next evening I was pushing the Kawasaki into POJ’s special parking place on the dark side of the garage- the side where my Dad piled all of his really REALLY useless stuff. That’s sayin something.
I was getting pretty good with wrenches. My parents had sent me to live with a friend of theirs in the summers that had a lawnmower repair shop and I had a learned a thing or 3 about engines. Mostly 4 stroke lawnmowers, true, but a thing none the less! I was confident I could figure this bike out in no time. Heck, it was practically brand new!
Little did I know. I never did come up with a good name for the KE, but if I had, it would have been something like Money Pitt, Pushmehome, Purgatory, or something along those lines. I should have just doused it in gasoline, lit a match, and walked away.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Sunday, January 02, 2011
The bad- headlight quit workin, seems like the head gasket might be leakin into the cylinder and it was real hard to start after I got it home. Think thats because the cylinder filled up with coolant. Going to have to check that out. Anyways, PICS!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
We spent weeks working on POJ. Every spare minute I had was involved with tinkering on that stupid bike. The biggest problem was, of course, the fact that it was seized. I didn’t have money to spend on this thing, nor did I really want to at that point. It was just kinda fun be able to say that I had a motorobike! As brilliantly talented and gifted 14 yr olds, we came up with an excellent way of un-seizing the bike. We pulled the head off, soaked it in WD40, and then proceeded to spend the next 4 weeks jumping up and down on the kickstarter. Every now and then we would try heating up the cylinder with a little torch. Soak, Heat, Jump, Repeat. Can you see this going anywhere? We eventually gave up.
I guess at this point I should point out that as a younger kid, my Dad referred to me a lot as “tenacious”. At the time, I thought he was cussing at me or something, but I really don’t give up on anything to easily. After a short break from our hammer, I was back tinkering with POJ. I don’t remember how long it sat there in Clint’s garage, but it seems like it was at least a couple of months. Don’t remember what we were working on at the time, could have been the IT400 or we may have even had the El Tigre from Heck by then. Anyways, one night I went over and decided to putter with POJ.
I forwent the heat and hammer and just decided to jump on the kickstarter. Remember, it didn’t have a back wheel. It was sitting on the centerstand and I hopped on it pretty hard expecting resistance… and there was none. POJ tipped backwards, I went flying, parts were raining from the sky, but POJ was unsiezed! We whooped and hollered and thought we had made the breakthrough of the century. We were so excited we vowed to get it running that night.
Have you ever set something down, turned away, and turned back a few seconds later to find the thing GONE!? Removing the head on POJ was a pretty simple task: remove 4 cap headed extra long nuts, remove head, remove gasket. Viola, head is off! For some reason, the spot I had set the 4 nuts (on top of the woodstove) only contained THREE NUTS. No big deal, we got the thing unsiezed so how hard could it be to find a nut? Famous last words.
Granted, it had been several weeks since I had taken the head off and set the head bolts on the top of the stove, but the other three were still there, so the last one COULDN’T have been very far! It seems like I spent weeks searching the shop for that stupid little nut but now that I think about it it was probably only an hour or two. I did end up finding it- mixed in with a pile of parts that at one point had been a Suzuki Titan 500. At least, I’m pretty sure it came from POJ and not from the Titan… Either way, it fit, it looked like the others, and it worked.
I slapped the head on (upside down, it turns out, as I discovered 15 years later) and set about getting the thing to run. The fact that it was the dead of winter didn’t deter me- I had ridden bikes in the snow before, and I’m pretty sure at this point I had even invented my “ski-bike”. Imagine my chagrin when I suddenly and unexpectedly had a free motor with good compression- and no spark.
Electronics and I get along about as well as cats and water. It really doesn’t make much sense to me other than if you do it wrong, the smokes gets out and I’ll be darned if you can get the smoke back in. I didn’t realize this at the time, but a couple of years later I was tinkering with a Honda Twinstar that also had no spark. Very bad experience, both with stealerships and my fat fingers, that has led to a lifetime of angst for all things electronic. Don’t get me wrong, I can and do wire / troubleshoot / fix electronics, its just not my favourite thing in the whole wide world. The next few months were long and uneventful. I figured (rightly so it turned out) that the reason for the lack of spark was largely due to the missing key switch. There were 7 or so wires that were just hanging out of the battery area. I tried every combination I could think of with those five wires before I realized that one was a battery ground and one was a battery hot… Hmmm.. wonder what happens if I hook it up to power?
After even more experimenting, cleaning points, trying 50 different spark plugs, and hooking a battery up to it, I finally hit on a combination that GOT THE BIKE TO SPARK!!! One of the extra wires had to be grounded, and two of them had to be jumpered to power.
The second I had spark, it took all of three seconds to screw the plug in, squirt some gas through the carb, and give it a kick. WOW, is this bike every loud. IT RUNS!!! Well, it runs as long as you keep squirting gas in it while its hooked up to the battery charger. Oh yeah, and theres still no back tire.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Yes, I said snowmachine. In Idaho, we go "Snowmachining". In Canada, we went Ski-dooing. Washington- just sledding. Been playing with a trio of '76 John Deere Liquifires. Got enough parts between the three to build (hopefully) two useable sleds. Got one up and running and hope to have the other one moving during Christmas break!
One of the best things about starting something up that has sat for probably 10 years is the SMOKE. Dont know why, but man, do old vehicles belch a lot of junk out after theyve been sitting awhile.
We were even lucky enough to get a SNOW DAY! Spent the afternoon puttsing around town on the one, enough to realize its got a ways to go.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
For some reason, at about the age of 15, I actually thought this was “fun”. Let’s pretend your 15. You got up at 4:00 in the morning some freezing winter day during Christmas break cause the early fisher gets the fish, or something like that. You’ve been standing on a frozen lake in the middle of the Alberta Prairies, where the wind has likely been blowing about 30 mph all week. The sun FINALLY comes up. You’re bored. You haven’t had a single bite.
Obviously, it’s time to do something else. Not much else around but a couple of ancient run down grain bins on the side of the leg. Guess it’s time to go exploring! My friend and I wandered over to the shore which was part of an old farm yard. The grain bins were in pretty sorry shape. We peaked in one or two to find nothing of interest. One of them, on the other hand, had a great deal of interesting lumps of metal coated in a warm blanket of dust patiently waiting out the winter. Motorcycles! Hundreds of them! Parts hanging from the rafters! Extra motors lined up waiting to be installed in future projects!
Okay, not really. There were a couple of bent up frames, 3 or 4 engines that had seen much better days, several used tires, and one half of a motorcycle. Well, maybe more like two thirds of a motorcycle. This two thirds of a motorcycle was the one that started it all!
We spent a couple of hours in the shed, poking through all of the stuff and dreaming of all the things we could do. All these tires, a Hodaka motor that kicked over, bits of motorcycle frames, we could make a killer go-cart!!! The two thirds of a motorcycle we inspected carefully. It was ROUGH. It had no back wheel. Engine covers were off, engine was stuck, side cover was missing, tire (the front one, cause the back one didn’t exist!) was flat, center stand was bent out of shape, and lots of dings, dents, and rust.
It was OLD. Metal everything. We weren’t too interested, because at the time we were into the REAL dirt bikes- like the CR60, YZ80, and IT400. This old thing was a boat anchor. We thought we could do SOMETHING with it though, and all of the other parts had to be worth something.
Luckily, my friends dad was a realtor and he knew exactly who owned the property. We called him up and asked what his plans were for all of that junk, to which he replied, “Take anything you want!”
Didn’t need to tell us twice!!!
We zipped back out there later that day with my friends dads little pickup. There was a brief encounter with a slightly irate farm hand who was a little perturbed that we were loading a bunch of stuff in the back of the truck. We explained to him what his boss had told us, and I guess that was good enough for him because he left us alone to gather our junk.
At this point, I need to say something about garages. My parents, well, my Dad, has a thing for junk. He collects it by the ton. He’s very good at presentation though, so you don’t really notice it. Unless you happen to be a friend of his or even a friend of mine that has garage space or a farm where old dead tractors, combines, trucks, lawnmowers, etc could be stored. Needles to say, our garage was quite full of STUFF. Cant remember for sure but at the time I think he was working on restoring an old wood burning cook stove and the second Honda Odyssey, both of which turned out really nice and are even still in use (sorta) today. Between his projects, tools, spare parts, and the two cars in that garage, there wasn’t much room for any of my projects.
This wasn’t as big a deal as it could have been. You see, Clint’s Dad had a LARGE shop behind there house, and he never used it. At one point I think we had 7 or 8 sleds, 5 or 6 bikes, a fourwheeler, a boat, and several other assorted bits of machinery in various stages of disrepair. It was a great shop. Had a big sliding door, a loft for storing parts, and most importantly, a HEAT SOURCE!
My parents garage was stuffed full. I was not allowed to have a motorcycle. Hmmm… Two strikes against me. Just meant we had to haul all of the stuff over to Clints house and clear a spot for it in his garage.
It didn’t take long for us to come up with a very fitting name for the bike: POJ. Piece. Of. Junk. Pronounced “Podge”. It was trashed. Bent handlebars. Missing grips. No back tire. Engine seized. Airbox missing. Carb cover missing. Oil cable missing. Clutch lever missing. The bike was 30 years old, weighed a TON, the list could go on and on. I do believe its only saving grace was that it was MINE! Well, half mine anyways… I still wasn’t allowed to have a motorcycle, but it seems my parents were okay with me having HALF of a bike (maybe more like a ¼ of a bike, since there was only half a bike there!) as long as it didn’t come home.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Its time. This is the story about me, motorcycles, and memories. We'll see how long I can keep this up for, but don't hold your breath- I don't do so well at continuing things like this.
A Brief introduction…
I like bikes. Really, I like anything with a motor. Sometimes as long as it has wheels the motor isn’t even necessary. My FAVOURITE thing, however, is when you combine two wheels and an engine. I have had a thing for bikes since around the age of 8, at which point in my life my parents informed me that motorcycles were the devil and I wouldn’t own one while I was living in their house. Turns out they were wrong, but we’ll get there in a minute.
I had ridden a bike or two- a neighbor had a PW50 that we would spend hours on going around and around and around and around their yard on. As I got a little bigger, I got more interested in 4 wheelers. Thankfully, the training wheels stage didn’t last very long, although I do have many fond memories of a certain Honda Fourtrax that we put several hundred miles on in, around, through, over, and across our small town- even somewhat legally. Well, it had a plate and was insured, anyways…
My motorcycling started in earnest when Clinton moved to town. Again, I wasn’t allowed to own a bike, but occasionally I was permitted to ride a friend’s around a bit. Well as it turned out, Clinton had the coolest little dirtbike I had ever seen- an early ’80 Honda CR60. Man did that thing go like stink!!! We rode it everywhere. In the alley, in his yard, in the church parking lot, in other alleys, out to the Ridge, out to the motocross track, on the south end of town when it was nothing more than a field, at Corner Lake, just everywhere. I got okay at riding, but I was kind of a chicken. I enjoyed tinkering almost more than riding. We soon outgrew the little 60, and Clinton bought a late ‘80’s YZ80 from my cousin. Now THAT was a fast bike!
The YZ opened up a whole new field for us. It was bigger, went faster, AND we still had the CR60, which meant we could BOTH ride at the same time!!! The CR was getting a bit small on me though, as I’ve always been about a foot taller than the average, and Clinton decided to buy a project bike. He hauled home a basket case Yamaha IT400. Took him a while, but after about a year, he got it together and running.
Imagine, if you will, going from a little YZ pushing maybe 26 horse power to a great big bike that was running around 60 horse power!!! It even had a speedometer so we knew just how stupid we were being.
After the IT400, there was a rapid succession of different bikes, sleds, and other toys including quads and good old Honda Odyssey’s, which was actually my first ever set of wheels. So it was, that at about age 15, I finally managed to get my very own half of a motorcycle.